Land & Nature / Golden Light

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Morning light seeps between the curtains. We’re befogged by sleep and the mist that hangs over the house and fields – a gentle prelude to the pleasures of another bright day. These early hours, when everything reaches towards the rising sun, are precious. On the lawn, each silver dew drop seems to hold the essence of a summer holiday – the promise of delight, of days filled with luminosity. We breakfast outside, tea cups glinting as the sun burns through the mist. But this is a brief intermission before the sky clears and we’re tricked by the dazzling brightness into believing that we should head for the beach to shed our clothes and inhibitions, to picnic and enjoy that very particular kind of pleasure-grabbing ignited by rare, hot summer days in Sussex.

The sun shoulders shadows and reservations aside. They roll away to lie cupped and cool between the folds of downland. We drive through fields bursting with light. The chalk hills gleam through thin soil littered with angular, flecked, blue-grey flint that glint on ploughed ridges. Rounded hay bales fatten and gleam, soaking up their own shadows as the sun climbs overhead. Pale reeds quiver in the breeze.

On the beach, light is in command. In the clear air, everything is in sharp relief. Sea-bright and inescapable. Beneath the stark white cliffs, high sky and vapour trails, everyone seems determined to shine, cavorting and screeching like gulls in the waves. We are bouncing, splashing, flickering particles in a world filled with heat and brilliance until the shadows lengthen and figures begin to coalesce and move slowly towards the wooden staircase, carrying collapsed parasols and small children.

We wait to claim the golden hours when we all yearn westward and build cairns of chalk pebbles to stand at the edge of the day. Everything offers itself to the last of the light.

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The cliffs glow pale gold as the evanescent evening sinks with the easy sun towards the horizon. In those last crepuscular rays, we collect towels and totems, trying catch hold of everything around us, uncertain of what we might need to carry with us into the night. In our pockets, limpet shells radiate the yellow of summer and smooth stones still hold midday heat.

All is sea and sky, indivisible and diffused, a wash of peach and violet hues. Then, behind us, the moon begins to rise above the seam of chalk and pebble beach, weaving land and water together with fine threads of mercurial gleam.

We leave for the garden, travelling through blue dusk and powdered light that settles in drifts over buildings and fields. Dog daisies on the verges and white Japanese anemones along the low flint walls of village gardens glow seductively. Even clusters of pale sheep appear clothed in quiet radiance.

To replace the light that is lost as the day fades, we lay a fire and sit beneath two towering Scots pines that whisper and reach into the indigo sky. We stay warm and cushioned on a bed of pine needles until the moon is high and we can walk into the fields to be washed by her silver sheen illuminating the path that bends out of view.

Words and images by Louisa Thomsen Brits.

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