Friday, 24 December 2010


Christmas greetings to all my friends, wishing everyone of you a very, very Happy Christmas and year ahead in 2011.

Nollaig Shona is actually an Irish Gaelic greeting 'Nollaig' meaning Chrismas and 'Shona' meaning Happy. It was friends from Dublin who first told me this, all of 21 years ago when I went to Ireland for the first time. That Christmas they took me to see the Christmas Lights and oh what laughter at 'my name' being up there. And, remember how milk used to be delivered to folks doors in glass bottles with silver foil tops? My pals sent me the festive ones adorned with 'Nollaig Shona'. The little things people do, gestures of friendship, much more important than monetary gifts - how much longer these memories last.

In this current cold spell, I've very much enjoyed taking photos to share with my friends - tho' sometimes, the weather has caught me out. Double coats, trousers and jumpers - I haven't been cold but have laughed at my 'Nanuk of the North' image. -20 Temperatures, snowed in for days in the middle of a city and today, the River Esk in Musselburgh with great lumps of ice floating down it before it froze over at sunset.
How beautiful the scene was, birds spinning around in front of an orange sky and away from the setting sun, delicately coloured clouds tinted pink.  Colours I had seen in previous sunsets but everyone is of course unique - a most special work of art.

When the birds settled down for the night - the sounds of the ice being moved by the slow flow of the river. So strange to hear the sounds of the ice from this river I know through a lifetime of visits across the seasons. Visiting to feed ducklings in the Summer, pleased to see and hear the migrating geese in the Autumn and now, feeding hungry gulls and swans trying to survive this frozen land.

The poor birds and animals, how hungry they are as week after week the snow continues. Normally our average temperature is around 3 degrees, such sudden changes in the climate make it very difficult for nature to adapt. Feeding the birds really can make a difference between their life and death but be aware that white bread can cause rickets in swans and other problems for all birds so please ensure you help by giving brown bread, bird seed and, in your garden, try to have out a small amount of unfrozen water for them to drink. Full details of what to feed them (and what not to) can be found on

Recently, I've also been to Arthur Seat, feeding the birds at the frozen lochs in the centre of Edinburgh. The other day a flock of Greylag pink footed geese had flown in from fields all covered with snow. What a lovely sound they make. Given my first diary as a child of five, the first entry I ever wrote was about visiting the park, further round at Duddingston Loch, having fed the geese on an outing with my mum and dad. How fortunate to live in Edinburgh, near to the sea and with parks and lochs which bring the countryside in to the city, indeed, Duddingston Loch being part of a Scottish Wildlife Trust nature reserve.

There are three lochs at Arthur Seat and the views from the hill are stunning - well worth the effort to climb up through the snow to look down on the city and see the other six hills that Edinburgh is built on.

Walking along 'the Radical Road' in Edinburgh I looked down on the city, Holyrood Palace, the Parliament, Calton Hill and Edinburgh Castle. The sunshine was weak through the frozen atmosphere yet, how beautiful the sunset over the Pentlands was.

Over the snow covered Pentlands, the setting sun was more beautiful to me than the Christmas lights that we put up but of course, such decorations also have their place.

At Musselburgh, by the Esk, a tree has been decorated with white lights - beautiful to see its reflections in the river. The flowing water making the lights shimmer even more , a sea of shimmering light.

And how could I post photos of this Winter Wonderland without including a photo from the coast and a snowy Port Seton as the fishing boats come home to land their catch, home at Christmas.

Over the years we build up relationships with family and friends. As time passes, we establish connections with people outwith our area - surely everyone wants to 'go home' for Christmas but it's because we want to be with those important to us. Now today, I think it is great how through the internet, we can easily connect to all those who are important to us in far away places all over the world. 

To all my friends and family, wherever you are, I wish you a very Happy festive season. For 2011, I send you my greetings for the year ahead. And lastly, I'd just like to say, I hope you have enjoyed my Celtic Reflections and recent winter photos that I have shared with you all from my small part of this big and beautiful world that we all live in.

Best wishes everyone, Shona.


Thursday, 2 December 2010


Sunsets of pinks and purple hues and the ellusive Winter hare, as white as the snow covered land which it crosses so quietly.

This year the snow has arrived so early and in such quantity, it's been called the coldest spell to hit the UK for at least 17 years. Last year at this time, I was coming back from the Scottish Borders, crossing the Lammermuirs on the Duns road, the night sky sparkling with stars, moonlight casting long shadows across the land.

A sharp chill in the air I was driving slowly, scanning the road for the shine of black ice. Near to the view point over the Forth, I slowed the car to a crawl. Such a ghostly light, all along the Forth the hills were visible, snow reflecting back the moon's light through a cloudless sky. Not enough light for a photo or maybe, just one of these special nights that, as time passes, will become all the more memorable without a photo.  A personal, private recollection which becomes like a treasured feeling inside, a unique 'magical time' to be recalled.

Just before the road winds it way down the steepest of hills, having dropped my car to the slowest crawl -out from the snow at the side of the road, a pure White Winter Hare. So beautiful I stopped immediately and it stopped too, sitting up on its hind legs. I reached for my camera on the seat beside me but then, I let it go. I love to photograph hares but, somehow, this time felt different.

The hare dropped on to all fours and came towards me. Slowly I opened the door and got out. At the front of the car I stopped and the hare made a few more slow steps towards me. I crouched down and studied this creature of such beauty. Along the moors road there were no car lights in the distance, no sounds of any sort, just stars, moonlight and an intense cold. I shivered and, as slowly as it had appeared it crossed the road and moved across the land, it's white shape merging before me in to the snow and moonlight.

I have a friend who specialises in wildlife photography and I phoned him up the next day. He gave me a very plausible explanation. Dazzled by the car headlights the hare had been stunned by the light, when the effect passed it had continued on its way... Life can be full of mysteries, sometimes it is useful to look beneath the surface, to understand what factors have created a situation. But then again, there are also times when it's as good to just go with the flow and to enjoy the moment, the special moments which nourish the soul.


A full moon shone on the Lammermuir
As winter’s chill did still the air
When from the shadows, some hidden lair
Crossed my path, a snow white hare

It stopped to watch to stand and stare
Raised up slow and sniffed the air
This quiet being with no sign of fear
Serendipity? “I saw it there”

In moonlight shadow it seemed to sway
Some enchanted dance, as if its way
To welcome in a newborn day
The year ahead, come what may

All images and copy Shona McMillan ©
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