On my first ever sweep up the West Road, which was my first ever litter-picking day, I was transfixed by a length of neon blue nylon rope hanging in the hedge that boundaries a small wood which was planted to break the foundations where two workers' cottages once stood. Would it yield to a pull through the hedge? It would not. But given the mass it was attached to, through the hedge leaves and the inner fingers of the hedge itself, I didn't try hard. I went around and came into the wood from behind expecting to find something else, like perhaps a partied-out balloon; but the cranking mechanism of my brain turned four or five notches, and it was suddenly obviously the corpse of a pheasant. A beautiful male, rich earth tones and red-flashed forehead, swept back from the eyes for racing, with the iridescent throat strangled with a blue knot, and the explained rope hanging down: from some porch beam somewhere a pheasant hung to season has disappeared; and an exultant red kite, or buzzard or owl has got this far in flight before somehow losing grip, and dropping the corpse into the heart of the hedge.
That stood out: it was a unique moment in that very first day. But some days have themes: Like the day I picked a pair of men's underpants out of the hedge at the top of the West Road on the North side, and then heading back, and a good fifty yards back towards home, picked out a pair of women's from the verge on the South side. They both went into the red bag.
That was Underpants Day.
Bones and Death Day was a special one of cumulative surprise. It was another maintenance sweep, some weeks and several earlier maintenance sweeps after discovering the pheasant in the hedge. It was ground I'd poked and prodded, and teased cans and half-buried crisps packets from. It was on the West Road, North side. No contiguity. Just one surprised discovery after another; first of one set of bones, and then another: Four altogether. And finally, at the top of the Road on the South side, just after turning around and beginning to work back towards the village, the body of a pigeon. What I didn't remark on, I realised in retrospect, were the whitened clusters of snail shells, which punctuated the spaces between the bones.
1. West Road, North side: A small skull with decided canines, and scattered body bones,
2. West Road, North side. Bird bones (Query)
3. West Road, North Side. More bird bones (Query)
4. West Road, North Side. Bird skull, and scattered body bones.
5. West Road, South side.
The experience of themed days - days that theme themselves, rather than being themed - is that the moments making them up are connected, and meaningful. The World, instead of being silent and in the background, says an emphatic and apophantic "Hello!" "Apophantic" being a word that comes through the headphones as Bert Dreyfus talks "Being and Time", and seems fun, if not right. "Fun" in the sense that I tend to use it, where the experience is Noticing, without leaded meaning: The Noticing, and what is being Noticed in the Noticing, is the whole point. The additional fun about themed days is that The Noticing comes with a sense of being guided to notice, as if the series of events is entirely organised and non-accidental. A kind of "I am here", which doesn't require you to believe, but just enjoy; and pass that joy to others if you can.
Bones and Death Day was a very cold one, and the battery in my phone, despite having been fully charged before setting out, died as that last photograph was being taken.