Over the weekend, we were in Martinsville, VA, a small town in which live my stepsons’ maternal grandparents. Kit and I were driving to have dinner with a friend in the next town when I passed a presence that shocked me.
It was one of the local Folk.
He (if you can assign gender at all) was in pain.
Martinsville was once a bustling factory town. Furniture, pharmaceuticals, construction. A hard-working town, hard-working people, mostly blue collar. But the current economy is just the latest in a number of blows to it. Jobs are all but gone. Young people have little to do but get high and have babies. Over the weekend, copper was stripped from the back of a local church, and bronze was stolen from local mausolea last week. If it weren’t for the nearby racetrack, the town would have been abandoned decades ago.
The people have lost hope, and it’s reflecting on the local Folk. Not all of them, mind you, but this one struck me hard.
He was near a local creek, making his way through a small copse. He felt dry. He felt older than his time, creaky, cracked old bones trying to hold together in desperation. The land around him was healthy – the healthiest it’s been in years. But the people are not.
The Folk don’t need us. They can survive, even thrive without us. But as Kit pointed out, people are still part of the web, and when there’s such a number who are simply hopeless, it will eventually reflect on the spirits nearest them. The people of Martinsville are in pain, and the town is dying, and now he is in pain.
For the first time I felt something for the Folk. My local Folk are usually merely annoyance to me. I built them a house and leave offerings in it to keep them out of my house and out of my hair. They’re tricksy, demanding, irritating. I acknowledge them because Danu is our shared Mother, and little else.
This time, I cried. I couldn’t help it. “They’re hurting, and they are my siblings!” I said to Kit. “What good is a healthy forest if the inhabitants are sick?”
A day later I can still “see” him, ragged and angled and parched. I can “see” others that I felt as well; young ones swinging from the grasses, established ones watching from bridge posts as we passed. They were curious about us, said as much in deep, resonant voices, much older-sounding than those I’m used to. It’s the first time I’ve tried to open myself to them, willingly listened to them, and all because of one hurting Folk.
Not sure what significance it will have in the long run. Not sure how to follow it. But it left a mark.