The Lost Art of Reading Nature's Signs by Tristan Gooley


The Lost Art of Reading Nature's Signs by Tristan Gooley

Author:Tristan Gooley [Gooley, Tristan]
Language: eng
Format: epub
ISBN: 9781615192427
Publisher: The Experiment
Published: 2015-08-19T04:00:00+00:00


11

A NIGHT WALK

THE SUN HAD FALLEN FROM THE January sky, leaving a strong orange glow in the southwest. Jupiter was the first out, followed soon by the bright red star Aldebaran, the bull’s eye of Taurus. In the distance I could hear the calls of tawny owls, promising good weather. Stars and owls: the night walk had begun.

The squelch of mud underfoot changed to the harsh crunch of stones and then the softer rasping of a patch of snow. Looking down, I could see light scars in the dark path where melting snow had formed rivulets and washed the chalky earth bare. These braided white serpents ran away from my feet until they disappeared in a deep dark sea of mud. In the southwest, the horns of the crescent moon marked a line down to the south. The moon was jostling for position with the bare beech trees of this Sussex wood and I walked beneath an ever-darkening, narrowing blue strip of sky as the trees tried to crowd in from either side of the path. Between the calls of the owls, I could hear a road.

Robbed of the sense of sight, we pay more attention to our sense of hearing at night, but we can also often hear further as the sounds travel well in the cold air near the ground. I was walking near home, in Eartham Wood, in southern England, and the road I could hear was not the usual one. Normally as soon as I have gained a little height the constant rumble of the A27 rolls over the farmland and into the woods, carried efficiently on any wind from the south. But tonight the sounds of the road were not constant or monotonous; they arrived in spurts. Clearly it was a different road, the less busy A285. This reminded me to check the breeze and it was reassuring to find it was coming from a less common quarter: the northwest. Landscapes shift with light levels and qualities, soundscapes with the wind direction and strength. Both flex a little with temperature.

I followed the path as it turned to the northwest and then felt the breeze on my face as I was guided through the trees by the bright low star Vega. It was the only star in that part of the sky bright enough to beat both twilight and branches. As I moved forward, so apparently did the star, dipping behind branches and then emerging confidently again. The path twisted northeast and revealed long strips of snow that had survived on the southern edges, shielded from daytime thaw by the shading on that side of the path. Snow holds stubbornly onto the southern sides of tracks, just as puddles last longer there too.

Pausing in a modest clearing, I took the opportunity to survey the sky more carefully. The heads of the Gemini twins, Castor and Pollux, were on top of each other and the twins’ bodies were reclined on the bed of the dark tree canopy to my east.



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