Country diary: the camera captures a world curtained by fog

Country diary: the camera captures a world curtained by fog

There is a vague hump shape, like a sleeping dinosaur under the trees and the camera is hunting for it. I catch the “tick-tick-tick” whirr of anguished electronics by my side as it struggles to find an edge on which to focus.

My eyes learn from the camera about how we really see at a distance in freezing fog. Normally dark tree trunks are not dark at all but are filmed with a milky wash, and the spread of branches dissolves into the white of the white. Outside our immediate bubble of clarity there are no edges, only gradations and blur.

The clear clop of a horse’s hooves on a hard track tilts the camera to the left of the trees. Rider and beast appear out of the mist as one animal and the world walks slow. A single click fixes the lift of a hoof, memorialising a moment. Another click, then another, before the rider’s face comes into sharper focus and the camera hangs respectfully limp for a while as she passes.

“Grim isn’t it?” she ventures. I mutter something about “but isn’t it beautiful?” She doesn’t appear to hear. “And people wonder why my nose is red”, thrown from above the horse’s retreating rump.

We make it to the shelterbelt of trees where our giant lies. The camera has no trouble with the close beauty of the bush here, water pearling beneath alder catkins in frozen drips that will not drop. Glass chains of reinforced spiders’ webs link twig to twig, a crystal foreground to a backdrop of ploughed loam fields and a curtain of fog.

Alder cones and catkins in freezing fog.

The giant, a red excavator with its neck bowed towards a collapsed rabbit hole, was eating trees here all day long yesterday and shreds of wood poke out of its clamped metal jaws. A heavy-duty giraffe, it rode with a tyrant’s whim down the track, pulverising the hardcore base under a heavy caterpillar tread. It swung its head from side to side, a curved thumb insinuating itself around branches and trunks, a guillotine blade slicing them off – trees to stumps, bricks to dust.

And now, with an empty cab, an absent brain, it dozes. The camera though is awake. Click, click, click.

o Country Diary is on Twitter at @gdncountrydiary

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