There’s nothing quite like the crisp, brisk smell of the air during the deepest crevice of winter, so tangible it has the weight of liquid mercury. It spikes your nose, slices down your throat like icy water from a mountain stream and pushes against the walls of your reluctant lungs, flooding them with woodland oxygen.
A muffled crunch; a tentative rustle, the woods are cautious not to be too disruptive at this time of year, like a parent trying not to wake a baby who has the potential to scream the house down. Not quite as quiet as a forest after snowfall, in which silk snow lightly encases the world in bubble wrap while a deadened atmosphere, invisible yet heavy, squashes out any room for sound, but definitely quiet.
Snow isn’t commonplace here though; most of the time the landscape is painted with brushstrokes of mottled greens and muted browns, soft and meek. With this, comes delicate sounds, audible but with the ability to slip into the background unnoticed, like the trees are breathing. There are a few seconds of bird song every now and then, or an undergrowth rustle from an unknown undercover creature, burrowing down into a home of mulch, or even the occasional snap of a twig underfoot, but apart from that the air is vacant of sound waves.
The mud melds to my boots; the trees yield to my body. My movements puncture the curtains of air woven through the branches, and cold tendrils seek weak seams to find a way through to skin.
The tradition in my family is to go out for a walk in our local woodland on Boxing Day, which inevitably lead us to the cafe. Toes numb and with our breath hanging like clouds, our frozen fingers ache to be wrapped around mugs of hot chocolate. And so that’s what we order: sweetened cocoa creeps into the arctic cracks chilling our bones and thaws us out, until we’re nothing more than warm chocolate puddles.
Want to read more Blogmas posts? Scroll to the bottom of Day One for the full list.