Blacktop Rain

…and other secret joys

Ways of Looking at Winter: Oxfordshire

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Boys lost in the mist

Inspired by Open The Curtains‘s ArboreAlbum I decided to have a look through my archives and see if I could pull together some interesting photographs of trees. I didn’t have much luck, but I did find these old photographs from 2007. They were taken in Oxfordshire, where I was staying with family for Christmas. They’ve been hidden away and I haven’t looked at them since I took them so I was surprised by how lovely they are (if I don’t say so myself).

They made me think of a book I saw in a bookshop the other day, Winter: Five Windows on the Season by Adam Gopnik. It is a collection of five essays exploring how the modern concept of winter developed. I was intrigued, so when I saw these photographs I thought I could try writing my own series of posts on winter.

The little boys in the photograph above are my brothers. They are still fairly young but looking at these photographs reminds me of a time when they were more interested in playing with me at 6am than they were in watching television at 6am. Just looking at that photograph makes me feel sleepy.


Not that sleepy is an entirely inappropriate word to describe these photographs. Winter is the season of hibernation. It’s a thought that’s been playing around in my head for a while now. I’m not sure why. In a recent flash fiction piece I wrote, called Hibernation, a couple find themselves overcome by the season: the ever-lowering sun seemed to tug at their resolve. Perhaps I feel that tugging too.

And there is sleepiness in the dreamscapes of winter. In the pale, eggshell blue sky and the frosty grass that looks diluted, as though it has been half rubbed out. It is a dream of winter. A winter I would have conjured for myself, like a memory of the past.

Frozen world

Oxfordshire winters have always seemed more intense, more wintery than others. As though they are trapped there by the old stones of the colleges. I remember my first winter there when the cobble stones in the town centre were covered in ice and we had to hold on to the railings of the Radcliffe Camera to stop ourselves from falling over.


If winter is the season of hibernation then it is also the season of waiting. Everything hangs, waiting for motion to return to the earth. Waiting for the sun to melt the frozen water droplets on the branches of the sleeping trees.

Solitary tree in the mist

Despite the abandonment of the sun, we were brave explorers that day. We ventured out to see what the world still had to offer and it was more than we could have expected. Like the floor of the forest, scattered in a gift of leaves.

Fallen leaves


I don’t remember if they did but I can imagine the boys playing in this den, little Peter Pans having extraordinary adventures.

I do remember the cold, though. I remember it numbing my feet through the soles of my shoes. I remember the walk through the forest seeming endless as the boys explored every stick, every possibility. But a string of words goes through my head as I look at this picture of the forest. Into the light of a brand new day. I don’t know where they came from, maybe I made them up, but I think they sum up winter well. We reach Christmas and the days start to get longer and we keep on waking and exploring – hopeful in the light of a new day.

Into the light


Author: Naomi Racz

I am a nature writer, with a particular interest in urban nature. I also write about social media and work in communications with an NGO.

One thought on “Ways of Looking at Winter: Oxfordshire

  1. Ah what a good idea! I’m looking forward to your other ways of looking at winter.

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