Saturday 26 June 2021

'Collecting Pine Cones' by Donna Brown

A pathway runs alongside the lane. By its side, a field lies empty. Harvested. Wrapped in barbed wire and scattered with birds chasing worms in furrows. In spring there will be potatoes nestling in each of the furrows; enough to feed every house for miles.

Now there is a pheasant, safe from the guns as yet. Darting out from the hedgerow, she joins the corvids and pigeons. We watch, Todd and I. He watches more keenly. He is a connoisseur of bird life, once catching a baby sparrow in his mouth in the garden and carrying it like a trophy. Triumphantly. Gently. Not sure what to do with his warm little prize.

This habit is something in his blood; training hard-wired into the genes; the muscle memory of ancestors; the fine-tuned skill to flush out and then retrieve the fallen prey. To softly pick up the prize that is not his and bring it back for reward. Our screams of horror must be confusing. Well, there will be no prizes today, only the pine cones that we are collecting.

Now he strains on the lead, sniffing the patch of earth before the barbed wire, catching the scent of small mammals in the straddling hedgerow. Mice and voles, well hidden from my eyes.

Meanwhile, I am picking up pine cones, for purposes unknown. Decorative purposes. They will end up piled high in bowls or drizzled with lavender oil to make impromptu air fresheners. Or sit in wide bowls with beach pebbles and scallop, limpet and conch shells, their memories mingling. A heap of forgotten treasures from beaches whose sands have shifted.

So, yes, today we are collecting pine cones and tracking pheasants, although we do not know why.

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