August 22, 2007
One morning in Maine, two 30-something women and a hound-dog of a Rhodesian Ridgeback mix made their way along the circumference of Mackworth Island.
Carol is playing tour guide.
She has already told me about the scenic views and the sex abuse scandal that closed the island’s only construction, a school for the deaf.
However, she has omitted details on the “Mackworth Island Community.”
I suspect she did this on purpose.
She knew how I’d feel about such a village.
It is a perfect, hot August Friday, a strong breeze cooling our way as we trace the shoreline in a lazy amble.
Under a swath of pine trees, Carol stops to point out a sign.
The forest floor rises in a construct of fairy houses.
Some are forts large enough for a child to hide in.
Others are tiny, huddled against the base of a tree.
There are paths of pine cones and mussel shells.
Hot tubs for the indulgent fairies.
I am enchanted.
When we were kids, Carol and I used to spend summer nights wrapped in sleeping bags on our grandparents’ porch in Maine; we’d make up long, elaborate stories of talking frogs, devilish children, and the occasional fairy, as well.
Usually, these stories resulted in hysterical laughter, reprimands from the adults indoors, and ultimately, with Carol stuffing a pillow in my face to muffle my uncontrollable giggles as she reached the climax of her story.
By daylight, we kept forts in the woods and built boats of wood and grass to float in the pond.
These fairy houses feel like deja vu.
Houses of rock.
Beds cradled in the crux of a tree.
Carol turns to me.
“It is interactive,” she says, as though that’s all the reason an artist needs.
We pick our way through the village, stepping around each tiny roof and fence, making our way to the back edge of the village.
I tie my dog to a tree, afraid he’ll begin to chew on the walls of a nearby hut that resemble a row of perfect sticks for fetch.
We collect materials.
Carol begins the frame of a lodge. (She’s studying to become an architect.)
I weave grass for a thatched roof and opt for the “cute” hideaway with a garden out front.
We don’t don’t how long it’s been, but the sun has begun to pass through lattice of the lodge at a late-morning angle.
We add the finishing touches to our creations and return to the path.
We pass the empty island school as we finish our walk.
It turns out a lot of people don’t think we should be so enchanted by this bit of land in Casco Bay.
They think the crimes committed here warrant no admiration of scenic views.
A few years ago, the victims came to watch a house – the place where countless deaf children were allegedly abused by the principal – burn down in flames.
They fed the flame with pieces of wood inked with messages to a hated man. They tossed in pictures he’d taken.
The principal, as well as other accused faculty members, were never prosecuted.
The school never survived the 1981 scandal.
The thought makes the salt air taste a little bitter in retrospect.
I don’t blame them for hating this place.
But I have to think that a landscape can recover.
These woods will recover from last spring’s blowdowns during the storm.
Little hands (and some larger ones as well) will build that fairy village back up.
Breathe some sort of enchantment back into these woods.
Set some sort of pure hope onto the mudflats, offer it back to the sea.
Fires only rage for so long.
Something else has to survive.
I kind of hope it’s the fairies.