The woods ended. Beyond lay winter fields, dotted with small cottages. In one field stood a small horse, a miniature variety. This looked normal – back-to-the-landers, ten acres, cabin, off the grid. At the foot of a distant wooded hill, buildings lined the road. One was larger, the elusive Inn, I hoped. The beauty of this upland valley scene caught me, golden light deepening the mild browns and pale blues of winter. The land gleamed with wisdom, speaking a language I did not understand.
‘Where are all these wild thoughts coming from,’ I thought. ‘I need to get out more, hang out online. How can I get my career going if I am a kook? I gotta cut out the fantasy books and games. I’ll be useless over lunch with Maeve and they’ll never hire me again.’
I walked fast, gazing at the lazy arc of a crow overhead. It descended to the road, ten feet ahead. The crow – two feet tall, a strut to its walk and shining black eyes – approached me, bowed, turned around, and walked alongside. We moved forward at a good pace, and I met the gaze of my silent companion. The crow tilted its head and nodded in a friendly way.
I said, “Hello, I am Brian Owen, but maybe you already know that.” The crow nodded in response, and we proceeded in what seemed a friendly silence. Nearer, the big wooden building had an Inn-like air about it, romance novel style. Its two storeys had curtained windows along both floors, and it was painted dark blue. Stone chimneys wafted pine-scented wood smoke. Two shapely trees framed wide steps up to a wooden door in the center of the rambling old building. Above the Inn loomed white pines and holly trees – tall, massive, twisted. There was no parking lot.
The crow darted into a nearby cottage garden and returned, in its beak a sprig of the small white flowers that speckled the fields and roadside. Fluttering off the ground, the bird hovered in front of me, placing the sprig carefully in my jacket pocket. Then it spiraled upward, cawing loudly in the cold air, and was gone. I did not watch, my eyes caught by the sign posted by the big front door. Written in chalk, it read:
Something was a bit off there, but I was hungry, and climbed the steps. The door swung open inward, and a beautiful woman stood in the doorway. Not red hair – black and soft, curling. Pale white skin, dark blue eyes, long black eyelashes. Wearing jeans, cowboy boots – and a green sweater a little bit unbuttoned at the top – she was smiling at me.
Excerpt from Ten Thousand Secrets National Park (c) 2015 Hilary A.B. Lambert
The photo depicts the woods along the path to Hollymount Inn. At the O.D. Von Engeln Preserve, Dryden NY.