There are wolves about. I heard a knock on my door and there stood Jérôme, a hunter from the village. He was holding a big bag for me, heavy with a quarter of a wild boar he had hunted. I staggered under the weight of the meat as he handed it to me and it landed with a thump on the kitchen table. He said that there hadn’t been so many boar about this year because packs of wolves have been scaring them off. Some lambs and a goat had been taken on the other side of Cereste. I already knew that the odd lone wolf comes down from the mountains, as my neighbour Mylène told me she saw one last year, but I hadn’t realised that there were whole packs of them around.
Hearing this I felt a tremor of excitement, or is it fear? I don’t know, but it makes me feel alive, and reminds that where I live is wild. Wild, and that the balance of nature here is changing. Up until recently the wild boar and the deer had no predators other than the hunters and their guns.
The morning after, Betty the doglet and I walked down the road to collect the post from the box. The track up to the house is too long and too rough for the post woman and her yellow van. Every blade of grass, every twig, every rock was outlined by the sunlight, everything still wet after the soaking rain. I could smell snow in the air. The mountains were nearer, brought into focus, smoothed out by snowfall, lit up and shining. Betty traced the ground with her nose, zig-zagging, avid, making the secret map of animal scents visible. She was onto something, a fox, a hare perhaps, a wild boar. A wolf? I continued walking down the road as flocks of chaffinches took flight from the bare poplars, wheeling and dipping and proclaiming the blueness of the day.
In the distance, out of sight, car horns insisted, jarring and beeping. We might be far from Paris and Marseille and the most violent of the protests of the gilets jaunes, but their presence has been felt here too. They have set up shacks in the middle of the roundabout on the way to Forcalquier, where they burn scrap wood to keep warm. Every now and again they march slowly around the roundabout, bringing the traffic to a halt. My friend, Lesley missed her flight when her bus was blocked from getting onto the motorway. Most cars have a yellow vest showing on the dashboard in a show of support, although it might be expediency, as sometimes the gilets jaunes won’t let people through the blockades otherwise. They can be bullying at times. The police too have been heavy handed. It does seem that most people support the gilets. Taxes are high here in France. For many it’s hard to make ends meet. People are sceptical about whether the proposed higher tax on diesel was actually being levied for ecological reasons. They are en colère, disillusioned with Macron. He is seen as elitist, out of touch with the people. Revolution is in the air.
As I walked along the road, past some crows pecking at pumpkins which had been left to rot at the side of the field, I thought about the week before, when I joined family and friends in Parliament Square in London for Extinction Rebellion 2. Many were dressed in black, and a coffin was carried, as this was a funeral procession for all those species we have lost and face losing, including ourselves. There were passionate speeches calling for our government to wake up and to treat climate change as the emergency that it is. Sam Lee sang a beautiful old song that brought a tear to my eye. People stopped the traffic. We marched and called out for climate justice. We marched for zero emissions. When the police surged in to stop people digging a hole for the coffin in the middle of Parliament Square, the MC urged everyone to stay peaceful, to breathe. It was an edgy moment. The police kettled the hole as everyone about them linked arms and sang a gentle song. One or two of the policemen looked embarrassed.
Here in France, walking along the road, the distant dissonance of the car horns made me think of the uneasy change that is being felt. Europe is shifting. The old ways are crumbling. People are threatened and afraid. None of this is convenient. Something new is on the way, and we don’t yet know what that will look like.
I thought of the wolves changing the ecological balance. Fewer deer and wild boar mean more trees will grow, which will affect all wildlife. This isn’t convenient to the sheep farmers, nor does it sit well with the hunters, but there is something bigger at play, something so big it is hard to really see the impact.
At this point I looked up and saw a hawk perched on top of the telegraph pole, surveying everything below, keen. It pierced me with its yellow stare and then it took off. Yes, I thought, this is what we need now, the long view.
Wolf and Hawk. Thanks to railtoonsanimations.com