Outside My Window…

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Clematis “Winter Beauty” outside my kitchen window

I love my garden in winter. I know it’s meant to be bleak and bare, the season where nothing ever happens; but on cold winter mornings I find myself drawn to the garden. A brisk run to fill bird feeders or pick up windblown silver birch twigs for kindling often turns into a slow meander as I stop to admire the low winter sun shining through the waxy flowers of a late clematis, or listen to a song thrush.

Small pleasure, finding joy in a busy day. These garden moments remind me that even in the depths of winter, there is a reason to be outdoors. Of course, there are the days when I am forced to sit inside, looking out, when aching joints, headaches or just the effort of meeting a deadline mean that I must sit at my desk. On these mornings I sit eating breakfast, my camera beside me.  It may be just a quick snap of the robin, a glimpse of a snowdrop or the rare sight of a jay swooping low over the fields that catches my eye as I watch, but capturing these snatched moments has become a part of my daily routine.

When I do step outside, I realise that nature has accepted me. The robin sits waiting for me to scatter a few seeds on a tree stump, scolding me if I forget. The blackbirds no longer scurry away, but turn their heads towards me as if to say good morning. The crows and wood pigeons stare down from the tall branches, no longer startled or flying away. I am no longer just a garden observer, I am a part of this garden and just as I have shaped this outdoor space, it has shaped me. Offering joy, solace, optimism and comfort.

I have lots of deadlines approaching, the new book is nearing completion and I promise myself, that once this book is done I shall take a much needed break, to spend mornings exploring the garden, afternoons in the woods and evenings spent watching the sunset. For now, I must be grateful for these snatched moments, the beautiful last days of winter.

You can find more snapshots of my daily dose of the outdoors on my Instagram feed  click on the icon in the right hand column to see more.

The First Frost

sturdy boots on the first frostYesterday I woke and found I was cold. Properly cold for the first time since March. I looked out of the bedroom window to see grass laced with white icing, a bright blue sky and birds all puffed up and fluffy, perched in almost bare branches.

By the time I dressed and took my coffee outside the grass had become soggy, the nasturtiums were still edged with icy frills, but the frost was over and the promise of winter seemed a long way off.

Autumn is my favourite season, and this gentle nudging towards winter is best of all. I know that not everyone agrees there is beauty in this season. I’m reminded of  a piece I read  by Emma Mitchell in Standard Issue magazine, in which she wrote:

I don’t relish fossicking for my long johns in my knicker drawer, bulk buying ChapStick or feeling icy seepage through a hole in my welly. Winter can jog on.

While I sympathise with the cruelties of harsh winter weather (I suffer from frizzy hair, chapped lips and cold toes), I find myself  looking forward to the cold months. I like to hunker down with wool blankets, hot drinks and heavy, hard backed books. This is a time to re – read old favourites by the fire, light candles and to be honest, I find myself spending more time outdoors than in the height of summer, just so I can appreciate that sensation of slowly warming up and watching my cold breath and my glasses demisting.

In the garden there is plenty to do, so always a reason to be outdoors. Ever the optimist, I plant bulbs for spring. I pick dried  seed heads and cut branches for the house. I much prefer the russet reds and oranges of autumn to the blousy pinks and purples of high summer.  I walk in a circuit, inspecting each flower bed and border. It is the last day of October and  the grass is still growing, but too wet to cut. The roses cling on, passing on the baton to late flowering clematis and winter jasmine (Jasminum sieboldianum). There are still cotoneaster berries, turning deep red and still plump, the fluffy heads of Bill MacKenzie are tangled and silky reminders of a summer filled with bright yellow clematis flowers. I pick up stray branches of silver birch to use as kindling and plan my day.

I begin to feel the damp, cold air. It’s time to head indoors, pour fresh coffee and begin the day’s admin of emails to read, bills to pay, commissions to plan. Books don’t write themselves and food must be bought. I feel the need to bake a cake, a sticky, stodgy gingerbread or fruit cake. The kind of cake you cut in thick slices and eat in front of the fire with scented candles burning. Yes, if you visit me in winter you will be handed cake and a steaming mug of tea almost before you’ve had a chance to unwind your scarf or kick off your shoes.

I  relish “peak autumn”, dried and curling leaves, clear blue skies, low winter sun and an excuse to wrap, snuggle and indulge my maternal instinct to provide warming stews, hearty broths and stodgy puddings.  I welcome the cold, the damp and the dark.  I refuse to be sad that summer is over, or to resent autumn as the wet, soggy poor relation or to resist the dark of winter. I embrace autumn, I welcome winter. I look forward to scented paper Whites in dishes on window ledges.

It feels rebellious to speak of autumn with so much love when others are complaining bitterly about the cold, the damp and the dark. So, feel free to remind me of this post  on  January mornings when my hands are numb from scraping ice  and I complain bitterly about cracked lips, dry hair and damp washing that refuses to dry ….

 

Photos credit: Sturdy Boots on Frost: Llum Isart

 

 

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