Perfect Whitbarrow Night

Here’s an improptu posting. I am by the window in my library at home here and I am looking out at the late evening sky. It is 10.32pm and the trees against the northern sky (there are 12 different species that I have identified) are dark and absolutely motionless, but beyond the sky is luminous with lingering blue light, descending to a soft orange where in the distance the sharp cut-outs of familiar mountains, those mountains which only six months ago were thick with snow, are a purple/blue/grey. It has been an almost surreal year so far. Dry, sunfilled, and after the frost hard winter, warm. It is not yet July but it has that feather softness which July brings. The hay lies in the fields where normally they would be hurriedly cut for silage for fear that the rain is imminent again. Now the land does cry out for rain. Nobody can complain about the Lake District being constantly wet when for so long, even more than ever before, it has become the land of heaven on earth. We have had rain; enough to make the land verdant, like a greenhouse. To look at the land is to see it in its perfection, but the reservoirs have been drained by our (and mostly Manchester’s) appetite for water (though little of it is actually drunk, I suspect).

For more times than I can recall, it is a perfect Whitbarrow night. Whitbarrow, that extensive slab of limestone, grown with stunted Junipers, Yews and Blackthorn, Birch, Larch and Honeysuckle, which on evenings of which this is so archetypal, the scent is like honey and vanilla. On such hot, high sunned, breathless days like this it is like Crete. The sheep graze over the broken stone, making it chink like metal, the grasshoppers fizz and whirr like cicadas. Then in the evening the deer bark, the owls call in the miles of dense forest on its more gently shelving eastern flank. It is for me a place of pilgrimage. I know it so well; all its pockets of intigue, its moments on its paths of different rooms. It is a quiet enough place in the day but in the evening it belongs to me…and the wild Soay sheep which carry bells and make the place feel like Corsica. It is a mere fifteen minutes away from here. In the winter we are alpine, nordic, and in the summer we are in the mediterranean.

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