Weary from a day of playing, I thought about Woody Woodpecker and the mysterious hole in a tree I had discovered that day. Through the first layer of crusty brown, segmented bark that once protected the old spruce tree, one could peer deeper, past the next layer of tighter fitting, lighter brown inner-bark beyond the moist, the raw wood of a pine or spruce-scented layer into the fibrous inner core of the tree. Within the core of the tree lived the mystery of the land where thick roots extended deep into the rich earth, meeting the life-sustaining banks of the brackish tidal waters of the Kennebec River.
Abenaki people of the dawn understood the value of each tree, young or old in their forest. They watched as each bud burst through layers of composting oak and maple leaves, emerging taller during the next season as a sapling, following that season into a straight, tall tree reaching toward the sun, often growing in girth to reach three feet in diameter, finally carved by Englishmen with the King’s Broad Arrow, marked to become the mast, timbers or planking of a mighty sailing ship that would take cargo holds full of Kennebec Ice to Barbados, India or another port half a world away.
Now that a pileated woodpecker, obviously Woody’s cousin, tufted feathery hat above his tough-as-steel pointy beak, dug his claws into the bark, jolting pecks targeted precisely at one spot in the outer bark of the tree, exposing layer after layer of bark until rewarded beyond the softer pulp inside, obtaining the juicy fresh treats he sought deep inside the core of the dying tree. Only woodpecker instincts directed him to satisfy his penchant for consuming great quantities of insects living in a colony deep inside the tree.
His rat-a-tat-tat skull jolting, hammering took several days of diligent pecking, echoing through the forest for a mile or more surrounding the tree, the original hole where the insect colony entered the tree becoming a ten-inch circular “door” with a frame radiating outward from the original and nearly invisible entrance, now surrounded by a fresh, light-colored wood frame, trimmed by the darker brown outer bark.
Peering into the core of the yet living inner tree I saw undisturbed, fibrous-core vertical strands, no larger than a pencil appearing like a growing mini-forest in the center. Looking beyond the strands, only when the slight shaking of filigree glassine wings caught my attention, I met the tiny tree faeries that were cowering behind what appeared to be trees. After my own shock subsided, in my very softest voice and most friendly manner, I greeted the two timid forest faeries by saying “Hello in there, I am Teanne, I wish you no harm. By what names are you known?” There was no immediate reply, but the two faeries I could see, obviously conferring with each other, timidly attempting to consider communicating.
Holding my breath as the two tiny miracles looked at each other and then outward from behind their little “pencil” trees, I was waiting to see if, when my vision was restored, they would still be there or for my mind to realize I was merely dreaming. During this intensely quiet moment, I happened to further notice the fragile, nearly transparent but iridescent dresses the two wore. What was the possibility of these visions being real? Of course, they were not; this moment must be a dream! If this moment was not a dream, then what more of what I considered reality might be fantasy? Was this what it felt like to sink into dementia? If it were, then it was certainly promising to be pleasant and exciting, making me hunger for an adventure.
When at last the forest-faerie-duo decided to communicate, they danced around holding hands to show how thankful they were for the opportunity see once again the sunlight, relieved to have the insect infestation eradicated by the gluttonous pileated woodpecker, the precious pair were at once in a positive frame of mind. Exposing them to danger, the new “door” allowed them life-sustaining oxygen needed but also an easier egress from their winter quarters when deep snowfall left crust the lower entrance solidly frozen shut.
All at once, my sleepy eyelids were open, kitchen sounds indicated the woodstove in the kitchen was being primed and I knew the creaky old house would soon be warming. What a pleasant way to begin my day, transitioning from a faerie fantasy into another opportunity to explore my magical island.