Monday, April 22, 2013

Gnomes at home

When I wrote The Path: A One-mile Walk Through the Universe," I had walked the path between my home and college almost daily for 37 years. In the Introduction to the book, I wrote: "For all of its familiarity, there has never been a day I have walked the path without seeing something noteworthy."

Well, yesterday I came across something unprecedented, which I record here for the sake of historical record, and because those of you with a sense of whimsy might enjoy it. Along the path in the deep woods there is a tree with a hollow cavity at its base and an open hole in the side of the hollow. I have often imagined it as a tidy home for some tiny creatures. And here they are. Two gnomes have taken up residence. They have even fenced off the yard and put up a lace curtain at the "window."

I have no idea who did this. Or of what age. Maybe the gnomes themselves, in some magical midnight animation.

There was a time, of course, and not so long ago, when our ancestors imagined the whole of nature inhabited by wee creatures. When we first lived in western Ireland 41 years ago, there were still a few old people in the village who believed in fairies. To their consternation, we built our cottage on "the Fairies' Road," and though we would have welcomed the little people as visitors, they did not appear.

These gnomes are the best we are going to get. They gave me a smile. And a mental note of appreciation to the fairy-spirited person who helps maintain an enchanted landscape.