Winged Tales – Mrs. Deacon – life and Death of the Midwife and Substitute Teacher

barbara deacon
Mrs. Deacon has lived her entire life in the valley. As a matter of fact, she lives in the very house she was born in. She sleeps in the same four poster bed her mother gave her life in as her own drained away in a sea of pain and red. Her own baby’s cries drowned out by the impassioned cries of her father. Cries brought out by tremendous loss of his only love, and also the fear of having to bring up little Barbara all by herself.

Mrs. Deacon herself remained a childless war bride. As a rambunctious child herself, she matured into a strong headed young lady off to see the world. She met Mr. Deacon high atop a mountain in the Himalayas where both were learning the basics of Eastern mysticism. They walked hand in hand through the greenest of the world’s pastures in the plains of Golok.  Those long walks between supping on yak’s milk and deep fried breads, shared, with no desire for repayment by the locals. The tribes seemed to enjoy learning about their visitors as the visitors were enjoying learning of the tribes. Tribespeople who marvelled at Barbara’s pale skin and hair. Barbara marvelled at the richness of the weaving and the adept horsemanship of every man woman and child.

Arthur had only a couple of weeks to spend with Barbara, there in the Himalayas before going back to duty in East Asia. They were married only hours before parting ways. Arthur held her from the minute they were married until the moment he boarded the train. She could feel him still, to this day. One could not love more than Barbara had loved Arthur and there was no question of ever loving anyone else.

For a time upon her return after the funeral held in his home town, her friend urged her to again marry. It was not going to be. Instead she threw herself back into the small town that was her cradle, and now her mission to keep it as it was and always had been, a safe and nurturing place to live and grow old. Barbara became a midwife and the other teacher in the small town. She would teach when the other teacher fell ill. Arthur had provided for her so she had no worries and could dedicate herself completely to keeping the perfect little world of the valley as it was then, and to in no small part her credit, is the same peaceful valley to this day.

groundskeeping01
Her fervent belief in mysticism might have started in the valley and not the Himalayas. The valley teemed with unseen life of fairies and other creatures of the woods, such as the dragon and the halloweenies. Being that she was an only child and her father worked delivering the mail all day, she spent much time with Big Slow Fred. He introduced her to fairies at the goose races. Fairies were small gossamer creatures, very playful, very kind. She saw them too at the graveyard, which though the caretaker was far too old to do a lot of grounds keeping was nevertheless pristine and manicured. It was the one place she truly felt she had a mother, for there was a gravestone with her mother’s name Clara Jeanne Lloyd -Brown. It said right there “mother of Barbara Jeanne and wife of John Brown”.

As Barbara grew older she took responsibility for the grave’s appearance thinking as much of Arthur as her mum. It was all she could do to honour them. As with most everyone she had stopped seeing the fairies as a grown up. In the setting of the Himalayas there was a profound sense of presences, and with each shifting of the light, Barbara was sure she had seen them, small creatures, gossamer, flitting in and out of the shadows. Tending to the sick, in among the yak herds, playing with the local children and looking after the elderly.  Engaging the elderly in conversations as a way to keep their minds from shutting down before their bodies were ready for the next lifetime. Barbara was grateful that she had met Arthur there. They studies the beliefs of the tribes, of the holy men, to this their own beliefs and the love between them and for their fellow man. They both knew it was a matter of time only before they once again would be paired off in another lifetime.

The time before her travels abroad she had studied other cultures formally in one of the more prestigious universities on scholarship. It was the one time in her life that none of the unseen were ever hiding in the shadows or flitting about. Sometimes Barbara would notice their absence and wonder why. Not until her travels in the east did she notice that only in the peaceful and pastoral places were the unseen present. Her own theory was that the great noise of the cities and the cruelties man visited on man in these places, out of frustrations of poverty, sloth and impatience, had caused the unseen to retreat. Perhaps they were outright killed off by the negative acts and the hopelessness, just too much for the gossamer little creatures. Fairies need flowers and peaceful clean breezes, carefree play and laughter of children, and the kindness and insights of the elderly to thrive.

On her return to the valley she became one of a group of devout valley inhabitants determined to keep the valley as it was. Grown children could choose to move away, but would always be welcomed back. In order to avoid what they saw as the great problems of the modern work, greed, poverty and loneliness, it was made certain the values were taught at the earliest of ages, sharing and cooperation, and friendships among all that no person should every be lonely or wanting for the basic needs and as much work was contributed by each citizen as was needed and no more, the rest was for family and community. It had worked here. Some had moved away, some returned. Occasionally a new citizen would arrive as a guest and never leave. Grown children sometimes moved back to start a family with a fiancee from elsewhere.

Now Barbara was old, and time had stooped her posture. She used a cane to get around and at home had a wheelchair. Her tired arms struggled to pull her up and down from chair to toilet, and to bed. Fairies would help, and in the scariest of night when she felt powerful pains in her side and her chin and she could feel her heart slow, they would sit and tell stories until the pain subsided.

So it was that one night when her good neighbours had sat with her the afternoon and her hands were dutiful at work on yet another carriage blanket for an expected child in the neighbours family, the pain started one more time. A lovely group of fairies all sat beside her crossed knitting needles on her lightly heaving abdomen, and the fairies were telling stories. Stories of her own travels, stories of Arthur stories of all life’s high points.

In the morning when the neighbours came to check on Barbara they found her no longer alive, but smiling serenely. Beside her on her bedtime table lay a finished carriage blanket. Perhaps finished by fairies, or perhaps by Barbara.

groundskeeping02A new headstone came to the graveyard in the valley “Barbara Jeanne Brown-Deacon, wife of Arthur Deacon and a good friend and neighbour”. On a balmy day in the valley, if you should happen to come by there, you might catch a fairy here and there, keeping the grounds tidy, spreading new seeds for next years wildflowers. In the wind you can hear their chatter, sometimes they even sing. At least you can if your heart is at peace and you can stop long enough. You might never leave. Just one warning, there have been stories of the dragon making very sure not one fairy or citizen is ever badly treated. That’s for another time, as it has nothing to do with Barbara.

Stories She Told

Stories She Told
Lilly lay back gratefully on the fresh linen sheets. Fresh linen was one of her very favourite fragrances. From the time the sheets were on her crib, hand-washed by her mother, to the present the sheets washed by machine by her daughter Audrey. Audrey propped her now fragile mother onto the softest of pillows. Gently she braided the elder woman’s white hair into a single braid and fastened it with a soft pink elastic.

It was the details of her care that gave Lilly her glowing dignity. She looked like a grand empress of days gone by. Dignity was not easy to hang onto. Certainly the care she received by her daughter and the gentle and kind doctor who would visit weekly could be largely held responsible for continued dignity, and the sparkling sense of humour the old woman demonstrated time and time again. She told stories, her own stories, other people’s stories, with such wit, that even neighbours would make the effort to visit just to hear them.

It had become Lilly’s vocation “storyteller extraordinaire” in residence. Audrey’s two little girls and their friends were her most loyal audience. They came twice a week now that Lilly’s illness took most of her energies completely away. On days the girls did not come over there were visits from neighbours and the few old friends still left. At eighty, one has fewer friends.

Audrey was her only surviving child, both her sons had died some long time ago. Audrey herself was born when Lilly was in her forties. Dan, Lilly’s husband, had left not long after Audrey was born, The accident which had killed both their boys was something he never came to terms with. Though Lilly accepted his every mea culpa, he could not forgive himself nor move his life forward. Lilly returned to her teaching career.

In her private moments, she always hoped he would come back. In her dreams he would gently hold her hand that she should not die alone. In truth, it was probable that Dan had long ago died himself, but in kindness to this grand lady no-one would speak to that possibility. Audrey’s husband Len was very much as she expected her own sons would have grown up to be, strong, silent, tall and lanky with a decidedly wry and dark sense of humour. Without ever really knowing her own father, Audrey married a man almost identical in character to her Dan. Not that she would say this out loud, ever. Her daughter was happy, the marriage was good, why cast even the smallest doubt into it. Lilly held the pain, bore it with dignity, and from there it would have no further victims.

Now many years into her retirement, after breaking her hip traversing the mountains in Nepal, she had moved in with her daughter. Then came the diagnosis of a neurological illness which would slowly wreak havoc of her breathing, her heartbeat, it made her dizzy, and falling at her age was dangerous. Now was a good time to spend with her grandkids and her surviving child. Life had been good. Lilly felt as prepared as one could be for the adventures in the next world. Not that she dwelt on it. It had always been her philosophy that life was for the present. The rest was either history or conjecture, and neither of those was very useful.

The times when Lilly did wonder, it was to do with her boys and the afterlife. Would they know her? Would they be little boys still or would they be grown? Perhaps having died so young their souls had been given another life and she would never see them again. That thought always made her twinge and her eyes were instantly moist.

When her mind started to wander into that mire she would pick up her knitting. Slowly and with full concentration she worked each stitch, and in a needle, or two, those painful thoughts were gone. Almost every little girl who ever came to visit had a sweater, or hat made by Lilly. Audrey kept the yarn basket topped up so there would always be something to keep Lilly productive.

Today was like most days. Len would pop his head around and bid goodbye on his way to work, and if time allowed Lilly would tell him how handsome he looked, today was such a day. In fact he took the time to come to her bedside and took her pulse.

“You look tired, Lilly, maybe the girls shouldn’t come today?”

“I spend my days in bed, Len, I am just old, I like the girls to come round.”

He knew her well enough not to argue, but told Audrey to keep and eye on her because her pulse was weak and her skin a little clammy. Once the door closed Audrey felt a strong sinking sensation and his words played over and over again as she stood unable to move for quite some time staring out the window over her formidable rose garden. She brought a light breakfast on a pretty tray to Lilly and opened her window.

“Can you smell the roses, mum”.

“Oh, are they out already? Goodness time flies. I remember when you bought the house and we planted them. Little Emma was so angry when the rosebush fist produced blooms and she’d tried plucking a flower for her mum and hot badly stung by a thorn.”

“She still doesn’t like roses much.”

After taking the tray back to the kitchen Audrey ran a few errands and came home with one of the new roses in hand to take to mum. A beautiful white rose. Lilly was asleep and didn’t want to wake.

Sometime later the girls came home with a couple of friends and handfuls of wild flowers picked on the way home from school. A slightly subdued Lilly happily accepted the offerings and told a story about a small house mouse and her adventures with a gentle tabby cat who kept the mouse as her own pet.

On finishing the story Lilly felt a sudden exhaustion that was so profound she couldn’t utter another word. Audrey noticed the change in her mother most immediately. The girls were gently ushered out the room. Lilly felt warm, the scent of the roses was suddenly more pronounced and the sounds in the house became distant. Lilly was aware of the shallow breathing which was becoming ever more laboured and she was slightly fearful. There was no doubt she was dying. She knew she was dying, but had hung on for so long now as a bedridden invalid, that the exact moment was a surprise even to her.

The grand old lady tried to take a deeper breath but could not. Her body was warm and there was no painful sensation, just and unfamiliar but pleasant glow. She was aware someone was holding her hand, but could not open her eyes to see who. Lilly smiled one last smile, and on the scent of roses sailed her spirit to whatever world was next.

Winged Tales – Stella

stella001It was a lovely and warm evening in late spring. The scented air of a well-kept herb garden mingled with the neighbour’s roses every time a breeze rolled through the valley. Ms. Smith’s herb garden was legendary. All year round Stella supplied The bakery, the restaurant, and the pharmacy, as well as selling to the people of the valley directly. People would come to a stop in front of her house where the slightest of breezes would bathe you in a lasting scent of thyme, lavender and oh so many of nature’s fragrances.

Stella herself had inherited the herb garden from her grandmother who just a few years ago she died at a ripe old age of one hundred and four. Old Fran, as she was affectionately known, was not only a herb grower, but an accomplished herbalist, quite often the only medical professional in the entire valley. Even the town doctor had been known to consult with Fran, and to this day he used her recipes for salves and infusions when it would serve every bit as well as modern medications.

Stella inherited not only the house and herb garden but was helped out of many hard-bound volumes written by various centuries of women containing generations of knowledge of herbs and naturopathy. Had this lineage of women lived anywhere but the Valley they might have provided morbid entertainment to worked-up crowds wanting to see the local witch burned at the stake. Not here. Not in this valley. This valley above all held life and personal freedom as holy. These women were simply talented herbalists, no-one could conceive of the valley without Stella, Fran, and their ancestors. By some strange providence, no boys were born into this bloodline for going back many centuries.

Stella herself came into this life at midnight of the summer solstice. Her mother, the always frail Angela, died later that same day. Tears of joy and sadness ran together in the Valley that day. Harold Smith, a builder by trade raised his only daughter and was helped by Fran, who had energy you’d expect from a younger woman. Fran’s daughter, however, like so many in the maternal lineage was frail, and with age lost strength in her legs and was exhausted, unable to garden with the energy of her ageing mother. When she married Harold, Fran worried that bearing children would be too much for her daughter. She lived only so long to be able to hold her tiny daughter, kiss her little face hands and feet, before falling into her eternal sleep.

Stella was a bright and energetic child, slight, blond, and full of mischief. Harold had his hands quite full with that one. She could out-climb most of the Valley’s boys her age. It was Fran’s greatest challenge to turn little Stella Into a young lady. By the time Stella was twelve, she struck a bargain with her grandmother. She would be the perfect young lady for all of every Sunday, but during the week she might or might not, no promises.

By the time she finished her studies the Valley school had more children than just one teacher could handle. Stella was thrilled to be able to teach and stay in the Valley. So quite a few years she taught, and became a great teacher. Then, one summer after a bout of what was assured to be the flu or grippe, Stella’s energy waned. By fall it was obvious that running after twenty little children would be too much-Fran, who was getting older, suggested that Stella take over The herbal garden. Stella, though a bit sad at first, grew to be thoroughly happy in her work. Fran meanwhile, could finally enjoy the friendships which the had cultivated over so many years. In the evening Fran would work on her own volume of herbs, potions, gardening and so on. .-

Stella was quite happy gardening, bundling fresh herbs to sell to the baker, grocer and of course the doctor. Unlike running after naughty children this work did not drain her. Years passed and in that timeless manner so typical of all things in the Valley, Stella’s garden grew the same quality of herbs now that Fran had retired. People still came to a full stop in front of the house taking in deep breaths of lavender-scented air. Walking up to the house for tea with Stella had the added treat of walking on the small Stone walkway with fragrant Thyme growing between each store, with each step the tiny crushed leaves surrendered a powerful scent before they rebounded to live on. If that was not grand enough one walked by the wall of scented tea roses the neighbours lovingly tended.

To be met by Stella holding a tray of freshly baked herbal scores, served with a fresh pot of infused mint, well, frankly what could be better? Invitation to tea with Stella, was highly prized. Stella had an ever-growing collection of fine porcelain teapots, brought back from travels made by grateful friends, as well as from Stella’s own travels. Her newly made recipes now were starting her own proud volume next to Fran’s 882 page volume. Fran who had lived a few years past one hundred, quietly passed away in her deck chair under the lemon tree.

Stella herself had reached an age where it was unlikely she would start a family. There had been suitors, but none who could offer her a life better and more peaceful Than the one she already had here. So it seemed she would be the last of the prized herb gardeners. So it would seem.

Then that awful night that a near lifeless Stella was found lying face down, in a patch of borage.  Kayli from next door, while tending those stunning tea roses spotted Stella, her pet apricot toy poodle beside her, softly whimpering. Kayli tore over to Stella who was trying to talk, “help me” was the gist of it. The doctor was called. A small crowd had gathered by the gate. Over the next few days everyone awaited results of tests along with Stella.

Anxious, but in good spirits she greeted the doctor, whose rather grim Countenance, did nothing to put anyone at ease. What he said, he said in private, so the very specifics were not then revealed. However, with her permissions, he gave the boiled down version to the small crowd by the gate. Stella would not fully recover. She was unlikely to walk on her own power.

What followed could only happen in this valley, where every breath is sacred, where no-one ever is left to struggle alone. The town carpenter and the mechanic got together and built a most remarkable chair. Lovingly carved to be comfortable, cushions made for her by yet another neighbour, filled with down lovingly strewn by the racing geese and collected into small bales by faeries, who left them just by the door.

The chair had an oil filled suspension, which could with little effort be lowered to where she could tend herbs in beds a local farmer built, carefully replanting each plant by hand. If that was not remarkable enough, Joe, who had twice sailed around the world (each time after Stella turned down his proposal of marriage) brought some small solar panels from one of his travels, and with group ingenuity fitted them into the design along with a power cel, allowing the chair to move silently once charged. Stella’s gardening would easily keep it topped up. The chair could be raised to where she would stand eye to eye, but safe from falling.

The next few months a young distant cousin came to stay with Stella to learn about the herbs. Although Stella in her chair was going strong, it was good to know the long term future of the renowned herb garden and herbery, was in good hands as well.

Winged Tales – Tania Flies with Pegasus

Nothing quite so exhilarating as flight now is there? Maybe Tania just believe that because she had heard it so often. Time to find out, how did I actually feel about flight. The opportunity arose when she was offered a ride on Pegasus over the bay at night. She was one of a a very few ever invited to do so. In fact very few members of the community were ever allowed entrance to the island camp. After all no-one wanted it to be known outside the value that flying horses and donkeys and fairies inhabited this valley along with humans. It was a special honour that she should be so entrusted. She was one of the last to take her turn. Tania’s lower lip had been sore for a a while from biting on it. She had learned to handle her flying, luggage carrying donkey, but only to fly her belongings around the secret camp, she’d be much to afraid to take it further than that.

It was more like twilight about five in the morning when it was at last her turn. She shook slightly but was not about to let anyone in on that. Tania had always felt dread and utter horror when about to try something new. Not in her character to let it show, not a chance. She took pride in her stoicism, it was a large part of who she was. In truth Tania was horrified every time she’d mounted a horse. Horses were big and capable of pounding her into a fine mush if they chose and she was entirely unsure of how they felt carting humans about. Tania thoufelt no envy or desire to change places with the winged horse or any horse for that matter.

Once solidly astride, some of the heart pounding fear dropped off. Tania was committed to the ride and so would no doubt get through it. She pulled my coat a little tighter around herself Tania thought she should really have worn something more accommodating to sitting on a flying horse.

“Nudge her”, said the stable boy. Tania almost bit her lip clear through. Sweat was forming on her forehead. She dug her heels lightly into Pegasus’s muscled body, Pegasus flinched a little. Obviously it was necessarynightflight9c to nudge with more certainty.

Sure enough Pegasus took to the sky in one great and confident swoop. So busy dealing with the fear was she to remember much of it or take any great enjoyment. That said, once in the air Tania was very much glad she had not totally chickened out. The view was utterly amazing. The cliff sides were so glorious in the early morning light. From up thee Tania could see clearly the cave entrance where the enchantress, warmly robed, could be seen in her early morning meditations.

The enchantress looked so serene in her elegant robes sitting in timelessness. Unlike mortals like me she knew exactly where the future would take her. Tania in her adulthood was going through most of her life blind sided by events over which she’d had no control. Well, enough envy. Envy is an unattractive state and not one to linger in. Not far away from her stood several of the donkeys, looking sleepily upward. Possibly wondering if it might be fun to come along with us. Maybe not, maybe just noticing that for once Tania had conquered the fear of flying horses and had taken a flight, after weeks of utter reluctance.

There were other more “human” views, bathers had startled at the mineral baths. Tania knew better than to wave, privacy is something we are all entitled to, and bathing was always private. Suddenly Tania noticed she had completely forgot to be afraid. Just then for one second, she was not afraid, not one little bit. Just as suddenly it all came back. Pegasus swooped and landed. Tania took sugar lumps from her pocket and brushed the amazing flying horse before going on her way way.

Before leaving the exclusive camp she was presented with a picture of the flight to remember the moment by, something for her to cherish, always.

Winged Tales – Tuttut

Tuttut was in trouble. Poor dear. Two weeks of life, never without mum, meant she was certainly not prepared for life on her own. The old woman was nice enough, and Tuttut enjoyed the attentiveness, the endless treats and the back rubs while the two of them sat and listened to the most glorious music.

tuttutLife had changed very quickly and abruptly. First mummy took the nipple away. Every attempt to get back to suckling was met with a sneer and a swat from mum. Tuttut was not sure why. She had done nothing wrong, and at other times mum would lavish her with attention. The very same treatment was given to her two brothers Inky and Jeepers. Tuttut from the very beginning was the most rambunctious of the three earning her the name Tuttut because the whole family was forever saying tut tut when she got herself into one pickle after another. Inky was covered all over with big black blotches on his otherwise white body, and Jeepers had a knack for getting underfoot, especially in the dark. Life is pretty confusing for a six week old kitten suddenly on her own.

Mrs. Lloyd had come to the house and there was a lot of excited chatter. Tuttut had been only slightly aware of humans at this point. Her time was spent with mum. Occasionally mum would take her from the brown cardboard box that was home to her, and by the scruff of the neck carry her to another room. It was very bright in there and all Tuttut could make out were shadowy figures making shrill excited sounds. Mum dropped her on the floor and left to get her brothers. For a while Tuttut scrambled about discovering all manner of new things. Tuttut got better at walking and jumping very swiftly and except for butting her head into coffee table legs had a pretty good time. All the while her brothers were somewhere in the room playing together, she could hear them making hissing noises. Exploring was what Tuttut liked best. New places, new playthings. The world is a very, very big place for a six week old kitten.

The women were now hovering over her. Tuttut rolled over on her back and gave the ladies her most devastating pose. Her little paws shadow boxing the air, she mewed coyly. The new lady kneeled down beside Tuttut and waved her finger near her little face so, naturally, Tuttut pawed the finger, but being new at virtually everything had not withdrawn her claws. She felt her claw sink into the lady’s finger. Tuttut thought how odd it was, expecting the covering of fur that her mother had.

“Ouww”, the woman, yelled out. Tuttut scrambled to get away but before she could Mrs. Brown had her scooped up by the scruff and she found herself dangling just inches from Mrs. Brown’s massive face. “Tut tut, you mustn’t scratch”. The very next moment the new lady had her in her hand and she was softly caressed. She felt the woman’s breath over her, Tuttut tightened up in a ball feeling terribly frightened. She had nothing to worry about, the lady planted soft kisses on her little head and little paw. “Never you mind little one”.

“Alice, this one goes home with me” the strange lady yelled to Mrs. Brown who was assembling a massive tray of tea and cake. Tea in the afternoon was a ritual among the older women in the valley, nearly every afternoon someone was having tea together with a friend, or several friends.

“She is feisty, probably a good mouser” and with that Tuttut’s life changed completely. No more mother’s milk, no more playing with her little brothers. Still, being softly caressed and lightly kissed was very good too, and Tuttut found she like cake crumbs very well and at tea time there were so many of those.

The first few days at Mrs. Lloyd’s were spent inside, learning the rules mostly took all Tuttut’s energy. At least a hundred times a day she would wag her bandaged finger and say, “tut tut, you can’t do that”. Mrs. Lloyd also treated her royally with fresh cream and little fish which she cooked up with parsley and a little garlic just for her. Tuttut had her own soft velvety pillow with her name embroidered on it, a pretty blue pillow to show of her red stripes. Life was good, and only rarely did she think of her brothers anymore. Occasionally she wondered where they had gone to, surely they too had been given to someone to take home at tea time.

Several days into her new life the weather outside had become a great deal warmer and Mrs. Lloyd was spending more and more time in her herb garden. Mrs. Brown grew herbs for the entire community, there were vast bushes of lavender, thyme, rosemary, borage and coriander as far up the hill as you could see. time after time Tuttut had tried to follow her outside but the woman whose name she had now heard was Anne, would quickly push her away with one foot while closing the door swiftly to keep Tuttut inside. Anne, understandably was only worried that Tuttut would stray too far and be lost, as happens to little kittens. Behind the herb garden were woods, where, according to Anne, animals and other creatures roamed that might harm a little kitten. Even large birds of prey had been known to snatch a newly born kitty now and again.

Tuttut had not been discouraged. As they days passed she had become obsessed with knowing where her brothers were. Sitting on the window ledge she spotted a large Catalpa tree, it was very tall, and looked easy enough to climb. It was early spring and it was just now beginning to bud. She watched for hours as birds of all kinds perched in the tree and seemed to taunt the little red kitten on the window ledge.

laundryThe moment came early one morning. Anne was about to take her freshly laundered linen out to the clothesline. She shared the clothesline with a neighbour and the two would chat and laugh while hanging the laundry and later taking it down. Anne’s hands were full with the basket heaped with linen, she could not see the little kitten down by her slipper, waiting. The door opened and out ran Tuttut, into the front yard and straight to the catalpa tree.

Goodness, Tuttut marvelled at how tall the tree was when you got close to it. She had to know where her brother were. That was most important of all. So Tuttut packed her fears away and started up the tree. Sparrows flitted branch to branch above her head, chirping away excitedly, no doubt chatting about the little kitten trying so hard to climb all the way up. Tuttut wasn’t bothered by the sparrow, she had plenty to eat and rather chased balls of yarn and not birds. Up she climbed, branch after branch. Finally she had come to a point where the entire valley was within her view. Now she would watch until she saw her brothers.

Hours passed she hadn’t spotted her brothers and was getting just a bit hungry. Even the sparrows were starting to look pretty darn good to her. The sparrows must have sensed that and moved to the smaller maple tree a little further to the road. Anne was taking down the sheets and the neighbour was laughing very loudly. Further to the hills there were clouds, dark one coming slowly closer and the sunlight was fading. There was less laughing now as the women hurried to take down and fold the laundry before it rained. There, there, right by the neighbour’s row of red tulip were her brothers playing in the grass with a ball of blue yarn. Imagine that, her brother were right next door. Tuttut was so excited by this that she mewed loudly and the effort of it threw her balance and kitty fell off the very high branch. Tuttut cried out, and both women came running to the tree as kitty fell from branch to branch trying desperately to catch just anything to stop falling. She did. The terrifying moments while falling had scared her so that she was convinced that coming down from the tree was not at all possible. As the women below chattered and called out “kitty, kitty” and “Tuttut, Tuttut”

treefairiesMaybe it was that the sun was going down, and she saw much better our of the sun, but besides the birds that hopped from branch to branch there were small lithe figures with gossamer butterfly-like wings one some of the branches and it seemed they were all coming closer to the very frightened kitty.

Oh, and how hungry Tuttut was by this time. Others had come to the big tree also, a few of the local children, and Big Slow Fred who had been fishing in the small lake by the Meeting Hall. He caught a few fish and had intended to give some to Anne for her new kitten.

fred fishingThe scent of the fish was travelling up and Tuttut could smell them. She had to come down from the tree. Big slow Fred had gone into the house with Anne. The small winged creatures, which later she was to learn were called fairies, were sitting beside her now, assuring her she would not fall, they would not let that happen. The small crown was making little noised and yelling “kitty, come here kitty”. “Well” thought Tuttut, “I would if I thought I could”, and mewed a frightened mew.

Oh, how wonderful he smell, the aromatic fish and garlic, oh, how heavenly. She was so hungry. So hungry now that all other fears and thought were banished and getting out of the tree would happen if she had to hit every branch on the way down. Big Slow Fred was holding the small plate of fish which Anne had swiftly prepared. Just then, a terrifying crash which threw Tuttut forward and out of the tree. A bolt of lightening had hit the Maple shaking all the sparrows all over the yard, some staggering with surprise, especially those who had fallen along with the big branch that the lightening had dislodged.

Tuttut was caught by a couple of the winged creatures and supported until nearly by Big Slow Fred’s outstretched and enormous hand. Kitty was safe. Anne was at the door “Come in” she yelled and the small crowd ran for the door as torrents of rain cascaded from the clouds quickly making large puddles on the main roadtuttut.

The women all prepared a very large tray of tea with lots of cakes and sweets, Big Slow Fred built a fire to warm  everyone. and Tuttut was contented to eat the fish by the fire and e the centre of everyone’s attention. The neighbour had come to, and to Tuttut’s delight had brought her two brothers over to play with her. They did play, and ate all the cake crumbs that fell, and all three fell into a much needed catnap on Tuttut’s velvet pillow.

Winged Tales – Two Sparrows, Two Cherries, Two Children

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Two sparrows flitted through the bushes and trees looking for something yummy to make a feast out of. Not easy being a bird, having to eat your weight in seeds and berries every single day. Luckily, here in the valley birds were spectacular and highly praised as backyard visitors. The best place for finding a treat was behind the baker’s house at about mid day.

Mid day was when the baker, Bob Brown, took the great wooden paddles and took the pies out of the oven, and if there had been no mistakes he could look at the baskets of berries brought in all during the season from the Lloyd Berry Farm each evening before closing. If there was no need to keep all the berries, as the pies were perfect and the baking was done, the remainder was put on a red pedestal in the back.

The bushes were teeming with birds of all kinds. For a good hour wave after wave of winged songbirds, blackbirds in all sizes, pretty tiny birds and the very plain sparrows and chickadees picked at the berries. Last were two sparrows who had been too busy talking with each other to muscle their way in. There were two cherries left. enough for such small birds, they had already eaten seed from the bird feeder at Anne Lloyd’s house, lots of seeds held together with honey from the combs of the hives in the back of her herb garden. Just the absolute best, to live here in the valley.

The baler’s daughters arrived to walk home with him as they did every day. Lena, the youngest had a special affinity for the sparrows and knew they were last each day at the bird feeder. Just in case they had no berries left, Lena put some of her bread crusts in her pocket from the toast she had at breakfast. The sparrows knew her and would wait. Sometimes Lena and her sister Sylvia would be chatting on and on.

You were never alone in the valley, especially if you were a child. children could get lost in their thoughts and play and had to be turned homeward. Sprites were particularly good at this. They were always happy to follow kids and play with the small ones who had no playmates when their siblings got to school. The dragons dealt with the ones straying for whatever reason into the woods. No child was ever alone. A child in the valley may seem to be talking to themselves, but they never are. There are fairies and sprites and all kinds of creatures who would never let a child be lonely and every child knows the fairies and sprites to be friends until they outgrow the need for all that watchfulness and companionship.

Well, now the sparrows had been lingering, thinking they would have a crust or two from Lena’s pocket, but she and Sylvia were deep in conversation. “Goodness” chirped the one, “what if the baker comes out, and she forgets”. “Oh,” said the other, “we’ll call a sprite to give her a tug and remind her”. Which is just what happened and the bright child with the red apple cheeks placed the crusts on the feeder, without even stopping her conversation. She did not even acknowledge the sprite who was doing all kinds of flips and other acrobatics trying to be noticed. Sprites live to be marvelled at for their antics, quite the entertainers.

So, the sparrows stopped their feat and chirped, “Nice flips and spins, Sprite!”. The sprite glowed with the joy of recognition and continued to entertain the sparrows at the feast until all were quite tired and like the baker and his children, returned home.

Winged Tales – Halloweenies…

Or, how little children should mind their elders.

halloweenies001 The laughter of children echoed through the pastoral valley. Life here in a community too small to have it’s own name ran at a pace all it’s own. If it was not for the inhabitants growing old and the occasional birth of a baby one would swear life stood absolutely still. You could think that, but you would be wrong.

Days were spent tilling the soil, looking after animals and keeping house. There was but one road going both in and out of the valley. No crimes had ever been committed here, and though a few of its inhabitants had moved out, they were few in number. It was by all accounts a life of pleasant routine.

Not too many people had ever lived here, judging from the graveyard there were more than 300 souls gone to the afterlife from here. Roughly that’s one citizen for every year of the valley’s 300 year life. No-one remembered who founded the settlement or in what year but the first death was recorded in 1706 a Bryce Sand, no indication if it was a male or female Bryce Sand nor what this person did for a living. A life with as little to make it remarkable as each passing day here.

halloweenies002So it came as a great shock that grey October day that three little boys, two brothers and their friend, went missing. October days were slow and lazy, the harvest was already put away and shared with neighbours. The children were all home schooled together at Miss Miller’s house, all twelve of them, just as they had been since Miss Miller was about twenty and she’d be nearly eighty now. The great love of her life had died in one of the great wars and she was unable to commit herself to any other man. Instead she vowed to educate every child born in this valley to be upright and peaceful so there would be no more wars. She was bent over, heavy with the knowledge of all the wars that had come since making the great promise to herself. Still she should be proud of herself, for in the valley itself life had gone without any fights, without any incident whatever.

Her influence carried over into the everyday as all her students, three generations of them shaped life in the Valley. The citizen’s in the valley had counted themselves out of every census in living memory, no wars were funded by this valley and they had no need for federal services, they could look perfectly well after themselves. There was no police, no jail, no court.

They should have been in school that day, that John and Jack and their friend Luke. Somewhere between Miss Miller’s and home the boys had gone missing. Miss Miller had assumed the boys had taken ill with the cold or flue and since the valley had no telephone it was no immediately checked on. No one could have thought it would be anything else.

It was something else. That morning the three had met up as usual. Luke had shared some of his cake with the other two. They had chatted about the new foal at the Miller’s. White horses were born only very rarely in the valley. God seemed to favour brown for horses.

They were nearly halfway to the old schoolhouse when all three heard something. None of them knew what it was exactly, only that no one they knew had a voice anything like it. Still, whatever of whoever it was, was asking for help and the all three knew what needed to be done. They needed to go and see if they could help and if they could not they should fetch someone who could.

halloweenies003There was a small patch of forest where the voice emanated from. A little forests on the east side of the valley before the river. A small brook ran through it and the boys knew there were caves in this forest up against the hillside which were dangerous. The caves were from a long, long time ago, before the families had moved here, when other strange people had lived here. Inside the caves there were paintings of large cat life animals and lizards such as no one had seen ever in real life. Those were stories of course, in modern times no-one had dared go into the caves because they knew it was dangerous and everyone was quite happy without having any danger in their lives.

The boys ran into the forest, convinced that there was hero business to be done. They had long talked of being like super heroes, able to fly, to save the innocent from harm. Maybe this was their day to become heroes. That was a far as they had thought it out. They ran from one direction to the other as the voice seemed to change a great deal. At last they were exhausted and could not run any longer.

John had blisters on his feet and was complaining a lot. Luke was hungry and had started his lunch sitting on a large rock by what might have been an opening to a cave.. Jack had not quite run out of energy and paced up and down the path kicking stones. He kicked one rather hard and it went flying. They heard a small scream, it cam from right over Luke’s head. It was a very good thing that the three had used the bathroom before leaving home or all three would have been standing there in wet pants.

halloweenies004There sitting perched on an old stump, over the cave opening, was the strangest creature. It wasn’t very big but it was very odd looking. It had very large lizard-like eyes, and it’s skin was a little scaly like a fish. It’s hands or where one would have expected to see hands were talons like covered to the nails with small feathers. Feathers, I kid you not. They would have gasped or screamed for sure, but they had no breath at all, not for that moment. They scarcely caught one breath before the next fright.

Just behind the three, standing on another stump, stood another just like it. This one was a bit larger with a very round belly. They struggled to scream. They were starting to turn a little bluish from not breathing. Finally breath came and they let out a blood curdling scream which was met by another as the two strange looking creatures screamed too.

halloweenies005The earth shook a little and they were silent. “oh no.” said the sitting creature. “Oh no,” echoed the second creature. “What, what, WHAT?” screamed the three boys, no longer sure what they should fear more and their feet still frozen to the forest floor. They shot glances between the two creatures and each other. The booming continued, the earth shook and there was a thunderous sound coming form everywhere at once. The little grey creatures with the big eyes were no less frightened than the boys, actually they seemed more afraid and were turning strangely pale.

The sun seemed to appear and disappear and a twirling whooshing sound was overhead they dared look, they might as well, they were not able to run, and screaming had not made anything go away. What they saw was beyond belief. Meaning that if they told this story to anyone they would be laughed at for making up ridiculous lies. Still there it was, a large flying reptile with wings and eyes a fiery orange colour, it had a split long tongue which flitted before them, and talons with long brown nails.

halloweenies006One of the little grey creatures looked up clasping it’s hands, well whatever passed for hands, and pleaded, “let us go, we meant no harm”. A booming voice came from the great lizard, or it might have been a dragon if you don’t consider fire breathing important. “Get away from the humans, or you will have to deal with me. The two ran away into the cave. The dragon, to call it something. for the sake of argument. a dragon will do, perched above the cave opening, he shook his head and mumbled, “halloweenies.”

halloweenies007Now he gazed straight at the boys who had just found their feet and were bouncing around a bit trying to figure out where to run to. “Get out of my forest, the lot of you.” The boys ran and clamoured all the way up the hill to where the graveyard stood but the dragon followed them out. No matter where they ran the beast was not far behind. “Climb into this tree”, yelled Jack. That was where they were headed to, the biggest tree in the valley. Unfortunately, just as they were nearly there they were caught except for Jack as the dragon swooped down and caught them with his brow talon nails.

The dragon had miscalculated and a wing clipped into the old oak and all four of them tumbled down back to front and front to back and out they fell right in front of Miss Miller’s one room school house. Well. the boys thought they were safe. Miss Miller was not scared of anything.  They knew that. and surely she would come out of the house running with her cane and thump the dragon on his scaly behind too.

halloweenies008Miss Miller did not. She stayed in and did not even open the door for them. The dragon righted himself and lumbered over them. His talon reached out and the boys cringed. Well they thought they were dragon kibble right about then. They were too tired to scream or cry.

“Never,” said the dragon poking Luke with his talon, “never go into the forest without an adult, those halloweenies play tricks on you, and since you’d eaten all your goodies already you’d have had nothing to pay your way out with. I am getting too old to keep saving lost children from halloweenies, sprained ankles and sick stomachs from eating the wrong mushrooms.” He stood up and looked his most fearsome. “If I see you in the forest again I will let the halloweenies have you.” With that he rose up, flapped his wings and flew off back to his forest.halloweenies9c

“Did you see that miss Miller, did you see the dragon?”
“No, didn’t have my glasses on. No one else saw it because school is out and they are all gone home. Besides,” said Miss Miller, “there is no such thing as dragons and no-one will believe you. Next you’ll ask me to believe there are creatures called halloweenies in the forest who tricked you? No boys, you were loafing off in the forest where it is dangerous, now go home and stay on the path.”

They did stay on the path and never did they see the dragon or the halloweenies again. That was on October the 31st, coincidence?

Winged Tales – The Unseen and the Weeping Lady

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Under certain circumstances, fairies will just see a need to intervene. such was the case with Ms. Millar one warm springtime many years ago. It had not been long before that splendid day that Ms. Millar, they valley’s school teacher had to bury her young husband. He had died in a faraway war, in another country far, far away. Ms. Millar was still living in a big city then, she’d just finished going to teacher’s college. she was lonely and spent all her evenings in the darkness crying until she finally would fall asleep.

It was her cousin Elizabeth who invited her to come and stay with her in the valley, As it happens, and quite often it does, just then the teacher Mr. Rolf, decided he really needed to stop teaching after thirty years and open a candy shop instead. Perhaps it came about because after years of taking away candy from his pupils he decided he’s just much rather make the most wonderful candy for children to enjoy. So he did, within weeks he’s rented a store and was making the most wonderful candy.

The position did not come with a fabulous salary, just a small salary and a small cottage to live in just a hundred feet away from the little school house. It meant teaching all the grades and giving all the exams to all the valley’s children (numbering no more than 20 per term). Mr. Rolf , the retired teacher, now the local candy store proprietor, even offered to substitute those times that Ms. Millar (only her close friends call her Kate) should fall ill.

The valley over a period of weeks was fast becoming the only place in the world where Ms. Millar could imagine living. so she packed all her things in the city and moved to the valley. She has now been here more than thirty years.frompoppiess

Back to that afternoon, that warm peaceful afternoon, when the fairies were swinging from poppy to poppy. The dog and cat were occupied chasing butterflies. the smell of weak bleach and laundry soap permeated the air. The fresh coat of white paint made her little cottage home sparkle in the afternoon light. The warm wind caused the leaves to make a gentle rustling sound. You could hear birds chirping and the occasional snap of a towel as Mrs. Millar hung the laundry on her clothesline. All the changes in her life had Mrs. Millar losing some weight and it was partly that and partly her damp hands which had the ring slip off her finger. Not just any ring either, but the very ring with which years ago she had become Mrs. Millar. The ring that Mr. Millar had slipped on her finger on that bright summer’s day at their wedding.weepinglady04

Falling on the grass as it did it made no sound. Mrs. Millar was completely unaware. The dog took no note of it either. Two beady little eyes had noticed. The small rodent always noticed when sparkly things fell on the ground nearby. After all a tiny rodent like this mouse could not see much above the ground. This was his world, the ground and all that there was. The mouse scurried very quickly to the ring and ran off with it. He did not know precisely why he did it. He had no use for the ring, it could not be eaten, and mice don’t wear jewellery, nor had they any interest in how much it might be worth if sold. It just sparkled so intensely and he had to have it. That, and nothing more, was all there was to it. It was heavy to carry and he did not take it far away, just to behind a large oak tree in Mrs. Millar’s own yard. He sat feeling quite triumphant for the whole rest of the afternoon just staring at the ring, as it twinkled like a star in the bright sunlight. Well, he stayed, until he became hungry and was then off forgetting all about the ring.weepinglady03

It was an hour or so later when she was taking down the now dry laundry from the line when she finally noticed the missing ring. It was one of those suspicious absence of something. In this case the twinkling of the diamond in the sun as she held up her hand in the light was something to which she was well accustomed so when the twinkling was absent she noticed immediately. She shrieked. So loud was the shriek that several crows very nearly fell out of the tree above her. The shriek was followed by an absolute silence. The birds stopped chirping, the dog an cat suddenly sat in place, fairies and pixies stopped what they were doing, even the wind became silent.

There are all kinds of shrieks, but this one, was so incredibly sad, not just horrified but sad. There was no a soul who had heard it who was not profoundly saddened, just from hearing the shriek. The silence was broken by weeping and then sobbing and then for seemingly hours, a soft crying.

By now the weeping lady beside her unfinished laundry, had gathered quite an audience of the seen and the unseen. Faeries were busy talking amongst each other, wondering why this sudden sadness had overcome Mrs. Millar. They remember the crying at night when first she moved to the valley, but those nights of crying had tapered to only a rare night here and there. She did not seem injured, nor had there been anyone there to bring bad news.

Since adults could not see the fairy, it was pointless to ask her directly. One fairy thought she might have confided in her dog, and since dogs can see fairies. The dog was but a puppy and really not a very clever one and was no help at all. While fitting around Mrs. Millar she heard the mumbles about the ring and the fairy had noticed the very beautiful wedding ring she always wore, and sure enough, the ring was gone.

Well the fairy took that tidbit of news back to the group of pixie and fairies standing in the poppy bed. Everyone felt it would be a good game to find the ring. One pixie remembered seeing a mouse run by with something shiny. The mouse had disappeared by the old oak tree.. So about twenty of them were checking the ground in back of the oak, but without much success..

Curious about all the hubbub a big crow swooped down to ask what was up. It was all explained to the big crow, who suggested he get back up to the tree and take a good look for anything that sparkled. Crows are notorious thieves of anything sparkly and could spot something as brilliant as a diamond from miles away. The crow returned to his favourite branch and took a concerted look to find the ring, but nothing was seen. He shrieked down at them “Get out of the light, I need some light so it will sparkle”. The crown dispersed and moved out of the way of the sun’s rays.weepinglady05

The great black bird swooped down again and digging lightly with his beak brought the ring up where a fairy, gratefully took it from him. The yard was very big and the ring for a fairy was very heavy, far to heavy to fly with it. It was becoming a little darker now, they day was nearly done. Mrs. Millar and her laundry were inside the cottage now. Not a good time for fairies to be carrying heavy things across the lawn when the neighbourhood cats would chase them for sport.

Again it was the friendly crow to the rescue, he took the ring to the bedroom window ledge. Two fairies flew with him. In part because he might be tempted to keep the ring, after all he was a crow and it is what crows do, they mean no harm in it, it is just what they do. So from the window ledge to a place where Mrs. Millar would find the ring was their next challenge. The red-haired fairy started it off by giving the ring a swift kick sending it off the ledge and a little bit back into the bedroom. It made a little noise, enough to have Mrs. Millar come back into the bedroom. The ring was out of sight still being behind a chair. They could not leave it there, it might not be found before a vacuum cleaner might loose the ring to her forever.

Perhaps it was because she was profoundly sad. Certainly the noise the fairies were making trying to get the heavy ring over to the bedside had something to do with it. More so it was just the very emotional state Mrs. Millar was in that put all those adult barriers aside. Just for the moment she saw little fairies laughing as they stumbled about trying to muscle the ring across a nubby and difficult to traverse carpet. Their laughter had the quality of tiny bells ringing, and the tiny gossamer wings in the soft night light were so lovely. Mrs. Millar thought her mind was playing tricks on her. she was tired, crying had made her exhausted. She sank down onto the floor beside the bed, and stared at the enchanted spectacle before her. Then she noticed, they were playing with the ring. The fairies stopped, Mrs. Millar stopped too, she had lost the ring in the yard, so they were bringing the ring to her. She was glad she stopped, as she had almost swatted them assuming they were thieves.

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So she smiled and reached out her hand, and said out loud “am I dreaming this?” The fairies rolled the ring onto her hand, stunned and immobilized by the vision of two fairies bringing her ring back she sat for the longest time, until one of the fairies put her hands on her hips and yelled as loudly as she could, “would you mind taking this from us and putting it on please?”, while the other held up the ring. After she put the ring back on her finger, tears rolled down her cheeks and she said softly, “thank you”. The fairies curtsied and in one well practised movement tossed up a handful of fairy dust and made off into the warm spring evening.

Mrs. Millar on waking the next day could not explain how her ring had found it’s way back to her finger. Must be fairies, she mused to herself. In so many ways the unseen part of the valley interacted with people all the time, that’s just how things are. Especially good people will always be able to count on help form the unseen if they are in a position to help, but nasty people, likely will get no help at all.