When it came to designing our Solstice collection, we asked our in-house writers to dream up fresh fairy tales to inspire the stationery prints. A celebration of midsummer, read on to disappear into the sun-drenched story behind our Perfect Summer and Once Upon a Time designs.
In a village not too far from here, there is a small, green island in the middle of a large, deep lake. In the middle of this island is a glade filled with flowers. And in the middle of these flowers rises one tall, tall tree that bears a single golden apple. It was said that whoever could pluck this apple on a perfect summer’s day would be untouched by the ravages of ageing.
In a time not too distant from your own, lived a young woman who loved to read. She would spend her days alone on the lake in a little boat. She filled her boat with books, reading and writing and dreaming of this golden apple. She wished that these long, lazy summer days reading and writing could last forever, and felt determined to find the tree and learn when the perfect summer’s day was.
One spring afternoon, she found herself growing hot in the sun, so rowed her little boat towards the green island filled with flowers.
There she met a beautiful witch, who seemed to shimmer like pure sunshine, her hair decorated with the shells from the island’s shore. The witch knew that she seeked the apple, and taking her hand, she led her down a grassy path towards the tree.
“You must pick the apple on a perfect summer’s day. If you choose wisely, you shall never age a single moment past that bite.”
“How will I know when the perfect summer day is?”
“I cannot say,” said the witch.
So the young woman waited patiently, listening to the bees and watching the flowers. She remained patient as the days grew hotter and the nights grew lighter.
One afternoon when the sun was high in the sky and the lake glittered like glass, she rowed across the lake to the island. But sweat drenched her brow, and she grew weary as she made her way to shore.
“I don’t think it’s today,” she said to the witch. “This heat is too frustrating.”
“As you please,” the witch replied.
A few weeks later, she decided once more to go to the little island. But wind whipped the her boat back and forth, the tides turning her this way and that.
“I don’t think it’s today,” she said to the witch. “This wind is too frightening.”
“As you please,” the witch replied.
The young woman began to carefully take note of her surroundings, forgetting all about her beloved books. She ate summer fruits and described their taste, observed the tides and watched the clouds drift by. She wrote everything down, gathering pieces of loose paper in her little boat, scribbling, scrawling and covering her hands in ink. But all she could find were reasons against the perfect summer’s day – she criticised a slight bitterness in her bite of fruit, lamented even a single cloud in the sky, saw the sting of a mosquito as another ruined day.
A few weeks later, she returned to the island for a third time. According to her notes, it was midsummer, and the air was warm and still. Surely, today was the day.
But when she got to the tree, the apple lay in the dirt, shrivelled on the ground.
“I don’t understand,” she said to the witch. “Every day, there was always something wrong. When was the perfect day?”
“I never said the perfect day” said the witch, “I said a perfect day. There will always be wind or sunburn or rotten fruit. A perfect day is when you can appreciate summer for what it is – a season that is beautiful because it doesn’t last forever. You were too stuck in here,” said the witch, tapping the young woman’s forehead. The young woman was heartbroken, so desperate to cease her ageing and have spend summers reading books forever. “But look closely,” said the witch. “All is not lost.”
She picked up the apple and sliced it in half with a thin golden knife. She pulled out some shiny, dark seeds and gave them to the young woman.
“If you wish, you may grow your own tree,” she said.
“But don’t trees this big take years to grow?” asked the young woman. “I’ll be too old!”
“That is the price of the golden apple,” said the witch.
As the years passed, the woman tended to her little tree. She pruned it carefully and watered it regularly. She tried to find peace on difficult days, and gratitude on golden days, practising for the summer that an apple may grow, and she may have a chance to pick it.
But life has a way of moving on, of taking you on its tides.
Soon, she was so busy with her life that she forgot all about the golden apple and its magic powers. She saw the beauty in things that cannot last forever, and no longer imagined living forever. The tree grew and grew, turning her garden into a landmark renowned across the lands. The woman – not so young anymore – placed her books in a glass cabinet on the grass, so villagers could read to each other whilst sitting in the branches of the magical tree.
On good days and bad, the villagers would lean against the tree’s trunk or climb its branches, sharing food and wine in the summer months, and in the winter, reading tales by candlelight, bundled up against the cold. The tree was a place to come together, to listen to each other’s woes and celebrate each other’s stories.
The woman had the good fortune to grow older and older. She realised that a perfect summer’s day did not exist. Instead, she found imperfect beauty in the changing seasons, in precious moments that could not last forever, and were all the more beautiful for their passing joy.
For a fairy tale filled with love and light, read A brief tale of a great long-distance love.