River Mist Tales: The Rose Garden

Come in, come in. The mist has settled, you may as well sit, sip a cup of tea, read a few tales.

No introductions are needed, river folk know what needs to be known.

There’s spice cake and cheddar if you’re hungry. Milk and sugar for the tea, unless you brought a flask of your own.

Don’t open the window if the crows tap and call, nor heed those gossiping tabbies.

I’ll be working in the far alcove if you have any needs or she knocks upon the door. Don’t want to keep her waiting.

Enjoy her photographs and her 12-line tales, though she’s a bit loose with the truth, too revealing with the magic.

Until you visit again may your wonderings be bold and your imaginings be wise.

rosegarden_cwm

The Rose Garden

Even though the crusty blackened edges of the piled snow had long been pulled from the noisy streets, winter’s hand remained upon Suzanne’s heart, evidence of those heroic bits of stem and bud, those tiny jewels promising spring, remained unseen as the calendar pages turned from April to May.

For many long winter imprisoned weeks, Suzanne, having arrived without reference, without an introduction, had walked the gray sidewalks, desperate for employment, any work allowing her to live inside, eat every day, promising a return home, to her home, the hope of reclaiming her inheritance.

With no commercial skills, as she was told during countless interviews, Suzanne watched in growing silence as her written applications were quickly discarded without being read, until she found work on a night shift, as an office cleaner.

Hardly seen, searched every time she entered or exited the building, Suzanne discovered an unexplored solace in the night, in the empty rooms, the empty streets of the slowly illuminating dawn, her memories remaining strong though her heart and body slowly weakened.

Yearning for the clean crispness of the wood in winter, the softening as spring crept into the meadows, the cottage garden revealing hidden secrets as it awoke from its crystalline dreaming, Suzanne looked for any portent of nature among the steel and concrete, any terrain for breathing, for healing.

Finding the celebrated window displays disheartening, their sprouting metal flowers and jagged trees, spindly and incomplete, an unfinished reference to the wonder, the true magic of flowers and trees, Suzanne witnessed the spectacle of both the real and artificial being dismissed in equal regard, and so too, was she.

Here concrete, uncolored companion to the gray black of the road, holding court with the color-drained sidings of the ever reaching buildings, every surface straight, smooth, featureless, remained unchanged as days grew longer, winds grew drier, warmer.

As more and more sunlight fell upon her morning ramble back to the dorm where she spent dreamless days, Suzanne growing weaker, her steps slow, her breaths shallow, began shuffling along different streets, zigzagging her way, spying through closed gates guarding private spaces, hoping for a glint of growth, of petal, of leaf, a saving grace.

All appeared without character, untended, some spaces rigidly shaped, emptied of all flowers, shrubs and trees, except for the idea of grass, grown as a green carpet for a tiny unfurnished room, a buffer zone between buildings, dying a slow death in shadow.

This morning as she stepped onto an unfamiliar narrow lane, the prevailing scent, mineral, damp, and dirty, rising from the street was tinged with a sweet, fruity bouquet, Suzanne stopped, taking a longer breath, and another, and another, each breath deepening, as the scent expanded, filling her, calling her.

Looking for the source of this strengthening wonder, Suzanne approached a high built, rough textured brick wall topped with smooth granite stones, an archway held a recessed carved door, oversized, well matched by a dragon shaped door knocker and hand latch, raising her eyes, she saw shafts of sunlight rising from, not falling down onto, whatever lay beyond that wall, behind that door.

Without hesitation Suzanne lifted the latch, she pushed the door open, warm bright light crashed upon her as a wave to shore, her mouth slowly forming into a smile, a motion she found almost foreign, roses spilled about before her in every direction beside an aging brick pathway, and a voice like a spring breeze called out, “Come Suzanne, you are most welcome, close the door behind you, here you will find your way back home.”

River Mist Tales: The Boy

Hurry, this way, before the river mist settles upon the dooryard. It may be a while before your path home is revealed.

The seat by the window is most comfortable and there’s tea in the pot, if you haven’t brought a wee dram of your own.

Ignore the cats, don’t open the windows when the crows come calling.

I’ll be working in the darkened alcove across the room if you have any needs or she knocks upon the door.

She doesn’t like to be kept waiting. Enjoy her photographs and her 12-line tales. Though she is a bit loose with the truth and a bit too revealing with magic, as your kind calls it.

Until your next visit, may your wonderings be bold and your imaginings be wise.

pirateboy_cwm

The Boy

The first time I saw the boy was during a free concert held on the docks downtown.

He was standing a few steps into the water, from a small stretch of sandy beach below the docks, a bit of open space between the docks and one of the historic buildings built along Water Street, this one housing a cafe and art gallery.

I decided he had arrived aboard the graceful wooden schooner hoisting red sails, sporting a flag of skull and crossbones, anchored not far offshore.

His feet were hidden below the water line, he was wearing his long clothes, his pirate costume, pants cut off, shirts and vests hanging in crumpled untidy layers, ill fitting, salt air and sun faded, his tricorn hat appearing too big for his head, a head he kept bent, giving all his attention to the small model boat he was moving through the calm water lapping the shore.

After watching the boy for a few minutes I returned my attention to the band, listening to the raucous, toe tapping music, then following a few songs sent afloat, I drifted back to the far side of the dock, the boy pirate and his model boat were gone, the schooner was still anchored nearby, but there was no dory heading out to it, or tied along side of it, or anywhere within sight.

The second time I saw the boy pirate was during Pirate Days, among the artisans, musicians and actors, young and old, dressed in costumes, he appeared part of the crowd, just another kid enjoying the festivities, except this time I watched him with obvious attention, and yet he disappeared once again in a fleeting moment of distraction.

A few days later, I found the young pirate on a quiet autumn dawn, when the streets were empty of people, instead fog roamed along the sidewalks, dipping in and out of doorways, rushing around the corners of buildings softening the strong edges, shrouding the still-lit street lamps, hiding from view the water lapping the shore only a few steps away yet seeming miles in distance as if we were moving through a dream.

The lad was walking along the sleeping street carrying his model boat, his feet bare, his head tilted down so I couldn’t see his face, but I saw him, and so I followed him even as his stride became more purposeful as if he knew I was there, behind him, as if the fog was pushing him up the street, and like the fog his form would rise and fall from sight, fading, becoming wispy, thin, almost transparent before becoming solid again.

There was a whispering current about my ears, stay back, stay away, you must not follow, it said over and over, growing loud and strong before fading away soft and loose, as if it were the fog’s voice swirling around me, rising and falling like waves crashing, crashing between me and the lad.

But I could not stop following the pirate, I could not turn away, my curiosity was rising, breaching my cautious mind, where was this young pirate going, why did he always appear alone, who or what, was he.

As we continued north, heading toward the boat docks, the headland, the end of the street, the known storefronts, window displays, and those steps leading to glass fronted doors disappeared into the ebb and flow of fog, landmarks faded from sight, only the lad, his clutched boat, the darkened road, the sound of surf, anchored me in time, stirred my courage.

The ground beneath my feet changed tone, the pirate and I had walked onto the wooden pier, heading down a gangplank towards floating docks where fog shrouded boats slept lulled by the rhythm of tides, the fog had wrapped itself tight around me, and through that blinding wet dark a gentle song of salt crusted rope, of metal, of water hitting wood rose up, I could not see beyond the ghost like figure of my pirate, until tripping over an transom I found myself onboard a schooner hoisting red sails, and high up a fluttering Jolly Roger, as the sun rose into a clear blue sky, with nothing but vast ocean all around.

River Mist Tales: Found

Welcome traveler, no need for names here. River folk have a way of knowing what needs to be known.

There’s tea in the pot, slices of spice cake, fresh apples and cheddar.

Don’t open the window when the crow taps, nor let the cats out, no matter what they tell you.

I’ll be working in the far alcove if you have any needs or she knocks upon the door with her basket of tales.

Enjoy her photographs and her 12-line tales, though she’s a bit loose with her truths.

Please come again. You’ll always find comfort, refreshment and a bit of magic.

Until next time, may your wonderings be bold and your imaginings be wise.

dragonegg_cwm

Found

“You can’t keep it child.”

“Why not, it’s only a decorated egg, folks lose things in the woods all the time,” said Emily determined this treasure, found unattended, now belonged to her.

“No one lost this, you can’t keep it.”

“Please Granny Morna, just for tonight, I promise I’ll take it back, tomorrow, after breakfast,” said Emily hoping by morning her granny would have forgotten all about the egg.

Granny Morna looked out the window, the coming dark turning the glass more into a mirror than an open view out onto the garden and the wood beyond, the dark forcing her choice, they must care for the egg overnight, not the safest option but the most necessary one.

As she waited upon her granny, Emily rolled the smooth hard egg around within in her small hands, it was larger, heavier than any egg she had ever seen, had ever carried, covered in hues of red and purple, for some talented hand had painted the egg, and there was a symbol, a symbol she knew must mean something, and as she looked and rolled it, the egg grew warmer, almost hot, to the touch, the symbol glowing.

“All right, just for tonight, but you must do exactly as I say,” said Granny Morna as Emily, hiding the glowing egg behind her back, nodded in agreement, smiling, ready to do whatever chore her granny may ask of her, but chores were not what Granny Morna had in mind.

Instead the white haired woman pulled a shovel of ash and charred wood from the hearth, banking the small pile under the bread oven, just a bit back into the dark, where food was often put to warm but not cook.

Not understanding but obeying, Emily placed the egg into the smoldering pile, directed by her granny, she fetched sand from the bucket kept on the porch, spread it around the pile, banked it against the egg.

“Won’t that be too warm?” asked Emily unheeded, wondering why soft cloths in a basket wouldn’t be better, and then she could keep the egg tucked up in her sleeping alcove, keep watch over it.

Satisfied with the preparations for the egg itself, Granny Morna turned her attention towards other precautions, she had Emily gather a large handful of barley seeds and throw them about the porch, from the dark, dry corners of the cottage Emily gathered dried sprigs of betony, foxglove and holly, tying the leaves and flowers together with a gold colored ribbon, finally, her chatter full of questions, Emily hung the beribboned bundle from the heavy door knocker.

Settling her creaking bones beside the fire, Granny Morna let loose a deep breath, a passing of time, old promises, long drained of purpose, needed breaking, her granddaughter needed protection, needed knowledge, it was time for truths, for answers, for Emily must know who she is, what she can do, why all this fuss for an egg, “It’s not a simple thing you have taken from the wood dear child, no you have stolen a dragon’s egg, and we must show it, and any who comes looking for it, hospitality and reverence.”

River Mist Tales: The Birthday Guest

Don’t be shy. Come in, the mist is settling over the river, the dark will be upon the forest any time now.

Here you’ll find some small comforts, a pot of tea, some spice cookies, a soft pillowed chair tucked between the window and the fire.

Ignore the cats, gossip mongers all of them.

I’ll be working at the desk tucked into the far corner if your any needs or she knocks upon the door.

Enjoy her photographs and her 12-line tales. She’s a bit loose with the truth, a bit too revealing with her magic.

Until you come again, may your wonderings be bold and your imaginings be wise.

birthdayparty_cwm

The Birthday Guest

“I know somethin,” said Gabby, her voice singing, teasing, “ I know somethin, ya don’t need to tell.”

“Hush child, she’ll learn soon enough” said Hannah straightening the knives and forks, turning the plates so their tiny jeweled morsels were further from the table edge, the long view showing off her culinary handiwork.

“Can I ask Miss Plums…,” the young girl stopped mid name.

“Miss Plumworth, Gabby, her name is Plumworth, yeah after we eat you can, if mom hasn’t asked her to leave,” said Hannah.

“Mom won’t ask her, she knows’er, that’s what I know, mom knows Miss Plums, Miss Plumsworth.”

“Plumworth,” Hannah glared at her sister, her mind moving back in time, the late night conversation with her mother, words knotted with anger and fear, until Hannah had made a promise she would never keep.

How did their mother know the traveling collector, Hannah hadn’t heard about the woman until months after the encounter with the boy, when the letter arrived, its author requesting a visit, a simple conversation, a few questions, providing the date and time of her arrival, there was no return address.

Maybe the boy told the truth, maybe he had met their mother, years ago, when she was a mere girl herself.

And if the boy had told that truth, maybe all his other stories were true as well, maybe their brother, Paul, was away, not dead, maybe he was living with family, their family, maybe he was celebrating his birthday just as Hannah was celebrating it here today, but none of it made any sense, why would mother lie, and where does she go when the moon is full and the woods hide her steps, her path, preventing Hannah from following.

A firm knock on the front door pulled Hannah from her thoughts, from her confusion, her speculations, taking a deep breath she smoothed her dress, took another glance at the celebratory table satisfied Paul would have liked his birthday tea, and wondering if everything was about to change, again.

She was tall, more curving, wearing so many different colors and patterns and textures, her boots well worn, her hair a constrained mass of curls pushing hard against tightly braided ribbons, both curls and braids trying to free themselves, she carried an oversized carpet bag, a smile brightening her face, not at all, Hannah thought, as formal in appearance and stature as her handwritten letter had suggested.

“Hannah, I see your mother in your curiosity, especially when she was your age,” said Miss Plumworth, “though I hope you are more imaginative, possess more courage, a more open heart.”

Hannah glanced from Miss Plumworth towards her mother who was standing quiet, head lowered, eyes downcast, a posture she had never seen her mother take before, then returning her gaze to their guest, Hannah, her mind galloping ahead, asked, “Are we related to faeries?”