Gallery #SixSentenceStory

Wednesday’s Six Sentence Story Challenge #4

computer earphone figurine furniture

Photo by cody berg on Pexels.com

 

He looked back at the portraits of his ancestors, on the walls of the dusty gallery, and wondered.

What would they think of him, this ruin of a man, this wreckage?

There is no trace of glory for them to see, merely the shameless face of a sinner, a deluded thief.

But then, he is here, still, and they are long gone, ashes and dust, forgotten.

Sic fugit gloria mundi, he thought…

As his skeletal hand rubbed his polished, fleshless skull.

Guardian #writephoto

Thursday photo prompt

watchers

 

I am waiting. I know you will come, when does not matter to me: I am old, and patient.

When you arrive, I will be ready. Maybe, by then, you will be wiser. If not, woe to you.

You may think that, after those eons, I should have forgotten. Poor you. I forget nothing, ever. Besides, I know your sort: the species that believes they can trample the spring flowers, anywhere, regardless, as if it was their home. It isn’t.

Lack of respect, I call it. Well, respect you shall learn, the hard way.

For there is a guardian on these shores, unforgiving, immortal.

Partir?

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How to leave the city? Setting aside the why (perhaps one day?) how is the question. Maybe the correct answer is: we don’t, ever, we may be elsewhere, but our minds and hearts stay here. Maybe we’ll reminisce, as Frederick writing to Voltaire, much, much later (in fact many wars and forty years later) about Rheinsberg: I had the happiest years of my life there… It is impossible to forget anything: the tree-lined streets, deserted on Sundays, the granit monuments that remind us of the terrible events, the canals, the lakes, the sand, the Spätis opened all night, the parks, the crows… The little markets, the narrow lanes, a city from where one can travel, on an old bike, away from traffic, and lose oneself in deep forests…

We will long for the museums, the concerts, the sheer grandeur of those avenues, history always present, without fuss, without pretense. In many ways we won’t leave, even if, three months from now, there will not remain more than a shadow of our presence here, perhaps a stolen bike in some flee-market.

Painted #writephoto

Thursday photo prompt

painted

 

He painted on the large canvasses we now see in the Orangery Museum. A quiet man, who took the time to look at the light, the pale greens, the tender colours of the young plants. His garden is a spot for dreaming, thinking back to a time of peace. And then there is the gateway, the little painted bridge, an enigma, a sign, a parabole perhaps?

Where does it lead? Could it lead to you, wherever you are, surely painting, deep in thoughts, wondering. Yes, I see you now, in a secret part of your garden, where even ghosts tread carefully.

Claude Monet by himself

 

Guests of young Frederick of Prussia

From: the Bolivian orchestra stranded in a German Castle

Bolivian orchestra

 

“The breathing techniques required to play these instruments for a few hours put you in a kind of trance,” says Miguel Cordoba, who plays the siku flute.

But as soon as the rehearsal finishes they are all too aware of how their life has changed. Because they are not rehearsing back home in La Paz, Bolivia, but in the shadow of a German castle where they have been stranded for 73 days.

The musicians, most of whom have never left Bolivia before, were expecting to spend just over a fortnight this spring touring east Germany’s concert halls.

Instead they are holed up in the buildings and grounds of the sprawling estate of Rheinsberg Palace, a moated castle which has been home to generations of German royalty and aristocracy, an hour and a half’s drive northwest of Berlin.

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As the musicians, some of whom are as young as 17, touched down in Germany on 10 March for their tour, news broke that Berlin had become the seventh German region to impose a ban on gatherings of 1,000 people or more in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Our bus broke down on the motorway. I remember joking that this was bad luck and perhaps our concerts would be cancelled,” recollects Carlos, “but never did I think it would actually happen.”

Their three planned performances were cancelled in the days that followed, and as Bolivia’s government announced it would close its borders, the orchestra scrambled to get home but failed.

Germany’s ban on mass gatherings was swiftly followed by a full lockdown, meaning the musicians are only allowed to roam as far as the forest that lines the perimeter of the estate.

So their free time is spent rehearsing in the nearly 600-year-old palace grounds and exploring the surrounding woodland, home to 23 packs of wolves.

Only on Monday did they get the chance to step inside the castle for the first time as tours for the public reopened.

“It’s very different to my home, it’s very beautiful,” says 25-year-old Miguel.

“There are worse places to be trapped. When I wake up, I watch the sun rise over the forest and the lake. Back home, I only hear the sound of traffic.”

But despite the picturesque natural surroundings, the musicians are worried they have been forgotten.

“We feel abandoned,” says Carlos, who’s spent several thankless hours on the phone to the Bolivian embassy trying to find a way to get home.

The group had only been in Germany for a week when Bolivia’s president announced the country’s border was set to close within days, and all international flights had been suspended.

Arrangements were swiftly made by the German foreign office and Bolivian embassy to reserve seats on one of the last flights out of Germany to South America, landing in Lima, Peru.

The group was initially relieved.

“When we were on the way to the airport, we were all in good spirits, laughing and chatting,” says Camed Martela, 20.

But then Carlos received a call to say the flight had been cancelled as the plane was not allowed to land in Peru.

“The mood suddenly became sombre – everyone on the bus went quiet,” he says.

From that moment, the 6,000 miles (9,656km) between Germany and Bolivia seemed further than ever.

Tracy Prado, who only joined the orchestra in December, remembers thinking about her daughter’s 11th birthday which was coming up a few weeks later.

“I had got my hopes up and it was devastating to think I would miss this important day,” she says.

The group decided the only way to cope was to put together a strict practice schedule – three hours before lunch, three hours after, experimenting with a fusion of traditional Andean music and more contemporary genres.

“Indigenous music is all about the principle of community – everybody can take something from what they are and offer it to the group,” says Carlos.

“You feel the same as your ancestors felt when playing these traditional instruments, which is a beautiful thing,” adds Miguel, whose roots stretch back to Bolivia’s Kallawaya people known for their musical healing ceremonies.

Some members of the orchestra speak to their families in Bolivia. For others, communication is near impossible as internet and telephone signals are patchy outside Bolivia’s main cities.

Many of the musicians play a major role in providing for their families financially, and being unable to do this at the moment is exacerbating their anxiety.

In an interview with Bolivia’s flagship station Radio Panamericana, foreign minister Karen Longaric was asked for her response to the orchestra’s case after a distraught mother of one of the musicians called in.

Longaric suggested the orchestra left knowing the borders were set to soon close, although Bolivia had not recorded a single coronavirus case on the day they left.

She also said the government’s priorities were elsewhere – repatriating “the most vulnerable – women, children, sick people and the elderly”.

Carlos says there seems to be little sympathy for the orchestra back in Bolivia.

“People back home think we’re in a fairytale land,” he says, rolling his eyes. “I’ve had hundreds of messages telling me to stop complaining, and that I’m living like a princess in a German castle.”

Camed is disappointed they have not been able to perform as planned.

“We’d been preparing since January so I became quite depressed as I watched everything we’d prepared for get taken away like this.

“The orchestra helped me get back on track after the death of my dad. My family were so proud of me when they heard I was flying to Europe to perform my country’s music.”

The town of just over 8,000 people, also called Rheinsberg, has largely been welcoming towards the Bolivian visitors, if a little bemused by their presence.

“When I leave the hostel alone, I do feel a little self-conscious,” Camed says. “Sometimes I get strange looks and people stop and stare.”

Some go further than a raised eyebrow, perhaps confused by the fact that the musicians appear to be flouting Germany’s social distancing rules, as it may not be immediately obvious that they have been allowed to classify themselves as a family unit.

He says on one of the occasions the Bolivians played a game of football on the meadow directly in front of the castle. They soon found themselves surrounded by six police officers “in full riot gear, just short of a helmet”, says Timo Kreuser, one of three German musicians who helped facilitate the tour and are staying with them.

“They came from from left and right and started to encircle us and things got a little tense,” recalls Miguel.

“In the end, they just told us that we couldn’t congregate in such a large group, but it wasn’t too serious.”

“The police are used to it now, so they just phone me and it’s always resolved,” says Timo.

Timo has been keen to help the musicians, partly to repay the favour of their own hospitality when he was with them in La Paz in October. Violent protests led to the resignation of the president and Carlos and the orchestra helped Timo evacuate to Peru.

Generosity and offers of help have been in plentiful supply from most people.

The kitchen staff at the guest house the musicians are living in come in to work wearing masks and maintain a distance from their Bolivian guests.

“We are so grateful for the food and the roofs over our heads,” says Tracy, who speculates she’s one of only a few in the group who enjoy the local delicacies.

And, of course, they have the woodland to explore. Tracy says she spotted three wolves while out walking recently

“I froze in fear but they were just play fighting and moved on.”

It is not just wolves they look out for.

One of the palace’s former inhabitants was Frederick the Great, who was given ownership of the estate by his father in 1736 before he ascended to the throne, and described his time at Rheinsberg as his “happiest years”.

A close friend of Frederick, reflecting on his impressions of Rheinsberg, wrote “the evenings are dedicated to music. The prince has concerts in his salon, where no-one is admitted unless called”. One of those who performed was reportedly JC Bach.

“We all joke that Frederick’s ghost is following us and trying to trip us up,” says Camed. “I don’t usually believe in such things but it does feel as if there are ghosts on the grounds.”

As the seasons shifted from early spring to summer, the musicians’ heavy clothes packed in anticipation of colder weather were too warm for their long walks around the estate.

But a concerned Bolivian expat in Hamburg has helped out on this front.

“She collected mountains of clothes and sent them to us. We have seven big boxes so far – perhaps too many, we may need to return some or pass them onto someone else in need,” says Carlos.

But despite the generosity and good will, the orchestra worries that its stay cannot be bankrolled forever.

“Accommodation costs are mounting to more than €35,000 ($38,400) a month alone,” says Berno Odo Polzer, the director of MaerzMusik, the festival at which the orchestra were set to perform. It is one of several publicly funded arts programmes which has supported the orchestra’s longer than expected stay.

Germany is allowing international flights again but Bolivia’s borders remain shut for the foreseeable future.

The Bolivian embassy told the BBC it is trying to get the orchestra on a flight to Bolivia in early June out of Madrid.

But Carlos is worried about how things will be once they return too.

“Covid is getting very political back home,” says Carlos.

The Bolivian government delayed the presidential election that was due in March and later tried and failed to force through a decree limiting freedom of expression and criticisms over the handling of the coronavirus crisis.

“I’m dreaming of the day I will be at my bed in Bolivia and say, ‘OK, this is over’ but I also know that on that day I will start missing what is happening here,” admits Carlos.

Rehearsing

Source: BBC News https://www.bbc.com/news/the-reporters-52760380

Picture of Rheinsberg Castle: By Amodorrado – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3362268

Dance #writephoto

Thursday photo prompt

dance

 

“Those stones don’t belong to our time, they exist here only in our minds…”

I hear the words, I see the mist, I wish I could go back.

“You don’t need to, just wait for this veil to be lifted in the sunshine, then you will see, the true spirits dancing, alive.”

But I know that the circle of stones is there, has been for millennia. Once upon a time, maybe, the spirits inhabited this land, and what I see now is the proof that they left, leaving us wondering, at a loss, longing for their magic world.

Causeway #writephoto

Thursday writing prompt

causeway

 

This is where we started, in these shallow waters, that erased our steps:

the slippery seaweeds, the smooth rocks, where we dreamed of another shore,

by the violet sea, hidden by parsecs of space,

on the planet of the five stars.

We saw the small waves, at the feet of the goddess, we felt the warmth of the blue sun.

This is where we started, inspired, led by this causeway to the universe,

soon living our dream. So far away, from our world…

I came back, you stayed, and now,

I am forever searching for you, excluded from your paradise.

Cascade #writephoto

Thursday photo prompt

cascade

 

I listen to the sound of the cascade, and to the birds and other creatures, deep in the woods. Time flows, as if diluted in the icy waters of the stream. Is it an illusion? Or the harsh reality of our impermanence? Will I remember this instant, on the other side, beyond time, when I myself have returned to the primordial dust? Or is there nothing, just the blank canvas of another story, as yet to be written?

Eve #writephoto

Thursday prompt

imbolc-fox-weekend-130

 

“You people don’t know what you’re doing… You think it’s fun, brandishing torches, setting fire to the pyre, while He is looking at you from behind the mask. Idiots! Go on, carry on playing, lose yourself in these wild dances and the sound of the viola… You have no idea.”

They ignored the old man and continued playing, laughing, shouting, drunk on pot and cheap alcohol, well into the night. What or who they invoked no-one will ever know.

In the pale dawn, the following morning, some of them came back to the village, pale as death, shivering, covered with blistered. Some of the others never reappeared. A later search around the still smoking pyre merely showed lots of empty bottles, some old bones, and a weird mask, apparently made of leather, which seemed to be covered in dark congealed blood. There was a brief investigation, but the witnesses were incoherent. The case was quickly closed.

A tale of two cities

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A walk in a park, and a reading of Vasily Grossman inspired those lines.

There is the city by the wide river, beyond it there is only the immense steppe, to the sea. There was a turning point, they say, a combat of titans.

Here, the river is slow and narrow, feeling its way to the Elbe. There are, all around, woods and and lakes: water reigns. I walk those streets, haunt those memorials, read the grafiti on the walls of the Reichstag, carefully preserved, that remind us of those who walked all the way from the city by the wide river, to meet their fate here.

I live here, and think constantly of the long road, from the shore of the Volga.

Image: Soviet War Memorial, Schönholzer Heide, Berlin