My Mother’s Song

Image by Sue Vincent

A while ago, I wrote this 99-word story for the Sue Vincent Classic at Carrot Ranch, and I never got around to sharing it here. Sue has since passed away, leaving a hole in our writing community, and I miss her. I hope you enjoy the story.

My Mother’s Song

Even on a day of grief, the living abide no idleness. Bodies need nourishment, goats tending. The hearth yearns for fire before the wind sweeps us all beneath the dirt. I loathe our hill, the leaden clouds and cold toes, black spots on the moldering potatoes.

For years, I’d griped about my tasks while my mother had sung with the rhythm of her washboard. Of a beauty I couldn’t behold.

Now, without her, I face the quilted valley, the snow-laced mountains, branches gilded by the sun. Only now do I see, and my heart bursts with my mother’s song.

The Proposal

Back on February 1st, Carrot Ranch kicked off the Sue Vincent Rodeo Classic as a way to support Sue in her in journey through cancer and show her how much she is loved by this creative community.

Winners were announced on March 22nd. And what a fabulous outpouring of talent. To read all the 99-word stories and 99-syllable poems based on Sue’s photo prompt, click HERE.

I’m delighted to share one of my entries.

The Proposal

When he’d asked for her hand, he’d promised a white-washed farm in the patchwork valley. Verdant fields and tart cherry trees perfect for pies. He’d offered gardens and pearls and the earnest comfort of old-fashioned love. And each time, she’d denied him.

Then they’d climbed her autumn hill, where the valley flowed like an emerald river, and beneath the woolen clouds, the sun’s long brush painted the mountains with light. He grasped her hand and dropped to a knee. “If I build you a cabin on this golden hill, will you marry me?”

So certain was her answer.

Yes.

Life Lines by Sue Vincent

As we celebrate our dear story-teller, poet, blogger, and wise-woman Sue Vincent, I’d thought I would share my favorite book of her poetry.

Below is a sublimely beautiful poem from its pages, and my review. If you enjoy it, consider picking up a copy for own heart’s enjoyment. ❤

Flowers

by Sue Vincent

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

With frankincense,

A ghost of awe and wonder

Finding a home

In memory.

*

There were flowers…

Rainbow hued,

Everywhere.

Greeting a life newborn,

With love and welcome,

Lighting stark severity

As a babe cried.

*

There were flowers…

Daisy chains

Around his brow,

Crowning him with sunlight,

In laughter,

In simplicity,

In love.

*

There were flowers,

Three roses,

Red as life,

Placed in a cold hand,

One for each heart

Saying farewell.

Too long,

Too soon.

*

There are flowers,

Heather and bluebells

Painting horizons

Still unexplored.

Pathways of petals

Laugh at our feet,

Inviting.

*

In joy or sorrow,

When the tears fall,

There are always flowers.

*

My Review

This collection of 52 poems by Sue Vincent is a gem. I’d give this book 6 stars if I could. It’s hard to put into words how moving I found Vincent’s poetry. The poems are free form reflections on the profound moments of life, the deep emotional wells of love, loss, and memories, the rhythms of nature reflected in our journeys, and the poignant journeys themselves.

It was almost impossible to pick out a few favorites, but I’m giving it a try: “I See You” is an exquisite poem about aging and the lasting echoes of youth that we carry inside our memories. “Flowers” (which makes me weepy just thinking about it) chronicles a woman’s life-stages in flowers from birth through death. Two touching poems are told from the point of view of someone watching a loved one sleep. They’re both gentle and heartachingly beautiful. “Just for a Moment” is a rare syllabic poem in the collection about the peace of love, and “Memory” about love lost.

Though the poems can be read in an hour or so, I would suggest savoring them. Highly recommended.

*

You can connect with Sue here:

Blog: Daily Echo – Echoes of Life

Website: France & Vincent

Twitter

Facebook

Check out today’s beautiful post from Sue: Impression of Contentment

Happy Valentine’s Day. Hugs.

Sue Vincent Rodeo Classic

I’m so pleased to share this, and you bet I’m saddling up!

For those of you who don’t know Sue Vincent, she’s one of those special bloggers in our community who inspires people all over the world with her beautiful posts and #writephoto prompts. Sue has tirelessly supported other bloggers and it shows. She now has 19,000 followers and counting.

Recently, Sue encountered a new and difficult challenge: lung cancer. To make matters worse, the Covid-19 pandemic not only poses a serious threat to someone with a severe respiratory illness but has resulted in the loss of human connection when it’s needed most.

Now it’s time for Sue to receive something back from the community she’s supported for a decade. Let’s come together with hearts full of joy.

Join us for the Sue Vincent Rodeo Classic at the Carrot Ranch!

One way to participate in the Classic is to visit the prompt image, “Hidden”, at the Carrot Ranch. The image and entry form is live today – Monday, February 1st, 2021.

Enter a flash or a poem by Friday, February 19th, 2021, and you could win either $100 or a copy of one of Sue’s books. The form will allow you to give a small donation for Sue and her family. There’s also a link on the contest page. The winning entries will be announced at the Carrot Ranch on March 22nd, 2021.

Please note that Carrot Ranch will not accept entries previously published (even if published on your own blog). So use the form and keep your entry a secret until after the rodeo.

If you’re not ready to rodeo, there’s also a “Parade.” Reblog one of Sue’s posts from any of her sites (Daily Echo or France and Vincent) with a comment about why you found it special. You can follow her blogs. Read one of her books, then leave reviews where you can.

Help us celebrate a blogging hero and very deserving person. Plus, it’s a ton of fun.

Saddle up, everyone! It’s time for a Carrot Ranch Rodeo like none before. The Sue Vincent Rodeo Classic begins today, and it’ll be a TUFF prompt to fit within 99 words. 

See you at the Ranch, buckaroos!

The Red Bridge #Writephoto #Tanka Tuesday

copyright Sue Vincent

I decided to combine Sue Vincent’s beautiful #writephoto prompt (above)

with Colleen Chesebro’s intriguing #photoprompt (below)

photo provided by Vashti Q. Vega, image credit: Balaji Malliswamy

Hmmm…

***

 

Beneath the red bridge

Innocent waterlilies

Bloom with pink brushstrokes

While spring’s fecund beauty hides

A predator’s lustrous eyes

Horizon #Writephoto

copyright: Sue Vincent – Causeway

Horizon

Dare I fly from the sea’s rim to the sun’s white center
When sorrow bleeds crimson from my tongue and fingertips
Will I sing through the throat of hope, the beauty of the human story?
My wings unfold with the flame of a yearning soul

When sorrow bleeds crimson from my tongue and fingertips
If heart’s betrayals bend me beneath grief and despair
My wings unfold with the flame of a yearning soul
As hallowed skies blaze away the bruised ache of living

If heart’s betrayals bend me beneath grief and despair
Remember by faded day the child’s longing for life’s horizon
As hallowed skies blaze away the bruised ache of living
In night’s full wildness dream of yes beneath the weary bone moon

Remember by faded day the child’s longing for life’s horizon
Dare I fly from the sea’s rim to the sun’s white center
In night’s full wildness dream of yes beneath the weary bone moon
Will I sing through the throat of hope, the beauty of the human story?

 

***

I’ve been trying to write a pantoum for a year, honestly. I love this form, but struggled with it!  Sue’s Thursday #writephoto prompt inspired me to just go for it.

Be peaceful, be well.

 

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. ❤