It didn’t really snow today, the sky just stayed immobile, smooth and even as careful plasterwork, almost the same colour as the ground, so that in the distance, you could hardly tell earth and sky apart. Every so often a few light flakes of plaster would drift downward, as if a little too much whitewash had been applied, the excess flaked off, as it dried. Apart from that, both sky and earth were motionless. And silent. It’s harder of course to walk through snow than it is over bare ground, with old grass turned wintery tawny yellow, and the dried stalks, once an off-white faded colour, like tasteful lacy dresses the kind our grandmothers kept, packed in tissue paper in a wardrobe – the stalks with moisture embedded in their stems by frost and snow, now dark brown. Even clumps of spruce trees on the hills wore a scattering of snow, seed pearls, turning them a paler green.
Footprints of dog and human showed that someone else had walked this track today, or even yesterday. I would have liked some snowy declaration from the sky, some burst of temper or of benediction who can say, but the sky held in its crystal feelings, turned away from us, bided its time or rested, gathering its energy while looking for some direction it might head for, leaving barometers poised to strike a balance, to adjust their needles, sensitive and delicate, all to give us information, to assuage our hunger to know the future, guess at how things will be, perhaps from love of future or perhaps from a triumphant need to know, to be prepared, not to be caught out or surprised by anything, the closest we can come, or edge in the direction of – control.
Under the road bridge over the old railway, its inner arch coated and patched with a creamy white substance, a chalky deposit that drips and forms little shoots, downward-pointing, of stalactites, but which have disappeared now, most likely frozen and fallen off.
Thin yellow stalks of dried grasses emerge from the snow, throw delicate lines of cream colour across the smooth unchanging whiteness. Further on, at the rail bridge across the river, a small machine is parked, surrounded by a high mesh fence that has a notice pinned to it, declaring it to be a site works, where protective head and footwear, as well as ear and eye protection, must be worn.
Down the slope to the river, islands of river bank that collapsed in recent floods, lie in the water flow, each with their own covering of snow.
Even the stones by the river on the patch of flat ground like a beach, where the river bends, even they are snow-covered. And further on, where tree limbs lean out across the water, they have their own shapely snow strips, following precisely each turn and angle of the branches.
Frozen water covering. And below them, the moving water of the river. It is the only thing that moves, apart from some flickers of small dark birds, skimming the water and disappearing into dark stones, dark branches, just vanishing.