#writephoto – Tryst

summerhouseThis week’s prompt for Sue Vincent’s #writephoto challenge is yet another gorgeous photo. Here is my response:

Purple Sky

‘I’ve always loved this time of day’, she said,

Her hair shaded purple in the fading light.

Her heart distant as the hillside across the water,

Unreachable, unclimbable,

Indifferent as the rising moon.

 

‘I love the way it makes me feel’, she said,

‘As though my heart were breaking

Bittersweet, melancholy, wouldn’t you agree?’

All I could do was nod, silent,

My heart breaking with hers

 

‘Will you be going soon?’ she said.

Words stark, pointed, like branches traced black

Against the setting sun. I nodded once more,

Leaving my heart under purpling sky,

Under darkened eaves, with her.


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.

 

Wednesday Wander – Powell St Cable Car, San Francisco

img_0315When we were visiting San Francisco just over a year ago, we took a ride on the famous Powell Street Cable Car.

img_0316The cable car operates between downtown San Francisco and the waterfront, and is one of the last hand-operated cable car systems in the world. Operators use a system of levers to drive the trams, and the brake blocks, which are made of Douglas Fir, have to be replaced every few days. Passengers (which included us), sit along seats on the outside, or just hang on to one of the poles. There are no seatbelts or barriers – you basically just have to hang on as you rattle through the streets, especially on the steep hills. It’s great fun.

img_0318And, when you reach the end, the bay and Golden Gate Bridge are there in front of you, all mountains and blue water. There is something about the Pacific West Coast of North America – it has a feel like nowhere else I’ve been in the world. The cities seem to perch precariously between the water and sky, as though nature has only been held back temporarily and could return at any time.

Thanks for coming on another Wednesday Wander with me – see you next week!


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.

Funny Little Bird Stone

img_2260I live in a landscape made of flint and chalk, tumbled like the bones of the earth within dark soil. Huge knobbly flints show up in walls from the smallest cottage to the largest cathedral, builders making use of what they had to hand. They lie in garden beds too, clogged with soil, strange shapes looking as though they were formed by hand, though no hand but that of nature has touched them.

img_4026Inside, they hold treasure, their pale coating cracking into sharks teeth and soup spoon bowls, all shining curves and sharp edges. Colours range from palest cream through burnt gold to bright orange, silvery grey to midnight blue, chocolate and dark coffee brown – there is beauty hidden within.

img_4353Once I found a flint that looked as though a star had been caught inside, a little piece of sky fallen to earth. And, when working in our garden over the summer, we found this. A strange bird-like creature, dark eye staring, stone cradling the slender neck. Frozen in time, funny little bird stone. He sits on my desk now, keeping me company as I write, so I thought I’d share him with you too.

Happy weekend, everybody! x

Circles Beyond Time – Joy

img_3714This is the final instalment in my account of my weekend away with The Silent Eye. Please click here for parts one, two, three, four, five and six. And thanks for reading!

After our dawn excursion I returned to the hotel for breakfast, then packed and checked out, as Arbor Low was the last stop on our weekend adventure before I had to head to the train station. I was picked up by two of the companions and we set off, sun shining as we wove through the countryside. The Peak District was glowing with late summer, green fields lush with grass and replete with cattle, the rising slopes rustbrown with bracken and heather. Before Arbor Low, we were to have a quick stop at Monsal, where ice cream could be had while taking in a glorious view of the valley and viaduct below.

img_3712Ice cream, however, was not forthcoming – the proprietor teasing us by bringing out the wagon but not opening it, despite the sunshine and crowds. So we stood for a little while taking in the view, while Sue told us the sad story of an ancient settlement on the hilltop nearby – archaeology has found that the only inhabitants were female, except for boys under the age of four, and it seemed to have been a place of some importance, fortified by a large stone wall. However, invaders came, as they often did in those times…

…the painted people…

…and the settlement was destroyed. Appallingly, the great stone wall was apparently pushed onto the gathered women and small children, condemning them to a painful death. Over forty skeletons of women, children and babies were discovered under the stones, grouped together in one final terrifying moment. It was a sobering story, and so it was in a reflective frame of mind that we continued on to our destination.

img_3718Arbor Low is a large Neolithic stone circle within an embankment, and is often described as the Avebury of the North. But I’ve been to Avebury, and Arbor Low, while of a similar grandeur, feels quite different. Set high in a field along a slight slope, Arbor Low is part of a working farm – we had to walk through the farmyard to get to the burial barrow and great circle beyond. Our entry fee was paid via an honesty system, into a padlocked metal box alongside the stony driveway. We paid our pounds, gold coins rattling into the box, then joined the small group of people heading through. As I walked along, I happened to look down and a piece of stone caught my eye. Broken into smaller fragments, it gleamed in the bright sunlight – I passed it before registering what it was, then realised and went back, picking up a sharp edged chunk, crystal gleaming in the sunlight.

‘That looks like local fluorspar,’ said Sue. ‘That’s for communication.’

As we exited the farmyard, I could see the earthworks rising to the left of us, like a crown upon the hill. Straight ahead the curved shape of an ancient burial mound loomed and I hung back from the group, unsure for a moment.

She clutched the stone in her pocket, feeling the smooth sharp edges digging into her skin. A voice spoke.

‘Go with them,’ it said. ‘Then come to me.’

She listened, wondering if there would be any other instruction, but all she felt was the reverberation of those seven words, like a smile in her mind.

img_3715We reached the burial mound, climbing to the top where it was pointed out that, if we looked around, similar mounds crowned many of the hills we could see. Clearly, this had been a place of great importance. After looking around a bit longer we descended, leaving the barrow to enter the circle itself, via the old processional way. Once inside, we were invited to wander around, get a feel for the place, and see whether any of the stones ‘spoke’ to us. I found a stone I liked, sitting there for a while before deciding to walk the circle, starting along one half of the earthworks, then descending into the circle, moving among the stones. All at once I felt joy, as though this were a dance. I started to move in and out of the stones, feeling as though that was the way to do it, as though I were being guided.

img_3720Once I’d woven my way through half of the circle, I walked the other part of the earthworks, enjoying the view across the countryside, cloud shadows drifting across the land. Then I descended once more, dancing my way in and out of the stones, feeling laughter bubble in my chest as I did so, pure joy.

img_3721Upon joining Sue and Stu in the centre of the circle, we were invited to lie on ‘our’ stone, and see what happened. But someone else had claimed ‘mine’, so I went to another one across the circle, lying back along the ancient sloped surface. It seemed strange to be doing so, yet natural, at the same time. I stared into the sky and let my mind drift.

She could feel energy here, bright and clean as a new penny or a mountain stream, running around the circle counter-clockwise, like a silver rope.

Or a green serpent. She could see it now, its great head entering the base of the circle where the goddess lay, golden eyes aglow with the knowledge it had to impart, golden tongue flickering.

‘Stop trying to force it,’ a voice said. ‘Just look at the sky.’ And so she obeyed, gazing up into the deep blue beyond the clouds, letting herself drift as they did…

img_3724I may have dozed a little, I’m not sure. But then the faint sound of a bell brought me back to myself. It was quite comfortable, lying there, and at first I wasn’t really willing to move. But then the bell rang again, and I turned my head to see the others starting to move towards the large centre stones. I also realised I was getting hungry – unsure how long I’d been lying there.

At the centre of the circle ritual was observed once more, though more to honour the space than anything else – it needed no help awakening. We were invited to share anything we’d experienced while lying on the stones but I said nothing, still not quite trusting what I’d seen. Then, as we left, exiting through the lower part of the circle, Sue pointed out a stone that she said looked like a serpent’s head.

‘Did you say serpent’s head, Sue?’ I asked. She stopped, turning to me.

‘Yes. Did you get a serpent?’ I nodded, sharing what I had ‘seen.’ She smiled.

img_3722‘We think the people here were the people of the serpent,’ she said, and I shook my head. That was a pretty big sign I needed to trust my instincts. After all I had seen and experienced over the weekend, the land speaking to me in ways unexpected, this final synchronicity seemed a fitting end to an extraordinary time away.

Well, it wasn’t quite the end. Lunch beckoned, and a last chance to spend time in conversation with good company. Wasps drove us indoors but bright sun shone in through the open doorway, illuminating our table. After lunch, once farewells had been made, two of the companions were kind enough to take me to the train station, saving me part of the journey. I boarded my train, feeling strangely out of time, the city landscape jarring after days spent among green hills and ancient stones. As I settled back into my comfortable seat and watched the countryside flash past, tiredness overtook me. I finally reached home as the sun set, bookending the day that had begun at dawn on a distant peak.

With thanks to The Silent Eye and all the companions for a wonderful weekend away.

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Wednesday Wander – Fishing Village near Taghazout, Morocco

Is is Wednesday already? How this month has flown! I thought I’d be back on here a bit sooner than this, but the last few days of summer holidays are here and so I’ve been out and about, soaking up the minutes with my gorgeous girl before she goes back to school this Friday.

However, I can’t let a Wednesday go by without a wander, and this week, for some reason, my mind was drawn to Morocco. I’ve only been there once, though I hope to visit again one day – there is a real magic in the air. I love the food and the music and architecture, the way the lanterns glitter at night, sparkles of light painting walls and ceilings.

IMG_1569I also love the colours – the ochre of the buildings against dry earth and blue sky. The deep red which, I was told, is used on buildings because it’s the colour of the Moroccan flag, but also because it keeps the buildings cooler. I don’t know how true that last part is, but the man who told me seemed very serious about it. I also love the blue fishing boats, which blend into the ocean when they dance on the waves, but stand out so beautifully against the golden sands. IMG_1548Morocco is a warm place in many ways. The weather, of course, and the glorious earthy colours, the spicy food and dancing candlelight. But also the people, who are friendly, generous, and proud of their country and Berber heritage (at least, that was my experience). I hope to visit again, one day.

Thank you for coming on another Wednesday Wander with me – see you next time!

The Big Sky

IMG_2263

The weather seemed to reflect my mood today.

It was all over the place. Rain was spattering my sunglasses, but I needed them against the bright sunlight coming from behind the clouds. As I emerged onto the park at the top of the hill, the sky opened up around me, grey rain and darkness to one side, blue sky and sunshine above, then rain again.

Because it’s been a funny sort of day. I’m just going through the formatting on my second book, plus I’ve some other writing work to do. I also connected with a dear friend today about collaborating on another writing project. And for the life of me, I couldn’t settle on one thing to write about.

I tried one of Mel’s Writing Menagerie prompts, and ended up with a short (unfinished) piece about being an artist’s model. At least, I think that’s what’s happening, but knowing me it could end up anywhere. I also added and amended some sections in my book, seeing where they were needed as the formatting was completed. I might have spent a bit of time on Twitter. I know I spent a bit of time trying to catch up with everyone’s blogs – though I’m still a bit behind. I uploaded my cover template, ready to be added once the manuscript was finalised. I checked the numbers on my free Kindle downloads, and printed out some royalty reports for the tax office.

Like the weather, I was all over the place.

And yet, as I came up over the hill and saw the sky, I felt like it was going to be okay. That I just need to stick with it and get to the other side. The old arrow drawing back in the bow, the deep breath before the cold plunge. Publishing is like that, doubts rising to plague you as you read through your manuscript for the 8067934th time. But you just have to get on with it. And it will pass.

Like the weather.

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Oak And Mist final cover

Just a reminder – The Kindle version of Oak and Mist, the first book in my Ambeth Chronicles, is free to download from Amazon until tomorrow! myBook.to/oakandmist