It was eerily warm on our new-year’s eve walk this morning. After a light snowfall late on Christmas Day, which charmed us all, the temperature has been around the 10°C mark. It’s now 13°C (that’s over 55°F). Thirteen. Tomorrow, New Year’s Day, it’s forecast to be 15°C (55°F). Fifteen.
I call this ‘eerie’ because this does not feel right. This unseasonal warmth unnerves me. Yes, I realise ‘weather’ and ‘climate’ are not one and the same. But over the longer term, winters are getting warmer. The temperatures we’re experiencing are part of a ‘heat event’, BBC Radio explains. Not a new phenomenon, but one now more likely to occur.
We were catching up with family, visiting Mytholmroyd in West Yorkshire, well-known as the birthplace of poet Ted Hughes. We walked up onto Cragg Vale – the former haunt of an 18th-century counterfeiting gang called the Cragg Coiners (‘coining’ being the highly illegal practice of clipping gold from coin edges). There’s a novel about the Coiners called The Gallows Pole by Ben Myers, which I keep meaning to add to my TBR list.
A Ted Hughes poem that I still partly remember from school, growing up as I did on windy moors not all that far from Mytholmroyd is called Wind, from Hughes’s first published collection, Hawk in the Wind (1957). It is inspired by the poet’s childhood home, Hughes’s parents later having lived in a house hanging high on a ridge, exposed to near ceaseless buffeting. The first stanza is copied below, and you can read the entire work here.
This house has been far out at sea all night,
The woods crashing through darkness, the booming hills,
Winds stampeding the fields under the window
Floundering black astride and blinding wet
Throughout the poem, the wind is alive, personified, an intense and heedless force.
A rugged landscape that we may fancy to be ‘wild’ has long been tamed by farming, largely barren of trees and intersected by dry-stone walling. Yet the weather still has its way, evidenced by the fallen walls, wind-burnt grass, and cowering sheep. A reminder, as if we needed one, to protect and preserve.
Yesterday we walked up to Heptonstall – burial place of Hughes’s first wife, the poet Sylvia Plath (see previous posts). Along the route we took upward, there were remnants of former mills: a narrow chimney, part of a wall, the cobblestones of a yard, established to harness energy from the adjacent weir. Nature lends us its power. And nature will be here after we have gone, but in what state will we choose to leave it? There are still some choices – if a dwindling number, resolutions left to make.
Whatever your landscape, your climate, the season, your home, Happy New Year.