At this time of year, day seems to last but a moment. Mornings are inked skies pricked with stars and the bloom of ghostly streetlights. Evenings fall without warning: look out of a window and the light has gone, before you can prepare yourself for it. Inside, there is always a sepia tone to the daylight and never quite enough of it. The darkness seems somehow thicker, as though I could taste it. In the lighter half of the year, I revel in morning’s expectancy, but in this season, my body shrinks from stirring before dawn.
The first snow rides the coat-tails of a blazing sunrise in the last week of November. Fat flakes tumble and melt into nothing. A few days later it returns, a jumble of soft wafers, stinging hail and rain, leaving a crisp coating in its wake. It lasts a night then is gone and later in the week the sun is bright, the light almost spring-like. Now paths are rimed with ice, but some of the leaves are still hanging on. One of the three wild cherries in the park always blazes last, vibrant against heavy frost or first snow, and this year is no exception.
November passed in a flash of spectacular sunrises and sunsets. The sky bled colour: crimsons, lavenders, oranges and yellows at either end of short, grey days. I remember little else. Between obligations at work and home there hasn’t been much time for walking or dreaming. I haven’t connected with that deep, fertile vein of darkness. My box of dreams is woefully empty.
But some days seem to contain magic from the start. Waking to a shiver of frost, I stumble out into a Sunday morning that freezes the bones. I’m walking with my dog to my mother in law’s new bungalow and there, on a scrub of grass next to the Metro station a shape catches my attention. A fox, ruddy against frosted grass. It is 11.30 in the morning and he sits, unconcerned, as the trains trundle by above and we watch him. He meanders along the grass, then sits again. Reluctantly, I turn away, thrilled at the encounter.
The ground is littered with leaves, still green, that have shivered from the trees in the cold. I can hear them crackle, like teeth chattering. Six geese glide silently against a moody sky with a spit of snow in it. Later, we visit the Christmas market in the old Victorian square and on the way, the snow begins again. We wander around the carol-filled square as the light fades and snow falls and by the time we get home, the ground is covered in white.
December brings a level of peace. Fewer obligations, more space for visiting with the earth. The snow has melted away and left a frozen landscape in its wake. A landscape that is still. A landscape that waits. On the winter solstice, there will be a birthday celebration. Not for me, but for the sun itself. For the earth that is reborn after the longest night. It will be many weeks before the spring light comes, and that is just as well, I’m not ready to emerge from the darkness yet. I have dreaming to catch up on.