My place. Tuesday, 3.15pm
She’s very excited. It’s not every day you get to show off a faerie shrine you made.
‘Come this way!’ she shouts, bouncing up an abandoned path, ducking easily under a low-hanging fig branch.
Her mother and father follow, with noticeably less bounce. Dad being tall, does not duck easily.
‘You said the shrine was under the hoop pine,’ he says, looking downhill to where the big pine stands. ‘Why are we going up here?’
‘This is the special faerie trail,’ the little girl replies, skipping up to the old lemon tree and touching one of its fruit. Faeries do not see things the same as humans do. The shortest way is not always the right way. This way of thinking can be hard to understand – unless you’re a seven-year-old girl.
‘Come on, Grandpa!’ she calls to me.
I’m dawdling, watching the little procession – granddaughter, son, daughter-in-law – take the long (right) way to the faerie shrine. My son used to scamper up this same path when he was the same age as his daughter is now. The path, back then, was not abandoned. It led up to the dunny.
The old dunny still stands, a simple wood and tin construction. It used to house a thunderbox, a bucket of sawdust, and back-issues of Grassroots. They’re gone now, made redundant by a fancy-pants composting toilet and copies of New Yorker down at the shack.
I hear hammering as I scramble up the old path. The old dunny is undergoing renovation. The little girl’s two older brothers, armed with wood and hammer, are turning the dunny into a fort. A little head with protective eyewear pops up over a recent fortification. I nod solemnly, and am allowed to pass.
These are challenging times. The scientific has drowned the magical. Technology has replaced knowledge. Humans have forgotten something they once knew. Yes, troubled times. A fort under the cliffs is a good idea.
I planted the hoop pine when my son was born. It’s big now. It dwarfs the little girl.
‘Come round here to the door,’ she says, clapping her hands. ‘There’s a door. You just open it and go in.’
When humans embarked on their enlightenment and their industrial revolution, they withdrew from the magic realm, thinking it unreal. Blinded by light, they could no longer see. The faeries, became invisible to us. Well, to most of us…
She pulls a branch, which is the door, and we three adults file into the shadows.
The lowest branches of the hoop pine, which start a couple of metres up the trunk, arch down to touch the ground, creating a perfect nature temple for a little girl to build a faerie shrine.
‘See?’ she says, pointing to it at the base of the trunk.
Some people are still connected to the faerie realm. They are mostly women. Women understand better than men. The women pass faerie knowledge onto the children. Like, how to make a faerie shrine.
‘See these special flowers? I picked them,’ she says crouching beside the little shrine.
‘And here’s some mandarin for the faeries to eat. They love organic food.’
Of course they do. What sort of living being would want to eat poisoned food?
‘And here’s some keys for them. So they can be safe in here.’
The faeries are suffering. They cry when forests are felled, rivers dammed, and children hurt. They have faded from view and, if we’re not careful, they’ll fade away completely. We’ll need their knowledge again one day.
‘And you must give faeries a gift,’ she says, unfolding something from a leaf.
It sparkles. It’s a beautiful crystal.
From my shelf.