It looked beautiful outside, lulled me into forgetting we are balanced on the edge of winter and so I ventured into the pale blue day, ill clad. Needles – the air was full of them – pricked me all over, scrubbed my cheeks red and made my eyes to stream. One glove off, I dabbed beneath my watery sockets wondering if my mascara was escaping down my cheekbones. It might be a good look for a hallowe’en party, had I been bound for one, but it was nine in the morning and I was not. Out of habit, I pulled my shoulders closer to my ears, indulged in a long internal grumble on the woes of winter, and counted how long it would be until the clocks change back again. ‘Stop wishing your life away,’ my better-self reminded me, ‘look up at those little Lowry stick people climbing Arthur’s Seat; see how amazing the visibility is, you can never see that far in the summer!’ ‘Bah!’ I responded to my better self, though I did stop long enough to notice that the sky behind the climbers was unique to this time of year. I struggle to put a name to the backdrop. A blue that has been washed, rinsed, then washed again until it becomes transparent, like fine duck-egg porcelain held up to the light. And it deepened in colour as I watched, the transient, ephemeral pale disappearing into the deepening day.
That was yesterday. This morning I was not to be tricked again. Mummified in layers of merino wool, I used my extra hour to walk Arthur’s Seat with K. The light is better at this time of the year, I told her, congratulating myself on my epiphany; my strengthening resolve to see the positive side of winter. We were south of the seat now, sheltered from the morning’s no-nonsense wind. A swoop of swans descended quick and fast onto Duddingston Loch where the wind patterned the water like topographic contour lines; tiny ripples close together when a gust hit, then ripples expanding and loosening into wide spreading folds. The swans, honking as they fell, pulled their wings in close like parachutes for the final descent, and skimmed to a soft landing at the edge of the loch. High up, where we walked, the elders, brambles and rowans were bare and wind burnt. Looking down onto Prestonfield, the trees were packing up the last of their colour. But the sky was doing that thing again: imperceptibly bleeding from shade to shade like a paint chart, presenting an impossible palette of contrasting winter blues.
Today feels like winter’s edge. A fresh wind is blowing through Edinburgh, blowing me into the dark season, despite my resistance. I don’t want to jump, but this morning – as clear as those swans coming to land on water – I know I can shun it no longer. It’s time to jump, drop, and settle into it. And so I will.
Weathers, by Thomas Hardy
This is the weather the cuckoo likes,
And so do I;
When showers betumble the chestnut spikes,
And nestlings fly;
And the little brown nightingale bills his best,
And they sit outside at ‘The Traveller’s Rest,’
And maids come forth sprig-muslin drest,
And citizens dream of the south and west,
And so do I.
This is the weather the shepherd shuns,
And so do I;
When beeches drip in browns and duns,
And thresh and ply;
And hill-hid tides throb, throe on throe,
And meadow rivulets overflow,
And drops on gate bars hang in a row,
And rooks in families homeward go,
And so do I.