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See a sample issue of The Irish Garden!

December 2011

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Mary Davies enjoys the winter sun

Over the weeks, shade has steadily overtaken the field in which I walk every morning. Each day the woodland at the edge has cast its oblique shadows further and further as the sun's angle declines: the dog and I move centre field across the frosty grass, away from the dense tracery of branches, in the hope of catching some warmth from the remaining sunlight. And as the winter solstice approaches, we are driven far out from our normal path. 


But the peak of winter has one great compensation. For most of the year the actual sunrise is not visible from my windows: buildings obscure the view. But on a few bright frosty days in midwinter, those closest to the solstice, I can watch the sun appear above the horizon, perfectly positioned between gateposts and through distant bare branches of chestnut and ash. The beam reaches my front window and traverses the whole length of the livingroom to cast a golden glow on the inner wall.

Outside, the path shines with moisture and the frosty lawn sparkles, every blade of silvery grass back-lit. The ice-dusted shrubs in the flower beds are also back-lit: rounded and spiky, green and gold, some with red berries vibrant in the low light. The level sunlight is reflected back from my window-glass onto a granite wall just opposite that is normally in the shade. There it tips the stray leaves of ivy with gold and catches flakes of shining mica in the rock so that they glitter across the granite's uneven surface.

The show is fleeting, though, as the sun rises higher and vanishes behind a row of tall conifers. Standing at the front door and watching it steadily disappear, I see that the clear blue sky is streaked with rosy plane trails and that rooks in the sycamores down the way are preening themselves on the top branches to catch the early warmth.
The first snowdrops are showing green in the pots on either side of the door and the fat buds on the scarlet camellia are swelling under their protective swaddling of fleece. Other pots, too, sit with their contents swathed against the cold, gaining a little warmth, perhaps, from the early morning sun. Walking in the field will be a cold and perhaps snowy business for a while to come, but berries on the holly bushes in the woodland are a cheering sight, the slanting light offers its own seasonal pleasures, and the distant views of the mountains and sea are enhanced by the crispness of the air.


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