The Rhythm of Life
The Village church had rung in both Christmas and New Year, the peals echoing through the Wildwood even though the Wood’s inhabitants celebrated neither. Now the grey days of January had set in, days when it was easy to let the optimism of the December celebrations crumble in the face of unrelenting weather and the return to routines. Yet the very tips of the first snowdrops were already pushing through the snow, a tiny reminder to those who cared to look that the heart of the earth was still beating and the seasons marched on to their own rhythm regardless of how barren everything may appear.
In her cottage the Witch took down the now fading greenery and cleaned the place from top to bottom; floors scrubbed, shelves dusted, hearth emptied of ashes and the fire re-laid. What little silver she possessed was polished to a shine and where the greenery had been, candles were set to keep the darkness at bay. Finally she took stock of all that she had left in her pantry, set aside what she would need until the year turned to a point at which she could replenish it, and then methodically parcelled up everything else so that the largess of her gardens could be easily distributed to those Wildwooders who found they had need of it.
In the Village, where life was still tied to the rhythm of the land and the seasons thanks to its proximity to the magic of the Wildwood, the decorations had all come down the night before and now the villagers were making their way to church for the Feast of Epiphany, where Father Langben talked of the coming year and the cycles of life that church and village would see played out through the months; the births and marriages, anniversaries and deaths intertwining with the festivals and services and holidays that shaped their year. And how each person could do the same; march to their own beat whilst also moving in time with their friends, families, and neighbours.
Outside the direct sway of the Wildwood the wider world was already marching to the beat of the working week again, everyone frantically trying to fit the ‘New Year, New You’ demands that seemed to come at them from all sides into what little leisure time they had. Yet the Wildwood still held power there, too, feelers already probing the edges of the lives of those who had caught and held the Wood’s attention.
For the Wildwood moves to a far older, deeper, more powerful beat. A primordial rhythm that has moved humans from the first time one of us tried to explain something they didn’t understand; why night was night and day was day, why the rivers ran and the birds sang, why death happened and how life was made, why we were here and what we were meant to be doing with ourselves. This need to explain never went away. It just changed form, shapeshifting again and again as the needs and understanding of the explainers morphed over time.
All the fairy tales, the stories of dreams made flesh, justice served, truth heard, mercy given, courage and hope rewarded, they haven’t gone away despite some people’s best efforts. They can’t. Those stories are the drums on which the beat of humanity keeps time. It is beat that must go on and the Wildwood both moves to it and keeps it alive with every story it causes to be told.
This story is the last of a twelve part series that was written at the start of December 2022 in response to daily prompt emails from Writer’s HQ for their 12 Days of Flashmas challenge. It is presented here pretty much just as it was originally written on the last day of the challenge. If you’d like to know more my explanatory post can be found here.
3 thoughts on “For the twelfth tale of Flashmas the Wildwood gave to me …”
Oh wow, I have absolutely loved these. So fabulous. Really keen to hear more. I’ve felt immersed in Wildwood, like I know the place. Would love to read a collection of these stories. Like the Joanne Harris Honeycomb collection. Thank you for sharing them.
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Thank you for such a lovely compliment!