Keeping current in wellness, in and out of the water
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We walked slowly and quietly around the long corridors of the old cloister. The long deserted places of worship and daily devotion were kept in order by the town council. Tourists and visitors climbed the winding drive from the village to see the remains of the famous monastery. Religious ceremonies had gone underground in the last decade of the cultural revival. New discoveries by researchers indicate that the last group of secret priests had gathered in this place to say the last rites for their church. It was said they had burned all the literature in a great bonfire to keep it out of the hands of the invaders. They held a great ceremonial funeral march under a full moon, then disbanded for their own safety. Scattering to the four winds, the former religious leaders infiltrated society and took on new occupations in new parts of the region.
They took with them only personal amulets which they kept on their bodies, hidden from public view. Any evidence that they had been part of any religion might have placed them in great danger, so they were cautious. They never spoke to anyone about the past or their former associates. They slowly drifted apart and forgot the importance of the rituals they had performed in the past. They found new interests and new ways of seeing the universe. They started to feel connected to new families and communities, forgetting the ideas they had held closely in the past.
As politics thaw and people once again look to find hope and unity, some say that visiting these old places of worship can bring peace and enlightenment. We feel cool and calm as we drift down the hall, imagining what this must have been like when it was full of monks. There is something about the light that feels serene. The arches that open to the orchard frame trees in blossom, surrounded by wildflowers carpeting the ground. Enchanted beings are said to have taken over the spot after the invaders withdrew. Some say you will observe trolls and wizards if you linger on the grounds after dark. We are enchanted enough for one day, and take our questions with us back down the hill. We wonder what religion really was, and how it has changed history.
This short story is inspired by this week’s photo prompt on Sue Vincent’s Echo. Each week she publishes a new photo on Thursday. Join the group to read, comment, or contribute your own poem, story, or essay. The variety to be found in the responses is amazing.
Crimson mittens kept our fingers warm as we marched up the hill in the forrest. Our lunch was still heavy in our systems while we trudged through the snow on the icy path looking for firewood. The night before we had slept at our grandparents’ cabin, full of memories, old books, letters, and games. We sifted through the boxes of photos, finding some that had been taken of our childhood visits. Those black and white images of our grandparents before their hair turned white flooded us with sentimentality.
We sat next to the fireplace telling stories and laughing about our youth until we had consumed all the dry wood. Watching the embers die and darkness descend was like witnessing the energy drained from those gentle ancestors who left us this cabin. They spent their lives in remote isolation, content with nature’s schedule. The grandchildren came for a month every summer, but returned to the city for the rest of the year. Now that they were gone we came out on winter holiday to take care of the place and decide what to do with it. It was the first time we had seen the place in winter. It was the only time we had been there without our grandparents.
We found a few pieces of dry wood tucked into a cranny in the rocks. We carried enough back to the house to make one more fire. This time the stories turned solemn, and spirits joined together in a mutual sadness and loss. We had busy lives, rarely stopping to reflect. None of us gathered our own firewood or even cleaned our own houses in the city. Our family was warmed in the glow of the fire, and let go of the daily grind. We recognized the loss of our grandparents was also the loss of a way of life none of us had embraced. The cabin contained traditions and memories that were melting like the snow, dissolving into the earth. This year the thaw will wash away most of our family’s connection to this place. It is possible to gain a fortune and lose it again many times. Once time is gone, it will never return.
If we were having coffee this weekend in Tucson I would invite you to relax with some iced tea and chocolate covered dates stuffed with walnuts. I scored yet another 20 pound box of Medjool dates at my produce pick up this morning. I have been giving dates away for weeks, and now I have about 30 pounds. They are perfect for winter, and will last a long time. I am looking for new date recipes. Sit down and tell me how your week has been. I hope all of those who have been hit by the storms are safe and dry. Our national recovery will take a long time. My heart goes out to those who have been displaced.
The week went quickly for me, with not much writing. I worked last weekend to make up for the day had to miss for grand jury. I was excused. The people who manage the process, from the registration staff, to the bailiff who guides you and tracks you by your badge number, to the judge, are all extremely professional. The judge was very clear in all his explanations, and the entire mega situation, with people reporting all day long, is handled super efficiently. We all had bar codes to track us, which I suppose enables a smooth and accurate accounting of all that happens. I was impressed with this little corner of government function. It works really well for all involved.
I am extremely glad not to have to dedicate 2 days a week to the court until the middle December. This morning I got the good news that I have an offer on the lot I have for sale across the street from my home. I accepted the offer and now have until October 19th to clear out my possessions from the lot and the barn. I had begun the job, but now there is a solid deadline to finish organizing and decluttering. I hoped to sell it before I had to pay taxes on it again, and it looks like I will meet that goal. I can’t wait to be finished downsizing. It is liberating to jettison unneeded stuff.
I wrote a short piece of fiction this week that was related to getting rid of family heirlooms. I am sure this came from my effort to relieve myself of the silly burden of files and papers from my dead parents finances, etc. This is the theme in my life at the moment. Marie Kondo has worked her magic into my very soul. I believe that tidiness is true happiness. I am out to prove it. By 19 October I will be a much lighter being. I think it will inspire my writing to be free. Stay tuned, and we shall see. This deadline is the best gift for me now.
Thanks for stopping by for a chat today. This moveable feast and digital coffee klatch is hosted each weekend by Diana at PartTimeMonster. Please join us to read, comment, or write your own coffee share post about what is happening in your life and writing.
The course included exasperating coded directions to find the path. Only the experts who had experience in mathematical code could make any sense of it. The others gathered strength for the climb by resting, meditating, and stretching. The recruits knew they would not all be able to make the ascent to the peak. Some would not be in physical condition for the rigors of the steep hike. Others could not resign themselves to the idea that only a few of them would survive the attempt to scale the sacred solo rock.
It was said that the surviving members of the party would be initiated into the noble society of knights of the vast horizon. This powerful, yet underground fraternity required extreme loyalty as well as full secrecy from the membership as well as their families. Sons usually followed fathers into the lodge. Often the young disappeared during the testing phase, never to be found. The most powerful worked hard to assure their progeny had the power and the accomplishments to inherit command upon death of a leader.
A complex game took place when a leader died or left. The people believed that this process revealed the best person to step into the newly vacated position. Potential candidates were summoned to the town square and given maps. Each map was different and contained both real and bogus directions to reach the summit of solo peak. The player who managed to climb to the overlook before sundown would be given the office. The new leader left his mark on the rock then hurried back down to the village.
The trip back down the steep rocky path was the most treacherous part of the journey. All the other candidates hide and do what they can to ambush and kill the new leader so they can claim the win. The field is thinned to one at the end. Nobody is sure if the winner is the one they saw at the top of solo peak, or just the one who managed to kill the others and make it back to the village. And that is how politics were born.
The soldiers scrambled down the rocky terrain and spread out to hide in ambush. They had a secret mission to intercept a currier who was carrying supplies to the enemy general in the field. It was uncertain when the delivery would be made, but they had reliable intelligence about the location. A spy had infiltrated the opposing camp to listen in on planning and strategy conversations. Espionage was rather crude in that era, and extremely dangerous. The young man who had been sent to gather information had to remember it and relay it in person to a contact. This required regular escapes from the camp, as well as returning in secrecy to his tent after the clandestine meetings. He was chosen for his speed and his ability to make his way in the dark in silence.
He was never raised to be a spy. His family was famous for long distance running and athleticism. His brothers all joined sports teams and became stars. He planned to follow in their footsteps, but had been drafted into the army when the war broke out up north. He did not want to go, but since his family felt strongly that he should, he agreed to join the military effort. His politics had not yet developed, but he suspected that the war and strife was absorbed by the poor while seeming to benefit the rich. He did not really believe in defending this state of affairs, but was caught in a trap. He hoped that the war would somehow liberate him. He longed to leave the island and never return.
As the afternoon died he made his way through the woods to meet his contact at the prearranged time. He only had a short window of time because he would be missed if he was not back for dinner. He felt scared this time. Something just felt wrong that day. As he snuck around the bend to the appointed meeting place he was shot in the back by his own brothers in arms. The arrow that pierced his heart was shot from the bow of a counter-spy who had infiltrated his platoon while he was busy in the opposing camp. He died instantly.
Please join writers from around the world each Thursday at Sue Vincent’s Echo for an inspirational photo. Find these stories and poems on twitter using the hashtag #writephoto. This diverse group interprets the photo with great creativity and insight. Read, write, or comment to join the party.
She knew from the smell when she opened the front door that her mother was cooking cabbage rolls again. The hallway and the stairwell smelled heavily of cabbage when she came home from school. For her it was the reassurance of a meal to eat, but for others who visited her after school it was foreign. They always asked when they arrived at the landing in front of her upstairs apartment, “What is that smell?” Her parents were both from Poland, and her mother was an excellent cook. She used cabbage almost every day because it was cheap and healthy. Audrey was both proud and ashamed of her heritage and her ethnic diet at home. She wanted to blend in with kids at school who ate much differently than her family. Her mom was really the one with the mad chef skills, but she was ashamed of that cuciferous odor coming from the kitchen all the time.
Her home and the family income were average for the time and the place. Audrey felt that she and almost everyone she knew in school would be classified as “middle class”. There were fewer class distinctions in elementary school than there would be later in life. She had friends, boyfriends, and was popular. In the 1950’s in our tiny town the children were given relative freedom to do as we pleased until dinner time. Friendships that began on the whiffle ball field or in a snow fort would often conclude with an invitation to eat dinner at another kid’s home. Most mothers would consent if an extra child was brought home, but permission had to be granted from the visitor’s parents. In this way we checked out each other’s family dining habits and parental norms. It was a very common practice. She held back from accepting invitations because she did not want to reciprocate. This was the beginning of her social withdrawal.
Now that she is back at home taking care of her parents in their home she wishes she had learned to make stuffed cabbage the way her mom did. She is an adequate cook, but does not know any of her grandparents’ traditional recipes from the old country. She buys frozen foods and prepared packaged meals. A certain amount of guilt consumes her as she spoon feeds frozen corndogs to her mom. She does not understand what her mother is telling her in Polish, and she feels a loss that cannot be recovered.
At the most stressful times she could remove herself from the action by calling on her ability to go into a trance. She had been a captive since her early childhood. She can barely remember her own abduction and the long ride down the mountain out of the forrest. They crossed barren plains scarred with the remnants of war to the camp where she remained. She never saw her family again, and was taught a new language, full of harsh sounds and concepts. In her few hours of rest she remained faithful to her tribe’s values, trying to keep the few sacred words of her mother tongue alive in her mind. There was no speaking around in that forbidden language, for the camp was used to erase culture and tribal belief. The process was a special kind of stripping of confidence that left them all exhausted.
Her skill to call down the moon was still in tact. She spent the full moon nights in reverie, practicing the trances and the dances she had been taught as a little girl. She felt her own power grow as her values changed. She knew the secret of taking responsibility. The people brought to the camp were stripped of their identity and culture, then programmed for menial and dehumanizing work. They were hoodwinked into thinking they had no choices in life, that this awful slavery was a punishment for something they had done.
In her meditation she saw the logs in the forest that her grandmother used for an altar. She could pull in every detail of that scene, and even hear the voices of her people chanting to bring her back home. Finally one night in her dream the path to return to her village was revealed. A strong bold figure opened the gates and brought all the people into freedom. She ran quickly up the hill with an unlimited energy she had never had. Her steps were swift and sure as she climbed the last hill. She saw her whole family gathered around the altar, dancing slowly, chanting sweetly. When she awoke and found herself safely snuggled in her own hammock she knew she had been taken on a special dream journey. She ran to her grandmother for an explanation. All her grandmother would say was, “You have been chosen. Now you must choose which path you will use.” She was not sure which one, if any, was real.
This story is a response to the Thursday photo prompt on Sue Vincent’s Echo. Please join each week for poems and stories on a photo theme. It is fascinating to read the different ways writers interpret the picture.
Her troubled mind had conjured up some frightening scenarios. She sat for hours wringing the hands that had once been so productive and accomplished. Her memory played cruel tricks on her as she tried to survive without her husband. Ernie had taken care of certain aspects of life that had always been a mystery to her. Although my grandparents ran a farm together, sharing the heavy work load, my grandmother was in the dark about the family finances. When she became a widow and could no longer stay alone at her farm it had been sold. Her life of relative freedom came to an end. She lived in institutions or at her children’s homes, never really settling. She missed independence even though she could barely manage daily tasks without a great deal of assistance. She disliked the feeling of being a houseguest, or even a child, of her son’s family. She had lost her matriarch status, and had to defer to her daughter-in-law. This life in suburban Pittsburgh was foreign, and cold. She rarely went out, and when she did she was fearful, even with her family. She lost her ability to relax. Anxiety was her only companion.
When the sun set she sat in the back yard in silence. This time to herself was spent every day engaging in bird watching. She had little sensitivity to human emotions, but was tuned into nature like a trance. She could feel the spirits of each bird soaring. Their playful flight brought a rush of feelings from her youth, from her most sorrowful, as well as her brightest times. She could sense that her own spirit was close to a threshold. She sometimes thought her spirit left her body and explored the sky above her for a while. As darkness fell the caregiver arrived to guide her into the building. Her lightness of being vanished as the door closed behind her. Perhaps tomorrow will be the day she finally takes off for eternity. She feels as if she has already spent an eternity here.
The building bitterly fell down around them in the end. They refused to move when the epidemic wiped out the neighbors and all the businesses. They decided to stay since they were the sole surviving members of the cult. The bishops foretold of a great sickness, and built shelters to hide from the inevitable. The underground bunkers that had been designed to save the people from harm turned out to be the source of the deadly mold that infected their lungs and spread like wild fire. After almost a year of suffering and loss the difficult decision was made to seal the enclosures with the infected population trapped inside.
Very few of the elders knew about the plan to bury those who were carrying the mold in order to save the few who remained healthy. The stone house was the headquarters of the operation. The six members of the board carried out their plan with precision and cold blooded planning. While the people in the bunkers slept they set off canisters of poison gas and closed the entrances. They were all killed as they dreamed. Those in charge knew they had murdered their own believers in what they decided was self defense. There was no excuse, and there would be no remorse from these reprobates. They only cared for their own survival at any cost.
Although they had years of food stored for the future of the community, when they opened the storehouse they found it swarming with all kinds of bugs. The seeds had been devoured by the hungry insects who now jumped out and started to eat the rest of the humans. They took refuge back in the stone house until the building itself heaved and crumbled to the ground. There was no earthquake or storm. The stones of the walls and the clay tiles on the roof rebelled against giving shelter to these selfish plotting fools. In an act of revenge they crushed the elders as they slept. Nature had the last word. Only a ruin stands now as a reminder of human greed and folly gone awry.
Please visit the photo prompt round up to read the entires from last week. Read, write, comment, contribute!
People tell stories about the time before the stone wall was built. The streams and rivers flowed freely and served everyone as they went by. Water to run small mills and to irrigate crops was plentiful and easy to find. Family farmers subsided and even thrived in years when the weather was favorable. The community members provided for each other, and the simple agricultural life was comfortable. They had plenty of food, shelter, and water.
Progress came to the area in the form of a land buy out by a large estate owner who wanted to experiment in modern farming techniques. His ignorance of nature combined badly with his lame and greedy attitude toward those with deep knowledge of working the land. He changed the landscape, moved the waterways to suit his purposes, and set out to build an empire. He had a monopoly on all the waterways in the valley, having sewn up all the land on which the tributaries flowed. His signature move was a large stone wall he built. It stood in the middle of stream, with tunnels to handle the water as it flowed beneath the structure. He was secure and pleased with his conquest of this natural resource when all hell literally broke loose. With a crack of thunder and a flash of lightening the sky broke open with a stormy and deadly response to his lack of respect for Mother Nature.
The flash flood poured over all the banks and rushed through the canals and tunnels like an angry dragon. Destruction and erosion brought famine to the land, once ripe and productive. Once the greedy land owner gave up the ghost the land itself returned to a riparian state. The farmers did not return, so the land has been fallow for centuries. It no longer feeds or shelters people. The natural world has taken the place of the former residents. The streams flow sweetly and green moss covers the ancient stone as if nothing had ever happened. All is forgotten.