Through Raven Eyes

raven

“Through the Raven’s Eye”
ATC Swap, August 2007
Lori Gloyd

Meet Barbara Banta

Banta

Barbara follows the trail of life's wanderings with enthusiam and curiosity. Recently retired from 20 years in her local public library, she now looks forward to returning to art, her first love. She may dabble in water colors, but generally she favors the dry mediums, pencil, charcoal and pastels. Portraiture is her favorite subject.

Packed away carefully in the back of her closet are three novels, one a completed manuscript and two others in the preliminary stages of development. She is secretly praying NANOWRIMO will not beckon again come November lest another rough draft be added to the pile.

Striving to perceive life with clarity but also with a sense of optimism she studies her Christian faith and investigates the wisdom
of other faiths. She may often be found meditating or engaged in on-line spiritual courses.

With interests as varied as: art, reading, religion, writing, computer, languages, cooking, world affairs, charities, the UN, and ecology, Barbara is grateful to the age of technology and all the opportunities it provides. Several years ago she found her way to Heather Blakey's Soul Food Cafe, settled into the Lemurian Abbey and
has never left. There she will continue to spread her creative wings and stretch her boundaries into lands as yet unexplored.

Surrendering

The box outside the enchanted doorway had a tag on it that read: Believer.

A worn park bench, weathered from years of outdoor use was nearby and I lugged the heavy box to it and sat. Dull gray in color, it was larger than I'd expected, and very heavy. A handle on the top was sturdy and rounded and enabled me to carry the unexpected weight comfortably. What could possibly be inside to make it so heavy and if I was supposed to fill it with something, how did it open? It was smooth to the touch on all sides. Ah, leave it to Le Enchanteur to begin the journey with a mystery!

I sat with the box on my knees, stroking the smooth surface. Metal? Hard wood? It was impossible to guess, but it gleamed more and more and, reminded of Aladdin’s lamp, I took the edge of my sleeve and began to rub until my own face shone back at me. My image melted away and with a slight ripple, on the silvery surface, the word "Surrender," wrote itself and slipped immediately from view.

"What shall I surrender?" I asked.

"Relinquish possession," followed so quickly I barely had time to read and then it too was gone.

"Of what?" I murmured.

"Uncage and set free!" With that, the box tipped and I had all I could do not to drop it. Something was bouncing around inside! "NOW!" the letters nearly shouted. The struggle of some living thing within the box was undeniable. It dawned on me the container had to be airless. My fingers tore at the corners looking for a seam or entranceway but found none. In tears now, I offered a quick prayer and watched as latches popped out on the front and hinges on the back, neither of which had existed a moment earlier. I set the box hurriedly on the floor, not sure which frightened me most--what would come out of the box when I opened it or the fact that "it" had nothing to breathe and would soon die if not released.

There was less motion than before, a thumping against the side of the box, but weaker, without strength; resignation or lack of oxygen was gaining control over the creature and whether it was a monster or not, I had to set it free.

With shaking hands, I flipped the latches. The box was still. Was it dead or waiting to attack? A slight movement inside and the top began to raise. Instinctively I backed away. I heard the labored breathing first, the gulping of precious air, then saw white fur surrounding a pink nose and two bleary pink eyes peering out at me and a set of floppy ears. A rabbit gathered it's strength, jumped out and, sitting down, scratched behind one ear with its hind foot.

I bent over and extended my hand. It eyed my nervously. "It's okay, I'm not going to hurt you." It stayed still, but when I leaned in a bit closer it hopped nearer to the door and sat facing me again. "You're a timid little thing aren't you? Don't be afraid."

It made a strange choking sound and fell onto its side. At first, I thought it was an after effect from the lack of oxygen, and then I realized it was . . . . . laughing at me! Stifled giggles to start with, then snorting noises, then finally a full out guffaw, this silly little creature, whose life I had just saved, found me uproariously funny!

"Okay, what's the deal here? What's so funny?" I demanded.

"You are," it exclaimed in a weak voice. Tears were rolling onto its muzzle and it stopped to wipe them away first with one paw then the other. "Oh, my, you humans are dense. You give us animals your own characteristics, use us for metaphors and when we turn the tables on you, you don't even get it."

I wanted to scream at the miserable little beast, but I was afraid the other travelers might hear. "Get what?" I asked through clenched teeth and with as much civility as I could muster, "Get what?"

"Oh, I'm not allowed to tell," it told me solemnly, "you have to figure that out for yourself." With that its furry, little face contorted and it broke into another fit of the giggles.

"I'm sort of a no-frills writer, I don't go overboard with metaphors," I said, stalling for time. "Aesop? The race between the tortoise and the rabbit?"

"That was a hare," it answered snippily, "and a fable not a metaphor."

"Well, you don't act like any rabbit I've ever seen, you're supposed to be timid and afraid!"

It smiled at me. Not a superior, snooty, smile as I would have expected, but a genuine glad-ya-finally-got-it grin.

And I grinned back.

"There's a pencil and a piece of paper in the box, just write the surrender words and let's hit the road Kiddo!"

Need a Garden?

I need the garden in Lemuria today.
Mnemosyne was right.
.

If, like Barbara, you need a garden in Lemuria, want to engage at Soul Food, Word Press have comprehensive tutorials on how to design and enhance the appearance of your blog at ks WordPress.Org These tutorials will customize your blog and include all the information and features that you want to include.

The Rookery - Day Twenty

In a small cell inside the Abbey walls, meditating deep within the heart of the rose, I hear the piper call and know I must follow. But not now. Although others may leave before me, I feel no need to hurry. "Linger awhile," a voice whispers, "then begin where you are, you are not behind."

I breath deeply and inhale the scent of one of the heirloom roses grown in a corner of the Abbey's herb garden, a rose, the Abbess says, was once nurtured by Marie Antoinette in Malmaison. I hold the blossom cupped in both hands and with my eyes closed picture the pure, white petals, and feel the satiny softness of the bud as it cocoons my body. Here I find no joyful or sorrowful memories, no dreams or fears for the future, only the pleasure and comfort of the living moment. I rest.

Connecting the Dots

dots

In 2005 I joined Heather Blakey's Soul Food Cafe and entered the "virtual" Lemurian Abbey. Here are my posts, stories and meditations from the Abbey and occasionally from other Soul Food blogs, as well. To read the Abbey posts in order start from the bottom.

I am from family:
from a genealogy traced back to the good ship DeGroot out of Friesland in 1659 and another that begins and ends with no place name but Poland.

I am from sauerbraten and potato pancakes, kapusta and kielbasa; from pride and good blood and a loathing of lies;
I am from Roman Catholic and Protestant;
from Easter lilies and raisin-studded babka;
from decorating eggs to egg-tapping.

I am from stories:
of how they met in Sears and how much she disliked him;
of what the tree buds looked like the April I was born.

I am from history:
from Roosevelt and Truman, Eisenhower and Kennedy;
I am from a war every twenty years or so;
I am from the first steps on the moon, to the Twin Towers and a planet in the midst of global warming.

I am from polio epidemics and “Will she live?”
to survival but legs that no longer ran.
I am from hospitals and therapy and
missing my first grade play,
from tutors and home-schooling,
from summers playing endless skelly games with best friends,
to winters of isolation with the Bobsy Twins and Nancy Drew.

I am from a lack of all grandparents but one, who rarely spoke, but read the newspaper from cover to cover every evening and brought me books from the same library where I worked for nearly twenty years.

I am from miracle stories:
of an uncle who died at seven listening to the angels sing;
of a vision of Christ as life was saved by one more pint of blood;
of faith renewed in a house blazing with celestial light.

I am from stories of WWII:
of bone-chilling foxholes and purple hearts;
of a body invaded by bullets and shrapnel;
of missing the “Battle of the Bulge” by being thrown in the “clink”.
I am from a grandpa buried on Christmas Eve, a grandma dying eight months later, a father deployed the day after the funeral.
I am from hand addressing envelopes to buy formula, from censored letters so blacked-out nothing was visible between My darling wife and Your loving husband.

I am from a cord of three; of hard work shared, of love for nature, laughter, bread-baking, ocean travel and one another other.

I am of stories and language, enthusiasm and creativity, of classical music, pastel portraits, of manuscripts unpublished but finished. I am of porches and magnolia trees, of chatting with neighbors over the back fence and phone calls measured by hours, not minutes. I am of depression and coping, of falling down and getting up, of failure and success, of missed opportunities and roads less traveled, of lifelong learning and growing my soul, of meditation and prayer, of fellowship and gratitude.

I am from generations never met, to a circle nearing completion. I am from faith, love, and thanksgiving for a life blessed beyond measure.

Mnemosyne's Advice

This is what I need right now, right here,
in the depths of winter at the heart of my despair:

the colors of flowers--
heliotrope and pink,
periwinkle and crimson,
citron and violet;

the sound of their names--
larkspur and foxglove,
cyclamen and daisy,
delphiniums and lilacs.

I need a burst of sunshine, the caress of a breeze,
the absence of snow and the presence of butterflies,
the hum of bees over-laden with nectar, the sight of birds building nests,
sweet honey-scented air and vast, endless skies.

I need the garden in Lemuria today.
Mnemosyne was right.

The Christmas Eve Shop

Holly

This is an excerpt from a manuscript titled the Christmas Eve Shop. The character of Sophia is named after my grandmother and it is her story of the mushrooms that my mother told often over the years. I thought perhaps the baskets of mushrooms would fit the cultural theme of this prompt and decided to extend the piece to the end of the book’s chapter.

* * * * * *

“Why Don’t you rest for awhile, Sophia? Sharon offered. “I’ll stir for you.”
“Stir, but don’t steal too many. Already I have only half. Mel is helping, too.” Mel shrugged and smiled his broad smile.
“Your tree has some brown leaves,” Sharon noticed, pushing aside the embroidered curtain and looking out the kitchen window. “Autumn’s going to be early this year.”
She returned to her task as the couple sat and discussed the pros and cons of her observation. A few minutes later she informed Sophia, “The mushrooms seem about done. Shall I put them in the kapusta?”
The older woman got up and joined her at the stove. “They are ready. Not so good like Polish mushrooms, but what can you do? In my country, always we would go to pick mushrooms, Mama, Papa, my sisters and me. Each one carried a little basket, and when we came home Mama would check, make sure all the mushrooms were safe. Even Papa’s basket. Papa would watch her closely.” Sophia’s eyes sparkled at the memory, and her lips twitched as she suppressed a smile. “He was always sure his mushrooms were perfect. But Mama would look carefully at every one and then she would make a sigh, and take two or three little ones out and throw them away.
“One day just before I leave for America, I see Mam go to the garbage and take back Papa’s mushrooms. ‘Your papa,’ she says, ‘is a good man, but when I married him I saw one thing I did not like. Always your papa is so sure he is right. This is no good. So every time I throw away some mushrooms.’”

As Sophia ended her story she began mashing the potatoes. Mel put out the butter and cut the homemade bread into fat slices; Sharon stacked the plates and arranged the mismatched knives and forks. Each worked in contented silence. Even the sparrows had stopped their chattering and were perched, puffed up and drowsy, on their branches. The late-day sun shining through the leaves of Sophia’s tree sent dappled patterns of light and shadow over the walls, floor, and ceiling of the old-fashioned kitchen until the plain wooden furniture glowed.

Finally the meal was ready. Plates were heaped with mounds of mashed potatoes covered with the Polish cabbage and its chunks of pink ham and slivers of brown and black mushrooms. Bread and butter were passed back and forth, and still the spell of silence held.

As the golden afternoon began to melt away, bright patches of sunlight dimmed and faded into shadows. Outside, the first cricket began to chirp, and far in the distance, a lonely cicada whirred.

Evening entered by degrees, tiptoeing into corners, ducking under the table and chairs, layering tone on tone of gray until the darkness was nearly complete.

At last, when Sophia could avoid it no longer, she turned on a brass table lamp whose yellow shade seemed to have caught and imprisoned the setting sun. The three friends talked in hushed tones of times past, the people they’d loved, and the joys that would never be relived. Sophia talked the most, about her childhood in Poland, about her first years un America, but most of all about her husband.

When Sharon and Mel had gone, she stood alone, fingering the embroidered flowers that were still vivid after so many years. Moonlight filtered through branches and leaves, illuminating the threads like embellishments on a vellum manuscript. Why hadn’t she told them about the curtains?

People had been poor in her little mountain village. When Stanislaus gave her the fine material and colored silk in order to sew a beautiful dress for festivals, she’d burst into tears. Asking how he’d offended her, he’d tried kissing her tears away until she’d shyly pointed to the bare windows in the little farmhouse and begged to make curtains instead. He’d laughed and kissed her again, promising to make every day a festival. Fifty years earlier on her wedding day.

Write the First Faint Line

Write the first faint line,
unlock the door
to your mind,
memory,
and heart.

Sketch shadows
in a darkened room,
resolve questions
of a forgotten past,
explore dreams. .

Persist diligently
in practice, day after day,
pursue wisdom,
ponder truth,
awaken your universe.