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Archive for December, 2012

It was the last night of the year, and three friends lay on on their backs not far from a large oak tree at the top of a dark hill, under millions of sparkling stars, overlooking a mysterious, dark valley. The girls listened intently as the boy pointed out all his favourite stars in his favourite constellation, Orion. He was as magical as he had ever been, and now he took it upon himself to give names to the prettiest stars he could see.

“Just to the left of that bright star there,” he pointed, “is the most beautiful star in all the galaxy. It is called ‘Rose’s Heart Light’.” His face beamed brighter than the moon above them. He loved declaring the names of the stars he had chosen so carefully in honour of his friends, and the rose-cheeked girl in the short red dress on his left snuggled a little closer into his side, resting her pretty head against the shoulder of his long blue coat.

“And that tiny, faint flicker you can see right there,” he said, pointing again like a tour guide to the heavens, “is a little known star called ‘The Lamplighter and The Little Fox.’ His little friend in pink overalls on his right beamed a blissful trail of smiling starlight back to the subtle star that she somehow felt was all her own. The white haired boy had been the one to nickname her The Little Fox, and maybe one day – she hoped – she would find someone to share her star with – a handsome lamplighter of her very own.

“Hasn’t it been a magical year?” she sighed, and her friends murmured their agreement. “I almost can’t believe how much we have done and how far we have come.” Her mind wandered (as it was always permitted and prone to do in the presence of her most special friends) back to the very start of their journey together. She replayed again the crisp memory of herself walking day after day alone in the quiet forest, meandering along its wide pine-needle strewn paths, searching for exotic butterflies and other unforeseen treasures.

Then one day, a most unforeseen treasure had appeared on the path right in front of her, as if transported into her life by a magical breeze. She had always thought of this windy path – and indeed, of the entire forest – as being entirely her own. She had never encountered another soul along this road before. But now here was another Child – a boy with bright white hair, a little older than herself – kneeling at the path’s edge, staring intently at something very, very small indeed. “What have you found?” the girl in pink overalls asked, feeling without doubt that curiosity was the only invitation needed to make herself known to him.

“Can’t you see it?” he asked, without even looking in her direction. “I can’t,” she confessed with disappointment, moving closer, but still not seeing whatever it was that transfixed him. “You’re looking with the wrong kind of eyes,” he breathed without shadow of doubt, in little more than a whisper. “Try to see through mine.” When he turned his head towards her, she began to see what he saw and felt herself falling headlong down a deep magical tunnel – past a hundred faeries, a thousand butterflies, a million bright red, yellow, pink and blue flowers, all dancing and swirling like tiny fireworks around and along endless narrow beams of radiant golden sunlight. “Now I see,” she told him, “And I think I understand.” And the intense power of the smile he flashed her in return made her wonder if she was the first person to ever have seen and understood the things he now revealed to her.

Returning to the present, she curled herself up to sit on the grass and looked towards her best friend under the bright night sky of New Year’s Eve – for best friends they had indeed become. Her voice was gentler than the evening breeze as she gifted to him her most grateful smile. “You have shown me where true magic lies and have taught me more than I still can ever know. You have taken me with you where once you walked alone. What adventures we have had along the way!” She saw his eyes brighten, then hint at a tear, at all the treasured memories they had built together throughout the year. “I wouldn’t trade them for all the stars in Orion,” he told her, and she knew his words were true. “Me either,” she smiled, “I don’t think I would trade your friendship for anything in the world.” The pair exchanged a happy hug, and the boy rose to his feet. “I’m going for a quick walk,” he told the girls. He turned his back and made his way slightly down the far side of the hill so his two friends might not see the tiny pool of tears he felt needed to be released.

“He’s wonderful,” the girl in pink overalls told her beautiful friend in the red dress, whose eyes glowed and flickered like the stars themselves. “Thank you for letting him be my friend,” she said, touching the girl’s arm gently. “It hasn’t always been easy,” her friend replied with equal gentleness, “Sometimes I found it hard to understand your magic.” The girl in pink nodded, her eyes scanning the constellations to try to fix her star again. “Sometimes I find it hard to understand it myself. But he brings it out in me. And you do too.” The girl in the red dress smiled a slow, wistful smile. “Little by little, I’ve understood things as they truly are a bit more clearly. You two … belong.” The girl in pink shook her head as the night breeze blew gentle waves through the shivery grass that blanketed the dark hilltop.

“No – we three belong. It has been a long journey, and there have been many fears and tears along the way. But look, my friend, at how much we have grown and how close we have all become. We three are all so very different, yet we have become so uniquely bonded. As this year draws to a close, I will make no resolutions. But as surely as our stars hang in the constellation of Orion, I would like to ask of you a New Year’s Request.” Her beautiful friend sighed and smiled at her sincerity. Where once fear would have washed over her and a certain kind of hesitation would have clouded the twinkle in her eyes, she had grown to know that any request would be one guided by love and wisdom. So she opened the door of her kind heart to the fullest extent of its rose-engraved hinge. “Ask me,” she said, knowing that she would find the courage and strength to grant any request her friend would be bold enough to make.

“As the new year begins,” the girl with the pink cheeks began, “let’s move forward with only love. Perfect love casts out all fear. The things you once feared shall never come to pass, just as those stars will forever be fixed into Orion’s Belt, and those other stars,” she pointed, “will be fixed into his bow. So please do not live one more breath in the shadow of a fear that can never grow to substance. My friendship with him is strong, but my love for you is equally strong. It is the love of a Child for her two very best friends in all the world and nothing more. And nothing less. It is a love for fun and words and adventures and all the priceless treasures and moments that only the deepest and strongest friendships can hope to bring.”

She paused to be certain her friend understood, looking deeply into eyes. “This is my request. Please do not live another moment in the shadows of what will never pass. Instead, live fully, wholly, completely in the light of all the magic that our friendship with each other and with the white-haired boy promises to us all. As we walk back down that path and into the new year’s dawn, please promise me that our arms will link and that this link will never, ever be broken. On our own, each one of us is frail and weak, but with our arms linked, our strength is deeper than any ocean, taller than any tree, higher than any star.”

The ruby eyes of the girl in red sparkled with all the certainty she had longed to fill her until now. All fear had been dispelled forever by her friend’s request, and the bright lights of the night sky cast away all the shadows that had once filled the corners of her heart. Then the night grew so intensely bright that she knew the light could no longer be coming from the stars alone. Both girls turned their heads, their eyes filling with wonder at the enormous full moon that seemed to fill the entire sky behind the hilltop, not the bright white they expected, but glowing a luminous orange, pink, red. And against the dazzling celestial orb, they could see the silhouette of the white haired boy, his arms stretched wide towards the dark sky. A magical breeze blew his long blue coat high to outline the elongated wings of some mythic dragonfly. Glittery butterflies poured like a paper rainbows from his pockets, glistening and floating, then dissolving like balloons released from the tiny hands of children into the moon’s magic light.

The boy was lost in his magic, his eyes following each butterfly high into the night sky with awe as it seemed to take its place as a shining new star in Orion’s Belt. The two girls were transfixed by the sight. When the last butterfly finally emerged and fluttered its way slowly towards the heavens, a stillness fell upon the hilltop, and the boy’s eyes returned to the earth and gazed with delight into the eyes of his friends. “That was beautiful!’ the girl in pink exclaimed. “I wish it didn’t have to end,” sighed the girl in the red dress. “You don’t understand,” the boy beamed with a smile more radiant than the massive moon behind him. “As one year closes, another starts. This is just the beginning!” Both girls’ eyes sparkled widely, as they realised the boy in the vibrant blue coat must surely have yet another one of his extraordinary surprises almost ready for them both.

An expectant pause filled the last few moments of the old year, and a trail of beautiful memories from the year that had passed flashed like fireflies before the bright eyes of the three children. This had truly been a year that had grown and stretched them all, and one that would change their lives forever. As they counted down the final seconds, the friendship that bound them now began to pound powerfully in their chests, filling them with love and courage and strength like never before. Reaching out for each other’s hands, they counted down to the new year’s dawn. Three – three friends bound with the strongest cord. Two – two best friends for each of them forever. One – one extraordinary friendship that would sustain them all for the rest of their lives.

And on the count of ‘One”, they each caught their breaths, and the girls’ eyes followed those of the boy back up to the butterflies that had all dissolved like faint glittering jewels on Orion’s Belt. Now there was an explosion of sound and colour as each jewel suddenly burst from the constellation, showering down in a stream of sparkling ribbons – blue, red, pink – past the huge gold orb of the massive full moon. “I am little, but I am strong,” declared the boy, “And my magic can turn butterflies into fireworks,” as his laughter sent more and more bright stars, transformed again into glittery butterflies, shooting down from Orion’s Belt with long, sparkling streamers behind them. The girl with eyes like rubies handcut to sparkle like diamonds declared boldly to her friends, “I was afraid, but now I am filled to the brim of my cup with love and joy and courage. This year I will become all that I was destined to be.” Their little friend in the pink overalls squealed with delight and put her arms around them both.

“I was such a lonely Child. I don’t know how you two found me, but please don’t ever lose me again”,” she whispered, a happy tear threatening to roll from her enormous blue eyes down onto her pale pink cheek. “You are the two best friends I have ever known in my life. Happy New Year, my dearest treasures. May the coming year be filled to overflowing with laughter and adventure and smiles that pour from three hearts that are fuller than the ocean.” And while the myriad of the brightest butterflies whizzing past the massive moon was an extraordinary sight to behold, the three Children all knew a much better place from which to witness the magical way they burst again and again from Orion’s Belt, transforming from faint silver stars into bright explosions and streaming fountains of dazzling colour. Instinctively, they linked their arms, the girl in pink in the middle with her precious friends on either side. Without another word, each one knew that the time had come to welcome in an even more magical New Year – from the tall, sturdy boughs of their beloved Friendship Tree.

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Thought: What Is Life

As I sat upon the wooden pier, with the waves gently rolling below, the water slapping against the pylons with a cautious splash and I let my imagination run to what lay beneath. The smell of the sea air cleared my senses and the weathered timber boards of the pier, grey from the years of being washed by the salt water creaked in an uneasy fashion, as though begging me to immerse myself in the cool clear water that I was staring into. I was here, yet I was not. It was as though I and what was around me were part of a distant memory with my spirit now resting where it felt so at ease within my body not long ago.

I remember the many moments in my life, but of them all the time that I came face to face with a Cuttlefish stands above all else. The size of a small watermelon, with its body connected but at the same time separate to its headwith eight short tentacles like tiny fingers reaching out to hold onto what ever may come before it. When we came face to face I we stopped and stared ever so quietly and it was as though there was a connection that is usually not found between man and animal. Hidden amongst the weed, its shape was twisted and transformed to blend it in to the weed which would help protect it from anything that my try to harm. As it lay there, it was as if it sensed my good intention, and as it gently moved from where it was hidden, moving slowly forward, at the same time swaying in the slight surge of water, carrying it forward, and then backwards, an almost hypnotic to see.

As it became comfortable with my presence it moved as if to meet me, and as I moved to it we stopped ever short of touch, its large eyes, clear as glass with pupils like letterbox slits staring at its own reflection inquisitively. By now its shape had become smooth and its color was a olive brown, somewhat matching the nearby weed colors. I watched it for what seemed like a lifetime and gradually we danced to a silent tune, a tune that played within my head like gentle panpipes. Its only movement now was the soft flexible skirt that waved around its body as if blowing in the breeze, allowing it to spin and move in all directions. After a while it raised two tentacles as if to shake hands and I reached out slowly with my hand. We touched ever so gently and it was as though I was thinking its thoughts. Then as if by magic, its colors began to change. It gradually became a lighter tone to match the sand and some strands of weed nearby, the color moved across its body like waves of light radiating out from where its heart may be, almost like a concert lightshow, put on just for me. My friend watched on with a huge smile upon her face.

Then the creature slowly moved away, raising two tentacles, as if to wave goodbye, a touch of sadness washed over me. Today I had made a new friend, but then in a moment, we may never meet again. What would become, what would someone else do, would they show the same respect as I and would they be greeted as I was so lucky to be? I would never know and as I look along the pier with its weathered creaking boards at the many fishermen that stand along its edge, I wonder.

Today I shared a life, I reached out and shared a thought. For a fleeting moment I held a little hope of what could be, that man and animal could show the same respect to one another. That a friend and the bond they share can go beyond anything most people would ever come to know. Will one of the most intelligent creatures of the sea live to an old age as I would like to do? I can only hope and dream, but I shall never know. One day, we may meet again and I hope that something deep inside, that something that bound us for the fleeting moment on that day will stir once more.

The life we lead and paths we choose,

They lay in our control.

The thoughts we think as we reach out,

Can still be shared with all.

The chance connect that we can make,

Two minds that join as one.

All it needs is your belief,

When all is said and done.

Life is precious, life is dear,

We hold it in our hands.

Give to life don’t take away,

With every chance you can.

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There are times when you just get lost in all that happens. Life seems to pass you by at a hundred miles an hour and gives you little time to truly experience all that is good and sometimes all that is bad seems to fall before you.

Today was one of those days and he was searching so hard for what was missing. The Friendship Tree was looking magnificent today, with its branches thick with leaves. Much like his blue coat, but in a glorious green hue. As he stood atop the cliff with the wind blowing strong, his coat tails flapped behind him like a cape or the wings of a large butterfly. There was a wisp of cloud in the sky with shapes that as always stirred his imagination. He gazed around, in part looking at the beauty before him, whilst at the same time looking for a familiar pair of faces. These faces could not be seen, and had not been seen for several days.

He smiled as best he could and then quietly walked along the path in the Magic Forest, meandering as it did through groves of trees, past small clearings where the faeries and elves danced at night to the mystical music that often played. Other than the breeze that blew through the trees playing a gentle song as if from the smallest flute, and the whistling of the tiniest birds as they fly from branch to branch searching for food or small ornaments with which they would adorn their nests, there was nothing. All the other creatures were hidden from view, nowhere to be seen, and this made him think about his friends again.

When he reached the largest clearing, he sat in the middle next to the statue that the forest dwellers had made in this honour, and looking around he saw the other faces of his eight dearest friends. Next to the statue of his beloved Rose with her radiant smile and sparkling eyes stood his other friend, the girl with the pink bows in her hair and the gleaming wide smile. He shed a little tear, then after a while, a smile returned to his face, because he was so thankful that he had come to know them at all, which had been wonderful in itself. He thought quietly to himself, and as always a feeling spread across his very open mind. It was a connection on a different level to that he shared with his other friends, like he could sense them near by. He ran to edge of the forest and stared across the field of flowers.

A dragonfly hovered before him, as if looking into his eyes, his soul, then as if guiding him, it darted across the field to the Tree that stood alone in the distance. For a brief moment he saw the glint of light, a flash of red and pink through the leaves of the tree. Was it the flash off a ladybug’s wings or the glittery reflection off some random butterfly? Could it be his friends he longed to see? He ran as fast as he could. Not along the usual path, but now through the flowers, legs flying as fast as they could carry him as if floating, scattering butterflies and ladybugs as he went.

When he reached the Tree, he could hear familiar voices echoing softly, high in the branches. Then peering down, he could see two smiling faces staring back at him, smiling widely at his presence. “Come sit with us,” a voice called out in innocent excitement. “Yes please, come tell us a story; we love your stories.” He jumped to grab the lowest branch and swung like a monkey. Pulling himself up and with his strength and agility, he was quickly in the place where they sat in no time at all. He smiled joyously and gave a little giggle. “I was so worried – I thought you had gone. All this time, you were waiting here for me.” He went to the Book of Dreams and returned with it in his little hands. He opened its dusty cover to reveal its pages nearly full from all the words they had already written with memories so deep. He thought momentarily and then filled it with these words, reading as he wrote them.

When you think that friends are lost in time,

When memories seem to fade

Look beyond the thoughts you think,

Look to distant memories made.

Together we have shared our lives,

A part held in our minds.

A smile brought to a lonely face,

When there’s nothing else to find.

A bond so true unbroken,

Which sits so deep and strong.

With a Friendship Tree so tall and wide,

Friendships will live on.

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Lying silently in the frosty night air, with ice covering me in a thin layer that binds me to where I am, I think of where I have been and what I have seen. There are many thoughts, each with its own story, but then nothing that is more important than the next. I can just manage to see the many stars fixed in the sky above with its dark veil gradually turning a blue hue as the sun begins to show itself for another day. The sky is dotted with a few clouds so as to reflect the beautiful colours that it will exude as it climbs beyond the horizon. Lighting them in pinks and reds as if to say, ‘here I come, ready or not,’ like a child playing a game of hide and seek. The light gradually paints the land with a warm glow, moving like a gentle wave upon the ocean of life. As it falls upon my body, the ice gradually melts leaving me free to move. Breaking me free from all that held me fixed within this world. My colours blue and green, reflecting, sparkling in the sun, with my wings clear yet at the same time coloured like rainbows.

I am old, yet I am young, my life is near its end and as I watch the three children play nearby I long to enjoy the time that they have been afforded. Now, as the warm blood flows through my body, I am ready to fly. Leaving where I spent the night, I follow the three children through the Magic Forest with the dappled light touching toad stools and fallen leaves of gold and brown that carpet the earth. Darting here and there, changing direction rapidly, never remaining still for too long and always looking for something new. I feel I am much like they are in some ways, exploring, but then I am very tired. I land to catch my breath, knowing that I will catch up in a moment, because I am small, but I am certainly fast and strong. As I follow them from the forest into the field, the colours of the daisies begin to glow and my heart warms at the thought of all I have come to know in my short existence. There is much that I have learned, yet I feel that there is more that I have taught. Butterflies and Ladybugs scatter as the children run to and fro, laughing and giggling as they do, stopping to explore closer a new find, with their lives seeming lost in a gay abandon with not a care in the world, yet here I am becoming wearier still.

As they run towards a special place, a secret place where a single statue stands as testament to something that will be clung to for a lifetime, I dart ahead. I alight on the pages of a book with a Pink Ladybug sitting upon it lifeless yet full of meaning. Like the story of what has been, or the dreams of what may become it reflects the light from sparkling diamonds as if brought to life. I am now close to my end, and as the children enter this place, the white haired boy sees me sitting quietly near. His eyes sparkle with kindness as he sees beyond the body, old and worn and stares at the beauty of my colours, knowing my strength and agility which he longs to hold inside. Slowly he moves towards me and places a hand as if to comfort me, then ever so gently lifts me up. He too is small but he is strong and I feel as if I am a part of him and him a part of me. It is as though his mind is in mine, as though he sees what others fail to see, the deepest thoughts laid bare so only he can understand what no other can. There is one last thing I must now do and I sigh as I take my last gentle breath, and my heart slows to stop with my spirit leaving my body, where I see the boy with tear in his eye give me one final touch as if to say ‘Goodbye my friend.’ With his two friends, the girl with the red dress and ruby lips, and the girl with pink bows in her hair and wide sparkling eyes now standing close and feeling his sadness, he places my lifeless body once more on the pages of the book so that I may again become a part of the story, his life for all to see. Then as he steps back, my spirit joins his so that one day he may fly, and that I may live on forever, giving his gentle soul the strength that I once possessed.

His time will come and when it does he will take with him, the part of me that he now holds inside. He will have much to learn, much more to teach and his kindness will touch many. And I know that though my lifeless body may turn to dust, to be forgotten by most, I will always be sure that there will be three children that for one fleeting moment entered my short life and will remember this moment and I know that I will have played a part in what becomes.

 

Life’s little miracles and meetings chanced,

That children see with a fleeting glance.

Remembered always in childlike minds,

Tucked deep inside where hearts can find.

 

Holding close the memory lasts,

Of all the things that comes to pass.

And as we close life’s open book,

We reach again for one last look.

 

Remembering when a tear was shed,

For a passing soul that did rest its head.

Upon the pages true and strong,

Of the Book of Dreams for everyone.

 

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Consider the year that has just been,
Reflecting on all that you’ve seen.
What have you learned from all you’ve done?
Reflect on all you have become.

The hardest lessons sometimes are
The ones that left you with a scar.
They hurt you deep and caused you pain
You know you’ll never be the same.

Reflect on all that you now know,
What you may keep or must let go.
Remember what you’ve gained and lost,
Relive the joys, lament the cost.

Those things that beat you down are past –
You’ll rise again, so strong at last.
A new year brings new wings to rise
Above the old year’s sad demise.

And as this year draws to its close
Reflect on how it’s helped you grow.
Its lessons near ripped you apart
But in the end strengthened your heart.

Though you feel lost, you’ll find your way
To navigate the brand new day
And all the brand new days to come
For life’s next stage has just begun.

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Christmas lunch is finished, and after an indulgence-induced nap, several of our party decide to take three dogs – my beloved Golden Twins and one rather portly King Charles Cavalier – for a drive to walk along Flinders Beach. Usually, I am diving under this beach’s ancient wooden pier, making photographs of weedy sea dragons, small schools of fish and the occasional nudibranch or eagle ray. Now I find myself walking along the shore in a flowing pink dress and my best pair of heeled shoes, entirely inappropriate for such spontaneity. I remove the shoes and feel myself sink slightly into the weed-strewn sand as it presses into my soft bare soles.

Three men – my boyfriend, along with his brother and his brother’s friend – are some way ahead of me, hurling tennis balls far into the ocean for the boldest dog to retrieve. They move further and further ahead of me down the shore, and I am quietly delighted by the slowness of their pace. Steadily, I’ve begun to focus my attention on collecting shiny specimens from the hundreds of tiny shells washed up on the shore, some rocking and spinning with the tide’s ebb and flow in the shallows. I know I will need many minutes – and possibly several fixated hours – to sort and sift through them all. This ocean is the quintessential Australian Christmas tree, the late afternoon sun bouncing and glistening across the water’s surface like fairy lights gleaming off garlands of blue and silver tinsel. A thin veil of the smallest shells sparkling in the water, then just beyond its lapping reach, is now a sand-bottomed box of bright, festive baubles, each more fragile than glass.

I am absorbed, filling my hands – then my pockets – with shells no bigger than my smallest fingernail. Many are as common as snail shells – cream, green and orange. Others are small, elongated cones, covered tip to tip in tiny brown checkerboards. Of course, the shells I am searching for against all hope are any shade of pink. While a few shells offer the smallest flecks of the coveted hue, so far only one, now buried amongst fifty or sixty others deep within my pocket, has caused the pink heart within me to pulse with delight.

When I glance up again quickly, the men and dogs have become little more than slow moving specks on the long expanse of sand, and after a few more steps, I find myself much relieved by their distance. I have stumbled upon an unexpected trove, a concentration of tiny treasures right at the water’s edge – literally thousands of them. I determine to work my way eagerly through this richly bejewelled tapestry of sand until the moment the men and dogs return. My eyes are dazzled by the pearlescent rainbow of tiny shell beads. My hands cannot move quickly enough to feel them all as the cool water washes over them: sharp, smooth, spiralled, flat, perfectly round, halves clasped together like fragile hearts, a jewellery maker’s drawer of bright beads spilled out onto a sandy workshop floor. Far too many shells to search through on my own to find the ones that will delight me the most – and soon there’s a dog pressing its wet nose against my hand. The men have almost returned.

“Time to head back,” my beloved commands across the sand. Such are the subtle moments that threaten to destroy the soul. “But look at all these shells! I could honestly do this for hours.” And as all three men have now returned within a few steps of where I crouch barefoot in the shallows, I extend myself to buy more time to secure more of the most precious tiny ornaments. “Before we head in, would you please each find me one special shell as a final Christmas gift?” Sensing they will not get me back to the car before obliging my request, three new sets of eyes turn towards the sand and the next stage of the treasure hunt begins. “Do you have this one?” my boyfriend asks, tendering a green snail shell. “Yes, but I wanted another.” He heads off again in search of something unique and he finds it – a sharp, narrow shell like a long pearly fingernail.

“Here’s a nice brown one,” his brother declares. He is not in the mood for shells. His quickly chosen offering matches ten or eleven already in my pocket. There is nothing inspiring about it at all, but I thank him for his gift. By now, the third man has retreated far down the beach. He bends every few steps to select yet another sun-kissed gem. His large hands full, he reluctantly turns to walk the treasure-littered expanse of sand back in my direction. “Do I have to pick just one? I’ve found so many!” And not content to just pour his collection into my waiting hands, he goes through maybe ten or fifteen or twenty tiny jewels, one by one. “Look at this one – it’s magnificent! The colours on that one are just outstanding. These checkerboard shells look hand-painted. And some of these could almost be pearls.” His delight delights me more than any of the shells he is now describing with the most intense child-like wonder.

It’s getting late and, while the slowly setting sun evokes sadness that the hunt for Christmas shells must draw to a close, my pockets and hands are full to overflowing. Three wet dogs pant beside me as we make our way back to the car. How long since I have gathered shells as though there was nothing more blissful to do in all the world? How long since I have walked barefoot along a stretch of sand without so much as wondering what treasures might lie deep in the water underneath the adjacent pier? To my surprise, I cannot remember doing either of these things – any time at all – in my adult life. My most recent memory of such pleasure is of myself as a child, wearing pink shorts and a straw hat too big for my head, in awe at discovering the large spiralled shell of a paper nautilus, peeking like an enormous pearl from under a piece of driftwood. Now as I empty hundreds of tiny shells from my pockets into a small cloth bag, I promise that I shall return like a child to this magical stretch of sand to collect more tiny, shiny treasures. Soon.

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The girl in pink pyjamas woke up on Christmas morning and wondered to herself ‘Was last night real, or just a delicious dream?’ Her friend, the white haired boy, had promised her and the girl in the red dress and sparkly red shoes a magical evening, and most magical it had been indeed. The girl in red had prepared an amazing meal and a story had been told, full of flying dogs and statues carved and lady bugs and butterflies and too many other wondrous things to remember in that early haze between asleep and awake.

She loved the words that replayed in her mind, and the memory of skipping hand-in-hand with the girl in the red dress out to the secret garden for the exquisite final surprise to be revealed. So many beautiful gifts had been received, and each one would take its place in her life as a constant reminder of the friendships that had been formed throughout the closing year.

But what the sleepy girl in pink pyjamas had loved the very most was hearing the story through a second time, soaking in each line exactly as it was written to be delivered by its author. She had been so excited and nervous when she had read it aloud the first time, that she had got the giggles every now and then and missed some of the most beautiful details. But hearing the boy in the long blue coat read the words he had polished again and again over the preceding weeks out loud – now knowing what surprises the story would unveil – was like icing on the Christmas cake.

She knew that she had no words that would ever be worthy of the gift of words he had given in the story he’d written and in the beautiful letter in which he’d reflected on their truly magical friendship. So in return she had given him a treasure from when she was small – a book that spoke of a magical faraway tree. As a child, her small hands had turned its large colourful pages again and again. She had escaped the trials and terrors of her early years by climbing into this book and up into its branches as one of the three child characters she had read about. Their adventures had become her own. And now it was all blissfully real and all delightfully true. The characters in that book had come to life, and she was truly one of them. She had presented her treasured gift to him and spoken these words:

“When you hold this book in your hands, you hold in your hands the Child I once was, the Child I longed to be and the Child I have truly become. Its characters have come to life and you are one of them, as am I, as is the beautiful girl with the sparkling ruby eyes. See? That’s us all on the front cover, high in the boughs of the Magic Faraway Tree – the one we have come to know as The Friendship Tree. This book has been one of my most treasured treasures, but now I give it to you in exchange for the magic of your friendship and the story you have written for the girl in red and for me this night. May you treasure it always, knowing that even as I give it away, the Child in me is truly complete.”

The girl in the pink pyjamas sighed at all the memories of the night before, and at all the memories of the year leading up to this night. And an enormous smile spread across her face at the thought of her two best friends in all the world, waking up not too far away to all the beautiful gifts they would give one another and to others in their lives who every day brought them tremendous joy. And she thought of the many, many gifts the white haired boy had wrapped and had delivered to children he didn’t even know, and her bright smile grew broader still. It was Christmas morning, and the joy had spread so far and wide, even through the branches of the Friendship Tree to those reading these very words right at this very moment.

Langley and I would like to wish a very merry Christmas to all our friends who sit on nearby branches. May love, light, joy and friendship saturate your souls on this blessed, magical day. Thank you for being our friends too and for finding delight in the words we write. May the true magic of Christmas morning touch your hearts and transform your lives.

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