BY DEREK CERNAK
The previous two months, I told you about lost toys, and how a chance encounter with a flying spider began an annual gathering of friends, nature, and art, in the woods behind my home. We were about to journey to a magical glade. But magic was not all we would find there…
We were in the fourth year of The Day Bat Marathon. Despite having only twenty finishers in it’s history, it had been named the best race in the state, and nominated for a variety of larger distinctions. There truly was not anything else like it. On completion of every lap you were welcomed to base camp by hundreds of flags, world folk music, and a made-up language. You departed to the sound of a gong. Every lap was it’s own adventure with wild sculptures, tree creatures, and side excursions.
The year before, runners had been introduced to Baq Choy. Baq was an unhappy golden peacock with an rather touching backstory. He resided by the Pool of Tears, a rarely seen spring in the woods. The pre-race buzz had been all about our golden buddy. He was supposed to be the star of the show. But this time, Baq had a surprise. Upon finding him, runners found a 120-year-old map. On the map was this challenge:
Follow the colors of the sky to Binda Luma…
land of the giant hummingbirds.”
On the next lap, runners searched for artistic buttons with hints on them. When deciphered, the clues would lead them off trail and deep into the woods.
Months before, I had searched for a location to hide giant hummingbird sculptures. It had been evident for a while that developers were going to level much of the land that was home to our trails. I needed an area to remind us, that when that happens, there are still places of solace. I traced the roots of a creek until there wasn’t a house in sight. I found a small glade that I was sure hadn’t been seen by human eyes in fifty years. The light through the trees was almost divine. Standing there, I did not have a worry in the world. It was perfect. I had found Binda Luma.
The day before the race, some friends and I paraded three giant hummingbirds through the neighborhood. I took it as a good sign that we got “oohs” and “ahhs” from everyone. The following afternoon, one by one, the runners went on their quest, deciphered the clues and followed strips of sky blue fabric into the semi-suburban wilderness. They would return about an hour later absolutely delighted. All except one.
One woman, perhaps the toughest of all the runners, came back as pale as a ghost. “I cannot believe that you subjected me to that creepy doll!”
It was the talk of everyone for the next few hours. Only two people had seen it, but they were both pretty disturbed. When I went to retrieve the hummingbirds that evening, I looked around. I didn’t see what they were talking about. Did they see a ghost? Had I run them so hard that they were hallucinating?
Either way, it did not matter. The trails might or might not be gone within the year. But The Day Bat had been special, and loved. And I was happy that it had a magnificent last run. I was at peace. And the months that followed were good.
That is until, enter, stage left… a pandemic.
This may seem like an eternity ago, but for me, at first, the pandemic wasn’t all that terrible. It was something different. Working from home meant no distractions, I was able to catch up on that abysmal laundry. And I was saving a hundred bucks a month on gas. As far as world crises go, it wasn’t so bad.
But it was then that the bulldozers came. I had feared development in our neighborhood for years. So why did it have to come now, when I was stuck inside, with nowhere to go? Chipper shredders and chainsaws bombarded my senses for months. Day in and day out, I listened to my beloved trees being destroyed. Two friends with similar mental illness had already committed suicide. And I was slipping fast. I needed solace. I NEEDED Binda Luma.
And that’s where she was waiting…
We’ll conclude our story there next month.