By chance you saw it:
yesterday’s ordinary mud-puddle rock
by the inbreath
of a star-wheeled sky
and the wintry fae
who laugh now tinkling
from behind the morning
and tap at your trappings
with clever fingers
opening a door onto an orchestra
to an icy finish
conducted, with flourish
by a stone.
Some phases of spring can be hard to love. I’m usually reminded of this in early May, as waning snowbanks retreat and the deaths of winter emerge. Our dogs proudly present thawed leg of hare, or roll in last Fall’s stinky grouse kill. An oddly persistent patch of snow turns out to be a sodden clump of fur. Even the forest floor is layered with decaying leaves, abandoned cobwebs and broken branches.
From beneath this composting past, summer will soon erupt, transforming the decay into a vibrant and dappled exchange. The sheer force of this stuns me, year after year. Our growing season, compressed into barely three months, asks every living thing to commit, without hesitation, to expansion. It feels like an invocation, a wild orchestral call to participate in a magnificent, if brief, composition.
The obvious conductor is the sun, returning with more warmth and light each day. But the other morning, as I wandered among the frozen puddles of our road, I imagined other forces also at work.
Sometimes, as I walk through the forest, I catch a glimpse of something just out of sight, like a slip of shadow in my peripheral vision. It happens with enough consistency — even after having my eyes checked — that I’ve stopped trying to explain these away as tricks of the light or a deft shrew.
Instead, I imagine these are glimpses of the fae, or hidden folk, or gentry. The names we give them differ, but these ubiquitous spirit tenders of the wilds are acknowledged in every culture on earth. Whatever titles they bear, I feel a little shiver of joy each time we almost meet.
When I discovered that yesterday’s mud puddles had been transformed overnight into road pocket masterpieces of ice and stone, I thought of the fae. Turning potholes into miracles seems like such a playful and unnecessary offering. The only reasonable explanation, to my mind, includes magic.
And why not? I see no harm in adding magic to what we know of phase transitions and molecular structure. I find these things to be their own kind of magical. And yet they, like so many wild forces in our every day, can become ordinary, even invisible to our eyes.
If it takes magic, or at least my imagination, to help me see these wonders as the miracles that they are — like the summer that hums beneath winter’s chaff — then I’m willing, without hesitation, to invoke it.