The trees waited in the chill breeze and the snowdrops shivered in anticipation. A woman in a green cloak and fur boots emerged into the woodland clearing. She walked across to a massive beech tree, wrapped her arms around its smooth trunk and laid her head against the bark.
A minute later another figure appeared and silently glided across to a carpet of white snowdrops scattered below some red dogwood. The man, tall and wearing a long dark coat and a woollen scarf, bent down and picked one of the tiny white flowers. He looked across at the woman’s back.
The man coughed politely and the woman slowly dropped her arms and turned to face him. She seemed unsurprised.
“Where do you live, fair maiden?” The man spoke, bowing courteously.
“Over yonder, kind sir, where I’ve lived for years.”
“And why are you in the wild wood on this wintry day?” he enquired, his eyebrows raised.
“I happen to be a dendrophile, good sir,” she replied with a shy smile, her cheeks pink with cold.
“And what would that be?”
“A lover of trees. This giant is a common beech – its Latin name is ‘fagus sylvatica’.” She walked round behind the tree, put her arms around its trunk again and, peering round the side, announced, “I like to hug trees. I can feel their sturdy strength. Hugging is a form of communication – it says things that you don’t have words for.”
“And words might not be understood by the tree.” He smiled showing white teeth.
“That is so,” she unclasped her arms and walked towards him, a rotund but cosy figure in her cloak and boots. “Why would you be here in this remote glade as the shadows lengthen?” she asked hesitantly.
“I’m a galanthophile, sweet lady,” said the man bending over the drooping flower.
She appeared puzzled, “Tell me, please, what that means?”
The man placed the flower in the palm of his hand. “I am a collector of snowdrops. This one is the ‘galanthus nivalis’, the common snowdrop. Each flower has six segments known as tepals.” With one long pale finger, he gently stroked the inner ones with their delicate green markings, saying, “I love the exquisite purity of the green enclosed by the white.”
He looked up and saw her staring with fascination at the fragile flower in his large hand.
“It’s dainty, I’ll admit,” she said. “But I prefer my trees with their long strong branches and their rough bark.” The woman drew back and appeared to be trying not to laugh.
“So very different from your slender graceful form,” the man spoke not to the snowdrop but to the woman and there was a hint of familiarity in his tone. He looked into her eyes.
The light filtering down through the bare branches was fading and the air was turning colder.
The woman giggled suddenly and said. “Come on, Charlie. I’m getting cold. Time to get real. Let’s walk back to the car and go home for tea.”