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Tuesday, 18 October 2011

I Smell Winter


I do not enjoy the height of summer. It’s true I am no sun worshipper but the summer, in all its drowsiness and listlessness seems, in some respects, so dead. There is nothing driving life on. Don’t get me wrong, few things are as pleasurable as a river in summer where light, reflection and colour show off their craftsmanship to dizzying effect. However, the world seems, perversely, to liven up as winter approaches with the urgency of migration and preparations for winter. Flocks are larger and noisier, mammals are louder, trees are showing off and everything becomes that much closer. Last year, the Quarry Cottages were wrapped in snow and I found this in one of the pages of the electronic diary I’ve been keeping.

“Dylan Thomas has reminded me to look at the ‘bandaged hills’ and I can see them as I type, the edges of the bandages picked out by hedgerows that disappear criss-cross into the fold of the combe. It is a stark but grey day and the falling snow produces that unique bright stillness that is peculiar to the north; light and perception are filtered just as the ice crystals stitched a vast lunar halo around yesterday’s moon. Anna and I stood at the front porch and looked at it and I wondered how such a prosaic phenomenon could produce such a poetic vision.

Icicles interrupt the top of my vision through the window and a brambling is flicking through the snow at the bottom of the bird table looking for the scraps that the dunnock has missed. Behind the stock fence at the side of the garden sheep, fairly distantly, gather round the steel manger of hay fed by the two dark tracks of a Land Rover. Closer to the fence four pheasants are, seemingly, idle in the white doing nothing but looking around nervously. The ancient apple tree, planted in all probability when the house was built has, on each apple, a cap of snow but fieldfares have pecked away at many of them. The buzzard perches stately on his favourite bough on the wood verge to the north and I imagine myself closer to him where I can see the large flakes of snow falling across his yellow iris. He sits on the edge of a small wood that was planted around the old quarry, now a lake.

Behind me, on the downs the short eared owls are probably hunting, as they do each winter. They are visitors here and they come to bob on their balsawood wings above the rank grass at the field margins. Everything here is close and the snow brings it closer. At first light on Sunday from our bedroom window we saw the solitary hare, potent and pagan symbol of all that is wild, belting across the pure white field.”

The verdict on winter? I am in love with the spring but it is this deepest season that really sends my senses racing. The stillness and intense quiet makes me feel more human than at any other time.