Harbinger #writephoto

Thursday photo prompt

different-magpie-1

I was in my last university year, preparing for a master in German Literature and History. Beside my academic work I enjoyed exploring the country, once called eastern Germany – Ostdeutschland sounded so much better – on my bike. At weekends I used to cover long distances, on the wonderful cycling tracks, or, sometimes off those well marked routes. My home was in the oldest, slightly wild, part of the city, in a beautiful pre war building that had miraculously escaped from the “Sanierung”, the destructive renovation craze that swept the city for decades. There, I inhabited a spacious fourth floor apartment that was ideal for a romantic, yet busy, student and sports addict. At that time, there was no woman in my life, part from my sister and a distant aunt who both lived far away. I was reading intensely, and had started publishing short stories in local literary journals.

That weekend I had done a long loop to the North and East of Brandenburg. It was late autumn, still warm during the day, and luminous. But I had left the beaten track, and followed an ancient path, evidently not much used, that snaked through a thick forest. The trees were old and magnificent. I was in love with the woods, and enjoyed listening to the many birds and small animals who lived there. It was getting late, at the time of year when the sunset suddenly explodes, and darkness comes quickly. I stopped for a little water and to rest my legs, in a small clearing. Soon I heard an owl. It was unmissable, but the owl was not hunting nor flying, she sounded like she was talking to someone, in a low voice, very closed to where I stood. I located her voice coming from a large oak tree nearby. The light was beginning to fade, but I managed to see the owl, sitting still on a high branch and looking down at the foot of the tree. There it was dark, but I finally located, in the grass, pretending not to be there, an old magpie who looked somewhat annoyed at my presence. But there was another shape, bigger, in the shadow: it looked as if the owl had been talking to two creatures.

It was a woman, a small woman, dark haired and wearing a sort of cape, also sitting cross-legged and looking up at the owl, or so I guessed. As I approached slowly, she must have heard my steps, and turned her head towards me. Her face was amazing, a young face, yet looking much wise, with pale green eyes that fixed me with intensity, and lips of bright carmine. Her hair was dark and flowed in waves around her shoulders. She was no tramp, but a well dressed young lady who wore old-fashioned but elegant boots, and was displaying very shapely legs above them. I was surprised, but managed to smile. The owl was silent. The magpie had disappeared. Then I heard her voice, a melodious low voice, speaking the local dialect, which I understood well enough:

“It is late for a city dweller to haunt these woods, stranger. Are you lost?”

I was not sure what to say. I came nearer, my mind a mixture of curiosity and amazement. “This is very kind. Yes, I got a bit off the track. But I heard the owl, and saw the magpie. Were you three talking? In which case I must apologise for the disruption.” She laughed, evidently amused at my speech. “Not at all. My friend up there, and I, are always interested in meeting new people…” I came closer and sat next to her. “But, she continued, don’t wait too long, I will show you how to get back to the main road, for soon it will get very dark.” Her voice was enticing. She was looking straight at me, turned toward me. Her penetrating eyes were catching the dying light. I knew this was a special instant. Who was she? Did she live in the woods? Was she really talking with the owl? We stayed silent, and I cannot tell now for how long. The night was soon all around us. I heard a rustle of small feet, then I must have fallen asleep for some time. When I came back to reality, it was pitch dark. I felt I had been bitten by some insect on the side of my neck. The young woman was no longer there, but there was a note pinned to my shirt, a carefully drawn small diagram showing which way I should go from where I was. I stood up, my bike was where I had left it, my rucksack still hanging from it. I looked at my watch: I must have been in the clearing for not longer than one hour. I had good lights and followed the diagram. It was very precise, and half an  hour later I was back on the path I had to take to get home. 

I felt hungry. I cooked myself some eggs and mixed a salad. I had a glass of wine. I was pondering my experience in the woods. The face of the young woman in the woods was still in my mind. I went to the bathroom for a shower, and I used Teatree oil on the skin of my neck. It wasn’t hurting. There was a mark, as if small but very sharp teeth had bitten the surface of my skin. That night I slept soundly, without dreaming. The following morning the mark had disappeared. 

 

 

Murmur #writephoto

Thursday photo prompt

murmuration

 

“They are swarming, soon they will fly away toward those trees…” I said, “And disappear beyond those clouds…” you replied. It was the end of the long day, we would soon pack for the night, fold the tent, get ready for the hunt. Soon we would need to feed, even if soberly. Your green eyes turned to me. I could see the signs on your skin. I drew the sharp blade, it glittered in the dying light.

We heard an owl. The starlings had disappeared, as you predicted. “I am thirsty.” You said.  A small cut would suffice. As you enlaced me, your arms around my neck,  I saw the red of your beloved lips, felt the despair in your embrace. I held you tight, and as you drank, became as one with the monster in you.

Nothing like a five-year old manuscript

sea-mist

 

I am working on this “draft” (of drafts) again. It says I last worked on it in 2016, the first words go back to 2011, which I find both curious, and almost desperate. The plot is vague, the characters unbelievable, well, not so deep anyway. Yet I find this important, even vital: retracing these steps, pausing on the good bits, not yet editing but planning to.

This project was, at the time, very time consuming. I looked for every opportunity to work on it, despite… a rather busy life. And, now, I really want to turn it into something worth reading, not just by me, but even by others too. There is something in the story I find, again, puzzling. I think it is the geography of the thing, its way to send the characters… maybe where they want to go. Not so random.

Shitty first drafts

“Very few writers really know what they are doing until they’ve done it.”

Peedeel's Blog

Shitty first drafts. All good writers write them. This is how they end up with good second drafts and terrific third drafts. People tend to look at successful writers who are getting their books published and maybe even doing well financially and think that they sit down at their desks every morning feeling like a million dollars, feeling great about who they are and how much talent they have and what a great story they have to tell; that they take in a few deep breaths, push back their sleeves, roll their necks a few times to get all the cricks out, and dive in, typing fully formed passages as fast as a court reporter. But this is just the fantasy of the uninitiated. I know some very great writers, writers you love who write beautifully and have made a great deal of money, and not one of them sits…

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Reaching #writephoto

Thursday photo prompt

twilight

 

“So we are back”, you said in a tone of voice void of emotions. But I knew better: “back” meant we had failed, together, to adapt to a different life, to create the new, to be reborn. Yet this was our home, the naked ground where we belonged. Even the barren trees were part of us, a befitting reminder of the winter of our souls.

“We’ll find a ruin somewhere, do it up, settle down…” I added, hopeful.

“I love those clouds, and then I am here, still, with you!” You replied with a smile, “I thought we should never regret a failure, the important thing, was to have tried.”

“I knew you would understand,” I said, fixing you, as you were reaching for my hand, “Together we are strong, as strong as ever.”

Of a broken box and a small town

2479439_web

In the past two weeks my writing output (I did not want to say “literary”) was badly affected by the collapse of my old Mac, bought in 2009. This was the tool for my writing before and after a first (disk) failure, back in 2018. I was then lucky enough to find a local expert (in Gesundbrunnen) to fix it, without loss of anything. So its life was extended by about a year. Ha! the anxiety, those precious manuscripts! I have now bitten the bullet, and got a so-called refurbished recent version of the same, so that I can now, for a while, avoid the usual trap of “too old to be updated etc.” Hence new MacOs and new virus protection. Even an updated version of Scrivener. Sigh… The “migration”, although assisted courtesy Apple™, was an experience… It’s all there as far as I have been able to ascertain, so far. I am now full of enthusiasm, and I am even considering a major reconstruction of my first novel, still languishing on the Cloud (more about this for another post).

In the meantime, on a beautiful and cool Sonntag we have discovered another treasure of Brandenburg, the town of Eberswalde. Treasure because of the location (slightly north-east of the city of Bernau by Berlin, and easily accessible with the regional train, well designed for carrying lots of bicycles), along two beautiful canals, the Finowkanal and the main Oder to Havel canal. Superb riding country, much loved by cycling enthusiasts all year round. The Finowkanal is on its length the site of magnificent industrial buildings in ruins, notably a paper mill dating back to the XVIIth century (and still working in 1991 when the vultures came in), and an electricity generation plant. This inspired me to write about it, and seek its history.

Now let’s go back to work!

Image: old paper mill in Eberswalde, source: Technikdenkmal in Eberswalde

Eberswalde bei Wikipedia.de

Frozen #writephoto

Thursday photo prompt

frozen

 

“I know where we are, we walked this path many times. Was it yesterday? It was summer still, and yet you see: today the ground is hard frozen, how can this be? ”

“My love, you are confused. We’ve travelled a long time, this place is not that you recognise, we are far away from home, a long way away from summer…”

“What are you telling me? Are we lost? How can we be now in winter?”

“We have to rest. You see, we have what it takes to survive, this far North, and we must keep warm.”

Mirror #writephoto

Thursday photo prompt

mirror-pool

 

Is this where I find you?

Is it your resting place, where you found solace, at last?

Is this your reflection, mirror of a soul forever lost to us?

Have you now found peace, away from the terror of this world?

Were you so impatient, or so desperate, to seek evasion, a door to elsewhere?

Are these trees your friends, there to protect you, and, perhaps, to warn us?

Have you succeeded where we have failed?

Journey #writephoto

Thursday photo prompt

journey-sue-vincent

 

“Insane”, did you say? Yes, I agree, who wants to wander, alone, half naked, in this desolate landscape, other than a madman? But I am on a journey, probably a long journey. “Where are you going?” could you ask, but you won’t.

I want to find them all, all the ghosts, the people I met, once, some I knew, others I loved. There are others too, whose names I never knew, but somehow I can remember. They are all long gone, and I want to find them, to see them a last time. I am sure they are still around, and, perhaps like me, they are wandering, looking. It’s a natural thing to wish, I think, to retrace our steps, to try and meet the long gone shadows of other beings who crossed our lives.

“But”, I hear you argue: “who cares, and why?”

Why should I care? Because life is short, because there are now so few of us still alive, still thinking. There are witnesses, of course, trees, rocks, animals… Sadly we have lost the art of talking with them.

So it is, and I go, keep going, on this journey, until I too disappear in a little cloud.