November rains lashed the valley, slanting from first light across the withered mountain folds, sinking the garden until a few last salads floated like weeds cast up by the sea. As I worked at my desk the woodstove clicked and hummed behind me, sometimes hissing at a wet seam in the beech or releasing smoke like a bloom of grey pollen into the room when a wild wind ransacked the chimney. No matter how many times I lifted my eyes to look out the window the sky was always an unfathomable knot of clouds, lowered like a curtain over the valley. Only a solitary crow occasionally stole across its surface, a dark line etched like charcoal on paper.
The ceaseless thrum of rain quietened to a murmur towards the end of day. The sky above the village had splintered and cracked open, like the two halves of a shell. I looked up from my desk to see a kernel of light nested inside. Grabbing my camera, I raced out the door, squelching through the soaked garden to climb onto a stone wall at the side of our house. With a last surge before dusk, sunlight had found an opening, rising like a river through the clouds to flood whatever was left of the day. Rainbows vaulted the valley, two arched bridges shaped by water and light, each droplet given a place in the spectrum, annointed by the leaving sun. I could have been standing inside a palace of light, the glimmering stars in the far heavens inscribed on the ceiling.
Rain fell steadily, spattering the lens. A fleeting orange flare was sent up by the sun that fizzled and fell behind the mountains. As unexpectedly as it came, the glowing cascade began to fade. The halves of the shell were brought together again, sealing the light inside. Colour drained from the sky, vanishing like water into cracked earth. The rainbows dimmed like worn glitter, like all the stars you could ever imagine, falling as one across the night, dissolving into dark at their eventual end. I let the rain sweep over me, watching it all go – all the mystery of bent and reflected light that gave way to the dying day, let go like a sigh at the edge of sleep, at the rim of the lit world. All the mystery to be found in a moment, glimpsed, in passing, through a window in the rain.
This last post of the year borrows from the writer V.S. Pritchett, who once described the short story as “something glimpsed from the corner of the eye, in passing.” Earlier uses of his idea can be read for 2010 and 2011. I’d like to take this opportunity at the end of the year to thank the readers of Notes from Near and Far for your continued interest. I’m extremely grateful for the conversations and connections that have been made, for the sense of shared community. And I’m deeply honoured by the time you’ve given to reading these posts, for the thoughtful attention and expansion of ideas in the comments. With the last days of the year upon us, my very best wishes to all for a creative, inspiring and joyful 2013, wherever you may be.