Category Archives: folklore and ethnography

The Land o the Leal

Jack makes it on time again – – –

2020 has been a year of surprises. Some were terrifying and others were poignant, as was one earlier this week.

I went out to check our mailbox and there was a large thin stiff envelope there. I immediately recognized it as containing a calendar and had a very eerie feeling. The only person who sends us calendars is my old friend Colin Stuart in Scotland. But Colin died suddenly and unexpectedly in January of sepsis – –

Sure enough, when I opened the package it did contain a calendar with Scottish scenes. Turning it over, I noticed the sender name on the back of the envelope. Colin’s sister had mailed it but I’ve no idea how she found our address – maybe in some of Colin’s things at his house I suppose. I thought it was a lovely thoughtful way to keep his memory alive in a way that will continue throughout the year.

Something very similar happened when my older sister Margaret passed away a few years ago. I made contact with her old school chum Christine not long before Margaret passed. Christine, who lives in England, re-connected with one of her old friends who lives here in SW Virginia simply because they are both Facebook friends with Wendy and me. All part of the great kaleidoscope of life.

Margaret had always sent electronic greetings cards to us for our birthdays, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Somehow Christine got wind of this and she has carried on the tradition. We get lovely online greetings from her for each occasion and it reminds us not only of our friendship with her but of Margaret.

As I get older (and older) it’s inevitable that many contemporaries pass away and it reminds me of a much shared observation. You die three times – 1) When your body dies 2) When you the last person who remembers you dies 3) When the last thing you impacted is gone.

I’m pleased to have known so many friends and relations whose third death is yet a long way off.

Of course the calendar can’t go on the wall until Friday; any earlier would be bad luck, and we’ve had enough in 2020 – another Scots tradition.

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Filed under between books, Big Stone Gap, folklore and ethnography, Life reflections, Scotland, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch

Let There be Light – –

Jack’s Wednesday guest post is on time for a change – – –

As we head towards Christmas we will first of all encounter the winter solstice – the shortest day of the year. Of course that’s no coincidence as most Christian celebrations throughout the year align with pre-Christian festivals.

The solstice was celebrated as the point where the days will begin to lengthen and the next growing season could be anticipated. In Scotland the sun was encouraged through the lighting of bonfires and fire festivals. One example is the ‘burning of the clavie’ at Burghead which continues to this day. Of course the yule log is another link back to these ancient times as are the candles on the tree.

I grew up in Scotland where at this time of the year daylight doesn’t appear until ten in the morning and goes around four in the afternoon. In fact, in the northern isles of Orkney and Shetland the days are even shorter right now. There is a well-documented condition all over northern Europe called seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a form of depression which occurs in alignment with the winter months.

Here in SW Virginia it isn’t as bad as it is further north, but as I write this it’s dull and sleeting outside and the lights in our house are on at eleven in the morning.

Many people, including myself, have been significantly restricted throughout the year by the pandemic, but we have been able to do work in our yard to keep us occupied and sane. But with the lack of daylight and the drop in temperature that is much less possible.

I never really suffered from SAD but I have to admit that on the evening of December 21st I would be cheered by burning a few yule logs in our fire pit and beginning to see the days start to lengthen again!

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Filed under between books, Big Stone Gap, folklore and ethnography, humor, Life reflections, Scotland, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch