#SoCS: Life’s Rich Tapestry

So, Madam, on your plate tonight you have a Career Re-think and a dose of Covid about to take hold. And the dog has IBS. And the water meter outside your property has been stolen, so now there’s clean, drinkable water pouring down your street. Pity- I just hate that kind of waste, don’t you?

But that’s not what I ordered at all! I exclaimed. Take this back immediately, please, and bring me what I asked for.

The waiter smiled brightly. Aha! But that’s the thing, you see- at this establishment you don’t always get what you asked for. In fact, you rarely get what you asked for, especially on Pot-luck Night, which is most nights, by the way.

Well, I want what HE’s got, I said pointing to the table ahead of me. He’s got White Sandy Beaches and Tour of the Baltics lined up on his plate- that’s what I ordered.

The waiter was polite and patient. Again, Pot-luck, he said. Anything’s possible in this place. Did you notice our signage when you came in? He pointed to the ceiling with a sweep of his white-sleeved arm. I looked up. “Life’s Rich Tapestry” in bold blue neon letters winked down at me.

Well, I can’t deal with all this. It’s overwhelming. Maybe just leave the dog thing: I can probably handle that. I’ll take her to the vet. But the other stuff? A career re-think when I’m nearing 60? A dose of Covid? And don’t you know that COJ is in disarray- do you know how long it might take for them to replace a stolen water meter? No thanks. Take this plate away please.

Well, I’m afraid that’s not an option here. The waiter was smiling again, perhaps a little condescending this time. You see, you can’t leave until you’ve finished what’s on your plate. That’s the deal, I’m afraid. Just the way it is.

I sensed angry tears coming on, a sense of helplessness and even fear. I wanted to run away, anywhere at all, just out of here.

The waiter sat down just then, in the empty chair opposite me. His smile had softened as he spoke to me in low tones. That man over there, the one with the Beach and the Baltics on his plate- well don’t be too envious. He’s a bit of a nasty piece of work, and he doesn’t know it yet, but we’ll be dishing up some ‘Just Desserts’ for him once he’s finished his main course. He’ll be smiling on the other side of his face when I bring THAT to his table.

So, he continued, as he stood up. Best you get started, you’ve got a lot on your plate there. You’ll be fine, he added. Just remember to go with the flow. Oh, and don’t forget to self-isolate when you get home.

What do you mean? I asked.

Self-isolate, he repeated. For 10 days, for the Covid. Who knows? You might even enjoy the R &R. It’ll help you to prepare for all the other challenges ahead.

But how do I get the dog to the vet if I have to self-isolate? I asked.

He shrugged. You’ll figure it out, he said. You’ve got friends, family, neighbours. These things are sometimes sent to test us. And it’s often all part of something bigger. He was looking up at the ceiling. I followed his gaze. The signed winked at me again, like a gentle reminder. “Life’s Rich Tapestry.”

#SoCS Writing Prompts, Sat 26/11/22: ‘On Your Plate’.

Photo by Igor Starkov on Pexels.com

#1liner Weds: The Nose Knows

Have you ever been drawn to something that your normal logic tells you should repulse you? Scare you even? But you just can’t explain it. And you just can’t help yourself…

The Nose Knows- a flash fiction tale

The smell hit her in a wave of nausea as she slid into the driver’s seat. He’d done it again! Smoked a cigar in the car, ground it down into a stinking ball, and left it there it in the ashtray overnight. Left it there for someone else to clean up. She gritted her teeth, opened the window, and drove off, her hands tight and tense on the steering wheel.

On the highway, exhaust fumes from the car in front of her made her gag, so she closed the window again. With her indicator on, she managed to overtake the car and continue to the offramp where she turned into the mall and into her usual parking bay. She noticed a dark patch of oil on the tarmac next to her as she pulled in- someone else’s oil leak. Its petroleum stink, hot in the late morning sun, rose to meet her as she stepped out of the car. The nausea nearly overwhelmed her as she locked the car behind her and headed for the salon, the doors sliding open as she stepped into the entrance.

The smells of the salon– peroxide and acetone and all the things for nails and hair dyes– was stifling, and the stink of hair being by fried by extreme heat made her feel dizzy. The receptionist was understanding: “It’s no problem, Mrs Arends. Rather just go home if you’re unwell. Just phone us when you feel better, and we’ll be happy to reschedule today’s appointment.”

Stepping into the house, the smells of aerosol polish and oven cleaner reminded her instantly that today was Wednesday, the day the cleaning service people came in. Walking quickly up the stairs to her bedroom, she could tell that there would be no peace up here either– the entire upstairs level smelt of linen washed in too much detergent (she had asked them previously to adjust the amounts), and of the overpowering, artificially floral scents of fabric softener hanging in the air. Opening the door to the ensuite bathroom, she collided with the harsh stink of household bleach stinging her nostrils, her eyes, her throat.

She was walking towards the far end of the homestead grounds now, far from the main house, where the air was cool and soft and smelt of greenery and of the bark of the surrounding trees. She’d walked this way exactly once before: years ago, when they had first moved onto the property. Now she made her way past the simple stone and brick cottages that belonged to the farmhands and other workers on the property. It was peaceful, and very quiet- nobody home during working hours. Ahead of her was a simple stone wall, not very high, and some distance behind the wall was a cottage made of yellow bricks, a bit bigger than the simple cottages that the farmhands occupied. She recognised it as the home of the groundskeeper and his wife. There was a small garden adjoining the cottage, with rows of ripening mielie cobs, a few spinach plants, and five or six red and white hens scratching about. She kept walking.

The smell was like nothing she’d ever experienced: gamey and pungent and almost overpowering. It was the smell of something rotting, but with a strange, almost-freshness to it: organic and nearly edible. As she approached the wall, she saw that it was one section of a square enclosure, its height reaching just above her waist as she leaned over. The pigs continued to grunt contentedly as they chewed and slurped and sucked– the slops and kitchen leftovers being churned and pushed and pummeled by their round, flat, fleshy snouts as they grazed. As she stood and watched, the thought of humus came to her: stuff of the earth, and mushroom compost or maybe manure. She thought about the vegetable garden they had kept briefly when they first moved onto the property. It hadn’t really worked out– he’d wanted pavers– and the project was finally abandoned. She stood and watched the pigs, admiring their snouts, how busy-busy and agile, and imagined them rooting in the roots, hunting for truffles in the dirt (it was pigs that did that, wasn’t it?), their nostrils alive with the sweet smell of decay. Imagined then grinding their snouts into the dark earth, the stuff of life. She imagined them sniffing out and hunting down those hidden treasures, till, finally, success- their noses caked in dirt, and the precious thing, the strangely shaped nub of fungus, now within reach.

When he at last found her, she was lying on her back on one section of the wall with her knees bent, gazing calmly up at the early evening sky. She had one hand on her stomach, gently caressing the small mound there: 16 weeks exactly, give or take a day or two. He vaguely heard her say something about not coming back tonight. About being just where she needed to be.

 

Written for One Liner Wednesday at Linda G Hill

(Not always) the sweet smell of success.’

 

 Photo by Leah Kelley on Pexels.com

#1liner Weds: How to find your Writing Feet

“Tain’t no Sin to Take off your Skin, and Dance around in your Bones.”

Ray Bradbury’s book, ‘Zen in the Art of Writing’, mentions this little ditty above, which he describes as his ‘favourite tune’ when he was young. At first glance this ditty is deceptively quaint and whimsical, but I find it quite profound: it talks of the act of baring your writing soul, reveling in the freedom of unrestricted expression as you go about finding your voice, and the joy of being unrestrained and unconcerned about what everyone else might think of you as you do so.

I’m loving reading this book; I find it many things: humorous, informative, irreverent, wise, enthused, energising, reassuring, warm, honest, and all based on Ray Bradbury’s many years of writing experience and ‘living large’ even as a pre-teen. He delves into his childhood loves and fears and pains and talks about how these things carried him and informed him as writer and story- teller.

I’m quoting below from Chapter One- The Joy of Writing:

“… the first thing a writer should be is -excited. He should be a thing of fevers and enthusiasms. Without such vigor, he might as well be out picking peaches or digging ditches; God knows it’d be better for his health. How long has it been since you wrote a story where your real love or your real hatred somehow got onto the paper? What are the best things and the worst things in your life, and when are you going to get around to whispering or shouting them?”

I love writing fiction; expressing myself through storytelling- I find it cathartic, and I find it helps me to delve into my thoughts and feelings and reveal these on the page in the way that’s right for me. Frustratingly though, storytime too often ends up on the back burner as the rest of the stuff of life takes over. Not a good excuse, I know. Ray Bradbury would probably tell me to just Find my Feet, Hit the Page Running, and to Spill my Guts in the process!

Written for One Liner Wednesday at Linda G Hill

Photo Challenge #437: The Sentinel

Do you believe in sacred spaces? The power of the unknown? There are things we meet from time to time that are maybe better left alone….

The Sentinel

‘What’s this here?’ He was poking at the ground with his foot, indicating the point where the strange, blackened stump protruded from the sand.  

No one knows exactly, she said. It’s been there ever since I can remember. I’ve heard people talking about it over the years. It seems to be a bit of an icon. Definitely a landmark around here.

Well, it’s going to have to go, unfortunately, he said. We need to clear this area as per the contract agreement, and this… whatever it is… is right in the middle of where the new road will be. I’ll just get my guys to lift it. It’ll be a quick, painless job.

She smiled. He frowned. Does that seem strange to you? he asked. It’s a burnt-out piece of wood, not so? Really not complicated.

Have you had a proper look? she asked. It’s not burnt, and it’s not even wood. Take a look.

He leaned in closer to the strange object, narrowing his eyes and rubbing his palm along the surface. He pulled his hand away. Okay, I see that, he said. There was a tone of surprise in his voice, and an annoyance at being caught off-guard. It’s made of stone or something. What is this thing anyway? Some kind of fossil, or what?

As I said, nobody seems to know. I’ve heard stories, though. About its ‘special powers’ and other things. The locals say that it’s been here since the beginning of time. I’ve also heard them say that people have tried to remove it in the past and that some of those individuals… well… things didn’t go well for them in the end.

He was staring at her now, his mouth twitching as he held back a laugh.

You don’t expect me, surely, to buy into that kind of superstitious nonsense. Are you really asking me to take this seriously?

I don’t know, she said. I’m just letting you know what I know. What I’ve been told. Some of the history and folklore of the area. You asked me about the object and I’m telling you what I know. She smiled, not condescending, but with a suggestion of patience that was starting to wear a bit thin.

Well, as I see it, a commitment is a commitment, and we have a job to do here. He turned his back to her then and started to walk in the direction of the vehicle that was parked a short distance away, calling out as he went: Okay guys, we need some heavy artillery over here, please; something that can cut through stone. Pronto.

She watched him walk off, talking loudly to his three teammates as they got out of the vehicle and started unloading their tools from the container at the back. From the corner of her eye, she glimpsed a small movement on the ground just to her right. She looked down and saw a small animal, a hedgehog, rooting about amongst the short tufts of grass there. She stood quietly, not wanting to disturb the little creature as it scratched and rummaged around, probably looking for something to eat. She watched it, admiring its pretty face with its dark-button eyes and nose, and the small round ears. The sun emerged from behind the clouds at that moment, and a ray glanced against its small, bright eyes as it lifted its head to look at her. And although it was obviously just a trick of the light, it really seemed for just a moment, that it was winking at her.  

Image credit Denman Prospect Village

Instructions for today’s prompt: ‘Use the above image as inspiration for a poem or short story.’

Why Walk? Well, it’s good for body and mind

I love walking in my neighbourhood at this time of year. It’s early summer here in South Africa, and the city and surrounds of Johannesburg is a fabulous display of trees, shrubs and vines in flower and fruit, notably the Bougainvillea and Jacaranda trees which light up the horizon as you look to the distance. The best time to be out walking now is early morning- things start heating up from about 8.30, so I go out well before then for a fast walk, usually with my hand-held 1kg dumb-bells. I’m usually out for a half hour maximum, depending on which route I take. I don’t always walk daily; it depends on what else is lined up for the day, but I know that for me to feel ok, I need to move and to feel mobile and to know that blood is circulating freely through my limbs and organs! Luckily, I have plenty of tricks and tools of the “fitness trade” that I’ve collected over the years. I practiced and taught Hatha Yoga and Pilates, one-on-one and group classes, for about fifteen years, and the things I’ve learned through direct experience and much repetition over the years have not left me in a hurry. I know how to pack a lot into just ten minutes of exercise a day, such as with a few simple pilates moves, or a few rounds of Surya Namaskar aka Sun Salutations. And dance! The radio station I listen to on Friday mornings plays a non-stop routine of fifteen minutes of dance music if I feel like a change.

This post was partly prompted by Brian here, where he talks about his efforts and challenges in returning to exercise and a healthy eating plan. Here are three small suggestions I can make for others in his situation, especially the over-50’s:

  • If you’re not sure what’s right for you at your age and stage of life and health, talk to your GP or to a professional in the health and fitness field, preferably someone who has worked with individual needs on a one-to-one basis.
  • a little every day or second day is far better than trying to burn up the track once a week.
  • Weight-bearing exercises benefit the muscles, bones, and joints. Try including some of these in your exercise regime or build them in along with regular walks. Take advice on things like squats and lunges (many benefits to be had here!), especially if you are overweight or have knee troubles.   

Meantime, please enjoy some of the photos I took while walking in my neighbourhood yesterday. On this occasion I left my weights behind and took my phone along so that I could snap up some of the local scenery. The Jacarandas will have dropped all their blossom within the next few weeks, and I didn’t want to risk missing that window of opportunity. Sometimes you have to strike while the oven is (still) hot ;).

Photo of Feet Walking: Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com.

All other pics by me (Amanda) on my modest Samsung J7 phone camera….

#SoCS: Rite of Passage

Have you ever misjudged or misinterpreted a situation so badly that it leaves you reeling? Or maybe you misunderstood someone’s motives- assumed good intentions where none existed, and you now feel that you can’t trust the person, and maybe can’t trust your own judgment in certain situations. Poor judgment and misunderstandings can happen to anyone, but they have a way of knocking our self-confidence and can even leave one in a really difficult position…

He was running at me now, picking up speed as he got closer, his right arm raised and bent at the elbow, the ball in his hand. My eyes were on the ball, my feet firmly planted, bat raised to strike. I saw the ball leave his hand, and as I swung at it, I immediately realised my lack of judgment. My angle was wrong- I had swung into the gap, and there was no contact. Instead of that clean smack of bat to ball, there was the heart-sinking sound of the ball hitting the wicket, and the tumble of bits falling over as they hit the ground on impact. I heard the fielder nearest me to my left shout out in glee as he clapped his hands, “Bowled him!” and from the corner of my eye the long white sleeve of the umpire lifted slowly towards vertical, his index finger pointed, his face deadpan. There was no argument to be had here- as I slowly removed my visor and gloves, the fielders and the bowler were already huddled together, patting each other on the back and exchanging high fives. Amidst the loud cheers of excitement from the spectators and the celebratory music that had now started up in the stadium, I heard a strange sound, a low hum followed by a deep clear voice coming from nowhere that I could see. “You’re out. It’s time to leave the playing field.” “Yes, I can see that,” I muttered to myself, beyond irritated at having the obvious pointed out to me by someone or something that I couldn’t even see. I was now headed towards the players’ change rooms, anxious to escape my humiliation with the comfort of a hot shower. But the entrance to the change room was now blocked off by a locked gate, and I found myself being ushered down a long passageway- a different route to the change rooms, I assumed. I heard the sound again, the same voice as before, this time: “That route cannot be opened for you. Please make your way down the passageway.” I continued to walk down the passage which now seemed to stretch further in front of me with each step, and I realised after some minutes that I could no longer hear any sounds from the stadium above. The passageway was dark and soundless, barring the crunch of my own footsteps. I sensed my irritation growing, and I thought about turning back. I stopped and shouted into the void in front and behind me. “Hey! What’s going on here? I just want to get to the showers, guys! I’ve just had a really crappy game of cricket, and I’d like to get out of here right now, please!” Again, that low hum, closer than before, followed by the voice, so close now that it seemed to vibrate from inside the passage walls: “Well then someone didn’t properly explain the rules to you, unfortunately. That was not just a game of cricket. That was the game of life.”  

#SoCS Writing Prompts, Sat 22/10/22: “Bowl.”

Photo by Yogendra Singh on Pexels.com

The Monday Begin-Again

I don’t normally reblog other people’s posts, but this quote is so perfect for a Monday that I couldn’t resist:

A new week starts. No need to hesitate. The windows reflect a new day with new adventures. Looking back is just too much work! With all that you know and all that you’ve learned, turn and follow the open road ahead.From this lovely blog that I came across while doing random searches on WordPress this morning: https://carriesbench.org/2022/08/29/mondays-door-6/

Happy Monday, everyone and here’s wishing you an upbeat start to the new week. Oh, and remember to keep your Beginner’s Mind with you at all times! 🙂

Photo by Scott Webb on Pexels.com

#SoCS: The Happiest Place

Is it that thing we all seek, where when we find it, we want to return again and again? The place that we keep in our hearts, where we feel at home and at peace when the world at large is wearing us down? Yes, it is, and maybe more besides. Can a place, a physical and geographical space, experience happiness? Do non-human entities experience happiness and other qualities that we normally associate with humanness, with the experience of being human in this world? If you could ask a place what would make it happiest, it might well tell you it would be happy if there were no humans in it…..

Spirit of Eden: Those two worry me. Getting a bit too sure of themselves round here. I can tell you now that pretty soon they’re gonna be sprouting a bunch of mini-me’s and start taking over the place.

Serpent: They seem nice enough. Not causing any harm that I can see.

Spirit of Eden: Yes, they are nice- always friendly and smiling. Not too bright though. I just don’t trust what’s coming once the offspring start arriving, all running about looking for food and shelter and the like. For now they seem happy in their little tree house, but in no time you’re gonna have droves of them all vying for access to the trees with the best view, and cutting branches off to build porches and family rooms and things, and it will just get worse from there, I can tell you. I just don’t trust them. You wait- soon they’re all gonna be running around in their numbers, pushing us around, acting like they own the place.

Serpent: Ok, So what next?

Spirit of Eden: We get them out. Before the damage starts. And here’s where it’s over to you, my fine friend. I’ve seen Miss Evey passing by under this very tree a few times lately, and she looks up into the branches and gets a certain look on her face- maybe she’s after one of these nice ripe apples, or maybe it’s your natural charms that put the sparkle in her eyes these days….

Serpent blushed a bit. You’re too kind, he said. So, tell me…. what’s the Boss’s feelings about all of this? I mean, he’s the one who bought them here in the first place.

Spirit of Eden: Well, I haven’t had a heart to heart with him about it, but I do check in with the old guy on occasion. He hasn’t said much but I suspect he’s beginning to share my concerns.

Serpent: Ok, so what do I do?

Spirit of Eden: You lead her astray, o charming one, by whatever means you deem necessary. And once the Boss sees that she’s been flouting the rules, well, he’ll take it from there.

Serpent: Ok, sounds like it could be fun. So, I’ll just wait up here then, shall I? Maybe I’ll just shed another layer while I wait- make sure my skin has that irresistible glow going on. I’m sure she’ll be along sometime very soon…..

#SoCS Writing Prompts, Sat 15/10/22: “Happy Place.”

Picture of Eve from Pexels

#SoCS: ‘Back of the Fridge’

 

08/10/22: There may be forgotten treasures there: unopened jars of your favourite relish that you were saving for a rainy day. Or something else entirely: a jar of greenish, blackened mycelium fuzz, effectively disguising the host underneath. You read the label for clues, and there it is: ‘Bandini’s Grated Parmesan,’ with an expiry date that has itself long expired. Here’s my take on it- a tale with a tweak:

 

The Creature in the Kitchen:

The man from the appliance repair centre appeared puzzled.

Well, I can’t see much wrong here- your connections are all fine, the thermostat is working. I’ve checked everything.

It’s not just that, she replied. Nothing in the fridge is passed its expiry date, and yet stuff just keeps going bad in here. This fridge is rendering my food inedible. You’re the expert- you need to tell me what to do.

There was an awkward silence. He was looking down at the floor, biting his lip, frowning.

Well, there is one thing, he said finally. But this is going to sound weird, so just bear with me, please.

Tell me, she said. I’m all ears.

Well, I think you might have a Kitchen Goblin at the back of the fridge. Behind the fridge, most likely.

What? Are you serious? I thought those things were just a joke. An urban myth….

Oh no, they’re real, all right. Last week a woman in your street called on me for her washing machine. Kept on switching itself off mid-cycle. I found the darn little creature hiding away in the detergent dispenser. I removed it on the spot, of course.

Well, then let’s do it. I can’t go on like this.

Are you sure? They’re nasty little things, and they tend to jump up at your face when exposed. I can call for assistance if you like.

The sooner this can be sorted, the better, she said. Let’s just get it over with. She was now leaning against the fridge, ready to start pulling it away from the wall.

He joined her on the other side, preparing to pull.

Ready? He said. On the count of three:  one, two, …….

 

#SoCS Writing Prompts, Saturday 08/10/22: ‘Back of the Fridge’

 

Blogging: when the fun goes

cute brown tabby cat wearing party hat

Now and then you may need a little prompt, a little nudge to get things moving. After a marathon break of 16 months, I’m trying to get going again. “Hobby” blogging is meant to be enjoyable of course, something that you look forward to and want to keep working at, but nothing is all plain sailing, and if you’re not prepared to put in the effort, then maybe it’s not that important to you after all. But what happens when a post just fails to gain momentum- when after that initial spark of energy which gets you out of the starting blocks, things just kind of fizzle out, and you’re left with a deflated balloon in your hand. At that point you may think maybe you are just in the wrong game, and it’s time to move on. Find another love, so to speak. But wait…… maybe there is still a way! Maybe there is hope on the horizon. Perhaps it’s not yet time to throw in the towel. So, think twice before you pack away your crayons; keep your boots on…. don’t hang them up just yet….. Perhaps the solution is right here at your disposal in the form of writing prompts and challenges. Early last year, before stepping out of the blogosphere as I did, I joined in on some of Linda G Hill’s writing prompts on Saturdays as well as her One Liner Wednesdays. This is a really fun and doable way of staying on the blogging track. And having a window on other bloggers’ responses to the same prompts can be quite fascinating, all part of a shared experience.  So perhaps this is where I’ll find my inspiration going forward: seeking out those writing challenges on a regular basis to keep me on my toes. Other blog sites host similar offerings, so there is plenty to choose from at WordPress. Just type ‘writing prompts’ in the search bar in the Reader. I haven’t joined in at SueW’s Weekly Prompts yet, but that may be my next stop….

Some of my responses to writing prompts from last year Here (see the drop down in the main menu), and Here.