Espirella lay sprawled out on the mossy carpet of her faerie home. Scraps of birch bark that she used for her drawings were scattered everywhere. She’d just finished sketching a picture of yet another mushroom patch she’d found yesterday under a decaying log deep in the woods. Keeping track of the different types of mushrooms and fungi in the woods was a passion of hers. There were so many amazing types, sizes, colors, and shapes. Some sprouted in clumps at the base of old trees while others spread out upon the trunks of the fallen ones. Some grew in circles and others grew in patches. She even found one group of mushrooms with long skinny stems and umbrella shaped caps peeking out from the sides of a narrow trunked pine tree one day. The trunk was covered in luscious green ferns and as she passed by, 3 of these mushrooms popped out to say hello. That was a first. Perhaps that was why she loved them so much because they kept surprising her in the most unusual places.
Espirella had to admit, though, that her favorite mushrooms were the red capped ones, especially the ones with the white polka dots on them. Though forbidden and dangerous for humans to eat, there were other creatures of the forest that could eat them safely and loved munching on them. Frequently she saw big chunks taken out of their red caps…most often by squirrels and deer but some birds liked them too. Their red color made them easy to spot and after they were eaten, the animals helped to spread their spores, which are like seeds, to other parts of the wooded landscape where they could sprout anew.
So, whenever Espirella came upon a new mushroom or cool shaped fungi, she just had to stop and draw it, paying close attention to its exact location. Someday these drawings might come in handy. Espirella figured there was a reason for everything and the amazing variety of fungi and mushrooms served a larger purpose than most others ever realized. Drawing their pictures was the best way she knew how to teach others about them.
So now after finishing her latest sketches, Espirella sat up and stretched. The sun was starting to set and soon her little home in the woods would be covered in shadows until…well at least until the moon rose and the stars lit up the sky. Then her home would be bathed in shimmering light. There was not a time of day or night that Espirella did not find beauty in her surroundings. But her favorite times of day were at dusk and dawn, when one day came to an end or another one began. It felt like magical time to her.
Now closing her eyes for a moment, Espirella breathed in the scents of moss and wild grasses, of pine and cedar. Stilling her mind, she listened as the evening sounds started to become clearer….crickets started chirping and a bullfrog started croaking its loud, bellowing song right outside her window. Then all of a sudden another sound came like a whisper on the breeze. It started softly at first but then grew louder and louder. Words started to form and she strained to hear what they were saying……”Come…come…you must see!” In her mind, an image appeared…a ring of mushrooms swayed back and forth beneath the moonlight. “Come…come…you must see!” Now there was a rustling sound amongst the pile of dried leaves outside her door. Peering out, she saw a beautiful female deer…a doe. It was pawing at the ground. “Come…come…you must see!”, she heard. The doe was repeating the song of the fairy ring.
Quickly Espirella sprang up. Flying out her doorway, she saw the deer turn and sprightly head into the woods. Where was she leading her? What must she see? Without a second’s hesitation, she flew to catch up, following alongside the beautiful doe. The trees were so thick and it was getting so dark, that she had to light her fairy wand. It cast a greenish-golden glow that made it easier for her to see ahead. An owl hooted in the distance now as if it too was beckoning her to come and see. Espirella started to feel the excitement that was being generated by her fellow woodland creatures. What was it?
Deeper and deeper into the woods the two ventured. There was something vaguely familiar about the surroundings, but it was a part of the woods Espirella had never seen before. Curiosity kept her excited and moving forward. Now in the distance she saw a greenish golden glow ever so slightly. It was a similar glow to her very own faerie wand, yet different. It seemed to be pulsing. What in the world was creating this mystical light this deep in the forest?
Finally, coming upon a clearing, the doe stopped. Espirella peered around the doe’s shoulder to get a better view. Oh my! What she saw was so magical, she thought she must be dreaming.
There in the midst of a pitch black forest was something Espirella had always heard about but never believed to be true. It was Faerie Fire! Brilliant glowing light spiraled up one of the trees, while more of that same light glowed from beneath a pile of leaves. Everywhere she looked she saw more patches of light. It was as if she had wandered into a natural cathedral lit by a thousand candles. Faerie Fire, mushrooms that glow in the dark! It was true. There really were mushrooms that glowed in the dark. Espirella was so bedazzled that she found herself staring wide-eyed, holding her breath as though she had found herself inside a waking dream. At long last she exhaled and dropped to her knees. It took the doe to finally nudge her from behind before she could shake off the enchantment and move a little closer.
Then Espirella was taken by surprise once again as she started to hear a whispering chant. Listening closely, she heard the words “Thank you for coming. Thank you for coming. We’ve been calling and calling. Thank you for coming.” The beautiful mushrooms had also been wondering. Were faeries real? They wanted to know. So they had put out a call, hoping and hoping that a faerie just might wander into their part of the forest. Tonight their wish had come to life. Here was a real live faerie staring at them.
Now one tall mushroom beckoned her to come and stand in the middle of the glowing Faerie Fire. Espirella didn’t need to be asked twice. Quickly she flew into the center of their mystical light. “Now that you are here and we know you are for real” it said, “we have a favor to ask of you.” “Anything!”, Espirella responded. “Anything!” “Well, we were hoping you might help us spread the word that we need our beautiful forest to stay healthy and strong. Without the forest, we would cease to exist. We need the other woodland creatures to have a home, too. They help to spread our spores, which are like seeds, so we can continue to grow. In return, we help the soil of the forest stay rich and healthy. We help turn the fallen leaves and dead branches into rich, healthy soil so that new plants can grow. We also feed the deer, the wild boar, the squirrels, and even the bears when they happen to stumble upon us. Together we form a perfect balance. But the forests are in danger. We’ve heard rumblings that there are those who would cut down the forests til they are nearly gone. They don’t realize that if the forests disappear, all of life would be in danger. Without the trees, there wouldn’t be oxygen for humans to breathe and there are so many other secrets of the forest waiting to be revealed…secrets that could help all of creation to stay alive and healthy. Is there anything you can do?”
Espirella thought. She understood their concerns and knew exactly what she could do. There were wonderful humans who searched through the forests looking for reasons to keep the forests alive. She’d watched them drawing pictures of various plants just like she drew pictures of her favorite mushrooms. They especially looked for plants that were near extinction and knew how to get protection to preserve the forests they found them in. If they knew about Faerie Fire, then they would do everything they could to protect those forests.
So Espirella asked if some of the little mushrooms would be willing to go with her. Several of the bravest of the glowing mushrooms volunteered eagerly. Espirella praised them for their courage. Gathering them ever so gently, she flew throughout the forest planting them here and there, spreading their spores, and creating a trail that would lead the seekers to the cathedral of Faerie Fire.
Then saving one lone and very brave mushroom, she flew to the home of the woman she knew to be the leader of a group who were trying to save the forests. Finding an old tree stump in her backyard, she planted the final glowing mushroom, spreading its spores in a trail that led to the edge of the forest. She knew that this leader loved to come sit out in her backyard at night staring up at the beautiful sky full of stars. The next time she came out, she would be sure to notice something unusual…something glowing at the base of her tree stump. That’s all it would take. It would light a fire in her that would move her to look for more of these wondrous mushrooms. Once she discovered the Faerie Fire, she would have all that she needed to save their forest.
With a twinkle and a dash of faerie dust, Espirella flew home. What an amazing evening this had been. She couldn’t wait to get back and start drawing.
Author Janice Ryalls