‘Then cometh November when the days be very short and the sun giveth but little heat, and the trees lose their leaves, the fields that were green look hoary and grey. Then all manner of herbs are hid in the ground, and there appeareth no flower, and winter is come, and man hath understanding of age and hath lost his kindly heat and strength.’

Hallowe’en and a ghost walks with me as she always did when I went outside, I can see her in my mind’s eye, leaving her mousing and, tail held high, coming to join me. A Cutty Wren with eyes dark as ripe blackberry pips watches me and the ghost who walks with me, she sees more than most, wren knows who comes and who goes. She sings, practising her Boxing Day song and I sing with her,

‘Love, joy and peace to all in this house.’

Then, secret as a thought and nimble as nine pence she retreats deep into a tangle of rambling rose and hop vines to join a bright brotherhood of small birds, I cannot see them but I hear them and their quiet gossiping makes it sound as if it is the tangle of roses and hops that are singing. The Cutty Wren is the bird of the Virgin Mary and tradition says this little bird nested in the manger with the Child.

Then said the wren

I am called the hen

Of Our Lady most comely

Then of her Son

My notes shall run

For love of that Lady.

With a loud buzzing, a cheerful resistance to the shortening days, bombus flys very close by, off to the last party of the year held where the ivy is in flower. While leaves of ash, field maple and hawthorn now burn with a cold fire the oak trees determinedly keep their green foliage. The poplars at the far end of the meadow have lost most of their leaves and look like skeletons of fish. The remaining leaves on the bird cherries hang by limp necks and they too will soon be gone and the trees will be as bare as picked bones. The leaves on the trees that have red cherries turn yellow and then fall to butter the ground. They stay quite flat until age creases and crimps them. One tree only has black cherries. The leaves on this tree do not turn yellow, first they blush and then fall to turn a deep reddy orange and almost at once each edge starts to roll inwards to show beer brown backs and they come to resemble fat cigars.

This is the time of the year when plants withdraw life but life for some life now begins underground. Fungi emerge, some with moon white heads, hairless and eyeless. There are several colonies of different fungi on the meadow, some already mouse nibbled and crow pecked. One lonely one took my eye and it was so beautiful I knelt to look closely. The stem was about a couple of inches in height and spindly. The domed cap has turned itself inside out, it was translucent, delicate, more like thumbed glass and the rim was frosted. It was just like a wineglass but a wineglass for a doll. R. S. Thomas, that stern Anglican priest, wrote that the aim of life is to be ready to receive ephemeral moments like this.

Back home we go and I open the door and wait for the ghost who has walked with me to go through first.

Pat Mlejnecky