An arc of hills, about eight miles distant, encircles my town. It’s like a rampart against the world beyond. Tonight the hills were grey in the fading light, the sky translucent, its blue deepening as the sun receded.
The hills give a sense of safety. Of course this is an illusion; a deep dual carriageway slices through them. It’s a happy thought though, that here exists a refuge against threat in all its manifestations. Mrs Llew and I sometimes think of our predecessors here who probably never crossed those hills. I knew such a person, who had never been to London, 40 miles away. She died not long ago in her late 80s.
Last night, as I walked along the by-pass where the flowers of the oil seed rape opposite were beginning to fade, I saw a shape on the grass ahead of me. It moved.
Was it an animal of some kind, or a bird? For a moment I hesitated. I was a little bit afraid, though my common sense overruled that. When I drew close I saw that it was a wood pigeon: dead, on its back, one of its wings fluttering in the wind. Soft, thick, white down covered its breast. It looked unharmed. Maybe it had collided with a car.
Quite still. Lifeless. And beautiful.
This evening I walked the same path. Over a space of about 20 paces soft, white downy feathers were scattered. There was no other sign of the bird. Nothing at all
Overhead, here and there, one or two red kites soared, wheeled and circled in the cool east wind. These birds were introduced into our hills a few years ago as a conservation project. The pigeon, feather and bone, blood and sinew will have been finished off by one of them.
There’s death here too, where the hills surround our green and thatched refuge from the wider world and where the May blossom is rampant at the moment.
For a moment, as I looked out over the fields, I felt no fear.