It’s been a winter of big storms, big snow, big drifts. The snowbanks on either side of our country road slope steeply upward six feet or more, reminding me of the snowbanks my siblings and I used to climb on winter mornings while we waited for the yellow school bus to arrive. Each of us would search for the very highest point to scramble upon, and then proclaim our status as queen (or more likely, king, my brothers being more agile than I) of the castle.
As I look out across the fields today, snow lies thickly on the ground, the crust of its surface shining like golden meringue in the late afternoon sun. The winter landscape consists of elementals: white fields, blue sky, grey rock, brown trees. Its austerity sombers the mind; the relentless cold can lead to feeling defeated and trapped.
But I am here to tell you that wonders do indeed reveal themselves in this chill, forbidding season. Out walking along the road, surveying the latticework of bare tree branches, I discovered 14 bird nests in the short one kilometre between our house and the gravel pit. Winter has exposed their locations, previously hidden from view by the lush green foliage of summer. How lucky for me! Now I can map the nest sites, so that come spring, I might be able to spot the returning owners.
Last week, I discovered that the lower right hand corner of the window facing onto our back hill has become a canvas for exquisite frost etchings. These art installations stay for a day or two, then disappear.
More than any other season, winter teaches me to toggle between outlooks: the long view over snow-covered fields, the close-up of frost flowers. The long view casting back over my life, the close-up of savoury stew simmering on the stove.
I like this short poem by Anne Porter for its shifting perspectives.
On a clear winter’s evening
The crescent moon
And the round squirrels’ nest
In the bare oak
Are equal planets.
~ Anne Porter