Journey to Duwamish and White Owl Island
I was sitting in the garden at Baba Yaga’s when a raven brought me the invitation to spend a couple of days in Duwamish. My last visit there had been so short, hardly a visit at all as I was in a hurry to catch up with the rest of my group. In factI had had no chance to visit the Isle of Ancestors or even have a look round. I had also heard that there was a wonderful bookshop there and an art gallery.
It didn’t take me long to pack up my things and as they weren’t heavy and I knew that Duwamish wasn’t too far away I decided I would walk. I needed the exercise after sitting over my spinning and weaving for many hours at a time. There was an autumnal feel to the air as I set off. Fire tipped the leaves of the trees and cobwebs strung between the trees were hung with crystals, sparkling in the early morning sunlight, from the heavy dew. I saluted the spiders in their webs as I passed, now conscious of the invaluable work they do.
Eventually I came to the stream that I knew would lead me down into Duwamish Bay. The water chuckled and gurgled as it splashed down the rocky bed causing rainbows to dance in the spray. Altogether it felt good to be alive. Even the birds in the thickets along my way were singing their hearts out.
At length I reached the village and looked curiously around me, for it was the first time I would have had the chance to look around. Immediately ahead of me was a sign announcing the presence of 'Ye Olde Tea Shoppe' with the most enticing smells wafting out from it. I went in and chose a corner table near the window, from where I could view the comings and goings of people. After sitting down and ordering a pot of Earl Grey tea. I picked up several of the leaflets that had been left on the table. The first was a guide to the more interesting shops in Duwamish. The North Star Studios immediately caught my eye as did Madame Livia's Bookshop of Chaos. There was also something called the Enchanter's Wunderkabinett. I would certainly try to visit all three of these. The second leaflet bore a picture of a mangnificent snowy owl and advertised private boat trips to White Owl Island, by special arrangement with the Enchantress. The third one advertised boat trips to the Isle of Ancestors. Duwamish was obviously a fascinating place and I wasn't sure I would be able to fit everything in. The White Owl Island trips only started in the early evening so I would have plenty of time to explore to my heart's content.
Visit to North Star Studios
I decided to visit the North Star Studios first. The blurb said that it was governed by Providence and that you had to make a wish. I was so busy wondering what I could wish that I bumped into the rickety garden gate knocking it right of its hinges. I immediately knew what my wish would be - I had the perfect gate at home sitting unused in a corner of the garden. I could wish its immediate transfer here, only after checking with the gallery owner of course, that such a gift would be welcomed.
I walked up the path through a truly exuberant garden and stopped to look in the window which was filled with mouth watering treasures - some raku sculptures, a magnificent ceramic torso and a Japanese doll. I couldn't wait to get inside.
The magic was upon me already. I stepped in to find a veritable Aladdin's cave of goodies ranging from wooden sculptures through glassware to jewellery, each piece more beautiful than the last. In a corner I found a silver horse prancing on a bed of uncut amethyst crystals. I just had to have that and duly asked the gallery owner if she would be kind enough to keep it for my return. It was only with difficulty that I tore myself away but I did want to visit the bookshop and the Wunderkabinett (the Old Curiosity Shop).
Madame Livia's Bookshop of Chaos was only a couple of blocks away. The doorway was very small and it was quite a squeeze to get in. Was the owner trying to discourage visitors from entering or leaving? Inside there were books everywhere, not just on the shelves but in tottering piles on the floors, a small table was completely hidden under a mountain of books and magazines and revues appeared to be in imminent danger of sliding off the chair on which they had been temporarily piled.
Madame Livia's appearance was as chaotic as her name. There was more than a hint of gypsy in her I thought. Her hair flowed around her in wild abandon and she was wearing the most exotic collection of jewellry - huge earrings, a veritable cascade of necklaces and bangles on both arms. In fact, she was wearing so much that the various bits of jewellry clinked against each other and tinkled like a myriad of bells whenever she moved. She wore layer upon layer of tiered skirts in a bewildering patchwork of colours and textures. I felt sure she must be related to Madame Eclectica in some way.
She scanned me shrewdly as I carefully made my way into the shop. "Greetings Traveller. Welcome to my little world of literary chaos". How was it that everyone in this land seemed to know my name? "Hello" I said and "thank you. Please tell me, how do you know my name?" "I can read it in your face" was her slightly unnerving reply. "You have been travelling for quite a while now and your adventures are leaving indelible traces on your face but only the aware can read them". I was beginning to think she must be related to Madame Rosa, the fortune teller, as well as Baba Yaga and all the rest and to suspect some sort of conspiracy. Were they all one and the same person but appearing in different manifestations in the different places we went to? I think I might have to have a quiet word with the Enchantress when I can finally nail her down. She seems to be so elusive these days.
I explained about the jigsaw puzzle map and asked her if she had any books on cartography. She told me to go and look under a dusty aspidistra plant in the back of the shop. "Would you like a cup of herbal nonsense while you are looking around?" she enquired. I replied that I would be delighted to taste a cup of herbal nonsense. She disappeared out to the back of the shop. When she returned a little later, Madame Livia was carrying a tray with two cups of herbal nonsense on it and a plate of fairy cakes. When I went to take one, the fairy sitting on the top of the cake flew off leaving a trail of fairy dust in the form of multi-coloured hundreds and thousands sprinkled on the top of the cake.
The cake and the drink were delicious. "Do you know anything about White Owl island?" I enquired casually as I drained my cup of herbal nonsense. "Indeed I do. Why, would you be interested in visiting it?" I told her what my research had turned up and explained that I was fascinated by these old rituals and would very much like to meet the Magiratha if that could be arranged. She told me she would see what she could do.
I continued browsing through the shelves which contained many interesting volumes. I picked up a book of beautiful floral illustrations and hastily put it back again when a picture of nettles stung me where I had been foolish enough to touch the page. I was lost in contemplation of some of the illustrations in another book when she came bustling back into the shop. "It's all arranged" she beamed, "you can go to White Owl Island this afternoon. Alec will pick you up at the quay at 4 o'clock." I thanked her and headed off to the Duwamish Inn as I still hadn't checked in, which I thought I ought to do if I was likely to be out all night. The Innkeeper recognised me from my very brief previous visit and showed me to my room on the first floor in the turret from where I had a wonderful view over the harbour.
Shortly before 4 I picked up my swansdown cape and my little pouch and set off for the quay.
White Owl island
It turned out that Madame Livia had been in communication with the Enchantress while I was in her bookshop and, by some special arrangement between the Enchantress and the Magiratha, had managed to organise a trip for me to White Owl Island to meet the Magiratha. She had told me to be at the harbour at 4 o'clock and to look for a boat with a white owl painted on it. So here I was, punctual to the minute, looking around for the boat.
The little boat was easy to spot and I walked eagerly to the edge of the quay and announced my presence to the young fisherman in the boat. He told me his name was Alec and that he would take me out to the island. His mop of brown curly hair lifted slightly in the breeze and a huge smile lit his sun-burned face when he talked. I handed him 5 owlets - special coins with a picture of an owl on them - the price of my trip.
He pushed the boat away from the quay and we were off. I installed myself in the bow of the boat and wrapped my swansdown cape around me to keep me warm and dry. Although it had been warm enough on shore, now out at sea there was a distinct chill. The water was a deep blue with little crests of white. Tall cliffs loomed on our left and sea birds called to us as we passed.
We were in open water now and headed towards a small dot on the horizon. Alec increased the speed of the boat and we soon reached the cliffs of White Owl Island. He took the boat into a small cove with a small rocky quay at which he anchored and helped me to climb out of the boat. He told me to make my way up the cliff path and I would be met. He told me that he would be waiting for me when I returned.
I slowly walked up the path, not really knowing what to expect. I soon became aware of a whisper of wings in the air and looked up to see first one and then two and then three snowy owls hanging in the air above me. They greeted me with soft tuwit tuwhoos and their big yellow eyes gleamed like lamps in the now setting sun. As I neared the top of the path I could see the outline of a woman silhouetted against the sky.
She waited until I had reached the top and then took my hands in hers. "Welcome to White Owl island. I am here to take you to meet the Magiratha (or Owl as she is also known). Please come with me." By now the sun had gone down completely and the sky was lit with the most fabulous sunset.
Glow worms started to light up along our path and the moon slowly rose in the sky, a bright orange harvest moon. I hadn't realised until now that there would be a full moon this night. I could still hear the whisper of wings and knew that the owls were keeping us company. We were walking along a path of springy turf, which I guessed would be home to a multitude of rabbits by day. The sky was beginning to light up as the stars came out. It was going to be an exceptionally clear night. The woman's warm hand squeezed my own as she urged me on. My heartbeat quickened.
At length we came to an elevation with a single stone in the middle and a rowan tree. Four priestesses were waiting. After a short ceremony during which the stone wass annointed with honey and a star sapphire touched to my forehead I was led to the entrance of the labyrinth. I passed between the stones that form the entrance. I bore in my mind that a labyrinth is not a maze. It's more of a spiral. A journey with no false passages. No blind alleys. Walking in a maze we could be lost. Walking a spiral path requires only the knowledge that it is a path and not a maze. The road may curve. Directions may change. Sometimes we'll be walking the opposite direction for a while. After only a few minutes I emerged in the centre.
The White Owl was standing before me. I bowed before her holding my hands, palms upwards, towards her. The question I wished to ask her is hovering at the back of my mind. She said softly "I am a mirror to those who come through the winding way. I vow to be the sealer as well as the revealer. What is your question?"
"How can I make the most of this journey?" The owl gave me this blessing: "travel with your eyes and ears open. Listen to the wind. Be aware. Speak not only with your mouth but your heart. You will see much and you should spread the word of what you have experienced. Go in peace with the wind oh daughter".
I thanked her with all my heart and left her a handful of seed pearls in reconaissance. Unnoticed, the priestesses had followed me through the labyrinth and now led me out, along the turf path and back to the small stone jetty where Alec was waiting for me. As he took me back to Duwamish the sun was just rising, streaking the sky with crimson, pink and gold.
"I will go where the wild goose goes, on wings of joy, winging ever south to my heart's desire."