20:30 – 22:00
Clear and bright, cloudless blue. 11°C. Cool breeze increasing 3 – 4 E
When I walk in here, I enter two different states simultaneously, and I love the interplay and exchange between them. It only happens here, and is one of the most significant factors in my appreciation of and connection to this particular place.
The way in which the Wood fundamentally affects me is an example of the ‘instress’ described by Gerald Manley Hopkins as the actual experience a reader has of inscape: how it is received into the sight, memory and imagination.
I become both vacant and intense at the same time. I ‘notice’ things: from the micro- plants, texture of the surface beneath me, a lichen or fungus, tiny voices and calls, leaf shapes and colour variations; and then lift my head to the larger, macro- sensations of light, sky, horizons and the otherness beyond. I become aware both of myself and my humble smallness and my ‘special relationship’ that gives me pride and value.
I see differently, a phenomenon unique to being here. I become ‘different’… Through the Wood’s embrace and acceptance, I sense a wholeness that remains otherwise evasive. Not absent, but inconsistently present.
Being here seven nights in a row has its own affect too. Each time subtly different, yet re-assuringly familiar. There are always things to see that are not the same as before – the extent of leaf growth on the beeches and oaks; the outline of the pines against the sky; the light and the shades of green. The direction of the breeze and the occasional smells of dust or damp.
Each Woodcock that shoots over in a different direction catches and reflects the light differently. Sometimes pale, sandy brown extensively speckled and flecked with black; others are bright orange; some a deep rust; others flash gold or copper; few become silhouettes until very late with the moon as bright as it is now in this phase. And therein is another variant each evening: Waxing gibbous now, gently swelling. Pregnant.
Tonight there are two ‘pairs’ up frequently, vocal in their conversations with each other. They whiffle down among the trees on the north belt, as ducks do into cover.
The Hobby is back! I do not see him at all, but his distinct voice cuts through the air from over near Velmore at first. But then 20 minutes later, as I stand in the SW corner, I realise he is now calling off to my right, and closer, over the Chilworth pines. It is here that the essential elements of the last week’s times here are distilled into one moment: ahead of me, in the tall Yew that stands a few metres from my viewpoint, I can see (and hear) the hissing owl babies. One flies off to the clump, as two Woodcock ping over, at the same time as at least two Pipistrelles flutter over my head and the Hobby screams away unseen ‘over there’.
The deer were more confiding tonight as well – perhaps I am known to them? There is a young one visible at the bottom of the Crossing and unaware of me watching him from the top. Last year’s young, not this seasons.
Then on the clearfell, the young buck watches intently as I slowly drift past. His ‘partner’ is close by and both are in their two tone seasonal coat transition. Shaggy, dull grey/brown cape across the shoulders to the hind legs – and both front and back end otherwise now rich sienna-red. Away to their left, another female, grazing unconcerned.
Manley Hopkins can close this evening for me:
Nothing is so beautiful as Spring –
When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush;
Thrush’s eggs look little low heavens, and thrush
Through the echoing timber does so rinse and wring
The ear, it strikes like lightnings to hear him sing;
The glassy peartree leaves and blooms, they brush
The descending blue; that blue is all in a rush
With richness; the racing lambs too have fair their fling.
What is all this juice and all this joy?
A strain of the earth’s sweet being in the beginning
In Eden garden. – Have, get, before it cloy,
Before it cloud, Christ, lord, and sour with sinning,
Innocent mind and Mayday in girl and boy,
Most, O maid’s child, thy choice and worthy the winning.