It was a splendid day here, so Jack and I decided to spend it going for a slow walk in the woods. Lately, Jack’s been walking beside me on the path because of all snow, but today he was off in the woods almost all the way around. He caught up with me at the last bench before the car park, and he seemed a bit out of sorts, so I asked him why the sad face on such a lovely day.
“I can’t tell you. Well, I shouldn’t tell you” he replied.
“Shouldn’t tell me what, Bubbs”
“It’s about the little folk. They don’t like for people to know their business.”
“I see,” I said. “But, it’s ok for dogs to know their business?”
“Silly Mummy, of course, dogs know their business. We can hear and smell everything they do. They’d prefer most dogs didn’t know about them, but they trust some of us.”
I was getting very curious, but I know that if you ask Jack too many questions, he wanders away, so I let a few quiet moments pass when Jack spoke up again.
“Mummy, what would you do if your home wasn’t safe anymore?”
“Well, I’d fix it if I could, and if I couldn’t fix it, I guess I’d move to a new place.” I let a beat pass, “Does one of the little people have a problem where they live?”
“Oh, Mummy, they all do. It’s terrible!” Jack had a catch in his voice, and I saw worry in his eyes.
“Can you tell me what the problem is, Bubbs?”
“It’s the ground, Mummy. It isn’t staying frozen long enough for them to go to sleep.”
I had to think about that for a bit, then I asked, ” Why can’t they go to sleep if the ground isn’t frozen?”
“They can, but this year the snow keeps melting, and it’s been raining, and everyone is worried that their tunnels will collapse. Usually, the meltwater comes in the spring when the flowers and trees can help drink it, but the trees don’t drink much in the winter, and so the ground gets soggy, and their tunnels get mouldy, and their food spoils faster and then sometimes the tunnels cave in.” Jack stopped and looked around before adding, “that’s why they can’t do their winter sleep.”
“That’s awful, Jack. What are they going to do?” I asked, but I could see him wander off the path and knew that to be a sure sign, he didn’t want to talk anymore.
“They have a few ideas, but not everyone agrees.” Jack said, before adding “Can we be quiet now, Mummy.”
“Sure Bubbs,” I said, but I was brimming over with questions. Who are these little folk, and how many of them are there? How big is their tunnel system, and where do they hide the entrances? Do they live there all year, or only in the winter? Do they all bunk together like at camp or do they have proper rooms with furniture and books. What sort of food do they eat, and what do they store down there? How long is a ‘winter sleep,’ and is that like hibernating? What ideas do they have to deal with their soggy tunnels and is there anything we could do to help?
I could see that Jack wasn’t going to say anything more about it, though, so I let the questions lay silent for today. Hopefully, he’ll tell me more, and if he does, I’ll be sure to pass it on to you.