The woonchaj waited in a cave deep inside the big, gray mountain. It closed its eyes and felt for a signal—just like it had every day for the last 500 years. As much as part of the mountain as the animals and plants that lived there, it had been in this world for longer than it could remember.
A slight tremble of earth, soft steps of a hare, a whooshing wind through the pines. The forest was telling the same story it had every day. Deep, deep, deep into the core of the mountain, where even the woonchaj itself didn’t understand the strange connections between this world and another, a man screamed. The woonchaj sent a tendril of comfort to the man and the screams quieted.
The little girl loved to play in the woods but every time she went out, she had trouble finding her way back. Because of this, she never strayed far from home. The Spirit of the Woods loved to hear the girl’s sweet voice, singing her little songs she made about the birds and rocks and trees. When the girl stopped coming into the woods, it missed hearing her voice, so one day, when the girl was playing near the edge of the forest, the spirit came to find her. It said, “sweet girl, why don’t you play in the trees anymore?”
I grew up in the country. I used to pretend it wasn’t the country because I was worried people would think I was uncultured, a country mouse, or from “the sticks.” To my childhood friends, I would say, “we just live a little way out of town.” In my college years, I would just tell people I grew up in a small town in Minnesota, usually leaving out the part that it was not IN town.