After a journey over the Derbyshire hills when Winter itself seemed to take shape and form, this was how I remembered it. A place of utter beauty and totally unforgiving. It was so enchanting, even though we had to drive really slowly to avoid skidding, I couldn’t take my eyes off the world around me.
A DERBYSHIRE WINTER
Yesterday, we met that great icicled old man, Winter,
Striding across the tops of the Derbyshire peaks,
Flinging furious fists of snow on to the roads,
Stones, dips, hollows and hedgerows.
The hills and fields were bone white,
And white to the bone where he had passed.
Even the bleak and edgy rocks had given in,
Hiding their lovely blackness
Out of sight of the old man’s fury.
For who knew what he would do next?
Too late! He’s done it.
That tree standing alone in the emptiness
Should have shown a bit more respect.
Bowed its aching head
Under the snowy crown he had given it,
But somehow it shook the snow off instead.
And that great icicled old man spat spiteful
Gobbets of icy breath across it
Until, for one brief and beautiful moment,
The tree shone and dazzled in the thin sun,
Then broke under the old terror’s icy gift and was gone.
Oh, winter, you could have pity on us.
You could pity the owl and the crow,
The mouse, the fox, the shrew and the stoat.
You could pity the glancing beauty of the dying fish
Striking up through the frozen water.
But you won’t, will you?
Even though you could afford to.
For such splendour and icy glory,
So enchanting it catches the breath
And causes the heart to fall back,
Will never willingly leave these peaks
To the wind and rumpled grass.
© 2018 Gwen Grant
This dazzling book of Hundertwasser’s paintings make the greyest world sing. The picture on the book cover is a detail from a painting I love – ‘Wintergeist – Tableau d’hiver – Winterbild – Polyp’ which I’m reliably informed translates into ‘Winter Painting, Giudecca, April 1966’
Here is what Hundertwasser says about straight lines:
‘If a lion is stalking you, or a shark is out to kill you, you are of course in mortal danger. We have lived with these dangers for millions of years. The straight line is a man-made danger. There are so many lines, millions of lines, but only one of them is deadly and that is the straight line drawn with a ruler. The danger of the straight line cannot be compared with the danger of organic lines described by snakes, for instance. The straight line is completely alien to mankind, to life, to all creation.’
I bought this book years ago from a brilliant bookshop in Lincoln, sadly now closed. It’s one of those finds that are a comfort and inspiration for life.
Silent fields, and a bitter night,
And us, trying to keep warm
Under a frozen sky,
The air so cold, a tap
Would shatter it into shards of darkness
To fall around our feet,
And in that star-lit, owl frozen silence,
The hushed dark call carried thinly
Across the still and sleeping fields.
We, so quiet, the red-gold shadow
Of a fox padded by us
All unaware of our waiting,
Its paw pressing the frosted grass
Into dark and hungry prints
Along the path.
Then the silence was broken
By the soft whisper of wind
Drifting snowflakes down the feathered sky,
To quilt the winter ground,
And, somewhere, in that bitter icy world,
Someone offered a word of hope
To someone else.
As long as hope is in the world, then,
We, cold and frozen in our waiting,
Can warm ourselves at the fire of eternal love.
And the earth turns a little longer.
Finding one another on busy
Or waiting in quiet, hidden gardens.
Late as the sun for the dawn.
Swivel blue bent to my windows,
For the silent lips of a sleeping woman.
And kiss my mouth and I awake
The first dying. Sweet and warm,
I come, and pull the air close round us.
I missed you when you were gone.
© Gwen Grant
Awake one night after a demanding day, I was thinking through
events and, at one point, deep in sadness and regret, I realised
I was forgetting all that gives comfort. So that I could remember
those lovely things in future, I wrote this poem.
Another scratchy night,
With the moon hiding and clouds
Covering the stars.
Bitter thoughts bringing bitter tears,
With memory offering no comfort
Maybe there is a loving hand
To hold your hand,
And maybe not.
Maybe you will remember
Those who once loved you,
And maybe you will forget
How loved you once were.
But when memory fails,
When peace slides out of reach
And touch is never going to be the same again,
You will find strength
In the love that shows itself
In the tenderness of anemones,
Bunched in a small bowl,
Standing on a dark windowsill.