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Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year's Eve


Choosing a name for this woman proved to be a problem. I thought of  'Steppin Out' or maybe 'Jalf' or ... . 



Only five months ago, she took another look at herself and decided not to play the hiding game anymore. 
Not to let her life be shaped by others, letting them discard her deepest Soulself as waste. 
She rolled up her sleeves, digging deep into the clay, to become the sculptor of her own life. Rewriting the script that seemed so obvious to the world. 
She stepped out of the garbage bag she had thrown her Self into.

With this inner change came other changes. Some came easily, merrily, others took -and still take-  their toll in trials. 

These changes are not the end of the Journey, they are just the beginning, the check-in. Like she's on the eve of a new life.
That's why I call her EveNew Year's Eve.   

She's the goddess of personal change
Jo

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Maybe you know him...

He's always the last one of the group. 
Sometimes he doesn't even reach the summit.
Where the others laugh and chat, he moans and groans. 
And huffing and puffing he drags along a few suitcases, 
while the others carry only waterbottles and use their camera's.
He seems to be missing a lot of the fun, but he has his moments. 
The moments in which he's the hero, having saved the day. 
These moments are rare, but he will remember and cherish them all.

Maybe you know him? 
His name is Justin Case.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Freedman [5 of 5]


Martin told Julia about his latest vision, while they were waiting at the airport. Julia was pleased to hear that her new grandfather believed her now. The echo at the well really was weird. Now she dared confide in him that she had a dream too... of Ranuld.

Ranuld spends one more night at the tavern , then he rides back to the grange. He picks up his old life. Well almost. He cannot deny that he misses the nights under the stars, the philosophies of Graham and the presence of Gwen, who was always somewhere in the corner of his eyes. The new shepherd is not a soul mate like those two were. So Ranuld spends most of his time around his house, or making rounds at his fields. Once in a while he walks along the Alder, to visit his friend's grave. Like today, two years after he left Gwen at Carlin’s Town. Ranuld's own dog is with him. He knows his master likes to sit at the mount for a while whenever they walk by the stream. He is not supposed to disturb him then, but today it's hard on the dog. He senses that Ranuld's mind is more absent than other times. Instead of running along the bank, the dog lies down next to the freedman, who is staring at the heaped up stones.
He hadn't even buried his friend properly. Had he known that Gwen would escape from being taken to Morgan's castle, he would have stayed to lead the ceremony himself. But he hadn't known. He honestly thought he was doing what would please his friend the most. “Save my Gwen.” He remembers the imploring look in the shepherd's eyes. He had the intention to, had set out to do so. He even was prepared to let the witch treat his old wounds to make it into the castle. And out of it only if Gwen were with him.
And now … he had heard that Gwen was still working for the potter. That she had given birth to a little girl. Her baby must be more than a year old already. Maybe he should pay them a visit. But there was always something to detain him. Ranuld the leysing, you're coward. Maybe he was in this case. He wasn't sure what to expect from seeing Gwen. Not sure of his own reaction. Courageous Gwen, she had always been able to fend for her herself.
Graham's eyes come back to his memory. “Not just save her,” he hears his friend whisper again. “Protect her.... …. ...if you can...” Abruptly Ranuld turns from the grave. His dog jumps up, thinking it a good time to play. They both head for the stream. Close to the edge of the water Ranuld finds a stick. The dog is more than willing to go after it, into the stream. So Ranuld throws it as far as he can. The dog must have lost sight of it, he is looking around in confusion. Finally he grabs an other branch, not to return empty mouthed. It's a stick that is standing up right, close to the bank. The dog has to pull at it before it gives way. With his self chosen trophy he runs up to his master. Here you go, isn't it a beauty?  His whole young body expresses his pride. Ranuld kneels to accept the stick. “Good boy. Now what do we have here?” His surprise reaches a climax at the end of his line. One end of the stick has got small roots, with which it had settled itself in the bottom of the stream, the other side conveys the beginning of the body of a woman. It's the branch that Graham had been working on, that dreadful night. Someone had thrown it into the river, or stuck it into the bottom. And , being willow wood, it had taken it's chance to start anew. A new tree, from such a beautifully carved branch. Ranuld smiles, wondering what kind of tree this would have been, if it weren't for his dog. The dog in the mean time, is whining. He'd love to fetch this stick again. But Ranuld just keeps it to himself.
What had Graham meant, when he said “Protect her. If you can. ” ? Graham must have known Gwen's feeling. And agreed with her theory that he hadn't healed properly... But if this stupid little stick knows how to start all over, why can't he? It'll take time, but it is worth the while. Or not? In the back of Ranuld's head are whispers. Gossip, that Gwen has married the potter. Has she?
From the path following the Alder, the dress maker waves. He is going to visit his brother, who years ago has followed Eve and Morgan. The brother still lives at the castle. But if the dress maker is to go to the castle, he must pass by Carlin’s Town. Ranuld motions with his arm for the man to come over. When they meet, Ranuld gives him the branch. “Please give it to Gwen, just as it is now. Roots and all.”
No message sir?”
Ranuld smiles and shakes his head. He knows she'll understand.

And what happened then?” Martin asked Julia. “Did she return home with the dress maker?” Julia shook her head. “No, she sent him asters and daisies. Telling him that she still loved him and would be patient and wait for him to heal.”
The frequent talks about Gwen and the freed man were starting to bore Howard. He tried to work himself through the gate trying to get a glimpse of his mother. She should be through customs by now. She and Ron, that new dad of him. Martin pulled him back by his collar. The boy would be impulsive enough to really climb through the gate and cross the secluded area. Maybe a distraction would help. So he directed his question at the boy, who was illicitly fighting his way back through the gate “Hey Howard. Why did your mother give such a funny name to her house? Balmead...”
The boy wasn't really interested. “It means ball maid, the maid that keeps the clay wet for the potter.”
Only now Martin realized he had never asked Ron anything about his new daughter-in-law. “What does she do for a living?”
She's an artist. Behind the bushes, back at the rose garden she has her studio. That's how she met Ron. She asked him to pose for her. So she could make his portrait. In clay.”
Martin was stunned, loosened his grip on the boys collar. Julia smiled her dreamy smile. “I think mom and dad are Gwen and Ranuld. And he has finally healed enough to marry her.”
You two are stupid,” Howard yelled, tearing himself loose and worming his way through the gate. “You and Martin must be Gwen and Ranuld. Mom!!” He made a run for his mother, who was not just any ball maid, but a real potter. Ron and Linda hadn't heard his remark, but they did catch Martin and Julia exchanging amused and conspiratory looks. As only kindred spirits can.

The Freedman [4 of 5]


As Ranuld turns from his horse to walk over to the well, he hears something moving among the bushes. He sees no one, it has to be an animal. He continues to walk towards the well. The animal seems to follow him. Just as he leaves the bushes behind him, the creature sneaks up on him. Puts its wet nose against the freedman's palm. Ranuld looks down into the soft brown eyes of Graham's dog. For a moment Ranuld wants to retract his hand in fear. But the dog looks different now. And already has let go of a chance to bite. But if the dog's here? With aroused curiosity Ranuld walks up to the well. There's a young woman, lowering a bucket into the shaft. He could see her on the back only, but recognized her immediately. Here's Gwen, Grahams niece. She's not at Morgan's castle. “Gwen,” he speaks out in surprise. She looks up in amazement. In turning around she reveals stains of clay on the front of her dress. “You are the potter's maid?” She nods. She must have known, the witch, Ranuld thinks. She didn't send him here for Solomon's seal, she send him to meet Gwen.
How are you doing?”
Gwen swallows hard before answering. Then nods. “I'm fine” she says. At least Gwen hadn't changed, starting out with a neutral line. The truth will come later.
How did you get here?”
I managed to flee from the robbers, The dog helped me and brought me here.” The animal in question is sitting at her side. Now that Graham is gone, he has taken her for his new master.
She too had her stay at the witch's house. As she found out she was pregnant, she decided to take care of her child, no matter who the father was. The potter took her in. By working for him, she would earn a place to stay and enough to eat. “Why are you here?” she concludes her monologue. His answers is sweet to her ears, he came to rescue her from the robbers at Morgan's castle.
When she asks him if he would be able to manage that with his scars, he remembers the reason for his trip to the well. “The witch told me she could cure me. I came here for some Solomon's seal for the treatment.” Gwen gets up from the well on which they were now sitting. “I know where to find that.”
Ranuld grabs her by the arm, holds her back.
No need Gwen. You are here. I don't have to go to the castle.” Gwen freezes. “Do you mean to say that you would rather stay sick?”
Ranuld doesn't see it as being sick, now that he knows that Graham's niece is safe. “You can ride home with me. Unless you want to stay with the potter.”
The potter is a good man, but not the type Gwendolyn wants to spend the rest of her life with. “What would I do, once I'm back at Lhamb's Grange? ”
Ranuld shrugs. What a question. “Live your life of course. You may take over your uncles flock, with someone assisting you. Or you may stay over at the grange. There's enough to do, especially since I'll be at home more often.” The thought of being out herding sheep without his friend Graham doesn't appeal to Ranuld.
Gwen shakes her head. “No, if that's the alternative, I might as well stay here.” To add strength to her words, she gets up and continues hauling water from the well. Ranuld still sits on its edge/wall (?) staring at the ground. This situation doesn't feel right. He should be glad to have found Gwen and be able to take home. Or leave her here, knowing that she'll be able to cope with her new life. She ended up in a good community, that has accepted her fairly well... He might even travel to Carlin’s Town now and again, to check up on her at times. But there's something dissatisfying. It's Gwen's air. She's angry somehow. Maybe if he gives her time to get over her surprise? “What if I leave now, so you can do your work for the potter. And then I'll meet you here, tonight?” She hardly bothers looking at him. Just mumbles that that would be alright. She fills her last jug, pours the remainder in a stone mug and hands it to Ranuld.
He isn't thirsty, just takes a few sips to oblige her. “Do you want me to carry these for you?” He points at the jugs. They must be heavy. But then... Gwen had always been a strong woman.
It looks as if she's going to accept, says no on second thought.
Right now all she wants is to create a safe distance, so she can tend to her wounds. She greets him curtly and hardly responds to his “will see you tonight then”.

She arrives late that evening. It has given Ranuld time to think. The outcome of it makes him nervous. He has overlooked something, obviously, during the nights he spent with Graham and his niece. Or is he seeing things? As he sees her coming, her hair braided and with clean clothes -where did she get them, she's been here so shortly- he knows for sure. He had overlooked something in the past, but isn't mistaking right now.

She sees him sitting on the edge of the well. So close and yet so out of reach. She would like to run to him, and feels she has to stop here, before any harm will be done. But she has kept quiet before and it has done her no good.
She walks on towards the well. Ranuld gets up, not quite sure of himself after his conclusion about her feelings for him. Things were easier down in the fields, with Graham, as number three, making a crowd.
Neither of them feels like making small talk. But being straight is hard . There is a prolonged silence in which they look at each other with 'new eyes'.
Have you decided on riding home with me?” Ranuld breaks the silence.
Gwen shakes her head. “It all depends,” she says, “on what you decide.”
-“What I decide?”
- “Yes. Will you be going to the witch or not?”
Ranuld turns away from her. She is touching something that is his own, all his own, “I have told you my decision. I don't need her treatment, so I won't have it.”
Desperation creeps over Gwen's face. “Why hang on to something that hinders you?”
-”The scars don't hinder me. I have learned to live with them. Live well with them.”
-”They don't hinder you as long as you stay calm. When deeper passions come by, you have to forfeit them.” That is true. She heard him mention it to Graham often enough.
- “But I don't mind that. My choice is to live that quiet life.”
Gwen looks at him sharply now. Is that what it is? Or is she, and he, overlooking something? “You can live that same quiet life without these marks.” She's throwing in the gauntlet. Ranuld says nothing. So she makes another move “Without the scars, you might have been a better fighter that evening.” This is a very painful accusation, but she can't let things go by anymore. It's all or nothing now.
At that time we all took it for granted that nothing could be done about my condition. There was no choice. And even so, what right do you have, to deny me my right to decide about my own life?” He straightens himself. He definitely took up the gauntlet after her last remark.
Was he right? Gwen starts to doubt. But no, she feels deep inside, that he is making a mistake somewhere. She mustn't give in. Not now. “It's my duty as a friend to point out to you that maybe you are making a mistake.”
Well, thanks for the service. I've heard your opinion, but I won't change my mind.”
Why not?” He's glib, she thinks, he's slipping away from the argument. He's … she hits on what she was looking for. He is afraid.
Ranuld replies “Because my life is good, the way it is. Why take unnecessary risks?”
Gwen's eyes narrow. “No sir.” she laughs mockingly. “You are afraid. The scars don't need to teach how to live your life. You know that by now. No, those scars will stop you from making a mistake. The mistake of ever giving your life to another woman and end up being hurt again. That's why you want to hang on to them.”
Ranuld casts his eyes down, taking in her viewpoint. Gwen just fills the silence. “Friendship fine, but no more than that for you, right?”
When he looks up at Gwen his eyes are hurt and insecure. But angry also. “Even if it were true, you don't have the right to push me. And why do you push me?” He steps up close to her, to confront her with his argument. “Can't you believe that a life without that kind of relationship can be good too? Can't you respect someone else's wishes? Or are you just afraid to be left behind on the shelf?”
Ranuld only wants to strike back with words. But he has hit a painful sore in Gwen's life. She is afraid... Her flushed face grows pale.
Is that the only fulfillment in your life?” He's caught in a drift now “And if you wanted me for it, why didn't you say so before? Did I have to guess? Because I'm the man? Well sorry for not guessing right.”
This really hurts, Gwen is thinking. But she also tells herself that she asked for it. She started the confrontation. Now it is time to finish it.
No, because I was sure you would say no.” Gwen remembers the times when keeping quiet were real hard. And when perfect moments slipped by unused.
Then why let me in on your secret now?” His voice is calmer now.
Gwen looks away. “I thought at the time that pushing you would stop you from healing. But since this afternoon I know it won't.”
Have you ever considered loving me as I am?”
What do you think I have been doing all that time?” Is he suggesting to continue this painful, one sided relationship? She's on the verge of crying.
Ranuld shakes his head, lays a hand on her shoulder. As he says “No, you didn't, you were hoping for me to change” she shakes it off and steps aside. “I'd better go.”
He tries to stop her, telling her not to run off now.
I see no sense in staying. We're only hurting each other.”
No, Gwen. You are hurting you. You have eye for only one thing now. But those feelings wash out.” Ranuld hopes he can talk sense to her. “And I don't want to loose you. Our friendship is to good to be wasted because of a silly infatuation.”
Gwen is confused. She feels she has made a fool of herself. And that he is treating her like a child.
Before she runs off, she faces him one more time. “Ranuld the leysing, you're a coward.”


The Freedman [3 of 5]


While the photos were developed they laid in some stock at the groceries, butcher and the tiny supermarket. The photos turned out to be real fine. They had a bit of quarrel picking out the best to have enlarged for the returning bride and bridegroom. But in the end they came to an agreement. The summer, and tourist season, being over, the shop owner promised to have the enlargement finished that same afternoon as well. If they would just go out for lunch and some more shopping, he'd have the photo ready and framed at the end of the afternoon.
The best place to lunch was at the 'town square' . A picturesque square full of pubs, two lunchrooms and shops for the tourists that flooded the village during spring and summer. All built around a large and ancient yew tree.
Julia pointed out a shop just around the corner, located in one of the oldest houses of Carlington. It was barely visible because of the old Yew. The foundation of the house was laid in the middle ages, Julia informed her new grandfather. It was a herbal shop and Julia suggested they'd buy some lavender and other nice smelling herbs for her mother there. Her mother decorated the house that way herself from time to time. From Howard's bored look, Martin judged that his new daughter-in-law must have frequented the little store accompanied by her children. “Alright,” he said, “I'll pay the bill and then we'll go there.” Julia looked pleased, ignoring the vengeful looks her brother castes her.
The shop would do as nicely in a dolls house magazine as his daughter-in-laws cottage, Martin concluded as they stood in front of it. “Doesn't it look enchanting?” The budding woman in Julia has made room for an excited little girl. And the face that Howard pulled did not convey the boys age either. Martin laughed. They were not even inside yet, and the children had already mysteriously changed. Julia opened the door and stepped in first. Martin gestured for Howard to follow. Otherwise the boy might plan to stay outside. With both his protegees inside, Martin crossed the threshold. The smell of herbs was strong, it made his nose itch. With difficulty he managed to recognize the individual character of the herbs. There was lavender, thyme and something soft and sweet. “Can you smell the irises too?” Julia smiled at her grandfather, glad to be sharing her secret with him.

Ranuld barely takes in what's happening. The only thing that enters his fogged spirit is the smell of herbs. He sinks into a deep black hole. Only the blunt smell of Caraway, enlightened by the sweetness of irises stand out in his memory afterward.
Slowly -after how many days?- does Ranuld become aware of woman, moving closer, caring, moving out. She's an elderly woman, smelling after the herbs she applies on his arm and in the brews she gives him to drink. And then some. Some of the herb smells are pleasant, speeding up Ranuld's regain of interest in life. The more he comes to himself, the longer she stays with him to talk. Inevitably the fateful night and Ranuld's quest to rescue Gwen turn up. “But at Morgan's Castle, you will be strained. Physically and emotionally. Aren't you afraid that your scars will hamper you.? Again.”
Ranuld looks straight and open into the eyes of the witch;  just another word for 'woman with wit', good sense. Ranuld knows that. 
He owes his friends the freedom of Gwendolyn. The victory over Morgan and his men. It is only for Graham, that he is prepared to give up his scars, his teachers that helped him fill his life with kindness towards strangers and love for his friends.
Ranuld sighs deeply, slowly. “Can you heal the scars?” The woman nods. She can remove them and make him heal without any scars this time. All he needs to do, is get strong enough to get on his feet again, moving around through the village.
Now that Ranuld has made up his mind, he doesn't want to postpone the treatment. He works himself out of his bed and concentrates on regaining his strength. He will need it to undergo the treatment.

Satisfied the witch nods to Ranuld when he is bringing in a bundle of branches for her cooking fire.
It is time. I have the lemon balm and yarrow here. But I need a poultice of Solomon Seal to make sure the scars won't return after I cut them out.” Ranuld listens, taking his orders.
If you walk over to the well, near the clay pits, and wait for the maid that assists the potter, she'll help you to Solomon Seal. Perhaps she calls it Lady's Seal. It's the same thing.”
The clay pits are several miles outside the village. Ranuld has to ride his horse there. Seeing no one at the well he takes his time to rest his horse and ties him to a tree, a little away from the well.

In the living room of Balmead, Howard was lying on the floor, driving around his cars, making the sounds that all parents of young boys are familiar with. In the kitchen Martin prepared dinner. It was to be something that both children like, since it would be their last diner as a threesome. Tomorrow Ron and his new bride would join them.
Julia sat at the kitchen table, watching every move of her new grandfather. Martin has slowly gotten accustomed to her being his shadow. He might even miss it, back at the grange next Monday.
So this place is haunted, you say?” Martin tried not to sound amused.
Julia nods in earnest. “My new dad says so too.” Ron, hmm? Funny how much this girl took after his son. “What does your mother say about it?”
She only shrugs.” Julia imitated the movement. “She doesn't want tot talk about it.”
Well, I'm not convinced. Maybe you can give me an example.” He had to watch his pans, so he listened to Julia now with his back turned to her. But from the tone, he could imagine the serious look on the girl's face. Maybe her mother was right, not to indulge too much into the child's fantasy.
After you had made the photo at the well...” Julia paused, To check if Martin was really listening to her. After his “Go on” she continued. “I wanted to stay at the well to play. But Howard hung around just to tease me.”
He does that a lot, doesn't he?”
Yes, always. Anyway, he started to chase me, to pull my hair, but he slipped and fell.”
And? Did you help him?”
An indignant reply came. “Of course not, he shouldn't have tried pulling my hair. I yelled at him << That must be a lesson to you Howard>>”
Martin turned around to see what a vengeful Julia would look like. He saw nothing of it, her eyes were just big with fascination. “The well echoed, but it was not the echo of what I said.”
What did it say?” Martin was getting concerned.
It replied << Ranuld the leysing, you're a coward>>.”
Too much grange stories, Martin concluded and promised himself not to tell her anymore of it. He thought he had finished the matter for himself with this straightforward intention, but not so.
When the children were in bed, he found himself hanging around in the kitchen, looking into the garden. Would he go to the well, or not? Silly, to be curious after such an obvious child's fantasy. But the feeling didn't let off. There was no other way to get rid of it, than to give in to it. He stepped into the garden and followed the meandering path. He walked softly, not willing to wake up the children, who slept at the back of the house, their windows open. After all, it was a beautiful autumn night.
As he got near to the rose garden, he could hear a woman humming. He tiptoed the last part of the path. Who had the nerves to sit in someone else's garden?
Martin planned to speak up to the intruder, but his words wouldn't come out. There was a woman sitting beside the well, stroking and smelling the irises that had made their way to this part of the garden. She was not built frail, but there was an air of fragility about her. Was it the pale yellow dress? Her smooth white skin? The unbound curls, falling over her shoulder, hiding her face?
Martin kept looking at her. Was she a ghost? He tried to shake off the idea, Julia had started to bewitch him.
The woman had felt his gaze. She looked up, in amazement. In turning around she revealed stains of clay on the front of her dress. For a moment it seemed she wanted to walk towards Martin, touch his face with her outstretched hand. Then in a flash she changed her mind, fled from the garden, past the gate, away into the bushes.
Hey lady. Please, wait” Martin tried going after her, but didn't know his way around in the darkness. He stopped just at the path through the bushes. Looking back he could see footprints in spite of the darkness. They were his. Had he wiped out hers? He looked in front of him again. No footprints, even though he was sure she had taken this narrow path through the bushes. He hung around, checking for pieces of cloth or strands of hair, caught up on the branches. Nothing. She had vanished, literally
without a trace. And he wanted to see her again. Her face, it was so familiar to him. He just couldn't put his finger on it. The vision lingered on his mind for the rest of the evening. Staring into the fire, once inside the house, didn't help. It made it worse, It was as if the atmosphere of the entire house had changed. It was anticipation, not joyful anticipation but one with fear, fear of being bereft and being left lonely. Martin couldn't sleep and went outside again, to take another look at the well.
He had put on a sweater and with that, he didn't feel cold. He sat down on the bench in the rose garden and thought about tonight's vision, about what Julia had told him. About what he had seen in the fire light, about ….

The Freedman [2 of 5]


Balmead turned out to be a small cottage. The front yard added to the doll's house impression it made on Martin. Was his son going to live here, forfeiting the free space all around the grange? The older man shook his head. Doubting the sanity of his son even more. Once inside he had to change his mind, however. The rooms were furnished with good taste and modesty, leaving more space than Martin expected. And the garden at the back... such a beauty. A tiny terrace surrounded by some late blooming bleeding hearts, a small meandering path, bordered by harebells -campanulas-. Along the path, cut off by the border, was a beautifully kept garden, with rock beds and flower patches. Asters, anemones and irises mostly. The path lead to a small wild rose garden, complete with bench and pergola. There was a gate in the wall surrounding the garden. It was still in use for it wasn't overgrown. Behind it, Martin could only see bushes. A pattern  pointed out that there was a path from the gate through the bushes to... the older man was not about to explore it yet.
A little bit off center in the rose garden was an old well. The children, in Martins wake, started chasing each other around it. A picture dawned in Martins mind. What if he were to make a photo of them, at the well? A 'blow up' of the children would be a nice welcome home present. In the village center he had seen one of those newfangled photo stores that develop photos in just one hour. They could go there tomorrow. In the mean time they could do some shopping to replenish the stock. But now it was time for the three of them to get settled and have dinner.

Martin had secretly hoped that the children would go to bed by themselves. Like they had done at the grange. But being back on their own territory, they immediately unpacked their old habits, loitering and squabbling. So upstairs he went, with a dramatic sigh.
He managed to distract them from their quarrel by promising them they could each ask one more question, as soon as they were in bed, being tucked in by him. The idea appealed to them. They didn't want to waste time any more, concentrated on what would be important enough to be their last question of today.
Howard wanted to know what they would be doing the next day. Julia had a different question.
Granddad, can you tell me more about Ranuld of Leysinghowe. And of Graham's niece?”
' Granddad' shook his had. Sat down on the edge of the girl's bed anyway. “I don't know much, And what I do know, may not be to your liking. Maybe you'd better make up a story about them by yourself.”
That was not Julia's way. Especially now she knew that things weren't good, she didn't want to shirk the truth. Better to know all there was to know, than be left in the twilight, where darkness may not seem so dark, but where the shadows are larger and make such exaggerated movements.
All I know is that Ranuld, Graham and Gwen were together when a group of robbers tried to steal part of the flock. Gwen fought as hard as she could, like the men. But she was captured and taken along with the stolen sheep.” Martin looked at the girl. Did she really want to hear this? Wasn't a beautiful fancy better fitting this romantic girl?
I heard the shepherd died after the fight and Ranuld left the grange for a while to look for Gwen. Or maybe he just went away to mourn the loss of his friend. Nobody knows exactly.”
I'd like to know if he ever married Gwen, granddad. Is there no one who can tell me?”
Martin shook his head again.
But... my new dad, and you, are called Lessing. That comes from Leysing., doesn't it? So Ranuld must have had children.” Julia was not about to give up her dream.
Missie, Ranuld could have married someone else. Or some other inhabitants of the Leysing Hill may have taken the name Lessing. It wasn't for centuries yet that last names were chosen.”
A tightening at the corners of the girl's mouth showed she was not willing to accept Martin' s explanations. She turned her back to him and closed her eyes. Maybe it was better to think of the outcome all by herself.
Martin tucked in the blankets around her. He did not yet dare to kiss his new -and only- granddaughter, so he left her room after a whispered 'goodnight' .
Downstairs he poured himself a drink and got settled in an easy chair. He had lit a fire in the fireplace to chase out the damp atmosphere that had taken over during the absence of the lady of the house. The heat was making him feel a bit drowsy. Glass in hand he stared into the flames. The fire hissing, spitting up sparkles like a starlit night. Around it are Graham, Gwen and Ranuld, camping out at the bank of a respectable stream, the Alder. Graham is cutting out a tall, thin figure from a branch of willow wood. A woman's body as far as Ranuld can judge from the work so far. He and Gwen watch the shepherd's hands working in concert, feeling what there is already and cutting away more of the wood. Meanwhile their conversation flows from matters of the grange, the flock and of their souls in a kaleidoscopic mixture. The shepherd's dog is closing the circle. He watches the flames, while his ears scan the area for anything out of the ordinary. Ranuld leans on one elbow, turning his eyes to the sky now. He praises himself more than lucky . The Lhamb's Grange and its small faithful 'clan' of followers. The nights out here with his friends, full of peace and wisdom. He has all he needs. Gwen watches the wave of deep content move over his face. An indescribable impatience creeps up inside, prompts her to leave the circle. Under the pretense of  inspecting the ewe that has trouble feeding her newborn.
Suddenly the dog pricks up his ears. The footsteps he hears are not Gwen's. The dog jumps up, barking and growling. Ranuld and Graham follow him on cue, the shepherd tossing aside his woodcarving.
Now they can hear some sheep bleating in protest. And muffled men's voices, first in a hurry, then surprised.
Surprised to see themselves confronted by such a young buck, who doesn't even need a shave. The young buck throws himself on one of the men, who is handling one of the sheep the robbers came to steal. The man fights back, discovering that his opponent is but a young woman. He calls out to his friends and they immediately change plans. Gwen is to be the main part of their loot.
Graham and Ranuld cut in, an extended battle is the result.
The four comrades are not able to stop the robbers. They take off, taking Gwen with them and leaving behind a badly wounded Graham. Ranuld tries to go after the robbers, but it's useless. With his condition, he is no opponent the robbers should reckon with. He stumbles over to his friend, gritting his teeth to ignore the pain from his old scars.
Graham is breathing audibly and with difficulty. His lungs filling with blood. The dog is lying along side of him, forlornly watching his master suffer. The wounded man's friend, the freedman, helps him to sit up to ease the discomfort. “Save my Gwen” Graham's eyes plead with all the power that is left in him. Ranuld's eyes fill up with tears. His throat is so tight, he can only nod. He'd do everything for his friend, who saved his life years ago. Why oh why can't he save his life in return, right now? “Not just save her,” he hears his friend whisper. The eyes begging him even more. “Protect her.... …. ...if you can...”
With that last remark the eyes of Graham change. They become as caring and worried as they had been when the shepherd had tended for him, Ranuld. It's the last exchange of the love that had grown between the two friends. Because love has many forms. It is not limited to what most people call love, that complicated and sometimes frustrating attraction between people that makes their body cry out with greed, silencing the sounds of their souls.
Graham's breathing stops, his body is limp. Nothing that responds to his friends protests. For Ranuld tries to hold on more tightly to the body, as if it would keep that sacred life inside it. He moans and shakes his head in denial. His grief is so deep that his scars hurt even more than they did during his fight to try to save Gwen and Graham.
For a little while Ranuld sits with the lifeless body in his arms. But he has to let go, he has made a promise to his friend. And not only does he owe it to Graham, he owes it to Gwen as well. She is just as good a soul mate of him as her uncle.
As he drags the body of his friend to where the shepherd's last resting place should be, close to the bank of the Alder, the dog follows him. Head lowered, tail between his legs. Suddenly the dog lashes out at Ranuld, bites him in the arm and runs off. Disappearing into the bushes.
After he has put the body in the right place for the burial, to be done by the people of Lhamb's Grange,
he ties up the wound with a piece of cloth of his own shirt. It's time to return to the grange. To send his people over here and to look for Gwen by himself.

Once Martin has his mind made up, he sticks to it. So the photo of both Julia and Howard at the well was taken that morning. Since there was not a lot to do in the tidy cottage, Martin left the two to play and went back in alone to make a little shopping list. After that he called the children and they set off to the photo store that 'granddad' had seen at the center of Carlington. The children started to discuss the home coming of their mother, leaving out their comments on the new father, seeing that his father was now driving the car... Martin let them talk and looked ahead, his eyes on the road. One hand on the wheel. The other one he rested, there was such strange pain in it. He had probably sprained the muscle more than he first suspected this morning. While chopping some new logs for the fireplace In the back of his mind, it was as if a film was started. The man reappeared, the man he had seen in his dream last night, when he had dosed off so close to the fireplace.

At the grange Ranuld picks up the news that a band of robber barons has been spotted in the area, on their way to their kin, Sir Morgan of Whittingdale.
The same Morgan that had taken Ranuld's wife, Eve, for his bride. It strikes Ranuld as a cynical jest that for a second time he loses a companion to the same family. But this time he will go to Morgan's castle and free his friend. After all, she hadn't taken off out of her own free will. She had fought against it with all her might. Hadn't it been for his limited power, due to his scars, Ranuld might have even prevented her kidnap. It has been a long time since he had resented the hurt that Eve had caused him.
A different pain, however is slowly taking over. His arm, with the dog's bite, throbs and burns. By and by the burning spreads through his entire body, it even seems to affect his thinking. It's because of his strong will power, that Ranuld manages to reach a small village, on the road to Morgan's castle. His arrival did not go by unnoticed. As he reaches the tavern, the owner walks out to meet him. On seeing Ranuld's condition, he orders the stable boy to help him. Together they carry Ranuld down the road, to a small house, hidden behind three large yew trees.

The Freedman [1 of 5]


Granddad, what are you staring at? We've got to go.” The ten year old budding woman brought her new grandfather back to real life again. With a shiver the older man turned his back to the farmhouse. He had seen a fire, as soon as he started to lock the door. A huge devastating fire ruining his house and much of the surrounding buildings.
Nonsense. He had checked everything before he left. And there would be personnel around during his brief absence. The house would still be there when he'd come home from Balmead.

Balmead, the name of the house of Martin's new daughter-in-law. Mother of the ten year young woman and an eight year old prankster who never got bored of teasing his sister.
And now their mother had married his son. The day after tomorrow they'd return from their honeymoon and his son would move in at Balmead. Leaving empty the apartment at Lhamgrange. Martin had offered to keep the apartment ready for Ron and his new family, for visits. But his son had found a tenant. “The grange is not really a profitable place, dad. Can't let an opportunity for an extra income slip by.”

So now his son was married to a woman twelve years older than he -Ron- was himself. Launching himself elbow deep into fatherhood at the same time. The older man silently wondered why his son had made this choice. The latter had already made it clear that he wouldn't stand any comment on that matter.

Granddad, what were you thinking of?” While opening the door of his car for the girl, he loosely mentioned his 'vision'. “Just a silly thought. I have thoroughly checked everything,” he concluded. With a caring look the girl's eyes roamed the grounds and the buildings of the grange. “It's not really going to burn down, please Granddad?”
As the old man shook his head reassuringly, the girl slid into the car. The younger boy seemed to have appeared out of nowhere. Seated himself next to his sister. He had clearly overheard her last question, because as soon as his grandfather took his place behind the wheel, the boy blurted out that the grange was in no way safe from burning down. “It happened before. The stable master told me so.” Via the mirror, Martin frowned at the boy. “That was centuries ago. Besides, that was arson.” As if arson was not subject to repetition.


He's riding home alone, his men already having left the day before. The duke had detained only him. What for? He had been waiting all day, only to answer some trivial questions and perform an almost menial task. The senseless waste of time away from home frustrated Ranuld. His heart belongs to his homeland, Leysinghowe. And to the people who depend on him, a mixture of freedmen and serfs, who rather serve him than the duke. And not in the least does his heart belong to his spouse.
Ranuld feels restless, urges on his horse. At least one can travel faster when alone. The road is familiar, so he continues his journey after the sun has set. He will sleep in his own bed tonight, his consort locked in his arms. Even before Ranuld and his horse reach the top of the last hill to cross, the moonlight is no longer their sole companion. There is a familiar, harsh yellow glow glaring up from the hill beyond the valley. The hill of the freedman, leysing's howe.
Fire! Ranuld's heart starts to race, his muscles tighten. The horse bucks, too familiar with fire already, but Ranuld regains control. Now they are galloping down the hill, and across the valley. Moving in on the file of people leaving the village. His people, the men, women and children. With a shock Ranuld realizes that there is no struggle. Most seem to leave voluntarily.
There is some uproar, further away, from men -soldiers- he doesn't know. They carry torches, laughing they move towards two horsemen who stay at the back, as if trying to go by unseen. To no avail. One of the riders is a tall broad shouldered man, no mistake. The other is lean and slim. Fragile as a woman.
Ranuld rides in on them, making sure they will not pass by him without a confrontation.
The large hood does not hide the woman's mouth. Ranuld recognizes the narrow shapely curves at once. Eve, his spouse. Is she riding along with this stranger out of her own free will? Her lips tighten in fear, but not before she has seen Ranuld, heading them off.
Ranuld now veers toward the masculine rider. His posture suddenly becomes familiar. One of the duke's guests. He had left with a handful of men, the day after Ranuld arrived.
On seeing the true husband of his new 'bride', the large knight pulls his sword. He's not impressed by Ranuld's physical appearance. It's the calm decisiveness in the eyes of the betrayed landowner that upsets him. The clatter of swords, the whinnying of the horses pierce through the rumble and crackles of the fires. The unfaithful people halt and turn. As if frozen, they gaze at the two men, who continue their duel dismounted from their horses. As their fight draws on, the third rider, Ranuld's lady, slides down from her horse and approaches the rivals. As the large man pushes the leaner one from him, she steps in. Her uplifted arms go down with force. In her hands a dagger, shimmering golden in the firelight. A moment later the landowner doubles up and sinks to the ground. The two conspirators stare at the still form in dismay. Only for a moment, then they remount their horses and press the bystanders to move on. What use is it, staying at a burned down village that has lost it's proprietor?

When he had finished telling the tale to his grandson, Martin mentally shook off the haunted feeling the history gave him. Through his mirror he looked his granddaughter in the eye. She clearly liked the story as little as he did. She didn't speak, but her eyes begged him to please put a plaster on the wound. So Martin went on.

Graham, Leysinghowe's shepherd, has seen the glow of the fires against the black sky. He has rushed to the village, to find his deserted master lying unconsciously between the burning houses. Hurt badly but alive.
Graham carries him to a remote house that has been overlooked by the arsonists. There he takes care of the wound and nurses his friend those first nights, while his life hangs on a thread only. By then a few of the village's people have returned and they take over the care of the betrayed freedman.
Ranuld doesn't want the large farmhouse restored. So a new modest house is rising on the foundation of the old one. Neither does the village regain its previous glory. It becomes a remote farmstead, a grange. When the owner is at home, worn out travelers are welcomed, fed and rested. But often the house is dark and deserted, because of Ranuld spending time with Graham the shepherd. The flock, under the watchful eye of two dedicated friends, prospers and the grange becomes known as the Lhamb's Grange. The talks of the two men help Ranuld heal and overcome most of his pain. There is just that big scar, where the dagger has pierced his chest and scathed his heart. Ranuld learns that it won't hinder him, as long as he refrains from extreme exercise and deep emotions. On the quiet nights with his sheep herding friend, who is now accompanied by his niece, Gwen, he forgets his mark entirely.

Julia looked relieved. She couldn't bear the idea of the kindhearted landowner not surviving the attack -the betrayal- of his wife. She wasn't after the roughness and kicks like Howard, her younger brother. She is, as Ron informed his father, a hopeless romantic. A bit like Ron then. The old man kept the thought to himself.
Howard wasn't entirely insensitive to romance either. He wanted to know all the details of life in medieval times. Focusing on warfare. He fired off questions at his grandfather at a steady pace. Julia's eyes swerved across the horizon, while she dreamed and thus answered all her questions herself.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

How to treat a lady


Giving shape to your life can be compared to working with clay.
There are those who think it's just about adding new layers.
But it's not always like that.
At times you must cut things away, with instruments as sharp as chisels and gouges.
Painful, but the only way to get the desired result.

Here's what the gouge and a chisel did to my little lady.
I prefer her without the toddler leash.
This wasn't meant to be a metaphore, 
but I'm afraid that's what it is too ...




Before









After











Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Visitor

to a certain somebody




He came by yesterday. Now that she didn’t have to care for her mother anymore, part of her brain was unoccupied. The part that picked up the soft unobtrusive sounds that every house has. That side of her heard his knock on the door and –as in a reflex- let him in.
With a friendly smile he entered her room and made himself comfortable. She vaguely thought she recognized his face and he exuded an air of familiarity with her, so she made him coffee.
“Do you take cream and sugar?” she asked him.
“I’ll have both,” he replied. He spilled powdered cream on the floor. He stirred his coffee so erratically that the drops landed on the table, where they mixed with the sugar crystals that had fallen next to his mug.
While her PC was starting up, she turned to get her coffee from the dinner table. She wasn’t sure… did he retract his hand from her mug? Had he put sugar in her coffee? His smile was open and warm. Instead of asking him, she probed her coffee with a spoon. No milk no sugar, the coffee was just fine. She took it with her to the desk with the computer. “You’ll have to excuse me, “ she said, “there is something I must write down, before I forget. ” He nodded understandingly.
She wrote her lines, tasted them by reading them over again. It felt fine. The right amount of sweetness and bitterness combined. She sipped her coffee. Strange, it tasted a bit drab. Annoyed she looked at her story again. What had she been thinking of, when she wrote it? It wasn’t all that good. She closed the program without saving the new lines.
Her uninvited guest had opened a small suitcase. From it he withdrew a little standard and some sticks of  incense. “You don’t mind, do you?”
“No, no” she didn’t dare forbid him. Besides, in the past she used incense herself now and then. She opened her mail application. To see if a certain someone had dropped a line to her. A little life line.
“When did you get his last mail?” The voice of the visitor was so close, it seemed to come from within. So she wasn’t surprised at his knowing what she was looking for. “That was yesterday afternoon.” She answered casually.
“Oh, that’s over 24 hours already,” the visitor pulled up his eyebrows questioningly. Then , with an innocent  face, he lit the incense. “That’s not his habit, is it?”
She got a little irritated, but had to admit her guest was right. It wasn’t his habit.
“Well, of course at some point email is a little limited. Boring maybe. Some people get at that point sooner than others.”
She felt her mood sinking several degrees at that last remark. Because it reflected her feelings exactly.
"Come. Smell the incense. It'll cheer you up." The visitor invited her over to her own dinner table. She inhaled a little deeper than usual. Couldn't really make out the scent. The smoke of the incense was no good either. It was thick and spread through the room evenly, making everything look more grey.Good incense sends its smoke up in bursts of curls, twirling and spinning, bending and stretching, like a group of acrobats and ballet dancers. Making smooth turns like the well chosen words in some of her stories.
Was it really that good, her writing? Wasn't she just being childishly uncritical about her own work? What about her latest 'sequel'? The struggle she went through and her main characters still tiptoed around each other, stiff as garden rakes. She had really overestimated herself when she started that tale. When, when would she ever learn to see her impotence sharply and come down from her cloudy horse? She walked over to her computer. Selected all her stories in the directory. Her finger went over to the delete button. Just then she heard the locks of her guest's suitcase snap shut.
"I'd better leave now. Don't want to keep you from throwing away the rubbish in your life."  He tucked the suitcase under his arm and went for the door. There he turned around one more time.  "And I would stop being so 'honest' and open  if I were you. It makes you a bit of a ... woman with low standards, you see. That will turn away everybody."  His eyes weren't friendly. They were cold as steel.
Her finger didn't touch the provocative button. She needed her hand to support her head as she sank down on the chair behind her desk. Since she was alone, she might as well have a cry now. Through her tears she saw the mess the man had left behind.  Sticky coffee stains mixed with incense ash on her table. The box of the incense on the floor, in the midst of the powdered cream. She picked up the package with two fingers only. Her eyes caught the name of the fragrance he'd used:  "Ingratitude".
With a shock she remembered him. They did know each other well. He was mister Doubt. Just dropping by to make her an uncertain somebody.

Jo.    




Saturday, December 17, 2011

Clairvoyance

Maybe I have a very slight telepathic inclination...  but this morning I've discovered that I can even predict the future!

On Saturday October 22 I posted part one of a story, the sequel of Haesito in Medio:   Journey with Unknown Destination . This time I didn't get stuck in the middle, I got stuck at the beginning, haesito in ovo.
I have the tendency to put certain things off: from getting up to doing chores. When I even think about them, I get a weird sensation...  The story I started in October was to help me find out why I have this tendency and how I can get rid of it. I  Introduced a young dog, not properly house trained, to make sure that the main character would be forced to get up and act... but I never wrote down the scene.  Like a nasty chore it just hung around in my head, making no headway at all.
Little did I know... when two weeks ago my son bought a kitten, a young 'persian prince' called Diego...

I decided to 'sleep in' this morning  -sorry, yesterday morning we just passed midnight-.  A decision my pets didn't appreciate. In protest the degus starting throwing the sawdust out of their cages. And the walking furball, beg pardon, the persian prince,  dragged the spillings all over my room -a bedsitter- . If that were all. When the royal highness walked over my face I noticed he smelled bad and his feet were dirty with something that makes you lose your appetite for breakfast. So I cast a glance over the edge of my bed ....  oh no... the prince had scooped some of the crown jewels out of the litter box.  I still wonder how he did that.
Just as I had imagened for my story, the leading actress just had to get up and DO something. Roll up her sleeves, after getting dressed of course, her nighty has no sleeves that can be rolled up-  grit her teeth and start working her way out of the sh.. Literally and  as always it worked figuratively as well. Because the work actually did her a lot of good. When she was finally hosing down the litterbox under the shower, her rotten mood  vanished. Down the drain with the rest of the muck.


Thank you Your Highness, for messing up so much.  I shouldn't have chosen a puppy for my story, but a kitten. 
While I wrtie this, the prince is paying a visit to the family in my 1:12 scale log cabin...



*****
Telepathy?  I've had some experiences and done some experiments that point in that direction. But I guess you can also throw them on the pile of 'coincidences'. Well alright, just one example, the rest I keep under my hat. Marked private.


When I was still living in Haarlem, - a glorious time with the Hells Angels as my back door and next door neighbours - ,  my mother went to a group of amateur poets . Once a week, on tuesday night.
Afterwards she would drop by my place, for a last chat before going to sleep.  There was no set time for her arrival. Sometimes she walked alone from the poets society, or with someone else, or she'd get a ride. At times she stayed with her fellow artists for a drink, other times she'd leave straight away.
I remember it distinctly, one evening, a picture of her shot through my mind. Something was up. Without hesitation I put on my coat and walked out. That is odd. I'm the one who hesitates, especially when negativity is involved. Yet this time, though I was aware that something was up, I was not afraid or stressed. 
Just around the corner, under the railway viaduct, I ran into my mother. It was pretty dark there. And out of that darkness, from the sidewalk,  a motorcyclist appeared, looked right at us and then 'he 'hit' the road.
"Thank God you came looking for me, " my mother said as the motor guy disappeared.  " That man has been following me. Close to the station he even followed me riding his motor on the sidewalk."
In her fear, she had been thinking of me. That's when she made contact.

Rotten, fearful feelings are often called 'presentiments'. But they are not. They are just thoughts, that stick to you because you're in a bad or sad mood. If you give in to that moodyness... then your ideas will become self fullfilling prophecies. That has nothing to do with clairvoyance. Clairvoyance conveys images that do not involve your mood. The picture is short and clear. So clear that it'll stick to you a long time.  But it does not bring along fear. Just info.

Some people believe that the gift of clairvoyance is reserved for a selected few. Just as other special -esoteric- gifts. This is what the theosophists claimed. Rudolf Steiner, once a theosophist himself,  believed that we all are gifted. This caused him to break with theosophy. And hence the name anthroposophy, indicating that all men -anthropos- have special gifts, not just a few, selected by God -Theos- .
It's just that we live our lives too much on autopilot and walk around with our mental eyes closed too often.





Monday, December 5, 2011

My Old Umbrella


My son, the first years of your life,
you and I go together day by day.
Sometimes the sun will shine,
and you'll be frisky, glad and gay.
But at times the light wears out,
the rain is coming in.

I don't know why it is, my boy,
but my umbrella is not as bright and good
as others' you might have seen.
Perhaps God was in a joking mood,
when he handed mine to me?
It opens well and can stand a storm,
but rain keeps seeping through.
We won't stay dry and warm, my boy,
when the clouds are full and blue

Hush, let me share a secret now.
While other kids
keep their neat shields free of stain,
we both sneak out into moonlit nights.
In search of muddy pools,
those remnants of the rain.

We'll turn my 'brella upside down
and when the  moonlight strikes the pool,
we'll sail into the white moon glade.
To enter a world sublime.
Where your soul's  the creator king,
running wild and free

We'll stay until your smile grows strong.
Than we go back, embrace our destiny.
Knowing that when the rain is gone,
there'll  be pools of mud.
just there for you and me.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Mathematics and Love just don't add up

It's in my genes. To live life without complying to the general consensus. I don't recognise it in time. Or may be I just don't understand it. And I don't like acting according to something that I don't understand.
I never received the 'How-to-act-when Guide'. Misdirected, I guess.

Let's give you a nice example of not going by the rule book, performed by a family member: my grandfather, my mother's father. He was born in 1911. He really ignored consensus when he decided to live with a woman born in 1953.

Dear reader, what have you been doing?
I don't need clairvoyance to tell. You have subtracted 1911 from 1953. But why on earth would you subtract my grandfather from a woman he's in love with? My grandfather being the oldest, subtracted from the youngest? That leaves nothing at most. Or in their case... negativity.
They started a relationship, so you should add them up. When they started, they were 74, not a bad number to start a relationship. And when my grandfather died, they were 136. O.K., not a world shattering record. Her fault.

I've had a relationship with someone 3 years younger than me. Ah, you relax now. That is far more decent. But my relationship lasted only two years. Our fight afterwards lasted much longer.
While my grandfather lived 31 years with his partner.



When thinking, talking, gossiping of a relationship please leave your pocket calculator at it's appointed place: in your pocket.
A relationship is something of the heart. If you must apply calculous, apply the right form.

  • For starters do not subtract one person from the other. When a person is subtracted from a relationship it means the relationship is over.
  • Subtracting is staring at the difference. You know 'subtract 3 from 7' is the same as 'the difference between 3 and 7'. You throw away the resemblances, similarities and parallels. But they fortify a relationship! Don't throw them out.
  • In a relationship, people join forces. So adding them up is the logical way to go about it.
  • Yes, in most relationships multiplication is only just around the corner.
  • Differentiation? Doesn't necessarily have to be the end of a relationship. It might deepen it, expanding the roots. From square to cubic to the n-th level?
  • Power ... a good healthy relationship can definitely give both partners a lot of power to express themselves in this world. Trust me. But it's not something you should be after within a relationship.
  • Division... not a good thing. Being divided in two camps is not good. But seeing division as sharing... can go too far as well. What if everything is shared, the two becoming one? Sounds 'glib' and boring to me. Or maybe one of them is not really flourishing in this relationship, wearing a mask.


I have just one rule of thumb, when it comes to relationships: 
      it's never wrong to love someone.