I just finished reading a blog post on the subject of fairy rings (or toad stool rings, elf circles, or whatever you may have heard them called), and it got me thinking about some of the little surprises we often find in nature, usually when we’re not looking for them.
Now, I don’t consider myself superstitious—black cats in my path and broken mirrors don’t send me scrambling for a good luck charm to counteract their curses. However, I do seem to have a penchant for seeing things that others don’t, whether it’s some minute detail that escapes someone else’s perception, or seeing connections that others don’t. Most of my family and friends just accept that this quirkiness is part of who I am. Some might say it’s because of my hyperactive imagination; others tell me I’m sensitive, intuitive, or in tune with the world around me. But whatever it is, it often leads to some interesting thought path or becomes the seed for a story I eventually write. Such was the case one warm spring day almost twenty years ago when a mundane walk in the woods suddenly turned magical.
One of my habits at this time was to go on solitary walks a few times a week. I had several routes to choose from, depending on whether I was speed/fitness walking, exploring, or just communing with nature. On this particular day, I was doing a combination of exploring and communing with nature. I left my house and crossed Rising Sun Road, heading for the little country lane that traveled through a small wooded area to a development known as Cloverly Acres. When my family first moved to our house on May Drive, the area across Rising Sun was cornfield and wilderness. The road going back into that wooded area at that time was only partially paved, and my parents wouldn’t allow my brother and me to go very far back that road, which of course only served to make it more enticing.
But by the time I was out of college, the cornfield and a lot of the wilderness were gone, and a new housing development had gone up. Therefore, the road—now paved—lost most of its mystery, and my fear had given way to curiosity. There were still some wooded and wild places back this road, and on this day, I was determined to explore a bit. I headed down the road, past Debb Estates, all the way to the place where the road curved to the left to go towards Cloverly Acres. Instead of following the road, I turned right to follow the stream that meandered back into the woods.
As I began following the stream, I kept my eyes firmly fixed on the grass in front of and beside me, watching for snakes that might be sunning themselves near the stream. This was when I had what I referred to for a long time afterwards as an encounter with something magical, or at least highly unusual. As I stepped very carefully through the ankle-high, unmown grass. A sudden movement to my left caught my eye. I stopped dead in my tracks and turned my head, expecting to see a snake, a rabbit, or some other creature startled by my footsteps; instead I saw…a couple violets peeking through the grass.
I love violets; they are by far my favorite flower, and they are Springtime to me. This was mid-spring, so it wasn’t as though they were the first I had seen that year. What made this unusual to me was the fact that I had not noticed them until I saw whatever movement had drawn my attention in that direction.
But wait, it gets better.
Smiling to see my favorite flower peeking out of the grass at me, I turned my attention ahead of me once more to continue on my way. Right in front of me were a few yellow violets and a couple purple violets. I turned to the left, more violets, yellow, purple, and white. I turned to the right—violets. Starting to feel a bit strange, I looked behind me. Yep, you guessed it—violets. What on earth was happening here?
For several minutes, I stood, almost afraid to move, not wanting to take a step and crush any violets—or possibly any fairy folk. Was this some kind of fairy ring or something? Wait, what? Did my mind just think fairies? When did my college-educated self start believing in fairies? As I stood there motionless, I tried to come up with logical explanations for what was happening. Obviously the violets had been there all along; I just hadn’t seen them because I had been looking for snakes. Maybe they were just popping up all around me, but that was just because the warm sunshine was making them pop like bean sprouts. Besides even if it were fairies, they only come out at night, right? Oh great, there I go again…
I don’t remember how I got myself out of there. Well, I’m sure I just turned around and walked, but you know what I mean. After such an experience, the rest of that day seemed pretty ordinary and uneventful. I still don’t know what happened that afternoon, but after that, the whole atmosphere of that place changed for me. While I never had such an experience again, every time I went walking back there after that, I was just…aware of that little patch of woods by the stream being something special. I never shared that experience with anyone else, until now.
Sadly, I think the housing developments have spread back very close to that enchanted piece of woodland, or at least, that’s what it looks like when I pull up Google maps. But—and here goes the creative part of my mind—I do find myself wondering, if that little patch of woods is now someone’s back yard, or the foundation of someone’s house, do they ever notice anything happening that’s a bit out of the ordinary, if not magical?
Sounds like seed for a story, doesn’t it?