A Fairy­land

Mus­ings are thoughts, the thought­ful kind. For the pur­pose of th­ese ar­ti­cles, a-mus­ings are thoughts that might amuse, en­ter­tain and even en­lighten.

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By Michael Walker

The tem­per­a­ture has dropped to just above freez­ing and the wind blows quite chilly over the open spa­ces in the for­est where log­ging has cleared the way for new plan­ta­tions. There’s rain in the air, but for the mo­ment the weather re­mains dry. I’m well wrapped up for the walk. To­day I have planned a two-and-a-half-hour trek into un­known ter­ri­tory, first up a long slope to a ridge over­look­ing a lake; if I am lucky I’ll be able to see the wa­ters be­low through the trees, but I’m not count­ing on it.

I’m not wear­ing gloves. The sleeves of my light­weight jacket are long enough for me to pull my hands up into them and close the ends against the cold if nec­es­sary, or if it be­gins to rain. And I’ll pull a hood over my head to keep me dry. Mod­ern cloth­ing is a far cry from the cum­ber­some, heavy stuff we used to wear twenty years ago.

The trick to keep­ing warm and safe is to wear mul­ti­ple lay­ers of light cloth­ing to keep in the warmth un­der a wa­ter­proof, wind­proof outer cov­er­ing. You feel quite snug inside. In fact, the harder it rains, the harder the wind blows, the colder it is, the nicer it feels, snug and safe inside the pro­tec­tive lay­ers. Good footwear is an es­sen­tial, ob­vi­ously; wet, frozen feet will kill you.

You de­velop a good sense of di­rec­tion, walk­ing in the for­est; you re­mem­ber the twists and turns, the up-slopes and the down-slopes; al­ways know where the north is; as my son al­ways says: Know your place in time and space.

I come to a road, well, not much more than a path, and a small farm with a dog run­ning fran­ti­cally around inside a fence, bark­ing wildly to warn its owner of ap­proach­ing strangers. A lit­tle fur­ther along there’s a whole pack of hunt­ing dogs be­long­ing to another farm, fenced in, go­ing berserk at my ar­rival. A man comes round the cor­ner of the red barn to see what all the com­mo­tion is about. I greet him and he wan­ders over to the fence, telling the dog to be quiet. I hold my hand out, ca­su­ally, for the dog to sniff at so that we can be­come friends.

We chat for a while. Tore, it turns out, was born in that very house some sev­enty years ago. He now lives alone. Ev­ery­thing about the place is neat and tidy. I care­fully hint that I do not en­joy walk­ing in the woods dur­ing the hunt­ing sea­son be­cause there are too many crazy hunters around and Tore agrees. Once we dis­cover a common dis­like of hunt­ing, things get eas­ier. He in­vites me on to the farm.

And what a farm it is! Well, I sup­pose the cor­rect name would be small­hold­ing. We wan­der into the for­est and I stop, amazed, at the fairy­land be­fore me. There are ponds and foun­tains, paths and small bridges, benches and seats, small log cab­ins – and by small I mean minia­ture, big enough for fairies and gnomes – in the pre-win­ter semi-dark­ness there are lights among the trees.

The ponds are stocked with a mul­ti­tude of gor­geous trop­i­cal fish – yes, fish of ev­ery colour and size that, ac­cord­ing to Tore, sur­vive the win­ter un­der the ice. There are par­rots, yes par­rots, flit­ting about in enor­mous com­pounds, chat­ting to us and greet­ing us as we walk along; there are geese wad­dling by the wa­ter’s edge; there are minia­ture Shet­land ponies grazing in a pad­dock; a cock and his harem of hens pro­vide the farm with eggs; the won­ders never cease. “You made all this?” I ask Tore. “Why?”

As I men­tioned a lit­tle while ago, Tore lives in the house where he was born many years ago. His par­ents are long gone; his twenty-five-year-old son has moved out and mar­ried, so Tore lives alone with Isaac, his dog. By now, Isaac and I have be­come best friends; he is an ab­so­lutely won­der­ful dog; I can well un­der­stand Tore’s af­fec­tion for him. I jok­ingly tell him that I’ll come by one night and steal him away. Tore turns se­ri­ous. “No, you can’t do that,” he says, “I promised her I would al­ways look after him. It was the last thing I said to her.”

‘Was it can­cer?” I asked. “No,” he replied. “MS. I made all this for her. As she got worse and worse and the ill­ness took her body, I used to carry her out into the gar­den so that she could en­joy the flow­ers, the birds, the fish, all the an­i­mals. We used to sit on dif­fer­ent benches and just be to­gether; she used to watch me build­ing, build­ing, ev­ery day adding some­thing new, un­til she died.”

The gar­den was a shrine to his wife’s mem­ory. I felt very hum­ble as I walked home. I promised Tore I would re­turn with ap­ple pie another day so he could in­vite me in for cof­fee. The for­est is full of sur­prises.

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