A Walk in the Woods
I knew exactly what the weather was like outside. I'd been out there a scarce hour ago - yet some part of me cried "Go! See! Something is there!" I knew nothing would be any different; it would be oppressingly hot, maybe a little sticky, very bright, and kind of ugly. But I obeyed the inner whim to change into something a little more interesting than jean shorts and a tee shirt ... something that whispered, if just a little, Middle Earth.
As a rule, I don't obey my whims if I can help it. They are, after all, just whims. But, I obeyed this one. Valinor knows why ... but I departed from my comfortable computer chair, and went outside.
I walked. The pavement was hot beneath my bare feet, so I moved to the grass. The grass prickled beneath me. Nothing out of the ordinary ... save how still it felt. It felt as if the world held it's breath - yet all was normal.
The wind whispered softly around my skirts. Cars whirred down the hillside and vanished from sight and hearing. Birds chattered quietly in the trees. The sky was bright and clear. Yet the world was waiting.
By this point I knew where I was going. I liked to go there sometimes; a little wooded area behind some houses, accessible from the road - but only on foot. The underbrush was terrible, and it was easy to get lost if you didn't have some sort of inkling of where you going.Here I paused. It was not a place to go in skirts and no shoes.
I had been several times before; once or twice on my own, and six or seven times with my best friend. There was a large clearing where we walked - full of young trees, great fallen trunks, curiously shaped rocks and a strange, almost unearthly aura to it. She and I had called it "The Realm of Seven Kingdoms", for whatever reason - it had struck our fantasy at the time.
I had never been in on a sunny, summer day. Always in the winter, or when it was overcast. Sometimes even when it rained. It felt strange even contemplating going there on a regular, sunny, average day. It was easier to navigate on overcast days, because things stood out more. But something about this day felt different. I felt a desire to be beneath trees in a place almost mystical, almost ... old.
I took a step into the long, prickly grass. And another. It was difficult to watch my footing as well as my head. But I continued on, regardless of my thoughts. I reached the heavily wooded area that preceded the mysterious Realm. After navigating through the confusing maze that was the thickly clustered trees, you then had to find a way into the Realm properly. Some ways simply weren't right.
I felt a kind of uneasiness, as well as a kind of excitement. The logical part of me I am told I should listen to more yelled at me to turn around and go back, because I looked very stupid standing there. The intuitive, personal part of me felt a compelling to continue further. I stood there for a moment longer, then realized in the light of bright day, I did not know which way to go.
I opened my mouth to breath more deeply, and felt an odd lump in my throat. For a few moments I tried to master it - instead, tears trickled down my face as the dry spot refused to go away. Then it faded, and with it, any thoughts I'd had of continuing. Turning, I decided it was time to go.
The pavement was still hot. I couldn't have been in there for more than five minutes, that much I knew. I walked along the dead, dry grass, feeling strangely angry with myself. I'd had half a mind to continue, and now I felt stupid. What if something had been waiting for me? Something amazing and wonderful and marvellous and beyond my wildest imaginings?
I'd just read a story about elves in the real world ... but nothing like that was going to happen to me. I knew that. The United States is not an ideal place for an elf, or a lone Istar, or a Maia, or a Vala ... or anything but people.
As I walked I began to sing softly. It was just "May it Be", the Enya song on the Lord of the Rings soundtrack. But it was oddly fitting, though I saw the song as a song for a rainy or overcast day. I had reached the chorus when I saw a handful of deer standing in the meadow I was passing, staring at me.
There were about five or six young spotted deer, and a solitary doe, coat golden brown in color. They stared at me, and I stared back. And we stood there staring at each other until I began the final chorus. As the elven words slipped from my tongue in the air, the doe turned and began to walk towards the woods. Her entourage of five followed, and just as the last poignant note fell in the air, the final deer disappeared.
I found myself sniffing, as I often did at emotional moments, and reminded myself that I could not have been called out to look at a couple of deer. They are a common occurrence, and I've been seeing them all my life. But something about the peculiar scene of a single doe and young ones numbering above four made me curious.
I heard the wind sigh through the trees, and it seemed almost as if the earth sighed with it. The feeling of stillness that had been there before withered and died, like the wind. I felt as if some great well of emotion had been released inside me; some deep reservoir of things I never said and never talked about, as if some secret longings I'd always known within had been acknowledged by the doe and her group. As if I had reached out and brushed a world so more alive then the one I lived in - like I dreamed of doing in all my desires.
It was just a pack of deer, I reminded myself, rather forcefully. You just had a fanciful moment of indulging your secret desire to see Middle Earth denizens, and happened to see a couple of deer on the way back. Just because these two coincidences occurred almost at the same time doesn't mean a single thing. You've probably imagined your own calling to come out into this hot, dirty place.
But something in the way the doe had watched me made me think. About myself. About what I was doing, dressed in a flowing skirt and a shirt my mother had picked up at a Renaissance Faire. About why I had been singing a song from Lord of the Rings. About why the earth had seemed so still ... and why I felt so different.
It was only then I realized my cheeks were still damp with tears.