Sorry it’s been so long since I’ve posted a story. As some of you know, I’ve been down with some kind of virus for weeks and weeks, and got behind with just about everything.
I’m trying to get caught up; so here’s another of The Dreamweaver’s Tales.
by Robin Wood
Once upon a time, in a far distant corner of the multiverse, there lived a little girl about your age, and her name was Marissa.
She had curly black hair, and soft brown skin, and bright gray eyes. And she was brave and passionate, which means that she cared a lot about things that were important to her.
She lived with her Mommy, and Daddy, and Granny, and brother, and a dog, and two cats, and eleven chickens, and a fuzzy gray donkey named Graymalkin, in a big ramshackle farmhouse.
The house was just shabby enough that no one scolded if you shuffled your feet. Or if you accidentally made a mark on the wall, when you got a little too enthusiastic with a pan in one hand. But the family kept it clean and comfortable, and that’s what matters.
Every weekday she walked a mile to her school, which was a big building, built all of red brick with white trim, and wide windows that let in the sunshine. There she learned all the things the grownups thought it was important for children to know.
She learned how to read, and write, and do sums, and multiply on her fingers. And she learned the history and geography of her country, and the other countries that the leaders of her country thought mattered. And she learned singing, and knitting, and magic; for magic is everywhere in that corner of the multiverse, and everyone has to learn how to use it.
Well… One bright day in early spring, Marissa was walking home from school. It was one of those days when the snow is mostly gone, except in the cold shady places. The crocuses and windflowers were just poking through the leftover leaves from the fall before, and the first shy butterflies were coming out of their chrysalises, and marveling at the wide, wide world. The sun was streaming through the trees, and the air was full of birdsong.
Marissa was very happy that day. She had earned a golden asterisk on her spelling test. (Did I remember to tell you that the children there have spelling, like the children here?) And she had learned a new song, all about daffodils. So she was on her way, half dancing from sheer joy, with her cheery red book bag on her shoulder, singing about daffodils. And every now and then, she made a daffodil bloom on the side of the road, just for fun. (They were only illusions, and would fade in an hour, but that didn’t matter.)
Then she turned a corner, and what did she see?
There was a boy, about her age, sitting on a rock with his head in his hands, and crying as if his heart would break!
“Oh little Boy! Oh, dear! What is wrong?” cried Marissa. “Why are you crying?”
“I can’t help it.” said the boy, lifting his tear stained face. “I lost my mittens, and if I go home without them, I’ll be in terrible trouble.”
Well… First, Marissa thought, ‘He’s awfully big to be crying for a pair of mittens.’ And then she thought, ‘Silly boy, why didn’t he just put them in his pockets?’ And then she thought about how she would feel, if her mommy had made her wear mittens that day, and she had lost them, and was going to be in terrible trouble. And she realized that she would feel sad that the mittens were lost, and angry with herself for losing them, and scared of the trouble, if it was going to be very terrible. And she felt tears coming into her own eyes.
She walked up to the boy and patted him on the shoulder. “Don’t cry!” she said. “I’ll help you, and maybe we can find them again, and everything will be alright.”
“Oh, will you?” said the boy, jumping off the rock. “I’ve looked all over, and they just aren’t there!”
“What do they look like?” asked Marissa.
“They’re blue, with red fishes on the backs, and white fishes on the palms.” said the boy.
“What were you doing when you last knew you had them?” said Marissa.
“I was walking along, and I saw a patch of egg flowers,” said the boy. “And I just had to let the birdies fly.”
I should tell you what egg flowers are, because we don’t have them here. They are early spring flowers that have masses of white blooms, with the palest of pale blue veins. And when they finish blooming, the seed pods look just like blue robin’s eggs with red speckles. When you squeeze the pods, they burst open with a pop! And release a cloud of tiny seeds with sparkling, iridescent “wings” that float up and up into the sky. Children like to pop the seeds; and they call that “letting the birdies fly.”
“You had your mittens then for sure?” said Marissa.
“Yes, I’m sure I did, because my fingers where too clumsy to pop the ripe eggs with my mittens on, so I had to take them off, and… Oh!”
And the boy ran back down the road to the place where the egg flowers were nodding their white heads in the breeze, and what do you think he found there?
That’s right! A pair of mittens. Blue ones, with red fishes on the backs and white fishes on the palms, right where he had dropped them.
“Thank you!” he said to Marissa. And now he wasn’t crying, he was smiling, as bright as the sun.
“You’re welcome!” said Marissa. “but all I really did was help you remember. Ummm … next time you take them off, you might want to put them in your pockets.”
“Right!” said the boy, and he went off whistling.
Well… Marissa was even happier after that, because it always makes us feel good to help others, doesn’t it?
But she wasn’t home yet.
She kept going along, more than half dancing now, and a little way down the road she turned another corner, and what did she see?
A young woman, holding a sleeping baby in one arm, and a big glass jar in the other, with a very distressed look on her face.
Marissa had just helped one person, so she thought perhaps she could help another.
“Hello!” she said. “Is there something the matter? Can I help?”
“Oh, hi little girl!” said the young woman. “I came out to collect some of this birdsong for a quilt I’m making, but it’s too cold to put the baby down on the ground, and I need both hands for the spell.”
Marissa had never heard of a spell like that before, but when magic is everywhere, you get used to unusual things.
Well… First, Marissa thought, ‘Silly lady! Why didn’t she just carry the baby in a basket?’ And then she thought about how she would feel if she had gotten all excited about the birdsong, and grabbed a jar and the baby and run outside without thinking. Because as good and brave as she was, I have to admit that Marissa often did things without thinking them all the way through first. And she realized that she would feel worried for the baby, and disappointed that she might miss the chance to gather the birdsong, and upset with herself for not thinking it through. And she realized that when you’re upset with yourself, the last thing you need is for other people to point out your mistake.
So what she said was, “I can hold the baby for you while you get the birdsong, if it won’t take too long.”
“Oh, would you?” said the young woman. “I would be so grateful! It will only take a minute or two.”
So Marissa moved her cheery red book bag so it hung down her back, and wouldn’t be in the way, and she held out her arms for the sleeping baby.
The young woman put the baby in Marissa’s arms (and I have to tell you, he was heavier than he looked) and made sure that his blanket was tucked warmly around him.
Then she opened her glass jar, and started the spell to collect the birdsong.
Collecting birdsong, by the way, doesn’t lessen the song you hear in the air, any more than recording it does here. And it was fascinating to watch.
As Marissa struggled to hold the baby gently and securely, (and it wasn’t long before she was wishing that she had thought to sit down somewhere before she took him,) the young woman sang a few long, slow words, and the birdsong near her hand became solid, like glittering multicolored threads, that somehow still held all the music, and beauty, and joy of the bright song and crisp day. The young woman fed the threads into the glass jar, and it wasn’t long at all before the jar was full of glorious filaments.
“Thank you so much!” said the young woman. And she put the jar down on the ground, and took her baby back, settling him into her arm. (He never woke up, but just kept sleeping peacefully.)
“You are very welcome,” said Marissa, handing her the jar full of softly glowing threads. “It’s going to be a splendid quilt!”
The young woman laughed. “It is, isn’t it,” she said, “Thanks to you! Well, I need to get home. Goodbye!”
“Goodbye!” said Marissa.
As soon as the lady was walking away and couldn’t see, Marissa shook out her arms so they would stop aching. That baby had been heavy! But her heart was lighter than ever, and she resolved to find that spell and learn it, although it was probably too advanced for her to do quite yet. And she went on her way, three quarters dancing now.
But she wasn’t home yet.
She hadn’t gone much farther, when what did she see?
An old, old man, standing in the road, and looking sad and worried.
I should tell you that at that spot there was a little stream that curved toward the road, chuckling as it pretended it was going to tap the path, and then curved away again. The road, as if it were playing with the stream, threw out a side path that hopped over the stream by way of a tiny humpback bridge, and then wandered off down a shady glen. But the bridge was so very, very small that whoever built it hadn’t bothered to put any railings on it.
Well… Marissa had helped two people, and thought perhaps she could help a third.
“Hello!” she said. “Is something wrong?”
“Hello, little girl,” said the old, old man, smiling at her. “Not wrong, exactly. But my legs aren’t as steady as they once were, and the bridge here has no railings. It would be fine, if it was level, but as you can see, it’s not. And I’m not quite comfortable venturing over it.”
Well… Marissa didn’t have to think much at all to know how she would feel if her legs were all wobbly and she needed to cross that bridge! She would be scared that they would give out part way, and she would take a tumble, and get a dunking too! And then she’d still have to get home somehow, all wet and bruised!
“Oh, let me help!” she said. “You can lean on me, and I’ll make sure you get across safely.”
“That would be most kind!” said the old, old man. “You are a thoughtful child, aren’t you?” And he smiled at Marissa.
So she put her cheery red book bag over her back again, and stood next to the old, old man. And he put his hand on her shoulder, and together they walked over the bridge.
When they were safely on the other side, Marissa said, “You’re sure you’ll be okay now?”
“Right as rain,” said the old, old man. “The rest of my way is as level as can be. Thanks again!” And off he walked, as jaunty as it’s possible for such a very old, old man to be.
Well… Marissa’s heart was as light and bright as the sun, and she really did dance all the rest of the way home to her Mommy and Daddy, and Granny, and brother, and dog, and two cats, and eleven chickens, and fuzzy gray donkey named Graymalkin.
And that night, after she had been tucked in bed, but before she fell asleep, she heard a musical humming sound, like this, HummmmMMMMmmmMMMMmmm. Her eyes flew open, and what did she see?
There on her pillow stood the most beautiful fairy you could ever imagine! She was only as big as Marissa’s hand, and she shone all over, like the sun shining through leaves. She had two gorgeous wings springing from her shoulders, shimmering with all the colors of the rainbow. She was fanning them gently, which was making the humming sound, and as they moved they left trails of light.
Marissa held her breath. She had never seen, never even dreamed, of anything half so lovely. Because, you see, even in that corner of the multiverse, where magic is everywhere, fairies show themselves as themselves only a little more often than they do here.
“Hello, Marissa!” said the fairy. “You were very good and kind today.”
“Oh! I was? How did you know?” whispered Marissa.
“I know, because I was all the people you met today. I was the boy who lost his mittens, and the young woman with the baby, and the old, old man. And no matter my guise or trouble, you went out of your way to help me.”
“Oh!” whispered Marissa. “But … how?”
The fairy laughed, with a sound like silver bells. “I’m a fairy! We can be anyone or anything we like. You never know when the stranger you see is really one of us.” And she smiled at Marissa.
“You never once thought about reward, and you didn’t say the unkind things you thought. Those are both important.”
“But I did really get a reward,” whispered Marissa. “I felt really good, inside.”
The fairy smiled. “That’s why they say that kindness is it’s own reward,” she said “but I’m a fairy, and I like to give people who help me something a bit more substantial.” And she held out a tiny book. “This is the spell to collect birdsong,” she said. “Keep it safe until you know enough magic to work it, and someday, your weaving will be famous throughout the world.”
And with that, she fanned her wings until they got so dazzling bright that Marissa had to close her eyes. When she opened them, the fairy was gone. But she still held the little book tightly in her hand. She opened it and looked inside, of course, but one glance showed her the spell was really too advanced. After all, she was only about your age. But she knew she’d be able to work it one day.
So she slipped out of bed and put the little book safely with her most precious treasures. And then she climbed back in between her covers and snuggled down.
But as she drifted off to sleep, she couldn’t help but wonder…
Why had the fairy’s mommy made her wear mittens on such a warm spring day?