Camille was sooo excited! She was going to fly on an airplane!
“We’re flying! We’re flying! Up, up and away!” Camille excitedly called to Katelynne. She had never been on a plane before and found the whole adventure highly exhilarating. Not to mention the destination they were going to; the Patulous House.
She dragged her suitcase down the ramp and waited behind Katelynne to board the plane. She took a big breath, a big step and set foot on the plane. She looked to her left and got a quick peek at the cockpit. Her mouth dropped open to see all the numbers and buttons and dials. ‘Wow!’ she breathed. She was about to say something to Katelynne when a flight attendant herded the dolls into the front seat.
“We get to sit in the front row!!” she cried in high excitement. This was like being on a roller coaster! She sat in a window seat next to Katelynne. A guy with a very thick mustache was sitting in front of her. The flight attendant started giving instructions and demonstrating what to do in an emergency. She paid rapt attention and was surprised to see nobody else was even watching. What if the plane crashed??
Then the plane started to move! She gasped and gripped the armrests as if she were going to die. Katelynne grinned at Camille, “It’s okay, Sweetie. We’re just backing out. We probably won’t take off for another few minutes.”
Camille relaxed her grip but didn’t let go of the arm rests. We’re so high up and we haven’t even left the ground yet! she thought. It was hard to imagine any possibility of going higher.
The plane made a big turn, and a great noise of engine and wind but no motion occurred.
Camille gripped her armrests again, “Is it broken?”
“Nope, I think they’re just testing,” said the man with the mustache, “We’ll be in the air very soon now.”
And just as he said that, the plane started to inch so slowly across the concrete. Very quickly it got faster and faster! Faster even than a roller coaster and suddenly with a whoosh that was more of a feeling than a sound, they were up in the air!
“WHOA!!” Camille cried. They were rising so fast.
“Quick! Find our house!” Katelynne cried.
Camille pressed her nose to the glass, “Is it that one??”
“No, that one’s next to a pool.”
The dolls searched and searched but never found their house. They were traveling across the land so swiftly and getting higher and higher at the same time. Soon it was impossible to see any houses because –
“Look! We’re riding on top of the clouds!”
“We’re on the other side of the clouds!” Katelynne said breathlessly, “When we’re on earth, we always see the under-side of them, but now we get to see the over-side of them!”
“Woow!” Camille cried. She could not believe what she was seeing!
Every time Camille looked out the window the clouds seemed to have changed. It felt as if God was putting on a show just for her! She had never seen clouds so beautiful in her life. There were so many and they were so different. There were huge thick clouds like giant dollops of whip cream, and small puffy ones. And all different colors too. Some were gray, some were white, some looked like you could jump on them and bounce, others were so beautiful it looked like angels had soared through them and sculpted them with their wings.
Even the mustache man was surprised, “I fly on a plane almost every week for my job and I’ve NEVER seen clouds like these before!”
Camille gasped. She had been so wrapped up in the clouds she’d forgotten there were others on the plane too. She looked at him, “You mean it’s not like this always?”
“No! No, this is very unusual indeed!”
Camille sat back in her seat with her nose still pressed against the window, suddenly feeling very special that she would get to see such a thing that may have never been seen before or since.
A couple times they would get into some thick gray clouds. The plan flew so close to them she couldn’t see their shape and it would be like flying through gray fog. They had been flying through a fog just like this when Camille noticed the mustache man again. He had taken out a little bottle that looked like nail polish, but instead of painting his fingernails, he started painting his mustache!
“What are you doing?” Camille was brave enough to ask him, since he didn’t seem to mind talking to her.
“I am painting my mustache with lavender because I like the smell.”
And indeed, the smell of lavender permeated the entire first half of the plane.
Camille’s eyes got big, “Do I smell?”
He laughed, “Oh, no! This is just what I do.”
So odd, she thought. Then she suddenly realized she had taken her eyes off the clouds for quite a while. She whipped her head back to the window and was stunned at what she saw. The floor was white. The plane was gliding on these bumpy yet flat-ish clouds that were gleaming because the sun was shining on them so brightly. In the distance were three sailing ships made of clouds.
Camille instantly started singing, “I saw three ships come sailing in on Christmas Day, on Christmas Day.”
Katelynne and the mustache man had their mouths open at the great clouds ships.
The ships sailed by and the plane started to dip down. Camille watched the earth get closer, all the tiny buildings creeping up on them as they got lower and lower.
“Look! I think that’s the bridge we drive through to get home! And do you see where it stops?
“That’s the tunnel! Where the trucks get stuck sometimes!”
“Wow! And we’re seeing it from the sky!”
“Oh look! Camille look! Do you see those trees? That’s the botanical gardens and First Landing! We’re going to hike there this week!”
“Oh boy!” Camille cried.
Suddenly, VROOMB! They landed with a jolt. Camille had been so excited watching everything she’d forgotten her fear and had also forgotten to hold on. She gasped with an “Oof!”
“We’re here!” Katelynne cried.
Camille’s eyes got big again, “We’re here? I feel like we just landed on the moon! First man’s landing -”
“No, first doll’s landing from air-o-space! Hee!”
Camille practically fluttered with excitement that was also almost tinged with fear again. That strange excitement-fear she got when she knew she’d see someone and go somewhere she loved whom she’d long to see for a while. Her heart pounded as Heather the human picked her up and stuffed her into the doll bag. She knew she wouldn’t see anything more until she’d arrived in the patulous house, but she didn’t think she could take any more beforehand excitement anyway.
She and Katelynne had gotten to ride in the carry-on doll bag and see everything from the airplane, but they were not the only dolls coming to visit on this trip. Felicity and Nan and Miranda and Lanie had all come too!
The dolls knew when they got inside the patch house. They threw the suitcase open even before Heather had had time to take it upstairs.
“Oh! Pretty welcome flowers!” Nan said, “Just like home!”
“That’s cause it is home silly!” Felicity said, “We’re just outside Williamsburg!”
Nan and Camille giggled as they put flowers in Miranda and Katelynne’s hair.
But Felicity had wasted no time at all with flowers and silly shenanigans. As soon as the suitcase opened, she went straight to the kitchen.
“Come along, ladies! We must get ready for the pumpkin party!”
“The Pumpkin Party!!” Nan and Camille cried together.
All the bakers got their aprons on and awaited instructions from Felicity.
“I’ve got all the ingredients in and now I”m ready for the fun part!” Felicity looked at Nan and Camille with a twinkle in her eye, “Are you ready to get messy?”
“YES!” they both cried.
“Well then, you’re going to rip up pieces of croissant and mush them in the pumpkin paste so they get good and soaked.”
The girls were handed large loaves of buttery croissant bread and they began ripping them up and throwing them in the bowl.
“I feel like I’m feeding the birds!” Camille said.
“‘Feed the birds, tuppence a bag…'” Felicity sang as she got the pan out to cook the mixture in.
Camille threw the last piece of bread into the bowl. All of it was dry, resting on top. The little dolls grinned at each other.
“Ready, set, Go!” and they both dove into the bowl all the way passed their elbows, mixing the bread and getting it good and wet.
“I’m taking a pumpkin bread bath!” Nan squealed.
“Yes! And you know what the best part is?” Camille grinned even wider, “We won’t have to towel off, we’ll get to lick off! We get to lick our fingers and all the way up our arms!”
“All right, girls,” Felicity stepped in again, “Lick yourselves clean, and then Camille will go hiking with Katelynne while this bakes. Tit, tat, scrat!”
“Where are you going hiking, Camille?”
“First Man’s Landing!”
Felicity walked over toward Camille, “First what??”
“First Man’s Landing! I bet Katelynne and I are going to the moon! Just like Luciana Vega!”
“That’s not what Katelynne told me. She said you two were just going on a normal hike. No magic, no Tardises and probably no fairies.”
“Oh,” Camille replied. She wasn’t really disappointed, she loved going anywhere with Katelynne. She pranced off to go find her.
“Katelynne! Aren’t we going to First Man’s Landing today?”
Katelynne was almost done packing her bag, “No man! It’s just First Landing. First Landing state park! Are you ready?”
Off they went and when they arrived at the forest, they went straight to the Bald Cypress trail.
“Look,” Katelynne held Camille back, “Just look at this place. This place hasn’t changed since the 17th century when it was first discovered.”
“But I thought forests change all the time! Just look at the fairy forest!”
“Yes! We’re both right! It’s called a paradox. Lindsey would love it! haha,” Katelynne grinned.
“These are cypress trees,” Katelynne continued, “They live in water.”
“Do you think it’s deep? Could we swim in it?”
“Usually this water is about 1-3 feet deep. I’d say it’s pretty low right now. Do you see the dark line around the trees where it used to be deeper? In the summer, that ring turns yellow with all the pollen.”
“Look at those weird stump sticks that poke out of the water. Are those trees that got struck by lightening?”
“No,” Katelynne answered, “They’re called cypress knees. No one’s really sure what they do exactly but they are part of these living trees. They might help to support the base of the tree. See how wide the trees are so they don’t fall over in the muck bottom? And trees don’t have gills, they have to breathe, so perhaps these knees help them do that.”
Camille giggled to herself, picturing trees with gills that swam in the ocean like the fish, “I don’t think I’d want to swim in this kind of water. It’s so brown and yucky.”
Katelynne laughed, “Actually, it’s some of the most clean fresh water around here. Colonial people would drink it. It’s brown because the leaves in the water leak a natural acid called tannin. Because of this acidity there’s less bacteria and microscopic life.”
“So this water is like…tea? Tea leaves turning the water brown?” Camille asked.
“Yes! Exactly like that! Though someday, maybe thousands of years from now, this water will be gone.”
“Yes, I told you how the bases of the trees are so wide because the swamp floor changes all the time. Leaves and sticks and other things fall into the water and sink and disintegrate and build up the swamp floor. It’s called peat. The peat will keep thickening and kind of soaking up the water until there is no more water left. So the forest changes even though it looks like it stays the same. It just takes a very long time.”
“How do you know all this?” Camille asked.
“Lanie and I did a research project on this forest. And I knew you’d enjoy it, so I thought I’d take you along and show you for real! Live and in person!”
“And together!” Camille skipped along side Katelynne.
“Camille, look up.”
Camille gazed at the tall trees. There was something totally foreign about them. Something she never saw back home in the Midwest. She always had to use a lot of imagination power at home when she pretended she was in a jungle, but here she barely had to pretend at all. She gasped out the reason to Katelynne, “All that moss!”
“It’s really neat, isn’t it! It’s really rare if you find it in Virginia. This very state park is the northernmost place you will ever find it.”
“Wow! That is so cool!” Camille gazed up at all the moss hanging down like cobwebs strangling the trees. Wait. Strangling? Uff, and there was another word, another nasty word Keisha had used the Camille remembered; leeching.
“Wait, is this moss leeching the life out of the trees and strangling them? Is this stuff bad?”
Katelynne picked some up that had fallen on the ground, “No. This is Spanish moss. It’s not a parasite like mistletoe is.
This stuff just needs warm air and moisture to survive. And that’s it!”
Camille felt so much better. She petted the moss, “Could we take some home?”
“No, just look and touch here. Felicity has some though. Colonists used it to stuff furniture and Indians used it for baby diapers!”
“You mean if I ripped up Felicity’s bed I’d find this stuff? She sleeps on this?”
“Yep! You know what else is really special about this place?” Katelynne started walking again.
“You can see a whole bunch of different varieties of trees depending on how high we are. See up there, on top of that dune are pine and oak and hickory trees. But if we go down, we find small shrubs and bald cypress trees. And we barely even have to walk a few feet!
And now – ” Katelynne paused and turned to look at Camille, “Now we’re in a swale.”
“A swale? I thought this was a swamp!”
“A swale is a depression in a dune, like the valley of the dune that’s soaked up so much moisture its kind of become a swamp!”
“A swampy swale! haha!”
“The sand in some of the dunes we’re walking on are 100 feet deep!”
Camille hiked along side Katelynne with her head up in the air. She loved the breathtaking beauty of the cypress trees.
She loved the little tiny needle-like leaves that Katelynne said fell to the ground in the autumn.
“Do they change color?”
“No, but on some special days, the water kind of turns a rainbow color because of all the leaves that have fallen in it.”
Camille wished she had more than two eyes to see everything. She loved how different the ground was compared to home. Her boots landed softly on the sand and long pine needles. She loved looking ahead at what was going to come next on the trail, what new varieties of trees they might see.
But most of all, she loved looking up. The trees were so amazingly tall! Every time she looked up she wondered if the trees hadn’t grown just a little bit taller than even a few minutes ago.
“I can’t believe how tall these trees are!” she commented for the fourth time to Katelynne.
“Yep! Tapered, tall, and tight together!”
“They’re all friends!”
“Friends!” Katelynne gasped, staring at something straight ahead, “Look, Camille! This tree is a special, special tree! It’s more than just friends to other trees, it’s friends to animals too. Look how it opened itself up!”
“Oooh wow! It made itself a house!”
Camille’s eyes got huge and she let out a big gasp, “Katelynne!! Do you think this is a fairy house?”
Katelynne took a good look at it.
“No, this is not a fairy wood. And look! Can you see the tracks right here? Those are raccoon tracks. A raccoon spent the night here!”
“Wow!” Camille found that just as fascinating as a fairy house anyway.
“I think it’s just amazing that this tree has such a big hole in its heartwood and yet it’s still alive!”
“Are you sure this isn’t a magic tree? A patulous tree? Like our patulous house?”
Katelynne grinned, “Did you ever actually look that word up? Or did you just listen to Keisha’s definition of it? This is definitely a patulous tree. The word patulous is normally associated with trees. Trees with wide, expanded, spreading branches. And Keisha’s such a nemophilist, she chose that word for our house! But it fits perfectly anyway, because in a small way, that house is part of the fairy forest.”
“A nemophilist? What is that?”
“It’s all of us. All of us fairy forest friends. It is ‘one who is fond of the forest, a haunter of the woods…It means someone with a love or fondness for forests, woods, or woodland scenery, or someone how often visits them. Keisha said the word derives from the Greek, ‘nemos’ meaning grove, and ‘philos’ affection.”
“Wow! We’re all nemophilists! I wish Keisha were here!”
Katelynne gasped again and pointed at something ahead, “Ooh my goodness! I wish everyone were here! Camille, we just have to come back here with everyone! LOOK AT THIS TREE!”
It was the most unique tree they had ever seen in their lives.
“But it just looks like a very long log that’s fallen down the side of a dune.”
“Yes! But look!” Katelynne led Camille up the side of the log, “The log doesn’t just stop at the top of the dune, it keeps going up!!”
Camille finally saw it, “It’s a real tree!!”
“Yes!! And do you know what kind of tree this is??”
“It’s a sweet gum tree! Spiney marbles!!
Camille burst out laughing, “Spiney marbles! We haven’t seen those little creatures in forever!”
“Yes, it’s still summer here, so they haven’t fallen quite yet. But come on! This is a double decker slip and slide tree! Shall we try the top first?”
The dolls scrambled up to the top of the tree as high as they could go and slid down the bark.
It was quite a rough ride, but they had loads of fun.
Towards the bottom, they got stuck in the holes!
“Let’s slide on the inside now!” They raced up to the top again, found a little hole to sneak into and slid down the tunnel inside of the heartwood.
It was much smoother, faster, and far more fun!
They shot out so fast, they flew off the bottom and landed in a pile of leaves.
“That was the BEST!” Camille cried.
They walked on and found yet another unique sweet gum tree.
“Look at this one! This one’s fallen over too, and it started growing roots where the branches would be! I didn’t even know trees could do that!”
“Broots!’ Camille laughed, “The tree grew broots! Branches that go into the ground! And this is a sweet gum tree too!”
“Whoo!” Katelynne huffed and plopped herself down on a log, “All that slipping and sliding and climbing left me pooped and I’m not even sure if we’re halfway there yet!”
Camille straddled the log next to her.
“Hey, look at these holes! Do you think a woodpecker did this?”
“Could be. You’re looking at a feast for a whole host of bugs. Buffet and shelter at the same time. Millipedes eat the decaying plant material that might be left in the log. Centipedes wait for other poor little bugs looking for food and shelter and eat them, robber flies eat other insects too and lay their eggs on rotting logs. Lizards actually do that too.”
“Oh my! This is a feast, a house, a hunting ground and a nest all in one! We better not sit for too long or they might think we’re for eating too!”
“Hee! Look! I found something for eating! Mushrooms!”
“Mushrooms – the recyclers of the forest, or one of them, anyway. Did you know that in just one year, more than two tons of plant and animal debris fall on just one acre of forest?”
“A whole ton?”
“Yes! Which means in three years there would be six tons! And it’s all constantly decaying. It’s called decomposition. Mushrooms, fungi, bacteria and other insects all help turn all this into dirt.”
“Decomposition from dust to dust.”
Katelynne gave Camille a sly smile, “What do you think Mozart, Beethoven and Bach are doing in their graves?”
“Yes! They’re decomposing!”
“Oh gosh, Katelynne!” Camille giggled, “I think we better start moving before you come up with anymore!”
The dolls traveled higher in elevation and Camille noticed there were many more oak and loblolly pines now. The cypress trees had all but disappeared.
She loved the different colors each tree contributed to the mosaic of leaves against the sky, along with the swirling snaking branches.
“Oh no, look at this magnificent tree that is dead.”
“It’s a loblolly pine that got attacked by beetles. Look, you can see the tiny holes in the bark. They can kill a pine tree in a matter of days. Thousands of these beetles bore holes through the bark to lay eggs. When the eggs hatch, the larva chews tunnels that cause serious damage to the tree. It cuts off the flow of nutrients from the roots to the leaves.”
“So the tree starves,” Camille said sadly.
They walked along not saying anything as they neared the end of the trial.
“Camille! I just noticed one plant I know you’ll love! Look!
That’s a resurrection fern!”
“A resurrection fern!”
“Yes! When it is dry the leaves shrivel up and brown. The fern looks like it’s dead, but then when the rains come again, it bursts into life and turns green again!”
“I do love it!”
They started walking down again. Down the sloping sand dunes and into the cypress forest again. Camille had been humming when Katelynne pulled her off the trail to sit at a little lookout.
The view of the cypress forest was beautiful.
“Camille! Just listen to the forest for a little while. Be very still.”
Camille sat like a statue and listened.
She could hear the air and a little bit of a breeze rustling through the trees. A chirp of some bird. She thought she caught a shout from another hiker far away, but for the most part, the wood was very quiet.
Katelynne turned to her, “Now, be even more still. Close your eyes this time, and listen to the forest. See what you can hear.”
Camille closed her eyes and listened. Again, the air around her was the loudest thing. It was the presence of being outside. The air felt vast and open. She heard a plop in the water and wondered if it was a frog or a turtle.
Then she suddenly heard another sound. A crunchy rolling sound. She badly wanted to open her eyes.
“Yoohoo girls!” a very familiar, very loved voice called.
Katelynne and Camille opened their eyes and looked right at each other with the biggest of smiles.
“She’s HERE! It’s Grandma!!!”
“The best ending to a most magnificent hike!”
Behind the Scenes
What Camille witnessed on the airplane is actually my very first experience on an airplane. My Aunt Deni flew me out to visit when I was 10 years old. I was beyond excited to go on an airplane! And I have never seen clouds as glorious and wonderful as I saw in that experience since. (and yes, I really did sit in the front row next to another boy who was flying alone, across from a man with a perfumed mustache!
This was one of the most fun hikes I’ve ever gotten to go on! Last year in September my Aunt Deni, Katelynne, Camille, myself, and my Grandma went on this hike!! Aunt Deni pushed her in the wheelchair! She made it more than half way but had to stop and turn around when the trail got too steep and too narrow for the wheelchair. I was sort of wishing I could push her just to see how hard it was but I am NOT an expert wheelchair pusher like Deni is so I decided it would probably be safer for Grandma if I didn’t! And perhaps that was wise: Deni pushed my Grandma over boardwalks, steps, dirt trails, sandy trails, rough and root-y trails, up the sand dunes, down the sand dunes, under the cypress moss, and the loblolly pines! Whew! What a workout!
I finished the trail by myself and met them at the end, where the cypress lookout is. I thought the lookout was so beautiful I badly wanted my grandma to see it but the wheel chair wouldn’t fit. Since it wasn’t a long walk, I took my grandma under my arm and we both hiked to the lookout. What a neat view!
So glad my grandma could see! And so glad to be together! We would stop at every number marker and I’d read the interesting nature trivia from the booklet we got at the visitor center. I included almost all of that information in this blog.
This little story is in honor of my Grandma and her love of the tall tall trees! A 93 year old hiker and still going strong! Hee!