Twilight at Gwern ddu
It’s Wales – the rolling marcher lands that border England – the lands where waltzing time stands still and everything is still the same.
There are no trains, no cars, no planes in their fancy flights; no rumbling underground; no sirens screaming; no throbbing disco sounds; no blue neon flash to disturb dreaming. There’s no jingling ringing tone; no callers calling home; no bad reception here; or there no satellite; nothing to trouble twilight.
This tranquil country looks as if freshly brushed to life by Constable or, as if exhaled in elegiac couplets from some poet’s secret hide. There’s a hush unrushed: angelic whispers soft spoken by the landscape.
How is it, our city-sky-scapes scintillate with unnatural light but words simply can’t illuminate the bright-cut of the fading day? Why, with data streaming speeding faster, ever faster, do beams of such serenity so surely slip us by? Spellbound by the miraculous glare of tiny hand-held screens must we earthbound bypass twilight’s magic touching every blade of grass?
It’s July – the third week of the month – it’s not been a hot day – not like some hot summer school day warmly remembered – nor like the humid daze of London’s dog-days – that sultry heat in which sweating, sticky, sickly, city-slickers swelter sleeplessly.
The day has been as cool as crisp cotton sheets. It has left behind an apprising dusk that’s chillier still – colder than cold cucumber soup – but in its late loitering there’s all in all of summer’s highest peak – its lightness lightly caressing the grassy fields and softly stroking the troubled brow of the timeless hills.
As light fades strange shadows wrap the undulations of the land. The cattle’s bass echoes over the wide pasture; the sheep’s bleating chases it into an echoing sky. No Shropshire lad’s new wedded bliss could ever better this or landed wealth endow richer reward.
The orange glory of the sun is gone – its blazing disc has tipped behind the highest ridge – as if the balance of some law has been upset and fine light judges the present day lost. Daytime hangs-on by the very last threads of daylight’s rope – guilty light – drawing on the last breath of a dead day done.
The sheep move towards rest – white dots in clusters by the hedgerows – or dotted in the woodland shades – or under the canopy of a solitary tree that holds them in its gentle sway. The cattle too slowly chew their languorous way towards the hedged edges of the pasturelands as the shadows creep across hilly grassland; its ever green deepening shade by shade as patchwork-fields yield one by one to night’s advances.
The hills’ crests soften in this shadow-time leaving the trees etched along their outline like finger puppets in a shadow play – maybe there’s a cockerel proud – or maybe a fox’s snout pokes from the blacker woods into lighter shades.
The sun has left the heavens but midnight’s starry children are yet unborn to night; the bewitching moon’s rakish wraith hasn’t risen; only day’s late lustre lights the sky.
There fluffy puffs of streaking clouds flirt nakedly with a flighty breeze whose surusso plays airy music with the rustling leaves.
Like morning breaks the sweetness of a dream the patient gloaming brakes the fading day and extends its hour beyond the point of light even as day’s umbrage wrestles to restrain the arm of amorous night.
And of all of this I keep watch as many more before me have watched such days close and seen the final ripples of daylight enfold the sheep in sleep.
I watch – lonely shepherd to this time – the one who alone keeps the watch this single night – not a great man who shepherds many sheep – but a solitary sentinel shepherding my own life’s passing keep for my time too runs further down at each sun’s decline.
In this gloaming, I see shadows of my young-self roaming in the lightless fields of youth; I hear my shrill laughter ringing back as if chiming with the baaing sheep; my lowing thoughts amble by the cattle’s evening creep; my lost life as indistinct as the contours of the distant hills.
Why do I return to the past here – here, in the moving quiet of this waning day – why here do I recall the trivial shadows of a trivial past that’s merely moairn on the slopes of history?
My rap repeats not for wasted chance; or for life’s cruel dice cast on the wrong side of romance; or for those, by accident of birth, life mirthlessly leaves outside the gay insiders’ girth.
My elegy is not that these hills will outlast me as they have outstared so many curious eyes; or so out-breathed so many breathless sighs; or so ignored so many dead replies.
Wistful tears are life’s eternal due; their lonely fall comes by Fate’s unfeelingness, like GPS, seeking out each of us and putting us precisely in our place.
My life has danced fleetingly over the purlieu of the earth leaving no mark- no more than any twilight reverie imprints itself in memory – once gone it will be as if I was never here – as if tonight I never stood upon this nethermost point – near life’s ending spit half-lit in distant horizons – at that very end that like the passing day will finally give way to the solitude of – of – of some pointless night.
It is not fearful; nor a matter of regret; it is not to be avoided. I do not wish to forget its pretty inevitability. It is shatteringly beautiful owning only this momentary. It makes all seem bright; alive; quite unlike my dull life.
Here in this wilderness I’m important if only because like sin I darkly reflect upon these things; and, in the moment I still time; then I am still.
And if I dare to feel with whom would I dare to share my altered state?
If I am alone then like the baaing sheep no one can equally equate my singular view no matter the inky flood of sage words drowned upon this page.
Or, is there God alone with whom I can alone engage? Am I – am I truly in His image or is He merely the image of my vanity?
The hills in fading light are so fragile; they are reshaped by losing light; like me, the trees become mere shadows of all they once were. The hillside sheep too are lost, only lonely voices from the charcoal fields; the cattle too seem to be all gone.
There’s little left to see – maybe the sheep and cattle are there no more – maybe I’ll not wake at dawn to see them all appear unchanged as doubtless all will be. Will they be forever gone if I’m forever gone and no longer conscious of their reality?
And then is there nothing: or, is there God? Is He out there in the fading light of day? Is it He as quiet and as purposeful as ever in the teaming smallness’s of our tiny lives? Out there in His light might we still stand out – remembered – not because we’re important or because we deserve not to be forgot – but because – like the shaded landscape – while lost to sight – we are never lost entirely for we are ever loved – and being greatly loved by Him perhaps some of His greatness still resides within.
Looking up into the sky I watch as the first shaft of stars prick the dark with points of light; now I also see the moon has risen to rule the night in her white majesty.
I will go quietly to bed – mindful mine aren’t great thoughts – still, as twilight gleans meaningful light to dead day’s dying content so, surely, from my inevitable end may my mean thoughts also steal slight enlightenment?