Leave taking

I felt a need to write in response to this prompt. “Describe the circumstances and emotions of your hardest departure from family.” 

I had driven over to my dad’s place with my youngest son  It had been several months since dad died.  My brother was sole executor of the Will and had rushed the proceedings through while the rest of us were still coming to terms with what was happening.   He’d somehow managed to buy the place and pay out our shares so the house now was his, not mum and dad’s place.  All that remained was to collect the bits and pieces he’d divvied up as our share of the family possessions.

My brother supervised the loading of my car.   I didn’t really know why I’d even bothered coming over.   It all felt so sordid – so utterly grubby.  All the misunderstandings and miscommunications that had gone down when dad was dying.   All those torrid terrible years when he ranted and raved in the Nursing Home.   His personality had disintegrated as his dementia advanced.   He’d always been a strong and opinionated man.   As his illness progressed it was as if those qualities were distilled down into a loud and implacable rage.    He’d forgotten who I was several years before.

Prior to that my mum had died a slow and tragic death from Parkinson’s disease.    It had broken my dad.     He’d never sorted out her possessions.   Now they were apparently owned by my brother.   Old raincoats and the stained white jumper dad had worn when he went bowling hung in dusty wardrobes with wonky doors alongside what remained of mum’s paintings – the ones that hadn’t sold – the near misses and the failures no one wanted.   Cupboards still housed the chipped plates and scattered remnants of household goods that had been inherited from forgotten ancestors.  Somewhere a few old photos were hidden away in tattered boxes.

Overseeing the loading of my car my brother was bombastic and acted like the Lord of Manor although the house was really just a holiday shack mum and dad had bought on retirement.   As we said goodbye I noticed a greenish mould growing on the shady walls that faced seaward.   My brother’s problem now.

I grabbed a moment and rushed back to the shed on some pretext.   A place of happy memories – dad sorting through his own dad’s old tools and giving my sons some strange object from times past –  the old wooden handles polished from use and brass fittings glowing softly in the dim light.

Suddenly it hit me.   I was not likely to come back.  At least for a good long while. My brother was already staking claims of ownership as he talked of remodeling the downstairs living room.   It was his place now and he wanted to put his stamp on it as he described it in his bullying way.

I raised my camera and photographed the broken chairs hanging from the roof.  I remembered them once standing proud and strong in the family home we’d grown up in.    Like the rest of us they now bore the scars of the difficult years that followed.

old chairs with noise.jpg

That was nearly ten years ago.   Much of the stuff I collected that day proved to be too hard to have around – bad memories of my father’s anger, my mother’s bipolar mood swings.  The few things I’ve hung on to are from my own grandparents.   People my children never knew.   They are curious.   “What was this grandmother’s name?” they ask.   “What was she like?”    An interest in the family tree has emerged.   I recall old photos and family letters.   “We must go there and record these things?” they say.  Tentatively we plan a date later in the year when we will do just that.   Although I see the sense in it and can see that my kids are seeking some kind of closure I’m not looking forward to it.   Sometimes the need for healing takes us to difficult places.


pixabay image by Natan Vancer
prompt:  https://mythsofthemirror.com/2019/03/01/march-speculative-fiction-prompt/

The eclipse was always a special time for the boy and his community.   Donning special glasses they gazed at the spectacle for a few silent moments as they offered their prayers for the safe keeping of those that had fled the Earth in spaceships decades earlier.   The first ships in the fleet would have reached Mars by now and work would have began on terraforming that inhospitable environment.

Once that ritual prayer was out of the way the community got on with the Sacred Earth Ceremony.   This time of dancing, singing and feasting was one of the few times that they got together.   People came in from the outlying subterranean cities and mountain hideaways and met at the wide plateau overlooking the  jagged spires of the city.

It was where they had gathered to watch the last of the space ships leave.   The boy was  far to young to remember that but he had heard the stories of how hordes of people had clamoured to get on board those tin cans and flee   All of them believed the Earth was doomed.   To be sure climate change was wreaking havoc.  The seas were rising and coastal cities were being inundated.  Violent storms, droughts, floods and out of control wild fires were so common it was easy to see why they felt that way.

The Earth Keepers, the boy’s soul family, felt otherwise.   They were not fools.   They knew the planet was in dire straits but desert it they would not   The Earth was their home and they were it’s Keepers.

Every eclipse they gathered to give thanks.   They gave thanks for all they had achieved – the rivers  that now flowed freely for the first time in a century or more and the eco-systems that were coming back into balance   They gave thanks for the viable communities they had created where all, regardless of race, gender, age and ability were equal.   They gave thanks for the harvest they had gathered no matter how meagre.  They gave thanks for the resources they had salvaged, recycled, upcycled and repaired so that they could bring them here to trade.   They gave thanks for the books, art and artifacts they had saved and rehoused in stable buildings that were open to all.

Most of all they gave thanks that they were alive and that the Earth was slowly returning to harmony.    The city on the horizon looked even more spectral at each gathering.  Although the rising seas meant that entire neighbourhoods were now unsafe it was still a great supplier of resources and some still ventured into those cold canyons of glass and steel.   More than anything though it functioned as a salutatory reminder of the excesses of the past.

Although it wasn’t really the point of the Gratitude Ceremony every now and then someone would give a whoop of joy that all those people had fled on those rocket ships and left the Keepers in peace.   It was hard not to.

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





March Madness

A haibun for  https://dversepoets.com/2019/03/04/haibun-monday-march-madness/

Today is the first cool day in ages.  During the past week the temperature have been over 38 degrees Celsius day after day.

Across this southern Australian State bushfires rage.  Not down here on the coast but through the forested hills to the east where I lived for many years.   I hear the names of familiar towns on the News and feel for the people still living there.

Ten years, when I lived there, the fires burned quite close to my home.  The worst day of those fires is seared into my memory.   The sky above my house turned a vile sickly orange and burnt leaves fell on my lawn.   The firefighters warned everyone to watch out for burning embers for the fierce winds were carrying them many, many kilometers from the blaze.    Around 3 in the afternoon I heard on the radio that one of the fire fronts was raging up the mountains towards the TV and radio transmission towers.  There was nothing anyone could do to prevent their destruction.   About twenty minutes later transmission stopped.   Only one television station that used a different transmission tower still worked so for over a week the only TV News we got was focused on the extreme fires that had burnt closer to the state capital.  The area I lived in was barely reported on.   One item that was broadcast though was the rising death toll from all the fires across the state.    The final toll was 173 plus countless animals.

Now, in these current fires, most people are not staying to defend their properties.   They evacuate instead.   I see them weeping on the News when they learn their house has burnt to the ground.  “I have nothing,” they say.  “Nothing but the clothes I stand up in and the car I drove to safety.”   One distraught woman spoke of staying to defend her house for as long as was safe.   She described the fires as sounding like a fire breathing dragon roaring through the bush.

Wild dragon days
torrid heat, blazing fires
– praying for rain

An aerial view of a house exploding in a massive fireball in Tonimbuk in the Bunyip State Forest. An aerial view of a house exploding in a massive fireball in Tonimbuk in the Bunyip State Forest.CREDIT:NINE NEWS



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.


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.






The light of truth

Yesterday we Australians learnt the Catholic priest, Cardinal Pell has been found guilty of child sex offenses.   The nature of the offenses that convicted him were explained carefully on the TV news.   The evidence presented revealed the man to be extremely perverse.

This morning I saw a News item which claimed some Catholic Priests have been involved in the sexual abuse of nuns.   I have no idea if these claims are true but I hope there are investigations into them around the globe.

A piercing light
revealing hidden abuse
– truth triumphs

unnamed – photo prompt –https://iwriteher.com/2019/02/26/i-write-her-weekly-haiku-challenge-8/

A position of priviledge

The woman up the road lives in a very big house.  I live in a very small house.  She drives a flashy new car.   I do not.   She is rich.   I am not.

Just the other day on a grey and blustery morning our paths crossed.   “Hello,” we said in a neighbourly way.   “How are you?” I asked as you do in such situations.

“I am just glad to be alive,” the woman said in a strong, heartfelt voice.   It was as if recently she had seriously contemplated the other option.

I had to agree.  “I too am glad to be alive,” I said.

The distance between us diminished.

Even on dull days
so glad to be alive
– joy in the morning

prompt:  https://dversepoets.com/2019/02/19/dverse-poetics-on-privilege/