Hi there, it’s Robert. Here, come sit with me under this oak tree here. I was just remembering the other night at the Pub. It had gotten late and we were all sitting around swapping stories, and of course I can never think of a story when I need one, but I just remembered one that Kit, the woodsteward, told me. That’s what he calls himself, ‘woodsteward,’ although forest warden or ranger might be just as accurate. He takes care of the Wood behind the GMR building (as much as it needs caring for — it’s a self-sufficient sort of place, when all is said), and he’s quite an interesting character. He’s quite striking, sharp-featured, great bones, tall and slim, but with broad shoulders, well-knit, of no particular age, with a great mane of fox-red hair that he wears in a tail down his back most of the time. And of course he knows all about the animals and trees. He always seems to have a little smile hovering around his lips, but it’s his eyes that hold you — strange eyes, golden, watchful like a cat’s, tilted like that, with a sparkle to them that says good humor and maybe just a touch of mischief.
At any rate, we’ve gotten to be friendly over the years — I spend a fair amount of time in the Wood. And it’s definitely ‘the Wood,’ and not any sort of common old ‘woods,’ Kit made that clear early on. He says it’s part of the First Wood, but that’s all he’ll say about it. It’s a nice place to be when I’m too restless to settle down in my office or my reading room, quiet but not too quiet and always something interesting to watch. And of course, Kit spends almost all his time there. He does have a little room down by the kitchen where it’s warm in the winter, but he only uses it during the worst weather — he says everyone needs a nice cozy den sometimes, but he’d rather be under the trees. So, I guess it was inevitable we’d start spending time together, and he’s even invited me to visit him in his room. It really is a snug little place to spend a long winter night. Uh, ‘evening,’ I meant to say. ‘A long winter evening.’
Sorry, where was I? Oh, right, Kit’s story. I was out walking down the Road one day about this time of year — maybe a bit later in the Summer, right about First Harvest — Lughnasadh, they call it around here — and I happened across Kit. He greeted me warmly, and suggested we take a walk into the Wood. ‘I want to show you something,’ he said, ‘and you might as well not waste your time on this Road. It only goes from here to there, since it’s not really part of the Wood at all, and I suppose that’s good enough for most times, but today is special.’ And he led me off into the Wood, along a path I had never noticed before, guiding me along by the hand, and putting an arm around to help me over the tricky parts. He’s certainly nimble, for such a big man — and very strong, too.
The Wood was wonderful that day, warm and a little sleepy, and every once in a while we’d hear the buzz of a greenbottle or see a butterfly glowing in a shaft of sunlight, the trees and bushes all leafy and green, and every so often we’d cross a small clearing where summer flowers had found a place to bloom, asters purple and white, and sunflowers and rattlesnake weed and swamp lilies (the Wood does have some wet parts) and all sorts of things, all like little bits of sunlight themselves. I have to confess, I was surprised to see some of them in the woods, although I suspect Kit does as much gardening as stewarding, and even more surprised that some were blooming this time of year, but we had crossed the Border, I think, so I guess time wasn’t that much of a consideration.
Well, we eventually got to a clearing around a great, ancient oak, a really massive old tree. Kit says he thinks it might be as old as the Wood, or almost. We found a fallen log to sit on, all mossy, just like a storybook log, and Kit made sure I was comfortable — he was being particularly nice that day — and produced a little hamper with some lunch for us, and a flagon or two of ale.
‘It was right here,’ he said, ‘where the Lord and Lady of the Wood tied the knot. Just this time of year, at the First Harvest, High Summer, as the poet says, when —
our days are long and sleepy,
our nights too brief for rest,
summer’s bloom is sweetest now
and summer’s pleasures fullest.
I looked at him, and he blushed, just a little. ‘I do know some things besides woods and beasts, you know.’ He seemed quite pleased with himself.
Oops, look at the time. On this side of the Border I have to pay attention to it, I’m afraid, and I’ve really got to run. Will you be around for a while? Good. Why don’t you meet me back here later, and I’ll finish the story for you. It’s quite the tale. Wonderful! Later, then.