One long dog schnoz. Pressed against my belly. Brown eyes just saying ‘howzit’ in dogspeak. Nothing else required or needed or expected. Jus a warm schnoz and a patting hand.
My step sister sticking up for me. Unexpected. Flaring at my father for one of his careless, unmeant comments. Those throw-away statements that sting despite a lifetime of learning not to take them seriously. My raging little sister, red faced, fat tears popping from her eyes, demanding he take it back. And him, bewildered, looking to me. And apologising in his way.
Homemade oxtail. Rich and warm with wine and coriander seeds. Washed down with beer. A galaxy of winter stars turning to frost outside in the black sky. The call of a night jar. The hot snap of fire and falling ash in the grate, another log offered to the flame.
A gang of ponies. Pressed up and scruffy in their winter coats. Huffing warm breath and whiskery noses into my hands. Dish faces inquisitive, searching for carrots. Leaning into me, smelling of winter sun and the stables.
A walk on the mountain. The loamy wet drip drip of the forest layered with the sharp citrus honey tang of fynbos and a distant hint of woodsmoke. Shiny silvertree leaves and spiders’ webs hung with mist. The rush of secret rivers and a glimpse of perfect winter sky.