The Trailing Arbutus

So many days she had visited the maple grove. The gradeschool contest was coming and she and her sister were in fierce competition to find the first Trailing Arbutus. Ann was sure it would be around where it was every year and she was determined to find it first. As she walked slowly into the maple grove she spied the prize. She noticed something moving out of the corner of her eye just as she was reaching down to pick the flower.

The sun rays were making a prism from something in the grass. She sat down on her knees to peer closer still to the shiny object. How beautiful, she thought, its iridescent! All the beautiful colors she had always loved all in one place. She was so curious, thinking it might be a piece of shale. There were many rocks with mica or shale in them on her land. She had gathered many from the stone walls that divided her family’s land. Reaching down to pick up another rock for her collection, she was just about to grab it when it started fluttering away.

Naturally she was startled and also intrigued. She stood up to follow this colorful piece of magic. It had to be magic or was it just a beautiful dragonfly? She felt compelled to follow. As she ran after the dragonfly she lost track of time. Ann was so intent on finding out what this really was, she didn’t notice the maple grove had led into the woods, a patch of woods she wasn’t so familiar with. She had only been in there a few times looking for Jack in the Pulpits for the same flower contest. She couldn’t make herself stop, she was being carried along somehow. She guessed it was just her imagination, but at the same time she felt a need to follow the iridescent light. 

The surrounding forest was darkening, making the beautiful iridescent glow easy to find. She seemed unaware that she was walking further into the darkness. There was no fear in her, only a desire to follow the dragonfly. She noticed herself slowing down and stepping carefully. There were flowers everywhere she didn’t want to trample. The light from the dragonfly grew brighter and as she slowed she noticed many other fanciful things besides flowers. Hardly able to believe what she was seeing, many winged sprites, even fairies, were gathering around the dragonfly. Their wings were in different hues but none as spectacular as the first one she found.  

Ann slowed to a stop and realized she was getting tired. She had no idea how long she had travelled after this beauty. Sitting down for a moment on the grass she looked at her surroundings. Such beauty she could never have imagined. Different sparkling rock shards and crystals everywhere. Bright green moss used as lighting spots for tiny fairies. She wondered if they had always been there, waiting to be discovered, or hiding, hoping not to be found.  

Somehow she thought they must have known that she was safe to tell. Even if she wanted to tell, her sister would never believe her. She was much older and to her stories of fairies were too childish. What wonder she saw before her. All the reading she loved and here was proof these tales were really true! She was beside herself with wonderment. If only her friend Peggy, also a true believer, could see this. All the time she was thinking this, she knew it had to be her own secret. If she kept it so, possibly she could visit again. She thought that they had chosen her to reveal themselves and might let her visit again.

As she looked around once more she knew she had to leave. Not having any idea of the time that passed, and realizing her mother would be worried, she got up to go home. There was no spoken communication between them. It seemed as if they understood each other perfectly. She turned and then hesitated, giving a thankful look to them all. The dragonfly led her back to the maple grove and she was once again out of the forest. She looked down to see the Trailing Arbutus blossom but decided instead to leave it. After all the beauty she had seen she didn’t want to destroy the flower. When she looked back, the dragonfly was gone. She felt happy and privileged to know those secret lives existed. She walked out to the dirt road and on her way home down the hill, she started skipping. It was a beautiful afternoon and the sun was starting to set.

Walking into the kitchen, her mom was busy at the sink fixing supper. “Where’d you disappear to after school?” her sister asked.”I was thinking that we’d go looking for some spring wildflowers, but couldn’t find you. Go over to Peggy’s?” Ann put down her things, ignoring her sister’s questions, and hugged her mother.

“Hi, honey, did you have a good day at school today? I was going to ask Peggy’s mother if she could come spend the night this weekend. Would you like that?”  

All kinds of thoughts ran through her head. If Peggy came, could she take her up to the maple grove? Would they see the dragonfly she saw today? Could Ann trust her enough to tell her about it if they did? She was trying to think of the best way to handle all of it when her sister interrupted her thoughts. “Well tomorrow we’ll have to go flower hunting then. I want to be the first one in school Monday with them. I plan on winning just like I did last year.”

Ann’s mother hugged her daughter back and gave her a wink as she did whenever the bigger sister bragged about something. “That would be great mom. I’ll ask Peggy tomorrow. I hope her mother lets her come.” Then she went to her bedroom to make some plans.