River Mist Tales: Tree Face

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

The chairs by the window give the best view, allow the best 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.

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Tree Face

“Where are you taking those?”

The voice was deep, resin filled, slow, full of the east wind and short sunlit days.

Connra placed her willow basket on the ground, stood tall and looked around.

She saw no one, only the pine, spruce, and western hemlock, her gaze moving along a patch of cedars leading toward the river.

Shrugging her shoulders, taking one more glance around her, Connra bent over and resumed picking up the fallen cones scattered about the ground.

“Where are you taking those which are not yours?” came the resonant voice, again slow, filled with patience and understanding.

Connra stood, again looked around, moved so she could see along the narrow woods path before saying, “Home, taking them home. Who’s there?”

“What will you do with them?” asked the voice speaking with rooted strength.

With a slow turn Connra answered, “I use them in the hearth, and for the arrangements we sell at the next Yule markets.”

“I would like to see those arrangements, can you bring one to me?”

Bewildered, Connra stared at a tall pine a few feet away, stared at the barked face returning her gaze.

She had heard many old tales about the creatures who live in the forests, in the trees, creatures who can bless and curse, creatures who can teach and destroy, now, finally, Connra had met just such a creature, and she was eager to befriend the inquisitive tree spirit.

River Mist Tales: The Unicorn Trophy

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.

unicornb_cwm

The Unicorn Trophy

It wasn’t Miss Plumworth’s first visit to Maine, but this was the first time an object was being offered, and only her second visit in her own time.

Before her, centered upon a slight rise, stood a plan rectangular, white clapboard farmhouse, extending out back towards the barn, until house and barn merged into a single structure.

Small single-step porches held court outside both the front and side doors, both looked unused, lonely without any bush or flower, the side door catching a small bit of shade from the single elm which stood in the side yard just beyond the end of the dirt driveway.

Before Miss Plumworth stepped into the kitchen dooryard, the creaking wooden kitchen door opened wide revealing a petite fair haired girl who couldn’t be more than ten years old, hesitating, keeping her eyes toward the ground.

Miss Plumworth smiled, raised her face sniffing the air, a jumble of lavender, lilac and rose, and fresh baked rhubarb cake full of cinnamon and, surprisingly, cardamon.

A few quick steps and she was in the kitchen, the wide wooden planks scrubbed smooth, and the petite fair haired girl said, “This way please, miss.”

Settling into the living room whose only visual reprieve from a vast collection of objects, were two sets of windows, one pair looking out towards the street which ran parallel to the short end of the house, the other pair looking out toward the dirt driveway, the solitary elm tree, across spotty grass towards the neighbors fenced garden, Miss Plumworth wondered how any object, magical or otherwise, once brought into this overflowing house would be noticed at all.

The answer arrived when Tilda Miller sauntered into the room, wearing a bright floral dress, a plaid scarf wrapped around her shoulders, purple shoes matched by large purple and silver earrings, her curly hair a rising mass around her angular, eager face.

The gregarious woman answered another question as well, why her daughter chose simple, plain and quiet.

As Tilda raised eyebrows, inclined her head, visually instructing her daughter, the girl sat down beside Miss Plumworth on the couch, pulling a small silver unicorn from her pocket, offering it on her upraised palm.

“I found it, hidden in a tree out back, in a small broken box, well, the lady showed me where to look, told me she couldn’t touch it, told me I needed to give it to you, so you could return it, and then she could go home too,” said the fair haired daughter, all in one breath.

“Jilly is it, why don’t you hold the unicorn while you describe the lady to me,” said Miss Plumworth, slow and calm, replacing her notebook into her bag, pulling out an scarred black leather bound book with a tiny silver unicorn embossed in the lower front corner.

River Mist Tales: Tree Shade

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.

treeshade_cwm

Tree Shade

Not very long ago, before the time of your grandmother, lived two sisters.

The sisters, one with hair as red as the flame of burning oak, the other with hair as the shimmering silver of twinkling stars, lived in a cottage at the meeting place of a sunlit plain and a darkening forest, a few steps beyond the reach of the shade cast by the guardian trees of the forest.

Living with a woman they called grandmother, the sisters learned spinning and weaving, their threads as gossamer and as strong as a spider’s web filled with longing, filled with dream.

The sisters learned songs calling the sweet rains which rode with the west wind, and the sisters learned to be wary of the deep knowledge hidden within the shade of trees.

Blessed with even temperaments, happy and hard working, the sisters learned all the grandmother could teach them, never challenging nor causing worry or concern.

When the grandmother heard the time song, she sent the sisters into the forest, telling them they must learn from those who wear feathers, learn from those who wear fur.

During the day the sisters ventured into the forest returning to the small cottage each night, sharing their conversations, their adventures among furred and feathered friends with the grandmother as she sat by the hearth listening, never speaking a word.

Eager and enthusiastic, the sisters asked many questions of the creatures living in the forest, but the sisters never asked the questions which the two spoke when they thought no one could hear.

The questions the sisters hid from the grandmother, from the feathered and furred, were few: where is our mother, why must we protect ourselves from the shade at the edge of the forest?

What the sisters had not learned, could not ask, was how deep into a heart a forest can penetrate, how dark the shade can truly be, how far from home curiosity can lead.

The long shadows of early morning began calling the sisters, soon the growing afternoon shadows of the forest edge also began whispering as the sisters passed, tempting their untempered hearts, telling where the woman with red flame hair streaked with silver starlight was living, was waiting for her daughters.

Then the day came, lit by a bright clear sun, long shadows almost touching the cottage door, the grandmother inviting a young woman, her belly swollen, into the cottage, smiling with a kindness the young woman had never known, all the while beyond the dooryard as the tree shade deepened, two sisters hearing a sonorous voice calling, calling, calling, stepped into the shade of the trees and disappeared.

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.