We rose as the moon still sailed the heavens and left our hotel just before four on Saturday morning, greeted by our ibis who seemed intent on managing the whole dawn chorus single handed. Now, there may be a case for suggesting our ibis is actually a curlew. Odd as it may seem, given our fascination with birds, we do not care. For us, on such a magical morning, this particular bird was unquestionably an ibis… the bird of the Egyptian Thoth, a symbolic completion of the triad of the hawk of Horus and Isis’ kite.
Three were meeting in the car park below the Cow and Calf to watch the dawn. We were not alone, of course; it was the solstice sunrise and this stretch of moorland is so rich in history, carved with ancient symbols and graced by circles of stone, it has long been a place which draws those who seek the touch of the numinous in the land.
The grass was misted with dew in the pale light, drenching our shoes as we climbed together to the top of the rocks and waited for the sun to crest the eastern hills. Colours were muted, details lost in the last shreds of night, there was a softness, a gentleness to the morning. The sky was already that palest of blues, the sun had risen beyond the Pennines but had yet to climb above them and our ascent mirrored that of the dawn. Above the eastern horizon a dark line of clouds veiled the golden glow that suffused the sky; to the west great banks of cloud came down to play in the valley, touched with the reflected pink of morning.
From our vantage point the hotel was very close; a few cars were parked by the little café that would not open until breakfast, many hours from now, and in the valley lights twinkled as the world began to wake. It is a familiar landscape, one we recognise in time and place as our world. But turn to the moors and time falls away into the breathless wonder of a life older, deeper and slower than the little life of man. We think we are the crown of creation? Merely jewels, perhaps, embellishments that sparkle briefly as light touches the heart; as transient as dew, but just as beautiful too… maybe all the more so for our very impermanence.
We watched the light grow until the pre-dawn chill forced movement, then turned to climb a little higher as we waited for the disc to clear the enshrouding clouds. We walked to the quarry where Steve had three stones to return to the land before heading for Backstone Beck, a clear stream that tumbles down from its source on the summit of the moor near the Thimble Stones.
A line of molten gold outlined the clouds before the sun opened its Eye on the land, lighting the misty morning from within, painting the mists in the pastel blush of a goddess and setting a fire in the heart of the dew that glistened with the light of a thousand rainbows.
It was a beautiful dawn.