‘Samhain’ a Celtic Winter poem, and some thoughts on the season.

This season, the start of Winter, has always held a lot of emotion.  I love Winter, and  heating with a wood burning stove hasn’t yet dulled my enthusiasm for the season.  Perhaps it’s the quiet that falls at dusk, that thin, pale veil of mystery just before the black of night when the huge live oaks and pecans are the only ‘structures’ between you and the rest of the world.

For me it is the beauty and wonder of a season that slides from the crisp Autumn to the unearthy beauty of Winter.  Nature holds the key for me, and especially the deep silence and stillness of Winter.  

There is a deeper reason of this season for me. It calls to contemplation, to slowing down the daily routines, to read, to walk amongst the brittle leaves and especially to the silence that surrounds  like a blanket of peace. This is a spiritual season, without the trappings of religion.

Christmas is the last hurrah of noise and color before the real message of this mysterious season appears.  A well-running woodstove, a blanket, a book of Robert Frost, cats snuggling around  and those huge, silent trees outside, the beauty of their exposed black limbs against a gun-metal sky with the promise of snow:  this is the comfort and promise of Winter, that allows or enforces even, this solitude, this time of contemplation and renewal.

Lady Nyo


Dark mysterious season,

when the light doesn’t

quite reach the ground,

the trees shadow puppets

moving against the gray of day.

I think over the past year

praying there has been a

kindling in my soul,

the heart opened, warmed

and the juiciness of life is

more than in the loins–

a stream of forgiveness

slow flowing through the tough fibers

not stopper’d with an underlying


but softened with compassion.

This season of constrictions,

unusual emptiness,

brittle like dried twigs

desiccated by hoar frost

just to be endured.

I wrap myself in wool and

watch the migrations–

first tender song birds which harken

back to summer,

then Sandhill cranes,

legs thin banners

streaming behind white bodies,

lost against a snowy sky.

They lift off to a middling cosmos,

while I, earth-bound,

can only flap the wings of my shawl,

poor plumage for such a flight,

and wonder about my own destination.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2010, 2011  from “White Cranes of Heaven”, published by Lulu.com, 2011

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32 Responses to “‘Samhain’ a Celtic Winter poem, and some thoughts on the season.”

  1. katiewritesagain Says:

    I love the imagery of the cranes like banners-and the wings of your shawl flapping. If we could but fly!But, would we fly away-even if we could?

    Sometimes I think because I grew up with a family that didn’t do the usual at Christmas, lived in such an insular world, that Christmas doesn’t mean the same thing for me. Also, I’ve almost always had those crappy little jobs that require more work at Christmas! In other words, I’m really not used to having the holidays off- gathering with big groups of “family” that I never see any other time. In fact, I find it a strange tradition.
    I do love being with my friends and celebrating our relationships. I love the decorations (!) and the festive air. I love anything that makes people throb with anticipation, even when most of the time the actual event is a letdown. I think anticipation is an experience all its own and should be enjoyed simply for the hieghtened awareness. Just enjoy all the sensations, all the feelings. Forget about what you’re going to get (or not), who you’re going to see, just go with it. All of it.
    I’m glad you’re going to be with your family and are finally getting to know your stepson better. Sounds like you will be enjoying a rich and happy holiday!


  2. ladynyo Says:

    ah Katie…
    I can’t remember a Xmas when I was young without the trama/drama between my dueling parents. Tears all the way.

    We had the perfect setting: Revolutionary War historic house in the countryside of New Jersey, where it snowed most Xmas, and all the trimmings.

    But what was missing was PEACE and LOVE. At least compassion for the weakness of others. It was hell on wheels most years.

    But! Time does dull the bad spots and I can look back and see the trees, the wreaths, the gifts, the decorations, etc.

    The Xmas music is what sets me off….and I love it. The anticipation you write about?? Yes, and yes again.

    For us, family has to be taken in small bites, otherwise it’s so damn overwhelming.

    Merry Christmas, dear Katie.



  3. CZBZ Says:

    “I, earth-bound, can only flap the wings of my shawl, poor plumage for such a flight, and wonder about my own destination.”




  4. ladynyo Says:

    Hi CZ,
    that poem was written when I was coming out of a deep year long funk, generated by illness.

    It was good to be alive.

    Thank you, CZ, for reading this post and for your lovely comment.



  5. Steve Elsaesser Says:

    Jane, I HAVE spread those wings–and flew on my own set course. More than once. Never once regretted. Of course, there IS a price to pay, for any freedom, but esp for total freedom, to roam, to fly (flee?).

    One then must be prepared to deal with al the bridge outages upon return–and…nobody their to greet, or care.

    Do it again? Most certainly. Life is to LIVE, not rot. And, to live BIG as life, is only to take the risk.

    Sorry, sounds like I’m preaching. Just reminiscing, I guess, on YOUR blog space–grin!



  6. ladynyo Says:

    Hi Steve~
    Well, that is what blogs are for….to reminisce and to talk about lots of things.

    I remember you telling me something of your own history, and it was necessary and GOOD for you to spread those wings…essential for continued life I think.

    When we tie our ‘return ticket’ to those who don’t care because of their own psychological issues, and when they are extreme, they really CAN’T care…is to
    continue in a pointless circle.

    We ROT when we don’t take the necessary steps and chances to flee that which is emotionally/mentally abusive. And the toxins from one person who is mentally ill can spread in a family because people just don’t want to take the necessary steps for therapy and to escape the corruption. They are lazy and looking for the benefits of something here…

    For so many (too many) years, we tried to ignore this particular rot. To say that it was debilitating emotionally is an understatement. There had to be a better way to live.

    And this was no way to raise our child…hoping that ‘things would change’ with a particular family member…

    So, we have turned our lives away from the corruption of family who are hurtful and abusive, and closed ranks. We are through with illusions of possibilities.

    I am speaking of pathological narcissism in a ‘family’ setting: it’s corruption is far reaching and enduring. The only solution is to flee…and to remake your own ‘family’ and live in the Light.

    To be bitter about all of this is natural, but even more a waste of time and energy. So, we reconstitute our family to reflect that which is loving, compassionate, inclusive and emotionally good. It’s not easy, but…as you have seen yourself, what are the alternatives?

    PEACE! and Merry Christmas! May the true message of this wonderful season come through.



  7. Yousei Hime Says:

    I have been thinking about you a bit. My sister sent me some pictures of a Japanese Garden she visited recently, so my thoughts turned to you. I watched a favorite anime of mine, with poetry and kimonos and adorable characters, and thought of you again. I’m not sure if you’re interested, but it is unique and delightful. Here is the link. It’s free to non-members up to the latest episode. You just have to endure commercials (I think).

    The show is called Chihayafuru. It is about a high school girl who is obsessed with playing a card game based on 100 Japanese poems. The art is lovely, the kimonos are beautiful (when they finally appear in the show), and the main character is so committed and enthusiastic that it is hard to to like her. If you do watch it, let me know what you think. 🙂



  8. ladynyo Says:

    Thank you, Yousei!

    I am delighted you sent this site and I will watch it today.

    I have never watched anime yet, so your suggestion will be the first.

    100 poems? There is that well known (or used to be) event of 100 ghost stories.by a mystic…usually a Yamabushi, who told a intimate group of eldery a 100 ghost stories. Usually very short, but hair raising.

    Each story is accompanied by a lit candle which is put out at the end of the story.

    I have this in my unfinished novel, “The Kimono”, but my “Yamabushi” (in the 21st century) only has ghost stories. As 21st century Mari relates her experience to her 17th century daimyo, he says that this story-teller must not be very good. Only 4 stories. Huh!


    Thank you for thinking of me on this.

    I hope your holidays are beautiful.

    Lady Nyo


  9. brian miller Says:

    lovely jane…this is a season of reflection…of pausing when the weather keeps us from venturing too far…for blankets and watching the world…and yes for pondering what comes next…i think it good we have these seasons in life and of the soul…


  10. Laura Hegfield Says:

    “This season of constrictions,

    unusual emptiness,

    brittle like dried twigs

    desiccated by hoar frost

    just to be endured.”

    Gorgeous Jane! I hope you will consider sending me an email about what you are grateful for to add to this year’s gratitude word quilt. It will be posted on my blog on Dec 31st. I am collecting expressions of gratitude from around the world.
    Gentle steps,


  11. hedgewitch Says:

    A lovely sense of nature and peace and the comfort of that vast cosmic process in which exist and yet which exists so independently of all we are. This is a beautiful, wise, and fulfilling poem, very fitted to the idea of a season ending, a new year beginning, focused on those coming opportunities, and not the ones lost to the past. And I loved your introduction almost as much as the poem itself. Thanks for the insight and comfort, Jane.


  12. ladynyo Says:

    You are welcome, Joy!

    You, who have comforted me so much with your own poems..well, it’s an honor to comfort back.

    Thank you, Joy, for reading and your lovely, lovely comment.



  13. ladynyo Says:

    Hey Laura!

    Please! I would be honored to have anything I write used on your lovely, lovely blog…a Gratitude word quilt is a wonderful idea!! You are to be congratulated for such a thing!!

    In the midst of chaos, economic suffering, and aging/ ill health…we STILL have so much to be thankful for.

    Thank YOU, Laura, for reminding me as you so beautifully do through your own words.




  14. ladynyo Says:

    Brian…..you got it. These seasons are good for the soul. Winter forces us to stop and think. And that can’t be bad.

    Thank you, dear friend, for reading and your lovely and profound comment.



  15. poemblaze Says:

    I love the idea of light not quite reaching the ground. It hovers, I suppose. 😀


  16. Kellie Elmore Says:

    “…and the juiciness of life, is more than in the lions…” wow. in love with this piece! A new fave!!! 🙂



  17. leah J. Lynn Says:

    This was a great piece of work that had touching visual moments of migration and birds described. As so a little magic add by the affect of your blog’s snow flakes as I was reading put me where you were at.


  18. Laurie Kolp Says:

    Love the migratory birds and your last stanza. Winter has a way of slowing us all down.


  19. zongrik Says:

    watching birds is one of the greatest gifts of life


  20. Joanne Elliott (@soulsprite) Says:

    I love the season of contemplation. Winter truly is a gift if you use it wisely.

    Your images are beautiful I especially love the last stanza:
    “They lift off to a middling cosmos,
    while I, earth-bound,
    can only flap the wings of my shawl,
    poor plumage for such a flight,
    and wonder about my own destination.”



  21. tashtoo Says:

    LOVE! I so resent our species for stripping away our time of rest and renewal for the sake of the plastic way of life we have been submersed in. Your words remind us of this. Many of us forces ourselves against the grain of body clocks and nature’s warnings. The best Christmas gift I receive is the break that comes with Holiday time…mind you, year by year, that break gets shorter. Can’t wait to light that wood stove and curl up 🙂 Wishing you the merriest of winter seasons!


  22. ladynyo Says:

    Hi Natasha.

    with Winter there are so many possibilities of creative rest! LOL! Right now the sky is glowering, with rain, a heavy rain about to fall.. It’s magical how much the landscape is transformed by the various greys and blacks out there. Marvelous!

    You and your family have the best of the Holidays….and this beautiful Winter Solstice! Get that woodstove started up early.



  23. Siannaphey Says:

    Hey! I’m nominating you for the Kreativ Blogger Award. Congratulations! Check it out here…


    Love & Blessings


  24. ladynyo Says:

    Hi Joanne,

    Me, too…Winter gives us ‘room’ for a particular creativity.

    Thank you for reading and your comment.

    Lady Nyo


  25. ladynyo Says:

    Agreed Zongrik.

    Lady Nyo


  26. ladynyo Says:

    Hi Laurie,

    Thank you for reading.

    Lady Nyo


  27. ladynyo Says:

    Hi Leah,

    I love that feature of WordPress….every Xmas.
    Thanks for reading.

    Lady Nyo


  28. ladynyo Says:

    Thank you for reading and your comment, Kellie.

    Lady Nyo


  29. ladynyo Says:

    Hi Poemblaze…

    I love that description of Winter light: hovering.

    Thank you for reading and your comment.

    Lady Nyo


  30. Augenoperation Says:

    Blogging about…

    […]I really don’t normally suggest other online websites but I will break my trend for this[…]…


  31. ayala Says:

    Lovely, Jane. I thought of you the other day, I know how hard it is to lose someone we love and go through the first holiday without them. I send you prayers and hugs and may you find peace this holiday.


  32. ladynyo Says:

    Thank you! That is so lovely of you. I am remembering Marge in the best ways I can: she was a marvelous cook, and I am trying.

    Christmas was a very special time with her, and people flocked from all over to sit at her table. Every summer we would exchange recipe cards…..and this year coming will be the very first without that…and her.

    Thank you, Sweetie….for your kindness.




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