It's just stopped snowing. We very rarely get snow in this corner of Somerset; last year was the first time for many years that we'd had more than a sprinkling. Today, it seems we are in what for us is the extraordinary position of having some of the heaviest falls going. I don't think I've ever seen so much - certainly not here; great mounds and billows of the stuff.
A couple of weeks ago, we didn't have much, but it was so cold that what there was stayed on the ground. And then one day there was an amazing hoar frost. The hut where I write was festooned with cobwebs (outside, not inside, I'm happy to say) that looked as if they were made out of silver string. Here's one.
I took our dog, Jessie, for her usual walk up on the Mendips. We went up through the woods, then looped down over the hill, so that we were facing the view which stretches out across the Vale of Wedmore to Glastonbury Tor in the distance. (This is the view that's described at the end of my book Warrior King, through the eyes of King Alfred. The peace between him and the Danes was finalised at Wedmore.) There wasn't so much frost in the woods, but out in the open every tree, every twig, every blade of grass was thickly etched in white; it was magical. The sky wasn't clear, it was a mixture of greys: the sun was a silver gilt disc behind thin pearly grey cloud.
I tried to pick up a stone to throw for Jessie, but I couldn't shift it; it was frozen solid to the ground. It reminded me of The Grey King, in Susan Cooper's series, The Dark Is Rising, where the dog Pen is fixed unnaturally and immoveably to the ground by the power of the Grey Lord, channelled through a warestone, which is also held tight to the earth. I heard crows calling, and took a picture of them when they perched like black cut-outs on silvery branches. They seemed the only things moving in the silent lanscape, and I thought of the title book of the same series, where rooks are messengers of the dark, inhabiting an unnaturally frozen landscape.
There's some sort of link I'm trying to find, something to do with the way snow changes the feel of a landscape, concealing what is normally there and creating something new - between that, and what makes some of the best-loved children's books work. (There's Narnia, too, when Lucy et al first enter it: a glittering forest, enchanted by the witch so that it's 'always winter, but never Christmas.') Snow changes what happens, we all know that: ordinary life holds its breath. You can't work any more, so you might as well play. But there's something else, something much deeper than that. We are taken back to an older time, when we were bound more closely to nature; to a time when people must have wondered if winter would ever end, and if they could possibly survive it even if it did. The children who are the heroes and heroines of all those wonderful books are not just fighting a dark lord or a witch queen - they are fighting the beautiful cruelty of a fierce winter.
And finally, just because I like it, one more picture.
Merry Christmas, one and all!
Merry Christmas, one and all!