It was a beautiful day. Rain so light it swirled and eddied in the air drifted down onto the lush green grass. The heady scent of wet earth, the smell of life and growth, permeated the moist air. The air itself so dense it seemed you could hold it in your cupped hands. The soft grey of the clouds accented the deep, rich green of the conifers and the light and pleasant green of the grass. As with any rainy day, all the colours seemed to be in sharper contrast, somehow emphasized and yet still understated. Birdsong echoed from the pine boughs as the birds welcomed their chance to drink fresh, cool water. A stream nearby bubbled and trickled, adding yet another dimension to the scene. It was a day for the imagination, a day for reminiscing on pasts not your own.

So it was that the old man, sitting on the porch of an all-wood house made from the trunks of pines neatly trimmed and smoothed by hand, passed his time.

He stared out at the scene with a far-away expression, his thoughts obviously miles and years from the vista before him. He rocked gently in his chair, a wooden affair, lovingly hand-carved and assembled. No metal adorned it, no nails or screws, as would be common with factory made wares. To his right sat a small table, similarly made and just as exactingly crafted. Even the glass atop the table, a quarter full with a honey-coloured liquid, appeared to be hand-blown.

Yet as obvious as it was these articles were hand-made, as was the house, it too was obvious that the craftsman had been a master of his art, otherwise a man with more time than he knew what to do with. They were all millimetre perfect, each fitting flush and square, with no evidence of the tools upon their finish. Though they were near perfect, they were almost unadorned. The carvings when in evidence were simple and elegant, accentuating rather than detracting from the natural grains of the woods used. The old man, his mind light-years away, took no notice of these marvels of the craftsman's art. He simply sat, a piece of the scenery as much as the trees and the grass.

To look at him you wouldn't assume too much, beyond that he was old. His hair was several shades of grey, but showed no signs of thinning, as was the well-trimmed beard that circled his mouth. His face showed the evidence of many hard years. The lines in his face were etched deep with a thousand past emotions. His skin was a ruddy tan, unlike the sallow white of those men who retreated indoors as the years advanced. His hands bore many scars, but they were strong and supple, none of the telltale crooked knuckles that came with arthritis. Perhaps most notable were his eyes, though his gaze was locked on a time and place far away, his eyes were steady and held the light of intelligence. They were bright and clear, the colour of burnished steel, absent the cloudiness and miasma of vision lost to cataracts.

Birds chirped and sang, the wind soughed through the pines, the rain pattered against the slate roof and the chair creaked every now and again as it rocked, but the man stayed silent. The silence that surrounded him went deeper than the absence of sound; it rested deep within his heart, a stillness most monks would envy. You would have but to walk past him to feel it, like the draw of a black hole in space, an emptiness that rested on the periphery of the human senses. The man seemed oblivious of its existence, as he did the existence of the scene in front of him.

Suddenly the spell was broken. A new noise invaded the stillness, the light clatter of a horse's hooves and the crunch of wheel on gravel. A wagon slowly pulled into view through the trees, following the bright winding path of limestone gravel. The driver leaned over the reins, his cloak drawn up around him as to provide shelter from the rain. The old man's gaze, moments ago miles away, swung to the wagon slowly, deliberately, as if he picked up every detail as he looked. No emotion appeared on his weathered features, but for a slight narrowing of his eyes.

The wagon driver slowed the horse to a halt in front of the house. It was a soft-top canvas affair, a traveller's wagon, or perhaps a tinker. The driver paused to stroke the big Clydesdale's neck and offer a sugar cube before mounting the stairs to the lodge, his face still shrouded by the cloak. The old man made no move to greet the driver, nor did he rise to drive the man away. The driver stomped his boots on the top stair before stepping onto the porch and flinging back his cowl.

'Ho Mr. Drake sir, and how goes your day?' the man was in his mid thirties, his hair long and brown as bark. He had a thick moustache and a small patch beneath his bottom lip. His features were stretched in a friendly grin that looked natural as breathing on the man's broad face. The old man smiled in return, a flash of white teeth and then the smile was gone, the only remnant a slight upturn at the corner of his mouth.

'Hello, Douglas, my day is much the same as all the others, and yours?' Douglas paced forward to shake the old man's hand, seemingly unruffled by the man's reticence in rising from the rocking chair.

'Ah, has been a mite chilly of late, this bloody rain don't help matters none either.' Douglas cast a scowl out into the light drizzle as Drake nodded.

'I have noticed the chill, though I am quite fond of the rain.' Douglas snorted.

'Aye, I reckon you would be, though if you'll forgive me saying so, you don't have to ride around in it all day.' Douglas' smile returned, leaving no doubt his words hadn't been said in spite. Drake nodded again.

'No offense taken, you're right of course. So I don't imagine you stopped to talk to me about the weather.' Douglas gave the old man a disparaging look.

''Tis true, I have your regular order for the week, and a letter of all things!' the mock surprise in the wagon driver's voice drew a scowl from Drake, but Douglas had known the old man for long enough to know when he had caught his interest.

'A letter indeed, and pray tell who is it from?' Douglas frowned at Drake.

'Now sir, you would be assumin' I took a peek at the letter before handing it over, and you know better than to think I'd do such a thing.' Drake raised a hand to settle him.

'Very well Douglas, I thought the sender may have left a return address, I have the fullest confidence in your discretion.' Douglas settled, mollified.

'Right then, well I'll get your things then.' The burly wagon driver stepped back out into the rain and rummaged around in the wagon before coming out with a large package wrapped in twine and a large envelope. He deposited the package at the front door and handed the envelope to Drake.

'There y'are sir, d'you want me to take this lot inside for yeh?' Douglas gestured to the hefty package, Drake shook his head.

'Unnecessary Douglas thankyou.' Douglas frowned for a moment before shrugging and turning back to the wagon.

'Oh Douglas, aren't you forgetting something?' came the old man's voice, strong and deep. Douglas turned to see Drake gesture to a coin on the table next to him, he harrumphed and plodded over, scooping up the copper with an apologetic bow. Drake was staring at the envelope, stroking his beard absentmindedly, deep in thought. The wagon driver paid his absence no mind, and made his way out into the rain. He quickly hoisted himself into the buckboard of his wagon, and with a jaunty wave to the figure on the porch, set the Clydesdale to a trot.

Soon the sound of his passing was lost to the sounds of nature, and with the absence the deep silence returned to the man in his chair, whose eyes now gazed inquiringly at the envelope before him.