I can remember my winter trips to the church tower, climbing the darkened stairs. The carpet (worn and threadbare), in front of the great wooden cabinet that housed the clunking, whirring clock, thick with dead and dying flies. Throughout those cold months I would very carefully tiptoe my way through this mass of black bodies lest one more should die. People in the village had asked if they could come up the tower with me to see the clock and to look down on the village from above, but I would put them off; unable to bear the idea of more feet tramping through this ghastly hades of flies that was washed weekly with hymns and prayers from below.
I watched them slowly and painstakingly crawl, often with just two or three legs working, clawing their way to apparent safety, away from the threat of my shadow. I recognised their will to live. Often they got caught on the nylon strands of carpet, trapped, sometimes up-ended. And I would rage. And as each week passed, my rage grew stronger. I raged against the brutishness of life. I railed against my understanding of God and a creation that could set me free and yet sink me into darkness. If God was any God at all, he must too be the God of this place?
There were times I silently crawled on hands and knees teasing their limbs from the carpet fibres, gently trying to place them once more on their feet; trying to lift them up to the safety of a pile of unused bell-ringers' mats that had been stacked in the corner; trying to understand; trying to make sense; trying to know how to respond...
At other times, I just sat with them in silence, knowing that one day I too would find my own winter bell-tower and feel life seep (fast or slow) away from me. Would spring sunlight fall through those cobwebbed window slits and fill the world once more with the scent of growing grass?
"Is this what it is to have dominion over the earth?"
"If these are to die, you do it yourself and you better make damned sure that they don't suffer while you do it."
But the musty stonework echoed implacably to the sound of my voice and anger as I cursed and swore at the heartlessness of life...
... as I move my arm, the flies reluctantly fly off and I recede into the landscape (the hat propped on the garden table, the tree stump covered with ivy, the dog's ball lying on the lawn) and I, once more, cease to exist...
... and yet, I am the richer for it.
A fly lands in the coolness that my shadow casts upon the lawn and, unaware of my still presence, cleans itself.