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  • Writer's pictureMonique Sliedrecht


Updated: Jun 23, 2020

What a day it was…

The summer solstice fell on the 20th instead of the 21st of June this year, because of it being a leap year. And how lucky we were in the north of Scotland that this was the case! Saturday was clear and blue, while Sunday was wet and grey. For the first time in a while, we northerners were able to watch the midsummer sunset in it’s full glory during the wee hours of the morning — those of us that were intrepid enough to stay up, that is. I happened to be awake at midnight when I took the photo below. I threw open the window to warm air, birds calling, waves rolling in, and the glow of the horizon which was shimmering and still.


It’s wonderful to be moving into this season, and yet so surprising as well. These last months it has sometimes felt like one day runs into the next. I must admit, I’ve hit a kind of lethargy at times and need to shake myself up a bit every few days with a little change in routine.

These first days of summer in the north are often tinged with a feeling of nostalgia, but especially so this year. It is strange not to have guests at Freswick Castle, at what is normally a busy season of people from different countries coming to stay, meals to prepare, conversations around the fire, walks on the cliffs…. This is a very different time.

Saying that, it’s good to have the unexpected change - a chance to take stock. In some ways I’m eager for things to move ahead, in other ways I am wanting to hold onto this moment in time, preserve what I can from it, and discard the unhelpful things. It has been a chapter of stripping down to bare necessities, and to what really matters.

[By the way this doesn’t mean skinny dipping in the cold sea, though that would certainly shake up the routine a bit! ]

There is a glorious permission to stay with….

Stay with our thoughts,

our simple routines,

walks on the beach,

a lingering breakfast or dinner…

to stay in the moment

day by day.

I was watching a film about the Norwegian painter, Edvard Munch. He was not the jolliest of characters, but his ability to stay with a painting in order to capture his intense feeling about something at the time struck me. He could work on one painting for months. It would change, as his feelings changed, but he stayed with it. On completion, when the critics tore his work to pieces at the public exhibitions and salons, he would retreat for a time, and then pick up and carry on. He stayed with painting, as it was his one way to convey his feelings about life and some of the struggles.

Solen, Edvard Munch

We benefit from that staying power.

What does it mean to stay with something?

I imagine it is very much about learning the art of being present and fully immersed in what is in front of us. It can be a very powerful moment with lasting impact, like a moment of silence in a play, serving as the anchor of a whole scene or bringing weight to what is about to happen.

We may have pressing questions or concerns (I have a few), but to rush ahead falsely in a time when stillness may be the gift, seems a shame to squander. It is a chance to live out the questions, and let time and stillness work for us and not against us.

Perhaps it also means holding out for when things normalise again, but when they do, may the staying power of stillness that we experienced sink deep into the every day.

'To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven: A time to be born, And a time to die; A time to plant, And a time to pluck what is planted; A time to kill, And a time to heal; A time to break down, And a time to build up; A time to weep, And a time to laugh; A time to mourn, And a time to dance; A time to cast away stones, And a time to gather stones; A time to embrace, And a time to refrain from embracing; A time to gain, And a time to lose; A time to keep, And a time to throw away; A time to tear, And a time to sew; A time to keep silence, And a time to speak; A time to love, And a time to hate; A time of war, And a time of peace.' Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (NKJV)

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