Strewn with shards of thick cut glass, the path is littered with splinters, where rising warmth has cracked and split scores of ground bound mirrors. No seven years of bad luck to weather, this is good news for sure – Ice has surrendered to Sun, slippery tracks are starting to thaw.
Let Winter remind with shifting ground and stormy songs – we cannot tame nature. We are not in control. May the rising, raging rivers that threaten again to flood cause a warming warning thrumming in our stubborn blood to attend to the truth, not distract, avoid, ignore; to allow natural protest signs to come to the fore. There is a ravaging wildness our damaging further unleashes. Nature is not always safe, we don’t know what we’re releasing.
We must slow down. We must use less. Let Winter remind – let her violence bless.
When rainfall is high and sunlight is low, moisture rich moss comes into her own. Where bracken’s died back and trees are all bare, suddenly moss makes you stop stark and stare by gleaming a green that at least, initially, seems like it must be achieved artificially. So verdant it shines with its rich velvet folds that seamlessly drape over dry stone walls, and coat all the trunks with natural flocking, clothing the trees in long, thick stockings. Moss time is creeping so who is to know when this magic-in-the-making first started to grow? But now it has quietly conquered my dale, lending it landscapes of old fairy tales. So when rainfall is high and sunlight is low, moisture rich moss gets her chance to glow. And I am left asking, how did I ever dismiss moss to mundanity when it can look like this?
Holly drifts her fingers in the beck, like I do when I’m in a boat, feeling the rush of resist while I safely, gently float. But it is January not July and not really wise to linger, caressing the water’s surface with naked, exposed fingers.
So Holly’s fingers are icicling as the beck water freezes fast. If I was her, there’s just no way I’d have the resolve to last. The air alone has chased my hands deep into my bright red mittens, I wish poor Holly’s could get warm too, no matter how prettily they glisten.
No one checks their papers or protests their destination when pink footed geese arrive en masse in our nation. Three hundred and sixty thousand waltz in for Winter unbanned, despite emptying out their entire population from Iceland. They fly in with free movement to avoid hostile weather. and ensure their unfurling futures are given a chance to feather. They’ll say it is simpler with birds, but it bruises and breaks my heart when people in such desperate need are not given the same kind of chance.
Here, the loudest sound is silence, broken only by a distant stream that whispers constant chatter like an undercurrent’s theme. Even the birds have hushed, stealing the air of song, leaving a rare quiet peace my soul yearns to prolong. This is a gifted moment, everything calm and still, standing, lullingly listening, half way up Hawkshaw Gill.
Why do English people so often say, “it’s probably too cold to snow today”? Is it temporary amnesia that makes them forget the Arctic and Antarctic are much colder, and yet still the snow persists there, despite descending degrees; Of course it does! Snow is right at home in a big freeze. I think it must be deeply rooted in our ingrained association of clear, cloudless skies with cold – extrapolated to correlation. But please can we agree now, once and for all, it can’t ever get too cold for snow to fall!
An old rhyme says you can kiss whenever gorse is in flower, which means, of course, any day of any month at any hour. For even when every other colour has long since gone to ground, Gorse’s sunshine blooms can still be happily sought and found. Give thanks for her year-round yellow, unsung heroine of plants, who humbly and hiddenly shines with a constancy that enchants. Breathe in the scent of Summer whenever you can get a dose – for I promise Gorse smells of coconuts when you get really close. Just be careful of all those prickles, protecting her flowers and seeds, Gorse apologises to no-one, she simply does whatever she needs.
Cloudbow, proud bow, almost impossibility, claiming fame with no rain to reduce your visibility. Breaking the rules, too cool for school, having and eating your cake; please can I borrow your joy without sorrow to catch a cost free break? What do they say? When it rains, look for rainbows in the sky. Cloudbow plays editor, undoes the metaphor, leaves you mourning the why. Oh to have rainbows without the heart blows, just pure safety and bliss. But this it seems is the stuff of dreams outside of eternity’s kiss.
It’s unwise trespassing on a snowy day, unless you want your crime to be given away. For there on the surface, in crisp firm print will be the evidence of your footsteps, bold and distinct.
This is how I can deduce a pheasant has been here, even though its fabled form has long since disappeared. Its every step and turn documented in relief, I wonder what it took, the careless, clumsy thief?
What Herculean strength caused this eruption through the fallen white piling up thick brown snow from below, dispersed by burrowing might? How strange it looks now standing in a wide flawless sea, a lone dark mud volcano rising incongruously. Will any other islands be likewise bravely pioneered? Or has the exhausted founder simply down and disappeared after discovering extra resistance pressing on him from above, and concluding it’s not worth the effort, for money or for love?
Like a second snow fall, a flock of white wings float, mimicking murmurations in a spinning ermine coat. As below, so above, mirroring endless pearl, the gulls glitter and glint as the sun catches their swirl. What is all this purity? white every which way I look, washing the weary world wonder-full, like the once upon of a book.
Finally the Maple gets its long awaited day to blossom like a cherry in the prime of May – a whimsical makeover of fluffy white clouds that airily weigh down its bare brown boughs. Dressed in bridal showers until it must thaw and drop its melting flowers to the garden floor. So brief, it’s out of season rush of rich bright bloom, a chance to be another tree that falls away too soon.
Every year when Christmas is all packed away, I like to buy a hyacinth to put in its place. It’s always been brought on to bloom before the season, a premonition of what’s to come, an early Spring beacon. I choose one boldly bursting from its purple onion ball with a thick succulent stem already growing tall. I watch in delight as the first trumpet is woken, then drink in the scent as more and more open. A blaze of bright blue fills the newly bared room, prefiguring the colouring that paints empty ground anew. It’s just enough flowering to hold on to in the bleak, a promise March will be here in a few short weeks.
Sometimes it’s hard to believe nature is at work indiscriminately when the results of her touch show such particular artistry. Take the rock in a stream eroded into a fast swimming fish shape or the exquisite way frost traces each detail across the landscape. It’s as if such marvels have been sculpted deliberately by hand rather than simply appearing randomly and being totally unplanned. I’ll never tire of finding these magic eye picture surprises, artworks hidden deep in the swirl of myriad colours and sizes.
I wish I could bottle up pure golden winter glow for those grey days without compensatory snow. Then I’d stock up shelves with endless jars of the stuff so everyone I know and love could access enough of the hope-giving shine we so desperately crave to give us the get up and go we need to be brave. But all I can do is drink this dose deep for myself, then store up beautiful memories on my own mind’s shelf, and trust my imagination, when outside is dreary and cold, to pour them out and flood my thoughts with low light gleaming gold.
Isn’t it enough he has the pick of the flock without also deciding he can sit and lie on top of the hay trough his harem are trying to eat from? No, clearly this tup just thinks he is the bomb. Feminism hasn’t reached the ewes in our dale, they passively look on and allow their token male to dominate the field in reward for just being a ram, assuring he stays King Of The Drove, and Father Of All Lambs!
Every snowflake has a unique face, yet they fall from the sky in crowds. So easy then to miss each silent, perfect kiss as they cover the ground in clouds.
Just so with all of us when we neglect to fuss over each one’s wonder and worth, consigning some to statistics and others to sheer logistics as we strive to make our own way on earth.
If only we could slow the flow down, have time to prevent overwhelm-drown and see each six-fold symmetrical star, the world would no longer be the same for we could hope to learn every name, and understand all those stories and scars.
But so thick and fast they fall we don’t really see them at all as they fly, float, fall, lie or die… And so we must concede, life is lived at speed, even as we bravely continue to try.
The sound of snow is a paradox, so silent it muffles the world as it falls and dances and drapes – its beauty to gently unfurl, but then crunches underfoot in crisp, compressing crush, boldly making its presence heard as we tramp and tread and brush its weighty loads off branches in sudden thumping thuds and listen to its thawing drips grow to rush the river to floods. All this then is the sound of snow, from silence to a repertoire of tones, weaving symphonies of percussive peace, counterpointing the world’s very bones.
Yesterday we found a worm sliding along the snow, stranded many worm-miles from his earthy home below. What confused him into pushing up through all that white? Did the strange lunar surface he discovered give him a fright? He looked so weird and out of place, like an alien in the Arctic but perhaps he found leaving his comfort zone helpfully cathartic. Either way, we cleared some grass and placed him gently down, hoping he could burrow himself back through the hardened ground.
This morning Narnia came to me in a flurry of waking dreams, softly softening the ground below; coating the tree canopy beams. The whole whirling world a shook snow globe, spinning magic out of dross and rust, transforming every prosaic detail with Winter’s winsome fairy dust. Every larch dressed as a silver birch as wind wrapped their trunks in white, and I smiled at my five year old self as she clapped her hands in delight.
When I suggested a walk at the reservoirs, I just didn’t think I was inadvertently luring my friends to a treacherous skating rink. The water was lapping as normal, but oh my word, the paths left me seriously concerned on absolutely everyone’s behalf. Like so much in life and nature, it’s all about your expectations because at other times, of course, we seek out skating sensations. But none of us came prepared with any blades or hopes at all and so we spent most of our walk simply trying not to fall. Next time we’ll know when the tops look dazzling and splendidly, snowily white, heading up to the reservoir paths is probably not very bright!
The Scarhouse stoat was different to most for he didn’t just scuttle away, but stopped by the wall opposite us all in order to properly survey such strange creatures with fearsome features and multi-coloured fluff at their throats. It was quite the sighting, although it was frightening – what a story to tell other stoats!
When waterfalls become icicles and streams shimmer under sheets like shoals, it’s hard to ignore the wonder in the world and the majesty of souls. So breathe in the crisp cutting air my love, let it clarify and clear, drink in the remembrance that for all you have lost, you have everything you need right here.
I think this silver birch must be rather pleased to see her trunk wound round and round with rich, thick ivy. For when it’s so cold and she’s lost all her leaves, why wouldn’t she fantasise about being evergreen? How smart to wear a creeping cloak that keeps her warm, to insulate and decorate her thin, bony form. How fabulous to be draped and utterly entwined by forest green that makes her look timelessly fine. How splendid to enjoy such a dazzling masquerade while other deciduous trees just mourn how they were made.
A cloudy pink morning covers the East but when I approach my western window, the moon still shimmers her quiet sheen like a pearl in an ocean dimly aglow. It’s proper day now, after nine at least, but the queen of the night still lingers, clinging to her chance at daytime shine as if nothing on earth could bring her to accept her place is in the dark, which of course is completely right, for every morning, she is still there, camouflaged by the sun’s greater light. It’s a rare treat to see her like this, a beautiful blushing morning moon, but even now she’s poignantly pale and will be lost to me far too soon.
The river path is slush now with brown breaking down the green but discarded fallen fireworks have been newly truly gleamed. Hogweed skeletons spark again with clusters of snowflake flowers, reprising their summer displays and turning back the Winter hours to August when they first exploded in glorious detonating white, and November when we echoed them with sky-flowers in the night.
When the twelve days of Christmas are nearly all done and back to work and school have almost begun; when you’re trying to start a well behaved January diet and hoping you can keep the continuing cravings quiet… the last thing you need is to encounter temptation in the form of seemingly expertly baked vegetation. But yesterday, the snow was falling and amid the sludgy bog, what should I discover but an enormous Yule log?! I knew it wasn’t chocolate but the damage was already done, right there on my healthy walk, loomed a spectre of sweeter fun. How am I supposed to resist when nature and confectionary conspire to conjure huge reflections of the objects of my desire? The bark became the thickest fudge icing that I ever saw and the snowy sprinkles topping it only made me want it more. No matter that I couldn’t actually consume this effigy when I could simply head for home, and so effortlessly raid the leftover treats that had been so nobly put away, shutting up the resolutions instead to revisit some other day.
Today was a picture perfect Winter’s day of wide Wedgwood skies and every surface glazed with varnishing crystals of thick sparkling frost accentuating each detail as if it had been embossed. Silhouetted trees line-danced along fields delicately as low light illumined their unrivalled intricacy. And as dusk approached, before the last rays had gone, a huge honeyed moon appeared and coldly-goldly shone. I crunched the diamond jewel-ground with my booted feet, wishing I could pause time and press repeat, repeat, repeat.
Look closely among the dross and debris of the year that’s gone to find the first precocious shoots of this year stirring strong. These are just beginnings, premonitions of blooms ahead, growing in the midst of what’s been left behind for dead. But out of all that lies discarded here on the woodland floor, a forest of flowers will soon burst through and shine as they did before. This is a new start, dear heart, you deserve another chance to drink in colour and scent – to live your one wild dance.