Snow is transformative. It ages the look of a landscape, takes me back. Takes me to the literature and art of winter. When the Scout Scar escarpment lies under snow it feels like the past. The soundscape of the 21st century is silenced. Snow picks out farmland and the outtake walls snaking over the fells. Snow reveals the only walker to come this way so far this morning, someone whose footsteps lead right to the cliff edge, and back. Someone who likes a frisson of danger. Each day is distinct. Yesterday, far less snow but the fells showed crisp and clear.
Walking the escarpment, I remembered the effect of snow on wood sage that grows on the limestone clitter. The rubble of limestone is hidden under snow but seed heads of wood sage show beautifully against the snow. Wood sage, Teucrium scorodonia. I searched for the seed heads, waited for the sun to come from behind clouds, and took photographs until my fingers were so cold I could barely operate my camera.
Last spring, I began to experiment with close-ups of flowers. And I realised the closer you go in with the camera the more you obscure the identity of the plant. Because we don’t see flowers in close-up. First, a habitat alerts me to the presence of a particular species. Then the plant appears in clusters, the whole plant: leaves, flower stems all together. Go in close and all that is gone. Now if you came upon this last detailed wood sage seed head would you recognise it? I doubt I would.
Jan Wiltshire is a nature writer living in Cumbria. She also explores islands and coast and the wildlife experience. (See Home and My Books.)