The Diary of Miss Aidyn Hall, author
Sometimes a writer can find her best material in her own backyard.
Well, maybe not if she has a particularly boring backyard. But with a backyard like mine, with its mile-high cherry tree (an excellent spring and summer hotel for squirrels), its miniature forest, its row of bright orange tiger lilies (planted by the people who used to live here), and its bright green garden pond (abandoned by the people who used to live here), there really is no end to the number of great things to write about.
But for the next few days, I will be writing about something I didn’t know was in my backyard until just this morning. Since I’ve lived here for just a little over a year, you’re probably wondering what exactly could have slipped past my radar for so long. Well, this morning after breakfast, I decided to take a nice walk through the mini forest. It really is a mini forest, with all the trimmings of a real forest compressed into a small and convenient package. The red cedars and spruces and oaks are small (for a tree) but many. They form winding pathways, lush green groves, and bright, pretty clearings just like in the real forests. There are even small lakes and streams, formed by the medium-frequent rainfall. It’s the perfect place to walk, the perfect place to relax, and the perfect place to get some good material.
I went out there with my notepad and wandered around in the way I always do, looking for things to jot down. I jotted down everything I could think of, and I jotted down things I’d already jotted down on previous walks—the deep Christmas green of the spruces, the way the sunlight shines through the trees, and the exact sound of the rushing stream (“kssshksshksshksssh”). But when I passed by something I was sure I’d never jotted down before, I knew that I had to get a closer look.
There was a cluster of wild magnolias, all in bloom for the beginning of summer. Their silvery-green leaves and starry white flowers stuck out at me among the usually quite somber greens of the other trees. They were arranged in the formation of an arch, and looked almost as if they formed some sort of doorway. Below the arch, brush plants and vine clusters and small shrubs grew in a haphazard mess, as if to block off the doorway the magnolia trees formed.
This I had to write down! Already, I was seeing everything that this archway could be: it could be a doorway to another world, like Oz or Fairyland or something along those lines. It could be a quick-transport portal to another part of our world—step through the arch and you’ll find yourself in
or China or Japan Africa, or
perhaps even another time period. Behind it was an old house, and there lived
an eccentric woman who held on to a dark secret. It was blocked off
because—well, I didn’t really get a chance to think over why it was blocked
off. But I wanted an even closer look. There could have been something
extremely useful to me beyond that archway, and I wanted to see for myself.
I wandered through the scratchy brush plants as well as I could. They struck my ankles and left tiny scratches and cuts, but I didn’t let that stop me. I picked the vines apart and threw them aside. Something tugged on my left pants leg. I assumed it was another brush plant and I reached down to brush it out of the way. That’s when I discovered the stone.
It was a small, round stone, the color of a jade. It was stuck inside my sandal and resting against my ankle. I picked it up, held it in the palm of my hand, and just looked at it, taking in every detail that I could write down: the stone was a perfectly circular shape, not a sphere but a disk, like a CD. It was a jade green color that matched the red cedars scattered around the forest. Certain lights turned it the color of the silvery-green magnolia leaves…
I turned it over in my hand. On the back was some sort of carving, which appeared to be done with a needle. It looked like this:
It might have been found by some little kid who had decided to scribble on it. But I am not the type to stick to “might haves” without any further investigation. After lunch, I’ll go back to that magnolia archway to see if I can find anything else of note.
The magnolia archway was unblocked, just like that. The brush and vines had been cleared aside and I could go beyond the archway. I held on to the stone tightly and took one step, then two, three…the magnolias formed a neat pathway, and as I kept walking I had a strong feeling that I was going somewhere really far away, which was really silly—it was only a few steps into the woods, after all.
On my tenth step, I ran into a massive spiderweb, complete with a massive brown spider—a daddy longlegs, from the looks of it. The web was stretched between two branches from two different magnolia trees, and I couldn’t go any further without demolishing it. It was such a big, well built web, and the daddy longlegs was such a pretty, almost regal looking spider. I didn’t want to demolish it.
But I would really like to see where that path leads. I need to figure out an alternate route.
I’m at the magnolia archway and I took my diary with me this time. I feel as if this could lead to something big, and I want all the documentation I can get. The archway is still unblocked (did I expect it to be blocked off again? I’m not sure). I’m going in. I’m going to count my steps. I should hit the spiderweb after ten.
Hello, Mr. Daddy Longlegs. You go about your business, sir. I promise I will not disrupt your afternoon routine. There’s some thick shrubbery surrounding the path. I could go around the web by stepping through that, but it’s going to cut up my legs pretty badly. Is that a trumpet I hear up ahead? Are there any native birds that sound like trumpets? Man, this brush is thick. And ow, I think I just cut my foot on a thorn! I must’ve stepped on one of those thorny vines. It doesn’t hurt much, just about as bad as getting a shot from the doctor.
I can’t see the path anymore. How could I have lost my way so easily? I’ve explored in places much bigger, darker, deeper, and harder to navigate than this, and I’ve never lost my way! There are a ton of spiders out here, and I’ve been running into webs to and fro. Some are brown spiders, some are black spiders, some green, some white, and I think I saw a yellow one. The detours around webs must have turned me around. But still, how could I have strayed this far from the path?
That trumpet sound is still going on. I am going to stop writing for now and start trying to find my way back.
I jotted everything down in my notepad as soon as I was able to make my way out. It took a while, and I nearly destroyed the webs of several poor spiders in the process, but here I am. I’m staying home for the rest of the day.
That trumpet sound played until I made it back to the daddy longlegs’ giant web. It was a continuous, staccato “HONK! HONK! HONK!” and I wonder what kind of bird would make a cry like that—a forest-dwelling goose, perhaps? It sounded a lot more like an instrument than an animal.
The stone was in my jeans pocket the whole time I was out there, and right now it’s resting in my left fist. I’ll keep it on my bedside table tonight, and I’ll keep it with me when I go out for tomorrow’s investigation.