Country diary: darkness gets to be itself here

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April full moon in lockdown: a supermoon, the nearest of this spring. Having saved my daily walk for a nocturnal escapade, I slip out, torchless, to meet it. I do not know when I have experienced such stillness. There is not a wisp of a breeze, nor a cloud in the sky; not a voice, nor a dog’s bark.

Leaving the village’s scattering of electric light, I continue into the bright darkness of the beech-hedged lane, the withered scrolls of last year’s leaves picked out in silver or black, a familiar terrain painted in moonlight. Above me, an infinitude of stars shines unhindered. This is a region where darkness gets to be itself. Twenty miles from the Galloway international dark sky park, night has substance.

Down towards the bay, one illuminated rectangle of slow activity: a man in overalls checking progress in the lambing barn. A tableau vivant of spring. Tarmac gives way to gravel track, and the crunch of my footsteps seems incongruously loud, so I stop: to listen to the trickle of water in the ditch, to notice the silhouettes of trees flute upwards and catch this huge moon in their branches.

I look through an opening in the black tangle of a hedge to some white, slight movement in a field. Shape-shifting, a suggestion of a lamb resolves into three actual lambs, soon merging into an expression of lambs-with-mother and their collective shadow. An explosion of pheasant to my left startles unseen hoof thud, which now waits silent, surely watching for my next move. The trees stand steady as they have always done. I look back to my right. The sheep have vanished but somehow their shadow remains: a patch of darkness, disembodied.

I continue on, stepping lightly around the shore track and into the other side of the woods. I soon hear the heron chicks click-clicking in their nests, high in a stand of spruce. Since discovering the heronry, I have been coming to check their progress several times a week. Now I have evidence, if I needed it, that their cacophony is incessant. Soon they will fledge and I will no doubt miss the constancy of their chattering, which has been an anchor in these strange times.

o The third of 2020’s six supermoons will be on Thursday 7 May

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