Chip and the Book of Rose Leaves: Installment Four

Here we go on the next installment! I had a blast writing it, and I hope you enjoy it, too!

*

Speaking of places untold, Chip halted just outside of Romulus’ burrow, faced with the uncomfortable realization that he hadn’t the slightest idea where to begin his search for Abaline. But that couldn’t daunt him for long, and quick as a blink, Chip was across the clearing and sneaking into his home.

Some foodstuffs were hurriedly placed in a satchel gifted to him by Romulus, and then Chip returned to the clearing, lifting his quivering nose to breathe in the crisp night air.

A sudden breeze swept softly around and behind Chip, rustling his fur as it carried on its unhurried way, seeming to beckon Chip to follow.

Naturally, he did, and all that was familiar was left behind to wait for his return.

Moonlight illuminated Chip’s way through the forest, and his heart fluttered a little less for the way it kept the darkness from making monsters appear in familiar places.

He travelled some distance before he caught a whiff of flowers and wandered a little ways from the path to satisfy his curiosity and rumbling stomach. The food in his satchel would keep long enough for him to enjoy this scrumptious treat.

Sure enough, a clump of wildflowers waited for the young rabbit just beyond a towering oak, and Chip sat in the midst of their perfume for several minutes, happily munching away.

Satisfied now, he stayed where he was, enjoying the sheltering feel of tall grass and leafy blooms. There was one gathering of wildflowers that he had refused to munch on. The delicately unfurling petals ranged from richest purple to palest butter yellow.

They seemed to glitter in the starlight, and Chip was too enchanted to spoil the sight by eating them.

It was a much-treasured moment of peace until the shadow passed over him.

His whole body went rigid, poised to bound away to safety if he needed to. The whole forest went quiet and still; even the moonlight seemed to shine a little less brilliantly in suspense.

Chip could see nothing, and the shadow seemed to have passed. He was just feeling brave enough to go in search of better shelter when an immense, winged figure landed in front of him and blocked his escape.

Fear left him frozen, but no sooner had terror gripped him than a familiar voice spoke. “Must you travel so confounded fast, young Chip? Really! And without a word of thanks for putting the notion of Abaline into your head… however incidentally,” Nesbit said with an indignant sniff.

“Oh, Nesbit,” Chip cried in relief, “I’ve never been so happy to see you!”

The owl arched his brow, trying to decide whether he should feel flattered or insulted. “Yes, well, never mind that,” he hastily replied. “I gather that Romulus Took has been spinning his usual tales. If you’d only woken me, I could have spared you all that time.”

“How?” Chip asked, almost before Nesbit was finished speaking.

But the great owl was in a generous mood and said nothing. “Romulus’ stories are all well and good, but he certainly cannot tell you the road to take, whereas I,” he said with a satisfied ruffling of his feathers, “can show you.”

Chip felt a thrill of excitement rush through him, but still, he frowned, thinking back to the story he’d been told. “Romulus said his Aunt Leah found the treasure in a forest a long ways from here. Have you been there?”

Nesbit smiled. “I think you’ll find her meaning was different from what you might expect.”

Chip opened his mouth to speak, but Nesbit, wisely anticipating a barrage of questions, held up a wing to stop the inquisitive little character. “Now, if you can quell your excitement for a time, I’ll take you back to my tree, and we’ll get you on your way.”

“Go back home? But that’s not what Leah said at all! She said –.”

“Yes, so you said. But wonder’s tucked into all sorts of corners in this world, young Chip. Now, will you believe me long enough so that I can show you?”

Uncertain though he was, Chip knew the only thing for it was to follow, so off he went, running beneath Nesbit’s shadow through the night.

It was a short time later when they arrived at the familiar clearing. Chip looked around carefully before passing the last line of trees, making sure that no one was stirring.

Only one person was watching, but Chip failed to see her.

“Come, come, Chip, we haven’t got all blasted night,” Nesbit complained.

Chip fought back a chuckle, knowing that the owl was impatient to get back to sleep.

Soon enough, they both stood at the foot of the tree that Nesbit had claimed for his own many years ago.

“Now what?” Chip asked unceremoniously.

The owl looked indignant as he tapped a claw against the grassy earth. “Now what?” Nesbit let out a long-suffering sigh before the muttering began. “Why, thank you, Nesbit. How lucky I am, Nesbit, to live in the particular clearing where only a certain owl knows the one way to the treasure I’m seeking. Now what, indeed!” he snapped, and then his eyes flashed dangerously. “This is what!”

And before Chip could even utter a cry, he’d been swept up (carefully) in the owl’s claws, and the ground was a long ways away indeed.

In a mercifully short time, Chip was placed on Nesbit’s usual perch, and the owl settled in beside him. Chip curled up as tightly as he could, certain that if he relaxed for even the slightest moment, he was sure to fall.

Nesbit let out a hearty laugh. “A little less eager now, are we?” Then, more kindly, “Nothing to fear here, Chip, despite appearances. I will not let you fall.”

Chip barely managed a nod. “What are we doing all the way up here, Nesbit?” Our young rabbit cast a sidelong glance at his friend. “And when can we go back down?”

Chuckling softly, Nesbit replied, “You’ll be off this branch soon enough, lad. But you must hop along into the hollow. There, I promise you, you’ll see a sight fit to cure the worst of fears.”

Chip took a deep breath, forcing his eyes to stay open as he crept along the branch, his little body still shaking. Though the bravery of a moment felt like a lifetime, Chip did, indeed, make it to the opening in the tree, and he hopped inside at Nesbit’s encouragement.

The inside was warm and dark, but Chip failed to notice anything spectacular. “It’s just dark, Nesbit.”

“Give the light a moment, if you please.”

Without any further explanation, Nesbit  blocked the entryway with his wings, so that not even the moonlight could illuminate this secret space.

Nothing happened at first, and Chip was just about to ask what he should be looking for, but then a slight shimmer appeared on the far wall of the hollow.

He moved forward carefully, looking back at Nesbit only once. The owl gestured for him to keep watching.

The glow grew in intensity, amber in color, almost like a reflection of Nesbit’s eyes. The closer Chip came, the more brilliant and far-reaching the light became, until Chip had no choice but to close his eyes.

When once he opened them, a sight greeted him unlike any he’d ever seen.

Another opening had appeared on the other side of the tree, and beyond it, hills rolled away like a green sea to a forested expanse, while just beneath, a river busily flowed. The whole land was golden with the rising sun.

The little rabbit was awed, but the feeling could only keep him still for a moment.

Eagerly, Chip allowed Nesbit to carry him to the ground, and after a brief farewell, Chip started on his way. He had a longing in his heart, and if there was a treasure that could satisfy it, he would find it.

~

Not long after Chip left the clearing, a bent figure left the cover of the trees and made her way to Romulus’ burrow. She was old for a badger, and her steps were slow, but still, she managed to navigate the twists and turns until she came upon Romulus seated comfortably amidst his candlelight and trinkets.

“Aunt Leah!” Romulus cried, delighted to see a long-missed member of his family. “What are you doing here?”

“Here to stay, Romulus, if you’ll have me,” Aunt Leah replied with a worn smile. “I’m afraid my days of adventuring are behind me, whether I like it or not.”

“You’re welcome here, always,” Romulus assured, holding tightly to her frail, trembling paws.

Suddenly, Leah let out a raspy laugh. “That young rabbit ruffles old Nesbit’s feathers like I’ve never seen!”

“You have no idea, Aunt Leah,” Romulus said, joining in her laughter.

She smiled, but then her look turned shrewd. “Was that my old satchel I saw round that rabbit’s neck?”

“Did he take it?” Romulus asked. “I was hoping he would. I thought it might earn him a few friends along the way.”

“And enemies,” Aunt Leah replied, and her words were a whisper.

*

Until next time,

Alexandria

P.S. The watercolor painting of the rabbit is courtesy of Dana Fox’s wonderful book, Watercolor With Me: In the Forest. If you’ve ever wanted to give watercolor painting a try, I really recommend this book. I’ve been enjoying learning to paint so much, and it’s been such a stress reliever in this hectic time.

Chip and the Book of Rose Leaves: Installment Three

I’m sorry for the long delay in sharing the next installment of the story. I hope you and your family will continue to enjoy Chip’s adventures as much as I’ve enjoyed writing about them!

*

“Long ago,” Romulus began, “when I was but a small, wide-eyed thing, I listened in on a whispered tale not meant for my young ears.

“My mother’s sister had always been the adventurous sort, full of fire and curiosity, not like your run-of-the-mill badger at all. Still, Mother listened to her tales with admiration and a kind of longing, a longing that I secretly shared.

“On this particular night, Mother tucked me in, saying it was time for the grown-ups to chat, but I knew that meant that a story of wild adventure was bound to be told, and I was determined not to miss it.

“Quietly, I padded down the tunnel, feeling quite certain, though I couldn’t have explained why, that a very different sort of story was about to be told.

“I nestled in the shadows, just shy of the firelight’s touch, and waited.

“Aunt Leah’s voice was smooth and buttery as she told her tale, and it began like this:

‘Once upon a time, a legend was told of a treasure hidden deep in a tangled forest far from here. T’wasn’t silver or gold, but something far better, if the stories of travelers are to be believed. Many have made the attempt, but few have ever laid eyes on it, for strength of will and bravery alone can only take you so far, and not near far enough to lay eyes on what Abaline guards.’

‘Abaline?’ my mother breathed.

‘Ah, yes. Abaline,’ Aunt Leah replied, smiling mysteriously. ‘Abaline, the great owl, is tasked with protecting this most precious of things, though it isn’t her alone who guards the way. Many protectors lie waiting along the perilous path to the owl’s haven, and I encountered many of them before I saw for myself the greatest of treasures.’

‘You mean you found it, Leah? Truly?’

‘That I did, Rose, and oh, was it worth every towering tree that I passed beneath on the long, winding road.’

Silence fell then, thick with curiosity.

Before long, my mother could not stand a moment more of it. ‘Well?’ she burst out at last. ‘For Heaven’s sake, Leah, what is it?’

‘I cannot tell you that, Rose,’ Leah replied softly, and she was instantly met with indignant cries of protest from Rose and Bartholomew.

‘Whyever did you tell us the story then?’ they demanded, nearly in unison.

‘Can’t you even give us one clue?’ Bartholomew asked.

Leah’s answer was quiet when it came. ‘All I can tell you is this, Barty. It’s a treasure fit to heal all the longing stored up in every heart that ever beat. There’s nothing else like it in all this world.’

Romulus’ burrow grew very quiet as the story came to an end. It had not been the tale of adventure Chip had been expecting, but one of mystery, and he and the badger were equally lost in thought .

After a moment, Romulus rose and began searching for something among his trinkets. “As you can imagine, Chip, my parents were less than satisfied with her answer. I suspect you feel the same. But here,” he said, raising his voice above the clatter of tumbling knick-knacks, “here is something that might be of great use to you.”

He turned around, but Chip was gone. Romulus chuckled, tossing the compass back onto its pile. After all, a bright, persistent rabbit like Chip was likely to find his way just as well without it.

Quick as he could, the badger returned to the entrance of his burrow, and he was just in time to see Chip quietly exit his own home before racing for the border of the clearing.

Romulus smiled as he watched the young rabbit, knowing as he did how the right story can set your heart a-racing and your paws a-running to places untold.

*

Chip and the Book of Rose Leaves: Installment Two

I decided to do an illustration for each installment of my new story. I hope you enjoy them and the next part of Chip’s adventures!

A late-night snack brought Chip to the clearing the next evening, though perhaps, in his heart, he was wishing that an answer might come to him if he listened very closely as the wind went whistling though the trees.

As it happens, listening closely led to something that Chip did not expect.

He was just hopping closer to a patch of grass, softly illuminated by starlight, when a loud grunt sounded from above, nearly sending our young rabbit scampering for home.

But some mumbled words soon followed, and when Chip moved back a ways, he saw that it was only Nesbit, asleep on his nightly watch (though the owl, of course, would never admit it).

Chip shook his head with a small smile, wondering to himself how often the owl called for perseverance in his dreams.

“Hmm… Chip, my lad,” Nesbit mumbled, and the rabbit turned.

“Yes, Nesbit?” he asked, but found that the owl hadn’t actually stirred.

Still, he was speaking, and Chip hopped forward quickly, the better to hear him.

“Waiting… waiting, Chip.. must persevere…” – this punctuated by a loud snore – “… Abaline.”

Abaline! Chip was instantly intrigued. What was the owl saying? What was Abaline?

“Nesbit?” he called.

No answer, but surely, you know as well as I that a young rabbit never gives up so quickly.

He bounded to the tree and began thumping his strong hind feet against its trunk, hoping to jar the owl from sleep.

Back he ran to gaze up at Nesbit’s perch and measure his success.

Minimal.

“Nesbit,” Chip cried out more loudly, earning himself several agitated chirps from a nearby swallow’s nest. He ignored them, determined that he would have an answer. “Nesbit, what is Abaline?”

“You’ll never wake him, my lad,” came a familiar, quavering voice.

Out of a burrow, which Chip knew to be the largest in Everleaf Forest, emerged Romulus Took, the badger. He was very close to ancient, though no one knew his exact age or dared to offend the distinguished old badger by asking.

“Could you try, Mr. Took?” Chip asked hopefully.

“I can do you one better,” the badger answered, raising his bushy eyebrows. “I can tell you who Abaline is myself.”

Chip barely remembered to breathe he was so astounded by this turn of events.

Romulus let out a deep, rumbling chuckle. “Follow me, my lad. Stories like this one are best told by candlelight.” He turned and lumbered back toward his burrow entrance, Chip following eagerly behind.

It was widely accepted that Romulus Took was an odd sort of badger, though a well-loved one. He was notorious for collecting all sorts of trinkets from the human world; the badger was fascinated by them all, but it was candles that he loved best.

Chip’s father often related the day, quite some time ago, when Romulus Took had brought the first candles to Everleaf.

The skeptical and the enchanted alike had accepted Romulus’ gift with curiosity, which quickly turned to delight as, candle by candle, a small corner of Everleaf Forest was illuminated by dozens of flickering lights.

He never would say where he found the candles or the countless other oddments that filled his cozy home. No matter how many times Chip asked – and the badger had long ago lost track – all Romulus Took ever offered was a smile and wink, and perhaps, a self-satisfied, “Oh, Elsewhere.”

Chip did not know why Mr. Took was choosing to so freely share what he knew about Abaline, but he certainly wasn’t going to question the decision and risk the old badger changing his mind.

They were far into the tunnels now and Chip could see the wavering shadows of several candles’ flames dancing on the earthen walls. Soon enough, they emerged into a cozy, hollowed-out space where all of Romulus Took’s favorite trinkets were kept.

Immediately, Chip hopped onto one of the cushiest things he had ever had the pleasure of sitting on; Romulus told him they were called “chairs.” Whatever they were, Chip loved nestling in them while Mr. Took told one of his many well-known stories.

Tonight, the young rabbit was filled with more anticipation than usual, for he guessed (rightly) that tonight’s tale would be unlike any he had heard before.

What’s that?

You’re not quite sharing Chip’s anticipation? That is a problem.

Hmm?

…Well, perhaps you’re right. Until next time then.

*

Alexandria

P.S. If you’re enjoying the story, please share with family and friends! Thank you!

Chip and the Book of Rose Leaves: Installment One

A little over a week ago, God gave me a story that I wasn’t expecting to write, a story about a rabbit named Chip.

I knew nothing else about the story until a few days ago when I wrote the first installment of this whimsical little children’s story (though, the more I think about it, the more I believe adults need this story just as much, if not more, than kiddos).

So, here is my offering: a new installment of this story every week, in the hopes that it helps you ask some honest questions and gives you a glimpse into the heart of the Father during a time when I think that’s what we’re learning to treasure most.

Here we go…

Chip and the Book of Rose Leaves

Not so very long ago, on a spring day much like this one, a young rabbit named Chip was waiting for something.

I’d tell you what it was now, but I wouldn’t want to spoil things.

The forest of Everleaf was Chip’s home, and oh, was it the grandest of forests, full of old, strong oaks covered in rich green moss. Rutted paths, nearly overgrown now, carved their way through the land, though it seemed only the animals travelled them.

Everleaf was one of those forests that set the imagination ablaze; the longer you spend walking beneath its boughs, the less surprised you would be to find a fairy flying for cover behind feathery ferns or a group of elves disappearing from view just around the next bend.

And yet, surrounded as he was by the wondrous, Chip was still waiting for just one thing, and it seemed it would never come.

He waited and waited until the sun sank below the treetops and the animals returned to their burrows and nests. The great owl, Nesbit, emerged from the grandest oak in the clearing, and even still, Chip was there.

Blinking his wide, amber eyes several times, Nesbit looked down at the young rabbit. “Still waiting, are we?” he asked with a rustle of his feathers as he settled on his nighttime perch.

“Yes,” Chip replied, not a little disappointed that all his diligence had gotten him precisely nowhere.

“Hmm. Perseverance is what’s needed here, young Chip. Perseverance!” Nesbit proclaimed, startling several disgruntled birds from their dreams.

“Yes, Nesbit. Thank you,” Chip replied, trying very hard to sound grateful. He and Nesbit had the same conversation every night, and the owl’s commanding declaration of “Perseverance!” had yet to make him feel better.

Thankfully, his mother’s clear voice rang out from the entrance of their home at just that moment. After offering Nesbit a quick, “Good night,” Chip bounded away to their cozy burrow, eager for supper after yet another long day spent waiting.

He had only just entered and laid eyes on the feast Mama had prepared when a voice loudly intoned, “Perseverance, my lad! Perseverance!” and Chip nearly jumped out of his skin.

His father appeared, waving a stick in the air with great authority, almost dropping it as he shook with amusement at his own joke.

“Not you, too!” Chip reprimanded, though his laughter soon echoed his father’s.

“Another inspiring speech tonight, I take it?” Joshua teased.

“He means well,” Chip’s mother chided.

“I know, Bess,” Joshua replied with a grin, “but it was worth it for the way this one’s fur bristled in fright when he heard the dreaded cry of, “Perseverance!”

He waved the stick in the air once more, chasing a laughing Chip around the small log table, nearly crashing into it as his son dashed out of reach.

“Now, see here, Joshua Raddish!” Bess cried, though Chip knew she wasn’t really angry. “We spent all day gathering this supper, and I’ll not have you send it flying with your shenanigans!”

A practiced expression immediately transformed Joshua’s face as he and Chip obediently froze. “Of course, Bess, dear. Absolutely no shenanigans here,” he said, carefully setting the stick down on the floor, a look of mischief barely concealed by his mock seriousness.

Bess fixed him with a look that made it clear she was not at all fooled, then turned to their son. “I hope you didn’t fill up on that sweet meadow grass today. Your papa and I have a special treat for your birthday.”

She gestured to the center of the low table, and Chip’s eyes grew wide. Nestled amidst the usual grass and leafy greens was the largest clump of clover he had ever seen and several choice flowers, enough for them to each enjoy two.

“Where did you go to find these?” Chip breathed in awe.

“A fair distance,” his father replied vaguely.

They sat down, all of them eager to enjoy this special meal. Chip rubbed his paw against his left ear as he always did when he was excited or nervous.

Unusual though it may seem, it was Chip’s left ear that had given him his name. On the night he’d been born, Mama always said, he was instantly revealed to be perfect in all ways to them, and that included the chip missing from his left ear.

No one could say why he had been born with it, but it made the young rabbit uniquely Chip, and his parents had immediately known what his name ought to be.

The anticipation now too great for them to wait any longer, Joshua looked up and said a simple prayer. “Without You, we wouldn’t have such a lovely spread before us or,” he continued with a good-natured wink at Bess, “such a warm, shenanigan-free home. We offer You our thanks. Amen.”

“Amen,” Bess and Chip echoed, and they all began to eat, enjoying each delicious flower petal and savory clover leaf.

But prayer had been on the young rabbit’s mind for weeks now, and he couldn’t keep quiet about it any longer.

“Have you ever waited for an answer to a prayer?” he asked in that direct way that only children ever seem to have.

Joshua and Bess were quiet for a moment, exchanging the type of look that only parents ever seem to share.

“Many, many times,” Mama answered, and Papa agreed.

“Well, did you get an answer?” Chip pressed. “Did you get what you asked for?”

“In answer to your first question, yes, in time,” Joshua replied. “As for the second, not always, Chip. But I believe that’s because we don’t always ask for what’s best.”

Chip looked down, thinking hard about what his papa had said.

Joshua chuckled. “Not quite satisfied with that, are you?”

Chip shook his head sheepishly, though he knew Mama and Papa were never angry with him for asking questions.

Joshua ruffled the soft fur between Chip’s ears. “That’s all right, Chip,” he said, his eyes gentle and kind. “You just have yourself an honest conversation with Him before you go to sleep, and things will be getting clearer all the time.”

Chip nodded, kissed his parents good night, and scampered off to bed.

At first, he didn’t take his papa’s advice; he was, after all, an endearingly stubborn little rabbit, and what he really wanted most of all was an answer to the prayer he had whispered weeks ago.

Days and days he had waited, and he just couldn’t seem to let it go. So, Chip tossed and turned and waited and fretted, wondering if the answer he wanted would ever come.

But the longer Chip fretted and the longer he wondered, the more brightly a different question began to burn like fire in his mind, until, at last, Chip sat up and spoke aloud something I imagine we all have thought from time to time.

“I’m changing my question. I’ve waited ages for an answer, and now, all I’m wondering is this:

“Do my words – do my prayers – really matter to You at all?”

Before an answer could arrive, Chip had drifted off to sleep.

*

Chip’s adventures will continue in Installment Two next week.

Until then,

Alexandria

P.S. If you enjoyed the first installment of Chip and the Book of Rose Leaves, please consider sharing this post with friends and family! Thank you!