6:14 pm - Sunset. Back out into a fading world. Over the course of 12 hours - from dark to light to dark again - observing an extraordinary range of light. Even - especially? - on an overcast day. Subtly of shades, tones, monochrome, gleams of bright, light, colour.
At sunrise in the lightening but sunless realm of field and woodland, the perceptible brightening of the day drains colour and flattens perspective. There is a glare by mid-morning that somehow exhausts the gaze. The light comes from the sky, spreading, submerging; colours are washed-out and the landscape appears veiled. At dusk, though, the rapidly fading light seems to highlight colour and adds depth, tone and complexity to what I see. There is a richness, a rare luminescence to the woods and hedgerows.
As we walk from the old swimming pool - which is crowded with mating frogs and toads - it beings to rain. Serious rain. Now the light appears to come not from the sky, which darkens with every minute that passes, but from whatever has colour in the landscape. From the rust-red ranks of dead sorrel; the bonewhite of the blasted oak; the bronze and mauve of the budding trees; silvered branches of catkins; the emerald of hemlock and bluebells shoots and emerging celandine. It is these things which glow.
I feel so sick now, my body is begging to be taken home to bed. But I plod on doggedly, entirely fixed within this day's routine of walking certain paths. It is almost unthinkable that the work will be left undone. For there is a prosaic sense of jobbishness about our walking, heads down against the rain, hands in pockets. Paths have to be covered. The mud sucks at our boots but we are surprisingly sure-footed. Businesslike. Something flurries underfoot. I stop, peer down in the gloaming. "A toad!" I cry out, in warning. Suddenly our walk is something else - a dance to avoid the migrating amphibians that fill the wood. The warmth and rain have wakened them, and now they are making their way to the ponds and pools and brimming ditches to mate. Utterly single-minded. We tiptoe. We walked hunched over, watching the ground for any sign of movement.
Then it is so dark we cannot see our own feet. We walk in single file to minimise the damage we do. Ready for home. Wading through the bog that leads to the last stile. I haul myself over it, coughing, wretched. Inside we turn on the kitchen light and immediately the windows are blacked-out. Night has fallen. The cottage is filled with the scent of a lamb stew we left in the oven. We fill bowls, beakers of red wine. Settle down to read the last two of Elliot's Four Quartets: The Dry Salvages and Little Gidding. His words fill us also.