Well, here it is, at last – the first snow of the year.
We woke to a new world, changed utterly. Suddenly, the dark morning was made light and eerie. Ruby, the dog, scampered out into the garden and barked at the white stuff. I could see her remembering other winters, as she burrowed her nose through it all.
On a sunny morning like this, we race to get up out of bed so we can go out into the virgin snow. If you knew me well, you would know what a big deal it must be for me to race out of bed. I’m normally very slow to get going in the morning.
This morning, however, we were all out before breakfast. Two people who are too old and boring to be childishly grinning in scarves and gloves, and a dog deliriously excited. Apart from a few rabbit tracks, our footprints were breaking fresh ground, and our footprints sparkled in the low sun, so that looking behind me revealed a wake of phosphorescence.
The canal was still, and reflected the eggshell blue sky and black and white of the hill. Rabbit and squirrel tracks revealed a world of activity that only Ruby really knew about – squirrels, rabbits, and the odd mink, and, down by the millpond, the occasional deer.
Animal tracks in snow are a strange window into a different experience of time. When you see them spread out around you, the scene is one of a crowd of happy creatures, out for a stroll in the fresh snow. But, of course, they weren’t all there at the same time, and each one was probably anxious about the sudden disappearance of accessible food. For them, snow is a life and death affair, as it was for humans until Dickens invented Christmas.
Ruby and her friend, Molly, who appeared silently from nowhere, played and barked and chased each other. Ruby dug holes in the snow, because she could and it was fun and it released new smells from a black earth. A robin came over from the hedge to investigate these little holes in the snow, and then followed Ruby around as she dug, looking for food she may have disturbed.
Far off, on the hillside, children were sledging, laughing, falling over and screaming.
When snow stays white, as it does here, it is truly beautiful, yet, on the railway tracks, slow trains full of shoppers, are heading for the Sales in Manchester, oblivious of the winter wonderland through which they pass.