Picking my steps carefully, I made my way through the woods on a foggy Christmas Eve, traversing the chilly landscape of the collective unconscious. There in the land of imagination (just as in real life this year) a thaw had left the ground damp and squelchy. A thin film of half-melted snow blanketed the fallen leaves along the muddy path. Every now and again, something crunched underfoot when I stepped on a rotten branch or an icy puddle, concealed by the leaves and snow.

In the soft midwinter light, the cabin in the clearing looked tiny and far from civilization. It wasn’t really; the archetypal Crone kept her dwelling within a day’s walk of the village and was part of its communal life, although she often spent time in the solitude of the woods to gather herbs and meditate on nature’s wisdom. I had come here on this wet, dark day hoping that she could help me find clarity in a confusing world.

Cabin in a snowy, foggy woods.

(Image by Millie Walker)

As I approached the threshold, a flock of small birds took wing, dimly silhouetted against the snowy forest until they disappeared into the fog.

The Crone opened the door and welcomed me inside, taking my coat while I put my muddy boots on a thick horsehair mat. A crackling fire, complete with roasting chestnuts, made the cabin warm and cheery. A mostly empty teacup on an end table beside the sofa, along with a plate of gingerbread cookies and a half-knitted scarf, made plain what she had been doing before I arrived.

“I’ve been having some trouble finding my way through the fog—of life, that is,” I told the Crone, as she bustled around setting out another cup for me and pouring hot tea for both of us. “This has been a good year for me, overall; but sometimes I feel that I’m wandering aimlessly, without clear landmarks. Perhaps you could tell me a story about finding direction, if that wouldn’t be too much of a bother?”

“No bother at all,” the Crone replied cheerfully, pushing back a strand of silver hair that had fallen across her face. “I can easily talk and knit at the same time.”

I sat down in the old-fashioned parlor chair on the other side of the table, waiting while the Crone settled herself comfortably with her knitting in her lap. She finished the last bite of the gingerbread cookie she’d been eating, and then she began the story.

“Long ago, in a cabin deep in the forest, much like this one, there lived a woodcutter’s wife who imagined on Christmas Eve that she saw an angel through the fog outside her window…”

(continued here)

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