He had been thinking lately that he couldn’t quite remember the lines in her face any more; the criss-cross patterns that uniquely identified her to him were losing their clarity as he sought to recreate her likeness in his consciousness.
Ever since she’d been gone he had felt that he was losing a little fidelity every day, it was all a little softer – less defined, and the thought occurred to him that perhaps losing one’s mind might be like this.
In truth his mind was as clear as ever, it was time that was playing tricks on him, making him second-guess his recollection of her, subtly smudging the edges in the same way that a raindrop mellows the characters on a piece of paper.
He glanced at a photograph, dog-eared and faded by the years, the monochromaticity of her features suddenly brought into sharp relief – he was back, staring into her eyes as he had done for nearly forty years; now he remembered her.
Putting the photograph down he settled back into his chair and closed his eyes, a quiet smile on his face; it would not be long now.
She sat cross legged on the floor. A smashed lamp was crumbled beneath her hand, sharp edges tinged bright red. Her hair was in disarray and she stared at some non-existent something many yards beyond the facing wall. She had been like this for hours now, motionless, soundless, devoid of emotion and unaware of the world moving forward without her.
The day had started well enough. Naturally bubbly she had chatted carelessly with friends and strangers at a local coffee shop and had made small talk with the cashier at the local supermarket before she had taken that bike ride.
The lamp was not the only thing that was crushed; her spirit had been ripped to shreds. In the canyon her world exploded, dreams and hopes replaced by horror and emptiness. The evil was consuming her, sucking the life from her and replacing it with darkness. Her soul, beaten and violated was so far within that even she could not reach it.
She had no idea how she had managed to get home. None of it mattered anyway – nothing at all was important now. Or perhaps it was important but she didn’t care – she didn’t know. She was utterly and completely lost.
For aeons man has dreamed of flying. The primal instinct to soar aloft is driven by the most ancient of genetics; elementary base code pairs shaping our thoughts, our desires as we look skyward. What a thrill it must be to soar on eagle’s wings, to drift among the clouds, to escape the bonds of earth and explore the third dimension.
Flying as freely as the angels is truly the stuff of myth and legend. To fashion wings and rise toward the sun has captured our imagination for centuries. Daedalus experienced the wonder of flight, even as that ill-fated journey tinged his awe with sadness. He saw for the briefest of moments the province of the Gods.
Flights of fancy have of course been replaced by flights of physics; modern day marvels born of aluminum and wires that have squeezed our tiny planet into the smallest of marbles. The roar of the jet engine pushes the beautiful machines into the sky ever higher, ever faster. One might be forgiven for thinking that the occupants would strain their eyes outwards towards the heavens, eager to touch the edge of creation but instead their journey has been sanitized and normalized so that instead they look inwards, drinking cheap wine and watching banal images on tiny viewports. The wonder of their environment is simply lost to them.
To be as free as a bird is to be at one with the environment. Birds soar on the merest of air currents, their hollow-boned wings beating to turn their direction as hidden convection swoops them upwards. For birds, gliding on outstretched arms as they cross the sky, they feel the universe around them and they are at ease with its vastness, its emptiness, its freedom – they are unconstrained through flight.
It is not coincidence that Heaven is above us. To look up and feel the majesty of nature and to imagine being one and the same is as close to nirvana as our earthbound selves can hope to achieve.
I’ve decided to have a stab at “Five Sentence Fiction” – a weekly challenge from Lillie McFerrin. Each week she posts a word on her blog and the objective is to write a short story in 5 sentences based on that word. This week’s word is “FACES”. Enjoy!
The pastor looked out from his pulpit. In front of him the congregation strained to hear the words that, like most other Sundays, would be listened to with intent and forgotten within moments.
Gazing down upon his flock he considered their faces; the farmer’s son with his wild red hair and freckled cheeks, the two sisters in the back row both in their nineties with expressions wizened through years of unrelenting toil, the happy fresh-faced young couple waiting to be married – and a sudden realization occurred to him – he had failed.
Now in this moment he became cognizant that the passion he held within for his faith was something he was unable to effectively communicate and he would never truly reach the souls of those he was charged to save. A small tear slowly trickled down the old man’s face as he took a long breath and began to read his sermon.
She was in agony. Pain wracked her body in never ending waves. Her face was clenched in a grimace that sharply expressed the nerve-induced horror that she was enduring and sweat glistened in tiny beads on her forehead. “Breathe” I said.
She looked at me, pleading to me with lightless eyes that cried out for help in ways that her voice could not otherwise express. Her hand gripped mine with a ferocity that revealed the terror that she must not face alone.
She breathed out, long and slow, closing her eyes and letting the exhale drive the smallest portion of tension from her. She relaxed slightly and breathed in, drawing the cold air deep into her lungs. As she settled back down into her pillow a little color returned to her grey, drawn face and she opened her eyes; “Thank you” they said.
And then once more the agony returned.
In nature we see beauty everywhere we look. From the intricate design of the fern and the unique fractal of the snowflake to the unimaginable vastness of the galaxies; brutal and awe-inspiring, beauty is everywhere. In the eye of the beholder beauty exists even where it’s not instantly obvious to others. A piece of art can convey a message that can only come from beauty; it might be the sweeping brush strokes of a Cézanne or it may be the tactile perfection of the Venus de Milo but in each case the feelings invoked by simply looking can carry you into the warm serotonin-induced glow of happiness.
I’ve seen beauty in many forms. I’ve seen it in my children’s eyes; in the pure innocence and sense of wonder that comes from the mind of the unjaded. I’ve seen it in the night sky, the smallest flower, the highest mountain.
And yet for me the most beautiful shape of all is so widely varied that billions of permutations exist. Each and every one is uniquely alluring. Even the most unconventional of these shapes has some beauty to it if you really look. It’s probably a hard-wired response to my human condition but I am thrilled by the amazing and exquisite beauty of the female form.
Quite possibly the defining moment of my life was the instant at which I delivered our first child. Standing in the hospital room in scrubs, sounds of pain still ringing in the air, disaster everywhere but in the midst of it all, a perfect little life form in my hands. In that instant I truly knew love and I realized with stark awareness that life would never be the same. In that magical moment the drama of the previous hours was gone, replaced by peace previously unknown. My progeny lying there looking up at me.
It’s impossible to convey the feeling that fatherhood brings. You can use all of the right words; love, pride, protector, provider and many others but it just doesn’t do justice to the depth of emotion that you feel, and the dramatic change that occurs from within your inner being.
To love something so very much that you’d die without a second thought in order to save it was perhaps the most profound realization that occurred from this process. It didn’t happen instantly, but like a rocket ship it started slowly and never stopped accelerating until I felt that I would explode with love for her. Even now, years later I still think that I love her more every day. Is love boundless? Perhaps.
Fatherhood isn’t just about parenting, it’s about a state of mind; a paradigm shift from the selfish to the selfless. It’s not something that you can learn or even prepare for. It’s something that’s innate in man and that we get to experience if we are very, very lucky. To know fatherhood is to reach a little closer to the heavens than ever was possible before.
A dream can take many forms. Sometimes the dream manifests from deep in your subconscious, devoid of all reality but full of powerful imagery and simile. Other dreams are of a more earthly nature, wondrous and rooted in reality. Daydreaming is thoughtful and takes you on flights of fancy away from the humdrum and into the sublime. To dream is to escape reality for a short moment, to cast off the chattels of practicality and physics and to let the soul run free.
Whether you are soaring above the clouds or simply thinking of being with your lover, your dream can take you there. You may find yourself alone in a quiet place or subject to the cacophony of a crowded future city – the mind makes that world reality to you for a brief period of time.
To dream is to be alive. To escape the boundaries upon which we are subjected is to see a world of idealism and beauty unconstrained by the bonds of practicality.
I dream that happiness is possible, that there can be resolution to any challenge, that love ultimately wins the day.
Perhaps one day my dream will become reality.
In the darkness following the storm a small boat bobs on uncertain seas. Tossed and battered it has been through its share of ups and downs, sometimes rising high atop a white-topped wave while at other times deep in the trough of despair with nothing but certain calamity on either side.
The weather-beaten captain steers his craft towards a destination as yet unknown; grittily determined to seek the safety and surety of port, yet ever drawn towards the mermaid’s song – a beautiful, intoxicating call. He should look away towards the shining light of home yet he continues onward undaunted, the prospect of a joyous union ever present in his mind.
Notwithstanding the possibility of total destruction dashed upon the rocks and sentencing all he holds dear to a perilous doom, he navigates towards a different light; a light so wonderful that he would risk his imminent demise for a moment in its glow.
It came by surprise. The gentle nudge in a direction rarely explored felt more natural than one would have supposed. Suddenly I was exploring the world in a different way; closer to reality, nearer to nature. To peel back the edge of the box I lived in and see the vivid beauty of creation was simultaneously shock and awe.
My world has been one of tidy corners, neatly organized into rules and logic. I’ve been comfortable in that place for my entire existence, straying from time to time into the chaos of creativity but ultimately returning to my safe, mathematically accurate haven.
No more. Not now that I’ve seen the light. I’ve started to explore the ragged-edged, inaccurate, unreproducible world of the creative mind, of which this blog is now part. I see things differently now.
I still have to challenge myself to be here. Like a child incessantly learning to walk I will not give up – the reach of better things is too alluring to turn away from. Challenges stretch the mind, the soul, the reality in which we live. They are a quintessential part of what defines us and I shall rejoice as I walk forth into the bright, wonderful future.
The world is no longer a box. I have been born.