On the Riverbank

Josh wandered along the riverbank carrying his fishing rod and tackle box.   Around him the day began to awake.  Birds tweeted, frogs croaked and sunlight sparkled.   It was all a refreshing change after the grind of the city and the constant cut and thrust of his work environment.   Lately the place had been getting to him.  Spending a weekend away had felt like a necessity for he was stretched to breaking point.

Slowly the tranquil environment calmed him and he looked around with interest.   It had dark when he driven down to the random Airbnb  he’d found online so he hadn’t seen much.   Now an unusual purplish light played across the water and spilled over the vegetation. He’d never seen anything like it before but, he reasoned, he’d never been in this part of the country before.

Up ahead he spied an older bearded man leaning back against a tree trunk.   A fishing rod dangled loosely in his hand.   One seeing him the fellow gave a beaming smile of welcome.

“G’day, nice day for it,” Josh said hoping he was striking the right colloquial note.

“Aye, that it is,” said the man.  Josh couldn’t quite place the accent but assumed it was English.   It grew thicker as the two exchanged pleasantries.   Josh usually shied away from conversations with strangers but there was something about the fellow that made him want to stay and chat.

“The name’s Robin,” the man said after a minute or two.  “I was about to have a bite to eat.   Care to join me? ”   He gestured to a rustic meal spread out on a cloth beside him.  Wholesome brown bread was cut into thick slices, wads of cheese, bunches of ripe grapes and a mound of brightly polished apples sat alongside.

Josh’s mouth watered for he’d skipped breakfast.   His palate was dulled from too many rushed meals of processed food and the simple fare looked appealing.

“Don’t be shy,”  Robin grinned.  “There’s more than enough for two and I’m curious as to what brings a smart young man like you to this out of the way spot.”

Josh needed no further encouragement and was soon hungrily devouring his fair share of the food.   Robin ate more sparingly, a gentle smile playing around his lips. For Josh the older man’s non-judgmental attitude was like a balm.  Without much conscious thought he found himself speaking of his fiercely competitive work environment, the long hours he put in and of his difficulties in finding a compatible partner.   All the women he met seemed more interested in his career prospects than his deeper thoughts.    They were quick to advise him of their own career achievements too as if it was some kind of contest.   Everyone he knew was like that, he reflected.   It wasn’t a gender thing, or even an age thing.   It was just the way things were.

“Maybe you’re mixing with the wrong people,” Robin said mildly.   “Maybe you need to live in a different way.”

“That’s easier said than done,” Josh said.   A bitter note crept into his voice.  “There’s so much pressure now to succeed. What people aren’t considering is the cost to the environment.”

“That’s exactly right.”   The older man seemed lost in thought.   Looking at him Josh realized the fellow was far older than he first thought.  The purple light somehow cast greenish shadows on his skin making him appear ancient and almost as if he’d grown out of the trees around him.

“Some people are changing their lifestyles,” Josh said thoughtfully.   “A guy I knew at school suddenly announced on Facebook that he was moving down this way to build a straw bale house and develop a self-sufficient farm.”

“I like the sound of that,” Robin said.  “The economies of the future will have to become circular if people are going to survive.”

“Maybe you’re right.”   Josh thought of the months he’d spent at work wrestling with the issue of recycling now that China had stopped buying Australia’s waste – not that you could blame them – the stuff was totally contaminated.   Separating re-usable plastic, paper and glass from the mess would be a filthy and dangerous job.    Telling Australian householders to reduce their use of plastic and to store their glass containers didn’t really solve the problem though.   He and many others in his workplace knew that the deeper solution lay in convincing industries to take responsibility for their excess packaging and their reliance on single use plastics.   The planet had to come before profit but that kind of systemic change had to be enforced by legislation and there wasn’t the political will to make such changes for most political parties were funded by big business.

It was these kind of convoluted problems that had led Josh to this weekend away.  Seemed like he could not escape though, even on such an idyllic riverbank.

“I guess societies did have a circular economy once,” he said slowly as he thought it through.  “Resources would have been used and re-used.   Waste would have been minimal and essentially organic anyway.  It would all eventually decompose without polluting the environment.”   Such a world was so far from his current reality he could barely imagine it.   “That would have been centuries ago,” he mused.   “We can’t revert to horse and buggy days.”

“Aye, it were a good while back,” Robin agreed.  “And no, going back to that would not work.   Besides there were problems then too.   It was back breaking work and disease was rife.   No, what I’m suggesting is a new holistic approach.”

“Where and how do you live then?” Josh asked, his curiosity getting the better of him.  Robin’s old timer ways of speaking mixed with contemporary expressions had him confused.    The man’s manners were from an earlier gentler time and his clothes, in indeterminate shades of green, seemed to have been spun from the forest itself.

“Oh hereabouts,”   Robin was noncommittal.    “I keep a finger on the pulse of the times but I live by the old codes.   I abide by the lores of nature.”

Josh was intrigued.  Maybe this fellow could help him find his own way back to nature.  “Where did you grow up then?” he asked thinking it might shed some light on the man’s unusual world view.

“I’ve always been here,” Robin answered.    “I am a man of the forest.  I am in the forest and the forest is in me.”

“Haven’t you ever worked in the city then?”

“My work has always been here in nature.   For me that is the most honest toil a man can do.  The way I see it humans are the children of the Earth.   It is nature that sustains us.  She provides the air we breathe, the food we eat, the water we drink even, in more natural times at least, the resources to clothe our bodies and build our homes.    Now more than ever people need to realise that.   The way so many live is unsustainable.”

Josh nodded slowly.   The man’s words echoed thoughts that bounced around his own own head in the wee small hours but which were swallowed up in the rush and roar of daily life.

“You’ve given me a lot to think about,” he said.   “Thank you for the meal too.   It was delicious”   He stood up as he said goodbye.   Thoughts he had been repressing for too long crowded into his mind and he needed to sit alone and process them.

Robin smiled fulsomely and gave brief nod.   Josh felt almost like he’d been dismissed from the presence of a god.   An Earth god to be sure but some kind of deity nonetheless.  Collecting his fishing gear he continued on upstream his own head bowed in thought.

He found a pleasant spot to sit and for the rest of the day idly cast and recast his fishing line but caught no fish.   Half the time he forgot to bait the hook he was so pre-occupied.  At some point during the day he decided to track down that old school friend and visit him while he was in area.  He wasn’t sure a complete back to nature lifestyle was for him but maybe he could apply some of the principles of self sufficiency to his own life.   He needed to change jobs as well and work in a more pro-active field.   Banging his head against the brick wall of governmental hypocrisy was destroying him.   Perhaps he could find work in some organisation that was actually implementing environmentally sound principles.

Towards evening he bundled up his gear and retraced his footsteps along the riverbank.  There was no sign of the green man now.   Some little birds pecking at the crumbs from the picnic were the only sign their meeting had actually taken place and not been a figment of his imagination.

In the coming months as Josh implemented real and lasting change in his life the memory of Robin came to assume the significance of a life changing event.   Its significance was overshadowed only by his meeting the bright light who was to become his life partner, the like minded and utterly gorgeous Marion.

Written in response to

https://scvincent.com/2019/03/07/thursday-photo-prompt-tranquil-writephoto/

 

 

 

The Secret Place #writephoto

  photo prompt:  https://scvincent.com/2019/02/28/thursday-photo-prompt-invitation-writephoto/

Afterwards Miranda could not say what it was that made her walk down that overgrown lane on that overcast and dreary afternoon.    Lately she’d been doing odd and unpredictable things.   It wasn’t so much that she felt lost but more that she felt she’d lost something she could not describe.   On grey days such as this the feeling nagged at her until she gave into it and let her mind wander into extended periods of distracted day dreaming.

That particular day it was only when she reached the tall iron gates down Memory Lane that she realized she’d come this way many times before.   As a young child she was a frequent visitor.  Then the gates had been wide open but now they were only slightly ajar.  When she tried to open them further she found the hinges were rusty.   She had to lean her body weight against the gates to get them to move.  They groaned and clanked in protest but eventually opened enough for her to slip inside.

When she was little the garden beyond the gates was a beautiful meadow filled with sweet smelling flowers.    Back then she came to the place whenever she entered her dream world.  Some nights she would play there from bedtime till dawn for the place always made her feel good.   She’d awaken the next morning refreshed and renewed. Now the garden was entirely overgrown and weed infested.  The few flowers that bloomed were straggly and windswept.

Dismayed by the state of the place Miranda pushed her way through the tangled vegetation to the cottage she suddenly recalled.    It was a delightful place in memory.  Bright airy rooms were filled with wonderful art supplies, toys and intricate music boxes.  The bookshelves were filled with beautiful picture books and the cupboards were stacked with delicious nutritious food.   The furniture was comfortable and intricately patterned rugs lay on the polished wooden floors. Framed paintings and photographs hung upon the wall.

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On this return visit she had to fight her way through the brambles to find the cottage.  ‘Who let this place go?’ she wondered.  ‘Whoever is responsible for it had been neglecting it terribly.’

When she finally stood in front of the house she she saw it had fallen into complete disrepair.  Luckily though the roof and windows were still intact.2017-06-23-13-31-12

She remembered that when she visited as a child she would unlock the door with a key she kept on a silver chain round her neck.   Now she saw the key and chain dangling from a hook beside the front door.   Anyone could have entered in her absence.    Hopefully the out of the way location meant no else had found the place.

Unlocking the door she entered with trepidation.   Would the wondrous objects she recalled still be there?   Going from room to room she found most of the toys and musical boxes had vanished.   Instead there was a huge array of electronic equipment – computers and digital devices of every description.   Unable to resist the temptation she turned some on and found they were programmed with Apps and software that would enable to do just about anything she could think of.   The Wifi connection was strong and reliable.

“This set up is better than the one I now have,” she marveled.

Moving on through the building she found everything seemed both familiar and uncanny all at once.   Most of the art supplies had dried up and the books were tattered and piled on the floor in dusty, disorganized heaps.   The rugs had become threadbare.  What little food remained in the cupboards was stale and mouldy.

It was only when she looked at the pictures on the wall that the place started to make a weird and uncomfortable sense. All the artwork displayed was stuff she’d created.    It included a few pieces that were now shoved under her bed and stuff she’d decided was no good.    There were paintings she given away and others she’d destroyed when she was down.   Looking at one she’d given to a second hand shop years ago when she was depressed she saw it was actually quite good.   At the time of disposing of it she’d thought it was hopeless.

It came to her then just what this place was.   This was the House of the Self, the secret, innermost foundation of her being, the Home of her Soul.  In all the years spent raising a family and keeping up with the demands of work she’d forgotten about it.  As she straightened a painting on the wall she realized this was what she’d lost.   It was her own calm inner centre that she’d misplaced.

It was time now to return to it.  The children had grown, her marriage had ended and she’d been made redundant.   Everything she’d worked so hard for was no more.   She received some rewards for her labours but she was worn out and emptied by the effort it had all taken.    Now it was time to reclaim her inner sanctuary, hang that key around her neck again, weed the garden, cut back the brambles and do some much needed repairs on the house.

Looking around the dusty, messy rooms she began to pick up the books, wipe the covers and replace them on the shelves.   Oddly the books were no longer the picture books of her childhood but beautiful art books, contemporary novels and current works of non-fiction.   ‘How to’ craft and technical books on subjects she had always wanted to learn about were featured.

“It’s like some of the things in this place represent the things that would make my life more fulfilling.   Others are tools and information that would it make easier to do my creative work.”   Flicking through a book of contemporary art she muttered to herself:  “I could spend some of my redundancy pay on new art supplies and books.   Some up-to- date technology would be useful too,”   she mused.    “I can’t get back the paintings I destroyed but I can acknowledge that creative expression is a vital part of my life.   I can return to my creative practice and start again.”  Thinking about the dried up art supplies scattered through the house she saw that they represented the way she’d been neglecting to do the things that made her feel truly happy and contented within herself.   The stale food represented the way she hadn’t been looking after her body properly either.

As she thought these things her back, which had been bent and achy, began to straighten.   For the first time in ages she felt she had a purpose.

 

 

 

 

 

A new start

photo credit-  https://scvincent.com/2019/02/14/thursday-photo-prompt-new-writephoto/

As the sun rose over the rooftops like a searing ball of flame another day of excessive heat was born.

The couple out for an early morning fitness walk stopped in their tracks and viewed the spectacle.

“I feel so impotent,” said the man.

The woman glanced sharply at him wondering if her long term partner and father of her children was about to reveal some emergent sexual problem.

The man, oblivious to how his words had been misconstrued,  continued on:   “I mean, what can I do?   Out there across the country bushfires are burning out of control while record breaking floods swamp the north east.   Millions of fish have died in the extreme weather affecting the inland river systems.   Across the world beneficial insects and bees are dying.”

The woman shifted uncomfortably.   These thoughts had been on her mind too.  “And still governments refuse to act on climate change,” she muttered.

“I could volunteer for the emergency services,” the man reflected, “but I doubt I’d be much use.   I’m a scrawny artist guy not a macho fire fighter.”

“And I’m a writer and poet,” said the woman.

“Make art then,” said a lilting voice beside them.  “Write stories.   Sing.  Dance.   Take photos.    Create, create, create.”

The couple looked around in confusion.   They had thought they were alone.   Both gaped as their eyes fell upon a small ethereal being dancing in the sun beams.

“Oh good, you can see and hear me,” the being sang/spoke.    “I’ve been working at making myself visible to you.   I have a message for you.”

“A message?” the man queried.   His tone hovered between aggression and disbelief.   Seeing fairies was not something he was accustomed to.

“Yes, yes.   Don’t argue.   Just listen.   I don’t know how long I can hold this form.”   The being appeared to flicker in and out of manifestation in the bright sunlight.  “This isn’t my natural state you know.”

“Well who’s the message from,” the man demanded in a practical, no nonsense tone.

“Oh the fairies and all the elementals,” the being said impatiently.   “We’re worried.   The Earth’s in trouble.   We’re trying to contact all the artists, musicians, writers and creatives who are open to new inspiration.   It’s time for you all to get busy.”

“I know,” the woman murmured, “but I’ve been feeling so blocked lately.   My last book sunk like a stone and I haven’t felt like trying again.    I seem to have run out of stories.”

“Put all that aside,” the being advised.   Its voice was more kindly now.  “There’s no time for all that creative angst any more.   After all those creative blocks are really just personal personal obstacles.   They are negative by-products of the wounded ego so many of you creatives are afflicted with.   Now is the time to heal your wounds and see the bigger picture.   Your creative talents are a gift you can use to help heal the world.    You can take whatever raw materials you choose to work with – paint, words, musical notation, wood, stone – even food or garden plants – whatever motivates you to create.    Take those base materials and transform them into new forms that offer, healing and beauty to you as the creators and to those your work reaches.”

The being dancing in front of the couple blazed in the light like a beacon.   “Creativity expressed with intention can make the invisible realms of the imagination visible to others.   It can operate as a portal to worlds of expanded consciousness.   Shifting hearts and minds in this way allows room for healing.”

The man and woman nodded slowly.   The words echoed heart callings they both felt deep down but hardly dared express even to each other.

“The creatives amongst you all are the voice of the time you live in.   Creativity is a gift that moves through you.   It’s not something you own.   It’s greater than you.”   The being’s voice rang like a bell in the morning air.   “Sure it can bring you undone.   It can consume you if you let it.   But, if you use the energy in a trans-personal way, it can uplift you and the world around you.   It’s time now to heal yourselves and step into your greater role as creative healers.”

As the sun climbed higher in the sky the temperature rose further.   The elemental being seemed to dissipate and become part of the white light that beat down upon the dry ground.   At the same time the memory of the encounter shifted into the mythic and neither the man nor the woman was entirely what sure what had just occurred.

“Ooh, it’s so hot,” said the woman.   “I’ve got to get out the sun.   I want to go to my study.   I’ve got a feeling those notes I made a while ago might form the basis of new story after all.”

“Yes,” the man mused.   “I feel like painting today.   I have an urge to express all this.”   He flung his arms out wide as if to embrace the world.   A faraway expression graced his face.   The woman left him to it.   She knew him well enough to know some new creative impulse was brewing within him.  Talking now would only dilute it.   Besides, she had to get home.   She had work to do.

Inside a tree

 

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As I sat beneath the spreading branches of the ash tree in my yard I wondered what it would be like to go inside – to find a little door hidden in the shadows and slip in.   Of course I’d have to be like Alice and have shrunk but details aside, what would it be like?

Would I slide down into the roots and plunge deep into the Earth or would I rise with the sap and sigh and sway with the leaves in the wind?

It was then I felt myself sinking.   Not into the tree but into deep reverie. My feet planted on the grounds seemed to be growing roots.  Earthed I was, grounded in my physicality, my body.

The wind in the tree top grew louder and I raised my eyes up to the branches.   I saw the ragged scar of an ancient wound where a large branch must have sheared off in a storm long ago.  I looked higher still and saw that the crown of the tree had once been pruned out.  Thick branches now terminated abruptly.   Just below them thinner branches had sprouted and now reached skyward.   Some were so spindly they hung from the tree in tangled curves of dying wood.   Others were strong and healthy and flung themselves out away from the trunk into the clear blue of sky above.

In that moment my mind merged with the beingness of the tree and I felt myself both planted in the ground and soaring upwards – transcendental yet of the Earth.   Solid yet ethereal.   Enduring despite the scars, the sometimes brutal experiences and the dreams of growth that had not survived.   Going on anyway – finding new ways to be and ways to grow despite setbacks.

I felt then the presence in the heart of the ash – strong, benevolent yet detached.  So old now and having seen so much – a grandmother of a tree – a wisdom keeper.

Gently, oh so softly, the tree released me and I came back into my human form.   The sound of a truck bumping and roaring along the highway pulled me back into my own time and place.   Like the wind in the tree tops I sighed.   Endure, I thought, despite all the chaos and drama of life, find new ways to be – keep on going.

Prompt:   https://helenevaillant.com/2019/01/29/view-from-here/Ff

Climate change and the quest for new stories

Late last year I wrote about going on a quest to find new stories about climate change and possible future scenarios that might occur because of it.

Somewhere (and I’ve no idea where now) I read that stories that depict dystopian futures turn people off.    Rather than galvanizing people into action they tend to lead to paralyzing depressions and feelings of powerlessness.

When I googled a question about finding new stories I discovered many articles  about our need for new stories – not just about climate change but new stories about politics, economics, new cultural stories,  stories about disability that don’t focus on overcoming disability, stories about sustainable agriculture and industry …   the list goes on and on.

I read an article in the Guardian Newspaper about a group of concerned individuals who have created a collection of new fairy stories that deal with current issues such as climate change and refugees here

The article concludes with the statement –

“Most tales, at some level, present a rite of passage through difficulty to maturity, awareness or resolution. Now, more than ever, it feels like we need new tales to lead us through our troubling times.”

I kept searching online and found a comprehensive article about the power of story and why we need new ones using stories to change systems  The author, Ella Saltmarshe, writes –

“Systems change can involve painting compelling visions of alternative futures. We can use story to create immersive scenarios of the future that engage people on an emotional and intellectual level. This work can make the possible feel more probable, bring new perspectives that challenge the goals and mindsets of a system, and enable the transformation of rules and processes.”

Further searching led to this article about the role of science fiction in envisioning new, positive futures –  https://rethink.earth/can-science-fiction-reimagine-the-future-of-global-development

Reading these and other articles I concluded that the first steps towards creating a better world lie in imagining just what that world would look like.

My quest to find new stories continues but at least now I have defined what I am searching for and why.  IMG_20170913_212524.jpg

prompt:  https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2019/01/16/rdp-wednesday-quest/

Time for a quest

new horizonEarlier this week I explained how so  much of the creative work I’ve been putting on this blog is really only reworkings of ideas I’ve expressed before.  I’m starting to bore myself – and quite possibly, my readers.

Combined with the facts that my internet connection drops in and out and that the battery in my laptop died yesterday blogging is becoming harder  for me.  Typing words letter by letter with a stylus on my tablet is tedious.   Most of my photos are locked up on my laptop as well so I have limited photographic material to play with.

Getting the laptop working again will have to wait till the new year.

So all in all, a blogging break is in order for me.   Again and again. I am coming across the idea that the way forward into our collective future is to find new stories.  I am at  the stage of life where I need to find new stories in my own life too.        Growing older and moving into the third stage of life I find this culture is not providing me with models of aging that sustain me.  The medical model of age as a disease is sickening- literally –  the cultural idea of denying and/or defying age doesn’t work for me either.   Of course bodies age and interests change – that is the way of life.  The idea of retiring to play golf and bingo bores me witless.   There has to be more fulfilling ways to age.  Jung’s process of individuation interests me – what is it and how do you do it?   I want to find out.

To find new personal stories that sustain me and to find new creative stories to tell I need to retreat  to the places where stories are born – the  imaginative, meditative realms  of dreams where  archetypal figures roam.     For me,  such quests are best taken alone.

Thank you for reading and following my blog.    I have enjoyed our conversations.   I will probably return to blogging at some future time but for now wish you a happy holiday season.

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