It has always been an interest of mine to consider the nuances involved in my encounters with others, those that are nourishing and even those that are more distasteful for some reason. In recent years, my interest has broadened to include encounters with animals, nature, books, movies and now, online conversations with people who I treasure yet may never meet.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


It is never easy, getting on with one's own life after the death of a loved one. This fanciful short story was written for a friend after the sudden death of a partner.
 Our fanciful story takes us into a region on Earth that supports life forms requiring the seasonal changes in climate, some variance in temperatures though not in an extreme way. The flat areas of land from the south gradually form gradations of hills and then, as one travels farther north, the hills are larger, becoming southern-level-height mountains. The dips of land between these mountains are called valleys and usually are nestled by rivers, streams and creeks. There is a vast array of flora in these valleys.  Many types of trees provide not only shade to other flora and fauna species but also, go through a mysterious process to create the oxygen that sustains all life forms, including humans. One can find several species of deer and bear and even some wild horses. On any given day of observation, the surrounding forest of trees becomes a highway for chipmunks, skunks, beavers and a vast array of birds, each playing their roles in maintaining the symbiotic relationships amongst all life forms.

    On one fine spring day beneath a canopy of trees located about halfway down a region of mountains, several wild horses had gathered and were patiently munching on sparse grasses. Periodically, each horse would look up expectantly whenever there was the noise of dead wood cracking above them. “What are they waiting for?” wondered one great white owl from his perch above the horses. The reason for their patience in waiting was up near the top of this range. Roma was nearing the mid-time span of her life and had asked her friends to head down to the valley without her. She needed some alone time. None of the other horses had needed any explanation for Roma’s request. The sudden loss of a companion was explanation enough.
    Roma stood quietly on top of a large outcrop, her head raised to catch the caress of a light breeze that blew on this day. With eyes closed, she breathed deeply as the warm rays of the sun soothed the tenseness out of her muscles. Winter has its wonder yet also its trials; more so when sadness due to the loss of a companion in life renders one’s own life energy at a lower ebb. In winter, most animals need to stay active in order to retain warmth and take care of the daily needs for survival. For Roma, it helped that other horses counted on her to carry her part of the load. The other horses understood loss and willingly took on a little extra of the load for Roma whenever sadness got to an overwhelming level.
     Taking a last deep breath, Roma opened her eyes and turned to head down the mountain. Just before entering the first stand of trees, Roma heard a familiar snort amid the rattle of rocks being scattered by hooves. Holding her breath, Roma turned and there before her stood an iridescent vision of beauty. “Sydney,” Roma softly neighed. The iridescent vision that was Sydney stepped towards Roma, enveloping her in the softness of her horse spirit’s glow. Sydney spoke, “My dear Roma, I am here yet not here. I know that it seems so hard to be without my physical presence in your life yet, know that the love that I have for you continues to live in your heart. When the sadness is about to take you under, Roma, breathe deeply so that the tension from loss can be released, making way for my love, deep within your heart, to soothe your spirit. Life seems harsh at times, yet the love that we share with others carries us through the harshness. Love yourself, Roma, and, in so doing, I will know that my love for you continues to flourish.” Sydney neighed softly and then, leaning her iridescent body so that she fully touched Roma, whispered, “You must always remember, Roma, that you are loved. As you leave the forest for the valley, look for the tree near the creek with a special sign from me.” In the next moment, the ephemeral form of Sydney was gone.
     Roma stood still for some moments, taking in the wonder of such a heavenly experience. Instead of staying in the sadness of loss, Roma began to feel more light-hearted and energized. She took one last deep breath and then, snorting and stamping her feet, she reared up into the sky before galloping into the forest. Long before they could see that Roma was near, the horses began to neigh in welcome. They had not heard such an energetic beat from Roma’s hooves in such a long time. As Roma galloped past, the other horses joined her, boisterously making their way towards Dogwood Valley below.
      Nearing the valley, Roma noted that the Dogwood trees were moving into full bloom. Silver Thread Falls was making its pleasant tinkling sound as its water made its way down into the good-sized creek which fed into Dogwood pond. Bees, butterflies and hummingbirds were flitting about, attending to their tasks of pollination. The super highway throughout the surrounding forest in which the horses has just passed was busy as usual. Every living being felt a tinge of exuberance for spring was now here, the hard winter behind them. Down near the pond, a turkey buzzard and a tri-colored heron looked up suddenly as a pounding sound emerged from within the forest. Instead of taking flight, however, they gazed expectantly as a small group of magnificent-looking horses thundered towards the pond. “It’s just Roma and the others, feeling their usual spring oats. I thought that, perhaps, Roma might have less zeal than she had last year,” the buzzard said to the heron. Slowing down, Roma and her friends snorted neighs of welcome to all of the wildlife that had begun to gather around the pond. Everyone was buzzing, cawing, fluttering and noisily grunting in their unique fauna ways, excited because the arrival of Roma signaled the start of Dogwood inhabitants’ spring-time fun.

          A word of explanation needs to be made for our human readers. Fun in the flora and fauna world is much different than fun in the world of humans. In the world of plants, animals and insects, fun times occur whenever each species is carrying out their Purpose as assigned by The Great Creator. To the human species, such tasks might seem mundane and boring yet they are quite satisfying, engaging each species' sense of joyous fun. Suffice it to say that the word, fun, conveys a synchronous sensation since each form of species was doing their part in order to benefit the whole.
    Roma was a unique horse to be sure. As one of the larger-brained life forms, one might think that she would have an air of superiority and condescension about her. There were some horses that did exhibit those types of airs. Roma and those horses that traveled with her, however, were attuned to The Great Creator’s plan, that of symbiosis. If asked, Roma would reply, “Everything in life works best when we each do our part. Each of us has a role to play. Sit back and watch us have fun and satisfyingly work together to get done what needs to be done.”
    Roma veered to the edge of the trees nearest to the creek as her horse companions went to take a long drink from the pond. They had traveled some distance from another mountain valley in order to be in Dogwood on this day. Roma halted, gazing at the special sign left for her by Sydney. She then neighed loudly before lowering her head and pawing the land, expressing the strong surge of sadness that had come on, feeling the loss of Sydney in her life. Snorting and stamping out the sadness, Roma next felt an exhilarating feeling of love burst forth from within. She reared up on her hind legs and neighed loudly in wonder at the fierceness of ever-present love. “The best of Sydney is still with me,” Roma thought.
   Her awareness returned to the present moment so Roma turned around and saw that all of the animals in Dogwood Valley were quietly congregating together, respectful of her need to have a moment alone. It had not gone unnoticed that there was a carved heart in the tree that was closest to the creek. All of the animal and insect species knew that this past season had been particularly hard for Roma. She had lost her ever-present companion, Sydney, to sudden illness. Sadness due to the loss of a companion was accorded the highest respect by the residents in this valley.
    Neighing softly as she stood and gazed around Dogwood Valley, Roma had to acknowledge that the winter had been harsh. Silver Thread Falls was exuding less water than usual because the past few months had been dry. More trees had been felled by earlier storms and the creek and pond were covered with debris. Although everyone knew their roles, it was the habit of Dogwood inhabitants’ to wait for Roma to summarize all the tasks that needed to be done. You see, Roma had an ability to quickly ascertain the most efficient ways for all inhabitants to complete their individual tasks together.
     Roma neighed to everyone, a signal that the fun was about to begin, and began to prance around Dogwood Valley. As she passed through the different areas, she conferred with the other animals and insects, making assignments that were particular to each species. Everyone got into their particular brand of fun. Flying insects got to buzzing around, flitting more happily from flower to flower. Beavers and muskrats were their usual grumpy-seeming selves yet to those who knew them, they were happy doing the muddy job of moving sticks and tree trunks around so that the creek would flow the way that best served them all. The bears helped the beavers with the heavy work while the deer assisted the horses in clearing the valley of dead wood. No one minded when one of the bears took some time to scratch her back on one of the trees. The small birds flew around grabbing onto the smaller bits of debris, using the torn bits of grasses and small twigs for their nests. Larger birds, of course, handled the larger sticks. Water birds stayed busy cleaning up and redistributing the flora that lived on the surface of the pond. Nothing went to waste in Dogwood Valley.
     Roma took a moment from her task of clearing away a large downed tree that would become a shelter of sorts near the south edge of the valley. As the usual sense of sadness began to come on her once again, Roma took some deep breaths and felt instead the warmth of deep love burst from her heart. “Thank you, Sydney, for loving me. Your love for me will not go to waste,” she thought. Roma then neighed out loud with a bit of trilling-like notes, sounding like she was chuckling. “You knew, dear Sydney, that there was no way that I would let anything go to waste!” Roma snorted in laughter, reared up again on her hind legs and then got back to work while the other animals stared at her in wonder. “Why are all of you staring?” said Roma. “Haven’t you ever heard a horse laugh?”





Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Dance is in My Soul

A Fanciful short story written for my sister, Marty.

   Once upon a time in a village near the ocean, there lived a female inhabitant named Martinique. Her village was named Allegretto. The village truly lived up to its name for its daily pace was energetic and the villagers went about their daily tasks in the happiest of moods. Though near the ocean, Allegretto was located in a lush valley that was surrounded on three sides by a range of small mountainous ridges. Thus, the villagers were able to maintain a high degree of self-sufficiency. Crops were planted, nourished and harvested then divided into appropriate shares for each family. The remainder was prepared for delivery to the common market. Some inhabitants were building or repairing various structures whereas others were busy at the forge, making the tools necessary to get their jobs done. Another group was out on the ocean since fis hing was one of Allegretto’s main industries. Some of the more recent inhabitants’ hiking and mountain climbing endeavor was even attracting folks that lived in far-away places.
   Allegretto was a fascinating place to visit. It had one aspect, however, that made this village even more unusual. Now some might think that this is because it was the closest village to the mighty ocean. Being close to the ocean is certainly worth a moment of envy. Yet there is an aspect of Allegretto life that is worthy of the highest esteem. The reason relates to an unusual education component for their children. All villages provide education, of course. All children are taught such basics as language and counting skills for villages thrive when their folks can communicate well with each other and do the counting kinds of tasks that keep common goods on an equally shared level. Most children in the surrounding villages also learn to play some kind of musical instrument for music is viewed as a form of communication, speaking more into the hearts of all inhabitants which served to bring on a sense of unity.
   In Allegretto though, one can become awed when observing a most fascinating kind of class. As one of the tallest women in the village, Martinique caught the eyes of most visitors. When she was observed while teaching this unusual class, most visitors became quite spellbound for her movement around the children conjured up visions of such woodland folk as fairies in flight. Rarely were fairies able to be observed by inhabitants. It took more time and patience for such visions than most inhabitants could garner. Martinique, however, was as unusual as the class that she taught.
   When she was just a child, Martinique excelled at every task that was put before her. She completed her language and counting classes, and even the everyday chores, with such ease that there was extra time available for her to explore the nearby forests and beaches. Martinique loved the smell of the ocean and would spend time collecting shells and other interesting artifacts that the tides left upon the shore.
   One test-taking day, little Martinique completed her tests so quickly that she had almost the whole day to explore. It happened to be one of those very sunny days so Martinique decided to have a vigorous swim. As she romped in the ocean’s waves, some playful dolphins joined her for a while in some wave surfing. After one huge wave tumbled her about a little too vigorously, Martinique decided to have a rest and enjoy the sun’s warmth. It was while sitting on the shore observing the antics of some sea birds that she had a moment of epiphany. The birds seemed to be flying down to the waves then zipping back up to the sky, over and over. “They seem to be playing with the waves,” Martinique said out loud. “I wonder if these birds feel as wonderful as I do when I am playing in the waves!  Who else plays together in such fun?”
   With this thought, Martinique began to notice the feel of the ocean’s breezes on her cheek and how the ends of her hair were lifted up and from side to side in concert with the wind. She looked up then at the trees that stood near the edge of this beach. “The trees are playing in the wind, too,” she thought. Smiling, Martinique stood up, held out her arms and began to mimic the way that the tree limbs would dip down, swirl and fly up as the wind caught them in different ways. Martinique yelled and laughed in glee with the waves, the birds, the trees and the wind.
   Exhausted at last, Martinique fell down beneath the trees and just laid there in absolute joy and contentment. Breathing deeply, she continued to watch the trees move in tune with the wind. All of a sudden, her eyes caught a sparkling flicker of some kind of flying creature. At first she thought that the creature was just a small fast-moving bird. When the creature, however, landed upon her raised knee, Martinique became breathless at the sight of a beautiful woodland fairy. Now, here’s something to know about fairies. They communicate through thought to each other and to other creatures who notice them. So it was that Martinique heard the fairy’s thought, “Come with me.”
   Without consideration, Martinique stood up and, though on shaky legs, began to follow the fairy on a seemingly haphazard path through the woods that began to wind its way up and up and up even more. Near the top of a ridge that contained a fall of water, the fairy settled onto a large rock. Martinique was enthralled for she could see everywhere, the beach and village down below and the forests all around. “I came because you called to me,” the fairy said in thought. “‘Dance’ is the term that forest and beach creatures use to describe their play with each other. I am called ‘Dancer’ because the movements of all other creatures call my spirit into dance. Your movements in concert with the dance of the birds with the waves and the trees with the wind called me to you. I brought you here so that you could more fully understand my meaning. Look around you.”
   Martinique took a deep breath as her eyes settled upon the rushing dance of splashes of water as it cascaded down the cliff, dancing up in seeming glee upon all the rocks and making the nearby bushes sway to and fro. “They are dancing!” she thought. She jumped up, clapping her own hands in glee, moving around and around. “I’m dancing!” Martinique shouted out loud and just let her body go, with no hesitant restraint. She ran to the branches of a nearby tree, running her hands through the leaves as she turned around and around. Then danced on to another tree, some bushes and even a fuzzy caterpillar got some attentive movement.  As she was swaying to and fro around this caterpillar, Martinique began to realize that Dancer was also moving in sequence with her. Every movement that she took, Dancer did also. “We are dancing together!” Martinique shouted with glee. Dancer’s own laughter, though silent, was echoed all around them as each aspect of flora and fauna seemed to come to life with abandoned movement.
   After a whirl of dancing around with all of the forests’ inhabitants, Martinique needed to catch her breath. Dancer settled next to her and sent another thought. “You, too, are a dancer. Dance is in your soul and has now been called forth into expression. You will find your way into a Purpose as you move towards being an adult. From this day forth, every aspect of life will be seen by you as a dance and you shall teach this to others.” With that, Dancer began a fluttering kind of exaggerated dance movement and, with a final flicker of her wings, disappeared.

   This is the story that Martinique tells to those who are interested enough to listen.
Some tell others that she is simply a dance teacher. Some visitors tend to look with disdain at her adult class, whispering out loud that such a class is simply a waste of good time, that there are more important things to be done. These visitors are ones that don’t have a sense of vision, however, for if Martinique were to observe them as they go about their daily pursuits, she would classify their movements as dance. “We all dance,” she tells her classes as she takes them on outings to observe villagers at their work. “Plowing a field, harvesting a crop, hammering a nail, cooking a meal, washing the clothes and even diapering a baby are done with movement. All movement is dance and, if one can see their movements as dances instead of just work, they will have more enjoyment of these kinds of tasks.”
   Martinique is not concerned with those who criticize or see her with disdain. She is too busy enjoying the freedom that she feels inside her soul. She still takes many walks up into the mountains, pausing often to rest and observe the many instances of dance that occur in the forest around her. “Even those creatures who allow others to eat them for sustenance are engaged in a dance,” Martinique thought to herself one day as she saw a bird swoop down to grab a caterpillar that had climbed out of hiding behind a leaf onto a swaying limb. “Perhaps I shall continue to dance even beyond the time that my body is laid down to rest forever.” This thought brought Martinique back up to her feet and she kicked her heels up in glee then bumped her hips up against the tree under which she had rested. “Of course I shall,” she said aloud. “Dance is in my soul.”