Spring arrived punctually, surprised out of the ground by an ice storm. She lined up the setting sun so it set precisely on the West compass point, brushed the snow off a crocus, so the yellow cup looked like an egg yolk peeled out of its shell.
Then she busied off, popping early buds out of their protective hulls and softening the earth with her step.
When Emily walked by an hour or so later, she noticed that the creek still looked brown and dark. The wash of builders’ sand left by last June’s flood lightened the scene, but there was not the slightest hint of green here.
She turned her head, but her eye jerked back to the scenery. A tiny flash of red. A Cardinal? No. It was. . .she had no idea. Hovering in the middle distance, behind a skeleton tangle of ivy fingers was a red bag. It was swinging from a branch. Just a little larger than a tea bag, it glowed like an ember in the still life of the trees.
Emily wondered what it could be. She came closer, but suddenly wondered if it was such a good idea to touch the bag. She laughed at herself.
“Right, it’s a magic potion bag in the forest. More likely, it’s some sort of bird feeder. Maybe suet.”
But as she got closer, there was no seed visible, no suet stain on the red cloth bag. The bag was light, swinging and shifting in the breath of air.
It was growing dark and Emily wanted to walk back home, to the cozy street where yellow lights behind windows assured you that someone was home, cooking supper, living a normal family life. But the red bag was a moving question. She squinted, trying to see it as jolly, but it didn’t work.
Maybe a child had left it. Unlikely. It was a good five feet off the ground, too high for a child to have tied.
Well, it was an international neighborhood, maybe it was some kind of ritual object. The instant she thought “magic” Emily knew that’s exactly what it was. It had to be. That made the most sense. Maybe it contained herbs, or a spell to bring back a lover, or a memory of something long lost and forgotten.
She couldn’t stand it anymore. She stepped carefully into the woods, making sure her footing was steady. Then she stretched and held the bag. It was light, but felt firm and warm. She shuddered as she considered alternatives. But she could not stop. She tugged at the strings and the bag was in her hand. Really warm now.
Her shaking fingers untied the bag. In the next instant she was blinded by the light and pushed back by the force with which it escaped the bag. She stumbled and fell, groping for a handhold, which she couldn’t find. There had not been an explosion, and she felt confused and scared. She stood, her eyes open but unseeing, but feeling a wave of light wash over her.
She heard a distant, resonant voice. It was female and rich with promise and warmth.
“We always want to know where that hour of daylight goes at Daylight Savings Time,” the voice said. “Din’t your mother ever tell you that Spring puts it in a bag and hangs it in the forest till Autumn comes and steals it back?”
“Ma’am?” A voice was calling her. A lab licked her face enthusiastically.
“Are you OK? ”
Emily nodded her head and sat up. She still was seeing light spots, but her vision was coming back.
“Did you see anything?” she asked
The couple walking their dog answered, “Well, it looked like a bold of lightning, but the sky is clear.”
Emily looked down at her hands. The red bag wasn’t there.
“Do you want us to take you to the emergency room?” the couple asked.
“No, I’m. . .uh, fine. . .OK, really,” Emily said.
“It must have been some kind of ball lightning.”
She knew they would never believe her if she said it had been an hour of daylight, left hanging in the woods in a small red bag. And she wanted to get home. It was turning dark, and that was fine with her.
–(c) 2007 Quinn McDonald. All rights reserved. Photograhs by Quinn McDonald. See her journals, handmade paper bowls and notecards at QuinnCreative.com