Advent day fifteen.

We drove to Inveraray today to pick up our son, home from University for Christmas. It was cold, with ice still riming the road edges despite the corrosive salt. Snow lay in verges and in the fields, making the sheep seem bedraggled. It was early still, so the sun was low, lighting the white mountains with long wavelength light- the kind that is gentle; as much amber as white. It was all beautiful.

Michaela told me that this was her favourite time of year. But despite the beauty, I did not concur. There is a cruelty to winter. The cold makes things seem less than possible, or at least improbable. Of course, like all things, we know it will pass. The season will change again.

My favourite time of year is spring. I long for that moment when the ground turns and heaves with new life and you can smell the earth again. No longer sterile and cold, it seems to generate warmth of its own, despite the still-cold winds. In the forest, it scents the air like incense in a cathedral.

Like frankincense carried my wise men from warmer places, out East…

But for now, the ice remains.

Ice, loch Fyne, sunset




Hot tarmac kissed by a sudden shower.

Nuzzled nape of your slender neck.

How the newly turned soil


Cheap scent overheated

By teenage caresses.

Wool mixed with melting snow.

Coffee calling us towards the kitchen.


Baking bread.

The open sigh from crisp cotton sheets.

Superheated steam and well-oiled engine.

That first hint you are nearing the sea

As the air is seasoned by seaweed.

That medicinal miasma in deep pine forest.

Brand new carpet.

Wood smoke curled by early Autumn.


Washing fresh from the hanging line, then

Clasped beneath your chin s you fold it.

Frying potatoes.

Gunpowder zinging in November air.

Solder quicksilvered by a blowtorch flame.

Cropped turf on cricket pitch.

The ghost you left in this old coat

Opens the door to home.


And in the corner of the old church

Incense is still burning.

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