Today it snowed. A few soft flakes started to drift to the ground in the late morning, and I expected to see a light dusting that disappeared almost as soon as it had settled. But the snow continued to fall, lazy clumps of snowflakes, spiralling and drifting gently to the ground. And so I walked. No matter that I had already been for a walk that morning – I have so missed the snow. Down to the town, seeing the old buildings transformed while the town centre was covid-quiet. I walked on and down to the local park and around the lake, my thoughts disturbed only by the occasional walker and the park ranger on his tractor. The snow covered a multitude of sins – what had been a muddy, squelchy walk only days before was now pristine, matt white spread deep on the ground while the trees bent under the weight of snow that clung thickly to the branches. And I walked on, lost in thought and reverie, as I allowed the snow to heal my heart.
I met a friend in another park, and we talked skiing and snowboarding while her two black Labradors jumped and played, leaping for snowballs, and her son made snowmen and fished sheets of ice out of the floodwater.
I am a snow hound, I know that – happier on a mountain in snowboard boots and a beanie than on a beach that slows me down with its intimidating and oppressive heat. I miss the cold, the icy clutches of snowdrift and frost. I miss the crunch of snow underneath my boots as I walk. I miss the frosted sparkle of ice particles in the pale wintry sun. I have missed the annual trips to ski run and back bowl, board tracing lazy arcs across the hillside as the cold wakes me up and brings fresh clarity.
And in the late evening, I walked again, the snow still blanketing the quiet streets, covering cars that lay unused in lockdown inactivity, sat softly on fences and hedges, disguising the outlines of post boxes and street signs, softening the harshness of hard edges and sharp angles. Ice white street lights bringing sharp definition to the thick canvas stretching out in front of me while clouds drifted gently across the sky to reveal a scattering of stars, and a haloed ice moon.
It felt as if I could walk for ever – to carry on as my feet bit into the snow, crunching with every footfall, to walk ’til sunrise found me. I didn’t want to waste a moment – snow is so ephemeral in this country, arriving one day to be washed away in drizzly grey rain or winter sunshine the next. And memories washed back – of years before walking by the river trying to solve the seemingly intractable mess I had got myself into. I’ve made my share of bad decisions in the past, discarding something good for the sake of a dream of freedom. I have foolishly thrown away opportunities, through moments of confusion, or unworthiness, or madness. There have been times when faith and hope have seemed so far far away when in truth they have been my constant partners. Walking has always helped me through to clarity, the cold and the snow acting to further focus me. It would have been a shame to waste these frost-bound moments of clear headed thinking.
And the next day I was up before the sun had even begun to think about putting in an appearance, lacing on boots, pulling on hat, scarf and gloves, taking every opportunity to enjoy this brief moment before sun, rain and gritting salt washed it away, before it stopped being beautiful, dramatic, pristine white and faded into slushy melancholy grey. I walked by the river, enthralled by the unique soft crunch under my boots, watching rosy sunlight wash through the trees and light the landscape in shades of pink. Sheep looked back at me, dotted around fields and sheltering under trees. The river, swollen with recent rains, cast a slight mist on the water and cascaded through lock gates opened to allow its flow. And all around, setting each tree and bush, each trail of footprints, each gatepost, fence and house in a jewelled frame that draped the outlines with a frosty white anonymity that forced me to look closer to identify each piece.
And again the calm tranquil quiet allowed me to reach a new level of peace with my own thoughts.
Snow here is fleeting, shortlived, occasional, lasting only a brief time before it is gone again. Our moments are like that too, dealing opportunities which must be taken up before they vanish, lost forever in time’s shadows. And mysterious Life itself is like that, to be enjoyed, and lived, and experienced deeply, and fully in each vibrant second of Now. These moments do not come again, and each one is precious.
Our days are not meant to be wasted, or saved, but spent lavishly and with exuberance, immersing ourselves in the excitement of what it means to be Alive.
And so, last night, walking in the icy night air, the streets silent and close around me, it seemed for me that I have been spinning my wheels for too long, lost in repeated uncertainty, pondering the imponderable, doomed to inaction as I second guess my own intentions. The morning sunrise brought illumination, a new determination, a decision to start to weave a new story, to begin again to declare something new with a confident and bold hand. So perhaps now is a good time to write again, to use these moments of icy clarity as a springboard to something new.
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