A deep frost had carpeted the garden with diamonds. A white mist rose from the stream in the woods, cut through with shafts of golden sunlight. The branches of the naked trees stretched their frosted limbs to the blue sky, where a half moon loitered. From the warmth of the kitchen, where last night’s fire still warmed the stove, we stepped bravely into the icy garden. Our breath frosted in clouds before us,“dragon breath!” exclaimed the kids, excitedly, marvelling at their new-found power to blow forth smoke. The grass crunched pleasingly underfoot as the children stepped out onto the lawn.
The older kids ran off in search of icicles and to steal sheets of ice from the buckets, in order to marvel at this strange warbly glass which nature had created overnight from mere water, before joyfully smashing it on the ground. I held our one-year old’s hands, as she walked tentatively out in to the frosty garden, which to her was at once familiar and yet transformed. This was her first time out walking on an icy morning. She insisted on trips to the garden each day – rain or shine – to visit her playhouse, to push along her buggy or to collect leaves. At first she was hesitant, and her eyes widened to see her familiar garden had painted white and silvery. She cautiously put forward a finger to touch the fur of frost on her tricycle. She drew it back at the sudden coldness, before exploring it further. Then, seeing all the fun the older kids were having with this strange icy transformation she gradually grew more confident.
Where she normally had fun splashing in puddles in the driveway, today they were all white and would not splash at all. She approached with due caution, encouraged by her older brother. A toe of her welly first made contact with the ice. Her older brother showed he how much fun it was to crunch the ice. She stepped on and, with a satisfying crunch, the ice sheet gave way beneath her to shards. She was quite surprised, and a little shocked, but she clearly decided that this was fun, as she set determinedly about the task of crunching the ice on every other puddle she could find.
As we walked down the drive, she ambled along at her own pace, curiously touching frosty leaves and crunching the occasional puddle. Beneath the towering trees, she looked tiny and vulnerable, yet she was at home and calmed by the silence of the frosty morning.
As the cold spell continued, the older kids took to logging the temperatures revealed by our weather station, and betting as to when it would dip below zero each evening. This soon evolved into them making a newspaper with weather and other family related news. Before long, they were performing amusing weather bulletins. Living in the country, we are surrounded by a vast tapestry of trees and hills, which transforms with the seasons and the whims of the weather. Perhaps the prominence of this natural backdrop to their lives has triggered their fascination with the weather.
Despite the slippery roads, even we adults prefer these clear, crisp winter’s mornings to the damp drear that can envelop us for weeks in the depths of an Irish winter. The sight of sunlight does us good, as we feel the first faint stir of spring move in the cold trees’ bones, sending forth buds – each a promise that spring will not forget to visit us this year.