My mother died last year. Aged 94, she went without pain, fear or regret. The loss was ours, not hers: the loss of that protective sense of the generation that stands between us and our own ending; the loss, too, of that indefinable ease bred by a lifetime of familiarity with a shared past.
Thinking about her as I walked across flat fields in February, towards the end of day, I watched the darkness settle across the fields, leaving, faraway, a single bright patch of gold, an unattainable kingdom created by the low rays of the sinking sun. Twilight – the subject of Peter Davidson’s meditative and beautiful book The Last of the Light (2015) – is the moment when nature seems to embrace and enfold us within herself. The ache of bereavement adjusts and resolves itself into acceptance: an understanding that twilight is itself a resignation, a dying of the day, from which renewal arises.
Many of the favourite books so wonderfully evoked and reclaimed in Slightly Foxed have previously been subjected to a lifetime of affectionate rereading. But I had never heard of Peter Davidson until the friend with whom I was out on that February stroll chose to send me this singular book. Since then, I have tracked down and devoured three other similarly poetic works by the same author. All seem to have been written while Davidson was living in what he calls ‘a remote and exceptional part of Scotland’ – just north of the Cairngorms in the Eastern Highlands. This is where he stands at the opening of The Last of the Light, ‘on shadowed slopes, on the bare shoulder of the hill, outside the old boundaries of Empire, on the far margin of Europe’.
Davidson’s book offers us a series of intense, lyrical and surprisingly moving meditations on landscapes, buildings and mythical settings, as seen at the close of day through the eyes of painters and writers. The Last of the Light is a spellbinding exploration of that haun
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