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.
Arabella jumped out of bed and ran to the arching bedroom window.
It was there, the mist moving with the river as if the river itself had flowed into the sky and was continuing on its way meandering through tree tops and along cloud canyons.
Knowing she must hurry, Arabella pulled up the blankets over the pillows, dressed with haste, being as silent as a swiftly moving cloud.
She had already packed the teacups, the forks and spoons, the rose flowered plates, her grandmother’s blue trimmed linen napkins into the old woven picnic basket.
The tiny tea sandwiches she made fresh each night were hidden from her brothers at the back of the refrigerator, along with two small applesauce cakes she had baked alongside her mother.
Arabella had been watching the signs like the old woman had taught her, the change in the night temperature, the return of the stellar jays from their summer roosts, the changing colors of the elm, maple and oak leaves, all these signs of the coming autumn gathering.
And most importantly, the mist on the river, not a static melting mist, but a rising floating mist following the course of the river below it.
She had found the remains of the gathering last year, and the year before, and the year before that, she had tried to join in the festivities, especially what she considered tea time, arriving without treats to share, without tea or cups, without being invited.
Obtaining an invitation, the old woman said, requires a bit of bravery, them folk don’t allow just any daughter to sit with them, and they won’t ask ya, ya got to find them, be as if you’d already been invited, and they’d be expectin’ you, and don’t forget treats and tea.
Today would be Arabella’s third attempt in joining the tea time revels with the woods folk as the old woman called them, as she said they called themselves, not caring for any other of the human names, not revealing the sparkling language of their own.
Arabella slipped out the kitchen door, the picnic basket heavy with delights both sweet and savory, a flask of tea, a pot for serving, teacups for drinking, and walked quickly, confidently towards the river.
The mist changed the world, hiding, revealing river, tree and footpath, changing what is seen, pulling Arabella further from home, further from what was known, until she found the sign she was looking for, a teacup turned on its side into its saucer, keeping a few feet away Arabella set her tree trunk table with cloth and napkins, cups and saucers, plates and piles of sandwiches, scones and cakes, and waited, knowing today they would come, for she heard the soft foot fall, the tinkling laughter flowing out of the mist.