In the back garden a large magpie was stalking across the grass. I say stalking, because that’s what I think it was doing, but it kind of hopped and danced its way around, picking away with its large beak in the grass. It was a beautiful bird, all gorgeously coloured. We think of magpies as black and white but this one had glossy bluish feathers just under its wings, kind of like the colour of oil on water, and hints of pink, and the white of its feathers was vivid in a way that seemed unbelievable. The bird tapped something out of the ground and then flew up to the fence, dropping whatever it had found on the fence-top and then picking away at it with sharp, delicate nips of its beak, almost like a child picking its way through a handful of sweets. There was such intelligence in its eyes that I felt as though I could go out there and have a conversation with it, just as I once conversed with neighbours across the boundary fence, though the fences are too high these days for such neighbourly sociability, and in that moment I envy the bird. I envy its freedom and its ability to scale the barriers that we humans place so thoughtlessly between ourselves. I envy the bird’s way of just being a bird, not absorbed by the glossiness of its feathers or whether or not it has the biggest bower or the brightest eyes. It hops for a moment along the fence then flies off, and my garden is left quiet and strangely lifeless.