Yes, as everybody knows, we are snowed in in Northumberland. It happened last winter, and at the time the local council explained away its not coping, assuring us that next time they would be better prepared for extreme weather. Well, this winter came early and is much worse than the last, but relief is less in evidence.
The road to Bellingham has been treacherous – I skidded off it last week, and didn’t stop until a hawthorn stopped my descent, leaving my car badly scratched. It took two kindly locals to pull me out, one with with her four-by-four and the other barking out instructions with mildly suppressed impatience at my poor understanding of the emergency motoring lexicon. That was last week. For the last three days this road has remained innocent of grit or snowplough, leaving its users to our own devices. My own device has been to leave the scratched vehicle parked past the bridge to avoid last year’s doomed struggles on the battlefield of my drive and the communal private road. From this vantage point I was able to dig it out for a slog to Bellingham to get supplies – such as they were – three days ago. Since then my raked vehicle has stood at the bridge gathering snow, resembling more and more an overiced birthday cake. Fresh attempts to break a path out for it have been greeted with the mockery of Nature, who would proceed to cover the grooves of my shovel with plentiful new waves of snow, even as I shovelled.
Which is why last night, when I followed the Bouvier on his final outing, I was struck by an eerie stillness where all commotion had ceased. The snow had settled, the wind had stopped, the air had a cruel clarity to it, and the sky was the starriest I remember. Each star was making a textbook display of itself, lacking only the name tags for the astral ignoramuses like me. The constellations outlined themselves with such incandescence that you could read in them any form, not just the requisite Orion with his belt, but the features of your own imagining, your own unbridled dream. You had to admit that Nature knew how to inspire as much as how to punish. At least when it chose to. And, for a moment, you had to forget all the harm, all the hassle, and be thankful for the beauty.