THE FAIRY GROVE
I think it was my father imbued me with the feeling that every road, lane, pad was an adventure, a curling question mark, that might or might not be answered and with a notion, that there was always time to turn back. Maybe the lesson was learnt in the while of a harvest afternoon.
My father was a great one for planting trees in odd bits of waste ground. There was a delicate, silvery plantation in the marshy corner of the hayshed field, lovely to look at or run through, when the wind stirred the shimmering poplars; but an eerie, whispering place if you lingered.
I believed my father as far as any child does, when he told me that the fairies danced on the thick moss under the trees. He promised to bring me to see them one day. But there was an understanding, that they would not appear unless he was with me, and even then, the time had to be right. It was one of those lovely, spine-tingling secrets between us, like the magic of wild geese flying in letters across an autumn sky.
One sunny, harvest afternoon, my father detached himself from the reapers and taking me by the hand, started in the direction of the fairy grove. We had two fields to cross and as we moved slowly and in silence over the sunny pastures, the sound of the reaper and the men's voices faded into the distance behind us.
The air seemed to gather itself and hold its breath as the plantation loomed nearer, all silvery and shimmering. I could feel a chill in the air. I withdrew my cold hand from my father's and began to lag behind. The whole of life's certitude seemed to hang on the outcome of the next few minutes. It was too much to bear; magic could not die so prematurely and, should it be proved, life would never be the same again. I was coming to the end of a quest too soon. I knew it in my bones; my teeth began to chatter.
In the nick of time, my father halted and turned to me.
"Maybe," he said, "it's not the right time to go ..... maybe they wouldn't be dancing ..... maybe we should come some other time."
My heart keeled over with relief. I put my hand in his and we headed back to the cornfield. The sound of the reaper grew louder; the men's voices rang warm and hearty in the sunny air. I broke away and ran back to the human company.
We never went again to the fairy dancing place. It would be some other day.