LOST

Re reading – wanted to post this again today – enjoy.

Antonia Gialerakis

Have you ever been lost?  Literally, I mean.  Have you ever found yourself in a situation out of which you are entirely unable to find you way?  Literally, I mean.

I have two stories to tell on this subject.  They are both the same story.  Here is the first:

It’s a beautiful cottage.  Nestling deep in the heart of Windsor Great Park, this particular cottage is a rare, authentic piece of English history that not all are privileged to visit.  I have been here several times over the years, and treasure all my memories of the place, and the people who dwell here.  Tonight, I have arrived here to toast a very dear, recently departed friend who on all her frequent visits to England, her home country, would stay in this very cottage.  I have purchased a full cream sherry for this occasion that I shall share with her niece…

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The Box

Who knew this would happen.  As I hurtled past the half century mark in my life feeling great and looking forward to the next bit, who knew that behind me lay a couple of really huge boxes packed full of truths about myself.  Myself as I have been experienced by others.

Straining against the lids of these boxes, these truths have lain dormant for as many as thirty years of accumlated perceptions, resentments, hurts and even rage held tightly within.  Now, as lids fly open, I find myself resting against the tree of my own truths, absorbing these understandings now frantically buzzing around my head.

We all have them, we all know what this means.  No matter who you are, if you care to look you may very well find that someone you love dearly, have loved for years if not your whole life, has a whole box full of thoughts, fears, insecurities and examples of your misdemeanors, mistakes and careless blunders very tightly packed away within what was recently described perfectly to me as: “A box”.

“I have this box”, I was told, “and everything I feel about you is packed in here…”

I love the person who told me this, very dearly.  Willing and able to hear it now, I listened with interest, embarrassment, pain and some humour whilst I was summarily presented to myself as something far from attractive.  Buzzing and hissing with a multitude of ill-advised patterns of behavior and cleary out of control emotions, this was a me I might have preferred not to see.

It’s not pleasant to hear of your past self in this way – but what I found particularly interesting about this experience is how profoundly liberating it is to see yourself through someone else’s eyes.

No use and no need to defend.  What’s done is done.  What is perceived is perceived and cannot be changed.  To what end, putting your point of view across.  The person whose box that is, is not likely to be listening for explanations – nor are they likely to care about your point of view.  What they are doing is explaining to you how and why, from their point of view, your relationship has reached an impasse.

I asked who knew.  I suppose I should have known.  To most of you, my question is rhetorical.  Sadly, believe it or not, I genuinely did not know these boxes were there at all. So far, I have been presented with two.

The first “box” I encountered came at me from a very oblique angle.  I had seen no obvious signs of built up resentments, hurts, insecurities and/or rage.  That is not to say those signs weren’t there – they were probably right in front of my eyes.  But I had failed to see them.  In this first case it felt as though the lid of that box was dragged off – both by me in total ignorance, and her in outraged frustration – releasing some very old flies indeed.  Flies of my perceived misdemeanors weakly flapped around in a kind of stew of stuff, until finally, and very reluctantly, the fog cleared to reveal these perceptions for what they truly were.  A list of not pretty, loose examples of indefensible behavior, and very unnattractive perceptions had accumulated in this box across the years and were now flying my way.

They flew around me for a full year of my life. I said these flies were old – they were.  They were also tired – so very tired from years of cruel enclosure their wings flapped weakly before my eyes, clouding my view enitrely.  Some of these perceived characteristics of mine were arguable perhaps, but, as I have said, to what end.  My point of view, my own perceptions and memories were of no interest to her.  So be it.

I walked away leaving the lid of that box wide open and wonderfully empty! A little bruised, a little the wiser, but very pleased about the resulting release for us both in the end, I found this unpleasant experience incredibly liberating.

The second box is a whole different matter.

This week I was handed the key with which to open this box.  I asked for it of course.  This key did not appear of it’s own accord.  But, when requested, it appeared right there before me on a kitchen table glinting in the afternoon sunshine as cleanly and brightly as a bar of shiny, pure gold! With this key the box was opened, and out flew the flies.

No, it also wasn’t pretty – and of course while these flies were not as old, nor as tired as the first flies I have mentioned, there were some familiars that I could recognise and acknowledge.  With energy, these flies buzzed around me explaining in no uncertain terms what they were and why they were there.  There was no fog – not even the lightest mist.  Instead of drawing breath in pain, I expelled air from my lungs with the immediate joy of release that true understanding can give us.

I love her – and I shall thank her for the rest of my life for giving me the gift of that key.  As she said herself, neither of us had any idea it would be “so simple”.  It can be.  I believe the gift of understanding is one of the most beautiful gifts anyone we love can ever give us.

Are you thinking of Pandora’s Box.  Of course you are – and let’s not forget the mythology.  Wikipedia it – you can read a very cursory synopsis of that story written in the bland but reasonably accurate way in which Wikipedia tell a story.  What resonates for me here is this bit:-

“Pandora opens a jar containing death and many other evils which were released into the world.  She hastened to close the container, but the whole contents had escaped except for one thing that lay at the bottom – ELPIS. ( usually translated as “hope”, though it could also mean “expectation”).  Quote: Wikipedia – main article Pandora.

Leaning against my tree of truths as I am, truths merely perceived to be such and/or otherwise, I find my heart alive and burning with hope.

Of Cream Teas and Thunderstorms

                                                           Cream tea

Yum!

It recently came to pass that I found myself sitting in front of this delicious scone, enjoying my cream tea, and wishing I could stay here for a lot more than the single hour I had to spare.  It  might surprise you to know that I had been seated here before – half a century ago in fact – in this very room, watching the grown-ups enjoy scones that looked exactly the same as this. It is interesting how many times I would re-visit over the years following my original experience of this particular place, but I shall leave those stories for another day.  Today I will start right here, in the present, with my most recent visit to Durban’s Mitchell Park.

Google it and you shall find the following:  Established as an ostrich farm in 1910, Mitchell Park began introducing other animals into the fold, the most famed of these being an Indian Elephant named Nellie.  Nellie was given to this little zoo by the Maharajah of Mysore in 1928.  Rumour has it that she could produce notes from a mouth organ, and crush coconuts with her feet.  As well as housing a variety of exotic birds, this small zoo also hosted monkeys, small black raccoons, crocodiles, antelope and wonderful Aldabra Giant tortoises, the latter of which I remember very well.

As a small girl, I was brought to Mitchell Park as a treat to wander along the paths around the walk-through aviery, to admire the extraordinary birds one would see there, to gasp at the crocodiles basking on their rocks, and to wander through the little zoo itself in search of giant tortoises.  Peacocks were commonplace here, but it was always nice when they spread their magnificent feathers to impress.  The ostriches looked a little bored and tired to me, but their feathers were great fun, bouncing and flouncing as they moved.

However, it was the eldest giant tortoise there that I most loved to visit.  One of the oldest residents in this park, this remarkable giant tortoise had been brought to Mitchell Park Zoo in 1915.  For me, there appeared to be something truly magical about this creature.  On top of which I was sure I detected kindness in those eyes, not to mention wisdom, and a certain very stately majesty in the way in which this tortoise moved.

“You wont live as long as this tortoise has already been alive.”  Peering through the fence beside me, my dad was keen to tell me the facts.  This caused much pause for thought for this little girl as she gazed at Admiral calmly chewing on a lettuce leaf in what appeared to be slow motion.  Yes, indeed, a prize such as this for the colonials must certainly be given a colonial name.  Admiral, he was.  I wont live as long as this tortoise, I thought.  What does he have that I don’t have, I wondered.  What has he seen?  What does he know that I wont live long enough to know…

This park, with it’s history dating back to the 1900’s, nestles in the suburb of Morningside in Durban, South Africa.  This is not a very big park.  It hosts a playground for children as well as being a little zoo.  Mitchell Park also has a very pretty little watering hole, affectionately named the Tea Garden Restaurant.  This restaurant is where I first sat, and sat most recently, enjoying a very delicious cream tea.  In this restaurant there is a rickety, old, brown, upright piano.  Totally out of tune I noticed, as I sat down in a vain attempt to produce a light nocturne on the heavy, solid, sticky, old, yellowed keys.  It is all part of the charm of the place. 

On the walls are framed, faded photographs of days gone by, including pictures of Nellie the elephant, and the Maharajah.  In browns, greys and white, figures in hats and long dresses are depicted floating around this park, or stopping to admire a bird, or an animal of some kind.   Various men in uniform, wearing pith helmets and often pictured smoking a cigar or a pipe, stand in groups seemingly paying attention to none other than themselves. Here remain some of the strongest reminders of the British Empire one will find left in Durban.

To be honest, I am quite surprised that evidence of this particular colonisation has survived in Durban, South Africa.  Not just in the photos on the wall, but in the clientele who frequent this place.  Here we  may find the Ladies who Lunch.  Not in London-Style, not in New York-Style, in no way European-Style, but very distinctively in Colonial-Durbanite-style, these ladies nibble on small sandwiches and sip their tea, chatting away to each other about…about the other Ladies who Lunch. 

It’s very amusing actually – because these ladies do really seem to believe that nothing has changed in Durban at all.  Most especially, that if it has, they are entirely impervious to those changes themselves.  Neatly dressed in prim, print dresses, or neat slacks and very well ironed shirts accesorised with scarves or brooches or both, these well powdered ladies are often extremely slender, fairly mature in years and adorned with coiffered hair, perfectly rinsed in blue.  They are truly there – you can see them for yourself, should you ever visit Mitchell Park and stop at the Tea Garden Restaurant for those delicious scones.  I recommend you do.

What really fascinated me when I was a little girl was a pretty fountain which changed colour at night.  Starting off as clear, the water changed from pink to purple to green and blue, and back to clear again.  I didn’t approve of the colours – being more of a “pastel” girl myself, these colours were far too bright.  However, there was something very comforting about the famliarity of that fountain.  It is still there, although I am not sure it still changes colour.

We visited Mitchell Park on one of our last days in Durban on a recent trip back to the city in which I was born.  While it was not a highlight of our holiday, I have to say I felt a deep fondness for this place, a nostalgia for all I remember so well of it as a child, and I am very pleased I bothered to take us there. 

I have far more adult memories of Mitchell Park too – but, as I said, I shall save those stories for another day.

After two glorious weeks, our final destination before leaving South Africa to return to London, was to stop for a night in the mountains.  Majestically shaped in parts in the form of a dragons back, the beautiful Drakensberg mountain range separates the province of Natal from what was formerly known as the province of Transvaal, now known as Gauteng. 

Here, having arrived, rested and then retired to the pool area, we lay in the sunshine absorbing the peace, the calm and the heavenly stillness these beautiful mountains offer. 

In the distance directly ahead us stood a tall, noble mountain sculpted in the shape of a Bell.  For all the changes life has brought, for all the oceans I have crossed, the skies I have flown across, and, not least of all, for the whole other country I have lived in for most of my adult life, the Bell Tower remains exactly where she was when first I laid eyes on her.  So it seems true: everything changes, and everything stays just exactly the same.  How small we are, I pondered.  Most especially, how utterly insignificant am I, here, in the context of this incredible display of beauty and majesty, that is our earth. 

Whilst rays from the afternoon sun were strong enough to absorb, as someone who grew up in the province of Natal, I am well accustomed to changes in the weather, and I could tell it was about to storm.  

Somewhere far, far away in the distance the dragon grumbled.  Echoing across the sky this vast, booming, voluminous sound bounced across the mountains and exploded upon itself at a distance. Lightening flashed and, sitting up on our sunbeds now, we counted…one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, CRASH!!  The thunder, at first so faint across the mountains rebounded across the distance to explode just a little bit closer.  More lightening struck, and I suggested we move inside as the rain would definately follow!  It is also in my blood to observe the advice of adults to move far away from trees in a storm.

Sheltered by the walled patio of our lovely room, we sat outside for a while breathing in the ozone and quietly sipping our tea as we counted the storm in.  By the time we had showered and entered the dining room of our hotel for dinner, we could reach only two as we counted between lightening bolts.  The storm was above us, and I requested a window table in order to observe the lightening as it flashed across those mountains, so bright against the night sky. 

The following morning everything was fresh.  Newly washed by the rain, the leaves, the grass and the flowers sparkled in the sunshine.  As I gazed at the shrubs ahead of me I became aware that something was gazing back at me.  There, directly opposite me stood the prettiest buck, her ears standing up tall and tipped ever so slightly forward, her huge doe-eyes observing me as she stood as still as anything can stand.

Sadly, I lost someone very close to me recently.  I choose to believe she sent this elegant little deer to wish me well, and bid me the fondest farewell.

Relflecting on the wonderful two weeks I had so profoundly enjoyed in my home country, I gazed up at the mountains and resolved that it would not be too long before I tasted such delicious cream tea, or listened to thunder rolling across those mountains again.

STORIES OF WILLOW contd…

Sparkle with heaven  - angels Photo

LOVED

Slamming her bedroom door shut behind her, Willow ran across the room and pulled her little white dressing table towards the door.  Pushing it up against the door handle in order to disable it from turning, Willow was still unsure of her door being secure.  In the corner of her room stood a heavy, dark brown chest that had been given to Willow by her grandmother  This should do it.  Leaning all her weight against this chest, Willow pushed it with her whole body, until it came to rest against the legs of the dressing table.  Finally satisfied that she was secure, Willow threw herself down on her bed and waited for the knocking to start.

Knock, knock, knock, knock…

“WILLOW!!!” came the cry!

Knock, knock, knock, knock…

“WILLOW, you are a DREADFUL child! Let me IN!!”

Knock, knock, knock, knock…“WILLOW!!”

Despite her calling, her rattling the handle, hammering and occasionally kicking on the wood, the door remained secure.

Fixing her eyes on the ceiling, Willow waited in silence for peace to descend. Half an hour later, all was quiet.

Slowly, Willow arose from her bed, restored her pretty, white dressing table, and the big, dark chest, back to their rightful positions in her room.  Quietly, opening her door very softly, Willow crept across the landing towards the door with the big, boldly written DO NOT DISTURB notice on it.

The door was slightly ajar – enough for Willow to see her lying there on her bed, exhausted by her demons, fast asleep, and utterly unaware of Willow.

Shaking her head, Willow tip-toed past the door and headed down the stairs and out of the house, heading towards the fields and woods that lay just a little way further along the road.

Pulling her purple hoody tightly up against her, Willow felt as though she were somehow quite undressed.  Although the sun was shining, and there was not a single cloud in the sky, nothing felt warm, nothing felt secure, and most disturbingly, the ground appeared to be undulating beneath her feet.

This is most strange! thought Willow.  I will go to the meadow – I’m sure I will feel much better there.

Willow arrived at her beloved meadow, and was numbed by what she found there today.

Standing before what was usually a bright, colourful, plume of light, Willow was saddened to see a mere trickle of water where the fountain so often stood.  Faintly, shining in the watery afternoon sun, the fountain was barely there at all.

Glancing towards the borders of the meadow, Willow was further dissapointed to notice that the stream was shallow, with none of those beautiful, sparkling golden lights dancing across its surface today, at all.

Looking up into the trees, Willow could neither see, nor hear, any of the birds singing to each other across the branches .

How was this possible?  How was it possible for the meadow to appear so bleak, so lifeless, so utterly without joy.

“Come on, Willow.  Someone is waiting for you!”

Grateful to turn and find Dog standing just behind her, Willow nodded, and followed him back out of the meadow to the Great Oak Tree, and Jay.

Hardly noticing the door handle today at all, Willow placed her hand on its cool, smooth surface, and pushed the door open, stepping eagerly into Jay’s beautiful home.

A little lamp was lit beside where she sat, and, without waiting for invitation, Willow walked straight over to the desk where Jay was sitting, and burst into tears.

“Goodness, Willow!  Now, what can possibly be so terrible, as to have caused you to feel this way?  Has something happened?”

“That’s just it, Jay.  Nothing has happened.  It’s always just the very same thing.  She gets better – she gets worse – she gets better again – and then we are right back where we always were.  I don’t feel well, Jay.  I don’t feel as though I can even talk about it.”

After a very brief moment of silence, Jay rose to her feet.  Switching off the lamp at her desk, Jay gestured for Willow to follow her. ” Come, Willow.  Come to the rug at the foot of my bed.  I think a little nap might do you the world of good.”

Gratefully sinking deeply into the soft, pure white rug that lay at the foot of Jay’s bed, Willow just heard herself saying:  “But the meadow Jay…even the meadow was bleak and dull and…” when her eyes closed, and Willow felt herself drifting weightlessly off to a place far, far from here…

Enfolded in what felt like the softest, downy feathers on earth, and carried on the air of her very own breath, Willow found herself floating across a landscape of voices…

“WILLOW!!  WILLOW!!” she called!  Willow turned away from the voice and spiralled down a tunnel of white, further and further away from the sound of her voice. 

Most astonishingly, Willow found herself plunging towards what appeared to be a desert, far down below her.  Yes, it was a desert, across which loped a tall, light, golden brown camel!

Landing right in front of the camel, Willow sat up and gazed into the soft, gentle face of this gangly, but rather beautiful creature who was chewing on his fleshy brown lip, and slowly opening and closing his long, long dark eyelashes.

“Hello, Camel! We have met before.”  Willow smiled.  Truthfully, she was rather pleased to see him here, in this very strange, extremely unreal landscape.

“Willow, I have come here to speak to you.  Listen to me.”

The camel spoke very, very slowly indeed.  He had a full, deep, and very rich voice.

“Yes, Camel.  I shall listen.”

“Willow, it is no good feeling the burden of what you are experiencing through her.  Try to let it go.”

You can talk of burdens, Camel!” cried Willow.  “You carry a HUGE burden on your back wherever you go!”

” I carry what is mine, Willow.  What you are carrying is not yours to carry.  Put it down Willow.  Put it down.”

With his very words, Willow felt herself lifted from below the camel’s gaze, and spun back up into the spiral of white that swirled around them both.

“Goodbye, Camel!” she called.  “I shall miss you!”

Now, drifting again across the feathery, soft white around her, to her complete surprise Willow found herself drifting past Butterfly along the way.

Fluttering her wings, Butterfly paused for a moment on Willow’s shoulder.  It seemed she too had something to say to Willow.

“Learn how it feels to be YOU, Willow!  Enjoy being YOU!  Don’t worry if you can’t understand the language of others.  Just be sure you understand your own!”

“Butterfly!! Hey, WAIT!!  Wait…where are you going?”

Fluttering her wings even faster, clearly enjoying being swept along in the white, Butterfly vanished up into a cloud, right before Willow’s eyes!

Goodness, what was THAT?  A tiny little ladybird jumped off Willow’s arm and spun out into the white after Butterfly!  Was she there all along, too?

“Just remember, Willow, if you don’t see it, it doesn’t mean it isn’t there!”

GRASSHOPPER!  Such a bright, fresh green against the white, Grasshopper danced from white cloud, to white cloud before Willow’s gaze.

“Oh, Grasshopper, I remember your telling me this before!  But how…how do I use that knowledge when it comes to her – when it comes to losing my best friend – when it comes to life?”cried Willow.

“Willow – because you can’t see, or understand why something happens, it doesn’t mean there isn’t a very good reason for it.  It may just be that there is something you simply can’t see.  Yet.”

With that, Grasshopper jumped up and disappeared into the white that surrounded them.

Floating…floating…drifting…Willow sank deeper and deeper into the rug, until finally, it was all quiet.  Finally, the voices stopped.  Finally, all was calm.

“Are you feeling better now, dear?” Leaning over Willow, Jay was smiling the warmest smile Will had ever seen her smile.

“Yes,Jay, I do.  Jay, I went to this very strange place in your rug!  I saw the Camel, and Butterfly, the Grasshopper – even Ladybird flew past!  All my dearest friends were somehow there – deep inside your rug!”

“Willow, wherever you go in life, these friends of yours will be there for you.  You wont have to look far to find them.”

I wont always have your beautiful rug, though Jay.  Will I?”

“Oh yes, Willow, you will.  That is what I want to tell you, dear.  My beautiful white rug will always be there.  Remember what you have learned. Because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it isn’t there.  Any time you would like to visit me, or any of your friends, just close your eyes and imagine my rug wrapped around you.”

Something in Jay’s voice puzzled Willow a little, but she was not quite sure what it was.  Slowly, she rose to her feet, strangely realising that if Jay were the kind of person one would hug, she would have hugged her, right there and then.  But Jay wasn’t like that, and in truth, neither was Willow.

“Well, Jay, I can always come and visit you here, in your beautiful Oak Tree.”

“You can always go to the meadow, Willow.  You can always visit your fountain.  It’s yours.  While it may be hard to see sometimes, it will never truly go away.”

The fountain!  Yes, of course!  I should go to the fountain immediately, while it is still light, and see if it is back! 

“I’d better go, Jay!  I want to see if the fountain is back again!  I must hurry while it is still light!”

It was then that the most unusual thing happened. As Willow reached the door, she called back over her shoulder to Jay:

Thank you so much, Jay!  It was wonderful to lie in your rug today!  I feel so very much better!  Goodbye, Jay!”

“Goodbye, Willow.  I love you.”

Stopping at the door, Willow turned back to gaze at her darling Jay in awe.

I love you Willow.  You will be alright, you know.  You will be alright.”

Slightly stunned be the intensity with which Jay had spoken, and somewhat in awe of the words Jay had used, Willow almost whispered her reply:

“I love you too, Jay.  Goodbye.”

Feeling more than a little strange, Willow placed her hand on the doorknob and noticed that soft, white clouds were swirling across its broad, smooth surface. Jay never says she loves me, thought Willow.  I wonder why she is saying it now.

On reaching the meadow, Willow laughed out aloud as Dog raced up to the huge plume of water that was the fountain!  Jumping up to catch drops of water in his mouth, Dog barked at the slowly sinking sun, shaking himself vigorously over and over again.  Willow saw that the stream was full too, and smiled at the golden droplets of light that danced across its surface.  Everything was just as it should be in the world again!

“Dog, let’s go back and tell Jay that everything is alright again!”

Dog barked, but didn’t move from the fountain.

Leaving him behind her, Willow raced back to the Great Oak Tree to tell Jay the good news! As she approached the tree, Willow saw that the door was open.

“Jay?  Jay, where are you?” she called.

Stepping through Jay’s beautiful little house, Willow noticed that no lights were on, and no soft, white rug lay at the foot of Jay’s bed.

How she knew it, she was never quite sure.  But in those moments, Willow knew that Jay had gone.

Willow didn’t know how long she lay there.  However long it was, it was dark, and the sky was full of stars when she finally rose to her feet, and walked slowly out of the house.  Placing her hand on the shiny doorknob for the very last time, Willow saw, clearly written in golden letters across the broad, smooth surface of that magical doorknob, the words:

I LOVE YOU, WILLOW.  I LOVE YOU.

The Lion and the Bird

To anyone who is reading my Stories of Willow – new story of Willow is on its way too – but meanwhile, just take a look t this! Isn’t it wonderful….

Design of the Picture Book

The Lion and the Bird by Marianne DubucThe Lion and the Bird (Enchanted Lion, 2014)

by Marianne Dubuc

A lion and a bird are not the most obvious of friends. One big, shaggy, and growly, and one small, sleek, and flit-about-y.

But not these two.The Lion and the Bird by Marianne DubucThis lion has rosy cheeks which are insta-endearing and wanders out to his work. Just a lion, working in the garden. That’s when he spots an injured bird.The Lion and the Bird by Marianne DubucSame insta-endearing rosy cheeks.

The lion springs to action. The bird smiles, but the flock has flown away.The Lion and the Bird by Marianne DubucMarianne Dubuc varies the art on the page. Some spot illustrations, some full-bleed. This paces the small, quiet action of the story – the spots create sequential scenes on one spread, moving us forward in time, a full-bleed image slows us down into one moment on the same physical space.The Lion and the Bird by Marianne DubucThe Lion and the Bird by Marianne DubucThe two spend the winter together, ice-fishing and fire-watching. It’s cold. But:

Winter doesn’t…

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STORIES OF WILLOW contd…

Image

LYING IN THE  LONG GRASS

Pulling herself up onto a large, smooth boulder, Willow emerged from the little stream, shook the water from her hair, and lay back down on her rock, in order to dry herself off in the sun.  It was one of those days on which Willow felt she might actually never leave the meadow at all.  Throughout the week, Willow had counted the days, hours and minutes as they moved steadily towards the weekend, bringing her closer to being able to be in the only  place in the whole world she actually wanted to be. Right here, lying on this very boulder, drying herself off under a beautiful, warm, golden sun.

The more she thought about it, the more troubled Willow grew.  What was it her mother had said to her about people?  On being confronted by a sad, and very confused Willow, she had talked of how frightful people generally were, how they were all to be avoided as far as possible, and certainly, how people were never to be trusted.

None of this was a source of any comfort to Willow.  Nor did she believe it.  Having loved her friend with only the purest joy, Willow had been deeply shocked and saddened to learn that her friend no longer liked her.  This sad truth had come to Willow one dreadful morning at school that week – a morning Willow wished never to remember.  Yet, there it was – uppermost in her mind:

“You are not my friend anymore, Willow! ” her friend had announced.  “I don’t want to play with you anymore.”

That had been on the Monday.  On the Tuesday of that week, Willow had gone in persuit of her friend.  What, why, where and when had this terrible thing happened, she wanted to know.

Many words had come to Willow in reply.  So many words, Willow could hardly make sense of them.  For whatever reasons her friend had, Willow was forced to accept that something had gone terribly wrong.

On Wednesday of that week, fairly certain that she must have played some part in this turn of events, Willow had returned to her friend, in further persuit of a greater understanding of what may, or may not have, occurred.

Again, more words had come to Willow in reply.  On Wednesday, and on Thursday too.

On Friday afternoon of that week, Willow had watched her friend at play with her new friends.  People with whom Willow knew she would never be happy to play.

Today, lying on her back in the sunshine, Willow was seeking some kind of understanding.  While she could see that her friend had her own reasons for no longer liking her, Willow struggled to understand them, to believe them, and most of all to accept them.

“I just don’t get it!” she said out aloud.  “I just don’t get why my friend no longer likes me!”

“Not everyone is going to like you, Willow.”

Sitting up, Willow spun around to see Dog lying in the long grass, just behind her boulder.

“It has happened for some very good reason’s.  Everything always does.”  Dog yawned, and, placing his head down on his paws, closed his eyes and went to sleep.

Willow considered this for a while.  Not everyone is going to like me.  Well, why should they, she thought.  Perhaps Dog was right – perhaps everything had happened just as it was meant to.

“Wake up, Dog!!  Let’s go to the fountain!”

Dog opened first one eye, and then the other.  Looking up at the keen, and very eager Willow, he pulled himself up, pricked up his ears, peered around him for a moment and swished his tail.  This was more like it!  A Willow he could play with!

Dry, and wonderfully warmed by the sun, Willow jumped off her rock and raced Dog across the meadow. Leaping up at the fountain, Dog barked at the stream of multi-coloured light shooting out at  him from the water.  Willow turned cartwheels in the long grass, spinning across the green in the sunshine!  Dog and Willow played like this for over an hour, until, finally exhausted, Willow fell down on the grass to catch her breath.

“Hello, Willow!”

Turning her head to the left, Willow squinted in search of the source of this new voice.  Seeing nothing, Willow slowly turned her head to the right.  There, precariously balanced on a tall, straight blade of grass, a pretty red ladybird swayed slightly in the breeze. 

“Hello, Ladybird!” 

“You do lovely cartwheels, Willow!  I tried to catch up with you, but you were so fast!” 

Willow laughed: “I wouldn’t have seen you, Ladybird.  I didn’t see you here, until you spoke!” 

“I have been right beside you all day, Willow!” 

Then, unfolding her wings, the ladybird lifted herself up onto the breeze, and flew out across the meadow. 

“Goodbye, Willow!” she called. 

How strange, thought Willow.  Was that really the ladybird talking to me, or did I dream this, she wondered.  Goodness, such very odd things do happen here in this beautiful meadow, she thought.  Realising that she had not noticed the ladybird at all, Willow considered what else lay beside her, here in the long grass, that she had not seen.  So, to hear something is to become aware of it, she pondered.  But if you don’t hear anything, it doesn’t mean that there is nothing there.

“That’s quite right, Willow!” 

From somewhere very near her, another voice was speaking.  A voice that came from someone, or something, that apparently could read her mind, and answer her thoughts!

  “Where are you?” laughed Willow.  “What are you?” 

“We have met before, Willow.  You should recognise me!” 

Turning over, and staring intently into the bright green grass around her, Willow noticed a little green grasshopper, very well concealed as he was, hidden among all the grass.

“Grasshopper!  How lovely to see you again!  Are you going to turn into a beautiful, tall man with a snake around his neck and a third eye, again?” she laughed.

“No, Willow.  I have other things to do today.  Enjoy the sunshine…and remember, just because you don’t see it, or hear it, it doesn’t mean there is nothing there!”

“Goodbye, Grasshopper!” called Willow, as the grasshopper flew off towards the stream that ran along the borders of the meadow below them.

Remembering how once, on a perfect day, that very same grasshopper had changed into a man before her eyes,Willow was very pleased to have seen him again.  She had wanted to ask him more about the man, and how he had ended up as a painting on her mother’s canvas.  But Grasshopper was gone, before she could ask him anything at all.

Rolling around onto her back again, Willow stretched out in the sunshine and closed her eyes, imagining all the wonderful things that lay around her in the long grass.  How strange it was, she thought, that such beautiful, perfectly formed, colourful little creatures lived and breathed all around her – unseen, unnoticed, and often entirely forgotten.

Feeling something brush softly against her arm, Willow turned slowly to see the prettiest blue and green butterfly had landed on a pale blue meadow flower, that stood proud in the grass beside her.

“Hello, Butterfly!”

“Hello, Willow!”

By now, Willow was accustomed to hearing creatures talk.  While she knew this was unusual – if not unheard of – outside of the meadow, she also knew that in the meadow, anything was possible.  Observing this beautiful butterfly, Willow wondered at how different it must feel to be a butterfly, and she decided she really wanted to know.

“How does it feel to be a butterfly?” she asked.

“How does it feel to be a Willow?” came the reply.

Willow paused for quite a long while.  Searching through words, to her surprise, Willow found if very difficult to find the words to explain how it felt to be a Willow, at all.

“I don’t know how to explain how it feels to be a Willow!” sighed Willow.  “I could try to explain, but I don’t think I would be very good at making it clear!”

“I feel that way about being a butterfly.  We speak the same language, Willow, but there are things I don’t think we would be able to truly explain.”

“That’s a pity, Butterfly.  We do both speak the same language after all…”

“Do we though, Willow.  I am not sure we do, or we wouldn’t find it so hard to explain these things to each other.”

Willow sighed, and closed her eyes again.  Did it matter, she wondered, if she and the butterfly could not fully describe to each other what it felt like to be themselves.  While she rather hoped it wouldn’t matter, she had a feeling that somehow this mattered very much indeed. 

This thought nagged at Willow, and made her restless.  Just ten minutes more in the sunshine, she thought, and then I shall go and see Jay.

On arriving at the Great Oak Tree, Willow glanced down and noticed that there, swirling around amongst the blues and greens that drifted across the smooth, cool surface of the doorknob, something else was moving!  Blending in beautifully with the colours, Willow saw an emerging shape of what appeared to be exactly the butterfly she had just met!  Not for the first time, Willow resolved to ask Jay about this beautiful doorknob.

Pushing open the door, Willow stepped into Jay’s pretty little home.

“Hello, Willow!  Lovely to see you, dear!”

“Lovely to see you too, Jay!  I have had the most interesting day today…”

“Really?  What have you been up to?”

Leaning against the wall, Willow tilted her head back and stared up at the ceiling for a moment before she answered:

“Well, at first I was sad.  I have had a terrible breakup with my friend, Jay!” she sighed.

“So sorry to hear that, Willow.  Never mind dear, this too shall pass!”

“What will pass, Jay?”

“This terrible feeling you are experiencing.  It will pass, Willow.  Things will move on.  I can promise you that.”

Willow settled down on the stool beside Jay’s desk, and stared ahead of her, talking to Jay of all she had seen and heard that day.

“I was lying in the long grass, and a ladybird appeared.  It spoke to me!  Things like that always happen to me when I visit the meadow, Jay.  It is so strange – but at the same time, it seems very normal, in an odd way.”

“Yes, certainly, strange things do happen to you in the meadow, Willow.  You are very lucky!  Don’t question it – it’s all just as it should be.”

When Willow had finished telling Jay about the butterfly, she was surprised to see Jay was smiling, and nodding her head.

“Did you understand what the butterfly explained to you,Willow?”

“Well, sort of…but…”

“All these little creatures appeared with messages for you, Willow.  The ladybird showed you how something beautiful can be right beside you, even if you cannot see, or hear it immediately.  The grasshopper explained that very clearly to you, I think, advising you to always be aware of things you cannot see, or hear.”

“Yes…”

“The butterfly had more to say, though.  Did you hear it?”

“Umm…I heard that while we spoke the same language, we might be unable to understand each other when we talked about ourselves…”

“Well, quite, Willow!  You see, it’s like you and your friend.  You loved each other – but, although you speak the same language, you have found yourselves unable to understand each other at all.”

“Yes.”  Willow could see this now, and nodded.

“Never mind, Willow, this too shall pass.  You will feel differently about it all one day – and then, perhaps, you might be friends again.  Perhaps even better friends than you were before.”

Willow rather doubted the latter, but was very glad to hear that how she felt would pass!  Already, she was feeling differently about it.

“It’s interesting – all that I heard and learned, just lying in the long grass!”

Jay smiled.  “Lying in the long grass, Willow, is often the very best way to ever be able to hear anything!”

It had been a very thought provoking day, but, on leaving Jay’s tree, Willow walked back home with a much lighter step.

“I bought you a new jumper, today, Willow.  It’s on your bed.” her mother called, as Willow passed the big brown door with it’s DO NOT DISTURB sign on it.

“Thank you!”

On entering her room, Willow raced over to her bed, and gasped!!

There, laid out across her pillow, was the lightest, soft blue jumper, with a beautiful blue and green butterfly embroidered across the front of it.