Thursday, 29 December 2016

In The Middle Of The Winter Feast





On the fourth day of Christmas her true love gives to her:

‘Four German Men
Three Finch Hens
Toowoo Twurtle Doves
And A Part Of A Pear Tree’

But to the dearth of our amusement Grandchild 2 finds a book detailing the traditional 12 gifts and begins to teach herself the proper form. Not so proper she can’t slink off with all the cherry tomatoes. If questioned, we know it was not Grandad. She says it anyway, laughing.

Grandchild 5 can follow the others with her eyes, she wants to be up to mischief like the others say they are not. 
Grandchild 1 kicks a football onto the grass he is not supposed to run on because… something about mud… if he asks Grandchild 3 to fetch for him he has contravened no carpet law! 
It’s not his fault we were all listening.
And where’s Grandchild 4?
Not hitting anyone with a stick of course - that was Dog, he says.
It’s not his fault we were all watching.
Grandchild 3 casually drops a stick behind her back.
But we’re all laughing. 

Frost fading fast, a bright sun. Cold meats on plates. 
Standing quiet, in the middle of our winter feast.



       





Friday, 23 December 2016

Yule Tale 2016


A Slightly Parallel Cinderella







Once upon a time and place, in a slightly parallel universe (for further reading on slightly parallel universe theory please refer to Dr Cod’s excellent Physics For Storytellers) all children were hatched and raised for adoption. 

They were named in themes, and Cinderella was hatched during a craze for old fashioned, gender orientated, Disney character names. 

She was adopted by a spacious mansion full of fabulous toys. She ate fabulous food. She took fabulous pictures of it all and posted them on her social media. From that she made her two bestest-ever-friends-forever, Lady and Tramp. They each lived in toy packed mansions, maybe if anything a little bit more fabulous than Cinderella’s lavish life but they were good enough to apologise and repeatedly tell her that it was okay not to have the biggest and best all of the time, they would still like her pictures and she mustn’t feel bad about herself, she wasn’t unloveable or shabby or really unfashionable.


Even so, Cinderella began to feel that life was essentially pointless unless she could get a pair of crystal shoes before Lady or Tramp did. 
She stayed up all night to create a shopping algorithm that would get her order in first, but then she fell asleep before confirming the purchase and, alas, the order automatically cancelled.

As if this was not tragic enough, the very next day both Lady and Tramp shared pictures of their invites to the Pop Up Library Tea Dance. Cinderella checked and rechecked her mail accounts, but there was no invite. 
She cried, posted up a picture of herself with red eyes, pretending she had a terrible cold and would not be able to go to any events, and thanked everyone for their deep sympathies. 
Then she hid and cried properly, and not even shoes could console her. It was like a pit had opened up in her very soul, which she didn’t even know could happen!

She cried right into the heart of the night. She stepped onto her balcony and felt the cold air on her un-moisturised skin.
She remembered that she hadn’t cleansed or flossed or dressed or done anything that whole day. 
She looked up at the slightly parallel moon. 
‘I want things to be different, moon,’ she said, ‘can you help?’
A ping from her computing table broke the reverie. 
She ran indoors to read, avidly: ‘Greetings Cinderella, this is a Fairy Godvoucher. You shall go to the Pop Up Library Tea Dance and wear any shoes at all, there’s no dress code!’
‘What? I don’t get the shoes?’

But before despair could well afresh, a cold breeze slid across her shoulders. It seemed that the moon was listening.
‘Okay. I will go to the Pop Up Library Tea Dance. I will wear the first outfit that pops out of the outfit generator. I will put an eye mask on first and get some sleep.’

Cinderella slept most of the next day, so she was truly restored for the Tea Dance that evening. Her outfit generator spat out a skirt suit, but she didn’t press the reject button. She dressed, and smeared colours on her face, and pinned sparkles in her hair, and summoned her carriage.

Lady and Tramp were delighted to see her, though obviously so disappointed she hadn’t any crystal shoes. 
‘Never mind,’ they said, ‘emerald sandals aren’t completely out of style just yet, and if everyone has crystal shoes they will go out of style very quickly.’
‘Yes,’ Cinderella sighed. She was bored of their chatter and went to order some tea.

The waiter was dressed in traditional white and black, with dark straight hair in a ponytail. 
‘May I please have a pot of the rose and basil?’ 
‘Of course, which table?’
‘I think I’ll sit here please.’
‘Very well.’

The waiter scooped up herbs, steamed up water, mixed it all in a china pot. Cinderella, being of a gender orientated name, wondered what gender the waiter was. 
‘I don’t suppose your name is Handsome Prince, is it?’
The waiter laughed. ‘No. It’s Waiter.’
‘Oh.’ Cinderella fiddled with a spoon. ‘Well - do you identify as male or female?’
‘Neither. I don’t like to be constricted. I mean I’m all ready a waiter and I’m called Waiter so I suppose I like to at least maintain my inner freedom. In my mind I can be anyone, anywhere.’
‘Oh my lawks,’ said Cinderella, ‘this is the best conversation I’ve ever had in my life!’
She kicked off her emerald sandals. 
‘It’s nice to see people happy,’ the waiter said, somewhat bemused.
Cinderella poured herself a cup of delicious tea. She watched steam curl, breathed in fresh basil, perfumed rose. 
‘There’s a whole world out there,’ she explained, ‘and any number of worlds I can imagine in my own mind - and I’ve explored none of them! That changes from this moment!’
And she lived mindfully and inclusively ever after.

(Tramp was likewise enlightened, but in this slightly parallel universe I’m sorry to report that Lady was eaten by a bear.)





Picture credits (both via Pinterest)


Wednesday, 14 December 2016

A Candle Lit







We live by the light of those we love, whether they are here or gone.
That light is inextinguishable.
To have the light and not the company is an adjustment process we call grief.
Loss is a shadow, equal to the light.
We adjust not to lose the shadow but to see both.
Hard to bear - yet without darkness, light cannot show its full wonder.

Let us look after each other, then, and value our days, our company, and live to leave vast shadows, and understand that pain is a strange gift, a tender, haunting, purposed gift.

And if you are grieving: let your tears flow, let your anger shout, let yourself plead and deny and feel terrible: it is not an easy process. 
Know that other people know grief. 
Know that other people are hurt to see you grieve. 
Know that love is a fundamental response.

There is no time limit to this adjustment process. No right or wrong way to feel.
One day you will stand back and see that the shadow is proof to the strength of the light, and you will be full of wonder.
That light is inextinguishable.
You can live by it.


[Picture credit: TheAttitudeOfGratitude.com]


This was written for everyone, so it's a little generic: sometimes the love and the grief are complicated, sometimes there's an issue of closure, sometimes the lost one is young and bright, sometimes the grief is for one lost in dementia. I'm aware of each of these circumstances happening to someone this winter. Christmas season is full of loving family images and the contrast with reality can be uncomfortable. Sometimes the grief that wells up is simply from this comparison. I'm not trying to dampen festivities, rather open them up, and allow us all to find understanding, acceptance, to hold on to our own light. It's not hug-the-world nonsense, it's nothing new: if we all reach out, everything changes. 

Friday, 2 December 2016

Celebrators





Last night we tumbled first into wine, then sleep.
We had watched fabulous things on our television, our dreams were amazing.
I evolved legs to crawl from the bed. 

Yesterday was a Thursday, and the first calendar day of winter. She had swept in, draped with rich mist, strong and archetypal. How could we not celebrate?

This morning, the sun still sunk below an unseeable horizon, Dog goes out, crunches crystals under footpads. Our dead ash tree, scheduled to be cut down twelvemonth before, is a bold statement in a world of miniature wonders. 

Do you know we don’t actually have a television?
We bought a projector, we have a blank wall. 
It makes watching a deliberate thing.
Sometimes we drink wine on a weeknight but we are careful viewers.