It was a wide expanse of brightest green, long, soft grass. Quilted with shadows cast by the surrounding trees of Hazelnut Forest the meadow often appeared as dappled as a pony. Snowdrops were the first flowers to bloom here. Often out early in January, clumps of Snowdrops decorated the grass with pretty white blooms. In March, small, wild Daffodils might be seen spilling over into the meadow from the surrounding woodlands. In April, Bluebells flowered as they sprung up from the grass creating a soft blue mist as they grew and spread across the meadow. Throughout the Spring and Summer the meadow was sprinkled with hundreds and thousands of tiny white and yellow flowers. Daisies and Buttercups grew in abundance across this area whilst butterflies danced in multi-coloured light bounced off petals and leaves by sunbeams. Bees could be found sinking deeply into the Adria Bellflower which trailed across the borders of the meadow. In the Autumn, purples and mauves of Meadow Saffron coloured the grass clinging especially to the banks of a pretty little stream which ran along the bottom of the meadow, meandering gently across the length of it and out into the wild woods that surrounded this haven.
In the season of mellow-fruitfulness, bright red and orange berries and seeds could be found in late Spring shrubs and trees that surrounded the meadow. Occasionally Rosebay Willowherb would go to seed spreading silvery-white, whispy cotton wool around the surrounding trees. Because it bore her name and because she had heard it referred to as “Father Christmas’s Beard”, Willowherb was very special to Willow. Well it appeared so romantic to her, and, from whence she came, Willow needed all the romance she could get.
Sometimes the meadow was covered in snow. At these times Willow would tiptoe across the surface of fresh, clean snow following paired, tiny, padded footprints that darted across this plush white carpet and out into the woods beyond. Singing to herself Willow headed for the stream which was oftentimes iced over. Here she would pause to breathe in the crisp, cold Winter air before resuming her song: All Things Bright and Beautiful, she sang. All Creatures Great and Small. Willow, at three foot and two inches tall exactly, knew herself to be small. While she didn’t consider herself at all great, Willow knew someone who was.
The most remarkable feature of the meadow was a fountain. Situated immediately in the centre of this area an 8ft tall fountain would, on occasion, burst forth from it’s pedestal shooting arches of rainbows across the meadow and up into the blue above. You couldn’t always see it of course. Not everyone who visited the meadow could see it at all. Some people never did. But Willow could see it. Furthermore, Willow knew when she should visit the meadow in the clear knowledge that the fountain would be there. It wasn’t always there, but when it was, Willow would run straight to it, and, pulling off her trademark purple hoody, Willow would jump straight into the fountain in her vest, arms held high above her head, slipping deep down into the very heart of this great surge of water and light! Pulled deep into the vortex of this swirling water Willow imagined herself to be spinning past Merlin locked for all time within Morgana La Fey’s Fountain of Forgetfulness. Waving as she spun around he who was so alive in her imaginings, Willow would laugh out aloud as the water lifted her from its centre and threw her up and out into the sky above with a force greater than any other force Willow knew!
This was the Force of Life as Willow knew it. On leaving, she would pause to lean over the fountain sipping rainbows from cool water cupped in her hands. This way, Willow knew she carried the fountain deep within her as she left, and she always felt very good about this.
THE GREAT OAK TREE
Willow was holding her breath. It was quieter and safer that way altogether. Her swimming teacher had told her she was really good at it and she knew she could hold her breath for longer than most people. Firstly, holding her breath this way no one would know she was there. Secondly, she could hear everything. Every howl of pain that echoed through the walls came to her in a sequence of waves. Holding her breath she could count the seconds between each cry, and, if she lay very still indeed, she thought she could even hear the intake of breath between each sound from across the house. This way she knew if anything unusual were about to happen she would be prepared. Should so much as a floorboard creak, Willow would be ready to spring up and out of her window, away from there and down the road towards her meadow to the great Oak Tree where she would be.
Jay was always there, day and night. Twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, her door was always open to Willow. This door was something to behold. Blended as it was into the broad bark of Jay’s delightful home nestling deep within the foot of the magnificent tree this beautiful door was made, of course, of solid oak. The door was studded with golden stars that surrounded an ornate doorknob of deepest, darkest jade green. If one looked closely at this doorknob one would notice an intricate pattern of swirling clouds merging and blending into each other across a shape that was very distinctively that of a half moon. Willow had asked Jay about this doorknob – what was it really, she had asked. Jay had just smiled and replied very sensibly that it was merely a doorknob. However, Willow was sure that the patterns on this doorknob moved and changed. She was sure she had arrived there in the daytime to find the shape of a moon replaced by a very large sun.
Once inside, Willow would run across this round room through a little archway that had been carefully carved from the walls of the tree leading to the room in which Jay would be. Working at her little brown desk, or asleep, or sitting up in bed reading, Jay would always be there. Of this Willow was absolutely certain. Gratefully she would sink down into the deepest pile of white that was Jay’s rug which was laid out at the foot of her bed. Are you warm enough, Jay would ask. Immediately Willow was warm enough, yes. There was no place more warm nor more comfortable in the whole world than within this deep, pure white rug at the foot of Jay’s bed.
“Not to be stepped on, only to be slept on.” Jay had told her. So it was, for many, many nights, a place where Willow would come to rest. Made not of fur, yet offering the warmth of a deepest pelt, while as soft as cotton wool, yet not of cotton wool, light as a Dandelion yet not made from Dandelions but as smooth as a thread of silk slipping through her fingers, Willow would often ask Jay what this rug really was. Jay had just smiled and replied very sensibly that it was merely a rug.
So it was that “should anything unusual happen, should so much as floorboard creek” it was to this very Oak Tree that Willow would run, to Jay’s warm welcome Willow would escape and within this very white rug that Willow would find refuge.
There are many stories to tell of Willow and her adventures. Now that you know a little of Willow and her world, I hope you will join me when I resume my telling of these stories. Some of what I tell may amuse, sadden, surprise or even shock you, but mostly, I hope these stories will cause you to pause, and smile. Join me on this journey so perhaps, one day, Willow may share with us the secrets of the meadow.
Perhaps you already know.