There is a place deep in Dunmonii Wood where the bracken grows thickly between the Dunmonii and birch and alder trunks, and out of this browning sea rises an island of boulders where stunted oaks make their home. If the weather reports are correct, the bracken will have mist flowing in and over it this morning, nothing like the fog of the month’s beginning, but disorienting nonetheless. If you clamber up into the boulders and their lush green covering of moss, you’ll notice that there’s something unnatural about the boulders; at some point someone placed them here in a circle, creating a little world inside, a bowl, separate from the surrounding forest.
On the oaks in this space, of which there are five, randomly spaced around, the same moss which covers the boulders is thickly plastered alongside exotic-looking lichens in red, mustard yellow, or the more traditional turquoise, their tiny tentacular fronds reaching out to the sky. The oak branches are heavily laden, not with leaves and acorns (which have, at this point, mostly strewn the floor beneath or been blown out of this little otherworldly bowl), but with curtains of hanging moss. In the morning mist that flows over the top of the bowl everything is saturated and dripping in succulent silence.
It’s this moisture, more than anything else, that the visitors to this seldom-seen place are seeking. They collect it in little glass jars, squeezing the curtains as if they were udders. It takes some time to get a jam jar full, which is how much each person takes. There is no shamanistic dress code, yet still many of the visitors will look very similar: they wear their hair long, and any amongst them old enough and able to grow beards do so with great pride. The fact is that most of the folk who gather there today will be teenagers, or that peculiar kind of twenty-something who is still convinced in their heart that they are a teenager, despite all evidence to the contrary. The details of this ritual have been passed down from teenager to teenager since 1939, when Giddia Supreme and Daley Harrist first visited the secluded spot.
It had seemed as good a place as any to camp out. They were supposed to be at school really, but Daley had just got herself kicked out of the school play and Giddia had never been one for classrooms when she could be outdoors instead and anyway they had just recently fallen in love after a long period of courtship so who needs school? It was in the morning that they realised they’d run out of water, so they squeezed it from the moss and boiled it in a pan because that’s what you’re supposed to do with water to make sure it’s clean. The only issue was that they left pot on the boil a bit too long; they’d gotten back into their sleeping bag because it was cold out and had become somewhat preoccupied in the way lovers do, and had forgotten about making their morning cup of tea until most of the water had boiled away.
When they finally remembered the water, they found not a dry pan, nor just a smaller quantity of water, but something quite different indeed. The substance coating the bottom of the pan was somewhere between jelly and water, a kind of viscous gel that appeared completely clear. Most people might have been alarmed and discarded their odd creation, but, being as they were teenagers they ate it, half each. Apparently it didn’t taste like much, but the texture made them wrinkle their noses anyway. It’s likely there will be similar reactions from some of the twenty-or-so teenagers gathered there today.
Quite what everyone sees when they eat the gel, known as ‘moss syrup’, is presumably individual, a sacrosanct moment between the human and the cosmos. What you are supposed to see, if you believe the stories at least, is the threads of life; like the moss hanging around you, they extend up past the foliage and into the sky, connecting your limbs to the eternal, and you know that somewhere up there, beyond the clouds and stars, a great hand is guiding your movements. The threads were always there, they say, but the gel simply allows you to see them. If your threads entangle with those of another person lying on their back in the moss, staring up through the bare branches into the sky, then you know that you must be in love, although if you follow them up high enough, we’re all tangled together in the end. Presumably you can come and drink moss syrup on any day of the year, but only on one day, today, will there be so many others there with you, showing you the way, and perhaps your threads will entangle with one of them.
Other festivals happening today:
- The Festival of the Terrible Tuba Players
- The Indecipherable Language Gameshow Festival
- Cake Day