Inspired by A Place Called Winter by Patrick Gale, which features an outcast gentleman in the early twentieth century – self-exiled due to his clandestine homosexuality – now working an almost barren patch of land in the winter of Canada. It is an exquisite read, and it captures the landscape – and indeed mindscape, of the protagonist – with beautiful vividness and cold clarity.
I could only stop wondering precisely when
Winter would end, once I realised that
Truly, Winter is a place. I wondered far
In its mists, seeking egress, any landmark
Or lonely tree which beckoned me to change,
Gave some sense of movement or distance,
But found none. Tracing the uneasy river
Upon frostbitten stones I trudged, my breath
Caught in the air, an unquoted silence. Absence
Of birdsong is the cruellest death from cold.
I’d worked the land until the autumn stretched
Sun-like to martyrdom, ploughed shadowed ground.
Now, harvests wrenched from land, she mourns her death.
But there is peace in mists: the buried earth
Treads firmer underfoot, like contemplation,
Step by step. Under an empty sky
The fields seem vaster than the very world, itself.
Winter is a land, mine to delight in.
That is a loneliness: and it is fine.