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About the author:
Jacy Sage, is the pen name for Joss Burnel. Retired from teaching and life coaching, the author is living the expat life in South America. Living a mystical life, she writes of magic and mayhem. Of characters who are seeking more; more meaning, more understanding and wisdom. Characters who discover the power of magic and whose hearts and minds are open to worlds, to dimensions beyond this one. Whether joining hands with one another in ceremony, conversing with those who came before, making love or healing, her characters live and move from a knowing that being here is a sacred journey.
What inspired you to write your book?
Why have I never done this before?
All my years of hiking and I’ve never explored the mountains closest to home. Maybe it’s true we don’t get to know our own back yard. I’ve flown all the way to France and hiked in The Alps, three summers exploring The Appalachians, and one glorious month on Mount Rainier, and never took time here in The Smoky Mountains.
It was a lovely warm day with sunlight bathing the path as I walked. School would begin again in a couple of weeks, my new third grade students would be full of energy, loud, rambunctious, asking me questions all day long. But for now, I was enjoying the last days of summer break.
Glad to have my maple walking stick with me, I used it to pull myself up the steep incline. Pausing at a flat spot, to catch my breath, I spotted a structure of some kind, off in the distance. It looked to be off the trail. Curious, I headed in its direction.
As I got closer, I could see it was a cabin of some kind with a roof of mud and grasses that looked like it had been there many years. Who would have lived way up here? I was a good two hours from the start of the trail.
When I got close, I could see a door, and one small window carved out of the side of the cabin. What a barren life this must have been for the folks who lived here. I assumed the building had been abandoned a long time ago but, as I walked around to the back, an old woman was coming up from a lower section of the land. Her face was shadowed by the battered Stetson she wore. She was dressed in multiple layers and reminded me of pictures I’d seen of old women in the Appalachian Mountains. Women who had lived their lives never having left the mountain or interacted with the town folk.
My instinct was to say, “sorry” at trespassing, and I turned to leave.
“I’ve been waiting for you,” the old woman spoke in a soft gravelly voice.
“I’ve been waiting, come and sit.”
The old woman led me around to the front of the cabin where there was an overhang that sheltered the door.
Twice, she returned; each time carrying an old stool made from logs and boards that looked like they had come off apple crates we saw when I was a child. “Sit. I’ll make tea.”
I leaned my walking stick against the wall by the front door and sat. Confused, and yet not wanting to be rude and just walk away. We Southern women are taught good manners from the time we’re in diapers. Off in the distance, a hawk soared, and I watched its flight. Such power and grace.
In a little while, the old woman returned with two mugs of tea. Chamomile. My favorite. I blew over the top of the mug to cool the tea, before sipping. We sat. Silently. How long are we going to just sit here?
“My name is Marie.”
“I know who you are. I’ve been waiting for you.”
“How do you know me? Who are you?”
“My name is Maude, Old Maude some call me. I’m the woman of the gifts,” and patting my hand, she rose and entered the house.
Gifts? This is getting a bit too weird for me. Deciding I needed to get back down the mountain, I stood up. Just then, Old Maude crossed the stoop, with a basket in her hands.
She handed me the woven basket, shaped like a fat jar with a lid on top. Unsure, perplexed, I held it on my lap, looking up at Old Maude. And then she announced, “This is the first of the gifts. Be warned, there is no going back.”
“Back!” She snapped. “Once you raise the lid, your journey begins, and you can never return to the place you are now.”
So I sat, holding the basket, not sure what to do. Not sure what I wanted to do. A part of me said to give it back to Old Maude, say thank you and get the hell out of there, away from her. Who was she? What did she want?
But I stayed. Stayed and sat there, mute, paralyzed, holding the damn thing on my lap.
The hawk was gone; the air was still. Old Maude sat silently at my side. It felt like the entire mountain, the whole world was waiting and watching, holding its breath while we sat.
Finally, I took a deep breath, letting it out in a rush, and before I could question more, I removed the lid and looked inside.
It was dark inside the basket and for a moment, I thought this was all a big joke and the thing was empty.
I glanced over at Old Maude; her head was bowed, hands on her lap with palms open as though she was listening for something. Waiting for something, waiting for me, I guess.
Slowly, I reached into the basket, vaguely hoping there wasn’t a big spider in there, but no, it was something soft and silky. I pulled it out and how that small basket held what appeared is one of the many mysteries of that time.
It was a beautiful shawl, big enough to wrap completely around me. It shimmered and flowed, and I stood up to unveil its beautiful colors of rose and indigo. The colors joined together as feathers floating in the air: they seemed to dance, and I instinctively wrapped it around myself as I stepped away from the cabin.
A bubble of laughter burst from me as I began to twirl and dance out there in the long grass. And as I twirled, time stood still and I slipped into the dawn of creation; that moment when stars burst forth, and flowers bloomed out of the soft grass for the first time. There were dragonflies soaring all around me, inviting me to dance with them. The sunlight streamed through their wings, through me as though I was an ephemeral being, of no physical substance and yet I could feel, actually feel, the blood flowing through my veins. It seemed as though my very cells were dancing along with the song; the beautiful harmonious music that was our world being born.
I twirled and bent and floated across the field. Finally, out of breath, I stood still, there in the middle of that open space, and raised my hands to the heavens, tears streaming down my face. I allowed the music to surround me, bathing me in warmth as the dragonflies blinked out, like stars fading as morning light appears.
Dizzy and giddy, I slid down to the ground, wrapped the shawl around me, my arms holding it close, and curled up on the grass falling instantly asleep.
When I awoke, daylight was fading. I slowly sat up, wrapped my arms around my knees and marveled at what had passed. Had I really been there, at the moment of creation? What Magic was this? Have I fallen into a twilight zone of some kind?
When I stood up and turned to go back to the cabin, Old Maude was waiting, and she handed me a cup of tea. It was hot and fragrant and tasted like buttercups. Buttercups? Soft and yellow with a hint of honey. Sitting down on the stool, I cradled the cup in my hand, sipping slowly, and turned to ask, “Who are you?”
Old Maude gently smiled, “You have known me, in The Before.” and she rose to enter the cabin once again, leaving me to watch as the sun disappeared behind the mountains, and darkness spread over the land, over me, over the cabin.