Welcome to aliisaacstoryteller, guardian of Irish mythology.
Welcome to aliisaacstoryteller, guardian of Irish mythology.
It’s not that I don’t trust you. It’s not that I think you won’t take proper care of her, or that I think I’m a better parent than you. It’s nothing arrogant like that at all.
But there is a lot of potential for things to go wrong. In particular, Carys could go into heart failure at any time. It’s a fact we have to live with, although to look at her, so robust and full of life, you would never think so.
She also has a tendency to stop breathing when she coughs, or a little bit of food lodges in her throat, or she takes too big a swig of juice, because her little system is too weak to cough up effectively.
I know that you are just as capable as me in dealing with situations like that. Every parent knows what to do when a child coughs or chokes. Every adult knows when they need to call an ambulance for events they cannot deal with themselves.
So that’s not it either.
My friends are precious to me, because I know I am not an easy person to be a friend of. I’m a bit of a loner, I spend a lot of time tapping away at my computer or visiting ancient piles of stones in the middle of nowhere, when I could be socialising.
Or Carys is sick, or like now with the Wilbargar Therapressure, going through something which can’t easily be managed outside of the home.
My friends are precious to me, because I have no family around to help out when things get tough or I’m not coping very well. I know I lean on you quite a lot at times.
But still I don’t ask for you to mind Carys.
The reason for that is something I feel sure many other parents of children with special needs will understand. It’s because my friends are precious to me that I won’t let you mind Carys.
Maybe that doesn’t make sense… I mean, who can I trust more than my nearest, dearest friends? But it’s not about trust. The thing is, I don’t want to lose any of you.
If you minded Carys for me, and something went wrong, I know that you would never forgive yourself, even if I did, because that’s the kind of person you are, and that’s one of the reasons I love you for.
And even though I know what the risks are with Carys, and even though I know you would have done everything humanly possible for her, there would still be a nagging doubt in the back of my mind, a doubt I would not want to acknowledge, but which would gnaw away at me from it’s little dark corner forever.
You would feel guilty, and I would too; for leaving her just so I could go and have fun, and for putting someone I care about in such a horrendous position.
I don’t want to do that to us. I value my friends, and don’t want anything to come between us. And that’s why I won’t let you mind Carys.
To everyone who read and commented on my recent post, My Daughter is NOT Disabled!, I just want to say two little words… Thank-you, and Sorry! (Is that actually three?)
I haven’t replied to any of you yet. To be completely honest, I was quite overwhelmed and blown away by the beautiful, impassioned responses you wrote, and as you know from previous posts, I tend to get a bit weak and watery at such times.
When I read your comments, I just can’t understand why humanity is in such a bad place. Clearly, you are all a wonderful minority I am fortunate enough to be surrounded by.
Today, though, I will reply to each and every one.
I was most intrigued when researching the Mythological Cycle of Irish mythology, I came across a reference to a strange rite performed by Lugh, God of Lightning, prior to the Second Battle of Moytura.
Lugh was heartening the men of Ireland that they should fight the battle fervently so that they should not be any longer in bondage. For it was better for them to find death in protecting their fatherland than to bide under bondage and tribute as they had been. Wherefore then Lugh sang this chant below, as he went round the men of Erin, on one foot and with one eye closed.
Here is a translation of the poem (known as a roscanna) which he is said to have recited. Note that there are various versions, and this is just one of them.
A frenzy of battle invites you to embrace death.
Our hosting in this conflict will defeat the foreigners who have destroyed the prosperity of the land.
Oh people of the Sídhe, defenders of the land, ravens will come upon our enemies with doom!
May the foreigners be hindered, may fear be heard among them and be their shared torment!
They are sad and doomed.
Ninefold brightness is upon us!
Victory or defeat!
Faugh! Sod of Death!
Death Measure! Rod of Aspen!
Circling leftward I curse them!
Oh you my glorious ones!
The gods will sustain you from the clouds of the sky, in the beauty of the land, and through the powerful skills of Druids.
My battle fire will not falter until the victory is won!
What I ask of you is not the work of cowards, in the dealing of death to the enemy, in the burning fields of battle.
The shadow of death has taken form.
Death goes before us to the foe.
Before the people of the Sídhe,
Before Ogma I swear!
Before the sky and the land and the sea, I swear!
Before the Sun and the Moon and the stars, I swear!
Oh warrior band, my host of battle,
My troops here, the greatest of hosts like the sea,
Mighty waves of golden, powerful, boiling fires, and battle lust
Are created in each of you!
May you seek out your foe upon the field,
Embracing death in a frenzy of battle!
Stirring stuff, but I wondered what it could possibly mean. There he was, giving his men the great battle victory speech, when suddenly he starts hopping around them on one foot, chanting, with one eye closed… what was that about?
I ignored it at the time, and moved on; it seemed a bit unlikely, a bit comical even, and there’s lots of wacky stuff in the old stories which makes no sense to us today.
But as I continued with my research, I came across other similarly strange behaviours; the cor deiseal, the imbas forosnai, the tarb-feis, and so on. I realised that Lugh’s strange behaviour must be some type of ritual.
And indeed it is, as I discovered recently. It is known in Irish as the corrghuineacht, and is a form of magic-working, the power of which is intensified when practised standing on one leg, with one arm outstretched, and with one eye closed. The ritual position itself is known as glám dícenn. (meaning ‘sattire which destroys’). It was thought that the open eye was able to look directly into the magical Otherworld, whilst standing on only one leg indicated being present in neither one world or the other.
Corr is the Irish word for ‘crane’, a bird which features a great deal in Irish mythology, although it is not a native of Ireland. To our ancient ancestors, birds were seen very much as celestial messengers between the Otherworld and the physical world, with magic powers related to their own particular characteristics. A similar bird which is native to Ireland, and which I have seen many of in the area in which I live, is the grey heron, also known in Irish as corr réisc. Perhaps it has been mis-translated over the years.
The grey heron lives in wetland areas, and feeds on fish, eels, frogs, small mammals and insects. It stands up to 1m tall, and can weigh between one and two kilos. It is known for standing still for long periods in an upright stance, often on a single leg, as it waits for its prey to wander within striking distance of it long, deadly bill.
The crane (or perhaps the grey heron) was thought to have associations with the moon, and was sacred to the Triple Goddess. It was thought to represent magic, shamanic travel, learning and keeping secrets, reaching deeper mysteries and truths. In later Christian times, it was believed that cranes were humans paying penance for wrong-doing during their lifetime.
This bird was revered by our early ancestors because it was seen to be equally at home in flight, on land, and in water, which made it a particularly magical creature. Due to the fact that it stood upright, it was associated with shape-shifting, usually in feminine form, and it was probably for this reason that the eating of its flesh was considered taboo.
In Irish mythology, Aoife, daughter of Daelbeth, and Luchra, daughter of Abhartach, both fell in love with Illbreac, who was a son of the great Sea God, Manannán mac Lir. Illbreac only had eyes for the beautiful Aoife, however. In a fit of jealous rage, Luchra turned Aoife into a crane, whereupon she flew to the lands of Manannán and lived there for 200 years. When she died, Manannán was so sad, he used her feathery skin to make the crane-skin bag in which he kept all his magical treasures.
I know, this seems rather a gruesome thing to do, but these items were powerful sacred and magical objects, perhaps hard won by Manannán, and thus the use of her skin to protect them may have been seen as honourable.
This same bag later turned up in the possession of Cumhall, father of the legendary Irish hero, Fionn mac Cumhall. Cumhall was killed by Goll mac Morna, and the craneskin bag was stolen and given into the care of Lia, chieftain of Luachar in the province of Connacht. One of the first tasks undertaken by Fionn as an adult was to avenge his father’s death; he killed Lia and retrieved the treasured craneskin bag, returning it to his uncle for safekeeping. Clearly, it was considered a talisman of great importance.
Midir was a son of the Dagda of the Tuatha de Danann. In the ‘Guesting of Athirne’, (Aigidecht Aitherni in Irish) it is told that Athirne, a miserly poet, came to Midir’s house in Brí Léith and fasted against him. This is a legal procedure mentioned in the Brehon Law were a complainant could sit outside a person’s house refusing food and drink, thus shaming him into putting right the complaint. I don’t know how Midir wronged him, but in recompense he gave Athirne his three magical cranes which stood outside and guarded his house.
But what of the one legged crane dance curse?
Lugh was not the only person to use this position (like the crane) in which to invoke magic. The Goddess Badb also assumed this stance when she cursed High King Conaire Mór for breaking his geisa (vows) in the story of the ‘Destruction of Da Derga’s Hostel’ (Togail Bruidne Dá Derga in Irish).
The Morrigan assumes this position when she forecasts Cormac’s doom in Togail Bruidne Dá Choca.
Parthelon and his people invaded Ireland and fought a magical battle in which they were successful against the Fomori people which involved all the warriors standing in positions of power on one leg, with one arm behind their backs and one eye closed.
One last little nugget of interest; a new theory has been proposed for the use of an ancient style of bladed weapon known as the halberd. Archaeologists claim it looks to have been a weak and ineffective weapon, and now think it could have been used in ritualised dance. Why? Well, pretty much because it looks remarkably like the beak, head and neck of a crane.
The Encyclopedia of Celtic Mythology and Folklore by Patricia Monaghan
I hate that word. Not that there’s anything particularly wrong with it as a word in itself. It’s just that, when applied to people, it’s so negative and judgemental. I mean, is it just me? When did it become good and proper and acceptable to define people by what they can’t do, by what they’re not? We don’t apply that concept to any other section of society.
Here is a definition of the word ‘disabled’ according to the Oxford Dictionary;
(Of a person) having a physical or mental condition that limits their movements, senses, or activities.
Really? Is that all they are, persons limited by their conditions?
Ok, we know that children and adults like Carys are different from the majority, and we have to have a way of referring to them. Don’t we? Because we like labels; they make things nice and clear, and everyone knows where they stand.
Well, this may come as a bit of a surprise to some, but my daughter Carys is NOT disabled. I don’t define her by labels, especially not negative ones. She’s not a cripple because she’s in a wheelchair. She’s not a mute because she doesn’t talk. And she’s certainly not ‘slow’, or a retard because of her mental abilities.
The first time I heard the R-word applied to Carys, I was shocked. I had honestly never perceived her in that way since the day she was born. It shocked me even more that said assessment came from the mouth of a friend. The second time I heard it, I was better able to handle it. (In a firm but polite manner.) The R-word has been denounced and rejected by society, and rightly so.
I don’t like the term ‘special needs’ either. Her needs are not special, they are the same as everyone else’s, to love and be loved, to be nurtured, kept safe, have access to food and toys, a roof over her head, education, to be accepted.
I have heard people saying of her to their children, ‘We have to take care of Carys, she’s special.’ Well yes, she is, but no more special than all our children. I know this is meant well, but have you ever had to explain to your five year old why its Ok for a certain person in his class to pull his hair, because teacher said she (the person who did it) is ‘special’? I have. Not only is that wrong on the teacher’s part, but it is not an excuse for bad behaviour.
I define Carys by what she CAN do; in spite of all her challenges, she has overcome great suffering. She has learned to crawl and walk. She loves music and singing and dancing, and can actively partake. She has the most brilliant smile. She is cheeky and feisty, demanding at times. She laughs… a LOT. And oh, she has an infinite capacity to love.
She doesn’t judge people by the colour of their skin, how they look, what car they drive, or how big their house is. She doesn’t care about any of that. She willingly shares her food and toys. All she asks is a bit of attention, a full tummy, somewhere comfy to sleep, and as many hugs as you can spare.
What she has, is a rare syndrome. It’s called Cardiofaciocutaneous Syndrome. That is label enough. It’s completely true. It’s not insulting. It is a fact. It doesn’t make her special, just different. She’s not a victim of this syndrome, or a sufferer of it, or a patient. She is not impaired. She is not handicapped. It is simply something which is a part of her.
Here is a great quote;
The most appropriate label to use is usually the one given by the parents.
In our case, that would be Carys. Carys is a Welsh name which comes from the word ‘love’ (cara’). I believe it is also very similar to a Greek word meaning ‘happy’ or ‘joy’ (περιχαρής / pericharí̱s). You can’t get more appropriate than that!
Carys, like all people with syndromes, is a human being, just like you and me. I think there are many so-called ‘normal’ people out there in the community who are far more disabled and non-functioning than Carys will ever be.
“Listen here: Dee O’Loughlin was an unnatural strange beauty. Bevan Morgan, the oul crone, with her cigars and trilby hat and her track suits and all the rest of her madness, she was correct about that one. Dee was right at that minute up in her bedroom on the second floor of Clonliffe House. She was locked up tight. Her room was bare. It was down to the white walls. Even the wallpaper was tore off. She was no longer surrounded by her fancy clothes, her computer, her music collection and fabulous plants and art she had made. Alls she could do was to stare like a madwoman out of her window, out over the rolling green pastures of the estate, into the wind and rain, and weep and moan. She could barely breathe from it. Time passed without her even blinking. Her pupils went down to dots with her eyes rubbed raw pink about them. If she could have, she would have gone and thrown herself out of that window and down onto the gravel below. But there were bars now.
You see, Dee used to be allowed friends. They were allowed come to the house, if she behaved. They drank the collection of vintage teas, told time by the priceless grandfather clock, old enough they said stopped anytime Cromwell looked at it (not true, he had his tea by the chime of it). They could run up and down the winding staircase, hand crafted from some of the oldest trees in the whole district, and I knew those trees and their families, and grudges are still borne over that. But Dee wasn’t sent to school like other girls. Dee was homeschooled. And on top of that, she was scarcely ever allowed off the grounds of the estate, or even outside the house for that matter. So it was practically impossible for her to meet any other people of her own go to make friends with. She had herself for company.
The fact was also that the other girls in the town seemed to hate her. There was no reason for this. It’s just how things sometimes are, and it’s a shame. Maybe it’s because she was so good looking. Maybe it was down to her wealthy family. I don’t know. When she was allowed out collecting dead birds, starting fires in the back field or flying her kite with that worst of all swear words emblazoned all over it in ruby red for the whole town to witness, which she did a fair amount, they pointed at her from far off. They had names for her. Worse again was what her father called his only rule. Actually it was one of about a thousand million rules he had, all of which added up to the same thing which was Dee crying in her room. This rule was that Dee could never have a male friend. No young men were allowed in Clonliffe House. When Dee competed in her cross country running events, at which she was fast enough to bring home silver for the town on a national level, not that it mattered a spit to any of them, she was chaperoned off from contact with any boys by some of the working men sent along with her in the car. She was driven to the race. She raced. Then she was driven home with her medal. I can’t be sure, but I think the engine of the car was even running as she was making her way along the finish-straight. I remember watching her run. She timed her swearing with her breathing and heartbeat. She breathed out all of the cigarettes she smoked out the crack in her window at four in the morning. It felt like expelling all the badness. It only got her silver. I always wondered what the gold placed girl was saying and smoking. Dee spent a good whack of time up in that room by herself, is what I’m saying. Long hours. Which left her a little odd. People who have more of a tie to books than people often picture the world a certain way. Usually they have it clearer than most, far as I can see. But then, I’m just a fool Puca around for about a thousand years, you don’t need any opinions out of me.
One of the things helped her along was Nemain. One day when Dee was six, she found she all of a sudden had a whole lot to tell and no one to tell it to. Her father was out on the estate and he never spoke to her anyways. Her mother hated her, of that she was sure. She hadn’t the patience for a diary then, and Facebook hadn’t yet been invented to make other people your diary, so she found herself talking to Nemain. Nemain was a little crow. She was a little crow that sat in the corner of the room and was sad when Dee was sad, and screeched wild murder when she was mad and cawed cackles out of her loud enough to break windows when something was funny. We won’t say if Nemain was really there or wasn’t really there, but she was there for Dee when Dee had need of her. Does this make Dee a feral, disturbed little child? Well, in a way yes, because she used to go sending Nemain to mess up the lives of the girls that pointed and laughed at her on the street. Nothing serious now, Nemain would just go and tear up their homework. Or shape shift into a beautiful young girl and kiss all their boyfriends. Or shite into their cereal while they were turned away. Nemain was a wild oul bitch and no mistake. Now, we won’t say if Nemain really went and did these things, but some of these girls deserved it and Dee needed to feel that they got it. I never actually checked into the facts, if they really did. I liked Dee, though. I think it was the profane kites, flown high enough the whole town could read, and the hell she caught over them. And I knew where she had come from, and where it would all end up. For all of that I liked her.
So one day I opened the door for her.
Some could say this was a wild big mistake. That it was the start to the whole thing. But those are little picture type people. I’m more of a big picture type. You look at a big fuck-up like this whole thing, usually there’s an injustice at the root someplace and it has little enough to do with one wee little matter like opening an oul door.
It was very simple. There was a local club hosting a junior disco down in the town community centre, where the youth groups went when it was raining and they’d run out of cans. The parish priest read in a Sunday supplement that the supervised drinking that carried on in Europe, and in France in particular, was an example to cultures like Scotland, England and Ireland, and that drinking and socialising with adults was beneficial to the community. So he organised this junior disco. I liked that Parish Priest. Man called Father Domnach. And I don’t like too many Parish Priests. He wasn’t too far wrong. Then, in other ways, he was completely wild off the mark. One of these ways was that the whole night would cavort straight out of control, sacrificed on a pagan altar of smuggled cigarette smoke, oceans of hip-flask vodka, crying girls smeared over in cheap lipstick in the corner, lads puking up most of their insides in the other, the guards called, the adults locked out the back, only raging, younger girls puking up most of their guts behind the car park, the sound-system only wrecked, the DJ threatened with strangulation and poisoning and towns of teenagers for miles around emptying in their direction once it got out there was free drink to be had. And Cormac MacNeassa was there too. Cormac showed up there with the boys he hurled with down at the centre. He bumped into some of the other lads he tended stables with on the Clonliffe Estate too, lads who had gone and gotten cans in, so he figured he’d stick with them. They found a corner to watch the madness unfurl and get through the cans.
“Did you think it was going to be this good?” one of them said to Cormac, early on in the night.
“You know what? I did. I had faith in Father Domnach,” Cormac said. There were two girls clawing out one another’s hair in the purple strobe lighting, the other hands free for their cans, and the priest blessing himself in the window. That was when Dee walked in. I opened that door for her.
“Would you look at that?” the same boy said to Cormac. “It’s Wild Dee O’Loughlin. What about that. If she isn’t a quare fine ride too.”
Dee strolled in among the chaos, looking unearthly. She had let her imagination go, up there in her room, getting ready for the disco. She knew her parents would never in ten thousand years let her anywhere near the place. So she asked Nemain to help open the window for her to drop out of. She had asked Nemain’s advice on what to dress herself in too, and Nemain had recommended a glittering Arabian scarf, a long, loose wrapped sarong, layers of random coloured materials, lucky charms hanging out of them, and lots of makeup lathered on thick round her dark eyes like she was Scheherazade herself. But I wasn’t sure if Nemain was up to actually opening the right doors, so I played the gentleman about it, starting with the door to her room.
“She’s totally sick in the head. Look at her. Look at what she’s dressed herself in. Like a school pantomime genie. Stand well clear of that, lad,” Cormac said back. “Wild O’Loughlin, she’s owned by her Da, so she is. He’s her jailer. He’s driven her fuckin’ mental. We’ve all seen the kites. She has a pretend crow that she talks to.”
“Still, though, would ye look at her?”
“Aye, I know.”
Dee moved through the madness like an ethereal being. Her robes flowed. Her jewellery caught the strobe lights. She had her own hip-flask, more than one, in actuality, her own cigarettes, she had no need of the unprotected punch-bowl which was by now lapping at somewhere between seventy-six and seventy-eight per cent proof. She saw Cormac Mac Neassa though. She looked through the jungle of other young lads stumbling and crawling toward her. She watched Cormac get up and leave with them two boys. The one of them incapable of shutting up talking to Cormac, the other who was just about too drunk to even speak. She watched them exit the front door and find the corner of the car park for a cigarette, holding the third lad up. Cormac was always the great one for watching the chaos unfold from without. Dee left the hall after them and circled the back of the car park, through the trees. She lit a cigarette. She cracked open a flask and listened to them talk.
“They distracted the guards. They lit bonfires down by the Widow Gorman’s land. Also by the Quarry and the furniture warehouse.”
“That old furniture is fierce good kindling. They thought that one out.”
“The widow Gorman will make kindling out of them. That’s the one keeps a loaded rifle under the bed. Has done these twenty years.”
“They all do that.”
“They all say they do that.”
And on it went.
“They say she’s possessed too, that widow.”
“Possessed by what?”
“Possessed by vapours, up out of the earth. Buried souls come back in gaseous form, to wreak havoc.”
“That would account for her demeanour right enough.”
Now we won’t say Nemain was there and distracted the two other fellas a minute away, or that she wasn’t and didn’t. But either way they were distracted. The drunk boy Damien fell over for sleep and took the other with him, leaving Cormac. That was the minute that Dee saw her chance. What she did was: she hopped up on his back. She hopped right up and grabbed him around the head, covering his eyes, crossing her legs tight around his gut and clinging on for dear mercy. He bucked like a rodeo bull some long time, so he did. He spun. He ran backward and forward. He tried to call out for help. But she had her hands over his mouth too.
“Cormac MacNeassa,” she said. “You’re a fine thing. I’ve seen you from the house. You work my father’s stable.”
“Get off of me ye wild animal. Ye cat. Ye wasp.”
“I will not either. I have you now. What do you mean by wasp anyway? Who’s a wasp?”
“You’re the wasp. Attacking from behind like an animal.”
But she clung on tight like a little limpet on a rock. He couldn’t shake the girl. There was volcanic swearing out of them both. After a bit, he started to tire out. She was still stuck to him when he collapsed to his knees, beaten. Well, all of that was how Dee O’Loughlin and Cormac MacNeassa finally met.
Nemain still thinks it was her behind them meeting. I just checked into the facts too. Turns out Nemain actually did do all those horrible things to them girls that I mentioned before. The oul bitch.”
I’m a writer, designer and recently a father too, who returned to Dublin a couple of years ago after living abroad in Bologna, Florence and London, doing all kinds of jobs from teacher to delivery-man to commis-chef.
Sour is my first novel, published by Pillar and available in all the very best places. I tweet pretty often at @Alan_Walsh_77 and I blog as often as I can at: http://alanwalshblog.blogspot.ie/, and there’s a whole website about the book at: http://sourthenovel.weebly.com/
I bawled in public again on Friday. I don’t know why I can’t seem to keep my emotions in check these days. I had gone to Carys’s school to meet her new Occupational Therapist. Halfway through the session, and the tears started to fall.
“Why are you crying?” she asked, handing me a wad of tissues. I couldn’t really explain. It was a whole crazy confused bunch of things I had absolutely no ability to extract and define at that point. Having had time to think about it, it has become a little clearer.
As a result of that meeting, today we started the Wilbargar Therapressure and Compressions Protocol. It’s a pretty intensive treatment for Carys’s multiple sensory defensiveness. It involves performing a particular treatment every ninety minutes between waking and sleeping for the next three weeks, after which she will be re-assessed. If the treatment has been successful, we will hopefully then be able to reduce the frequency.
So what does it involve? Well, we have a special brush with which we have to brush Carys’s arms back, legs, hands and feet. It requires deep pressure. This is followed by compressions of the joints. All told, it only takes about five or ten minutes.
But how does this help? It’s kinda complicated. From my understanding, there are two basic pathways feeding information to the brain. One is just for general info, the other is for ‘flight or fight’. In children with sensory defensiveness, all the info they receive, even that which is harmless and benign, gets fed into the wrong pathway, the ‘flight or fight’ one. It’s sensory overload.
This is what got to me. Imagine walking all alone down a strange dark alley in the middle of the night. Every sound, every shadow feels like a threat. There’s no one to help you. It’s unfamiliar and terrifying. Your body is on high alert, anticipating that something bad will happen.
We’ve all been in a situation like that at some point in our lives. Can you remember how it felt? Imagine if that happened to you every day. If you lived your life in a constant state of high alert and fear.
You’d be exhausted. You’d be nervous. You might react inappropriately. You might lash out aggressively at a perceived threat. You might not be able to eat or sleep. You’d be distracted, anxious, emotional. And you’d be misunderstood.
Well, this is how it often feels to suffer from sensory defensiveness. We know this because, although Carys can’t talk, other children can, and have. And that is one of the reasons why I cried. Carys will be ten years old in a few weeks, and all this time I never realised how she was feeling.
It’s no wonder she never wanted to leave the safety and familiarity of her room; why she played up so badly last year on holiday; why we have had so many issues trying to take her out to restaurants and on family days out. And the more we tried to familiarise her with these places, the worse it got, not better.
As I sat there, listening to all this with tears and snot streaming down my face… yes, sadly, I’m not a pretty, film star style crybaby… I realised that what this woman was proposing could work for Carys.
When she was a baby, I had taken her to a baby-massage class which had significantly improved her defensiveness against touch, particularly around her chest, shoulders, neck and head. She still enjoys massage now. She enjoys Reiki, and she loves nothing more than a full on cuddle!
And then I felt hopeful, that no matter how intense, time consuming and temporarily debilitating it might be for me personally, here was something which might actually make a significant improvement to Carys’s life. My hopes and dreams for Carys had been renewed. And that was another reason why I cried.
How lucky we are!
I left feeling humbled and grateful for the events and people who had brought this young woman into our lives; grateful for her knowledge, and grateful for the research which had created this procedure in the first place. I’m also grateful for Carys’s teacher, who is willingly sharing in the burden of all of Carys’s care, from her education and development, to physio, and now this. And that was also why I cried.
You can read about the Wilbargar Therapressure Protocol here. You can read about sensory defensiveness here (Carys has most of them). Finally, you can read a really touching blog post by author and blogger Rachel Carrerra who describes what it feels like very movingly.
Last week I challenged you to write about a building. Here is the prompt…
Tell me about a building which is important to you; are its walls ancient and crumbling, or modern shining glass and cold steel? Does it mean home to you, or prison? What happened here? Why do you care?
First off, I’d like to welcome a newcomer to Friday FANTASTIC Flash, Darlene Foster, who submitted this stunning story…
Angela glances at the tower ruins that overlook the city from high on a grassy mound and pulls her sweater tighter around her. She experiences the same chill every time she walks past the site.
When she was seven, her mother took her up to the old stone keep. From a small window, she saw a girl looking out at her through iron bars. Fire blazed behind the child. It had frightened her so.
“Mommy, we need to help that little girl,” exclaimed Angela.
Her mother took her hand and said, “There are no children in there. It must be a trick of the sun reflecting off the water.”
The sad, terrified and helpless child appeared very real.
Angela shudders as she recalls that day. She rushes to work.
It was the feast of Shabbatt ha-Gadol. Instead of the usual tables overflowing with food, around her lay the dead bodies of friends and neighbours. The air was thick with the smell of fresh blood and smoldering wood. Ester searched for Jacob, and Marta in the crowded tower. She witnessed parents slitting their children’s throats and then their own. Terrified, Ester tried to look away, but it was the same everywhere.
Since she didn’t have any parents, she stayed with old Jacob the money lender and his kind wife, Marta. For her board she cleaned the house, made meals and ran errands. Ester stumbled in the smoke filled keep looking for the only family she knew. Eventually she found them, dead in each other’s arms on a bed of straw soaked with maroon blood. A curved butcher’s knife lay beside them.
Did they forget about me? Did Jacob slit his wife’s throat and then his own?
The flames and smoke of the burning wood tower closed around her.
A growing mob outside yelled, “Come out, you dirty Jews.”
Why is this happening? We were promised safety in the tower.
She peered through the iron bars of a low window. Angry people outside the tower waved swords, scythes and pitchforks. It was safer to stay inside. It was better to die by your own hand. That is what the Rabbi said.
In the crowd, she caught the clear blue eyes of a girl her age. A girl dressed in fine clothing. Maybe she can help me. Ester mouthed the word Help.
The girl pointed to the window and said, “Look, Mother, there is a little girl in the tower. It is burning. We must help her.”
Ester saw an elegant woman take the child´s hand and pull her away. “There are no children in there, Angelina. Let us go away from this awful place.”
Ester coughed from the thick smoke and fell backward. The flames engulfed her.
Nine centuries later Angela can feel the eyes of Ester pleading for help as she hurries past Clifford’s Tower on the way to her Hebrew lessons. One day she will stop and help the child.
Next up it’s Ellie, who I met at the Bloggers Bash in London this summer. Ellie is an architect and a writer, so she couldn’t very well ignore this prompt, could she?
Its walls are made of concrete but it is a ruin. Its gate is a vibrant, cobalt blue – a blue so blue it makes the ocean green with envy. There is a tall tree right by its entrance. Was it a palm or a eucalyptus? As the paint chips from the walls, my memory fades.
Its walls are made of concrete and its foundations are deep. A legacy from the French, almost certainly. A century old, perhaps a little less. It is named after a French poet and novelist. In fact, this is the only French term in the surroundings. Rue Sijilmassa, the street that leads to the train station, refers to a medieval Moroccan city.
There are hints of Morocco within its walls, too. Pinned on a long frieze in the inner courtyard, a myriad calligraphy paintings tell the story of a sunny day in Casablanca – moored boats in the port, silhouettes wearing djellabas and countless representations of the Hand of Fatima.
The courtyard is silent. Clusters of palm trees rise from the ground like small oasis towns within walking distance. Under each cluster, a concrete round table and a bench, moulded from the ground.
Suddenly, a familiar scent wafts through the air. Kefta kebabs with chips. A bell echoes and almost instantly, the courtyard livens up. Teenagers rush in and out, their satchel bags tossed around their shoulders. It is lunchtime in Anatole France Middle School.
Its walls are made of concrete but it is a ruin. A sight that belongs to the past, buried along with the smell of the ocean and the innocence of my adolescent years.
Man did this. Man shaped this landscape, not nature. Trees once sacred were felled to make room for the wealth of cattle, and the unnatural forced growth of grains. In the trees stead, boulders were hewn and shaped and stood in rows or circles, or heaped in mounds, and in these contrived, unholy places they worshipped the stars and celestial beings, where once they had worshipped the idols of the natural world.
Picture this; the concrete jungle of a modern city, with all the detritus it brings, the laying waste of acres of land, the gouging of red-brown earth in which to set foundations, sewers, electrical cables. The land bleeds and we patch it with tarmac and technology.
So you see, we are not so different. We make the same mistakes.
Their cleared lowlands soon turned to bog, barren and useless but for burying bodies to be dug up as future treasure. Hill-tops once bearded and hirsute with green, life-giving forest presented bald domes to the heavens, and man knew in his bones that the earth had been violated.
To make amends, he raised new forests of stone, but to build them, he first had to remove them from her gut, and it was no gentle surgery, that. To cross the bogs he built trackways, but that meant more trees felled, and thus the sacrilege was perpetuated.
Fine temples of tortured stone he raised, and he exulted in his cleverness, while around him the land lay ravaged. Yes, they were just like us.
Now, softened with moss and painted with lichen, shrunken and tumbled with age, whittled by the wind and washed by the rain, these once great structures blend into a landscape they had so radically dominated in their youth. Gradually, they are returning to the sundered womb, she is claiming her property, and they slide with slow deliberation and relief beneath the turf.
Contrasted with today’s abominations, they are but beautiful blemishes on the earth’s hide, just a few erroneous eyesores left behind by a people who are no more. We should heed her lesson, for she takes sly revenge beneath our noses; a twitch of her skin, and cities crumble. A ripple of her ocean, and cities drown. A gust of her breath, and cities collapse. It was ever so, and the work of man is never done.
Cheerful stuff, huh? My sincere thanks to Darlene and Ellie, I am so grateful to you both for taking part and sharing your wonderful stories.
Whilst the frenzy of NANO otherwise engages much of the writing community, Friday FANTASTIC Flash will be taking a short break until Friday 4th December. Watch out for the prompt coming soon…
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