It has been a long day at work in front of my computer so I am glad to be wandering across the fields to my favourite pub, the White Horse, in the next village. There is not much to see apart from a mistle thrush singing its evening song and the swifts that glide above the church tower. The light is low and gives a warm hue over all that it touches; a golden light that embraces the new leaves and a distinct contrast to the black and grey clouds that have previously accompanied the day.
I love the Wednesday night gathering at the local inn where we talk about anything and everything. Now, many conversations later, it is time to go and I start making my way back home in the moonlight. It is still and fresh; the sharp wind of the day has slipped away.
I have always loved the night time and the moon and/or starlit sky. Walking through the woods our senses are heightened by the darkness and we become more aware of what we hear, smell and see. It’s a quiet, peaceful time where the demands of the day lessen their grip and give us space to ‘just be’. My love of the night sky began as a child when my Dad and I would wander around the garden listening for hedgehogs and counting the sky for satellites and shooting stars. I loved the competitions of who saw the most.
Tonight as I make my way through the darkness accompanied by the calls of the tawny owls and the rustling of small mammals, I think how lucky I am to live in the countryside where the night sky is not marred with street lights. It is half past eleven. I relish the solitude, silence and stillness. I catch a tawny owl in my torch light, he is seated above me and looks down with those dark knowing eyes; annoyed that I have interrupted his hunt.
Mars is bright and a shimmering red against the darkness. A few stars shine bright but most are eclipsed by the intensity of the waxing moon. I walk down a tree-lined avenue towards the main road with the beech trees vast and looming above my head. I feel small and insignificant in the darkness yet there is a sense of calmness and peace; of being at one. I feel safe, I know this place, I know these trees.
Mars catches my eye above the horizon, I so enjoy the movement of these familiar planets. I have always been a star gazer and am the part owner of a telescope. I recall the first time I looked through one in New Zealand to see the rings around Saturn and the Orion nebula. They are such an astonishing sight; their beauty bringing me almost to tears. I remember night skies I have seen as well as the landscapes I have visited: the constellations of the southern sky on the Whitsundy islands, the southern cross dipped towards the horizon and the wispy magellanic clouds made of billions and billions of stars. There are no words to describe these moments when you can almost touch the stars.
Nearing home now I am welcomed by Henry, my cat, who is surprised to see me out wandering. I shine my torch into my pond but find it as cold and still as the night air; the great crested newts have lain their eggs and have now moved on. I must too as it is late.
Photograph by Roger Ballen