“It was a blustery sort of day,” and the motley gray clouds were indecisive about rain. Dampness and uneven light played weirdly with color, unnaturally brightening some hues while sinking others into murky shadow. The trees swayed this way and that in the gusts of wind, whispering fiercely. It was beautiful, and very eerie.
The trail was aptly named “Wonderland,” and although it felt that morning like an otherworldly setting for a ghost story or a dark fantasy novel, it was actually wending its way through Acadia National Park on the coast of Maine–a place less fantastic, perhaps, but to my mind, certainly not less romantic. It was not well populated, except for Shaun and myself, and a few other determined hikers, likely due to the fitful weather. So it was easy to feel the wind pull viciously at my hair, and see the strange play of light and shadow through the moaning trees, and believe that around any bend in the trail, one might suddenly glimpse a sullen ghost, or a fleeing dryad. The goosebumps on my arms were not all due to the chilly mist.
We talked quietly as we walked, and eventually entered an archway of trees that formed a lush green tunnel. The floor of the wood was a genial tangle of rocks, undergrowth, moss and fallen leaves. The wind dissipated among the trees. It was an altogether friendlier place.
Rounding a bend in the trail, we saw a small, bare-headed, rain-coat-clad figure kneeling at the side of the trial ahead, just before the path disappeared around another turn. The boy looked up at us as we approached, and we saw that he was around eight or nine years of age, golden-haired, with a small face and large eyes. As we came closer, he stood up and looked at us expectantly.
“Would you like to see my fairy house?”
We assured him that we would. He knelt down again and showed us his creation, which was built atop a bed of needles and twigs to the side of the trail. It would have been easy to miss, had its architect not pointed it out to us. The roof was a thick slab of moss. The walls were all of stone, chosen carefully from the the trail, and an opening had been left for the convenience of diminutive house-hunters.
The boy looked at us with some concern. “Do you think the fairies will like it?”
We assured him that we believed they would. “If I were a fairy, I think that would like it very much,” I told him. He seemed satisfied.
Another adult appeared around the next bend in the trail. “There you are!” she said to the boy. “Time to move on.”
“I was showing them my fairy-house,” the boy said proudly, indicating the two of us. The woman held out her hand, and without a backward glance, our young acquaintance skipped away out of sight.
We admired the fairy-house for a moment more, and I snapped a photo. When we continued on our way, the trail ahead was empty. We never saw the fairy-house builder again.