Here is one glass-full, the experience I began with. I remember the episode vividly, but do I remember it accurately? I grew up in West Chelmsford, a small village in eastern
. Three houses occupied Massachusetts Wilson Lane: the first was my grandfather Luke’s house where my aunt Tempie, cousin Gloria, and uncle Chappy also lived. The second was the LaCourse’s with four children to be our playmates, then came “the Stones”--the house we were renting. After our house, the dirt lane led down a hill to a valley created by Stony Brook. The most enchanting part of the Stones’ farm was the pine woods where I could roam at will. I remember a stump that looked like a house, even with two doors leading underground, a home for an elf.
One afternoon in the summer of 1941 my brother Robin, four years old, and I, just seven, went with my aunt for a walk in the woods she loved so dearly. When she was sixteen and pregnant, her father wouldn’t let her go out during the day, so she would wander these woods at night. She took Robin and me to see her secret place, a small round pool arising from a spring. The area around the pool was dark because it was surrounded by tall pines with brush coming right down to its edge. I was startled to see that the water was alive with tadpoles. A smell of dankness and another smell, like the odor before a rain storm, permeated the air. Kneeling beside the pool, I felt a Presence all around us, distinct, thick. I became suffused with it. Did I tell the others about my feeling or describe it to my mother when I got home? I wish I knew for sure, but I don’t think I did. And if I didn’t, why didn’t I? I gave the experience to a character in my novel Samara, the Wholehearted.
A paragraph from “The Piper at the Gates of Dawn”, set on an island in a river, echoes my experience:
“This is the place of my song-dream, the place the music played to me,” whispered the Rat, as if in a trance. “Here in this holy place, here if anywhere, surely we shall find Him!” Then suddenly the Mole felt a great Awe fall upon him, an awe that turned his muscles to water, bowed his head, and rooted his feet to the ground. It was no panic terror -- indeed he felt wonderfully at peace and happy -- but it was an awe that smote and held him and, without seeing, he knew it could only mean that some august Presence was very, very near. Kenneth Graham, The Wind in the Willows