29.1.16 | dark rooms
I found this in my drafts... first it was about one person, then another... now it's about several people. All people.
What do you do, when you have given everything to try and heal someone of their grief and sadness and they scorn your efforts in the end and begin to blame you for their woes?
What do you do when this person is dear to you? When you have been there for them through death and joy and pain? When they tell you how sad they are, then in the next breath that there is nothing wrong with them and even begin to accuse you of making them ill?
What do you do in the quiet moments when you are left with too much time to think, when you hear them keening in grief in all your waking hours and in your dreams, too. Yet find them completely happy without you and getting on with their life and leaving you far behind them? When they had held you to your promise never to abandon them, then abandon you instead?
When your own time seems far shorter than you had imagined it to be and you want resolution and to see them one last time, for you both to know that there is still a bond of love between you. For them to see you as you are and you to see them as you imagine they are... and they... are completely without empathy? What do you do when faced with that? When you know there is something wrong inside them, but fear at the last that you are making it worse?
The Pumpkin would say there are people in her care who completely reject that they are ill in any way and that i should not take this so personally. That my friend cannot be help'd by me without a great deal of anguish on my part. And even then, still cannot be help'd. That i should let go of this.
I am not very good on abandoning people. I would rather die than leave someone behind, without trying everything. I have tried everything. There are only empty rooms here now, that i pace to and fro between, anxiety creasing my brow.
I would just like it all to stop now. I have forgotten how to be happy.
7.2.15 | The Wood Louse
Pottering around making supper this evening, I perceived a small smudge moving across the carpet and smiled. A wood louse. The first i'd seen in months. I bent and gently picked it up and for a few seconds we examined each other cautiously. I've never picked up one of these creatures before Stella. Often i'd see one and just flatten it, a little fearfully. I am not overly fond of things with more than four legs at the best of times. I didn't even know they were crustaceans and lived in family groups before she showed me, with a look of delight and love on her face, one day, and a wood louse running over her fingers.
"Hello" I said. "I'm Paul. Pleased to meet you".
"Hello. I'm Onis" It replied, waving it's little tentacles timorously. (Yet I like to think, with a hope of friendship, also)
"What are you doing inside? Don't you need a nice damp place to go to?"
"I got lost, looking for food for my village". It sounded so forlorn! "I've been wandering around your caves for hours! Can you help me get home, please?"
"But of course. Come with me". And I carried my new friend outside and found the dampest bit of ground I could, and placed the little creature carefully down in the centre.
"Thank you very much!" It said, quivering happily. "I thought you were going to squish or eat me! Everyone says it's a dangerous lot of caves to enter. No-one from my village has ever come out of there alive before".
"Well, I can't promise your safe passage every time, but I will keep a look out for you and your people if they ever get into trouble in my caves again."
"Thank you!" it uttered and made to set off back to it's little crustacean village, presumably somewhere in the nearby rotting pile of logs, the paused and looked back.
"So you don't hate my people any more?"
"But why is that?"
"Because someone showed me a different way of seeing the world".
"Oh! They must be a very great leader in your giant caves. Give them the gratitude of crustacean everywhere, If you be so kind".
"I will. If I ever see them again. And they are great. Probably a Tzaddikim, even. Godspeed you home, little Onis".
And with that, I came in out of the cold and sat in the warmth, watching the fire and eating a biscuit or 3 for a while.
As the new year arrives and varying illnesses takes me, I withdraw further and further from all contact. For this I am sorry. Sorry that I might miss days and days of people's company. Of kindness and laughter. Of knocks upon the door and smiling faces.These are transactions impossible to put into any books when payments are due and accounts settled.
If I can, I will mark my days with journeys upon the roads and byways between the stones I love. The Dove stones and Lad Law. Cludders Slack and the Gorple road where the falcons fly. The valley of my faeries and gods and beloved ash trees- I had such a strange journey there in the snow at dusk.. turning to look behind me on the journey home, it seemed as though my path was lit with tiny flickering stars like fireflies. I may have cried. I think the valley likes me. Places where love found me. Where sky and stone meet. I have a mind to lie upon my round stone where I heard a song and watch the skies roil above me over Widdop reservoir like I did on Christmas morning.
I laughed with friends and relatives on New Year's Eve. Even danced a little and I don't dance in public. It felt good. But it's like this:
Beyond all this, the wish to be alone
However the sky grows dark with invitation cards
However we follow the printed directions of sex
However the family is photographed under the flagstaff
Beyond all this, the wish to be alone.
Beneath it all, desire of oblivion runs:
Despite the artful tensions of the calendar,
The life insurance, the tabled fertility rites
The costly aversion of the eyes from death---
Beneath it all, desire of oblivion runs.
If I talk to you, it means I can and want to. If I don't, it just means i'm being quiet and am in pain but still want to. I'm always in pain these days. It's uncomfortable to admit it. My back is a livid red scar that always stings. My spine is broken. Other things, too. But perhaps some things heal in time. I wish I felt close to some/any of you. It seems to be a fault in my personality. Whatever you think, if you've entered my life, I remember. I remember you all, if not your actual names. Like the beautiful young girl in the music library one April afternoon. Telling her how much I hated that bloody Dylan album, and the curiosity of the Alan Parsons Project and laughing about the person in front of us in the queue. I forget what she said, but I always remembered her smile and the way the shafts on sunlight fell on her hair and even the dust motes and the way they just hung there in the light around her. So long ago now. I had fewer scars. I bled less.
One of the best days I ever had I my life was at a bar on New Years Eve... I remember looking around at all the people I loved. Practically everyone I cared about under the roof of the Mechanics. I remember thinking it would never ever be as good as this again and in my mind I could see all the dominoes falling and the whole totality of our lives was spread about around me for a moment. The only person I couldn't see was me. But oracles never can see themselves, hah. Good night.
1.11.14 | I Mauwg Your Snauwg
Captain Malarkey of the City Guard finished his pipe, and stood wearily in his tiny room. "I'm too old for this" he thought, (though he was barely 30) "The creature isn't a threat to anyone. It's too old and too sad and it's eyes are too kind and this is just plain wrong. I feel like i'm executing a friend". None of his men liked this, either, many had guarded it over the weeks, afraid and stabbing it painfully with pikes at first, but it had borne it all without complaint or the legendary ferocity for which these creatures were renowned. It had merely turned it's jewelled gaze towards it's captors and they, all to the last man wilted before it's compassionate and sad eyes. Some even sat and wept on the ground right there and then.
"it was like he knew my little girl was ill, and he was loving her and me through his eyes, and he was telling me she would be well again" said Guardsman Damo. "I don't like this one bit". They all knew what he meant. Even the stern Captain was ruffled. He looked at the six worn and faded furry toys sitting on his mantle that Guardsman Damo had rescued from the burning. "Well, i couldn't just let them fry, sir. One of 'em had my name!"
On the nights when the wind turned to the East, the beast would stir restlessly and turn its snout and over the days, they perceived, through listening to it's deep voice, that it was telling them a story.
Captain Malarkey mused on this and his first encounters with the beast as he stepped out towards the morning sun and the crowds and royalty who would cheer him and his men on as they rid the realm of this monstrous threat.
There had been a spate of robberies thoughout the kingdom. THe target, specifically toyshops. The thief had somehow managed in the dead of night... to remove the front of the shops with some force and stolen, even more specifically... plush toys. Only plush toys. The only clue was an intense roar of wind experienced by witnesses nearby before and after the raids and a strange green disc left in the wall at one crime scene, presumably in a too hasty getaway. The thefts were treated as a joke, until one day, the Emperors grandson's birthday party was ruined by 3 separate robberies in one night in the royal city. Stealing many of the cute toys meant for the young royal. This was too much! They sent for their best scryers and trackers and even the kings own investigator sorcerers and eventually after much "Umm-ing" and "Aaa-ing" and examining of the green disc, located the thief in a large cave in the midddle of a deep wood. A forest drake. Not an especially large species, but sharp of talon and teeth and with a breath of fire and acid. The people were afraid. Dragons were fearsome foes. The stuff of legends. Many heroes had perished fighting them in the past, and they had long believed that none now were left in the world. But the emperor's own family had been slighted! Something had to be done! This monster needed to be taught a lesson that one cannot just rob a kingdom's rulers with impunity! Dragon or no!
Eventually, a small army lay siege to the woods and the cave therein, led by the emperor himself, riding upon a magnificent white stallion and clad in the finest and most expensive armor in all the kingdom. Heralds rode forth, with trumpets towards the cave mouth and ordered the occupant to surrender to the justice of the Emperor. Bravely, they called, but they all trembled and quaked within their armour. A dragon in wrath could eat them swiftly, like so many aperitifs on a baking tray.
Many songs were commissioned by the Emperor and the lords concerning the battle of the Ashwood and the heroic deeds done that day, but all the soldiers and nobility there really remembered was a timorous snout poking from the great cave mouth and a pair of deep blue eyes and a rather shy and weary voice that said. "Ok, i surrender" and that once the dragons wings were bound and it was subdued with mighty chains, the Emperor himself rode up in his pomp and struck it on it's sensitive nose with his riding crop.
"Ouch" said the dragon.
"Lead us to your treasure hoard, pathetic creature!" ordered the Emperor, his eyes gleaming with greed, for all knew that dragons had rich hoards for beds, and the emperor knew that such a hoard would fund his latest empire expansions upon his neighbours lands. So the dragon led them to his hoard.
"Is this some kind of jest?" cried the Emperor, and then his heralds, to add weight to his outrage... for the thefts were now explained, but curiously, no one had ever heard of a dragon with a plush hoard before. He seemed especially fond of furry otter types, for these were prominently placed near one end, where presumably he could gently lay his horned and gnarly head upon his claws and gaze at them adoringly.
"It's my hoard!" said the dragon proudly, smiling.
"do you take me for a fool?" screamed the Emperor, incensed. "Men, search for the REAL hoard, and... and.... burn this ridiculous thing!"
"Please don't" whispered the dragon, a great tear rolling down his snout, and unable to stop them. "My otters..."
But they burnt it anyway, and led him, chained and uncomfortable and in pain and bloodied from the occasional spear that pierced it's sides, back to their great city in triumph to execute him in public and to show their enemies that not even a dragon could withstand the mighty Emperor.
He stopped by the great cage they had imprisoned the creature in and spoke quietly to it.
"It's nearly time, Dragon" He said, and "Thank you" he added, unsure of himself. and then, "I'm so sorry about this".
"It's okay" the dragon smiled "i am very tired and it has been a long journey and not all deeds are evil, though they might seem so on the day"
"Will you tell me a story? The one you told my men last night?
"Yes" said the dragon.
Once upon a time there were two dragons who were very much in love, and they were called Mauwger and Snauwger and for a while, they seemed the happiest dragons in all creation. And so blissful and generous was their love, that the very land where they lived seemed to glow and thrive with life and love and happiness. Mauwger was the male, and he was a gentle and shy forest drake of the Northern Marches where the lands were cool and temperate. He liked few things better than sitting by the river and fishing and singing and humming to himself. He lived in a cool, mossy cave surrounded by many ash trees, which were his favourite, and all the creatures of the forest would gather outside to listen to his dragony tales, for he was a vegetarian dragon and would eat only roots and leaves and the fruts of the forest and they loved him and his warm, kind voice.
"Ah", i hear you say, "But why then did he fish?"
He fished for his beautiful mate, Snauwger, who was one of the few things he liked better than all of the above... She was a fierce fire drake of the great deserts, and lived in the next valley deep inside an old, old volcano, for she was very partial to the warmth. Her hoard was a little more traditional than his, being made of many jewels from many countries. Every morning, Mauwger would court her, ever so gently and politely, by bringing her fresh fish and dragon fruit (and how fortuitous for a dragon to have a fruit named after it!) to eat, leaving them by the side of the entrance before stepping discreetly away, and she would snuffle over them suspiciously, growling, before eating all the fish in one go and half the dragon fruit. She would leave the other half for him, sometimes stabbing the insides to a squishy pulp with one talon, because she knew he liked them like that. Then she would invite him inside and they would make delightful dragony love. Giggling and play-fighting. Oh, they were happy times. You should have heard her sing. It was the finest of voices. Oftimes she would climb a great rock and her songs would soar to the heavens in joy and love. Sometimes he would sit nearby, gazing adoringly at his love and ever so happy. The happiest of happy dragons in the whole world, surely! For this place was where he first heard her sing and where his heart was captured. To him it was sacred and wonderful.
"I Mauwg your Snauwg" He would roar.
"I Snauwg your Mauwg" she would roar back, sometimes trying to bite his ear playfully. But they were not true mates, yet.
So it occurred to Mauwger one night, looking lovingly upon her sleeping form, that he would ask a favour of a great smith, who owed him for a deed done long ago... and he asked him to craft a Dragon Ring in the old style. And the ring would be made of silver and bronze (gold, they both regarded as gaudy) and be in the shape of two dragons entwining, one with fire opals for eyes, symbolizing her, the other with deep blue opals of distant lands, for him. And so the ring was made and Mauwger vowed to give it to Snauwger at the height of the midwinter festival, on Christmas morning itself... (yes of course dragons celebrate Christmas, but it was different back in the old days before all this God nonsense).
But sadly, there was darkness in the heart of their love, for Snauwger was a jealous and anxious dragon, and past betrayals weighed heavy on her, and Mauwger had many friends that she mistrusted, and her mistrust gnawed away at her heart, and so she said things to hurt him, and snapped at him when he brought his fish and fruits and he retreated, unsure of himself and wondered what he might do. He loved his friends, but he loved her most of all. Sometimes at night, alone in his cave, he would take out his special ring and gazing at it anxiously, wondered if waiting until Christmas was too long. He was a dragon set in his ways, though, and changing plans did not come easy to him, so he brooded dreadfully and waited and hoped that she would see him truly and remember that his love was only for her. Christmas would be the day! They would sing and dance together and she would open his present beneath a Christmas tree! He smiled excitedly. He had never had a proper Christmas tree in all his life. Snauwger had promised him one this year. It would be special! Yes, Christmas would be the day. And afterwards, they would find a nice big cave together and finally live as one.
One morning, bringing his fish and dragon fruits dutifully to the cave, he became aware of the silence. It was a new thing to him and he was suddenly scared.
"Snauwger!?" He cried, abandoning all caution. "Oh my Snauwger!" And he ran around and around in the dark volcano heart until exhaustion and despair took him. She was gone. And he did not know where. He roamed many and many a mile, asking if any had seen her.
"Have you seen my love? He cried
"Not i", said the wind upon the hilltops
"Not i" said the ever solemn stones of the mountains and crags
"Not i" said the green wood, and among them, the ashes, his friends, were troubled, for they sensed the pain in his mind.
One day, after a long journey, he took the ring he had crafted for his mate, and stood upon her rock as the sun as setting, and holding it clumsily in his claws, he flung it far away from him across the hillside. As it fell, the sunlight caught it and held it in it's light for the briefest of seconds before it sank beneath the waves of pale yellow grass. And when he turned back towards his home, the kindly ashes wept, for they knew he had lost some precious part of himself with that ring. He was no longer the Mauwger. He retreated to his cave and his hoard of plushies and slept, holding the ones she had woven for him, the otters, named Flimflam, Damo, Dom, Ben, Mikey and Jon tightly in his curled claws. And there he slept in sorrow for many a long year.
"Is that a true story?" said the captain at last. And he daubed the dragons eyes as best he could with his cloak, for the dragon had begun to weep quietly at the end the tale telling
And the dragon looked up towards the east, and then back at him, and nodded.
"Dragon, was the Mauwger in the story.... was it you?"
And the dragon looked at the ground and said nothing.
"Dragon, it is customary among my people to offer a last request. Is there anything i might offer you?"
And the dragon smiled at him, and leant in close and whispered in his ear.
"Ok, that's a peculiar one. But i have become very fond of you, Dragon and this whole thing weighs heavy on my heart. I've known murderers and killers in my time, and you get a feel for them, and you, I think have killed never once in your entire life, lest in accident. You are the most gentlest creature i have ever met".
"We all were. But humans tried to steal our treasure so we retaliated, sometimes. And you killed us".
"i shall carry out your request. come. It is time to go."
And so they walked out together, to the crowds and the cruel Emperor, and the fate of a dragon who had lost everything and had only a life to give in the end. And from his high seat above the crowd, even the Emperor was not ummoved, for he too had come in secret to the dragon and listened to his tales of love and loss and it was only pride and desire to keep his people subdued and happy, that stopped him showing mercy. It was said, though, that the dragon's death changed this once cruel emperor, and ever after, he would bow his head when entering that place and his people who had once feared him, began slowly to love him. No longer did he wage war. No more were his people oppressed and sometimes even starving. Instead, he built hospitals and libraries and kept his people fed and watered and the realm prospered. Even the neighbouring realms began to respect him, and if not loving, became very cordial and appreciative, for they too felt his prosperity spreading outwards like a wave. And all this through a not very large, and slightly portly dragon with a fondness for plush otters. No one knows what became of the dragon's body, but i have heard since, that they returned it to his cave, where they buried it respectfully, with an otter plushy tribute guard of 6 stationed around to keep him comfort in his long sleep.
And what of the dragons last request?
Well some days afterwards, posters began to appear throughout the city, and spread to the furthest reaches even, of that vast empire (some say it was the Emperor himself who funded this) . And on those posters, was a smiling portly green dragon, with a claw in the air, like a thumbs-up gesture, and beneath him, writ large, the words "I Mauwg your Snauwg"
And the people wondered what it meant. "Ridiculous!" said some. "Pretty neat!" said others, usually the young, but all agreed, even begrudgingly, that the dragons smile was very kind, and after a while, the words on the posters began to appear in the people's language as a term of endearment or a greeting, and always meant kindly. They seemed almost magical in the way they calmed a tense situation, or brought loving smiles between couples and friends.
But the Captain was troubled. Many years had passed and the young captain had become a trusted and much appreciated general by the new Emperor, yet still the dragons last day weighed heavy on his heart and the words on the posters often crept into his dreams and he would awake with tears streaming down his cheeks and his wife would hold him in the dark until he slept again. Quietly, over the years, Captan Malarkey, as he rose through the ranks, would send forth messengers to the furthest corners of the empire and beyond. Always looking for sign of a fire drake. And always returning with no news, or not returning at all. Until one day, a ragged , half dead looking scout by the name of Desmond, brought news.
"General! General! I have found her!"
That night, Malarkey left the city quietly and alone and headed East. A backpack upon his shoulder and a stout walking staff in his hands, and in a waterproof case in the backpack, one of the famous dragon posters that had covertly brought so much gentle peace to his people.
Many months passed and many dangerous perils did he face upon the road, until he stood before a small cave in the fierce desert heat of the land of Lop. Steams and vapours arose from within. He paused there a moment at the edge of darkness and the unknown. Then stepped inside purposefully, the case in his hand.
We cannot be sure of what happened afterwards, and Malarkey himself never spoke of it. But the people of the desert speak of a terrible roar of anguish and of rushing wind heading far off into the West some time later. And the people of the Ashwood where Mauwger's cave lay, reported similar, only with terrible loud crashings and screams that lasted many days.. They fled the wood and none dared to return to see their cause. It is said thata golden glow can be seen from the depths of the Ashwood at night, and that Snauwger sleeps there now in Mauwger's cave, watching over the body of her mate that she loved, but could not bear to be with while alive.
Some time later, Malarkey returned to the city and his family. And taking his wife and children in his arms, he laughed joyfully. amidst their hugs and sighs of relief at his safe homecoming.
"I Mauwg your Snauwg!" he cried. "I love you. From my heart to yours. With all that i am". At last he understood.
And that is my story. It is mine alone and may mean little to you, but it means everything to me, for i too was a dragon once, for a little while. If you have enjoyed reading it, i am grateful that it could touch you. If you have wept, then maybe you have understood a little more of what love is, and maybe i have, too.
PS: Not sure where i found the sock dragon, but if you are the creator, then you have my thanks and drop me a message so i can give you props
29.10.12 | The End Of The Year
Halloween isn't about ghosts and goblins and ghouls. It's about welcoming your ancestors and departed relatives and loved ones into this world and keeping the unwanted "others" out. It's the ONE day of the year that you can make peace with the past and wrongs you have given and suffered. It's the one day of the year when you can tell a dead person that you love them and be sure that they are listening. It's the day when the dead time begins. When the world falls asleep and the boundaries between the waking world and... other places are thinnest...
Sometimes, if you're lucky, you can hear them reply, too. So light your pumpkins as landing strips to guide the special dead into your homes and ward the darker spirits away. This is a day as important as Longest Night.
So, to my ancestors on the coast of Cornwall and in Keswick and further north in Scotland... i bid a deep affectionate welcome. And the best greeting of all i save for my father.