(written late evening 1 October)
Despite a day of unalleviated gloom, as I left Devon, through the train window and in
The English countryside is soft and green, newly sown grass emerging from ploughed fields. Woods and copses loom dark against the sky, expanses of clear water, bespeckled with ducks, reflect a silvery light. It is dark enough now for a stand of birches to be white wands on a black filigree. I love
I am privileged, I think, to have lived in so many wonderful parts of Britain: in the Highlands, massive and craggy, yet threaded with soft glens; on the edge of Dartmoor, where great grey rocks tumble amid the stream beds, captured by gnarled tree roots; in the southwest of Scotland, where the rain never stopped but every inch of the sheep-nibbled upland meadows was a jewelled carpet of microscopic wildflowers; Northumberland, where the sky goes on for ever and the boundary between the land and its legends is stretched thin.
For ten years I commuted daily to
Now I work from home as much as possible, and the sea is a distant sparkle, but the Cheviot is omnipresent, even when enshrouded by mist, and the daily comings and goings are conducted by sparrows, not people. Some days, ensnared by email and telephone, I scarcely set foot outside, but the minutiae of country life continues around me, and I catch glimpses of it through the window. A wren foraging for insects in the ivy, a troop of partridge crooning to each other in the morning sunlight, a mother woodpecker feeding her offspring on peanuts - small pleasures, but they suffice.
Gerard Manley Hopkins knew about the beauty of the small, the generally unremarked:
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
(Gerard Manley Hopkins, Pied Beauty, 1918)