I found an elf in the spruce tree in my back yard this morning.  Here is what happened.
    There is a painted clay gnome hanging at the end of a string from a low branch of the tree, and I heard what sounded like a bird tapping at the gnome.  Curious, I approached, bent under the drooping branch ends, and straightened again to stand inside the world of my tree.  And there, hanging by its feet and holding onto the gnome’s string with one hand, an upside-down elf was tapping away at the gnome’s chest with its free little fist.
      As I hadn’t seen one of these delightful little beings since leaving my home in the woods, it’s hard to explain how happy this discovery made me.
    “What are you doing?” I whispered, not wanting to frighten the creature.  “And what are you doing here?  I thought you only lived in forests.”
    The startled elf stopped tapping and swung itself upright to sit where its feet had been, all in the blink of an eye.  It looked me up and down and opened its mouth to answer.  I moved nearer, because I knew that I had to be close to these small beings to hear their tiny voices.
    “Why, I’m trying to get an answer out of this fat gnome,” replied the elf, glancing scornfully at my gnome.  “But it just hangs there.”
    “That’s because it’s not a real gnome,” I softly explained.  “It’s made of clay and painted.”
    “Clay?  Painted?  I don’t understand.”
    “It’s a decoration,” I said.  “But never mind my gnome.  What were you asking it, and why haven’t I seen any of you here in the city before?”
    At this, the elf swung its little legs, looked at me sadly, and told me its story.
    It lives with many others of its kind amongst the trees which grow thickly on the sides of the ravine near the edge of town.  These sides are almost vertical, so the creatures who live there are never bothered by humans.  Yesterday had been a very windy day.  My little friend had been trying on a new cloak that had just been spun for it from milkweed silk (all their clothes are made of this soft, silvery stuff), when a terribly strong gust had filled the cloak like a sail and whipped it into the air.
    Not wanting to lose its cloak, the elf had held on and been lifted up with it.  The wind blustered it out of the ravine and roughly away, bumping it into walls and roofs, up and down, around and around.  Terrified, the little elf had clung on for dear life until it could hold on no longer.  It’s tiny cloak gusted on and the elf made a scratchy landing in the topmost branches of my spruce tree.  There it had spent a miserable and lonely night, and this morning, spying my gnome, made its way down to ask for directions.
    “Because the wind has lost me,” it ended, tears running down its face, “and I don’t know how to get home.”
    I looked at the elf more closely and noticed now how tattered its shimmery clothes were.  Poor little thing.  I wanted to help, and also, maybe, if I could, to meet the other elves it lived with, for I sorely missed talking to these small and lively beings.  But the ravine ran for dozens of kilometres, and where their community might be, I had no idea.
    “Can you tell me anything about what is at the edge of the ravine near your home?” I asked.
    The elf sniffed a bit, wiped its eyes.  It thought for a minute.  “Well, there is a tree-tall shiny white stick with a ball at the top, quite near my trees.”
    I knew instantly what structure the elf was talking about, and held out my hand, palm up, towards it.  “I can take you home,” I said, “if you’ll trust me.”
    The elf looked me up and down again.  It looked into my eyes for a long moment, and then stepped onto my palm.  I carried it carefully to my car, where it sat rather nervously on the passenger seat.  It gasped a bit when the motor started, but sat bravely still.  And twenty minutes later it stood on the cement wall that ran along the top of the ravine.  It pointed to some tree tops several metres out from and below us.
    “Almost home,” it announced happily.
    I was happy for the elf, but didn’t want to say good-bye.  “Will I see you again?” I asked.
    The elf grinned at me.  “Wait here,” and it scurried down the wall and disappeared into the brush.  A few minutes later it reappeared, climbed back up the wall, and gave me some instructions before scampering off again.
    The instructions?  I’m excited to say that tomorrow, when the sun is right above that white ball, I’m going climb over the cement wall of the ravine and make my way to a clump of bushes growing on a ledge.  And there, away from prying eyes, the elf and his friends will join me.  What we’ll do or talk about, I have no idea, but I know that it will be wonderful.