Growing Up

In the excellent miniseries, Big Little Lies, there’s a scene where Reese Witherspoon’s character is talking to her teenage daughter. She says (and I may be paraphrasing slightly) ‘they don’t tell you, but you lose your children. The little girl whose hair I used to braid is gone.’ This line, and the way she delivers it, really hit home. I’m emotional now just thinking about it.

For my gorgeous girl is growing up. She starts secondary school in September, which I find hard to believe. It doesn’t seem that long ago we were counting cats on the way to school, pretending to be dragons puffing ‘smoke’ in the frosty air. When my dancing didn’t make her cringe, and the only phone she had was plastic and sparkly with a puzzle on the front. The gorgeous chubby cheeks I love to kiss are melting away, smooth cheekbones emerging, the legs and arms that once looked as though they had elastic bands around them now long and lean.

I’m excited, of course, for this next stage in her life, seeing her grow into the marvellous young woman she’s already showing signs of becoming. Every part of this process has been a joy. But oh, I get it now, when people shake their heads and say with a smile, ‘It goes so quickly.’ For it does, it does, and the change, when it comes, is sudden, a realisation that childhood days are gone.

For a variety of reasons, she is the only baby I’ll ever get to have, and I count my blessings every day. I’m so glad I got to dance, pick roses, blow bubbles and sing silly songs with her when she was small. Those moments are immeasurably precious, and always will be. I realise the teenage years will have their own set of challenges, and I can only hope I’ve given her a strong enough grounding that she can make good decisions for herself.

So now I must get past my tears, and look forward. For I am the stable bow, and it is time for me to help her fly.

‘You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth… Let your bending in the Archer’s hand be for gladness; for even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.’  Kahlil Gibran


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Maiden Mother Crone, Part 7 – The Dance

It was Sunday morning, and it was raining again. But I breakfasted with friends, warmth and laughter a pleasant way to begin the day. Outside, a raven wandered along the wooden fence – one of our group remarked on him, as he was quite unusually large. ‘He was there yesterday, as well,’ I said. Sue had mentioned to me the day before, as we stood in Midmar circle, that it was the time of the Raven, so it seemed appropriate to see him waiting there.

After breakfast we met the rest of the group at the usual place, before splitting into smaller groups to head to the first of three planned sites for the day. Aftera short drive we pulled up on a road running alongside a petrol station, brambles and bushes tangled along the verge, and what looked like a bit of a wasteland on the other side. Yet, that was our destination

This unprepossessing piece of ground was actually once a place of some significance. As we took the narrow path through tall weeds the land seemed to rise around us, cradling us in a bowl. The long grass hid shapes that revealed themselves as we came closer, a circular henge surrounding three standing stones our destination.

Another carved Pictish stone, the Broomend of Crichie, awaited us and, as we entered the henge, once again soft drizzle began to fall. The modern world seemed to fall away and, as the ancient site was described by our guide, it seemed to come to life around us. The long avenue once featured 12 pairs of stones – though only one stone remained, it was in situ, unlike the three stones in the circle. There have been excavations done on the site, but more work is yet to be done to fully understand this place.

But we had to keep moving. It was the final day of the weekend, the companions all had places to get to before the end of the day, and there were still two more sites to visit. So we headed into the countryside once more, our next destination the Loanhead of Daviot, another recumbent stone circle.

As we walked the pathway to the stone circle my gaze was drawn to the left, to a rise in the woods where I could see a couple of large stones, and I stopped to take a photograph. A tree up ahead seemed to hold the shape of a dragon, and the land itself felt full of wonder.

The trees opened out and we found ourselves on the side of a slope, almost at the summit but not quite, as we had seen with the other recumbent circles we’d visited. This circle was complete, and quite large – over twenty metres in diameter, the huge recumbent stone flanked by two taller stones.

The remains of a circular burial cairn lay next to the circle. Excavation in 1934 found burials with Iron Age & Beaker pottery, while subsequent work uncovered flint scrapers and a Bronze Age sword mould, showing the site was in use for many centuries.

‘Well, this doesn’t feel right. The bits in the middle.’

‘They seem more modern, maybe they were done later’

I was having this conversation with one of the companions, both of us bemused by the large jumble of stones spread across the centre of what was otherwise a perfectly lovely stone circle. There was none of the turmoil of Cullerlie here, but the stones were rough and difficult to walk on, not exactly conducive to ritual. It didn’t feel uncomfortable, it just felt… out of place. As we spoke, we heard our guide explain that the Victorians had moved the stones from the nearby cairn to spread across the centre of the circle, because they thought that was how it should be.

Why they haven’t been moved back I don’t know. I guess it will remain a mystery.

We stayed at the circle for a while, the usual rain appearing to soak us. By now it was expected, and we simply put up our hoods and got on with it. Our guide pointed across the small valley to the slope opposite, asking us what we could see. And there it was, another recumbent with two flanking stones, all that remained of another circle, the rest of it lost to time. Clearly, to the people who worked this landscape, the circles were deeply significant and important enough to make in multiples – it’s a shame that we don’t really know why.

One of the group had stopped on their way in to talk to an older man working on the site, and he had told him a story of a ghost, a woman in a green dress, said to dance in the circle at night. The area was used by Scouts and the story was told to scare them – we found it intriguing, in light of what we’d learned about the circles and their uses.

The stones cannot stop the dance…

I heard this very clearly, afterwards, the words strong in my mind, beautiful with their sense of freedom, their message reaching beyond the circle, a smile in the voice saying them. Whether it was the influence of the charming storyteller, or something else, I’m not sure. But it felt as though someone linked their arm with mine, wanting me to come with them.

Come with me, I would show you something. In the woods…

I went to the trees, a wire fence stopping me from entering the woods proper. But I think I could see what they were trying to show me. A small ridge, stones piled there, the same spot that had caught my attention as we’d entered the site. I took another photograph, because it felt like the right thing to do.

It was time to go, so we bade the place farewell. One more site to visit before the weekend was out…

This is my account of a recent weekend away with The Silent Eye. Click here to read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5 and Part 6.


If you enjoyed this post and would like to read more, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.

#Monday Motivations – The Bench

Esther Newton does a great writing prompt series called Monday Motivations, and her latest prompt is this lovely photograph. When I saw it a little story came to me, and so here it is:

She remembered when he’d put the bench there. He’d been young then, and strong, muscles firm against his skin, his flesh sweet against hers in the night.

Together they would sit, gazing through the trees, dreaming into the darkness, her head on his shoulder. Sometimes they would bring the radio and dance, holding each other close and swaying like the treetops above. Other times they would talk, making plans of family and home and love so strong it still left her breathless at his loss.

She still went to sit there every day, leaving the house they had built together, her old knees creaking as she negotiated the steps from the back porch. Sometimes she would take a handful of nuts for the squirrels or seed for the birds, especially when winter held the land in an iron grip, her breath misting the air.

Through the seasons she sat, as leaves turned and the evergreens dropped green needles that turned slippery brown under foot. And she would talk to him. ‘Come back to me,’ she would say, tears cool on warm cheeks, or hot against frozen skin. She would tell him her plans, tell him of the family, of all that had passed since the dark day he had left. Eventually, she would stop talking, and lose herself in a dream of summer darkness, of his arm strong around her. She would return to the house and sleep well that night, as though all the hard years since his passing had never been.

There was joy still, in her life. She brought their first grandchild down to meet him, small hand waving from the warm bundle in her arms. Then the second, and the third, speaking their names so he would know them, and they him.

Her family had tried to get her to sell up, to move on. To a place further south where the sun shone all the time, where old joints could feel young again. But she couldn’t leave their special place and, in the end, they came to understand.

And so it was, on a night toward summer’s end, while fireflies danced and the air still held the warmth of the day, that she made her way down to the bench once more, her breath catching as she negotiated the slope. It was silent under the branches, twilight sweeping the sky like soft wings.

She sat down. ‘Come back to me,’ she said, half smiling at her fantasy, dreaming of his touch.

‘I have never left you,’ she heard him say. She looked up, tears in her eyes, to see him standing just a little way down the slope. All at once lights were strewn through the branches, as though the fireflies had been bottled and shaken out along the leaves, glimmers of gold lighting his face, his dark hair, as he smiled at her, holding out his hand.

She stood, and it was as though she shed her skin, all the things that had weighed her down leaving her, so she was light as a soap bubble, rising through the air. She half ran to him, not slipping on the dry needles, her footing sure. She took his hand. ‘Oh!’ Her exclamation was soft, a whisper in the night, as she felt his warm fingers around hers once more.

‘I have missed you,’ she said.

‘And I you,’ he replied. ‘Even though I could see you, and hear you, it wasn’t the same. But now…’

‘Now?’

He said nothing, just looked past her, back to the bench. She turned and, when she saw the slumped body there, like a pile of old clothes, discarded, she understood.

And there was lightness all through her and around her, a thousand fireflies in the night, as she danced with her love once more.


If you enjoyed this post and want to read more, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJ,  Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon.

#writephoto – Day 22 – We Dance

anglesey-bryn-holy-island-wales-001Sue Vincent’s #writephoto image this week is a gorgeous shot of mist and trees, and as soon as I saw it these words came to me:

We are mist, smoke, hidden things. We dance along branches and through the hedgerows, down chimneys and across the floorboards before slipping out into dusk once more.

You may see us, sometimes. A glimpse on a frosty morning, a flicker of light in shimmering twilight, a cool whisper in an ancient place. We are always here, though we are forgotten now.

Yet if you seek us you will find us, and we will welcome you. For we are part of you, despite the things people say. Despite the years of turning away, of relegating us to fairy mounds and haunted tales, we are still here.

And we dance, pale pinpricks of light in the gathering dark, a warm glow in a cold world. Mist and wood, ash and stone. You are never alone.

We are the old ones, and we dance.

To read more responses to the image, or to add one of your own, head over to Sue’s Blog. And yes, my response also covers today’s prompt for the 30 Day Writing Challenge, which is: Things People Say.


If you enjoyed this post, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJ,  Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon.

30 Day Writing Challenge – Day Eighteen – Warning

IMG_2263It’s day eighteen of the 30 Day Writing Challenge, and today’s prompt is: Warning. When I read the prompt it made me think of the weather and how quickly it can change – in Melbourne they say you can experience all four seasons in one day, and when I lived there I soon learned to carry a cardigan, umbrella and sunglasses at all times.

So my response to the prompt is a cascade poem, and here it is:

Rain Dancer

Without warning

The weather changed

As we ran for cover

 

There were rumbles

From the west; clouds gathering

Without warning

 

Rain pelting down

Dark spots on bright cotton

The weather changed

 

She danced, arms wide

Rain cool on sun-warmed skin

As we ran for cover.


If you enjoyed this post, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJ,  Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon.

30 Day Writing Challenge – Day Eleven – Stars

img_1468It’s day eleven of the blogging challenge and today’s prompt is: stars. Which I completely forgot about while at the British Museum today – no doubt I could have found something wonderfully starry there to inspire me.

So instead I wrote a little piece of poetry, and here it is:

Opalescent path,

Sprinkled salt-like upon the sky.

Velvet black,

Smooth infinity

Spinning out into the depths

I dance

Among the stars.


If you enjoyed this post, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJ,  Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon.

#Blogbattle – Vampire

Aren't I fabulous and interesting?

Yay! It’s nice to be back at BlogBattle, Rachael Ritchey’s weekly writing challenge. If you’d like to join in, visit the site and check out the next prompt. This week’s prompt is ‘Vampire,’ which ties in with one of my current WIPs. Emelia Raven is the daughter of a great house of vampires, and she’s… a little different. She has lived her whole life under guard in her family’s great house, her world defined by the rise and fall of the great shutters, keeping the daylight out. Left to her own devices most of the time, she explores the house, trying new things – one of those things is wine:

I didn’t drink for a few weeks, not wanting another sick stomach and headache. But gradually the memory faded, and all I was left with were glimmers of how it felt to dance, of the world feeling open and full of joy. And I knew I had to try it again. I watched more movies, trying to learn what I could about the process. I even found a book about different kinds of wine and read it. And what I discovered was that I’d had too much, too fast. I needed to go slower next time. So I tried again, more cautiously, and gradually I learned how much I needed to drink to get drunk. I also learned how much it helped, in the long dark nights when I had only myself for company, blasting music through the library as I danced and whirled, singing at the top of my voice. There was one song I loved by Savage Garden, their name taken, ironically, from a popular vampire novel of their time. They were long gone, but their music remained. And I would dance and drink and wonder about cherry cola, and about wanting someone so much you would die.

And now I needed to get drunk again. The shutters had already closed, but I knew I had some wine hidden in the library, last of my stash brought up the previous month. I left my room, trying not to sigh as the inevitable guard fell into step behind me. I mean, I get it. It’s all I’ve ever known. But lately, I find their presence in my life oppressive. Well, all except for one guard, I guess…

Huh.

I huff out a breath. I really, really need a drink. I turn the corner, heading down the staircase. Two more guards, standing in the foyer, bow as I pass. I nod to them, wishing I could scream or make a face. As I take the long hallway to the library, the guard behind me flashes past in a streak of silver and black, pulling the doors open before I get there.

‘Thank you,’ I mutter. He starts to follow me in and I turn, stopping him. ‘I’m going to have the lights on, so I can read.’ Plus it’s the only way I can be alone, though I keep that to myself.

‘Then I must check the room, my lady,’ he says, nodding at me with a smile. He is young. Young-looking, at least. Handsome, as all vampires are. But his hair is light brown, not black, his eyes blue, not silver-grey. I try not to roll my eyes as he moves swiftly around the room, checking the shuttered windows, looking behind the furniture as though someone might be curled up on the floor behind a chair. Honestly. But it’s over in a few seconds and he comes back to me. A doubtful expression crosses his face. ‘You are sure-‘

‘Yes.’ I frown a little, and his eyes widen. He bows, leaving the library and closing the doors behind him. Finally. F*ck. Shaking my head, I flick the light switch, golden light pooling on the wooden floor, the velvet furnishings. I wander over to the bookshelves, stopping in front of one containing large encyclopaedias, running my finger along them. Was it ‘D’ for drunk? Or ‘W’ for wine? I grin, remembering. ‘F,’ for fun.

And forgetting.

Removing the book from the shelf I place it on a nearby table, blue leather binding smooth under my hands. Reaching to the back of the shelf, I retrieve a bottle, glass and bottle opener. Opening the bottle as quietly as I can, glancing at the door several times, I pour myself a glass, ruby liquid glinting in the light from the wall sconces. Then I drink, welcome heat in my throat relaxing.

It’s a start, anyway. But I need something else. A movie. Or music. Or something. Or both. Heading over to the large glass fronted cabinet containing the DVDs, I peruse the selection, glass in hand. Perfect. Choice made, I crack open the fragile plastic case, sliding the disc into the machine and pressing play. The familiar pounding beat gets my feet tapping as the titles appear on the screen. Saturday Night Fever. I love this film. It pre-dates the Rising by quite a few decades, and to me it’s a glimpse into another world. The accents, the clothes, the idea of being human and living in a big city, trying to make something of yourself. Of sex and dancing and a man and a woman trying to connect. Even though they could live in the day, all that was exciting seemed to happen at night. And I lose myself, finally, in the music, imagining lights flashing, a man holding me that way, as I drink and dance and try to forget.

—–

I must have fallen asleep. Wine does that to me, sometimes. The drunken feeling passing, replaced by lethargy. I woke as arms lifted me, glimpsing a flickering screen, the overhead lights turned off. Bertrand, I thought, closing my eyes and relaxing as we moved through the halls to my room. I opened my eyes briefly as he laid me on my bed, catching a glimpse of glossy black hair, a flash of silver in the candlelight. Odd, I thought, Bertrand has grey hair. And then I slept.