I FIRST MET Eleanor thirteen years ago today. The date is October 12th. I was interviewing some local farmers in a small town in Minnesota. On the outskirts of the plowed fields, there were quite a few herbs growing wild. I expressed an interest in these, when John Skandia shot a sidelong glance at his neighbor Albert. "We should send her over to Eleanor." "Oh I don't know about that," said Albert. "Why not, she does know alot about herbs even if she is touched, she claims to have seen things in the woods," John said. "Like what," I asked. "Would you like to meet her?" Half of me burned with curiosity, "sure" I said.
filbert bushes, blackberry and raspberry canes, towering grape vines; some of the leaves still green amidst the fading shades of yellow. Large, curly-leaved rhubarb and five foot high dill plants dotted the landscape. And flowers, they were everywhere. Then I saw the house. Gently, I rapped the door knocker. It was opened by a woman in her late fifties, her complexion was very fair, her eyes were blue. "My name is Catherine, I'm a writer," I said. She invited me in. There were beautiful nature scenes painted on the walls and colorful animal mobiles hung from the ceiling. It was like walking into a fairyland. "Your garden, the delphinium, and phlox, hollyhock and lavender, they certainly grow well." "Many herbs grow here too, nature provides us with many cures," she said. We spent the afternoon outdoors, and she was indeed a fountain of wisdom.
As daylight slipped by, she told me that her cabin had been a ranger station that was built in 1910, and that her husband had been a forest ranger. "He loved these woods and all the wildlife in them." Eleanor closed her eyes for a moment remembering the past. "Why, we used to watch the deer dance on such a night as this." She stopped short, fearing she had said the wrong thing. "Do you think I'm crazy" she asked. "No," I replied. "Then come with me Catherine."
Eleanor picked up a small, carved wooden box. We walked to a clearing behind the cabin, surrounded by trees. We sat down on a log and waited. Before long, they came out of the woods.
"How beautiful," I whispered. Eleanor smiled. It was then that she brought forth the small, wooden box. She reached below it and wound the key. The lid was lifted, and out poured The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies. What I saw next, I can hardly purse my lips to utter. My fingers tremble to write the words. They danced, the deer; they danced. On hind legs, noses pointed in the air; a kind of minuet!
As the music box tinkled, I felt sure that some fairy dust had been blown atop of me. We sat until the dancers left their leaf covered stage, then hand in hand, we walked out of the night.