They had taken an afternoon picnic to the Reserve. Three very old friends for whom quiet companionship was more important than chatter. They had walked the track that led through the Reserve, estimating the course of the recent flood from the residual grass caught in the roots as the water had poured through the trees. They had avoided the big nettle bushes and checked the base of a big tree that had apparently snapped off at ground level. It must have been supported only by the most recent outer ring growth for all the heartwood was rotten, the home and feeding ground for woodlice, tiny snails and myriad other microfauna. They gad admired the huge old trees that had escaped the loggers axe over a century ago and ambled contentedly back to the clearing where they had unpacked the simple picnic and sat back with their mugs of coffee, revelling in the total peace of the valley.
Jake had watched a chaffinch, in bright breeding plumage fluttering at a crack in the bark of a tree as it tried to catch the insects hiding inside. A Harrier had been quartering a nearby hillside in search of movement as an occasional sheep grazed the green grass. Later he commented on the speed with which a last quarter moon rose above the skyline of a hill on the east of the valley. It brought back to him Michael Leunig's lines:
Matters of no consequence
make a lot of sense.
Over the past few weeks Jake, who rather vainly thought of himself as "elderly" rather than "old", had been struggling with the dilemmas facing the world – how to adapt to feeding the billions while climate change moved the productive agricultural areas? How to generate sustainable economies without closing millions of jobs? He had no answers and knew that, even if he did, no-one would pay any attention to him. Instead, enjoy the day. Again, Michael Leunig had been there before him:
Come sit beside me
I said to myself.
And though it doesn't make sense
I took my own hand
in a small act of trust
And together I sat on the fence.
And sitting on the fence in the peace and warmth of the valley, watching the Harrier gliding on the up-drafts, seemed a very comfortable place to be.