Tomorrow is the winter solstice, when the world (well the northern hemisphere at least) pauses and holds its breath, waiting to see if the sun will keep its promise. Have our rallied hopes and lighted flames been enough to halt the decline of the days, and coax the return of the light?

This week, the song thrushes have started to sing strongly again. I think they always seem to be the first to notice the shift, to put their faith in the growing hours of light and the return of the sun.

The landscape is sodden. The near continuous rain of October has been followed by mild and wet conditions through November and into December. Few hard frosts have troubled us here. More likely to stick in slick mud than slip on ice. Nature’s sleep is fitful; shoots out of season. It hardly seems to feel like Christmas at all. A dense crop of holly berries has been gobbled up by the blackbirds and thrushes, and they turn their attentions now to the ivy, who’s bunches of blackening fruit hang low and heavy. They’ve saved these till now, waiting for them to ripen; nature provides in succession.

I’ve come to the conclusion there’s simply not been enough white so far this winter. Not enough glinting frosts, not enough paper snowflakes (or real snowflakes for that matter). I’m thinking hellebores, crisp table clothes and freshly washed window frames. Hand written envelopes and the sugar coating on cake. Crumpled tissue paper. The ghostly apparition of a fieldside barn owl, the streak above a redwings eye. Starlight through the moth holes of nights cloud curtain.

The rich reds and golds of Christmas are all very well, but I prefer to seek mine in the countryside.

A few more days at work, a few festive gathers, a party or two. Then it’ll be days of long walks and hot chocolate, warming dishes and evening reading. I’ll write, but mostly in notebooks (I always receive one or two at christmas, or cave in to my stationary addiction come the January sales). The bird feeders in the garden will continue to need topping up, more-or-less every other day.

I’ll be back when the snowdrops bloom.

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