Blowin’ In: Hidden Within the Trees

By Sue Mangan

Fairytales, myths, and legends have always captured the attention of both the young and old. It is curious how these tales spark both fear and comfort. Campfires and blazing hearths evoke a need for mystery.
In late August, both children and adults cling to the waning light of late summer. We long for cricket serenades that continue into the dewy hours of early morning.

We hold out for the blaze of one last firefly. We cup the falling petals of the last rose of summer. Within the leaf-full silhouette of the distant trees, we look for twilight magic.

When my daughter was young, she had a book that instructed the reader on how to identify and communicate with various species of fairies. Garden, water, and tree fairies are apparently quite ubiquitous to those who truly believe.

The book details the language of the fairy and how to spot one. Written in such earnest, when I first read this book, I had difficulty categorizing it as fiction or non-fiction. Of course, the practical-minded would write it off as fantasy, whereas the believers would mark it as truth. Perhaps that light in the distance is not just a trick of the eyes.

J.M. Barrie
Scottish author J.M. Barrie brought the fairy into popular fiction with his character Tinker Bell. Tinker Bell always announced her presence with her twinkling light. She is at once an envious she-devil and a steadfastly loyal companion. Jealous of Peter Pan’s affection for Wendy Darling, she constantly tries to thwart their friendship to no avail, as Peter looks to Wendy as the mother he has lost. 

While juvenile on the surface, Barrie presents the reader with believable human emotions of loss, distrust, jealousy, and belonging.  Barrie wrote this story based upon the tragic death of his thirteen-year-old brother, his own self-doubt and confusion, and finally, in tribute to his relationship with the Llewelyn Davies family.  Barrie wished to ease the pain of memory and unfulfillment by constructing an alternate reality in which to escape, Neverland. 

Barrie recognized the human desire to escape. He cautions us, however, that the world and all its challenges will always be with us. Perhaps by clinging to a tale, some of the pressures of reality might be explained and softened. As Yeats so eloquently evokes, “Come away human child with a faery, hand in hand, for the world is more full of weeping than you can understand.”  When the children were small, we visited Ireland one year in late summer. The days were still long and both sunshine and rain appeared in equal measure. The children devised a game called Chase the Rainbow. At that time, they still believed in magic.

Throughout their uncle’s field, the children would run toward the lights of the ever-present prisms, hoping to trap the leprechaun and seize his pot of gold. Pirates seeking treasure among the fields of furze.

As soon as one rainbow would start to fade, another would appear. Or perhaps, that is the trick of my memory. For now, my children are grown, and reality has replaced magic, but still I long to chase the rainbows with my children and creep up behind the fairy hidden behind the juniper tree.

Yesterday, I saw a rainbow with my oldest son, my recent college graduate. Rain and sunshine once again fell in equal measure. I called out to no one in particular, “Come out on the porch, I know there will be a rainbow!”

My son listened and joined me. The rainbow was muted, but the prism still lit the storm grey of the sky. “Ma, remember that game we used to play? Why are the rainbows bigger in Ireland?”

As August moves to September, chase the rainbow, harvest the sunshine, seek comfort beneath a canopy of trees. Autumn will soon be upon us; leaves will blaze orange and red, coaxing us to firelight flickering in a clearing within the wood, inviting us to share in another chance at magic.

*Susan holds a Master’s Degree in English from John Carroll University and a Master’s Degree in Education from Baldwin-Wallace University. She may be contacted at [email protected]

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