I spent two days in a retreat just south of Oxford last week. It was just what I was needing - time out from my speedy life in London. On the first day we were invited to spend three hours in silence and I spent it in the grounds. The house itself is Georgian and the garden is a typical mix of lawn, massive trees and hidden gardens. Here there was also a track down to the Thames and the boat house.

I spent the first hour in the hidden gardens inadvertently chasing pheasants from their walks around the grounds. From there it was down a long, steep grassy slope to the Thames. I paused by a huge Monkey Puzzle tree as there was a circle of feathers that usually meant a dead bird was nearby. I scanned the slope and saw something but it was too far to see exactly what. I meandered slowly towards it and was very surprised to find a dead bird of prey. I think it was a hawk. 

I have never been that close to a dead bird of prey before. It was an incredible sight, even though it's head had gone. It's wings were perfectly designed and I could immediately understand how it is the fastest bird in the UK. It's claws were startlingly yellow, and much bigger than I expected for a bird this small. Though its claws are its weapons. I looked at them and was very glad I was not on the receiving end of them. 

I didn't want to leave it but there was no reason to stay. So I continued my walk down to the boat house and the  Thames. It was on my way back that I saw another bird of prey. This was the much bigger Red Kite. It was circling around where I had seen the hawk. I watched as it circled lower and lower until it dropped below the trees. I did wonder if perhaps it was after the pheasants as their cries of alarm sounded soon after. 

I slowly climbed the slope back to the house and there I met an old friend and I began telling him about the bird of prey. We went to see it again but it had gone. I realised then that Kites are not killers they are scavengers and I had left the hawk with its wings widespread on the ground which a bird of prey with eyesight far better than mine would have seen immediately. I walked back realising once again just how important the circle of life is. 

I wandered back and began to think again of my time with silence. It had certainly not been silent. It had been filled with the many emotions that "nature red in tooth and claw" brings. My speedy life in London was replaced by an equally speedy Natural History Documentary, in all its gory detail. Once again I was returned to detachment. That wonderful yet eleusive ability to remove your inner self to a safer place. That safer place is at one with oneself, at one with the universe or just at one. Whatever it is you wish to align yourself to may I wish you more of it within your lives. 

Love, Jess & Mr Ele!