Walk me out in the morn­ing dew

It might look as if a crys­talline coun­ter­pane has set­tled over the lawn, but, as Antony Wood­ward ex­plains, the glis­ten­ing morn­ing dew her­alds a glo­ri­ous day

Country Life Every Week - - Contents -

The glis­ten­ing morn­ing dew her­alds a glo­ri­ous day, says an en­rap­tured Antony Wood­ward

GET­TING up early, for its own sake, is an ad­ven­ture: the quiet dress­ing, the steal­ing down­stairs, step­ping over creak­ing treads, the oddly in­tense sense of se­cret pur­pose. ‘When I un­locked the door into the gar­den the early morn­ing air met me with its cold pu­rity,’ wrote Siegfried Sas­soon, of his 13-year-old al­ter ego Ge­orge Sher­ston, in Mem­oirs

of a Fox-hunt­ing Man. ‘The scar­let disc of the sun had climbed an inch above the hills. Thrushes and black­birds hopped and pecked busily on the dew-soaked lawn, and a pi­geon was coo­ing monotonously from the belt of wood­land which sloped from the gar­den to­ward the Weald.’

Sas­soon re­minds us that the still, soli­tary, med­i­ta­tive spell that comes be­fore the full-blown, stick-twirling ‘Oh, what a beau­ti­ful morn­ing!’ stage is

a strictly holis­tic sen­sual ex­pe­ri­ence. The full ef­fect re­quires all at­ten­dant cir­cum­stances: cloud­less sky, long shad­ows and that steadily warm­ing light that cin­e­matog­ra­phers call the ‘magic hour’. And, of course, dew.

Dew is the essence: crys­talline, pel­lu­cid, limpid, evanes­cent. From a dis­tance, it’s as if a white coun­ter­pane has set­tled across the lawn and mead­ows, softly blur­ring night and day, ro­mance and re­al­ity, then and now. What you ac­tu­ally see is the eye’s merged im­pres­sion of sun­shine bounc­ing off mil­lions of tiny wa­ter dro­plets.

Cross­ing the lawn a few child­ish kicks are in or­der ‘to scat­ter round you, as you lightly pass/a shower of di­a­monds, from each blade of grass’ (C. R. Ben­stead). Foot­prints leave a trail, as in blown sand or snow.

‘On the gray mois­ture of the grass were marks where the cows had lain through the night—dark-green is­lands of dry herbage the size of their car­casses, in the gen­eral sea of dew,’ wrote Thomas Hardy in Tess of the

d’urbervilles. ‘From each is­land pro­ceeded a ser­pen­tine trail, by which the cow had ram­bled away to feed.’

Ev­ery tilt of the head now, as the sun bright­ens, brings dif­fer­ent dro­plets into your eye­line, spilling re­lays of flashes and gleams. ‘Or­bits mea­sure­less are furl’d/in that frail and fad­ing sphere,’ wrote Shel­ley, each lu­mi­nous drop ‘a whole heaven within it,’ said Longfel­low. And all for you alone! If there’s a joy to eclipse the mar­vel be­fore you, it’s surely that so many oth­ers are miss­ing it? Let the fools snore! This sight is for the cho­sen alone. Heavens, is that a halo around your shadow’s head? In­deed, it is. With the sun be­hind you, un­mis­tak­ably, around the head of your shadow, there’s a strange bright­ness. Known as Heili­gen­schein, or ‘holy glow’, this is caused when, with the sun di­rectly be­hind you, the dew­drops in front of you act like tiny lenses, fo­cus­ing its rays onto the sur­face on which they sit then fir­ing them back—cre­at­ing a halo be­cause dew­drops are not quite spher­i­cal.

Although you can see your halo, how­ever, oth­ers cannot, just as you cannot➢

‘Ev­ery tilt of the head, as the sun bright­ens, brings dif­fer­ent dro­plets into your eye­line

Be­jew­elled with dew: early-morn­ing cob­webs adorn the com­mon at Stren­sall, North York­shire

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