A cold snap: frozen olive leaves

Along the river, pools turned to ice, blue-grey, with delicate concentric circles scored into them like contour lines on a map. Icicles hung from fallen branches and a thin crust of ice pooled on the meander where we swim in the summer, fusing the gravel bank with the dark shallows of the river.

Breath hung in the air; dog paws scrabbled on hard ground. The grass glittered stiff under the hoar frost. Time stood still.

I was ready with a padded coat and new gloves, this time. Ready with boxes and boxes of tea, with thermal socks and sheepskin slippers. Our wood stove runs all day, as we fill and re-fill the basket next to it with armfuls from the store. The fan on the top an invisible blur of blades spinning the warm air around the room.

We are good nesters, by now, knowing to charge the electronics when the sun’s up, to keep the kettle warm on the stove, to eat warm fatty winter foods, porridge and soup, stoking our own fires.

We were not ready when the pipes from the well froze solid, splintering the plastic on the filter and leaving us without water at the house for days. When the ice melted and the pipe emptied and would not siphon again; requiring a wade through the freezing pool and over the wall deep into the back of the cave-well that runs into the mountain. The pipe was clear, but no water. It’s a case of juggling known variables: gravity, pressure, heat and cold. Frustrating, requiring patience and a clear head. Nick fixed it in the end.

Today there was no frost. A storm rolling in; dark skies and high winds.

Winter is our teacher.

This season is showing us what it means to live through the coldest darkest months. In technical hitches, in mood and morale, in my energy levels swinging and dipping with the daylight.

In weariness and exhaustion we learn about the need for rest.

In frustration and cold fingers we are taught about the importance of preparation.

In glowing embers and dry socks we give thanks for winter stores.

I think perhaps every winter has new lessons, even in the same place. There are balances to be struck, accounts to be weighed. Time, money, energy – we dance between the three of them, taking from one and giving to another, and I enjoy that this isa zero sum game. That nothing is ever lost, only transmuted from one for to another.

The one thing that cannot be weighed is the magic. Of the heron rising slowly, beneath the plane trees lining the river. Ice sculptures tangling up from leaky pipes and ditches, crazed poles tracing time in increments of liquid made sold. The frozen pair of headless cormorants I stumbled on, a fox’s larder beneath the roots of a tree that twist through the stones of an old ruin. The lands secrets, frozen and still.

The quiet of a winter’s morning, just before dawn, when them comes like a searchlight between the trees and the stars seem brighter than I’ve ever seen.

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