Thursday, 31 December 2015

New Year Blues

I'm in a land I no longer understand; a land I no longer want to.
What a cheery thought on New Year's Eve. And yet it's the most depressing time of year. But then again, whilst these two sentences are true the time frame is not for I'm typing this in September. Ahead of the game by a long shot. Projecting my feelings by a few hundred miles. Same again. A repeat of last year. A waiting, a sitting it out. When will it be over? When will Jules Holland and World War III going on outside stop?
Oh God, do we have to hug? Sing? Join in with the Big Ben countdown? ...4, 3, 2, 1!
Oh Lord, I forgot to switch my mobile off. HAPPY NEW YEAR! flashing at intervals on the screen as if I didn't already know how this night would climax. And as usual, I stubbornly refuse to reciprocate. Leave me alone people! Maybe when the New Year feels more official, say in a couple of days...maybe not.
I hope I'm wrong...I bet I'm not. I know myself too well.
Doom and gloom. Scrooge. Grinch. Party pooper. Yep, all of those.
What are we celebrating – the end or the beginning? Nothing will magically change when the clock strikes midnight. This is not Cinderella. Riches to rags. Rags to riches.
One digit of the year. And the month. That's it. The days will continue to be short and the nights dark. In deep, bleak winter.
I'll shiver, swaddle myself in numerous layers and tense my shoulders from the wind-chill. And all my movements will feel constricted as my blood struggles to pump around my body. The inner cold causing my brain to freeze, my joints and muscles to stiffen. My hands and feet encased in blocks of ice that never thaws or chips. A longing to be warm, but oh the pain. The throbbing, the tingling, the redness. The chapping of cold and heat. The extremes.
Give me a temperate climate. I'll take the dull days, a bit of a breeze, some rain. Just the briefest glimpse of the sun, a slice of blue sky.
But the world will turn as it always does. And it relies on its seasons, regardless of how I cope or don't cope, or that the overlaps between them seem to be ever-changing. The narrow, they widen, they alarmingly morph from one season into another and then back. In a matter of hours, not days. There was a time when you used to know approximately what each season would be like. Cold, wet, crisp, warm. More chance of showers, gales and storms.
Hell, there was a time when I used to know where I would most likely be, what I would be doing. Now there's no routine, no stability, but often a stifled boredom. Even enjoyment in any capacity has lost its appeal. Its sparkle. Too much effort, and I just don't have that energy to waste. Or the inclination to want to.
Who knows what I will have been through when we actually make it to this pivotal point? Or what state the world will be in? It will probably look nothing like it does now. Overrun with extra peoples with no infrastructure to support the tilting. The end is nigh. Armageddon. The approach of yet another year always brings that prophecy out, but it would be remiss of me not to mention it. As if I'd failed somehow. Any writer worth his salt would do so: beef up the science fiction slant, invent a theory about the void between 11:59 and 12:00am. A tiny black hole we could all plummet through.
However H. G. Wells is not my bag.
To read occasionally but not to write. I like things that don't make sense, but could feasibly happen. Time altered states. Loss of time and memory. Sudden disappearances with no explanation. Conspiracy theories. Leaks and cover ups. Occurrences that cannot be scientifically proved.
Nothing explains the Blues. The melancholy notes that often announce themselves when you should feel joyful, or at the very least contented, so that you spiral down. Like a human log rushing down a water flute, no armbands, no rubber ring, or giant inflatable killer whale to leap on, to the accompaniment of a poignantly played saxophone.

Picture Credit: Bleedin' Gums Murphy, Moanin' Lisa, The Simpsons

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Olive Groves and Lemons

A Spanish woman gave me two important lessons: how to be watchful of the people around you and how to be gracious with it; how to take pleasure in what you have and not what you think you can get. She said it was better to use wind-fallen apples than shaking the tree or picking those that felt ripe but weren't ready. Everything has a time, she said.
How M came to be living in England I don't know for I don't now remember if that information was ever shared. I vaguely recollect being told that this wasn't her native home and that the land she came from was warmer. Where they were olive groves and lemons. And that stuck because at school the girls played Oranges and Lemons said the Bells of St Clements in the tarmacked playground. The song sung whilst a neat pony-tailed, cotton-socked line skipped under the human steeple until someone was caught in the middle, their head chopped off.
M was just there, already a fixture, when my family moved in to the house next door in the mid 1980s. I was five, going on six. I can't recall our first meeting. Perhaps I was shy or concerned with other childish fancies, or perhaps I didn't give it a thought as my parents have always tried to be friendly; neighbourly as in running errands, being helpful, or talking over fences or walls, or in driveways and back gardens. Although they drew the line at inviting people in and only partially opened the door to Jehovah's Witnesses and double glazing salesmen to politely but firmly say 'Not interested thank you.' In other words, go on your way, don't bother us here, and they usually did with hang-dog expressions.
We hadn't moved far, ten minutes by car from my first known home, from my primary school, from my ageing paternal grandparents, but the neighbours were different here. Houses were semi-detached and not terraced, and kids didn't play out in the streets but in the large park at the end of the road. There was less camaraderie as if the rules you lived by before didn't apply or there was still a series of tests you had to pass.
We must have passed at some point, not with flying colours but with a grudged acceptance. We were obviously here to stay despite making little headway with relations on either side, including M who I came to like for all her eccentricities.
M, in her late 70s, was a tough nut to crack. A sun-dried widow, harmless and deadly. Small in height, dumpy in figure, a warm brown colour and wrinkle-faced with a temper similar to that of a scorpion. The English sun had aged, not sweetened her. She accused people of stealing personal property and liked poisoning plants. That was how she welcomed you to the neighbourhood, although I don't know if she tried that ruse on us. I guess she must have. But then the family on the other side were complainers: you couldn't sneeze without the mother coming round to request we keep the noise down. Our old dog was regularly told off for playful barking; she was not a fan of animals or of the shared walls that she once dramatically declared gave her a 'splitting headache.' But when they moved we got W and I and Tiny, their Yorkshire terrier, and it couldn't have been more different. And although all three passed on a good twenty years ago I've never forgotten them.
M, though was always an enigma. She drew you in. Unwillingly. Because she was like a nursery rhyme or a Roald Dahl figure - she could be nice, she could be horrid. You could feel revolted by her or you could want to follow her like the Pied Piper. She was a character that stirred your curiosity. Sometimes she wanted to engage, sometimes she made it plain she wanted distance. She was lonely, but then resented the intrusion when she had invited it. From inside, she observed outside goings-on; outside, she acted surreptitiously. But she did thaw towards us. Somewhat.
Perhaps even as an English child I was narrow-minded for M was not like the Spain I believed she came from. Sun, sea and sand. Siestas, fishing ports and villas. Tapas, paella, and sangria. Catholicism. The Spain she epitomised was the salty tang of olives and the citrus of lemons.

Picture Credits: 
Spanish Woman, Benidorm '68 courtesy of P R Francis
Olive Trees with Yellow Sky and Sun, 1889 by Vincent Van Gogh

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Furrowed Brow

Escape will not come when I'm worried. When I'm hell-bent on trying to find or force a new course. Worry infiltrates my every deed, fills my body and surrounds like a disease, multiplies and spreads like the Big C. Cancer.
Except this is not that, there's no terminal sentence attached to the Big W. That I know of, if this is that. Can you die from, of Worry? Some people die of a broken heart, the heart pining for someone its lost; others from shock, a sudden tragedy or financial ruin. Some linger in sadness or pain, others disappear like a light going out, the power cut off from their body. Some desperate souls take action, planned or on impulse, because the other Big W: the World and trying to live among its peoples, can get too much, and nothing, so it seems to them at their lowest ebb, can ever remedy this. Life will always be a struggle regardless of their intent or outward situation. Nothing is ever what it seems.
Didn't Lewis Carroll's Alice say that? My brain is so fuddled, I can't think. I feel like the sozzled dormouse in the teapot at the Mad Hatter's tea party. Oh, wait, perhaps I'm confused... Wasn't there a similar scene in Anne of Green Gables? With a mouse drunk on Marilla's famed cordial...oh, hang on, wasn't that Anne's bosom friend, Diane Berry? Anne playing hostess and unwittingly plying her friend with a fortified wine or brandy. I'm sure there was a mouse somewhere at any rate...something involving pastry...?
Anyway, what I was trying to get at is too often we take things at face value and don't think or want to delve deeper. Our lives are so busy....we don't have the time...we don't wish to intrude...but then those with perpetual furrowed brows never ask for help, and it's so easy to believe them when they say they're fine. Just peachy. No other details are ever given. The conversation is flippant because after all worries are difficult to explain. Words are too often inadequate to describe the exact fear and why it may have arisen. Worries are personal, sometimes sensible, but mostly absurd.
As is Cancer.
Cancer cannot be reasoned with. And it normally strikes at a time in your life when you're unoccupied, which is something else it shares with Worry. Some people are able to distract, to avoid whatever is causing them angst; I find I cannot and so this leads to another Big W: Writer's Block, which only maddens me further and removes an anchoring measure. My mind infuriatingly going round in circles like a dog chasing a cat, a cat a mouse, a mouse... what does a mouse chase? A chunk of tempting cheese in a trap pulled along on a string? Tea? Pastry? See above. Once again the mouse conundrum strikes.
No, I refuse to return to that. I do not wish to be sent off on some wild goose chase, although at least my mind is now contemplating fowl and not rodents.
But this is what happens when the mind resists other offerings, and mine constantly defies my will. There's no discipling or training it, it will pick and pick until no stone goes unturned; every tiny bit of adhered grit dusted off, each clean form memorised and surface eye-balled. The stony heaps grows as does the worry. It's worse than a dog worrying sheep who won't listen to simple commands such as a gentle 'Come' or a roared 'Leave Off!' And so nimble on its feet that it runs rings around its red-faced owner. Can't catch me, catch me now. Fooled you! I'm still going...
Virginia Woolf said a writer should have a room of one's own; that's all very well, but what if within that room your mind at times declines to be inhabited. It only wants to engage in the Big W, allow the tractor wheels to throw up clods of mud and plough crookedly. The wrinkled brow, narrowed eyes, and pursed lips rise and indent the already visibly creased surface. The lungs inhale, exhale, shallowly, the pulse beats erratically. The stomach churns, the skins erupts. The joints click and creak like an old house withstanding gale force winds or defending against a violent storm.

Picture Credit: Ploughed Field, 1830, Caspar David Friedrich

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Click!

The camera can be a weapon as deadly as the gun. A press of the shutter release, click, and it can wound. The photographer has got the shot, but once captured it may live with him forever, instantly transport him back to that time and place. The scene, the smells, the sights...the devastation, the camaraderie...the dead, the living, the frenzied or slow-motioned activity, the death-like stillness. The adrenaline will pump as it did then. The camera removing him one step from the incident as the situation escalates or dissipates around him, his clicking like the rattle of a machine gun. Diving into a doorway, taking cover on the ground or on the floor, adjusting the focus and still firing. The need to record such a strong compulsion that it overrides sensible risk.
The boundaries shift as does fear, both pushed beyond reasonable limits. Acting the part of a solider with artillery, a camera instead of a gun slung over their shoulder, which won't inflict bodily damage but can nonetheless maim, scar or haunt. The camera, a witness to rebellions, oppression, destruction. Images can communicate what voices can't. Reach tens, hundreds, thousands, millions of people. Assault the eyes, discharge ungovernable responses.
Photography is like hunting; hunting is like photography. The differences only in the choice of weapons and victims, and yet even in these there are similarities: lining the target up within range and perspective, the click when taking the shot, the suspended posture of the unfortunate, and the reaction of the hunter to the prey's affectations. Another pull on the gun or shutter release as the intended escapes, runs from a barrage of shooting and from having a part of their soul or whole life captured. Both in the moment and under fire as around them the day darkens or lightens, the weather changes. And neither survive unaltered from the experience, for these, each in their own way, are bloodthirsty sports. There's a stubbornness bordering on hostility in the photographer-hunter because they find themselves subjected to an unstoppable force; whereas in the hunted-down victim there's a docility, a lack of caution, a general unawareness, an unvocalised contract to be shot. And yet for both the tables can be turned...One can swiftly become the other.
Sheeplike, following in the trail of armed khaki-clad men, rolling trucks, and marching boots, or left behind on the blood-watered soil as an unidentifiable body. A non-being. No name, no history, no home. No longer belonging anywhere or to anyone in that warring state. Just an exposed shrunken, greying, decomposing corpse watched over by birds, observed by passing troops, and said a quick prayer for by fleeing civilians, as it slowly returns to its origins. And it's these images of bloodied, wounded, dead matter that could be human or animal that are unforgettable. As witnessed by present or distant eyes or through a viewfinder of a camera or rifle.
The same hunger prevails in stalking an animal as it does in stalking a country or a dictator; only in the peoples it decimates is the hunger real - for escape, for survival, for an end to the tyrant or conflict – except it fails to account for the loss, for the loss of life and limbs. The other type of hunger felt by those documenting or directly involved in obeying orders has to be fed regularly. The camera carried as a soldier carries a pistol, armed and ready.
But photographers with the semblance of foot soldiers don't always dodge the bullet. Each time one comes out the other side uninjured, it's blind luck: luck of the draw, a lucky star, a token they touch or kiss, a prayer they say. For some unknown reason, those that keep being saved begin to believe infallibly in their good, and often rare, fortune. And ones like these become a talisman of war to those they know and work with in the field. Nothing bad will happen if that unassailable person is in the vicinity, so that when/if it does it's inconceivable. Luck runs out as does the number of chances you take. Cats have nine lives, and possibly humans do too.

Picture Credit: Endre Friedmann, AKA Robert (Bob) Capa
Further Reading: Waiting for Robert Capa by Susana Fortes

Thursday, 3 December 2015

A Tranquil Sketch

I'd like to be shot with a tranquilliser gun.” she uttered with a deadpan face, but with her hands tightly held in her seated lap.
You've been reading too much Hemingway.” He replied without even bothering to lower the newspaper he was concealed behind, his eyes scanning the world news and political articles before turning to the back sports pages.
No, seriously,” she returned, “I'd like to be darted right now. Ring for the local vet or a game or zoo keeper.” Said in a tone that gave nothing away, no hints or wavers, no rising hysteria, no misgivings, a flat calm to her modulated pitch. 
Now look here. It's not as bad as all that,” he began to remonstrate sounding like a wearied school master lecturing to a worried pupil, or a father trying to reason with his tiresome daughter, “you're over-thinking as per usual. Meeting my mother is a light matter and not something to request being shot for. You'll love her and she will in time love you once she gets to know you better.” Which was said whilst peering, almost severely, over the top of his rustling paper at his seemingly perfectly composed partner sitting opposite.
That's not very reassuring,” she muttered, before raising her monotone voice a little, “you'll just lucky both my parents are dead, God rest their souls. You have nobody except me to impress, and you don't even try very hard to do that.”
Yes dearest.” Being quite a bit older he was old-fashioned in his colloquialism, and had found this was by far the best way to appease worrisome women. It demonstrated you were listening, even if you weren't, to whatever they were prattling on about, and it was most helpful to have a newspaper to hand to hold in your feelings and avoid any unnecessary unpleasantness.
She sighed. A long deep woe-is-me out-take of breath.... a sure sign that she was waiting for more of a response to her self-inflicted drama. He chose to ignore it, ruffling his paper and blowing a corner to turn the large page over, and when he succeeded after much to-do continued to study the football scores, despite not having much interest in the sport itself. He was more of a cricket man, but you had to know what's what if you wanted to keep in with the ol' boys, and the young ones too, that he sometimes found himself in the company of.
Again she sighed, a shorter exhale this time and a little huffier.
He grunted, closed and folded his paper and flung it down on the coffee table beside him, and tried before he began to desist from becoming across as condescending. A timbre of kindness was what he was after. He hemmed and hawed and observed his about-to-bolt partner, “My dear girl, stop this ineffectual worrying. The doorbell will ring, you'll answer, invite her in, take her coat, compliment her on her hat for the old girl will wear one I can assure you of that, and show her into the sitting room. I'll pass the time while you make the tea and serve the dainties that you spent a lifetime dissecting. The conversation will flow, the time will go quickly, and before you know it we'll be ordering a taxi to take her home. Or perhaps I could take her...but we can come to that later...”
Leaving me to clear up I imagine,” she interrupted, her brow furrowed with creases, “it sounds as though you've had it all planned from the beginning. The good little woman looking after her hard working man.”
He held up his broad palms in mock surrender, “You know I can never win in this situation. All women see each other as competition regardless of their position, but my mother is not the dragon you picture. She's harmless, as are you when you play nicely.” He smiled hoping his attempt at humour would produce a mirrored smile, but she only stared back at him glumly and visibly seemed to sink lower into the seat of the armchair, her shoulder-length brunette hair swinging around her tired and drained face.
Oh God, this is going to be awful, he thought inwardly groaning, but before he could deliberate more, the doorbell chimed and before he could swear blasphemously his partner had catapulted herself through the open patio door and scrambled over the fence.

Picture Credit: Hunters in the Snow, Pieter Bruegel the Elder, 1565

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Flamingo Footed

Is it possible to run out of things to say? Think, even?
Can words and thoughts flee as if pursued by a shadowy monster? Chased away to a far off land, up hills, over dales, through mountain passes never to trace their way back home ever again. To lose themselves. To begin a new life in a foreign land and become something else. A person hyphenated like a double-barrelled surname, trying to bridge two different cultures. Be born in one, but mature in another. Learn and adapt to White Ghost ways as the Chinese might say. The next generation born in the adopted country but taught to recognise the land of their ancestors as their natural home, a home where they've never set foot, as here their family's traditions are rooted, and these will be upheld along with new foreign ones.
Where does loyalty lie? Where does language reside?
How do the children of or visitors to cross that gap? For it cannot be jumped. A rope must be tied and a ladder placed between one side and the other. There has to be metal rungs and a hand moved slowly along the rope-rail, one hand over the other. Don't look down! Never look down! Don't think, act or look like a Fresh Off the Boat! FOBs always stand out. They're pushed aside and picked upon, even by their own more established settlers, since they haven't yet learned how to conduct themselves in a European manner, and so bring shame on themselves and their origin. Any reflection of themselves is a reflection of others. Their voice is too loud, their language not as muted; their gaze challenges rather than accommodates; and their attire is more rumpled than fashionably smart or demure.
But for Heaven's sake, don't make yourself too westernised! Don't forget, born there or not, your humble beginnings, the wars that have been fought in your name, and the customs of your homeland: the festivals, the ceremonies, the gods. Better yourself, but send money to relatives; climb that ladder rather than just walk across it, break through the glass domed ceiling. Exceed your expectations and those of others, or failing that, at least give the appearance of doing so. Lie through gritted teeth, sweat like a pig doing jobs White Ghosts don't want for less pay, cry unseen lonely tears of rage but tell back-at-home relatives everything's great. You're so glad you came here! Save face.
America is a pure gold mountain; London streets are paved with solid gold; in Europe, trees have copper leaves which when they fall turn to gold and silver coins. There are no shanty towns, there is no hardship. The West has many lands of opportunity where all are made to feel welcome.
Untrue claims don't ease the passage of this journey, not for those on dry shores, not for those mid-way, in the middle of an ocean or packed like sardines in a lorry, and not for those in the observational waiting stage. And if, when, they make it, they live with a foot on one soil and five toes dipped in the pool of another. Frozen in a flamingo stance, caught in a state of uncertainty. A longing to put down roots but with no straightforward or easy means to do so, and so an up-rootedness persists. They wander, displaced and lost, in this disappointing valley. Poised on one earth-bound foot, trying to determine whether the foot that's slightly raised should take a step forwards or two steps back. What have they done? Why have they done this? Where is the promised milk and honey? The places they're grudgingly offered refuge in lack in substance and the kindnesses they presumed would be given freely.
Nobody ever admits they were wrong, in the wrong for their thoughts, outspoken beliefs or actions, and that equally applies to those actively escaping and seeking a better life, and to those who righteously declare they, and only they, should have it. All of us, in our own fashion and regardless of caste or creed, are extolling the virtues of inclusiveness and engendering permanent disengagement. Perpetuating half-truths or whole untruths, spreading blatant lies, because in this revolt of disintegration there are no lands of plenty.

Picture Credit: American Flamingo (on left), Cyndi Sellers

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Untouchable

When I was a boy I liked to watch the sky; I'd stand still with my binoculars on a hill and imagine a spitfire coming into view rather than a Boeing 747. A few times I've been lucky enough to hear the supersonic rumble of a Concorde, but its pointed nose and angular wings usually stayed hidden behind a solid mass of white cloud, and it's been over a decade since its flying days were numbered, and still, it never quite had that imaginary thrill of spotting military aircraft.
The dog-fights I envisioned overhead, reaching back beyond my years to when my father and my grandfather were boys, when such sights would have been less rare, a part of life, and not as prized if they were in the skies now. A terrifying, an awing sight. For Britain was at war, a real war being fought on the ground, in the skies and on the seas. A war that's become rose-tinged for all its loss. A longing to revive that life, to see some kind of action. Peace offers boys no adventures; the horrors of combat not confronted until the moment is made real – those camera images stretching away on the unsighted side of the horizon for each boy thinks they are made of stronger stuff, they are inviolable.
Wars are fought differently now. It's still about territory, there's still operations and peace-keeping manoeuvres, but the enemy somehow seems more concealed with the advancement of technology, and the reports on the news are unlike the experiences older generations recount. But then perhaps some of their memories have mellowed with time; a little yellowed with age, their corners peeling. Perhaps some of it doesn't seem real any longer, impossible to believe it was lived through.
I never had to test the unique quality that all boys, and girls for that matter, think they have as nothing I would go through would come even marginally close to a world war. No risking of life or limb. No sheltering from bombs or cowering from gun fire. I grew up in a time where people lived under the cloud of war, a storm cloud that threatened to rain fire and hung daringly low overhead, and with it, there came a unremitting tension, a crowding round the radio and television, a making do, but a relaxation whilst trying to return to old or improved ways. And yet, this life that I led was mundane: an idyll childhood, allowed to roam and play where I wanted; a whimsical education, leaving school at fifteen and apprenticing myself to a car factory; a terraced house and a tolerable marriage with two daughters, both of whom are now married. The quiet events of my life mapped out like any other working beast put on this earth.
I'm a man of few words. I'm not impolite, just succinct; reserved but solid. I listen, I consider when I unblinkingly gaze into a pint at the working men's club surrounded by a haze of smoke. It's the only time I can morosely chase my unfulfilled dreams or indulge in my childhood, as when the dregs are drained home beckons and a wife who rarely leaves me undisturbed. A good wife, but she does like to talk, through dinner, over the evening news, and as she goes between the kitchen and the sitting room; her voice varying in pitch like a mosquito that you swat away only for it to come back in a few moments later. She means no harm, it's just her way, but sometimes I come mighty close to losing my temper and have to fight my irritation. Don't women realise that what sounds like conversation to them, to men sounds like nagging?
Children like us, born in the aftermath of war, were not encouraged to follow our hearts in times of austerity, in a era where nations were trying to rebuild, to reconstruct a more normal, peaceful mode of life. I could dream, but realising that dream of becoming a fighter, bomber, cargo, transport or commercial air pilot was for other more educated boys. I was supposed to hope that war would never reach these shores again, yet I longed for that Hollywood movie exhilaration; to be grazed, to thank God I was alive.

Picture Credit: Gliding, Roland Vivian Pitchforth (CEMA)

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Corseted

If I lived in the 1880s or earlier I'd be put away or confined to my room for having a nervous disposition, for dissolving into madness when the world gets too much. Flights of fancy. Insanity. For wanting to be coddled and take to my bed, to be nursed and be idle.
Hysteria was often the only way women of a certain class could escape from the clutches of proprietorship. They didn't belong to themselves, they weren't their own person. They were taught compliance and repression and made to be so; overburdened in spirit, if not in body, and having to answer to everyone - overbearing mamas, aloof papas, hard-to-please husbands and children crying to be fed – in order to set a good example, to uphold a moral accepted code of conduct and seen very much to be doing so.
More biddable, sensitive types when pushed to or beyond their limits have a tendency to display erratic, illogical, irrational behaviour, often deemed as 'out of character' or as a having a 'nervous crisis', but was it? Is it? Weren't/aren't these 'symptoms' just a facet being prohibited from being shown? Suppressed for so long that when they erupt they surprise people. No, it must be the work of the devil or the possession of a spirit. It wasn't possible that it could be caused by feeling duty-bound to someone or something in their home-bound life. The result: restricted even more to the home or packed off to an asylum. Forever chaperoned.
Females must silently bear and not air their complaints. Particularly if they were one of the haves and not the have-nots, one of the more pampered with hired help and less need for economy. Yet, they were still never their own property. The house was their domain, but it belonged as they themselves did to their fathers, brothers, guardians or husbands – passed on like an ancestral title from the care of one male to another. Were men at fault or was it society? Both, because men were society and didn't dare to or care to address it, and some women too held these same views.
Women were a little better than children, seen and most definitely heard if it involved the running of the household such as daily confabs with Cook, or in the employ of suitable activities: piano playing, cross-stitching, reading, talking about going to see and going to plays. The dutiful daughter, the doting wife, the over-attentive, ever-watchful mother. Driven out of their minds with boredom. Consigned to charitable works, administering to those less fortunate, usually women, under the direction of a man. Being dismissed by men because they didn't have qualifications and despite the dissimilarity in sex and differences in biology they knew better; supported by men because they were judged without intellect and had no means of their own independence.
The weaker, frailer sex. Prone to bouts of fatigue, listlessness. Prescribed rest and an ordered life. Rigid routine or eternal leisure. Looking after the needs of others rather than focusing inwards on themselves.
Is that a fair assessment? A fair summary of how it was?
Probably not. I'd be lying if I said it was. It's the impression I've gathered from historical fictional and non-fictional accounts, but then impression is also formed by how I choose to see it. And that too can change.
I do however think it's naïve to assume those sensitive, highly-strung types no longer exist, or are rarer in number; they're still here and they're still hidden. There are still unspoken pressures and women still want to, need to, long to escape. Yes, men now suffer, more openly, too, but it's not the same. And some women do still carry shadows of that almost-forgotten era: it's in their physical frame and how their mind works, their temperament desperately tries not to, yet betrays it. There's a nervousness, an edginess, a restlessness, an uneasiness visible in their manner or pattern of speech, and this tenseness cannot be relieved because they're still being squeezed by a too-tight corset.

Further Reading: Signs for Lost Children by Sarah Moss
Picture Credit: In a Corset, 1910, Lovis Corinth

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Where There's Smoke There's Fire

Can you right someone else's wrong? And if so, even if it's years later?
That's a two-part question I've been working on for almost twenty-five years, and the more I try to apply it to different situations the more tied and tangled I get.
You think if you take just the first part it will be straightforward, but it's not. If you're directly related to or an acquaintance of the perpetrator then perhaps, but most distance themselves or hide; some deny any involvement with the offender, and in a few cases that denial is true, but still wouldn't you want to redress their actions? Or at the very least try to understand why, how they were led there?
Can anything undo the hurt, the harm, someone else has intentionally caused? Probably not, not even if in a twisted sense it's opened up doors that were previously unseen or closed.
I was once assigned a story along those lines, and the questions it raised have bugged me ever since. At the time I was a baby-faced reporter, I still only had a vague idea of how the real world worked, when this supposedly feel-good tale came into the news desk from an anonymous caller.
I didn't take the call myself, but apparently this low-gruffed male voice gave the barest of outlines: said a woman had shown up a year ago and started doing good, nothing big, just small deeds: volunteering with local charities, befriending the confused and elderly, and generally going out of her way to be helpful, and he was suspicious. Nobody did this much good for nothing! Her name was Angela, he said, and she was renting the flat above the dry cleaners. That was it, he rang off without leaving his name or contact details.
The paper had been running a weekly article on local heroes, good Samaritans, that kind of thing which the public could nominate, and this call was so bizarre it was interesting, so the Ed dispatched me to the village where the call had been traced to interview this woman.
And this village was small, the smallest in the Surrey county; the sort of place where everything, every cruelty, every kindness, every stranger, was noticeable. I did what I always did in chasing up a lead, dug around and flattered the locals. Everyone seemed to have some anecdote or something 'beige' to say about this Angela who'd just pitched up one day about a year ago, although everyone was vague as to the exact date and month she arrived. Other than her good works, nobody I spoke to knew much about her – her last name, age, where she was from, if she had family, all those usual things you might exchange when you're getting to know somebody, and their ignorance made these informers blush and stammer, look down into their drinks and mumble. A handful, however, their tongues loosened by a free drink or lunch, were openly mistrustful; wary of this woman's do-gooder motives.
Who was she? What was she doing this for? If she was a Christian why didn't she come out and say so? Those were the kind of questions they put to me, confiding in me as someone unknown and neutral, when all I wanted to know was where would I find her? And how could I arrange a meeting? I'd located her flat but nobody answered when I knocked and the owner of the dry cleaners had no interest in her comings and goings. Whoever she was she didn't seem to want to be found. By me. Word gets round in villages.
Yet despite my methods I never did get to see or meet her for on the night I and the emergency services gained access to her flat, all that was left of her was a smooth lower leg alongside a pool of oil as rich as butter. An greasy offensive odour, like the smell of deep-fried chicken, hung in the air and clung to the walls and floors, but apart from that the furnishings were untouched. There was just the leg, the oil and some greasy soot in front of a high-backed armchair placed near a stone fireplace. I'd heard of such cases before, though I never imagined I'd be a witness to one, when the coroner confirmed the cause of death as SHC (Spontaneous Human Combustion).
In the after-event the story was spun that she was an Angel with many demons thrust upon her.

Picture Credit: Where is Mr Krook, Bleak House by Charles Dickens

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Oona's Law

Oona, a water nymph longed to travel. It was not as her father thought because she had fallen in love with a man. She wanted to see peoples and lands different to her own watery home, but her father was reluctant to let her go for in order she do so she had to possess a human soul and to do that she had to take a husband. Once pledged to a mortal she could never return, and if her spouse was unfaithful she would die; treated badly otherwise she would survive and remain bound. Those were the terms.
How was he to find a man whom his daughter didn't wish to love, yet would care enough to treat her well and stay faithful? He couldn't think of such a man, a human man, and his daughter, although dutiful and kind, was no angel. She had firm opinions of her own and was apt to release these at inopportune times, particularly if she was goaded. She was a tricky one and that troubled him for if a man's needs are not met he'll look elsewhere but knew his daughter would not be prepared to give an inch. She said she would do her best to be a wife in every regard except that one; human love was stifling. He could only comply and hope she did succumb to that someone; grow to love whom he found.
In this her father was nothing but methodical, he made a list according to what he knew of man and what might be a man's employment:
  • Missionary - posted around the world helping others in the name of Christ; usually desire children and a supportive wife.
  • Government Official - confined to a jurisdiction; promotion likely; tend to be corrupt and easily bribed; prefer a stay-at-home wife.
  • Doctor - work long hours; movement within district; prefer home-makers.
  • Farm Labourer - a hard and unrewarding life; restricted to humble living on a patch of land.
  • Sailor - see the world; have a woman of every age, shape and size in every port.
  • Lieutenant - stationed all over; being caught up in war is never pleasant whichever side fought for.
  • Pirate - do they still exist? greedy; can have foul tempers; not to be trusted with loot, alcohol or women.
  • Young Boy – not yet developed into a man and not yet interested in girls.
Of these, the last was a clutching of straws and yet seemed the easiest to bring about and the one that would cause the least trouble. A young boy could be trained, he supposed, to serve and be faithful, but how long before that natural urge would not be crushed? None of those he'd listed were a guarantee and each would no doubt want something else in return once they realised what was at stake.
Was his daughter to die so soon having sacrificed her immortal life for a human soul?
If her motivation was due to love he would understand it better. But distant lands and people who spoke in foreign tongues, no that he could not understand.
Could he forestall this finding of a mate? If he tried, Oona would only take matters into her own hands and 1) that wasn't customary, and 2) she'd likely marry the first man she set her eyes on so desperate was she to see the world.
Would any mortal man be agreeable to marriage and take a vow of celibacy?
The whole impossible situation was a conundrum. 
But it so happened that as he was still trying to find a solution, a man who was a poor swimmer was lost at sea, and so indebted was he to the water spirits that saved him that upon hearing about the father's dilemma regarding Oona he unconditionally offered half his soul. And since there were no clauses that did not state that this was not allowed, the contracts were drawn up and signed: Oona became half-mortal and half-water. This proved so successful it eventually passed into common law and made other girls like Oona free to roam whenever they chose to go without having to sacrifice their life or their natural home.
 
Picture Credit: Undine by Arthur Rackham

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Haze

Some experiences have shaped who I am that I'll have to learn to live with as best I can. Or learn to make use of, channel them into an area of work or creativity.
I had thought that you weren't, couldn't be, defined by events and occurrences, but I've come to realise that you are. Whether you like it or not. Whether you choose to open or bury them. Whether you use them constructively or negatively. Whether you claim or refuse to be a victim.
I've always disliked that word: Victim, regardless of its truth or if the alleged is the genuine article, for its overuse. In one way or another we are all victims. We all hurt one another and seek recompense for that hurt. Life makes victims of us all: the wholly innocent and the guilty offenders. At some point, we all create the cause and feel the rippling effects. There is no escape from that for this is a vast, deep pool, and individually we are only drops. Drops that flow and form a vaster ocean.
Does claiming to be a victim empower or weaken? It can do both, but I fear we are too willing to shout it from the rooftops of our house. Far too willing to use that word as a powerful weapon or a defence mechanism. Neither are easy to do; one demands courage, and the other destroys strength, but both chain you to that title, and once there it's difficult to break those binds.
I speak as I find. I use the 'I' in a sense to hide, preferring it to dreaming up a named character. Yet I know you're trying to guess right now whether this is purely narrative or the real me – the author. That, I am not going to reveal. Fact or fictional, it's observational. What this 'I' sees, how this 'I' conceives it.
Every single one of us has a story to tell, a story that casts our landscape. A tale full of twists and turns that leads us to our present, and where we have suffered crushing blows, euphoric highs and mediocre times. That landscape is our own and like everything surrounding us it changes, but mostly there is a default position in accordance with our outlook. Mine for the most part, and like my vision, is hazy, but is nonetheless rich and beautiful, and when the mist lifts it's glorious. A bright day with blue sky and a few motionless clouds, or a sky that captures my sight as it moves. And of course, the mist doesn't always rise, sometimes it gets denser and muddier; there's a darker mood, a gathering storm sometimes within, sometimes without, or sometimes evident in both. Darkness has to meet, has to kiss the light for they are opposites and equals, and all shades in-between.
None of us are perfect beings; those that shout are no better than those that hide or those that try to cope in a more private manner. My landscape may be ill-defined for the lenses in the vessel lacks far-sight, but the 'I' behind is not unequal or dissimilar to others.
I could play the role of 'victim'. I could wallow in it, pound my fists against a wall and scream IT'S NOT FAIR! Let tears fall unchecked, why me? why me? Or I could use that energy to help others. Or I could find a way for me to live and be at peace, without taking anyone into my confidence. I don't have this overwhelming need to share or to justify my actions to others. And nor do I wish to right wrongs or dole out historical punishments. What the 'I' knows is all that matters, and how that 'I' amalgamates or acts it out.
There is never a slate to wipe clean. What ultimately shapes the 'I' cannot be erased. The 'I' can pretend for an indefinite time that such and such didn't happen, everything's fine, but that can lead down self-destructive paths. There's only one person you have to make it right with and that's yourself.
Talk or don't talk. Do or be. Reform if that's what you need. And realise that the 'I' doesn't have to be a prisoner, a perpetrator or a mute witness.

Picture Credit: Hazy Landscape (view to Faroe Islands), William Heinesen, 1962

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Two is Worth More

My mother claims that whatever she says I always do the opposite. As soon as she agrees with me, I swiftly jump to defend the other option. Champion it with a sharpened sword. Lunge with a babble of barbed words. Immediately see potential rather than danger in the object I had, an instant ago, been attempting to fend off. And yet, to my knowledge, she's never tried reverse psychology because in all honesty I think, and she knows, I would outwit her.
If she tells me what I want to hear, I wonder why she didn't tell me the other. If she supports the opposing view, I think she's criticising my judgement and I question her own. Is she saying I'm not capable or that I'm foolish to consider it? whatever that IT happens to be. But then if she reprimands me for being fault-finding I think she's delusional, clearly playing the Mother card: my daughter's the BEST. There's nothing she couldn't turn her hand to! Refusing to see or choosing to ignore what I regard as glaring flaws, or else giving me the answers she thinks I want, not need.
I dislike having choices and yet I often reject the bird I'm offered, if not in deed, then in words or thought; one not enough, I have to catch another by enticing it to a flowering or fruit-laden tree, then crossing my dry palm with mixed seed and copying its warble. Wait...imitate...it will come...
A flutter of wings, a rustle as it lands in the foliage and studies me with its inquisitive bead eyes, its small perfectly-formed head tilted to one side as it returns my whistle. Its call, of course, much more beautiful and plaintive than my own. Dawn passed a few hours ago and it's well before dusk, why do I sing thus? the notes of its music convey. That much I have learned to read, but some solos have a complexity quite beyond me to which I can't reply.
A soundless language then develops; a comfortable stillness as if I were a statue on a plinth in a peopled square put there to be befriended by lonely or resting birds. The birds gradually cease to be scared, take briefly to the air in a circling flight, flitting across my line of vision to find a lofty spot to alight and settle. Tentatively they will hop from my shoulder, down the length of my extended arm to my open palm speckled with seed, and each time one dares to feed, that seemingly friendly hand closes over their winged body in a lax grip.
My intention not to harm or cause undue stress, but to feel life pulsating for its beat is stronger than mine. Beneath my curled fingers, a tiny bird appears subdued and calm, yields to my touch as if it understands my need. The eyes, like full stops, are firm and trusting, dark dots of compassion, and the heart caged within the warm feathered body has a robust, yet rapid motion. Livelifelivelifelivelifelivelivelive...goes the beat of bravery.
If I was kind, I'd release it, but the urge to collect, to keep for a short time, has a will of its own, so in it goes into a grey shoebox with a crude perforated lid. I had one, now I have two. One, a risk; two, better odds for unfocused individuals who give refuge to the obstinate belief that two is worth more, and little convinces them otherwise. What if...how do I know...should I stay...should I go...should I say yes...should I say no...should I...should I...should I...
To weigh up, to compare, to assess, to analyse gives the impression of autonomy; I have choices I can control, I am the deciding factor. A false notion as the birds trapped are always free, regardless of their marked similarities or differences. I am not their master or their keeper. I can capture but I cannot make them stay. They will fly or fade away at some point, sometimes for good, sometimes to return when the moment is ripe. My ego might like to think I'm the Governor of my circumstances, but outside of my being there's an influence more far-reaching than I can ever hope to interpret.
And yet a hunter will always attempt to make a pair.

Picture Credit: Weaver Birds, William de Morgan

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Shangri-La

Paradise didn't come to Sadie, she came to it. And although, when she thought about it, the circumstances were very different, similarities could still be drawn to James Hilton's Lost Horizon: there was a journey which began as planned but ended in an unforeseen destination; there were revelations about her fellow travellers; and there were heated debates over whether to stay or rejoin the revolving world.
Division is never nice, but often necessary.
Some wanted peace, contemplation and beauty, some wanted to be freed from modernity; others wanted all the voyeurism that life had to offer and could barely withstand being without the hurried pace, the noise, the constant distractions, yet among these were a few who didn't know what their Shangri-La was until somehow it came to them or them to it. Providence, Miss Brinklow would have called it.
But then Sadie didn't have a Miss Brinklow in her party, unless she had assumed that character, but she wasn't a missionary nor was she likely to assertively proclaim this situation and her place in it was preordained, even if she did privately indulge this thought. She was the more silent of the circle, only speaking when she was spoken to or when she felt it was necessary, although the latter it has to be said was rare. Her voice was soft and she didn't like to raise it above more assured vocalists or drive inspecting eyes to fall upon her; in fact it caused her much embarrassment if she was asked to increase its volume or to kindly repeat the words she had uttered. Two rose-coloured spots would appear on her cheeks and deepen as she tried to overcome her meekness and comply. Unbeknownst to her, this feature was quite becoming, but it gave Sadie the jitters. She trembled, she tripped over words, and avoided direct eye contact as her face blushed progressively crimson.
A late bloomer was how she would have been described back home, someone who took longer to realise her own worth and beauty, although some to be cruel would say she never bloomed at all like a tight flower bud that despite careful tending fails to open, but here, wherever here was, she blossomed. She forgot about her self-consciousness and just was. Her silences to her felt more comfortable, and her voice when she did speak had a new firmness. And it appeared she wasn't the only one who had noticed this transformation, the others often looked to her for mediation, which as a single woman, who was neither very young or very old and lacked in what could be called standard experiences, she greatly appreciated.
In this restorative place, new as well as more established residents, just liked to be near her; a small band trailed in her wake from one communal room to another which at times she found rather bothersome. In spite of how she truly felt, the Master Healer said, she exuded calm in her aura. And yet she'd only just found this inner peace for herself.
It had been there all this time and she hadn't known.
If the sleeper train hadn't derailed, if she'd chosen to stay put and wait for help, if she and the others she left with hadn't met the John Lennon hippie, if he hadn't led them in single file over a viaduct and into the hills, if they hadn't been cajoled into being winched up the dizzying height of a redwood tree to an oriental tea house in its boughs...
If...if...if....
Then where would she be right now? Still trying to make sense of her drab life?
That's how Sadie used to think; now the ifs, hows, buts and whys have receded over the course of time, along with time itself. Nothing matters here where the air is fresh, where all species of birds wheel overhead or sing the dawn chorus, where nature strips you of any false or protective identity. From this imperious height everything you once worried about falls away. Decays. A chrysalis turns into a butterfly. A snake sheds its skin. Seeds sown long ago are finally watered.
In this tucked away Shangri-La, true nature shines.

Picture Credit: Vintage Travel Japan for Kirishima in Kagoshim Prefecture, The Retreat of Spirits with Japanese Railways c1930s.

Thursday, 1 October 2015

The Flame Without

Night after night she held a beacon; held a flame over the waves crashing against the rocks, mimicking what Hero had once done for Leander, except this was centuries later, and she wasn't acting as a guide, but as a seeker. Trying to throw light in dark inlets hoping for a sign, or that she'd recognise exactly what it was she sought.
At first sight, like the love some people claim they've felt for another.
The blindfold would magically lift from her eyes as she realised what was truly in front of her, or she'd feel the pull like that of a magnet and be conducted to the part of her that she knew had for a long time taken leave. The re-discovered piece slotting neatly into her person and not jammed into the chasm. Like a black sheep coming home, assimilated once again into the fold as if they'd never been away.
Gone would be the repetitive Ugly Sister moments where body parts were butchered with a paring knife or cut with a pair of nail scissors so that found donor flesh could uneasily fit and reside on borrowed time. Borrowed because patch jobs only mask the pain of the search, in spite of the faint glimmer of hope they provide at the beginning. A hope which dies when the body refuses to accept the donor flesh, shakes it off as it were a parasite riding uninvited, although in the short-term it's better to be patched than have large black holes of nothing.
Knit one, purl one, drop stitch, drop stitch, drop stitch...
Dark matter, everyone can see and intrude into without asking; conjecturing as they do so as to the cause of your emptiness, your melancholia, your dissatisfaction, and as they probe the openings get bigger and bigger. There goes a kidney...the spleen...part of the intestine...a section of the stomach...a fallopian tube...a lung...a sliver of the heart...a whole breast. The small spaces of flesh lying in-between look like tropical islands. Their jagged shores surrounded by dark vacuous pools, an inky sea that a pen might dip into and write with.
But who, in this case, would be the writer?
Her? The missing part of her? Someone removed from her story? Someone who wanted to write her a new one?
A tattoo of spidery words spilling across her remaining skin and people studying them as they do passing clouds; the pictures that appear compared and analysed. Look, there's a huge somersaulting fish, over there a palm tree and in that hollow a camp fire.
What does it mean?
Why does this person have words materialising as pictures on her body?
Not one of them considering if she wants them to read or stare. Didn't anyone ever tell them it's rude?
But that's just how it is if like her you feel in some way incomplete. You come to accept it and long for a day when temporary fixes will be a thing of the past. You hope, as she faithfully does, for a gradual restoration or a sudden solution, sharp and clear, and when the fog parts, the calmer breeze will blow out the burning light. That eternal flame that was without will finally be within, and nothing how she saw it will be as it was as the time for numbly seeking will be over.
Beings having a human experience call that hope for there is never any assurance that what we think we want will come to pass. Nor is there any certainty that we will know when it is within inches of our grasp or if we will ever attain it. To search is a fickle thing...
And until that search has died a natural death, her light will waver and disorientate men; quite a few will lose their way, entangled in seaweed or dragged under by her tempestuous current, for the flame she holds is not a beacon for mankind but a self-seeking, flickering light.

Picture Credit: Hero Holding the Beacon for Leander, 1885, Evelyn de Morgan

Thursday, 24 September 2015

The-Old-Woman-Fairy

Once upon a time, in a far-off land, the Old-Woman-Fairy pointed her wand at the All-Seeing-Eye and firmly pushed the Mute button. Human reality was so much better with the sound killed, and besides her charge was simply exasperating. There she was, looking in the bathroom mirror and working her jaw, her eyelids fluttering and her pupils as large as saucers, as the words she mouthed, although formed as normal, were inaudible; now she held a palm of a hand up to her mouth to feel the tepid air escape from her rapid lips.
You're not dead dearie,” muttered the Old-Woman-Fairy to the blinking iris, where in the dilated pupil her charge stood transfixed, studying her reflected self with a look of utter bafflement on her oval face.
Always the same...a dramatic clutch of the throat and terrified eyes...with frantic attempts to speak words in different tones, hum in different pitches, followed by red-faced rage, or a soundless tantrum and heaved unheard sobs...wish one of them would accept it with some semblance of dignity. It is, after all, for their own good.” The Old-Woman-Fairy grumbled as she kept an eye on the All-Seeing-Eye as she at the same time washed up her lunch plates: she'd had Tomato and Basil soup with a cream cheese and cucumber roll and a mug of Builder's tea.
Anyone would think I did this for fun...,” she continued as she vigorously scrubbed the tea-stained mug and rinsed it under a trickle of cold water, but whether she was referring to the sink of dirty crockery or her job who can say for she commented or made disparaging remarks every single day, yet somehow failed to see the similarity between herself and her charges, and why it was that she had been chosen to temporarily dumb others.
Her attention having wandered, her charge no longer filled the glass eyeball set. Now where had that pale freckled slip of a thing gone to? The Old-Woman-Fairy tutted and tottered up to the blank central dot, “Show me the girl!” She commanded in her don't-mess-with-me voice and thumped it, whereupon its eyelid flickered several times until its tired pupil could again bring into focus the current subject, who was now sitting down but still speechlessly pawing her white throat in disbelief. “Don't you dare doze off on me!” The Old-Woman-Fairy reprimanded the Eye, and possibly the girl although she showed no such signs of doing so.
This particular charge hadn't been placed under the practised gaze of the Old-Woman-Fairy for very long, less than four months, but in that short spell of time, she'd come to know very well this Irish-blooded girl's articulated and unarticulated expressions. And she was infuriating! Never listening to reason, even if it was her own, and so indecisive you wanted to shake her! Even when she was doing nothing of interest at all, her brain was busy: chattering like a crazed monkey as it created obstacles where they were none, pulled apart every minor and major detail, over-identified with the thought of new horizons, worried about trivial items or dug up deeper ones. Silencing her tongue was the only way to put a stop to her over-analysis, and the Old-Woman-Fairy felt, as she always did, a sense of glee upon reaching this conclusion. There were, of course, other ways to silence charges, but muting the voice was by far her preferred method.
But that's not to say she wasn't a kindly Old-Woman-Fairy; the decision was always made in the best interests of her charge, but when all had been said and done, rethought many times over, really what else was there left to think or say. And she plainly didn't have as much patience with these young things having arrived at a wiser age. In her undergraduate years, she'd had more sympathy and had engineered the zapping of their voice bit-by-bit. “I was too soft,” she now said to student fairies to ward them off making the same mistake, “the shock is greater if you take the words right out of their mouth in one fell swoop. Fairy-technology, as you know, has moved on, yet the results are the same for our charges: Being unable to say nothing at all is a distraction tool – it forces humans to stay present.”

Picture Credit: In the midst of a tree sat a kindly-looking old woman by Arthur Rackham

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Seek and Ye Shall Not Find

Pop! Out flew the Moon which startled the girl in pearly white for it was such an unexpected sight that she had no choice but to follow; the stars the Moon trailed in its wake dazzled her eyes and made them water. The girl audibly sighed: the way they glittered and twinkled was so very pretty. So pretty that she had quite forgot the door she had a moment ago set ajar behind her; the gap through which she had hoped to peep in on a wiser, older land.
The Moon instead, now positioned overhead in the darkened skies, shone benevolently on her and held her captive in a river of light. It beseeched her to gaze longingly at its mottled surface which looked like a tea-preserved hard-boiled egg with its grey age spots, but nonetheless prized for its dulled luminosity, the light that radiated from within and spoke of wisdom.
The Moon having escaped Eden was exalted and wished to save the girl from her own burning curiosity: no young girl should be exposed to that which she thought she wanted to see. It would waken her from her adolescence far too early and end in tears! Just as it had done for other girls and boys before her. All that had peeked in before it was their time, before they had reached the first rung of maturity. The Moon had not always been present on those occasions or its place in Eden's skies had been compromised, yet it had witnessed even adults struggle after seeing the land of its forebears, for its beauty now inspired lust, made them envious of its simplicity.
Paradise held in time, the apple not yet eaten. Innocence not yet completely lost, but a tiny glimmer of humiliation found. The small green snake already begun its entreats, pluck the apple, eat the apple...from where it was strung among the Tree of Knowledge's branches. The fruit ripe and tempting, a burst of rosy colour against the spring-green leaves, almost willing Adam and Eve who stood before the Tree to partake of its juicy knowledge. Eve ready to instigate the deed, Adam needing a bit more convincing.
The opening act that led to mankind's creation...The scenes that follow it have happened...but HERE, they won't. The decision deferred. The 'what if they don't' captured for generations; whereas others merely wish to view the pause before that pivotal moment. Does Eve bite into the apple first? And how does she induce Adam to copy her? What were truths, what were lies? How much of what we think we know was improvised, then transcribed as irrefutable knowledge?
Irrespective of the truths or the lies, the young and the impetuous always had to unfasten the door, try its handle and were astonished when they found it unlocked, little realising that in doing so they substantiate what happens when you taste an apple laced with Knowledge. That which they've been given is now not enough; a Paradise glimpsed is too tempting - so desirous they must at once give everything up. Throw caution to the wind, sometimes without thinking of what they will lose, what they might miss, and the hardships they may have to confront or endure, so convinced are they that the grass will be a shade greener in this Eden. The contemplation of an unknown Eden always leads to the Sin of Envy being born; some believe Eve was guilty of this before she bit into the apple, that there was some yearning for knowledge already deep within her. The small green snake stirred it from its dormancy, provided the apple as the key and the tree as the portal. Adam, then unversed in the guile of women, and content to give in for a quiet life would have, as supposed, eventually followed inquisitive Eve.
Adam needed a nudge and so Eve plucked the apple, and set their eternal banishment in motion. And committing that unpardonable sin increased their courage for it could never be undone or atoned for.
They rolled the dice just as the full moon has now done in this suspension of time; they exiled themselves from Paradise, little realising that their descendants would forever seek it.

Picture Credit: New Zealand, East of the Sun, West of the Moon, by Kay Nielson