By Adam Durrant
Cows, Part 1
I sat on Constitution Hill at the top of the steep grassy slope down to the river. It ran just a little lower than usual, on account of the dry spring we were having, thick with hot day lethargy. The sky was clear too, aside from a slight dusting of clouds, and I sat full in the sun. Not yet summer, it was warm but not so hot that I should be desperate for shade. All in all, it contributed to a very pleasant afternoon.
It was quiet. There was a little noise from a few passing cars and idle garden chatter, oh and the sound of a piano practice from an open window, but they seemed to be outdone by our more natural neighbours. The air seemed alive with birdsong: idle chatter far more interesting when not understood.
I took to watching, then, the curious seed like fairies that migrated on the wind. There were a lot of them today and they seemed to have purpose. No panic, no rush though. I guess they kept their own time.
My eye was distracted by the white flash of a butterfly, the ones with the orange tips to their wings, as he flew by. He pleased me, the proud insect, for I hadn’t seen all that many this year and it put my mind at rest to know that at least some of his kind were around. I soon lost him though, amongst the green. I wished him well wherever he went. In his place, an ant appeared on my leg. They looked a little confused. I suppose it was the going this way, then pausing for a moment to think, then going another. I let them explore, enjoying the faint tickle and instead turned my attention to the tiniest spider. Striped black and white, she hopped from one blade of grass to another, temporarily disappearing as she did so. Her colouring picked out every detail, especially the eyes, as if she wore makeup. Who knows, perhaps she did?
The humble buzz of a rather large bumble bee, pregnant with her business, woke me from my investigations. She bustled by in the way they do, that up and down bouncing motion, then she disappeared into a faded dot, then into nothing, in the crows’ world. I liked to watch them, the crows, as they played with one another. They do that a lot now, there are always crows about. Little pen and ink drawings on blue paper. It was especially pleasing though, to see a buzzard. There’s honour in that, not to mention excitement, especially when the crows catch sight of them, and an aerial battle ensues. All this talk of birds, I can’t help to mention the pigeon. Thickly built, they are almost comical, the way they flap so madly. I saw one then. They caught my eye, as they came to a frantic landing amongst the trees of the water meadow nestled in the heart of the little valley.
That drew my eye to the floodplain happenings. A small group of cattle mused there, lumbering about so sweetly, tails flicking idly. They had the illusion of absolute peace. And laziness, like all things on this pleasant afternoon. Even from the top of the hill, the slow, measured motion as they chewed had a soporific effect. Their gentle browns and blacks, these were not the black and white of the farmyard set, melted perfectly into the picture of provincial beauty. Some gathered round the water’s edge, a ford they had made through years of crossing. One brave soul waded in; the soft sloshing sound was almost magical. Startled by this movement, a heron, haughty and grey, moodily left his post and glided off elsewhere. Another cow bent her head to drink deeply, the afternoon heat had taken its toll, but she was glad of the still cool water. The rest milled about, in their own special way. One was even lying in the shade, blinking with those long lashes cows have. Who knows, perhaps it will rain?
Caught up in that moment, I felt the wind playing with me as I watched, touching me then running away, like a child would. I let her know I knew she was there with a whisper and I smiled. Yes, I was happy, I must tell her of today, for it’s she who told me of the beauty of cows.
Cows, Part 2: An Epilogue
I sit here again, at the top of Constitution Hill. On a pavement. I feel I am a stranger here now. I hold my hands over my ears to block out the roar of the road. Birdsong is dead. The air is rank, too rank for the seed like fairies. The grassy slope has gone, trampled by the obese and greedy housing estates. The river is trapped in concrete and oozes thick with the puss from the urban cist. The Heron is dead. The proud butterfly has starved. The bee died of grief, for all its flowers didn’t come back that year. The ant: poisoned. The spider: a faded springtime memory. I see no cows, not anymore. Only sallow families on balconies of high-rise buildings with their fake plastic trees, coughing and wheezing. And yet I hear a million tortured screams of the gentle cow from a thousand cramped and darkened warehouses. The sky is empty. The buzzards are mangled roadside history. The crows have faded, melted into shadows. All that remains are the pigeons, a sinister reminder, dumb, confused, lost. I spilled my guts on the pavement there and then, beneath a streetlight and the hot, hot sun.
Adam Durrant, 18 years old, from South Wales (UK) was first attracted to the XR movement last year, frustrated by the lack of action by those who are in positions to make major change and hopeful for a greener, wilder world. This piece, Cows, is a discussion of love, and of anger, of joy, and of defeat. Part 1 is a love letter to the world; Part 2 is a funeral.