The Little Magic Bells


It was two days before Christmas and the excitement was rising. My brother and I spent our time sneaking around looking for hidden presents with no luck as usual. Our parents always hid them well and we were into our teens before our annual hunt yielded one of their hiding places. I was nine that year and even though I’d discovered that Santa Claus wasn’t real over the course of that year I spoke and acted as if I still believed. I wasn’t quite ready to let anyone know that I knew. There was a tiny fear in my heart that as soon as I admitted it to anyone the magic would stop.
So I carried on as usual. My brother and I pretended we were elves, reindeer, faeries and angels. Cookies covered in red and green frosting magically appeared in the cookie jar, ribbon candy piled high in bowls on the coffee table and hot cocoa becoming a staple at the breakfast table. Christmas was coming and we were ready for all its magic and wonder even if one of us didn’t believe in its most important mascot.
There was also another tiny fear growing within me. If my younger brother stopped believing I feared a darkness would settle on the holiday and no amount of sparkly lights, colorful decorations or endless holiday music piping from the stereo would turn the light of it back on. I set about that day before Christmas Eve to ensure his continued belief in the jolly old man.
My mother’s sewing area was a young artists playground. Hours were spent leaning on the end of her sewing machine watching her create seemingly from nothing the clothes my siblings and I would wear. Buttons, bows, threads of every imaginable color, beads and trinkets were tucked into drawers, jars and boxes. It was in one of those containers I had found the tools I needed to accomplish the deed that would help my brother continue to live the Santa Claus dream. I had seen them one day when my mom was looking for some buttons in the big button jar. She turned it around, tipped it on its side and dumped some of the disks into her hand but couldn’t find what she was looking for. So she took the jar, me trailing behind, into the kitchen, pulled a large bowl from the cabinet and spilled all the baubles into it. There they were dancing among all the button and what not, five little silver jingle bells singing their jingle bell songs. My eyes nearly fell into the bowl with them. I reached in and picked one up. It was cool and smooth and when I let it slide off my hand it sang its song all the way back into the bowl. One by one I began picking them out of the bowl while mom searched for her buttons. Then she said, “Here, let me help you,” found the last few bells and handed them to me. They were now mine. She said so.
Now on the day before Christmas Eve I searched through my sock drawer where I had the bells safely hidden in a white ankle sock. Ribbon wasn’t hard to find in our house this time of year so I cut a length of red from a spool and began the work of tying the bells onto it. When I finished the whole thing went back into the sock and under my pillow to await their performance the next night.
At the ages of eight (my brother) and nine (myself) we still shared a bedroom. We slept on bunk beds, he on the top and I on the bottom (because I had a habit of sleep walking) but there were many nights when my brother ended up in my bed usually because of a bad dream. He seemed to have a lot of them. Sometimes we simply didn’t want to sleep yet and he’d come down where we’d talk and make each other laugh or secret toys into the bed and play under the covers. The night before Christmas was always one of these nights. What child can sleep on Christmas Eve?!As he climbed into my bed with his stuffed bunny rabbit I reached my hand under the pillow where the bell bedecked ribbon lay now out of its sock and ready for action. I was so excited that I was giggling at every word that came out of my brother’s mouth giving him incentive to continue talking and making funny noises (his specialty) giving me time to begin putting my plan into motion.
Carefully I gathered the ribbon into my hand and slowly lowered my fisted hand over the walled side of the bed. My brother was wiggling and squirming and making snake and cat noises giving me the opportunity to unroll the ribbon without worrying about the bells making sound. And there my hand stayed for what seemed like hours until he finally calmed down and began showing signs of tiredness.
The room was completely quiet. The house was completely quiet. I could see the soft colors from the Christmas tree lights slipping around the corners of our opened bedroom door. I looked out the window and saw it was snowing big fat flakes glittering in the light of the street lamp. There was magic in the air. I could feel it just as certain as my brother’s cold feet on my leg.
I jingled the bells.
He stirred.
I jingled again.
He snuggled closer and his brown eyes became saucers. He opened his mouth and nothing came out. That in itself was an act of magic.
I jingled again.
“What was that?” I asked
“Dunno.” He answered.
I jingled again.
He whispered into my face, ”Santa Claus!”
He jumped out of the bed and ran to the window. I quickly tucked the bells back under my pillow. I convinced him to come back to bed before Santa saw him awake and didn’t leave us anything. He jumped back into bed, curled up into a ball completely under the covers informing me he was scared and was going to sleep now.
I fell asleep with a smile on my face. I had made magic happen.
Christmas morning was – well – Christmas morning, crazy, wild and wonderful! When things settled down I was sitting on the floor next to the tree with my new doll admiring the pretty decorations when something very familiar caught my eye. There hanging among the shiny balls and glowing lights was a red ribbon with five little silver jingle bells tied to it.
I ran to my bed, tore the pillow off, then the blankets. I crawled under the bed searching through the dust and toys. I pulled everything out from under the bed to get a better look. Then I ripped the sheet off and pulled the top of the mattress up to peer under it.
It wasn’t there.
It was on the tree.
To this day the sound of tinkling jingle bells sends a shiver up my spine – in a good way.


tree 1

The Sleepy Muse

I’ve been struggling for weeks to wake up my Muse, a desert of wordless nights, cold and dry, drifting beneath my bare summer feet. Every time she would suddenly open one eye, a sweet idea trickling from its corner she would just as quickly slam it shut leaving me empty of words, a shell of disconnected nothings.

Oh, my days were lovely enough! The growing and blooming of my first woodland garden keeping me in awe of the miracle of soil and seed clinging to each other, waiting for the shower that would bring them to life. Afternoon visits from a mother deer and her twins stopping to stare at me as I did them. And then there was the joyous experience of teaching young grandchildren how to plant seeds and wait for their bounty of carrots, squash and flowers. Daily walks in the woods with my little dog; watching my honey bees busy in the garden; picking the first tomatoes and finding those first eggs given by chickens I hand raised. Yes, my summer has been filled with joy and wonder but words on paper were not a part of it.

And now as I write I realize that my sleepy Muse is smiling. She knows me better than I do. First you must experience…then you write. Her words echo in my spirit. She shows me sunsets –  pink, purple and golden; the first fine grass growing in the sand like baby’s hair, soft and sparse; the music of two owls calling to each other every night outside my bedroom window; thunder and lightening, a rainbow in my back yard…. So much beauty and wonder sometimes leaving me speechless, wordless, unable to lift pen to paper, powerless to explain the irrepressible elation bubbling in my soul.

I sit breathing in air that still feels like summer but smells like autumn. The Earth has decided to stretch summer a bit longer, a second chance at warm nights and sunny days even as dry leaves fall to the ground and crunch beneath my sandals. I am grateful for this long season and all I have encountered while my Muse took a long nap at my expense.

But she is forgiven.
After all, she seems to have been talking in her sleep a bit…look at all these words!

faerie - The Long Nap

Butterfly Nursery

One of the many herbs I collect each year is nettles. It is a most useful herb for many afflictions and I try to gather as much of it as possible hoping to fill a gallon jug. Nettles grow wild at my daughter’s house between her black raspberry patch and her wood pile. At the end of May the nettles were looking lush and green but not quite mature enough to pick yet so I left them to grow for another week.

When I returned I was shocked and saddened to see that something had been feasting on my lovely nettles. The harvest would not be as plentiful as I’d hoped but I put on my long sleeved shirt and leather gloves and proceeded to gather what was left of them. I spread a large pink flannel sheet on the ground and piled up all I could onto it, gathered the corners together and dragged it into the back of my car.

When I got home there was surprise waiting for me inside that sheet – dozens of fuzzy black caterpillars were working at escaping the closed up sheet creeping in all directions. I knew then who had been feasting on my nettles.

It took at least an hour to pluck all the little beggars off the sheet and the back of my car then dump them into the chicken run. The girls were clucking like they were in caterpillar heaven!

After stripping the leaves off the stems (and gathering more caterpillars and making more happy chickens!) the remains were finally spread onto the screens of my home-made food dehydrator. There, done! Now we just wait a couple days for them to dry.

Well not quite. For the next few days as the leaves dried in the warm dehydrator I kept finding caterpillars crawling out of it. Oh the chickens were so happy! I was not.

Finally the leaves were dried, crushed and placed in the glass gallon jug they were supposed to fill up but only made it half way. Oh well, at least it was half full and not half empty.

A week later I gathered purple clover and the first of the year’s mint and put them into the dehydrator. The next day yet another surprise awaited me when I checked on the drying herbs. A Red Admiral butterfly flew out and fluttered around the room, beautiful with black and red wings. I gathered her into cupped hands and set her free outside. But the surprises weren’t over yet. Later that day I found three more butterflies. The next day brought six more and after that I started to lose count. In my giddiness while catching all the butterflies flitting around my house I realized I apparently hadn’t collected all of the caterpillars from the previous week and the warmth of the dehydrator must have accelerated their transformation. I even found a cocoon on the bottom of the dehydrator that never made it to the next phase of development.

I like the phrase, “When life gives you lemons make lemonade.” Well, Mother Earth gave me caterpillars so I (sort of) helped make them into butterflies.

Next year I’ll be picking the nettles a week earlier.






Seeds. Those wonderful tiny creatures that have the ability to pull my tired old bones up and out the door each spring to start life anew.

The Wheel of the Year has finally turned again and I bid the death of winter goodbye and welcome the rebirth of spring. Every year around this time I get into a manic state about growing things. I dig through containers that I’ve saved that seem ideal seed starting receptacles, fill them with soil and begin tenderly dropping all manor of seeds onto their surfaces. My house becomes a greenhouse and I become giddy with anticipation.

This year is a little different in that it is my first spring in a new place surrounded by woods instead of streets and houses. The fallow land encircling me calls me to fill it with herbs, flowers, vegetables and fruit. My mind is reeling with the possibilities around me! This little piece of earth I’ve been granted has become my new canvas, fresh, clean and empty, waiting to be filled. The seeds in those containers waiting to push their way up through the dark earth have become the paint that my hands, the brushes, will use to create a lush exhibition for the woodland spectators around me. New earthy faerie acquaintances have been slowly manifesting themselves to me and seem eager to discover what this mortal will help to give birth to on this land they have nurtured. In a way this is a new beginning for them as well as myself. I will introduce them to new plants with colors and textures they may never have seen before as well as the new faerie beings that most definitely will accompany the new residents. It will be a delicate state of affairs as the old native inhabitants strive to welcome the new teaching them the ways of the woodland as they are teaching me as well.

Now that the seeds are all nestled in their dark beds and I wait to see their tiny heads pop out of the earth I am reminded of the metaphor of the seed that speaks of the circle of life and new beginnings. Just as death is not the end of life so the seed that dropped off the dead plant was not its end. This tiny bit of life, the essence of the plant, holds the life force that now is pushing up through the darkness, going toward the light, knowing that when it reaches it a new life will begin.

One day I will be that seed…again.


faerie - For Her Wand - light


Springing Forward with the Wicked Witch by Barbara Ardinger

Barbara ArdingerEl Presidente was enlarging his war against his citizens. This meant the roads were more crowded than before with refugees fleeing the capital city for safety among the farmers on the plains and up in the hills. Some of these refugees arrived, of course, at the farm of the wicked witch.


Whenever a family arrived, the witch would put on her wickedest face and voice (she’d been practicing) and tell the children she was going to roast them and eat them with mashed potatoes and baby gravy. The children believed her for about a minute and a half, whereas their parents just smiled as each family was taken in hand by the senior refugees and led to rooms where there were new beds. The tenured refugees had (with the witch’s permission) taken charge and somehow found enough lumber to build two new rooms (lean-tos) at the side of the house…

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Aunt Krampus

When I was a child my family would travel to the north country in December to visit my mother’s family. We always stayed with my Aunt Raina who lived across the road from a railroad track in an old farmhouse at the edge of her village. Aunt Raina cleaned houses for a living and so was not very wealthy but she was one of the most generous people I have ever known. She bought me my first guitar, took in orphaned children and would go out of her way to help anyone in need if she had the means. I loved her like a second mother.

There were always fresh cookies baking when we arrived, the air filled with the scent of cinnamon and cloves, honey and raisins. Big thick molasses cookies and tiny butter morsels filled her small kitchen where we feasted on tea, laughter, cookies and tears of joy.

One night the year I turned eight Aunt Raina asked if I would like to take a walk and surprise someone. I loved walking in the snow, loved surprises even more so of course I said yes.

“For this surprise we have to wear costumes,” she announced with a grin and a twinkle in her eye. “This one’s for you.”

She handed me a wool suit the color of dark moss with spots of black woven through then a hat with bells on its long pointy end, brown fur tucked into its opening. The costume fit perfectly as if it were made for me which, knowing my aunt’s sewing skills, it may have been.

We walked silently up the road in the cold wintry twilight of an early northern December, inky clouds spilling over dark purple sky, snow softly crunching under our boots.

“Where is your costume, Aunt Raina?” I couldn’t hold in the question any longer.

Here I was decked out in elfin finery, Aunt Raina’s glitter sparkling on my pink nose and cheeks, a foot long leather strap of huge jingle bells hanging from my green woolen mittens and she looked like she always did; nothing out of the ordinary.

She winked, took my hand glancing toward the darkening sky, “There’s magic in the air tonight. That’s all the costume I need.”

Just as the first star was visible we came to a small house where a candle flickered in a side window. We walked toward it.

“When I squeeze your hand ring the bells till I squeeze it again,” Aunt Raina whispered.

I nodded, excitement climbing into my throat making speech impossible.

We arrived at the window as Aunt Raina squeezed my mitten clad hand signaling my other hand to start shaking the strap of bells.

The bottom of the window was at my eye level so I could see inside the house as soon as the candle was removed from the sill. On the other side of the pane the face of a child appeared with the hand of an adult resting on his shoulder. He looked to be around six or seven years old and when he spotted me he smiled but then his face went cold and white as he looked up at my aunt. At that moment she squeezed my hand again stopping the ringing of the bells. Fear was now very evident on the child’s face. I had to look up to see what was scaring the kid in the window. Surely it wasn’t the face of my lovely aunt whom I cherished.

Surely it wasn’t the same Aunt Raina I had walked to the house with!

Standing next to me still holding my hand was what I could only describe in my child’s mind as a devil. My dear aunt had sprouted the horns of a large goat and the furry face to match them. Her eyes were a glowing orange, and I do mean glowing, like a fire raged within them. All this was frightening enough but then I noticed her mouth had grown a set of sharp pointed teeth between which dangled a long red tongue!

I started to pull away from her grip on my hand when her usual gentle voice whispered to me, “Don’t be afraid, my dear, this scary surprise is not meant for you but for the naughty little boy in the window.”

A calm came over me then. Turning back to the boy at the window, his eyes wide and full of fear I felt the magic Aunt Raina had spoken of earlier. Magic that could turn my sweet aunt into a fearful monster. Magic meant to scare the naughty out of a bad little kid. She squeezed my hand and I smiled, bells jingling as the child turned, crying, running from the window, the candle returned to its sill.

By the time we reached the road Aunt Raina was back to herself and we laughed and talked under the starry sky, our breath like smoke rising to their light.

Aunt Raina told me the boy in the window had been stealing from his mother’s change jar.

“He needed a good scare and Krampus specializes in good scares.”

“Who’s Krampus?” I asked

She smiled down at me squeezing my hand.

“Just ring the bells, dear, and hope you never have to find out.”





Forward eye

on the cursor

corner eye

on the window

yellow leaves falling

tiny suns drifting

leisurely to earth,

grey sky hovers

no shadows cast

just showers

of yellow dancers

caressed by autumn wind

drawing my eye

from screen

to window

watching the party



The Faerie Witch’s Love Spell

The spell it came within a book

Tucked back beyond the attic nook,

Deep within the pages told

Of secrets kept from days of old,

And then I saw it glowing bright

The answer to my lonely night.


Inside the book with pages torn

I read the words one autumn morn

But did not heed the warning there

Among the stories bright and fair

For all that caught my eye that day

A reference to a certain fey:

“ He’s dreaming in his treetop tower

Content to wait for the witching hour

To cast off limbs for flesh and bone

Wander through valley and standing stone

That brings him square up to the door

Where his lady waits on misty shore

With wand in hand and wreath in hair

She conjures him ‘tween earth and air,

And when they meet ‘neath moonlit sky

The faeries know the knot they tie

Will bring her joy and many tears

As well as magic, love and fears.

For mortal witch and faerie lover

Will join as one and soon discover

The veil is thin this Samhain night

And many partake of unearthly delight

Then wake to the cold November sky

Hang down their heads and heave a sigh

For alone they be each on their own side

The veil now dense, the distance wide.”


And I am one of witches fair

That conjured earth, fire, water and air

Upon a lonely Samhain night

To bring to me one shinning bright

A love to know and keep till dawn

And caring not if right or wrong.


So dressed in green by pale moonlight

I trod the woods that fateful night

And when I came upon the tree

That every night had beckoned me

I raised my wand up to the sky

And to the stars let out a cry.

“You of green within this tree,

Oh shinning one, come down to me,

Oh green one dwelling high above

Come down and bring to me your love

That we may dance until the dawn

Make love till all starlight is gone.

I cast this spell by thistle and thorn

You shall be mine until the morn.”


The crystal sparked the tree was lit

With tiny lights from root to tip.

I saw his face atop the tree

His glowing eyes stared down at me,

His voice it floated to the ground

And settled on the mossy mound,

“The night is long my pretty bird,

So take my hand, don’t say a word.

Into the night I’ll hold your hand

Across the green we’ll walk the land,

And you will know such wondrous things

That cause mere mortal hearts to sing.”


My feet were bare and so was he

His luminous wings did flutter free.

Our hands were clasped beneath the stars

Wee hours of night becoming ours.

As we walked through hills of silken green

And circles of stone with moonlit sheen

My faerie lover showed me things

That dwell within the mushroom rings,

Where dancing in a moonlit glen

He kissed my lips again and again,

Till lips and legs began to tingle

His breath and mine as one did mingle.

And then beneath the starry night

I saw the often told of sight

A doorway opened in the ground

Among the mushrooms gathered round.

And pulled along a lustrous hall

I felt myself begin to fall

Then caught within green arms so strong

I whispered low, this can’t be wrong.


The night stretched out before our eyes

Pushed longingly within our cries

As we made love beneath the earth

Both solemnly and filled with mirth.

Upon his bed of leaves and moss

He left me breathless, at a loss,

For soon I knew the sun would rise

And wipe the stars from out the skies

And he would leave me in a mess

To search the hills for my green dress.


Now my life is different it seems

My hair has turned a brownish-green

Everyone that passes me by

Can see the silver in my eyes,

And like the sky that shown that night

My skin now shimmers in pale moonlight.


So guard your hearts, oh witches fair

When moon is full love fills the air

But cast you not that faerie spell

For in its wake the tale you’ll tell

Is one of love and then of sorrow

Of time suspended till the morrow,

When autumn’s frost lay on the ground

And winter breathes its mournful sound

You’ll speak about the lovely things

That one can do with faerie wings

And then your breath will catch in time

With memories of faerie rhyme

That fill your nights and clutter your days

And make you walk around in a haze,

And all because the spell you cast

Brought faerie love that could not last.




A Poet’s Dream

I dreamed of writing poetry

like stitching cloth together

with rhyming of fine silk

the body softest leather.


Green silk at the beginning

its texture smooth and taut

with golden thread and needle

the layered lines were caught.


Then rows of turquoise ruffles

like waves upon a sea

deftly sewn like stanzas

with branches from a tree.


Hints of sadness here and there

dark patches glued to leather

meant to hold the broken heart

or mend it back together.


Silver threads of metaphor

held the hem in place

while peeking out beneath it

analogies of lace.


Sturdy threads of quatrain

woven through the whole

kept the meter buttoned up

in apertures of soul.


And then the piece was finished

a garment rife with verse

astonishing as triolet

yet subtle and so terse.


It wrapped around my spirit

with words of silken time

to settle peacefully at my feet

a tailored garb of rhyme.

poets dream