This short story was inspired by three things: a small flat wooden cut-out of a cage, a small bottle of glitter and the little LEGO build I made at the weekend for my elf. It struck me that quite often we can be constrained by circumstances and how we can feel trapped because of the physical walls we see – but actually in our minds we can create many, many worlds to escape to.
Additionally, you might like to know that this exercise doesn’t just work or fairies – and you won’t need any special dust either.
Balf climbed up onto the red mushroom and looked at the eager faces of the juvenile woodland elves. He had given this talk many, many times as this was one of the Woodland’s important dates – that of The Painting, when the elves and fairies paint each and every one of the Bluebells in the wood with a delicate paint that you can only really see and appreciate when you look at the carpet of flowers – looking at each Bluebell close up really doesn’t bring the colour out.
The mushroom fairy ring of Fly Agaric mushrooms was packed. Balf cleared his throat and began.
“Children” he said clearly and loudly (well, loudly if you were a fairy or elf), “This is an important time in this wood. Every year at The Painting we create a blanket of beautiful purple-blue and this is the signal to the wood spirits that they can begin to produce the blossoms upon the trees and that the end of the Long Night is over and we begin the days of the Long Sun. Each of you will be allocated an area that needs painting and it will be your responsibility that each flower is properly painted. They, like me, depend on you.”
He was going to explain how they were to fill their acorn husk paint pots and get the right colour, how they would create their paint brushes… when the grey clouds released their cold spring rain upon the ground. Immediately, the fairies and elves ran for cover. Some of the fairies tried to fly, but being young they didn’t have the strength to shed the rain drops that struck their wings and they knew, like butterflies, they would need to dry out their wings before they could fly again. So they ran for ground shelter and quite soon Balf found himself sharing the hollow in the tree with a number of very bedraggled elves and fairies.
The clouds continued to form and the sky became darker and darker, blacker and blacker. The rain fell heavier and harder and then the lightning arched across the sky. Whilst Balf could just about cope with heavy rain (he still recalled the heavy rains that flooded his village) the sound of the lightning and thunder, with the power to strike, split and fell mighty trees (if not just burn them to the ground) always made him go pale with fear. But now, in that wooden hollow, he couldn’t show fear – not to the children, not when they needed him to be the brave one and comfort them.
Then he heard the sniffle. It was that sniffle of a young fairy trying so very hard to be brave, but without a comforter or protector. Balf carefully made his way through his small group and sat by the young child fairy.
“What’s your name?” he asked gently and kindly.
“Tinder” replied the Fairy.
“Well, Tinder, what seems to be the trouble? You’re not scared are you?”
Tinder looked at the old wizened elf, his beard masking the many lines on his face but highlighting the smiling eyes. Tinder wanted to be brave, but at that moment the crack of the thunder shook the last remnants of bravery.
“Hey now” said Balf. “I’ve got something here that can make all of this go away. Elf dust.”
Tinder’s eyes opened to peer at the small bottle that Balf had retrieved from a coat pocket. What light there was in the hollow sparkled on the young fairy’s eyes. Balf realised that Tinder wasn’t the only one in that hollow now staring at the bottle and that he would need to do something to give everyone strength.
“But only fairies have magic dust” said Tinder.
“Who told you that?” replied Balf. “I bet it was one of your teachers. Of course we have magic dust too – ours is just different, that’s all.”
“What does it do?” asked Tinder, now curious.
“It takes you to places away from where you are right now” replied Balf. “Allow me to demonstrate.”
The eyes all around the room watched him with fascination and wonder. Too late to stop now he thought.
“Alright” said Balf, “make yourselves as comfortable as you can. I’m going to open my magic dust bottle and sprinkle a little in front of me. As soon as you see a little of the dust, you must close your eyes – not tight, but gently, and breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Once everyone has their eyes closed, I’ll continue. You won’t need to breathe any of the dust in – it’s magic so it will get to each of you.”
He opened the bottle lid and tapped a little of the ash powder. Tinder’s eyes closed almost instantly and by the third tap every one of the fairies and elves had their eyes shut.
“Now, with your eyes shut, start to breathe a little slower. As you breathe slower, you will start to feel a little more comfortable, a little warmer. You will start to feel the warmth of the sun on your face and even with your eyes closed you will start to see the sun in the sky, its warm summer heat on your skin.
“Now, for this magic to work, you know that your eyes are closed, so imagine opening them up. What do you see? Do you see a green field, with a rich green grass?”
Tinder nodded gently.
“Can you see a path – a golden, sandy path stretching away from you, cutting a path through the grass? Why don’t you follow it? As you walk along the path, feeling the loose gravel under your feet, you will come to a small gate. You can’t see beyond the gate because of the rock wall that stands tall either side of it. You open the gate and step in. There are five stone steps leading down and you step on each – five, four, three, two, one and then walk forward. This is your sanctuary, where you can feel safe, warm and secure. All around you are brightly coloured plants, rich and deep in colour and scent and you can hold touch and smell them. In the background you can hear a mineral waterfall, the waters falling clear and gently and you can drink from the pool that the water is collecting in.
“You feel safe and secure here. I’m going to wait here for a while as you explore your sanctuary.”
Balf then sat in silence as he watched his young charges explore their safe places. Some remained still, others reached out to touch, taste and lift the plants and other things. Balf then spoke quietly and gently.
“You feel safe here. Remember this place well. Now turn to the stone steps and walk back up them, fifth step, fourth step, third step, second step, first step. Walk through the gate and you are back on the path. Up ahead you can see a small bench, so walk up to that and sit down. Now, you must return to here, so when you are ready, you can open your eyes.”
The children opened their eyes. It was still dark in the hollow, but the rain had stopped and the skies had cleared.
“And now children, here’s the enduring magic of that dust. Whenever you feel scared, and if it is safe to do so, close your eyes, breath deep and imagine the entrance to your sanctuary. Step through the gate and you will be safe.
“And now, we need to talk about The Painting. Everyone back to the Fairy Circle!”
The children ran out of the hollow towards the fairy circle – although the ground was wet, they somehow felt safer and happier, especially as Balf had shared his magic dust with them. As Balf walked slowly towards the circle, one of the other elders joined him.
“How were yours, Balf?” asked the elder. “Mine were scared and it was as much as I could do to keep them quiet.”
“Oh, mine were fine” he replied. “Going to have to get some more snuff though, nearly emptied my bottle waiting for that rain to clear.”