Once upon a time …
Those words take us outside of time and place into a world where we know we can suspend our disbelief and enter a world we hadn’t expected to encounter. A world where rabbits can talk, and rivers part to allow a traveler to cross with dry feet, and the harvest is more bounteous than ever.
Join me …
Once upon a time, the Queen of the realm sat in a quiet bower examining her life as it had come to be. From a distance, you might imagine that she held a simple pentacle, carved perhaps from leather and dyed bright yellow. But what she held in her open hands was her heart. She looked closely and paid great attention to what she saw there – hidden from the eyes of others by the illusion, but open and clear to her as a crystal ball. The images shifted and changed like smoke in a breeze – showing her what she most needed to know at that moment.
Although she was gravid with child, she could see that her time in the realm was coming to a close. Her daemon, a small fawn colored rabbit, was also able to view the truth in her heart. “Will you leave before the child is born?” he asked.
“Yes,” she replied, “we will have time to travel to our destination ere she is born to the world. She and I are both strong and hale and now that I am clear, I would depart soon.”
The rabbit nodded his acknowledgment as he sat enjoying the peaceful afternoon sun.
Over the next few days, the Queen was quietly busy – meeting with her councilors, advising her coterie, and visiting with the friends she had gathered to her during her years as companion with the King. To him, she laid out her plans and while he was loath to lose her for any time, he blessed her journey.
Early one morning, even before her ladies in waiting came to open her curtains and prepare her clothing, she rose, dressed in simple and sturdy clothing, and gathered her pack of food and supplies. Taking hold of her walking stick, she and her daemon left the castle through hallways and doorways that had not been used for many a year.
And so she traveled. Rather than her carriage or her fine palfrey, she walked along peaceful byways. At night, she might find place in a local barn or quiet inn or beneath the canopy of an oak or beech and fall asleep as she watched the stars slowly parade across the sky.
Early one evening, she arrived at a river and sat down to take her shoes off so they would remain dry in the crossing. She glanced up to see a Naiad emerging from the running waters. Dangling her feet in the water, the nature spirit invited the Queen to sit with her. “Queen of the realm, you are far from your home.”
“Yes, my heart called to me and desired a journey, so I am following her.”
“Tell me, Queen, have you had a good life?” As the Naiad spoke, eight golden cups emerged from the river. She picked up one, and handed it to the Queen.
And so the Queen spoke for a time, with each cup she was handed, she told a story about the bounty in her life, about her joys, and her sorrows, her fears, and her hopes. And when the eighth cup had been filled with story, the Naiad rose and gestured. The river stopped flowing so that the Queen could walk easily across the dry path through the bed and up to the other side.
She stood and bowed in deep respect to the Naiad, “I thank you for your kindness, Deva. If you ever have need of me or mine, we will serve you as well as I have been served here.” The Naiad returned the bow and they parted in friendship.
And the Queen continued her travels. She walked along peaceful byways. At night, she might find place in a local barn or quiet inn or beneath the canopy of an oak or beech and fall asleep as she watched the stars slowly parade across the sky. She and her daemon might travel for some time in silence, or chat about the people and places they encountered on the journey, or even sing together – songs of joy and lullabies for the child who was now well on her way.
And one day, she arrived at a city. Although she had never been there before, it was the place she had seen in the crystal of her heart. As she walked toward the walls, the gates opened and the inhabitants streamed out carrying fruits of the harvest and an abundance of flowers. They were singing joyfully and celebrating their harvest. She stood quietly, just off the road, as they set up a small bower and danced through and around the flower strewn arbor.
Some of the older women noticed the Queen standing quietly by, and invited her to feast with them. She told them her name was Cwen and that her friends called her Queenie. An older woman who served as one of the midwives in the city invited Cwen to stay in her home until the child was born, and she gratefully accepted.
And so, the story pauses … it will continue … as all stories do.