(Gijsbrecht Leytens, ‘Winter Landscape with People strolling on the Banks of a Frozen River where Children Play’, seventeenth century, oil on panel; found here)
Winter has got its claws in now, with dark, icy days and long nights. Streets, houses and trees are festooned with ropes of glittering lights; every village has its ‘stable’ by the church (a life-sized crib, usually including a few live sheep, hens, perhaps a donkey) and the kerstmarkten are in full swing. Despite having little to do to prepare for Christmas, I have not done it, so no proper post until after Boxing Day. Instead, another little gallimaufry to keep the cold at bay...
The wonderful Claire Massey writes about chasing shadows: ‘There's a sense of our own shadow being an escaped part of us, a leakage of ourselves into the world that we can’t control and this can feel dangerous...’
‘There is so much to do, and I do so little. Look at the stories that wait and wait, just at the threshold. Why don’t I let them in?’ Anne Fernald quotes from the diaries of Katherine Mansfield.
The artist Rima Staines paints her winter card design of travellers in snowy woods.
I intend to curl up under a blanket with a mince pie and reread the magical ‘Babette’s Feast’, in Anecdotes of Destiny by Isak Dinesen:
When at last the company broke up it had ceased to snow. The town and the mountains lay in white, unearthly splendour and the sky was bright with thousands of stars. In the street the snow was lying so deep that it had become difficult to walk. The guests from the yellow house wavered on their feet, staggered, sat down abruptly or fell forward on their knees and hands and were covered with snow, as if they had indeed had their sins washed white as wool, and in this regained innocent attire were gambolling like little lambs. It was, to each of them, blissful to have become as a small child; it was also a blessed joke to watch old Brothers and Sisters, who had been taking themselves so seriously, in this kind of celestial second childhood. They stumbled and got up, walked on or stood still, bodily as well as spiritually hand in hand, at moments performing the great chain of a beatified lanciers.
‘Bless you, bless you, bless you,’ like an echo of the harmony of the spheres rang on all sides.
Martine and Philippa stood for a long time on the stone steps outside the house. They did not feel the cold. ‘The stars have come nearer,’ said Philippa.
Merry Christmas everyone!
(Francesco Bonsignori, ‘The Virgin and Child with Four Saints’, around 14901510, oil on canvas, in the National Gallery; I love the expression and posture of the Virgin)