The hard packed ice of the country lane made for treacherous steps as I made my way towards the quieter green lane for my evening wanders. The clear night and cold air pulled the heat from my face and I was left fumbling for my scarf to shield my bare skin from the chill. Well away from the towns and villages the landscape was frozen solid and the silent force of the winter temperatures could fully take hold. It was a relief to reach the green lane. The deeper snow and rough surface made for better grip underfoot and the dogs could be released from their leashes. After a moment or two of an excited cacophony of barking they began to run, leaping the deep ditch exploring the fallow field alongside for signs of rabbit.
With my arms free from restraining the dogs I could adjust my coats, hood and scarf to better effect and move more freely, enjoying the sights and sounds of the frozen landscape and allowing my thoughts to tumble around as my perceptions increased. My destination lay a little over a mile away and I was looking forward to being a little warmer from the walk once I reached it.
After a few slips and slides I finally arrived, to most people this was a place to give no reason to stop, but for a few of us it is indeed special. Halfway up a gentle hill on a little used country lane I stood beneath two bare trees looking up through the stark branches to the moon and stars far beyond. It was here not so long ago I stood in good company with the family of a friend to scatter his ashes. I had only got to know Fred a couple of years before he died, we shared an enthusiasm for dogs and walking. I enjoyed listening to his tales and experiences as he freely passed on his wisdom. It is a pity he never had the time to write them down, but the knowledge and love for life he had is now something I and others carry forward and evolve into our own experiences. I find I am able to take comfort from this and in some ways it feels as if he is still with us.
I reached down to give Robbie our boarder collie a pat. He was Fred's dog and came into our care a couple of weeks before Fred died, now well settled with us, he seems to enjoy wandering with me and I have a feeling Fred would have been happy with that. The few moments standing still had brought the cold back to my hands & face, it was time to return back to the hovel. In my mind I said a farewell to my friend and headed off back down the hill, homeward bound.