I squinted against the white glare reflecting off my windshield, craning slightly to lift my brow high enough for the visor to block the blinding sun. I knew it was around here someplace, should be right along this stretch of road. The steady hiss of the air conditioner spared me the sweltering heat of a late summer afternoon. A quick check in my rear view mirror, and I glanced toward the right side of the road, maneuvering the winding way as I scanned the fifty yards ahead for the stopping place.
Veering suddenly, I nearly missed the entrance, which was partially obscured by brush at the edge of the road. I pulled in to the small lot, unmarked, not more than an indent off the main street. Tangled woods of wild blueberry and scrub pine lined three sides of the lot. I parked and turned off the car, the sudden ceasing of the a/c giving way to the muffled whoosh of passing cars behind me.
Slipping out of my seat belt, I opened the car door, and was immediately assaulted by the close, oppressive heat. I stood slowly into the stagnant oven of the August day, swathed in a blast of steamy stifling air. Perspiration quickly moistened my skin, and drawing breath was like drinking a glass of warm water. With some difficulty, I spotted the place at the edge of the brush that must be the path, half submerged in leafy cover.
Stepping over the clutching brambles, I left the sun behind me, entering the shaded trail. It took a moment for my eyes to adjust to the cover of foliage, and a sudden ripple of relief encouraged me as I began to navigate the narrow footpath. Gnarled roots of trees reached across the dirt walkway, forcing me to watch my step as I picked my way deeper into the wooded shade.
The sharp decline ahead assured me that I had indeed found the right spot. I smiled as a welcome breeze fluttered the canopy above me, drying the sweat on my arms. I started cautiously down the steep slope, the trees seeming to grow taller around me, green deepening to a rich forest hue. Inhaling the acrid scent of decaying plant life, I was quite suddenly enveloped in the cool moist atmosphere of the woods. It was easily ten degrees cooler than the parking area, and seemed to grow cooler still as I trudged eagerly downward toward the hidden place.
The noise of the highway muted now, chirping birds and the hush of a gentle breeze were the only sound. Descending yet further into the crisp greenness, I saw ahead a large spreading maple tree at the bottom of the path, it's solid branches darkening the floor of the woodland glade. Nearing the tree, another sound joined a lazy buzzing of insects, floating in a small patch of dappled sun. The delightful bubbling melody of rushing water drew me to one side of the footpath, beneath the verdant cover of the maple.
There it was, the spring. Just as I remembered. Clear water streamed steadily from an ancient rusting spout of cast iron, the feed from the underground spring enclosed within a large round tub of graying cement, nearly covered with creeping moss and lichens. Grinning broadly, I bent to waggle my fingers under the coursing flow, careful not to slip down the shallow embankment into the brimming pool. I squatted on the edge of the wide basin, immersing both hands in the frigid water and holding them there as long as I could before tendrils of icy pain made me withdraw.
The hump of a large smooth stone just behind me provided a convenient stool, and I eased myself down onto its' broad back. Elbow on knee, one hand thoughtfully cupped my chin as I trailed slick fingertips across the gently rippling surface of the tiny pond. Relishing the deep relief of sweet freshening breezes under the gentle shadow of the huge tree, I closed my eyes and thought that when I opened them, I might see a nymph or a fairy peeking from behind its' tawny trunk.
The pulsing splash of the running flow merged with the drone of hovering insects, punctuated by the staccato notes of flitting birds. Behind closed eyes I slipped into a semi-conscious haze where greens and grays and buzzing things blended into a kaleidoscope of light and motion. The sensation of falling abruptly ended my reverie, as I jerked awake to keep myself from tumbling off my rock.
Lazily I stood and stretched my arms above my head, reaching dripping fingers into the dank coolness of the air. I felt as though I were alone in the world, only the denizens of the woodlands, my pleasing mild companions. The heat and rush and teeming roads of my earlier day were banished, forgotten in the luxurious lushness of this tranquil solitary corner of the world. I let my head fall back and gazed up into the generous shelter of the maple tree's green embrace. It occurred to me that it would be an excellent climbing tree, and thoughts of lifting myself onto its' beckoning limbs made me take two steps towards it.
I stopped and my eye trailed my would-be path from branch to solid branch, to a height where I was sure I would be able to see the nearby ocean on the northern horizon. But that would wait for another day. My senses sated, my soul refreshed, I turned and smiled farewell to my secret damp and greening lair, then headed up the path and back to where the nymphs and fairies dared not go. They would wait for me there. And I would be back.
© 2009 Katharine L. Sparrow