Fairy Rings

It has been a quarter of a century since my family and I started construction on my dream home. We bought an acreage tucked in a corner of the family farm and determined that our riverside property would be where we enjoyed life as a family and my wife and I would grow old together. After thirty nine years of marriage, my wife is likely to tell you that I’ve grown old, but she might hold reservations about how much we’ve enjoyed some aspects of the journey.

I haven’t given this background to brag about our home or to complain about the challenges we’ve faced in our lives, but rather to give you a sense of how long we’ve dwelt in our home beside the river. Looking back, we had lived here long enough to coax grass to grow in the sand and to start to establish trees beyond the flood plain of the river. I was pretty delighted with our lawn until one day I noticed a series of small circles dotting the back yard. They were a foot or so in diameter, and the vivid green grass was growing much faster than the lawn surrounding it. The upshot was I had to mow frequently to keep the rings from seriously outstripping the rest of the grass.

I puzzled over the phenomenon as each year the circles would grow larger, sometimes intersecting with each other, forming interlocking circles and other strange geometric patterns. It took a few years but I discovered that each year a perfect ring of mushrooms would emerge part way through the season. Thinking back on my childhood, and my reading of Wilson Rawls’ Summer of the Monkeys, I realized I my lawn was overrun with what he called, fairy rings.

Over the years I spent hours searching for information on fairy rings, and every time I came up essentially empty. I was delighted with my direct observations, but I wanted to know more. The years passed and the fairy rings reached as much as thirty to forty feet in diameter. We bought a mulching mower and somewhere along the way we stopped fertilizing the lawn and started relying on the clippings to keep the grass green and growing.

I realized recently that it has been a few years since I’ve seen a fairy ring on our lawn and couldn’t resist the urge to make one more attempt to investigate. I was amazed at the amount of information that has shown up on the internet over the past four or five years. I found pages of information about fairy rings, including fascinating legends going back hundreds of years. Most, unlike Rawls’ story of them granting wishes, were filled with the negative consequences of interacting with a fairy ring.

I read that unlike my experience, some fairy rings actually kill the vegetation where they grow, leaving a dead band around the emerging circle mushrooms. I’m delighted that my fairy rings were of the variety that enlivened the vegetation rather than killing it off. I think it would have been far more difficult to be pleased with a lawn covered with huge yellow circles of dry dead grass than it was to enjoy the vivid green rings.

Moments ago, I took the opportunity to reread Rawls’ commentary, wherein he wrote of searching far and wide for the rare and elusive fairy ring, hoping one day to find another, “step into the center of it, kneel down, and make one wish, for in my heart I believe in the legend of the rare fairy ring.” I’m not a believer that fairy rings grant wishes, but I have to admit I miss seeing them. It’s almost enough to make me start fertilizing again to see if they’ll come back. Then again, probably not. After all, mowing lawn once a week is more than often enough.

Until next time …