Snow has been dumped all around us for a week now. As ever, it has transformed the world into something innocent and wonderful. The innocence is in the clear emptiness of white, the wonder is in the beauty of the four prints of a rabbit, the two front paws placed carefully together and the long prints of its hind feet swung past the front paws to make the distinctive track. For the rabbit it is life and death, but the fragility of the story in the virgin snow is the beauty of this particular morning.
There was a slight thaw as the daylight strengthened. I could hear water dripping from the trees all around be, and the occasional slide and whoosh as alump of snow slid from a heavy branch. This happens most days, but the thaw is not fast enough to make any real difference, and the night will bring another frost and another light covering of snow.
Ruby and I love this cold miracle. Ruby barks at it and burrows her nose into this delicious blanket that traps all the earth smells under it and holds them in one place for her nose to find them. She knows they are there just for her. She feels like an Arctic fox hunting for lemmings under the winter whiteness. She likes feeling wild like this sometimes. It connects to the tiny bit of wolf she still has in the deeps of her genetic double helix.
I love it because suddenly there are no paths, no rules. I am excited by the distant twitches in my DNA, too, twitches that must be squirting hormone chemicals into my brain that warn me of nameless prehistoric fears, of famine and predators and deadly cold. They are ancient fears, that play with our emotions, just like jumping off bridges with a bit of rubber band tied round your ankle , or driving a fast car, or free-climbing a vertical rock face.
It is important to get out in the snow to experience this frisson of fear in a world changed utterly, a world with no paths, and to realise that we are all – people and animals – in this winter together for real. Let the snow melt on your tongue and feel the cold-ache in your toes and fingers. Share the snow with all the unseen hungry animals.
It means you’re alive!