How the artists came into the world

This is a story told by the wuthering of wind-dwarfed thorns and the clatter of moorland sedges . . .

The night the Pilgrim Woman told this tale, sand pattered at the windows of the Lone Chapel. Gusts swept it up from the dunes. All the listeners came with collars turned up, hats pulled down or scarves across their noses.

‘Why do we have to put up with such annoying, irritating little things?’ the Lord-by-the-Sea said. ‘Why can’t everything stay as nice and neat and orderly as it ought to?’

The Pilgrim Woman put a draught-excluder in the shape of a green-winged dragon at the bottom of the door. She sat down and without a word of reply began this tale:

The Creator sat up in her bath one Thursday evening. Scented water cascaded over the edge and rain fell on the Pennines. Bilberries and thyme sprang up wherever it splashed.

‘The world – it wants summat else,’ she said and reached for her towel. Pieces of fluff drifted down on the bogs and became the cotton-grass to warn us away from deep mires.

She dried herself and pondered.

‘It’s too nice – too orderly and frankly, a bit boring. It needs – grit.’

She reached down and swiped the peaks from the Pennines. (The tops there have been flat moorland ever since.) In her great strong hands, she crumbled the stones. She squashed them and she ground them. Some she pounded in a pestle and mortar until they sparked. Folk below said thunder-and-lightning lasted for six whole days.

Then she let it trickle down and settle. At the bottom of the becks, freshwater mussels began to make pearls. Boulders rested on limestone pavements and made places for the elves to live. Some blocked rivers, sending them over edges and underground. And so the waterfalls and caves and troll homes came to be

But most of all, it landed on people. Some brushed it off immediately and spent a lifetime trying to be neat and orderly – and telling others what to do. Some drank it in their water and became awkward without knowing why. Not easy to govern these folk.

Others tasted the change and loved it. This strange sort went out to find the gritty, tainted water. They were never still again, never the same one day to the next, always irritated. Always wanting to change things. Yet on them the Creator smiled the most.

‘Like a challenge?’ she whispered fondly. ‘I shall never tire of giving them to you.’

And she never did.

Drinkwaters Farm by Steve Cottrell







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