It was a bitingly cold but beautiful day. The kind where a thousand silent, white stars gasped at night, heralding the first blush-pink sunshine.
Oisin stepped outside of his hut. His feet crunched in the crisp snow as he made his way deeper into the forest. He always found peace here, away from the village gossips. All that muttering with mouths like knots. He couldn’t stand it!
Soon, he was deep amongst the pine trees where the sun rarely shines. Suddenly he heard a cry of distress. Ahead, he could make out the shape of a hare, curled up in a shallow nest. Its back leg was bleeding. ‘Poor creature’, he thought.
The hare blinked, allowing him to cradle her hind leg in his own calloused hand. She had been wounded by an arrow. He shook his head, hating that the contemptuous, red-faced men of the village hunted for sport.
He tried to calm his mind, so that he could recall his Mother’s words about the healing properties of the land. Remembering that he had just passed a silver birch tree, he quickly climbed back up the bank. There she was, ermine -white and still. He collected some of the lichened moss that had fallen at her feet, then touched her bark in thanks.
He hurried back to the hare who had fallen gravely quiet. He gently wrapped the poultice around her leg and murmured a healing chant that his Mother had taught him. The wind whispered back. The hare’s gaze softened, and he found more twigs and dry leaves to shelter her. He decided to return again at night to check on her.
Back home, the hut felt colder than the forest, despite the heat of the fire. Heart sore and unable to rest, he watched the flames and thought that he saw Aoife’s face, dark and full of shadows. He had met her back when the sun was high in the sky, and he had loved the curve of her impervious smile. But, she had ended their relationship with words that rained down on him like knives.
That night, he made his way back to the clearing. Anxiously he searched around, but he couldn’t find the hare. He looked up at the moon, draping her silvery gown all over the forest.
Suddenly, he saw her, standing on her hind legs. Then, before his startled eyes, he saw her shift shape, as quickly as shadows pass us by. He stared in wonder as an enchanting woman stood before him, dressed in pale blue robes.
He thought that he was dreaming, as she stepped forward. This must be the White Art that his Mother often spoke of.
“Oisin, may the stars bless you. You know the loneliness of the night, and yet you helped me. I bring a new beginning for you”.
She held out a small vial of green liquid. “Drink this and your heart will be mended”.
He swallowed the potion, hearing his Mother’s voice encouraging him. When he looked up, she had vanished. He returned to his hut and slept soundly, untroubled by ghosts.
When he woke, he felt lighter and Aoife was but a flicker in his heart.