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I didn’t think I would or could go to sleep, hanging as I was with hundreds, no, thousands of bats, from the ceiling of this huge cave. And why didn’t I feel the need of a blanket, the temperature being just a cool fifty-five degrees Fahrenheit? At home, I would have the thermostat cranked up to a night-time temperature of sixty-five, at least ten degrees higher than here in the cave, but there I would be snuggled into the warm cocoon of a blanket and eiderdown. Here, it didn’t seem to matter. Was there warmth being given off by the furry flying rodents snuggled around me? And certainly the squeaking and chattering did not keep me awake. On the contrary, it was like listening to soft music or surf rolling up on to the beach. I slept like a baby until I was awakened to a restless shuffling of the creatures around me and finding myself flanked by two large bats, one of whom seemed to be in charge.
“It is dusk,” he said in a throaty squeak, “time for us to head out into the night and clear the area of insects…those little critters that you so dislike, the ones that destroy your crops and generally bother you humans, but who are for us, a nightly feast.”
“Dusk! Oh, my gosh, I’ve been here far too long. I have to get back or I’ll be late getting to the Valley of Bones. L’Enchanteur will be on my case for sure.”
“You have expressed your respect of the Bat People and to reward you, she wishes you to join us in tonight’s sweep of the countryside.”
It made sense, something that L’Enchanteur might do to expand on our experiences. You never know what plans she has up her sleeve. And, after all, anyone can pick through bones, though I still wanted to do that, but to fly with bats—now that is something rare and to my mind exotic.
* * *
Restlessness was growing among the bat population until it sounded like a heavy surf with intermittent chirping and chattering. Then, without warning, I was flying, aided by the two boss bats that guided me and kept me from closing my wings and flopping to earth in a most ungainly manner. My companions were gobbling up insects by the thousand. I wondered how it would be without the bats and their night-time forays? We would surely be overrun with nasty, biting, critters whose only purpose in life, or so it seemed, was to harass the human race. I flew with my guides, swooping, diving, and feeding—only I didn’t fancy the feeding so I kept my mouth shut and abstained from the feast.
While my companions feasted, I watched in awe at the scene passing below me. Homes showed only as darkened shadows except for their windows, some of which glowed from interior lights. It’s amazing, I thought, how many humans burn the midnight oil. Streets were marked by straight lines of light, pulled tight like short necklaces on fat necks. Curved roads and byways showed up artistically as jewels showcased on black velvet.
A sliver of light appeared on the Eastern horizon heralding the coming of dawn. The bats surrounding me thinned down to just a few, and then to just my two guides. They gripped my outstretched wings and held fast as we glided downwards like skydivers, having pulled their cords and were enjoying the last leg of their adventure. I was deposited lightly on my feet in front of the abbey. My furry companions chattered a brief farewell before fading into the now brightening sky. I saw them dive into an unseen, from my vantage, bat-sized opening beneath the eaves on the shadowed side of the steeple. They were gone from my sight and I was saddened by that fact.
I stood rock still, somewhat dazed, and a whole lot amazed. I had been where no other human had been. I had slept most of yesterday, roosting with the bats before flying with them into the night to clean the sky of unwanted pests. How could I tell anyone of this and have them believe me? I could buy myself a bat tee shirt and hang bat earrings from my ears, but that wouldn’t mean a thing to anyone other than to let them know that I felt a need to protect these wonderful creatures, not that that wasn’t important…it was very important. But how could I relate my story? Write about it perhaps, in a children’s book. The little ones believe. At least they do until their imaginations and daydreams are clouded and dulled by the onset of adulthood. I know the truth of it though. For one day and one night, I lived as a bat with other bats and that experience will remain with me forever.
©May 9, 2009
My home base in Lemuria is the Abbey. Although my cell was sparsely furnished when I arrived, it was all I needed for writing and art. To my amazement, the wide slit of a window that gave perfect light, but had been totally unreachable, lengthened and lowered as creativity blossomed.
Yesterday after I returned from visiting the Abbey garden, a small, but perfect circle appeared on the wall above my cot. I hoped it was not mold since my window overlooks the beach and the Lemurian Sea. Too busy to investigate, I retrieved my colored pencils and continued the drawing inspired by the garden roses. This is what I drew. This is the stain glass window that the circle on the wall became. 🙂 Barbara-Believer-porsitter
The Abbey’s Secrets Revealed – Part Two
I pushed at the door and pulled at it. I ran my hands over the ancient wood and around the edges looking for and hoping to find a secret panel that would open the door. My immediate reaction was panic. How was I going to get out? Was I doomed to be trapped in this dank passage forever? This was not what I had planned for myself. I leaned against the rough stone wall and slid down into a sitting position on the cold stone floor. After a few minutes the dampness began to seep into my clothes causing me to chill. I stood and managed to push the panic aside, regain my sanity, and think logically. The oil lamps still flickered telling me that there was a draft coming from somewhere up ahead. A draft meant another entrance or at least a window or a crawl space leading to the outside. I would crawl through the eye of a needle if I had to.
I walked slowly down the passage, stopping at side passages and checking the direction of the flames. It was hard to tell because the flickering was slight at best. I dropped to my knees as a flight of bats passed over me. A good sign, I thought, there has to be a way out for the bats. I hoped more would come by allowing me to follow them. But I wasn’t a bat and the few that did fly over were too fast for me. I had to move slowly for fear of slipping on the damp, slippery stone floor. I wondered what this part of the abbey had been used for in olden days.
I thought about my friends wandering the main part of the abbey and its gardens. I wondered about my own stupidity; wandering off alone to seek, what—adventure? Well, I got that whether I wanted it or not.
By now I was chilled to the bone. I sat down and dug into my pack for my wind breaker. I put it on and shoved my hands deep into the pockets where I found the walnut. How could I have forgotten about that? I opened it up and among other things I found a tiny ball of what looked like black parchment. Where was this? What was it for and where did it come from? I did not remember seeing it before. I stored the walnut shell away in my pack, but tucked the ball of parchment-like material into a small coin pocket in my shorts.
I made my way around a bend in the passage and into a cathedral-like cavern with a high ceiling. I knew I had moved beyond the basement of the abbey and was in a large cave reminiscent of caves I had explored in New Mexico. I shuddered a little when I saw the amount of guano on the floor. Looking up again, I could make out the shapes of literally hundreds of bats hanging upside-down from the ceiling. My initial reaction was to move away, return the way I had come. But there was no way out behind me. I had no choice but to move forward. Now, despite the good they do, bats aren’t exactly popular with humans. But I figured that if I left them alone, they would leave me alone.
I felt some movement in my pocket and remembered the tiny parchment-like ball I had tucked away in my shorts. I pulled it out but it was no longer a tightly wadded ball. I was knocked to the ground as it overpowered me and fastened itself onto my back between my shoulders. Before I could comprehend what was happening I was being met and flanked by two of the largest bats I had ever seen. Without a sound, I was being guided upward supported by what was now a pair of functional bat wings. It appeared that by magic the ball of black parchment had metamorphed into strong wings. My guides led me to the center of the vast ceiling. And the next thing I knew I was hanging upside-down and surrounded by several hundred, maybe even a couple of thousand bats. Ugly little fellows they were, but cute too, in a way, and they appeared friendly. Their squeaking from this vantage point was so loud that I couldn’t hear myself think. I understood though they seemed though to be trying to get through to me…to instruct me. Although I did not understand their language, I knew enough to remain still.
After what seemed like hours hanging there upside-down, I examined as best I could, my wings. They rested between my shoulders and when stretched out were attached to my wrists. Although I did not remember repositioning it, my pack was slung crosswise over my chest. I was concerned that I had lost it but it was safe and seemed secure enough. I was surprised too, that the blood hadn’t rushed to my head and that I felt quite comfortable in what was rather an rather unnatural position. I did though find my unique vantage point fascinating. More than that, the draft I had felt below was now a strong current of air—fresh air.
I could see that close up bats were really quite cute, much as a baby rabbit or squirrel, or puppy. So why did we dislike them so? I remembered reading an article that stated bats were given a bad rap. They did not try to get in one’s hair and that their eyesight is actually very good. It is true though that they do rely completely on their built-in sonar. Their gift to us is that they devour millions of insects during their nocturnal flights.
Our lives would be much more uncomfortable if the bats went away.
To be Continued……
Vi Jones (Woodnymph)
©April 18, 2009
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.
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.
For how many months
did the stonemason toil at this
archway of smooth grey stone
which looms before me at
the pinnacle of irregular steps,
a sombre facade which
belies the warm and fertile
soil hiding within. A beacon
for those whose past is a tangle
of wild and untended thoughts,
weeds which struggle to find purchase
in the starved earth, gasping for nutrients.
The way ahead is lined
with ornamental cherry trees in bloom,
the path blanketed by a layer –
paper thin petals grown heavy
with the day’s drizzle of rain,
fallen. A plaque above denotes
the generosity of one devout spirit,
eternally grateful for Her
welcoming embrace and
the stained glass Virgin bestows her
upon those who pass beneath
the great stone construction.
A glance to the left reveals
lighting upon turnsole,
pink and blue. Salvia divinorum,
the seer’s sage clusters
about the wheel of a rusted barrow
from which fragrant culinary herbs tumble
silvery and sweet and begging to be tasted upon
the tongue of this humble servant
striding toward Salvation.
The last week has been spent in semi-solitude. I have been roaming the island at will, only coming into contact with the other guests at breakfast and the evening meal. Each day I have wandered in a different direction and have covered quite a bit of the island.
To the north of the abbey, where the rocks rise up almost vertically from the sea, I discovered hermitage cells carved into the rocks. I don’t have a head for heights, so I only ventured as far as the topmost one. I was not aware that the cells were there, but a paved path led gently down from the cliff-top and I dared myself to see where it went. I was very careful to keep my eyes on the rock face and not look down while I negotiated the pathway. There was a thick, rope handrail attached to the rock, to which I clung with both hands. It was only a distance of a few yards, but I was sweating and weak-kneed by the time I reached the cell, and I had to sit down for a good ten minutes before attempting the return trip. The view out over the ocean was magnificent, and the cave was deep enough that I couldn’t see down, so I quite enjoyed it.
There was a metal plaque on the wall of the cell:
These cells, although no longer in use, were occupied at
various times by members of the order serving a self-imposed
penance of solitude and reflection. A single meal for each
penitent was delivered daily at sunset and left, with a pitcher
of pure spring water, at the top of the pathway.
Some penitents spent a few days here; others months and, one or
I studied the tiny cave I was in. A slightly raised slab of stone was obviously the bed and there were three niches in the back wall and a kind of shelf hewn into the rock. A small crucifix made from a couple of pieces of bleached driftwood, and bound together with hair, hung in the centre niche. The others possibly held candles or maybe some ceremonial items. Very, very basic. I wondered if the occupants of the cell found the experience uplifting or depressing, and if that was part of the penance? Did they write or pursue some other craft during their stay? I really can’t imagine it.
I sat on the ‘bed’ until my knees regained some substance and then climbed back up the pathway, clinging to the rope and keeping my eyes firmly closed. At the top I sat down again and congratulated myself on conquering my fear long enough to see the cell. I’m still afraid of heights and feel quite sick at the thoughts of walking along that path. I suppose it was really quite stupid of me. I was alone. What if I froze and couldn’t get back up to the top? No-one knew where I had gone. At my age you’d think I’d have more sense! Proving once again that age and wisdom don’t necessarily go hand in hand. Sometimes age travels alone!
Sue (aka Beryl)
homilies of joy
stained glass in jeweled colors pray
worshipping the light
kerry vincent (c) 2009
When I arrived at the women’s quarters at Monastery on Lenore I was taken for an interview with the Abbess. She explained she liked to meet all new arrivals but the present influx of visitors meant there were many she had not had time to see. She was an imposing woman and I found myself squirming beneath her cool, grey eyed stare. As she asked me a series of pointed questions about my likes, my dislikes and what I hoped to get out of my time at the Monastery I sensed she would not be an easy woman to fool. I muttered something vague about wanting time to write and draw, about seeking to understand the deeper meanings of femininity.
I had no clear idea of what monastic life entailed. I’d rarely set foot inside a Church and knew little about organised religion. Instead, I harboured romantic visions that Monasteries were places where medieval scribes produced illuminated manuscripts like The Book of Kells. Hildegard of Binger, the German nun of the middle ages, had always fascinated me. She was reputed to a migraine sufferer as was I. Scholars wrote treatises linking her written accounts of mystical visions with the physical and mental disturbances associated with migraine. Beyond that, Hildegard’s range of accomplishments was awe inspiring. She composed music, was a skilled herbalist and wrote on the medical use of plants of plants, animals and stones as well as on religious matters. She illustrated her manuscripts with beautiful paintings that glowed with luminous reds, blues and gold. Recently I had discovered that she was quite possibly the first woman to write a description of female orgasm.
‘When a woman is making love with a man, a sense of heat in her brain,
which brings with it sensual delight, communicates the taste of that delight
during the act and summons forth the emission of the man’s seed.’
Pretty raunchy for a nun I thought. Perhaps the monastic life was different back then.
With all this in mind, I had high hopes that the Monastery on Lenore might offer me a quiet place to work and eagerly followed the Abbess to my room. It proved to be quite spartan. The only furniture was an austere looking single bed, a wooden chair with a woven rush seat and a small desk. A variety of pens, inks and brushes were arranged on the desk. Golden afternoon light poured in an open window and gave the wood work a warm, honeyed glow. Despite the simple surroundings I felt immediately at ease.
For several days I stayed within my room exploring ideas of the feminine in my journal. I emerged only to use the very basic bathroom at the end of the corridor. Meals were placed on a tray outside my door at intervals and occasionally I exchanged a word or two with the young novice nuns who bought them. These girls were always very self contained and didn’t strike me as sharing Hildegard’s insight into the female organism. Sometimes I could hear the voices of other visitors from the S.S.Vulcania. Bursts of laughter and snatches of conversation reached me from the courtyard gardens I glimpsed from my window. Something about the brief flashes of vibrant clothing and wild shouts of utterly impious joy reminded me that the feminine was more than ribbons and lace, piety and sanctified notions of motherhood. Disturbed by thoughts of birthing, blood and earthy, sensual pleasures I left my room and set out to explore more the Monastery.
Rather than returning to the refined cloisters I’d been ushered through on my first day I wandered away from my room into the courtyard garden. Sweetly scented herbs bordered cobbled pathways that led me away from the main buildings. Out past trees heavy with ripening fruit I glimpsed tumbling walls of worn stone punctuated by windows of stained glass and deep niches where time worn, lichen covered statues stared with sightless eyes. As I drew closer I spied an arch where an opened door of oak provided a glimpse of shadowy passageway within. Intrigued I entered and found myself in cool silent building that appeared to have fallen into disuse. Stone flags were arranged on the floor in a labyrinthine pattern.
I walked meditatively around it then when I reached the centre I looked out across the floor to the further wall. A small door seemed to beckon me. Not wanting to break the mood I retraced my footsteps through the labyrinth then hastened to the door. It opened easily onto a narrow flight of stairs that plunged downward. I helped myself to one of the torches placed upon a shelf just beyond the door and made my way downwards. After a short descent I emerged in a crypt where stone arch ways spanned a wide open area. Along the perimeter shafts of light penetrated the space from deep fissures in the ceiling that apparently opened out to the world of daylight above me. I turned off my torch and, after my eyes had adjusted to the half light, began to explore. The arch ways spanning the central area were laid out in such a way that they created a pathway to shadowy recess curtained with a heavily embroidered cloth. Curious, I made my way towards it. The silence of the place, the dusty half light and the musty air gave the moment a profound solemnity.
It was almost with a sense of trepidation that I pushed aside the curtain and I raised my eyes to gaze upon the statue within, a black Madonna carved from stone as ancient as the earth. As I looked into the intense blackness of the stone I plunged into a state of heightened awareness. I sensed something of the way the seed is nurtured deep within the darkness to burst forth as new life. I saw the sorrows of centuries and the grieving of mothers mourning the horrors of war and the death of sons. My vision seemed to enter the blackness where I saw the endless circling rhythms of nature, the ceaseless, cyclic turnings from birth to death to rebirth. The immensity threatened to engulf me and I cast my eyes downward. Upon the stone of the floor I saw that someone had been there before me, presumably not so long ago. There, directly in front of my feet, was the word CROW scrawled in white chalk.
Overwhelmed by all I had felt I made my way back to the monastery to pack my bags. The word Crow sounded a cawing deep within me and awoke the urge to retreat alone to the interior of Isle of Lenore and continue my searching there.
an ornate setting
of pale wood and wrought iron
under over latticework woven, melded, beaten
into submission by a heavy hand
exposed to elements and its patina softens
roughly hewn roses nestled among
fine detail, the work of a tradesman
and an artisan.
there are gaps where the sunlight
reaches through and lovingly caresses
though the chill wind cuts an unforgiving
path through the sycamore
overhead and I shiver
beneath my borrowed serge.
my mind witters during this
contemplative seclusion, prayers not yet
fully formed but trivial thoughts –
butterflies which dance from one
merry bud to another.