One of the pleasures I have had at Fair Oaks was sharing Midsummer’s Eve with Faye Miles, and reading excerpts of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream on the balcony after supper. I have mentioned before Faye’s biscuits, and how truly incredible they were, so I will not wax poetic about them again. Suffice it to say that Faye was a superb cook; not particularly fancy, but delicious beyond words!
The preparations for the evening were under way for several weeks as Faye prepared and sent out the scripts with role assignments for all those attending. Fair Oaks Midsummer’s EveSome of the guests were uncertain about doing a reading, but Faye cajoled and used her wiles to get all the parts parceled out, and practice was under way for the big night.
That first evening was such a lovely time. As we arrived, it was late afternoon, with a slight breeze wafting the scent of magnolias through the air. Even though it was July, the champion magnolia in front of the house still had blossoms hanging here and there and scented the air with that subtle perfume. The moss on the lane was swaying, and all expressed gratitude that the breeze would keep the skeeters at bay, at least for a while, and that the cooler evening would be a delight.
Fair Oaks was a different place then. Not better, nor worse, but different in that there were more shadows and hidden places, since the forest and undergrowth encroached on the house. It was perfect for a play about Puck and Thisbe and all the hidden fairy folk. From the corner of your eye, one could see movement that was not discernable any other way. As Faye would say with a twinkle in her eye, “magic is afoot”.
So the gathered group picked up dishes and pans and plates and ice and we all trekked up the stairs to the screen door and the balcony. Do you know Fair Oaks? Do you know the balcony, from where you can view the fields and the trees and animals and feel you are in the sky? Like the gondola of a hot air balloon. The front porch gives pause and a place to sit and contemplate the world, and the balcony offers similar, yet not quite the same. It is a refuge to me. A place for sweet naps and for being an unobserved observer. You feel one with the birds. It provides the ability to feel omniscient about Fair Oaks, seeing life from 20 feet up, like a child in a tree house. It is a special place. (Another time I will share about the temples I have discovered beneath many of the ancient Live Oaks. Deep within the shaded, hidden rooms, under the elegant limbs that gracefully arch down and enclose the trunks, where sunlight shines in slivers piercing the twilight, one can feel the mysteries of the natural world and discover the cosmos moving there.)
So we gathered on the balcony and shared a meal together; the murmur of voices, the gentle clink of china, the silver ring of laughter and the evening fell about us. We freshened our tea and the real drama began.
Faye made remarks about the play. About the history of Puck and the tradition of the little folk, the fairy folk in England, setting the stage for our production. Off we went! A trot turned into a gallop as the magic of the story took over and we became immersed in Puck’s world. Such fun! Such laughter! It was a jolly group and we had such camaraderie with our company! Such dear, dear friends. Hesitance was gone. Silliness and happiness were shared. What is the expression? A good time was had by all. Rick, Jim, Wendy, Gary, Sandy, Ken, Faye and some others were joined on an evening of magic by those mysterious, magical and powerful ties of friendship. How sweet to me, were I able to return to that night and sit below in the gloaming and listen to the company above. Hearing and savoring the conversation and laughter, the scent of good food and sharing the sense of joy that existed that evening.
So, like all things, the evening came to an end. That ending was accompanied by a lovely moon in the clear sky overhead, a huge opal among the glittering diamonds. And the friends all trekked back down the stairs bearing away the dinner things and wending their way home, followed above by the smiling moon.
The next year gave us a full moon, a midnight bon fire, and fairy rings, but that is a story for another time.
The sharing of Midsummer’s night rippled out into the world with members of that first night’s company, and Faye’s influence continues to reach far and have power still.