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.

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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.