Wheeling overhead, the crows cry freedom.
The very wind that bites the skin off my face first flows through their feathers. A baker’s dozen, lucky for them, the crows cavort on the currents, plying their skills to the world. They don’t need to do this. It’s fun.
Impervious to the chill of the winter season they duck and dive above the reach of the skeletal slumbering ash trees. I watch. Driving hail finds its way down the back of my collar, keen to trickle a line of sensation down my vertebrae.
A lone deer outlines the horizon, his proud horns pronging skyward, his mind on mating, maybe. I remember him from spring standing by his doe who, heavily pregnant, welcomed his strength, his presence amongst the burst of bluebells. Now he is wilder. As are the crows.
Winter is holding them too and they feel the thinness of nature. Life is more tenuous now. Death is closer. The forever circle of buzzard a reminder. Life on the edge is so much sharper.
By my side a flurry of tits scurry mouse-like through the trembling birch twigs, focused on their mission to find seeds or bugs as if their very lives depended on it. A tinkle of long-tailed tits dance through the wood, doing the same. Trying to survive. Do they think of the reward of a coming spring?I do, and I don’t have it so hard. Just a hail dampened collar.
The valley is near silent apart from my crunching footsteps which beat my rhythm to the earth. Iced puddles crackle, frozen twigs snap stiffly against my thighs, cold-hard holly scrapes my jacket.
My breath clings to the valley air, suspended clouds hang in my wake. Wake up, nature says, winter has returned!
Hidden woodland depths are now laid bare, their every corner blushingly revealed. I scan slowly through the undergrowth of her, knowing that countless eyes sense my next move. Winter brings a particular ‘oneness’ to the land.
It’s a time to revel in the life that we still have. What must life be like when every freezing night is a milestone, when every frozen, sodden, awakening is further confirmation that life is still yours!
Yes… winter is a time to go within, to nurture by the fireside, to pull the covers over your head for ‘just five more minutes’, but how much more joyous are those stolen moments of warmth after a bracing, ear-biting, foot-numbing encounter with whatever is out there in the wilder realm of nature.
We can be blessed by nature every single day if we choose to be.
There’s inspiration out there in all seasons.
There’s life out there. Watch the crows – they know!