with art by Jeanie Tomanek
All week we'd been hearing about the "Beast from the East," pushing frigid Arctic weather across Europe and covering the British Isles with snow. Storms rolled across Ireland, Scotland, the rest of England...snow fell on Cornwall and the south Devon coast...while here in Chagford, the sun kept shining and the village felt more like Brigadoon than ever, inhabiting a different world with different weather than everyone else.
The hound and I were longing for snow. We hadn't seen snow, not proper snow, for several winters on the trot...just frost, or hail, or flurries that lightly glazed the hills then disappeared...not real snow like the storms of 2013, 2012, 2010, and many years before.
On Wednesday night, the temperature dropped. On Thursday morning, we woke to snow.
It was just a powdery dusting to begin with, but I dressed in a hurry and grabbed my coat. Tilly burst out the kitchen door, ecstatic; she bound up the hill behind our house, rounded past the studio, leapt over the iced-up stream behind it and pelted into the woods. She loves the snow. And so do I, taking pleasure in Tilly's keen delight, and the eternal, ephemeral magic of weather: the way that between one hour and next the land becomes a winter's fairy tale, a far outpost of the Snow Queen's realm.
By afternoon, it was snowing hard. By nightfall, the lanes had drifted over; the village was entirely snowed in. The storm raged as we went to sleep, and I wondered whether it would truly last...or if we'd wake to dreary rain again, the snow melted and gone.
The next morning, Tilly stared out the bedroom window. Snow! Snow! Proper snow!
Too excited to wait for me to eat my breakfast, she bounced out the back door to the courtyard, where potted plants were buried in white and our "Lady of Bumblehill" statue (by Wendy Froud) had skirts of ice. The hound ran in circles while I finished my coffee, laced on sturdy winter boots, dug out my warmest mittens, and then followed my dog outside.
This time, we headed down the hill, slipping and sliding down a steep and icy road until we reach the path to Meldon Commons, blanketed by snow and silence.
The snow fell thick and steadily. No cars moved through the village today, and the loudest sound was the laughter of children sledging on a hill nearby.
Tilly led the way, breaking through the snow's thin crust, forging the path I followed. We were not the first to use this trail; there were other foot prints, paw prints, pony prints...
...but we met no one along the way and when we reached the Commons, it was empty too. Just a vast white field, a vast white sky. A snow-speckled dog. And me.
"I am a book of snow," wrote Pablo Neruda, "a spacious hand, an open meadow, a circle that waits, I belong to the earth and its winter."
The hound and I, we belong to earth and the winter too, I thought as we crossed through bramble thorns and gorse, ice crackling with our steps.
But my toes were cold, Tilly's nose crusted with ice. Back home, a fire in the Rayburn stove poured heat, like love, from the kitchen hearth. (In the long winter months it feels like warmth and love are the same thing.) I belonged to earth, but I was made of blood and bones, and I was shivering....
So I turned around, and whistled once. The hound came running at my call.
Our homeward path lay entirely uphill: steep, icy, and treacherous. I was tired now, still fragile after weeks of flu, a little unsteady on my feet. I tightened my scarf, brushed ice from Tilly's fur, and told her: Yes, you can lead the way.
She walked ahead, pacing her steps, stopping every so often to check on me.
We'll be home soon. I can feel the warmth of the stove already....
Lead on. Lead on.
The art today, of course, is by the extraordinary Jeanie Tomanek. Go here to see more.