The Best of October

Can there be a philosophy of light? Could it be that how we experience light drives how we think? Is my experience of night and day, dusk and dawn, of highlights and shadows, shade and sun different from yours? If terms like nocturnal, crepuscular and diurnal raise your pulse, read on because if there is a unifying factor to my experience of a strange hybrid month, then October was about light.

The month began with a trip to Sussex where Thelma and I stayed for a few days at my oldest surviving cousin’s cottage near Steyning. Jill is 87 and lives in an estate cottage where the trees she planted 40 years ago now tower over the house. The outbuildings are slowly sinking into the ground under the weight of ivy and brambles and creeper blocks out the light from the windows. Unable to move around much, Jill lives in her kitchen surrounded by growing piles of books, papers and the clutter of a life well lived.

She needed help and before we left we had filled all available bins with discarded stuff, and removed great volumes of dust, grime and cobwebs. For Thelma it was full time, for me just afternoons. From dawn until mid-day I was 8 miles up the road at Knepp Wildlands, and I wrote about that visit here:

As for the light;  dawn at Knepp tended to be cloudy, but on the way there and back I stopped off at Farlington Marshes just outside Portsmouth, and caught the typical mix of shore birds and industry which you find at many of Britain’s bird reserves:

From Portsmouth I travelled to Arne near Wareham on Poole Harbour, and there I was able to experience the full magic of the early morning light in Autumn:

Here is a longer description of the visit:

Back home, it seemed as if the darkness was gathering. The days were getting shorter, and the long shadow of the pandemic was creeping up on us again. On the fifteenth, the crescent moon was so slim you could see the whole ghostly outline of the shadow.A few dry, calm and sunny days gave me a chance to indulge in a hallowed autumn ritual, one with much deeper roots than the alien Halloween. The deep satisfaction of nurturing a bonfire taps into the deepest parts of our subconscious. (pic)During 45 minutes spent watching the Towy not a single creature appeared but the light was good.

Squeezed into a gap in the cloud and rain, I had an opportunity to revisit Dinefwr park during the rut. It felt like coming home and I wrote about it here:

Tomorrow is the eve of All-Hallows, a time to remember the dead: the saints, the martyrs, and all the faithful departed.

I don’t think so. It seems much more like a celebration of the amazing success of Chinese and American business – an opportunity to sell useless goods and a fake culture with its roots in the very real suffering and horror of women accused of witchcraft in the 17th Century. Around 2000 tonnes of plastic and around 12 million pumpkins are thrown away after Halloween in the UK alone. You don’t want to know the figures for America!

It’s not all bad though, and not all plastic. It’s also a children’s celebration of dressing up. This is my step-grandson Arthur as “The Dark Lord”

It is yet another dim wet lockdown day, and the only light I can see is the  hope that there will be less plastic going to landfill and less good food thrown away. Oh, and the hope that Trump will be defeated and the rain will stop next week.

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