Bill and Sally stood in the middle of the forest in a sea of flowers surrounded by trees. They stared up at what looked like a light bulb hanging from a tall branch on just a rope.
Bill asked, “So you say this has always been here? The rope looks as if it is only a few years old, and it couldn’t possibly light up. There is no electricity out here.”
Sally just smiled. “Bill,” she said, “you are new here. You don’t know what it is like to live in a small rural area in the Pacific Northwest mountains. Things aren’t always as they appear.”
“Listen,” said Bill, “I may be new, but I’m a scientist and I know how things work.” Bill had recently moved to the small town of Swallow after graduating from The University of Washington with his Master’s in physics and secondary education. He was to be the new science teacher at the regional high school.
Sally looked at him with compassion. “Bill,” she said, “not everything can be explained. Some things just are. The more time you spend here, the more you will come to realize that. This light has hung here for centuries. It has been mentioned in writings as far back as the early 1800’s. There are lots of theories, but no answers. All anyone knows is that this light always looks as if it has just been hung. It stays here in the center of this wooded area and most of the time it is just as you see it. But if someone is in trouble in the area, the light glows. I have friends who have seen it and who have then been guided out of the forest by what appear to be faeries.”
Bill scoffed, “Faeries! Now I know you are trying to fool a city boy. There is no such thing as faeries. There just has to be a logical explanation.”
Sally looked at Bill and felt sorry for him. She had grown up in Swallow and so she knew about the light and its history. She knew it was powered by nothing known to humans. She believed in faeries and had seen the light from afar on several occasions. But how to explain that to Bill.
“Bill,” answered Sally, “I know all this seems very strange. I wanted to show you this before you started teaching because you will hear about it and folks around here take the light very seriously. It has protected us since this area was founded. We respect the land and all who live here. We have fought off loggers and so called progress. We like things as they are. If you are going to stay here, if you are going to fit in, you will have to be willing to accept that there are things in this world that are just magical and which lack any so called scientific explanation.”
“I don’t know if I can do that,” said Bill hesitantly. He really liked Sally. They had met at the start of year teacher’s workshop. Sally was the math teacher and he thought they would have a lot in common. How could someone who taught math and seemed so sane believe all this.
“I know it is a lot to ask,” said Sally, “and not everyone can manage it, which is why new teachers don’t always last here. But I like you and I want you to have a fair chance. I can give you citations from scientific journals which have tried to explain our light, if you like. You can read all about it. You are not our first skeptic and you won’t be the last. Some have even tried to cut the light down, only to find themselves miles away from here without any knowledge of how they got there. Please, can you just keep an open mind? Folks around here won’t listen to anything you have to say if you start trashing the beliefs we hold dear. Beliefs govern reality and our reality is filled with wonder and magic. I hope you can learn to love it as we do.”
Bill and Sally walked back out of the forest and into town. Bill was staying at the local boarding house and they parted company on the front steps. “You have given me a lot to think about,” said Bill. “I just don’t know. I’ll try, but I have believed in rational scientific explanations for everything all my life. I’m just not sure.”
Sally concluded, “Well, that’s a start anyway–not being sure! Don’t worry too much. Just settle in and when you hear someone say something which you are certain can’t be true, try to stay quiet and breath and just accept that it is true for them. That’s a good place to start. See you tomorrow morning! The first day of school can be both exciting and challenging! Good Luck!”
With that they parted, Sally to go home to prep and Bill to ponder and wonder.
NOTE: This is a story inspired by a photo on the blog Wings Over Water