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Country diary: life below zero for nettles in the serious moonlight

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Wenlock Edge, Shropshire: The leaves look like mountain ranges cut by river valleys seen from an aeroplane

It is not yet dawn and the nettles are frosted. The moon, high among bruised clouds, is bright even with almost half sliced off; “a joyless eye,” Shelley wrote, “that finds no object worth its constancy” (To the Moon). Although it drains the blood of autumn colours from the trees, moonlight reveals their darker character; they whisper with a sound like drizzle and waking wings.

Despite its pallor, moonlight sparkles in frost; it adds another dimension to the nettle leaves, a time that changes leaf form to include ice crystals and the light reflecting and refracting in them. The leaves look like mountain ranges cut by river valleys seen from an aeroplane, maps of a foreign land that exists all around us but is only visible in the moon’s inconstancy.

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