The End of Winter in which Azalea and GreyStone find Spring

A faint tinkling  endlessly echoed across the field, Winter’s harsh breath found it’s way under the girl’s tightly bound hood and through the seams of her woolen breeches.  Azalea shielded her eyes against the sun’s glare, but all was blinding white.  Shivering, the changeling girl child willed her heavy limbs to take another step.Her thoughts were fuzzy, but clung to a single desire to keep moving across the ice plain.

SAM_7787The soft glass like sound grew louder, a sing song melody emerged and became almost like words spoken from the other side of a closed door.  A brilliant flash of blue flickered across the desolate landscape, forming into a butterfly that landed on her nose.  It’s eyes reflecting her eyes, in an infinite reciprocating circle.   “Free us,” the blue thrummed, “and Spring will come.”

 

Azalea  awakened with a shuddering bolt, “Thank Running Water,  the fever has broken,” Juniper whispered, as she gently tucked a sweat heavy lock behind Azalea’s ear.

Time is a human construct, and exists differently in the lands of Santooshka.  However, as the denizen’s wood piles dissipated and the larders became bare, they began to feel the weight of this winter.

The keepers of this enchanted vale, listened intently to the little changling’s dream.  It seemed familiar to the Ladies, in that nagging way, like a kettle left untended.   Azalea’s tale of the ice land, was only an exaggeration of the actual state of the forest.  Winter hac seemed to linger, snowSAM_7791 stubbornly nestled between the tree trunks, and Beltaine was upon them.

Magnolia and Juniper spent the next week buried in ancient tomes, searching for the answer to the unknown question.   Finally, one late afternoon, Juniper’s voice cut through the gloom..

“Here.   It is hard to decipher the exact tale, but great gran Hazel transcribed an even older story of a winter that lasted too long.

“Jack Frost imprisoned the Spring Fay  in a pool of frozen water, under the earth, behind a frozen wall of ice.”

“Sounds impossible.  How will we be able to find such a place?” Magnolia sighed.

Grey Stone’s face scrunched as the words fell into place, “The Waterfall!”

He jumped up excitedly, the young changeling had grown much over the long winter, and he had to duck under the hanging lantern.  “Once, when I was out exploring, I chanced upon a small cave behind the falls.  I didn’t venture further but the hole was deathly cold, even in the height of summer.”

And what commenced was not unlike a thousand other conversations between mothers and their growing children, a long discussion that went something like this:

Concern. “We will journey to the Falls, it is too dangerous for small changelings.”

“We are grown enough, besides you are too big  to get down into the cave.

Resignation.  “Fine, but you must dress quite warmly, take the utmost precaution and return home quickly if there is any trouble.  And you must take Fox with you, she’s cunning and follows her nose.

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The last glance back showed the Keepers of Santooshka framed in the cottage’s doorway.  Juniper’s hand on her heart, and Magnolia waving frantically, calling out warnings and advice, until her voice was taken by the wind.  GreyStone eyed his changeling sister, she was as heavily dressed as himself.  Her eye’s sparked back at him, between the thick wool cap and her hearth infused enchanted scarf.

teethFox went first, bounding from rock to rock swishing her tail.  It was a morning’s hike to falls, and when they arrived, the changelings paused for a quick bite. The waterfall had indeed completely frozen.  Menacing stalactites of ice looked like dagger sharp teeth.  Just as Azalea was licking the last of the parsnip pie off her fingers, Fox beckoned them forward and disappeared.

The ice above them cast a blue glow upon the pathway between the long fingers of insidethe falls.  But it did not reach down into the cave.  It’s entrance was ice rimmed hole that shone like a beacon summing them down to the depths.

An uncharacteristically serious Fox signaled the changelings to stay as she slinked down into the cave.  She was gone a short time before she reappeared and bade them to follow.

The cold prickled GreyStone as he squeezed himself through the tunnel,  before dropping him a few feet through the air.  Azalea quick to follow, and landed on top of him.  As the changelings lay sprawled on the cold ground shrouded by the thin ray of light,  dislodged ice crystals and sparkling motes danced in the disturbed air.

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Azalea untangled herself and tapped on her jar of will-o-wisps.  They stirred to life, casting a warm glow upon the cavern floor.  Carefully, the changelings followed the white tip of fox’s tail to the far wall.  A mighty Oak’s roots grew down the crevasse and encircled a small pool.

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Greystone brushed the crystallized ice from the glassy surface, by the light of the will-o-wisp they could make out a rainbow hued  orb trapped beneath the ice.

Removing their gloves the children clasped hands, and placed their free hand on the pool.  They recited the spell the Ladies had taught them.  Each spoken word formed a steam cloud and settled on the frozen surface.

Azalea looked suspiciously at her brother, when slowly the ice began to melt, the colors became  an undulating oil slick bubbling to the surface.

They both smiled joyfully when the color exploded like a thousand shards of light through a prism.  A cloud of Spring Sprites and Fay filled the small cavern, weaving and bobbing in the confined space, then in an exulting flourish, they flitted up and out.   A sole fay with iridescent azure butterfly wings remained, he bowed quite handsomely mid air, swooped upon Azalea and gave her a kiss on the nose.  Only to follow his companions leaving a fading blaze of blue.

It was much harder for the two changeling children to get out of the cavern, than it was falling in.  By the time they reached the top, both were sweating beneath their layered clothing.

“Look the ice is melting,” Azalea laughed as she shook the droplets from her hair.

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As they began to pick their way up from the waterfalls, signs of spring were everywhere.  The faded moss on the rocks was a lush green, Spring Beautys and Harbinger of Spring speckled the rocky outcroppings.

 

It was as if moons were passing as they walked towards home.  At first only the red buds were in full bloom, but more trees followed.  IMG_20160407_183952

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Fiddle heads unfurled into full grown ferns.  When the cottage roof came into sight, it was as if all of spring was happening at once.  As they crested the hill, Magnolia and Juniper came running towards them.  They merged into a messy ball of hugs, and kisses, laughter and joy.

Sometimes you must journey through the darkest of places to find the light that you need.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Story of Fox’s Yule gift to Owl

As the days shortened, a quiet darkness settled into the spaces of the wood like it does near the winter solstice. Juniper and Magnolia were busy preparing for the weeks-long festival of Yule. Throughout both cottages were piles of Yuletide projects in various stages of completion. Decorations on the dining tables were being sorted and hung. Cauldrons of hearty winter stews were bubbling on their pot belly stoves. Knitting needles furiously clacked together in the grey solstice light in hopes for early-finished hats and scarves.  They were focused on this hearth-work most of the daylight hours and later into the night, taking tea and naps at odd hours to maximize their time creating. The changelings were left to explore the forest and the creek that ran through it. One afternoon despite pickup games of feather-in-the-thicket with pixies, the changelings meandered listlessly back to where Juniper and Magnolia were bent over a particularly tricky piece of needlecraft.

“Everyone is busy” sighed Azalea as she hung her arms over the back of a round wooden chair.

“As you ought to be, with winter coming fast!” Juniper’s eyebrows lifted as she spoke. “This would be a good time to prepare your gifts for the celebration.”

“We have nothing to give!” heaved Greystone as if those words had been a weight he’d been carrying a while.

“This reminds me of the time Fox gave Owl a gift.” Magnolia Magpie looked up from her work and grinned. “Come next door for cake, and I’ll tell you the story of the time Fox gave Owl a special Yule gift.” Magnolia’s apron swished as she made her way back to her cottage, the changelings skipping after her.

After setting the tea, Magnolia smoothed her chair cushion, sat back and cupped a warm mug between two snarled fingerless mitts, and related the following story.

Owl was always so intensely quiet, and Fox was sure it was because Owl was so considerate and contemplative. She liked being around Owl, because nothing seemed to upset her. Owl’s eyes were magic lakes of intelligence and introspection. Despite this, Fox noticed nothing ever seemed to make Owl excited and silly, either. With Yule coming upon them, Fox knew she wanted to give Owl something very fine. She also knew that she wasn’t going to find a fine gift just laying about. Fox knew that in order for truly magical gifts to appear, she had to go looking for them.

Down by the creek one day, Fox spied a hagstone. It is generally accepted knowledge in Santooshka that naturally occurring holes in unusual places like the center of stones are passages and doorways. Santooshkan hagstones are used often as routes to other fairy realms. This find was unusually lucky because the fairies comb up and down the creek beds looking for hagstones to enchant and create new passageways between worlds. Fox threaded her beautiful tail through the hole in the stone, and trotting along a deer path back through the forest, she came upon a round-faced sweet-eyed dryad leaning against her tree.

“Dryad, dear…” Fox began. “I have found a gift for you.”  Fox was clever, and understood the only way to keep hold of magic, was to give it away. A mischievous smile peeled across the young dryad’s face and she beckoned Fox toward her. A drumming began in her heart and soon it rippled up and out of her fuzzy ears broadcasting a syncopated groove tune so loud, even the dryad smiled, nodded her head, and tapped her feet as she waved her hands over the tail-threaded hagstone.

Tumbling rapidly through space and time, Fox awoke moments later in a sparkling frozen field of ice. Her coat had transformed into a thick, silky, snow-bleached white mantle. Out of the glittering sun-sparkled tundra grew tulips of every color imaginable. Fox bowed her head and began to cry at the blinding beauty of it all. As soon as the first tear from Fox’s black rimmed eyes struck an icy tulip, the petals thawed, went tumbling forward, and engulfed our fox in one satiny soft swallow.

She shook herself out of the blossom head on to the ground only to find that she had fallen through to a softer, green moss covered forest floor beneath ivy canopies and honeysuckle vines. Before she could exhale the scent of the sunny blossom nectar, hundreds of tiny jeweled hummingbirds surrounded Fox in a thrumming and buzzing flurry. Through this iridescent blaze, they feverishly plucked the delicate multi-colored tulip petals from Fox’s melting snow-coat leaving behind excruciatingly tiny rainbow feathers. One flew up Fox’s nose and she sneezed herself right into a golden arching forest ablaze with the orange and crimson fire of a season’s release. The delicate fine-boned pressure of fox’s toes on the decaying leafy ground sparked a silent but brilliantly visible chain reaction of fire-topped toadstools that lead through the wood. Fox took off in a flash, chasing an endless chain of glowing ember-mushrooms always emerging just a fraction faster than she was able to run. She flew sure-foottedly right into a hollow of a tree and after running the circular interior, went back through the mouth of the trunk only to arrive in front of the smiling Dryad.

“I thank you for this gift.” The dryad winked brightly and melted back into the oak bark.

Exhausted, Fox let her tongue loll out of her mouth as she trotted toward Magnolia Magpie’s cottage in the clearing of the wood. Outside the door to the glassed-in sewing room, Fox yipped and whined. Spying the bejeweled creature from the window, Magnolia appeared with a comb and a carder and set to work from the animal’s frost tipped- tail. Fox licked her coat and her sable fur wound around frozen silken tulip petals, rainbow hummingbird down and red capped glowing mushrooms. Alternating between two paddles of wire-toothed combs, Magnolia’s deft hands spun the fur-wrapped treasures into a surprise ball for Fox to present to Owl.

With her gift nestled carefully in a hand-sewn messenger bag slung over her shoulder, Fox padded softly through the forest and back to her winter cave.  Owl, ever true to her intuition, had laid an elaborate candlelit tea and was perched with a book and was waiting to share the remains of the day with her fire-furred friend. Fairy surprise balls are customarily given as welcome gifts for newly materialized fairies. It was a joyful, unexpected break from Forest tradition to give such a splendid surprise ball for Yule. Owl was overcome with elation as she slowly unwrapped each tiny present in the folds of the plush ball gift.  Fox smiled to herself as she contentedly curled her tail around her body and settled in for a candlelit winter’s nap, and drifted off to the sound of Owl’s quiet coos of delight.

After tea and cake at Magnolia’s cottage, the wide-eyed and newly inspired changelings bounded out the back of the house, through the glassed-in sewing room and headlong toward the creek bed in search of Hagstones, and special gifts.

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In Which Autumn arrives with unexpected visitors

Magnolia’s Journal:

There have been little happenings in our small vale, since the end of summer. SantooshkaSAM_5086 settles into autumn like Granny getting comfortable in her old rocking chair. The forest is filled with rustling and crunching of fallen leaves. Squirrels and chipmunks race from tree to tree, nuts stuffed firmly between their cheeks. The slightest stirring of air causes a cascade of color to decorate the woodland floor.

After the revelries of Mabon, Juniper and I have been in a recuperation mode. I think we drank a wee bit too deep from the magical reservoir. Despite the clinging green, the past weeks have been cool and crisp. We have spent several mornings curled up in my sitting room, drinking hot spice bush bark tea. In the evenings, we gather in front of the small fire, Juniper has been reading aloud from a purblind novel, such tales that have the changelings huddled tightly together.

The Mabon exchange left us with two wagons full of produce and several crates of goods. IMG_20151023_114523We sorted and sifted, inspected and rationed. The root cellar is full, brimming over with Cole vegetables and potatoes. Three boxes of apples dried and braids of onion and garlic hung. We have casks of wine, jars of jams, sacks of grain, crocks of pickles, and there may be just enough maple syrup to last the winter. And like our woodland kin we have stashes too, pounds of pecans, pecks of hickory and walnuts, plus my favorite, from the meadow dwellers, a large bag of filberts.

Being naturally mischievous and a little greedy, the Cottage Brownies and Hearth Sprites love the yearly exchange, and treat the hauling and storing of goods, like a holy ritual. They stand uncharacteristically still, lining the cottage’s nooks and crannies. Tiny mouths curled in smiles as their luminous eyes track our burdened descent into the root cellar, followed by our reappearing with empty hands. When all was finished, the sprites and brownies grabbed hands and spun and danced in small circles. So fast they flew, they became a rainbow hued blur that flickered throughout all the corners of the house.

SAM_5084After the flurry of the Mabon settled down, there has been little else to tell. The afternoon sun is warm on our faces and we have taken to picnicking in the meadow each day. Greystone and Azalea explore the surrounding hills while Juni and I relax quietly with tea in one hand, and book in the other.

Today began like all others, but just as I had really gotten lost in my book, Grey stone came running through a break in the trees. Juniper and I laid our books down and watched him run full speed across the field and slide to a dusty stop in front of our blanket. He tried to speak, but had to place his hands upon his knees and try to catch his breath.

“Geese,” he panted through a large grin, his eyes wide with excitement. Juniper and I burst out in laughter, as Greystone made exaggerated gestures.
“At the pond, come see,” he once again took off running, a little slower this time, down a small path between the trees.
The path wound through a short break of sycamores before revealing a little pond concealed in a natural dip of the land. Azalea was belly down on the leafy shore, her arms extended holding out green rushes to a brightly shining white fowl. She was surrounded by small flock of snow geese.

Lesser Snow Goose, Near Terra Nova Natural Area, Richmond, British Columbia

In hopes of convincing them to stay, we made small leans tos out of brush and  covered in scavenged pine branches. The Changlings fetched a bucket of oats, and an apple as extra enticement.  As our reward, the geese made cooing rumbles as they scooped the fodder from our hands.  They appeared to be settling down for the night, when we left.

Most migrating birds ignore Santooshka, Greystone thinks it has to do with the veil that keeps our magical realm secrect. Something about the birds innate navigation radar bounces right back, so it as if nothing is there. If these four pairs of geese found their way to that small pond near the center of Santooshka, they must have their our own special magic.

As further evidence, I feel completely rejuvenated this eve. I think it was more than their mere unexplained appearance, which caused our heightened gaiety this afternoon. Juniper and I shared similar experiences.  We feel more open again, and can easily harness the magical eddies at our whim.  I no longer feel partly consumed, but completely whole and refreshed!
It will be very good for all the forest dwellers if the snow geese decide to stay for the winter!snow-geese-birds-males-and-females-725x477

Magnolia Magpie’s Journal: Ripple Gives a Gift

Firstly, I’ve noted the Sweet Cicely seeds, we threw about last autumn, took well!  A small section of the path is dotted with its lacy blossoms.

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I’ve been so busy helping Juniper prepare for her trip to the seed Festival, I have neglected my writings.  A much needed venture, to be sure, but it is never easy when she is gone long from the Santooshka Wood.

Beltaine was a truly beautiful day!  In the misty hour before dawn, we collected glow worms and put them in jars strung on strings. Drinking our raspberry leaf tea, we watched the sun light slowly slink along the forest floor. We dedicated the early morning to making our Belatine crowns.  Juniper and I wandered down the path picking wild flowers and gathering new sprouts of honeysuckle.  The malleable green stalks were heavily budded crowned in the first blossoms of the season.

We sat on the edge on the creek and wove the stalks together.

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The honeysuckle smelling like summer nights under the stars mingled with the light sweet aroma of the blue phlox.  Water sprites played in the running water, splashing,  swirling  in microcosmic vortexes between the creek stones. Ripple, a sprite we do some trading with, swam towards us, as the others let the current sweep them downstream.

“A traveling amulet,” she bubbled, her voice barely distinguishable from the creek song.  Her small webbed fingers unfurled  to reveal a shimmering glass bottle.  “A part of the Santooshka.”  As I peered into the small vial, it seemed to pull me in.  Though I was only looking into the tiny glassed in forest, I could feel it’s immensity. I could see the little trees inside swaying in the breeze and I though I saw a warbler flit by.

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Juniper was most grateful and thanked Ripple before she dove beneath the waters to join her sisters.  The rest of the day was spent in the mundane tasks of preparation.  We hung the ribbons from the maypole, readied the bonfire,  and there was general hustle and bustle in the kitchen.

That of course was days ago and Juniper left just before the full moon.  She has been gone too long….

…I have just received a sparrow post from dear Juniper, she is in the utmost peril, I must consult with the woodland creatures and try to help!!

EASY FLORAL WREATHES

Gather lengths of Honey Suckle

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Start with two pieces.

Wrap the ends of the stalks together, minding the leaves.

Do so on both ends, so you have a circle the size you desire.Featured image

Starting in the middle of the third piece, twist it around the junction of where the previous pieces meet.

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Continue in this fashion until you are satisfied with the look.

Add wild flowers or what-nots.

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