The ponies are back. This time they're in the fields below the house - a network of many acres that goes down to the Assness, a river that on the maps is called the Corra but that everyone round here calls this different, local, name. I think it refers to the many fabulous waterfalls on the stretch of river.
The ponies have been there for a few days now, reappearing up near the house every so often then disappearing down the fields again. I'm happy to see them. They're half wild and it must be tough in a winter like we've had with no extra feed. I'm intrigued as to how they broke in. Our neighbour keeps his fences well mended, and they certainly didn't come up the track to our house like the last time. Clever creatures, ponies, much brighter than most of their bigger horse cousins.
Yesterday one of the ponies was half lost in mist as I set out with the dogs. The valley had been full of fluffy white cloud early in the morning - a typical winter state where we feel aloft as though in an aircraft high above Out There. As we left the house the garden was filling with a soft mist. A deer bounded away across the field above the house. The mist followed us up the track towards Jones's broken down cottage and near the top I looked back through a tunnel of fog. A thrush was singing high in the forest. It was one of those uplifting moments when the familiar becomes suddenly, briefly unfamiliar and you see the beauty of where you are.
Back home and looking out of the kitchen window the crocuses had their little yellow cups open to the sun. The frogs are singing in the pond. Even though the rain is back as I write this, there is no stopping the spring. The seed potatoes and onion sets arrived in the post yesterday. The panic season is almost upon us.