Steel grey sky cloud-filled
cold rain spitting in the wind
the shriek of the gulls.
Lourd ciel d’acier
un crachin froid comme l’hiver
les voix rauques des mouettes.
Where do robins go when summer’s here
and blackbirds fill the hedge with song?
Only when the wind strips bare the trees
and scatters gold upon the ground beneath,
when earth and sky are damp and dark
and the long winter night descends
do bare trees fruit again with feather-red
and robin hurls his sweet triumphant song
against the howling voice of arctic winds.
His fragile courage saving summer’s notes
reminds the cooling heart that spring will come again.
a haze of misty greys
filled with shooting stars
of blazing leaves
and the pure clear beauty
of the robin’s song.
Snow! What is it about the cold, white flakes that appeals so much to the imagination?
We live in a region where people get excited if a handful of sleet drops out of the sky. Yesterday we had a few flakes, more like ash from a bonfire, and ever since my children have been watching the sky, longing for more.
Maybe it’s because I suffer abnormally from the cold, maybe it’s simply that I empathise strongly with the people, birds and animals that have no shelter from it, but snow for me is just frozen rain.
Seen from behind well-insulated glass, in a photograph, in a film, I can appreciate the abstract beauty of it. However, I defy anybody who has read ‘Terror’, Dan Simmons’ novel about the ill-fated Franklin expedition to discover the North-West passage, to feel entirely comfortable in the presence of vast amounts of the deadly white stuff.
Last night was Twelfth Night, officially the last night of Christmas, when the decorations are taken down and, the last blow out meal is eaten, before we get down to the grisly business of surviving the cold and sunless days of January and February. I like the idea of decorating a real tree, particularly that the idea comes from those shaggy tribesmen that Russell Crowe massacres in the opening scenes of ‘Gladiator’.
In our household we wait until the following Sunday which is quite often also the Epiphany. Not for religious reasons, simply because it’s the end of the holidays and back to school the next day. Rather than ending the ‘festive season’ in a frantic tearing of wrapping paper and the destruction of fancy packaging, followed by the rush to ebay to sell the unwanted gifts, the rituals of packing away the decorations for another year, eating the last of the chocolates and burning the tree are all satisfyingly symbolic.
In France we also have the traditional galette des rois, a frangipane pastry eaten at the Epiphany, just to mark the end of Christmas. The galette contains a porcelaine figurine, traditionally one of the crib people, but nowadays just as likely to be a Disney character. We have quite a motley crew in our collection that ranges from Pluto to the baby Jesus, via wild ducks and unidentified beings carrying sinister-looking sacks. They are probably all made in China which explains the slightly off-beat appearance.
Having lit the fire for the winter solstice, we’re sitting tight now until Imbolc, next fire festival when the snowdrops should be out.
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