At last we are waking up in the mornings to frost, ice and snow. I feel that the universe (or at least the Scottish winter) has returned to its rightful pattern. The unnaturally mild, stormy weather of December has passed. I am reassured, actually relieved, to look outside and see snow falling, covering with silent efficiency the back garden; our newly planted patch of hedge, our fir trees, our garden bench, as well as forgotten footballs, the dustbins at the back door, and Meg's abandoned, sodden, squeaky toys. Snow is nothing if not egalitarian.
The road outside the house remains a dark grey ribbon, the temperatures not sufficiently low to turn it slippery white. The grass, trees, gravel path, last year's brown leaves and the fledgling daffodil spears in the front garden have all but disappeared, cleansed and glorified by Nature's bright white winter quilt.
We depend on the weather, and the corresponding behaviour of animals, birds, plants and flowers, to gauge where we are in the slow turn of the year. We feel the seasons in our heartbeat, in the thrum of blood in our veins. Growing up in the north of Scotland, the weather shaped our lives. Now, living in a village in central Scotland, the weather shapes my days, but those early years have made me acutely aware of the seasons, particularly winter. However even life long city dwellers recognise the signs. That first step outside in the morning, be it to pick up milk from the doorstep, walk to the station, or run the children to school tells us with one sniff of the air, one glance at the sky, and the light, where we are in the season, how comparatively warm, or cold, wet or windy it is for the time of year, and places us in the world for that day.
Our tolerance for variations within the seasonal norm is comparatively narrow, and when weather misbehaves as it did in December, it throws our seasonal clock off kilter. I spent December in a state of uneasy apprehension; the world didn't feel right. Temperatures were too high. The rain was incessant. Local fields flooded; cocky seagulls floated on the temporary lochans. Berries remained on trees, the birds able to find food not usually available in winter. Winter duvets were too thick. Winter coats were too warm. Cosy jumpers could not be worn indoors. The fire was not on all day (a particular winter pleasure that I missed very much).
Even if the snowy weather turns milder again, as currently forecast, at least I will know that the seasonal thermostat tipped fleetingly to 'winter'. I will feel happier knowing that the rhythms of our year, at our particular spot on the planet, held true.