I went walking at twilight. There was a man lying on the ground. I rushed over, thinking something had happened.
‘Don’t worry, love,’ he said. ‘I do this every evening. I like how the trees look when I lie this way, framed by the sky.’
I crouched down beside him and I could see what he meant. Seen this way the branches of the tree appeared like etchings in stained glass, leadlight pieces splayed against the darkening blue.
‘This is what the birds see when they look up from their perch on the lower branches. What dogs see when they sniff the air. What children see as they scrabble in the dirt. When I lie here I get a sense of the vastness of life, of nature. And how small a part we have to play in it. Yet in our arrogance, we think ours is the only part worth playing.’
The man was right. Lying there, under the sky, I could only see what was above me, not what was around me. The sense of great events unfolding was disarming. There was transcendence in the grass below and the sky above.
There was a tone in the clouds and the leaves worthy of the finest painter. There was a feeling that this was the only place in the world to be, mesmerising as the gentle fall of a cloak.
When I stood upright the world felt strange. The buildings and roads did not have the dignity of the sky. The evening blue was gone, turned to shadow before it hit the ground. The world seemed soaked with gloom. I felt as if I had lost something I had only just found.
How often do we walk, looking only at our feet? Or gazing straight ahead as we weave through a path of real and imagined obstacles? Maybe we should look up more, in spite of our increased chances of falling. For the sky is there, seemingly unbroken and infinite, familiar as the voice of a friend, steadfast and enduring as the arms of a mother embracing a child.