There’s a special space in the grounds of Dartington Hall in Devon. It’s a circle of paving stones (I think – my memory’s hazy), and if I stood in the centre of the circle and spoke, it sounded as if I was in a sound chamber. My own voice reverberated, and the acoustics seem to echo around my very person. Anyone standing outside the circle heard only my normal voice, no echoes, no vibrations, no depth or personality. But to my ears from within the circle, my voice came alive and rang. It was my very own secret space.
I visited the circle many times when I was a student at Dartington many moons ago. The gardens are a joy to wander through, especially in the Spring, when, beneath the shadow of the Great Hall, the floor would come alive with swathes of snowdrops, daffodils and crocuses. But more than this, that circle, in all its plainness and simplicity, was truly special. It held no promises from the outside, proclaimed no fanfares or gaudy adverts about the mystery it held within. But step inside, and the magic would begin. I would close my eyes and sing, or speak, or hum, and I would be transported to a vacuous world, where only my voice mattered. Where, for a brief moment, I was the only sound in an otherwise silent world.
It’s been a quarter of a century since I last set foot on the grounds of Dartington, and probably close to that since I last thought about it. Until late last week. We’re fortunate to live within a stone’s throw of a medieval castle, and I often walk with the dog around the perimeter.
The other morning the castle was shrouded in a cloak of mist, and as the sun rose, shards of sunlight would burst through the trees, casting smoky tunnels of light onto the ground. As the dog darted around, sniffing the undergrowth , I wandered into one of the shafts of light and stood for a moment. I became aware of the sound of birdsong filling the circle of trees around me and became utterly mesmerised. I closed my eyes and the sound seeped into my head and took over my whole being. It was as if I was in a different world, and it was idyllic and peaceful.
I have no idea how long I stood there, but I eventually opened my eyes and came back into the real world. It was only then that I realised how close to a road I was, perhaps within twenty feet or so, where cars and diesel engined buses were driving by in quick, noisy succession.
But for the time I had stood in that space – my very own secret space – I had heard nothing but the birdsong, the only sound in an otherwise silent world.
© Alice through the Macro Lens