I'm driving back across the moor with Tavistock behind me, and behind the town the valleys of the Tavy and the Tamar; behind those, in turn, the hills and tors of Bodmin in their shades of slate and grey. Brown Willy, Bronn Wennili ('hill of swallows' in the Cornish tongue), one of the higher tors of Bodmin Moor, is visible in my rear view mirror as a larger ripple under the sheet of sooty pewter that is the sky in the West.
Ahead of me, eastwards, huge thunderheads in every shade of bruise tower upwards. From behind me, curtained shafts of late-afternoon sun pick out flakes of gold, splinters of neon-green from the moorland shoulders.
As I look at them, something new comes on the radio: the space forecast. This is I believe the first ever, just ahead of the 6 o'clock news, and the contents will become, surely, as iconic as the shipping forecast (which TM has reluctantly had to give up as I flatly refuse to be woken, much as I too love it, half an hour earlier than I otherwise need to be, at 5.15am).
My imagination immediately goes into overdrive at the list: coronal mass ejections, solar flares, geomagnetic activity (and 'aurora borealis sightings: few'). A poem, surely?
Or maybe a rap:
'outa / in tha / sola / system /' ... or maybe not.
I'm coming back, via my ailing father who is at least out of hospital now, from the exuberance of a walk in this wild wet elemental weather down to Lydford Gorge, and the dramatic White Lady waterfall.
One of the things I'm loving about getting older is how much joy I find in the extraordinary fact of the existence, the being, of small, ordinary things. Once, it would have been adventure, or travel, or a passionate love affair that triggered this kind of wild joy. Now, it's simply the world: this weather, that leaf-fall, this river, this buzzard's mew, that charm of goldfinches, this sound of rooks and jackdaws playing with the wind, this precious time with a friend, the fact that Dog, elderly, a little arthritic, and slower now, has still managed a couple of steep miles in heavy rain with delight. As soon as I step outdoors these days I'm struck with a kind of minor ecstasy: to be here! To be alive! To have (the rest of) the natural world wrapped around me!
And, what's more, being self-employed, to be free too to take time out during the working week; though it is also, after all, for me the writer and my friend Anne the artist, not just 'time out' but also inspiration. We also choose to make the walk in a kind of meditational silence, followed by a much noisier lunch.
Undeniably, this is sharpened by the poignancy of knowing how very fortunate I am, in this England, to be here, free from jihad, or air-strikes, or abduction, or torture. I imagine many of us find that we are accompanied much if not most of the time by the images from newspapers, TV or radio of the terrible events unfolding all the time elsewhere.
And there's the environmental downward spiral, with the actuality of climate change, with the reality of animal cruelty, with the devastating news that we've lots 52% of our wildlife, due to human agency, since 1970 (I think I wrote about that the other day).
And what is the 'right' response to all this? What response can there be? How do we live with despair and hope, what actions can make a difference, no matter how tiny, how do we not give up? This question has arisen in groups I'm involved in, or friends I talk with, over and over recently. I'm not sure there is an answer, but we do keep needing to ask the questions.
In amongst the welter of disaster and horror, one thing I keep reminding myself of is gratitude; the practice of gratitude in the midst of a sense of hopelessness and helplessness. How blessed we are here, how blessed. At the risk of sounding a Pollyanna, whatever else we can or can't do, we can remember this. It could be otherwise.
In honour of the White Lady, here's a poem. I'm not sure if I posted this before (blogger is still not letting me use the search function); I wrote it about exactly this walk a few years ago.
© Roselle Angwin, from Bardo (Shearsman)