Oak & Willow, Water & Omens


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3 min
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They never faltered. Anyone could tell from simply being in their presence that they were not of this world. They raced through the water unafraid, not tied down by the laws of physics that constrict all other beings. Many humans sat wistfully by the stream day after day, hoping to catch even the tiniest glimpse of them. Nana warned of how easy it was to become enraptured by them and forget simple necessities like food and sleep. The parents in the village were careful to keep their children away from the deep pool and waterfall at the origin of the stream they centered their lives around. The hand-dug well resided in the center of the village for a reason. In the dry season, only the best warriors traveled to retrieve water for daily chores. It wasn’t that they had to fight for the water - it was that they had to fight every instinct and desire telling them to join the mysterious beings promising a better, freer life.
~
On a hot day in what would eventually become August, a black squirrel scampered along a tree branch, shaking the leaves of an enormous oak growing by the side of the stream. An outsider would have seen a flash of gold and purple if they had looked into the water at that moment, but the squirrel was concerned with other things.
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A mother brings her baby to the water’s edge, visibly relaxing when it is apparent that she is alone. The stream has always brought her unparalleled calmness and contentment, and she wishes the same for her newborn. She knows the people of the village would not approve, but her grandfather’s words run through her head: “They aren’t what they seem. They are more just than most of the people I have met.” As she dangles her feet in the water, she begins to sing the lullaby that her grandfather passed on to her. As if on cue, there is an electric blue streak through the water, though it disappears so quickly it is impossible to know if it was really there. She will return to the side of the stream as often as she can until they allow her to see them. She does not worry about forgetting to eat or sleep.
~
A teenage boy is playing hide and seek with his friends in the woods. They have crafted bows and arrows from the willow trees that line the shores, though they have been careful to stay out of the water. A friend once dared him to leap the stream, which he obliged with a wicked grin and a wild laugh. On the other side, he found a shimmery, jade colored rock that had been washed smooth by the gentle lap of the water, a supposed reward for his daring. He keeps the rock in a small, handwoven basket gifted to him by his mother before she passed away, and he holds it in his left hand whenever he needs to feel brave.
~
Some may believe that they disappear in the deep of winter when the pool freezes over with a thin sheen of ice, but this is not the case. A snowshoe hare is the only one around to witness the silhouette of muted yellow that suddenly appears directly under where the waterfall splashes in the warmer seasons. They have been there for thousands of years; a little cold will not chase them away from the one place where they are truly safe.
~
Despite the warnings and pleas of their parents, there is always one youth that cannot be constrained by the laws of the village. They can hear the call, feel it deep in their blood. They often search out the brightest flowers to adorn their hair in the spring, and many have an animal constantly trailing behind them. They are the children of the Earth. They depend on the water as truly, sincerely, and completely as the other occupants of the village, yet simultaneously in a completely different way. Though the analogy of the Pied Piper may come to mind, there is no human tale that could describe the beings that reside in the stream that does not wish to be found.
~
The moss covered rock a few yards from the soft shore of the stream has likely been there as long as the beings themselves. Time has erased the markings of the young lovers that once carved their names into its side before jumping together into the pool. Time is a remarkable thing in the eyes of the humans, but those same lovers now greet new arrivals with a welcoming hug and a garland of underwater plants.
~
An old man removes his glasses as he sits in the soft grass beside the stream. Though his life has been long, he never succumbed to the superstitions of the other villagers. His grandchildren will inherit his wonder and appreciation of the natural world, and he is grateful for his own mother’s influence in his youth and infancy. Rolling up the cuffs of his pants, he stands and steps into the cool water. A flash of silver alerts him to the presence of his mother - it will be nice to catch up with her again. As she rests her hand on his arm, he feels the spirits of the earth nodding their approval.
~
They never falter. Hesitation is a curse that lies only with humans, and their lives are far too long to worry themselves with things that will work out in the end. Magic still lies within the earth, and they are the keepers of it. They hold a spot for anyone willing to protect the simplicity of life, though this makes them seem dangerous to many. A flash of colors is all most will ever see of them, but the true blessing is the simple existence of their kind. They are fearless and joyful in everything they endeavor, and they will always be seen by those that seek the truth.
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