10 February 2016
The light that made me blink
Guardian Country Diary, Wenlock Edge
by Paul Evans, first published in
Astrange glow, a halo, an aura? The sky was so bright I wore sunglasses. After weeks of dishwater grey the light that made me blink found bands of small birds brightening their browns, blues and yellows, making their voices empty like a drawer of silver cutlery tipped out on to the path.
My attention was drawn upward by a tree creeper spiralling an oak trunk through dark branches, up to where the wind shunted clouds about. At first I didn’t believe my eyes: the sky bore a splash of mother-of-pearl opalescence, a blur of fairly indistinct rainbow colours of indeterminate shape as if smudged out.
I looked around. There were families going for a walk, so absorbed with their lives they had no time for miracles. When I took my sunglasses off I could barely see anything but the blue of the sky either, so I assumed the vision had something to do with the Polaroid effect. How much of the world’s wonders do we miss because of the limitations of our senses and the overpowering noise of human life?
This trick of the light was taking on extraordinary significance for me. Could the raven or buzzard see it up there or did they only look down? Could the smaller furtive birds sense anything in the sky? What was it? There were only a few low clouds so I imagine this aura, halo, thing was an atmospheric optical phenomenon caused by the angle of sunlight on diamond dust – eight-sided, plate shaped, ice crystals, six miles high.
This world of light phenomena was uncannily beautiful. It also felt portentous, as if foretelling a mystery, something changing in the fabric of the sky.
When I glanced down I saw the first lesser celandine flower. The daffodils were out in December, snowdrops appeared weeks ago, but the celandine with its childishly yellow solar disk remained true, piously resistant to the temptations of a warming world.
In turn, I resisted the temptation to point at the sky and yell at people to kneel before the vision. But why should they be bothered? The uncanny, supernatural and miraculous happens all the time.
Paul Evans is the author of Field Notes From The Edge, Journeys Through Britain's Secret Wilderness and Herbaceous:
Field Notes From The Edge a Journey into Britain's Secret Wild...through the in-between spaces of Nature – such as strandlines,mudflats, cliff tops and caves – where one wilderness is on the verge of becoming another and all things are possible.
Herbaceous is gardening with words. It is a book of audacious botany and poetic vision which asks us to look anew at our relationship with plants and celebrates their power to nourish the human spirit. - See more at: