Sunday, 11 August 2013

The Underbelly of Light

This is not sunset, but the unusual sight (for me) of sunrise. Made more special by it being over Ailsa Craig in the Clyde. We took the boat up there last weekend for its (and hopefully our) summer holidays.

It is the reward for climbing out of my berth at 4am, after 90 minutes sleep. Apparently the sky had its first glimmer of light soon after 3am. The photo is slightly misleading as the clouds have tempered the sky's shock of yellow, a seam that crinkled over the Galloway hills, to the southeast of us, bruising them into definition, far darker than Ailsa Craig appears here. But they don't have the benefit of the sea's reflection to send them mauve.

We alternated for most of the twenty hour trip, from Whitehaven in Cumbria, between sail and motor. The dawn brought wind, grazing the sea's surface to create a shadowy texture that both caught and absorbed the growing light, making for one of those oddly opposing experiences, like eating meringues. This one being lumpy and smooth rather than crispy and chewy.

With the retreating dark, came a sense of relief, normality, that almost offset the exhaustion, at least fooled me into thinking I might not be as tired as I thought. This didn't last long. By 8am I'd slipped back into a bunk for a brief top up before we neared Girvan.

I've been commissioned to write on this transition from dark to light for a sequence of poems for a library project. Which worries me, as I don't see it too often. But seeing the clouds drink the rising sunlight, so it drizzled pink at their base, rather than glowing yellow, got me wondering about the relationship between the two. Whether it can ever be totally dark. I'm not sure I've experienced that.  Not at sea, nor in the desert.

For my eyes to become accustomed to it and see at the least muffled shapes, even if in some way they have been illuminated by memory and imagination, there must a degree of light. This dark, under stars, moonlight or manmade beacons (in channels, on buildings or as satellites) offers a freedom to shift our relationship with where we are, more gaps to fill, perhaps. It's another form of R.E.M. a place of dreamy possibilities and inhabitants. Or just not enough sleep?