A bright cold day, the hedges crisp and bare and the sky blue and pale behind the leafless domes of oak. Behind the hut the high wall of holly takes some of the wind but the hazel in the hedge outside my window shakes and flutters its last rags of leaves as a gust goes by. I am sitting in the shepherd’s hut and have just lit a fire in the stove. The wind catches the smoke as it leaves the stove pipe chimney and a puff blows past my window and away over the hedge, down the field and into the valley. Soon the hut will warm up but for now I am still wearing my coat and my second pair of socks. The blanket I crocheted so obsessively a few weeks ago is now finished and a wonderful thing to wrap around you while you read or think.
Somehow it has very suddenly become winter. When I drove away last week to spend some time first with my daughter and her family and then with my parents, my sister and her family, the rain was thudding on the car. I drove through a saturated land. In a long diagonal from North Wales to Oxford and a couple of days later in another trajectory from Oxford westwards into North Devon, on either side of the motorway fields were under water, rivers had burst their banks. Trees floated above flurried lakes of grey. Cows stood disconsolately on little islands, their backs to the driving rain. While I was away the television showed desperate flooding in St Asaph, only a few miles from here and one elderly lady lost her life. In Devon I walked out with the dogs onto Dartmoor and the land squelched like a giant brown sponge, pooling into my footsteps as I walked. It felt as though the whole country was simply unable to hold any more water.
On Thursday I woke in my sister’s house in a village on the edge of Dartmoor to a hard frost and a diamond bright morning. There was ice on the road and a rime of frost on grass and hedges. As I walked along the lane to my parents’ house a horse whinnied and galloped up and down the field, his breath streaming above and behind him like steam from a train. The bird feeders in my mother’s garden were crammed with great tits, blue tits and chaffinches which skittered away as four huge black crows flapped down. A jay fought with a too large crust of bread on the outside table. Magpies hopped across the grass, waiting for the crows to go.
When I got home here on Saturday night it was a cold bright night, full of stars and a big moon.
Before I left the trees were still holding onto their leaves.
This horse chestnut is now bare and the big ash trees over the hedge are bare too.
The willows being grown for their canes for basket making are bare and nearly ready for cutting.
Maybe tomorrow when I am going into Manchester for an appointment I might finally engage with the idea of Christmas and do some shopping, never my favourite acitivity, but for now I shall wander around my high cold world and then come back inside to the warmth of the hut and the blanket.