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The Wise Woman and the Legend


I remember that day now when I first heard the legends of Arina. It was a summer morning in August of 1940 in the heart of Nicholas County, W.Va. My grandmother took my hand as we left the farm house after breakfast, walking the dirt footpath to the old grey-planked barn and then beyond into a small valley. As the sun’s new light streamed through the morning mists, the shadows vanished from the wooded hills on the far horizon. I loved the new morning and the smell of the fresh air and I marveled at the dancing light, flashing from the dew drops that clung to the tall grass of the wide meadow.

The farm buildings disappeared as we settled into a comfortable pace that quickened a bit when we stepped upon the smooth, wide grooves of an old wagon road that gradually forked into a small woodland path, where we slowed our pace to walk single file. wagon path I listened to the bubbling water of the creek as it rushed over the glistening stones that formed the bedrock of a wide and deep-cut furrow to our left. Smiling at Ma, I pointed to a host of swirling insects. A blue wing-tipped dragonfly buzzed up from the creek and rocketed past my head, causing me to twirl and duck with great delight. “Oh, what a wonderful way to start an adventure,” I yelled, as I skipped out in front of Ma.

The path ended where the creek flowed into a larger stream near the edge of the forest. Ma had said we would cross where the two creeks joined. After slipping off our shoes and putting them in Ma’s cloth bag, we moved little-by-little down the slippery embankment to the creek’s shoreline and gingerly waded into the swift, icy current. Crossing the stream The creek deepened in hard-to-see places rising at times over my knees. The high water forced me to hike up my dress. I bunched it in front of me, while holding tightly to Ma’s hand. Reaching the far side, I scrambled up the bank and threw myself down on the soft turf of a grassy meadow and declared that I felt like I had crossed the whole wide world. Ma laughed merrily and sat down beside me.

"You have no idea, child, how many worlds you just crossed," she said with a mysterious smile. I gazed at Ma, in wonder, as if seeing her for the first time.

"You look different, Ma. What happened to you?" I asked. She smiled at me and I wondered why I hadn’t ever noticed the soft pearly light that surrounded her. She chuckled and said: "It’s the icy cold water that plumbs up your complexion."

A cool breeze swept across the meadow, tempering the heat of the day. Once again, we continued our walk into the high grass of the meadowland, up and down and over its gentle slopes. Near the far edge of the field, where the rustling trees of a small forest formed a new border, Ma pointed to a bench among the trees in a shaded spot.Crossing the stream

"Is this where we’re going to meet your mother?" I asked. Ma nodded, smiled, and put her arm around me, as I quickly looked in all directions, but as far as I could see no one was in sight. Ma patted me on the arm. "All is well," she said reassuringly. "This is the spot. Let’s sit and wait for a while."

The air smelled of sweet grass, honey suckle, and wild lavender. Insects buzzed in the air, birds whistled and crickets chirped, as I cuddled against my grandmother’s warm body and fell asleep. Later, I woke up to soft voices and I suddenly found myself staring into a pair of round, luminous brown eyes that had a slight upward tilt like a cat.

"Walkingfeather this is my mother, your great grandmother," Ma said.

I knew I needed to speak. It was the polite thing to do, but the words wouldn’t form in my mind. I could only manage to stare in awe at the beautiful, dark-skinned woman sitting on a log in front of my grandmother. She looked young, even younger than Ma, but old at the same time. Great grandmother smiled and laughed, and I instantly knew that it was all right, that her ever youthful look was the natural way people were supposed to be. I was happy with my new understanding and I smiled back at her.

"I’m pleased to meet you great grandmother," I said politely.

In a graceful, fluid movement the elder mother stood and walked over and sat next to me. She took my hand in hers, and smiled again. Warm currents of energy rushed through me when she touched me and my heart filled with a great joy. Great grandmother leaned closer and spoke softly, and I felt a hush descend on the meadow. The silence spread to the trees, and with it the field grass stopped moving. The birds stopped singing and the crickets stopped chirping and the world stood still and quiet and waiting.

Crossing the stream“I’m going to tell you a story,” she said. “You may forget it after hearing it, and it may slip from your memory for a long time, but when you do remember, you can tell others about your people and where we came from and also where we are going.”

Then the elder mother began to weave the tales of an ancient race of people and the origins of their motherland, a spiritual kingdom of great peace and wisdom that would, she said, one day be rediscovered. Entranced, I listened to the tales of Arina as time slipped by and daylight gave way to falling shadows…

Continue to Chapter Two