The winter here in the Cambrian Mountains has been unusually extreme, with heavy snows and rain, high winds, and cold temperatures alternating rapidly with mild. The conditions have breathed fresh life into the valley, purifying the ground and knocking out tangled branches in the old trees in order to bring light into a shady copse – natural pruning for which I was grateful. The cold has enabled the garden to sleep deeply in its hibernation, restoring and readying itself for spring, and it has disinfected the soil better than any chemical bug killer.
The ponds that I love so much are brimming over with water and running crystal clear, clean and ready for the frogs, toads and newts that will arrive soon as the harbinger of spring; these wet, muddy conditions are a water vole heaven, and new burrows have appeared in the pond bank in celebration. I celebrate with them, thankfully.
The winter has also been dark, so dark that the birds fail to leave their night-time roosts in the morning, and a glimpse of sunshine is a shock. We are reminded that light is always with us in the occasional frosty, starry sky and the glow of fire as we humans hibernate at night, leaving the outside world to its privacy. During the dusk-day, rather than use artificial light when I work, a soft candle flickers by my side, a comforting reminder of the calm beauty that is our Spirit-filled world as it dissipates the gloom of a wet January day.
I am fortunate in that I can retreat from the challenges of weather if I want to, and that, for now, their extremes have been easy compared to other places in the world where humans and wildlife have suffered so sadly. As I celebrate the light and life of this special winter, I do so in the awareness that others do not or cannot do the same – and not just because of the weather - and that future winters could be very different. This knowledge makes my appreciation for every day of peace all the greater. It is good to remember too that in the deepest darkness, the light shines.