Daphne and I went for a long walk through the forest last night near midnight beneath the dazzling full moon, and Willowisp accompanied us. The forest beneath a luminous moon is a wondrous thing, full of silver hues and ebon shadows. Often, we saw odd knee-high, fey shadows-within-shadow flit to and fro, teasing and elusive, at the edge of the foliage, and now and then heard the movement of larger things back in the trees’ depths, deer or porcupines, maybe even a black bear. The Hollow Brook was a scintillating ribbon of silver. And often Willowisp was distracted by the scent of this creature or that.
We decided to hike all the way to an old rowan that grows beyond the Rusalka Brook a mile and more away. The tree stands out in my memory for the eerie way it sometimes spooks the horses who insist on not getting too close and dash around it when I press them down the trail.
We came to a place where it was very dark as the moonlight was suppressed by the stand of tall and ancient trees in the riparian area at the depths of the Hollow, and the place had an ominous feeling. *Go away,* it seemed to whisper. *We are dangerous and you are unwelcomed.* I had a flashlight and flicked it on to see what could be in such a place, and bestow such sensations, and we found that we had wandered into a thicket of poison hemlock, one of the deadliest plants on Earth. A single, tiny morsel of this creature is enough to kill a grown man.
I paused long enough to show Daphne how to positively identify poison hemlock. Plant identification guides say it is a look-alike for wild carrot (Queen Anne’s lace) but I can hardly fathom why. They really look nothing alike except they both have tiny white clusters of blossoms, but even the blossoms are expressed differently. The plants stood silent but felt so unwelcoming. And their quiet sylvan spirits did not want us there, so once I had gone over the traits of this ominous species with Daphne, we moved on.
When we returned to the cottage, I found I could not go in. The whispering cool breeze and sounds of the nightwood were too welcoming. I decided to sleep outside with my faithful canine, Willowisp. But he was so enamored of the moon, he insisted on going to the south side of the deck for a clear view. Several times I wandered over to check on him, and found him lying down facing east, eyes wide open in quiet contemplation of the rising moon. What thoughts drift through a dog’s mind when it watches such a moon rise. I’d like to know.