Forest.

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forest

Leaves of orange and red rustled in the breeze above her. She loved the forest, the solitude. Here she could be truly alone with her memories, indulge her senses to the full with no eyes to watch. She danced, spinning in circles, trancing passing patterns in piles of past years leaves now brown and gold. She smiled, giving voice to her joy, for the birds and woodland creatures alone.

Stopping to recline on a weathered stump she glanced at its aged rings. So had her life been, circles growing outward, growing stronger. Within lay the marks of time, the storms, the years of want, the years of plenty, the years its heart had near frozen. She stroked the smooth surface in understanding. The tree no longer lived here, converted to furnishings it now enjoyed a different existence, yet its roots remained, the story of its life embalmed like a woodland throne.

Her eyes reached up to the sky above, shafts of sunlight patterning the canopy, as the sun broke through the cloud transforming the air to gold. She sucked in her breath at the beauty of it all. Why couldn’t life always be like this? Why didn’t people seem to understand?

She thought about the ugliness of her job, the sordid squalor of the city streets. She wanted to help, to make a difference, yet it so often ended the same. Young lives grew distorted in the urban landscape.

Perhaps if she brought them here, perhaps here they too could be free to grow, to expand? Funding was always short, but she had wealthy clients also. Perhaps they’d see it if she brought them here. Perhaps they too might benefit? A picture formed in her head, something simple, nothing grand, just a place they could come out here in the woods where rich and poor might mingle, might learn from the world around them,  might grow strong and healthy.  Despite her studies she fought a losing battle, but here, perhaps here, one might turn the tide?

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.

 

 

Return to my Ivory Tower.

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ivory towerFrom June 23rd. 2014

Song Bird Songs

Well it’s not actually ivory and it’s only two stories, but it is an idyllic place and I do have a “knight in shining armor” living next door, a “jack of all trades” with a heart of gold who routinely rescues folks (not only me). The lakes and trees are nearby for me to wander in and my quaint old English town is dressed in red and white flags (world cup fever strikes even here.)
The love birds have returned from their honeymoon and I’m free of watching over my grandkids. It was precious having the company of my other daughter for a while, here from China for the wedding, and my eight year old grandson is a great guy. We spent wonderful afternoons together enjoying the benefits of the love birds’ home, picnicking under the pavilion in the garden, listening to the birds, the sound of the little river…

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Alone Time.

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rest

Where ever I live I always have to find a “secret place” to be alone. It may be a deserted beach, some small woodland, a deserted park, a roof garden (sometimes even the roof itself – don’t tell my kids!)

We all need “space” sometimes, lots of it! We need to immerse ourselves in the beauty of nature to wash away the grime and dirt of living. We need silence so we can think straight and get our bearings.

Only once did I live without such a place (in a huge apartment building in Taiwan) I was literally like a caged lioness (I am a Leo) snarling at everyone. Then I heard someone say their were communal laundry lines on the roof. My mind did a double think, ROOF!

After some effort I discovered a door I’d long assumed to be a cupboard with stairs leading two flights beyond where the lift stopped and there I found a wonderful roof garden with trees seats and a fantastic view,  all totally unused by the occupants – problem solved! I claimed frequent possession and returned to “pussy cat” mode (much to everyone’s relief!)

Do you have a secret place?

Looking back.

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look mountain

I find as I get older looking back tends to make me feel a little dizzy, like when you glance back down a mountain you’ve climbed and the past things look so small and distant. Time seems to not only fly but even the summer already seems years ago, so much has happened this year.

The most momentous events have to be two weddings that will forever set this year apart. My eldest daughter’s was a perfect, fairy tale second wedding (compiled of two years of planning and hard work) held in a beautiful 1,000 year old Italian castle on the edge of the alps completing the impossible love story of two very special folks finding true love again despite the miles that separated them.

The second wedding (my youngest daughter), was a more humble affair in Mexico where she met her German husband while both working as volunteers. So much went awry, the caterers canceling two days before, the venue broken into and wrecked, and finally waiters who had no idea how to mix and serve drinks, (such is Mexico) but it was made special by the total outgoing love and concern of the guests, cooking food, taking over the bar, getting everyone on the dance floor (and later in the pool.) The two weddings were as different as chalk and cheese but each wonderful in its own way.

What else this year? Facing my IT gremlins and starting “love to read love to write” and more recently “song bird”. It’s been a steep learning curve and I’m still climbing! Then there’s starting the new book I’ve been trying to write for a long time, finally getting the balance of fact and fiction woven right. It’s also been my first ever year living alone with all its adjustments, having to make an effort to get out of my “ivory tower” now and then to make new friends and look up old ones.

There’s just one unresolved mystery still to solve, strangely I’ll discover how that pans out on New Years Eve. What is it? That one’s my secret!

Return to my Ivory Tower.

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Well it’s not actually ivory and it’s only two stories, but it is an idyllic place and I do have a “knight in shining armor” living next door, a “jack of all trades” with a heart of gold who routinely rescues folks (not only me). The lakes and trees are nearby for me to wander in and my quaint old English town is dressed in red and white flags (world cup fever strikes even here.)
The love birds have returned from their honeymoon and I’m free of watching over my grandkids. It was precious having the company of my other daughter for a while, here from China for the wedding, and my eight year old grandson is a great guy. We spent wonderful afternoons together enjoying the benefits of the love birds’ home, picnicking under the pavilion in the garden, listening to the birds, the sound of the little river, watching swan and duck visitations, but I’m aching to write. Words and ideas crowd my head so it’s hard to sleep and I’ve missed the simple tranquility of my “tower”.
It’s strange; I always dreaded the idea of living alone, having been part of a large extended family. A fellow friend and writer smiled and said I’d love it. He knew me better than I knew myself, or perhaps we are just alike, because I do love it! I love the time, the tranquility of my situation, time to think, to ponder, to write and to paint.