Keeping current in wellness, in and out of the water
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When they lived along the river the whole family used to hike up to the rock hideout a few times every year for a party, a picnic, and some music. Families wandered more in those times. They met folks from other towns, learned new songs from them, and exchanged some goods. The den in the rocks was used for festive purposes before the flood. They never had to worry about thieves or tricksters in those days. Life was simple. There was plenty for everyone. They had not known tragedy or loss. Then one day a wall of water rushed down the valley, washing away everything on both sides of the river for miles.
When the water finally subsided and they surveyed the damage it was decided that moving to higher ground was practical. If they were to rebuild and start anew, they wanted to be sure they could not be wiped out so suddenly by the whims of the river. They looked for signs. They decided to make their new headquarters in the old hideout. It had some sentimental value to them, and they were emotionally fragile. The loss of their home and possessions took a heavy toll.
They used the cave as a shelter, a watchtower, and a place to store their belongings while they built new lives. The significance of the place to the family became legend. When we come up here now we like to tell stories about the time when our ancestors camped in this place in order to survive.
This piece is a response to the photo prompt on Sue Vincent’s Echo this week. Every week she posts a new photo to inspire poetry or prose, long or short. Join us for a wide variety of responses every Thursday. The fun is in seeing all the ways people write about the same image.
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.
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.
The sandy beach was sunlit and appealing as we stepped ashore. We had all been on a picnic party out to the island that had become a bit too rowdy for some of us. We left our jolly drinking friends to make their own way back, since they had become argumentative and feisty in a rude way. We could see that they had more than enough rum left to bring the evening to some kind of roaring conclusion, but we had roared quite enough with the crowd. They were always the same. We rowed the short distance back to mainland and felt the peace descend gently just as the sun sunk lower on the horizon, reflecting in the water.
I like to watch the sun go down from those dunes when the summer is starting to warm up. The sailing and kayaking pick up as weather permits. The bay becomes crowded with vessels, visitors, pretenders, and kings. The cottages are rented or opened for the just summer by those who can afford multiple dwellings. The visitors employ plenty of staff in the kitchens, gardens and drawing rooms. There are chauffeurs and butlers hanging out at the tavern in town late at night telling all the stories of their households to the other servants.
No secret lasted long, and no juicy gossip traveled on unembellished. Stories of wild lavish parties, intrigue and financial ruin were the daily bread of this summer society. They did not separate themselves from city life to be out of touch with all the news. They savored the tales of family strife or business struggles with relish. We enjoy a week at the cottage my aunt lends to us every year at this time. We do go to a few parties, like the picnic today, but we don’t really come for the social life. We like the beach when it is empty. Our pleasures are simple and all our needs are easily met. We pull our green rowboat out of the water and lift it over our heads to carry it back to the boathouse. The day is complete.
There is a ghost swan that appears on the eve of Robert Burn’s Day on the Loch above the ancient castle. The apparition sails across the water following the course of the boat that sailed from the shore in 1235 with a small band of rogue fighters. The land was under attack from the neighboring clan, and the family honor was in dire straights. Survival depended on their ability to take the foe in the middle of the night by stealth. They had little ammunition left to defend their home, and food supplies were dwindling. They were desperate and hungry for victory when they quietly shoved off from the muddy shore, rowing quietly through the night. They were in pitch black darkness, no light to guide their way. Cloudy moonless skies hung heavily with damp and deadly signs. They wished for a miracle.
As the clan gathered strength to cross the loch to meet their fate a white swan appeared before them. They perceived the bird as friendly, a guide and advisor for the battle to come. The glow from the swan created streams of light in the water in front of the rickety little boat. Reflecting in the light the vessel looked bigger than it was. The enemy was afraid of being outnumbered by the crew being lead by a magical swan. They were scared that the swan itself was a monster with powers to drown or burn them to death. They packed up quickly and ran for their lives, never to return. Peace was guaranteed by the fear of they had of the ghost swan.
People say when there is an appearance of the swan these days is a reminder to stand up for what is yours. It is a symbol of protection and self defense. Magic helps them that help themselves.
Please visit Sue Vincent’s blog to see more submissions, and maybe write one of your own. Thank you, Sue, for an excellent image with which to begin.
I have managed to slip out of my creativity rut, just a bit. I admire the way so many writers in this program work on several books or projects at once. I rarely start a post that I do not finish in a day, so this longer attention span on a written piece is intriguing. I heard an interview on PBS radio with a professor of creative writing. He shall remain nameless, in part because I do not remember his name. He described two distinct ways of working on a story. He starts by just grinding out the words, and later in the day he edits them. He says the later session in which he edits can be relaxing and easy. I see this advice as a basic guide for me to expand my ability to tackle different subjects and new kinds of forms. I not only need to just do it, as they say at Nike. I also need to just edit it. I have written poetry this week that is not all about soul and butterflies, so that is a start. I spun a little story into a poem about real life. This is something I might try with matching prose and poetry posts. Starting with beheading was just too tricky, but I did relate to my grandmother’s craft work and extreme busy-ness with a short tribute. I still reserve judgement because I have not been doing this for very long.
Two goals are eluding me, but I think I can find ways to accomplish them. I want to be loyal to my dream journal by writing before I get out of bed, or even stir. This worked well for a while, but during the last week my dog, who has end of life issues, needed me to let her out during the night 4 or 5 times, including first thing in the morning. I can keep a little bit of the memory while I walk down the stairs and give her the relief she needs, but it is difficult. I have tried to capture specific words and colors from dreams to inspire the poems. I am sad about the kidney failure of my darling dog, so a certain sorrow takes over as soon as I think about how often she needs to go and how much water she is drinking. She has had a good life, and is not in pain, but this is a shadow covering the early morning dream memory. Maybe I need to write about my dog. I have also failed to physically visit the U of A Poetry Center. I keep planning to dedicate Friday to Venus, to revere all things of beauty and love. I think sitting around the Poetry Center reading is a total dedication to beauty, but my daily routine has not capitulated enough to allow this to occur. I will overcome, although maybe not on a Friday. I know that once I establish a habit, a ritual, I will enjoy it. I do love the podcasts and the apps that read to me in the comfort of my home, but I believe the pilgrimage to the poets’ place will change my perspective. I am not taking these failures too much to heart because the whole point was to write poems, and I am doing that. Onward and upward..
I am chiming in one day later than some because yesterday I made a stunning discovery in my family tree. I do think that since many of my real family members have been the subjects of fiction and even operas and poems, I should look more closely at making stories based on fact, or even on imagination. These characters are already alive in my thoughts and dreams and do some predictable stuff. I enjoy all the time I spend learning about the family facts and the supporting evidence. I notice that fiction writers develop their characters out of thin air, perhaps with a culture or time in history in mind. I can start with facts and the skeleton of what is known to make my stories real. I can also write about my dog and stop whining about my precious dream journal. Soon enough she will be only in my dreams. Now is my chance to see her in real life and help her with her dreams.