Here's my first round entry for the NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge. My writing prompts were:
Location: Working From Home
Character: A Surfer
The sensation of the plane descending woke me. I slid the window shade up and peered out. As the plane circled for its approach, I got my first glimpse of the eight islands. The lush greens and dark, jagged mountains and cliffs grew closer and closer. It was beautiful and foreboding at the same time.
I picked up a car and headed to the rented beachside bungalow. Once inside, I wandered from room to room; it didn’t take long, it was small. Neat and clean, it was furnished with rattan and decorated in hues of blues, greens, and corals. The few boxes of my belongings were stacked in the living room. On top lay a manila envelope. I took a deep breath, picked it up, and settled onto a lounge to study the dossier. After giving it a thorough read, I closed my eyes and repeated, “I am Dora Ann Evans, I am Dora Ann Evans, I am Dora Ann Evans.”
“Dora the Explorer,” I said out loud with a chuckle. Someone had a sense of humor about it this time. Standing and walking to the sliding glass doors, I stepped onto the veranda. The bungalow was situated about a third of the way up a cliff side. It was nestled among a grove of trees offering a sense of seclusion. A stairway off the veranda descended to a small private cove. Before me was a spectacular view of Oahu’s North Shore. To the right Waimea Beach to the left Haleiwa. Lifting my face to the sky, a warm breeze flowed over me. “Home Sweet Home,” for the next six months at least. Someday, yes someday, home would mean something more permanent. Returning to the living room and the boxes I sighed, “Time to get settled in.”
I set up the office first. I hadn’t checked in yet. It was a daily ritual I resented but it was required. Opening my laptop, I quickly scanned e-mail, clicked compose, and penned, “Arrived safely. All is well.” then hit send. My mind drifted to graduation day. The day my world turned upside down. The day a daily “All is well.” became a routine part of life. It was unsettling, the first days in a new location. A reminder of a past I was always trying to outrun. I shook my head in an attempt to refocus on the present. “Work, get to work.” My job was my life, as long as I focused on the task at hand I could forget. I opened a file in Word and began preparing the schedule for the next day. It was going to be a busy one.
The warmth of the sun filtering through the window woke me. I didn’t often sleep well the first few days; it took time to adjust so I was surprised at how rested I felt. I liked to get a lay of the land as soon as possible, so the day was spent driving the island, talking to locals, and scouting for sites and story ideas. My goal, as always, was to find off the beaten path destinations, authentic cuisine, and immersion in the history and culture of the place. I had a knack for being able to blend in, just another face in the crowd. The less impression made the better. The day flew by, my notebook filling with names and contact information, locations to check out, and activities to try. I worked up quite an appetite and was looking forward to attending the luau that evening. Before heading out for the night, I checked in, “All is well.”
I heard a ukulele playing as I approached the canopied tables. A beautiful Hawaiian woman greeted me, draping a fragrant lei over my shoulders. As she showed me to my table, the smell of pork roasting permeated the air making my mouth water. There were other guests at the table already so I introduced myself.
“I’m Dora,” I said extending my hand to a young couple on my right.
“I’m John and this is my wife, Lisa. I’m still getting used to saying that, my wife, we just got married,” he couldn’t stop smiling. There were congratulations all around.
“Is that a bit of a Texan accent I hear?”
“Yes ma’am, Austin, born and raised.”
“I’m Kim and this is my husband George,” said the woman to my left.
“That’s right,” said George. “You have an ear for accents, I see. Where are you from?”
“A hobby. I’m from Chicago.”
The honeymooners were lost in each other, stealing kisses, taking in the sights and the sounds. I looked at them and smiled wistfully thinking, “I’ve never stayed in any one place long enough to find that kind of relationship.” Beginning to feel a bit melancholy, I stared out to the water and let my mind wander.
“Is this your first time visiting Hawaii, Dora?” George asked reeling me back in.
“Yes, it is. I’m taking an extended vacation. I needed a bit of a break. How about you both? Have you been here before?”
Kim replied, “Once before, for an anniversary. We vowed we would come back when we retired and here we are.”
A waiter approached the table with umbrellaed mai tais. “Aloha, my name is Akoni. I will be serving you this evening. Is there anything you need?” He glanced around the table but his gaze lingered on Dora.
“Just keep the mai tais flowing,” said George. “Å'kålè ma'luna!” He exclaimed as he raised his glass. Laughing, we all cheered.
Sipping my drink, I thought to myself the lies came so easy now. At first it was a struggle. Now it was second nature, I didn’t like it. I didn’t like how comfortable and normal it was getting. Soon enough, Akoni was back with the first course. His gaze again on Dora, “Do you have any questions?” Everyone shook their head and began passing the appetizers around.
Kim leaned over to Dora, “I think you have an admirer. He can’t keep his eyes off you.”
“Oh, what, I don’t think so. He’s just doing his job.”
John, now preoccupied with food, turned to the table as a whole and asked, “Did you hear the news? They found and captured The Big “V”, Gino Vecoli, in Texas of all places.” The hairs on the back of my neck stood on end. I couldn’t have heard that right. Surely someone would have contacted me if this were true. Instinctively I began slowly scanning the crowd.
“You don’t say,” exclaimed George. “I remember him, one of the most notorious crime bosses in New York City.”
“Who?” asked Kim.
“The mobster, remember, years ago the Feds raided his home and the homes of his associates. They arrested Tony “The Ghost” DeLuca, his right hand man. His wife turned up dead shortly after his arrest. Gino went missing.”
“I do remember that now. There was a daughter that went missing too wasn’t there. The daughter of the man arrested, I think.”
I began to tremble. I put down my drink so no one would see how badly my hands were shaking. “Excuse me, I need to use the ladies room.” I hoped they couldn’t hear the tremor in my voice.
Lisa chimed in, “They say he’s been on the run for 10 years. Can you believe it! How does someone just disappear for 10 years! I wonder what happened to the daughter?”
“Likely the same thing that happened to her mother. The “family” would have done anything to keep The Ghost quiet,” voiced George.
My hands were still shaking as I ran a paper towel under some cold water and pressed it to the back of my neck and temples. I checked my phone, no messages. “Take big deep breaths, calm down. You need to get through dinner as though nothing is wrong.” I stood in front of a fan, allowing the cool air to wash over me, taking long, slow breaths until I could feel my heartbeat slow to a normal pace. After regaining my composure, I started to make my way back to the table. Akoni, seeing me, approached, “Is everything alright? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”
I forced a smile and small laugh, “I’m fine, really. Perhaps one too many mai tais.” He nodded and I continued on.
Fortunately the conversation had turned to other topics while I was away. As the main course was served the show began. I tried to relax and enjoy the rest of the evening but my mind kept drifting to the bombshell John inadvertently dropped. What might this mean now? I was eager to get back to the bungalow for any news.
“Still no messages.” I checked some news sites, but there was no more information than I heard over dinner. He had in fact been found and was in custody. I carefully composed an e-mail, “I hear a storm may be coming.” hastily hitting send.
I slept fitfully, my mind moving in a million different directions. At daybreak I grabbed a bite to eat and settled onto the veranda. The sound of the waves was soothing; it was quiet, peaceful. I worked through the morning but there was still no word.
“Surfing. That would get rid of some of this pent up tension.” I flipped through my notes for the name of a surfing school I came across yesterday and called to see if they could fit me in for a lesson. I set out for Sunset Beach after lunch. Although I spent more time off the board than on it, it was a cathartic diversion. The instructor was patient and knowledgeable. He schooled me on various types of boards and piqued my interest on how they were made. A friend of his, a surfer as well, was one of the best board builders on the island. As luck would have it, he had a shop a short walk up the beach. That was my next stop.
I knocked on the open door and walked inside, “Hello,” I called. Much to my surprise Akoni walked out from a back room. He stopped short, “Good afternoon,” he said with a grin, “Did you enjoy the show last night?”
“Yes, I did. I was just chatting with the surf instructor, he said I could speak to a board builder here.”
“That’s me. So, you want to buy a board?”
“No, no, after that lesson I think it best not to quit my day job. So surfer and board builder by day, waiter by night?”
“My family owns the business that runs the luaus, I help out from time to time. I’m a surfer at heart, and I have been fortunate to make a living doing it. If you aren’t buying, what can I do for you?”
“I’m interested in how they are made. Do you have time to tell me about it, show me the process?
Amused, Akoni teased, “I’m on to you.”
For the second time in two days my heart began to race. He leaned over and whispered, “Are you The Chameleon?”
“What are you talking about?” I backed away from him.
He walked to the front where there was a small waiting area, and picked up a magazine off the table. He handed it to me. It was Adventure Athletica, the cover featured racing at Baja. “The Chameleon,” he repeated, “the travel writer and critic for the Adventure Athletica. That’s you isn’t it?”
“Why would you think that? I’ve never heard of this magazine.” I handed it back to him.
“Well, someone has been talking to folks and asking lots of questions about surfing. It’s a small island; and the surfing community is smaller still.”
“I’m a tourist, nothing more. I’m curious. I’m sorry to have interrupted your work, I’ll let you get back to it.”
“Please wait, have dinner with me. I’ll tell you more about the boards and how they are made. You’re secret is safe with me.”
“I’m not who you think I am,” and with that I turned and walked out of the shop and down the beach.
Shaken, I returned to the bungalow. Agitated, I paced from room to room. All this time, no one has ever connected me to the magazine before. First the news about Vecoli, now my cover is compromised on the magazine. This assignment was a bad idea; perhaps I should leave. There was a knock on the door. Startled, I glanced out a side window, saw the black car and knew who it was. I opened the door, “Agent Anderson, I was wondering when I would hear from you.” I gestured for him to enter and walked out to the veranda. He followed and sat in one of the chairs. I remained standing, looking out to sea. “So it’s true then?”
“Yes, we found him. He’s in custody. It’s finally over, Sophia.”
My skin prickled. I turned my head; “No one has called me that in a very long time.”
“That’s your name.”
“I have traveled the world in six month intervals, I have had 20 different names.”
“I know it has been a difficult life.”
“I wouldn’t say that. Not difficult, not really. It’s been lonely. Will my father testify?”
“Yes. You have nothing to fear now. There’s no one left to hurt you. What will you do?”
“I still have an obligation to the magazine, at least to finish this issue.”
“So you’ll continue as The Chameleon? There is no reason to remain anonymous any longer.”
“I don’t know who I am if not, The Chameleon.”
“You are Sophia DeLuca. You have a degree in Fine Arts from Columbia University. You are the creative genius behind Adventure Athletica. In all my years, I have never met anyone so strong, resilient, and successful in crafting their “new” lives. You don’t need to hide anymore, show the world who you are.”
“Not DeLuca, never DeLuca.”
“The choice is yours now. Who do you want to be?”
I didn’t speak for some time, just starring out over the ocean. The sun was beginning to set coloring the sky with shades of orange. Perhaps this could truly be home after all. “Liberta, Sophia Liberta.”
Standing Agent Anderson extended his hand, “I’m pleased to meet you Sophia Liberta.”
“Please excuse me Agent, I have to meet a surfer for dinner.”
Challenge # 2 of the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Contest was over the weekend. For the challenge we are given writing prompts at midnight and have 48 hours to write a story using 1000 words or less. My Challenge 2 prompts were:
Location: Wildlife Refuge
Object: A Silver Spoon
Attempting to write a thriller pushed me outside my comfort zone, but I like a good challenge, and I gave it my best shot. Here's what I came up with.
They responded to an ad. “Wildlife executive director of Silver Spoon Big Cat Sanctuary to retire. Seeking heir to oversee the preserve. Interested persons should respond at silverspoonsanctuary.com.” Four did.
It was a beautiful day for mid-September, a bright blue sky, warm breeze kind of day. Vik was first to arrive, a large, muscular, athletic looking man in his mid 50s. Lily pulled up right after him. He hauled his oversized backpack out of the Jeep, then turned to assist the slender, 40-something woman. She was intently taking in the scenery, gazing at the surrounding mountains. “Have you ever been out west before?” Vik asked.
“No, I haven’t. I’m eager to see it. I’ve lived in Boston most of my life.”
“What made you decide to come out here for this?”
“I needed a change,” She picked up her bag and walked over to the gate running her hand down the handles in the shape of silver spoons.
You could hear Sal and Mara before you could see them; clearly they liked Phish. They pulled up in a vintage VW Microbus, brightly painted in red and gold, emblazoned with the logo “The Hugos.”
A porter greeted them, “Welcome to Silver Spoon Sanctuary. I will escort you to your cabins. Please bring only your essentials. No weapons are permitted on the grounds.” They were taken to a cluster of three cabins alongside a small lake. “Diana is expecting you at six for dinner at the main house. You will find a map of the grounds in your cabins, there are ATVs in the barn for your use.”
Each took some time to get settled into their cabins. Vik was the first to emerge with a shotgun slung over his shoulder and some binoculars. Lily saw him from her window and met him outside. “What are you doing with that? We were instructed not to bring weapons.”
“It looks like we have a few hours to ourselves before we meet the director. I think I’ll take advantage of the time to do some tracking.” With that he sauntered over to the barn to retrieve an ATV.
Lily stalked after him. “We didn’t come here to hunt and track the animals. I think you should at least wait and meet Diana before exploring the grounds.”
“I’m not sure why you’re here, but I fully intend to make this a hunting and gaming preserve. I am going to get a look at the terrain and get a feel for the place,” retorted Vik.
“She’ll never allow that.”
“Once she’s out of here it’s no longer her call.” Vik sped off on one of the ATVs.
Upon hearing the commotion, Sal and Mara came out of their cabin. “Where’s he off to?” Sal asked.
“He’s a hunter, he wants to get a look at the grounds,” replied Lily disgusted.
“I did a little research on the sanctuary. Diana doesn’t keep it open to the public, except for the occasional fundraiser or educational workshop,” said Mara. “If we get the opportunity, Sal and I would like to open it up as an attraction. Let people come in and meet the animals and interact with them.”
“We traveled with a circus and did an act with trained tigers for several years. I enjoy working with the big cats in particular. Why are you here? What’s your plan?” asked Sal.
“I don’t have a plan.” Lily walked back to her cabin.
It was nearing six and Vik hadn’t come back to the cabins. “I think we should leave without him,” said Mara. Sal and Lily agreed and made their way to dinner.
The main house sat upon a hill overlooking the entire grounds. Behind it a tent with tables and a buffet was set. Diana emerged from the house, her constant companion by her side, a beautiful snow leopard. She slowly made her way to the tent, wearing a flowing light blue tunic that accentuated her gray hair and blue eyes. Woman and cat were a stunning sight to behold. “Hello, I am Diana and this is Gaia.
“She’s beautiful,” cooed Mara. “How did you tame her? I’ve never seen a wild cat so docile.”
“I haven’t tamed her. I don’t believe you can tame a wild animal, and make no mistake she is a wild animal. It appears we are short one.”
“Yes, Vik. He took an ATV out this afternoon and hasn’t made it back yet,” said Sal. A gunshot was heard in the distance, followed by the roars of two lions.
“That would be Athena and Artemis. They do sound hungry,” Diana, sat and stroked Gaia behind the ears.
“You don’t think that’s Vik? Should we go look for him?” asked Mara.
“I believe Athena and Artemis already found him. There is no point. Shall we eat, I’m sure you have some questions.” The stunned guests sat in silence. “Has the cat got your tongues?” Diana laughed. “Ah, Nyx, ever the curious one.” As she spoke a tiger sauntered around the table.
“I’ve worked with tigers in the past, I’ll show you I can train one,” boasted Sal. He got up and began to approach the tiger now seated on her right.
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you.” The tiger pinned its ears back and crouched.
“Sal, stop. Listen to her!” Mara jumped from her chair and rushed to Sal. Nyx pounced.
“Never approach the animal, always let the animal approach you. Never, ever make any sudden moves. Slowly Diana turned toward Lily, “and then there was one. Why are you here?”
Lily kneeled before her, “I’m lost. I have nothing left. I want their beauty, their strength, their courage.”
“What will you give them?”
The panther cub bounded from the shadows, approaching Lily. She licked her face and hands and curled up beside her.
“You have been chosen, name her well.” At that Diana and Gaia stood in unison and walked off into the mountains.
“Hope, I name her Hope.”
I am participating in the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge. I am a newbie to the competition. For the challenge we are given writing prompts at midnight and have 48 hours to write a story using 1000 words or less. My Challenge 1 prompts were:
Genre: Historical Fiction
Location: A Castle
Object: A Thimble
Here's what I came up with. Cheers to all who are participating. Happy Writing!
Isleen arose before dawn and made her way to the sacred circle on her family’s farm. She entered and kneeled to pray to the Pleiades. “Mother Goddess, on this, eve of Beltane, restore the fertility of the earth, bring growth and bounty to our crops, and restore life and vitality to our livestock and families.” She buried an offering of sweet bread, then brushed her hands through the dew-laden grass and washed her face with the cool water. As she was doing so, she faintly heard the sound of chimes, looking around she saw nothing.
Drustan rose as the sky was turning pink. He went to the Druid altar in the castle courtyard and kneeled to pray. “God of the Sun, warm and awaken the Earth. Bring light, life, and prosperity to our community.” He placed an offering of antlers, acorns, and seeds upon the altar. He meditated in silence until the sounds of the cathedral bells signaled the dawn of the day.
A long, arduous winter was finally coming to an end. Sorrow and dismay hung over the village of Ros like a black cloud. Food shortages and malnutrition had taken a toll, as 25 lives were lost to Typhus this winter season. The loss of any member of the community was felt deeply, this loss was devastating.
Today, however, spirits were lighter. As dawn broke there was hope and a promise of rebirth in the air. At the epicenter of the village, Castle Ballyros, home to Lord and Lady Cara was bustling with activity preparing for the evening rituals. The main street passing in front of the castle was being cleaned. On each end of the street an area was being prepared for two bonfires. A maypole was raised in the castle square and tables for a village-wide feast were placed around it.
Maidens gathered in the castle square toiling to string flower garlands of primrose, lilacs, daisies, and marigolds. Their melodic voices and laughter floated in the spring breeze as they worked. “Agh,” Isleen exclaimed as she pricked herself with a needle making a crown of daises and primrose. A drop of blood splashed on the flowers as she drew her finger to her mouth to stop the bleeding. “Be careful Isleen, here use a thimble. If the fairies get a scent of your blood they may whisk you away before Drustan is able to have his way with you,” teased Brie, her closest friend. “Hush, Brie, you shouldn’t speak so.” Suddenly, again she heard bells softly tinkling, “Do you hear that?” “Hear what?” Brie replied. “I thought I heard bells; this morning too.” “I don’t know how you could hear anything over all the noise in the castle square today.” Isleen looked up from her work and glanced around, it was crowded, everyone was busy, “It’s nothing,” she thought to herself. She placed the thimble on her finger and got back to work.
The bachelors of the village were in the surrounding woods collecting the nine sacred woods for the bonfires. One of the young men was playing a flute as the others divided up the work. “I know there’s a stand of Alder trees down by where the river forks, I’ll go gather those branches,” said Drustan. Off he went and soon had a bundle of the wood in his arms. As he bent to pick up one last branch he saw a flicker of white out of the corner of his eye. He stood and looked around but nothing was there.
At dusk, the villagers gathered in the castle square for the Beltane rituals. Lord Cara ignited flame through the rubbing of sticks praying to the sun Gods for a bountiful growing season and lit the bonfires. The bachelors and maidens gathered around the maypole each grasping a ribbon and began their weaving to the tunes of the harp and viola. Drustan held the ribbon over Isleen as she ducked under; they smiled coyly at one another. Baskets adorned with flowers containing the names of the Maypole dancers were presented to Lord and Lady Cara. Lady Cara drew a name, “Drustan Cara, I pronounce thee God of the Sun.” Lord Cara drew a name, “Isleen Byrne, I pronounce thee Goddess of the Earth.” Drustan and Isleen presented themselves before the Lord and Lady for their handfasting. Crowns of flowers were placed upon their heads and their hands were bound with flower garlands. Lord and Lady Cara chanted “May this marriage of Earth and Sun awaken the soil and bring bounty and wealth to our community.” Again, Isleen heard the faint sound of bells. She glanced at Drustan, and the people surrounding them, but no one seemed to indicate they had heard it.
Once the handfasting was complete, the newly crowned God and Goddess invited all to the table and the villagers sat down for a feast. When dinner had ended, Drustan and Isleen rose and signaled for the herds to be walked through the village. The cattle adorned in flowered garlands were paraded around the fires in a figure eight. Having thus been blessed they were lead to pasture for the spring season.
It was now time for the God and Goddess to take their repose into the woods. Isleen and her maidens entered first to decorate the wedding bed. They found a grove of Hawthorn, Ash, and Oak and tied ribbons from the boughs. Isleen settled herself on the mossy ground beneath the trees and waited. Again the bells chimed, louder this time, she glanced behind her and saw a beautiful woman on a white horse. “It’s time for you to join us Isleen.”
As the maidens rushed out of the woods they bid Drustan to enter. In the distance he saw the ribbons flickering in the light breeze and ran to the grove. All that was there was a floral crown with a few specks of dried blood. Isleen was gone.
Cinnia’s last day, she took a long walk along the Cliffs of Mohr. With a warm breeze blowing through her hair she breathed in the salt sea air. There was a lightness to her step and a smile upon her face as she gazed out at the beautiful scene. She found a quiet place to sit for awhile to take it all in one last time. She took out her journal.
I wish I didn’t have to go. This has been such a wonderful journey. The unsettled stress and tension I arrived feeling has been long gone. I hope it stays that way. I feel refreshed and have a youthful zest and energy that I haven’t felt in quite some time. Revisiting old tales and seeing the sites that bestowed their inspiration, have in turn inspired me. Spending time engulfed in such beauty and rich cultural history, I’m curious to unearth the folktales and sites in my own back yard. Places I have taken for granted and overlooked simply because of their familiarity. Perhaps I’ll even take up step dancing! 😉
She got up and started walking again, her foot kicked a small pebble ahead of her. It sparkled when the sunlight caught it. She bent down and picked up the smooth whitish-gray stone and turned it over and over in her hand. Looking out across the sea, she slipped it into her pocket. To remember!
I have learned something about myself on this journey; I’m a xenophile. A happy traveller, I love to learn about the customs, traditions, and folklores of people and countries around the world. My love of literature, mythology, and folktales has infused me with a natural curiosity to know and understand various ways of life. The only thing better than traveling around the world may be to travel back in time and see the ancient sites when they were young and bustling. Since time travel hasn’t yet become a possibility I’ll have to make due with a passport and airfare. So where will my next adventure be, maybe Greece
Cinnia travelled to the Aran Islands for a few days. There she rented a bike and explored the beautiful patchwork of low stone walls and twisting roads. There is no shortage of ancient Celtic sites from standing stones, to churches, to stone forts. The coastline is breathtaking and rugged with high cliffs overlooking the sea. If you can muster enough courage you can wander out to the edge.
She stopped for some time at a seal colony along the shores and watched the seals sunbathing, listening to their barking calls. The young seals antics made her giggle. Not far from the colony she came upon a lake with gorgeous wild swans and a plethora of shore birds.
As my travels through Ireland are nearing the end, one thing that has resonated with me is the vibrancy of the web of life. All things are intertwined. The trees provide shelter, and food, and warmth. The sea provides food and water. The crisp air adds vigor. The ancient sites once upon a time so vigorous, now being reclaimed by nature in elegant beauty. Ocean, mountains, cliffs, lakes, rolling hills – all animals, domestic and wild – Ireland’s compact beauty offers it all up. This has been such an amazing adventure.
Céilis, or social dances, are a part of the Irish culture. As the days warm up it isn’t uncommon for a céilis to be scheduled on weekend evenings. Walking around on a warm evening in Galway, Cinnia happened upon one. Strolling down the street ducking in and out of shops, she heard the sounds of a fiddle and some traditional folk music being played. Following the sound, Cinnia came upon the town center and the crowd that had gathered. A group of about six young girls were the center of attention as they performed traditional step dancing. Cinnia edged her way to the front to get a better view. As she watched, she began to clap in time to the beat of the music with the rest of the onlookers.
Ahh, the verve and vitality of youth! I’m amazed at how quickly they move their feet. There is such a great energy and spirit here. I love this!
The song came to and end and the girls began to disperse into the crowd as the band struck up another tune. The dancers weren’t done however; they pulled people into the center with them. Cinnia happily joined them as they gave a crash course in how to do some basic steps. Laughing Cinnia tried and tried and eventually started to get the hang of it, at a snail's pace at any rate, not nearly as elegantly or swiftly as the girls.
This is hard! I feel like a klutz but it’s so much fun.
As luck would have it, Cinnia’s vacation happened to fall during Beltane or May Day. She got word of a traditional Beltane festival being held in County Limerick. So she decided to head that way to participate.
Beltane is the dawning of the summer season. It is celebrated to purify the land and livestock for a bountiful harvest. Boughs of Hawthorne and primrose are gathered and placed over the threshold of homes to ward off evil spirits. Thorn bushes (May Bushes) are erected and decorated with colorful paper, candles, and painted eggshells.
Cinnia arrived at the town center in time to help with the decorations. She gathered up the boughs of yellow flowers and put together garlands that were placed over the door to the town hall. She then helped with cutting ornaments of colored papers to place on the May Bush. The atmosphere was festive and children were helping out with the decorations as well.
As the sun set, more people arrived, many dressed in period clothing. One of the town officials extinguished the hearth fire in the town hall and swept out the ashes. Two large bonfires were lit on either end of the town square. As the fires got started, musicians began playing the uilleann pipes. Town folk, young and old, began to dance to the mellow, sweet tones of the pipes. Cinnia was urged to join them and happily agreed. Some people even jumped the fires for luck in the coming season. A small herd of cattle walked between the fires to be bathed in the smoke purifying them to ensure they would produce well for the summer. Food was cooked by the fire and shared among the people gathered as they sang and danced to the pipes. A torch lit from the bonfires was used to relight the hearth fire in the town hall. The fires were left to burnout and then the ashes were distributed for scattering on farm plots.
Upbeat, lively, and entertaining, it was a charming way to usher in the summer season.
While driving along a country road Cinnia came across a tree alone in a clearing. She pulled off to take some photos and check it out. It reminded her of the Tree of Life. In Celtic traditions the Tree of Life symbolized the harmony and balance of living. Trees provide shelter, food, medicine, and wood to heat and build homes. When land was cleared there was always one tree left in the center of the clearing. It was this tree where communities would gather for ceremonies, storytelling, and meals.
On the more spiritual side, the Tree of Life is symbolic of the connection of heaven and the underworld with earth. The deep roots of the tree travel down into the underworld. The vast branches extend up into the upper world. This flow from one realm to another allows communication between humans and the gods.
Yet another symbolic theme of the Tree of Life is rebirth. The leaves change and drop in the fall and winter and regenerate and grow again in the spring and summer.
There is something regal about big old trees. They weather the storm and stand the test of time. I love to sit under the shade of a tree with a good book, listening to the birdsong, being squawked at by squirrels, and hearing the gentle rustling of the leaves in the wind. It’s very tranquil and centering.
While walking through one of the cemeteries at Glendalough, Cinnia noticed a plot of shamrocks growing at the base of one of the stone crosses. The shamrock was a sacred plant to the Druids as its three leaves were representative of the triad. It was believed to be a harbinger of spring. The Druids also believed carrying clover would allow you to see evil spirits. While the lore of the shamrock dates back to the Druids, it is more commonly acquainted with St. Patrick who used the shamrock to teach the Holy Trinity.
While most shamrocks are three leaved, the rare four leaved variety is the one most sought after. It is believed to bring luck to the person who finds one. In Irish tradition the leaves of the four leave shamrock stand for faith, hope, love, and luck. Children often believed finding one would allow you t see fairies.
Cinnia turned in a circle three times saying, “I believe, I believe, I believe.” She then squatted at the base of the cross and ran her hand gently through the shamrocks. And there it was – four leaves – she plucked it out of the mass and pressed it between the pages of her journal. “My luck is changing after all.
Once upon a time...
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