All week long my neighbourhood has reverberated with the sound of chain saws as my neighbours cut down trees for no apparent reason. It feels like the perfect time to reblog this story I wrote a few years ago. I made concertina book in the photos at the end of the story around the same time.
After wandering through the woods for quite some time Mirabelle was relieved to stumble upon a gypsy caravan. ‘Of course it’s a gypsy caravan, what else could it be?’ she muttered to herself. ‘This whole experience of being lost and alone in these deep, dark woods is totally archetypal. I am convinced I have strayed into the realms of the mythic and the mystic.’
‘That’s exactly right dear. That’s where you are,’ said a round faced woman poking her head out the caravan door. ‘It’s time you learned to trust your intuition.’
‘My intuition? I don’t think it’s working. I’m looking for my way home but I can’t seem to find it,’ said Mirabelle.
‘That’s because you are meant to come here first and have your Tarot Reading,’ the gypsy woman said with a knowing smile.
‘I don’t think so. I don’t believe in all that mumbo jumbo.’ Mirabelle was very clear on this. How could little pictures on pieces of cardboard possibly have anything to say to her. She believed in a rational, objective approach to life.
‘Just as you like dear. It matters not to me. I can read the tea leaves or even the autumn leaves if you prefer – the I Ching or the lay of the land. The point is you will not find your way home without some metaphysical guidance. As you said yourself, you have entered the realms of the mythic.’
‘Read the lay of the land then,’ Mirabelle said with a note of challenge in her voice. ‘I’ve been walking through these woods for quite some time now and I’ve noticed there is something amiss here. Things don’t seem quite right.’
‘You are very perceptive my dear, you really must learn to trust that,’ the gypsy woman said conversationally as she climbed down from the caravan and joined Mirabelle on the path. ‘Come, let us walk. The lay of the land will guide our footsteps.’
Setting off at a brisk pace the gypsy woman led Mirabelle down a winding trail. As they walked birds sung in the trees, butterflies flittered past and the golden rays of sunlight piercing the tree canopy illuminated their way. After a time they came to a natural clearing where a small spring bubbled up between round rocks. The woman took a seat on a carved stone bench nearby. Mirabelle sat down beside her. From here she could see straight through a gap in the trees to the open land beyond – a wasteland of withered thorn bushes and dreary expanses of grey grass. A chill wind moaned as it whipped over the land and Mirabelle shivered involuntarily.
‘As you can see from the lay of land, things are definitely not right around here and haven’t been for some time,’ said the gypsy woman. She looked deep into Mirabelle’s eyes as if searching for some gleam of understanding. Mirabelle returned the look. The woman’s eyes were a soft deep brown flecked with specks of mossy green. ‘Like pools of water in the forest,’ Mirabelle thought as she travelled deeper into the mythic.
The woman’s voice came to her as if from a great distance. Murmuring like a forest stream the voice told stories of ancient times when faerie folk danced across the clearing and elves sang sweet melodies in the trees. After an eon this was replaced by another reality where tall beings clad in white moved among the trees holding ceremony and murmuring incantations. Then, like the clarion call from the devil’s trumpet, came the Iron Age – the Kali Yuga – the times of war and mayhem. Blood lay thick upon the ground as the wounded moaned and death wraiths streaked across the desolate plains.
Mirabelle cringed as men felled the trees and mined the earth to find the raw materials to build their weapons of war. As the battle cries and the whine of machinery intensified she broke free from the woman’s gaze.
‘What are you doing to me,’ she whimpered. ‘I know nothing of these things. They are not the world I walk in. I just want to get home to my family.’
‘Perhaps it is that we have all lived many lifetimes and been many things,’ the woman replied. ‘Perhaps it is that these memories are encoded in our DNA. We are all involved on some level or another.’
Mirabelle nodded. ‘I’m doing what I can to live a better life,’ she said earnestly, ‘but I’m just an ordinary person living an ordinary life. All I can do is can change my part of the world. I am endeavouring to live more sustainably and I am working on my consciousness.’
The gypsy woman remained silent as Mirabelle looked out across the wasteland. Here and there she noticed new life burst forth amidst the weeds. The new growth looked puny against the vastness of the devastated space. ‘It just doesn’t seem to be enough,’ she said forlornly.
Still the woman said nothing but instead, rummaged through a cloth bag slung over her shoulder. She pulled down out a tattered manuscript and passed it over. Opening it Mirabelle saw it was an illustrated map engraved with strange directions. Bemused she glanced to where the woman had sat only to discover she had disappeared. For a moment she looked out to open land and noticed that although the new growth was small, it was vibrant and healthy. Returning her eyes to the map she read the directions – perhaps they would lead her home.