Hello! This is the section of The Creator’s Compass called Droplets of Courage. The idea is to share tiny steps of courage (either mine or others) while facing insecurities, doubts, and fears on the journey of bringing to life a dream, or intention.
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Taking inspiration from Terry Freedman and his wisdom on writing within boundaries as a way in which to laser-beam creativity, I decided to write a short story. I set out to keep the word count of my story under 700 words. Well, I failed. And I failed again while editing in an attempt to cut sufficient enough words to reach my goal. Oh well, I had fun penning an old fashioned tale. And hey, it’s under 900 words. That’s got to count for something!
Sharing this story isn’t the grandest act of courage, but it is a droplet. I’ve never before shared a short story with an illustration. Teaching myself how to illustrate has been a wonderful, albeit challenging, endeavor, and I thank all of you for walking with me on this journey.
So, without further ado, here is my old-fashioned Christmas fable and illustration.
The Sound of Christmas
Some called her Beauty. But she didn’t so much like that, for she was just a girl living in a cottage with her mama and papa. Her real name was Emma, and she met the world with amber eyes that, when excited, sparkled like gold dust. It would be futile for her to deny her beauty, yet, despite what she saw in the mirror, she wasn’t affected. Maybe she was wise beyond her years because she was born that way, or because she was an only child and her parents spoke to her as if she were older. However her wisdom came to be, Emma knew appearance was a magical display, and magic never lasts.
Unlike many children with early bloomed intelligence, Emma was not arrogant. On the contrary, she was warmhearted. But she was shy. Her reticence prevented her from speaking to anyone but her parents and the farmer down the road who always gave her family ample supplies of the freshest milk from the most adored cows in all of New England.
Her inability to speak to others greatly distressed her parents.
“What are we to do?” her mama would whisper in the night when Emma was safely tucked into bed, asleep and cozy. “She has no brothers or sisters to look after her when we are gone.”
Emma’s papa would pat his wife’s hand and sigh. “She will find her way, darling. Don’t worry. You will see.”
Every morning after chores, Emma took walks. She strolled in any weather, breathing in the scents of all seasons. Spring smelled like sweet honey, summer of berries, fall of spicy cinnamon and wood smoke, and winter never failed to strike her imagination as what the scent of moonlight would be. If her fingers numbed from the cold, she’d bundle up in warm, soft layers. If sweat slid down her spine, she’d take off her shoes and enjoy the squish of the earth under her bare toes. One would think days filled with flowers were her favorite to amble in the rolling hills and nearby woods, yet the days in which sound hushed and vibrant color hid under those quilts of white was what stole her heart.
On a Christmas day, while her parents rested from the morning excitement, fourteen year old Emma went for one of her walks. The snow crunching under her winter boots made her smile, and her nose tickled when showers of white powder from branches overhead shook loose by wind or squirrel.
“I don’t quite care if I can’t talk to anyone, for I have you,” Emma said to the tree above. “And you,” she looked to the snow-covered hill, “And you,” she spoke, lifting her gaze to the sky. As if the earth heard, it gave a soft whistle of wind, gently lifting Emma’s dark curls, cascading down her back.
Emma had forgotten her new hat on this day, and her new mittens, too. Both still laid in beautiful boxes under the Christmas tree. But home nestled not far away, and the cold invited her into its play, so she glided on, this child of few words.
After a bit, she sat on a fallen log to enjoy the quietness without all her ruffles and bustles through the snow. At first, the absence of sound soothed her body, but then she startled.
For the first time in her life, the muffling of the ground and sky, encased in cold, frightened her and loneliness bloomed inside, introducing itself with its apathetic stare. Her heart beat hard against her ribs and her ears filled with a soft rumble of blood that only comes with fear.
She scanned the stillness, the white, the cold. The trees stood without care, the hills rolled into a empty distance. No longer did their love sing to her. Everything was a strange nothingness and Emma’s breath became ragged with thoughts that love must be a magical appearance, like beauty. The earth was sinking into itself, and she was being sucked into a hard and rigid world, one she didn’t know how to escape. She squeezed her eyes shut in hopes it would all go away.
Then, soft patters. A tiny whistle. A little bark.
Emma wiped a tear away with her icy hand off her flushed cheek and opened her eyes. There before her sat a red fox, and to her side on the log perched a plump, fluffy rabbit. At her feet, a little bird twittered right before it lifted off. Emma instinctively held out her hands for the sweet creature to land upon.
“Thank you,” she whispered to the bird.
“Thank you,” she told the bunny.
“Thank you,” she spoke to the fox. “You saved me from a most horrible time.”
For much of the afternoon, Emma and her three friends chatted, all of them understanding one another with ease. Emma didn’t question the magic, it differed from beauty. It was real.
That Christmas, Emma learned how to talk to others. Never did her mama or papa worry about her shyness again. And from that day on, whenever Emma felt frightened or lonely, she walked to the fallen log where her three friends never failed to meet her, even when her hair echoed the white of the snows.
Merry Christmas and happy holidays. I sincerely wish you always know love, that you always feel heard, and that you always know the refuge of unshakable compassion that echoes with each beat of your heart.