Cleveland SOHO Media

"The Witchy Witch of Rolling Oaks Farm"

by Allen Leonard

Rolling Oaks Farm spread peacefully near a wide valley beyond the quaint town of Anderville. Rustic and weathered, the old farm nestled among tall trees that provided shade from hot summer days and protection from cold winter breezes. Nearby wide fields bordered a creek that meandered through the expansive property. For years the spacious old homestead with rows and rows of colorful flowers growing beside the long driveway had been the base of stories from the gossip-ridden community. Olga Landsworth, the old woman who lived there, was often the subject of whispered rumors of witchcraft and religious cults on the farm. "That's where the Witchy Witch lives!" Crissa said as she walked home from school with two friends. "How do you know?" Sarah, one of her friends asked. "Well it's true, she's a witch!" Argued Crissa. "We should never spread rumors about someone." Sarah answered politely. "Everyone says it's true!" Crissa responded raising her voice. "Such as?" Questioned Sarah. "Kelly and Francine and Amanda!" "That's who!" Crissa added sarcastically. "The whole town has known it for years!" She defended her accusation as they walked past the expansive farm. "This town gossips about everything, even you and I!" Sarah exclaimed. "Well I'm gonna find out right now!" Sarah Said. "For once and for all!" She crossed a ditch and headed towards the yard leading to the old house, walking past a rock garden and some rose bushes that had not been pruned in years.

A picket fence lay broken near the house and the late afternoon sun pushed shadows through the tall trees in the yard. Sarah slipped between some bushes and boldly approached a latticed window. "Ouch!" She whispered as a rose thorn pricked her hand. "Oh darn!" She whispered nervously as her cotton shirt became entangled in the sharp branches. She pushed the prickly bushes away and peered cautiously into the window. In front of her lay the answer to thousands of whispered stories that had echoed around the little town for years. Inside, an old woman knelt before a small painting that was highlighted only by candles. Sarah took a deep breath as she peered in quietly at the mysterious scene. From the room came a soft melody sung faithfully by the praying woman. It was harmonic and serene, almost mysterious and from time to time she would look upward asking for recognition from the heavens. Sarah watched the woman paint for several minutes and then slipped silently away and walked quickly across the un-mown yard. "Well?" Asked Crissa as Sarah caught up with her friends. "It looked like she was praying." Sarah answered out of breath as they walked quickly down the long dusty road. "She was what?" Crissa demanded. "Kneeling and praying and painting." Sarah answered. "Praying and painting?" Crissa said attempting to lend credibility to the rumors. "And kneeling?"

"Yes, and singing or something!" Sarah continued catching her breath. "Praying or something...Hmmmm!" Crissa said. "Then she is a Witchy Witch!" She continued. "Just as everybody says!" Sarah remained quiet as they walked, thinking about what she had just seen in the old farmhouse. "Let's not rush to any conclusions." She said solemnly. "But you just said she was a witch!" Crissa snapped back. "I said she was praying!" Sarah replied a little angry at the accusation. "Well everyone says she's strange." Crissa argued. "She's a witch!" The girls continued walking, each containing their thoughts without speaking. Then Crissa started walking slower and finally stopped. "You've just been cursed by a witch!" She stared at Sarah. "Oh come on! Get real!" Sarah said surprised at the accusation. "No, I mean it!" Crissa yelled. "Don't come near me!" "What are you saying?" Sarah asked totally surprised. "You've got the curse of a witch in your heart." Crissa said backing away. "You shouldn't have gone in there." "Don't start that kind of rumor!" Sarah exclaimed. "I'm telling everyone!" Crissa yelled as she ran from Sarah. "Go ahead, see if I care!" Sarah hollered as Crissa ran away down the road.

The next day in school Sarah was surprised at the distance her friend kept from her. When she walked over to her she backed up and quickly walked away. Sarah went alone to homeroom and sat quietly while everyone seemed to buzz with conversation. "Hey Witchey!" Said Jason who sat in the next row. "Heard you're the new witch in town." "I guess I am!" Sarah answered quietly. "Don't pay any attention to it." Jason whispered. "Crissa's just jealous of you." "It still hurts!" Sarah said somberly. "We've been friends since grade school, and she's never acted like this before!" "Friends don't spread rumors about someone!" She added. Sarah walked home alone that afternoon, while Crissa and some other girls had a good laugh on her. They yelled, and hollered and called her "Sarah Witchy Witch." It was very disappointing and Sarah became determined to fight back. "If I'm Sarah Witchy Witch, then I'm going to be a real witch." She walked to the old farmstead beyond the edge of town. "I'm going to find out just what it takes!" She whispered to herself. The lilac bushes lining the driveway were in full bloom of violet and white flowery sprays that filled the air with a sweet scent. "Mmmmmmm." She whispered as she inhaled a deep breath of the fresh flowery fragrance. "I don't remember any lilacs last night." Bam Bam Bam...she knocked loudly on the door.

She waited for a few moments, and then knocked again. Slowly the huge door swung open and a frail old woman peered out. "Hello, I'm Sarah Johnson. I came to ah, learn about being a ...!" "Yes child, what is it you want?" The old woman asked in a soft frail voice. Sarah caught herself and changed her question. "I was wondering if you needed any yard work done?" She said half apologizing. "Oh yes, my dear! My yard is a mess!" The old woman smiled. "And no one seems interested in a little work here." Sarah was invited in and offered fresh chocolate cake. "So your Sarah Johnson!" The old woman asked. "From down the road?" "Yes!" Sarah said as soft cake was sliced. "Such a nice name dear!" "And your Olga Landsworth." "Yes!" "You have a strong accent." Sarah said amused. "I was born in Poland." Olga answered with a somber tone in her voice. Sarah got along good with the old woman, and they walked out to the yard where Olga pointed out what she wanted done. The following Saturday Sarah returned and worked hard cleaning the yard. From time to time Olga peered from a window and watched the industrious girl busy trimming rose bushes.

"Come and have a fresh roll." Olga called from the doorway. "You must be hungry my dear." Soon Sarah and Olga were visiting over fresh rolls covered with warm butter. It gave the young woman a chance to learn more about the person everyone considered a witch. "Do you know anything about witchcraft?" Sarah finally asked boldly. "Witchcraft?" Asked Olga somewhat surprised. "Yes, witchcraft!" Sarah answered. "Not really, I'm an artist." Olga said with a slight smile. "Painting is my passion." She added. "My writings are my life." "But you just said you were an artist." Sarah asked. "I write Icons." Olga said taking a sip of hot coffee. "I don't understand?" Sarah questioned. "You don't paint Icons my dear, you write them!" Olga smiled proudly. She led Sarah to the den, where a row of mysterious paintings rested on a long shelf. "These are some of my writings!" The old woman said proudly. Sarah looked closely at several of the Icons, carefully noting the solemn expression on the faces and the innocence of the paintings. "These are fantastic!" She exclaimed. "Thank you dear!" "I take art in school." Sarah added as she looked over more of Olga's work. "But these, why...they reach out and appeal to you."

"That's the intention." Olga smiled. "They must be genuine." Sarah listened while the old woman explained more about the Icons she had written. The patience needed to complete an authentic writing required sincere dedication, and Sarah was beginning to understand the rumors surrounding the quiet woman. "Where did you learn all of this?" She finally asked. "It's a long story dear." Olga said as she carefully straightened one of her unique creations. Sarah went back to work in the yard with a new opinion of the quiet old woman. Her thoughts roamed at the brief exposure to the art form she had just seen. The yard work became suddenly enjoyable and time passed quickly. The following week in art class she was greeted rudely by Crissa. "Is the Witchy Witch going to paint with her broom today?" Crissa asked with a laugh. "I might!" Sarah answered sarcastically. "My! We have a snippy witch." Crissa responded. "Yes, you do!" A very snippy witch." Sarah smiled as she walked past and went to her drawing table. That day a contest was announced for art students, and the prize was three hundred dollars and a scholarship to a prestigious college. Sarah knew everyone in class would participate, as well as students from around the region.

"Now you can put your broom to good use!" Crissa laughed as they walked from the room. Sarah did not reply, for she knew what she was going to do for the contest. Over the next several weeks she worked very hard cleaning Olga's yard. She asked the patient woman for advice on how to complete a writing for her art project. "Everything's done! I even pruned the roses." She said to Olga on a warm evening. "The yard looks wonderful dear." Olga answered. "You promised you would show me how to write an Icon." Sarah asked. The two of them walked into the ornate den and sat for a moment while Olga gathered her thoughts. The old woman was precise, and carefully explained the discipline and regimen needed to complete an Icon. It would require a dedicated spiritual effort and a special attention to detail. "Your spiritual life must be in place." Olga said. "And you must above all be genuinely humble!" "Your writing must reflect a caring heart and great simplicity." Sarah listened intently as Olga described the regimen and discipline needed to write an Icon. Now she understood what was happening when she had seen the woman kneeling in prayer through the window. Over the next few weeks Sarah worked hard on her writing. She ate very little, and then only cheese and some homemade wheat bread prepared from one of Olga's recipes.

During the day she greeted everyone with kindness, including the often-rude Crissa. Olga had given her an Akathist to memorize, which was to be sung over and over as she created. Each morning Sarah rose early, and prayed for one hour before starting her work. From time to time she went outside and whispered softly to the early morning sun. In time, her writing took form and reflected the sincere effort and hard work that was put into it. When she finished, she proudly took it to Olga. "It's truly genuine!" The old woman smiled. "It's not just a simple painting, but a reflection of your sincerity. It comes deep from your soul!" "Very well done for your first writing!" "I'm very proud of you." Sarah humbly accepted the praise, but she needed to know more about Olga and her Icons. "They should reflect hunger and innocence in their expressions." The old woman said in a sincere voice. "I tried my very best!" Sarah answered. "But I could not match the quality of your work." She added. Olga sat down and looked at the writing. She was still for several moments, and finally a tear slipped over her cheek.

"When I was five years old my family was taken to a prison camp." She looked over at one of her writings and then back at Sarah. "My dear father was torn from me by soldiers and I never saw him again." Olga walked to an Icon and briefly touched it. "This one is my tribute to my father!" She said with tears slipping down her face. "My sister and I stayed as close as possible to our mother." She continued. "But one day..." The old woman could not continue, but walked to a painting she picked up and held in her arms. "This one is for my mother!" She said through sniffles. "The last time I ever saw her a soldier was shoving a gun at her and calling her a "Witchy Witch." "A Witchy Witch?" Sarah asked surprised. "Yes, my loving mother was called a "Witch!" "Hmmmm!" Sarah thought to herself. Olga explained how soldiers dragged her mother away as she fought bravely to cling to her children. Her sister ran to help her mother, and neither of them were ever seen again. "An old woman wrapped a coat around me and held me in her arms for days." She said through choked emotions. "We nearly froze in a cold building." "She took charcoal and etched a writing of a Madonna on a wooden wall." Olga sighed. "Some how we survived." "I listened as she taught me about kindness and respect, and being humble!" She paused for a moment and then continued.

"I never forgot what she said to me!" "Even in those desperate moments she offered kindness and hope." "I painted these when I was just a little girl." She added somberly. Sarah remained quiet and listened. Olga had answered her questions about the old woman's quiet lifestyle. She was not a mean old witch as everyone claimed. The following day Sarah took her writing to the art contest where she proudly entered her Icon. "Look what the Witchy Witch dragged in!" Crissa loudly proclaimed. "It looks like it's been painted with a broom!" She laughed boastfully. Soon however, something happened, and the writing drew the attention of the judges, and many of the contestants. The painting immediately became the focus of the event. "This is incredibly well done!" Said one of the judges. "It's been some time since I've seen a work of this quality!" "It is indeed unique!" Added another official. "Whose initials are W.W.?" "The panel is going to award you three hundred dollars and an art scholarship." "It's my writing." Sarah said somewhat surprised as she stepped forward. "The Witchy Witch of Anderville High!" The judges and audience marveled over the unique artwork. "Do you have plans for the prize money?" A judge asked.

"Yes I do!" Sarah smiled. "I have a friend who needs her house painted!" She walked past everyone accepting congratulations. She could hardly wait for the ceremony to end so she could go to Rolling Oaks Farm and tell her good friend Olga what had happened.