The older I get the more important the forest becomes to me because it is a place where I find inspiration and peace. I also play in the woods! During the month of October and what I call the “Witching Moon” that has just passed I think of all the women healers that lived alone in the forests with their animal and plant ‘familiars’. These women learned that nature instructs those who apprentice themselves to her. Animals and plants spoke to these women through intuition, sensing, feeling, or through their dreams because these women listened to them. Did these women play too? Westerners fear nature because they are so separate from her. Unable to imagine conversation (let alone play) occurring between women animals and plants, even today women who live close to nature are viewed with suspicion. I know because I am one of them.
I spend a lot of time in a 12,300 acre wood that one family has preserved for perpetuity. Recently these generous people have leased the land to the local land trust so it is getting more attention. I am not sure that this is a good thing. I note the amount of motorcycle and four wheeler use has increased dramatically on the roads that run parallel with the forest; some of the once quiet woodland paths are either echoing or saturated with sound.
I am grieving the periodic loss of STILLNESS, the silence that allows me to enter a natural trance to become one with the forest.
One day I was visiting my currently favorite beaver bog when the whine of machines was absent…I could imagine woodland creatures living in the thick emerald moss and at the bottom of some of the tree trunks.
I was thinking of my friend Owl who is a scientist – his love for geology sends him up to an old mine on this property every week to search for new minerals for the Bethel Mineral and Gem museum. He discovered one mineral that is named after him.
Al looks like an elf and has a long white beard. He loves nature and is an accomplished naturalist so we have much in common including our love for frogs and bears.
Just that morning Al had invited me down into the bowels of the earth, where his lab is located to show me part of the moon that had been fashioned into a sphere. As I held the stone I experienced awe. Even more astonishing was the sphere that contained the first life on earth – bacteria – possibly 2 – 3 billion years old. When I cupped this sphere in my hand I felt an instant connection to LIFE that I cannot explain.
The morning’s experience was very much with me as a poignant memory surfaced…
When I was a little girl my brother and I used to build fairy houses in the forest. Some were very elaborate and all were made from whatever detritus lay around us. This sounds boring, but we had so many pieces of wood acorns berries etc to work with.
I immediately decided to build Al a fairy house, a place where I imagined he could work undisturbed (he loved silence too). Using whatever materials at hand I created a woodland hut and what follows is the story that emerged out of the doing:
Owl was a brilliant scientist who mined minerals under the earth. He had recently discovered a new one, and will surely uncover more treasure. Here in the woods he lived above a beaver pond; two larg frogs were his guardians. The helpful frogs also ate bugs, so he was never bothered by pests. He lived beneath the forest floor snug in his tree trunk house the entrance of which was disguised by mushrooms that he seeded in during three seasons of the year. In the winter mosses and lichens hid the Elf Scientist’s door. His garden was below on a steep hill and he slid down a magic wooden ladder to reach it. He loved trees and grew many varieties; he even kept a small orchard. He scattered amanita spores there too – they grew as big as trees and on sunny days he would nap on their beautiful sunset orange or yellow caps… The beavers provided him with enough wood chips for his fires in the winter and he had many other woodland neighbors though he was the only human…In the early spring a gurgling sound often awakened him as the tree began to draw water up from her roots – all the minerals would nourish the branches of his poplar as the tree ate more and more light and the forest breathed for all… an amazing natural feat…
The next time I visited my forest I had a bag of different milkweed seeds still attached to their silken fluff. I spent a lot of time that afternoon scattering these seeds in places I thought they might thrive allowing my senses to guide me. Afterwards, I had the urge to play. I still had all these empty milkweed pods and so I went to one of my favorite places situated under old hemlocks and made a second fairy house out of seed pods and detritus… Then I wrote this story:
Silken Seed Woman
Once there was a little old woman who loved the woods…she was too old now to camp – her bones were fragile and her back ached when she slept on the ground – but the forest was her home and she longed for its peace.
One fall a wonderful family who loved the land like she did offered to let her stay in a secret place that was situated in a wood under hemlocks and pines…. This family ‘owned’ lots of land but they shared it with others. They believed that forests needed to be left in peace and so these woods were full of many plants and animals that had no other place to go. The little old woman had fallen in love with this land many years ago and had longed to meet the family who cared for these mountain forests so much…and then the miracle occurred… they offered her a refuge!
One brilliant scarlet and orange autumn day when the milkweed pods were ripe the little old woman took the seeds still attached to their silken sails to her beloved forest; she knew places where the milkweed would grow and scattered the pods still attached to their stems like a wand around the low places. As she watched the seeds flutter away like birds on the wing, she asked nature for a blessing for the seeds and for the family that had so graciously offered her sanctuary…
On her way back to her secret place she heard a little voice – the trees were talking beneath words – “ when you get there build a little shelter and use the empty pods as trees”. So she gathered pine cones, acorns, a mushroom or two, some lichen and moss, found a piece of wood with a hole in it for the roof, and set to work imagining all the invisible creatures that already inhabited the mosses, lichens and wood.
As the little old woman finished the sun was sinking below the hemlocks but for a moment it cast a golden light around the little structure with its milkweed trees. Nature would use every pod, acorn, seed, branch, berry, and mushroom to become next year’s soil. Nothing was ever wasted in a forest the old woman knew… In the distance she could hear the river singing “from life to death from death to life” repeating the story again and again. Nature’s round has no end.
5 thoughts on “Elf and Seed Woman Stories by Sara Wright”
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This was GREAT! Reminded me of Susan Wittig Albert’s The Tale of Hill Top Farm. I did get confused. Why did you write “The beavers provided him with enough wood chips for his fires in the winter and he had many other woodland neighbors though he was the only human…” Elf Scientist is a fae, right? I’d like to share this with the Book Whisperers group and with Women Writing Intentionally. Just let me know if you meant to write human or elf. Thanks
PS Do you follow Dana Driscoll’s Druid Garden? I bought her Magical Compendium of Eastern North American Trees and its accompanying oracle deck. I think you have a lot in common.
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He’s an elf! Feel free to share
Beautiful! I so enjoyed these stories and the photos that go with them! Such a wonderful reminder that when we remember that our lives and our selves are stories, we can find magic and insight in every day.
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