Tag Archives: winter

Orkney Standing Stones in Winter Snow

Contrary to many expectations, snow is rare here in the Orkney Islands of northern Scotland. The surrounding waters are too mild and salty, the rainfall is just not that frequent either. So when it snows we take photos – and then everyone gets the wrong impressions. So, here are some pictures of Orkney, taken in February 2009, looking quite unlike how most visitors to these World Heritage sites remember.

Sunrise at Ottersgill:

sunrise Orkney Islands Feb 10th 2009, 8am

sunrise Orkney Islands Feb 10th 2009, 8am

My photo project was to record the snow at major landmarks, such as the Ring of Brodgar stone circle and the Stenness Standing Stones – both Neolithic structures (Stone Age). The second batch of photos will be of some of Orkney’s trees, the branches of which show up well against the white landscape.

Stenness Standing Stones:

5,000 year old Stenness Standing Stones, Orkney

5,000 year old Stenness Standing Stones, Orkney

Ring of Brodgar and Comet Stone:

Comet Stone and Ring of Brodgar

Comet Stone and Ring of Brodgar

Ring of Brodgar and surrounding ditch:

The rock-cut ditch around the Ring of Brodgar, now mostly infilled

The rock-cut ditch around the Ring of Brodgar, now mostly infilled

Lichen growing on one of the stones:

Lichen growing on the stones at Ring of Brodgar, Orkney

Lichen growing on the stones at Ring of Brodgar, Orkney

Note: I took these pictures when the temperature was about freezing, the air damp, and I just wore a t-shirt and fleece, with a woolly hat, no gloves. For the pictures around our house I was barefoot. Like I say, you have to play to survive!

More of Orkney pictures and places to visit.

Orkney trees in winter

We need some darkness in our lives

Tired? Try getting a little darkness back into your life! I believe we in the electric world need to recover the night and the soothing calm of darkness – and overcome fear at the same time.

Stars in the night sky

Stars in the night sky (not my pic - apologies to photographer)

I really believe we need to get back in touch with nature and the night sky, with the rhythms of the days and seasons – and most of all, we need to give our eyes a rest – and thus give our brains a rest!

When did you last spend time in the dark, other than sleeping? It is wonderful, soothing and beautiful – and rarely pitch black. There is in fact much to see, its just that it is never normally seen.

Last night I took Rachel outside, into the garden. To her surprise (there is no clue of it when inside the house) the sky was littered with bright stars. The plough and north star very prominent but to the south we were dazzled by the beam from the lighthouse. Around about the individual houses of neighbours shed light too and far off, over the hill, the glow of the Flotta gas flare and street lights gave an ominous orange throbbing from the ground upwards, reminiscent of burning towns during the blitz (I guess). It is far from dark. I can watch the darker grey of clouds shifting slowely across from the west. I can see the stone walls white, then mere shadows, depending upon if the lighthouse beam hits them. Off across the fields a neighbours diesel generator is the biggest intrusion. The air is chilly, the grass wet with dew. The sea laps gently upon the shingle beach. The air is clean and fresh, infusing my lungs with the coolness of moist air. Delightful!

“We”/ society, generally┬ánow live in perpetual light and brightness, extending the day with electric lights to the point where we fear the dark. We then bombard our visual senses still further with car headlights, televisions and computer screens! It is exhausting, and stressful.

Lets reclaim the night, turn down the lights, turn off the tv and feel the stress slip away into the dark. Let your eyes open once more, explore the subtle and the previously unseen, delight in the stars, the moon, clouds and aurora. Last night we watched shooting stars and the shimmering light of a ship out on the bay. The cattle were munching across the meadow, birds were hopping about the walls. The clouds tumbled effortlessly across the sky, shrouding the hills and sea.

Needless to say, but I will, my other senses delight in being allowed to operate once more, after the loud noises, strong smells and bright lights have diminished. The warm breeze caressed my arms making my hairs stand on end, the air tasted salty – I was delighted to be awake, alive and free!

Give yourself time to become sleepy, put out the lights, or return to the warmth and gentle glow of candles. Try it! Just 10 minutes each night – let the natural world flood back into your life, and feel the benefits. It will also reduce your energy bill and carbon emissions.

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Just imagine the endless barage of stimuli your eyes and brain are getting – from first waking to last thing at night. No wonder we are exhausted! No wonder it is hard to enjoy the subtle beauty of nature. We have pollution overload! We are shielding our senses from the full onslaught of brightness and information to be processed. I say, take a break! Give your eyes a holiday, a well earned rest, and feed your brain gentle images to calm the wave patterns and still the mind.

Dare to walk at night, in garden or lane. Try it without a torch even and be amazed!

If you cannot escape the pollution of streetlights, cars and houses, I feel for you – but I suggest you try all the more to experience a little less eye stimulation. Begin by turning off the lights in your house. Go for a walk in nature, exposing yourself gradually to the gentle light of night time. Put your torch in a bag or pocket. Save it for later. Try candles, and try just letting your eyes relax. Most important of all, give the television and computer a rest!

I promise you – life will be better if you trust your other senses. Even a walk under the orange glare of street lights is preferable to the retina burning brightness of indoors, the dazzle of car headlights, the intrusion of security spotlights.

The best books about stars in the night sky and Natural Navigation