We stopped the car at the top of the brow, reluctant to follow the winding road down into the magical valley which lay below us.
It was three o’clock on a frozen winter afternoon, but an afternoon with such power it had drawn us from the cosy warmth of the house into the snow-covered world outside.
We had driven slowly through the lanes marvelling at the beauty of every house, wall, hedge and tree. There had been no wind overnight when the snow fell, and, as if held in a powerful enchantment the day was silent and everything in it unmoving, except for us.
The hedgerows were mysterious shapes lying alongside the road – so many kinds of creature we imagined hiding beneath that smooth white duvet, waiting for us to pass so that they could lift their heads and emerge into the brilliant light.
In the field walls the stones seemed to have been sculpted by the artistry of snow and frost. The outlines of houses were drawn black against the white as if a giant had sketched them with a stick of charcoal; and the trees were delicate miracles of filigree, their covering of snow not a burden weighing them down, but a glory of silver light on every branch and twig which lifted them towards the heavens and the winter sun.
Until we reached this spot we had been in a world drawn in black and white, each turn in the road a fresh page in the artist’s sketch book amazing us with new wonders. The air had such clarity that every curve and hollow of the fells was outlined sharply as if by the finest architect’s pen, and the light was brighter than our minds had ever imagined light to be, almost more than eyes could bear.
But now as we gazed down the hill and over to the fells in the distance, the sky which had been the palest blue, slowly began to take on a new intensity of colour as behind us the sun slowly descended towards the shining sliver of silver sea.
Near at hand the snowy coverlet on Darling Fell and Burnbank warmed to gold, and further away the slopes of Melbreak and the massive shapes of Grasmoor became suffused with a blush of pink which deepened to orange and rose as we watched, entranced.
But the wonder of that moment which will stay in my heart forever was the shining blue-green lake lying like a precious jewel in its exquisite setting. A jewel with the colours of a peacock’s tail, or the ever changing hues of paua shell. A jewel shaped over millenia by ice, and burnished by wind and weather until, on this particular windless day, at this one moment, all its facets caught the miraculous colour of the sky on the edge of deep space, and showed it to us who had never seen it before. Showed it with a simplicity and grace which was beyond understanding.
And a moment was all there was. Behind us the sun slid below the horizon; before us the rose faded to purple, then to grey, and the lake, having performed its task, was once more part of the charcoal sketch on the artist’s page.
Without speaking, we turned the car, and holding in our hearts the priceless treasure the winter day had given, we drove silently home.
From ‘Beauty, Light and Music; Poetry and Prose’ – a winter drive from Moresby through Lamplugh to Loweswater, made in the 70’s.