By the Belgian Border: On a Sunday

Alternative titles for this post:

Lord god bird

Sunday bloody Sunday

This morning, on the day of our lord for some, my husband and I went for a Sunday morning stroll with our big white husky, Atticus. When there is a window of sunshine in our new (for us) corner of northeast France, it is necessary to take advantage by dawning rain gear (because clearly the sun is here but for a brief passing moment) and heading out onto country roads.

We had not gone far when we saw two men in dark olive green, replete with rifles and a breed of spaniel, get out from a car parked on the side of the road and begin walking into the farm field.

I knew about is the right to roam across the UK, but I was not sure about walking out into farm fields in France, though we have ventured in just a little way to look for birds (look for, mind you, not shoot, which is exactly what these men proceeded to do as we were walking by). Aim rifle at passing flock of wood pigeons, shoot, thank the gods not score.

Even still, I stopped, dead in my tracks, mouth literally hanging open in unmasked, abject horror, praying to all the gods that they did not make contact with their target.

What the f*$k? I believe these were the words that came from my already open mouth.

The pigeons flew on while rifles made clicking sounds. Further down the field, another hunter with what appeared to be the same breed of dog, turned ever so slightly to reveal a very long, very limp creature slump very the crook of his arm.

Holy shit, I exclaimed. Is that a fox?

Rabbit, my husband replied, calm and collected beside my barely contained horror and racing heart. My husband is the Kapha to my Vatta (grounded earth energy to my flighty anxious air).

Look at the cows, he suggested, pointing to the very sweet white and black cows in the field to our right. They are so cute.

I did as he said. The cows here are really wonderful. So docile, friendly, and curious. It breaks my heart a little bit every time I see one, knowing they will be on a plate someday soon.

Note: I am not a vegan. I ate chicken yesterday on our mini trip to Cassel. I get cravings for meat, usually about once a month, and I generally respond by eating something meaty. Still, as I told my husband, I have trouble with death and there is something very unsettling about guns being shot beside you while you are out for a leisurely Sunday stroll. My husband claimed that hunting happens like this in rural areas in the United States, but I was skeptical. I know there are many USFWS conversation areas that would not exist without hunters paying annual fees in the form of duck stamps and beyond, but I generally try to avoid those places during hunting season both for my own safety and sanity.

In addition to having trouble with roadside hunting, I also have a very special place in my heart for pigeons in particular. These were country pigeons, Wood pigeons to be exact, but they were still pigeons nonetheless. I tend to be drawn to beings who are without a place in the top or even middle tier of those denoted as valuable and worthy by most people. City pigeons, or Rock pigeons to be exact, certainly fall into this category. They are vilified simply by virtue of their being able to survive by doing whatever it takes in often extremely difficult situations. I think it can be easier to judge than to practice empathy for beings that make us uncomfortable, pigeon and otherwise.

I wrote a song to honor all pigeons with my creative partner and dear friend, Sarah Reader Harris, with whom I spent many hours writing poetry and music with refugees and asylum seekers in Brussels, Belgium over the past several years. In the cold, wet, and often windy winter, we often sing with the pigeons, for whom we wrote “The Pigeon Song.”

We carried on walking on very muddy roads. Note to self, always wear rain boots because New Balance Minimus sneakers are not up to the task in fall in a farming town, certainly not when it starts to rain in earnest. Mud below, rain above. Not the best combination for dry, happy feet. Even with wet, cold feet, the walk was wonderful. The area where live is quiet and bucolic, just the way I like it. After several years in Brussels, it is a welcome change. Even the relatively peaceful neighborhood where we lived in the southeast corner of Brussels felt cramped and swarming with humans to me. It is possible that all of my years living in rural wilderness areas, combined with a proclivity toward introversion, have ruined me for city living. All things considered, I don’t mind being ruined in this way.

My husband brought Atticus over to greet the cows in an attempt to try to dampen his enthusiasm for our bovine neighbors (more on the canine-cow obsession soon). We wound around farm fields, which dipped and climbed, peer through the cloud horizon for a glimpse of Mont Noir, and past ancient bunkers, their secrets hidden in thick, dank walls above dark, dirt-covered floors. These fields could tell so many stories, if only I could understand.

There is beauty in paying attention and in listening to the words of wind, field, and fowl. Even if I don’t speak their language, this is where I find the gods of the world.

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