Mary Waits

On each of the four Sundays before Christmas, the advent season, Widdershire will be posting four reflections from the point of view of Mary, the Mother of Jesus.

black-mary
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Mary waits.

Her life has been long, and full, and difficult. To be chosen by God to bear the saviour of the nations is to be shaken, tossed, filled to overflowing and wrung out into nothing, over and over again.

She misses her son, and her husband.

She waits, stuck in ordinary time, each minute moving slowly. She has seen bits and pieces of the story from God’s time – the angel’s visit, her son’s miracles and transformations, the way everything she knew and understood about life and death, God and humans, sin and redemption turned upside down and rewritten.

Mostly, she sees the story in human time, slow and confusing and full of mistakes.

It should be time to sweep everything away and bring in the new kingdom that her son started. It’s been years since he left, and he said he would return soon. His birthday is coming up, and she always feels the pull of his message more strongly at this time of year. Love, he said. Love is the foundation of all things. Is love the foundation of waiting? Where is love in this painful wait, filled with the desire to be made whole?

There are shining, glorious moments when she feels to her core the truth that she is blessed, she was the vehicle through whom the Lord burst into creation and rewrote life, death, and time forever. She is reinvigorated to continue waiting for the fruition of her son’s work across the world. She feels once more the transcendent peace that allowed her to hear herself say “let it be with me according to your word” during the angel’s timeless visit.

There are other moments when the pain of loss and loneliness overwhelm her and she weeps. The waiting is interminable at those times.

Lord, she cries, the days are dark and long. Please, please tell me why I am waiting. Please give me the courage to wait one more day. Please give me the strength to wait for your return.

Mary walks out to share her son’s message of love yet one more time.

Originally published on tallisfabulous.com

The Witch in the Woods

The rain lashed against the windows. Inside the house, a man writhed, gasping and soaked with sweat. In the hall downstairs, two women paced. One seemed more agitated, often pausing often at the foot of the staircase to listen until she heard the sound of a man in pain, then resuming her tread. The other, younger, sat in a chair deep in thought.

The doctor descended the stairs. “Well, I don’t know what more I can do for him. There is a witch in the heart of the woods who may have something that can help, but medicine has no power here.”

“Oh Doctor, you can’t be serious!” exclaimed the older woman. “The witch, if she even exists, is an abomination.”

The younger woman stood up abruptly, a new light in her eyes. “I will go to this witch.”

“Willa, are you sure? Think of the danger, and the weather!”

Willa nodded. “For my angel, I shall spare nothing.”

“May God protect you, and save my son until your return.” She collapsed into the chair Willa had vacated, seeming to swoon. The doctor bent over her in a minute, and Willa turned for the door to hide her contempt.

The stable boy saddled the fastest of Willa’s husband’s horses. “Let us see about this witch,” she said to herself as she stepped out into the tempestuous night.

She and her horse were soaked to the skin in minutes. The horse was anxious; it was difficult for Willa to keep her seat. It was an eternity before she found the first sign on the path to the witch’s dwelling. An empty cage hung from a dead tree, a desiccated form lying in it. Willa shuddered.

The second sign was a savage thornbush growing directly across the path. The horse was upon it so quickly that it could not stop; it leapt over it and nearly cleared it, but screamed as the thorns pierced its tender belly. When they landed, the horse had the bit in its teeth and Willa had no control. They plunged through the forest headlong, terrified, directionless. Suddenly the spectre of a huge snake reared up in front of them, and Willa was flying through the air.

She was dazed for a moment. When she looked up, she could see a trail of broken branches but no horse.

“Damn!” Willa picked herself up to continue on foot. She was still in a desperate hurry, but there was no other way. At least the rain was slowing somewhat.

Although that wasn’t quite accurate. Willa could hear the sound of the storm raging still, rain sleeting down, lightning casting the trees into spiky relief and thunder crashing violently. But around her was a gentle spring shower. It was warmer, too, and her soaking cloak and riding pants were beginning to steam.

She picked her way along the path. It was no longer a track through the brush, but an old stone road. She noticed ancient stone signposts now and again, and after a while they had lamps upon them. Strange lamps, not flames but steady, pale beacons. The stone road became a gravel drive, and Willa’s boots crunched along it until she came to what must be the witch’s hut.

It was like no hut she’d ever seen before. It had clear panels of glass set in the walls like no windows Willa had seen before. It was neither stone nor brick, but clad with long, pink strips. There was another of the unflickering light above the front door, which was elevated from the ground. Willa climbed the steps, marvelling at the construction of the house She knocked on the door.

A woman opened the door. She was looking at a small, oblong object in her hand that glowed blue. It was undoubtedly magic, and Willa’s doubts evaporated. She was in the right place.

The woman looked up and blinked at Willa. The witch  was dressed in odd clothing, a childish tunic that hid her shape only to her knees, where tight black breeches showed every curve. Willa was entranced for a minute, then pulled her gaze back up to the woman’s face. She wore windows over her eyes and her hair was piled on her head.

“How on earth did you find me?” she asked.

Willa’s mind raced to find the right words. “I… I was sent here for help. My husband…”

“Oh no, not again.” The witch, if she was indeed a witch, rolled her eyes as though this wasn’t the first time.

Willa was nonplussed.

“Who sent you?”

“The doctor. My husband is very sick, and…”

“Hmm. Not a priest, or a creepy old woman who lives in the woods?”

“You are the creepy old woman who lives in the woods. Except… you’re not very old.”

“No but seriously I need to know how you got here. You look Edwardian or something. And no, I am not an old crone.”

“In this time of crisis, the doctor sent me to find the witch in the woods, but the storm…”

“Oh, of course there was a storm. Alright, stay there for a minute. I’m afraid I can’t invite you in. Can you still see your forest? And is it still stormy?”

Willa looked back the way she’d come. It was difficult to see clearly, but the forest did seem to be there, still gripped in the tempest.

“Yes.”

“Good. So what’s wrong with your husband?”

“He can’t breathe. It started with a bit of blue around his lips, and now he’s gasping. There’s a pox on his skin and…”

“Stay here.”

The witch walked away, leaving the door open. Willa could see all manner of strange things in the house, and leaned forward to see them better. There were more of the flameless lamps, and thin ropes connected to the walls. It seemed plain, lacking tapestries and rugs, yet cleaner than any dwelling Willa had seen.

“You have to stay outside!” the witch called. Willa jumped back.

Soon enough, the witch came back with two tubes. “Here. You pull off this cap and jam it into his thigh, like this. This is a spare, in case it happens again, but figure out if he was stung by a wasp or ate a peanut or something and then never let it happen again because it’ll kill him. I’m not even sure you’ll make it back it time. You’re lucky I have these. Now run, and I hope it’s not too late.”

Willa ran. There was no snake, no thorn fence, and no cage. The track was almost impossible to see in the dark.

Dawn was breaking before she burst out of the forest. The rain had stopped but the trees were still dripping, and the light of early dawn lit up a fog that covered the ground. Willa staggered towards the manor and her husband, then paused. She thought for several minutes. Then she turned and marched back into the forest. This was her chance at freedom, and she was damned if she was going to let it pass her by.

Picked Last

Twenty five in a line up. I have a feeling, deep in my belly that this time we are going to use the parachute. Slowly, we march and the teacher is at the front. The doors open and there is no parachute. Just big empty space. I stare down at my feet, following the black lines on the floor. One foot in front of the other. Tightrope walker. The black line touches a green line and a red line. Green or red? Red is best. We read a book like that this morning. Read red. Red read. Read is best. Better than gym. The words turn themselves over in my head. Head read red. I step onto the red line and follow it, head down.

 

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Hallowe’en 1967: The Evening Post

James MacInnis picked up the thin folder his editor had given him. Someone had phoned in a scoop that a New England Town  had what seemed to be a very small-scale plague of insanity. James didn’t understand why his editor hadn’t brushed it off, and had no idea how he was going to turn it into a story.

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Hallowe’en 2010: The Worst Party

Jessica tugged at her skirt, then told herself to stop. Halloween was her chance to let loose, be less buttoned up. She had to be comfortable in her costume if she was going to have any fun at all.

The doorbell rang, and the chorus of “trick or treat” was punctuated by giggles.

“Hi girls,” Jessica’s mom said downstairs.

She looked in the mirror one more time and hiked her skirt back up to where it belonged. You can pull this off, she told herself. You look amazing.

 

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Hallowe’en 2001: The Last Night

   This was their last Halloween together, but none of them knew it yet. Mel knew they were getting old for trick-or-treating, but she wanted to do this one last group costume idea. Over the summer, Anna had introduced the group to her favourite show: Buffy the Vampire Slayer. She’d taped a bunch of episodes onto VHS and they’d spent the hot summer days camped out in her basement watching her parents big TV.

  Mel was obsessed – quickly surpassing Anna’s obsession. She’d borrowed the tapes to watch some of her favourite moments again and again. She cast the four of them as the characters in the show;  Anna, of course, was the perfect Willow, Vic would be Xander, Samantha, despite being a girl, was kinda stuffy, so she was Giles and Mel was the only blond, so unsurprisingly, she was Buffy.

 

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Hallowe’en 1996: The Case of the Sixth Spice Girl

Kelly opened the door to the Spice Girls and quietly sighed as she joined them. Under the costumes were her five best friends. They had tried to come up with a group costume for six for the Hallowe’en party, but the Spice Girls idea was too awesome to pass up, and Kelly drew the short straw.

“Oh cool, are you like, our manager or something?” Baby Spice (her friend Natalie) asked. Kelly rolled her eyes. None of her family members had figured out who she was either. She thought it was obvious. Plaid skirt, loafers, cashmere sweater, headband. And what made it the most obvious was the thing that inspired the whole costume, the magnifying glass necklace she found at the thrift store.

 

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Rise and Descent

 

Fifteen stories above the street, here I am.

One story for each year it’s been since the accident.

I stand near the edge, looking down, thinking of the experiences that led me to this place. A year ago, I decided to be bold. But it’s not that experience that led me here. No, this goes back fifteen years. To the cold steel on steel that battered my body and crushed my soul. It left me unable to take risks, paralyzed with fear.

 

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