A (paying) guest is coming. Granny is about to put on twenty simultaneous hats - natural history expert on one hand, chauffeur, chambermaid, cook etc etc on the other. So she won't probably post much for a day or two. Maybe, by the time she reappears, the mysterious comings and goings on the far side of her land will have explained themselves. Right now the once abandoned field is covered in cones of red earth, deposited in heavy truck loads, one after another, following days of activity by a digger. Is it for a new house? she wonders. God forbid. It's rural land, houses - in theory - are forbidden. But you never know in these parts. Beloved thinks it may be new paddocks for the horses in the paddock already established nearer the road. We will see.
Last night much more mysterious wonders; mysterious, even when fully explained. Scientist Beloved was keen to explain it,drawing pictures of moon, earth, sun and the penumbra. Non-scientist Granny was quite ready to listen. BUT: a lunar eclipse
, she thought, while it was ongoing didn't need explanations - they would come after. It just needed looking at. So she looked at it, sitting on the back step, her dog at her feet, wrapped in a sweater; now and then she thought of much more fully wrapped people back on her other island and was grateful for the relative - only relative - warmth. It was a totally clear still night. Slowly, slowly, so slowly, the ragged rather fuzzy shadow crept upwards across the surface of the silver disk; not at all like the crisp earth shadow which makes the new and old crescent moons. It took a long time. Granny went back and forth - Mrs Jonah the headmaster's wife had been to dinner so there was clearing up to do. But then she settled herself on the step more permanently. For there it was. No more silver. Wholly shadowed moon. For a few minutes, even the dogs both far and near stopped barking.
Granny saw the solar eclipse a few years back. She remembers how fleeting the moment of total darkness was. The shadow fled across the sea, passed, stood, fled away, an instant of eternity. That was, she admits, a still grander event than this one- Chartres cathedral say, compared to parish church. Which is not to say that the moon's shadowing wasn't transcendental; it was; it was amazing. The shadow here, not the least fleeting, stayed and stayed. In the beginning, the top of the moon still glowing faintly, it was as if a great golden ball had been flung up into the sky. Gradually the glow faded; the moon turned darker, redder; shrank into itself. Its usually flat -seeming disk no longer flat, it looked like the globe - the ball - it really is; like the pictures of planets you see in books, three dimensional. It was also so small, shrunken. A round red grape turned round red raisin. Beloved went on explaining all this lying on the sofa behind her. While Granny, once it became clear how long the dark red shrunken globe of a moon was going to remain, did some more clearing up. But each time she returned to her dog and her doorstep, there it was, luna mysteriosa; this red moon enthroned amid now clearer constellations; the Plough, the Dipper, Orion's Belt. She tried to take a picture of it. Her not-very expensive camera wasn't having any. She had also meant to stay up - till 11.53 pm she thinks it was supposed to be - to see the shadow finally begin to leave, the silver edge of the full moon appearing once again. But about twenty minutes before then, the moon, finally, had had enough of being gawped at it in its diminished state; it summoned -it was as if it summoned -the sea, the tides. Sea mists raced down from the north, swept across the land, across the sky. In five minutes there was no moon, no stars, no constellations, barely any street lights even beyond the land, just mist everywhere.
Granny and Beloved went to bed. In the morning mist still hid everything though it is clearing now. And there is a beautiful diagram of moon, earth, sun, penumbra in full colour, which you can find here
, courtesy of the BBC. And an explanation - which, dare she say it, Granny understand rather better than she understood Beloved's explanation, the night before, when she was drowned in wine and weariness, above all in wonder.
From across the land now comes the sad complaint of separated goats. Isobel, the little one, is about to produce a kid and so has to be kept apart. She and Ruby together are like a married couple, Beloved says, they quarrel all the time, but cannot bear to be parted either so the poor things are in mourning, very loudly. Granny herself is off to change into another hat. Ta ta for the moment.
Don't worry; the next chapters of Lifting the World,
will be up on Wednesday as usual. Can you wait?