Circle #writephoto

Circle

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They were six of them, and their leader may have been Galahad. There, they fought, back to back, from one dawn to the next, for days and nights, against the armies of Evil.

There they died, for, then, knights never surrendered. And there, the circle of stones remind us: the battle continues, and they watch us, puzzled, at times amused, more often annoyed. So much effort, for such so small people…

The City knows #WritersWednesday

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She never forgets: the humble swamps of the beginnings, the far away sounds of war, the medieval cruelties, the triumphs, the parades, the Enemy at the gates…

Then there was the long war – thirty years of destruction, rape, pestilence and ruins. Out of this came a stronger state, and she was the capital. The Soldiers” King – Soldaten König – made her powerful, perhaps a little agressive too. She knows what the fate of his son was, the sweet Friedrich, and Russia: a predicament for the next two centuries.

She remembers the Corsican invader, who would have feared Friedrich, and would lose his pride, and an empire, in the snows and fires of Moscow. And she loved Schinkel, the master architect, he who gave her the cross – on the hill: Kreuzberg, and what followed, the victories, the invincible army, the birth of the Reich, the Iron Cross.

Of the First World War she only remembers the trains full of enthusiastic soldiers, and then the revolution, machine guns in the street, Spartakus, the bloodbath, the corpses thrown into the canal.

Of the long night that started not so much later, she speaks often, soberly. So many sad memories, all those little brass stones on her pavements – so many human beings taken away, old and young, and burnt. The memorials, the thousands buried in her parks. Yes, the trees, fallen soldiers, reborn to adorn her streets.

Of the wall of division, yesterday really, a few seconds ago in her life, she knows all, and now she sees the builders, the speculators, the newcomers.

She sees us, my love, and is willing to tell us her stories. We will listen to her, in awe.

 

Hope #TheDailyPost

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Write a new post in response to today’s one-word prompt.

You said the change will do us good. I was not so sure, but now we have to do it, no turning back. You may well be right: the city of Faust may be  just what we need…

What we need to revive the flame, to forget the past, to erase certain memories…

And then we will walk, hand in hand, along the tree-lined streets, past haunted dwellings, as if nothing had ever happened, just a couple of lovers, taking in the Spring air, in a city that saw so much worse…

… than a couple of murderers on the run…

Image: House 3 Providence RI 1976, © Francesca Woodman

Vanished #AtoZAprilChallenge

Dedicated to the Native American tribes, victims of the greatest genocide in history, who knew agriculture, and the art of living, when Europe was starving, crawling in medieval darkness.

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He stands on the red rocks, alone with ghosts, his sight on the painted horizon.

Slowly they appear in his vision: the millions, slaughtered by disease, hunger, the swords and bullets of the invaders.

He remembers: a people in tune with nature, who understood the path of Mother Earth, as no-one since has understood Her.

And, now, he, the white scientist, knows the end is near: his own tribe will have to leave the Fourth World, and find solace in hell.

Then the braves will rise from their forgotten graves, as trees from the desert.

Written originally for the #FiveSentenceFiction prompt “Abandon”

Photo: 12th century Wupatki ruins, Wupatki National Monument

Sipapuni #AtoZAprilChallenge

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When a stranger comes to the village, feed him. Do not injure one another, because all beings deserve to live together without injury being done to them. When people are old and cannot work anymore, do not turn them out to shift for themselves, but take care of them. Defend yourselves when an enemy comes to your village, but do not go out seeking war. The Hopis shall take this counselling and make it the Hopi Way.

– from the Palatkwapi story

In the beginning there was only Tokpella, Endless Space. Nothing stirred because there were no winds, no shadows fell because there was no light, and all was still. Only Tawa, the Sun Spirit, existed, along with some lesser gods. Tawa contemplated on the universe of space without objects or life, and he regretted that it was so barren. He gathered the elements of Endless Space and put some of his own substance into them, and in this way he created the First World. There were no people then, merely insect-like creatures who lived in a dark cave deep in the earth. For a long while Tawa watched them. He was deeply disappointed. He thought, ‘What I created is imperfect.These creatures do not understand the meaning of life.’

So Tawa called his messenger, Goyeng Sowuhti, Spider Grandmother, and told her to go down and prepare the living creatures for a change. Spider Grandmother went down. She spoke to the insect creatures, saying, ‘Tawa, the Sun Spirit who made you, is unhappy because you do not understand the meaning of life. He says: ‘The creatures are fighting among themselves. They see but they do not comprehend. Therefore I will change things. I will make a new world, and I will perfect all things that have life in them.’ This is the message Tawa asked me to bring. Therefore prepare to leave this place to enter the Second World.’

… When at last they emerged into the Second World they looked quite different. They were animals that somewhat resembled dogs, coyotes and bears. There was fur on their bodies, their fingers were webbed, and they had tails. They lived in the Second World and were happy at first. But because they did not have any understanding they grew bitter and warred upon one another, even eating one another. Tawa saw how the creatures of his Second World were living. He saw that they did not grasp the meaning of life. And so again he sent Spider Grandmother to lead them on another journey.

While they travelled, Tawa created the Third World. He made the atmosphere a little lighter and gave them water to moisten their fields. When the creatures followed Spider Grandmother into the Third World they discovered their bodies had changed again. Their fur, their webbed fingers and their tails had disappeared. Spider Grandmother said to them: ‘Now you are no longer merely creatures. You are people. Tawa has given you this place so that you may live in harmony and forget all evil. Do not injure one another. Remember that Tawa created you out of Endless Space, and try to understand the meaning of things.’

… The people made their villages. They planted corn. They lived on. They were in harmony, and they were grateful to the Sun Spirit who had created them and given them a new world to live in. Yet things were not perfect. There was a chill in the air, and the light was only grayness. Spider Grandmother came and taught people how to weave blankets and cloth to keep their bodies warm. She taught the women how to make pots out of clay so that they could store water and food. But the pots could not be baked and they broke easily. And the corn did not grow very well because warmth was lacking.

Then one day a hummingbird came to where the people were working in their fields. The people asked, ‘Why are you here?’ The hummingbird answered, ‘I have been sent by my master.’ They said, ‘Who is your master?’

The bird replied, ‘He is Masauwu, Ruler of the Upper World, Caretaker of the Place of the Dead and the Owner of Fire. He has observed how you live here, and he says, ‘The crops do not grow well because the people do not have warmth.” The people said, ‘Yes, it is true. Warmth is lacking.’ The hummingbird said, ‘I have been sent to teach you the secret of warmth.’ And he gave them the secret, showing them how to create fire with a fire drill. After that he departed.

Now that the people had the knowledge of fire, they gathered grass and wood and made fires around their fields, and the warmth made their corn grow… They learned the secret of baking pottery… Those who had received the secret of fire from Masauwu’s messenger became known as the Firewood or Fire People. They said, ‘Masauwu is our relative.’ Now things were better in the Third World.

It was the powakas, or sorcerers, who brought disruption and conflict among the people. They made medicine to injure those whom they envied or disliked. Worse yet, they turned the people’s mind from virtuous things. The younger people grew disrespectful of the older. Husbands sought other women, and wives sought other men. Instead of caring for their fields, men spent their time in the kivas gambling. And instead of grinding corn, women went to the kivas to join them. Children wandered about unclean and uncared for, and babies cried for milk… Dissension spread everywhere. Instead of seeking to understand the meaning of life, many began to believe that they had created themselves.

In the beginning , life in the Third World had been good. But because people succumbed to the evil unleashed by the powakas, things began to change. The cornstalks in the fields withered before the ears were formed. The flowing rivers moved more sluggishly and the springs dried up. Clouds drifted over the fields but did not release their rain. Squash and melon stopped growing, and sickness came into many houses.

Now, those who had not forgotten that Tawa was their father worried greatly about the way things were going. Night after night they met in the kivas to discuss the corruption that was spreading in the Third World. They encouraged the lazy to work, admonished women for their promiscuous ways, threatened the powakas with punishment and sought to create order, yet nothing changed. There was evil and chaos all around them.

Tawa saw what was happening to the world he had made. He called Goyeng Sowuhti, Spider Grandmother, and sent her to the people with a message. Spider Grandmother… entered a kiva where the people were gathered. She said, ‘Tawa, the Sun Spirit, is displeased with what he has created. The powakas have made you forget what you should have remembered. Therefore all people of good heart should go away from this place and leave the evil behind.’ The people said to one another, ‘Where can we go? Is there another place?’ But they did not know of another place anywhere, and they were troubled.

Then an old man said, ‘Have you not heard footsteps in the sky, as though someone is walking there?’ And other old men replied, ‘Yes, there has been someone walking above us up there. We have heard it many times when the air was still.’ Other people said, ‘Let us discover what is there. Let us send a messenger to investigate things…’

So began the search for the ‘hole in the sky’, the doorway to the Upper World. The chiefs resolve to send messengers to seek the passage, and contact whoever lived ‘up there’. Eventually a catbird finds the way.

So the catbird flew up and passed through the opening in the sky… He came to a place of sand and mesas. He saw large fires burning alongside gardens of squash, melons and corn. Beyond the gardens was a single house made of stone. A person was sitting there, his head down, sleeping. The catbird alighted nearby and waited. The person awoke and raised his head. His eyes were sunken in deeply, there was no hair on his head, and his face was seared by burns and encrusted with dried blood. Across the bridge of his nose and his cheekbones two black lines were painted.  Around his neck were two heavy necklaces, one made of four strands of turquoise, the other of bones…

The catbird recognises Masauwu, Spirit of Death, the Owner of Fire and Master of the Upper World. The catbird explains the state the Lower World is in, infested with evil, and that many people wish to come and live in the Upper World. “The people of good heart ask for your permission to enter the Upper World and build their villages here.”

Masauwu said, ‘You see how it is in this place. There is no light, only grayness here. There is no warmth, and I must build fires to make my crops grow. But there is land and water. If the people wish to come, let them come.’

The catbird left Masauwu and returned to the opening through which he had passed. He went down to where the chiefs and the medicine men were waiting. They asked him, ‘Did you arrive there and find the one who walks in the sky?’

The catbird explains what he saw, and Masauwu’s willingness to have the people come to the Upper World.

Hearing this, the chief of Fire People spoke. He said, ‘Masauwu is our spirit. We are the ones to whom he sent the secret of fire. He is our relative. Therefore we are willing to go.’ Others said, ‘Yes, let all of us who wish to escape from evil go there. The Fire People can lead us and speak for us to Masauwu. Let us prepare for the journey.’

It was agreed, then, but the chiefs and medicine men looked upward, saying, ‘How shall we ever reach the sipapuni, the doorway in the sky?’

Once again Goyeng Sowuhti, Spider Grandmother, comes to the rescue, with her young grandsons, the warrior gods Pokanghoya and Polongahoya. She sends her grandsons to find chipmunk, the planter.

Spider Grandmother said to the chipmunk, ‘It is you who have been chosen to make a path for the people into the sky. For this you will always be remembered.’ And she explained what had to be done.

The chipmunk planted a sunflower seed in the center of the plaza. By the power of singing the people made it grow. If they stopped to catch their breath, the sunflower stopped growing, and Spider Grandmother called out, ‘Sing! Sing!’ As soon as they started to sing again, the sunflower continued growing. In time the sunflower stalk reached toward the sky, but just as it was about to pass through the sipapuni it bent over from the weight of its blossom.

Then the chipmunk planted a spruce seed, then a pine seed, and all failed to reach the sipapuni.

Once more the chipmunk planted. This time it was a bamboo. The people sang hard and made the bamboo grow straight and tall… Spider Grandmother went back and forth exhorting the people to sing the bamboo into the sky. Thus it went on. The people began to fear that they did not have breath enough to do what was required of them. But finally Spider Grandmother called out, ‘It is done! The bamboo has passed through the sipapuni!’

The road to the Upper World was finished, and the people rested. Spider Grandmother spoke, telling of the things to come. She said, ‘The journey will be long and difficult. When we reach the Upper World, that will be only a beginning. Things there are not like things here. You will discover new ways of doing things. During the journey you must try  to discover the meaning of life and learn to distinguish good from evil. Tawa did not intend for you to live in the midst of chaos and dissension. Only those of good heart may depart from the Third World. The powakas and all who perform wicked deeds must stay behind. As we go up the bamboo to the Upper World, see that no one carries evil medicine in his belt. See that no powakas go with us. Leave your pots and grinding stones behind. Up above you will make more of these things. Carry nothing that has to be held in your hands, for you will need your hands for climbing. When we have arrived in the Upper World I will tell you more about what is expected of you. Meanwhile, remember this: In the Upper World you must learn to be true humans.’

… The people prepared, and on the fourth day they gathered at the foot of the bamboo. The chiefs stood in front – the village chief, the crier chief, the singer chief and the war chief. Behind them the people stood waiting for the journey to begin… Spider Grandmother went up the bamboo first, followed by the boy warrior gods. The people moved toward the bamboo to begin to climb. But now the chief of the Fire People protested, saying, ‘Wait. We are the ones who are entitled to go first, for Masauwu is our special benefactor. We shall take the lead.’ The others deferred to the Fire People. After the Fire People began their ascent, whoever could get to the bamboo took his turn. The mockingbird fluttered around the bamboo, calling out, ‘Pashumayani! Pashumayani! Be careful!’ This the way the people departed from the Lower World. They moved slowly upward, and in time the entire bamboo stalk was covered with human bodies.

As the first climbers emerged through the sipapuni and stepped into the Upper World, Yawpa the mockingbird stood at Spider Grandmother’s side and sorted them out. ‘You shall be a Hopi and speak the Hopi language,’ he said to one. ‘You shall be a Navajo and speak the Navajo language,’ he said to another. ‘You shall be an Apache and speak the Apache language,’ he said to a third. He assigned every person to a tribe and a language, and to each tribe he gave direction to go in its migrations. He named the Paiutes, the Zunis, the Supais, the Pimas, the Utes, the Comanches, the Sioux, and the White Men…

More people were coming up the bamboo stalk. Finally the chiefs decided that “all those who chose to depart from evil are here. Therefore, let no more come through the sipapuni.”

The village chief went to the opening and called down, ‘You who are still climbing, turn and go back. It is because of you that we chose to leave and come to the Upper World. Do not follow us. You are not wanted here.’

But the climbers persisted, saying that they also wanted to be in the Upper World. So the warrior gods, Pokanghoya and Polongahoya, grasped the bamboo stalk and pulled its roots from the ground. They shook it and all those clinging to it fell back into the Lower World like seeds falling from ripe grass. The chiefs said, ‘Now we are secure from the evil ones. Let us make camp.’ The people camped near the sipapuni and rested.

From: The Fourth World of the Hopis, The Epic Story of the Hopi Indians as Preserved in their Legends and Traditions, Harold Courlander, University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque, © 1971 by Harold Courlander

Image: Tim Nicola, Woman With Shawl, ca. 1992, Alabaster Marble, Courtesy Tucson Museum of Art

 

Palatkwapi #AtoZAprilChallenge

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Harold Courlander retells the story of the creation and destruction of Palatkwapi.

“Since the beginning of things much time had passed. People had journeyed from one place to another, built villages, abandoned them, following the instructions of their wise men and the signs that appeared in the sky. Somewhere far, far to the south of where the Hopis now live, a band calling themselves Patkiwoema, the Patki people, moved through the wilderness… At last they came to the place they called Palatkwapi… where they became known as the Water Clan… Life was good to them. Their corn matured, there was always water in the nearby river, the rain fell and there was plenty of game. The older people, however, did not forget the sipapuni [place of emergence in the Hopi tradition, where people migrated from the Third to the Fourth World] and the meaning of life. In their songs they asked, ‘Who are we? Where do we come from? Why are we here?’… Yet while some people recalled these things, there were many who did not think of them anymore.

Palatkwapi… then grew large, and by the time it was old there were numerous persons in the village who rejected virtue… Evil and corruption entered the village. Instead of gathering in the kivas to examine the meaning of life, men and women used the kivas to play totolospi, kokotukwi and other gambling games. They neglected their fields and forgot to make pahos for the gods. Young people abandoned respect for older people and old ways… Married women accepted he company of men who were not their husbands, lying with them wherever it was convenient. A shadow seemed to be falling over Palatkwapi.”

The village chief, the kikmongwi, and the leaders of the clans then attempt to warn the people of the consequences of their bad behavior. “Unless Palatkwapi returns to a good way of life it will cease to be a living village.” After a while people forget about the warning and resume their bad ways. “The kikmongwi and the clan chiefs were distressed, not knowing what to do next. Now, the kikmongwi was considered the father of the village, and his wife was considered the mother of the people. They were expected to demonstrate by example the virtuous way of life. But the kikmongwi’s wife succumbed to the evil around her. And when the kikmongwi discovered her lying with other men he was aroused to great anger. He said, “Palatkawi has returned to the chaos of the Third World [before sipapuni and the exodus to the Fourth World when people left the evil behind them]. Now we are back where we began.”

Helped by his nephew the chief then invokes Masauwu, the spirit of Death and Master of the Upper World. Alas the people kill the chief’s nephew. “They felt a foreboding. Nevertheless, the ones who valued pleasure above a good life went to do the things they had become accustomed.” The people had buried the body of the nephew on the plaza, leaving just one hand protruding from the earth, four fingers pointing upward. On the third following morning only the little finger was pointing up. “Seeing this, the people of Palatkwapi understood that there were forces at work that could not be turned back, and they became afraid.

On the fourth morning when they came to the plaza the sun was red, and though there were no clouds in the sky the light was subdued. They looked at the place where the body was buried and saw that the last finger was turned down, marking the end of the cycle of four. There was a rumbling in the distance. The sound grew louder as it came closer. The earth began to shake. Large stones slid from their foundations and the walls of the houses cracked. The building began to crumble and fall. Out of the gray cloudless sky rain poured down, and a cold wind swept through the plaza. The people of Palatkwapi fled to their houses seeking refuge… but water began to flood through their fireplaces, washing through the rooms and doorways… Where once the people had danced in the plaza there was now a deep pond. From the earth underneath this spot,where the kikmongwi’s nephew had been buried, the head of the great water serpent Balolokong appeared. Balolokongs’ head reared higher and higher as his body emerged out of the earth. On the back of his head was a single horn like the one worn by the young man who had been interred there.  Balolokong’s eyes turned this way and that, surveying the crumbling walls of Palatkwapi. The people fled in terror, but there was no ore sanctuary in the village, which by now was submerged in the surging water. In the flight to the safety of high ground outside the village some children were lost or swept away, and some of the old and the crippled were left behind.”

The survivors found refuge among rocks and caves. “The kikmongwi and the clan chiefs discussed what might be done to quiet Balolokong. They agreed that prayer offering must be made… They chose a boy and a girl to carry out this mission [to take the pathos back to Palatkwapi].”

“And now the clan leaders called the survivors together, and the Chief of the Water Clan, who was also the kikmongwi, addressed them in this way: ‘We are here among the rocks and caves. Our village, Palatkwapi, we may not go back to it any more, for it is a ruin and a cursed place that will be haunted until the end of time by the evil deeds that were committed there. The chiefs said over and over again, ‘Do not forget who you are and why we are here’. But the people did not want to remember. Therefore we must now begin again at the beginning as we did when we came out of the Third World. Palatkwapi is dead to us. It will be covered with wind-blown sand, and the writings we have put on the rocks will be weathered away and become invisible. As it was at the sipupani, so it is now’… This is how the people departed from Palatkwapi.”

Image: Paho, “road” or “path”, courtesy University of Idaho

 

Devious #VisDare 128

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It’s a long story, a kind of one hundred years war, that cannot be won, and yet we keep on fighting… You were already there, in the old class room, in the heart of winter, as our teacher was telling us about the Middle Ages, and, about you, the ever present, maleficent fallen angel. You were then a mere dark shadow, near the old coal fire.

One day I was clearing the sports ground of leaves. It was cold, there was no-one else around. As I wiped the sweat off my forehead, I heard a slight stir in the pile of leaves. It wasn’t the wind: there was a small repugnant creature, bigger than a rat, looking at me through a hideous pair of red eyes.

Since then, in so many places, from my back garden to the streets of cities, the seductive face, the ugly gnarl of a thug.

VisDare 128: Devious

#DailyPrompt: Never Again

Have you ever gone to a new place or tried a new experience and thought to yourself, “I’m never doing that again!”

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“This is a fine town,” she said, beaming her enticing smile, “and we are sure you will like it.” Who exactly the “we” was meant to include was not obvious. The room was bright enough, with two large windows opening over the roofs of the medieval houses.

I knew something of the history, and I recalled the rather sinister events that had followed the town’s enthusiastic approval of the new régime. For a time traveller this was a warning: never trust the smiles, nor the apparent gentleness of the burghers! Yet I wanted to have a look at what it had been, after seeing the place, as a tourist’s high spot some thirty years later.

So I walked those cobbled streets, along old walls that had stood the storms of the thirty years war. The tiled roofs were glistening in the spring rain. Blond girls in regional dresses walked hurriedly toward the central square. I got there after an hour of quiet wandering.

I saw them, the uniforms, the satisfied faces of well-fed bourgeois, the hysterical girls, saluting. And the hideous emblems. Silently I traced back my steps. I had already decided not to stay. What point is there in revisiting a nightmare?

Photo: the roofs and medieval wall of Rhotenburg, Bavaria

Voice Work: #DailyPrompt

Your blog is about to be recorded into an audiobook. If you could choose anyone — from your grandma to Samuel L. Jackson — to narrate your posts, who would it be?

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I always wondered when I could give you an answer, and, after all these years, I can now tell you: yes, there is something you can help me with. Not that I trust you in any way, but I love this voice of yours, you know, the smooth, mellow, calming voice, that promises all the wealth, the hidden pleasures, the forbidden fruit, to the unwary…

How would that help me? Well, I have often spoken, written even, about you, the ultimate liar, the pretentious bigot, the insolent beggar. And, yes, it would be good to have your voice to narrate the tale, almost in your own fashion, if not entirely in your style. I am sure my readers would appreciate the humour of this: the liar tells the lies, and how it always turns to disaster! I don’t need to remind you, of the many times I kicked that backside of yours, and worse! So, there you are, little devil, and I suggest you get on with it smartly – or else!

Photo: Devil Voodoo Figure, Usulután Province, El Salvador, 1958-1962, Tucson Museum of Modern Art, © 2014 Honoré Dupuis

Low Light #HolocaustMemorialDay

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The Atlantic rain hammers the windows, in the grey skies the birds are still, hesitant.

Is it the impossible memory, the fear to forget, to ignore, someday to face the nightmare, in our lives?

Those who deny, wrote Primo Levy, are ready to start again. Is it possible?

But then we know, in our time, not that far from us.

We look at the sky, the fast fleeing clouds, we hear the rumble of the city. We think of the long war, the fight for survival. Is this peace an illusion?

Yesterday we saw snowdrops on the edge of the woods, near the valley we love. The earth lives on.

Despite everything we do.

Photo: Käthe Kollwitz’ Pietà, Berlin Neue Wache, Unter den Linden, © 2014 Honoré Dupuis