Dreamberry knelt at the edge of the Holt’s River listening to the droning of night-time insects. The daystar’s warmth lingered, radiating from the ground. But it wasn’t so warm so as to be sticky. This summer had been wonderfully pleasant so far. On nights like this she didn’t mind doing the wash. She leaned forward over the water and dunked her handful of woven clothing beneath the surface. Scrubbed two sides of the cloth together to loosen a crusty stain of hardened honey and dirt. Then, using a lump of tallow soap, she massaged the material with her dexterous fingers to remove the sweat stains that had accumulated across the lower back and under the arms. She pulled the garment from the water to inspect it but decided it wasn’t clean enough. She plunged it back beneath the water and scrubbed at it some more.
She was silent as she cleaned, her soft, white hair falling around her face as she moved. Her hands did their work by rote as she mentally planned her activities for the next few days. She wanted to start a new batch of dandelion wine and there was the dyeing and weaving that needed to be finished for fall and winter clothes. She had candles and soap to make. She wanted to talk with Starskimmer to get her opinion on how to improve the latest blend of honey brew. Whispersilk wanted assistance preparing the Preserver silk for use in her own weaving. And Nightstorm was going to make a large lot of blue dye within the next few night for all of their projects, so everything needed to be timed properly so as to be ready for the dye. She so enjoyed crafting with her younger daughters. And then there was the private taste testing of the fruit off a dreamberry bush near the Crafting Trees that Dreamberry wanted to set up with her lifemate, Bearheart. After all, someone needed to check to see if they were ripe enough to be made into wine. She smiled and let her mind wander over that hoped for evening in anticipation.
A particularly interesting thought brought a flush to her round cheeks. She glanced around hoping no one had come upon her while she was mooning over her lifemate like a yearling with her first crush. With a chuckle, she focused her attention back on the shirt she was washing. With the stains finally gone, she pulled it from under the river water. She twisted the fabric and squeezed as much water from it as possible. Then she stood and carried the shirt to the bushes nearby where she had spread other garments to dry. She flicked the cloth with a practiced gesture designed to shake out most of the wrinkles before laying the shirt over a juniper bush. The night breeze would blow through the bush as the cloth dried, leaving the faint scent of juniper on the garment. The aroma of evergreen and Bearheart mixed well together in her opinion.
Dreamberry gave a happy sigh and stretched. Her work for the evening was complete. Now she could enjoy the rest of the night talking, laughing and singing with her family and friends.
The breeze brought her the scent of her youngest grandchild moments before she heard his voice and the sound of small running feet coming down the path from the Dentrees. Tremor’s excited calling brought a bright smile to her face. At barely more than a hand of turns old, his sunny enthusiasm was often contagious.
“Grandmother! Grandmother! Look at me!” The cubling burst into the open area near the river bank and paused as he looked for Dreamberry.
She answered, “Here I am, cub.”
The sound of her voice drew his attention and he turned toward her. Dreamberry laughed when she saw him fully. The child’s hands and knees were covered in dirt and he had red berry stains around his mouth and smeared across his chin. But most amusing was his new hairstyle. His once silky, chin length black hair had been knotted up into short dreadlocks that stuck up around his head like a bedraggled dandelion in seed. They bobbled around his head with every bounding step he took toward her and it took everything in her not to collapse in a fit of giggling. She could see that this was just the beginning phase and that it would be some time before they reached the proper ropey texture, but it was a definite start to a new appearance for the cub.
“I look just like Father now, don’t I?” Tremor asked, nodding his head earnestly, which set his hair to swaying like grass under the water.
Dreamberry was smiling so hard her cheeks ached. “Oh, my darling, you surely do. “ She tapped him playfully on the nose.
“I asked him and I asked him to do my hair like his and then I asked him again and Father said yes.” Tremor barely noticed as his grandmother gently tugged off his vest and shirt. “And then I had to sit there for a long time and ‘be still!’. Grandmother Cider and Greenweave and Father pulled and tugged at my hair. That kinda hurt. But I sang songs and drew in the dirt for a long time when they were pulling on my hair. Then Mother brought me some berries to eat. I’m going with her tomorrow to put some more in her basket. And then they put wax in my hair! Will bees chase me later? And they rolled the bits of hair in their hands a bunch, so I sang some more. Then I went to show everyone my hair and I think they liked it because they were all smiling at me. And Grandmother Cider said not to worry because when my hair gets longer it won’t stick up so much. Does my hair stick up? Father’s and Grandmother Cider’s don’t. It lays there like a rope and they put shells and beads in it. I want to put shells in my hair too. Do you think I can do that tomorrow? Oh, and Grandfather Bearheart wanted to know if you were ready to eat yet?” He felt a draft and only then realized his Grandmother had taken all of his clothes.
“No, not yet, cubling,” she said as she took his small hand and smiled at him, guiding him to the river's edge. “I have one more thing to wash.”