Dryads, naiads and codgers

Is it increasing age that brings us encounters with mountain sprites?

“You know you’re old when you’ve lost all your marvels.” (Merry Brown)

By Peter Warland

Because it’s too late for George to be making any new good old friends, he’d accepted the invitation when Angus had asked him if he fancied a little walk in the mountains.

It seems that it had been ‘she of the unpronounceable name’, Siobhan’s idea that George needed to get out because his beloved was away and the kids nowhere to be seen, as usual. Angus’ wife is a caring woman. I don’t know about Angus. He’s like me, getting on in years, all dentures and dementia, according to some, but he can be fun to be with if he decides that you exist and therefore opts to talk to you.

Of course, things went wrong from the start. Angus rolled up whilst George was down at the corner store buying some cold cuts for sandwiches and assumed that he’d already left for the proposed walk. A neighbour told him that Angus’ G.M.C. had been round and then Siobhan phoned to say that ‘he of little brain’ had taken a bag of tomatoes from the fridge, not his lunch. Maybe he’d need a little extra nourishment.

Not knowing if Angus had decided to head off at a whim elsewhere, George set off towards Fort Steele and the Rockies then, following the dusty road up the Wildhorse into Bear Creek, he found Angus’ vehicle parked at the landing with half a dozen other bits of transport. Seeing the crowd, he wondered what Angus had been thinking when he set off; he’s no social animal, is Angus.

George went in a spritely fashion up the broad trail towards Bear Lake and so, despite being body-checked by a large woman bearing a small pack and a weedy little man with a huge one, arrived in good shape. No sign of Angus.

There were quite a few people at the lake, lolling and fishing, so George passed them by and headed up towards the pass at the top of the basin, but no longer in such a spritely fashion.

At the pass, looking down at the inviting waters of Ruault Lake, he considered his options. There weren’t many.

Then he spotted the figure on the peak to his right so waved cheerfully and the figure waved back. So far so good. But the figure showed no sign of coming his way so he sighed and headed uphill once more. The spritely had gone out of him.

About half-way up, almost at the end of his tether, so to speak, he looked up and noted that the figure still on the peak above him was of the female gender: shorts, long brown legs, a mass of fair hair; definitely not Angus.

He kept going but, by the time he’d reached the top of the rise, the mountain sprite had disappeared. He flopped down on a patch of tempting turf and ate some sandwiches and sipped some iced tea. Where the heck was Angus?

Later, George encountered himself sprawled in a most ungainly manner on another grassy knoll. He waved one hand feebly. George said, “D’you see the dryad?”

“Kind of flower?”

“The dryad, the mountain  nymph?”

“Dryads are woodland nymphs. What’re you on about?” Sometimes too much education can ruin a decent conversation.

George flopped down. “How’re the tomatoes?” He handed Angus a roll of cold cuts and a bun.

The two codgers ate in silence with the loom of Mount Ruault over them then opted to go down the way that Angus had come up. He’d reached the end of his ambitions that day, he assured George.

Just before the two reached the top of the trail that leads down to Little Bear Lake they paused and Angus spotted the figure by the lake. “Your dryad, old buddy,” he said, “is a naiad. Wonder if she’ll go native and swim.” He dug in his pack for his binoculars.

But their nymph disappeared again and so the codgers wended their weary ways down towards their vehicles, just a little more thoughtful than usual.