Nocturnal silhouettes and glinting ice: field notes from the garden, 09.12.17

A day filled with snow and the unadulterated joy of a 3-year-old has postponed my garden solitude to the evening, but a nocturnal reverie provides the joy of new experience and perspective.

The snow sits static all around me, lending an increased luminescence to life outside in these evening hours.  The sky above me is filled with a white cloud, no doubt illumined by man-made lights, as well as the white carpet below.

The apex of the night sky is purple, not black, and a hundred different stars pierce the world’s roof with astounding clarity.  Back down below, the white bands of snow on the ground, and snow clouds in the sky, leave a deep mauve band in the middle ground, where the stark silhouettes of trees loom forth with gin-clear precision.

The stream below is almost invisible, bar a static white patch casts a spotlight on one section of its bend, where the December water undulates over the rocks in as calm a fashion as I have seen it for weeks.  Invisible, but never inaudible; its waters are quietened, but always constant.

I turn my gaze to the empty boughs of the ash tree, whose arms hang comfortingly overhead.  On one of its forked trunks, my eyes are honed to a silver streak that glints in the still night air.  At this height, it’s impossible to say if this streak has been created by snow melting and freezing into ice, or whether it tells the record of an exceedingly ambitious slug or snail.

I move my head side to side, watching the line gleam and then disappear from view again, several times – my mind is immediately taken to the moorland of summer, and the quartz that glints suddenly in moorland stones.

This is not my first foray into the garden today, and so I notice the absence of the birds.  No doubt hunkered down for the night, they leave the night-time roaming of this outside world to more foolish animals, such as myself.

The garden is still, calm and – strangely – warmer than it was in daylight.  Standing here, at the end of the garden in the dark, is surprisingly comforting, embracing.  Far from being outside at a time many would deem unusual, it is in fact liberating, different and welcoming.

It feels that there is a direct communion with the trees tonight.  The micro detail of plants, shrubs and other life is doused by the dark: the light of this nocturnal world belongs to the trees, whose structures, delicate yet significant, revel in a world transformed into a kingdom of silhouettes.

At 7pm, I am, perhaps, too early to observe nightlife in the garden, and it is my fear of startling the neighbours, rather than any aversion to sitting outside in the cold, that curtails this evening visit to the bottom of the garden.

I head back into the house to write this entry, where the natural light of the kitchen requires my eyes – and my soul – a good few seconds to readjust to.

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