|Photo, The Mirror Newsgroup|
Tonight I cannot write of pretty things. It is too cold.
I've lived in London and in remote countryside and loved both ways of life. Cities - endless shops, easy accessibility to all hour food, well lit in the darkest night. The English countryside is full of green magic, trees, flowers, hedges, gloriously scented and full of wildlife to enchant and educate us. But in winter snow and rain can cut you off from supplies and make roads impossible to navigate. Electricity, water and heating can fail. Those postcard pretty cottages with roses round the door are often freezing in winter as oil runs out, becomes too expensive and the wood pile exhausted.
|a local cottage|
Ice hangs upon thatched cottages like the long icy fingers of The Snow Queen.
During hard times it seems trivial to write of luxury which so many do not have time for nor afford. Beauty cheers us and lifts our spirits, inspiring us to create and share. Constant deprivation wounds us deeply and we withdraw into ourselves, our homes, reaching for the fire. Gripped in the frosty embrace of a never ending Winter it is hard to summon Hope, but we must.
Winter remains. The usual promise of Spring is with us, woods carpeted in Snow Drops and Daffodil bloom along roadsides. But the sun does not come to melt the snow. Yet Easter is nearly upon us. Whatever your religious beliefs, it is impossible not to feel the sacred in the change of season from Winter to Spring - if only it would come. The stillness upon the land is beautiful - and deadly.
From deeper countryside than where our little cottage nestles came the heartbreaking news stories of sheep frozen under drifts giving birth to lambs. Desperate shepherds are often unable to save them before the freeze takes them where they lay.
|The Good Shepherd by Richard Hook|
Reporters listen to farmers whisper the realisation that their life as sheep farmers is over, beaten by nature, low prices for their produce and competition in the supermarkets from foreign lamb that can magically be offered cheaper than home grown. In the future when we drive through English and Irish countryside empty of sheep and sheep dogs will we understand that those inexpensive meals we cooked helped to cause this wasteland?
When we grow up we look back at children's stories and sometimes think them foolish. But who dares laugh now at The Snow Queen who threw Winter over Narnia?
Whether we believe in Christ or not the Shepherd is a folkloric figure. These simple people have something highly mystical about them. Living so close to nature and facing hardships alone.
|Illustration by Walter Crane|
It was impossible to watch the news footage of shepherds rescuing what they could of their herds and not shed a tear. Perhaps our tears will melt the snow and bring Spring to resurrect our joy. But for those who have lived through this and lost what they once knew, innocence is gone.
|Innocence 1893 by William Adolphe Bouguereau|
This Easter is unlike any other which I have ever known. More than ever we require faith, in something, to help us believe that Spring will come. And helping hands and hearts. If you are in a cold place, help each other to stay warm. Wherever that you are be amongst friends and remember to share whatever each of us have with those who have not.
|Remember our neighbours, family and friends|