I find myself changing since my return to the forest from the short time I’ve spent amongst the Purblind. Small creases around my mouth and eyes appear when I catch a glimpse of myself in the looking glass. It seems I have aged a decade in the days I was gone from our enchanted home.
Though I welcome becoming a crone, I do not wish it upon myself prematurely. In quiet parts of the day, I remember my trek to the seed festival, the troll attack, and the fever that followed, and that is how I have explained this mysterious accelerated aging to myself. I have also noticed a quivering in my chest and I have taken to solitary walks along the edge of Santooshka as consolation. It is as if I am being called out of the forest by an inaudible pleading, and many moments since Midsummer has been spent listening to the wind and hoping it will tell me my own heart.
This wanderlust I have recently acquired, is both exhilarating and terrifying. I can’t help but wonder if this is the inner state of all Purblinds. The busyness, the maddening tumbling, grasping and scrambling to achieve obscure, disconnected, self-imposed prisons of sameness and convenience. In Santooshka, we are birthed and rooted into an unbroken circle of giving and receiving. When the rain falls, we drink. When fruits ripen on the trees, we feast. Even when our harvests are meager, we take joy in experiencing the lack, as it allows us to consider our bounties ever the more precious when we have it.
It was during one of my recent pensive ramblings, that I found myself near an abandoned tumbledown shack, and from underneath it, emerged Serafina the groundhog.
“Ooh, it’s the beautiful Juniper GinFairy, come to visit me!” she cooed in her sugary voice. “I knew I’d be having a visitor today, which is why I just dusted the entirety of my large, beautiful mansion!”
Once in a while, a groundhog will come across a house that some other man built and claim it as the fruit of their own labors. As one such groundhog, Serafina made sure to work her home into any conversation in which she found herself. “Juniper, please come inside for some tea, I have just put the kettle on.” She preened her coarse silvery brown fur. A visit with Serafina always proved to be disorienting. She would sweetly offer tea and treats and laude their refined tastefulness only to serve up sugared pond water and half-eaten dried lichen chips with her stubby little fingers.
“Come and sit here in the kitchen, the woodwork is original, you know. Come and sit and you’ll tell me all that is weighing on you, my dear!” She ushered me inside her mildewing manor. No matter the vocal content that drizzled out of Serafina’s mouth, she is always sure to deliver it with acute sweetness. It is of course, soothing at the onset, but over the years, I have learned that this is how Serafina lulls one into spilling out private thoughts so that she may regurgitate them later when she has the audience of anyone who will listen.
“I don’t mean to burden you with my troubles, Serafina. I am just out walking to clear my head.”
Serafina the Groundhog beckons Juniper inside for tea.
As soon as I said it, I saw her neck-less square head perk up. “Heavy thoughts troubling your mind, Juniper?” She said in her lilting, sing-song way. And this is the manner in which Serafina prodded and poked me with sugar-coated barbs until I began to indulge her a little and confess:“Magnolia has fallen in love with a man named Ironroot!” I blurted. An awful sinking feeling started inside me. I was ashamed of using my dear friend’s budding romance to deflect from Serafina’s self-serving inquiries, but Fae are nothing if not polite when invited for tea.
I knew not to touch on my true distraction- the warning from Queen Titania at Midsummer, and my unresolved hope for a world in which Purblind and Faerie were one people again- for fear of her saccharine criticisms when my heart is so very tender and unsettled. Thankfully, she took the bait and I sat and listened while Serafina speculated on the breeding and background of Ironroot, and the foolhardiness of Magnolia’s trust for him. The more she belched sugary disapproval, the more sour it turned in my ears until at last I feigned illness and excused myself from the groundhog’s hovel.
Breathing the wild open air again, I felt myself steady in my convictions, rooting deeper inside until the steadiness overcame my heart. I think that is always the lesson learned when one is blessed to take in groundhog medicine. Digging deeper in the dirt of my emotions, I find I question Titania’s urgency to let Purblind affairs alone. The Stillwater way is to reject segregation. We are interconnected, and though we may not see it right away, we could share with Purblind more than we can imagine.
As I walked the path back to the cottages, I let my feet carry me and let those parts of me that are older than the mountains, older than the ocean, older than the stars in the sky overcome the worry, and remind my heart of an infinite plan. As the sun slipped low between the trees, I felt my uneasiness drain away and trail behind on the path.
Blush by Wolf Alice
Later that evening, over cozy bowls of Blue Moon Mush, I confessed to Magnolia the details of my encounter with Serafina the groundhog earlier that day.
“That bitty!” Mags threw back her head and laughed. “You remember what Mother Tasha always said, right?” she asked and slurped another spoonful of pudding.
“Groundhogs will gossip!” I chuckled.
“You let Serafina get to you only because you think others actually listen to her. And really, the only one who gives her the time of day is you, Juni. Some people are miserable because they’ve had bad things happen to them. Then, there are folks like Miss Serafina, who are miserable because they don’t let anything at all happen to them at all. Take a cue from the rest of forest and let her be with her pond slosh tea!” Magnolia’s contagious laughter roared and her cheeks glowed from the pudding and the mead. It wasn’t long before my own guffaw joined her, and then giggling from the brownies, house elves, teacup fairies, then yuk-yuking from the doves in the rafters until the entire cottage dissolved into fits of laughter.
Suddenly there came a loud pounding at the door that imposed a dark and immediate silence. Magnolia jumped up so fast her bowl of mush fell to the floor and rolled under the table. It was like she was in a wide-eyed trance- knowing before the rest of us did who was on the other side of the door.
She turned the knob and and there stood Ironroot- his face as pale as the moon, his white ringed eyes glowing, and his mouth gaping open so as to deliver news of severe importance. His eyes searched the candlelit room and before they could fall on me, I slipped out of the back door of the cottage to allow the lovers a private exchange.
Blue Moon Mush
Makes 2 generous bowls
1 Cup Blue Corn Meal
1 Cup Fresh Cold Milk
2 Cups water
A generous pinch of salt
toppings such as: butter, honey, molasses, maple syrup, brown sugar, berries, heavy cream, or nuts
While you are waiting for the 2 cups of water to boil in a medium saucepan, mix the cornmeal and the cold milk together in a bowl. This is to help prevent any lumping. When the water is boiling, add the cornmeal mixture and stir with a wooden spoon to make sure it is completely mixed. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat and simmer for 8-12 minutes or until the mush is the consistency of pudding (or a consistency you like). Serve in bowls with copious amounts of butter and sweetener, and cream, and anything else your heart desires!
**note Blue Corn is more bitter and earthy tasting than yellow corn, you may substitute for yellow corn to get a milder flavor.