It has been dark for some time now, but in the afternoon we went out to walk high above a strange, crystalline landscape that retreated slowly, as the slanted rays of winter sun crossed it. Now, as we sit inside with coffee cups and candles, the frost will be again stretching its fingers out, growing slowly, mineral-like into the night.
The low angle of the winter sun has a blinding, dazzling effect as it passes sideways through the blue, misted air of late November. And so, we walked with our eyes turned down, lost in frost patterns. On a low stone wall, my husband found a tiny mushroom with a cap the size of a fingernail which was still growing in a patch of moss and frost.
Everywhere there were diamonds and crystals, little boxes and angular rods of ice. Our talk drifted to a winter visit to Romania full of clanking old cross-country trains which departed at midnight or later, pressing us in among the other passengers, rocking us in the forced familiarity of little berth benches where accordion music drifted in from the corridor all night.
The Carpathian mountains sprouted hoarfrosts more impressive than those in any other place I have seen before or since. While we were there it was persistently cold and fogs were always hanging about, which happens to be the perfect recipe for growing water into crystals as long as a hand.
But truly every frost is stunning and magical and a sort of invitation into scarves and jackets and out of doors.
At the same time, a lovely frosty day, where the morning curtains are drawn back to reveal that all the neighbouring houses' black slate roof tiles have become white and the garden has grown pale and shimmering -- that would also incline one to painting, I suppose... if there were not Christmas cards to be made.
So we wandered, seeking out shaded corners and leaves suspended in ice.
Frosts that gathered on the ends of logs created miniature frozen labyrinths and sometimes we came across the icy shadows of old leaves that had rested a while and then flown.
Lurking around every corner were fleeting treasures of light and water.
These days it seems as though lunch is hardly over before the sky blazes up into delirious reds and fuchsias and molten golds.
And after that there is a moment of grey quivering light before the thick, rolling blackness of winter, the cold clinking of stars, the reaching and grasping of frosts.