21st December

The Woman Who Fell to Earth

for Jim and Jane Swire

We felt she belonged to us, although she was only here for a while. She came, she stayed, she left again.

A man walking his dog found her lying in a field, her pale body covered in bruises. He thought she was dead, the victim of a murderous attack, but when he touched her face she opened her eyes. Covering her with his coat, and leaving the dog to guard her, he ran for help.

We carried her to the inn, where her wounds were tended and she was clothed and fed. For weeks she was ill. We all contributed to the cost of her care. It was a miracle that she had come to us.

She signalled her gratitude, but never spoke a word. Nobody knew who she was or how she had arrived. We tried her in many languages, without success. Given paper and pencil, she folded birds and shaded in their grey plumage.

In time her bruises faded and her health returned. She now repaid us with kindnesses of her own, helping and caring wherever she could. We grew to love her silence, her beautiful smile. Sometimes, however, someone would find her standing under a winter sky watching the skeins of geese and listening to them call. In spring, when they left for the north, tears would run down her cheeks.

She used to stand among the geese where they had settled in the fields, and they were not afraid of her. The farmers wanted to shoot them, but out of respect for her they put away their guns. She gathered goose feathers and kept them in a sack. We thought she wanted them to make a pillow.

While she was among us peacefulness was in the village, and a generosity of spirit.

One spring day, when the geese were especially loud overhead, she was not to be found. The sack was: it was empty, and folded away in a cupboard at the inn.

We have not seen her since.

This is still a good place to live, but we feel her absence every day. We think she went to be with her own folk, and this gives us a little comfort.

Reader: James Robertson
Fiddle: Aidan O'Rourke
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