Photo by Niamh Jones

There’s a green bird in a tree—it has a green body. I see it dart to another tree, so, after looking to my left and right, down the gravel path, I step out onto the grass and follow it. And it feels like summer: there is sun, actual sun, and people have come out to see it; other people are walking along the gravel path, other people have also ventured out into the grass.

The bird moved again— 

What is it? I don’t think it’s a parakeet, only its body is green, not its wings. I continue to follow, walk to the base of another tree. There are the sounds of bird calls everywhere— they must have come with the sun; some are thick and sweet, some are short, trill. I close my eyes for a minute and attempt to listen, to hear all birds on all sides. I would like to know what they are, what birds they belong to.

I open my eyes, and I see the bird move again. I watch it flit across the field and into another tree.

I decide to wade through the rest of the field; cow-parsley and yellow flowers are spread between the grass. I pick up a tall, bending sprig of flowers as I walk – one of the flowers on the stalk has died, the rest are small, bright, completely yellow. I hold it lightly. It picks up the wind as I move, trails behind me slightly as I walk towards the river.

My ankles are now out of the grass. I sit down at a bench overlooking the water by the gravel path and place the flowers beside me, the end of the green stalks pointing over the bench. One of the trees on the other side of the bank has fallen over. It lies across the ground, framed between two resolutely tall trees which mark where it would be if it was still upright. My head tilts slightly as I look, catching a magpie in a tree.

There is a family walking past—I can hear the sound of four pairs of shoes grating against the gravel—and they are looking at me. I smile. They move past, lingering at the bank of the river on my left, speaking to each other. There are two small children and a couple. The father looks at me, walking forwards, slightly unsure—

‘Do you mind if I look?’ he says. He is leaning in towards the plaque on the bench; I can’t read it, but I watch as he continues to peer forwards. He looks excited. ‘This is it!’ he shouts back to his family by the river. 

‘What is it?’ I ask, I lean forwards.

‘You don’t know? She doesn’t know!’ He turns back to his family. ‘She is sitting there and she doesn’t know!’ He looks back again at me, ‘It is the Tolkien bench! It is JRR Tolkien’s bench,’ he says. I ask if he wants me to move. ‘No, no.’ He continues looking at the bench; he must have come to see it. He is excited; his family is coming to join him. They all look at the plaque on the bench, lean forwards; he is smiling.

‘Actually,’ he says, ‘you can take a picture.’ I get up to take the picture and begin to move the sprig of flowers beside me on the bench—‘No, we will hold the flowers,’ he says. 

I get up, and watch as the family climb onto the bench, shuffle beside each other, organise themselves. The youngest daughter is holding my sprig of flowers, sitting in the middle, the small flowers waving above her head. 

I take their picture, say goodbye, smiling; I hear them leave across the gravel. I sit back down at the bench, watching as people walk past. I look at the fallen tree on the opposite bank again. Eventually I leave, slowly walking home beneath the sun, leaving my yellow flowers on the bench.