by Redwald AOR
First published in ORB 211, Spring 2259
The cool breeze brought a tantalising smell of springtime, and Dylan breathed deeply as he pushed his wheelbarrow down the garden path. He stopped and surveyed the barren looking ground before him, then closed his eyes and tried to picture how it would look in a few months’ time. Potatoes, beans, carrots and tomatoes in the greenhouse. And parsnips. He couldn’t contemplate roast dinners, midwinter, in front of a roaring log fire, without a good crop of post-frost parsnips.
Dylan opened his eyes and observed the huge pile of manure which had been delivered that morning. A week spent laying bricks on building sites followed by a weekend of hard groundwork, swapping his cement encrusted shovel for a manure laden fork, wasn’t what most people had in mind when he told them he would be spending Saturday and Sunday relaxing at home.
“Home,” Dylan spoke the word out loud, almost not believing he was actually living in a place where he could confidently use that word. The old farm was run down and recently mostly left unused, and at less than 80 acres was more of a large small holding than a farm. But it had potential, and after years of bedsits and rented accommodation Dylan had grabbed the opportunity with both hands. But of course, Sarah was his real motivation.
It had been more than three years since he’d first met Sarah on a bitterly cold yet sun struck mountaintop in mid-Wales. Dylan had followed a strange and powerful impulse after being given a note during an almost dreamlike encounter with an old yet bright-eyed man in Garth’s Music Shop. The note had detailed an outdoor supplies store and a meeting point, high up in the Snowdonia range. And for once in his life Dylan had stopped being a man with no purpose. He’d started up his Triumph and rode over one hundred miles for a reason he could not entirely fathom at the time.
He soon realised there was more to the old man than he’d first thought. There was a purpose to their meeting. For many weeks pervious, Dylan had read book after book, and had slowly felt his mind adapt to a new way of thinking. Or even an old way of thinking. The Christmas before the trip to Wales had heralded a kind of awakening for Dylan. Despite the long dark nights surrounding the Winter Solstice, he saw things with a clarity which shocked him. The ethereal and dreamlike nature of his meeting with the old man echoed his life up to that point. Almost like he’d been wearing glasses smeared in engine oil, where just a little of the world around him was allowed to reach his senses. Almost like he hadn’t really been living his own life, but a concoction of other people’s lives – their whims, desires, wants and needs.
Dylan took up his garden fork and leaned on it for a moment, observing the old farmhouse. The farm had been in Sarah’s family for generations, but they had nearly lost everything when Sarah’s father died of a heart attack, followed shortly and tragically by her grief stricken mother. There were debts on the farm, but Dylan and Sarah had worked hard to pay them off. Then, on the third anniversary of Dylan’s awakening, they had joined as one with a Handfasting, and celebrated with a special Yule Feast, during which the words of the Gothi rang in Dylan’s ears:
“In the sacred names of the Aesir and Vanir, and by Thor’s Hammer, I pronounce you man and wife!”
A northerly breeze blew down Dylan’s collar, snapping him out of a moment’s reminiscence; the breath of Odin, reminding him that it was still only March and that he may catch cold if he didn’t begin working to generate some heat.
* * *
Dylan’s heavily calloused hands didn’t blister anymore. He was a seasoned hard worker. But a solid eight hours’ graft had left him in need of a break. He straightened and stretched, his body aching from a combination of physical exertion and old nagging motorcycling injuries. There was still a little daylight left, but Dylan collected up his tools nonetheless and placed them in his wheelbarrow. Sarah would be home from the hospital where she worked as a nurse in a little while, and Dylan wanted to be showered and changed by the time she returned.
* * *
The whistle from the old fashioned kettle brought Dylan into the oak-beamed kitchen just as Sarah opened the front door. She looked tired.
“Tea?” Dylan said with a smile, before giving her a hug and a kiss.
Sarah nodded. She needn’t have bothered, for Dylan already knew the answer to his question. She waited patiently while Dylan filled a tea pot and organised mugs and milk. Within a few minutes they were seated at the kitchen table, each sipping cautiously at their steaming hot brew.
“How was work?” Dylan asked.
“You know how it is,” she replied. “We’re working our socks off over there.”
Dylan nodded. He knew the situation. But he also knew that she would only leave the hospital when it was possible to live a self-sufficient lifestyle on the farm. That was their dream, and although he knew they would get there one day, for now they would both have to keep themselves in regular work.
Sarah took another sip of tea, and the warmth finally seeped into her. She looked up and smiled. “I can’t wait until tonight!”
Dylan smiled back. Somehow, in between working long hours and renovating the farmhouse, they had found time to build a new Hearth and could now count twelve local people not just as friends but as fellow Odinists. The rapid growth might have been seen as extraordinary were it not for the fact that shortly after moving into the farmhouse they had found out that the landlord of the local inn was very much in tune with their way of thinking. That, comprised with his popularity in the village, had contributed enormously to building a healthy Odinist group which Sarah had entitled, ‘Hearth of the Harvest Home’ after an interesting fictional book she had read whilst at school. As synchronicity would have it, their farmhouse was called ‘Harvest Cottage’.
“You did tell Jim to organise the food didn’t you?” Sarah said suddenly.
“It’s all sorted,” Dylan replied. “I dropped by on the bike on the way back from work yesterday. We’ve got the whole upstairs to ourselves, Jim’s got the cook to do a carvery and he’s put another member of staff on so he can join us himself. Now get yourself showered and changed!”
* * *
The walk to the Sun Inn was more than a mile, but the breeze had blown away any cloud cover and the full moon shone brightly, so Dylan and Sarah decided to walk rather than take the Triumph. Dylan preferred it that way, for while the Havamal warned against excessive consumption of alcohol, he was sure that Odin would allow him a few pints of the local ale. Yet certainly the Gods would be more forgiving than the village policeman would be if he was caught over the limit and revving his twin cylinder, open piped machine down the country lanes in the early hours of the morning.
Dylan and Sarah walked hand in hand along the paths skirting their fields, sheltered from the wind by the hawthorn and blackthorn hedgerows, before passing into the woods. The sound of a stream beckoned them to the rickety footbridge, which was the location for a story about trolls Sarah was piecing together in her head. They crossed the bridge in single file, before taking each other’s hands again for the remainder of their journey.
Soon, a warm light pierced the woodland shadows, quite dissimilar to the harsh whiteness of the moon. A few paces more and the pair spotted the lantern outside the Sun Inn which Jim always lit in the evenings to give walkers of the woodland path something to aim for. Dylan and Sarah altered their direction of travel slightly and in moments could hear the creak of the painted sign as it swung to and fro. The building suffered slightly from subsidence and was as ancient as the sign appeared, but the place was well kept inside and out despite its obvious antiquity.
Moments later Dylan was pushing at the door.
* * *
“Dylan!” roared Jim, the huge, bearded publican. “Hail! And Hail to Sarah!”
Dylan laughed and returned the greeting, conscious of a few curious glances from customers.
“Upstairs! Upstairs!” Jim bellowed enthusiastically. “It’s not often I give myself an evening off. Margaret, the bar is yours my dear!”
Margaret rolled her eyes in good humour as Dylan and Sarah followed Jim around the bar and up the stairs to the function room usually reserved for village weddings and similar occasions.
“I’ve put on a good spread,” Jim said as he opened the door to the function room.
The smell of beef and pork wafted in the air, and Dylan and Sarah were met with a wonderful sight. Over a dozen loyal comrades and a number of children, silver hammers and hand-carved runic symbols swinging from their necks, stood to greet them with many separately tailored thunderous Odinic welcomes. Hands were clasped and ale passed from friend to friend.
And then Jim was at Dylan’s ear. “I’ve organised something special for later too,” he whispered in a gravelly tone. “Follow me.”
Dylan did as he was asked, went to the window and looked as Jim pointed to the rear of the premises, where an unlit bonfire stood waiting patiently along with a huge sun-wheel mounted atop a ten foot high pole.
“For later,” Jim said with a wink.
Dylan smiled, turned and looked across the room to where Sarah was laughing in conversation with a fellow Hearth member. He looked from Sarah and observed other men, women and kids, all enjoying the company of like-minded folk. A deep and powerful change was in motion, Dylan realised. A cycle was coming back to where it had begun. There was no doubt that there were differences between the beginning and end of this cycle, but that was called evolution, and evolution was what made life stronger. Dylan thought back to when he used to drink alone, and compared it to now. He considered the cold, harsh loneliness of his life three years earlier, and then opened his soul to the warm emotion within that room. He realised that people existing as separate entities didn’t create life and energy; it was the special bond between people of like mind which was the catalyst for ever-evolving life.
Dylan felt a new level of understanding envelop him, and realised that the more he persevered with what he now knew in his heart was right, the more potential there was for ever more moments like this.
Dylan drank deeply from his ale glass and stepped from the edge of the room into the midst of his brothers, sisters and his one true love. He raised an arm and called for silence, beckoning Sarah to his side. It was time to announce new life. It was time to announce they were expecting a child.
‘The Journey’ may continue in
future issues of ORB…
Hael Faith, Folk and Family!