Let me invite you into a French countryside tale.
At first, the weather is disturbingly warm and wet. Still, there’s not nearly enough rain to end our water woes caused by last year’s drought. And there’s the endless grey. Only the modest flames in our fireplace brighten up my gloom. Early catkins on trees, tiny plump buds pushing out of the stems. I worry about plants blooming too early, before the bees arrive and before the last freeze. Did I ever complain about the cold? I wish I hadn’t.
WINTER DIGS IN ITS HEELS
Then, one day, we tumble into a fairyland of misty skies and feathery snow. Temperatures drop to sub-zero and the pond freezes over. As winter digs in its heels, it’s all hands on deck to keep the house and pipes from freezing, and to keep ourselves warm. Seeing how quickly our firewood stacks shrink sends me into a frenzy. We head out into the chilly woods to insure the warmth of wood for the future and we bring in a large tree that came down in the last storm. I want firewood for life!
Inside, we finally resume work on the aviary after a years delay caused by humidity problems and sloppy workmanship. Of course, installing a woodburner is a priority. Fire burning and candles lit, we move on to wall coverings and a tiny kitchen. We finally get to use the planks that Thomas has cut from a fallen tree. We stain the wood to a rich chocolate brown by charring them. An ideal job in cold weather and a DIY dream come true. A blowtorch! Blazing flames!
A SEPIA LANDSCAPE
On breaks, I go for strolls in the snowkissed woods. One day, mist has drawn a blanket over us and I walk through a sepia landscape. The sharply cold air and frozen ground feel cleansing. The catkins that troubled me before now look mesmerizing, and I collect branches of chaenomeles and cherry that were studded with the odd bloom to let them burst in the warmth of the château kitchen.
At the time of writing, thaw and muddy grounds have arrived. And yet, I cannot imagine a lovelier place to be in on a dreary day. Soon the first bright yellow celandines and daffodils will bloom, heralding the optimism of a new season. Even in the depths of a uncannily warm winter there is hope. And beauty. Such extraordinary beauty, always.