Choose to live.

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For me, the best New Year quote was given in the movie Braveheart. He says, “All men die, but not all men truly live.” Many go through life chained to circumstances, living according to “the pattern” of expectation, quenching their dreams, sweet childhood racing hearts reduced to spiritual poverty, disabled by fear.

To truly live demands courage. One might meet an untimely death! At best we stand to fail sometimes, become a target for gossip, have our “friends” desert us. I’ve trod the path, I know.

The alternative to embracing life, is to live a humdrum existence, to “arrive safely at death” dreams stored away lest you fail. I did this at first, till at 17 I exploded, unable to contain it any longer. I hurt some people (especially the boyfriend I no longer wanted to marry). The truth can hurt, but I would have hurt them more in the long run…

I cracked the – 1960s council estate, London suburbia – mould, getting a job in downtown London, I pursued my talents, eventually earning a fine art degree and being ostracized by former friends and neighbours for my audacity. I questioned everything, began to travel, to teach, and best of all (after a great many adventures and going through hell for a while) discovered God was real. From that point on, though there have been battles to fight, I led an enchanted life of total FREEDOM!

During this time, I was continually told these things were impossible for me, a poor girl from a council estate where no one could dream of more than shop, office or factory work, scarcely knew other options existed. Even my school advised against my staying on to take GCSEs (I was dyslexic – a condition unrecognised then) so I left school and started work at 14 years old. I see in retrospect God always had a hand on my life.

Well, that’s my story and it has repeated itself in my children, each conquering “the impossible” in their own way. My advice to anyone with a burning fire? If you hate your life, be brave! Step out on the water like Peter. Sure, he sank when he looked at the waves and the wind, (as we often do) but Jesus lent a hand and together they walked on the water. Peter, a simple fisherman, is remembered while the richly endowed of his time are forgotten. Not for his intellect, talents or wealth but due to his courage to risk everything. So, step out, pursue those dreams, but, if you’d be wise, take God’s hand you may need it sometimes.

Eternal imagery

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I’ve often cause to wonder, when in lucid dreams I stray,
I seem as always I have felt,
The rounded chin, the wrinkles melt.
This other self in dreams appears still young and slim today?

No. More than this.
Though it’s me, yet bones more slight, the eyes more free,
Familiar as a glance may be, me … yet not me.

“Why?” I ask.
A dream voice answers, clear as a bell.
“You’re in disguise, ’tis but a shell.”
I ponder then upon my bed disguises others bear.

The crippled form, the ugly face,
May one day be interfaced
True beauty hid within a husk
That one day shall be turned to dust.
On that day we shall see.
Just what was hid from you and me.

A Christmas dream.

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granpa

The old armchair squeaks companionably as I edge my equally aged frame down into its depths. The fire is really only fake electric logs, but if I squint my eyes, minus glasses, it could pass for the real thing. Alone at Christmas, hugging my masculine independence, like a tattered security blanket, to my heart, I close my eyes. Not for me care homes with immaculately scrubbed walls. Let me rather linger here and remember what once was. Thoughts drift…

 

I see, through falling snow, a man chopping pine. He looks up, beckoning me as he carries in the logs, motioning me to come inside. Hesitantly I dust the snow from my boots. The house is modest but roomy. A girl and boy of eight or nine, rush up to him, their cheeks rosy, as if they’ve been helping with outdoor chores. Little faces peer around the door, shy of this stranger in their midst, whist mother comes in with a tray of steaming drinks.

A real wood fire burns in the grate and I hold out my hands relishing the glowing heat. Muffins follow as the three little faces come in, drawn by the treat. Father heaves one on each knee, laughing, merry, peeking at me from the corners of their eyes

A Christmas tree stands in one corner. A real one, I note with satisfaction, taking in the brisk smell of pine needles. There’s a natural joy about this family that seems to bubble over into laughter, as if they are just so happy to be alive and together. I begin to chuckle too. I just can’t help myself.

Life has a different perspective for them it seems, no hustle or bustle, no vying for gifts. Father proudly shows off his little brood, mother loving and affectionate towards him and them. I‘ve missed this I realized.

Seeing my glance, finger to lips, she motions me to accompany her into a side room. It’s full of half made things, embroidery and needlework, magnificent half completed cushions, paintings, mixtures of dried herbs that give off a wonderful aroma, woodwork, carvings and a beautiful mural set in the floor and I realize it is a workshop, not only for her but for their whole family. I see gaily painted blocks (a project of the elder boy?) A panel of somewhat messy embroidery and a rough half carved rocking horse. I run my hands wistfully over the pine, memories stirring.

I hear music coming from the other room. Mother nods and we return. They’re dancing, the girls giggling and swirling gaily, as father prances around, a fiddle in hand, from which he gleans a scratchy melody. I clap and stamp in time as mother invites me to my feet…

 

But I can’t dance, my slippers are soggy. I look down at my spilled mug of tea. A dream, just a dream, but it sure was a good one! I glance at the plastic fire, the fake tree with its store bought decorations and sigh.

Just then the doorbell rings. Shuffling along in soggy slippers I peer through the frosted glass. It couldn’t be? Could it?

“Surprise!” I’m almost bowled over by two rambunctious, young teenagers. My son grabs my shoulder to steady me.

“Now calm down you two hoodlums,” he yells. “Gramps is not as strong as he used to be.”

He looks into my eyes, “We couldn’t leave you on your own for Christmas again dad. I just couldn’t come last year… the whole thing with mum, it was too much. But I… I kept remembering about the time we made that rocking horse for Emmie’s Christmas present. Do you remember? It was so wobbly she could barely ride it, but I always remember building it with you.”

“Yes, I remember son.” Eyes tearing I hug him close.

Returning to the living room the fake fire and tree didn’t seem to matter anymore. I had my dream, my Christmas dream.

 

 

Dream Master (no. 3)

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flash fiction from October 2014

Song Bird Songs

lights
The darkness was soft around her like a comforting blanket, warm and snug, endued with a faint glow. Embedded in the walls, if such they could be called since they had no substance, glimmered pinpoints of light, momentarily flickering. She reached out her hand, as in slow motion, clasping substance in the mist. A jewel glistened within her hand, glowing in the darkness. She reached out eagerly to get more wondering at the rainbow forms glistening on her palm.
She was aware of a being beside her his face picked out in silver light. The dream master was here.
“I’m sorry you had to come alone,” he whispered, his voice an echo of the stillness. “This lesson cannot be taught another way. I wanted you to overcome your fear of the darkness, those black times when clouds of doom and destruction overcome your life.”
Reaching up he plucked a delicate…

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Dream Magic.

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(From September 2014)

Song Bird Songs

dreams med

Do we all dream alike? I’m often amazed at dream concepts related or portrayed in paintings and movies so vastly different to my own. I wonder at the diverse worlds we enter when sleeping.
Personally my dreams generally come in two varieties, what I term “frustration dreams” (often after a stressful day) where I’m trying to find something (a place, person, or item of clothing – even the bathroom!) but just can’t find it.

The other more usual dreams are practical or inspirational. In these dreams I discover solutions to problems, new creative ideas and of course my best stories! I often take it for granted that if I “sleep on it” the answer will probably be right there in my head when I wake up. I’ve discovered though many folks find this unusual. Do my fellow writers also glean words and stories in that wonderful stage between sleep and…

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Coma (blog bite 5 from a short fantasy story)

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deer

“I want to stay! I want to stay! Please Doc give me another shot!” Alex sobbed. But the words no longer found utterance, trapped as he was in the useless shell that had once been his body, muscle and sinew slowly wasting away as he himself wasted inside, trapped!

Tears of frustration forced their way out seeping between prison bars into the old world he’d once known. A nurse noticed, retrieving a tissue to wipe them away.

“Poor sod.” She muttered. “He must be conscious somewhere inside.”

“Nonsense,” said the impassive doctor at the foot of his bed. “He’s practically brain dead. Not much hope there. ” The nurse slipped her hand into Alex’s, as the doctor strode away, leaning over to kiss his forehead before, with a sigh, she resumed her duties. The small touch of humanity made the pain even more poignant. Something broke inside. Like a torrent of water it gushed forth its pain and fear then suddenly, without the injection, without Doc, he was there…

Animal foot prints in the snow? Something had passed this way. He stood at the edge of a forest. Passing among the trees he glimpsed tiny faces peering out, curious, but strangely unafraid. Chipmunks and squirrels dashed through the trees as if intent on appraising their visitor. A deer raised its head in his direction but did not run away; rather, satisfied it returned to its grazing, impassive…

*

“I thought you’d make it here eventually!” Doc was walking through the trees towards him.

“Am…am I dead?”

“No,” Doc smiled. “You are very much alive Alex, perhaps more than you’ve ever been.”

“But then how… You didn’t give me a shot… at least I don’t think you did…”

“There never were any shots Alex.”

“I don’t understand…”

“No but you will.” He fell silent for a moment looking around.

“It was like this at the beginning,” he continued, “before they began to prey upon each other. That’s why the smaller, weaker ones flourish in such abundance now. There’s plenty of room for them to expand with the cities gone.”

“Cities? What cities? Where is this?”

“Not where, when!”

“So much was destroyed in those final years, now it is being replenished. These trees are young, a mere one or two hundred years. This was a city once, an urban area reduced to rubble. Now the sands of time have clothed it once more with beauty, and nature, once perverted by man, flourishes.”

“People moved away from the cities after a while to make a new start at life. They took what was useful and left. Hardly any knew anything of the new agrarian lifestyle most were to pursue. Few survived but those few were special. Most were happy to leave, in fact most already had left of their own accord for one reason or another- they couldn’t buy or sell. They’d been hunted, lost families and loved ones; these were the survivors. Like the animals they were few, but their needs were few also, content to be alive, to be free. Some had survival skills and helped others, all were ready to learn. From one day to the next farmers became the new elite, teaching businessmen and ex heads of state how to farm and care for the land.”

“How do you know all this? Who the hell are you anyway?”

Doc smiled. “You think I’m a figment of your imagination don’t you?”

“No you… you were…”

“Was I?”

“I don’t know! Am I going crazy?” Doc stopped, taking Alex’ hand he looked deep into his eyes.

“You’re not dead and you’re not crazy Alex.”

“Then what?”

“I brought you here for a purpose. You’ve always been a traveler, reveled in new cultures…”

“Yes, but never anything like this”

“No, not like this. I want you to talk about it, write a few more books. Use your celebrity status to pass on the message.”

“I’m hardly a celebrity.”

“Not yet, but you will be, if you accept the task.”

Coma. (blog bite of short fantasy story)

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needle

Alex awoke to morning sunlight dazzling his eyes. He moved to sit up. Then he remembered…The dreams were becoming more real than his “reality”. He waited passively in his unresponsive body for the all-important shot that would reunite him with his fantasy utopia.

It came, the beaming smile, eye contact, and the prick of the needle. His eyes closed in expectancy, opening to focus on a white stone fountain, fresh sparkling water, a small town square reminding him of southern Italian piazzas…

A cool breeze ruffled his shirt. Villagers sat around white, ironwork tables drinking wine, chatting, feet outstretched in the evening sunshine.  A weathered old man, foot resting on a rattan chair, coaxed music from an ancient fiddle for a group of young dancers. More people were coming together having finished work for the day.

There was a feeling of balance, no one tired or exhausted, the intense need prevalent in Alex past life to “party” as an antidote to work or stress (as if enjoyment must be crammed in) seemed entirely missing.

Alex looked around for his guide. Doc was close by, answering the unspoken questions as if it were the most natural thing in the world.

“Most do this every night, or most nights,” He informed Alex. “Someone is always here and they enjoy this time together.”

It seemed quite family orientated, with quite a few old folks, mostly sitting at the tables or playing instruments. Children dashed between the groups playing games, some intent on an occupation similar to jacks, squatting on the ground, there were even a few dogs milling in the crowd. Younger folks were mostly dancing and talking.

“Not everyone is here,” Doc explained. “Some young couples for example prefer to walk alone, or enjoy the moonlight and stars.” He chuckled.

There was an overall feeling of peace and tranquility, song and laughter; no one seemed to be intense. Alex noted the old man that played had the fiddle dancing with a young woman and a strapping looking youngster with a little girl standing on his feet to dance. No one putting on a show, everyone included.

There were lampposts set about the square lighting the tables and illuminating the fountain, making the water sparkle. Some folks sat on its edge, a young girl splashing her companion, he laughed as it ended in a kiss. They all suddenly turned to acknowledge and wave to Alex, a wave of farewell. Was it time to go?

“No Doc, no! Not yet! I don’t want to go!” Alex pleaded, but the wave of darkness invaded none the less.