In continuation of my last blog on Getting to Know Fictional Characters, I add this: Get to know the world they live in. What sights, sounds and smells fill their backyards, towns and world?

After writing the climax scene of a work-in-progress, I had an overwhelming urge to go back to Old Stone Fort State Park. Unsure of the purpose of this story quest, I bundled up for the cold weather and drove out there. As the only one on the muddy path in the drizzling rain, I had the place to myself.

Waterfall after a storm

A short way into the loop trail around the park’s sacred site, the rush of the first waterfall filled the air. We had a severe storm the night before, so the two rivers and falls flowed at a rate I hadn’t seen before. But…I had written about it. The scenes I’d imagined for my story only hours earlier, took place in Ireland during a storm at sea. The part that would follow would be the emotional aftermath of pain my main character Josh would experience. This long walk in solitude would bring me there.

Bright green moss crept up trees, along logs and rocks. I transported myself to the Emerald Isle as I stepped into a dilapidated structure along the river. The stones fit together like the short walls that wind their way across the Irish countryside. Spirits live in this ancient burial ground of the park—that too screamed Celtic culture and mystery.

Remains of stone wall

I stood inside the gap of a rock wall to stare down the cliff at the water below. Josh would have heard this same thunderous roar on the sea cliff of Ireland that night. I hung onto the rocks on either side and closed my eyes to see it as he did.

One thing was missing: crows. These birds show up in every park, on every trail since the winter before my first manuscript came to me. Sometimes I get a larger version of the crow—a single raven—but only in the parks that are part of my stories. Somehow they know. But the faithful crows sail around our yard and caw at key moments when I write. How could they not be on this quest with me into the realm of our story?

Nature has a sense of humor. It didn’t bring me crows. It brought me bold black birds, all right. Vultures. And lots of them. At first I thought the fingered wings of the beautiful creature in flight over the river was a black hawk. I’ve had a few of them show up at key moments in life, so why not. Take it up a notch…no offense crows, but sometimes bigger is better when it comes to impressive wing span.

What image do you see here?

Moments later, another bird and another flew in with the wind. They didn’t circle in true vulture fashion, but seemed to be enjoying the unusually swift current of the river. Grateful to nature for giving me a fist bump in regards to my quest, I forged on, tossing fallen branches from the storm off the trail as I went, and photographing odd mushrooms, familiar tree holes and strange shaped trees.

What came next was something I’d never seen. At the top of a tree, a bird sat facing me with its wings fully spread among the branches, like it was caught. I thought it might be dead, until it moved its head as I got closer. There were others. Two more posed the same way, both eerie and cool. What were they doing? When I got up to the tree, they took off over the river in a majestic flight. It felt like a blessing.

An odd blessing

Their action had parallels to my personal life, but that is for another time, another blog. I gathered that this journey had a dual purpose as the feathered companions continued to swoop along the circular trail for the next mile or so, coming into my line of view at key points in my thoughts as I dwelt in this make-believe Ireland.

To stick with the theme of the story’s Irish setting, I remembered a Celtic coffee shop I read about in a nearby town only ten more miles from the park. Why not? I used my faithful GPS (calling my mom and having her google it) and soon was transported to another side of Ireland—the warm and cozy interior filled with authentic music, and Irish tapestries and paintings, along with unique gifts from the Emerald Isle, even an adorable set of cuddly toy sheep.

The Celtic Cup

I bought a CD set called Celtic Legends, Songs of Lore and a map of Ireland. I ordered an Irish tea with honey and slid into a chair at one of the custom wooden tables. After a damp cold gray day beside the flowing waters of Ireland, I drank the smooth texture of the country’s spirit and wrote notes about the enlightening quest. An hour later, I drove home listening to the mystical music of a land not so far away.

This month we visit a few forest homes. Each house reveals the personality of their resident magical creature:

“Come on in”

“Nothing to see here”

“No muss no fuss”

“A fixer-upper”

These elf and boggart homes are along the main trail in the Old Stone Fort State Park. The park is an ancient sacred ceremonial site between two rivers in Tennessee. It is not actually a fort, but a short rock wall covered in dirt, stretching for over a mile. The wall mound was started 2,000 years ago and was kept up for 500 years! Sure, 500 years isn’t long in elf years, but for us, that’s over 5 lifetimes.

On the shaded trail, you pass unique tree holes, a wrap around dirt mound with a hidden wall underneath, and three cascading waterfalls. As we leave the tour of homes right before sunset, the only sound is a light breeze rustling through the leaves. The last of the day’s light filters through to tell us it is time to leave. Darkness is coming—time for enchanted beings to roam the forest, undisturbed.

Nature’s camouflage

This little tree frog near a waterfall reminds me how creatures blend in with their forest, but are alert to everything around them. Keep your eyes open and no telling what you will see.

Debbie Emory

Making Magic Out of Everyday Moments