I adore winter. I know that this is unusual and, especially in Italy, most people prefer summer but days of sweltering heat that linger until late drain all my energy, whereas the long, dark evenings of winter bring me comfort.
I love to curl up in front of a fire, listen to the song that the logs sing and watch the flames flicker and jump. As a child I loved sitting by the window when I had come home from school, looking at the dark enveloping the house; the gleam of the streetlight on the wet road, the skeletal branches dancing in the garden as the wind tossed their shadows across my face. There is a kind of slow, hidden magic in winter. Nature is honed down to bare, stark essentials and yet beneath the ground there is life laying in wait for the warmth of spring to release it.
In my novel, “The Song of the Cypress”, I write about each season as it unfolds. Here is how the Cypress, guardian of the sacred places, views winter.
Winter, season of inner growth and hidden mystery. Suddenly, with no warning, winter tightens its icy grip on the land; a cold, remorseless embrace that will endure for months. Winter has a terrible, stern beauty. In the linearity of bare branches and frosted furrow, the true shape of things is unveiled. Muddy brown earth is sealed with a shimmering coat of frost. The wind sears like white heat. Ridges of mud crack, blades of grass snap. When all else has faded and died away only the bare outline is left, like webs of dark branches against white sky. Nature, stripped of its bright adornments, is starkly skeletal and what is left is the essential core.
Then another transformation as soft snowflakes swirl around me, wrapping me up along with the rest of the world.
Under the snow’s cold blanket all is isolated. It is hard to recognise my world in the rounded, crystal perfection.
While other trees lower their heavy boughs to form tunnels that spring back when touched with a shuddering flurry of white, I am unbending. The snow that wraps me is the first to slip away in the pale winter sun.
Under the cold glittering starkness of the winter world, life lies in wait. In the dark womb of the earth the hidden mystery of life is quickening.
Snow sculpts the landscape into pregnant curves and, when the spring eventually brings the thaw, that same snow will melt deep into the earth, nourishing, swelling, easing new life to the surface.