I took this little seed. Well, maybe ‘little’ is a misnomer, compared to other seeds. Comparatively, I am sure this would be considered a large seed. In my hand, however, it seems so small, much smaller than I am.
I held the seed in my hand and whispered my secrets against its skin. I told it my dreams, my wishes. I spoke of my failures, my set-backs. I told him of my pride and joy, my family. I whispered tales of forest trails and river treks, of hopeful future plans.
I went out; I bought a special pot for my very special seed. I painted little designs along the sides of the planter. I filled it up with premium dirt, taken from my compost bin, ripe with rabbit leavings and trash decomposed into the most fertile earth I could find. With care, with murmured prayers, I slid the seed in, wrapped it up tight beneath a blanket of dirt. I added a bit of water, enough to get things incubating. I left it to its birth.
I didn’t really think all that much about it for a week or two after that. Of course, I made sure to add water to the mix, once a week, when I watered every other plant in the house, but I didn’t really pay it all that much attention.
Now and then I would catch myself, staring in its direction, my mind racing a million miles away, speeding off on horseback, while in reality I was stuck in my dray city life. About the tenth or twentieth time I caught myself drifting away, enjoying life in my mind more than in my own body, I started to talk to the seed again.
Once or twice a day, I would sit down, my lips close to the side of the pot, and I would speak from my heart. Often I would sit there for fifteen or twenty minutes, wishing away, hoping with all my heart, dreaming and praying, knowing there was nothing the little seed could do. Yet, it made me feel better to speak, to get all my feelings out.
I never thought of what that seed might be enduring, listening to all my endless talk, my vapid chatter.
The seed sprouted overnight, while I was asleep, while I was far from watching. When I awoke in the morning, it was not a tentative little stalk peeking out of the soil that I saw. She was a proud tall finger of a plant, reaching up high into the sunlight. She had six inches of stem and you could see she was still growing. Her color twisted from an almost white green into a darker yellowy green as she reached up taller. Indeed, I had to sit and visit with her, to congratulate her, to shower her with love and attention. This time I spoke of her future, of my dreams for her, of where one day I hoped to plant her, so she could sink her roots into Mother Earth and shoot up into the sky, straight and angular and happy, producing fruits to feed our family, as well as many animal families that there may wander.
Hours later, the first leaf showed, tiny but strong; it slowly unfurled. By evening, there were three leaves, one larger than the others. I could see buds forming where new leaves would soon sprout forth.
It was later that night, after I had bid her good night, after I had slid under my own comfortable blankets, as I slipped off out of sight, that I first heard her voice, humming against my ear drums, telling me of her dreams for me, her visions for me. I smiled, feeling safe, listening to the sage advice of the one who offered my guidance.
I had planted my own prayer tree. Now it was answering my prayers. How lucky can this woman be?
Find me at:
Inspired by the delightfully irreverent description of a painting in Sheila Hancock’s book “Just me” I “googled” the painting. It is called “St Mark preaching in Alexandria” and was painted by Gentile and Giovanni Bellini. Hancock describes the painting thus:
“… is an extraordinary hotchpotch. It seems to be set in St Mark’s Square, with a version of the Basilica sitting amongst various mosques and obelisks and towers, as well as the odd camel and giraffe. St Mark is standing on a rostrum that looks like a portable canal bridge. And he is, for some reason, wearing a pink frock and a blue stole borrowed from the Virgin Mary. There are some ladies with flowerpots on their heads, completely covered with white sheets, and some men in huge turbans made from the same material. Standing in rows are the mystified members of the scuola that commissioned the picture, one of whom is turning his head to whisper to the man next to him, ‘who are all these weirdos?’”
Some years ago, on a long car journey, I came up with a writing prompt for myself:
If you were a character in a painting, which painting would it be, who would you be and why? You could extend this perhaps by writing something of a back story for your chosen character.
I made a note of my prompt and put it away for future use. It is only now that I have decided to do something with it.
Alexandria, March 15, 1507
For the last few days Alexandria has been a hive of activity. Easter has come and gone, hardly noticed by anyone except the small Christian community living here, to which I belong. However, today is the big day everyone else has been waiting for: St Mark is due to preach in the main square. Notices informing us of this unexpected event were posted throughout the city a few days ago and the possible subject of his sermon has been the main topic of conversation. I don’t know anyone who has heard him speak personally but by all accounts he is a charismatic speaker.
He was due to speak mid morning so I made my way to the square with plenty of time to spare to ensure that I got a good vantage point from which I would be able to see and hear him. I took the precaution of taking something to sit on as I feared I might be there for quite a long time. These traveling preachers are not known for their brevity! Sure enough the square was packed and, in the end, it was standing room only. Everyone had put on their best clothes. I didn’t have any choice in the matter for the members of our community all wear the same flowing white robes. The tall hats we wear under our veils keep the worst of the heat off our heads and the veils of course protect our faces from the gazes of the curious. It has to be said that we can’t actually see very much through the veils, really just enough to see where we are going. Most of us chose to sit as it would be uncomfortable standing later on when the day warmed up. The city dignitaries were all out in force wearing their huge turbans. I often wonder why the turbans need to be so big. I imagine the skull caps worn by the clerics would be much more comfortable. And their ceremonial robes, consisting of several layers of fabric, with the outermost layer being heavily brocaded, must make them unbearably hot. Fortunately the sun didn’t come out until much later in the day, for which I was profoundly grateful.
Everyone was chattering away until St Mark appeared on the rostrum. He was introduced to the crowd which gradually hushed itself into a rapt audience and he began to speak. I have to admit I couldn’t follow most of what he said as he had a strong accent and very soon my attention began to wander. Out of the corner of my eye I caught sight of a strange animal. Camels are a common sight in Alexandria but I could see a man leading an animal on a piece of rope. It was very tall and had a very long neck. I later discovered that it is called a giraffe and had been captured in a far away part of our land. Other people must have traveled quite long distances to come here too as they had brought their horses into the square. Positioned at many windows and on every balcony were more people watching the spectacle.
Eventually St Mark finished his sermon and the crowd dispersed. I got up with difficulty after sitting on the ground for so long. I picked up my cushion and made my way back to the coolness of our sisterhood’s dwelling, down one of the side streets leading off the square. Tomorrow we will return to our ordered routines but today was something special and I’m sure I’ll never forget the sight of that giraffe.
Who am I? the woman seated at the far right of the group with my hands clasped round my knees.
I had been wanting to write from this prompt for some time but have not been able to find on the internet the painting I had in mind. In my mind’s eye I can see the painting in the Hospitaal museum in Bruges which we visited some years ago. It was on one single panel and depicted the story of Patient Griselda. Patient Griselda has become synonymous with the long-suffering heroine of medieval story, whose husband subjects her to numerous trials in order to test her obedience/devotion I was struck by the fact that this painting told a complete story starting at the left side of the painting and working across to the right. I could remember that the two main characters were called Nicholas and Griselda. After “googling” for hours I found the story of patient Griselda but not the painting I had in mind. A painting, or rather three separate paintings, dated circa 1494, depicting the story, is to be found in Britain’s National Gallery.
you can zoom in on the paintings to see them in greater detail. For the purpose of this writing prompt I would have chosen to be one of the family retainers in the third panel. Perhaps I will get round to writing this up one day …..
This is a flash fiction piece that I wrote. Every Friday is #flashfriday on twitter & I started participating to force myself into the habit of writing every week. It’s challenging to write a story of 1000 words or less but also fun. It forces you to pick words carefully & throw out junk. I thought I would post it here as well:
With a growl of frustration Cupid paced the room. Bored out of his mind & it wasn’t for the lack of trying. He’d even implied to his mother that Hera had called her plump; she’d merely laughed & continued to flirt with her newest conquest.
“Bored, bored, bored!” he stomped about the room in a tizzy; he threw a stack of papers from his desk & watched them flutter to ground. Flopping into the chaise, he sighed dramatically. From the corner his eye, he spotted what looked like a fish. “Hello, what’s this?” as he walked across the room. Indeed it was a fish, a trout more specifically, with a scrawled note pinned to the head.
He prodded & sniffed the fish, it seemed fresh. “Let me see about this note,” ripping it off. Scanning the first few lines, he danced in the air while laughing.
The note sent was by a kraken, not just any kraken but Poseidon’s. When the sea-god grew bored or desired a new female conquest, he’d send word to the oracle that a “sacrifice” was required or impending doom would be implied.
Hence, a nubile maiden would be tied, left upon the shore; Damon, the kraken, would swim up, squawk, splash around and “eat” her. In reality, he carted her off safely to Poseidon. This racket had been going on for years without a hitch.
Damon hadn’t asked for anything in return, it never occurred to him. Until one day, he desired to settle down, woo a female and have wee krakens. This was when he’d made a terrible discovery- he wasn’t considered a desirable mate. Too small- that was what they’d all said.
When the last female had wriggled her tentacles in laughter and swam off, he hunted down the best catch he could find and attached the note. Summing it up, it read something like this;
I’m lonely. I need a mate but I’m too small. I’d like a maiden. Not to eat. For love. Please help me.
Damon (A kraken)
(I found a fish, the best one. Please accept, thank you. Oh, please don’t tell my master, he’d be mad.)
Kore couldn’t believe her luck. “Why me?” she wondered. She was a good citizen, obeyed her father and even had agreed to marry Midas, in spite of his old age, happy hands and obsession with gold.
As the tide moved in, she imagined throttling the oracle. “Stupid oracle, stupid curse, stupid monster!” Trying to loosen the bonds, without luck, she kicked the sand and screamed.
Swimming closer, Damon could see and hear her. “Oh my, where did she learn those words?” he wondered. She was, pretty, for a human he supposed. Something was different about her, he pondered and continued closer.
With the kraken approaching, Kore racked her brain for a plan. Nothing. Well, if she was on the menu, she’d at least put up a fight. “Bring it on,” she thought.
As he was wrapping his tentacles around her, she bit him. Damon screeched in pain. No one had fought back before and in surprise, released her.
The two, woman and beast, looked intently at each other. Kore didn’t want eaten and Damon couldn’t return to his master without her. An old woman hobbled towards them, cackling.
“Greetings, from Cupid,” she rasped and remembering the past week, smiled a toothy leer. From his perch in Mt. Olympus, Cupid shuddered; he remembered the week all too well. Who knew the old woman would have such stamina?
Reaching into her robes, she proffered a vile of bubbling liquid. Handing it to Kore, she shuffled away before any questions could be asked. Free from her bonds, Kore tossed the bubbling liquid at Damon. Writhing, he began to transform.
Standing before her, Damon. Although considered small as a kraken, as a man he was a giant. Curious tattoos covered his body, where tentacles had previously been. Suddenly shy, Kore approached, poked him and stepped back.
Damon was still figuring out the new sensations of being human. He wiggled his toes; fingers and when the female touched him, a strange emotion stirred him. Uncertain, he reached forward and touched her hair.
Kore shivered when his fingers brushed against her face. Wanting to feel repulsed, instead she blushed at the thoughts that formed in her mind. It didn’t help that his nude form illuminated in the moonlight. As she tried to cast these thoughts aside, Cupid decided this was an opportune moment to launch an arrow. Not of love, rather a suggestion.
“Oh,” she exclaimed as the arrow struck her. Just at that moment, Damon fell forward on awkward legs and they both tumbled to the ground. Bosom heaving, Kore pulled Damon closer for a kiss.
Cupid fell out of his chair laughing as he heard Poseidon storm the halls. “Zeus!” the sea-god bellowed. Pandemonium swept throughout Mt. Olympus as the brothers began to shout. “At last,” thought Cupid, ‘some excitement.”
Mr. Philip David Palmer. Navigator. Beach Trader. Marine Engineer. Storyteller extraordinaire. 3rd generation immigrant. Friend. Father. Husband. Grandfather…
I heard on SIBC at 145pm, Phil has passed away.
I am uncharacteristically at a loss for words. We have all known that Phil was very ill. A combination of emphysema, numerous cancers, a lifetime of hard living is to blame. I am guessing Phil’s age to about 67 or 68. I will find out in due course.
For us mortals, the death of a close friend and compatriot is hard. It is even harder when it’s a bloke like Phil…
I have referred to Phil as “Peter Pan” more than once. The entire line is… The Solomon Islands is Never Never Land. You go there and you never grow up. And, of course, Phil Palmer was and remains Peter Pan.
I think of Phil at his funniest… a Cmas party we had on the Gizo depot wharf in about 1998. We had roasted a pig and set up a diving board on the wharf. We had presents for the kids, food for the masses and grog for the likes of Phil and I.
As happens we ended up in a frenzy of everyone throwing everyone in the water. At one point I recall my wife Grace, her sister, Maisy, and a friend, Rachel, getting a hold on Phil and carrying him to the edge and tossing him in. All the while the three women had Phil wrapped up he had a cigarette in his mouth. He playfully puffed away as they tossed him in. He went under the water and, when he surfaced, he still had a dry cigarette burning away.
Of course Phil had done the old “turn the cig around with your tongue” trick. He was an adept at this.
The result was hilarious at the time. Everyone was either impressed, confused or simply frightened (magic blo white man, ia).
Never Never Land will never never be the same without Phil.
Ancient voices in the silent night.
A desert wind.
The rocks are singing
of a people gone.
Mild-eyed cattle wander on
by a quiet waterway.
eyes that saw a snake within a mountain.
A flash of crimson in an oasis of green.
Ancient voices in the silent night.
A desert wind.
The rocks are singing in the wilderness.
just right. Swoosh!
creek water ripples.
ended up at:
I am not following any old squirrel. I don’t care what it does. I am tired of chasing after animals that talk and walk and carry watches and all sorts of other nonsense. Oh, I am not saying, oh Alyce dear, keep your feet on the ground, dear. NO! Oh no! I mean to run and fly and dream and swim and do all sorts of things. I am merely stating the bold, probably brainless fact that say unabashedly—I am not following someone else around on his dreams and journeys any longer. I am not ignoring my own dreams any longer. I am not subjugating my self or my desires any more. I have had more than enough of that. I am thirty-seven years old. Yes, thirty-seven. It is about bloody time I picked my own self up and asked her, what is it that you desire, Alyce dear? So that is what I am going to do. Pooh on that silly old squirrel! we can spike that thing on a stick and set it over the fire to roast and cook!
First things first, I may have been the one to plant this grove, but I did not plant it to contain me. I built it to give honor to the Goddess. I designed it to give succor to my bleeding heart in time of need. To honor the child that moved on without me. To give myself a place to go, a sanctuary, where I could do nothing at all but sob or dance or scream or sing or any combination thereof, unaffecting and undisturbed by any other outside influence. This grove indeed is a thing of wild beauty, grown strong, though a might twisted, watered as it has been by the tears of my fears and pains and angers and torments and pleasures and joys. Yet, it has grown, under the light of the moon, and the light of the sun. This is a place of peace. I have succeeded there. Yes.
Though, now, we come to this second thing. It is a circle, this grove. There is no beginning and no end. I created it this way. Quite specifically. It is made so that I may fly in or out as I chose. Yet, here I stand, without my wings. Somewhere along the line of living other people’s dreams, my wings were clipped and they’ve never grown back in and I just hadn’t taken the time to actually notice until now that maybe that isn’t such a good thing. The trunks of my blessed trees have grown thick, crowding close to one another. I am no longer the thin wiry beanpole I was as a child either. I have curves and lumps and hairs growing where they ought not to be. I have not kept up with my calling, with my Yoga, so my flexibility may be better than most, but it is nowhere near where it should be. I think I can wend my way in between this branch and that, climb over here, slink under that. I think I can make my way into the wood behind and beyond the grove. Surely, it awaits my travails.
So, yes, it would have been easier to follow that simpering squirrel. It is always so much easier to follow someone else as he goes about obtaining his desires, rather than fighting and standing strong to attain your own. I am nothing if not determined. The fire and flame of a hundred hundred red-heads flows through these veins, even if I show up as a blonde without the latest dye with which I’ve tried to pollute the coloration of my lovely locks. I do not take no for an answer and I can be both bitter and brutal once I set my mind to things. I am hard to dissuade.
Sigh. Why are these things always so hard? Why can’t I be the princess locked in the tower? I could grow my hair long enough to use it as a rope to climb down all by myself. No. I plant a freaking jungle that I have to crawl through on my belly, with sweat clotting in my eyes and stinging its way down my sides. Yes, that’s me. Never the one to take the easy road. Give me the long dark and scary ride, every time.
Ok. Now, I am out of my grove. And, uhm, it’s dark out here. So, three, where did all that sunlight go? Hey, where’s my Mother Moon? Round and glowing in her silver fullness? I will gladly take the shadows, if only I may catch a glimpse of the returning light to guide me and let me know I am on the right track. I can’t even see the stars for all the veg clouding and covering things. It is rather disenchanting. I can smell the ripe scent of loam and things that grow. It is not always a pretty smell. No little twinkle for Alyce here, hey? Not even the smallest of glows?
Oh, look. Lightning bugs. All over the place. Lying across leaves, piled two and three high in places. I guess for them I shall look away, out of decency’s sake there. Nevertheless, they are lights, tiny little butt-shaking lights, but there you go. Ask and ye shall receive, right? I shall not look a gift horse in the mouth. I feel safer now, with this tiny bit of something, strange as that may sound.
Now, to clomp and tromp my way through these woods, right? Do I make a great deal of noise? Hoping to frighten predators and prey alike? Or do I go quiet and meek through the underbrush, praying nothing catches even a mere hint of me? No. I am not longer the meek and small. Humble, I may be. But tiny and voiceless? Screw that. That party left the building eons ago. Boom, boom, boom, here I come. Fe fi fo fum, I’m coming to drink you dry, Englishman. You had better have something more than ale, although water alone would be so fine right now.
As I stalk these woods, meaner than any mountain lion, screeching out my own warrior song as I go, hoping to turn away bears and beasts galore with my raucous song, where should my mind be? Do I contemplate each vital leaf upon each hungry branch? Do I reach out, plum my own depths, forcing my way into my darker crevices to pry out the loose bits that have long caused me dread? Do I dig even deeper to excavate those long forgotten and now forlorn things I once called dreams? Do I let go of the past, allow it to remain buried, and in many instances allow the wind to carry the ashy remnants far from me in every direction? Or do I stop and cry to the wind to teach me? To bring me new things, things I have not thought of, things I had not dreamed possible? Am I stopping my own progress by wanting the things I want to want…or am I driving myself onward to attain these blessed goals? Do I avoid the forest for the trees…or are the trees avoiding me in their own lost pursuits? What does it take to be able to really see around here? Where do I go to obtain some semblance of clarity?
I decide, as I push and shove and snarl my way through vine and leaf, that I shall think of not even one thing, and see what my monkey mind throws at me. If the monkey mind throws enough…stuff…my way, surely some of it will stick, right? If I can get past the smell, to see the diamond buried in the stink, so to speak, then, certainly, I shall have a winner on my hands, won’t I?
Here we are, now. Where are we? Four? Five? I’ve lost count, what with all this singing and the monkey slinging. What is it here, the cream rising to the top….
I never really want the Barbie lifestyle. The husband, the kids, the dog, the white picket fence. I wanted all those things, yes, except maybe for that white picket fence thing, but not in the way everyone else does. I never expected to genuinely settle down, to have that sort of peace that having a real family brings. I also thought the children at my hearth would be brought to me, not had by me. The man I never expected to stay that long. Long enough maybe to create a child before moving on. I have always anticipated and planned to be a single mom. I don’t think til now I actually realized that. I meant to have my farm, to have to fight to keep things together, to grow things to survive more than to be ecologically sound, to take in all manner of strays and heal them up and get them ready to live again.
That’s not all together what I want any more. I still want the children. I want children of my own. If others come to me through whatever means, then so be it and blessings come. If we have the farm, terrific. If we plant the garden in our backyard in the middle of the city, so long as we can have some chickens and a goat or two, I would be happy and proud. Well, fine, even without the chickens or goats, I’d be happy and proud. I want that husband now, the good one, the one that stays and works through things, the one who does not lie or cheat or steal or any of those other things I am so used to when it comes to men. I want that disconnect from humanity, while still maintaining the vital vibrant edge of things, so that I may share my journey with others, to drag them along and show them the way to set down their chains and let go of all the things they allow to hold them down. I want to show them how they can stop following every rabbit, squirrel and corn nut that comes their way with a brilliant idea that is nothing like what they honestly want out of things.
Hey, look, isn’t that the sun? Is it dawn already? Here I stand now, at the edge of a great cliff, looking down into the depths of a roiling river. I can’t swim, but, you know what? I don’t care right now. I shall launch my frail frame into the air and dive into that swirling massive pool. I shall learn to shift myself into the ever-regenerating salmon, the one who does not wither and die upon spawning, but the one who continues to swim back year after year after year. I shall dive down deep, cleanse myself from the sweat and grit and grime of my overland journey, before bursting back to the surface with a renewed sense of…everything.
I look forward now, planning out, with very little detail and only bunches and bunches of hope and desire, the path I shall take from here on out…..look out, Universe, here I come. I’m playing by my rules now.
written, drawn and painted by Tabitha Kietero