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?”

River Mist Tales: The Notebook

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 apple 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.

notebookleaf_cwm

The Notebook

It was 2 am when Bronwyn sneaked out of the long closed library, walking home to the studio apartment she shared with fellow student, Deidre, a quiet and slow walk, hoping she might meet one of the woods folks as they were called by the locals.

Not wanting to wake her roommate, Bronwyn slowly opened the door, stepping inside without turning on the light before remembering Deidre was away for the weekend.

Flicking the light switch, Bronwyn took a step forward and stumbled, books, clothes and dishes were strewn about the floor.

She dropped her knapsack, every muscle tightening as she looked around the room, moving backwards, bumping into the front door, slamming it shut, rushing back against it.

Cupboard doors lay open, drawers were hanging empty, the beds were piles of sheets, blankets and pillows, from the closet, jeans, skirts, shirts and shoes spilled out like the insides of one of the road killed foxes she mourned earlier in the day as she returned from the forest trails.

Instinctively Bronwyn reached for her cell, began punching in the emergency numbers, stopped when she saw her desk, the chair in place, her notepads piled neatly, her pens arranged in a row side by side, reference books stacked by size, it was an oasis of tidiness, calmness among the chaos of the rest of the apartment.

Instead of calling the police, she called Ryan, waking him up, demanding he come immediately, there was something he needed to see.

While waiting for Ryan, Bronwyn checked the windows, all were closed, all were locked and she looked for any sign of who might have tossed the place, most thoroughly she examined her desk, the organization, what remained upon it, what might be missing.

Three of her favorite writing notebooks, hard covered, heavy smooth pages, had been placed in precise positions, side by side, on the short end of the desk, a pen placed upon each one, dead center, with a space on the desk for a fourth notebook left empty.

Bronwyn glanced towards her backpack where she had dropped it by the door, wondering if this invasion had anything to do with what she had found, what she had taken from the wood that very morning.

She had found it on a moss covered rock, tucked under a leaf, hand tooled designs filling the four quadrants of the front, back and even running along the spine of the leather cover, a filigreed fountain pen lay uncapped beside the notebook, its pages unwritten to her eyes.

As Ryan opened the door, pushing against the backpack, Bronwyn smiled, she had made the right decision, for Ryan believed the tales, and he would help return the notebook before any other mischief invaded her life, before something would be demanded in return, something not as easily returned as a blank notebook.

River Mist Tales: The Teacup

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.

teacuprasp_cwm

The Teacup

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.

River Mist Tales: The Wheelbarrow

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.

wheelbarrow_cwm

The Wheelbarrow

“Is that your wheelbarrow young man?”

Her voice was as aged and full of living as her crinkled face and bent, broad body.

“No ma’am, its not,” said Branden McFarland, wondering how such an ancient creature, unknown to him, would be walking about the countryside, far from village or neighbor.

“What ya gonna do with it?” she asked, her gray eyes watching his posture become first defensive, then relaxed, before turning impatient.

“Use it, after I fix it, fix this broken front brace,” said Branden gesturing toward the front of the old wheelbarrow.

“Don’t ya think you should fix it, and return it,” said the old woman.

“Return it, who to?” asked Branden, shaking his head.

“The woods wife, boy, the woods wife. She’d be grateful for the fixin, not for the keepin.”

Branden smiled at the woman, he had heard the tales, the faery stories of good fortune and ill, from folks who lived within the forest, but he knew the stories were just silly tales told to scare children.

Those gray eyes continued staring out of her crinkled face, she saw Branden’s expression, watched his disbelief growing with each breath he took, and as she turned to leave, she said, “You believe or not boy, the choice be yours, and so the consequences of your choosing.”

The next morning was almost spent before Branden, legs cramping from crouching, saw a young woman, dressed in moss green from head to toe, step beyond the forest edge, glance about, push the wheelbarrow, being satisfied with the workmanship, smile and return to the forest pushing the wheelbarrow before her.

Branden McFarland never saw either the young or old women again, he did see the wheelbarrow from time to time, sometimes broken, sometimes filled with seeds, or mushrooms, or wild herbs and other woodland treasures, prospering from the gifts which he gratefully accepted, never revealing their source to a living soul, and always choosing to repair the wheelbarrow and return it.

River Mist Tales: The Butterflies

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.

butterflies_cwm

 The Butterflies

“Your aunt is touched,” said Sorcha.

“She’s different, and yeah, she’s visited with the other crowd,” said Devan ignoring the heavy sighs billowing around Sorcha’s head. “Besides she’s not really my aunt, as you well know.”

“Right, I thought she said a short walk in the woods. It’s been two hours, and these shoes are killing me,” said Sorcha.

“We can stop for a few minutes,” said Devan moving off the dusty woods road toward a fallen tree trunk.

Dropping her knapsack onto the ground, placing one leg on either side of the massive trunk so her feet dangled, Sorcha said, “Maybe we misunderstood the directions, I’ve never heard of a kaleidoscope of butterflies, never seen more than one at a time, well close together anyway.”

Devan smiled as he sat beside his girlfriend, a multigenerational urbanite who was proving more country girl, more of a believer, than he had hoped for.

“You’re loving all this, aren’t you?”

“Yes I am, all those stories your aunt tells, all these trees, the birds, the unknown, so much unknown, so much space, and quiet,” said Sorcha. “Except these shoes, shouldn’t have listened to your sister.”

“Look,” said Devan pointing back towards the road, “look, there’s your kaleidoscope of butterflies.”

Jumping down from her resting place, grabbing her knapsack at she stepped, Sorcha said, “Let’s go, don’t want to lose those guides.”

River Mist Tales: Urn in Snow

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.

urnsnow_cwm

Urn in Snow

Thera Lindstrom pushed back into the soft aging chair, pulling the warm knitted afghan up across her lap, covering her legs.

She felt a soft thud as the yellow stripped tabby jumped down from the bookcase onto the arm of the chair.

The lights flickered as Thunder curled into a sleepy circle upon Thera’s warm lap, neither cat nor woman caring about electric lights.

Outside the cottage, snow, falling for the past five hours, had obliterated all the clinging vestiges of fall color.

It was a soft, dry snow, falling straight and slow, simplifying the landscape, simplifying her life.

Thera, pleased with the coming of the snow, settled down with a book, a pot of tea and a plate of warm biscuits and honey.

At one in the afternoon she knew there were many hours before the moon rise, if the snow clouds allowed, the moon would shine bright upon the world outside.

Six months Thera had waited for this snow fall, this silenced day before the rise of the full snow moon.

During the hot humid days of summer, Thera had tended the yard, the herb garden, watching the weedy edge of the circle where the urn had stood before it disappeared when spring arrived and the last of the winter’s snow had melted.

If she’d known the urn held the key, Thera, and Thunder, would be back at school instead of sitting, waiting for snow and moonlight, having spent more time away from home than ever planned.

As the afternoon wore on, the snow fell deeper, slowed and finally stopped falling altogether, the spent clouds slipping south.

Thunder stirred, jumped to the windowsill, looking out into the white blanketed world where Thera, and cat, saw the urn, askew, a bit of snow clinging to it’s carving, and Thera asked the cat, “Will we leave tonight Thunder, or hide the key somewhere else?”

River Mist Tales: The Meadow Cat

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.

cat_trail_cwm

The Meadow Cat

Ona sat tall in the creaking wooden chair, the aging cushion flattened under her slight weight, it’s woven design of oak leaves faded to a ghostly image.

Hands on her lap, she stared at the long awaited brown envelope she had placed on the bare kitchen table.

Four years ago, at the impetuous age of fourteen, Ona had written to the ageless woman who lived deep within the Forlorn Forest, offering herself as an apprentice, a helper, listing all the wild herbs Ona had studied and harvested, listing all the tinctures created, all the languages of tree and bird and wolf studied, ending with her knowledge of moon and stars.

Ona wrote of the meadow cat, the mostly white feline, intelligent and brave, a cat who knew where the chanterelles flourished in autumn, where the birch sap flowed at end of winter, where the first cress grew beside the surging waters of spring, and where the deadly nightshades bloomed under the the moon’s embrace in summer.

The meadow cat held no human bond, answered no human voice, gave no heed of the comings and goings of villager or traveler.

It was the meadow cat, accepting the name Allta from Ona, who showed the young girl where the hidden treasures of wood and meadow grew, taught Ona how much harvest was allowed, and what gift need be left in thanksgiving.

It was the meadow cat, Allta, who visited Ona in her dreams, telling her tales, revealing secrets, whispering recipes and preservation customs, and informing Ona’s decision to approach the woods woman, reminding her to do so with patience and respect.

It was Allta who counseled when Ona felt lost or confused, unsure in which world she belonged, her parent’s world of technology with its strong steel and glinting glass, mechanical and synthetic, or the woods woman’s mysterious and mythical world with its mingling of herb and tree, feather and fur.

No longer an excitable youth, the young woman sitting tall in the well-scrubbed kitchen, hands on her lap, smiled slightly, finally moving her right hand, lifting the brown envelope from the table.

Ona had never doubted the calling would come no matter how impatiently she waited, not when her schooling ended, not when her parents insisted upon college applications being sent, not even as schoolmates rushed towards jobs, towards lovers, towards expected futures.

Savoring the moment, alone in her parent’s home, Ona opened the envelope, removed the honey colored slip of paper, read the words written, by hand, in a flourishing script: “In three days time, on the eve of the full moon, follow the meadow cat.”

Placing the the note back inside its plain, stampless envelope, Ona rose, paused, looked out the window and upon seeing the meadow cat sitting at the edge of the wood, she called to Allta, “Three days, and I follow you down your path.”