Like all children from 3 to 83, I wanted snow at Christmas, but we did not get any. A few days before Christmas, however, we had a wonderful and unexpected fall of snow. When we awoke, the sky was blue as blue can be, the sun dazzlingly bright, shining down on a winter-white landscape.
I have been stressed and working very hard, teaching and organising the press and PR for my new book. I have a super long list of jobs to complete, and the more of them I cross off, the more of them appear. But, but, the blue sky, the sunshine, the snow! They are calling my name. I glance at the date it is almost three years exactly since I began my year of walking. How I found the time to walk 13 miles every week for a year, I do not know. Today, I am torn. I have much to do but surely I can find time for one day of walking? Yes. Of course, I can. I will work in my study when it's dark or get up early tomorrow. I don't need to waste this beautiful day. I really want my partner Katie to come with me, so after breakfast, I comment on the weather, marvelling at its majesty, "shall we pop out for a walk" I say nonchalantly. As I am rarely, if ever, nonchalant this seems mighty suspicious to Katie, I can see. But she agrees. We have had so much bad weather – rain and fog almost daily – that a sunny day cannot be ignored.
We wrap up warmly - it is -4°C, so this is necessary. We are a little disappointed when we step outside, realising that the weather has altered dramatically: a mist is swirling around us. We don't talk about it - we both know that if we do, we will turn back, and neither of us wants to.
But as we rise, we admire pine trees encased in snow enough to make Santa jealous and puffs of snow trickle down from these trees so that it feels like we are walking in the gentlest of snowstorms. The mist clears, and the sun breaks through - peeping through slender branches - white and bright - a perfect orb of light. We climb higher and then stop to admire the peaks that surround us: Klippitztörl, Zirbitzkogel, Saualm and the magnificent snow-capped Koralpe.
Mist eddies once more, but this time, while it obscures some huge spruce trees, it reveals others; the scene looks magical. The blue sky begins to appear again, and the many white peaks shine and glow in the fresh sunshine.
Frost clings to fences: and on the barbed wire fence coated in frost, still gold within but also strangely white. Moments later, the sun beams down on them and begins to melt the frost so that the icy horsehair sculptures start to drip beads of melting snow and soon resemble diamond necklaces. I can't help but get my camera out. I take a series of shots trying and failing as much as I succeed to catch the beauty of them. We notice umbellifer weeds holding up their brackets encrusted in frost and jewel-like. We laugh when we see fresh molehills that only have snow on their north-facing sides – echoing the distant mountains. Suddenly, my list of jobs seems nothing more than a distant memory. All forgotten.
Tiring now and a little cold, we eat Christmas Lebkuchen biscuits rich with dark chocolate and spices, and we swig cold, cold water from a flask. Water never tasted so good. I look at Katie and smile; turning to her, I say, "this has been one of the best days of my life – let's stand here and take a moment so that we can remember it forever." We do just that and then make for home.
Walking into Alchemy: The Transformative Power of Nature by Amelia Marriette and Alchemie des Gehens: Selbstfindung in der Natur are available as a signed full-colour edition or as an immediate PDF download - from www.ameliamarriette.com/shop