Thursday, 21 May 2020

Lockdown with Wolves and Geese

Sandra Walls is one of our most prolific writers with a gift for effortless fiction. Here we have some unedited tastes of that and also feedback from her Quarantino diary that feels reflective of many ruminations we are sharing in Water Story as we approach the "unlocking"...


Quarantino Diary – Self Isolation Before – During – After?
by Sandra Walls

Stage 1 In and Under Duress
I’ve fallen deeply into a brick well.  Old shiny black stones cobbled up the deep dark circular wall. The bottom is filled with thick warm clay gripping my body and I sink into it.  Sounds frightening when I say it out loud, but I am surprisingly comforted by its depth and darkness.

Stage 2 Acceptance
I’m enveloped, right up over my ears, neck, chin and hairline. All that’s there is my oval, my front mask, forehead, eyes, nose and mouth.
I’m stuck.
But I think I like it
I can’t move.
It feels like being cocooned, surrounded, wrapped – like a newborn.
I can speak but I don’t – there’s no-one to listen
It’s so hard, too hard to be up top and out in the old world
I’m scared
It’s so cozy
In the dark
In here
Down here – in the deep
Down here – in the dark
Come down here with me
Down here I can hide
I am hiding from the rest
From the world
No-one misses me anyway
Why would they
I’m useless, I’m fat, I’m ugly, I’m stupid
I hate my reflection
In the mirror – I’m done
I’ve outlived my usefulness
I’m sick, I’m dying
In the end it would be best
The best for everyone

Stage 3 Reluctance
It’s all black, it’s dark, the clay that holds me is getting cold.  I don’t like this so much now
It’s a warning. If I stay down here, I will die.
I will die while in self isolation
I will die, die lonely and alone
Do I really want to die?
Alone
Do I really want to die at all?
Half says yes, the other half no.

Stage 4 Inner Resolution
Now I say no, no to dying. But it’s so dark
There’s a point, a pin dot of light
White brilliant light
It’s the light of life, light of hope, new beginnings
Yes.
But the dark said, you made your choice – “Cozy in the dark” remember
No hope, right? Let’s just die, right?
No!   … I can change my mind
I know now I need the light – I’m not cozy in the dark anymore
It’s not cozy, it’s cold and clingy
I need the light, the light of my life, my life’s light
That tiny pin sized light that’s looking for me
Searching, move, move! I stretch my head
My ears are out!
Sandra? … Mum…?

Stage 5 The Rescue
I’m here… I’m down here!
I can hear them
Sandra, I’m here with Grant
My man, my boy.
I can see his beautiful face.
Mum? Yes! “We’re coming”
They climb in
To my depth – the depth of my despair

Stage 6 Re-Freed
They talk me through my exit strategy
My escape from my binds, my bonds
They slide me out of the cold lagging clagging clay
I’m out, I’m exhausted, I’m crying, I’m relieved
I’m out.

Stage 7 The Revelation
Mum, we missed you, you were locked in
We were all calling for you, you couldn’t hear us
You were calling me?
Yes, Dad, me, Nanny, everyone
I never heard anything
It’s just because you were so far away, so far down
I knew you’d hear me.
Our bond, you told me when I was born you knew my cry.
Yes, I did
So, I knew you’d hear me.
I’m out?  Yes.
I’m finally out the other side, I’m exhausted, I’m scared, I’m loved, I’m relieved.
I’m loved, I’m hugged, I’m safe.
What happens now?

**********************************************************

Prompts from Mary Oliver:   
"Wild geese high in the clean blue air are heading home again."
Wild Geese
by Sandra Walls

The flock gathered on the brown lake and in the sparse branches of leaf-free trees; waiting for someone else to make the move. Never thought of birds having an alpha, but somehow, they must.
Geese noises, squawks, and bills wide, all saying something at the same time. Maybe something like - let's get a move on its getting too hot in these hot sticks.

A few take a run and flap deeply to get up and over the updraft of the heavy air of gravity.  Flapping noises waft through the flock and they all start following.  They’ve seen the first ones get up in the air, so the going must be good. They concentrate on getting up into the cooler atmosphere and winds that can now hold them up in glide mode.  This is when they can relax and watch everything below now the size of ants. The greener trees look like moss on the brown bush landscape, and they look forward to getting home to the cold but fresh days in Scotland.  The lakes are clear and pure, water is transparent, and they can see the fish slinking about under the skin of the water, just waiting to be picked at random.

"Welcome home girls" shouts the farmer, when he sees them settle on the banks and braes and on Cool Water Lake.


Poem: The Chance to love Everything
Prompt: "The dark heart of the story is all the reason for the telling"

In my little log cabin, the loggers are getting closer, sending the wildest of animals into populated areas.  Not populated like a city, but in the sense of land and farmers, poachers, and hunters, the blackest of hearts for greed, mostly bears, deer, wolves and beaver pelts - and all living close by in their own territories.

I am not a killer. I love nature and the trees and all things that breathe.  Who are we to decide who or what lives or dies?  I rescue bees from spiders’ webs.  They can take the midges. Bees are far too important for the world.  Everything feeds everything else.

In my little log cottage, with only the company of Molly, my Jack Russell; I hear things at night.
I write as writers do, in a journal of thoughts, feelings, the past, future, my imagination takes me to paradises and hells and back.  And sometimes I try to make sense of it. Mostly I don’t.  I heard a howl, the wolves were stirring, one was much more powerful, either the alpha or one in a trap.
I put on my jeans and leather chaps and boots, fur coat and hat. I see her in the brush, the alpha female, panting hard - not a good sign.  Her back paw caught in a hunter’s steel jaws left indiscriminately.  I have my gun and shoot it off into the black blue starry backdrop.  It did its job and the pack disperse.

She is pure white all bar the blood streaming from her crushed muscle.  She knows me, I have seen her hunting for her young, four cubs.  They will die.  I approach her slowly, she lets me. I get to her and give her a drink from my bottle.  I put a blanket over her and give her some pain relief and sedative.  I take the metal evil thing and prize it open. I carry her back to the cabin, with yellow pairs of eyes watching from the dark heart of the forest.  I give her antibiotics, shave her fur, clean the gaping wound with doused alcohol and sew her flesh as best I can, then rub tar over the wound to stop infection. She’s lying on my small mattress near the crackling fire still wrapped in the blanket, breathing well, I steal a stroke while I can, she is a beauty.

Eyes twitch, she comes around and I give her meat.  She eats lying down, backing off to sleep again, so I pull the blanket to prop her up. I open the door.  She’s dizzy but stands up and bears weight on her leg, shakes off the human touch and limps out. Away she goes, but she gives me a look back.  “Go on” I shout. Back to the pack and her babies.

The chorus of howling begins as I lie warm on the mattress, inside cosy golden walls reflected by the low flames, and I smile.

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