At long last, I am free of the World’s Most Annoying Plague (there’s a head cold going around that’s basically all sinus drainage all the time) and am back on my bullshit again.
Last weekend, while still down with said plague, I had a day where I was feeling well enough to start getting a bit stir-crazy from being stuck inside for days and, even though it was supposed to snow, I decided to go out anyway. The road was calling and I needed to answer it.
Normally, a spontaneous drive mostly involves me pacing around the house for a couple of hours before realizing that I’m super restless and should probably grab a bottle of water, some snacks, and my keys and go for a drive. This day was different. There was a sense of, I don’t know, Fate or something behind the restlessness. As if the Road was telling me that there was something I needed to see out there, and it would not be denied. This was not to be a typical drive, but was one that I should approach as the routewitch that I am. This required preparation and everything I brought with me was important, and as such it was important that each item be chosen with care, down to the drink that I brought with me.
As I stood before my tea selection, I considered the feeling that I was getting from the Road, and narrowed down to two options….blackberry-sage, or a chai blend from a company that no longer exists, called Crossroads. I couldn’t figure out which was more appropriate, and so I consulted the dice. The dice said that the Crossroads were the key, and so that was what I filled a travel mug with (it’s a chai made with lapsang and darjeeling, so it has a harsh, smoky finish…perfect for the message I was getting.), and went out on the Road.
There is a flat, steely kind of light to the world before a snowstorm, and a silence as loud as a warning. As the snow begins to fall, the powder skitters and slides across the pavement, ghostly as mist and shadow. It is an eerie beauty.
As I drove and the snow fell and the light faded, I began to wonder why the Road had called me out onto the roadways, and if I had misunderstood what it had told me, but the pull remained strong, a whispered “wait and see” sighing through my soul. I drove on, through the woods and the farmland and the towns slowly being blanketed in white, while the other travellers faded off the roadways to curl up by warm fires.
Then, just at the edge of a small town, at a place where two roads crossed, I saw them; a small band of Juniper Monks, gathered along the edge of the road.
No one knows for sure who, or even what, the Juniper Monks are. Often mistaken for burlap-wrapped evergreens (hence their name), they are rarely seen, and then only under specific conditions. They appear in severe weather, generally snowstorms, but they have also been reported during heavy rains, as well. Why they gather during these times is not known, and speculation ranges from harbinger to messenger to things more sinister in nature. Most, however, believe that they are a kind of roadside guardian, appearing to warn travellers of dangers and protect them from harm. Some carry talismans in their vehicles, tucked into glove compartments or hung from mirrors, to invoke their protection when venturing out in bad weather. Most go their whole lives without ever seeing them, and it is considered great fortune to encounter a band of them. To be honest, I had believed that they were a myth, myself; a figment of the imagination, brought on by the dim light and swirling snow playing tricks on one’s eyes, but now, having seen them for myself, I can’t deny their existence.
Having seen the Monks, the Road signalled that I had seen what I had been called to see, and that it was time to go home. I came to a roundabout, and returned back the way I had home, though the Monks were gone by the time I drove past the intersection again.
I’m thinking about acquiring a talisman to carry in the truck with me, as I often find myself out in inclement weather. If I’m able to locate some, I’ll try to get some for others who may also wish to invoke the protection of the Juniper Monks for their own travels, as well.
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