Lying Outside in Winter Sunshine – February 1901

On Sunday last, of blessed memory, the sun shone with a brilliancy unknown to summer. After we had washed up the dinner dishes — for we had no maid that day — I longed to go out into the fields in homely attire, and “snuff the caller air.” I climbed a little slope behind the house, crossed a road and entered a sloping field, partly covered with scattered rocks and trees.

Down below, the river was glittering in various shades of silvery mauve between its banks of faded green. All the snow had melted from the lowlands, but in the distance, some mounds and slopes and peaks of pure white showed where the mountain range began. Towards the south-west, the horizon was so dazzling, the eye could not look upon it. It was “a sea of glass mingled with fire.” A few lazy clouds, huge cumuli, floated slowly from the North.

Looking up at one, tinted a faint pinky saffron, I noticed some moving specks of white across its surface. They seemed to be a company of seagulls, exceedingly high in the air, circling slowly around and among each other. Their underparts gleamed white in the sun, and would then instantly go into shadow, grey and black but whether it was entirely shadow or their wings were black, I could not tell, so great was the height.

Finding it neck-breaking to look up, I lay back on sloping turf bank to watch their movements. They circled round each other in an ellipse, and this ellipse moved very slowly and majestically across the zenith towards the westering sun, gleaming and scintillating like a noonday constellation, till it was lost in the splendour of the afternoon sun, slowing sinking into a dazzling sea.

In a beech wood nearby, an unseen robin piped with a plaintive cheerfulness. Oh winter sunshine! How much more cleansing to the spirit than the sunniest summer day.

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