A BLUE BRIGHT COLD DAWN blew in the other day. It was a surprise amid these endless fogged and drenched grey days of unspring. Chicklets under our eaves, gambolling lambs and dogged primroses are chirping out the fact of spring, their joys flitting over the Equinox and on through white-blanketed March, whilst we huddle indoors, disbelieving the daffodils and wondering what happened to the sun.
This blue bright morning was beautiful though, and all etched in frost. Macha and I climbed the hill behind our house where you can see all across the valley of villages and out beyond onto Dartmoor. A mist crept in, silent and low, hanging between the hills and whispering over the roofs of the just-waking houses.
Frozen mornings trap beauty in a certain thrilling way. The ochres and browns of winter's trees and hedges hummed in patchworks around the shadow blues of iced fields.
As the morning rose, the light pinked the far-off moors before it reached us.
There's a magnificent old sentinel pine tree on the hill behind our house, a homing land mark for getting lost on long rambles over the fields, and a memory-keeper for all that happens in the valleys below.
Macha and I stepped quietly through the dawning, smelling new things from the night, and looking down into the day shining crisply at our feet.
Other days have brought snows, which have dusted the toes of birches, the roofs of shacks and weighed heavy on the confused petals of spring.
On the rare days we have sun, it plays a game of chase with the frost across the thatched roof of our cottage, until the colder of them wins at the end of the day anyway.
There have been beautiful visitations at unexpected moments too. I encountered the swoop of a tawny owl one night as I drove home along a dark lane. It landed on a branch overhanging the road, and so I stopped and turned off the engine to watch it. It crouched there with something in its claws looking me directly in the eye. Then it flew off into the night, dropping the whateveritwas onto the road. I peered and noticed it moving. So I got out of the van and went over to find a baby rabbit, screaming, but apparently unhurt. I picked it up and took it home in my lap, where it crouched, the terrible screaming subsiding eventually. Once home, it almost met its end again after leaping from my lap and running to the darkest corner of the room where Macha leapt after it. Deciding that I wasn't going to be able to raise this little one myself, I took it outside in the dark to find a rabbit hole. It was small, and probably too young to survive alone. I don't know whether rabbits adopt young, but this one had already been flown far from its home, so I had to try. It sat still on my open palm for a while, sniffing the air. Then - hop, hop, hop - it bounced down the rabbit hole I'd found for it, and out of my story.
Another night brought a flitting-flapping floor-bound moth to the corner of my eye. It also nearly ended up as a dog-snack, but I held it for a while, its wings so light green and papery, they were almost an entirely new colour. I had a chance to remember this one with my camera before I released it to a night time of moon and owl silence.
The letterbox has also brought wonders from other shores, whilst we stay in by the fire as the winter refuses to withdraw her talons.
These beautiful hand-spun, hand-knitted sock masterpieces were knitted by Teleri Gray in Germany in return for some of my prints. I am so delighted by their intricacy and perfect fit, I almost can't bear to wear them and prematurely destroy the heels with my chicken feet!
And last but most surely not least, a wonder-tale through the mail, written by my amazingly talented word-magician friend Sylvia Linsteadt. This is part one of the Gray Fox Epistles, a fairytale-by-post project that she has created, and which you can sign up for too, at her blog. This first story is a retelling of the Celtic tale, The Children of Lir, and my goodness is it an artful and beautifully-wrought thing! Sylvia makes the land speak across centuries, and conjures a world so familiar to me, that it is all the more strange for it.
The envelope arrived, all wrapped in wonder and the footprints of deer, and tucked inside were wild clover leaves, redwood needles and a single wild jackrabbit hair. Sylvia has magic in her quill, and I urge you all, each and every one, to sign up for her next story which will be a unique retelling of the Russian tale, Tsarevna Frog. One fine and not too distant day, our arts will share pages, but for that you shall have to wait...
The cold nights are still woodstove firelit and damp window-paned, and our days have been filled with the little plans of coming months. I have painted and drawn and begun preparing a new studio space which must be reached through a trapdoor (of that more anon), and Tom is deep in the gruelling last months of acupuncture studies. The truck awaits our dreams and hammers and nails still, as it crouches under its tarpaulin blanket until clearer skies come this way. Mythic midsummer exhibitions are in the cauldron. My ideas, as ever, tramp and stamp like a herd of snorting wild horses held at the end of a bunch of long tethers in my hand as the year marches on happily and strangely.