Happy Hallowe’en! I suppose I should be writing an about ogres and ghouls, but I was asked to write this for a local writing group and so here it is. I hope you enjoy it and hopefully, it may bring back nice memories on the cold nights ahead. This is my 24th post, so don’t be afraid to look at the rest of them!
If someone ever asks what winter means to you, tell them nothing. Not nothing as in don’t reply, but use “nothing” as your answer. Why would you say such a thing as nothing? Because it is the one, the only, true way to get back at winter for what it does to us. Winter doesn’t care what we think, so why should we give him a second thought? Consider the evidence of the seasons.
Spring is a fizzy tonic, like a slowly overflowing bottle of bubbling joy. It tattoos its colours onto the land, banishing the Cossack-cold claws of winter. Sheets of ore-gold light immerse the meadows, filtering into steaming shadows and softening the frozen earth. The morning dew glitters like stardust and the world is young, lush and bountiful again. The monk-hum of the bees is the white noise to the dawn chorus. Spring, nature’s defibrillator, jump starts life into the land.
Summer brings with it brochure-blue skies. The promise of sandy-bay yellows, beach barbecues and gin-clear seas lingers in the air. In the same air, the intoxicating waft of fried onions, sizzling steak and coal-fired peppers drifts towards flaring nostrils. Walnut-brown sun worshippers with megawatt smiles amble past, adopting the languid and louche air of panthers in slow-mo. The summer dusk glows like elf-light and splashes colours onto the sky like the canvas of the Gods.
Autumn is alien. Phantom-eyed owls hoot and haunt the night, ghosting through moon-stained trees. Hallowe’en and horror creep into dreams as accursed sounds lacerate the night sky. Creaking trees become wailing banshees and screeching ghouls spill out of windy bottles. The world becomes ablaze in autumns mantle of colour, from crucifixion-red to sunburst-oranges. Then both leaf-flame and field-light burn bright one last time, ‘ere fading into the dying embers of memory.
Winter arrives then. The sunless and starless sky looks down at us with the humourless stare of a serial killer. Caterwauling winds scream across the land, forged in the cold anvil of the Siberian steppes. The claustrophobic and scavenging skies survey us with a deadly malice. Doom-laden skies, pregnant with spite, spit out ice-silver nails of rain. Fires splutter and cackle in cold grates once more as the straining light of autumn is a distant memory. Doors are locked, kettles hiss and sly shadows return to the land. Parchment-faded faces puff on their pipes and mutter about the coldest winter in memory.
Pagan-black clouds blot out all hope and a terrible growling can be heard in the heavens. Gashes of halo-gold lightning wail and whine and there is an electrostatic crackling in the air. The lightning flashes brighter than the crawling cracks on stained glass. Sonic booms thunder and rumble before the last vein buzzes its last breath. It leaves a tomb-quiet silence behind it.
When someone ever asks what winter means to you, tell them; “nothing”. If they ask what Christmas means to you, let a slow smile drift to your lips, but do not answer. Instead think back to last Christmas Day. Think back on the memories and the sights, the sounds and the smells. Think back and remember the absolute joy of family and fun, the delight of being a Christmas fire-gazer. I do.
I stared into the fire. It crackled and spat before spluttering into life. Its lambent light stole away the burglar-black shadows dancing on the wall. Forks of rainbow-orange flame licked hungrily at the chimney as they climbed higher and higher. The fire’s hypnotic jig of joy was as much a celebration as ours. It wanted to be alive on Christmas Morn also. A carnival of scents filled the house. I could hear thyme-filled turkeys sizzling on the tin foil. The sound of the fat fizzing and splattering was a welcome one. The whole room became a goulash of smells. Myrrh-scented candles, the plummy scent of a pudding and the sulfurous whiff of Christmas crackers all wafted towards me.
I heard boots crunching through the powdered snow outside. They detonated like muffled grenades every time they hit the ground. I got up and looked outside. In the distance, candles were winking saucily at me from every window. The world was entombed in a dome of arctic-white snow. It glittered like angel fire as the last of the stars, bejewelled and brilliant, faded into nothingness. A single tree stood in the meadow. It was noosed by a dragon’s breath of fog, a stark but beautiful image. The boots notwithstanding, it seemed to me that the morning was shackled in silence. There was no wind-music, no insect-hum, no leaf-rustle. Then fluttery snowflakes drifted down, sylph-like in their airy silence.
The sound of laughter came to my ears. The children had been up early, hoping that the greatest illusionist of them all had visited. Swag-bellied Santa uses sleigh-in-hand rather than sleight-of-hand, but his brand of magic beat Houdini every time. This whiskey-nosed and chipmunk-cheeked character is a sorcerer of a special sort. He is indeed a joy to the world and the children’s happiness proved it. I looked up at the Christmas tree. It flashed and flickered with its dazzling lights. An angel was perched on the top, glittering with a mint-silver lustre. I reclined back in the armchair, resting my head for a while. When I woke up, it was to the greatest sound of them all- the Christmas dinner bell. I sighed with pleasure and followed the smells and laughter to my chair.
When people ask you what Christmas means to you, tell them; “everything”.
For much more of the above, please check out my book Writing with Stardust or just click on any of the book images below.