I am sitting at my bedroom windowsill looking out over the fields and hills that I loved from the moment I first set eyes on them. The sense of eternity embraces the valley in a way that I find hard to put into words. Perhaps it is the fact that the rock and mineral that shapes the landscape has been here for millenia more than us, pre-dating an Ice Age which we can never imagine (although perhaps more easily today in the blanket of snow which covers us). This horseshoe valley was shaped later by glacial erosion and left behind the vista we see before us now.
A weak sun illuminates the scene from time to time, warming gently from on high. The fields in front of me are empty of sheep, the gate swings open and tractor tracks pattern the snow on the lane. My mind is wandering around the corridors of memory, searching for images of the farmer whose sheep filled the land in front of me. His was the old Land Rover which passed by on the day we first came to view the house, locked into the rhythms of rural life, of tending flock and pasture.
In an hour or two we will be at his funeral. He prematurely left this life in mid November on the day my late father-in-law was born. His presence in this valley has been slight since just before lambing time, his life ebbing away as new life was born. His family have farmed the land for generations, they are part of the historical framework of the village. Black and white photographs in the pub bear testament to the characters, once in abundance, who shared the burden of rural life in these hills and valleys. As each year passes they become fewer and fewer, their spirits absorbed into rock, moor, stream and meadow.
As I look across these frozen fields today I see only a man standing ruminatively with flat cap on his head, pipe in mouth and sheepdog by his side, watching over his flock. It was a real image, one day when I opened the curtains; now it is just in my mind's eye.
But the time has come to step out into the softly falling snowflakes, into a landscape suffused with peace, to commit this well-loved man to God and earth. To eternity.