Thursday, 27 October 2011

Turning the clocks back

It's one of those wet and windy autumn nights a few days from Halloween.  The clocks go back by an hour here in England this weekend, marking the start of the darkest third of the year.  But poems bring the darkness to light, in our minds at least.  This time of year puts me in mind of Robert Louis Stevenson's poem 'Windy Nights' about the ghostly rider.  It starts: "Whenever the moon and stars are set, whenever the wind is high, all night long in the dark and wet, a man goes riding by..."  A wonderfully evocative entry into the season of dark nights for a child, especially if, like me, as soon as you were put to bed you'd get out of it again and stare at the stars in the autumn night sky.

Watching the moon and stars became even more real as my sons grew and I took them to Cambridge Young Astronomers, with their Star Parties and telescope viewing evenings open to all.  Some of the most amazing sites we saw were in the silent pitch black of a farmer's yard in the countryside where the Cambridge Astronomical Association had a telescope in a barn and offered tours of the universe to enthusiastic amateurs like us.  Even now if I go outside of an autumn evening the first thing I look at is the sky, to see what's up, as if it somehow confirms my humble place in the cosmos.

All this star-gazing has emerged in my great woolliness too, first in a felt piece I made a few years back, trying unwisely to capture clouds running across the moon on a windy night.  Some exciting moonshine-looking fibre then came my way via a sale at Rampton Spinners, which I stashed until I'd accumulated a selection of other moonlit might colours to spin together into a skein I called 'Midnight Skies'.  I can't resist all those mysterious blues, greys and silvers.  'Silver' of course is the title of a picture-filled poem about  moon-watching by Walter de la Mare - some of you may remember it from school. It begins: "Slowly, silently, now the moon walks the night in her silver shoon ..."

The return of any rain at all to the deserts of East Anglia is certainly welcome - we desperately need it - but the flip side of course is having to bring yarns inside for drying instead of using the greenhouse.  It's just too damp in there overnight.  And finding space for a big yarn clock dripping with wet Teeswater locks is no mean feat in a busy house.   

It's soon going to be time to start secreting handfuls of needing-to-dry fleece on the radiators too, and that'll make me doubly unpopular.  I don't find anything perturbing about the calming scent of slightly damp sheep wafting about .....but then I am, if you'll pardon the pun, a "dyed in the wool" yarnie.  Others in the house however make it plain that they're not, so autumn does bring its limits!

Autumn is a thoughtful but promising time of year, full of colour.  Even the wet pavements (sidewalks) can become "...streets of shining jet..." as Irene Thompson's poem 'Rainy Nights' says. So if you're turning back the clocks this weekend, mentally or physically,  remember beauty comes in many forms and is out there somewhere, even on dark wet rainy nights, if we make the effort to find it. 

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