by Revd. Tom Gladwin
The first of December, first day of the meteorological winter, and the end of another coronavirus lock-down.
The ancient woodland, whose life had abundantly nourished our spirits from late spring through summer, is silent. The last burnished gold leaves drift down from the oaks. Branches, now in silhouette, point skywards as though prayerfully thankful for the fulfilment of another annual cycle in their long lives. The air is exquisitely perfumed with the scent of damp woodland soils and rotting leaves. A Wren, searching for mites and spiders, probes crevices in the bark. The sun shines, and frost sparkles on fields already green with autumn sown cereals. All is perfection.
Our short walk continues. There are still a few flowers to be enjoyed; Red Campion, White Dead-nettle, Procumbent Pearlwort, and, surprisingly, a few white star-like flowers on a Holly.
A variety of thrushes feed on the abundance of Hawthorn and Holly berries remaining in the hedgerows. Blackbirds chortle and move deeper into cover, whilst Fieldfares and a single Redwing simply move on to the next group of bushes. Woodpigeons, it seems, prefer Ivy.
Earlier, by mid-November, the thrushes, with Jackdaws, tits and others, had completely exhausted the crop of fruits on the yews in St. Peter’s churchyard. Yews fruits are not true berries, but arils. The beautiful red flesh-like cap, the only non-toxic part of yews, is an outgrowth from the seed. It is an invitation, “come, eat me, disperse and sow my seeds”.
We looked closely at the Holly, and the cross on its berries. How appropriate that it should decorate our homes at this season, with its emphasis on goodwill.
Suddenly the spell was broken. Cold gusts of northerly wind reminded us that winter was upon us. We looked enviously towards the village, snug in its fortress of woodlands, and turned towards home, to the comforts of warm soup and our fireside.
In just ten days we would reach another major sign-post in our year; the 11th December, the darkest night, from whereon the evenings start lengthening. It is the season when, with confidence, we celebrate and anticipate the light which feeds and illuminates the world, revealing its beauty and much more. May we all have a joyful and blessed Christmas.
© Copyright Revd. Tom Gladwin - THACS Writers Online 2020