It was the crowning moment of the day; a day filled with light and love and joy bursting from every twig and seedhead. A day I will cherish forever.
It began with wrapping paper scattered like confetti over the bedclothes as the cat chased paper balls with mad eyes and I opened gift after gift, card after card. Hand-painted, hand-drawn, hand-written by loved ones of all ages; they lay spread across the bed while the sun cast gold through the window and the love washed over me from across the country and over the oceans. It was humbling.
Then, despite the forecast of heavy cloud and shadow, we followed the sun across Gloucestershire to where the Malvern Hills rose from the plain like breaching whales. Straight up into the sky, we climbed through birch and beech, sienna bracken splashing up beside us and the forest spreading out below in waves of gold, umber and green. In the distance, the Black Mountains of Wales were blue.
When we sat resting against an oak, looking up at the cloudless sky through curling green-brown leaves, dragonflies flashed around us while buzzards wheeled and pheasants coasted from copse to copse. We were washed with colour, lit up by a sun that could have been in August, except for the November bite to the breeze.
Later, as the sun faded and the sky lit up to orange over the Wye Valley, we stood at Yat Rock in the Forest of Dean and looked down a telescope. As the light dimmed and the world grew quiet, a male Peregrine Falcon perched in a pine on a cliff-face far below puffed out his spotted chest and surveyed his kingdom.
The ruins of Tintern Abbey were bathed in moonlight as we passed by; elated, replete.