A Bernadette Smart Adventure
They call her Beena the Fairy Finder. She wears overalls and a straw hat, but keeps her feet bare. “If a fairy sees giant shoes coming, she hides more than ever,” Beena said once in an interview. “Fairies are terrified of shoes, for some reason. Maybe it’s because they don’t wear any.”
Today, Beena’s search takes her to a strawberry patch. She is especially fond of Fruit Fairies – those who live amongst strawberry plants, blueberry bushes, and orchards. When the fruit ripens, Beena has found, a careful hunter is more likely to find the fairies. “They assume you are looking just for the fruit,” she explains. “So they are less afraid and more bold.”
Beena carries an aluminum sieve with her to gather the strawberries. She has rolled up her pant legs to avoid brushing against the plants and startling the fairies. Quietly, quietly, she enters the strawberry patch. It’s the end of May, and the ripe strawberries are abundant, their fresh aroma on the breeze. Beena begins to pick the bright red fruit, keeping a sharp eye out for those for whom she is really looking.
It takes a while before she sees one. Even on their most careless days, Fruit Fairies are secretive and difficult to spot. Finally, Beena sees a shimmer in the corner of her eye. “Ah ha!” she thinks, but makes no sudden moves. She continues with her task, but half her attention is now directed toward the place where she saw the movement. Now, a slight flutter beneath a leaf. Beena works her way toward the tiny creature. “Tika tika tika too,” she sings softly. Another movement. “Nikatee pop!” she says.
No one knows how Beena learned to communicate with the fairies, and she says the language is impossible to translate to English, but somehow she makes the fairies understand she is no threat. “Teedle-dee nick-swop!”
A rustle of leaves. A flitter of wings. Two eyes peer out and blink. Beena smiles, moving slowly toward the fairy. A young one, she observes, with wispy red hair and light, green, chiffon-like clothing, and a wee green cap on her head. For a moment, the fairy hides again behind the jagged strawberry leaf. Beena reassures her again with another “Tika tika tika too,” and the minuscule creature, brave but cautious, inches out. “Beena neewalla,” Beena the Fairy Finder says.
Perhaps because she is young, or perhaps because she is unusually courageous, the fairy unexpectedly comes out from under the plant. “Berrah neewalla,” a tiny voice replies. Tiny, but rich and sweet like honey, not a bit tinny for all its smallness.
“Ah, Berrah!” Beena breathes. It is incredibly rare for a fairy to introduce herself to anyone, and Beena relishes the moment. She begins to reach out, ever so slowly, to Berrah, when something suddenly startles the fairy, sending her flying across the strawberry patch. Beena turns to see a sleek black cat trotting toward her.
“Oh, Mr. Wiggles,” she sighs. “You scared her away.”
“Mrow,” Mr. Wiggles apologizes.
“Oh well.” She scratches Mr. Wiggles under the chin. “Maybe I’ll see her again. For now, I’ll finish picking the berries.” Bernadette smiles, knowing there will be strawberries and cream for dessert tonight.