WINTER BEGINS WITH CHRISTMAS
The first of December was overcast with deep grey clouds and everyone held their breath for snow. On the second of December we woke up to a thick white blanket with a grey sky still showering down snow flakes. Gusts of wind blew flurries and drove the cold into any patches of skin left uncovered.
Our village in the snow...
We played outside until Little I had had enough (Little L loves snow so much that I don't think she would choose to leave it before freezing solid herself) and we had hot chocolates in one of the village cafes. It was market day and afterwards we met with friends under the covered square and the children played again, sculpting minature snowmen on benches whille we bought our vegetables and apple juice to mull. We dedicated the afternoon to making Christmas decorations which meant that I tried to get Little I to do something other than cut up a sheet of paper into tiny pieces (her current favourite thing to do) and bit my tongue as Little L reinvented clove oranges...
The snow came as a welcome relief from the cold and grey that had settled here for the previous weeks (and that returned afterwards...). The onset of the cold had also brought with it a grey mood that hung over me, a cold that you can't quite shake from your bones and motivation a little too far away to grasp. The girls wanted to stay in the warm but the claustrophobia of days spent inside makes grumpiness contagious. It was real cabin fever and it was hard for me to fight a quiet sense of doom at the many more weeks of inside time to come. It's not just that being outside is such a tonic and fresh air blows away the cobwebs but it is near impossible to live in such a small space and keep it comfortable. A moment's lack of attention and sea of clutter takes over the floor and washing up piles up on top of the fridge.
Every trip out into the woods or up into the hills is like a deep breath of everything that is life giving once again. We traipsed through the forest looking for winter evergreens to decorate the house and Little L spotted hare tracks and deer tracks criss-crossing the path and practised shooting her arrow into snow drifts.
The thick blanket of a seemingly infinite number of tiny ice crystals makes beautiful a usually overlooked roadside verge or plain ditch. Animal tracks pattern the snow and invite us to glimpse at a hare's moonlit journey or a deers quiet footsteps through the woods. Little L loves this new possibility to traipse after an animal and track it as far as she can.
It's now the end of December and we have spent Christmas in Normandy with Florent's family. We survived two days in the van to get here. I sang Little I's favourite song countless times and the first verse of a dozen Christmas carols (I never remember beyond that). We failed at making friendship bracelets, I sewed extra decorations onto the girl's stockings and Florent drove and drove and drove. All in all, a successful trip. Here, we have feasted and spent many a happy hour with family and enjoyed some very windy beaches. We attempted a night away in the van but upon realising how freezing we were by 6.30pm, changed our minds and returned home (Little L was very put out, accusing me of only having ideas fit for summer).
So here we are, at the end of the year. A year that's been lots of hard work but also so much fun and brought us lots of joy. It's been lonely at times, I still feel the sacrifice of being far from friends and family but we have also met new people and discovered new places. The girls have grown so much. I want to catch them and hold them to me and order them to stay as they are, as they are right now. However, I know that in their growing older we will learn more of who they are and they will have the great privilege of discovering the world for themselves.
I've not got any resolutions so far. I think for the next few months, through deepest darkest winter I will strive to look after myself. We'll cook lots of stews, try to find a way to keep Little I's hands warm in the snow and remember that if anyone is grumpy a bath will probably remedy the problem.
I hope everyone has had a lovely Christmas and a Happy New Year everyone!