Kim’s parents let her go to my Gramie’s with me one summer. Usually I would play alone in the meadows, around the barn and at the brook. Children did that, then. As long as I came soon after my grandmother called for me, it was fine. She lived down a steep embankment off of a quiet highway deep in the Catskills.
We were playing on the front porch. I felt something click in the left side of my neck and I burst out, “Let’s make an altar to the nature Spirits!”
“Yeah!” said Kim, always pretty agreeable and up for whatever our imaginations.
Kim and I ran upstairs in the small playroom, which was really an open room to the right at the top of the narrow, steep stairs, that led into my mother’s old bedroom. My Gramie kept all of my playthings there. I said we should get some of the costume jewelry, and some play money, because we had to leave an offering for them.
We took those things and rushed down through a thin patch of woods to the brook. On the slope before the brook, we terraced out a flat patch of earth near the roots of one of the old trees and carefully laid out the gifts we had for the Nature Spirits. Satisfied with this endeavor, I said we should cover our gifts with the leaves we had swept aside, lest anyone should steal the gifts before the fairies could get them. We went on our way, to whatever else the day was calling for us to do.
I never looked back, and soon forgot about it, everything- the calling to make the altar, that it was even there- until many years later. For all I know, a tiny necklace of plastic pearls still lies entwined in the earth.
Not bad for two little Catholic schoolgirls. They didn’t teach us about making altars to the nature Spirits in catechism.