“Nana, where do the fairies hide?” Jana sprinkled water on the potted flowers with her red watering can.
“Dearest, they could be in the darkest parts of the pine tree. Between rocks in walls, in the curl of an unopened flower or in the wrinkled bark of a tree.”
Jana looked carefully in all those places, even peering into the furled petals of flowers, but nowhere did she see shimmering wings or shining faces. Then she lifted the leaves of a hosta just opening its white trumpets.
Still nothing. “I don’t see anything. What do they look like?” Jana wanted to know. Nana was snapping off dead campanula heads with her thumb and forefinger.
“Fairies are all the colors of flowers, all the greens of leaves and all the browns of the earth and trees. They dress in flower petals, fallen feathers and spider web. If you want to see them, you must sit quiet and still.”
Jana sat quietly on the bench. She fidgeted, but not much. The sun must have gone round the earth ten times, Jana thought, and still she saw nothing but shadows.
“Why don’t I see them?”
“You haven’t sat still long enough, Jana,” Nana laughed, pausing to wink. “If you startle them, they turn into bees or dragonflies. Or maybe goldfinches, hummingbirds or flowers. Anything little might be a fairy under a glamour.”
“A glamour,” Repeated Jana, tasting the word. “What do they eat?”
“They eat the seeds of echinacea flowers, the dew from Japanese maple leaves, the nectar of the lilies. All sorts of things.” Nana took out her scissors and began to trim faded daisy flowers.
“Where do fairies live?”
“They live in the holes in trees, borrow empty burrows, or make leafy palaces high in trees, far above the squirrel’s nests.” Nana replied. Jana looked carefully at a hole in a tree.
“Do they watch over our garden?” Jana and her brothers were visiting Nana all day while her mother worked at the museum. Her father was in Japan for business. She could hear Dane and Ferald having an epic water gun battle in the sheep meadow. When she looked over, the sheep had moved a safe distance away. The goats were unimpressed and were happily munching poison ivy by the back fence.
Nana laid her strong hand on Jana’s head. “Yes, they help the garden grow, and they watch over all of us, my dear. But we must not disturb them.”
“What happens then?” Jana hugged Nana’s knees.
“Why then they become annoyed. They hide my garden tools. Toss my watering can high in the air and dent it.” She pointed at an old tin watering can with a big dent. Jana held her little red watering can tight to her chest. She would not like it smashed or dented.
“What did you do to annoy them, Nana?” Jana asked idly, cupping lilies to her nose and looking sideways for fairies under their leaves.
“Nana, why were they angry?” Jana gently reminded Nana when she didn’t answer. Nana heaved a big sigh.
“Last fall I had three hemlock trees removed. Poor things were all dead branches except the very tops. I couldn’t save them, and men came and took them away. Afterwards, I went out to the side yard and laid berries on the moss. I explained my plan to replant new trees in the spring – a blue spruce, a pear and a weeping cherry, but I’m afraid the wee folk were not appeased. All winter, the power went on and off, off and on. I could never find my keys. The driveway was always icy, and my salt was changed for pepper. My flour had stones, and my lentils disappeared altogether.”
Jana hid her watering can behind the swiss chard.
“Oh, Nana, how sad. Is that what happened to your babies?” Jana knew her grandmother loved all plants, and her houseplants were her babies, now that her children were grown and flown. She had been very sad last winter when her babies had dropped all their leaves. “The fairies did that?”
“Well, I can’t be sure, after all they didn’t say.” Nana grinned. “After some strong, young men planted my three new trees, one for each of you grandchildren, they stopped tormenting my old bones. I added three blueberry bushes, too, for good measure.”
“The weeping cherry is mine,” Jana remembered sleepily.
“That’s right, dearest.” Nana smiled again.
Jana curled up on the granite garden bench, and next thing she knew, she felt a pinch on her shoulder. She must have fallen asleep.
She opened her eyes, and there was a fairy! Nana’s fairy. She sadly blinked at it, waking slowly.
A statue wasn’t the same thing. She saw a flash of yellow. A goldfinch left the bird feeder! Did it wink at her? The golfinch dipped its wings in the bird bath and flipped water at her. Jana felt a happy glow. Nana knows things, she thought to herself.
Copyright 2013 Brenda Davis Harsham