The first day of school was cool and sunny, a perfectly autumnesque day for us in the northeast. After lunch and a bit of freeplay, Mama Monica and I took the children to the woods. We shared a snack in a grassy spot and I read them a letter that appeared for them recently…
A long time ago, a young boy visited a forest where many of the trees had been cut down by woodcutters. As he was walking he came upon a young tree fairy who was hurt after the tree she lived in fell at the woodcutters’ axe. The boy gently picked her up and carried her home, and cared for her until she was well enough to return to the woods. When they parted, a tear rolled down the boy’s face. He would miss the tree fairy very much! So the tree fairy made him a very special promise.
“Boy, you have saved my life, nursed me to health, and shared the customs of the human folk with me. I must repay your gift. Tho I am very young now, and still have much to learn of Fairy Wonders, I will return when I have finished my lessons on how all fairies can become wise and helpful. I will share our fairy customs and lessons with you in a magical fairy book.”
The boy was very excited and never forgot the fairy’s promise. Time went on, and when he had grown very old, the Tree Fairy appeared with the book. The old man was delighted to see her again, for he had never forgotten her promise. When he finished reading the book, he left it in the care of a wise earth gnome who promised to guard it until new children came to those woods and showed they cared for it and were friends of the wee folk there.
And so, dear children, the earth gnomes and tree fairies of this woods wish for you to have that Fairy Book of Wonders. But in order to receive the clues to lead you to the silver keys that unlock the book, you must prove you are the sort of kind and helpful children with whom the fairies can trust their secrets. Each older child must help a younger child, and no one will rush ahead and try to find the key all by himself. If the children are kind and good, they will be able to work together to find the 2 silver keys, one for each family.
When the book is opened, do not be surprised that many of its pages are blank. A magic spell to protect the book was cast upon it. Only after the first pages are read and the fairy tasks are completed will the next pages be filled with writing!
-The Earth Gnome
So when the children had gathered together near the edge of the woods, and promised to help each other and stay together, each of them were given “clues” to hold.
An old maple tall and strong
And Michaelmas daisies growing along
The path where you must start your quest
To find where the hidden silver keys rest.
Across the path a small stream trickles
And jewelweed waits for gentle tickles
Will Johnny-Jump-Up? Try and see
If he’s still too young then leave him be.
The path to the right will lead astray
Go to the left, for that’s the way
Along the path are ripening berries
Pick some and save some for the fairies!
The guardian of the forest is the old tree so wide
Several old trees guard the trail on one side
How many do you see?
Count them all- one, two, three…
Take the path that leads up the ridge
Find a tree that arches over the path like a bridge
In a tree stump to the right
You’ll find the first key silver and bright!
Can you find the mossy tree stump where the tiny folk shell their nuts
And harvest tiny mushrooms to dry and store in their tiny huts?
My fur is sharp as needles, and keeps me safe and sound
The other night I had a fight and left some on the ground!
The children had a great time picking these porcupine quills out of the bark, and putting a few on their shirts or pants to pretend they were porcupines! What a lucky find along the trail.
Where the Indian Fathers once built their homes, has come to be the dwelling place of the earth gnomes.
So here I live by the pokeberry tangles, upon one of them the second key dangles.
Of course we made sure to tell them that pokeberries are poisonous- they are. In small quantities the pokeroot tincture can be very helpful in healing mastitis- it worked wonders for me and saved me from having to go with antibiotics.
After finding the keys, the children anxiously unlocked the book…
The first few pages tell about the preparations all the fairies make during autumn to get ready for the Great Fall Feast. It also shares instructions for dyeing golden capes with goldenrod to match the ones the fairys wear to the Feast- the first Fairy Task the children must complete for the next pages to “appear”. They can’t wait to make their capes.
The children really loved the adventure and took turns wearing the silver keys.
My son pretended to be the boy-turned-old-man with a walking stick…
And then, the earth gnome with a mossy head!
They spent a long time sliding down the ridge over and over again, while Mama Monica and I enjoyed nature.
The adventure begins!
(Linked up with Seasonsal Celebration Sunday at Natural Mother’s Network.)