Winter, ThoughtsSarah Hardman

Jewels

Winter, ThoughtsSarah Hardman
Jewels

I've got a cold. My throat's sore and my ears are blocked. All part of the territory when you have a child at school (not that I'm blaming him - well, maybe a bit). If it's done its worst by the time we move, I can cope with that. 

I know you're supposed to keep warm and rest but that's not very realistic when you've got a Major Life Event (house move), a five-year-old to get organised each morning and lots of other stuff to deal with. So the other day I didn't do the sensible thing by staying indoors. I went out into the bitter cold for a walk. Minus gloves - I regretted that one. Taking photographs with numb hands and frozen fingers isn't very easy.

It wasn't the most inspiring of mornings - pale skies and lots of mud after the previous night's heavy rain. There's still some autumn colour here and there but as it becomes more scarce it gets more striking; vivid brights gleaming out from the shadows and undergrowth, the dark and damp places. 

The sharp, clean air felt pretty good. Yes my extremities were tingling but when I reached the field gate I chose to keep going rather than heading back through the village. Sometimes you're not ready to go home just yet. So I didn't. 

I wandered down a watery path and sought out the jewels: holly berries, rosehips, fruiting ivy, bleached ferns.

I know this talk of holly and ivy is straying into festive territory but winter's coming. There are signs of it in the hedgerows, the fields and woods, the orchards and gardens. I'm not in favour of all the commercialism and the hard sell which seems to start earlier and earlier every year, but I do like the gradual tiptoeing-in of winter as autumn slips away.

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I could hear trickling water as I walked. Little streams and rivulets coming down from the moors. This is why I rarely head out without wellies. And wellies mean you can fit an extra pair of socks underneath. Which was entirely necessary.

I also took a small plastic bag in my pocket in case it rained (it did, eventually) and the camera needed to be kept dry. A woolly hat is useful not just for warmth but also to stop a fringe flying about all over the place, which can be distracting. I took the scissors to it last week after the usual 'Should I/shouldn't I' thing I go through every so often. I like a fringe but it requires a bit more maintenance, especially for a wavy-haired individual.

I keep thinking about things we need to buy before heading north. On days like these, you keep coming back to one in particular: thermals.

We've had snow since then and this morning everything was covered in silver; Jack Frost-etched leaf patterns on the car windscreens and sparkle in the field behind the house. We're wearing layers on top of more layers. I warm Joe's home clothes on the radiator ready for when he's back from school.

But back to the November jewels.

I know some people have already put up their Christmas trees and decorations. The lights are up around the village and in our nearest town. But it's nice to look for the gilded, the glistening, the burnished within nature. 

The march towards Yuletide, in the natural world at least, is subtle and gradual, more of a quiet ushering-in. The bronzes and yellows of autumn are shrinking away and collapsing into the shadows as the evergreens, the scarlets and crimsons come to the fore.

Maybe I'm living vicariously through the outdoors. We won't have the usual Christmassy adornments at home this year (not that we do the whole opulent extravaganza thing anyway). Whilst I'll be soaking up the atmosphere in the town - and on my goodbye visits to my favourite haunts like Hebden Bridge - I'm planning to juxtapose it all with a natural Yuletide.

It's probably a good idea to get out for some air and green therapy right now. Take a break from the whole moving house rollercoaster: packing things into boxes, address changes, form filling, planning, struggling to locate everyday items which used to live in drawers and wardrobes. Jay's up and down between here and Skye moving furniture into storage so everything, routine-wise, feels up in the air.

Add Christmas into the mix and it starts to feel a bit overwhelming.

So I head for the hills for a little while and come home feeling refreshed and ready to take up the reins again.