I have risen with the early light and, calling the dogs to heel, slip down the back lanes across fields heavy with dew. My white breath floats into the air and joins with mists dancing in the new dawn. I am ten, or maybe eleven, and my blood pulses with daydreams and fairy tales.
Cocooned in green cave of overlapping branches the shallow pool is wide and womb-like. I enter before the human world is awake. Water bubbles in little rivulets past my ankles. Invisible birds add pure notes of magic to the still air calling from thickets of willow and hazel. The dogs leapfrog back and forward across stones, chasing whispers of scents.
Here, I do not need to close my eyes to see the fairies peeping from behind moss-heavy rocks, or the bright-eyed little fish that swim in the memory of the stream.
If I hold my breath I can hear the echoing shouts of children who have gone before, running through the long summer grass to hunt frogs and darting fish. The sound of fat cows gently tearing green riches from the earth, swishing tails at blue-bottomed buzzing flies. Or the stretching groans of women lifting flax from the field to soak in wet pools, like sheets on wash day.
Trailing my fingers in the water, light sparkles and sends waves of silver shimmering to the grassy edge. Here, the fox bends to drink at dusk keeping his wary eyes always on the far bank. On that stone a stoat has eaten a bird’s egg before dipping her sharp-nosed face in the water. There, a heron has stood, a silent sentinal, watching the passing years.
Maybe once wolves prowled, elk wandered, and eagles flew overhead. Wise women gave thanks to the water spirits. Gifts were offered. Promises made. Secrets buried. Maybe once Deirdre washed her long dark hair. Or Diarmuid made a bed of rushes, while Finn raced by with his Fianna.
Maybe, if I sit silently enough, the bright sidhe will gallop their steeds along the banks in a whirl of colour and riot before fading into the timeless gloom.
I hover in this place between worlds, seeping in the early morning mists, and rooting myself in the water.