We asked a few of our favorite authors to tell us about the most enchanted places they’ve ever been. This is what they came up with …
When you go to the fairy glen on the Isle of Skye, you must have a tour guide who is such a good storyteller you don’t care how much he’s made up on the spot. The sun was shining when we arrived, the blue sky and the knobby hill known as the “fairy castle” reflected in a lochan, a tiny lake, wreathed in that morning’s snow. We tumbled out of the van and followed Danny uphill and down again, where we came upon a spiral, maybe twenty feet across, laid out in smooth gray stones. “Don’t walk across that circle,” he cautioned, “and if you walk it all the way to the center I can’t promise you’ll come out again.” A young Thai couple tried it anyway, and although they were lovely people I was disappointed when they didn’t vanish before our eyes.
I clambered, ecstatic, to the top of the fairy castle to look out over the snowy hills and the tiny lake below. Danny nestled himself in a grassy hollow ten or so paces away, pulled his deerstalker down over his eyes, and lit another cigarette. I sat down beside him and he pointed out the entrance to a small cave midway up the next hill over. He said people used to leave offerings to the fairies in the tree just outside the cave—or maybe they left wishes scrawled on little scrolls of paper and fastened to the branches with string, I’m making one up but I can’t remember which—and that after everyone left the little people would come out of the cave and decide which wishes to grant. Remnants of red and silver ribbons glinted among the branches.
Somebody took my picture as it began to snow again: I am standing at the edge, my back to the camera, looking out over the glen as if I’m posing for the Fool card in a Highland-tourist-themed tarot deck. A cynic might say the magic here practically comes out of a can, packaged for visitors so people like Danny can make a living, but I say there’s real magic going on underneath. Now and again I wander back to that snowy glen, untying the little bits of paper to read the secrets of people I’ll never know, and I try to decide which wishes I ought to grant. Someday someone else I’ll never meet will read the story I haven’t yet written to a son or daughter before tucking them in for the night, and if that’s not magic I don’t know what is.