Winter collection

It was in winter the cabbages bloomed. I discovered them when I went to the exhibition. Wandering in February, through the luxuriant forest of Post Impressionism my eyes slid over vivid flowers, pasted landscapes, and landed on a picture of cabbages. I have no idea who the artist was, but I returned to that picture again and again. To day, nearly a year later, all I can remember of that rich exhibition is the blue-green sheening of ebullient cabbages: bouquets and bouquets of them offered up from crumbling brown soil, encouraged no doubt by the ample proportions of the peasant woman so carefully tending them. If I had gone to that exhibition in spring or summer, may be another picture would have dominated. But in winter it had to be the cabbages, because there they are in every vegetable patch, across market garden fields; plump and swelling through sparse sharp days; holding glinting droplets of moisture in the folds of their satiny leaves; shining with colour that could only be noticed in winter, when there is so little obvious colour about. Yes, it was a picture for winter, boldly asserting the claim of the cabbage for a place in our appreciation.

"But how can there be flowers in winter? the child asks as she watches me arrange sprays of bright yellow jasmine amongst holly leaves. We glance out of the window and see a waterfall of miraculous flowers tumble over the grey mossed shed. A million embers, they are alight against the dark evergreens, the browns , the sombre sky. A friend from London reaches out for this gift of winter and cuts some sprigs for her own home as night gathers round. Another picture has been painted, but not on canvas or contained within a frame this time. Through the perceiving and appreciation of others the jasmine has blossomed with a new freshness. For there ism something special about flowers that come alive in winter.

We chose the Christimas tree this year from a small plantation among the dark , deep-cut lanes and valleys of the north Downs. A grey, drizzling day full of mud, puddles and skeletal trees. While my companion was preoccupied with the merits and proportions of the various firs, I wandered off to inspect another clump. I caught a brilliant glimpse, a glancing flash of flame. I moved closer and waited. How brightly it shone among the deep green of fir needles: the glowing head of the minute goldcrest darted and hovered. It came so close I almost felt the spark of its unexpected brightness. How long were we there? Long enough to study and marvel at the collection of tiny feathers on the crest of that bold little bird that produced such colour. I recollected that the several occasions on which I've seen a goldcrest have been during winter.I've heard them often enough at other times of the year, but they mingle so easily with the colour of other seasons that they're almost impossible to distinguish. The memory of it dances through these muted daus when the countryside has so toned itself down that this precious patch of color may be seen.

So winter continues: showing its unexpected collection at the next bend in the path, turn of the head, or casual glance . . . who knows when and where?

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