The rocking chairs made the plank wood porch creak, filling the air with anticipation. It was a sacred time when the elders told tales from the old days, the stories of days gone by. They spoke of our Folklore, the owls, crows, and the mist from the lowland creeks. They told us of the elders that first found the land and called it home.
They gathered every Sunday weather allowing them to make quilts and educate the children. Granddaddy was from Ireland, grandma was Native American and there was never a shortage of tales, limericks, and storytelling to be told. Grandma Pola had a love for butterflies, telling us many stories about how they would land on her feet and bring her messages. Often they told omens of hard times, storms brewing, and even once they warned when one of the children was lost in the forest. He was alone and frightened on a full moon night when the wolves gathered to run the paths deep within the oak groves.
Grandma got comfortable in her rocking chair, needleworking the quilt, and the other aunts commenting as the story unfolded. Her face got hard as if she was straining to see past the veil, then she would start the story again. It had been said that butterflies with dark wings came during dark times to warn of bad news like a passing of an elder or a failed crop. Like the duality of life, the white and yellow butterflies brought good news, a birth, a marriage, or a good year for the crops.
All the aunts were well versed in healing with plants, herbs, and sacred trees. They tended to their children and all the family with roots, teas, and often interpreting dreams. They all sang and loved to fill the church pews, calling down the angels with their singing. The children all looked forward to hearing the stories and becoming Storytellers as they grew older. It was a way of life, a tradition, and perhaps a religion.
The Storytellers came to know they would fade away as the generations passed; the children no longer gathered on the front porch to hear where they came from and who they were. It was a sad time in life when the children laughed and made fun of the healers and Storytellers. The aunts all passed one by one, like the mist melting away when the morning sun came.
Mamie was the last of our families’ Storytellers, and she was under the oak tree with a small gathering of grandchildren. She told them to close their eyes and listen to the sounds. A white owl was nearby and landed in the birch tree giving the children a song, the hooting of a sad owl. A crow cawed in the distance, then another until the overgrown tobacco field was covered with thousands of them. The sound was filled with sorrow, and we all cried.
Mamie spoke of Grandma Pola and her love for horses. Granddaddy called Pola by her nickname. You could see him lean near and whisper into Pola’s ear and call her Macha because of the magic that she had with horses. Deep beyond the oak tree, Maca rode a white horse on the trail, the one she rode every morning when they lived on the farm. Her hair was blowing in the wind, and she rode into the mist, and little by little she faded away, gone perhaps forever.
Hopefully, there will be one of our family that will want to know the stories of old and tell their family about the Storytellers. It is said that our stories never end, we never say goodbye and some of us can still hear the white horse running the fields when the mist rolls across the forgotten lands.
Life gifts us with poets, writers, storytellers, artists, and troubadours. They are the chosen few, a band of hardcore troubadours that travel the lost highways together. They sit and stare at the blank page at 3 a.m. in the morning waiting for the poem to awaken so that it may be unleashed. It will come, maybe not tonight but the poem and the poet will in time reveal its secrets.
When the night comes, we will all gather at the Writer’s Café, sharing our stories, writing sad songs, and putting to canvas the lost highway. Perhaps we might even find the shadow dancers and secret gardens of legend.