In the twinkling of an eye everything changed. The air seemed somehow lighter. She could feel it rather than see it might be the best way to describe it. Just how or why was not at all clear to the little girl as she sat gazing out the window of her bedroom warmed by the soft glow of the log fire in the hearth of her room. Shadows cast by the dancingflames painted a moving mural on the walls in her bedroom. She loved to sit and watch it, sometimes for hours at a time. Her keen mind created stories to match the moving scenes. But not tonight. Her attention was held by the world outside her window.
It was winter. Outside was chilly. Snow blanketed the ground. It glistened like a million diamond drops in the light of the full moon. Icycles hung decoratively from the edges of the roof and the heavily laden snow covered branches of the fir trees surrounding her home. It looked magical, breathtakingly beautiful. She sighed with deep contentment. Hugging herself, she thought how lucky she was to be right here, right now. No other place on earth could possibly be better!
Soon it would be Christmas. She was excited. Christmas was always a special time in her family. An only child, her parents wisely took great care to make sure she grew up in a world that did not spoil her. Her life was balanced so she had opportunities to play, learn, grow and experience all facets of life according to her readiness to grasp the lessons. This was countered balanced by her sweet, open nature and willingness to learn.
Sleep evaded her this night, but then again she was not tired. Her attention was drawn to a movement in the periphery of her vision. To the left. When she turned her head to look more closely, there was nothing there but the faint movement of a tree branch. Was it her imagination? Perhaps the wind had stirred the tree’s branches. Turning her gaze back to the middle of the yard, she again became aware of a movement in the same spot. Sure now that it was not the wind or her imagination , she held her breath and ever so slowly turned her head again.
There it was! A creature unlike any other she had ever seen – in real life or in the picture books she was so fond of reading. It was perhaps two foot tall. Like a person it had two legs and arms. It’s head seemed too big for its body which was slight. From this distance it was hard to see any individual details other than to note that its face was adorned with enormous round eyes. Eyes that were now looking straight at her. It knew she was there watching it! She held her breath wondering what would happen next.
And the very thing she least expected happened! It started talking to her. Not in a way that she could hear through her ears. This was inside her head. She knew it was the creature talking to her. How it was able to do that was a mystery to her. It did not frighten her. Rather, it made her even more curious. She wondered if she could talk back to it the same way. If it could perhaps hear her thoughts, she thought. The minute she thought that, the creature answered her.
Excited, she asked if it would like to join her in her room. It did not occur to her how she might smuggle it into the house. If she ventured out of her room the maid would wake and send her straight back to bed with stern words. But no sooner had she issued the invitation than the creature appeared right next to her. How did it do that?! This certainly was turning into a very strange night indeed.
The little girl now had the opportunity to see her strange visitor clearly for the first time. Its clothes were made of the finest, softest white fur she had ever seen. It was like silk to touch. A matching cap and mittens finished the outfit. The locks of flaxen hair fell in soft ringlets to below the waist. On its feet were slippers made of leather with curling toes, a little silver bell on each tip. It tinkled softly whenever it moved its feet. The huge round eyes the little girl had noticed earlier were a deep velvety blue and twinkled with merriment. A round nose, red from the cold, adorned the middle of the face below which was a full-lipped mouth with deep dimples at the cheeks. All in all it was a very merry looking little fellow indeed not in the least bit worrisome.
Mindful of her manners, the little girl introduced herself and invited her guest to sit down on the rug by the fire. Together they sat, arms hugging bent knees, watching the dancing flames.
“Who are you and why are you here?’ she asked wordlessly, hoping she did not seem rude.
“You are not rude at all! I have come to visit you every year since you were born. It was not time for us to meet before now. My name is Wind in the Willows. I have come to greet you.”
“Wind in the Willows! What a wonderful name. But why is it the right time now? And why have you been coming every year to visit me?”
“In my world we watch over all small humans. It is easy for us to come and go without being seen. We know which of the younglins will not be afraid of us when it is time to meet and greet. It is usually around the age you are now that there is a state of readiness. You are one of those. Your heart is pure and open. This is the time of the year we appear because it is a Season of Happiness and Giving. We come to help add more.”
“Ooh, how wonderful! But not everyone is able to have a Season of Happiness and Giving. There are so many poor children and families who are always hungry and cold. Just how is it that you help?”
“The very thing I have come to talk to you about! I just knew you were the one.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, we help add more by helping YOU to add more!”
“I don’t understand.”
“You live in a happy family. You do not ever go hungry and cold. Your Season of Happiness and Giving is overflowing with happiness and giving. I have come to ask if you are willing to share more of that than you do now?”
“Of course I am! But I am only a little girl. I don’t make those big decisions. My parents are the ones who organise all the giving. I love to help them give out the parcels of food and toys to the poor people. I don’t know what else I can do.”
“Exactly! Your heart is in the right place. I am here to teach and show you other ways of giving.”
And so it was that a strange partnership developed. One to last throughout the young girl’s life. Wind in the Willows taught her nature’s crafts of healing and tending to the sick and poor. Of making lotions and potions, harvesting and foraging in seasons of plenty to preserve for the leaner times. All these and more the little girl learnt.
During the Seasons of Happiness and Giving she added her own touches to the gifts the family gave. Her parents were amazed at her creativity and ingenuity. When she came of age, it became her responsibility to organise every Season of Happiness and Giving. Her fame and reputation spread far and wide.
In the years to follow those in need flocked to her door in all seasons. None were turned away. So great was the need for her services she had a cottage built on the grounds at the edge where the fir trees grew. She called it “Wind in the Willows Cottage”. Every Season of Happiness and Giving it’s doors were open for the poor people to come and collect parcels of food and toys for their families. Those who could not come were visited. As demand grew, more hands were needed to do the work. And so The Season of Happiness and Giving provided sustenance around all seasons for all comers. Wind in the Willows and the little girl, now a woman, often sat of an evening by the fire, watching the chiaroscuro of painting flames dancing on the walls of the cottage. They were content.
© Raili Tanska – reblogged