I have discovered that it is possible for a February night to be both warm and cold. There was a duality to this night. This was my thought as I stepped through the door and stood outside in the dark. Was it the night that was warm and the wind that blew cold? No, it was the other way around. The wind was whispering warm: later in the year it might be described as sultry. It had a siren’s song, a susurration that spoke of secret things and of temptation. The sound was so soft it fell around me as silence.
And yet there was a sinister feel to this nocturnal mistral and I shivered, but not from cold.
The night itself was thick with darkness and no moon bedecked the darkness. Had it been above the treeline, it would have been but a slick of waning crescent, a weak and sickly dying thing. No light would be reflected from the moon this night. Instead there were stars.
The sky is not a palpable thing. The sky is emptiness, coloured by dust and gases and matter too small for me to comprehend. The sky is also too vast for me to comprehend. Perhaps this is why I must give it tangible attributes. Tonight, the sky is a thick, luscious velvet curtain that I want to stroke. It is draped across the emptiness and spangled with myriad miniscule jewels: pinpricks of sharpness; icy cold portals into the infinite space on the other side. The curtain is weighty, and in protecting the earth with its sumptuous folds it offers me safety. I may feel small, I may feel humble, but under this enveloping sky I am not vulnerable to the universe.
There remained the whispering wind. By the house she whispered. Step a few short strides down and she sighed and murmured; a few more steps and into the trees and the stars are lost to the mantle of branches; the silkiness of silence forfeit to the snarl and moan of a different beast. Under the trees, in the bedrock of the valley, I feel surrounded by an entity primeval and powerful and the wind roars. No whispering womanly wiles here. The house is still so close; its windows lit and shining, reassuringly safe. But down here, under the trees whose trunks stretch upward in vanishing silhouettes amidst a tangle of branches twisted and ugly, dark against darker: down here I feel afraid. There is an urgency here, an insistence that I listen to the wildness and remember who I am. How easily a bough could snap away from its trunk and crash down. Crash and crush. I am small, protected from the universe perhaps – but vulnerable to the trees and the whim of the wind.
The house is still so close. How can it be, this separation of silence and sound, of security and fear? Where is the barrier at which I crossed from one to the other? How often have I stood outside the house and marvelled at the silence and soft murmurings of the night? Never have I guessed that so close, just below, lies a roiling cauldron. I want to go back to the shelter of those windows where the darkness is safe and the night is familiar. But somewhere out here is a life much smaller than mine and that is what I am searching for. I should be calling, shouting loudly into the dark, calling his name. But I am fearful because I know that my voice would not stretch above the clamour of this squall; I don’t wish to hear it swept away, lost beneath the surging tides. I don’t wish to be reminded that right now in this place I am a single leaf against the might of nature.
So I whisper. It seems to me that a whisper is just as likely to be heard as a shout or a cry. I walk, and I whisper into the hedges and the trees that rise alongside me, along a road that is so familiar and comforting in daylight but now is garbed in a different guise. Birds fly upwards, torn from their roosts in a cacophony of alarm and protest. They hear my whisper but he, it seems, does not. My cries are mere ripples in a restless ocean.
In time I accept that there will be no answering cry in response to my muted calls. And I turn for home, prepared to come out again later if he has not returned and perhaps by then the wind will have had its fill. He seems so very small to be outside alone in this ferment. I am convinced he was seduced by that sensuous silence surrounding the house and led on into the tumult under these tangled trees where perhaps he has lost his bearings and become disoriented by the brooding shapes and the incessant sighs and the sobs, the creaks, the groans and the wailing roars. He seems so very small.I don’t need to go out again. When he returns he is unsettled but not hurt or frightened. He has been gone for a number of hours but he’s home now, safe and seeking food, warmth and sleep. And I remind myself that unlike me, a cat is a creature of the night – at home where I am not.
All photos apart from this one are from Unsplash and are free to use. Grateful thanks to the following photographers for their generosity in sharing.
6th Photo is Jackson. With grateful thanks that he came home safe 😉