Near the bottom of the hill that leads down from the Village to the ‘main’ road, there is an easily overlooked entrance to a small track that winds gently back up the hillside, through some footloose woodland to circle round behind the vines that we can see across the valley from our house. In the middle of this patch of woodland is a ruin – the tumbling stone remains of some forgotten dwelling of yesteryear. The fallen stones slumber lumpily beneath a blanket of vibrant green fur, and twisted oak saplings sprout resolutely from the clammy hollows.
Despite its proximity to the road, this space has a quietness to it that persists regardless of any nearby noise of humanity. It is a magical space, an interval between dimensions. It is an opening into otherness. In the wind, it is still. In the heat, it is cool and restful. In the cold, it is warm and inviting. If you stop a while, and sit silently on a tumbled stone, and empty the pebbles of your mind into the waiting pool of solitude, the space will suck you in and embrangle you with its waitingness, so that you begin to wonder if you will ever want to leave.
When we first discovered the secrets of this special place, Simon took some photos. One of these pictures found its way on to the wall near my desk at work, next to the picture of the llamas. (How We Came to This)
Given, as I am, to flights of fancy, I soon found myself telling curious co-workers about the Fairy Wood, near our house in France, and suggesting that if they looked carefully, with the right frame of mind and a believing heart, they would be able to see the fairies in the photograph.
Now I don’t think we need to get bogged down in a debate about whether or not fairies exist. This either/or approach to the experience of life belongs in the pre-quantum world of Aristotelian philosophy. Current scientific thinking suggests that we can only ‘know’ what our instruments and brains tell us, and what they tell us consists of relative ‘realities’, or slices of ‘realities’. Or, as I have oft been known to remark (in the more stressful moments of my working past, and much to the irritation of my co-stressees), “Nothing’s real. It’s all just an illusion”. As Sir Arthur Eddington is quoted as saying in “Einstein and Buddha – The Parallel Sayings”
We have torn away the mental fancies to get at the reality beneath, only to find that the reality of that which is beneath is bound up with its potentiality of awakening these fancies. It is because the mind, the weaver of illusion, is also the only guarantor of reality that reality is always to be sought at the base of illusion. Illusion is to reality as the smoke to the fire.
So let us for the moment suspend disbelief and accept that, in my world, fairies exist. And, in my world, they exist in the Fairy Wood near our house. So whenever I feel the urge to talk with the fairies (or chat with the Universe, or commune with the spirits, or delve into my subconcious…. whichever description suits you best), I take a walk down the hill with a bag full of unresolved thoughts, lay my hopes out on the altar of my woodland imagination, and just sit a while.
I used to do this quite a lot before we came to live here. Somehow, my head was full of unmet wishes in those days, and most trips out to stay in our house would include a walk to the Fairy Wood, and a bit of sitting. But gradually, as time has passed, and my dreams have slipped imperceptibly into reality, my walking has taken me in other directions, signposted by the daily needs of our animals.
However, over the course of the last month or so, I had started to feel a tugging at the bottom of my mind. At first I just noticed how long it had been seen we had walked to the Fairy Wood. Next, I found I was getting sudden thoughts popping into my head about how nice it would be to go there, but the distractions of our daily routines pushed them quickly from my conscious mind. And then, finally, after recent events and internet browsing about the Power of Intention had started my brain fizzing with bubbling thoughts about Life’s Purpose and the future, I was walking back down the hill from my usual vist to the llamas one day, when I noticed that a particular sort of hush had fallen across the village. There was absolutely no one about. There was not a breath of wind. There was not even the sound of a barking dog to be heard in the distance. And in this quietest of quiets, I clearly heard the Silent Call of the Fairy Wood.
That afternoon, instead of taking Max for a walk on the usual circuit down into the valley and up past the lovely orchard, I decided to take him with me for a longer walk down to the Fairy Wood. I had in mind that I would sit and contemplate for a while, although I had no idea how Max would react to such unaccustomed inactivity in the course of his exciting walk.
We arrived at the entrance to the track into the wood, and it was clear from the wild profusion of vegetation growing there, that no one had walked up it for a very long time. I was childishly pleased. In theory, this track is part of a marked footpath that is on “le Sentier des Vignes”, but we have only ever once come across anyone else remotely near it, (when our emerging from the top of the wood onto the track behind the vines had totally terrified two young boys on bicycles, who thought we were a wild boar).
I headed into the ripples of gloamy green, with Max ambling affably in my wake. It felt as if I was coming home, and yet seeing it for the first time. A couple of the big stones had shifted a little, throwing up a glimpse of bare whiteness against the mossy bank. A dragon-fly dipped and swerved between the furtive branches of the loitering trees. I found my place, and sat. Max wandered on a little further up the track, then turned and whined a brown-eyed question at me when I did not follow. I told him we were staying awhile, and he lay down obediently on an autumn bed of musty woodland lees.
I always find it hard to not think. Meditation does not come easily to me, and sitting in silence makes the noise and chatter inside my head seem even louder. Counting breaths doesn’t do it for me either – I seem inadvertently to have developed the uncalled-for skill of being able to count regularly whilst still thinking about something else at the same time.
But staring helps. I think of all those magic-eye pictures that entertained me in the past (once I’d got the knack of making my eyes look through the page), and look around for something to stare at. In the windless, motionless air of this space, a single oak leaf, suspended on an invisible thread, is spinning in a shimmering shaft of low sunlight, like a Christmas tree decoration caught by rising draught.
The noise inside my head gradually subsides, seeping away into green dreams of silence. Uncaught thoughts drift hazily away. Gazing sightless at the misty stillness growing empty in the fullness of the moment, I sense the space around me holdng its breath. Listening. Waiting.
The vision of my Intention forms in my mind’s eye, and unconfined by the boundaries of language, I roll all my wishes up into one big invocation of longing, and send it out into the Universe.
As I pull myself sleepily back into the now, I hear a crunch in the dried leaves, close by. Max sits up, alert, staring up the winding path to where it disappears from sight behind the trees. A footfall? A person? An animal? Something else? Recalling the young boys’ fear of wild boar, I feel a hint of trepidation slither down my back, as I stand up, holding my breath, to peer intently into the gloom up ahead. I tell Max to ‘go see’, but instead he runs towards me, and sits close against my legs. He is no hunting dog!
After walking up the track a little way and seeing no one, nothing, I suddenly feel the need to be out in the open sunlight again. All in a rush, I bumble down the stony path with Max lolliping along beside, only slowing to a normal walking pace when we reach the dusty main track that leads back home. Out in the familiar comfort of the wide space I remember that it is the last day of October. Halloween. Maybe not a good day to be out in the woods near dusk, talking to the fairies. Or maybe the best day of all? And just to send my wild imagination into overdrive, a sudden wind springs out of nowhere, swirling the dust and fallen leaves in a vortex right in front of me. The mini whirlwind spirals upward, skirts around us and drifts off back toward the Fairy Wood.
Max and I ascend the long steep hill up to the village at a lively pace. The weather has changed, suddenly and dramatically, filling the valley with a different sort of day. Autumn leaves fall from the trees in drifts, like yellow snow. Acorns hail down, ricocheting and rolling in the road around us, making me laugh out loud like an excited child. Max catches the excitement and bounces up and down the road in front of me like a playful puppy. We reach the house, panting with enthusiasm, and flomp down to catch our breath.
When Simon returned from his afternoon llama-walk, I asked if he’d noticed the sudden onset of the wind. “Hmmm….” He tilted his head on one side and his eyes darted to the left, searching mentally for memories of his recent outdoor experience. A familiar puzzled expression clouded his features. “I think so….let me just check….” Unable as always to trust the evidence of his own senses, he took up his customary position in front of the computer, and proceeded to interrogate the data from his weather station. Sure enough there it was, captured for all to see on-screen – a massive peak in the red line of the wind graph. The moment when the wind speed had shot from 0 to 23 knots. At least not everything was only in my imagination.
We settled into our usual evening activities, Simon pleasantly tired from his especially long walk with Duc, and me rosy with a sense of resolution. My mind was clear, my heart was light, and the seed of my Intention was Out There, already germinating in the fertile garden of Universal Possibilities.
All I had to do now was wait. Wait, and watch for the little green shoots of Manifestation.