This is an extract from a longer piece. It is set in Britain on the eve of WW2
|The sun was low in the sky when finally they returned to the motor, and pink rays met tired eyes in the last gasps of the afternoon. They dawdled some more, not destined for home, not yet at least, as around them the rooks took their place as the evening sentries of the treetops. The car started with a stutter, and after a faltering start, Max directed her onto the coast road. In Brighton, the red sun claimed the sea, and pink streaks stretched between the piers and split the sky in two. They stumbled across the shingle, the wind already beginning to bite, and found a sheltered spot by a weathered groyne. Dusk flattened the landscape with quiet haste, but still the sun fought on. Persephone felt her body begin to fade with the day.
‘What are we doing here?’ she said, but Max hushed her and pointed to the sky.
As if by his command, a silent cacophony took flight as the starlings began their murmuration. Against the eveness of the dimming light, a great expanse of black; ten thousand birds bidding their farewell to the day. Like a cloud of smoke, thickening with the intensity of the wind, the expanse continued to flow in waves to mirror the ocean peaks below. Each bird alone but connected to this throbbing, transcendental mass; visitors to these shores together in their dance of the day’s end. Their minds drew pictures from the darkening clouds; chimneys, houses, and a bouncing ball.
‘How glorious!’ she cried, her eyes strained against the faded sun. ‘I’ve never see such a sight.’
They sat upon the cold shingle until the starlings descended to their roosts amongst the wooden legs of the pier. Luck was on their side, Max explained, for they had stumbled upon the perfect evening for such a rarefied spectacle. Nature was full of such gifts, if one had a little patience. A teenage obsession with Coleridge had borne a similar, unquenchable thirst for the gambol of starlings in the twilight sky; now Max was a seeker of the murmur’s.
They wrapped themselves in blankets they were glad to have taken from the car; mottled, mothed cloth which was probably as old as the motor itself. They were losing their connection to the world, he felt, to nature and the laws of the land. Modernity was all about speed and the expedience of life. Why hike the well-worn tracks of old when the roads and motors were so much quicker, why claim the bounty of the land when one could buy it in a can; minimal effort required.
‘And soon there will be another breach,’ he said, ‘As we fight over land of which we have no real claim; we’re just tenants after all. But we’ll bomb it, and kill for it, and patriotically declare our love for it, and yet our knowledge of it, the knowledge of our ancients, slips further away and our understanding of our place in the world becomes more and more inflated and distorted.’
‘Think of your farm as a sanctuary, away from it all.’
‘The farm is my miniscule contribution to the world. I treat the land with respect and take from it only what I really need. But the foxes and the badgers and the hares have as much right to that land as me. I’m just the caretaker.’ He blushed. ‘Hark at me, I sound utterly ridiculous.’
‘No you don’t,’ she said. ‘It matters, Max, it matters so much. Sometimes I think it’s me, but then I think perhaps its all of us. We’ve forgotten who we are; we’ve forgotten what any of this means.’