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.
Lily smiled as she watched her aunt perform her morning rituals, rituals as ancient and as reassuring as the sun rising high above the far mountain ridges, watching every movement fill with appreciation for each object touched, each sip swallowed, each sun beam felt, each breath taken as if each would be the last.
“You were in my dreams again, well, that same dream, three nights in a row now,” said Lily sipping milky tea from a cracked tea cup, its rambling roses and leaves faded from years of being held by loving fingers.
“Don’t you think its time for a brighter tea cup, a stronger one with less years rubbed from it,” said Hazel as her crinkled fingers folded the soft blue linen napkin that had laid upon her bony lap, pressing flat the upturned corners, tucking it under the edge of her empty tea cup and saucer.
After draining her aging tea cup of its warming contents, Lily said, “I must tell you the dream today aunt, please, before the day ends, before this year ends, I know you can tell me what it all means.”
“Only you can determine the meaning of snow capped trees, a quiet expanse of lake, a high flying dragon, only you can go into the future child,” said the stiffly moving, gray haired woman.
“How, but,” stuttered Lily, “ did you send me the dream aunt for I know you are the woman standing on the shore, although your hair is red, your arms are strong, the voice powerful as that woman stops the snow dragon from landing?”
With a growing smile, erasing long held wrinkles upon her face, Hazel moved away from the table, stepped through the kitchen doorway, walked along the bare worn path beyond the sleeping beech and birch trees, beyond the stately spruce and pine, towards the shore of Lake Crescent, glancing backwards knowing her vibrant, if sorrowful, niece would be following.
“But in my dream you leave, you leave with the snow dragon, it all happens as the west wind gives way to her sister the east wind, as the old year ends,” said Lily her voice pleading for an explanation, for the comfort an old voice filled with the wisdom of old ways and echoes of her mother.
“The world is changing Lily, it is time for me, for those of us who practice the old ways to step aside, allowing vigor and fresh magic into the world, you must give way to your dream, nothing will be lost in this ending, and all will be made clear, as clear as the water of this lake, as sparkling as the snow upon the trees.”
“You can’t go aunt, I’m not ready, I have so many questions for you.”
“Hush child, we have this day, this last day of the year, besides you are ready, you are strong, you carry the wisdom of generations of Harlow women in your heart and your mind, and when you need us, if you need our ways, we will come, but only in support of your recreated world, of your invigorated ways.”
Leaving her aunt at the shore, Lily returned to the kitchen, eyes clouded with tears, and began her morning chores, putting away the butter and blackberry preserves, placing her aunts teacup, saucer and plate into the sink, finally, reaching for her own tea cup, her mother’s tea cup, she found the roses had turned deep red, the leaves dark green, the handle had become whole, no crack could be found, with a sense of astonishment, of fear, Lily ran out the door and into the strong and sure arms of her aunt, whose gray hair was once again swirling strands of auburn.