Reaching #Writephoto

photo copyright Sue Vincent

Black limbs jutted from thick boles. Their skeletal twigs clawed at her clothes, snagged her hair, and scratched her arms. She’d lost her way in the twilit forest but didn’t dare turn back. Couldn’t surrender. Not after coming so far.

She pushed forward, stumbled over gnarled roots that writhed from the earth like snakes. Her imagination ran in wild spirals and panic stole her breath. Soon darkness would filter between the boughs and force her to stop, at the mercy of the autumn cold, the hunger coiling in her stomach. Wolves roamed the uncharted terrain.

Why had she fled with so little preparation? Had she made a mistake? Could she have endured her troubles a little longer? Even as a child, when her mother died, she’d dreamed of flight. Her father had fallen prey to a widow’s deft manipulations. He’d fawned over his new bride, unable to acknowledge her cruelty, terrified of the truth, of his grief.

Until he too rested in the graveyard.

She tripped over a root and pitched to the ground, bloodying her palms and gouging a knee. Lips pressed between her teeth, she brushed pine needles from stinging hands and slowed her pace. Animals rustled in the underbrush, and an owl hooted overhead. She cringed and stepped gingerly between the trees, outstretched fingers snapping the dead twigs threatening to blind her.

Despite her resolve, her current situation elicited a muttered curse. A year ago, she’d made a poor choice, but the only one her naive desperation had conjured. She’d fled her father’s home, a decision well and good, but she’d charged straight into a debacle with seven other men. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

She’d escaped a life of cruelty for one scarcely better, one where safety had depended on servitude. She’d slaved for them: cooked, cleaned, laundered. They’d expected cheerful smiles, merry entertainment, and endless doting from a paper-thin woman without a heart or soul or choice. They hadn’t allowed her beyond the garden, scared her with threats of wild beasts and dangerous hunters, of being murdered. And all the while, their own faults had gone ignored. They were lazy slobs, grumpy and witless. Even the happiest among them didn’t lift a finger.

The sun was losing its battle with the moon. Spindly shadows lengthened as night crept through the canopy. When her endurance dropped through the soles of her shoes and trudging onward seemed pointless, she crested a hill and gasped. The forest parted. Beyond the last filigree of barren branches, the day’s final rays graced a serene valley. Twilight reached over the distant hills in a ribbon of golden hope. Snow White smiled, free to chart a new path. She squared her shoulders and set out for a future of her choosing.

**

Oh, it’s so fun to be participating again in Sue Vincent’s Thursday #Writephoto challenge. Happy Writing!

Wicker #Writephoto

copyright Sue Vincent

My mother despised the wicker witches on the neighbor’s farm. She made the sign of the cross when we scurried by on the straight and narrow path to church. Evil things. Satan’s work.

She wrenched me by my wrist, muttering prayers, refusing to raise her gaze from the dirt, grip so tight she left fingered bruises. Crushed violets on my skin. She heard the Devil in the wind on holy days.

I bent beneath God’s almighty eyes. He spied from my closet, prowled under my bed. Tallied transgressions like a spider weaving a child-size web. A tattletale, he caressed the pale shell of my mother’s ear, whispered lists of my depravities, filthy dreams. Collected my impious cravings like bright pennies from a well.

His flaming brand, his righteous redeemer, she blamed the stick witches, wielded the switch, and lay bloody creases of repentance across my spine. Grace earned with pain, not tears.

A wicked girl, I slipped my bed when the Devil beckoned. Irredeemable. An unholy thing. I ghosted across the porch beneath a gilded moon and fled to the neighbor’s field. The witches of sticks clutched hands and danced. Heads tossed back. Skirts swirling. I, the child in the center of their circle. For those moments. Safe from the shining sword of God.

**

An experiment with broken sentences. Did you like it or was it annoying? Would love your thoughts.

A completely fictional response to Sue Vincent’s #Writephoto prompt

Beyond the Light #Writephoto

copyright Sue Vincent

On my last day, the impenetrable rain finally clears, and my hostess suggests a walk. I’d rather stare out the window and wallow in my disappointment. But her enthusiasm won’t be thwarted, and I can’t very well blame her for the weather.

We venture through her back gate. A gray mist stalls between the trees’ black silhouettes, robbing me of a mere glimpse of blue sky. Spring has dawdled, and leafless twigs knit a dark filigree above the crooked boles. Only the mottled grass seems to have noticed the changing season, but it squishes beneath my feet and soaks my shoes.

I shove my hands in my pockets against the chill. “Is spring always this… dreary?”

My hostess chuckles. “It depends on your perspective.” She steps aside and beckons me to stand in her place.

I smile at her attempt at humor and comply. The morning sun casts rainbows in my eyes.

Gift my gloomy heart
Solace from expectations
Where darkness shelters
A new perspective beckons
In dawn’s awakening light

 

A haibun/tanka combo.

Thanks to Sue Vincent for the inspiring #Writephoto prompt.

Spirals of Time #Writephoto

photo by Sue Vincent

I’ve always known I would travel here, to the heathered moors and verdant hills, to wander narrow roadways past stone cottages with views of the cold northern sea. Perhaps it was the Brontes or Hardy who first entranced me with the raw emotion that seems embedded in the very soil, that sweeps through castle ruins and keens across ancient cairns and holy places.

I couldn’t quite put my finger on the pulse of my yearning. But after my accident, I chose to wait no more.

The stone chapel was once part of a larger manor. It’s a quaint place of colored glass and worn reliefs, of strange carvings above its arched doorway. But also a place of layered faiths and archaic mysteries, imbued with ghosts of the past like a spiritual lodestone. I can no more ignore it than deny my heart to beat.

The day wanes, and I worry that the door might be locked. I give the latch a tug, and my fears prove true. Undaunted, I circle the perimeter, looking for another way in. To break in, frankly, though my intentions are harmless overall.

“Can I help you?”

The voice startles me, and I turn, sputtering apologies, only to encounter another shock. The fellow stands so close we nearly bump noses. “I was attempting to find a way in,” I explain, retreating a step.

“I can see that.”

“I’m from the US.”

“Do people from the US normally break into private chapels?”

“No!” My nerves force a laugh. “Not that I’ve heard of anyway. Rarely. I’ve… Well, this will sound strange, but I… It seems so silly really.” A blush pinks my face, and I stick out my hand. “I’m Daphne.”

“William. The guardian.” He takes my hand and bows, kissing it.

“The guardian?” I blink at him, flustered and nervous, but not afraid. He seems a part of this place, bonded to the stones and wildflowers, the crooked graveyard, and the weathered cross at the roof’s peak. I blow out an awkward breath. “What I meant to say is… I think destiny delivered me here, to this exact moment, to this chapel. It’s puzzling, but I feel as though I belong here and always have.”

“And I’ve been expecting you.” He smiles, looking quite noble, and sweeps his palm toward the door.

I laugh at his odd comment, but his kindness puts me at ease. He unlocks the door, and I enter without a sound. The room is tiny, though I hardly notice, my eyes drawn to a tomb illuminated by the sunlight lancing a slender window. “Whose tomb…?” I begin to ask, but William has withdrawn and awaits me in the garden.

The place is silent and still, and yet it’s thick with souls and reeling with the passage of time. I can scarcely breathe as I approach the tomb and gaze upon the sculpture of a knight. He appears asleep, his features tranquil and familiar. William’s face. A red rose, the only color in the gray-washed chapel, lies near his belt, and a white note in a woman’s script, my script, rests at its side.

Wait for me, my loyal knight, and trust my heart,
for through the spirals of time, 
I will return.

My fingers pass through the paper without a flutter. I now know why I have come here. I am home.

**

Thanks to Sue Vincent for the beautiful Thursday #Writephoto prompt. It was hard to resist a little romance. ❤

Fall #Writephoto

Photo by Sue Vincent

Mrs. N planted moss around the bubbling waterfall and wiped her muddy hands on her jeans. Thank the stars that autumn was yoohooing at the garden gate. Summer was Mrs. N’s most hectic time with keeping the property up and making it look pretty for the residents. No doubt about it, everything grew like weeds—assuming there was such a thing—but it still required knuckle-swelling, knee-creaking work!

She preferred a natural-looking landscape, but even that took planning. “Meticulous design is the foundation to success,” the boss man insisted, even if most people didn’t realize it when marveling over the results. And honestly, that was the point, wasn’t it? Nature was supposed to look natural.

And it wasn’t only about plants; there were animals scurrying and flitting about. The perfect garden had to take them into account too. As usual, she’d planted wildflowers here and there for a lively surprise and to satisfy the bees and butterflies.

This year had been dry, and sprinkling raindrops on roses had taken an ocean of effort. She smiled at the waterfall and checked the crumpled list of chores she wrestled from her back pocket. Seed-gathering! That had started way back in July, for heaven’s sake. Envelopes lined her garden bench with thousands of varieties, gazillions really, at least that’s what her aching back told her.

Some perennials needed to be divided, but she was too worn out for that. They’d grow or die off—survival of the fittest didn’t only apply to creatures with teeth and feet. And she’d resigned herself decades ago to just flinging her bulbs willy-nilly. The leaves would cover them in a few weeks, and she’d consider them planted!

She sighed at the grass stains on her knees as autumn bellowed and rattled the gate. Tuckered out, Mrs. N made the same deal with herself that she made every year. Screw it. Time for some fun.

With renewed vigor, she rummaged through her shed. Autumn… autumn was for artists, and Mrs. N was the top of her class, a master, even better than that Dutch guy. Autumn was where she shined. It was messy and creative, a free-for-all celebration after the endless toil of summer.

She lugged her cans of color into the sunlight, all the ones she’d restocked last winter, including an array of scarlets and golds, pumpkin and vermillion, a touch of eggplant and jay blue. With a rusty screwdriver, she popped off the lids.

After swigging down three bottles of hard cider, she did some stretches to limber up. A bit tipsy, she threw open the gate and let autumn burst into the yard. The two of them twirled through her garden in a drunken dance, giggling and snorting and splattering color with fat brushes until the place was a messy, vibrant masterpiece.

With a satisfied yawn, Mrs. N settled into her lawn chair, content to let autumn fling the last drops from the cans. She put her feet up and admired their work. When autumn too wore herself out and disappeared through the gate, as she always did, Mrs. N snuggled under her white blanket and dreamed about spring.

***

Thanks to Sue Vincent for the colorful autumn #Writephoto prompt.

I’m on the road again with sketchy internet. I hope you enjoy and will respond to comments and return visits as soon as I’m able. Enjoy!

 

Go Gently into that Good Night

My dear sweet mother is nearing the end of her life, and I find myself suddenly dashing for the airport. I will be away from the blog for a few weeks.

This beautiful poem and the accompanying photos by Sue Vincent speak eloquently of the arc of life as expressed through flowers. I encourage you to read it to the end. I have closed comments here, simply because I would feel obligated to reply, and my heart is elsewhere. But trust that I know you wish me peace and comfort. Please enjoy this stunning poem.

Flowers

There were always flowers.

Orchids pinned upon a mother’s breast,

All lace and diamonds.

Long black gloves

And painted lips,

As she left, laughing.

A child who watched

As the door closed.

There were flowers…

Yellow tulips,

Cellophane and ribbon

A girl who blushed

As the curtain fell

Upon the stage;

She cradled them,

A first bouquet.

There were flowers

Roses and lilies

White, in hands and hair,

Their fragrance mingled…

 

Continue reading at Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo

 

 

Summit – #Writephoto

#writephoto image: Sue Vincent

The cane wobbled. Its tip slipped, wedged between two stones, and stuck. Morten grumbled and shuffled up a step. His grandson was born with the brains of a turnip if he thought an old man could climb the steep path in a day. “A sacred site, pretty view, and perfect breeze,” the boy had explained. Morten would need to grow wings to reach the fort’s grassy summit before nightfall.

He thrust out his cane, planted it, and heaved himself up another step. The voices behind him grew louder, the crowd gaining on him. Resigned to his predicament, he twisted aside and backed up to the low wall flanking the path. His balance akilter, he landed his bony rump on the flat rock, lucky he didn’t tip backward and tumble down the hill. His cane clattered on the stone pavers.

The younger folk—his seventy-year-old daughter and her husband, his gaggle of grandchildren and stampede of great-grandies—hiked up the path. His daughter stooped to pick up the cane. “What is dad’s cane doing here?”

Her husband patted her shoulder. “Someone must have dropped it. We’ll bring it up.”

“Ahem!” Morten protested, but the troop resumed their march, paying him no mind and stranding him where he sat. He leaned forward, rocked, and pushed to his feet. With a grunt of effort, he straightened up, though “straight” was purely a matter of perspective.

He shambled farther up the path, knees creaking and fingers inching along the top of the wall. The breeze felt good, and the view was spectacular even though he hadn’t reached the top. After a short distance, the path smoothed and seemed less steep, and he abandoned the security of the wall. He took a few confident steps, and satisfied, added a bit of spring to his gait. He swung his arms and inhaled a deep breath. His pace increased, a renewed vigor thrumming through his heart.

He considered dancing a merry little a jig but dismissed the thought as overzealous. Instead, he picked a handful of summer flowers from the bank and waltzed like a groom on his wedding day. His wife appeared at the path’s peak and laughed, the clouds framing her like downy wings. He winked at her, smiling like a fool in love, surefooted, his life in bloom. The urge to run tickled at his toes, and he leapt into a strong lope, the muscles in his limbs stretching, his arms pumping, his vision clear and soul awake.

His wife opened her arms and received him. At the summit, his grandson smiled as a gust of wind gathered up the ashes from the lifted urn.

***

The image is from Sue Vincent’s Thursday #Writephoto prompt. Join in the fun.