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Rhiannon Wood - Editor in Chief

It’s winter, my absolute favourite time of year! I am the reverse of everyone who gets depressed when it’s cold and dark; I get depressed in summer. Too much light and heat. I need shadows and darkness to thrive. That’s why I’m here with you in this snow-covered forest where the owls’ cold hooting echoes. 

This month we wanted comfort – snow-covered hills and roaring fires – and gloom – lashing rain to bundle up against, gloves, hats and woollen socks. What did the forest give us? So much more…

We got the universe. We got the cold, unflinching cosmos. We got deep, existential reflection that left us with a chill. We got cold enemies on cold planets making their way to a warm bed and warmer fur. We got a little mouse scuttling on the floor, the only sound in the house. We got monsters, festive-red blood and bonds made in the aftermath. We got strange family gatherings. And, of course, grief, the coldest, loneliest place, the loss of a loved one, a gaping chasm, a roaring, howling void.

We asked, and you provided.

And in return, I have a story of my own to share.

The other night, when I was walking my dog before bed, I saw lights that I cannot, as yet, explain. It was pitch black (I live in a forest by a river, and after eleven at night, they turn the streetlights out on our road), so it was just the stars, the moon and the sound of the river. I had a torch so neither I nor the pups would fall in the river, but instead of turning it on, I stood, as I often do, at the end of the road and looked at the darkness. Then, across the river on the other side of the forest, I saw three lights about halfway up the bank. Usually, there is nothing there except trees. No houses. No people. Maybe some deer or badgers. But there these lights were floating, bright as could be, about half a metre apart – bright white like stars.

I was sober (six months sober, to be exact). I was awake. My dog was standing stock still beside me. And I couldn’t figure out what the heck those lights were. I took a deep breath, hoped my tiny dog would protect me (he wouldn’t; he never does – he’s a weed) and shone my torch at the lights: nothing, just the river bank. I turned the torch off. They were still there. Yikes, I thought. Full-body yikes. I shone it again, and nothing. I and the dog and the lights stared at each other for what felt like at least five minutes, but I’m not sure how long it really was. Then they blinked out of existence. Just darkness again. Time to go home.

What were those lights in the dark? I think it was the fae; they are definitely in these woods. My husband thinks it was me – my eyes, my brain, my weirdness. Maybe it was an owl…. Whatever it was, it got me thinking about winter darkness. On this side of the equator, we get the really short days, the sun dipping from about three in the afternoon and disappearing completely at around four-fifteen, not to be seen again until morning. I know one of the reasons early Christians stole the pagan holiday that is now Christmas was so we could light our way home in the dark with candles (now fairy lights) and song. I think the fae love that tradition too. We need those twinkling lights, those glinting shimmers to follow on our way out of the darkness. I wonder what I and my less-than-intrepid but nobly named Socrates the pup would have found if we had followed those lights? What will you find in our forest this month? Come on in and find out…

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