First Frost



And so we get frost, we get frost. Frost on the car windows below on the road; frost on Hayes’s flat roof. The faint hint of it on the tips of the long grass out the back, just lightening the green to a silvery grey. But it’s a soft one – nothing on the discarded Christmas Tree on the gravel, solemnly awaiting its butchering. Nothing on the damp table top, still pristine after my Autumn varnishing.

Imagine. The first frost of the Winter on the tenth of January. Jasmine flowering against the back wall. The fern still intact, only a touch of russet on its fine, kiwi-green fronds. The daffodils about to grant us new gold.

And as I wander out on the landing on this Sunday morning I see cloud lining the river to the north. It’s there, above the water, and only there, behind Ashton’s new school and upriver, hazing the lines of Summer Hill North. The spire of St. Lukes’s rises above it. It’s nowhere else at all – the sky all around is clearing into blue – up and open. And it’s a high bank of cloud, higher than the twin stacks of the power station. And it’s grand. And I think it must look like an Arthurian magic spell from Tom and Cathy’s eyrie above on Lovers’ Walk.

I open the bathroom window and listen. A rook calls. Some gulls are skittering around, to brave a landing. Pat seems to feed them. I’ve been hearing a thrush these days, adding to the robin’s loyal and solitary dawning songs. And chaffinches and starlings busy themselves in the evenings on the branches of the copper beech across from Byrnes. And the wren on St. Stephen’s day foraging in the neglected flower pots would surely have survived such a weak cold. I’ll put out feed today. I will.

As I come back from my shower, I see reflected sunlight on the smaller stack, shining like the promise of a glinting June. And I know the frost will soften now, and the cloud will dissolve as though it never was at all. And I’m ravenous to be out in it, and to see my breath in the air before me, as though for the first time. As though I were an immigrant seeing snow for the first time. As though I were a young girl seeing a man kiss a woman for the first time. That sharp bite in my throat, that honest burn on my ears.