Dear Fairy Friends,
As the seasons begin to shift (in Canada anyway!), and the flowers tuck themselves into their beds, we sometimes pay less attention to the earth as it is quitter after Fall harvests and hushed at the onset of winter. It is still there however and still in tune with the beings that walk it, burrow in it, hibernate and store their energies for a new season.
Come closer, I would like to tell you the strange and wonderful tale of The Root Vegetable Babes, Children of the Earth.
There was once a couple who wished for a child. Their farm had turned into a wasteland of weeds, they had no livestock and the shingles on the roof were a patchwork of disaster held together by sheer luck. The couple was not lazy, as one might assume. They were merely always so caught up in their thoughts that the everyday and the earth calling for their aid escaped them.
The husband had the brain of an innovator, and although he meant wholeheartedly to weed the garden beds, he got lost in sketches of contraptions he wished to build that could weed a garden at twice the speed of a person.
The wife spent her days burning her baking in the oven and forgetting the soup hung up by the fire as she created the most spectacular patterns for children’s garments. Nothing like her creations were to be seen in all the land. She sacrificed pieces of their best clothing, her wedding dress and his wedding clothes, to bring some of these pieces to life. She absentmindedly salted the cake and sugared the vegetables between her stitches, dreaming of dressing her own children in the clothes.
One night, as the wife swept cobwebs from her bedroom window, she opened the shutters to let the cool air blow away the dust that had gathered as well. She looked up at the round, rosy moon. It seemed so quiet then, as if there very air were listening. She looked up and whispered “I promise, I would nurture any child I would be blessed to have. I promise.”
The wind picked up suddenly and with such vigour that it slammed the shutters, narrowly missing the wistful wife’s finger tips as she yanked them off of the sill.
She fell into a deep sleep, the first in a long time that did not tease and torment her heart with dreams of her own children. In the morning, nothing – not the neighbour’s rooster, nor her husband’s gentle nudging nor the sun warming her skin – woke her. Her slumber was finally broken by a knock at the door.
Rubbing the sleep from her eyes, she was startled to see it was already late morning. Hurriedly, she slipped on her dressing gown and slippers and opened the door.
On the doorstep, there stood a stranger. The stranger was a woman with a slightly bent back, smelling as though her clothing had been through many rains and had travelled many roads. Her hair was long and strewn with love knots. Her lined face was aged but there was such a loveliness to her large, brown eyes. She carried a frayed basket covered in a travel-worn handkerchief that must have been quite handsome once.
Not one to be rude, the wife said to the woman “good morning, is there anything I can help you with?”
The woman smiled, showing a mouth full of white, pearly teeth. She replied in a cracked voice “would you have room in your home for a little one?” As she said this, she nodded towards the basket.
The wife could not believe it! She said right away “oh yes, yes I do!”
The woman began to lift the handkerchief and the wife strained to see the baby that must be in the basket. A large rutabaga in a bonnet was cushioned within.
The wife did not know if she should laugh or cry at this cruel joke. She was about to tell the woman that this jest was unkind to a childless wife, but the wind rustled the leaves outside and shook the door slightly. The woman remembered her promise the night before and resolved to take the rutabaga in. The woman went away.
Her husband laughed but the wife took the rutabaga in the bonnet and made it a small cradle out of a drawer. She lay one of her exquisite baby gowns over the root, making the rutabaga appear to be the head and the gown the body. During the day, she moved the cradle to the kitchen where she worked. As she spoke to the root vegetable, practicing what she would say to a real child, she began to be more present. The bread was not burnt that week.
The next week, the woman appeared once more as loaves were coming out of the oven. The wife invited her in and broke bread with her. The woman saw the rutabaga tucked into the cradle and asked once more “would you have room in your home for a little one?”
The wife saw the fire in the hearth flicker as the wind picked up outside. She remembered her promise and was tucking in two babies that night, the rutabaga and a large, heart-shaped potato.
Her husband shook his head and laughed again but figured the root vegetables were doing his wife some good as that week she baked the most delicious bread and cakes he had ever eaten. She was able to sell some in the village and they were able, after 2 weeks, to buy laying hens.
To make the grounds habitable for the hens, the husband had to prepare a coop and weed some of the gardens.
Three weeks after the heart-shaped potato made it’s home with the couple, the woman appeared once more. Once thy were finished their meal, the woman asked “would you have room in your home for a little one?”
A branch from outside beat against the shutters in the kitchen. The woman remembered her promise and this time, dressed a little parsnip as a babe.
Her husband found this oddly endearing and did not mock his wife for that week, her baking was heavenly, her soups divine, new pieces were sewn and the home felt warmer.
Her baby clothes were admired by the wealthy and they soon commissioned the wife to make some for their children. The husband had enough money to make his weeding invention and soon, their farm was one of the most well-tended. They now had a goat for cheese making and a cow for milk and a couple of pigs for meat.
Four weeks later, the woman returned. She stayed the night and the wife washed the rain and road dust from the woman’s clothing.The wife served her freshly scrambled eggs on hot bread. She was treated to milk, goat cheese, bacon, soup, and cakes. When she had eaten her fill, the woman asked a different question “what names have you given the children?”
After so many weeks of talking to the vegetables, it was odd but the wife had come to believe that they each had different personalities and had, in fact, named them. She brought the cradle over, stuffed full now with the rutabaga, the heart-shaped potato and the parsnip. The woman saw that they were each beautifully clothed, freshly scrubbed and covered in warm blankets. The rutabaga and parsnip in boy’s clothing and the heart-shaped potato in a little gown for a girl. The wife pointed to the rutabaga and said “this is Rupert”. Next she pointed to the heart-shaped potato and said “this is Faith”. Lastly, she pointed to the turnip and said “This is Peter”.
The woman smiled and the wind picked up once more, but this time blowing open the door, blowing out the fire and shaking the shutters in their posts. In a glimmer, the woman shifted shapes into a short, stout, lovely woman with skin the colour of an acorn yet the same beautiful brown eyes were the same. She waved her hand over the cradle and the sound of babies laughing filled the room. The wife was astonished and saw there were three babes much too big to fit comfortably in the cradle, wearing the clothing she had dressed the vegetables in. The woman had vanished, the fire came to life once more.
She never knocked on the door again.
That night, the woman gave thanks in the light of the moon as three babes slept in their bed. By respecting the earth, caring for the grounds, the livestock, the woman at her door and the root vegetables, the couple had shown themselves worthy to provide a home for the Children of the Earth.The farm was never neglected again and the children kept the prosperous couple very busy!