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