Monday, 1 December 2014
A Winter Night
The light fades early, dimming to mistiness as the dark creeps in behind it, chilling the afternoon. On a ridge to the West the last pale rays of sunlight suffuse the sky and the trees are starkly outlined black on silver-grey until this, too, fades and the night shades out the day.
Then the stars … much later, after midnight, when the village streetlights turn off … glitter against the sable sky and their different colours can be perceived. Looking South, Sirius is silver-blue below the belt of Orion, Betelgeuse and Aldabaran red-tinged above it. Looking North, the Plough is a constant presence throughout the year with its hook pointing to Polaris, the North Star, around which, from this part of the Earth, all the stars turn. Between these the misty path of the Milky Way is invisible when the street lights are on even here, some distance away from the road. But now it reveals itself like some mystery emerging from the dark.
On the horizon the half-full Moon hangs, illuminating that same western ridge where the sunlight dimmed behind trees. From somewhere over there an owl calls, then another further down the valley. As the Moon, too, sinks behind the hill the blaze of the stars is brighter still and the path of the Milky Way so clear that it seems to flow across the sky like a river. Still the owls call, but I retreat from the chill of the night to drift into sleep until dawn.