I am continually amazed at the sudden shifts in temperature and weather round here. Today – a bright sunny spring day, out with the family. In between pushing the baby buggy uphill, loaded with our newly-gathered stone collection from the beach, I tried to take photos. This is the only one I haven’t deleted yet.
And this was last month in the snow.
Yesterday, 28th March, all day there was ferocious wind and rain – and it was unbelievably cold. Earth Hour was due to take place at 8.30pm, and this year I wanted to be alone and connect with the earth.
By 8pm night had fallen. It was a hassle getting out of the house. I was obliged to dig out my thermal underwear I had worn in the Arctic, my seafaring socks and my WW2 flier’s hat that I got for Christmas. I got so hot in the house. Put on my watch as I wanted this adventure to last exactly one hour. Found notebook and pen and put in backpack. Put in a couple more pens just in case one ran out. Fumbling, getting my camera ready, and my tripod – I wondered whether to take food and drink, then decided not. Better take my mobile phone just in case -and my glasses, in case I need to read something. But how can I make notes or peer into camera without light? A desperate hunt around until I found my LED head torch with three levels of brightness. Couldn’t make it work, then realised its batteries had all gone flat. Added purse to the contents of backpack, so I could buy batteries on my way out to the Burrows. Got out of house, carrying tripod and backpack full of stuff. Shut the front door. Went back to house for thermal gloves; went back again for big torch in case I wasn’t able to buy batteries in the little shop on the way down to the Burrows; went back again for a more respectable hat because I didn’t like to go into said little shop wearing my flier’s hat. Called in to that wonderful shop, where I bought just the right batteries and some indigestion tablets as I had bolted my food. Apologised to the shopkeeper for handing over a large number of US coins, which my son had left on our mantelpiece.
I arrived at the Burrows pretty well dead on 8.30pm. Almost immediately my hands were numb with cold, but this was preferable to searching for gloves in the dark.
It was shockingly dark. I was unprepared for this, the feeling of distance from all that was known and safe. I found myself quickly looking around, seeking signs of civilisation: something for my mind to hook into. I clung mentally to the patch of tarmac on the track under my feet. I scanned the lights of the distant villages of Appledore, Northam and Westward Ho! – their street lights following the characteristic curves of the Devon hills.
I walked around a bit, watching the landscape. It was cloudy, and a moon only a couple of days past new moon. There were hardly any stars visible: everything was so dark that I could discern no light reflecting off land or water. Mud water dunes rocks – nothing showed up. Wandering away from the track, I began to get a little afraid of the dark, afraid of breaking my neck, falling into quicksands, or drowning even. I walked about very cautiously, all the time keeping half an eye on the lights of the villages, and the regular pulsing arc of bluish light, coming from the distant lighthouse on Hartland Point.
I set up my tripod and photographed the thin sickle moon – my hands freezing in the Atlantic wind coming straight across from America.
As I worked, I became increasingly aware of the sounds of wind and sea, and the darkness became comforting. Gazing across towards Northam and Westward Ho!, I could now see a yellowish haze of light seeping upwards into the sky, and felt it was an intrusion.