River Mist Tales: The Butterflies

Come in, come in, the river mist will be gone soon enough, but here you’ll find some tales, some warmth so make yourself comfortable. There’s tea in the pot, or perchance, you brought some wee dram of your own.

Please sit by the window, you’ll have the best view, and easy hearing. Ignore the cats, no matter what they say, and don’t open the window for the tapping crows.

I’ll be working at the table in the corner, if you have any need, or she knocks upon the door. And until you stop by again, may your wonderings be bold and your imaginings be wise.

Until your next visit, until the next photograph, the next 12-line story, good fortune and safe wanderings.

butterflies_cwm

 The Butterflies

“Your aunt is touched, or maybe I am,” said Sorcha.

“She’s different, and yeah, she’s visited with the other crowd,” said Devan ignoring the heavy sighs billowing around Sorcha’s head. “Besides she’s not really my aunt, as you well know.”

“Right, I thought she said a short walk in the woods. It’s been two hours, my feet hurt and these shoes are ruined,” said Sorcha.

“Come on, we can rest for a few,” said Devan moving off the dusty woods road toward a fallen tree trunk.

Dropping her knapsack onto the ground, placing one leg on either side of the massive trunk so her feet dangled, Sorcha said, “Maybe we misunderstood the directions, I’ve never heard of a kaleidoscope of butterflies, never seen more than one at a time, well close together anyway.”

Devan smiled as he sat beside his girlfriend, a born and bred urbanite who was proving more country girl, more of a believer, than he had hoped for.

“You’re loving all this, aren’t you?”

“Yes I am, all those stories your aunt tells, all these trees, the birds, the unknown, so much unknown, so much space, and, I guess, I really want to believe in magic and more,” said Sorcha, “except these shoes, shouldn’t have listened to your sister.”

“Look,” said Devan pointing back towards the road, “look, there’s your kaleidoscope of butterflies.”

Jumping down from her resting place, grabbing her knapsack at she stepped, Sorcha said, “Let’s go, don’t want to lose those guides.”

 

 

©2017 Catherine W McKinney

 

River Mist Tales: The Beach Hut

Come in, come in, the river mist will be gone soon enough, but here you’ll find some tales, some warmth so make yourself comfortable. There’s tea in the pot, or perchance, you brought some wee dram of your own.

Please sit by the window, you’ll have the best view, and easy hearing. Ignore the cats, no matter what they say, and don’t open the window for the tapping crows.

I’ll be working at the table in the corner, if you have any need, or she knocks upon the door. And until you stop by again, may your wonderings be bold and your imaginings be wise.

Until your next visit, until the next photograph, the next 12-line story, good fortune and safe wanderings.

beachhut_cwm

The Beach Hut

“Are you sure we shouldn’t be bringing some gift or offering or something?”

“No, no it’s a game isn’t it, just tea on the beach by that old driftwood hut, besides she said just bring a friend, and you’re the friend,” said Bryony rushing through the deep sand.

Candace picked up her pace staying close behind her friend, wondering this time if Byrony’s imagination had finally left all realms of accessibility.

The beach was empty except for the hut, a cobbled collection of smooth driftwood stacked and leaning, piece upon piece, strange shaped, all bony looking.

“She’ll be here,” said Bryony anticipating the question forming upon the lips of the nervous Candace.

“Hello Bryony, welcome Candace, shall we go,” said a voice as melodious and sweet as bird song, coming from a fair haired wisp of a girl awash in flowing watercolor blues, walking with ease and grace across the shale, deep sand, and into the hut.

With eagerness Bryony followed her new friend pulling her old friend whose hesitation brought a pleading exchange of glances between the two girls.

Candace, wondering how anyone could walk into that dark pick-up stick opening, allowed her curiosity, and loyalty, full reign, taking a deep breath and boldly following Bryony.

One shuffling step, stooping, almost crouching upon the sand, and Bryony and Candace emerged onto another beach, in one direction caressing white sands flowed into a calm blue green sea, in another direction a vast stretch of green lawn swept away until it reached a brooding dense tree line of pine and spruce.

Their hostess was already seated at a table covered with a mint green cloth embroidered with falling red rose petals and curving vines with sharp thorns around the hem, a table whose surface was covered with ivory plates so thin you could almost see through them, with matching tea cups and saucers also decorated with roses, delicate petals and pointed thorns, and there were all sorts of tiny sandwiches filled with cucumber, pickles and cheese, smoked salmon, and tiny cakes frosted with smooth pale pink and yellow topped with sparkling roses and pansies, there were scones, fruited cake slices, sausage rolls, tiny curd tarts all sitting like jewels upon tiered and pedestaled serving dishes.

Sitting down Byrony’s thoughts turned upon warnings her mother had given, warnings following the faery tales her mother always read a bedtime, warnings about eating or drinking, something about names, well it was too late about that warning, Bryony had already revealed her name.

And it was too late for the warning about eating, for Candace was reaching for a second cucumber sandwich, smiling, speaking, but all Bryony heard was the thunderous sound of sun bleached, water smoothed logs falling, tumbling away.

River Mist Tales: Red Ribbons

Come in, come in, the river mist will be gone soon enough, but here you’ll find some tales, some warmth so make yourself comfortable. There’s tea in the pot, or perchance, you brought some wee dram of your own.

Please sit by the window, you’ll have the best view, and easy hearing. Ignore the cats, no matter what they say, and don’t open the window for the tapping crows.

I’ll be working at the table in the corner, if you have any need, or she knocks upon the door. And until you stop by again, may your wonderings be bold and your imaginings be wise.

Until your next visit, until the next photograph, the next 12-line story, good fortune and safe wanderings.

ribbon_tree_cwm

Red Ribbons

Maggie O’Brien sat on the edge of her bed swinging her legs back and forth, her hands resting upon the quilted covering, her fingers tracing the hand-stitched lines between the kaleidoscopic misshapen pieces of fabric.

The house and every other creature inside it were still asleep, slumbering in the early morning twilight more dark than bright dawn.

Beside Maggie, laid out in straight lines, were two pale red ribbons, tightly woven, strong and sure, edges untattered, their satin finish catching the rising light.

It had been exactly three hundred and sixty-two days since Maggie had asked her aunt Rita if she too, could knot ribbons onto the hawthorn tree on May Day, giving both petition and thanks with the weaving of branch and ribbon.

For years Maggie had watched her older cousins, the aunts, their friends, gather in the back meadow in the dew kissed dawn on the first day of May, cheerful, sharing very particular gifts received from the wild wood.

She spied as the women, dressed in vibrant hues of yellow, blues, greens and purples, gather the low growing violets, the trailing ivy, the tiny wild daisies and blossoming thyme, weaving flower and leaf into circlets for hair and neck.

She spied, moving with soft footstep and quiet breath, amidst the dark blue shade of the yellow green leaves, the pink and white petals of the spring dressed cherry and apple trees, the woody thickset hedges forming the border between sunny meadow and shadowed wood.

From her green haven, Maggie never heard complete the chants whispered, the petitions given, until the women’s melodic voices joined together into a raucous chorus of joyful thanksgiving.

And she never saw the annual celebration in its entirety, for Maggie always crept back to the house, arriving in the warm kitchen long before her mother, who was wary and critical of the old ways practiced by her sisters and nieces, could discover her daughter’s interest, her daughter’s desire, her daughter’s yearning for the mysterious fellowship of ribbon and blooming hawthorn.

The bedroom door, which Maggie had left unlatched and just opened enough for a mouse to slip through, was pushed with a strong and sure hand as an invitation to join the revelry.

Maggie, finishing her silent invocation, her memorizing of petition and thanksgiving as instructed by her cousin a mere one year older, smiled at her retreating aunt, grabbed the ribbons, jumped down from the bed and ran with lilting footsteps down the front stairs and through the opened front door.

Falling into step behind her youngest cousin, Maggie walked solemnly even as her heart was skipping, her mind joyous, her face beaming with anticipation, giving thanks with each step, and wondering where her place would be in the circle around the hawthorn, wondering how the celebrations end, wondering if she too, on the next May Day morn, would hold dear a gift from the wild wood.

River Mist Tales: The Wheelbarrow

Come in, come in, the river mist will be gone soon enough, but here you’ll find some tales, some warmth so make yourself comfortable. There’s tea in the pot, or perchance, you brought some wee dram of your own.

Please sit by the window, you’ll have the best view, and easy hearing. Ignore the cats, no matter what they say, and don’t open the window for the tapping crows.

I’ll be working at the table in the corner, if you have any need, or she knocks upon the door. And until you stop by again, may your wonderings be bold and your imaginings be wise.

Until your next visit, until the next photograph, the next 12-line story, good fortune and safe wanderings.

wheelbarrow_cwm

The Wheelbarrow

“Is that your wheelbarrow young man?”

Her voice was as aged and full of living as her crinkled face and bent, broad body.

“No ma’am, its not,” said Branden McFarland, wondering how such an ancient creature, unknown to him, would be walking about the countryside, far from village or neighbor.

“What ya gonna do with it?” she asked, her gray eyes watching his posture become first defensive, then relaxed, before turning impatient.

“Use it, after I fix it, fix this broken front brace,” said Branden gesturing toward the front of the old wheelbarrow.

“Don’t ya think you should fix it, and return it,” said the old woman.

“Return it, who to?” asked Branden, shaking his head.

“The woods wife, boy, the woods wife. She’d be grateful for the fixin, not for the keepin.”

Branden smiled at the woman, he had heard the tales, the faery stories of good fortune and ill, from folks who lived within the forest, but he knew the stories were just silly tales told to scare children.

Those gray eyes continued staring out of her crinkled face, she saw Branden’s expression, watched his disbelief growing with each breath he took, and as she turned to leave, she said, “You believe or not boy, the choice be yours, and so the consequences of your choosing.”

The next morning was almost spent before Branden, legs cramping from crouching, saw a young woman, dressed in moss green from head to toe, step beyond the forest edge, glance about, push the wheelbarrow, being satisfied with the workmanship, smile and return to the forest pushing the wheelbarrow before her.

Branden McFarland never saw either the young or old women again, he did see the wheelbarrow from time to time, sometimes broken, sometimes filled with seeds, or mushrooms, or wild herbs and other woodland treasures, prospering from the gifts which he gratefully accepted, never revealing their source to a living soul, and always choosing to repair the wheelbarrow and return it.

River Mist Tales: The Bouquet

Come in, come in, the river mist will be gone soon enough, but here you’ll find some tales, some warmth so make yourself comfortable. There’s tea in the pot, or perchance, you brought some wee dram of your own.

Please sit by the window, you’ll have the best view, and easy hearing. Ignore the cats, no matter what they say, and don’t open the window for the tapping crows.

I’ll be working at the table in the corner, if you have any need, or she knocks upon the door. And until you stop by again, may your wonderings be bold and your imaginings be wise.

Until your next visit, until the next photograph, the next 12-line story, good fortune and safe wanderings.

bouquet_cwm

 The Bouquet

It was a birthday tradition, a bouquet of daisies picked in the morning complemented by whatever greenery was available, and something found.

This year Lessa found a feather, bright blue, from a jay, reminding her of the Stellar jays back home.

Lessa gathered the white petaled blooms, the pale green sprays of fern and tied the bundle with long blades of grass braided together.

She even tucked in a few slender branches sprouting pink tinged maple leaves, finally placing the precious blue feather front and center.

Satisfied with the generosity of the cheerful bouquet, Lessa gathered her pack, climbed down to the crooked streets, and headed towards the shrouded woodland park at the western edge of Bordertown.

Newly arrived, Lessa had been given much advice, and warnings, about the unpredictable mix of technology and magic, warned about how something as simple as mailing a birthday card could go very wrong, so Lessa had procured a translocation spell from a reputable source, at an exorbitant price rendering her cashless and impatient for her first attempt at real magic.

Luckily Blue and Skye, twin musicians from Montana, had been looking for a housemate, someone willing to do the housework, a fair exchange for room and board, never asking Lessa if she had money or not.

Skye had recommended the shop on the busy Eastern Boulevard, across town, had recommended asking the proprietor what sort of spell was needed to send a bouquet of flowers back across the border, back home to Hoquiam.

Lessa had considered a simple card, well simple compared to what the shops here offered, but if she could use magic, well, why not try for something more creative, and a bit traditional.

Preparing the bouquet was a bit tricky, finding the daisies proved challenging, but a stranger, a willowy woman whose age was only hinted by the soft lines around her deep-set, wine hued eyes, intrigued by the recent arrival, allowed Lessa free roam of her terraced garden for one hour, in return Lessa would perform a future favor.

Having memorized the instructions for the translocation spell, Lessa found a secluded shady spot amidst three tall oak trees, she placed the bouquet on the ground, took three steps backwards, closed her eyes, envisioned Tammy’s front door, threw the dust mixture from the tiny linen pouch in the direction of the bouquet and spoke the foreign words, repeating them three times.

Tammy didn’t have the courage of her childhood friend, backing out at the very last moment from running away to the legendary Bordertown, still she missed Lessa, and missed their birthday rituals, all this she considered as she opened the front door finding a withered bouquet of daisies and ferns, tied with long grasses braided together, and a bright blue feather tucked front and center.

River Mist Tales: The Glass Ball

Come in, come in, the river mist will be gone soon enough, but here you’ll find some tales, some warmth so make yourself comfortable. There’s tea in the pot, or perchance, you brought some wee dram of your own.

Please sit by the window, you’ll have the best view, and easy hearing. Ignore the cats, no matter what they say, and don’t open the window for the tapping crows.

I’ll be working at the table in the corner, if you have any need, or she knocks upon the door. And until you stop by again, may your wonderings be bold and your imaginings be wise.

Until your next visit, until the next photograph, the next 12-line story, good fortune and safe wanderings.

glassball_cwm

The Glass Ball

The child stood three feet tall, with tight curls, golden red, coiling around her head, falling down her back.

Her eyes, wide with curiosity, glanced around the small group of children whose loud cries of play had been silenced as gaze met gaze, and small hands hid a small ball behind a small back.

The child appeared without warning, without sound, without disturbing the birds or startling the dozing cat, appeared beside the tallest evergreen in the back garden of number 38 Winborne Gardens, appeared as is she had stepped out of the tree itself.

Arabella, the eldest daughter of number 38 Winborne Gardens, took a deep breath, smoothed down her skirt, slipped the small glass ball into her pocket, and walked toward the unexpected guest, a practiced smile upon her lips in welcome.

“Hello,” said Arabella, “what’s your name?”

With a quick glance backward over her left shoulder, her gaze flowing into the trees, then returning to face the approaching daughter of the house, the child asked “Are you a human girl?”

Laughter filled the air from the assortment of children now standing in a crooked row behind the eldest daughter of the house.

With a stern glance from Arabella, silence fell upon number 38 Winborne Gardens, as Arabella, again smiling, said to her guest, “Yes, I am, and, please, if you are not, what is your reason for visiting my garden.”

Shuffles and sniggers were heard creeping across the lawn, stopping as they met the back of the eldest daughter.

“I’ve misplaced a gift from my father,” said the curly haired child, “and I must have it back.”

“Perhaps if you tell us what the gift is, we can help you find it,” said Arabella feeling a heavy pull in her pocket, a growing warmth.

“Oh eldest daughter, you have my gift, and I will have it returned, for the glass ball has its own desires and you will not be able to control it.”

River Mist Tales: Crow Stories

Come in, come in, the river mist will be gone soon enough, but here you’ll find some tales, some warmth so make yourself comfortable. There’s tea in the pot, or perchance, you brought some wee dram of your own.

Please sit by the window, you’ll have the best view, and easy hearing. Ignore the cats, no matter what they say, and don’t open the window for the tapping crows.

I’ll be working at the table in the corner, if you have any need, or she knocks upon the door. And until you stop by again, may your wonderings be bold and your imaginings be wise.

Until your next visit, until the next photograph, the next 12-line story, good fortune and safe wanderings.

crowstree_cwm

Crow Stories

I haven’t learned the language of the trees, not fluently, not for lack of trying, but all that is going to change, and very soon.

Trees speak in a slow, soft voice, full of poetry with an acceptance we humans find hard to hear.

During the day, no matter where I roam, there is an old gnarled woman, her feet rooting in the soil, her hair growing lush as the summer progresses.

She says I must learn the language of the trees if I am ever to hear the stories the crows tell, if I am ever to understand the truth about who I am.

She says the crows, gossiping creatures that they are, don’t like telling their stories to humans, preferring conversations with the trees.

I have seen crows talking with trees, and I have seen the old woman listening, her ancient voice asking questions of both tree and crow.

She cackles, deep and lovely when I approach, the crows fly away allowing the trees alone to offer me both instruction and solace.

During the night, no matter where I roam, there is a young woman, lithe, a fair maiden, her skin glows in the echoed radiance of the moon, her voice is as sweet and soothing as a shaded creek on a hot summer’s day.

The maiden knows where the crows sleep, chiding them even as she beckons the crows to tell her their tales, and answer my questions.

Tonight the maiden has promised an introduction, a man who could help me learn the language of the trees, help me understand the crows when they talk with the trees, since that is the only time crows are full of truth.

She says I have simply forgotten how to hear.

I have been sitting in the heart of the forest, kept company by a single crow and a solemn red fox as night dances into the forest, listening as the maiden approaches, catching her smile, transfixed as she waves the crow down to the forest floor, watching as the crow shakes, unfolds and grows into a man, tall with long black hair, wearing black leather and black feathers, a crooked grin spreading across his bony face, and I, I tumble backwards.

River Mist Tales: The Faery Door

Come in, come in, the river mist will be gone soon enough, but here you’ll find some tales, some warmth so make yourself comfortable. There’s tea in the pot, or perchance, you brought some wee dram of your own.

Please sit by the window, you’ll have the best view, and easy hearing. Ignore the cats, no matter what they say, and don’t open the window for the tapping crows.

I’ll be working at the table in the corner, if you have any need, or she knocks upon the door. And until you stop by again, may your wonderings be bold and your imaginings be wise.

Until your next visit, until the next photograph, the next 12-line story, good fortune and safe wanderings.

faerydoor2_cwm

 The Faery Door

“You’re not gonna believe what I found,” said Marion catching her breath after running up the hill. “I’m sure it wasn’t there yesterday.”

Marion turned, hesitated, then began moving back down the hill expecting her sister, Fiona, and their brother, Sean, would follow, but her elder siblings stood silent, paying her no attention.

“You have to come now, before it’s hidden again,” said Marion.

“If it is hidden again, you don’t win the bet,” said Sean.

“Don’t care, come on, come on, before it’s too late,” cried Marion, moving down the hill toward the thicket of trees at the edge of the forest.

“We’ll follow,” said Fiona, smiling, giving Sean a conspiratorial nod, eager for the moment when she would reveal the truth about Marion’s discovery.

Sean and Fiona, tired of their younger sister’s obsession with finding a faery door, hatched a plan, a simple trick made of wood and moss.

The bet was Sean’s idea, whoever found the first faery door would be free from chores for one week, the other two taking on the extra work, but only if it were a true faery door, otherwise the finder of the false door must do a week of chores for each of the other two siblings.

Following the fast moving Marion closer toward the edge of the forest, the older brother and sister looked one to the other before Fiona asked Sean, “Did you move it?”

“Look, isn’t it wonderful,” said Marion pointing towards a small door among the tree roots, unaware of the confusion her brother and sister were experiencing. Standing in disbelief, the pair were shaking their heads as they saw the remains of their false door scattered about the floor of the forest.

River Mist Tales: The Tower

Come in, come in, the river mist will be gone soon enough, but here you’ll find some tales, some warmth so make yourself comfortable. There’s tea in the pot, or perchance, you brought some wee dram of your own.

Please sit by the window, you’ll have the best view, and easy hearing. Ignore the cats, no matter what they say, and don’t open the window for the tapping crows.

I’ll be working at the table in the corner, if you have any need, or she knocks upon the door. And until you stop by again, may your wonderings be bold and your imaginings be wise.

Until your next visit, until the next photograph, the next 12-line story, good fortune and safe wanderings.

thetower_cwmThe Tower

“This is our inheritance, this decrepit old tower in the middle of nowhere?” asked Deedee.

“This is it,” said Rachel grabbing a flashlight out of her backpack and the large curving silver key. “Come on let’s see if the amazing stories the aunts told are true.”

“Really Rachel, not the aunts again,” said Deedee slamming the car door shut, slipping her pack onto her right shoulder.

“How do you think their business flourished, it was all because of this place, and where it took them, what they returned with,” said Rachel.

Only recently acquainted with the younger woman’s vivid imagination, Deedee followed her cousin across the field towards the tower, shaking her head, asking “And where exactly is that, and where are they now Rachel?”

The key fit easy and turned even easier stopping at the sound of a loud click, hesitating Rachel said, “You don’t need to follow me inside Deedee, just having you here, believing me after all those stories, all the stuff your mom told you, I mean, well me too, I didn’t know I had a cousin.”

“You’re too sentimental Rachel, just open the damn door and check this place out, but one loose step and we’re back to the car, okay?”

Nodding her head, gathering her courage, Rachel turned on her flashlight, pushed down upon the latch, nothing, she pushed hard against the door, it was heavier than anticipated, it didn’t budge, so Rachel pushed harder nearly falling inside as the door gave way against her effort, but steadying herself, she stood tall, slipping the large key back into the pocket of her jeans.

There was a staircase, nothing else, not even cobwebs or dust bits catching what little sunlight fell through the small windows, some with broken panes, some missing altogether, leaving gaping holes in the walls of the tower like empty eye sockets.

In silence the cousins climbed the staircase round and round as it rose toward the square room at the top of the tower, a room also clean and appearing empty, except for a soft mist which swirled and moved about revealing windows, hiding them again, finally revealing a door.

Deedee saw the door first, her involuntary gasp brought Rachel to her side, and both cousins stood for several minutes just looking before Rachel reached out to run her fingers along the intricately carved designs of knotted circles entwined with thyme and angelica leaves and a tiny petaled flower she did not recognize.

Music and voices grew louder as the two women opened the door revealing a full moon illuminating a most unusual marketplace that spread out in all directions in an alluring chaos of colors, sounds and curiosities.

River Mist Tales: The Butterflies

Come in, come in, the river mist will be gone soon enough, but here you’ll find some tales, some warmth so make yourself comfortable. There’s tea in the pot, or perchance, you brought some wee dram of your own.

Please sit by the window, you’ll have the best view, and easy hearing. Ignore the cats, no matter what they say, and don’t open the window for the tapping crows.

I’ll be working at the table in the corner, if you have any need, or she knocks upon the door. And until you stop by again, may your wonderings be bold and your imaginings be wise.

Until your next visit, until the next photograph, the next 12-line story, good fortune and safe wanderings.

butterflies_cwm

 The Butterflies

“Your aunt is touched,” said Sorcha.

“She’s different, and yeah, she’s visited with the other crowd,” said Devan ignoring the heavy sighs billowing around Sorcha’s head. “Besides she’s not really my aunt, as you well know.”

“Right, I thought she said a short walk in the woods. It’s been two hours, and these shoes are killing me,” said Sorcha.

“We can stop for a few minutes,” said Devan moving off the dusty woods road toward a fallen tree trunk.

Dropping her knapsack onto the ground, placing one leg on either side of the massive trunk so her feet dangled, Sorcha said, “Maybe we misunderstood the directions, I’ve never heard of a kaleidoscope of butterflies, never seen more than one at a time, well close together anyway.”

Devan smiled as he sat beside his girlfriend, a multigenerational urbanite who was proving more country girl, more of a believer, than he had hoped for.

“You’re loving all this, aren’t you?”

“Yes I am, all those stories your aunt tells, all these trees, the birds, the unknown, so much unknown, so much space, and quiet,” said Sorcha. “Except these shoes, shouldn’t have listened to your sister.”

“Look,” said Devan pointing back towards the road, “look, there’s your kaleidoscope of butterflies.”

Jumping down from her resting place, grabbing her knapsack at she stepped, Sorcha said, “Let’s go, don’t want to lose those guides.”