My friend E— drove me out, in the warm sunlight, to the village where she lives among wide fields and narrow lanes. It is a pleasant village, typically English with a church and a green and a little shop, and her house was even lovelier — not overly large but very homely, its airy rooms decorated with old furniture and beautiful antique prints (including, I noticed with some excitement, a favourite Samuel Palmer, The Lonely Tower, which her mother informed me was printed from the original woodblock by a friend who owned it). We had originally planned to take her dog, a delightful labrador-springer named Billy, for a walk through the fields, but as we stood at the open back door and looked out upon the still, verdurous garden, we decided we hadn’t the energy. E— made a pot of tea, and we carried the mugs and the biscuit tin out to the patio and sat talking for such a long while. The darling dog ran in circles round the table in that excitable, childlike manner so characteristic of gentle-natured canines; the cat, meanwhile, skulked past with the feline air of moody nonchalance, though she had the most dazzling pair of large, grey-green eyes. While E— and I talked, our attention was suddenly distracted by the sight of a large kite soaring majestically into view over the treetops at the end of the garden; chased by a croaking rook, it wheeled and wavered its broad brown wings against the blue sky and made no sound. Apparently, this was rather a rare spectacle. Once, a little later, the phone rang somewhere in the depths of the house and E— sprang inside to answer it, leaving me to tilt back my head, close my eyes and feel the warmth on my cheeks, while contented Billy thumped his tail rhythmically against the chair leg. ‘We humans,’ I thought, ‘live, nay, exist, for such quiet, blissful moments as these. They, placid with their birdsong and shadows, are the joy of life.’
My soul was like a summer evening, after a heavy fall of rain, when the drops are yet glistening on the trees in the last rays of the downgoing sun, and the wind of the twilight has begun to blow.
From my notebook [14/04/14]
I am home at W— for a few days. Today has been glorious, the morning cool, bright, clear, a true springtime atmosphere. I walked into town then returned across the water meadows; the fresh wind, a breeze laden with the scents of the earth, flowers and water, wafted in my face and ruffled my hair. There were bluebells scattered hither, thither, along my walks — some of my favourite flowers, yet they only grow and bloom for such a short while in the year. I wish there could be bluebells always, all the year round.
On a stretch of path nearer home, along the river, I paused to watch a large swan preening its white feathers on the opposite bank. It was silent, its neck arched gracefully; in the distance behind it rose the great, sweeping curve of the Hill, resplendent in the sunlight. The trees on its summit waved and leant in the wind, while the shadows of the clouds raced over its slopes. It was an almost mystical picture, like a landscape by Palmer or Friedrich: the white swan upon a bed of reeds in the foreground, the wide, flat meadows beyond it, and then, as a backdrop, the Hill looming out of the earth, quiet and mysterious, like the shoulder of some reclining giant; all this bathed in the shifting, shimmering radiance of a spring morning, and sometimes sinking into shadow when an airy billow of clouds moved across the sun. I stood in peaceful silence and admired this vista, as if I looked out upon the landscape of a dream. Somehow, I saw something of myself in the swan.