The gnarly roots gave way to bouncy loam, pungent with fallen leaves and the busy business of decomposition. The child skipped over a branch where mushrooms clung, over a patch of spongy moss full of tiny snap-jawed plants.
This is yours, said the rose.
If you want it, said a voice from a hazel thicket.
What would I do with all this? The child asked in puzzlement.
Why, love it, of course! The voices laughed.
The girl laughed too and danced around a clump of kingcups. Wagtails and Great Tits sang their refrains back and forth until she had them by heart. Water rippled close by and the breeze rattled the poplar leaves like castanets. Bees hummed and blackbirds sang deep and fruity. The hazel thicket moved, and a blue black fox sniffed the air.
Dance me a story, he said, and I’ll sing you a tapestry.
So the girl danced the story of her home and the walk to school and the pavements with the cracks, the smell of hot tarmac, the cars sweating in the heat. Her dance faltered and the fox pricked his ears. He tugged at his fur where a flea was biting. The girl stopped and bit her lip. When she began again, she danced the wall of smooth shiny stone, the trees and the curly roots, the buttercups in the long grass. The fox grinned.
That was pretty. Now, watch.
And he barked the falling leaves, the russet and the golden, the wind through bare branches and the wind through summer leaves. The birds picked up the threads and wove their snippets of nestlings and bright blue eggs. The wind blew a blast of winter and scurrying snowflakes. The girl watched and saw the forest in all its seasons and colours.
Keep it safe, said the fox, and led her deeper among the singing trees.