River Mist Tales: A Farewell

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.

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A Farewell

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.

River Mist Tales: The Portraits

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, the warmth of the fire will reach you, and 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.

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The Portraits

When Oak Haven, the grand old hall once inhabited by generations of Clauss, burnt to the ground, the portraits, in their simple frames, small, easily carried, were among the few items salvaged from the charred bones of that ancestral home.

The artist long forgotten, the portraits hung in various temporary rooms until finally placed into a box with miscellaneous wooden toys, moved about, inherited, finding rest in an attic full of other boxes.

Family history became family legend, tales told for amusement more than edification or family pride, tales soon ignored and forgotten.

Besides no one believed in such things as faeries, elves, wood spirits, gnomes or mortals whose blood mingled with such creatures, allowing passage between realms, and life spans of many centuries.

Or so thought Abigail as she dusted off the brittle volumes of dairies written by hands long gone and household ledgers whose pages had faded.

She knew the truth she sought, her story, her legacy, was hidden somewhere among the writings of her great great grandparents, and aunts and uncles gone for hundreds of years, among the ledgers signed by guests both common and notorious who had frequented the ancient Oak Haven.

Abigail’s search had been spurred by a letter, written in a flowing, old-fashioned hand, introducing himself as an distant cousin, a long lost connection, who would be traveling through the area in a month’s time, who asked for a visit, who asked about a pair of portraits.

Although the stony remains of Oak Haven had been reclaimed by the tenacious, forceful forest, Abigail had inherited five hundred acres of woodland, meadow, great pond and rambling home.

Most of the land was untamed, growing as it saw fit, except for thirteen acres where apple, pear and peach trees, plots of herbs and vegetables grew surrounding the newer, only a mere two hundred years old, cottage which had grown into a great house overflowing with the accumulated whims of succeeding generations.

A few of those whims sat in a box beside Abigail’s desk in the library, inviting speculation about an unknown cousin, a cousin who knew of portraits rescued from the family’s vanished past.

Glancing down at the portraits, Abigail recalled the remnants of a story, or was it from one of the journals piled around her desk, the story of a man, the son of a human and a faery, a man blessed with a woodcarver’s skill and a generous heart, a man whose mixed blood led him away from the family home for decades at a time, aging him slower than most.

As her mind wandered among childhood tales and the writings of distant relatives, a heavy knock echoed through the house rousing Abigail from her musings, and as she opened the solid oak door, her breath was taken, for there stood the portrait come to life, and he was speaking, “Good afternoon, I’m Nicholas.”

River Mist Tales: The Wood Carver

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, where the afghans are piled, 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.

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The Wood Carver

For all the activity, the early morning walkers, the after work runners, the children climbing the wide branches of oak and elms, or chasing dogs and peeking over the back fence, Edmund missed his friends who lived deep in the wildness beyond the end of the road.

Seven decades spent in the deep woods gave the gnarled-handed gardener generations of friends among the foxes, the deer, the other folks and even the elusive wolf, and Edmund missed their visits, their stories, their counsel.

The squirrels, suburbanites exemplar, were too busy toppling bird feeders and teasing well-behaved neighborhood cats and dogs, never stopping for a chat, as caring hands planted bulbs, filled feeders, clipped branches, taming the suburban oak and elm and rhododendron from their wild natures.

Edmund missed the bounty of mushrooms, berries, wild sorrel, of travelers both two and four-footed and the bits of branches and logs the forest itself offered as a reward for the caring human heart.

He particularly missed the rabbits.

Edmund, always grateful for the gifts of the forest, missed most of all putting his carving knife to the lost and found bits of wood revealing images of rabbits, bears and the traveling hedgehogs.

Here in this small plot surrounded by fences, paved roads and cement sidewalks, it was a rare joy finding a bit of wood willing to go under his carving knife.

Lately, as the winter solstice approached, abandoned on sidewalks, or along the side of the wide boulevards, Edmund had been finding more and more bits of wood in all shapes and sizes, and the pile was growing inside his tiny garden shed, so too, an idea was growing inside his heart.

Shapes of rabbits and bears and staff wielding hedgehogs began moving out of the wood pile, appearing from the touch of Edmund’s carving knives out the found pieces of wood.

As the collection of sitting, jumping, running creatures increased, Edmund grew impatient for the coming full moon, the long night’s moon bestowing her shape shifting energies.

While his neighbors closed doors, sat beneath harsh electric lights warmed by hot dry air, Edmund was busy placing the lovingly carved rabbits and bears and hedgehogs under bushes, near rocks and among roots as he could find in the dusting of fresh snow, then, dragging his chair out through the door of the garden shed, he sat and waited upon the rise of the long night’s moon.

While the moon, full and sporting her glowing temperament toured the night sky, her long tapering rays, silverbright and fiery, caressed the tiny wooden carvings, awakening the animal spirits resting inside, and Edmund smiled, greeting each new friend in turn.

 

The handmade, found wood carvings shown in the photograph are by a local artisan Vlad Husarovski, Ukrainian Roots. The first piece I purchased was a standing hedgehog holding a walking stick. Slowly my collection has increased to include a running rabbit, a fox, a swan, a bear and a pair of mice. I am looking forward to the stories these wondrous carvings tell me.

River Mist Tales: Frost

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.

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Frost

The exhibition was complete, the gallery readied for the grand opening at the unusual hour of seven in the morning.

Maire McClare moved about the winter lit rooms, hands covered in bluish purple wool, her amber hair piled under a rabbit fur lined wool hat embroidered with intertwining vines of ivy and oak leaves, her slow exhales rising in curling wisps.

Every invitation had been returned with a “yes,” it would be an exceptionally large gathering of patrons this morning, a mixture of human and fae, although Maire wondered who would notice.

But for now the crystalline paintings were hers alone, and she was full of admiration and delight.

The five artists, women from the far north, were preparing, dressing upstairs in the apartment Maire kept for out of town patrons, guests and as a staging area for nervous artists.

Preventing any changes in the ambient temperature, Maire stood back from the glass and ice paintings although she longed for a close, finger touching inspection.

Helga, a cross realm child and the only member of staff Maire choose to assist with this exhibit, was bustling about the entry room, moving quickly for warmth, checking the ice wines, the sorbets and the violet hued information packets.

As she finished her private viewing, as the bell in the church tower across the street announced the seventh hour, as the women from the north took positions around the gallery appearing made from ice themselves, the double doors leading from the street opened wide allowing those gathered in the cold morning mist a ceremonious entry.

Very specific instructions had accompanied the invitations, an emphasis placed on their strict adherence.

All bids must be sealed, and placed on the silver tray in the entry hall, after a complete pass through the exhibit itself.

There must be no conversation, no engagement of any sort with the artists themselves.

This was a two-hour opportunity for the future engagement of an ice painter, and as Maire greeted her prompt patrons, she hoped she had chosen her human guests with adequate discernment.

River Mist Tales: Urn in Snow

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.

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Urn in Snow

Thera Lindstrom pushed back into the soft aging chair, pulling the warm knitted afghan up across her lap, covering her legs.

She felt a soft thud as the yellow stripped tabby jumped down from the bookcase onto the arm of the chair.

The lights flickered as Thunder curled into a sleepy circle upon Thera’s warm lap, neither cat nor woman caring about electric lights.

Outside the cottage, snow, falling for the past five hours, had obliterated all the clinging vestiges of fall color.

It was a soft, dry snow, falling straight and slow, simplifying the landscape, simplifying her life.

Thera, pleased with the coming of the snow, settled down with a book, a pot of tea and a plate of warm biscuits and honey.

At one in the afternoon she knew there were many hours before the moon rise, if the snow clouds allowed, the moon would shine bright upon the world outside.

Six months Thera had waited for this snow fall, this silenced day before the rise of the full snow moon.

During the hot humid days of summer, Thera had tended the yard, the herb garden, watching the weedy edge of the circle where the urn had stood before it disappeared when spring arrived and the last of the winter’s snow had melted.

If she’d known the urn held the key, Thera, and Thunder, would be back at school instead of sitting, waiting for snow and moonlight, having spent more time away from home than ever planned.

As the afternoon wore on, the snow fell deeper, slowed and finally stopped falling altogether, the spent clouds slipping south.

Thunder stirred, jumped to the windowsill, looking out into the white blanketed world where Thera, and cat, saw the urn, askew, a bit of snow clinging to it’s carving, and Thera asked the cat, “Will we leave tonight Thunder, or hide the key somewhere else?”