On Sunday I saw something that really surprised me.
After chapel we called in to the supermarket to pick up a few bits and pieces we'd forgotten. It has its own small approach road, passing its own fuel station. On Sunday this small road is very congested with traffic (weekend shoppers), some turning in and out of the fuel station, all moving very slowly — further slowed by a pedestrian crossing between the fuel station and the supermarket itself.
Along side the road there are lots of shrubs and some trees planted, and mature trees grow all along the back of the car parking area. So there are often birds around, looking for crumbs that people might have dropped in the car park.
As we drove away from the supermarket back along the approach road, rolling along slowly like everyone else, a line of cars was coming in the opposite direction towards the store, also travelling really slowly. The front car was hardly moving at all, and we saw a bird — a wood pigeon — pottering about on the road in front of the car, pecking for food. Pigeons are not the most alert pedestrians. I assumed the driver of the car had seen the pigeon and was going so very slowly to give it a chance to move out of his way — and I think this was probably true.
But then, exactly as the pigeon moved in line with the wheel of the car, ignoring the presence of the vehicle completely, the driver rolled forward. He would not have been able to see the bird, and if he knew it was there I imagine he thought it had moved off to the side. I don't know why it didn't. Within a couple of seconds, what had been a beautiful pale grey bird with a softly coloured buff breast and dark grey collar, was reduced to a tangled lifeless mess of meat and feathers.
Tony cried out involuntarily, "Oh, no!!"
It felt so terrible sad, and so unnecessary, and I ranted on for a while about why people can't be more careful and check to make sure, and I searched my heart to see if it would be realistic never to step inside another motor vehicle again. But no it wouldn't, and in any case I rely on other people driving motor vehicles for everything that supports my daily life.
I was still thinking about that poor bird yesterday, but what surprised me was this: its death was both horribly violent and mercifully gentle. I don't fully understand how that can be, and I would never have thought I'd bracket violence and gentleness together, but it was so.
The bird was contentedly going about its business, apparently oblivious of the danger from the car, ignoring its presence completely, unperturbed and unafraid. Then two seconds later it was dead. Its death was swift and immediate. It was completely squashed, because it was exactly aligned with the wheel. No struggle, no injury, no fear.
It made me re-think the way I categorise life events.