With Jay away for a couple of days I could have had a lie-in, but that is never the way of things. When he isn’t there I wake too briskly and there is no point in lingering unless there is a good book to keep me in place. This morning there was a good book, but I had been reading it into the small hours last night and felt that I should be out making the most of lack of rain.
Sunlight streamed across the valley, lighting the hazy, purple clouds that blew softly towards us, picking out the snowdrops in sparkling white. There wasn’t a sharp line to be seen anywhere as low light sparkled the wetness that lingered on the fields, shimmering off a million droplets of water that clung to the winter wheat. As we reached the top of the hills the wind buffetted against us, tugging at Hoover’s ears, making me glad that I had covered mine.
The bare winter landscape can be breathtakingly beautiful, black branches stark against a chill sky, sun glinting off the sharp edges of flints in the fields, Hoover frisked along the headland, checking out the hedgerows, always finding plenty to investigate as I shoved my hands deeper into my pockets, intent on finding warmth.
The blanket of cloud that was rolling towards us from the west had yet to hit the sun which struggled to conjure up any warmth as the wind shook my confidence.
“Maybe it won’t be that long a walk,” I suggested to Hoover. She ran ahead to see what lay around the corner, checking over her shoulder that I was make adequate progress as expected. Finding me further behind her than she liked, she bounded back for a biscuit and reassurance; hers or mine I am never sure.
As we turned down the path to the next valley the light faded as the clouds swept over the sun, dousing its brilliance and dispelling any thought of a spring morning.
I turned up my collar, pulling the zip higher to keep out the wind that fought to find its way into every little crevice. Hoover checked out the hedges. Have deer passed this way? Was that a fox travelling through? I spot a nifty rabbit dive for cover while Hoover looked the other way.
“You missed that one,” I laughed. Hoover danced around me in celebration of cheerfulness.
Brisk walking kept me warm, but my heart was chilled by the plick of rain hitting my jacket. Hoover scuttled back to my side. Cold she can cope with when her woolly coat is thick; wind is no hardship, playing with her ears as it wafts in with promises of far distant delights to be found. But rain she doesn’t like, and she rattles her ears to shake off the droplets.
“We’ll turn right at the top,” I decided, “and keep it short.” But by the time we got there the rain had gone. The sun had won its battle. A shaft of light gilded the trees as we arrived and Hover looked suggestively at the other tracks that headed further afield.
“I guess we’ve weathered the worst,” I told Hoover. “We’ll carry on” Hoover expressed her delight by skipping under the barrier and launching upwards. I ducked under it and follow her lead. The walking had made me warm and although the breeze ruffled my hair I was as keen as Hoover to make the most of our hills. She paused to let me catch up.
Three minutes later I felt the first zing of snow thrust its needle sharp spikes at my cheeks. Out of nowhere I blizzard was upon us and the hills disappeared in whiteness, Within minutes Hoover and I were battling our way, shoulder hunched, heads down. Hoover tucked her head close to my thigh as I held my hands up to shelter my face from the icy blast. The snow fell so fast that even shaking her head only made for momentary freedom from the crusting of Hoover’s eyebrows.
Two valleys from home we turned east out of the wind at last. Now that it was finally at our backs the lull of warmth was more than welcome. My shouldes relaxed, my hands dropped to my sides and I lifted my eye to the hills again. There, under the dark clouds, beyond the scudding snow, was a shaft of blue that promised sunshine to come. As we dropped into the next valley the snow stopped and by the time we rose to the top of the final hill and looked down into the village all trace of snow was gone again. Hoover paused to check who had passed by a clump of grass and I saw the hills beyond her bathed in sunlight again.
And as we headed back down the path towards the church the fields sparkled in sunshine again and the sheep emerged from the sheltering lea of the hedges. The dark clouds were lifting as blue sky pushed them out of the way. Breakfast was going to be a celebratory feast.