Thursday, 12 November 2009

An Autumn Walk

I woke to a bright, mild day and decided to take a short walk after lunch, just down the track to the bridge and back, a matter of 20 minutes if you don’t linger. I chose to linger. The sky was a crisp blue with no trace of cloud, and the sun low. The beauty of the autumn trees is beginning to fade here now. The poplar plantation is now a forest of feathery silver trunks with only a hint of ginger left at the highest tips of the branches. The oaks are still clinging to their leaves jealously, always the last to go into green in spring, and the last to drop in autumn.

I stood for a while and looked out across the lake, over the parkland. They are grazing sheep periodically under the limes and oaks at this time of year, and we often drive past their ghostly shapes at night, little green eyes fluorescing uncannily in our headlights. No sheep there today; they must have been moved on to the next pasture in their rotation. I watched the water plunging over the weir for a while, letting the soft roar and the damp, mossy-smelling air soothe me. Then I leaned over the rail to look under the bridge, as I always do, to see what flotsam has been washed underneath.

There was a little whitened body, caught on some twigs in the stream, all fur denuded from its flanks. Some of the flesh was gone too, revealing skull, a hunched backbone, and delicate little back leg bones. It was curled up in that familiar foetal position. I could not make out what it was, a hare or rabbit perhaps, too stripped by the action of the water for a clear identification, unless one was an expert on animal skeletons, which I am not. Those empty eye sockets looked blankly up at me. It bothered me to see something dead in the water like that. The crone stalks the countryside at this time of year, I thought, reminded of the mummified rook hanging by its feet in a barn belonging to a friend, put there to scare away its living relatives from the grain stored inside.

I walked back along the track, skirting the field at the back of the farmhouse where a solitary heifer stalked me, keeping pace with me as I stomped along on the other side of the hedge, its ears akimbo. When I reached the gate at the furthest end, I stood and we stared at one another. It eyed me nervously. When I left it returned to a hoarse moaning, crying out for company. The cows in the shed on the other side of the field moaned back.

No comments:

Post a comment