Maiden in the woods

For years now, I’ve caught glimpses of her when I’m driving down a certain road near my home. Between fields and old farmhouses are patches of woods, and that is where I see her.

I might confess that ever since I was a child, whenever I ride by an expanse of woods, I’ve daydreamed about seeing people amongst the trees as I go whipping past. Maybe people of long ago, making a reappearance on the land where they once lived and hunted. Maybe enchanted people, unable to go beyond some magical barrier, or simply relegated to this place of relative obscurity where they are least likely to be detected. In summer, the woods are full and dark; their secrets are more secret than ever, but in winter, the woods are revealing. So many trees are bare and shafts of sunlight illuminate the papery russet detritus of the forest floor…when I ride past in wintertime, I imagine someone stepping back in the shadows, or bending over a cookpot, or doing whatever it is one would do in a secluded woodland semi-existence.

So, actually seeing this maiden in the nearby woods for the first time gave me quite a turn. Now, of course, I know she’s there. I’ve been trying to figure out who or what she is. Perhaps a dryad (Narnia, anyone?), the shy female spirit of a tree, usually an oak in Greek mythology. Dryads look something like their trees and can live for centuries. Or maybe a hamadryad, a nymph so intimately bound to her tree that if the tree dies, she dies, too (anyone remember the scene in The Last Battle when the beechtree nymph runs to the Narnian king, Tirian, to say the talking trees are being felled, then falling and vanishing as her own tree is cut down?).

Although I could never get a good enough look at this maiden in the woods to decide if she might be a dryad or hamadryad, she didn’t seem “tree-ish” enough. No. For one thing, she wears clothes. A top as blue as the bluest untroubled sky, the kind with no clouds in sight, so blue it imparts an inexplicable ache in the heart. She has a long white skirt and some kind of white headdress. And she carries something red in her hands—berries? Grapes? What IS that, and what is she, and why is she standing out here in these woods?

One day, I kept telling myself, I’m gonna stop this car and get a picture…

And so I did.

Last week I pulled off the road and quickly got my shot… I dared not go too far or get too close, as I don’t know whose land this is and… well… you know… possible enchantments…

She appears to be a young Roman woman carrying a harvest of grapes home from a nonexistent vine. Not a goddess, not a dryad. I can’t discern why she’s here. A puzzle. No obvious reason that I can see. I wonder, too, if she was once pale marble or all bronze or solid gray cement—turned to stone, perhaps?—before some artist, whomever it was, chose to spruce her up with color. No telling how old she is, how long she’s been here, and why, why…so many untold stories…

I bet the trees know all about it. I would ask, if only I understood Tree. For they do speak to one another, you know. They have a whole communication network of their own, underground, in the air…

But I am merely human, and as always, the trees hold their mysteries close.

*******

with thanks to Two Writing Teachers for the Slice of Life Story Challenge every day in the month of March.

20 thoughts on “Maiden in the woods

  1. Fran, when I started reading, you know I had to stop for a second and think once again, “Fran does this, too? I thought I was the only one.” Living here on the farm back deep in the woods, I often sit and wonder about the Civil War soldiers that likely combed this place at one time. I’m so fascinated by this picture that you took. I’m wanting to know more too. Is she a historical person there? Oh, there is a story just waiting to be told, and you’ve got the gift for that. I’ll be rereading this post several times today I’m sure, wondering if the time change allowed me to absorb it all this morning. I’m so curious.

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    • Oh, I can well imagine the presence of the Civil War soldiers there in your woods, and wondering if you’ve just caught a glimpse… there’s a lot of that history around here, too. This statue appears to be of a young Roman (?) maiden and is quite tall, life-sized. I look for her every single time I go that way. There are houses nearby and I imagine she might be presiding over a special spot or something. She spawns all kinds of stories in my mind!

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  2. Oh my goodness, I love the whole conversational tone of the slice and how you draw us in with the hints of myth and fairy tale and then…there she really is….! How amazing, we will continue to wonder who she is and how she got there and who painted her and….
    Tree talk reminds me of when the ‘trees of the fields will clap their hands’, can’t wait for that day!

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    • I continue to wonder about this maiden in the woods and really wish I could get closer – there are houses nearby and I don’t want to go snooping around, but STILL…oh my goodness, that verse from Isaiah is PERFECT. ❤

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  3. The mystery, beauty, and intrigue here is lovely. You set up some suspense, but then calm down with historic/fantasy references. You play on everyone’s childhood ghost stories, and bring it back in an adult lens; yet leave it up to the reader to make decisions. I loved reading it. Keep writing more like this!

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  4. Love this, Fran! I was wondering where you were going and you swept me right along. Your post reminded me of the character – the Woldweller in Natalie Babbit’s book, Search for Delicious. Do you know that story? If not, you would LOVE it!

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  5. The title immediately had me thinking about horror movies! lol
    But the mention of dryads and how trees talk to each other made me think of a book I recently read; “Silver in the Wood” by Emily Tesh. You might enjoy it.

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  6. I do know trees speak to one another. Like Kim, I wonder if the woman has historical significance. I read her as a reminder, but I also see her as beauty and art, something we all need. Maybe she’s there to remind us the trees, too, are art and the forest their museum which we must protect. I think you should write a poem about the woman, too.

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  7. I love this, Fran! You hooked me on the first sentence, and I didn’t want to stop reading. I also think about spirits in the woods. Walking in the woods is one of my favorite pastimes. I feel home. I talk to the trees, hug them, and close my eyes. I feel their energy and I often think I can hear their words. I look for animal tracks, animal signs, listen to the birds, look at the vegetation, spring flowers, trees, leaves, ferns, moss, rocks…As I was reading, I was cheering you on to take a photo of the maiden. Then, I thought the maiden wouldn’t show up. You know how it’s difficult to take pics of ghosts?

    When I look at your photo it looks to me like a painted statue on a cement platform. Maybe she’s someone’s relative. She’s beautiful and I love her bright contrasting clothes. I wonder if you could find out who’s land, she’s on. Perhaps, you might know someone that knows the owner, or you could stop by and ask them about her, maybe they would allow you to see her close up. Wouldn’t that be amazing? If you do, bring a notebook and write what you feel and see; take photos, too.

    I love the curiosity of your voice in this piece, all the questions, the wonderment, and foreshadowing.

    You know many parts of your post sounded like you were starting the beginning of a MG or YA novel, drawing the reader in, with great voice, a setting, mysterious, and a character. And the end of your post almost sounds like the end of a chapter. I love reading your writing! Your writing is a gift, you are so talented. I would love to read a book by you, a chapter book, or what do they call a shorter novel, a novella. I would also love to read a book of your poems. A book that I could read and reread your poems. Have you ever thought about doing any of that? I would buy something you wrote in a heartbeat. You could also self-publish. Amazon will publish a book for you. In fact, I took some classes by the amazing team of Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong this winter! They are fun and the best instructors! I have a poem in their new children’s poetry anthology Things We Eat! I am thrilled to have a poem in one of their anthologies! One of their classes, Anthology 201 gives you pointers on how to write a poetry anthology. Look on their website of their publishing company Pomelo Books. They are teaching more classes this summer. I have taken Anthologies 101, 201, 301-all parts, and I’m going to take 401 this summer.

    https://pomelobooks.com/new-books-1

    https://pomelobooks.com/anthologies-101

    Do you ever do Facebook? If you do, would you like to be friends? Janet and Sylvia have given us Jpeg files of the announcement of Things We Eat to post on social media or email us. I don’t do Twitter or at least not, yet, but they said it’s a great way to look at what editors and agents are looking for. So, I am seriously considering it. For years I have wanted to write children books…Sorry to go on and on. There’s just so much I want to share with you. I still have your email. Would it be all right if I email you? 🙂

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    • Thank you for your thoughts, Gail, and for your gracious, joyous spirit – congratulations on your poem publication! Please do email me – always happy to hear what you have to share.

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  8. Wow. That statue. She’s…”really something,” as my dad would say. I can’t quite figure her out either. The grapes are…you’re right. Mythical and ancient somehow. And then you get to her top, which is at once Tudor wench and 70’s electric. Now my curiosity is just piqued.

    My guess is that this woman (or, as you suggest, the forest around her) has more stories to tell…

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    • “Really something” 🤣 and how perfect is your description of the Tudor top and 70s electric blue. I wonder if the real story is half as interesting as the one my mind creates. Oh, the ones the forest could tell -!

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  9. Oh, how I was hoping it was a real maiden, someone gathering firewood or mushrooms or going for a daily walk, as a new friend for you! But this maiden will have to do…maybe she will be more Muse than dryad, ending up as a character in one of your stories. Thanks for allowing us to wonder along with you!

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