She stood at the edge of the glade, eyes sparkling in the glow of the homefire. All around her, the young ones danced and leapt; their passion and minds were free in the bright burning moment of now. The man stood at her side and gently squeezed her hand. They exchanged a look rich with their own nights by the fire, the wildness loose in their skin. Now they shared the quiet comfort of many nights side by side. She smiled at her daughters dancing under the starwashed sky, and then, unexpectedly, a feeling of sadness filled her.
The dark of the moon reminded her of the dark emptiness she had felt for some time now. Mother Moon had left her behind. Her body no longer kept the rhythm she had known since maidenhood. She was no longer a part of the whole. She noticed a slow deliberation to her thoughts and her movements. Her mothertime was long past, her two daughters grown. They strengthened the community, one a wise teacher, the other a gifted builder. Her gift was given.
The man knew the woman felt a change; felt her turning inward. He searched her face, worried. She no longer felt at home in her skin, under which all the pieces of the universe itched. As the feeling grew, she sifted through her knowledge, seeking a tincture or potion that would heal her. Finally, she knew—she would embrace that most ancient of cures—solitude. She chose for her journey objects that reminded her of life and of home, and wrapping her warm cloak about her body, set off into the woods. The man stood at the gate, the feel of her hand on his cheek fading as she walked away.
She walked for two days and nights, resting in the shelter of a tree or rock that called her name. She drank from quiet pools and lively brooks. She kept company with red foxes, deer, hawks, squirrels, and one wise owl that flew silently above her in the night. She came to an ancient clearing, remembered from girlhood, a place of sacred plants. The enormous oak at the edge of the clearing bent its limbs almost to the ground. The shelter it created kept out the rain, but allowed the breeze and light to flicker in and fall on the mossy carpet below. She placed her cloak in the warm curve at the base of the tree. On a low branch, she found a fallen sparrow’s nest. She placed it gently in the crook of the great tree and within it laid smooth gray river rocks—two, one for each daughter. In a gnarled hole in the trunk, she tucked her book and her comb. She crumbled herbs into her sleeping place, and hung them about the low branches of the tree. Some, like soothing lavender, were for comfort in the present; others were brought to remind her of times past. Passionwood reminded her of nights next to the homefire, wrapped in the arms of another. Motherwort and crampbark, no longer needed, were bundled with velvet ribbon. Rosemary lay by for clarity of remembrance. The fragrant herbs formed the scent of her rich life and she inhaled deeply.
Each day the woman rose and walked the forest, finding simple food to nourish her body and sights to awaken the wonder of her mind. Tender young morels, glittering dew on a crimson flower, stones worn smooth by time’s caress—each delighted her. At night, she spoke softly to the Great Mother before settling into Her sheltering curves. She waited for the dream.
Months passed, and the patience of the woman—a gift of aging—grew. Still she waited. One night, her inner voice bade her prepare. She drank deeply of water from the spring and anointed her skin with lavender oil. Climbing into the arms of the great oak, she stood on a strong branch. Mother Moon was peeking over the horizon, glowing red-gold in the velvet blue night. She once again felt the overwhelming sadness descend. Her sisterhood with the moon was over.
A rush of wind passed over as three powerful black birds descended. She peered into the darkness and saw three large Ravens, feathers shining blue, snapping black eyes gleaming in the night, perched on the branches of the oak.
“Come with us, Sister,” they crowed, in their rusty voices, catching her dress in their powerful beaks. She stretched out her arms, encircling the neck of the largest. They rose and circled the wood, flying higher. “We will show you all there is to see, Sister.” They traveled through the wood and beyond, to her village. She saw the home fires burning; the maidens dancing around the fire. Her heart was torn asunder with all she had lost. Her warm tears fell on the raven.
“Do not cry, Sister. Mother Moon is full and round, as is the wheel of time. You have known the robust passions of youth. You have known the fullness of lifegiving. You will now know the true fullness. No longer will Mother Moon call you to the cycle. Now you become a keeper of wisdom. You will keep all you have known and learned, and your light will grow with each fullness of Mother Moon. In time, you will be so luminous that you will dance up into the night sky. You will become one with those who light us.” The Raven swept a wing toward the stars.
The ravens flew higher and higher, toward the rising moon. The woman reached toward the moon, still longing for it, and dropped her face to the Raven’s feathers in grief. As she moved to wipe her tears, she saw that her hand shimmered with fine moondust. Without thought, she brought her hand to her face and tasted it. Suddenly, she laughed, her joy soaring in the night sky. As the Ravens circled around and around the moon, she scooped handfuls of moondust, eating until she was quite full. She began to feel lighter. She felt a tingling in her heart center. Holding her hands in front of her, she saw moonbeams shooting from each of her fingers. She opened her mouth to speak and moonlight came pouring out in a silken, silvery stream. Her Sisters, the Ravens, cawed and crowed with delight. “You see, Sister, your life is not over. Now Mother Moon lives in you. You will light the way, glowing with the radiance of life and the fullness of time. Be joyful, Sister!”
The ravens circled down, down; into the woods, and dropped her beneath the tree. She fell, solidly, into her body, which now fit her like a glove. Her skin was alive—each cell part of a joyous chorus. She stood up very straight, and walked through the forest to the village, the moonlight caressing her shoulders. She reached the edge of her village in a short time. She passed by the fires, where the maidens were dancing. Some were drawn away from the bright flames to her pale radiance.
“Hello, Mother. Welcome home. We have missed you!” She greeted them, touching each one on the forehead, leaving a faint trace of silver. Dazzled, they smiled and leapt into their dance, rushing back to the fire and the passion of discovery.
She continued on to her own dwelling. Taking off her shoes, she stood in her garden, her feet cool and solid upon the earth. I made this place, she said to herself. I am of it, and it of me. I belong here. My life is full. I am the gift. Her dog came to her and nuzzled her hand. She smiled in the darkness. She heard a noise, and looked up to see the man standing in the doorway.
“I’ve missed you,” he said. “Did the dream come?”
“This is the dream,” she said. She walked to him, the delicate blossoms of the moonflower unfurling in her wake. “I am me again,” she said, “only better.” She stretched out her hands toward him, and the light in her enveloped them both. They began to dance.