Rowan had long locks of hair,
The color of Autumn fire,
Streaked through with chestnut brown.
Her eyes like amber and cinnamon were filled with an easy smile,
Warm like morning embers,
Easy to rekindle the bright light of laughter.
Rowan was the first-born daughter of Summer,
Her childhood filled with yellow dandelions and their seed-children flying on soft breezes,
Tickle-chin and bumble bees,
Butterflies and clover,
Beautiful lilac bushes and fireflies.
Soon enough came cool days,
Grasses grown tall and tufted,
Rabbits hiding abed and birds in big swooping black flocks,
Milkweed bursting with soft white and acorns falling,
Their caps like lost hats,
With breath hanging in the air like magic.
The leaves on the trees were mimics,
Vivid mirrors of Rowan's bright hair or her mother's,
Brown and red and orange and yellow,
Like cartoon fire decorating the land.
In what seemed like only a breath of time,
The air turn ed shimmering white as young Rowan exhaled,
Ponds became dark reflecting sheets of the soft charcoal-gray skies,
White flakes fell to Earth,
Days shortened into long and dark nights,
The stars became sharp and bright,
And drifts of snow rolled across the open fields,
Tufted by the tall locks of tawny-gold grasses and dark leafless trees.
Rowan and Summer lit candles and watched the Hunter dance across the cold dark nights.
It was one these long dark nights that Summer began to teach her daughter of their family:
The time we just passed with the turning of the leaves,
The harvest and the falling of seeds,
The flight of the milkweed seed and the seeds of tall grasses on the wind,
The time of first breath steaming the air and first frost upon the prairies and windows,
That time was your time,
Your beauty lavishing the Earth."
Rowan smiled and remembered the beautiful colors,
And the feeling of the Spirit World close to the world of the living.
Summer continued the education of her daughter in her soft and warm voice:
"The time before that when all was green and hot,
When bees were busy and flowers turned to seed,
When leaves were emerald and creatures were swimming,
When dandelions showed their yellow heads and nights were warm and soft,
When birds raised their chicks,
That time was my time,
My beauty lavishing the Earth."
Rowan closed her amber eyes and remembered her youngest days,
When she roamed barefoot and waded in ponds chasing pretty dragonflies.
Summer continued on by the flickering light of candles,
As the snowy winds howled strong and frigid outside their house of stone and thatch,
An ancient abode made warm by the fire in a large hearth:
"Now we are in the time of my Grandmother Winter,
And this is her time,
And she will lavish her beauty upon the Earth."
Rowan's eyes opened in colorful surprise,
Full of doubt and disbelief.
Said Rowan in a voice of dry leaves rustling in the tree tops,
"How can you call such as this beauty?"
Rowan gave depth to her question in a voice like a honking flock of geese and the flapping of many birds' wings:
"I can not bear to move far from our front door,
The trees look dead as sticks,
The paths I ran upon are treacherous with ice and snow,
The birds and bees and butterflies are all gone away,
And even the spiders,
Every pond is a sheet of ice as black as night,
And if the frozen winds do not chill my bones,
Then they howl and shriek about our door,
Worse if they are gone all is silent and dark as the days are short!"
Summer smiled as a wolf howled at the bright full Moon somewhere across the fields.
She replied to her daughter in the tones of a babbling brook and gently-rustling grasses:
"Look in the morning at the silver and crystal of the icicles in early sun,
And hear tonight the quiet inside,
For this is the time of rest and reflection,
Of learning and stories and tales of things long-gone and grand,
The time when old things pass and are either forgotten or woven into legend and songs,
As all the world makes ready for the arrival of my Mother,
The ever-lovely and new Spring."
Summer went on in the voice of bees buzzing and birds singing in the rustling boughs of trees:
"My Grandmother Winter is the source of all that is or ever will be,
She is the cold and the night,
The great void in which the Sun and Stars all nest,
She is the endless river of Time that allows the emergence of all which is new."
Upon these words a knocking came to their front door,
As if a sheet of snow and ice were flung at it,
And Summer smiled when she reached to open it for her dear Grandmother.
With a chill draft and a swirl of flurries,
Winter stepped over the threshold,
And the fire leapt and crackled as a burst of cold air rushed into the hearth,
Thereby feeding the burning of the logs stacked within.
She was beautiful,
With long and pale white hair trimmed in glittering ice crystals,
Her eyes as pale a blue as twinkling starlight,
Her hand like gnarled tree-bark clutching a staff of long-dead oak,
Her shawl of frost lace,
Covering the shoulders of her long black dress of deepest night,
Clasped together with the Moon as her brooch.
Winter looked down at her stunned great-granddaughter,
And she smiled like moonlight peeking through the dark clouds of a snowstorm in the night.
She spoke then,
And it was like the thunder of a distant avalanche accompanying carolers singing:
You are lovely,
Born to herald my coming to the World,
The color before my pale and dark presence,
And I give you your True Name with love,
Autumn you will always be,
And a tree with red fruit will bear your child-name,
For all to remember your first season."
As Winter spoke,
The first rowan tree appeared,
In the ground at the foot of the path leading to Summer's door,
Just in the place where Autumn had first played as a toddler,
Its red fruit blended against the deep green of the pines,
And so we have the colors of Yuletide,
To remember the passing of Autumn's time to that of Winter.
Autumn's amber eyes danced with delight,
However Winter had further to tell her lovely great-granddaughter.
Winter's voice this time was the shrieking howl of a gale upon the frigid sea:
"When the wheel turns past my time,
Will come my first daughter Spring,
With flowers and new creatures born,
Early rains and new leaf-buds upon the trees,
Though you will never meet your lovely Grandmother,
Nor she you,
I shall tell her of you dear,
And you must tell all the World each year that I am coming,
So that All may be renewed."
"I will and I shall dear Grandmother!"
Autumn promised in a voice of a scythe singing among stalks of wheat.
By: Daniel A. Stafford