Thursday, 24 July 2014

North Wind

Is it more courageous to flee or fight? Should you just go where the North Wind blows you?
These thoughts had occurred to Esther before, but she was stuck. She couldn't run, she couldn't defend and she had no friend to turn to. In trying to decide what to do with her life she had completely cut herself off. She found she didn't mind the seclusion and thought it would only be for a short time, but this separation from the minutiae of life had been prolonged.
Somewhere the plan, without her consent or knowledge, had been altered; instead of drawing her out, it had drawn her evermore inwards. Esther was baffled; she'd always had the tendency to be withdrawn and sullen, but there had once been a more playful side. Where had joy gone to? Was the other an act and despondency her true nature?
Turning from the outer world had seemed the answer. How many times had she heard people say 'Give everything up and you won't look back. You'll wish you did it sooner.' Did she wish that? She hadn't move forward or back, not one iota.
Esther wasn't the sort to harbour regrets, but she did have a reflective nature. What if I did this or had done that? Should I have fled or tried harder? Why had the winds stayed still when I'd asked them to propel me?
Now lost to herself and to those around her, the winds blew forcefully, but could not stir her. She was too afraid to allow herself to return fully to the outer world and too unwilling to be blown. The impulsive part of her that craved letting go was always overthrown.
The North Wind however pleased her. On particularly windy days she took to walking on the common where she covered her head with a slate coloured shawl and allowed the North Wind to mercilessly pummel her. It tugged the skirts of her dress and whipped the shawl from her; it brushed her bare arms and face until her cheeks were a rosy red. It made her dark eyes shine and seem more alive than dead.
In spring, this great wind twisted leaves from the trees and made petals flutter, and as this confetti swirled Esther imagined the North Wind lifting her. She pictured being wind-blown, the blocked feeling driven from her; swept along on a wind-tide, the land drifting beneath her. The trees swayed and the grasses of the level land rustled, but although Esther's mind was moved, her figure was barely rocked. The gale could not carry her off.
At night, she liked to listen to the murmurs of a rising wind; she didn't mind if it stole in and wished she wasn't untouchable. The curtains billowed, blinds slapped the windows, doors creaked to and fro... Arriving unannounced, this blustery visitor was welcome in her house for she wanted so much to put her fears aside and fly or float. She hoped this bullish air would grab and shake her.
Often, she cried to the North Wind, “Why won't you take me?” Although she knew the answer: she sabotaged herself, she was the obstruction. The North Wind was powerful, but her will was too strong and stubborn. Esther stopped herself from doing what she wanted the most: to give in and let the rushing North Wind take her.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Three Miniature Pigs

Once upon a time, a big bad wolf huffed and puffed three miniature pigs for he was contrite at knocking their houses down with his mighty breath, and so decided instead to save them. A new vegetarian, he hadn't yet thought of a way to control these episodes of violence and anger. A red mist came over him when his blood-thirst got the better of him, but when the haze went away he was always dismayed at the destruction he found around him.
On this occasion, he came to just as he was about to roast these three miniature pigs over an open fire. Ashamed, he quickly doused the flames and untied them from the spit. The heat had made the miniature pigs fall into a stupor, so the wolf huffed and puffed on each one to cool them down. His first breath was unusually weak, so the oldest pig got blown to Yorkshire, his second pelted the middle pig to France, and his third flung the littlest pig to the USA, to the home and museum of Ernest Hemingway.
Clive landed in a muddy puddle on a Yorkshire farm, Colin on the beaches of Normandy and Cyril on the veranda of 907 Whitehead Street in Old Town Key West. Clive and Colin were scooped up by well-meaning humans while Cyril was met with benign indifference from a motley bunch of six-toed cats. Clive was carried like a baby to his new home, Colin trotted like a dog beside his rescuers, and Cyril was blankly looked at by sunbathing cats and cats with sharp claws.
Their grunts and squeals it seemed were not understood by cats or people, and so each of them had to make the best of their new situation. Clive was nursed with bottles and put to sleep in a baby's cot, Colin was offered lodgings in an old crumbling house filled with weaponry and suits of armour, and Cyril was assigned his own dormitory litter tray and cat bed. It was a far cry from what they had been used to.
Clive felt undignified, Colin was jumpy on account of the armoury and Cyril was convinced he had concussion, but new routines soon established themselves. Clive accompanied the farmer's children to school, Colin roamed the French countryside, and Cyril prowled the garden. And for the first time in their lives they were dressed: Paddington Bear's red rain boots were pulled over Clive's trotters, Colin, by pure coincidence, was fastened into Paddington's blue duffel coat, and Cyril paraded the grounds in a tailor-made Aloha shirt and Ray-Bans. Each in their way became a personality: a character known and placed in their new setting.
Being huffed and puffed by a remorseful wolf had been totally unexpected, but this turn of events was surrealistic. Strawberry-blond miniature pigs were often transformed into adorable pets, but fame was a rarity. None of their ancestors had left their homes, even of their own accord; it quite changed their views of traditional living. They each, due to pig intelligence, decided to contribute to their upkeep. Clive rounded up chicks and collected freshly laid eggs, Colin foraged for wild fruits and mushrooms, and Cyril, the most enterprising, conducted garden tours and painted watercolours of the six-toed cats, which were displayed and sold in the museum shop. Their lives, which before had seemed full, were now much richer.
Every night, with wet pink snorts and shiny black marble eyes, they squealed their thanks to the stars that had made them cross paths with that unusual wolf.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Bear Hug

Di Rivers lives with a grizzly bear who gives her hugs.
Ursula had come to her as a cub, a squirming dark brown furry bundle with a black button nose and blonde jaw. Her father said she'd been left behind in their wooden hut after he disturbed two big intruders. Their chair cushions were dented, their bed sheets rumpled and their bowls of porridge eaten, but in their hurry to flee they'd forgotten their baby who he found fast asleep in a drawer.
From that day on, that abandoned bear went everywhere with Di. She carried her father's made-up story within her for she had the gift of inner sight. A gift which she projected out and which turned Ursula from an imaginary cub into a living, breathing bear. Ursula had shielded her from monsters and nightmares, and had made her less scared when her father shot his rifle in the air. And she was there when Ursula caught her first salmon which her father cooked over a camp fire, although Ursula ate her share raw. As Ursula grew tall and broad, Di found comfort in her all-encompassing hugs for she had no mother to turn to and, aside from the occasional pats on the head, her father was not demonstrative.
To be wrapped up in Ursula's hugs was reassuring; Di released her fears and her body relaxed its usual tension. She loved to try to stretch her arms around Ursula's soft, but solid girth. But there comes an age when girls neglect their imaginary bears and dismiss their hugs.
As a young woman, Di had little time for Ursula. At first, Ursula was confined to their wooden hut, but with each day that she was thought about less she faded until Di found she could no longer call her up at will. Ursula simply vanished as quickly as she had appeared.
For many years, Di barely noticed. Ursula was her childhood; resigned to a chunk of memories she dredged out when she was reminiscent or melancholic. You can't deal with the real world with an imaginary bear at your side adults had told her.
Di went through her precocious adult years, not knowing what, but feeling that something was missing. She quickly tired of jobs, friends and boyfriends and moved around a lot. Employers took her for granted, friends demanded she socialised, and boyfriends cheated. In her 30s, in a space of a few months, she'd had a string of dismal jobs, cut herself off from her friends and jilted three men. And then her distant father died leaving her nothing but their remote wooden hut.
Di sold up; gave everything up, no looking back. She was unsentimental about life's trappings and didn't care one jot for material success. She resigned from her part-time jobs, sold her city apartment and donated her possessions to charity shops, and returned to the only place where she had felt loved and protected: to the mini-world she had created in childhood. Aged from life's monotonous blows, she set about reclaiming the forgotten child within her. First of all, she dyed her greying raven hair the colours of the rainbow, then she brought herself a motorbike with a side car.
Gradually, as Di grew accustomed to her new-old life, her body loosened its rigidity and she felt lighter. She let down her guard and was welcomed into Ursula's waiting arms; received into a comforting and restorative bear hug.
Whole at last. Di was home