Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Sleepers' Meadow

Since my first meeting, here with the Greens, D and I have been extended the hospitality of the village, which invited us to stay through Yule. This did somewhat impinge upon our original plans which were to travel by locomotive back east to spend Christmas with the children, and at the Institute. However, when a man purportedly over a hundred years old who doesn't look an hour past his prime asks one to stay and get to know the village in more detail, one can hardly argue. Well, one who catalogs the peculiar can hardly argue. D argued long that it was imprudent to remain beyond our original plans, citing the regions propensity to be blessed with thick snows into the deep of winter which can slow even locomotive travel. Of course, this excursion is not one of mechanical advancement, thus I empathize with his reluctance.

May Green, Everett's wife, whom upon first glance I had taken for a woman somewhat elder than her husband, perhaps by as much as fifteen years, though that is an uncommon practice, invited D and I to stay within their own home, but I did not want to impose. We have, therefore, retained our rooms at the inn.  However, while taking luncheon with May, I learned that indeed, she is a woman of some forty-six years. She is Everett's third wife, the first two long dead. His first wife died when both she and Everett were young, in child bed. Her name was Eliza. She and the child were laid in the Sleepers' Meadow. Here the villagers follow the traditions of the old ones who, while they do practice internment within the folds of the earth, mark the resting places of the departed by planting flowers. There is a book which Green and his father kept in which the names of all children born are written, and the names of the fallen. It is really quite the genealogical work, however, in the Sleepers' Meadow, there are no markers. However, it is said that because of her fae blood, the flowers over Everett and Eliza's daughter, who, like her grandmother, bore no name, those flowers grow taller and brighter than those over the resting places of men.

Though I have walked with May through the Sleepers' Meadow, I can only confirm that indeed, there is a rosebush which still clings somewhat more heartily to it's green than the other plants resting beneath the snow, I can not say for certain that indeed the nameless babe lies beneath. What cause for dissemblance May may have, however, is unclear.

Even in the winter, the Sleepers' Meadow is beautiful. The path from the village is laid in river stone which cuts a narrow line through the copse into a clearing surrounded by dense trees. Much of the wood here consists of the pines and spruces so common to these colder latitudes, and their snow draped greenery abuts and defines the edges of the Meadow. It is a very private place, and before entering May bade me respect the rule of Silence and Song. By May's word, it is a tradition among the Old Ones who dwelt here before that the Sleepers must not be awakened, and thus one only comes to them quietly, or with song, as music soothes the resting of the Sleepers much as it does a child.

Per the local custom, May brought with her a sprig of evergreen to lay at the feet of her father, and she sang a sweet yet wordless tune while clearing away the detritus of the most recent windstorm from both her mother and father's resting places.  When she finished she waved her hand in circles toward me, which first I took for a symbolic gesture relating to the cyclic nature of life and death, as D and I observed in our recent trip into the Smokey Mountains, however, the solicitous look on her face informed me of my mistake. She was inviting me to sing as well. As I did not know any songs for the occasion, I merely offered a Kyrie Eleison, before we left.  We were halfway back to the village when May broke the spell of quiet.

"I'm afraid, you know."


She placed a hand on her abdomen, "I don't want to lay beside Eliza yet."

"Are you ill?"


"Are you certain?"

She smiled darkly. "My age, of course. I hardly believed it myself, after all these years, but yes. I'm certain. I know that Everett was born to one of the Old Ones, and he does have a daughter, by his second wife, Geraldine, may her Sleep be whole, but I'm old to be having my first child."

What does one say to that? Surely she read my mind, for she continued, "I am telling you this because I know what you do. You keep our stories, and I want you to know, should you come back this time next year, perhaps you will find me with a tiny child with wisps of blue light on the brow, or perhaps you will find a new daffodils peeking up in the earliest thaw." She took my hands, "Daffodils, not tulips, not roses. Daffodils. When you return, I feel in my whole self you will, then if you find Daffodils in the Sleepers' Meadow, will you greet me with song?"

"Of course I will. But can I ask, why song? I understand, to help the Sleepers remain asleep, but what if, I mean, could they..." I trailed off. I still struggle, at times, to ask the questions which most ardently pique my curiosity when I know the answers are dear.

"Could they wake?" She asked, her eyes wide.

"Yes, could they wake?"

She laughed. "You needn't look so flustered. I don't think I've ever met a child who doesn't ask it. Could they? Of course I don't know. Everett once told me, I believe it was the first thing he ever told me- my sister had called me a coward and said that if I wanted to prove that I wasn't, that I'd go to the Sleepers' Meadow and shout. Of course, I knew it was wrong, but I didn't want to be a coward, so I went. I snuck out early in the morning, before the light had fully cleared the trees. I must have been eight. I thought I was alone. I wasn't even sure if I could follow through until I got there.  Alone, I strode as bravely as I could feign, in case my sister or one of the other children might have followed, and yelled with a voice much louder than I knew I could, 'WAKE UP!'"

"Well, immediately up stands this blue haired giant in the meadow where surely there'd been no one. Before I could scream, he was moving toward me far too quickly. I ran as fast as my little feet would carry me. Of course, so many plant roses, and my skirt caught on the thorns. I tugged twice then tried to run on, hoping the branch would break. It did, but I fell. I tried to grab the grass to help me pull myself back to my feet faster. I hadn't meant to wake anyone, and then there I was, this little waif of a child; I couldn't have weighed more than fat turkey, and I was being lifted by two cold hands around my waist. I kicked and screamed, wriggling to get away. I managed to turn my head enough to bite the arm that was holding me, and I bit hard, but the grip around me only tightened, so I bit again, and this time the grip loosened. I tried to pull free, but found instead that I couldn't get a foothold before I was being dragged by the shoulder. Where was my help though? Surely they should have heard me in the village. Surely someone would come before whatever I had raised could eat me, or whatever it was dragging me off to do.

"As quickly as the struggle had begun, I found myself being dropped on the path, only a few yards from the mouth of the Meadow. Terrified I looked up to see Everett, he was gripping his left arm tightly with his right, right where I'd bitten him. I could see the gray of his shirt was red. 'What do you think you're doing.' he yelled, pacing back in forth quickly, and squeezing his arm.  I just started crying.  He really is quite a frightening sight when angry, and I'd always been scared of the tall and quiet man who was the mayor. But then he did the strangest thing. He apologized for scaring me, offered to help me up, and walked me back to the village before a soul even awoke.  Later that day he stopped by the house. I was sure he was there to tell on me. I hid in the cellar, but of course, I always hid in the cellar. When I heard the footsteps on the steps, I was certain that it would be my father, switch in  hand, or worse yet, maybe he'd make me pick the switch. It was my father, but instead he was looking for me to let me know that all of the village children were invited to join him for a walk. He wanted to tell us all about the traditions of the Old Ones and the Meadow. Of course I went. So what he told us, but he was talking to me, and it was the first thing he ever truly told me, was that his mother had told him that when we die, our spirits go to sleep, and as long as they slumber, they dream beautiful dreams, but if we rouse them, sometimes they wake up and know they need to be born again somewhere else, and they leave us. So long as they are sleeping, they are here with us still. If we were to wake them, then we'd be alone and we couldn't spend time with their spirits anymore, and that would be even more sad than simply not being able to see them and hold their hand anymore, so it was very important we try not to wake them.

"It was a comforting tale, but of course Everett never leaves well enough alone. He then said, 'though once, a long time ago, my mother told me of a time when a very naughty little boy went into a Sleepers' Meadow and yelled to wake the Sleepers, and indeed, they did wake, and pushed forth from beneath the flowers to take the naughty little boy down with them, and they'd been sleeping a very long time, and were very hungry, so one must be careful not to rouse them, in case their spirits do not wake to find a new life, but claim yours instead.'"

"Was he jesting?"

"I never knew. I'd like to think so, but I've never uttered a word that wasn't song in that place since."

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