The Fairy Godmother of the South
Cinderella stood at the edge of the path leading into the Fairy Godmother’s estate. The crunch of decomposed granite squeaked under her boots. Sage scruffy yet fragrant drifted on the summer air. Yellow flowers she didn’t recognize wilted on long stems, still attracting butterflies in the heat of the day.
A soft breeze floated. The warmth of the sun on her skin, she walked, feeling the strength, the power of summer alive beneath her feet. She shifted the weight of her back pack. She carried the treasures collected on her journey of the Four Directions. Her dreaming shawl, midnight blue - goat hair warmth – was a cocoon.
The Fairy Godmother of the North gave her a walking stick filled with powers Cinderella had no idea how to use. On the evening they spent together in her cottage with the blue door she gave Cinderella a haircut. The years of childhood length cut away Cinderella could now be identified in the world as an adult.
From her new friend the troll she was given a mink blanket and hundreds of drops of incorruptible amber. Together they had shared an evening of fierce conversations bonding over hot black tea and the Fairy Godmother of the West’s gift of a never ending bag of cookies. He had added a river of fossilized sap to her walking stick telling her to draw on it in times of need.
The Fairy Godmother of the East gave Cinderella her linen dress and pale green shawl. “A shawl,” the Fairy Godmother explained, “is a symbol of shelter and kinship.” She said, “Throughout time shawls have provided warmth, a shield to the elements. Shawls can be a veil to shut out the ordinary world and deepen into prayer.”
Her shawl comforted Cinderella. It was a barrier against an unfriendly world. Wearing it she felt protected. More importantly Cinderella walked the Ceremony of Grace while staying with the Fairy Godmother. A synthesis of elements including the Violet Flame of Transmutation and the elixir of life, a journey she couldn’t put words to yet, Cinderella was free of the pains of the past. She could marry the Prince without the stain of grief she’d carried for so long.
A thinly braided white gold rope melded with thousands of infinitesimal diamonds, an anonymous gift she’d found at the bottom of her pack. She suspected it was a gift from the Prince. The chain had a wicked snap unleashed in the air. She’d used it thrown over a sturdy branch to swing across the river. From a distance it looked insubstantial, even delicate. Wearing the glittering chain rope, wrapped around her waist as a belt, everyday it seemed more sentient. As if it was attuning specifically to her. A magical tool with its own powers, the belt was awakening just as she was awakening to her strengths. She had only begun to understand its uses.
Ah, her Prince. How could she explain how she felt in his company? “Weak in the knees; yet stronger.” Cinderella felt her heart speed-up thinking about their future. As children they dreamed of building a Kingdom. They were on the cusp of making those dreams a reality. To be successful Cinderella had to resolve the pains of the past and savor the joys in life.
Apprenticing to the Fairy Godmothers was an overpowering experience. Thrown into situations she was completely unprepared to deal with seemed to be at the crux of her training. She was on a quest to awaken the powers of the Four Directions and embody their wisdom. Building on her personal strengths to create beauty, prosperity these were the tools of a Fairy Godmother.
There were no words to describe the relief she felt to have completed three of the Four Directions. “Yet even so I feel like more of a novice then ever. It turns out awakening the Four Directions is a beginning. This quest for wisdom and the skills to create, more kinds of beauty than they have names to describe, is the journey of a lifetime. At the heart of awakening the Four Directions is the journey of a pickle. Once you are a pickle you can never be a cucumber again. Blackie! I’m almost a pickle! And the million dollar question is: Will the Prince still love and want to spend a lifetime with me? Does he want me more or less when I’m a pickle?”
The strap of her pack digging into her shoulder, she was ready for this long day of walking to be over. A few more steps would bring her to the wooden door encased in the adobe wall. She could glimpse parts of the hacienda beyond the wall. “I count three chimneys. The Fairy Godmother’s house must be enormous.”
She was talking to Blackie but he lagged behind her, deeply immersed, investigating the smells of the South. Cinderella had hoped by now, having met three of the four Fairy Godmothers, she would feel calm, self-possessed. But nothing unknotted her nerves. She was uncertain of South’s requirements and her ability to succeed. “I doubt I’ll ever feel comfortable in the presence of these powerful women.”
Sometimes achingly compassionate and other times pinching or criticizing it was impossible to understand Fairy Godmothers. Her palms were sweaty. There was a familiar tightening in her chest. Her heart rate accelerated from its normal thump to skittering with anxieties. She was stepping into the field of energy known as the South and found it heavy with the weight of long summer days. The sky gathering clouds built ever higher in the afternoon heat.
Her yellow linen dress stuck to her like glue. She walked with the staff looped in the back pack across her shoulders. A tremor ran through the wood. Engraved with symbols, they reflected her walk through power. Something happened when she picked out her staff and again when the Fairy Godmother of the East read the symbols Cinderella had drawn and etched. A blast of power, the stick flashing incandescent gold, “My staff feels heavier, invested with light, yet lighter to carry.”
A kind of awe filled her when she thought about it.
“What lays ahead now?” Gravel crunched beneath her boots. “Am I transforming into a Fairy Godmother?” A giggle escaped followed by a solemn frown. “The Prince said something about finding the Center and a throne. What did he mean?”
Her journey through the Four Directions was undertaken to become a better partner building wide ranging prosperities within their Kingdom and someday to be a better mother to a future Prince or Princess. Dreaming, accepting the challenges of the North, encountering the Ceremony of Grace, she’d been forced to come to terms with the past to release or resolve. “But how will studying the Four Directions help me create well-being?”
Cinderella couldn’t imagine ever being that powerful. Instead she felt shaky, confused. She was trying desperately to catch-up on what her parents might have taught her, had they lived. Before studying with the first Fairy Godmother she barely had the strength to envision a life with the Prince. Now she couldn’t imagine a future without him.
She walked past a juniper and the occasional Pinion tree scattered beyond the edge of the walkway. Their roots old and gnarled lay at the surface of eroding earth. The Fairy Godmother’s home was surrounded by an adobe whitewashed wall. A paver walkway led to the gate flanked by the green trunked Palo Verde trees shading the path. Their small yellow blossoms lay scattered below their branches. Now she was close enough to see the wood grain on the door of the hacienda gate. A sturdy bell hung in a built-in alcove next to the door. She heard the gurgle of a fountain.
As children the Prince explained to Charlotte the elements of building adobe haciendas. He was taking a class in the construction of buildings, a pre-requisite for a Prince to become King. The benefits of adobe construction he explained were the thermodynamic properties inherent in the density of walls. Adobe made primarily of sand and clay, because the high thermal mass mediates both high and low temperatures reducing the need for heating and cooling. Adding straw or manure, Charlotte had provided the gagging noise, helped the brick to dry evenly and reduced the incidence of cracking.
“Have you noticed the wood beams in the castle’s first floor?” he asked Charlotte.
“Of course!” she replied with the heat of indignation. “You think I don’t observe my surroundings?”
“Calm down, calm down,” he laughed.
Charlotte tilted her head to glare at him. “Is calm down your code words for I’m sorry I insulted you?”
“Yes! Yes! I surrender. Let me explain. Adobe is a heavy material. The beams are necessary to contain the weight of the second floor. Some people mistakenly think they are a decorating tool.”
Intrigued Charlotte asked, “Why is adobe better than other building materials?”
“Great question!” the Prince smiled at her. “Adobe is a cost effective resource and doesn’t deforest the Kingdom. Those Kingdoms chopping down forests as building materials become Kingdooms,” he snickered. “Also adobe is fire retardant.”
“I’d like to take these classes,” Charlotte exclaimed.
Now she stood in front of the South Fairy Godmother’s home, hesitating, gathering her courage, she pulled on the rope. The bell clanged. Its reverberation muffled surrounded in mud bricks. She heard water of a fountain. A crow cawed in the distance. Heat shimmered off the roof tiles. Window frames were painted blue. “Does blue paint really keep the bugs away?”
She heard approaching footsteps on Saltillo tile. The wooden door swung open. Under Cinderella’s scrutiny the Fairy Godmother stood quietly, her stillness in vivid contrast to her kinetic energy. She had wide hands meant for the potter’s wheel. A round sun-browned face held the joys of fun and play. Her greeting was as bright and warm as the summer day. Tugging Cinderella’s back pack off the Fairy Godmother pushed her into the courtyard.
Shy Cinderella was at a loss for words. She stammered, “Hello. My name is Cinder…. Charlotte. It’s nice to meet you.” She gathered her courage to say ‘the name,’ her name; Charlotte, defiantly raising her face to meet the Fairy Godmother’s eyes.
Sunlight highlighted the Fairy Godmother’s hair. Cinderella had no problem visioning her digging and pulling weeds in the garden. Her eyes were brown set wide in an open face. Yet the Fairy Godmother wasn’t simply artistic or earthy, she was also sophisticated. Her dress was impeccably cut. Her sandals covered the top of her foot with a wide band of navy blue ribbon. Delicate diamond bracelets surrounded her wrist. She was poised and graceful.
Laughing at Cinderella standing in front of her shuffling her feet she pulled her toward a table under the shade of a mammoth oak tree. Pushing Cinderella toward a chair she said, “Come. You’re late for tea. I’ve set us up here in the shade of my favorite tree.”
The tree was enormous. Cinderella gasped, “Its trunk is bigger than the two of us put together.” Roots, thick as tree trunks, mirrored branches. In between the roots the wrought iron table stood with matching chairs covered in colorful canvas cushions. “Did the Fairy Godmother of the East paint these cushions?”
Cinderella paused with her hand to the tree and silently made her introductions. Blackie who had trailed behind her was now barking at the wooden gate. The Fairy Godmother waved at Cinderella, “get acquainted. I’ll let Blackie in.”
Cinderella dipped her forehead and rested it on the tree trunk. She felt like crying. An oak leaf drifted down landing on her shoulder. She took it as an invitation and swung up the nearest branch. She sat in the curve of the trunk and branch. From here she could see bowls of water and food the Fairy Godmother set out for Blackie. When she saw Cinderella sitting in the arms of the tree the Fairy Godmother laughed. Blackie barked. He seemed to be saying, “Get down. Get down.”
Cinderella slid off the branch and landed in the soft dirt. Blackie was lapping water greedily. It had been a long, hot walk. Panting he settled on the tile walkway under jasmine vines. Before long he closed his eyes with a contented sigh. The sweet scent of roses snagged Cinderella’s attention. Swiveling she caught sight of ceramic pots, the size of chairs, glazed ocean blue on either side of French doors. Each pot held well established yellow tea roses. Closing her eyes, with a sigh matching Blackie’s, she said, “Wonderful.”
The Fairy Godmother poured tea over ice into large glasses tinted green. Light and heat, heavy with summer’s endless afternoons, reflect in the moisture gathered on glass. Butterflies float on the perfume of jasmine. A hummingbird dips its beak in the white flowers. The buzzing of cicadas fills the courtyard. Synergistically they are summers song casting a circle…of what? What is Cinderella seeing? She sat up with a start. “Wait! I have cookies! The Fairy Godmother of the West gave me…”
“Mexican Wedding cookies,” the Fairy Godmother chimed in. She clapped her hands, “My favorite. I taught her how to bake them!”
Cinderella noticed an extra plate and arranged the cookies. Canvas bag, once again mysteriously filled, Cinderella couldn’t help but wonder. Was the canvas bag really generating cookies? Picking up a cookie and examining it she huffed. A cloud of powdered sugar coated her face. The Fairy Godmother laughed. Cinderella laughed too. Biting into the cookie it melted. Sugar, butter, flour and bits of walnuts filled her mouth. “Ummm...”
The Fairy Godmother laughed. A rich sound encompassing the thunder of a summer’s storm. Picking up her own cookie, “What,” she said, “do you know of the South, Charlotte?”
Cinderella swallowed her cookie and sipped cold tea. No ready answer sprung to her lips. “Fairy Godmother,” she swallowed, “you have a beautiful home.”
This woman of the South, of summer’s heat trailing into twilight, said, “Thank you.” Not to be deterred, she asked, “What does my hacienda tell you about me and the South?”
A curtain went down over Cinderella’s thoughts. She could only access chaos born of her confusion. She felt young. She had a sudden memory of times in childhood when her mother had given her directions and Cinderella could not translate them into behaviors and corresponding action. She said, “I’m sorry Fairy Godmother.” She swallowed, “It’s childish but I have no idea what you are talking about.”
“Good.” The Fairy Godmother laughed and clapped her hands. “What do your feelings tell you about the South?”
Was this turning into a game? “I feel young. Is a young feeling part of the South?”
Clapping her hands the Fairy Godmother said, “Very good. Yes, the South is the home of the child within all of us.” She leaned forward, “Do you know what’s required in order to build a strong spiritual life?”
Cinderella was becoming more confused. She made a guess, “Meditation? Prayer?”
Tapping a finger on her tea glass, the Fairy Godmother nodded. Cinderella had a glimpse of dew strung across a meadow before dawn escapes the horizon. “What,” the Fairy Godmother said, “do you bring to prayer?”
When Cinderella shook her head the Fairy Godmother said, “Innocence, Cinderella. We are born wild and innocent. This connection lives within us always in the land of the child.” Her eyes twinkled. The idea caught Cinderella off guard. She couldn’t resist smiling.
Afternoon deepened the green of oak leaves, the waxy jasmine. Heat radiated off the whitewashed adobe. The Fairy Godmother continued. “The South is the home of the material world. My home is a tangible representation.” Waving an arm extended toward the house, she said, “Its design and grace are the tools of the South.” Picking up the chilled glass of tea, ice cubes tinkling, she paused, sipping tea. Shade turned purple with approaching twilight. Putting down her glass she added, “The answer to my earlier question? A strong spiritual life is built on a material foundation in the physical world. Some churches are meant to inspire with their grandeur. Inspire you to new heights of spiritual awareness. A simple chapel may consist of four walls and roof. You might find an altar in the wilderness. What do they have in common? They are material representations of the spiritual. Hence a spiritual life is built on a strong foundation in the material world. The South is the tangible representations of the spiritual.”
Cinderella’s eyes grew heavy. Twilight crept into the courtyard. Head nodding, she slumped in her chair. Dreaming the dream awake, climbing mountains, Deer Fly fever and her visions compelling her through the Ceremony of Grace, all combined to form a spiritual weight; her physical body was not yet prepared to carry lightly. The long walk to the Fairy Godmother’s hacienda all conspired to catch up with her as she sat in the garden with the Fairy Godmother of the South. The residual heat of the day lingered in the courtyard. She fell onto the cusp of sleep, and caught a glimpse of the Prince, in a fragment of a dream. But he wore an unfamiliar face. She jerked awake. A noxious odor made her gag.
In the approaching twilight the Fairy Godmother stood. Suddenly Cinderella realized she was weak with fatigue. Her legs shook when she stood. The Fairy Godmother said, “I’ll show you to your room. Tonight I’ll send up a tray of food. The Prince tells me you like rice and bean burritos with salsa and avocado, yes?”
Cinderella giggled. “Yes. During Bridge tournaments the Prince and I would steal food from trays in the kitchen. We ate in gardens, climbing trees, in the basement game room or library, and occasionally in the attic on stormy nights.” Her heart felt happy and light. She said, “He remembered!”
The Fairy Godmother nodded and smiled. Once again Cinderella notices diamonds sparking at her ears. Thin bracelets studded with the gems create delicate music. The Godmother’s dress is woven of threads faded summer green and ripening wheat. It shimmers, reflecting heat as the Fairy Godmother moves.