She sat making notes about where she was heading, when to meet for lunch, and (most importantly) what time she needed to be back. She didn't want anyone to be waiting on her, much less a bus full of Pilgrims.
As they stepped out into the morning sun, they surveyed the area and headed toward their predetermined destinations. Some would remain on the bus and head to Yeat's Grave. She had decided to explore Sligo with the others, taking advantage of a shopping day.
The woodcarver's shop was easy to find and once they stepped inside, they were greeted with a smile and a friendly hello.
Two wooden statues were chosen from the window and he was more than happy to treat the Pilgrims to a retelling of the myths that inspired them. Taking a piece of paper from his cluttered workspace, he wrote down the story as he spoke, so that they would remember.
An hour had passed and it was time to go. She wanted to be certain not simply to wave and say thank you over her shoulder as she left, but to look him in the eye.
"I wanted to be sure to tell you that Vyv sent us. She said to say hello but wasn't sure if she'd be able to drop by today."
"Well then, you'll need something to prove you were here. What is your favorite animal?"
"A hare.", she replied.
He moved to his saw and cut a small square of wood from a plank. Turning to the vice, he clamped it in place and began carving, telling another story as he worked.
"It was thought that hares weren't very common here in Ireland. But the truth is, they are so good at hiding, they are rarely seen."
The carving finished, he removed it from the vice and handed it to her.
"Here you go. Thank you for coming to see me."
It wasn't simply the gift of the carving, but the opportunity to hear him tell the stories and to experience the passion with which he told them. The heart and soul of Ireland resides in those stories and in the people who are kind enough to share them.
"Welcome! Welcome!", he said. His arms open wide, he gestured toward the cottage. "Go on up. I'll be right there."
The Pilgrims gathered outside, taking photos and chatting quietly. Soon, they were taken though and out to the back garden, where the tree labyrinth was waiting.
The Woodland Bard shared stories, looking over his shoulder from time to time in order to show them where these tales took place. In the distance stood a Hawthorn tree in the middle of a field.
"Even those who don't believe in Faeries wouldn't dare bring harm to a Hawthorn."
The time had come to make their way down the path and to the entrance of the labyrinth. There, he told them to choose an apple. They would dip it in the water and coat it with ash, carrying it with them. When the path led them back to this point, they would wash the apple and continue on. It was symbolic of transformation. Leaving all that no longer serves behind and allowing yourself to emerge fresh and ready to move forward.
The labyrinth was beautiful and peaceful. She went in, open to whatever might happen and emerged serene, with a sense of purpose.
The Faeries are calling.
While taking a walk through the woods one rather gloomy spring day, The Writer caught a glimpse of a young girl with short dark hair and dark eyes. There was something strange (yet not sinister) about her. She seemed familiar, somehow. The Writer continued on, searching through breaks in the trees until, much to her surprise, found herself face to face with her quarry. They regarded each other for a moment. The girl’s eyes narrowed and grew darker still.
The words were heard not with her ears but with her heart, for the girl’s lips remained still. The Writer wasn't especially frightened, not by the girl anyway. What scared her was the thought that the stories she loved so much may never be known to anyone else but her.
So The Writer retreated from the mundane world to her cozy little home and immersed herself in the Faerie Realm. Sipping tea and losing complete track of the time ( as will happen when one visits the Fae ), she continues to document the stories they are willing to share.