Faery Tales and The Wonder of Daily Life
Drought and extreme fire danger continues, worst in 130 years and you can feel it, even smell it, making us aware of the preciousness and fragility of everything on a whole deeper level. We’re further inspired to notice and treasure each glorious day, and every sight of a mountain covered with trees that have been so far been spared the West’s burning. There are still some nearby ridges with the remnants of the fire that happened here 6 years ago, a warning and a reminder that with how dry things are here, we are fortunate indeed. Our lives are in many ways a faery tale the equal of any we have ever read, but all such tales include tragedies and challenges and scares that make the blessings shimmer even brighter!
A few weeks ago, Rhiannon had built this incredible play house by the river made of sticks, with a working gate, a barn, a kitchen, and all kinds of other things. Our friends that have been working on getting our new shed and water system area built, needed sand from her spot so we helped her move it to a more protected, plant-laden area. Together we made a pantry for the new kitchen, a fire/cooking area, a sleeping balcony, a piano, a clothesline, a desk and even a throne, which was a gigantic cottonwood stump that Kiva hauled quite a ways, and even made her some steps leading up to the top of it.
So now that there’s a new house down at the river, Rhiannon and I have developed a little habit of bringing baskets of things to wash, and spending time at the house afterwards eating oranges or apples with the wild mint and clover that grows there. We hang some of the aprons up on the clothesline, mostly for the fun of getting to look at them- how pretty they are up against the cliff! We fuss with the food in the pantry, and then we take a little nap in the sand, often gazing up at the trees instead of closing our eyes. Today we got to watch a spider come out of the tunnel of its web, and shared a thermos of orange spice tea I’d snuck into the basket of clothes when she wasn’t looking. Oh the joy of the look on her face when I pulled it out!
We rinse the natural soap out over a sand bank and then dunk them a final time in the river, enjoying the feel of the water flowing through the cloth. She hung one of her favorite dresses up on a willow branch above the river, and looked at me almost apologetically and said something about how she couldn’t help but hang it up right there, it was just too perfect. I looked at how the red velvet dress was dripping rhythmically into the stream in the sunshine and said I could see what she meant, and it even looked and sounded kind of like a fountain. It got us talking about how everything in our little world down here in the canyon is so beautiful that even when we’re doing something simple like washing clothes or cooking supper it can seem like we’re in a faery tale, everything here is so old fashioned and enchanted and wild and lovely. And also full of surprises and challenges and sometimes difficult or impossible seeming tasks.
I love that so many of the faery tales we’ve been reading these days have found ways to wind into our life– inspiring us to try new hairstyles like some of the characters, wear scarves on our heads and even try cooking some new foods. Our favorite story these past few weeks has been of the Russian heroine Vasilisa, whose mother has died and left her with a gift– a tiny, alive doll that bestows the girl with love, understanding, good advice and lots of help- both practical and magical. When her evil stepmother casts a spell that prevents any light or fire to be lit, she sends Vasilisa into the forest to ask Baba Yaga, the fearsome witch, for a light. Of course Baba Yaga has several days of impossible tasks to ask of Vasilisa before she does indeed send her home with a light– a glowing skull that consumes her stepmother and mean stepsisters in its wake! And of course Vasilisa survives to become a weaver of uncanny skill and eventually to marry the Tzar, forever treasuring her dear little doll that helped her through all those tasks and trials.
Rhiannon has a set of the famous Russian nesting dolls my parents bought for her there that came unpainted, so she could choose the colors and paint them herself. She got so excited about the Vasilisa story that she gave them all a fresh coat of paint, and has been carrying them around with her everywhere. When we’re doing our kitchen chores these days, we’ve been pretending that the biggest doll is my helper, Vasilisa, the second doll is Rhiannon’s helper, Rose, and the littlest doll is our 5 year old friend Cassandra’s helper, even if Cassandra isn’t visiting and helping with chores that day. We’ll open up a cookbook and perch them on the open pages, pretending that they’re looking up recipes, or put them up on the window sill and pretend that they’re washing windows, or on the shelf above the sink to help us wash the dishes. It’s been truly amazing to see how much accepting the help of these little ones has made chore time so much more fun for both of us! A good reminder that there’s always a little extra help to be found, within ourselves, whenever things seem overwhelming– we just need to remember to make use of our own inspiration, be our own little doll, for ourselves!
We’ve also been cooking up some of the feasts that Vasilisa cooks up for the ravenous Baba Yaga in the story, so that she won’t be eaten herself! The other day we made pierogis, and borscht, and stuffed morels, fish with cream and onions, and buckwheat blinis, and dressed up like Russian girls… Baba Yaga was very pleased!
So remember, next time you read a faery tale, they’re not just for getting a little respite from the demands of reality, they can also remind us of our capacity to be the heroes and heroines of our own stories. They can help us to rebuild that which has been broken or ruined, and see magic in a dress hanging over a river, or the spiderweb in the corner of a kitchen window. They can even help us get the house clean, and feed us, and remind us that we are always blessed by every wondrous day!
Now, if only we could get one of our little doll helpers to make some rain happen…
(Loba is host to guests coming to the enchanted Anima Center in New Mexico for wilderness retreats, and is also accepting applications from women for Homesteading Apprenticeships there. For information and applications for either, write her at Mail(at)AnimaCenter(dot)org – and please post and forward this freely)