Language and silence

Pink clouds

It’s not that often that I’m pleased with a photo I’ve taken, having something of a perfectionist streak and only too ready to see faults. But I was really pleased to see this one come up on the computer screen. I took it one evening last week while out walking the dog and, in the meantime, of course, had completely forgotten about it.

As autumn slides into winter – almost literally this year with so much rain – it’s great to catch a perfect moment as dusk falls, the soft pink-edged cloud against the dark blue of the oncoming dark. No stars yet, just the moon. And just me, and the dog, in the landscape. A Nick Drake moment. A threshold moment. Between day and night, between language and silence. Between contemplation and foreboding.

I saw it written and I saw it say
Pink moon is on its way … *

This hinterland is explored by Sara Maitland in ‘A Book of Silence’, published by Granta on the 13th Nov, and featured in both the Guardian and The Observer last weekend. From the excerpts published, this looks like one not to miss and a sparkling addition to recent writing immersed in the landscape, such as John Deakin’s ‘Waterlog’ and Kate Rew’s ‘Wild Swim’ – ‘It passed. The dawn was bright. The cotton grass danced among the tussocks …’ – and I was reaching for my walking boots.

‘Silence does not seem to be a loss or lack of language; it does not even seem to be the opposite of language. I have found it to be a whole world in and of itself, alongside language and culture, but independent of it. It comes from a different place altogether.’

So here I am, sitting on my doorstep in the sunshine, looking out at my huge nothing. I don’t feel worried about falling over the edge of a bottomless chasm, but rather I have a sense of moving up a level, into some finer, cleaner air.’

[Sara Maitland, ‘A Book of Silence’]

And so here also am I. Back working from home, on my own, after an ill-judged business (business? hmmm!) partnership was put out of its misery (and not before time).

Clearly – returning to the photo for a moment – it would be better, for the composition, if the moon was a little higher and further to the right. But just this once I’m willing to let it go. It is what it is. I am where I am. I’m not saying I didn’t consider photoshop, but this is no time to paper over the cracks. At the 11th hour, on the 11th day of the 11th month it’s time to start afresh, on solid ground.

*lyrics from Pink Moon by Nick Drake