The temperature was cooler than of late and the sky was black velvet studded with celestial gemstones. Some of them fell into the familiar patterns, learned in childhood – Ursa Major lumbering on across the sky and opposite, on the other side of the sky, Orion stretched to his full height, his nebulous sword clearly visible. The vista was transient. After but a few miles came the change. I cycled past a drain cover from whence came a puff of mist; Pennywise the clown’s sinister breath perhaps. The mist soon gave way to a fog which suffocated all lights. Only the Klieg light of the nearly full moon managed to penetrate the grey pall hanging between earth and sky. A rehearsal for the month of the drowned dog.
Slender droplets of fog streamed through my headlamp beams, wet neutrinos, leaving no trace on my bicycle, microscopic, mimicking horizontally wind driven rain. The beam was diffused and picked out the ghostlike rabbits scuttling to safety on my approach. On one lane I came upon several rats, of various sizes, but all moving in one direction into the hedge. It was as if they were being drawn by the inaudible (to me) notes of a Pied Piper’s magic pipe.
I took a Red-Legged Partridge completely by surprise. It appeared out of the gloom and instead of sprinting ahead like a demented Roadrunner as they usually do, it merely sat at the side of the road and watched me pass. These beautiful little game birds, native in France, Spain and Portugal, were introduced into the UK in the 18th century and are always a joy to see, but it always causes me to lament the catastrophic decline of our native Grey Partridge, once a common sight when I was young. Intensive agriculture practices leading to loss of habitat for breeding and food sources have seen its numbers decline by 85% in the last 25 years.
As September moves into its teens the sun is more and more reluctant to raise its head above the morning horizon. Maybe a coincidence but I have seen fewer hares in the last week too. It is as if they have been consumed by the stubble fields and lie waiting for the sunrise to reanimate them.
The gloom became less and as I headed for home a Buzzard swooped down from its perch in a tree and across my path with a piercing, life-affirming cry. I was reminded of Ted Hughes’s poem “Hawk Roosting”, a poem written in the first person, which aims to show the world as the hawk perceives it. The brutality of the hawk’s view of the world is evident but of course, the hawk does not possess what are considered human attributes such as morality and conscience. The hawk simply is. As was I as I rode the last mile home through a desaturated world.
© John Kerrison 2017