All Beliefs are Welcome Here!
Reaching out, I adjusted her covers a bit, then ran my fingertips gently down her face, giving her a smile as I picked up the threads of the story.
"Jeanne and Jane both turned to me, both of their faces bearing equal looks of frustration and impatience. Jane spoke, her voice angrier than I had ever heard it. 'Patti, Jeanne is right, this foolishness has gone on long enough. I am tired, I am hungry and I just want to go home--now!' She finished with a harsh snap. It was not like Jane to get this upset. She actually had tears in her eyes."
"Before I could speak, Jeanne did. 'I don't like admitting it, but I am frightened too--especially since I mentioned the red eyed monster that is supposed to live in this woods.' She said as she threw up her hands in defeat at having to admit her fears. Jeanne hated showing any kind of weakness."
"I had just opened my mouth to say something when Jeanne spoke again, this time in a snide sarcasm. 'For that matter, Patti, what's with you anyway? Why aren't you as miserable as Jane and I are? Do you have some kind of secret knowledge of just how we are supposed to find our way home in the dark? Or is it that you just don't care what happens to us out here or if we get home at all?' She finished spitefully, putting her hands on her hips and glaring at me hatefully."
"Even though I knew that Jeanne might not have truly meant her words and attitude to be hateful, they were. As were her sister's. We had grown up together. During that time there had been occasions when they had both caused me pain with their attitudes and words, but never like this."
"I knew Jeanne well enough, however, not to get angry, even though her words hurt. She always struck out at whoever was closest when she was frustrated, angry, or denied her own way or something she wanted. I knew she was merely seeking someone to blame for our current situation."
"I tried to speak calmly. 'I am not afraid because I know deep inside that there is nothing to fear. My mom and Dad taught me that nature and its creatures are meant to be respected and cherished, not feared. You guys have been so busy arguing and complaining that not once have you stopped to truly realize just how beautiful this wood is. You both seem to be blind to the peace of this place, deaf to the sounds of life all around us."
"The look they both gave told me they thought I had lost my mind. Jeanne's words confirmed that impression. 'Are you nuts! I don't know about my sister, but I have not found one single thing to like about this stupid woods ever since we entered it! And now you have gone and gotten us lost! Did you ever stop to think about where we would sleep, or what we would eat by keeping us out till it was too dark to find our way home, little Ms. Nature Freak?' She finished, her eyes flashing defiance and mouth turned up in a superior sneer."
"It was I turned away from them to hide my tears at their words that I spotted what appeared to be a small clearing just a short ways from where we were standing. Not knowing why, I began to walk towards it, not once looking back to see if Jeanne and Jane were following me. I did not even stop when Jeanne practically screamed at me. 'Hey, Patti, where are you going? Don't just walk off and leave us out here alone!' I heard them crashing and stumbling behind me, but I did not stop."
I paused to once more run my fingertips softly against Bekka's cheek. "Are you awake enough to hear the rest?" I asked her, for her eyes were getting more and more drowsy. She opened her eyes really wide to prove how awake she was as she gave me a grin. "Yes Grans, please! Don't stop now!" Grinning back, I continued with the story...
"To be perfectly honest, I could not have stopped if I had wanted to, for the singing had come back. This time there were no true words, more a haunting melody that seemed to be pulling me forward. I was about three or four steps into the clearing when Jeanne and Jane came stumbling into it, their legs scratched by vines and their faces covered with mosquito welts. That was rather odd, for I had not suffered a single bite myself."
"Jeanne came up and shoved me hard enough to knock me down. 'What do you think you were doing, Patti, walking off like that and leaving us! We tried to follow you, but you were already just a shadow by the time we started after you. We went off the trail twice, Jane fell and skinned her knee, and we both got attacked by mosquitoes!' She said, her words ending in a near scream as she glared at me. Jane, on the other hand, wouldn't even look at me as she stood, sullenly rubbing at the bites on her face."
"I got to my feet, then stood there for a moment, trying to stay calm. Up to now I had been suffering their attitudes and cutting comments in silence, but when Jeanne pushed me, something inside snapped."
"I started to open my mouth to berate them for their attitudes when Jeanne approached me and began poking my chest really hard, forcing me backwards as she continued to scream at me. 'You and your stupid little outing! If it weren't for you, Jane and I would be sitting in front of the television about now, munching on snacks!' Jeanne's voice was getting angrier and angrier.
"Her face was turning an ugly shade of red, and she was glaring at me like she wanted to hit me as she continued screaming and poking at me. "Instead we are stuck out here with a bloody nature freak, with no food, no bathroom, no shelter and no place to sleep!' Jeanne practically screamed at me, her face now very red and her eyes flashing."
"Jeanne's face took on a look I knew all too well from the past. Sneering hatefully while her pokes to my chest got stronger and more painful, she actually did scream at me. 'So what do you have to say for yourself now, Patti? Some friend you turned out to be, getting us stuck in this mess!' As she said that last part she suddenly shoved me once really hard once more, causing me to fall backwards into a small thicket of bushes."
Bekka looked up at me, her eyes filled with angry tears. "Grans, I wish those mean girls were here right now, I would whoop them good for being so hateful to you!"
I pulled her close, holding her and rocking her as I spoke. "No, child, that would make you no better than they were. All of this I now tell you happened long ago. Sweetheart, as you grow, you will come to find that, with time, you come to understand things better. You will learn when to let some things you cannot change anyway go. Don't worry about it, it is but a small thing, alright?" I asked her as I reached up and tenderly wiped away her tears.
Bekka nodded, but if the look on her face was anything to go by, I seriously hoped that Jeanne and Jane would not drop by as was their usual practice this week. We had remained friends throughout the years, and they were both part of mine and my husband's coven.
It had become quite common for them to drop in without a moment's notice if they learned a new spell or found a patch of herbs or some such in the woods. I just hoped that they would not come by for a few days, at least not until Bekka calmed down. She was fiercely protective of her grandfather, myself and her brother. It was about the only time she would get violent, lashing out with her fists, feet--or--in the case of someone trying to restrain her--her teeth.
I looked down at Bekka with a slight smile. "Besides, sweetheart, Jeanne shoving me into that patch of bushes turned out to work in our favor, for they were blueberry bushes! We did not know that, however, until I went to stand and got blueberry juice all over my hands from some that had dropped to the ground."
Bekka looked at me, her eyes wide. "Grans, blueberries! I love blueberries! Anyway, what happened next?" Giving her a light tap on the nose, I continued the story.
"When I felt the sticky moisture on my hands once I got back to my feet, I at first thought that Jeanne had shoved me into a brier patch and that I was bleeding. Then I caught the scent of blueberries. I turned and leaned forward, trying to see the bushes a little more clearly in the dark. Sure enough, they were blueberry bushes!"
"Excited, I called to Jeanne and Jane. 'Hey you two, stop arguing and whining for a moment and come here. Our problem of being hungry just got solved! Those bushes Jeanne shoved me in are blueberry bushes! Come on, let's try some.' I said as I turned back to the bushes and picked a few of the berries and popped them into my mouth. Oh gracious Goddess, they were so good!"
"We ate till we couldn't have eaten another single berry, then I knelt and used a small stick to dig a little hole. Picking some of the blueberries, I dropped them into the hole, thanking the Earth Mother as I did so for her bounty and asking her to bless my offering, that it might continue to refresh the creatures of her world."
I paused to look at Bekka solemnly. "Sweetheart, this is something you should always remember. When you accept gifts for the Earth Mother and Father, you must always remember to thank them."
Gently I took both of Bekka's hands as I gazed straight into her eyes. My tone was solemn and serious, letting her know that this was not part of the story. "Sweetheart, if and when you are able to, you should also return some of their gift to them and ask them to bless it for the use of future ones in need."
Bekka's eyes never once left mine, and from the expression on her face I knew that she was truly listening to my words, storing them in her sharp little mind. I continued. "Do not be as most in this world, simply taking and using with no thought to what might happen if you use everything up or destroy it with trash, poisons and such. You must always remember that the earth is our Mother, she provides for us. We must try our best to never abuse her or her gifts."
Bekka regarded me just as solemnly for a few moments, her eyes clearly showing that she was thinking about something, then she nodded her head. "Alright, Grans, I will remember. Now, can we please return to the story, I want to know what happened next!"
CONTINUED IN SECTION 6