Image by Max Ernst
No one could enter the magic wood for two reasons
1: You didn’t know where it was
2: You had to be invited in.
I know this as my Aunt May Isabelle had told me one day when I questioned her over the photo she had over her fireplace in the lounge room.
My Aunt May Isabelle was an eccentric woman, every one in the family viewed her the same way as she often littered her conversations with stories of the Wood and of the people she knew lived there.
It became an expectation when chatting to her as she was more than happy to regale you with stories we all thought were too fantastical to have any semblance of truth.
When I was fourteen she took me bush walking. She’d tell me I shouldn’t spend all my time cooped up in the house reading that I needed to be out in the fresh air enjoying what nature had to share with me.
We headed to Cranky Corner a place I knew as it had the best swimming hole, a large deep pool, fed from a waterfall, which gushed over rocks and cascaded into the pool.
She told me to forget about swimming today that we were going to see the true magic of the place.
We walked for near on an hour and I was feeling pretty exhausted when she stopped and said for me to sit on a fallen tree as she stepped forward to see if ‘they’ were about. I was so tired at that time I didn’t take much notice of what she was saying. Despite her years Aunt May Isabelle was a very spritely woman and moved at a more than healthy pace.
Urging me to take her hand she stepped forward towards a briar bush. I held tightly for suddenly in a flash of light I was no longer where I was before.
Before me floated the most beautiful of women. Her eyes were focused on me as if wanting to see the substance of me.
My Aunt whispered to me that they would call her MI and to not be afraid.
‘MI you have brought a guest?’
Then the most amazing thing happened. From out of the woman came a thousand fingers of light that wrapped round me, and intensified in colour and speed until I could find myself reeling in the flow of what was happening.
I don’t know how long it took but after I felt the most brilliant calm flow over me.
‘He is a good boy, he has a sound soul, he is welcome,’ said the woman. Turning to me she said. ‘I am Alana Maree, keeper of the magic wood, you are most welcome, enjoy your visit with us, keep our secret as your Aunt has done.’
With that she vanished leaving my Aunt and I standing in this wondrous place.
A large leaf appeared, my Aunt encouraged me to climb aboard where the leaf took us on the most magical of journeys, up and over forests of spectacular colour, deep chasms in which lived the most curious of animals and onto a small village in which life went ahead oblivious to our appearance and in which the most fascinating array beings lived in perfect harmony.
The market place was awash with people buying, selling, trading, bartering all engaged in their occupations with not one cross word was being uttered.
We zoomed back to our starting point my Aunt looked at me and asked what I thought. I was speechless with having witnessed so much, so amazed by the world revealed to me.
‘I’ll listen more closely to your stories now Aunt May Isabelle.’
‘You didn’t before?’
‘I thought you were making them up, but not now.’
‘They all think I do don’t they?’
‘So now you know.’
‘ Yes I do.’
‘They’ll think you’re are weird one now if you start saying anything.’
‘I’ll leave the telling to you for the moment.’
‘I think so, you are more believable than me.’
‘Had a lot of practice haven’t I.’
The conversation continued the whole way home. I had found my words and my questions flowed out. Aunt May Isabelle nodded to my questions answering them as I asked.
As we arrived home she took my hand and squeezed it.
‘Seeing what you saw today was an honour not a right, you did well, if Alana Maree didn’t like you we would never gotten past her.’
I nodded in reply knowing this was not the last time I would visit the magic wood.