March 29, 2020 · 2 comments · Categories: Stories

All parts of this story are consolidated on one page here.

Beneath the Wild Forest’s thick canopy, the raging thunderstorm soon lost its force. Ina hadn’t yet taken five steps among the majestic old-growth trees before the pouring rain began to sound distant and muted. Even the lightning, bright as it was, barely reached into the forest’s dark depths. After a few more steps, Ina had left the storm far behind and could feel only the warm, humid night air. Her soaked dress seemed to be drying with unnatural speed. An occasional drop of rain still came through the trees, but by now Ina would never have known there was a storm going on if she hadn’t just walked through it.

Photo of a dark forest with a smoky blue glow.

(Creative Commons image via flickr)

The hovering ball of witch-fire stayed close to her now, illuminating a narrow path that had not been made by human feet. Every now and again there was a hoofprint in the soft ground; probably deer tracks, Ina thought, but she couldn’t see them clearly. Once she came upon pawprints that looked like a large dog’s—but no, it was much more likely they had been made by a wolf.

She found herself wondering, in a strangely detached, abstract way, how she could walk without fear here. Wolves roaming the forest, witches scheming to mysterious ends—surely, there was danger at every turn. And yet Ina knew, with a certainty that went beyond ordinary knowing, that she would come to no harm.

The path narrowed even farther as it began sloping downward. From the thick brush on either side, brambles caught at the hem of Ina’s dress. Water was flowing somewhere off to the right, and Ina thought at first that the path might be leading her back out of the forest, into the storm. Then, as she turned another bend, the witch-fire illuminated a fast-rising brook that was very near to overflowing its banks.

Twisting away to the left, the path began to rise out of the valley, winding its way toward a rocky hillside where lights flickered softly. As she came closer, Ina could see that they were not simply candles or torches but had magical origins, just like the fire that had been her guide.

Four teenage girls were standing near the base of a cliff. A bright swarm of fireflies hovered around the nearest girl, who was short and had freckles and red hair. A taller, dark-skinned girl with cascading black curls was surrounded by a cloud of luminescent moths in bluish-purple hues. Another girl with straight dark hair and broad cheekbones stood next to a large bird whose feathers glowed like fiery embers; it perched atop a granite bounder and had the fierce beak of a hawk or eagle. Rounding out the group was a dark-eyed girl whose hair could not be seen beneath the heavy hood of her cloak, the fabric of which was thickly coated with multicolored patches of gleaming moss.

All of them turned to face Ina as she approached, and the tall girl with the cloud of moths gave her a tentative smile. Nobody spoke, though, and Ina decided she’d better introduce herself and try to find out what was going on here.

“Hi, my name is Ina.” She gave her new acquaintances the friendliest smile she could muster. “Ina Drim. I came from the lake, just a few minutes ago, after the thunderstorm started.”

Instead of giving introductions in return, the girls just stood there looking perplexed. Finally, the red-haired girl spoke in a hesitant tone.

“I am—well, I guess you can call me Firefly. I’m not sure what other name I might have. I’ve been in the forest all day, I think. Maybe.”

The other girls now looked even more confused. The girl standing next to the fiery bird shook her head wearily, as if giving up on the whole idea of speech. Then, as if responding to a signal that no human could hear, the bird broke the silence by cawing once, loudly.

A scraping sound came from the cliff face as a door set into the rocks, which had been invisible until now, began to slide open. It revealed a wide passage, well lit with torches on each side, in which a middle-aged woman stood with arms outstretched in greeting. She wore a black cloak and a wide-brimmed hat—not quite pointed, but close to it. Graying hair tumbled over her shoulders.

“Welcome, my dears. We have been joyfully waiting for you.”

Click here to continue to Part 5.

While my husband and I are staying in the house and sharing our home office space, we’re trying to keep each other cheerful. All those little things we used to worry about—well, they’re not even worth mentioning. And now, more than ever, a smile or an encouraging word can make all the difference in how the day goes.

Word-art that says "Worry weighs a person down; an encouraging word cheers a person up." -Proverbs 12:25

Nurturing Thursday was started by Becca Givens and seeks to “give this planet a much needed shot of fun, support and positive energy.” Visit her site to find more Nurturing Thursday posts and a list of frequent contributors.

Like everyone else, I had to cancel spring break plans and have been staying indoors, except for taking occasional walks in my neighborhood. I am very thankful for the digital art display on my dining room wall. I’ve been using it as a virtual window onto hiking trails and other nature scenes, like this one:

Photo of a hiking trail in springtime.

(Photo credit: Guilhem Vellut)

Even though it’s not as good as actually being there, it does go a long way toward reminding myself that the world hasn’t come to an end yet. Wishing my readers happiness in small everyday things—and stay strong, we’ll get back to our normal lives before too much longer.

I like toaster corn muffins, but I don’t often see them here in Ohio because they are mainly a Southern food. When I went to get groceries on Monday, I wasn’t thinking about them at all. I just wanted to stock up on basic items because of all the reports of panic buying and bare shelves.

The bread aisle was empty of almost everything, but there were still some hamburger buns. That was the only bread item on my list, so it seemed like my grocery trip was going okay even before I looked at a small center display, which had just been stocked with—toaster corn muffins. Yum!

Whatever you’re doing this week, I hope that you also have some happy little things to keep your spirits up. Stay safe, do what you can—and keep in mind that we are going to get through this.

Word-art that says "Don't let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do." -John Wooden

Nurturing Thursday was started by Becca Givens and seeks to “give this planet a much needed shot of fun, support and positive energy.” Visit her site to find more Nurturing Thursday posts and a list of frequent contributors.

Sometimes when I go to bed, I visualize myself in a tiny house high in the treetops in Channelwood, the imaginary village that serves as a refuge for my younger selves. One night not long ago, I was picturing myself in a comfortable bed there, with moonlight streaming through the open shutters of a window with no glass.

(Creative Commons image via flickr)

I was just about to doze off when the thought occurred to me that Channelwood was still very sparsely populated. The village had only three residents, and the last time I added a new character was in 2017.

While I was sleepily wondering what other characters might suit the story, a little hand reached over the windowsill. Then a head came into view, with bangs and barrettes, soon followed by a body in a frilly dress and white stockings.

“Hello,” I greeted this unexpected guest, whose appearance at the window showed impressive tree-climbing skills, given how high above the ground we were. “Nice climb.”

“I didn’t climb, I flew,” my visitor replied grandly, sliding with ease through the window and sitting cross-legged on the rug. “With fairy dust. You may call me Peter.”

Recognition struck me right away. This was my five-year-old past self, who had loved playing at being Peter Pan and had wanted to fly away to the Neverland instead of going to kindergarten. It wasn’t because I disliked the school, nor was it about wanting to be a boy—although I do remember thinking it was kind of unfair that people couldn’t just pick their gender every morning when they woke up, like choosing clothes for the day. Rather, at five years old, I just wanted to fly with the fairies.

“Very well, Peter,” I played along. “What brings you to my window on this fine night?”

“I was playing tag with a fairy when I got my shadow caught in a tree. By the time I had it untangled, the fairy had forgotten all about our game and was nowhere to be found. Fairies are such scatterbrained creatures. After that I saw your window, and I decided to look in and see what I could discover. I always love new adventures, and midnight is such a wonderful time for adventures, don’t you think so?”

“Yes, in the moonlight things look magical,” I agreed. “Sometimes I imagine that I could step onto a shining staircase and walk up to the moon and stars.”

That fantasy was met with a dismissive gesture. “What for? Who needs stairs when you can fly? If that silly fairy hadn’t wandered off, I would sprinkle you with fairy dust and show you how. It’s really very easy.”

“Maybe next time,” I said.

Just then I heard a loud hooting outside the window. Peter smiled, with moonlight glinting from tiny white teeth, and jumped up from the rug.

“That’s the owl from Neverland. She’s lonely, now that her babies have grown up and left home, and she wants to play jacks with me.”

I couldn’t resist asking the obvious question. “How can owls play jacks, when they’re birds and have no fingers?”

“Owls practice scooping up jacks with their wing feathers until they’re very good at it—better than most humans. She can’t beat me, of course,” and Peter turned to the window and crowed defiantly.

The owl answered with more hoots, which sounded rude enough that they couldn’t be anything other than bird trash talk.

“She’s getting too full of herself. Time to take her down a peg,” and just like that, Peter swung a stockinged leg over the windowsill and was gone.

“Goodbye,” I called after my odd little guest, “and thanks for visiting.”

More crowing and hooting, which soon faded into the distance, were all that I heard in response.

While I was sitting down to write a post for today, my husband was listening to “Better in Time” by Leona Lewis. The song’s refrain is “It’ll all get better in time.” That message, however simple, is well worth keeping in mind. Even on days when we have to deal with all kinds of problems and confusion, something good will come along, all in its time.

Word-art that says "Every day may not be good, but there is something good in every day."

Nurturing Thursday was started by Becca Givens and seeks to “give this planet a much needed shot of fun, support and positive energy.” Visit her site to find more Nurturing Thursday posts and a list of frequent contributors.

I was practicing mindfulness this evening while cleaning up after dinner. While I was standing at the kitchen sink, a negative thought wandered into my head, along the lines of “what’s the point of being mindful about a boring everyday chore.”

To deal with that, I started composing a mental list of reasons to be grateful. Obviously, having a good dinner was at the top of the list. The dishwasher deserved gratitude for making the chore much easier. I was standing on a comfortable mat in front of the sink. The house was warm and the kitchen well lit. Even something as simple as hot running water earned a place on the gratitude list, especially after we had two water outages last year (caused by a water main break and a tornado).

After I had brought into my conscious awareness all the little things in the moment for which I was grateful, I felt pretty good—so, I would say that the mindfulness practice was a success.

Word-art that says "Success is nothing more than a few simple disciplines, practiced every day." -Jim Rohn

Nurturing Thursday was started by Becca Givens and seeks to “give this planet a much needed shot of fun, support and positive energy.” Visit her site to find more Nurturing Thursday posts and a list of frequent contributors.

Although this winter has been relatively mild, with much more rain than snow, all of those dark and gloomy days have given me a bad case of the seasonal blahs. I haven’t felt like blogging and, more generally, haven’t found much creative inspiration anywhere.

Yesterday I caught myself wondering if my creative energy might have vanished forever, leaving me doomed to a small, diminished, unimaginative life. I told myself that was completely ridiculous; but even after that, I couldn’t manage to get my thoughts onto a more positive track.

At that point, I decided it was high time for a visualization exercise—specifically, asking my 119-year-old future self, Fannie, what she (we) had done to banish those doldrums. Picturing a version of myself so far in the future often helps to improve my perspective, given the fact that whatever situation I’m bothered about in the present is highly unlikely to still exist after so many years.

I found Fannie outdoors on a sunny spring day, walking with her robot poodle on a sidewalk in a well-maintained townhouse complex. A light breeze was blowing, and the air smelled of apple blossoms and freshly cut grass. Somewhere close by, an electric lawn tractor purred softly. Daffodils in bloom gave the sidewalk a bright, cheery yellow border.

Photo of daffodils under blue sky.

(Creative Commons image via flickr)

The imaginary scenery was enough in itself to lift my spirits, especially when a flying car backed out of a garage and took off into a gloriously blue sky with just a few pale clouds. I stood watching it for a moment before I told Fannie about my writer’s block worries, which by now had started to sound even sillier.

Fannie listened with a sympathetic smile as I rambled on while walking next to her. After a while, she gave me her advice. “Just open the window.”

Because we were outdoors and I didn’t know what window she might mean, I felt confused for a moment before she went on to explain further.

“Creative energy is part of the flow of life. When we let ourselves get disconnected from the natural world—such as by being cooped up inside all winter—that flow stagnates. When I feel low on energy, taking a walk usually puts me in a better frame of mind. But sometimes I’ve found it is enough just to open the window for a few minutes, breathe in some fresh air, and tell that stagnant energy it is free to go on its way now.”

Fannie paused to glance up into a flowering tree where a robin was singing, almost invisible behind a thick curtain of white blossoms.

“If you’re looking for inspiration,” she finished, “don’t sit around the house ruminating about why it hasn’t struck you yet. Go out for a walk—and chances are, you’ll find it shows up quite naturally.”