She often came this way. She stopped and sat on the fence, looking at the single, timeless standing stone. It always caused her carefully controlled mind to wander. Back and forward. Backwards, she wondered where they came from. What they meant? Were other stones buried by the sands of time somewhere deep around this one, perhaps in a circle? Maybe this was a lone stone. Perhaps meant to cure sick children? How will we ever know, she wondered, what the prehistoric people who raised these stones really were doing.
Then there was that other theory. The one that some thought explained the pyramids as well as the standing stones. The theory that said that we weren’t alone in the universe. Perhaps other beings had helped those prehistoric people build these complex stone structures. Most discounted that theory of course, but she found herself thinking of it. It seemed so impossible that the prehistoric citizens could have done it themselves.
A timeless mystery of the universe. She started walking again, her imagination making her smile.
Jane remembers the night they got to that island. They were just looking for a place to stay and they happened upon the bridge where signs told them of vacancies. They crossed the bridge, not really knowing where they were. Not really knowing they were going out into the Gulf of Mexico.
It was winter and even in the southern part of America, dark came early. Even so, someone was in the office of the first place they came to. After they secured a reservation, they went to their spot and crashed. Never really thinking about where they were. They had driven a long way. They knew it was warm and they could smell salt water. Sleep came instantly.
It had been a hard year for them before that winter. They were young. They didn’t know that the things that had happened, decisions they had made, would come back to haunt them many years later. They had the freedom of youth without the wisdom of age. Like most young people of ther generation, they worked hard and played just as hard. Too hard. It was the 1970s and their kind of fun seemed innocent then. They didn’t realize that it wasn’t. That the transgressions of youth would color their whole lives. They didn’t know that too much fun then would make the responsibilities of age hard and getting old so much more unbearable.
When Jane’s eyes came open, just a crack, the next morning, she looked around and saw the entire place enveloped in a warm glow. Bare tree branches were on one side of the place with palm trees towering over the other side. They had been lost the night before. She couldn’t imagine where they were.
Jane got up and dressed and walked out on the porch and down the road. The sky astonished her, layered in gold clouds. She had never seen anything like it. As she walked and nodded to the locals, she felt a weight lift off her shoulders, a sense of renewal wash over her. A decision she had been trying to make became clear to her as the tropical birds swooped in front of her. When she came to a general store, she found out the name of the island although in her mind, she’d already dubbed it her magical island. She’d been struggling with that decision for weeks.
After that winter, Jane knew they would spend many winters on that magical island. Looking back, she knows they will go back someday. It might be they should do it soon. Could it renew her once again?
She doesn’t walk much anymore, but today, her dog needed to walk so off they went. He’s excited to be out and she hopes the walk will be good for her too. It’s hard for her to get outside her own head, but she looks around at the scenery and notices the beautiful, but darkening clouds ahead of her. She doesn’t think they look threatening, so she and her dog walk on. She tries to be in the moment mentally and he helps with that, smelling every smell along the way. It helps her to focus. As always, she’s thinking about many things while trying just to think about him and his joyous communion with nature.
The clouds are so beautiful that they cause an old song to pop into her head. She smiles as she remember Joni Mitchell’s original recording of “Both Sides Now.” The ultimate “cloud” song as far as she is concerned. She remembers lying in her parent’s backyard in the grass, looking up at the clouds as a teenager. She remembers the line “ice cream castles in the air.” As a young girl, she looked at the cloud formations and dreamed of such innocent and foolish things..
She and her dog stopped to rest. She gave him a drink out of his water bottle and he laid down to rest for a few minutes, looking around, drinking in the scenery. She watched the clouds as they moved overhead. As an older teenager, reaching adulthood, she still watched the clouds in the backyard, but the images became different. She remembers the words to the song. One stanza described her feelings at that time in her life, when she met a boy she thought she would marry.
“Moons and Junes and ferries wheels The dizzy dancing way you feel As every fairy tale comes real I’ve looked at love that way”
She had fallen in love and she thought he was in love. Something terrible happened. He was not the boy, she had found out very painfully, that she would marry. She reached down and touched her dog’s head. He was her touchstone now if her thoughts drifted to a bad place.
They got up and walked on. The dog was anxious to see what was over the next rise on their walk.
2018 had turned into a year of reflection for her. She hated that and thought it was brought on by her health issues which seem to have blown up this past year. She had spent the year frightened and it had made her look back at her life. She liked to look forward, but she was facing serious life-threatening issues. Looking forward had become difficult.
She had looked at the relationships in her life. Not just romantic relationships, but all of them. Family, friends. She saw the folly in so many of them. She and her husband seemed to finally be at peace. She had amazing friends. Something wonderful had happened with her family. She had found family members she hardly knew existed and some she had not known existed and she was getting to know them. That had made her year. There were other family relationships that were gone. Gone forever. That had hurt her terribly.
Love. Romance. Did it even exist or like in the song, was it just another illusion? She had come to the conclusion that love was very rare, that it seldom existed if at all. As for the rest of her life, however long that was, she found the song to be very relevant:
“But now it’s just another show You leave ’em laughing when you go And if you care, don’t let them know Don’t give yourself away
I’ve looked at love from both sides now From give and take and still somehow It’s love’s illusions I recall I really don’t know love at all…”
They walked on home, leaving the cloud formations behind, to do whatever they had to do.
It was a beautiful day on the beach by the village. The children could run out the door of their homes and reach the sand and sea in moments. Tourists who rented homes here and there could be spotted lazing in the warm sun. The setting was an idyllic as one can imagine.
The small boy and his dog walked along the streets of the village that day. He was doing errands for his mother. The dog, normally so well-behaved, kept running circles around him with a low growl in his throat. The boy couldn’t imagine what was wrong.
It seemed that the growl from the dog got louder. The boy felt the earth shaking. He’d felt this before. He knew it was an earthquake. The shake was a big one, but the damage to the village didn’t look severe. The growling didn’t stop.
Someone shouted that there was a tsunami warning. The boy climbed up onto the roof of a shed and hoisted his dog up with him. They were hit by a wall of water. When it subsided, they were mostly alone, saved by the growling. Only a few others remained.
Thanks to Susan at Sunday Photo Fiction and to Anurag Bakhshi for the photo prompt.
When he happened upon the village, he had been traveling for a long time. Wandering from place to place. He stopped in the small restaurant for some dinner and that’s when he saw it. There was a sign advertising a position for a lighthouse keeper. His breath caught in his throat. He had worked as a lighthouse keeper many times in his life. Those were the only times he had been a good person. When he had a connection to the sea.
He called the number on the sign. There was a small room he could live in at the bottom of the lighthouse. It had been standing empty for a while now. Workmen came to set its light. He moved in the few things that he had.
That night, he went about the business of calibrating the light. An image came into the path of the light and he realized it was a large ship sailing too close to the coast. When the light began to work, he watched as the ship steered away from the coastline.
He sighed with relief. This Christmas he had done a good deed. Unlike so many Christmas’s in the past.
I wish I could have spent the last ten days hidden among the wild things along the bank of the stream behind my home. Having been confronted by a terrible tragedy that can happen to any of us as we make our way out in the world, it’s made me wish for the greenery of summer to hide me away and the babble of the brook to keep my ears from hearing.
A severely impaired child and a grown-up young man lost their mother ten days ago. A man lost his wife and almost lost his own life. That little girl almost lost her father as well. A family lost a daughter and a sister. The world lost a beautiful woman. A community lost a friend and a participant. My street lost a neighbor and I lost one of my next-door neighbors.
We lost her to a traffic accident. A severe one and something that could happen to any of us. It was violent and her death was instant. In the blink of an eye, so many lives were affected and her life was snuffed out forever. We don’t realize how our lives affect so many others.
It’s made me do some real thinking about the fragility of life and how we take our lives for granted. We waste time, days, even hours and minutes, that we shouldn’t waste. My neighbor walked out her door never dreaming she would never be back. I’m sure much was left undone. Things she wished she’d said and done. She didn’t know time was coming to an end for her. Most of us don’t. Many of us procrastinate doing the important things. Telling people we love them. Making arrangements for people we care for. Spending more time with our friends and family.
There are things in life which you wish you could unsee and unhear. I wish I could unhear the news about my neighbor. I wish I could unsee the look in her husband’s eyes when I saw him today. Still in shock but with pain deep inside. So many people’s lives will never be the same.
As for me, these are the first words I’ve written since I heard the news. My fingers and my mind have been frozen. I think of the poem called “The Peace of Wild Things” by Wendell Berry and wish I could be at that babbling brook behind my house and that I could unhear the terrible news about my neighbor.
I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief… For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
“It’s always darkest before the dawn.” That old quote popped into her head at 4 a.m. It wouldn’t be daylight soon this morning since the Earth was spinning toward the shortest day of the year. She was still awake at this ungodly hour, as she often was, yearning for the light.
She couldn’t sleep until it was daylight. The old dreams, the terrible dreams of her childhood, haunted her, and she knew she couldn’t sleep until dawn when they would subside. She remembered them when she awoke, screaming, but only for a few seconds. Only the light chased them away.
Doors to her were only a symbol. They had always kept her out, excluded her. From the time she was a child, she’d felt like she was on the outside looking in. She wondered if that clear blue pane would allow her to see inside. No doubt it was one-way glass. Doors were always one-way.
Since she’d become an adult and developed courage, she’d insisted on being allowed into the doors she thought were important to her. A difficult door had been to her career. It was not a career particularly open to women in those days. She had to push her way, kicking and screaming through that closed and locked door. It disillusioned her. During her career, she had to knock down one door after another.
Now she found herself fighting against the most difficult door of all. Time and age. This time, she wanted to stay on this side of that door, but she was being pulled toward it by an irresistible force. She didn’t want to go.
Richard looked at the steering wheel in his hands and felt fear.
He drove fast. He had to get away, but he reflected on his surroundings. He had always loved this highway with its view of the ocean. Now it was a place where he felt trepidation.
Richard kept looking in his rear view mirror. He saw something in the distance. He recognized Arnold’s car. Arnold was a vengeful coward with a fragile ego and muscles the size of softballs.
Arnold was a sociopath. A mean, whisky drinking liar who tried to con everyone he knew. His friends saw him as a fun, nice man, but he wasn’t.
Arnold was behind him now, swerving and trying to run him off the road. Richard knew he might as well pull over. He got out of the car.
Arnold bellowed, “You owe me money. Time to pay up!”
Richard could tell he was drunk. Arnold came running at him, swinging his fists. Richard was ready for him, standing at the side of the road. As Arnold reached him, swinging and yelling, Richard stepped aside. He stepped the wrong way. Right over the edge of the cliff. Arnold ran right into Richard’s car.
*Thanks to Susan and Anurag Bakhshi for photo prompt!
She walked among the pillars of the old building on the monastery grounds to gather her thoughts. She found it cool and serene here. Many things had gone wrong in her life recently. Not only in her life, but in the lives of some of her friends and family. She touched the cold, gray marble of one of the pillars in the colonnade and she felt a frisson of emotion. She yanked her hand away. It was exciting and frightening. Slowly, she touched the pillar again. The same emotion overcame her. She felt strength. Through her mind and body, she was flooded with the strength to meet her problems head on. She didn’t want to take her hand away, but she finally did. The strength to fight on remained.
She walked to another pillar and touched it. She was shocked with the emotion of hope. Hopelessness about her life had permeated her world for so long that she had forgotten what it felt like to feel hopeful. She felt strong and hopeful. Ready to tackle the problems in her life.
She had to touch another pillar. She could not imagine that it would cause any further emotion in her. Strength and hopefulness had already been granted to her. She touched the pillar. A sense of worthiness flooded through her. She had felt unworthy to tackle her problems. To even live her life. For years now, she had felt no self-worth at all and, by touching this pillar, that changed. It gave her great relief and made her feel that not only could she solve her problems, but she was worth the life she was living.
After she caught her breath and composed herself, she decided to try touching only one more pillar. She walked to one near the front of the colonnade and put her hand on it. She smiled and the smile got bigger as she left her hand on the pillar. She felt gratitude. She was grateful she was alive. Alive to live the life she had been given.
Strength, hope, worthiness, and gratitude. The pillars in the colonnade at the monastery gave her those things that day. She asked herself whether it was real or not. Did they give her those things? Or was she just ready to feel them on her own?