Sunset

Brightest was the horizon, where the far-off winter trees blended their thin charcoal lines into a black mesh, through which the seared sky was a deep, hot red like the lights that move through the black heart of a fire, and higher up the colour changed – it can hardly be said paled, for the new colour was just as vibrant as ever – to a bright orange-pink, quite startling in its richness, spreading up and up behind the arms of the beech.

The hard clearness of the black silhouettes melted into insignificance as her breath clouded the cold pane, and only the colours blazed through the mist. She was comparing it in her mind to another sunset, one Midsummer’s eve. In Summer, the inclosing trees, now bare and brittle-looking as skeletons, blocked any view of the sunset, and she had to go up'” the lane outside the house to get any view of it. The sky was pale, washed out pearly-grey, the colour of Athena’s eyes, she remembered thinking at the time, and there was no rich fiery glow, as now – but near the horizon the clouds were soft angel pink, spreading out like silken scarves in the wind, though there was no wind, only a perfect stillness, pervaded by the wafting sent of the sweet-chestnuts. Did she long for that Midsummer eve?

Only as the wanderer in a garden where the warm, close smell of roses fills the air longs for the clean scent and the pale foliage of the lavender-garden. Or as the watcher of the great, bold stretch of the eagle’s wings and the curve of the mighty beak longs for the gentle hopping of a little wren upon the doorstep.

December Night

‘…shadowed silvery moon…’

A long, narrow strip of pale yellow is left along the horizon where the sun has gone down behind the distant black mesh trees, but the garden is in darkness. The black evergreens toss restlessly fro and fro in the cold breeze, and the bare branches of the other trees look delicate and vulnerably silhouetted. Behind the trees, but visible at some angles, is a half-moon, with the thin grey clouds rushing coolly over it like liquid, as though it were a shiny pebble under a stream. At one moment, it is shining gently, with the dark cloud shapes hurrying over – at another, it is quite gone and extinguished behind the greyness, as if it had never been there at all – and then it begins to show again, a faint traced shape in the clouds – and they pass over, and it shines serenely, illuminating the sky around in soft whiteness – and then once more the dark shadows begin to flurry over it like waves.

The timeless, boundless branches of the huge beech are like dark trickling veins, behind and around the dark soft shape of the trunk.

The shadows stand still in strange shapes on the lawn, and everything seems to listen to the wind at it makes gentle noises in the tossing branches. Half-afraid of the shapes, she tiptoes down the garden path. The moon draws out of sight for a while behind the blackness of the trees – but as she reaches the lawn, she looks up again. And it shows itself, lonely in the sky, more glorious because isolated by a vastness of grey drifting cloud, wide and swallowing.

In the soft darkness the shape of the beech’s trunk seems huge – far larger than it seems in the daytime – a wide greatness of rising bark. And looking up, she is almost dizzied by the upward spiral of trunk and branches, starting in a faint dimness, but darkly silhouetted as they rise above the paler sky. The well-known turn of every branch is something unfamiliar, something great, something strange, something very old. The moon hangs trembling behind the rushing cloud, and the closer drooping twigs, every little detail of them outlined in black against her gentle white light.

Knowing she would soon be away, she took another glance at the great and grotesquely twisting trunk, and let her fears loose, speeding up the garden path as fast as she could go with every seed-head stirring in the motion.

And reached the house-door, from which the warm light flowed out onto the shining cobbles, that moon and those twigs forever imprinted in her memory.

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Farewell to Autumn

The temperature has dropped with November,  and it is winter air that I step out into in the chilliness of the morning.

A flock of birds, their white under-wings catching the light, cross the expanse of the sky above me. A sky of piercing frosty blue, clear as a cold blade, tempered by the licking flames of the beech branches. Above the glorious radiance of that blaze, life-filled and warm against the coolness of the blue, the ghost of half-moon glides like a tattered piece of delicate tissue paper carried high by the autumn breeze.

The faint silveriness of frost pales the lawn, melting in the long streaks of morning sunshine. A grey squirrel hurries here and there in the leaves, and up above, a little movement that might have been made by falling leaves show themselves, to a close observer, to be made by little tits, darting here and there in the frosty air, in between the golden foliage.

Closer to me, the autumn crocuses are flattened against the grass on which the frost has already melted into clear sparkling droplets, and to my left, the red berries are bright on the yet green foliage of yew and holly (our holly trees always have ripe berries early).All the leaves are gone from the little cherry, except for one or two of speckled yellow, that even now spiral down. In the flowerbeds the flowers and their green leaves have fallen back, leaving only their seed-heads, which stand erect and delicate. And the foliage that remains, the tall purple loosestrife and the ferny leaves of the incense rose on their rich brown stalks, is dappled red and yellow like the trees. In the big bushes of garden cranesbill, a deep blue bloom can yet be sometimes found, hiding under the withering leaves, with a spider’s web suspended from its stalk. Those flowers are some of the last to survive. But over the dried desolation spreads a new growths – some starry flowers, some like red flames and others with pale pink blooms, remembering their native home where it is always summer, spring up in bright clouds of colour.

‘Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?

Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,-‘