7th December 2020

One of the best things about living in the countryside and having a dog to share it with is that I am much more attuned to the turning of the seasons than I used to be. My daily walks with Effi necessarily take a certain number of regular routes, but it’s amazing how different the same track looks and feels according to whether we’re basking in sunshine, knee-deep in snow, or splashing through muddy puddles. We may both prefer the first two, but we can’t avoid the third, especially at the moment. And Effi’s lingering, delighted attentiveness to all the details of our walk (or as one canine expert prefers to call it, ‘sniffari’!) encourages me to pay more attention to our surroundings too, even as I despair slightly of getting us both clean and dry again.

The familiar seasonal rhythms have been particularly important this year, when there has otherwise been little sense of progress in our lockdown lives. Even on the dullest day our favourite track holds memories of how it looked in springtime, and the visceral sense of having ‘been here before’ resonates with the anticipation of next year. As one of my favourite poems, Gillian Clarke’s ‘The Year’s Midnight’ has it: ‘Every leaf-scar is a bud / Expecting a future’. This is the feeling of Advent too – familiar readings and rituals, a sense of having ‘been here before’, savouring its riches while longing for what comes next. And while our celebrations will be different this year, the recent news of the vaccine reminds us to look forward in hope: Christmas is coming, and new life awaits.

Debbie Pinfold