(Along the border of France and Germany, on the way to Calais)
As we drove through the countryside, the green of high summer on the rolling hills, glistening like jewels in the sunlight, I noticed odd, rounded depressions in the verdant slopes. As we continued along, I began to realize they were everywhere.
The plantings on these hills appeared to be primarily grasses, and here and there farm equipment and picturesquely abandoned stone houses stood marooned in the fields. The frequency of the mysterious bowls increased as we moved further north and east, toward the Channel crossing between Calais and Dover.
Around a bend and off across a couple of fields stood not a single house, but a cluster of buildings, tumbled into ruin. With a start I realized that the tallest of the buildings was the remnant of a church, and the rest of the buildings about it had once formed a village center.
The meaning of the circular depressions surrounding us came into focus. These were shellholes, huge divots of earth from bombardments past. Romantically, I thought to associate them with the first World War. When one of the abandoned examples of farm gear proved to be a Sherman tank, slumping into rust amid the waving leaves of grass, I realized the unlikelihood of that.
It’s possible, however, that the battle whose traces I was seeing was indeed from the first war, and not the second, despite my recollection of the tank. There are memorial parks in France in which Great War shell holes remain visible, around the site of the great battle of the Somme.
I don’t recall any further discussion of this at the time. We drove on through the peaceful, prosperous landscape.
(I’ve violated my word count rule, apologies. The anecdote was thematically appropriate to follow yesterday’s; and after all, brevity is good, right?)