To follow up from yesterday's post on the art of Ritva Voutila: I'm having trouble attaching a longer excerpt of Poppy's Path on my site, so for Jill and anyone else who wanted to know more, here it is.
One wild wet morning, high in the
hills and far away, a baby was born.
wrapped her in a new red scarf and laid her in a carved wooden cradle to keep
her warm and safe.
Then the valley
rocked and the mountains thundered. A roaring river burst from the heart of the
hills, sweeping fields and forests, carts and cottages, down to the sea. The
baby’s cradle became a boat, and she laughed as it leapt down the raging
An eagle plunged
from his crag. He skimmed so low that the river splashed his feathers and when
he rose again, a red scarf dangled from his beak and in the scarf was a baby.
He flew over the
mountains to the village in the valley and laid the baby on the doorstep of a
red-roofed cottage. Inside the cottage, an old man and old woman heard the
wings and wondered, and came out to see. They did not expect to see a baby on
their doorstep, but the villagers often brought them lost animals and birds
fallen from their nests, so they were not surprised, but they were very, very
They looked out
to see where the baby had come from, but all they saw was an eagle high
overhead, and a field of poppies glowing red and bright as the sun came out
after the rain.
‘We’ll name her
Poppy,’ said the old man.
‘She can be our
grand-daughter,’ said the old woman and held her tight.
Poppy soon grew
tall - ‘like a giraffe,’ teased the boys;
smart - ‘like a
monkey,’ laughed the girls,
and brave -
‘like a lion!’ said her grandfather, his eyes shining bright with pride.
Poppy’s hair was
red and her eyes were bright; her legs were quick and restless and brown from
sighed the teacher in the tidy white school,’ known anyone quite like Poppy.’
everyone else was walking or running or skipping straight from their homes to
school every morning, Poppy was having adventures.
‘Do you know
what happened?’ she’d ask, when she finally got to the school, opening her eyes
round and her arms wide, ‘I found a baby dragon in the cows’ field!’
‘It was a
lizard!’ said the boys.
‘A baby dragon,’
insisted Poppy. ‘I picked him up – and then I saw the mother dragon, watching
us from high in the air; her scales were gold and red, and her breath was
‘A cloud in the
sunrise!’ said the girls.
and roared!’ said Poppy. ‘She swooped down beside us so the baby dragon could
crawl on her back. They took off again with a great Whoosh!, with the baby
dragon squealing and the mother hiccupping flames, then the cows started mooing
and the calves started bawling – and the dragons chased the cows round and
round the field!’
said everyone. ‘You’re such a story teller.’
Poppy could jump
higher, skip longer, whistle louder and run faster than anyone in the village.
‘It’s not fair!’
said the boys. ‘No one can whistle so loud.’
‘Or skip so
long!’ said the girls. ‘Not fair!’
‘Why not?’ asked
Poppy, jumping over the white school fence and running home before anyone else
had time to get out the gate. Because sometimes Poppy wanted to run for as
long, as fast and as far as she could from everyone who knew where they
belonged and the path that their lives would take.
All the other
children in the tidy white school knew exactly what they would do when they
grew up; the girls would do the work that their mothers had and the boys would
follow their fathers. But the raging river had taken Poppy’s mother and father,
and she did not know what her place in the world could be.
‘You’ll find it
one day,’ said the teacher, but she did not say how.
teacher read them stories from old books of the world outside the valley, of
animals they had never seen and people that lived lives they could not imagine.
‘Tell me more,’ begged Poppy.
‘We don’t need stories
that aren’t real!’ said the boys.
‘We want stories
about us and our village!’ said the girls.
‘Those are all
the stories I have,’ said the teacher to Poppy. ‘But I think there must be
more, out in the world where there are people to tell them and people to hear.’
‘Maybe if I hear
all the stories there are to be heard,’ thought Poppy, ‘I’ll find the way that
my life should be.’