In the evening he sits by the fire, it is not really cold enough for one but he looks upon it as a friendly companion. In his mind’s eye he sees again the small wonders he has seen and heard as he walked the path through the Small Wood earlier in the day. He polishes each memory and salts them away.

In the early morning mist bloomed and shrouded sky and land, nothing was defined and it had left a feeling with him of a presence in the air, an inward looking, a formless anxiety. The sun, pale as a sixpence, had gleamed now and then as it gathered strength, it still spoke of late summer while the mist spoke of autumn.

A robin cocked an eye, dark as a bramble pip, then perched and swooped, perched and swooped, darning the air. It sang its Autumn anthem in a thread of bright notes, it was composed from leaves, the fallen and the falling, the mist which blurred and blended, thinning sunshine and sharp showers. For a minute or two man and bird were neighbours, a moment of sharing.

He had picked up a shell of a hazel nut, brown and shiny as Spanish leather-oh! It had been carved into a bowl and the teeth marks gave the clue that the little craftsman was a vole and not a wood mouse or squirrel. There were no marks on the surface of the shell but the edge was ridged by sharp teeth. He had put it in his pocket, it was a gift, a luck nut and he sat fingering its smoothness.

The wind had freshened as he walked and it stirred the air plucking leaves from the poplar and blowing them away leaving the tree fish-boned. As the leaves fell they twisted catching first sunlight then shadow flickering like a shoal of little fish.

He saw the banks on each side of the path had colonies of domes, towers and spires, some pleated or frilled, fairytale architecture. Some were pale as milk and others aged to russet and gingery tones and some peppered with holes till they had become ghostly ruins. These were fungi, they connect underground in tangled webs, and he remembered thinking that it just like the fibre optic cables which brought his broadband.

The sun shafted through branches and zebraed the path. Hogweed stems had dried to fluted columns the colour of old pound coins. The seed heads like spokes of an umbrella support spider webs, they hung like little hammocks gemmed with moisture from the mist which sparkled in the sun and attracted his attention. He thought that otherwise he might have missed seeing the webs, all these alternative lives lived parallel to ours and are so often missed.

Pat Mlejnecky