Country diary: fascinated by the falsehood of things


Sunlight startles trees and lets small birds furtle through the ash crowns shining green-gold. The last beam breaks against a lowering sky to reveal the coming rain that would otherwise slip in through the gloaming.

In this moment, the sunbeam bends into a rainbow over the trees, fields and lanes, against the dark-light of cloud. The arc passes high overhead through the remains of the day but its feet plunge down into the dark-half, the under-hill, where shadows are superimposed on shadows, where there is an undecipherable plan.

“Falsehood is never in words; it is in things,” wrote Italo Calvino in Invisible Cities. Dusk comes early, colonising further into day as afternoon shrinks back to quarantine in memory. On Windmill Hill, to see as far as the blue horizon glow and watch the brassy sunset, there are two bunches of roses fastened to the chainlink fence above the quarry, one yellow, one pink.

The wind blows fore and aft. A robin sings behind the rain, blackbirds are fractious before roosting. A kestrel crosses above the lane at half-hover to perch on a telegraph pole. The moon behind it, talon-sharp and new, the moon that Bunan, the 17th-century Zen poet, says is the same old moon shining on exactly the same flowers and yet we become the thingness of all we see. The moon rises over hills, and the kestrel becomes the thing of its own gaze, and the wind hums through our wires.

Down the lane, bats knot around sycamores, appearing and disappearing against lighter patches of sky above the hedge; from where the orange streetlight turns on up to long fields under Jupiter, bats on their beat loop one way or another. A buzzard glides as if magnetised between darknesses. Rooks in a choir of call and response prepare to leave.

The dedication card has fallen from the roses and blown over the fence, face down under a pine. Tree and card are made from the same stuff: the lignin of timber, an enduring substance of anonymous cells that hold a love of life, then rot, returning to the falsehood of things, losing the memory, forgetting the name. Owls shudder, calling night to the clamorous wood.


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