Walking up the garden path, before having reached the front door, he is already asking his Mama if he can have another look. And so they ask Granny if they can please see it again.
Without intruding I watch them looking, the mingling of fascination, care for the delicate untouchable bones, and something else, which I sense in tiny ways that I cannot exactly explain - the push and pull of death within the nervous system, the small uneasy thrill of facing something in nature which causes an instinctive recoil within.
My daughters were also there and after this four year old and his two year old brother had looked their fill, I asked my girls if they wanted to see. My eldest was enthralled by the aesthetic of the finely positioned bones, but my youngest wouldn't look at all, she knows dead creatures, even flies, make her feel funny inside.
Reflecting on all this later I wonder at the differing ways in which children respond to encounters with nature's creatures and processes that give them goosebumps, how differently their nerves are strung. I also come to question the ways in which the disassociation which causes some children to remove wings from living insects or squash frogs might creep in. It seems to me, instinctively, that the opportunity for experiences such as these two little boys had - in which respect for the unsettling in nature is nurtured and held in emotional security thereby offering permission for the long probing looking of curiosity- are invaluable to the healthy integration of fascination, emotional thrill seeking, repulsion, respect and empathy in our bodily responses to such encounters.
Halloween is a time which gives itself to this kind of experience. It is when the eery of otherworldliness seems ever so tangible. Simply being in the garden at twilight in these last October evenings permeates the senses with mist, moist, dank, shadows, elements of shady creeping half there beings, that may well overthrow our sense of self.
For me this festival has always sat in partnership with that of midsummer. While midsummer brings a feeling of the etherial lightness of fairies blessings in summers petals and butterflies, this festival offers a more uneasy awe, a reminding to be mindful of those who's contentment is tied with the wellbeing of trees and stone and waterways. There was a time when fairies and sprites, elves and gnomes, did not exist for us in the pink, sparkly, abstract cutesy way so prevalent today. There was a time when their impish tricks were to be watched for, when entering their realm perhaps through a fairy ring of mushrooms, was as risky as it was potentially pleasurable. When carelessly crossing a being from these worlds that merge in the periphery of our own, would result in the kind of unluckiness that was to be feared.
Through the stitches I make in my honouring of children's playful interactions with elemental beings I feel it is vital to openly recognise these more unsettling forms of otherworldliness and those children who seek out the testing uncertainty of such encounters. This tempestuous wee man was inspired by the rat's skeleton, I have a feeling by the magical staff which he carries that he may be a guardian of clear water.