In “The Gardens of Ailana”.

“What do you think we should call you?” little Sylva asked.

“Do I have to have a name?”

“Most people seem to think so. I think they’d get lost if they didn’t have their names. People don’t usually know who they really are, but they do like to pretend.”

“People think they need a lot of things they’d be better off without.”

“That’s what my mom says, but I’m still figuring on that one.”

“Want a little help?”

“No, I think I’ll just let my brain have it for a while; I’ve got other things to do.”

Some very brief bit, only one or two short, very mildy distracting lines goes here.

“What do you like to eat?” Sylva, lost in her pondering, was all seriousness now.

“I like strawberries.”

“No, that’d be a dumb name.”

“How about calling me Cuthbert?”

“Now you are just being silly. Pay attention. This is important business. People don’t come here and leave here the same, so they should get a new name while they’re here.”

“Okay, I can see that,” he said. “So what’s your brother’s new name? Or is Renn his new name?”

“Renn doesn’t need a new name; he was born here. Only the pretending people need real names when they stop pretending so much. But some people leave and they still don’t know who they are, so I don’t name them.”

“Aren’t you the girl people told me doesn’t talk very much? Guess they didn’t know you very well.”

“Good point,” she said. So then she went back to thinking again.

As they studied the land around them it seemed indecisive, uncertain. It hadn’t yet made up its mind. Was it spring now, or had winter merely blinked? Were some patches of ivy brown, brittle, dried out and returning to soil; or were they looking for a bit of their green again? Had they given up, or would they once again decide to live? Was that which had been there last year coming back, or had they seen the last of it?

“Y’know, people really should listen to children,” she told him.

“I’m beginning to find that out.”

“But not when we’re just being children.”

“Okay, now that’s something I’ll have to think about.”

“It’s good to give each other stuff to think.

“But you don’t wanna make a whole lotta noise when you’re doing it.”

“You mean like talking?” he asked.

“And other stuff. Like eating corn chips.”

He started to write on one of his special lumpy papers. She saw him holding a pencil he hadn’t had before, but hadn’t seen how he’d opened his box. She decided she would just have to start observing harder.

She thought she’d give him something to write.

“You know you can’t pet a stumblebee on the back while he’s flying because that’s where his flying parts are, and that’s why they stumble.”

“Ah, yes. That would be so,” he replied.

“You don’t really scare them when you try to, but they would ‘Really rather you would stop doing that!’ ”

And then she was quiet again. That had been a lot of talking for her. She didn’t usually pay any attention to grownups because most grownups didn’t know very much.

This one was different.

Besides, he was fun to watch because his light went out farther when he thought about people.

It didn’t shrink in and get all hard like that crippled lady’s used to. You could hardly call hers light at all.

“I think I’ll name you Mica,” she told him, “Because you’re all shiny.”

“Mica. I like that. Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.”

“Mica it is. I am now Mica.”

“You are Mica, the Shiny One.”

 

At end of day, Paulette sat with Ailana on the porch, unwinding from her day of exploration. She’d been thinking about how much she had learned back at the healing and meditation retreat without even knowing it.

She tried to remind Ailana now of one particularly lasting and memorable lesson. “When you told us to listen to the forest, feel that deep Peace, and take it inside us … Well that just changed me somehow.”

“Except I never said that.”

“It … but … You didn’t?”

“Why would I tell you to take peace inside you? It’s already there. All you needed was to find it. I told you to feel it inside you, not take it there.”

– From my new novel-in-progress, “The Gardens of Ailana”.

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“The Gardens of Ailana”

Aside

Sylva was holding her hand up in awe. A child of four, she was hardly even talking yet, but there was a good possibility this was intentional. Garden creatures understood her well enough.

She was watching a fat, fuzzy bee with golden stripes saunter across her upturned hand, trailing pollen along her palm, to the delight of her tiny companion, Renn.

Renn, all of six years of age, was Syl’s older brother, though it didn’t always feel that way. He trailed her through adventures into bright, spirited loveliness and sheer joy, asking questions, and hearing answers that often neither of them actually said aloud. In the world they inhabited, most beings didn’t speak. In that world, it wasn’t really necessary.

“Does he tickle, Syl?” he asked, though, because sometimes feelings have to be expressed.

He probably could have coaxed a bee of his own onto his own hand, but he loved watching his little sister’s eyes, sharing her delight.

“Petelmeyer,” she told him, answering the next question he was getting ready to ask. “We have decided to name this bee, Petelmeyer,” and it sounded like she was getting ready to knight it.

The tiny thing couldn’t kneel, since its legs hadn’t been assembled that way, but Petelmeyer he became then, and Petelmeyer he stayed.

As though she had commanded him to rise and assume his new duties in the Kingdom of Nature, he lifted up into soft garden breezes, touched her fingertip, and bowed away.

His realm called to him. He had duties to attend to in a nearby patch of strawberries.

The children giggled.

For some people, gardens come alive with the sunrise, with that first kiss of color, and warmth.

For others, they’re at their best in the darkness, when true magic is everywhere.

For these two, Ailana’s Gardens were always miraculous; they carried the magic around with them.

Sylvie was a wind-tossed child with scrambled hair. She would never wear a hat because there was no way she could keep it on, and just couldn’t be bothered. She had similar problems with shoes that tied, so she went everywhere barefoot or in boots. One couldn’t imagine her without a smudge on her face. Ailana called her Flitter.

She was a child born with wide open eyes who didn’t need to be told what she saw. Sometimes she played Peekaboo in the middle of a field, when there didn’t appear to be anyone with her, but no one really questioned her on it; few even chalked it off to imagination; they knew she saw deeper than they could.

Some thought she was late starting to speak because she was a slow learner, but those who knew her well suspected she’d been born with very little left to learn.

Visitors to the garden heard rumors that she wasn’t a normal human child at all. That she may have been more of a nature spirit, taking on human form for only this one lifetime.

What others thought and said about her, though, didn’t stir any interest at all. She didn’t think about people much. They were mere passing curiosities; just as they were to most fairies, tree spirits, and forest sylphs.

Her hippy parents may have sensed some of this from the beginning. This may have been why they’d named her Sylva.

As Petelmeyer plied the short green fields of berries, Sylva shared the gift of the pollen he’d left behind with her brother. Delicately pressing the fingertip the bee had kissed into a spot of golden powder on her palm, she touched that to the center of Renn’s forehead, just above his eyebrows.

She repeated that ceremony on her own.

Neither spoke.

One tree very near them whispered a quiet, contented croak. Sylv croaked back.

Sunbeams glistened off the wings of a dragonfly in subdued hints of purple, then green, or maybe red. Renn wondered just how many colors there were.

“God sings through the flowers, you know,” Sylva said, “Only you don’t hear him with any part of your head.”

Renn sort of knew what she was saying.

When Ailana came by later, she found the little girl standing over a dead rabbit. Her brother had wandered away. A child down the street had just died. He didn’t know how to process that, and didn’t think he really wanted to, so he just left her alone with the still form of the bunny.

Ailana said nothing. She just stood there with Sylvie, offering blessings of her own.

It was a while before Sylva spoke. She quite often didn’t, but when she did have something to say, it was worth fully listening to.

Now she told Ailana, “It is sad some things die, but it isn’t. The part we see with our outside eyes just stops moving is all. But the shiny part can play better then, because it doesn’t have to stay close to the ground anymore.”

Ailana smiled, and said nothing.

Sylvie much preferred people stay silent when there was so obviously nothing more to say.

– A character I’m creating within my new novel, “The Gardens of Ailana.”