A central capital diary: winter

 2024 | Inspiration
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Robert Moore
Member: London
Such short days of full daylight – official dawn is 7 to 7.30 am with full light around 8.30 am then dwindling around 3 pm. Incomprehensible, compared with the height of summer, as we approach the shortest day.

The trajectory of the sun barely skims the roof tops – a weak, diffusion of light before it quickly sinks below the horizon, 180 degrees shorter than at high summer.

Some days are indescribably murky, gunmetal grey, heavy, lying across one’s shoulders like a backpack… compounded by drizzle, the clouds obscuring the tip of The Shard and the buildings in the Square Mile; the Christmas lights on the tip misted over, the aircraft landing at London City Airport can only be heard, not seen as they sharply descend around the tip. Likewise, the overhead Heathrow flight path is open – planes heard, unseen – and busy throughout the year.

Contrasting days can be bright, crystal-clear, short-lived, illuminating the dead sparsity of the season.

The birds have all but disappeared… apart from the ever-present town pigeons, head-bobbingly clockwork, optimistic as they peck for food. Only the crows are evident with their loud cawing, sometimes at night, in the dark, like a backdrop to Shakespearean skulduggery – and the occasional seagull, wailing mournfully, high in the sky.

It’s the first winter for all bird-yearlings – what do they make of these very different, inhospitable conditions than those they were born into? Are they not now on their own, parents hormonally switched off? I did hear a lone blackbird singing fruitfully one evening this week, evocating warmer days; occasionally, I hear a robin too, a plaintive, singular song I associate with winter. And walking through the back streets of Southwark recently, I spied a skulking, emaciated fox heading for a block of social housing flats.

The season brings a stillness, inertness, in nature’s iron grip. Trees are stripped to skeletal – I can see through the limbs of the one outside my fifth-floor window to the major road junction up the road, obscured by waving leaves since early spring. Plants have died back, grass growth halted, everything on hold, closed down… resting, waiting, hibernational… in direct contrast to the ongoing busyness of the capital – people bustling, lights burning, queuing vehicles, robotic traffic lights – all oblivious of any of the seasons.

As Christmas approaches, it’s even more evident. People are bundled up against the elements, only one hand visible, free for the ubiquitous mobile phone! Swarms of cyclists, dressed for the cold, hurtle past like plump dark flies! Passengers sit on brightly illuminated misted up buses – alighting, hunched up against inhospitable conditions.

Some days are indescribably dull, heavy, dark, pressing down like an anvil, like canker on a once bright eye. The air is damp and heavy… rain seems routine, indifferent, invariable, blowing in from the west… distant emergency vehicles siren the wailing of the bleakness.

My qi closes down to a near hibernation level – early to bed, later to rise… the energy measured out sparingly, throughout the day. We depend more on the warmth and shelter of home and probably spend more time there. Warm, filling food is the order of the day. In five element acupuncture, we humans too are as connected to nature as the natural world so we are on a slower dial up; this is not the time to be pushing and striving, rather holding reserves, being still, more yin, reflective.

In five element acupuncture the association with this season is water, its organs are the kidneys and the bladder, its emotion is fear/fearlessness, the sound – of the client – is groaning, the colour is blue, its odour putrid, the spiritual resource is willpower and drive, and the taste is salt. The shaded side of the mountain, the still, deep lake, symbolises the cold, deep stillness of the element.

Certain point names along the bladder and kidney channels give a flavour of the water’s nature and function – Eyes Bright, Receive Light, Heavenly Pillar, Wail of Grief, Fly and Scatter, Extremity of Yin; Greater Mountain Stream, Yin Valley, Dark Gate, Spirit Burial Ground, Spirit Storehouse, Great Brightness.

Robert started adult life training to be a classical ballet dancer; after a 10 year career working in Austria, France, Canada and London’s West End he retrained as an acupuncturist, graduating in 1992 from where he set up his practice in a Buddhist run practice in London’s East End for the next 30  years. He also worked in the Admissions Dept at the British  Acupuncture Council for 17 years alongside his practice.