The Winter Solstice came and went, and light is slowly returning to the world. Days are already growing longer, but the effects of December's turning are felt in their own good time, and it will be some time before we sense real change in the length of our days and nights and notice a great difference in our native landscape.
January is the coldest month here in the north, a time of deep snow and penetrating icy cold. It's tempting to remain indoors and just curl up by the fire with tea and books every day, but we need long woodland rambles in Lanark - snowy ambles nourish and sustain us, and we are still taking them, even on the coldest days in winter.
"Crunch, crunch, crunch" went the snowshoes this week as we made our slow meandering way through the woods, and our skis are getting a workout too. It could be our imagination, but the snow seemed brighter and more brilliant than on potterings just a few days ago. During the precious moments when there was sunlight, the fields glittered from here to there, and we felt as rich as old Croesus - as though every jeweler's vault on the planet had been harvested and its contents spilled out at our feet.
Even the shadows in the countryside seem to be changing, and there was a subtle shifting in the shady hollows, movement typical of the season and very welcome to winter weary wanderers. Shadows were less attenuated, and at same time, they seemed deeper, more intense, more blue. Here and there, a sprig of green emerged from the azure snows, and the color was a hopeful thing, one that not even the biting north wind could carry away in its gelid paws.
My days of jumping off mountains (or cruising down them) may be over, but being part of this, just being able to stand here and take this all in, is a gift.