Monday, 29 September 2008

an unexpected neighbour

Not a breath of wind stirs the remaining leaves on the alder trees by the river bank but the huge drops of water, coalesced from the leaden mist drip with a broken rhythm into the sluggishly moving water, and of course on me. A man in suit comes out of his front door and barely glancing around him, climbs into his tiny mazda sports car. His surroundings are now plastic, metal and the inane jabbering of a fool on FM and his chosen music.
Thumping a bass beat, the car zooms off down the road, scattering cats into the bushes as he turns the bend at the end of the road.

Disgruntled birds sit on branches over torpid fish as they float weaving in the flow. The air smells of something indescribable but elemental on this day of half-light.

In the river bank, a small hole can be seen and from within, tapping and chuckling. If one were to look closer, a gleaming pair of eyes might be barely visible in the dark of the river bank, squinting in concentration. Tap, tap, tap.... a pair of tiny hands is fashioning something. As yet it is impossible to see but a hammer, its head no bigger than thumbnail, beats out a rhythm on a piece of previously discarded metal. As he taps, the tiny fellow sings a song. It is an ancient song with words that he recognises as ancestors of his own words, but nevertheless as old as the bedrock that makes the land, before the time when the upstart men started making their presence felt in the forests. The tapping stops and a grunt of approval can be heard from the tiny cavern. Emerging, distractedly into the light is a tiny man, no more than a handwidth high. He wears a collection of strange garments, some seemingly woven from grass or other vegetation, but some shimmering and light like some ethereal material never before spun. On his feet, incongruously, a pair of tiny wellington boots, the tops turned over to reveal a band of grey.

He holds a miniscule flute in his wizened hands which he brings to his bearded lips and blows.

The scale he plays is strange, not quite any that might grace a music room in our world but somehow with unexpected intervals that make the ear listen more keenly. Then he begins to play. The notes do not carry far in the damp, heavy air but pitched like the chirping of some magical bird, they pierce the mist and mingle with the birdsong, to be heard only by one aware initially of their presence.

And through the grass, something comes rustling: a bank vole. It pauses briefly and then, myopically but obediently stumbles over the small clearing in the undergrowth to where he tiny man is standing, now smiling. Nodding in a satisfied manner, he climbs up on to the bank vole's back and, sheathing his flute in his belt, he urges the creature down into the water. Silently, it swims upstream, the soothing murmurings of the little man coaxing it on.
They are both quickly dissolved into the distance as the mist hides their passage.

No comments: