The little white cottage in the woods

  
There’s a clearing in the midst of a certain forest where trees stay still about a little white cottage that seems to protrude out of the earth itself—a natural grotto of a dwelling hidden away from the distracted eye by Nature itself and the amount of leafy arms and hands and fingers of trees and branches and lichens in which it is sheltered.
 
Birds of the forest find their home among the epiphytes and vines that form a living shag carpet over the roofs of this little cottage—enclosed as it is in a fairyland of moss and strange plants that hang from its roofs and walls like fringed curtains.
 
There the swallows and sparrows have their nest, and little feathered creatures arrange their collection of treasures which, it may include, a bright blue feathers, snail shells, beetle wings and flowers and anything else which might take the bird's fancy and which may include some precious treasures such as a silver spoon, a diamond hair pin, a sparkly cameo brooch bathed in topaz and rhinestone, seashell buttons and other colorful scraps of material, all property of its owner.
 
And thus, if you happed to walk pass by this little white cottage in the wood, must probably you would thought it to be yet another cluster of trees, and just another place in the forest where the wild mushroom sprouts from fallen logs and the vegetation grows in excess. Only the whiteness and light which seems to grow from the very insides of this little cottage would give its secret away…
 
It is a house indeed. And if you dare go inside you’d immediately sense the pudgy scents of herbs and natural remedies lingering in the shadows. All it takes is a gentle breeze to let you know that the anise hyssop has been collected that morning. Perhaps too recently. The fresh licorice scent is unmistakable. You know that both the flowers and the leaves are perfumed and edible and thus, you can guess that someone had fought her way through the bees that are drawn to the licorice in number earlier that morning for the pure pleasure of a sweet cup of Anise hyssop tea. The fragrance of the tea is still delightfully intoxicating.
 
As far as you can tell, no one is present in the little white cottage right at the moment. Yet, you know you’re not alone. You cannot be too oblivious or too insensible to the empowering presence surrounding you. For indeed, a presence bigger than all your fears and bigger than all the shadows that may fall across your path moves freely about the cottage and hovers over everything; somehow, comforting you, reassuring you. And you feel impelled to keep studying your surroundings.
 
You see the bundles of herbs hanging from the beams to dry—basil, borage, catnip, mint, nepeta and lemon balm, and over there a rustic table filled with baked goods; jams and sweet buns and cakes, and there are some lovely decorated bowls in sapphire blue holding thin crepes and an assortment of dense, sweet tea breads.
 
On one side of the table, a mortar and pestle with freshly ground herbs laid side by side some ancient looking books, as if perhaps just before you came, someone had been engaged in preparing her concoctions?
 
Fragrant oils, dyes and waxes for the preparation of candles, flowers and herbs are strewn across the table, seeming to be processed slowly for the coming winter.
 
There’s something magical and warm and comfortable and dreamy about the place. And you have the strong sensation of having been here before. You love every detail—the scent of herbs lingering in the air, the shadows warming the humble adobe, the nostalgic charm, the vases of roses withering in their water. And you realize now that whoever lives in such peculiar place must also possess some of that same remarkable peculiarity of her home in herself and soul. And she must be out somewhere in her forest collecting her herbs. Shall you leave the cottage now and run away from it as far as you can and never come back, or linger a little longer and fully capture the magic, it is up to you…
 

THE PANDORA BOX


Have you ever heard the story of the Pandora's Box? Long long ago while growing up in northern Spain, I discovered a Pandora Box hidden away in the attic of the abandoned chateau that had once belonged to my great-great-great-great grandmother Anastasia de Castellanos, which in turn, had belong to her own great grandmother, the intriguing Arabella Countess of Aragon.
 
It was the most fascinating little box I had ever seen, made of pearl on the outside and an assortment of fabrics and tulle and some other rare materials on the inside. This beloved box had once belonged to Arabella Countess of Aragon, and it was as intriguing and bewitching as Arabella herself had once been.

I like to call this very special box a “Pandora Box” for what it means and what it represents, but of course, it really is just a Writing Box...

Back in the days of Arabella Countess of Aragon, back in 1750, a portable desk in the form of a box—hence a Writing Box, was a very important and necessary item. A Writing Box could be used on a table or on one's lap, and through it both business and personal activity were transacted. Arabella would use her Writing Box to sign contracts, letters and postcards were written on its sloping surface, but later her Writing Box became an elaborate piece of craftsmanship—a marvelous confection made by Arabella herself, where she would hide the strangest of personal things. Thus, her Writing Box became a Secret Box; her confidant and keeper of her most inner desires and clandestine possessions.
Opening Arabella’s Pandora Box was like breathing magic into my childhood... a wisp of air came wafting straight out of the box the very minute I opened it, it smelled of lavender and peppermint and I clearly remember feeling as if I just had walked into a Christmas memory that didn’t belong to me and yet, it was all mine in a mysterious and inexplicable way.


There was a mood of magic in the room and I could see Arabella’s scent lingering in the air like kite tails. Whatever secrets or message had been hidden in her secret box now needed some way out... and I was there to find out. It was as if Arabella herself was standing beside me making sure I knew... knew all her secrets. So strong her presence was.

There were some old coins in Arabella’s box, and there were some tattered jewelry oxidized with time and a yellowish land contract in onion skin paper, and there was an old and very peculiar crucifix along with an old daguerreotype of the passionate and fearless Arabella Countess of Aragon.
All of a sudden the room got very quiet and I was sure I heard Arabella saying: “Prepare yourself for a delightful surprise, my dear!” And how true! You see, I was about to yet uncover another treasure... tucked away under the aged lining of the old box a real treasure was waiting! My hands moved rapidly through the box, my mind looking for clues...

Until I saw them: Arabella’s famous love letters; those my mother and her sisters and mothers before them would always talked about in hush voices.

The love letters were from Arabella and her lover; a very mysterious man who, sometimes at the end of his letters would curiously sign as “Your Majesty, the King”. Under the lining of Arabella’s box, I also found an ancient medallion, which I’m now positive it’d belonged to that certain King. The strange medallion had an unusual inscription in it and an emblem on it pertaining to royal dynasty.
Its regal look reminded me of royal tapestries and carvings, and I could picture kings and queens using them as royal gifts for their courts. Some of the love letters where written and signed by Arabella herself... “heme determinado ante ti como una página escrita y borrada mil veces...”—read one of her letters. If you click on Arabella’s letter you can read the rest of it, or at least most of it, but that’s just if you dare snoop into her very dark past!

Indeed, the strange Arabella had a very dark past, and I can attest to that because among the things tucked away in her box I also found this bizarre “Wanted Sign” you see here... the sign had been tucked away among the few things Arabella was able to keep to the end of her days, and you could tell that someone had folded it almost reverently, as if it was some sacred totem needed to be forgotten or perhaps eternally remembered.

Arabella was wanted by the authorities of her time, and it had something to do with her lover being who he was and the way they both carried their ‘illicit’ love against all odds. It was taboo—that love was. But you must forgive me for ending Arabella’s story so abruptly here. You see, time is running out on me and I must part as soon as possible... I have a flight to catch—a carpet ride, that is!
Ah yes, the magic carpet of Tangu (some people call him Prince Housain), has been parked in my garden for the last three days, and I cannot, or rather not, make it wait any longer, as this is a rather moody carpet!

Have you ever ride on a magic carpet? Magic carpets are used to instantaneously travel throughout Heaven and it is a wonderful alternative to broomstick. The story goes that as soon as Solomon sat upon his magic carpet he was caught up by the wind, and sailed through the air so quickly that he breakfasted at Damascus and supped in Media. So I expect to get to wherever Tangu’s magic carpet is taking me today in no time at all!

I'm ready now! Off I go! See you soooon!


Otilia Micaela de Luna


I can see her in my mind—like a dream.  The familiar genetic traits: The long dark hair and expressive brown eyes; the impassiveness of her countenance. Her name is Otilia Micaela de Luna, and she is my great-great-great Grandmother.
 
Otilia Micaela de Luna was a midwife and an expert herbalist who traveled from home to home and village to village ministering the poor and the sick of her time. For centuries woman in her lineage had been the unlicensed doctors of remote towns and villages. They were the anatomists and abortionists and nurses of their time. They were pharmacists, cultivating healing herbs and exchanging the secrets of their uses; learning from each other, and passing on experience from mothers to daughters.
 
Medicine was part of their heritage, but they lived with a vocation that for centuries had been far misunderstood. Thus, although these women were doctors without degrees, they were barred from public places and were deemed as witches and charlatans.
 
When Otilia Micaela de Luna was not engaged in helping people, one would always find her in her garden; as she was also notorious for her deep love of the natural world. Her fascination with roses opened up new and fantastic worlds that only the truly attuned with Nature were able to appreciate and enjoy.
 
At the gate of her small cottage was an arch dripping in pinks and reds from a lovely Old Damascena. There was a fountain on the right, almost lost in lush grasses and to the left, at the far end of Otilia’s little cottage, lay there a beautiful garden where several miniatures roses grew in borders under and in front of the taller bushes.
 
Dramatic borders of Sarabande roses grew in masses, and the fragrant Dortmund, against the whitewashed and sun faded picket fence, sprat out tall and beautiful as heaps of Paradise and Color Magic roses seem to sing sacred hymns to the morning air.

When the Beauty Secret put out their waves of bloom in springs, the entire garden would bow before their beauty. Joyful sounds and magical waves of glorious scents would waft from the garden in tints and shades the color of rainbows. Otilia knew that this was the fanfare with which Nature declare itself and try to communicate with humans. And thus Otilia heard the hum, and the chants, and saw all the magic spread upon the earth for humans to take pleasure in and benefit from, and took it all in, and nourish her soul with it. She was well aware of the way Nature communicates with man.
 
And thus, to the roses as she pruned them, to the tall delphiniums as she stalked them, to the colorful snapdragons and hollyhocks as she fertilized them—to every flower, big and small, she would give thanks and worship them, and tell them magical tales...

Blue birds would come by to say hello and cotton white fluffy clouds would puff happy smiled down at her as she worked and enjoyed her little cottage garden. It was said that one day, all of a sudden everything turned dark... the sun went away and out came the rain. And there was heavy rain tearing bits of cloud, and a wisp of mad air that whistled through the trees brought swirls and swirls of leaves and some sorts of blue rain that fell down all afternoon from the dark clouds. And then there was the terrifying sound of thunder and flashes of lightening.

Swish, swoosh cried the wind. Throughout the clouds it howled, and it fluttered, swished and rustled and swooshed like a mad monster... it was a bad storm. Water flooded the streets and the wind blew roofs and houses, and everybody got soaked to the bones by all the heavy rains. Except, of course, for Otilia Micaela de Luna. Everything in Otilia's house and garden was in perfect order despite the havoc of the weather. Not a single thing got wrecked, or blown away by the wind, nothing was wet or rained on; no water, no rain, no puddles.
 
"It's witchcraft"—people would said. You see, people were mystified by this strange occurrence, and could not explain this mystery otherwise. So rumors spread about Otilia owning a magical umbrella. She was a witch. She had a magic cauldron that boiled the water without any need to put them on the fire. And she used a crystal ball to see what people were doing and kept a witch’s broomstick hidden in her garden. But the witch's new gadget was her magical umbrella. An umbrella as big as the witch's house and as big as her back yard and gardens was. But best of all, an umbrella that had the power to protected the witch even from the vilest storm.

Nobody could see Otilia's umbrella—it was invisible, but oh they all knew she owned such a thing... what other explanation there was for such nonsense? None. None whatsoever.
 
An thus, poor Otilia was crushed by the same fate that for centuries had barren her ancestors from society—woman that were called witches, and were forced to leave their towns and villages and live in anonymity for the rest of their lives.