How are you? How do you like these wintry days (If you live in the Northern Hemisphere that is)? When it’s cosy and warm and comfortable inside it takes a certain amount of willpower to get up and go out for no real reason. Being the kind of person who loves to hibernate, I try to make it a habit to go outside no matter what the weather.
I always feel better when I do. Over time I have come to notice just how much of a difference a 30-40 minute walk makes in a day. It invigorates, it grounds, it calms, it clears my head. I usually come home with ideas for writing or painting and the enthusiasm to get on with it. I even feel healthy afterwards – all fresh-cheeked and glowing from the inside and I am less likely to reach for a coffee and a chocolate biscuit.
Deep in the winter season as we are, the first impressions of the landscape are bleak. Here in England, at first glance, there is little to see but bare brown branches and a whole lotta mud. There are no wildflowers or squirrels to catch your eye, no bugs or bees; no roses or lilacs tumbling over garden walls. If you want to see anything of interest, anything unusual, you have to look deeper.
You have to really look closely to see the puffs and curls of fungus on the old tree stumps and the yellow-green lichen clinging to the dry-stone walls. You have to pause at the gate of a field and wait quietly to see the flock of crows ascend en masse, or to catch the flash of white underwing as a collared dove alights on the tallest bough. Though even the berries are gone at this time of year there are a few birds still around, not least of all the robins with their berry red breasts.
If you’d like a bit of inspiration for the kinds of things to look for in the UK at this time of year, there’s a short video Here of a botanist with the Natural History Museum, who goes in search of wildlife on a winter walk.
Though I often think I can’t be bothered to drag myself out of that door, I am never sorry when I do. The sky was blue this afternoon and the sun glowed gently from low on the horizon. I closed my eyes and stood still for a few minutes as the warmth soothed my chilled face.
The poet Edith Sitwell wrote that…
“Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire; it is the time for home.”
…and it is all these things which make the long winters bearable. And after a swift or slow meander in the bracing air I appreciate these things all the more. A toasty warm house never satisfies as much as it does coming from the outside in.