The Sacred Tree – na Bílí – is where I made my home, called by a voice unknown, challenged but in the end found worthy. The heart knows when it is home. I pay my respects from a distance, content to wait.
And trees have time to kill.
My life has been filled with trees, from the day as a teen when I missed my train to work because I was so busy writing a poem (Winter Trees) about the trees which bordered the platform, to the day only a few months ago, when I planted the first trees in my garden.
I love them. I admire them. I respect them. I cry when I see one cut down. I feel pain when I see the naked wound of pale, fresh wood.
Trees are tactile. They invite touch. Against my skin, the trunk is cold, hard, unyielding. The tree is not like me: I am soft, warm, weak flesh. Silent and strong he stands, old long before I was thrust into existence; he will remain long after I am gone.
The tree is not like me. He reaches for the stars, blossoms for the sun, always standing tall and proud, bowing to none, resisting. When the storm rages, he dances and sings, but he is resolute.
I am not like the tree. I drift where life’s breeze blows me. I shy from sun and storm. I am human, enslaved to my weak, warm flesh.
The broad path leads me through the forest, and I am dazzled by the myriad shades of green, by the capricious filter of sunbeams, by the golden fall of last years leaves, shed like autumn tears. Above me, branches interlace, shaping the vault of nature’s cathedral. Protecting. Embracing. Forming me into the precious relic contained within their shrine. I breathe, and the burden of life’s woes is lifted.
Beneath my feet, deep in the dark, damp earth, roots search out kin, binding, weaving together, supporting one another, connecting. They are all different – the oak, the scots pine, the rowan, the willow. And yet, they are all the same.
Just like us.
I was inspired to write this by the #BloggersBash Blog Post Competition, which this year is all about ‘Connections‘.
I have looked out of this window every day of my life. I have seen every mood of the ocean and shade of the sky conceivable. The tide has washed many trinkets and curios upon the stony strand, but never before a man.
I watch him wade the shallows, the surf rolling and dragging at his sodden cloak, foaming like playful kittens around his knees. His stride is strong and purposeful, and I know he has come for me. My heart beats faster, louder than the flurry of my footsteps on the tower’s stone stairs, as I rush to meet him.
He has tugged his boat well above the water line. He is not fooled by the benign fawning of the waves upon the shore.
“My father will kill you,” I say.
His eyes are blue as the gentian which flourishes on the cliffs, and as wide as a summer sky. “It is worth the risk. I came to see if the stories are true.” His bright gaze travels from my hair to my lips to the curves beneath my gown. “And I see that they are.”
The thick gold light of evening paints him with the glamour of the Otherworld, and when he pulls me to him, I have no will to resist. The taste of salt is sweet on his tongue. Water drips from his flaxen braids, and the dampness of his cloak is cold on my skin, but I am heedless.
Tomorrow, he will be gone, and I will go back to my long lonely life. Must I die an old woman who has never known a man’s love? No; I will take all he has to offer.
In the morning, my window reveals a world transformed with fury, as the sea lashes against the cliffs, filling the air with stinging spray and the sound of thunder. The tiny coracle lies beached on the pebbles, well beyond the ocean’s briny grasp.
“Your life is forfeit today, if you think that frail craft will carry you safely home.”
He just laughs. “The old man of the sea will bear me through the storm, have no fear.”
He speaks with bravado, full of the conviction of youth and his own power. He pulls a gold ring from his finger and presses it into my hand. He seals my protests with a kiss.
“If you ever escape, come to me.”
I let him go. I could have stopped him, for I have power of my own. I slip his ring onto my finger and rest my hand against my belly. He left me with something far greater than gold and a promise.
Use the image to create a post on your own blog… poetry, prose, humour… by Wednesday 1st June and link back to Sue’s post with a pingback. Please make sure that the pingback works and if not, copy and paste your link into the comments section of Sue’s post. Don’t forget to use the new and shiny #writephoto hashtag in your title:)
I haven’t taken part in many writing challenges recently. Quite honestly, its all been a bit of a struggle for a while, writing and researching for the blog, keeping up with all your lovely blogs and comments, writing books and all my motherly duties as well. Sometimes everything seems to conspire to suck the inspiration out of you, and it’s a downward spiral from there. But Sue’s picture really spoke to me; it reminded me of all the old places of Ireland I love with my heart and soul and bones. I need to pay some visits. In the meantime, I wrote this, and added a poem I started when I was about 17, but only finished last year. It seems to fit the prompt. At least to me.
Beards of moss drape old stones with velvet softness. Stark-raw and already ancient, these great stone-bones once teased and tortured from the earth into grey new skeletons, wherein men danced and dreamed and viewed the stars, survive in hunched fragments of former glory.
Now tumbled and crumbled, they lie discarded, forgotten, memories of magic dormant yet still alive throbbing within them. You can feel it if you touch them, feel the vibration in the air on your skin. Be still.
The earth remembers. Time is meaningless here; there is no rush. She feels her way, creeping slowly over recumbent remains, claiming lost treasure torn from her flesh. She heals the hurt without reproach while no one notices.
What cities lie buried beneath each hill?
Monuments born of ancient times,
Forgotten and lost but standing still,
Neglected, disconnected, these are our crimes.
What histories are etched into ancient stones?
Tales decayed with the fall of walls,
The sag of dynasty, the crumble of bones,
The march of ghosts through tumbled halls.
If we could learn to unlock the past
What shrouds would unfurl from our eyes?
Would realisation be ours at last?
Understanding the what, when, who and why's.
The power was strong, up on Shee Mor,
I felt at great peace, content.
At Moytura, where warriors fought their war
no harm for me was meant.
At Uisneach, by the lough where Lugh was drowned
I grieved for Eire's loss, watched Beltaine fires leap.
Then to Tara, where High Kings were crowned,
the Sacred Stone sadly lost in eternal slumber deep.
These places, their magic floods my soul,
washes me clean of the now.
Their stories surge through me, re-make me whole,
ancient voices tell of the how.
Ancestors sing and call me home.
I would go if I knew the way.
Under my feet, beneath the loam
stirs blood, beats heart of a by-gone day.
Head on over to Sue Vincent’s blog to take a look at the other entries, and if you fancy giving it a go yourself, here is what you have to do;
Use the image to create a post on your own blog… poetry, prose, humour… by Wednesday 25th May and link back to Sue’s post, not this one, with a pingback. Please make sure that the pingback works and if not, copy and paste your link into the comments section of Sue’s post.
Don’t forget to use the new and shiny #writephoto hashtag in your title
Due to the volume of entries, only the first few posts will feature on Sue’s blog during the week and all posts will be included in a round up on Thursday 26th May.
Feel free to use #writephoto logo or include the prompt photo in your post if you wish or you can replace it with one of your own to illustrate your work. Have fun!
First up, I tried Sacha Black’s Writespiration. This is what we had to do; Get a timer, set it for 120 seconds and when and ONLY when you are ready to do the challenge, scroll to the very end of the post to see the one word prompt. Write hard and fast until your time is up. The word Is ‘ARMOUR’.
Unfortunately, I had so many interruptions, that it took me over half an hour just to get a few words down, which kind of disqualifies me. So I decided to run with it, edit it and post it here, instead.
The date is November 3rd 1324. Drizzle falls like tears from a swollen sky, but it is not so grim without as within. I sit with Petronella through her last moments, in a cell dank with mould and ripe with the ghosts of its past inhabitants.
Her body is gaunt and bloody, her skin a mass of puckered welts and scabs, broken open and oozing, the souvenirs of her private torture and public floggings. She holds her head high, hands folded together and resting still like pale butterfly wings in her lap.
“Your pyre is built high,” I say. “They want everyone to see it.”
“I am the first,” she replies, “but I will not be the last.”
“But you did nothing wrong.”
“The truth is not relevant, only what people believe.”
“Why did you confess?”
She looks at me for the first time. “To make it stop.”
I bite back my impatience. “And now you will burn for it.”
“So how could I win?” She smiles, a broad glowing smile, as footsteps echo distantly on stone. She gets to her feet, raising a hand to smooth the tangles from her hair.
“How can you smile?”
The key turns in the lock with a rasping, metallic protest, and the door begins to swing open.
She pauses. “Armour, isn’t it?” And then she is gone.
Next, I tried a bit of poetry for Jane Dougherty’s challenge. This is what we had to do; I leave you to choose the form and use the Munch painting, ‘Moonlight’ as your inspiration. I’m adding a selection of words for you to use—verb, nouns, adjective and adverb—that you can use if you want to add a bit of a challenge to the prompt.
winding – moonlight – follow – heavily – path
I didn’t use her picture, but I did use all the words she gave us, and tried an English sonnet.
Where does she wander on this starry night?
A wraith, a shadow, she’s frail as a sigh,
Woven from stardust and strands of moonlight,
Feet tripping dainty as she passes by.
Discarding my fear, I follow her path,
A winding trail through glistening grassland,
Over rounded hills, past the fairy rath
To the foaming sea, roaring on the strand.
With greedy hands, the salt wind tugs her hair,
Waves throw themselves heavily on the shore,
She lets her robe fall, stands tall without care,
She is the shape of my love, form I adore.
White flesh gleaming, she wades into the deep,
Slips beneath the surface to endless sleep.
Writing that made my head hurt! Have a great weekend, everyone! Ali
I never liked roses. They are over-blown and gaudy, just like the woman he ran off with; their scent cloying and sweet, like his shirt after he’d been with her; their thorns sharp and piercing, like the words we exchanged before he left.
My life fell apart then, like loose petals tugged by the wind. I drifted like fallen leaves tossed into life’s gutter. I saw myself in the winter trees, de-nuded, laid bare, stripped of youth and beauty.
But trees bud and blossom and green over, year after year. Their splendour only intensifies as they age. The roses revive and bloom, vibrating colour as if it compensates for the barbs they hide. Me, I just faded away.
I never liked roses, until the day I was given a handful of pink rosebuds, and then it was too late. They bobbed like tender kisses atop their smooth stems, their petals tightly furled, the shade of a young girl’s blush, or a baby’s yawn.
She danced when the world was young and green, and she was all that was in it. She danced for herself and for joy, and the glittering eyes of curious stars. Her dress billowed on the breeze, a filmy sheath of mist and moonlight, revealing nut brown limbs which beat a barefoot tattoo into the soil, matching the throb of life deep in the earth.
New flowers sprang up in her footsteps, animals hopped into being as she passed by, created by her energy. Life surged around her, for she was life.
Mankind watched first with fear, then with adoration, and reaped the bounty she created for them. Laughing, she twirled and leapt, swayed and span, wilder, faster, for their adulation.
Her dance bore her across the world, populating every inch with life, and she was mother to it all. But the more she danced, the more man took. They plundered her bounty, and began their own dance.
The earth whirled and froze and thawed and aged. She danced just like she always had, for life depended on it. But her limbs stiffened. Her skirts swirled and settled in folds around her, and finally she stood still. She lifted her arms to the heavens, and the universe took her back, leaving only a shell rooted in the earth, praying for forgiveness.
An oldie I wrote a long, long time ago, before computers, mobile phones and x-boxes. That’s right, kids, these innovations came into being within my life-time. Hard to imagine, right? Happy Easter to all!
When I was seven years old, I was sent to spend Easter with my granny in the country. I loved Easter more than any other occasion, even Christmas and my birthday, although all were eagerly anticipated for the treats they would inevitably bring.
My passion, however, was for chocolate eggs, and of course these only came once a year, but in all shapes and sizes, and I would happily gorge until I felt distinctly ill, smearing all in my vicinity with sticky fingerprints, making my annual Easter mark on the furniture and the walls.
On this occasion, my mother was expecting the imminent arrival of my sibling, and experiencing complications, was admitted prematurely into hospital. I was not unduly worried; the excitement of a train journey, several extra weeks off school and the indulgence afforded me by my grandmother far outweighed my impatient interest in the new addition to my family.
Granny’s cottage was situated amongst open fields on the outskirts of a tiny village. The cottage itself was quaint and antiquated with practically no amenities. Every inch of space was crowded with a lifetime’s collection of memorabilia, creating for me days of endless fascination. The fields round about were perfect for hunting wild man-eating bears, fighting scalp-hunting red Indians, chasing robbers and other boyish occupations far too numerous to mention. In those days, WII and DS were futuristic fantasies, and few benefited from the luxury of television.
When I came down to breakfast that Easter Sunday, Granny said that she had a surprise for me on our return from church. Looking round, I discreetly noted a distinct lack of chocolate eggs. Disappointment set in. How could Granny forget? Easter just wasn’t right without chocolate eggs. But what of the surprise? I decided nothing would compensate for an egg-less Easter. Yet, curiosity tightened within me like a coiled spring, and I could not sit still through the service but wriggle and squirm as a means of release. Granny pretended not to notice but there was no mistaking the half smile of amusement which crossed her features.
After lunch, Granny turned to me with an enigmatic glimmer in her eye and said, “I have hidden something for you in the garden; if you can find it, it is yours.” Then she took up her crochet and would say no more.
Something hidden for me in the garden, I mused. It must be my chocolate egg. But how was I to find it in this rambling chaos my granny kindly referred to as her garden? I begged and pleaded for clues and directions, but when none were forthcoming I set about my task, a mission which to me equalled life or death – chocolate egg, or no chocolate egg!
After two hours of searching I was hot, sticky, red in the face, becoming increasingly irritated, and still had found nothing. What was I looking for? I started again… and again… and again. I left no leaf untouched, no stone unturned. I befriended every slug, snail, beetle and spider co-habiting there, and by teatime was just about to give up, when… there it was, sitting patiently and obviously in a place I had searched dozens of times to no avail.
‘It’ was a very SMALL cloth-wrapped package. Very small, and very singular. I was indignant; all this effort and heartache in just one day, and my only reward was a single tiny egg? Rebellious thoughts rushed through my head. I snatched up the object. It was very heavy for something so small, far too heavy for an Easter egg, and I would know, this being my area of expertise. What, then, could it be?
I carefully unwrapped the cloth and into the palm of my hand tumbled… a pebble.
As I examined it, I realised it was no ordinary stone. It was so tiny that it fitted snugly into my little hand. It was smooth and perfectly egg-shaped, and bitingly cold to the touch. Rich translucent amber in colour, dark veins ran through it, drawing light into its heart where they merged, which writhed like flames in slow time. I was entranced.
I decided I liked the stone after all, although I was at a loss as to what to do with it. Granny would know. I rushed to her side.
“Thank you for the egg-stone, Granny,” I said.
“Ah, so you have it, then.” Her voice was gruff, her hands moving faster over her crochet.
“Er… what is it?”
“Why, its an egg-stone, of course. What did you think it was?”
“Well, what’s it for? It took me ages to find.”
“You don’t find an egg-stone. It found you. Now, listen.” She leaned towards me now, eyes intent, crochet forgotten. “It found me too when I was your age. Look after it, and it will look after you. You must polish it occasionally, and hold it every day, but you must never ever let anyone know about it, or see it.” Her eyes burned into mine, and if she hadn’t been my granny, I would have been scared.
“I promise.” I put aside my thoughts of chocolate. I was aware that Granny had passed onto me something far more precious, and I was intrigued.
I hid the egg-stone at the bottom of my bed, beneath the mattress. Later, I took it out to examine it more closely. This time, it felt quite warm, cupped in my hands. Suddenly, I was overwhelmed with homesickness, and a longing to be with my family. A little chocolate egg would have gone a long way towards cheering me up, I thought sadly.
Then I was shaken from my thoughts by Granny’s voice calling me downstairs.
“There is a visitor for you,” she said.
Strange; I had no friends from the village.
I skipped down the stairs to find a large woman and a small girl standing in the hallway. The girl smiled shyly and offered me a straw basket, in which nestled three small, perfectly-formed mouth-watering chocolate eggs! I gazed at her in jaw-dropped amazement. I understood the magnitude of this sacrifice.
We sat among Granny’s rambling flowers and shared the eggs while the grown-ups chatted over tea.
The next day, a telegram arrived. Granny read it in silence, then smiled a slow smile.
“You have a baby brother, and your mother and he are both doing well,” she announced. “I am to take you home on the next train.”
I went upstairs, sat on my bed, and took out the egg-stone. I felt very uneasy.
“You’ve done this,” I whispered to it.
All the things I had wished for the night before had come true; a new friend to ease my loneliness, the gift of chocolate eggs, the return to my family. Of course, it was coincidence. Or was it? The heart of the stone glittered.
Back home, Granny fussed over the baby, and my parents fussed over me. My new brother was not what I expected; I wanted a brother I could play football and climb trees with, but all this one did was eat, sleep and cry. But I was happy to be home, and there was even a host of Easter eggs decorating my room.
There was only one dark cloud on the horizon.
School. And that meant Brian.
Brian was the typical school bully; every school has one. Big, fat, stupid and mouthy, with the weight and the cronies to back him up. He had picked on just about everyone in the school at one time or another, and had yet to be defied. I knew with a sickening certainty that now it would be my turn. I took the egg-stone with me for support.
On my arrival at the school gate, a crowd gathered around me. Well, I had just had an extra fortnight off school, been to the country, and had a new baby brother. Brian did not like anyone else to be the centre of attention and so in the lunch break he made his move.
“Got a new baby brother have you?” he sneered. “Bet he’s an ugly ginger speccy four eyes, just like you!”
His friends joined in the cruel chorus. He took a menacing step towards me, and began pushing me backwards with each jeer until my back was pressed hard against the wall.
“And now do you know what I’m going to do?” he taunted. “I’m going to smash your specs and then I’m going to give you a black eye.”
I braced myself, slipping my hand into my trouser pocket, and felt the egg stone nestling there, smooth and reassuring. Unfortunately, this did not go unnoticed.
“What you got there then? Get it, lads! “
A hundred hands reached for the egg-stone at his command, taking the opportunity to aim a few well-directed thumps in my direction as they did so. Struggle as I might, I could not resist them.
“Well well, what have we here?” Brian turned the stone over curiously in his meaty paws.
“It’s only a lump of rock,” complained one of his accomplices.
“It’s an egg-stone,” I muttered sullenly, “and its mine. Give it back.”
“Finders keepers,” trilled Brian, and with that my resentment flared into anger. I lunged at him. At the same time, the egg-stone began to glow fiercely. There was a shriek from Brian, and it fell from his hands. It hit the tarmac with a resounding crack and shattered into a million pieces.
There was shocked silence, broken only by Brian’s blubbering. He was blowing on his hands, trying to cool them. They looked badly burned. All eyes were on me. Full of righteous rage, I flew at Brian, hating him, wanting to kill. After a few seconds pause, the whole yard full of children poured around me, screaming their encouragement, some even joining in the attack.
Of course, I was punished both by the school and my parents, but I didn’t care. Brian and his mates never bullied anyone again, so it was a small price to pay.
As for the egg stone, to this day I still keep a shard of it at the bottom of my bed, beneath my mattress.