This year I am working to tie together the lessons for my 3rd grader, first grader, and kindergartener. I am calling it “Whole Family Homeschool”… where “one room schoolhouse” meets Waldorf education. :) I will have to post the beginning of our year’s container story soon, as it will help make sense of the chapter below. But, rather than get so far behind in typing the stories out that I procrastinate forever (lol), I will share the first two days of our Michaelmas week stories. As a bit of a background, each of my three children has been given a special book whilst on a mission in fairyland- my kindergarten daughter has The Real Mother Goose, my first grade son has An Illustrated Treasury of Grimm’s Fairytales, and my third grade son has Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Farmer Boy. These books have been given to them to help them meet the challenges they will face on their missions in lands of fairies, elves, gnomes… and of course… the land of humans!
There was spicy note of celebration in the air. Everyone in the Elemental Realms was hurrying to finish their day’s work early and some were already preparing for festivities. Cirrus, Arlo, and Tula were very wide-eyed all day, watching and waiting as the sense of anticipation, palpable and intoxicating, grew and grew. After a satisfying lunch of beech nut stew and blackberry pie, Tula’s book began to glow. The boys watched excitedly as she opened it, straight down the middle as she had been shown, where a ribbon marked its center pages. The pages began to flutter, then flip this way and that, until they finally settled.
Cirrus began to read the rhyme aloud to Arlo and Tula.
Jack be nimble, jack be quick,
Jack jump over the candlestick.
Jack be nimble, Jack be spry,
Jack jump over the apple pie.
Jack be nimble, Jack jump high
Jack fly up into the sky.
As they watched, daring fairies and mischievous elves began to dance about and hop over what appeared to be flaming boughs of goldenrod, and when they had tired of this, wee fairy pies. Finally their jumping contest took to the air as they shot straight up, so quickly that they flew up above the page top and could not be seen til they gleefully descended again. Arlo’s tummy fluttered a bit as he watched, and Cirrus immediately began to take running leaps at the nearest stand of goldenrod to see if he could make it over. Tula giggled and shouted “I want to try, too!”
Cobble soon appeared and grunted in the grumpy way gnomes often do. “Preparing for the Festival of Courage, I see. Take care you don’t land in the thistles beyond”, he warned, pointing to a thistle patch just past the goldenrod Cirrus was about to throw himself over. And then, to their awe and delight, Cobble took a running start and launched himself through the air, defying all laws of Gnome Gravity, and cleared a single goldenrod plant that was at least four times his height. Tula giggled and Cirrus’s jaw dropped.
“Didn’t think I had it in me, did ya?” he boasted proudly. I was a champion in my younger years I’ll have you know. Won the Goldenrod Leaping Trophy three years in a row!” He dusted himself off, and sat upon a large toadstool nearby.
“Goldenrod, you see, is a very special plant. While other flowers of its ilk blossom from bottom up upon their stalk, goldenrod buds from top to bottom, like a candle burning down. Tonight the fire fairies will set all the goldenrod plants aglow, and they will burn like candles. Tomorrow the humans shall wonder why almost all the goldenrod has faded away, but it is time, you see- time for all things to return to rest and pull inward. It is time for flowers to fade and the days of light to dwindle to their lowest. Lights out early for the animals, the elementals, the humans. Now facing darkness can be scary for anyone, just as looking inward and facing your very own self can be daunting. We all have parts of ourselves we aren’t quite sure we are happy with, things we want to change. A Festival of Courage celebrates each one of us turning inward and making changes we know we must make. Of course being fairies, elves and gnomes we can’t accomplish any such task without merriment- and so the goldenrod leaping contests have become a tradition. Nimble Jack was a fairy boy of long ago who set records yet to be beaten today, for fearlessly jumping over the highest and brightest blazing goldenrods. That is where the rhyme comes from. And then of course, their is the pie jumping contest… now that is my favorite part!” he said, patting his round gnome belly with a smile of satisfaction.
The children smiled too, and were still and thoughtful for a moment. Soon they were practicing leaping over goldenrod again.
“Cobble, must all of us leap over the goldenrod when the fire fairies set it on fire?” Arlo asked timidly. Part of him wanted to imagine himself breaking new records, and part of him was a little scared.
Cobble grinned. “Ah, when the night is upon us and the excitement of everyone touches your heart, it will embolden you lad. Take courage from your friends. But courage, you know, is not about having no fear. It is about meeting your fear with grace, and understanding that fear is but an illusion, something that falls away when we do what we know, deep down here, is right” he said putting his hand upon his heart.
“I dare say Arlo, but your book seems to be positively glowing!” Cobble pointed to Arlo’s Treasury of Fairytales.
Arlo, quivering with excitement, set his brightly lit book down and it began to flip and flap, until it settled upon the Tale of the Four Skilful Brothers. Cirrus abandoned his athletics and sat down to read the story to the two smaller children.
When he had finished, the three children and Cobble the Gnome watched as pictures appeared upon the pages where once words had flowed, illustrating the story. The gently quivering page finally settled upon a magnificent giant of a dragon, curled up in the shape of a huge D. Arlo traced the D of the dragon’s body on the page, and as he did his finger brushed lightly upon a beautiful crested shield that decorated the borders of the page, where knights in shining armor and beautiful maidens danced happily. His finger tingled and the book began to shake and shimmy yet again, until three shields and swords shook free of the pages and landed all about them with a metallic clamor.
“Well I’ll be”, Cobble said. All your accoutrements for the Festival of Courage. My, but your swords and shields are very plain. That won’t do- you’d best see the color fairies and ask for paints to add your crests. And while you’re at it, I dare say you might ask them to dye you some golden capes, for all the other fairy folk will be wearing them tonight.”
And so Cobble led the excited children to the village and brought them to a hut with a sign that read “Fairy and Elfen Dyeworks, LTD”.