I found my ferry soon enough, “Dark Ferry Woman row me across the river, row slowly so that I may see the distance spaces, the edge where sunset meets the sea, the golden clouds that grace the summer sky. I want to feel the wind that pushes this small craft, this boat with rainbow sail that billows full and freely. As we reach the further shore I wave farewell and ask you to be ready at end of day to take me back to the pine covered mountain for I have been asked to report.
I wander slowly up the dock into the island centre where a great golden gate is lit by the rising sun, this gilded gate carved by the centuries of finest workmen opens before me and I find myself able to dance again, to carry the silver torch, to trip as lightly as I did in childhood up the long stairs, into the sacred hall. There is hope in my step and in my heart for this is the place of my own people, these are the hallways walked by all who walked before me through all time.
Here in a deep forest by a lake I find a small log cabin surrounded by a kitchen garden. October colour everywhere, deep crimson leaves fall from above and crunch beneath my feet. I knock. A soft voice calls, Is that you, my dear, I have been waiting here that we may talk.” The accent is familiar, just a hint of old East Anglia, the dialect my father knew and was forbidden to use. “ I met your dad long years ago, he passed by on his way to his own family shore. He was from Norfolk but not Norfolk born as I am for I am your mother’s people. Come tell me, why this quest for your time has not yet come although I see your aging as I watched your childhood.”
A thousand questions, questions, questions too personal it seems to ask this woman with the bright eyes that see into my mind. What made you grandmother-twice-back-and-more cross the great ocean to this place in deepest wood? Why bring your sons and leave a daughter at home? “So many why’s my dear.”
“Did you not move across an ocean? leave a son behind? stay in a country where the accent was not yours? We have much in common you and I. I crossed the sea for love, for a proper place for sons, for their father’s sake we built and grew. My daughter was well cared for, her father claimed the child. She would be safe, safer than a yeoman’s child and learned. “
“ My sons grew tall, broke their own land, and made their way no longer laboured in the fields of some descendant of King Williams thieving clan. I taught them well, my daughters too, those younger ones, and all the others too in the tiny school we built. Dear Dr. Strachan, dear old kirk where learning was allowed for all who came.”
“ Did you see our school house ? We had four rows of benches, a board my husband painted every September. The Bishop was generous; every child had his own slate, a bible and a first book. My pupils learned to read, and write, and, on the winter’s nights lit by fire and candle taught their parents too. When harvest came our sons, all of the sons, could count and claim all that was rightful, and give thanks for freedom and bounty.”
But all this does not reply, I see that one question too intimate to ask.”
“Why? I’ll try to answer. I was a gentle cousin in his lordship’s house, kin without status, a pretty girl I think. We touched, we loved, a child was born. I lost my place within propriety. The child was taken, I was given to wife to my yeoman. My great fortune, we brought four sturdy sons to the new country. You have his blood and thus most dear to me.”
“Now tell me”, she asked, what have you done, to make me proud?”
I thought for a moment and said that I had loved to learn and tried
to teach my students honestly.
“You have your answer. “she said, and laughing, “We’ll have a cup of tea, share stories of those children we have known, and fill the time until the ferry woman calls you home. Don’t be afraid for you will come again. We will be friends.”
I give my gift, a tiny book of poems as I wave farewell