“Can I plu-u-u-u-l-e-e-e-e-ease go with you?” Maponos pled with Lugh, fidgeting so much it looked like he might jump out of his body. Bran sat beside him, wagging his long, black tail without ceasing.
“No Maponos. She doesn’t know about us, yet. It would be too strange.” Lugh didn’t mention that he could not bear the thought of spending time with Maria while Maponos and Bran were tagging along.
“You have to take me there. You have to promise to take me there.” Maponos let a twinge of desperation come to his voice.
Lugh knew that Maponos would find a way to follow him, anyway, if he didn’t agree. So he promised. “Look Maponos, I am just going to check things out. I will come back and take you. I promise. Next time, we’ll all go.”
It was very early and the sun had not risen. Sparkling dabs of yellow moonlight still danced around them.
“Oh, all right.” Maponos was disappointed. “But I am going to follow you down to the sea where you are meeting her. I want to see her. What does she look like?”
“Me too.” It was Eocho and Nematona, followed by Nantosuetta and Angus. And if you looked behind them you could see Ogme, BéChuille, Flidais and Fionn, who was still rubbing the sleep from his eyes.
“You are not coming with me!”
“Of course, we’re not, Lugh.” Fionn said, teasing, “We would not interrupt you with your girl.”
“She is not my girl! I just met her! “
“OK, OK! We’re not coming!” BéChuille shrugged. “We just wanted to see you go!” She elbowed Ogme who elbowed Eocho, who elbowed Fionn… and they all waved goodbye.
BéChuille sighed; she was so glad to see Lugh interested in a woman. She’d begun to worry about him, so lonely and deep in his thoughts. She’d been wishing for him to visit someplace new, make more friends and new discoveries that would lift his spirits.
Lugh set out the way he had been the day before, picking up speed and lifting up off the sand with each step. It was still dark as he gently skimmed the sand and lit upon the water. The pleasant wind blew the hair back from his face.
Oh, it felt good! He strode farther and farther out until he could reach the larger waves before they softened to meet the shore. He walked across the top of the break, feeling full and handsome and grand, letting the thoughts of Maria wash over his emotions and the clean air fill his chest.
Just as he was riding the high crest of an enormous wave, flying high in a halo of moonlight, he saw her coming down the path from the forest.
Maria put her hand to her eyes and looked up. Lugh quickly lowered himself down and rode the smaller waves to the shore. As he walked toward her, he fell thankfully into her blue eyes. She was so lovely. He just stood there before her, soaking wet, just taking in the sight and smell of her.
Maria could not quite move either. If she had seen him riding the waves, she was too distracted to notice. The rhythm of his breath captured hers and held her so gently she felt she’d been lifted by the wind. A long moment passed, with no sound other than the waves meeting the shore. At last she forced a few words through her lips, “We have to go now because… because, because…uh…well, it’s far to the city. So, uh, you should change into something dry and warm.”
She was still tongue-tied as she led him into the flat-roofed beach house. “You can borrow my brother’s clothes. Any way, well, uh. We need to leave; it’s a very long drive. Thank you for coming. How about a cup of coffee? I’ll get you some coffee. But, uh, let me show you to his room. It’s my brother’s room. His clothes are in, the room is, it’s, uh, right over there.” She led him into the room, closed the door and leaned on the doorframe to catch her breath. She felt as if ten thousand dragonflies had kissed her with their wings, tickled her legs and danced for joy through her hair.
Lugh fumbled about and found dry clothes in the dresser drawer. The cotton shirt and jeans felt rough against his skin but he put them on. Looking in the mirror, at first he was taken aback, thinking he saw another man. Then he realized the image was his reflection. His image in the mirror was nothing like his image in Brigit’s fiery crystal. It was nothing at all like the reflection in the clear streams and sheer rock walls of Tír na nÓg. Why? Was he a different man or had the world changed?
He looked around carefully. The room seemed distant and the objects in it cold and silent. There was nothing alive about it at all. He touched the dresser and the bed. They were quiet with an almost imperceptibly tiny vibration as if they had no life of their own. He felt the windowsill. It was made of wood and yet painted with something that subdued its life force. This place was nothing like the caverns and rocks of Tír na nÓg that vibrated visibly with life and color, nothing like the meadows of Ireland, nothing like he’d ever seen or known.
Maria knocked on the door.
“I’ve got our coffee, are you ready?”
The sound of her voice stirred him from his thoughts. “Oh. Oh, yes, I am.”
“C’mon, my car is out back.”
They settled in the old VW and started on their way, rumbling through the forest, spouting brownish fog behind them.
Lugh looked out the window at the trees whizzing by and wondered what the animals thought of this noisy, clumsy human technology. He put his hand on the ledge of the door and was surprised when the window opened, blowing air hard onto his face. He pushed the button again, closing the window. He was not used to traveling through space like this. It created the illusion of time passing that made the ride seem rough and very long.
Maria was eager to learn more about this man. “Tell me about yourself, Lugh. I notice your accent. You must be from Ireland…?”
Ireland. She knew about it! His mind whirled because he longed to explain everything to her all at once. But he swallowed his desire and said, “Yes, Ireland is beautiful. I grew up there.” She seemed interested, so he continued slowly. “I came here to learn more about—your world, how you live and to see how I can—help bring about some sort of…”
“Yes. Some way to…” It was hopeless to try and find the words to explain that he’d come to bring magic to their world.
Maria’s words stumbled over his, “Yes, me too. I am looking for something, though I am not quite sure what it is, yet. It’s just a feeling.”
Lugh was silent so she continued, “I feel so different sometimes. I mean, I have friends I’ve met, but they’re far away. Sometimes I feel lonely even with people all around. Did you ever feel that way?” Lugh barely nodded, he was grateful just to be breathing.
Maria kept on chattering brightly, “I came here to my brother’s place on the beach to… well, to think. I’m researching to write a book. But since I’ve been here, I don’t work much. I have a little job in the city. Mostly I daydream.”
“Well, that’s hard to say. There’s no one here to tell me how to think or how to live or what to believe. It’s a different world here in the forest by yourself. Even with no one around, I don’t feel lonely. You know what I mean?”
“Yes, I do.”
“People can be so…. I don’t know, how to describe it, so disconnected. They talk a lot but sometimes I’m not sure if they’re really saying anything. Nature isn’t that way. I think animals know a great deal more than people. Don’t you? I think they communicate on another level.”
Lugh saw a brightness shining from her, a peaceful illumination that filled the space between them. He took her hand in his. The violet morning light flooded through the car windshield.
“Lugh, you must have seen so much in Ireland. Are the people there different? I’ve heard so many things about them. Are they more in touch with Nature?”
“I—I don’t know, well maybe some are….” He lost focus on the conversation. He longed to hold her and brush her hair with his hands. He felt so comfortable with her as if they were laying in a meadow on a warm day, just staring up at the sky. “Tell me more about your dreams.”
“Well, sometimes I look in a stream and watch the sunlight play on the water. Then I squint and the sunlight turns to rays of light like stars, shining everywhere. Sometimes I even feel I am the stream itself. Did you ever do that? Do you ever wonder if other people see these things or if they feel the same way too?”
“Yes. I’ve seen that.”
“Then you know what I mean.” Maria’s eyes were sparkling. “People forget the beauty of Nature, I think. I study archeology, ecology and religion in Grad school. I am trying to find out why civilizations survive or crumble and what we can do to help our civilization survive in harmony with Nature. I know that I will find the answers some day.”
Lugh was curious. “What have you learned this far?
“It’s confusing! Some say our civilization is crumbling is because we’ve torn down too many trees. Some say its because our governments are greedy or that some people are too greedy. Some say that others believe in the wrong God or that they are wrong for believing what they do. Some say it’s because Mother Earth is angry or there’s too much pollution. Or it’s an ancient prophecy that the world will end. Or it’s a new evolution because of evolving DNA. I don’t know what I believe anymore. Maybe everything isn’t going wrong. Maybe it’s going all right and its just people who are confused. Maybe I should have an opinion, but I don’t. It’s too complex!”
“Sounds like a pretty good opinion to me!”
Lugh remembered what he heard The Daghda say about the humans that evening so long ago. Humans don’t believe in magic. They thought their lives ended after a few short years. Perhaps that was why their civilizations crumbled.
Then he realized that Maria too, was mortal. He blurted out unexpectedly, “How old are you?”
“I am 24.” She smiled. “How about you?”
“I am—I am—uh, I am 24.” He looked away from her and caught his breath. By their calendar he must be 4800 years old! Yet he looked the same age as she did. Suddenly, was gripped by thoughts of her growing older. It made him want her all the more, as if he could never drink enough in time to satisfy his thirst. They were here, now, she was beautiful and he was with her.
There was a long silence as they drove, Lugh lost in his thoughts and overwhelming desire. The sky turned grey and it began to rain. Lugh smiled because he remembered playing in the rain as a child, and how they used to appear and disappear to the rhythm of the drops that fell.
Almost without thinking he blurted out, “Maria, do you believe in magic?”
She laughed. “Sure, in a way. I guess I do, the idea of it, anyway. I’ve never seen it so I don’t know. I’ve heard in Ireland they have faeries and elves. Why? Are you Elven?”
His eyes grew wide and he shot a glance at her. “I—I was just curious.” They laughed together.
As they neared the city, Lugh could see the high-rise buildings. They were much larger than the trees in the forest and looked cold and grey, just as in his dream. “What are they?”
“Office buildings, apartments.”
They looked like cages to him, cold and hard. He could not understand why so many humans would stay so close together in such ugly buildings. The buildings seemed even colder than the items he’d found in the room at the beach house.
Maria parked the car not too far from the Willamette River. “We’re here early, I’ve time to walk awhile.” They got out and walked along the riverbank.
“Can you tell me more about your ideas?” Lugh asked.
“Well, for one thing, I have learned that many of the civilizations before us used up natural resources and then disappeared.”
“Which natural resources?”
“We contaminate our water, that’s the most important. Also, we fell too many trees without growing enough to replace them fast enough. The Earth can replenish. That’s true, but something still doesn’t seem right. Maybe it’s just the idea of living in harmony with Nature that’s missing. It just doesn’t make any sense to me to live without giving back to Nature.”
The river was large and the water was brown. Lugh imagined the fish, if there were any fish, couldn’t even see where they were going. He could feel the trees and the grass, though they were surviving, were enjoying a very tenuous hold on life—as if they were living for the moment and anxious whether the future would ever come.
The birds had secured themselves against the rain but a few seemed to realize it was over for the day and fluttered to the trashcan. Lugh tried to listen carefully since sometimes he could understand the bird’s messages in their songs. They did not sing. Instead he felt their frustration. One began to peck on the other, demanding more room at the trashcan.
Lugh felt overwhelmed by these perceptions. He sat discontentedly on the park bench. People strode by hurriedly under a cloudy sky, with umbrellas under their arms and distracted looks on their faces. They did not smile. Lugh tried smiling at a passerby and thought for a moment she would smile back. But then she looked right through him as though he was not there at all.
Maria noticed his uneasiness. “I am sorry. I hope what I said wasn’t discouraging.”
Lugh’s eyes grew sharp and angry. “Who is harming your—the Earth—in this way? Making everything so—cold? Where do we find them?” As his eyes met hers, they softened again. “You know it isn’t right!”
“I know,” she said quietly, “but there is no enemy other than ourselves, I guess. It is just people. People that look like you and me. They are doing these things because they think the survival of themselves and their families depends on it.”
“They must be idiots,” Lugh shook his head in disgust.
Maria sighed and took his hand. “You said you wanted to help me. Maybe things are not as simple as they appear on the surface. Maybe we can figure it out together.”
“I have come here to understand and help the—uh, human kind—to, to find out what the trouble is, find the cause of it and to solve it for once and all. There must be a person—or monstrous thing—that is the cause.”
“Perhaps you are right, but I don’t think so.”
“Perhaps I am right and I know so. What is it I have to do?”
“I don’t know…. Well, you’d have to talk to them. I guess then you could see for yourself who—or what—is preventing them—but Lugh, I really don’t think…”
“That is exactly, exactly what I am going to do.”