By Joan Farnell
With a whirring of wings the pigeon took to the air, startled by the crunching of my feet on the gravel path. It was quiet here underneath the trees in Foxes Forest. The thunder-like rumble from the nearby motorway was now reduced to a muted thrum, thanks to lockdown. I watched idly as two coots moved jerkily across the opaque green water of the moat, causing ripples to circle out and fall gently as wavelets on the shore.
The sun was still bright overhead, but down here twilight was weaving meshes of mystery among the hawthorn and ivy thickets. Pausing in a still-remaining patch of sun, I decided to take the track by Bastion 3 that leads upwards, dark and tunnel-like between tall trees. It looked almost forbidding, but once inside the light was deep green, and slender sunrays filtered through the foliage.
Walking lost in thought, I became aware of sounds like soft music. Stopping for a moment, I held my breath and listened hard, but there was only the soft shushing sound of the wind in the leaves. Shaking my head, I wandered on to the top of the path then leaned on the fence for a rest, and again the sound of a wind-borne melody came to my ears, the gentle fluting of panpipes. I gazed around the woodland and my eyes widened in wonder, for there, in a pool of bright sunlight high in the trees, hundreds of butterflies, gold-brown wings shot through with purple and white, were fluttering in an aerial ballet. Dipping, swirling, breaking into separate groups then joining together again. Dancing around each other, rippling up and down, following the rhythms of the unseen piper. I felt a longing to dance with them, to take to the air and glide in the late golden light.
How long did I stand there spellbound? I don’t know. I blinked my eyes as if waking from a dream. The music had stopped. The winged dancers were gone. I waited, hoping they’d return, but silence surrounded me. Dusk was spreading dark shadows over the high path, banishing the enchantment.
Slowly, and sadly, I made my way back down the now dim path. With every step the sounds of evening came back into my world; the lilting sound of a blackbird’s song; the blackcap’s liquid trill; the squawky ka ka ka scolding of a magpie.
It was beautiful summer magic, but I longed for the butterflies’ dance.
Inspiration: The inspiration for my story came from a walk I took on a balmy early summer evening when I really did see the butterflies dancing.
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