A walk

Thousands of raucous birds chatter in the branches at the top of the highest trees awaiting the magic moment when they rise as one, circle the village and fly south till spring. It could be days away. But no. Suddenly the incessant chirping stops and all is silent. Joy and loss at once! Loss? A deep feeling of it permeates the air. And you know they’ve gone. And you remain behind, glued to the ground.
The forest floor is russet brown with fallen beech leaves. A gust of wind rustles its way through the tree tops while a lone woodpecker hammers repeatedly at a resisting trunk. Woodpeckers are a sign of a healthy forest, a forest ranger once told me. This time it really is rain. It’s been threatening for a while. Softly at first. Then penetrating between the leaves, it reaches the ground progressively changing its colour. Startled, a roe deer rears up and bolts, crashing noisily through the undergrowth, leaping over rocks. If only it had stood still no one would have paid it any heed.
Rain falls more heavily and the path is now wet and slippery. I pull up my hood and walk on. It’ll only be a short shower. The smell of wet earth and the odour of mulch and mushrooms fills the air. But I am not alone. A car labours up the hill and slows as it passes me. The driver salutes but I ignore him. How dare he drive through my dream! Following the car, some distance away, a man walks briskly into sight. He offers excuses for the car. It was his son driving. He’s expecting to be criticised. Cars driving through the forest always are he complains. But they have every right to be there. They’re the owners of the house a couple of kilometers down the track. I try to turn the conversation to other things but he persists in defending their rights. Finally I get him talking of their house and the forest around. And some ten minutes later he walks on as we wish each other a good day. In the mean time the sun has come out, it’s rays slanting between the trunks. Occasional drops of rain continue to fall from the leaves, but the shower has passed.

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