A few stars twinkled above Inverurie as our group gathered for dinner. It wasn’t even raining much. That probably explains why, some time after nine o’clock, when the moonless night had well and truly fallen, four people would once again walk the path up to the stone circle at Easter Aquhorthies…
We arrive first and, switching off the lights of the car, allow our eyes to gradually become accustomed to the complete lack of artificial light. We have torches, but they seem an intrusion somehow and will only be used to navigate the potholed track. There is no moon tonight and the little town is far enough distant, and set low enough in the landscape, to be invisible. Even the lights of Aberdeen make only a smudge of sickly ochre on the far horizon. We can see very little… only the ink-black silhouettes of the trees against the lightless sky.
The silence is profound, yet it is not a silence created by the absence of sound, only by the absence of Man. There is a rustling in the leaves, the breath of a breeze, ghostly fingers caressing the night. It is not emptiness, but a living silence… and we are part of it.
We wait, watching for our companions’ arrival. Gradually we realise that the darkness is receding. After a while, we can see almost as clearly as in daylight. Not as far, it is true, but we stand within a circle of vision, painted in silver, black and grey. Between the dancing leaves of the trees, we can see a thousand stars with unparalleled clarity. It is astonishing how quickly our eyes accept the darkness, painting detail upon its canvas with ancient and remembered skill. We will not really need the torches… but our companions’ eyes will not have time to adjust.
Two specks of approaching light rob the night of its completeness. A few minutes later four of us leave the cars and the modern world behind. We speak softly; voices are louder in the darkness, hearing more acute. In fact, it seems as if all the senses awaken in the night, remembering a purpose the everyday world forgets. There is nothing to remind us of when we are… only the torchlight that dances ahead of us on the earth. I am acutely conscious of distance… the noise of a Saturday night is centuries away… Extinguishing the torches, four souls step out of time and into the circle.
Without a word, we know what to do. We each seek our stone and stand before it in silence. My stone is the Elder, carved long before the others. I feel its presence, warm and enduring, against my spine. I think of my own garden and how the moon in its fullness casts shadows there. Tonight, the moon is absent. I look up… and the world falls away…
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