Chasing the Light, Stories, Thoughts About Life

The Songs of Birds

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God gave the sweetest melody to the smallest of birds. A cluster of goldcrests fly from branch to branch. Their little tails shake with anticipation, while their beaks are picking at the sweet flowers. Ah and the tree, a magnificent giant covered in ivy! I can’t even see its trunk or begin to decide what family of trees it belongs to. It stands there, with its crooked branches pleading to the heavens. Covered in parasitic veins and leaves, it breathes heavily. The bark bleeds under the tight grip of the ivy, but it still finds love for the little creatures that play amongst its withered forms.

The tree reminds me of a man, whose once rich possessions have succumbed to decay and misfortune. His status, albeit stained by wretched gossip, strains to stay afloat. He sits on a chest in the middle of his once grand, now empty, ballroom. His eyes close with delight as the soft voices of songs once sung there caress his soul. ‘I have lost my worldly glory.’ he whispers. ‘I have seen the cruelty of man at its peak and have tasted the bitterness of poisonous lips!’

‘Alas’, he sighs, ‘But I cannot forget the beauty of man’s soul when he loves. And when one loves, one sings! I shall have one last ball here, with the last of my earthly possessions. Let the grandest singers and musicians come and share their tunes! And after everyone has heard their songs and got their fill of gladness, I shall go into the world happy. Poor in my attire, but rich in my heart.’

Such is this tree as it listens to the goldcrests and black birds nesting in its wounds. For this tree is wiser than me. It bears its pain with patience, listening for what rings true and lets it rest on its shoulders. It does not shake the winged messengers away, but rejoices in their gifts. The tree knows that its roots are deep inside the earth and that the ivy is tight around its neck. It also knows that the songs of birds speak of a world it cannot yet see, but whose beauty and truth bring a promise of freedom.

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Chasing the Light, Research & Play, Thoughts About Life

Pebbles in the Storm

‘Let the little children come to Me, and do not hinder them! For the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.’ (Christ)

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Girls in front of a mosque in Mumbai.

This week has been heartwrenching, but also eye-opening and fun. It started with a three day training led by Ash Perrin from the Flying Seagull Project. It ended with a masterpiece film, Capernaum, directed by Nadine Labaki and starring syrian refugee Zain Al Rafeea. The voices that echoed throughout the week, however, were the voices of children.

Children in refugee camps. Children running away from authority. Children making their own justice. Angry, sad, hungry, tired, alone children, who have lost so much and yet still find the strength to take care of each other. Like Zain (Capernaum) helping his sister hide her period from her mother, since the blood stain meant she was ready for marriage, at eleven. Or how Zain took care of an infant whose mother had been arrested due to illegal immigration.

Oh, child of the past, where are thou now? What deserts are you wandering through? Who feeds you and gives you drink? Who tells you bedtime stories and gives you shelter? For I have sheltered you in the depths of my heart and people have told me to leave you there. I added more and more layers of wood and brick and your voice became like a distant whisper.

‘Be more mature.’, ‘You have to drop the silliness.’, ‘You’d be so pretty with some makeup on.’, ‘It’s time you got a real job.’, ‘You’ve been in school long enough.’, ‘Stop running after princes and fairy tales.’, they said, sometimes even my family, although I know they meant well. But this week something changed. I was allowed to play. Actually I was told to be sillier, goofier, wilder! Improv for me is usually a place to play and be free, but the Flying Seagull Project (FSP) training was much more than that.

FSP have brought smiles to thousands of refugee and underprivileged children. Dressed up as figments of our imagination, Ash and his crew believe that childhood is a right that everyone should have. They bring games, songs and magic to children all around the world to help them play again. After training with FPS I believe that us grown ups can also learn a thing or two about the joy of being daft.  

Oh, how the tables have turned! Grown ups teaching children to play and children teaching grown ups to raise their young. But we need this, because in order to clean and bandage the wounds of our Earth, we need grown ups to be childlike and humble, while children need to be heard and taken seriously.

So if you have reached the end of this article, take a moment to think. How can you be a pebble in this stormy sea we live in today? Your ripples might seem swallowed by the waves, but they are never lost. The Flying Seagull Project (and I :D) will bring hope, courage and smiles to children. Capernaum and other similar films will help fight child neglect. How can your gifts be used to bring a voice to children…and not only the ones out there, but also the one inside your soul?    

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Chasing the Light, Chasing the Light Poetry, Poetry

The Keeper of Light

The Keeper of light and all that is good,
Brought life to the faces sculpted in wood.
His breath is like fire, deep from the Earth,
Scorching the makings of inferior birth.

He sees not only the sharp witted mind,
But delves deeper his treasure to find.
For thoughts are mere shadows of a higher art,
Crafted and shouting from deep in the heart.

(From Voice Mountain and Chasing the Light)

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Chasing the Light, Stories, Thoughts About Life, Traveling

Lost in the Forest of Dean

Silence never felt so deep and yet, I was not alone. I looked up at the haunting sway of trees, their branches both sheltering and menacing me. A gun was shot in the heart of the forest. My heart stopped for a moment. My flee from the Dean’s castle had not gone unnoticed. But I could not marry this shadow of a man. He who had lurked in darkness, watching his own men die on the battlefield.

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I knew a place where I would be safe, The Speech House. The lady of the house would surely host me and send my pursuers away. I stepped over the moss covered branches, pressing them deeper into the mud. My feet were cold and wet, but eager to make haste. The sky was on the brink of sunset and I seemed to have lost my way.

A crow hissed a warning as I got closer to its nest. I took that as an omen to turn away. How long had I been running for? Hours, perhaps, but they weighed on me like days. At last I could see the welcoming lights of the manor house on top of a hill. The statue of a stag watched over me as I squelched my way up the hill. I could hear hushed voices amongst the trees.

My dress got hooked by a thorny branch. I turned to untangle it. My eyes filled with fright at the sight of four men with their hunting dogs on thick leather leads. As I forced myself free I could hear the sound of the leads being set loose. With the last bit of breath I flung myself over the massive oak doors of the Speech House. They were locked! ‘Let me in!’ I cried. The dogs were almost at my feet, their growls drew nearer with every pound on the door. I covered my face in anticipation of a fierce encounter.

*

The doors of the bus open. I have been waiting in the snow covered night for half an hour in front of The Speech House, in the Forest of Dean. ‘Are you going to Coleford and then Gloucester?’ I ask the driver, a young man, not more than twenty two. ‘Yes, there are no other buses coming this way.’ ‘You saved me!’ I say. ‘I would have been stuck here for the night if it wasn’t for you.’ I get in, shivering from head to toe. At least I can get home now. What an adventure it was!

 

 

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Chasing the Light, Stories, Three Bridges

Three Bridges

‘Grandpa Ioan might not be with us for much longer.’ These words pounded in Peter’s mind as he struggled to get his train ticket to open the barrier gates. A wrinkly conductor watched him from under a pair of square spectacles.

‘Wait a minute, boy!’ he began gravely after Peter had snatched his violet ticket from the other side. ‘How old are you?’

‘Fourteen.’ Peter gulped and slowly raised on his toes.

‘Are you – really?’ the conductor squinted and shuffled slowly towards him as if wearing slippers.

Peter stood firm on his toes, trying to appear larger in his oversized wool coat. His chestnut hair curled as a steam engine puffed its way into Blue District station. Peter’s dark brown eyes turned towards the seven carriages that followed.  

‘Let’s see your age card.’ the wrinkly conductor demanded and placed a heavy hand on the boy’s right shoulder.

Peter tapped and searched his pockets with the air of a businessman. Frantic crowds of well dressed grown ups surrounded the rusty entrances of the train. The green paint cracked as a round passenger opened the first carriage door. A dozen more grown ups, some with children, followed.

‘I don’t have it.’ Peter said in desperation. He watched the passengers swirl through the train doors like water in a sink.

‘You’re not allowed on this train, by the underage decree of Queen Avrig the Barren!’ the conductor coughed with content, as if finishing a speech. He then turned to a younger conductor who had just arrived for his morning shift.

‘Charlie’ he said, his hand tight on Peter’s shoulder, ‘take this boy back to his care house.’

Peter’s breath rose quickly, similar to the frantic ashes bursting out of the whistling chimney. He sprung from under the conductor’s grip. The wheels screeched, pushing the giant metal train forward. ‘Pedal faster!’ Peter’s mind bellowed as he ran across the platform. He remembered his grandfather teaching him how to cycle. ‘Pedal so you don’t lose your courage!’

Peter grasped the handle from the last carriage door and leapt inside. The two conductors were left waving furiously on the platform. The boy sighed heavily, but cautiously as he hoped no one had noticed his abrupt entrance.

The carriage seemed empty. It was padded with lacquered wood boards and smelt of pine. A small grey stove puffed slowly, in time with the train. Its zig zag funnel had colourful crystals hanging from it, on wool threads. Peter walked towards the stove, admiring the silk embroidered cushions on the seats. The chairs were made of solid oak, with curved handles and wave-like backrests. Golden plates with engraved names shone from their tops.

Peter’s heart jolted. In a far away corner of the carriage, he saw an old lady dressed in pink and white furs. She was knitting what looked like an old fashioned scarf with flower motifs. She gave Peter a quick glance as he quietly sat next to the fireplace. He suddenly remembered something and searched his pockets. The old lady croaked as Peter took out his violet train ticket.     

‘That’s Lord Fagurash’s seat, my boy.’ she said calmly. ‘Come here, in Lord Petal’s seat. He won’t be travelling with us any time soon.’

Peter obeyed, fighting his anxiety in silence. As he sat facing the old lady, he noticed a golden ring with the word “Privilege” on her right hand. They were both quiet for an uncomfortably long time.

‘My name is Lady Daria Petal’ she began after a while, ‘daughter of Lord Rosemund Petal II, in whose place you are seated.’

‘I am Peter Arinis, ma’am, pleased to meet you.’

‘You must be one of the care home children.’ she said matter-of-factly.

Peter lowered his head, but said nothing. Lady Petal smiled and opened her purse. She took out an old letter with a golden wax seal on it. She opened it easily, as the seal had been torn, and took out a set of green and violet tickets, similar to the one Peter had.

‘You must be rich!’ the boy gasped in amazement, leaning towards Lady Petal.

‘My parents were.’ she sighed. ‘Now there is not much need for their money, I have my own.’

‘Did you get to spend a lot of time with your parents then?’ Peter asked with anticipation.

‘Too little time, my dear boy. You only realize what you had after you lose it. I see that you know the value of time well spent.’ she ended with a bittersweet smile.

‘My parents work very hard to send me a green ticket every now and then. I miss them most of the time, but when a ticket comes, I can go and see them and that is all that matters.’

‘You visit them, but you should let them come to you. I believe fourteen is the visiting age for the Green District? At least that is the impression the conductor gave me when he held you hostage just now?’

She gave a high pitched laugh which erupted as abruptly as it stopped a few seconds after. Peter paused for a few seconds and then replied. ‘I am ten and a half and my parents can scarcely spare any time. They are very busy in the Green District. I know my way around well enough by now!’ he concluded with the air of a well established grown up.

‘I need to get to the Violet District, though, by sunset.’ he then whispered in one long breath. ‘My father wrote that grandpa Ioan is very unwell.’ Lady Petal gave him a long stare and sighed.

‘You disapprove?’ he noticed.

‘No,  but I do recall that children can’t visit the Violet District alone.’ she grinned. ‘I suspect your parents knew that when they sent you the ticket?’

‘They didn’t send me the ticket.’ Peter admitted bashfully. ‘My father’s salary isn’t due until the end of the month. That is usually when they send tickets to our child care house. Lady Footstool is good to us and gives us our tickets even if we are smaller than the legal age for visits.’ Peter sniffed a couple of times and then gave Lady Petal a quick glance.

‘You stole it!’ she rang.

‘I…borrowed it, from Henry Hayworth. He owned me one.’ Peter resolved with higher spirits. ‘I didn’t tell on him when he…well I can’t tell you. So now he’ll just tell his parents he lost his ticket. Now, we’re square.’

‘I see.’ Lady Petal stretched her legs and put her knitting aside.

‘Are you disappointed?’ Peter asked humbly.

‘No. I just wish I had had your courage a long time ago.’

‘Did you lose someone?’

‘Yes.’ she replied curtly, looking at the golden name shining above Peter’s head. ‘My grandfather actually. He was more like a father than a grandfather to me. I never knew my father, well not the real Rosemund Petal II, anyway. He was always too busy with his perfume business. He also didn’t let me see grandpapa before taking him to the Grey District.’

The train whistled wildly as it entered a deep valley covered with birch trees. Their golden and red leaves burnt brightly against the dark grey clouds. Soon they were replaced by a hill of stumps and waste. The train turned and out of the smoke stained windows Peter could see the tall metal buildings of the Green District. Dark green pipes encircled them, with their mouths pouring out white smoke and ash.

The train stopped in front of a large golden gate. Beyond it Peter could see a manor house shaped like a round bottle. Its roof was pointy and had a pink cloud hanging over it. A strong scent of rose and lemon came in through the carriage door as it was opened from the outside.

‘This is me!’ Lady Petal rang joyfully.

‘Wait!’ Peter cried. ‘What is the Grey District?’

‘You can just sit on that chair until the Violet district. Feel free to take one of my patron crystal rocks from the stove. That will be proof that you are under my protection today.’

‘Thank you ma’am. But what is it ma’am? The Grey District?’ he ran to the door to hear her answer.

Lady Petal was helped down the steps by two stern looking valets. Her frilly pink and white dress made wavelike patterns as she descended. She then turned towards Peter. ‘I hope you never find out.’ The door closed with a loud thud.

(…)  

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