From a Cottage Window, prose by Michael Graeme at
Stefan Stefancik

From a Cottage Window

From a Cottage Window

written by: Michael Graeme


As I settle to write this, the sun is setting neatly into the notch of hills formed by Langstrothdale. Its light is spilling the length of the wooded vale, illuminating the bare hills over a distant Buckden, with an ethereal glow. That scene, those hills, at this hour, in this light, fills me with a deep aching joy, one that’s impossible to describe. But I’m going to try.

I want to do something other than just sit here gazing through the window at it. I want to close with it, to gather it up somehow. I want to seal it in a jar for future dark times, when all I need do is twist off the lid and the darkness will be gone, and I imagine I will be here again, in this vale, at the setting of the sun.

I have been outside to gaze at it, to breathe the air of this golden hour, to feel the cool breeze on my face, to hear the gentle stirring of the trees. From the little garden of this cottage, I have combed the crenelated tops with binoculars. I have photographed the scene a dozen times. But I know what I feel cannot be captured. It is like a love that can be neither consummated, nor ignored. It can only be witnessed and felt, and the feeling of it is a kind of transcendence. It is the key to another world, to another mode of being.

Such a thing can only be shouldered. It is our lonely duty to feel it, to be the eyes, and ears, the heart, the soul of the universe, if only for a moment, as it becomes aware of itself through us. Nothing more is required, nor even possible. We must simply lend it our selves. Our reward is that, for a moment, it and we might become one, but only if we can let go of the vanity we might somehow capture it, record it, preserve it, for it is now, and only now. That’s the deal. That’s the only way to experience the joy in it.

Joy is not the same as happiness. Happiness is the chatter and splash of a sunlit brook over pebbles. Joy is the long plunge of white water into a deep, crystal-clear pool.

Thus, I sit and watch as the shadows lengthen, and the light grows more beautiful, more golden as the moments pass, until,… of a sudden, they are no longer lush and bright, and awake with wonder, but hushed and cast over with the soft, blurry blue of sleep. The day closes, silence creeps over the vale and, from the barns that dot the buttercup meadows, the owls slip, one by one, big and white, arresting as ghosts, to own the night.

But the night comes inching slow, its liminality swept now and then by the ragged flight of bats. The hills become theatrical silhouettes against a blue grey, muffled sky. I draw the curtains, settle to a dulcet lamplight and, as I seek these words to close, the owls call.

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