A derelict church

     It is mid November and the factories of tourism are closed. Guest houses have no vacancies and no occupants; tea rooms and cafés are dark and lifeless. Pitlochry is still bright with light decorations adorning lamp posts and Christmas music spilling out of gift shops, but away from the trunk roads and railways the smaller towns are shrivelling. Gift outlets are closing and being replaced by fast food outlets. In a small village starlings whistle and gather on a slated church spire. The thick stone walls of the church are in good condition but the wooden, padlocked doors are bleached with wisps of faded green paint. Wooden boards back the arched windows. Many of the small glass panels making the mosaic are missing, some of those remaining are shattered. A few rectangles of red glass remain to show the pattern – a crimson edging to a plain glass centre. Parts of the lead frame holding the glass pieces in place are broken and twisted. Inside the empty space is as dark as a coffin. The death of this church seems to represent the withering of the community. Tourism may still be viable but this is imported wealth, the land is impoverished.
     Above the village dark blocks of trees are plonked onto the hills ending abruptly in stark, straight lines. The plantation is broken into blocks by tracks. Within the shadows the trees are crowded together like matchsticks in a box, their branches clattering like children playing with swords. This is mere farming of trees, hardly a habitat but a crop, yet it can still provide an experience. I come here to savour the space, a space that allows thoughts to expand and meander. Sounds are minimal but, like a well-constructed dish, each is distinct yet combines into a balanced dish. The distant whisper of running water provides a subtle marinade for the squeal of jay and ting of coal tits. The dripping of water from the branches into puddles provides the sauce. A subtle aroma of musk and soft moss pillows smothering boulders are the seasoning. Occasional flocks of small birds rove through the woods yet in the villages finches and tits fill the bushes like lichen dripping off branches. Goldcrest hover over the tips of conifer branches like humming birds, tits fizz across roads. Bird feeders adorn shrubs like baubles. The birds have become garden entertainment driving a modern industry – I receive catalogues from companies built entirely on the supply of bird food and feeders. We seem to deflect our responsibility from maintaining an environment where our wildlife thrives by providing farmed seed. We continue to crave our wildlife as our communities shrivel and fade. The starlings roosting in the church now have more use for it than the community it used to serve.

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