THE SKOONIE

April 24, 2015

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Once it happened that in the dead cold grip of winter a young maiden tended to her failing grandfather, a cobbler no longer able to practice his trade due the long and hard fought victory blindness and its ally arthritis had won over him. Covered with scraps of leather, the grandfather huddled on the hearth close to the flickering flames of the weakening fire.

‘Hesper, are you near?’ asked the grandfather.

‘I’m right here,’ replied Hesper, shoving the last crust of bread into the grandfather’s twisted shaking fingers.

‘The skoonie,’ whispered the grandfather.

‘The what?’ said Hesper, wondering whatever in the world a skoonie could be.

‘Find the skoonie. Find the twisted tree on the well scarred meadow high on the forbidden mountain. Ask …’ mumbled the grandfather, and he fainted away.

Hesper rushed to press an ear to his heart and was rewarded with its steady beat. She stood up and stared all about the tiny cottage, looking for she knew not what, while the message ‘twisted tree, well scarred meadow’ repeated in her head. She took her hooded cloak from its peg, wrapped it around herself, and hurried out into the night.

She headed away from the village toward the forbidden mountain for the first time in her life. The bright light of a fat cold moon led her on. Tiny mist clouds of her own breath marked her steady ascent. Through long tree shadows on the thin blue crust of snow she went. Finally, the mountain forest opened on a scrubby meadow. Well scarred, thought Hesper. Orange dawn crept up the sky, and Hesper crept toward the lightning blasted tree in the most distant part of the meadow. The sky was morning blue when at last she reached the tree.

What should I do? What should I say? She nodded once and cleared her throat.

‘Oh, skoonie, won’t you help my grandfather to see again and heal his hands?’ she said.

She watched the tree tremble away to become a rising spire of dust disappearing in the sky. Hesper felt rooted and firm. Her lightning shattered trunk and her broken twisted limbs reached up and out in glory.

His youth, vigor, and eyesight restored, the grandfather moved to a new land and became a prosperous cobbler there.

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RAGWEN’S MEADOW

April 14, 2015

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Ragwen is a sprite I know. She lives in a small grotto by the tiny stream running under the green grass up there in the picture of her meadow I took the other day. She is an excellent storyteller. On full moon nights I visit her, and she tells me tales about witches, dragons, and amazing creatures of every stripe and feather in other dimensions while she glows a sparkly blue. I never look her in the eye. It is rude to gaze directly into the eyes of a sprite. She sings ‘Look away, look away’ if I forget. Oh, yes, she is a good singer, too. Redwing blackbirds gather to hear her on summer nights. Ragwen has given me permission to share the stories she tells me. I’ve done it a few times already. The next time I see her I’ll ask if I can share the story of her life. She hasn’t told her own story yet. How did she find her way to a mountain meadow in California? If she tells me, I’ll share.

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SPRING POEM

April 8, 2015

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For being the first to awaken,

I gave her a copper penny.

She bowed her thanks politely

and told me her name was Jenny.

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THE CLEVER ORANGE

April 3, 2015

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Once a wizard had so many spells scheduled that he made more than a few mistakes. Oh, he conjured a hidden glade protected by dragons and 4-headed dogs well enough. The tree in the heart of the glade was certainly lush and green. However,the wizard had accidentally given cleverness to the single great globe of an orange in the tree. The orange, as you may imagine, was the prize to be collected and brought to the King in exchange for marriage to the King’s lovely daughter.

And so the orange nestled in the comfort of the lush green tree and thought. I must prepare. One day a suitor is sure to get by the dragons and the dogs. I must outwit him. I wonder ….

‘Sprite,’ the orange called to its companion tree sprite.

‘Yes, orange,’ piped the sprite, sticking her head out between roots of the lush green tree.

‘Go to the dogs and dragons. Find out how things stand, and report back,’ said the orange.

The sprite flitted away and was back in no time at all.

‘A first son, a third son, two second sons, and a fifth son have all been defeated,’ the sprite reported.

‘Fine,’ said the orange, and resumed thinking.

By and by, the orange called the sprite and whispered instructions. Off went the sprite.

A seventh son will no doubt show up sooner or later. Seventh sons are the worst. He’s the one I’ll have to worry about. It’s best to be prepared.

A truer thought was never thought, for sooner than later, a bedraggled Prince staggered into the glade.

‘Ah, success,’ he muttered, and before he could hoist himself up among the branches of the tree, he was startled to hear a voice.

‘Hello, Prince, it’s a pleasure to meet you. Here. Up here. That’s right. I’m the orange you think you’re looking for. You must be a seventh son. Is that not so?’ said the orange.

‘I am, but … you speak?’ said the puzzled Prince.

‘Look, I’ll save you the long climb up here to pluck me. Truly I appear to be the orange you seek, but I’m not. See that tallest pine tree over there. The real orange is buried at its foot,’ said the orange, secretly smiling, which is the only way oranges can smile.

The prince bowed, thanked the orange, strolled to the pine and fell through to the lava pit prepared by the sprite. Five more seventh sons made it to the glade and thereafter to the lava pit before the orange was left in peace and bliss. When the Princess became the unmarried Queen, she hummed happily in the brewery, where she produced the finest ales tongue had ever tasted.

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THE THREE TULIPS

March 27, 2015

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Once there were three tulip sisters, Lily, Rose, and Petunia. One fine summer day they decided to leave the bed and travel the world.

‘We wish to discover what lies beyond the path between the boulders,’ Lily announced to Mama and Papa Tulip.

‘But you can’t go,’ said Papa Tulip. ‘How will you walk?’

‘On our roots. It can’t be that hard,’ replied Lily.

‘There’s no need to walk on your roots, dears. I’ve hoped you would take your songs to the wide world for a long time, and I have made three pairs of wooden shoes for you to wear,’ said Mama Tulip.

‘Daisy!’ said Papa Tulip.

So the grateful and excited sisters marched off down the path between the boulders in their new wooden shoes. They sang as they went, the blend of their voices soothing into the most pleasant dreams a worried hare, a nervous squirrel, and a grumpy marmot they passed along the way. When they reached a small village, they passed straightaway to the main square and sang for the villagers gathered there. So sweet was their song that the people had to sit down, weep for happiness, and fall to sleep dreaming most pleasant dreams.

‘Oh, what may we offer you as thanks for your gift of song?’ asked the mayor when he awoke.

‘A sword!’ said Petunia.

‘No, no,’ said Lily. ‘A thimble filled with dew if it wouldn’t be too much trouble is all we desire.’

Refreshed with the thimble of dew, the sisters went on their way. They enchanted people in village after village, singing across the world. Their fame grew and grew until finally they sang in the opera house of a great city, where their performance was watched carefully by a man dressed all in yellow.

That night the tulips slept in a specially prepared plot in the municipal flower bed. They were awakened at dawn by a soft voice.

‘Tulips, won’t you help me? I am Lemon, called Lem, jester and magician to the Rainbow Queen,’ whispered the man dressed all in yellow. ‘Alas, my power, though it is great, cannot cure Her Majesty’s unsleeping sickness.’

‘Take us to your Queen,’ said Lily. ‘We will help her if we can.’

Lemon raised his arms, summoning clouds. He sliced the air in a flurry with his hands. Rain poured. He shut off the rain with a toss of his head. A rainbow stretched down to the municipal flower bed. Lemon led the tulips up the rainbow’s stairs to the rainbow palace high in the arc. Into the Great Hall he guided the tulip sisters. The wretched Rainbow Queen sat slumped on her throne. Clad in gorgeous rainbow silks, she glared with red-rimmed eyes at Lemon and the tulips.

‘What now?’ she snapped.

‘Sing,’ hissed Lemon to the tulips.

And so Lily, Petunia, and Rose twined their voices in perfect harmony and sang the Rainbow Queen to sleep. And after that, the tulip sisters lived on the rainbow forever and ever.

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THE BLUE BINGLE – AN EDWARD LEAR HOMAGE TALE

March 24, 2015

The Blue Bingle

Chapter One

Next to a charming and nasty moat on a pile of sticks lived the blue bingle. It was larger than a hen, but smaller than a forest. In happy desperation one day the blue bingle decided to travel far, wide and narrow in order to satisfy its curiosity about the rest of the world. Wearing two hats and a feather, it set off carrying a crimson bucket filled to the brim with postage stamps to snack on. The local population waved with sullen joy to see the blue bingle depart.

Chapter Two

The blue bingle came to a city of glass with mounds of pepper sprawling about. A lengthy parade of furiously calm queens trailed by a chorus of singing badgers greeted the blue bingle with joyful disgust. All three heads of the blue bingle, two in hats, one with a single feather, bowed in sympathy. Moving on, the blue bingle visited in turn bold sheep dancing about wearing galoshes, sinister fish in an underground larder, happy goats reciting riddles, and a lone one-legged snarfendorgas fending for itself on a hill. By this time, the blue bingle’s crimson bucket was empty, and so it decided to return home.

Chapter Three

The blue bingle hurried back across the world riding on the back of a tremendously large flea. At last taking in the view of its beloved and uncomfortable pile of sticks, the blue bingle wept a single tear of emancipated cleverness. The local population welcomed it back with bitter happiness.

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JILL – A NONSENSE POEM

March 19, 2015

Once Jill was lost on a mountain

Once Jill was trapped in a fountain

Once Jill was captured by geese

Once Jill was jailed by her niece

Therefore, naturally

Jill now lives perched in a tree

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THE FEATHER

March 13, 2015

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There was once a sad Queen whose infant twin daughters had been taken off by the Feathered Dragon. The Queen spent her afternoons sighing in the palace garden. She could be soothed only by the singing of Melodia, one of her young handmaidens. So beautiful was Melodia’s voice that songbirds from all the world over gathered each afternoon in the palace garden’s trees to hear her sing. They burbled and tweeted in excitement until Melodia appeared. Then they fell silent and listened. When she had finished her song, not only did they remain silent, but many of them never dared to sing again, afraid of tarnishing the memory of Melodia’s pure sweet voice.

And so it happened one day that Melodia, humming happily while on an errand for the Queen, spied a long pale blue feather lying on the path. Delighted, she reached down and picked it up.

SHAM! She stood in a cavern. On the far side of it there was a cage. It contained a pair of twins. Staring at them was a monstrous blue feathered dragon. Shocked, Melodia dropped the feather. SHAM!

She found herself standing on the path as before, the feather at her feet. Oh, she thought, the twins. I must rescue them. But how? She pondered for a long time and stared at the feather. ‘So that’s it then,’ she said aloud and bent down to pick up the feather.

SHAM! In the cavern she began to sing. The dragon whipped its long slender neck in order to twist its head around to capture Melodia in its fearsome gaze. It opened wide the horrible mouth to show the dagger teeth. It took one great lurch toward Melodia, then paused. Melodia sang on. The dragon trembled and began to weep diamonds. Melodia sang on. The dragon melted away to plumes of smoke to nothing. Melodia collected the two small mounds of diamond tears before going to the cage and releasing the twins. ‘Hold on to my gown,’ she instructed them. She dropped the feather. SHAM!

She led the twins back to the palace. The Queen was no longer sad.

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THE GOLDEN SNAKE

March 3, 2015

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Once deep down in the underground kitchen of a great palace a little sculger toiled for all she was worth day after day after day. The sculger, being the lowest servant possible, didn’t even have a name. The cook ordered her about with ‘Here, you!’ or ‘Hurry up with that, you!’ The sculger, up early to build the fire, up late to sweep the ashes, hardly had time to think. But think she did every night for up to three full minutes before she fell exhausted on her straw to sleep.

O twig, she would think, one day perhaps if I work long and hard enough I ‘ll be allowed to go outside and look at the sky. I really would like to see it just once before I die.

The little sculger confided in her twig. She had found it among the kindling scraps one morning and had hidden it away in her smock pocket until she was able to shelter it out of sight in a wall crack next to her straw bed. She sang to it three minute songs and told it three minute stories before she slept, no longer able to keep her eyes open.

One morning Her Most Glorious Eminence, the Queen, descended unannounced to the kitchen. The cook nearly fainted. The little sculger, standing by the oven, tried to wish herself invisible.

‘Cook, what is that little bit there?’ said the Queen, pointing a finger burdened with jewelry at the sculger.

‘It’s the sculger is all it is, Your Most Glorious Eminence,’ said the cook.

‘Have it approach me,’ ordered the Queen.

The cook’s fierce glance caused the little sculger to shuffle forward a few feet, head bowed.

‘Hmm, have it cleaned more often, cook, and no excuses!’ said the Queen, and she turned and ascended the stairs without another word.

The cook, who normally never moved from her position standing by the table ordering the sculger to bring her this or that or the other, fetched a bucket of water and dumped it on the sculger.

‘There, that’s done then,’ she said before resuming her position by the table and calling out her next order.

At the end of the day, the little sculger wept her despair to the twig for three full minutes, then fell asleep. The twig shivered, lurched, began to glisten in the night. It became supple. It became gold. It twined around the sleeping sculger’s wrist.

The little sculger opened her eyes in the morning. How green and soft was the grass! How lovely the stream and the flowers! How sweet the perfect little cottage! And yes, how heavenly blue was the sky!

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THE WITCH TREE

February 22, 2015

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‘Go to the beach,’ her grandmother told her.

‘Sit on our favorite bench,’ her grandmother told her.

‘Here’s a sandwich. Wait there until noon,’ her grandmother told her.

‘And then watch closely,’ her grandmother told her.

Ambelinda followed her grandmother’s instructions without hesitation. For her grandmother was wonderful, magical, enchanting, and she had raised Ambelinda with loving care ever since the terrible incident.

Ambelinda sat on the bench, looked out across the lake and ate her peanut butter and honey sandwich. She crossed her legs at the ankles and swung them in a steady rhythm. Time passed. Her mind wandered here and there and back. As noon approached, Ambelinda sharpened her focus, darting glances up and down the beach. Noon arrived, and it happened.

Shimmering into existence right in front of her was a tall thin white tree with long rusty fringes of hair hanging from its branches. The tree beckoned to Ambelinda.

‘Come to me, precious jewel’ was a whisper softly sounding in Ambelinda’s ears. She stood, approached the tree, and disappeared in laughter.

Later that afternoon, the grandmother stood on the spot where the tree had appeared. She reached down, scooped up sand and allowed it to filter through her fingers. Her eyes glistened, but she smiled and nodded yes.

‘One year to prepare another potion, and I, too, will join you, my darlings,’ she mouthed silently.

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