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Chip and the Book of Rose Leaves: Installment Twelve

Welcome to the second to last installment of Chip’s adventures! This was one of my favorite installments to write! I hope you enjoy it.

*

Abaline.

Chip gazed up at the curiously enchanting structure in the oak tree rising above them, finding himself unexpectedly reluctant to move forward now that they had finally arrived. He had been anticipating this moment for so long, and Chip wondered if what came of it would be all he had hoped for.

He longed for a purpose, but what if he didn’t have one?

He craved reassurance that his prayers were heard, but he feared discovering that just the opposite was true.

Perhaps, it was better to leave these stones unturned. After all, if he did, he never need fear disappointment.

He almost turned back.

But then, a sudden breeze blew past him, and Chip found that it was shaking loose all his fearful thoughts, casting them to the ground like so many fallen leaves.

The clearing around them was all deep green and golden splendor, but nothing compared to the oak tree itself. Light shimmered through the bark and across the sprawling branches and trees, as if gold filigree ran through root and limb.

Full of wonder, Chip ventured forward. Though he knew that he was already in a land that was utterly different from his home, this place felt like a world all its own.

Oh, let this be the place where I come closer to You.

The words came unbidden, seemingly of their own accord, yet Chip knew at once that they expressed the truest longing of his heart.

Come closer to me.

As the prayer left him, a golden light, high above in the wooden dwelling that nestled in the oak, caught Chip’s eye.

“I think we’re meant to go there,” Chip said softly.

“I do believe you’re right, Chip,” Alfeus replied.

Chip looked over at the chipmunk and was surprised to find that tears were filling his eyes. But, of course, Alfeus had always longed to see Abaline face to face and had long regretted missing the opportunity to do so with Leah. This moment meant just as much to Alfeus as it did to Chip.

All three together now, they moved forward, noticing for the first time the ladder that led up to Abaline’s home. Instantly, Chip was dismayed. He could never climb such a thing, and Abaline felt suddenly and horribly out of reach.

But then, “Over here, young Chip! Don’t despair.”

It was Beauregard, who had wandered over to the right and discovered a contraption altogether more unusual than the ladder. Alfeus looked on from his perch on the ladder, waiting with admirable patience for his friends to follow.

Chip hopped closer to the beaver, who might have looked the slightest bit pleased with himself for solving Chip’s dilemma. Nestled in the plush grass was a wooden bucket. Looped through its handle and disappearing into the tree’s branches was a thick rope, which Beauregard had already taken hold of.

“Hop in, my friend,” Beauregard said.

Chip did so, but then hurriedly called for the beaver to wait. “What about you, Beauregard?”

“Don’t trouble yourself about me, Chip.”

“But then you won’t meet Abaline!”

Beauregard leaned close. “Who’s to say I haven’t already,” he whispered, and then, with a smile and a wink, he took the rope in his mouth and hauled Chip up to the platform.

The height might have troubled Chip if he hadn’t been so captivated by the glimmering dragonflies and fireflies that swirled all about him, as if they were celebrating along with him that he had reached Abaline at last. Chip had never seen their like. They were the most radiant blues and greens he’d ever seen, and a trailing golden dust fell away beneath their twirling path.

But what waited above was more glorious still.

A sheltering canopy of leaves trailed down, filtering the light of the golden sun and leaving Chip with the sensation of having entered a hidden world.

Tangles of branches and cascading foliage left the structure Chip had seen from far below partially hidden, so that it was difficult to know where the oak ended and Abaline’s home began.

Chip hopped out of the bucket onto a sturdy wooden platform. Alfeus was standing at the open door, and Chip joined him. The chipmunk didn’t seem to register his friend’s arrival (or Beauregard’s absence), so fixed was his attention on the entrance and all that might wait within.

“I can’t believe we’re really here,” Alfeus whispered.

They looked at the entryway a moment more before Chip asked, “Shall we go in?”

The chipmunk nodded, took Chip’s paw in his own, and together, they entered.

There were many rooms within – many more than ought to have fit in a house so small – but they both instinctively knew where they were meant to go. It was a room at the heart of the house, and both Chip and Alfeus understood that inside, all the questions stirred up over the course of their journey would be answered and come to rest.

As they passed beneath the doorway, the pair were drawn in different directions. Alfeus wandered off to the left-hand side of the spacious room, while Chip’s attention was immediately arrested by the tawny owl observing him from her perch directly in front of him.

He knew her for who she was without giving it a moment’s thought.

Abaline.

But she was unlike any tawny owl Chip had ever seen.

She was unassuming in size, though she managed to be imposing nevertheless.

She gazed back at Chip with the most astonishing amber eyes he had ever seen, and he found himself dumbstruck in her presence.

“Hello, Chip.” She spoke, and her voice was smooth and kind.

Her feathers ruffled and flared as she left her perch behind, and Chip gasped as the light caught them. They were beautiful to begin with, with their amber and cream hues, but when the sunlight shimmered across them, their edges glinted brilliantly, as if someone had delicately edged them with gold.

Abaline rested before Chip, and, at last, words returned to him. “You know my name? Did you know I was coming?”

“I am forewarned of all who seek to find me, so that I might know whether to safeguard their coming or defend against it.”

Chip’s brow furrowed. “Why would you need to defend against someone finding you?”

“Many seek to destroy what I guard.”

This didn’t quite make sense to Chip, but he plowed ahead all the same and asked the questions he had stored up inside. “Please, I’ve come such a long way to find you, Abaline. Will you tell me what my purpose is? And if my prayers matter at all?”

She looked at him kindly. “Chip, the answers you’re looking for will never be found in me.”

“But that doesn’t make sense!” Chip cried, instantly distraught that his journey had been for nothing. “Everyone’s told me to come looking for you, and I have, and you just have to tell me what I’ve been wanting to know. You just have…”

But Chip trailed off and desperation brought his head low as he softly cried, “Please, help me.”

“Chip,” Alfeus shouted, fairly jumping up and down at the other end of the room. “Chip, come quickly now!”

Our young rabbit looked first to Abaline, who nodded her encouragement. “Go and see.”

And he did.

Standing before Alfeus was a low, wooden table, and on it, rested the most magnificent book Chip would ever have the pleasure of seeing.

The pages were filled with golden lettering, and the words were startlingly familiar, for they were his own. As both he and Alfeus watched, a rose petal fell – from no place, in particular – and came to rest on the open book.

Just as petal brushed paper, Chip’s plea, Please, help me, appeared in brilliant gold filigree on pages that seemed ancient and new at the same time.

And Chip knew, in the sudden way that understanding sometimes comes, that, at the same instant, a diamond had fallen in the underground, only to become the most pleasing aroma rising through the air.

Tears of joy flooded Chip’s eyes as he turned around. The room was full of Light, all rose-gold splendor and joy – and Abaline stood in the midst of its radiance, waiting.

“What is this?” Chip asked, and she knew what he meant.

Her brilliant eyes met his. “It is His book of remembrance.”

He looked back at the book one last time, closed his eyes, and whispered, “Thank You.”

A pair of rose leaves fell as the two friends turned away, for Alfeus’ prayer had echoed Chip’s own.

Abaline led them to the entry of her home, and they followed silently, still in awe of what they’d been given to see.

At the threshold, both Chip and Alfeus turned back to Abaline.

“Very few are given the chance to see this with their own eyes,” she said. “Be careful what you do with this gift.”

Both nodded, though they did not yet understand, and then Abaline was gone, returned to the inner room, where a truth worth treasuring lay.

Saying nothing, for silence seemed important just now, Alfeus returned down the ladder and Chip to the bucket. Before he knew it or could quite comprehend all he’d seen, Beauregard was lowering the bucket, and Chip was twirling down through golden light, back to Beauregard, the land of Almea, and home.

*

Only one installment to go, friends! I can’t wait to share the conclusion of Chip’s adventure with you all.

Until then,

Alexandria

Chip and the Book of Rose Leaves: Installment Six

For those with adventurous hearts, here is the next installment of Chip’s story.

*

Both Chip and Alfeus froze, frantically thinking what to do.

There was no cover nearby, save for the tall grass next to them, which now housed an ominous silence.

Suddenly, a huge form exploded from the grass, all fire and speed, and Chip bolted without another thought. He traveled fast, for his powerful hind feet could carry him far, but Chip soon noticed in horror that Alfeus was not with him.

He turned sharply about and was stunned to find Alfeus boldly confronting an adolescent fox.

Chip’s thoughts were a scrambled mess. The vicious attack was coming, and how could he stop it? The fox was almost upon his friend.

And then a commanding paw rose high in the air, and Alfeus’ voice rang out. “Wilfred, stop!”

To Chip’s astonishment, the fox reared back, sliding a bit in his attempt to stop.

Alfeus wasted not a moment. “Wilfred Fox, you hasty thing! You might try making certain it’s not a friend you’re about to clamp your jaws onto!”

Wilfred hung his head, managing to look mildly sheepish. “Sorry, Alfy.”

“Hmmph! You most certainly are not. Impetuous young whippersnapper,” Alfeus muttered as he turned sharply about, his fur nearly standing on end from agitation.

“Follow me, Wilfred! You might as well be useful,” Alfeus shouted over his shoulder before stopping in front of Chip, who still hadn’t moved. “Are you going to stand there frozen in stupefaction or are you coming?”

The frazzled chipmunk did not wait for a reply, but rather marched on toward some undisclosed destination.

The fox trotted up beside Chip as they both moved to follow Alfeus. You’ll forgive our rabbit friend for casting an uncertain glance at Wilfred, noticing, in particular, as he did so the glint of his small, sharp teeth.

Wilfred caught the look. “I’m Wilfred,” he said, clearly taking great pride in the declaration.

“Chip,” the rabbit whispered.

Wilfred laughed, much to Chip’s embarrassment. “You’re in no danger now that I know you’re a friend.”

Chip wasn’t altogether sure he was comforted by that reassurance, but they continued on side-by-side all the same.

It was not long before the sound of rushing water met Chip’s ears, and he was soon confronted by a river more vast than any he’d ever before seen. Though a tremor of fear swept through him, his eyes lit up, for he guessed where the next part of their journey must take them.

“We have to cross it, don’t we?” Chip asked.

Alfeus, still smarting from Wilfred’s bit of mischief, offered Chip a less than comforting grin. “We’ll see how eager you are when you learn our mode of transportation.”

Chip frowned, looking at Wilfred, who said, “My jaws,” as nonchalantly as if he were telling Chip the time.

At first, the rabbit’s eyes widened, but Chip forced himself to remain calm. They were expecting him to be frightened, weren’t they? And, after all, he had wanted this adventure. He had best enjoy it, scares and all.

“I’ll do it,” Chip declared in the next breath. “But you could go first, Alfeus,” he added quickly. “Elders and all.”

The chipmunk’s eyes widened as Wilfred choked back a poorly disguised laugh. “Elders, is it? Hmmph! A good dunk would serve you both right,” he muttered before running a ways down the riverbank, in search of something.

A moment later, he found it. “The stepping stones are over here,” Alfeus called. “Let’s get this over with, Wilfred.”

Together, the fox and the rabbit hurried to Alfeus’ side, where Chip realized that what the chipmunk referred to as stepping stones were more like small boulders.

They seemed awfully large, and the gap between them awfully wide for a smallish fox to make it to the river’s opposite side.

Wilfred caught his doubtful expression. “Don’t worry, rabbit,” he said, “I’ve done this loads of times.”

And with that, he gingerly picked Alfeus up in his mouth, and they were off. The sight of the rushing current made Chip feel a little sick as he watched Wilfred perch precariously on each boulder before taking a flying leap to the next. It seemed impossible that he should manage it all so nimbly, but the pair made it to the far shore without incident.

Chip breathed a sigh of relief until Wilfred began making his way back, and the rabbit remembered it was his turn.

“Ready, rabbit?” Wilfred asked with a cheeky grin once he returned.

“I’m ready,” Chip replied.

The fox picked Chip up slowly and gently, but Chip still had to fight every instinct he had to struggle and flee and find a sheltered place to hide.

But he knew he must be still if he ever hoped to reach Abaline and find an answer, so he took a deep breath, making sure to keep his eyes wide open as Wilfred leapt for the first boulder.

In that first instant, Chip truly understood the risk that Wilfred was taking by carrying them across. The rocks were slick from the river water and moss.

The fox steadied himself carefully on the first rock, and finding purchase, jumped to the next. So it went for the next few boulders, and Chip felt he could breathe easier now. There were not so many rocks left now. Alfeus was getting closer all the time, and soon –

The water engulfed him, and it was like swimming through ice. He could not think or breathe, and then – smack! – Chip’s small frame collided with cold stone, and his thoughts were all a jumble like the chaotic water.

What of Mama and Papa? What about Abaline? What of all his prayers and longings now?

And then something other than the cold took hold, and he was being pulled from the water, and there was light and grass and the hot sun to warm his slick fur.

He lay on the riverbank panting, unable to speak for the moment. Wilfred was lying beside him, equally bedraggled and battered. Chip looked about for Alfeus from where he lay, but awareness was slow to come back, and it was a few more minutes until he realized that the chipmunk had been frantically hovering and muttering over them all this time.

“Of all the fool things for me to say! ‘A good dunk would serve you right!’ I never meant it! But see here, you fool chipmunk, of what comes of being hasty with your words.”

“Alfeus,” Chip said softly. “It’s all right. I’m all right.” His breath was slowly coming back to him even as the overjoyed chipmunk wrapped him in a tight hug.

Laughing softly, Chip rose gingerly to his feet, Wilfred having sprung up a moment before, the fox’s spirit not at all dampened by their unexpected dive into the frigid river.

Already, the sun was beginning to dry their fur, and Wilfred’s playfulness was fast returning. A magnificently mauve butterfly swooped past the fox’s snout, and Wilfred snapped at it before setting off in chase.

“Fierce as they come, but he gets distracted by a butterfly,” Alfeus said with a shake of his head and a kindly laugh. “You’ll never meet another like him,” the chipmunk concluded, looking at Chip.

But Chip was not paying attention. Instead, he was searching all about him in a frightful panic. “I’ve lost it!” he cried.

“Lost what?” Alfeus replied. “Whatever’s gotten into you?”

“Leah’s satchel, it’s gone! Maybe it got caught on one of the rocks. Wilfred could take me back to look. Wilfred!”

“Now, wait just a minute!” Alfeus commanded, deciding he had had quite enough of that kind of talk. “Crossing the river on his own will be easy enough for Wilfred, but carrying you twice more is far too risky. I won’t have it! If you’re meant to have the satchel, you’ll find it along the way.”

Our young rabbit friend so wanted to argue. Some of Leah’s most interesting finds had been secreted in that satchel. But as Chip looked at Wilfred pouncing about in the sun, he knew he could not risk the well-being of his unlikely friend.

Seeing that his point had been made, Alfeus clapped his paws together decisively. “Let’s carry on then.”

Hopping across the wide stretch of grass, Alfeus and Chip both caught up with Wilfred, who was still caught up in his antics. “You’d best be making your way home, Wilfred.”

“You’re not coming with us?” Chip said, his heart sinking. He’d grown very fond of the fox and all his mischief.

“I can’t. My dad will be mad as it is that I crossed the river alone. I’ve got to make it home before supper.”

“I hope it’s not chipmunk,” Alfeus muttered, crossing his furry arms.

Wilfred nudged Alfeus playfully before bounding around Chip and back towards the river bank, “It was nice meeting you, Chip!” he called over his shoulder. “I never knew rabbits could be so adventurous. See you, Alfy!”

With a swish of his bushy tail and a few leaps and bounds, Wilfred was across the river and out of sight.

I’m afraid it will be a long while until we see him again.

~

Without a further word, Alfeus began leading the way upriver.

Now that the excitement had died down, Chip’s mind was overflowing with questions. “Alfeus, where are we heading now? I’m thankful that scare in the river turned out all right. But I’ve been thinking. Those boulders are awfully big to be called stepping stones. Why are they called that? Were they always there? Who –“

Alfeus, astonished – as all who meet Chip are – by the racing current of his curiosity, managed to get a word (or several) in. “The stones were Leah’s doing, if you can believe it,” he said.

“Oh, I can,” Chip declared, thinking back on all the stories Romulus had told him about his aunt and all her many escapades.

“This forest used to be horribly divided, and it seemed nothing could bring the two sides together. But that Leah, she was an unexpected instrument of healing for this place, and with her help, there was reconciliation long after the inhabitants of Almea had lost hope for it.

“Afterwards, the great bears of the North rolled these boulders down to the river to create safe passage.” Here Alfeus paused, glancing sidelong at Chip with a grin. “Or, at least, relatively safe passage.

“All the same, the rocks are meant to honor the healing of The Great Divide, as we call it, and to help us remember that no matter the disagreements that might come, hoping for peace is never a childish thing.”

Chip was silent for a moment, warmth spreading all through him. “I like this place, Alfeus.”

Smiling, the chipmunk replied, “Almea’s got a certain something of her own, hasn’t she?”

Chip couldn’t have agreed more wholeheartedly, and I think that by the end, dear reader, you will, too.

It was not long after when they reached the base of a roaring waterfall, and Alfeus gestured grandly in its direction. “Here we are, Chip! Just beyond this waterfall lies the rest of our path.”

“Not more water,” Chip groaned.

Alfeus began tapping his foot. “It will only last a moment. Do you want to find Abaline or not?”

“Yes, I do.”

“Well, then through the waterfall and into the cavern we go,” Alfeus retorted and turned to do just that.

“A cavern?” Chip asked, his ears perking up.

“Yes, a cavern,” Alfeus answered, but he refused to explain further.

Suddenly, Chip wrinkled up his nose in consternation. “But wait. If the cavern is behind the waterfall, why did we have to cross the river in the first place? Couldn’t we have just gone in on the other side?”

Alfeus turned to face him in utter exasperation. “You are an altogether incurably curious creature, has anyone ever told you that? Don’t bother, I already know the answer!” On a roll now, the chipmunk continued. “Do you expect me to know all the inner workings of this place? All I know is that if you try to go in on the right side, there is no cavern to be seen. So yes, we most certainly did have to cross the river. Though why I had to lose every last one of my beautiful hazelnuts in the bargain, I’ll never know,” he concluded with a longing sigh.

Chip was silent then, feeling guilty, for in the aftermath of the river, he had quite forgotten that Alfeus had stored his hazelnuts in his satchel. Chip hoped that before their adventure was done, he could make it up to Alfeus.

For now, though, he had to focus on following the chipmunk, who was already through the curtain of water. Chip hurriedly followed suit, ready to apologize as soon as he rejoined the chipmunk, but the words were forgotten as soon as he shook off the water and looked around.

The whole cavern was alight with the brilliant glow from a thousand glittering gems and stones, which were encrusted in the walls. It was a place of wonders such as Chip had never seen.

After a moment of silent wonderment, Chip returned to himself. “I’m sorry about your hazelnuts, Alfeus.”

“Never you mind about that, Chip. There are more where those came from.”

He seemed about to continue forward, but then he paused and looked at the rabbit. “You told me that you asked Him something and haven’t heard back. What were you wanting to know?”

Chip seemed a little bashful, but he confided in Alfeus nevertheless. “I asked Him what my purpose is.”

The chipmunk nodded in kindly approval. “Not a bad question at all, Chip,” he said quietly. “Not a bad question at all.”

But my question for you, reader, is can you guess what it is?

*

Chip and the Book of Rose Leaves: Installment Five

And I’m back with a bite-size installment of Chip’s adventures! Enjoy!

*

A thousand new smells greeted Chip, and he was overwhelmed and delighted by every one of them. He felt drawn in so many directions that he could hardly decide which to explore first. A sharp, tangy smell led him to the right, but no sooner had he discovered the deep orange and raspberry colored flower that produced it than a whiff of something delicate and soft sent him bounding in the opposite direction.

Chip went from the deepest, coolest shade of impossibly large trees only to emerge into blazing sunlight that warmed him all through.

Nothing about this place was less than glorious, and he wanted to see every inch of it.

He had just come to rest beneath a hazel tree when something small and hard landed on his head. Gingerly rubbing his paw against the spot, Chip looked up only just in time to duck out of the way.

Nearly a dozen hazelnuts came tumbling to the earth, and an outraged chattering followed them. A small, furry head popped out from behind a leafy bough, and the chipmunk’s eyes went wide with suspicion.

“Don’t you think for even a moment about commandeering my hazelnuts! I worked all day for those, and I won’t have some upstart, whiskered fiend take what’s mine! I’ll have you know –.”

The chipmunk, mercifully, stopped mid-tirade to squint down at Chip.

Before Chip could decide how to respond to being called an upstart, whiskered fiend, the chipmunk was down the tree trunk and sniffing his satchel quite carefully.

The chipmunk’s ears perked up when he saw the initials, “L.T.,” on the side, and he looked up at Chip, his eyes bright with barely contained curiosity. “This here satchel used to be mine. I gave it to a fearsome badger who rescued me when I found myself at the end of a fox’s snout. And there isn’t an unfriendlier place to be.”

The chipmunk paused, catching sight of the rabbit’s chipped ear. Without any invitation, he scampered up Chip’s back as if he were just another tree to climb. “Seems as though you’ve met with some danger yourself.”

Chip tried to disguise his aggravation with only mild success. “No, I was born with it.”

“Hmm,” was all the chipmunk offered for comment before hopping down, oblivious to the annoyance he’d caused.

“Did you know her?” he asked.

“Know who?”

“The badger!” the chipmunk said in a tone that suggested Chip really ought to have known.

“I know her nephew, Romulus Took. He gave the satchel to me.”

The chipmunk regarded Chip silently for a few moments, and then, apparently making up his mind, held out his paw. “Name’s Alfeus, and I count as friend anyone who’s on good terms with Leah’s family.”

“My name’s Chip.”

“What brings you to Almea, Chip?” Alfeus asked as he began gathering his hazelnuts once more.

Before answering, Chip opened his satchel, gesturing for Alfeus to store his hazelnuts inside. Alfeus gratefully accepted. Then, “I’m looking for Abaline,” Chip explained.

Alfeus stopped suddenly, then grinned. “Now, that’s just what Leah said. I suppose I’ll have to help you like I helped her.”

Chip smiled, grateful that his first discovery in this strange place had been a friend.

~

The pair were walking beneath some low-hanging boughs when Alfeus decided it was his prerogative as Chip’s traveling companion to know details of the rabbit’s business. “Why do you care to find Abaline, if I may ask? This treasure she guards must be a mighty thing to you if you’re willing to travel all this way.”

Chip hesitated to share at first. But if Alfeus was a willing friend, then why not? “Well, I asked God something a while ago now, and I haven’t heard anything back. So, I’m wondering if my prayers really matter to Him at all.”

Alfeus remained uncharacteristically silent.

Chip waited as long as he could (a whole minute, in fact), but then he could hold back no longer. “Have you ever wondered anything like that, Alfeus?”

“Yes, I have.”

Another unbearable pause.

“And?”

Alfeus stubbornly looked ahead, but Chip could see the beginning of a smile. “And you’ll just have to see for yourself.”

An answer and not an answer, Chip thought to himself, and he felt rather tired of those. But just as he opened his mouth to say so, Alfeus unceremoniously clapped a paw over Chip’s whiskered muzzle.

The young rabbit heard it then, too.

A rustle in the grass.

Could it be an innocent passerby? Chip wondered hopefully.

But then dead silence fell, as if something were waiting for them to believe just that, and for a moment, before chaos erupted, the little rabbit felt the greatest longing for home.

*

What do you think is lying in wait for Chip and Alfeus? We’ll find out next week 🙂

Until then,

Alexandria

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!