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.


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 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.


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.”