I was walking through the beautiful part of Pennsylvania they call the "Grand Canyon of the East", observing the beauty of the turning leaves, discussing with my father the possible conditions that formed the layers of rock bared by some great water flow eons ago.
I wasn't thinking about elves, I swear. I was thinking about rock layers and stratification and all the stuff I had learned in seventh grade in Science. Really. Nothing about walking with elves or seeing elves. The only thing remotely Tolkien I had on my mind was the ring I had put in my pocket. I promise!
Funny how, after I'd published my first article ever in a magazine where everyone watches for elves, I hadn't seen many deer. They seemed to be vanishing on me, and it left me with a big empty hollow in my heart that watching them had filled.
Watching the deer I had been reminded of things older then myself, older maybe then the world I now walked on. I felt a little cheated; I'd walked with deer, talked and sung to deer - I had tried to understand them. I thought they had recognized me, maybe even understood me. Yet there were no intimate encounters.
Well, there was one, but it was too sacred to talk about. Too special, too strange. I didn't understand, and I couldn't really expect anyone else to.
But back to Pennsylvania ... there I was, on vacation, sitting on a stone wall, looking towards the waterfall situated highest up in the huge canyon. I could see the misting, tumbling falls from where I sat. They were beautiful, but the great steel supports that stood over them were not. It ruined the almost elven air the place could have had. The so called "advances" of man always seem to be ruining the elvish places I found.
To my left passed a man and a woman. The woman was about twenty-five or so and had faintly blue hair, as if it had been blue once but the dye had mostly washed out of the short cropped black hair. She looked to be taller then most people I'd met, maybe five eleven.
Her companion was a man, appearing no older then twenty-nine; dark haired, slightly taller then his companion. He was, in essence, just as unremarkable as she was, maybe more so. Nonetheless, they caught my attention and held it for longer than was polite.
That woman has a positively elven air about her, I thought, and suddenly wondered at myself. Elves, with short, blue hair? No elven leaves or brooches anywhere on either person? I didn't know if the readers of Middle-earth Reunion would agree with my assessment.
I studied their faces; neither was smiling but the woman had a kind of deep expression on her face, as if lost in meditations on things I could never hope to understand. The man had a similar expression of deep contemplation and thought.
They both walked ahead, but I could see their eyes moving towards the deep river they paralleled. I couldn't see their ears but that didn't matter anyway.
They weren't dressed in clothes by any means strange; just jeans and suede fall jackets but, I reflected, if I had been an elf, I wouldn't have wanted to necessarily draw attention to myself by my clothes.
Their slow walk was slightly rhythmic, making no sound on the cobblestone pavement. They walked together in complete unison, like partners in a dance, but aside from that, there was no singularly extraordinary feature to distinguish them from anyone else I had ever met - yet I instinctively felt there was something different. Something Elvish.
I started to sing softly. An elf - or maybe just an attentive Tolkien fan - would recognize the name of the person the song was dedicated to.
Eärendil was a mariner who sailed upon the sea, and Elwing was his lover, so fair a sight was she ...
I murmured, just loud enough that I knew the couple would hear me. The woman turned and glanced over her shoulder. I could see sparkling earrings through the net of bluish black hair; golden leaves, lined with silver.
She caught my eye, and smiled at me. Her eyes were a strange mixture of sea green and amber. The effect was almost that her green gray eyes glowed with pale gold light.
Looking at her, I was flooded with a sense of incredible loss, joy deeper than I had known, a kind of acknowledegment and understanding I had never felt from a stranger's single glance - or even the long contemplation of anyone I knew.
Then she looked ahead again and reached out one gloved hand to her companion. He looked at her and smiled, as if they shared a special secret. Hand in hand they disappeared down the cobblestone path.
As I watched them round the corner and disappear behind some trees, I knew I'd had my first encounter with elves.