It seems fitting to describe an evening walk today, when the promise of bonfires and fireworks is made by a clear sky with an all-seeing moon. One night short of being full, it resembles a circle drawn freehand, the circumference slightly dented. The technical term is waxing gibbous, which sounds like a rock band or Restoration wood carver, and its albedo, meaning the ratio of reflected to non-reflected light, seems particularly strong. Yet this borrowed brilliance is gentle on the eye, the outline clean, the glare commuted to something watchable.
I start at the fire in Mistletoe Orchard. The whizz-bangs have finished and not everyone stays but there are enough half-lit figures to assert the lineage of such gatherings. Early humans frightened of the night. Witches and heretics burning. Childhood with its offer, still to be weighed, of excitement and danger. I am the last to leave, and the only one to head outwards rather than going home. The Spinney has never seemed darker, the plantation to my left never more of a vision. It suggests another attempt at drawing, the poplars not quite straight, not exactly parallel. Or a huge brush with treetops for bristles. Or, with its stillness and mantra-like repetition of shapes, it is the place where I glimpsed enlightenment, images summoned but quickly exhausting themselves to leave the sanctum unoccupied, a stillness perfect for meditation.
Out in the open the full glory of the night is disclosed: black shadows, rockets glittering miles away. And with it the nature of moonlight’s paradox, everything clear yet unrevealed. The hunched profile of hedgerows. The trees on Flanders Hill dreamily insubstantial. The coastline of an oak canopy, indented with little fjords, but not its landmass, its wooden heart. Torchlight dances ahead of me and picks up something on the road: a dead blackbird, hit by a car, the tarmac dainty with jewels of dark blood. It looks pagan, a sacrifice, a warning to go no further. But with its wings fanned and head thrown back it could also be dancing – a mating ritual, a victory strut or some other exotic ecstasy. Such is the spell cast by this negative light. Everything familiar and disconcertingly strange.