A Precious Moment
As after the heat of a summer’s day the face glows in the mildness of evening, so the face of the countryside glows in the mildness of early autumn. The summer months have infused the merest suggestion of brown in the deepening green of the foliage and the face of the earth gives up its warmth to the stars above to see them dance. It was into this calm that I walked one late September’s eve. The evening star cast her unblinking eye across the heavenly dome to Jupiter in the darkening east and the nightjar echoed its song above the empty fields. I stood at the end of the stack-yard and returned the disinterested gaze of a cow in the field beyond.
It is during these slow hours when the pace of the day has declined, that the smaller noises of the land become apparent. The bull, who was tethered a full two hundred yards away in the next field could be heard to rattle his chain and blow down his nose at a particularly juicy clump of grass he has found. Behind me in the ‘maternity’ box, a freshly calved heifer mooed huskily yet very softly as its offspring raised its head suddenly at a strange sound. Perhaps it was the sound of ancient timbers creaking under the weight of centuries, or that of the leaves above whispering to the bowed stems in the hay meadow below. Or maybe it was the very silence that enshrouded these small sounds that attracted its attention, for silence is so startling in its rarity and its beauty. Dusk gave way to night and I became aware of the immense depths of space, the dizzy height of the mackerel sky, and although it was the clouds that moved, it seemed they were stationary against the clear black silhouettes of the elms and that it was the motion of the gibbous moon behind the clouds that alternately blackened and silver-plated the night. Even at the tender and romantic age of sixteen I was aware of this quietude, and in one enlightened moment jotted down these few words on an old envelope:
Soft, soft, the bell that tolls the evensong
Across full summer’s empty fields serene.
And slowly draws the scarlet cloak, the hem’s
Black velvet, diamond specked, communes me with
The white barn owl, who with his noiseless wings
Doth glide and swoop upon the luckless mouse.
Selene set within the lap of dusk
Transmutes the living green to silver plate,
Enshrouds my world with immobility.
And with a quietude that frees the mind
Of bondage from the peering eyes of day,
I fain become the earth, the sky, the all.
But it wasn’t until my late teens that I realised there are two times during the twenty four hour cycle when such a quietude exists. One is just before the dusk and the other just before dawn. Although both seem to be divisions between day and night, the prelude to dawn seems to me to be the more startling and more satisfying to experience. In the evening the mind is released into a reverie bound by personal conscious thought, but during the morning pause one experiences a freedom and profundity of thought that is rarely to be found in any other part of time.
It is barely half past five in the morning when I start milking, but often I arrive at the cowshed half an hour before in order to experience this precious moment. Although at this hour the ‘Stone that puts the stars to flight’ has yet to be flung, I can sense the great spaciousness of the valley before me. Again the trees move softly and the long grass in the hay meadow sifts the breath of night, and I wait. I wait for that incorporeal beauty that is the union of soul and nature. It begins where the breezes end and the rustling leaves are stilled. A serene stillness envelopes the woods and meadows and even I am not conscious of breathing. I am drawn into the quietude and become part of it; become part of the very earth on which I stand; part of the universe through which I move. I have become part of each blade of grass in the valley before me, part of every hill. I feel myself part of the earth, feel its very movement through space. Unfortunately mere words can no longer be the conveyance of the emotions involved (and I use the word ‘emotions’ for want of a better noun) for they become so expansive and so personal. No longer can mere words impress the reader’s soul with such profundity of emotion that this experience releases within me. Each must go his own way, search alone and experience it first hand and with an open mind.
A thought is born and from that thought comes two more. The two are made four and the four made eight, a self-multiplying chain reaction of thoughts has been set in motion that flows with great haste through the mind; in fact a torrent of thoughts in one brief second, and yet each one is startlingly clear and leads the mind one step nearer the truth. The heavenly dome is vast above the valley and the stars, thrown into their mythological patterns by the great cosmic hand, impress their presence on the mind with unusual brilliance and time is no more. Now the mental hosts are converging, and step by step I am racing towards that vertex which is the ultimate truth. The questions are being answered at an ever increasing rate, the startling, brutal logic disclosing the result of a preceding reaction which itself, reveals a cause. So through to the highest plane the mind soars upon an ever accelerating reversal of the law of causation. But the pace is too much. The mind flags and begins to flounder. At this juncture the mind can be likened to a water skier who, while the pace is kept up skims along the surface in the sun, but immediately he slows down he begins to sink, until at length he finds himself floundering with no forward movement. Now the mind has become weak and cannot comprehend the unfathomable thought. But I have brushed the grey curtain; I have seen a light faint though it may be and both my physical and spiritual selves have been revitalised and my cup runneth over.
For most of our lives we are lost beings out of tune with life around us. Only during such precious moments as these do we fit into the great harmonious chord; all things round and above have their special place in it, from the fat brown rabbit throbbing in the cornfields to the fleecy pieces of golden cloud that sail upon the pale green skies of dusk. Worries, anxieties, tensions, all are reduced to their proper size in relation to life, and as the imperceptible ‘Left hand of dawn’ lifts the veil on the eastern horizon, we are cleansed and reborn with the stripling day.
It is only during such periods that nature can be reduced to anything approaching order, and that there is an order I am in no doubt. Einstein’s inquiring mind was working on the universal equation when the workings of that very same equation stilled his physical being; perhaps now he has solved it, we in this life never shall. The perpetual motion of nature is the perfect machine and we are part of that machine. It is complete within itself, recreating its own new parts from the debris of the old. No energy is wasted or lost, just charged in form. Nature permits us a marginal tolerance within which we may make one or two adjustments to suit our needs and requirements, but beyond this we dare not go for we merely create more problems than we solve.
So does she pass, the gentle night,
Slow seeps the dawn upon the scene.
Dew sparkling in the first light of
The new day shows where she has been.
The eyes of day now open on
The dewy sward and gossamer
Bows low beneath its pearly load,
And hedgerows faintly scent the air
With green along the unused road.
And I am born once more and see
The day as I once first beheld –
A child within his mother’s arms,
Another, within its mother’s arms.
read the collected work as it is published: here
air & field & morning wormhole: Lapping Reflections [Deep Within Waters] – autumn
beauty wormhole: the policies came to nothing
being wormhole: The Boats of Vallisneria by Michael J. Redford – Introduction
black & wind wormhole: The Boats of Vallisneria by Michael J. Redford – A Bowl of Gourds
breath wormhole: inbreath
breeze wormhole: and that’s where I are
brown wormhole: Michael Redford: triptych
childhood wormhole: 1964
clouds wormhole: reaching branch
evening & silhouette wormhole: tired
green & space & uncle wormhole: Lapping Reflections [Deep Within Waters] – the soft canticle of the gourds:
grey & horizon wormhole: being in love – poewieview #26
hedge & hills & life & light wormhole: tag cloud poem IX – haiku is awkward / the more that is left in / like uncombed hair
identity wormhole: with endless love
leaves & mother wormhole: The Boats of Vallesneria by Michael J. Redford – Autumn Thoughts
moon wormhole: don’t look / at her eyes – poewieview #18
night & silence & sky wormhole: a crack of lightning / in the dark of night
openness wormhole: ‘on second thought …’ – poewieview #27
silver wormhole: Jon
thought & time wormhole: inbreath
white wormhole: mauve
words wormhole: bloogying