The Moss Girl – a short story

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Moss on rocks by stream

Photo by Jon Sullivan

The Moss Girl gazed from the outcrop of rocks into the clearing where the stream sparkled and the silver birches laughed, swinging their silky green hair over the water. The beeches stood behind them, the tree cover thickening away from the glade. She felt the old stones beneath her, skeleton to her skin, heard the soft music of the sunlit air and the quiet awe of the people who wandered through, commenting on the beauty of the water, the trees, the flowers that danced through the grass. It saddened her;  she did not have the grace of the birches and their sisters, the ash or the colourful clothes of the starflowers and campion and buttercups. She lacked the musical voice of the flighted ones and the brilliance of the water which threw diamonds all around, the ancient stillness of the rocks and the old wisdom of the trees. The shimmering loveliness of the leaves beneath the radiance of the sun and moon was beyond her. She felt unseen amongst nature, unnoticed and unimportant.

She rose in the morning to join the dance with the tree sylphs, and they encouraged her, whirling around her and whispering ‘Well done, little sister.’ But they were taller and more elegant than she, light as air, and try as she might she could never keep up. She rose in the night to follow the naiads as they skipped and skated along the stream, and they called to her ‘Join us, little sister.’ But they were quicker and stronger than she, streamlined and sleek in the water, and she was always left behind.

One night, when the moon was full and the glade gleamed softly in the light, it became too much for the Moss Girl. She knelt bereft by the brook, watching the naiads leaping from the silvered surface and the sylphs gliding amongst the tree trunks, salt tears slipping down her face into the water and onto the ground. The naiads came to her and said ‘Don’t weep, little sister, for your tears will turn our stream into sea and we will have to leave.’ The sylphs came to her and said ‘Don’t weep, little sister, for your tears will salt the earth and our trees will not grow and we will have to leave.’ So the Moss Girl returned to her place and curled up into a ball and wept onto the rocks where she would cause no harm.

Eventually, she became aware of movement, a shifting and creaking and grinding behind her. She sat up quickly, unsure of what was happening. The surface of the stone rippled and tore; a figure began to emerge, pulling out of the very rock itself. Stillness fell over the glade – the naiads came to rest at the edge of the stream and the sylphs returned to stand silently beside their trees. The Moss Girl drew herself into the smallest space she could, all but disappearing into her soft green dress.

The figure shook herself loose from the outcrop and moved forward, stretching. The Moss Girl hid her face, recognising the power of a most ancient spirit. The Stone Mother rarely appeared in person – she, like the others of her kind, was usually there as a presence only. For her to corporealise indicated something of great importance and the Moss Girl wanted to stay out of the way. So she was surprised when she felt a hand on her head, stroking her soft green hair.

‘Why are you crying, little one?’ The voice was deep and resonant, felt through the bones of the earth.
‘Oh Mother, it is nothing important,’ said the Moss Girl, horrified that she had taken the Mother’s attention away from her duties.
‘It is important,’ the Stone Mother disagreed. ‘When one of us weeps as you are now, it affects us all.’
‘But I have no worth,’ said the Moss Girl. ‘I am plain, not beautiful like the flowers, and clumsy, not graceful like the trees, and dull, not brilliant like the naiads. I help no one, I please no one. I…’
The Stone Mother took the Moss Girl’s face in her hands.
‘Everyone and everything has its worth, child, but it should not be measured against others. You look out and see the beauty in all around you, but you have forgotten how to see it in yourself. That is why I am here – to remind you of what you truly are. Look into my eyes and you’ll see what I see.’

The Moss Girl did as she was told and looked into the Stone Mother’s dark eyes. There were pictures forming and she saw herself cushioning the rocks, the sunlight illuminating her in every glorious shade of green. She saw the many tiny creatures that made their home amongst the roots that she sent down, the birds taking bits of her loose hair to line nests ready for their young and people wandering through,  reaching out to touch her appreciatively or sitting to rest cocooned in her softness.
The Moss Girl’s tears dried and she began to smile.
‘You see now, my daughter,’ the Stone Mother said. ‘We all have our place and our importance, from the greatest tree to the tiniest insect, from the most colourful butterfly to the plainest blade of grass. Never forget that you are a part of the great cycle; there is never a need to doubt yourself.’
‘Thank you, Mother. I will always remember,’ the Moss Girl replied.
The Stone Mother returned her smile. Then she cast that smile to all in the glade before returning to the rocks from whence she had come. Moments later, it was as if she had never been there at all.
Yet the Moss Girl was forever changed. No longer feeling unworthy and second-best, she danced her own dance with the naiads and the sylphs from then on.


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