On another trip to this wonderful area we were camped at Lower Basswood Falls. After dinner, we sat overlooking the river. The wonderful white galleons of the day had passed leaving the sky cloudless. Colour faded from the sky and then slowly, in the east, the sky was flooded by the softest, most delicate mauve hue which started low down towards the horizon, just above the soft violet of the earth shadow, and then slowly suffused upwards, at the same time moving across the broad reach of the mirror-smooth Basswood River towards us. Again there was an ethereal quality to the sky and water, to the earth itself, and a feeling of existence yet at the same time of insubstantiality. One felt the earth, and oneself, merging with eternity, with another plane of life. What is it about sunrises and especially sunsets, which lift us out of this world, into another? For the most part, except when blended with light and the sky, the earth is physical, material. But the sky is something else. It belongs to another world, another plane of life, and it has the power to lift us out of this world and make us aware of, without showing us, another plane of life. ‘On the brow of time descending when the level lights gleam low, I shall know all the joy of endless things! ( Geoffrey Winthrop Young in “Solitude”) ’[i]
As we watched, entranced, the beauty of the night softly drew in as the colour ebbed slowly away and for a time there was a luminous blueness. In Africa, so long ago, my father used to talk of this mystical time as the blue hour. Then, coming by stealth so that its coming cannot be defined, black night opens the curtain on the beauty and brightness of the stars and the moon, perfectly reflected in the still water. It is impossible to define the coming of night. We only know when it is there. Later, from our sleeping bags, we watched the moonlight through the trees and the magic of the fireflies.
One might think that day is the positive and night the negative but this not really the case. Night is as positive as day, but is more subtle, female. It is creative, able to create subtlety, delicateness, mystery, illusion, and dreams. It creates beauty in a way which the day cannot do. Ethereal and delicate beauty. Daylight, by comparison, is hard, often harsh, floodlighting the beauty and showing it in a harsher light and also showing the scars ; poverty, shabbiness, the scars of life and living; ugliness as well as beauty. But night shows the intrinsic beauty behind the faults. Beauty, hidden by age, seen again. By day, a shabby lane, paint peeling, fences falling, by night, only beauty, the shabbiness hidden. I have walked in mountains in daylight and been awed by their beauty, but I have also walked the same paths by moonlight and been entranced by the magic of their subtle, insubstantial beauty when bathed in moonlight, depth and distance and delineation gone.
There is a lovely ridge near my home from where there is a view over a beautiful valley to the mountains beyond. It is a wonderful experience to walk up there at night and see moonlight flooding the valley and gently lighting the mountains. So different from the harsh reality of day.
Starlight, moonlight falling through the forest, glinting on the snow, mysterious mountains rising against the lightness of the night sky. The night black and formless and then the moon rising over the sea, a pathway of silver to ones feet, and the waves now seen as dark shadows, the foam gleaming white.
I have wonderful memories of sleeping under a sandstone overhang in the Australian wilderness. The front of the overhang was screened by tall trees and the ground fell away steeply to the stream below. I awoke in the night to the haunting calls of a mopoke owl with moonlight slanting through the trees, creating an illusive curtain of shadows and glinting leaves. The scent of woodsmoke from our fire perfumed the air.
The night with its haunting beauty kindles dreams and romance.
“Then trickle the white moonbeams, to my face on the balsam where I lie, while the owl hoots at my dreams”.
Suddenly, by Stealth, it is Night.