Monthly Archives: March 2009
I arrived at Thomas’ stables with forty minutes to spare. I had to knock on Thomas’ door and he came out looking rather bemused.
‘Can I hire Maria again, please?’
‘Yes, please. I have to be at The Monk’s Hood Tavern by twelve, and I have no idea how to get there.’
‘I’d best get ‘er sorted then!’ He went into the stable and came out ten minutes later with Maria all saddled and kitted-out.
‘Where the ‘ell are yer goin’ at this time o’ night?’
‘I’m joining a group trekking to the Grotto of the Enchantress. It was a last minute decision, which is why I didn’t get here sooner. The instructions were very clear about being there before twelve. Thank you so much for accommodating me at such short notice.’
‘Well, there’s nowt s’ funny as folk, an’ that’s for sure. ‘Ow long yer gonna need ‘er for?’
‘I honestly have no idea. Is that a problem?’
‘Nay, lass. Yer looked after ‘er proper last time yer ‘ired ‘er. We’ll settle up when yer get back.’
‘Thank you so much. Now, can you tell me how to get to The Monk’s Hood Tavern?’
‘Yer’ve not far t’ go. Down to the end o’ the street and turn right. Tek the second turnin’ on the left an’ yer can’t miss it.’ I left him shaking his head and muttering to himself.
I followed his directions and easily found the tavern with ten minutes to spare. Maria, bless her, only seems to have one pace, but it was fast enough. There was quite a group gathered for the trek.
Oh, my ears and granny whiskers! The ship will be leaving port again soon to continue on the next part of the cruise. Rather than lounge about onboard I’ve decided to join a group heading for the Grotto of the Enchantress, on Lenore. I have to be there when the clock strikes twelve – which is exactly an hour and fifteen minutes away.
I will throw a few basics into my backpack and then walnut-shell it to Thomas’ Donkey Hire establishment and see if I can hire Maria again. We got on famously the last time. She may be ready for another adventure; I know I am.
If I don’t make it before the clock strikes twelve, I wonder if I’ll turn into a pumpkin? Anything’s possible on this journey.
I picked my way along. The path was obscured by overgrown shrubs and fallen leaves and I had a hard time seeing it. The dense forest canopy kept out not only the sun but the breeze as well, and the air was completely without movement. It was like being covered by a heavy blanket, and I had difficulty taking a breath.
It was also quiet. There were no birds calling. I would expect in a tropical jungle like this to hear shrieking monkeys and see them swinging from limb to limb, but there was no movement or sound of any kind except those of my trudging feet. My heart began to race, which was odd since my pace was slow, and I felt the hairs an my neck standing up.
“This is ridiculous,” I said. I hoped the sound of my own voice would alleviate my increasing apprehension.
“There is no reason to be scared. Look, this is just a forest — a bunch of trees– and this is Lemuria, for goodness sake, and this forest is just… it’s just a representation of your unconscious.” I tried to remember what I had read in the past about Jungian archetypes and dream interpretations. “Yeah, the forest represents your unconcious and you’re just dreaming. You’re probably asleep right now back home and you’ll wake up any minute.”
I heard a rustle to my right, about ten yards away. I stopped dead and stared at a large bunch of giant taro plants. Their waxy green leaves were still.
“It’s okay, it’s okay. Just the sound of an animal. Finally, some normal jungle noises.” I took a step forward but kept an eye on the place where I head the noise. Then I heard the snap of wood to my left.
“Who’s there!” I spun towards the sound.
A figure leaned against the mottled gray trunk of a banyan. I could not see the person’s features. In fact, he — or she — was completely black and had a fuzzy quality as if it was not altogether materialized. Before I could say another word, the shadow figure disappeared in front of me, seemingly downward into the immense bulging roots of the banyan.
I gasped and tensed to run. Then something occurred to me: I had run from the faceless conductor at the train station on Temple Island. I had tried to escape from the megalodon on Cetea’s Revenge. I seemed to be always trying to evade the dark parts of my psyche. Not this time. I turned towards the place where the figure had disappeared.
“Excuse me. Can we talk?”
There was no response.
“I know who you are. You’re the Dark Stranger. You’re part of me. I know that whenever I see you, then I’m about to move up to a new level of understanding. ”
I heard a rustle in the brush.
“Yeah, c’mon on out. I’m on way to the Shrine of Wandering Poets. You wanna come? It’ll be fun.”
I heard a soft ping followed by a swoosh. An arrow rushed past my ear and lodged with a quivering thunk in the tree behind me.
I’m being shot at? Holy crud! No, no, no, I will not be afraid. I can’t be hurt here. I raised my arms half-way up in front of my body and took a step towards the place where the arrow came.
“Look, dude, let’s just talk about this, okay? No need to shoot at me. How about I buy you a cup of coffee. I hear there’s a great little cafe next to the Shri—”
I felt the impact of the arrow before I felt the pain. I fell back a step and reached my hand to my shoulder. Blood was already oozing out of the gash and a searing pain radiated down my arm.
“What are you doing!!!” I don’t know if I got an answer because I was already on the run. Instinctively, I headed for cover and tore through the thicket of giant taro leaves. Another arrow swooshed by. I heard movement behind me. I pushed through the low hanging vines and branches wishing that I had brought a machete with me, if not for the brush, then at least as a weapon.
My foot caught on the bulge of a tree root and I hit the ground with agonizing crash. Blood from my wound was flowing freely now. I rolled on my back and saw blue sky through a break in the canopy.
Then the loud crack of gunfire erupted out of the darkness. I covered my head This is too much. Then another volley of fire thundered. I knew I had to get out of there. I struggled to my feet but I felt weak and swooney. I’m loosing too much blood.
Then a firm grip caught me under under my armpit and I heard a woman’s voice.
“C’mon, we gotta get out of here.”
(to be continued)
Text and image: L. Gloyd (c) 2009
What a glorious last morning I spent on Lenore. I was up before dawn and made my way to the top of the promontory to greet the sun. As the sky lightened it was bedecked in swathes of orange and cerise, like Indian saris drying in the breeze. I sat and made a list of the things I wished to do before I left.
1. Thank the Abbess and the nuns for their kindness.
2. Buy two bottles of the Liquid Velvet liqueur so that I can enjoy little tipple from time to time. I’m not a drinker, but a tiny drop of the liqueur is most uplifting.
3. Have a last look at the Abbey’s artworks.
4. Collect a few blooms from the Abbey garden and press them in my book.
5. Send postcards to my friends and family.
6. Carefully pack my bag – I will carry my little ‘art’ basket in my hand as I’ve decided to travel by walnut shell. Very handy for getting back from places, but to use it on the outward journey would entail being able to visualize your destination. Not always possible.
I wandered back to the Abbey and showered and dressed, and then went down to breakfast. All the gang was there. Brenda and her cohorts were planning a big day which involved donkeys and donkey carts. I had eggs, bacon, mushrooms, tomatoes and two slices of toast and butter. Once again it struck me how flavoursome all the food was. I had two cups of tea and then headed to the Abbey shop.
I purchased two bottles of Liquid Velvet and bought some postcards and stamps. I also bought a jar of ‘Ecclesiastical Honey’ – good for eating and for medicinal purposes. I sat in the huge entrance hall and wrote my cards. The nun in charge of the shop showed me where I could post them in a small postbox, which was emptied daily. I also wrote out a ‘Thank You’ card, addressed it to the Abbess and left it on the hall stand.
Next I wandered out to the garden again and selected six flowers to press as keepsakes – a red salvia, a marigold, a white petunia, a small pink rose and a yellow snapdragon. The snapdragon made me smile. It brought back childhood memories of ‘talking’ snapdragons. I took the flowers back to my room; arranged them carefully between pieces of toilet tissue and placed them in my book. I then had to bind it tightly. Not the best method for pressing flowers, but it seemed to work when we were kids. It was only a temporary measure, anyway. I would find something hefty to squash them when I got back to the ship.
I carefully packed my bag, then stripped off my bedding and folded it ready for laundering, and I was ready for off. A last look at the artworks first though.
I visited the Lady Chapel to view both the stained-glass windows and the stunningly beautiful, embroidered altar piece. What hours of work must have gone into that. Lots of couched gold thread employed. Very rich and heavy. I also looked at all the tapestry hassocks, and saw that the inspiration for them had come from the garden. Every flower you could think of was represented.
I wandered along the corridors where oil paintings of church dignitaries and also beautiful landscapes of the island, were displayed. I finished my tour in the Library, where several, centuries-old illuminated manuscripts were displayed in glass cases. I imagined all the time and patience needed to create these – and the concentration! You wouldn’t want to do all that and then make a mistake at the end, and have to start again.
It was about 11.30 am by the time I got back to my room. I grabbed my bag and the tiny basket; checked I had my transport in my pocket, and went downstairs to hand in my key.
I shouted a ‘Cheerio!’ to friends who were gathering for lunch and headed out to the courtyard. This was going to be tricky – only two hands and three things to hold. I gripped my walnut shell tightly and hooked my arm through my bag handle and cradled the basket in my other hand. I closed my eyes and visualized my cabin on the Vulcania – whooooosh, thump! I was there!
It was nice to be back onboard the ship and I certainly appreciated the little luxuries after the austere atmosphere of the Abbey. Time to have some lunch and study the noticeboard to see what entertainments were available.
“Stupid, stupid, stupid…” I muttered as I trudged along the gravel path towards the woods. “You’ve done it now — you’ve ticked off an abbess, for heaven’s sake. Good job, sweetie.” I looked to the sky to see if any thunder clouds had formed in order to zap me for my insolence. It was clear.
I don’t know why I had been snarky with the Abbess. Obviously, I have some sort of internal malfunction and she has been sent to help me. Obviously, I felt a little threatened by her questioning and responded accordingly. I was always getting myself into trouble with my mouth. Obviously, one day I was going to really feel the consequences. I just hope it wasn’t today.
I came to the edge of the woods and stopped. This was no small thicket of ordinary trees. A wall of dense, gnarled banyan trunks soared above me. The path was covered with large fallen leaves and what I could see of the trail disappeared into a thick darkness. An equally thick darkness fell over me. I felt like I was in the middle of a horror movie. I was the character about ready to walk in the dark, scary place, the weird music edging towards a crescendo, and the audience yelling “don’t go into there!” — just before the ax murderer jumps out from behind a tree.
Yes, I was going to pay for my insolence today after all. I took a few steps and walked under the canopy of the banyan forest.
(to be continued)
Image and text by L. Gloyd © 2009
I shifted on my feet. The intense gaze of the Abbess made me nervous, and I was not sure if I was supposed to address her first. She was a most unusual Abbess. I expected a stiffly dressed, austere matron, not this woman dressed in a pale Grecian-style gown and glittering jewels. I could smell a faint scent of patchouli perfume.
“Lori, welcome to Lenora Abbey.” Her voice was firm but soft.
“Thank you. Uh…you know my name? ”
“Of course. Would you be more comfortable if I called you ‘Elle-Jay’?
“It is perfectly acceptable to assume another identity here.”
She turned and moved towards an alcove embedded in the wall. It appeared to be an altar with a flickering white candle and a small brazier. She picked up a slim stick of incense, briefly touched it to candle flame and then inserted the other end in the brazier.
“May I ask you why you chose that name?”
“I guess it sounds a little more polished and sophisticated. ”
“Ah, I see…Or perhaps it sounds a little more anonymous? Elle-Jay….L.J. Using initials will do that”
“As if you were trying to separate yourself from others?”
“And perhaps to separate you from yourself as well?”
I did not respond. She had hit a little too close to home.
“If I might suggest something,” she continued, “choosing another identity should assist in connecting you to your true self, not drive you away from it.
“I assume that’s why I am here… to find my ‘true self’,” I countered.
“If you want to put it that simplistically, then yes. That’s part of it.”
“And what’s the other part?”
The abbess smiled but said nothing.
“Great,” I muttered. The incense smoke began to rise from the altar and curl around the Abbess. She glanced down at my backpack that I held at my side.
“What did you bring with you?”
“Well, I brought my laptop, some granola bars, a bottle of— ”
“No, that’s not what I mean.”
“Um…. I brought a pod of lotus seeds.”
“Ah, is that what she gave you?” She began to walk toward another door and motioned me to come along. “Were there any instructions?”
“I’m not sure. The talking owl said to ‘dig before I got thirsty’…. whatever that means.”
“What? What does that mean?”
“I think it means that you came to the right place”. We walked through the door onto the portico overlooking a large grassy area.
“Why? What am I supposed to do here? If you can help me figure this out, I’d be very appreciative.”
The Abbess leaned against the railing and surveyed the grounds. “All I can say is that to be ‘thirsty’ in the real world is bad enough, but to be ‘thirsty’ in Lemuria, where the waters of Muse freely flow, is almost unheard of. You really must be in a bad way.”
“So what do I do?”
“What do you know about lotus flowers?”
“Not much – that they grow in the mud and I think symbolically they represent rebirth. That’s about it”
“And does that suggest a course of action to you?”
“Well, yeah. I suppose I need to find someplace to plant the seeds and then I have some epiphany.” I cringed when I said that. I knew I really should not be too flippant with the Abbess, but sometimes I cannot help myself when I am in an uncomfortable situation.
“Again, on a simplistic level you would be right.”
“But what’s the catch? There’s always a catch.”
“There is no catch. The goal is simple. Go plant the seeds.”
“So, where do I plant them? I’d like to get on with this.”
“Yes, you do like to get to the point and take care of things. Achievement is important to you.”
“Well, no disrespect, but what is wrong with that?”
“Nothing, but I don’t think I have to tell you the other important aspect, do I?”
“I suppose you are going to say that I need to stop and smell the roses?” I was on a roll now.
“Something like that.”
“Or how about ‘it’s the journey, not the destination,”
“Good, you know all this then.” The Abbess stared into the distance with a face that suggested that the time for our audience had come to an end.
“Okay, well, I guess I best get started….um, I wondering if you could just give some directions on where to go… just to get me started?”
The Abbess pointed across the grounds towards a wooded area. “Through the woods, on the other side of the Abbey grounds is a small shrine dedicated to wandering poets and other creative persons. It has a pond with a floating garden at the entrance. Simply plant your seed there with the other lotuses. Enjoy your journey.” She abruptly turned and walked away from me.
“Uh…Thank you. I appreciate that.”
(to be continued).
Image and story: L. Gloyd (c) 2009
On Thursday I had decided to venture to the far end of the island, and was advised to use some transport as the terrain was not the best for hiking. I was given the name of a donkey wrangler in Gilead whose animals were reliable and gentle.
I loaded up my backpack with food and water and made sure I had my walnut shell. I was unsure whether this would be of any use with a donkey. I didn’t want to teleport myself and leave a donkey off in the sticks. There might be a huge fine for that. I didn’t know if the teleporting would include the donkey or not, but it wouldn’t hurt to take the shell with me anyway. I also packed a couple of apples and carrots as a treat for the animal, and set off for Gilead.
The donkey-man’s name was Thomas, and he brought out a pretty, little, light-grey donkey named Maria. Seeing the look of consternation on my face, he assured me that she would carry me quite easily. I’m no lightweight! Did I detect a look of panic in the beast’s eye?? I apologised profusely to Maria, and Thomas helped me aboard. He threw a couple of panniers over her rump, containing feed and water; showed me how to steer, and I was on my way.
I must say that when I settled down and accepted that we were not going to travel at the speed of light, I quite enjoyed it. I kept up a running commentary on the sights, sounds and smells for Maria, and I think we appreciated each other’s company. She was very biddable and there was no power-struggle, making the journey very soothing.
We passed through several small settlements on our trip, and were greeted at each by groups of small children and an assortment of animals. I didn’t have anything in mind but being able to say I’d seen the lighthouse at the westernmost point of the island. Everything else – the people, the scenery, the sounds and the smells – was a bonus. I was soaking it all up. I sang a couple of songs about ‘Maria’, which made the donkey’s ears twitch and me giggle. I don’t know if it was her name or my singing that caused the twitch.
We stopped in the late morning for something to eat and drink and I gave my trusty steed one of the apples and carrots, which she seemed to relish. We rested for a while, so that the feeling could return to my nether regions, and then had to find a rock for me to climb onto to get back in the saddle.
We arrived at the lighthouse about an hour later and were welcomed by the keeper and his wife – Mr and Mrs Weatherspoon (Dave and Phyllis). They invited me in for tea and sandwiches, so I tied Maria up in the shade of a tree and gave her feed and water, and went inside.
The cottage was built on the leeward side of the lighthouse to shelter it from the worst of the winter storms, and was delightfully cozy. The furniture was of a simple design, but beautifully crafted from a light coloured, close-grained wood. There were small carvings of flowers in the backs of the chairs. ‘What beautiful furniture!’ I said.
‘My Dave made all this for me as a wedding gift. Almost thirty years ago, now.’
‘Aye, and’ Phyllis made all the cushions, too. And the rugs and the curtains.’ I could see that they were both immensely proud of each other, and with good cause. Phyllis served sourdough bread with goat’s cheese and chutney – all homemade, Dave informed me – and we had a large pot of tea between us. Dave gave me instructions on the finer points of lighthouse keeping, and Phyllis advised me on goat herding and cheese making. I told them of my adventures onboard the ship and we all spent a very pleasant couple of hours together. Not many people venture out to the lighthouse, so company is always welcome.
I had a good ride in front of me, to get back to Gilead, so I climbed aboard Maria once more and thanked my hosts for a pleasant visit, and for their hospitality, and set off on my return journey. The same groups of children clapped and cheered when we reappeared in their villages. We had another small stop with the basket weavers, so that Maria could have a drink, and arrived back in Gilead at dusk. I’m sure Maria was looking forward to a good rest – I know I was.
There was no way I was going to get back to the Abbey for the evening meal, so I went to the little café that Woody and I had visited on our first night on the island. I had poached eggs on toast and a cup of their delicious coffee.
I took a very sedate stroll home – I was sure I had saddle-sores, and intended to soak in the bath for some time before retiring for the night. I had been soaking for a few minutes before I remembered I could have saved myself the walk home by using my walnut shell. I’m not too bright some days!
I have spent my days at the Abbey sitting in the orchard with books I have borrowed from the vast library, sharing apples with Tinker and feeling at peace with the world. This is such a beautiful place. A stream runs through the orchard, where I bathe my feet and dip my hands and watch the minnows darting around my fingers.
I have been rereading Arthurian legends, and I also found a couple of books about runes. Runes are fascinating. I like to make my own out of pebbles, clay, crystals – something in these ancient symbols is so mysterious and bewitching.
My favourite is Raido, which means Wagon, and to Ride, and is a general symbol for travel. If I add Raido (R) to my own name, it becomes Grail, and I am indeed a questing soul.
The cup I seek is the Cup of Creativity. Is this the true Grail, from which all things flow, the Cup which holds the secrets of creativity for all who dare to drink from it?
The runic equivalent of G is Gebo, the Gift – the Grail is the Gift, for those who seek it, your own unique gift, for we all have one. To seek the Grail is to seek your gift, your true self. The runic symbol for Gebo is a cross – a kiss, a symbol of faith? The Holy Palmer’s Kiss was exchanged between souls who knew each other as they passed.
A is Ansuz, which means God, Creativity – so as I seek my Gift, as I travel in quest of the Grail, I am seeking God – the wellspring of creative fire.
I is Isa, Ice, a cold little rune frozen in time. Isa is said to be derived from the Germanic word Isan, meaning iron – but it is also the Muslim equivalent of Jesus, and is believed to be the name of a Finnish Goddess. Wherever it came from, in the runic alphabet it means alone, standing still, frozen in time. Sometimes that is just how I feel. I know my quest is often lonely, and I have often felt cold and frightened.
But finally there is L, Laguz, water, flow, the endless flow of creativity, running like water over rocks, flowing like rivers to the boundless ocean…
So when I feel alone I go back to the source, as I have come back to the Abbey. I drink deep of the waters, feel refreshment running through my tired body and mind, listen to the voices of my companions rippling like water over river stones, and know that I am not alone anymore on my quest. As the minnows gather around my hands, I remember that others have gathered here as well, seeking the Grail, as I have done.
In my cupped hand, the water sparkles…perhaps I had the Grail all along.
To the south the land slopes gently towards the sea, and is lightly wooded, with the occasional meadow clearing scattered with wild flowers – cowslips, primroses and a patch or two of tiny wild strawberries, sweet as honey.
Gilead is the town and the main trading centre, but there are several small hamlets dotted about the island too. Each hamlet seems to be connected to a particular craft, and the crafts seem to be family concerns with the skills being passed from one generation to the next.
One of these I found by literally following my nose! The scent of lavender and rose was on the air and it was my intention to pick flowers. Instead, I happened upon a soap-making enterprise. The perfume was coming from two large vats which were being stirred by two older women. Younger women were shaking the set bars of soap from their moulds, and the children were wrapping the bars, in threes, in brightly coloured cotton squares. They were secured with a blob of shiny, black wax and imprinted with a celtic knot – the family’s sigil. The work was accompanied by chatter and laughter, and they were happy to show me how the soap was made. One of the children took me to where there were boxes packed ready for the market and I bought a pack each of Lime Blossom, Rose Geranium and Sandalwood.
I hadn’t really intended to buy anything on my outing and the weight of the soap, although not very heavy, was added to the weight of my lunch and drink bottle. I hadn’t gone very far beyond the village before I decided to lighten the load by eating my lunch and having a drink. I hid the soaps in the fork of a tree where I could pick them up on the way back, and headed towards the beach for a paddle in the sea.
I collected one or two pretty shells and put them in my pocket – little mementoes of my visit. Rounding a small headland I came across another track and decided to see where it went. Another small hamlet of six cottages. These were the basket weavers. I had noticed the nuns using beautiful baskets for a variety of things. This village must be where they came from. Men and women were sitting companionably in a circle, engaged in their craft. Dried rushes, willow canes and hazel wands were heaped inside the circle. The men appeared to be making the utilitarian baskets, while the women were making smaller, more decorative ‘art’ baskets. These were made from fine twigs and grasses and had small, brightly coloured bird feathers and beads woven into them. Some looked very much like birds’ nests and were quite delicate. I was amazed at how quickly they could produce a basket. Their fingers were very nimble and also quite calloused. They invited me to join them and try my hand at a small basket. My attempts caused a great deal of good-natured merriment all round. I ended up with something that looked as if it had been walked on, but it was a colourful disaster with the beads and the feathers. I purchased a tiny ‘art’ basket woven with feathers of aqua and blue. It sat neatly in the palm of my hand and weighed almost nothing.
One of the men was loading a couple of donkeys with baskets for the marketplace and asked me if I would like to accompany him part of the way. He put my backpack onto one of the donkeys and we set off towards Gilead. I explained that I’d left my soaps in a tree and gave him a rough idea of where, and he pointed me down the right track when we got close.
I was quite tired by the time I reached the tree so I sat a while to get my strength back. When I put the soaps into my bag I felt the walnut shell against my knuckles. I’d heard some of the others talking about its teleporting abilities but had no idea how to operate it. It didn’t come with a manual. I re-examined the tiny items it enclosed but couldn’t make a connection. I decided to hold it firmly in my hand and visualize where I wanted to be. It worked, but it was the weirdest sensation. I felt as if my stomach had fallen through the floor. There was a whooshing, whistling sound and again the lurch of the stomach as I stopped, but I was exactly where I had imagined I would be – back in my room at the abbey. I can see me making interesting use of this in the future.