. THE Stars .

As the year draws to a close, we find ourselves in the middle of a heatwave. The days feel stretched to their limit, dusty and sweaty, drenched in sunshine. We long for southerly breezes, for fruit and salad, cool water to dip our toes in, the cover of darkness to signal bedtime for young children and chickens (and all of us really!)

The year is ending and I am surrounded by stars. The ornaments on our Christmas tree made from wood and clay and beads and linen. Star garlands made of fabric scraps and wood hang from the window and across the fireplace. Star shaped cinnamon and almond cookies linger in containers. Then there's the pictures in all the Christmas books. Paper bag stars hang from the ceiling. Tiny lights that surround our nativity.

There is a song by Sufjan Stevens which I have always loved called Star of Wonder. It is an unusual Christmas song, and yet for me so beautifully speaks to the season of Advent and just after - that foggy, unknowable, dawning of a new year haze we're all in. Sufjan sings:

I call you
From the comet's cradle
I found you
Trembling by yourself
When the night falls
Lightly on your right-wing shoulder
Wonderful know-it-all
Slightly where the night gets colder

Oh, conscience,
Where will you carry me?
I found you
Star of terrifying effigies
When the night falls
I carry myself to the fortress
Of your glorious cost
Oh, I may seek your fortress

When the night falls
We see the star of wonder
Wonderful night falls
We see you
We see you

I see the stars coming down there
Coming down there to the yard
I see the stars coming down there
Coming down there to my heart

The narrator could be any of us, and perhaps is all of us when we seek mercy, wonder and mystery: when we look up and out and everywhere for the love and belonging we have already been given - grace that's already overflowing, in the heart.  

The gospel of Matthew tells of three wise men, the Magi, who followed a new bright star to Bethlehem, to find and worship the baby born beneath it, an unlikely king: Jesus. The star was an extravagant proclamation of God's jubilation, justice, kindness, generosity. Its draws us out only to bring us back in.

I feel it when I am alone, walking beneath a clear, night sky. When I can see up into the cosmos, into the vastness of space, and follow those dots of shining light. In that moment my restlessness falls away, and I am left with a tender remembrance. I am so small, I am limited. And those stars above me are far beyond my reach and yet I see them. I can know and love who made them. I think about all the people before and after me who will look up and find beauty there - orientation and consolation - in the stars. 

I listened to someone speak about the night sky as a social justice issue - it was a commons, he argued, that was surely worth protecting and safeguarding our ability to see the stars regardless of geography, economics or social status. What was always assured to the naked human eye, now with unprecedented urban development, artificial lighting, orbiting satellites and environmental degradation, is precarious, perhaps fading forever. I wonder, will I continue be able to see the stars in my lifetime? Will my children?

Kant muses some two hundred and thirty years ago:
“Two things fill the mind with ever new and increasing admiration and awe, the more often and steadily we reflect upon them: the starry heavens above me and the moral law within me. I do not seek or conjecture either of them as if they were veiled obscurities or extravagances beyond the horizon of my vision; I see them before me and connect them immediately with the consciousness of my existence.” 

I see them. 


Finally, I want to say thank you for coming on a newsletter journey with me this year. I am grateful for the opportunity to share musings and photographs and recipes with you here. It has been a creative balm through some very challenging seasons. 

Together we have thought about beginning songs, ashen things and life in the vine. We have considered the ways of clouds and pockets. We have given comfort root-room, soaked up blue, sought an anchor. We have unfurled with spring, played hide and seek, sat by the sea

And tonight, on the eve of a new year, I will go out for a walk when the sun has set and I will look up to the stars, or to the clouds that hide them. I will say a prayer of thanksgiving, for you and for the new year that awaits us; for limits, for dreams, for rest, for love and wonder to pierce the heart, for hope to anchor us. 

​Emily x



Listen to STAR OF WONDER by Sufjan Stevens.

Read Stars by Emily Brontë.

Walk outside after dark and gaze up at the night sky - scan your senses. What can you see? What can you taste? What can you smell? What can you hear? What can you feel? Speak the things you are most grateful for in 2021 and what you found the most challenging and disheartening. Let your steps be a prayer as you breathe out the tension of what has passed, breathe in the spaciousness of a new year dawning.

Contemplate the words of Psalm 8:3-4

"When I behold Your heavens, 

the work of Your fingers, 

the moon and the stars, 

which You have set in place - 

what is man that You are mindful of him, 

or the son of man that You care for him?"

. from the recipe book .


 Honey + Apricot Ice cream
2 cups full-cream milk
1/4 cup cane sugar
5 free-range egg yolks
1 cup pure cream
1/4 cup honey
1 cup ripe apricots, chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

Prepare the custard by heating milk in a saucepan on a low heat until just below boiling. Meanwhile whisk egg yolks and sugar in a jug or bowl. Pour in warm milk and whisk vigorously - then tip back into saucepan. Continue to heat and stir custard until set (when the back of a wooden spoon stays coated with mixture). Cool. Meanwhile in another small saucepan or fry pan, gently cook apricots with spices and honey until soft. Let cool. Whip cream until soft peaks form. Blend custard and apricots together (I prefer to see lumps of fruit so I only blend for a little while). Fold in cream. Pour into a ceramic or glass dish and freeze until set - about 4-5 hours - any longer and it will become frozen solid, if it does let soften in the fridge for an hour before serving.


Plum + Almond Shortbread Slice 
125g butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup almond meal
1 teaspoons ground vanilla bean
2 cups plain flour (I used 1/2 rice 1/2 tapioca flours)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup full cream milk
fresh plums, halved, stones removed
raw sugar and flaked almonds for topping

Cream butter and sugar until pale. Using a beater or blender add almond meal, vanilla, flours, baking powder and milk until well combined. Pour into a 20cm square or round tin lined with baking paper. Press plums inside up all over the cake and sprinkle with raw sugar and flaked almonds. Bake in a moderate oven (180'c) for 20 minutes or until golden and coming away from the edges of the tin. Serve warm or cool with cream. 

. On the blog .

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We have the sky in common
when we can see the stars,
a place to gaze in union.

Yet bent down, flung afar
we worry about our futures,
we have the sky in common.

There's a world above us, further
and closer, a diadem mother -
a place to gaze in union.

What wisdom sits in wonder:
forgotten maps and visions are. 
We have the sky in common.

Woven webs of golden scars
our nighttime reservoir,
a place to gaze in union.

Our faces bright like lovers
when we can see the stars,
we have the sky in common:
a place to gaze in union.

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