It snowed and snowed yesterday, but unfortunately at Gilling’s lowly sea level height snow fell snow upon thawing snow, snow upon thawing snow. I looked with envy at photographs of deep snow at higher elevations only a few miles from here. But there was enough settled snow early in the morning to see the Holbeck and surroundings white, so I set off to revisit a favourite view which I have painted frequently since the first lockdown.
The Holbeck is now flowing fast and the surrounding fields are waterlogged beneath a layer of ice. I knelt in the snow and sketched in watercolour using a flask of warm water to unfreeze the paint on my palette; the silence accompanying the falling snow here was beautiful, perhaps especially in this time of unbearable news. Watercolour does some really wonderful things in freezing temperatures. The experience of painting outside in snow cannot be replicated in the studio; my fingers numbed eventually to the point where I wrestled to keep control of the brush. Walking back I didn’t hear any birds until I approached the village where great tits and blue tits were singing their full spring song. the days are getting longer and signs of spring are gradually accumulating. But for now I am relishing each day of winter.
When the snow stopped in the evening, skies cleared and everything froze solid. We awoke this morning to a hard crust of frozen melting snow and very hungry garden birds. There was a fieldfare down on the lawn at first light, sixteen long-tailed tits on the bird table and marsh tits dashing back and forth all day. The trip to buy some essential shopping required one of the longest car defrosting sessions I can remember. Opening the doors took several minutes, wipers were encased in big lumps of ice, the road beneath treacherous. But as I scraped I listened to the first drumming great-spotted woodpeckers. Driving to Helmsley my eyes were drawn to the moors beyond, clean white, but I am unable to visit them for now.