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Like Fairies in a Ring

The Relativity of Circular Time:

  • You drop a pebble into a placid lake… Don’t blink, or you’ll miss it

  • Spores of Chlorophyllum molybdites take hold in the ground… Keep an eye on it, for years

  • Both grow outwards, forming greater and greater circles

The forest has always been a place of magic and magic has its sacred symbols, from the pentagram, to the eternal circle. Like the Moon, even explorations and explanations have failed to dispel the magic. Pan haunts the deepest woods, while nymphs and sprites impart mystery to brooks and trees. In the mind of a writer, like myself, those arboreal mythologies are as real as the trees all around, metaphorically speaking. Perhaps the only way I can make something understandable is through metaphor, that linguistic bridge that is, in itself, the way to discovery. The first time I saw a fairy ring in a meadow on the edge of the woods, the metaphor preceded the thing in itself. Mythology danced mushrooms into my mind.

The body of a fungus, mycelium, grows underground and in an outward direction. Over time, the nutrients in the soil are exhausted, leaving a bare space in the center. This process repeats, over and over again, resulting in a greater circumference over time (Good news for the soil, the resulting decay of the dead mushrooms returns the nutrients). To get an idea of the possible scope and hardiness of the fungi, a fairy ring in France is almost half a mile in diameter and believed to be 700 years old. Some fairy rings, “tethered” rings, are intertwined with a tree’s roots and they live in a symbiotic relationship. In this kind of fairy ring, there is a certain kind of magic, a whole world beneath the earth where there is no beginning or end as to where the tree roots begin and the mycelium end, spiraling, on and on, like a billion spiders glorifying every root with their mycelium/web mastery.

In the tangled chaos of the woods, especially in High Summer, it’s easy to forget about the symmetry of nature. Lines, hearts, pillars, spirals, stars… Nature’s backbone is symmetry. But those shapes do not exist on a linear surface and they certainly are not arranged for the viewer’s benefit. Nature is tangled and space is precious, especially when it comes to sunlight. When the wind blows through the heart-shaped leaves, a mellifluous chaos ensues, spangled light and manic leaves, waving indifferently at Time. The pillars of younger tree trunks might bend and star-shaped blossoms are crushed underfoot. Now, imagine suddenly walking upon a fairy ring surrounding an ancient oak. Magic.

Fairy rings are forbidden for mortal folk. Dancing in a ring with the fairies comes at a great cost. If one does so, that person dances until exhaustion or death ends the dance. But nothing vast enters the life of mortals without a curse. There are certainly far worse ways to fall. If I ever happen upon fairies dancing in the ring, I’ll do the wise thing: Rather than jumping in like a fool, I’ll ask if I can join them. I’d worry about the rest later. All that would matter would be the dance.

Hayden Moore

October 28, 2021

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