The day started with thrushes and a deer barking, the sun shining through early morning mist. I put on wellies to walk through the fields, past the woods along the stream, stopped to take a photo of some of the neighbour’s daffodils, the ones the sheep have left.
I always take a stick just in case, but by the time I reached the château, the tracks of wild boar were so fresh they were making me nervous.
I turned for home as the cranes were passing overhead, in their noisy, undisciplined formations. The wind was fierce up there, the skeins dissolving and the birds circling in directionless flocks. Tired and hungry, none wanted to take the leader’s place. In bird world, that’s the hardest, least enviable place of all.
I have just watched the first mass migration of the spring, perhaps a thousand cranes in just one of the skeins, flying in reasonably ordered formation, heading north east. Their trumpeting call is triumphant, sonorous, stay in line, don’t stray, keep in the slipstream if you’re tired.
Home calls, spring, the nest, and the mate for life to help raise the new chicks. No one is left behind, all take turns to fray a path through the winds. Only birds, but can we claim the same honour?
The longest journey starts with just one step. Whoever said that probably wasn’t thinking of that step at the cellar head that I missed, sending me arse over tit into eternity. They were most likely imagining some sage-looking Asiatic with all his belongings tied in a neat bundle and slung over his broad shoulders, facing an empty, sinuous road with, in the distance, a range of misty blue mountains, swooping cranes and a new life beneath the boughs of a picturesque pine forest.
I wish I still had two legs beneath me, feet ready to walk the distance and a blue yonder beckoning, instead of this. This what? This falling? Shouldn’t it have stopped by now? By rights I should have bashed my brains out on the stone flags of the cellar floor minutes ago. Still the blackness flies past in rags and tatters. Not really black, more grey, with lighter patches and the soft touch of feathers. The feeling of falling changes to one of upward movement, of soaring, and the pitch black of the cellar is growing lighter, a misty blue. In the new light, I see the tattered, feathery darkness swooping past.