Glimpsed, In Passing: 2012

Glimpsed, In Passing: 2012November 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.

Glimpsed, In Passing: 2012

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.

33 thoughts on “Glimpsed, In Passing: 2012

  1. And my very best wishes to you, Julian, for perception and inspiration. The metaphor of the rainbow is a perfect one on which to end 2012, with hopes for another year of vivid and sensitive writing.


    1. Thanks, Ian. And Happy New Year from here, with a sunburst sky hanging over the mountains. Looking forward immensely to your writings this year, the evocative phrases and places you contemplate. Cheers for the good words!


  2. Wishing you and yours all the best for the New Year as well! Thank you for your wonderful writings I have been enjoying immensely.

    1. Thank you, Verena. Always a delight to hear you’re enjoying these posts. And my many thanks for your continued support; I’m honoured by your interest. Best wishes to you for the year just dawning in your part of the world!


  3. Another unique moment, ‘glimpsed in passing’ and beautifully shared. It has been such a delight to encounter and follow your writing this year Julian. Always a treat to discover when you have posted a new entry and to ‘save it’ for when the conditions are optimal for reception – a quiet space and on a decent sized screen so that the images can sing. (dislike reading anything on a phone). It is writing that is both enriching and sustaining and look forward to much more in 2013. In particular, the publication of ‘The Small Heart of Things’ is highly anticipated. With very best wishes and thanks.

    1. Thanks for this lovely comment that’s added an extra shine to this bright, sunlit New Year’s Day! I’m honoured by the compliment, especially as I admire your work immensely. And delighted you’re looking forward to the book – I still feel wonderfully over the moon about it all, and will keep you posted as it nears publication. Thanks ever so much for your interest and support; it’s been a real delight following your posts this year and I look forward to many more Fife forays in 2013. Cheers from here!


    1. Thanks, David. Very pleased you liked it. I didn’t know about the inverted double bows until I began putting together this post and processing the photograph. Then they leapt out at me!

      I’m beginning the new year with The Forest Unseen, and looking forward to it immensely!

      Hope you’re well and enjoying the holidays. Best wishes from here,


      1. Thank you, Julian. I’m delighted and honored that you’re reading The Forest Unseen. I hope you’ll find some interesting nuggets inside the covers. With my best wishes for the New Year, David

  4. Gorgeous sid ‘let go like a sigh at the edge of sleep..”all the mystery to be found in a moment, glimpsed, in passing, through a window in the rain’ I love it and where the hell is that dictaphone..?

  5. Hi Julian, I’ve quietly, silently been reading your blog for the past few years, lurking, some may say. I want to add my voice to the chorus and wish you a successful, happy, safe New Year. I admire your writing for its luminosity and ability to take and sink me into a realm of calm attention and observation. Into atmospheric presence. And your word choices are so often just sublime. I particularly loved “the rainbows dimmed like worn glitter.”

    Thank you.


    1. What a tremendous delight to read your comment this morning, Birgit! Your beautiful compliment is humbling, and I love that you’ve been silently reading until this moment. It’s a great honour to know that these posts resonate with you like this. So, it’s to you that I’d like to say thanks, for continuing to come back to these notes and for reading them in such an attentive and sensitive way, and for describing them with these lovely phrases.

      My best wishes,


  6. ‘the rim of the lit world’ – what an evocative description of nature’s mystery! It makes one feel like a medieval explorer, wondering and fearful of what lies beyond the horizon, the farthest corner of the map.

    I do so look forward visiting here in the new year, to learn about the marvelous things – both new and familiar. Happy New Year!

    1. Thanks, Aubrey! As always, you add another dimension to the post with your comments, this time imagining a medieval explorer at the edge of the map. I’m also looking forward to seeing where your poetic words and imagery take you this year. So, many, many good wishes for a creative and joyful 2013 at your edge of the world!



  7. As only you can do, Julian, you have taken a moment of experience and given it to us to feel each exquisite breath of it, entirely as if it was our own. This piece is a reminder to allow ourselves to fully experience each moment – to not forget to keep looking up from the desk, through the window and truly seeing what potential lies beyond. Thank you for sharing your gift with words.

    1. Thank you, Cindy, as always, for your carefully crafted comment and attentive reading. I couldn’t ask for a finer gift than having readers like yourself. It’s a great honour.

      Hope all is well, and that the new year is already inspiring you in your creative efforts. I look forward to seeing the images and reading the words that are taking shape!

      Best wishes from here,


  8. A lovely vignette, Julian – you really succeed in catching the moment. Rainbows are such elusive things, especially if you try and photograph them. I have yet to take a satisfactory image of one.

    1. Thanks kindly, Laurence. So very elusive, you’re right. What I loved about it was how this remarkable moment lasted little more than a minute within 9 or 10 hours of rain. How easily so many moments can be missed. Good luck with your next photographic attempt!

    1. Hi Sybil! Thanks kindly for checking in. I try to put up a post every month and ideally would have liked to write one for next week, but I’ve got wrist tendonitis at the moment and haven’t been able to write (or even do the dishes!) for the last 10 days. Just tediously slow left-hand typing. But I hope to get something on the go as soon as I can. Thanks for the considerate thought, and hope you’re well!

  9. Julian – I’m so late arriving here to share in this beautifully captured moment; things have been so busy. But, truth be told, I’m glad I saved it for when I have the time to really savour being caught up in the ‘glimpse’ of this magical moment’s ‘passing’. Your wonderful posts always deserve deep absorption and quiet reflection. The image evoked by ‘rainbows dimmed like worn glitter’ lingers long in my mind’s eye, along with so many of your other perfect descriptions…

    Happy New Year, Julian. Discovering your blog and your writing was one of the highlights of 2012 for me. May 2013 truly be your year, unfolding lots more inspiration and creativity and much fulfilment and flourishing – I’m so looking forward to your book later this year!

    All the best,


    1. It’s an honour that you read these at all, Melanie, and leave such wonderful and inspiring comments. Thanks for these kind words. Like you, it’s been a particular joy of mine in 2012 to discover your wonderful writing and subtle take on the nature of the world. I’m looking forward ever so much to continue following the path to see where it leads both you and your readers.

      All the best,


  10. Here I am, late to the party again, but I’m glad I made it. You have such a way with words and your vivid description of the rains during the day, may the build-up to the sun’s appearance so much more magical. Reading your words, I vividly remember a day much like the one you described, though not in November. It was a grey-soaked August that I endured to be rewarded by a sight much like your stunning picture of the rainbows. What a lovely last post for 2012. I hope your year has been getting off to an equally spectacular start.

    1. No worries on being late, especially as I’m so late in replying! It’s such a pleasure knowing you’re reading these posts and finding something of interest here. There’s something about the way sun appears during or after rain that turns the world even more brilliant than usual. I’m delighted you enjoyed this brief glimpse, Heather, and thanks for your lovely compliments. Hope all is well with you!

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