It is one of those soggy, nondescript days that England is so good at. Chilly, but not cold for the time of year, drizzling miserably rather than raining. A uniformly grey day where all colour seems leeched away by the minimal light. The dog took one look at it from the door and with a glance that plainly said, “Yeah, right…” retreated under the table and left me to walk to the village shop alone.
I can’t say I blame her. The damp pervades everything, the leaves, lately temptingly crisp, that lie in drifts along the path are now a slippery hazard. The trees seem to claw at the clouds with skeletal fingers seeking the hidden sun. Even the birds are quiet this morning and the only sound is the distant roar of traffic dully queuing to take people to work in jobs most of them would probably rather not be doing.
And I have a cold. Nothing spectacular… nothing I could curl up in bed and be thoroughly miserable with. Just one of those niggling headachey, sniffly things.
As I walked through the morning gloom, I wondered just how many shades of grey there are? The soft silver of the mist in the trees, the bright argent of the regiment of raindrops on the washing line, the cold steel of wet bitumen…
And then there are the primrose buds raising hopes of spring, nestling in tiny oases of emerald. Geranium leaves that flame scarlet and gold with tenacious glory. Bright berries punctuate the evergreens and the sky comes down to play, mirrored in the puddles.
Looking up the roiling clouds paint a shifting landscape, another country where one could wander amid the mountains and lakes in search of the sun. Bark and branch take on colours never seen in the dry days of summer, rich in texture, sparkling with reflected glimmers, capturing the light and letting it illuminate the shadows.
Winter is a breaking time, a time when all that has served its purpose withers and dies, but even in this catabolic orgy there is strength and beauty, purpose and perfection. Lost leaves blanket the ground, protecting the burgeoning seed, feeding the earth that feeds the bare-handed trees above. It is in this apparent decay and destruction that spring is born, growing silently and softly, unseen.
When I was a little girl, growing up in a city where the ‘dark, satanic mills’ stood in stark contrast to the wide empty moors, my mother taught me a poem. I have never known its author, but the words have remained with me.
Man’s Life is laid in the Loom of Time
To a pattern he does not see,
While the weavers work and the shuttles fly
Till the dawn of eternity.
Some shuttles are filled with silver threads
And some with threads of gold,
While often but the darker hues
Are all that they may hold.
But the weaver watches with skillful eye
Each shuttle fly to and fro,
And sees the pattern so deftly wrought
As the loom moves sure and slow.
God surely planned the pattern:
Each thread, the dark and fair,
Is chosen by His master skill
And placed in the web with care.
He only knows its beauty
And guides the shuttles which hold
The threads so unattractive,
As well as the threads of gold.
Not till each loom is silent,
And the shuttles cease to fly,
Shall God reveal the pattern
And explain the reason why
The dark threads were as needful
In the weaver’s skillful hand
As the threads of gold and silver
For the pattern which He planned.