It was well after ten on a late June evening. I was driving back to Edinburgh from North Berwick, which is about twenty miles east of the city on the edge of the North Sea. It was one of those clear-as-day nights we get in Scotland in midsummer, when it never really gets dark. I could see across the Firth of Forth to Fife and the mountains of Perthshire beyond. I had the car window right down so that I could smell the poppy-studded hayfields lining the road. On the car radio Holst’s Planets was being broadcast in a concert and they’d just got to the Jupiter theme. Suddenly, my right arm was out of the window and I was shouting ‘Yes’ to one. I felt that if my life had contained only that moment, the brief visit of a mayfly, my time would have been justified. Early in the morning I had asked myself who there was to praise for the mystery of Being. Here I was at the end of the day simply giving thanks to the perfumed Scottish night, saying ‘Yes’ to the absence that felt like a presence. It was enough.
From Looking in the Distance. Richard Holloway