Sometimes the depth of darkness can become staggering. Tonight I took a brief car journey to a wood I know well, the mists and fog surrounded me the instant I stepped from my aging car and away into the night with my two younger dogs. Once their excitement subsided and my eyes began to adjust to the gloom I found it easier to get to get my bearings and read the track ahead. The trees became a faint outline obscured by the mist against the clouded night sky, the calls of the Tawny Owls within the wood were the only sounds that crashed through the still lightless night. I pressed on, following familiar paths and stepping around the dull shapes on the floor of the wood that I knew to be fallen branches.
Once into the depths of the wood the Owl calls subsided and I glanced up. Undergrowth lay bare on the opposite side of the woodland ditch and amongst the branches a white humanoid figure shifted as I moved. For a moment I felt the hairs on the back of my neck stand and was aware of adrenalin beginning to surge through my system. I wondered how someone could get so close to me in my own environment without me becoming aware of them, I steadied my mind and took stock of my situation. A glance to my dogs revealed their ease, on the rare occasions that I encounter someone on our wanders the dogs are aware of them well before they get close. They showed no such signs and I stood for a moment watching the figure. I shook the adrenalin from my system and calmed my mind. For a moment I listened. The sounds within the wood were as they should be. The disturbance of the undergrowth by the dogs and my own feet were the only sounds. The figure in the undergrowth on the opposite side of the ditch made no such noise. This was not as the laws of nature and could not be as it appeared to be.
Once the rational mind restored control over the impulses of the body I decided to confront the situation head on. A bridge over the ditch lay close by and I decided to head for it and close on the apparent lurker in the darkness. As I moved and focused my eyes the truth became apparent. The lurker was a freak of perspective and illuminance. The last of the snow and ice combined with the defining shape of the undergrowth had created an illusion that even an experienced night walker such as myself could misread. The specter was banished with a smile and a reasoned mind.
The night has again shown me a valuable lesson, and one that is perhaps reserved for an experienced student. Had I seen such an illusion in my younger years I would probably have been frightened away, giving tales of ghosts within the wood to those who would listen and want a few minutes of entertainment.
Recently I met with a fellow environmentalist who asked the question "have you ever seen something that cannot be rationalised or explained?" I replied saying "I have come across strange and on occasion disturbing things, however such sights can be explained my nature and are part of it, especially once you have a reasoned perspective" tonight I was put to the test and I feel my perspective is still as it should be.
Thanks to Gerry for your thoughts and question, they have inspired this post.