River Mist Tales: Red Ribbons

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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Red Ribbons

Maggie O’Brien sat on the edge of her bed swinging her legs back and forth, her hands resting upon the quilted covering, her fingers tracing the hand-stitched lines between the kaleidoscopic misshapen pieces of fabric.

The house and every other creature inside it were still asleep, slumbering in the early morning twilight more dark than bright dawn.

Beside Maggie, laid out in straight lines, were two pale red ribbons, tightly woven, strong and sure, edges untattered, their satin finish catching the rising light.

It had been exactly three hundred and sixty-two days since Maggie had asked her aunt Rita if she too, could knot ribbons onto the hawthorn tree on May Day, giving both petition and thanks with the weaving of branch and ribbon.

For years Maggie had watched her older cousins, the aunts, their friends, gather in the back meadow in the dew kissed dawn on the first day of May, cheerful, sharing very particular gifts received from the wild wood.

She spied as the women, dressed in vibrant hues of yellow, blues, greens and purples, gather the low growing violets, the trailing ivy, the tiny wild daisies and blossoming thyme, weaving flower and leaf into circlets for hair and neck.

She spied, moving with soft footstep and quiet breath, amidst the dark blue shade of the yellow green leaves, the pink and white petals of the spring dressed cherry and apple trees, the woody thickset hedges forming the border between sunny meadow and shadowed wood.

From her green haven, Maggie never heard complete the chants whispered, the petitions given, until the women’s melodic voices joined together into a raucous chorus of joyful thanksgiving.

And she never saw the annual celebration in its entirety, for Maggie always crept back to the house, arriving in the warm kitchen long before her mother, who was wary and critical of the old ways practiced by her sisters and nieces, could discover her daughter’s interest, her daughter’s desire, her daughter’s yearning for the mysterious fellowship of ribbon and blooming hawthorn.

The bedroom door, which Maggie had left unlatched and just opened enough for a mouse to slip through, was pushed with a strong and sure hand as an invitation to join the revelry.

Maggie, finishing her silent invocation, her memorizing of petition and thanksgiving as instructed by her cousin a mere one year older, smiled at her retreating aunt, grabbed the ribbons, jumped down from the bed and ran with lilting footsteps down the front stairs and through the opened front door.

Falling into step behind her youngest cousin, Maggie walked solemnly even as her heart was skipping, her mind joyous, her face beaming with anticipation, giving thanks with each step, and wondering where her place would be in the circle around the hawthorn, wondering how the celebrations end, wondering if she too, on the next May Day morn, would hold dear a gift from the wild wood.

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