Monday, May 31, 2010

May 31: Memorial Day

On our last day here on Monhegan we decided to hike out to Black Head through Cathedral Woods. The Cathedral Woods Trail is the one trail on the island where people are allowed to put up "fairy houses"--and then only using non-living items such as fallen twigs, bark, pine cones, and shells. I don't often hike that trail, so this is not aspect of Monhegan culture that I have much experience with beyond knowing that at one time they were outlawed altogether out here because some thoughtless people were pulling up living plants and destroying moss and lichen beds to create their fairy houses.

Most of the fairy houses we saw today were simple creations--some twigs stuck in the forest duff covered with roofs of bark and decorated with pebbles and pine cones. One fairy house had what looked like a pool. Some had rough furnishings. But the one that really touched us was the one most appropriate to today's holiday, a memorial of sorts: inside one sheltered arrangement of twigs lay a carefully placed, dead ovenbird. Outside someone had erected a little cross made of two twigs tied together with a strip of bark. Whatever happened to this little bird deep in the spruce woods, its passing was treated with reverence.

If an ovenbird
falls in the forest, fairies
honor its passing.

Photo by Brian Willson

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