A tale from the base of Olympus – Part Thirteen

This is a continuation of earlier posts. Context is found in previous parts.

Pink and white blossoms are erupting from the trees heralding the return of Persephone in this Away & Beyond. Soon, the fields of yellow canola and golden grains will ripen under Demeter’s grace and all will feast. I look south to the towering form of Vesuvius and thank the gods that my childhood home will know another season of spring.

I welcome the warmer days, the blue skies, but I feel old. This Away & Beyond has been both my hardship and my redemption. I look at my hands and see lines, the skin dry as paper. Where went the supple form that once chased beauty? Ah, but she was in hibernation even when I came to the wide plains of Away & Beyond. I came here to work, to build a new life, to be closer to Pompeii. And work I did, through flood and wind among the unexpected kindness of a people less cynical than this weather-worn form.

The seasons turn. The ground, crisped by another winter’s frosts softens as the early spring rains prepare for the bounty, a bounty I took for granted from Alexandria.  I know that in but a few turns of Selene’s pearlescence we all will feast on luscious fruit and filling grains. And I, back in my Alexandria, will be unable to eat anything without remembering from whence it has come.

Irony has crossed my path too many times in this life. Her form has become as familiar to me as that of my cherished Great Library, perhaps more so. Be careful what you wish for, she warns, but we never do. So I wished, many years ago, for many things. And as I look back, I see that most of those wishes have come in stages and fashions, granted by people and gods I could not have foreseen. Wish not with careless abandon, but with a thought to how the Moirae will spin your fate, for they may give, but also take through force of choice. Not all dreams can be held at once.

I am preparing to leave this Away & Beyond, where I was beginning to move within the city walls. I had not expected Clotho and Lachesis to measure the thread of my life thus. I feel tricked and yet I cannot be angry, for they gave my heart’s desires. Would that those desires, wished decades apart, were not forced to be lived in isolation of each other.

And so I return to Alexandria. My rickety wagon will be laden one last time with not only what I brought, but mementoes of this Away & Beyond. She never asked of me more than I could give and for that gentle kindness I gave her my best, working from my soul the blames of transgressions past and salving the burns of bigotry. Yes, she has been my hardship, this Away & Beyond, in all her unexpected challenges spread over this wide open plain. But she has also been my most welcomed redemption, by whose side I have tilled and built.

Momus laughs. The inconvenient truth of hopes unmasked and dreams barely lived melds with Gaia’s binding humanity. Surely the god of blame knows what the Moirae have spun and measured for me … and yet, there he sits on some stump of broad gum mocking my choice and split dreams. I will ignore him and trust instead to Aesclepius and his daughters once again for they have never shown me wrong.

Unexpected sadness. These broad plains ignored by senators in crisp white togas living in the opulence of Roman halls have somehow filled a void in my heart that I did not know existed. Not until the moment of parting do we know what we lose … the gods have indeed been perverse with this piece in their game.

And so I leave this small town for the conveniences of Alexandria once again, knowing what I leave, thankful for the gifts, even if they are not mine to take. I must leave them for some other soul seeking its own truth at the base of her own Olympus. I hope that they too learn what beauty lies in the simplicity of this Away & Beyond. If only I could take it all with me …

This tale is still evolving even as the words are committed to paper. Each post is likely to be a chaplet (a dedication or prayer) in itself. You are free to share this journey with me, even as I know not where it will end.

Posted in Alexandria, Art, Poetry, Writing | Leave a comment

A tale from the base of Olympus – Part Twelve

This is a continuation of earlier posts. Context is found in previous parts.

Standing in the vestibule of what was, until a few days ago, that place of gathering, of thought, of light … she is empty, like some place of worship looted with only the torn corners and broken pieces left scattered across the floor. There were birds and sun today … it should have rained.

Others got here before me and I, having returned for the last time after the earth moved, the flood seeped and the fire savaged, take what is left. I know where the most precious pieces of my Great Library were stored and whilst some of the smaller items are gone, those that sang most deeply to my heart are safe from the calloused hands of pagan thieves. Those scrolls and leaves are now laid in my wagon, tied down for the journey to a new place of learning, ready to travel to whatever lies ahead. I am a pilgrim seeking my state of beatitude at the base of this vast Olympus.

I look at the cracks in the walls, legacy of one Titan’s spasm. I see the moulding plaster where the sea’s rise seeped between the bricks and ate the mortar. I note the thatching, patched after the fires that almost took the last of what I cherished. This Alexandria can no longer preserve the precious pages of learning. Fight to salvage, on a daily basis is all I have known for season after season since Atlas shrugged under the weight of his load. Now it is time to let my Alexandria pass into the hands of Chronos and Kairos … it is the latter from whom I take solace as I depart.

The door is closed and I kiss the friends I have come to know as I stand beside my laden cart and say goodbye. Not a tear have I shed; this is necessity.

Some say I am utilitarian. A thing can be an item of beauty, but must also have a purpose. It is true, this is largely how I think, especially when there are limits on what can be accommodated or carried. Those things that are purely decorative may be lovely to gaze upon, but if they feed not the body and fail to protect the pages of learning on which all knowledge is built, then beauty by itself must be sacrificed. My Alexandria, was once a place of utility in which aesthetics burgeoned. Having lost her utility, she can no longer protect the pages of learning and therefore cannot foster beauty, cannot build upon dreams. That dream which she once held is no longer so tangible. It is time to follow another dream, another purpose, another path and to find a place to build upon solid foundations once again.

The road has been long, but I realize that I have been leaving my Alexandria now for many seasons, taking a piece here, a fragment there, beginning with the salvage I buried before my first leaving. This last departure from my Alexandria has been inevitable …

A long road is behind me even as I start out from the fractured structure that has been my source of succour for these past several years. The sea around my Alexandria cries for me the tears that have failed to rise in my own eyes, veiling all in a mist that shrouds the path ahead. Poseidon honours my departure with such a rare spectacle as I leave this one last time. Sometimes it is better not to know what lies ahead. I only hope that once the silver orb of night has passed over my head that the mighty globe pulled by Apollo’s quadriga shows me a new field upon which to build a new city, as precious as once was my Alexandria.

It is a closing chapter, a final page in the book that once was my home. Close in behind me, Poseidon and seal the past from the future with your weightless shroud. I will rise on the other side of morn to stand in the dew and see a new field in which to bask beneath the bluest of Zeus’ skies for all of god and man to see.

This tale is still evolving even as the words are committed to paper. Each post is likely to be a chaplet (a dedication or prayer) in itself. You are free to share this journey with me, even as I know not where it will end.
Posted in Alexandria, Art, Prose, Writing | Leave a comment

Of birth and being: my Alexandria

Possibly two years ago I began reading a novel, a big chunky paperback in which to lose the minutes of my days and let my mind imagine a bygone era. Set in ancient Egypt, it revolves around the city of Alexandria and hence, there are the competing pantheons of the gods of two different people and cultures.

I am still reading that book, which I am quite enjoying, but there have been not enough hours in any week to have the luxury of immersion in reading purely for pleasure’s sake. And yet, it is that book that set the framework for my own Alexandria and the inspiration to learn more about Greek mythology.

Alexandria is a concept, my version of Camelot. She is at turns brilliant in her beauty and callous in her careless ignorance. A city’s heart is her people and the buildings an expression of the dreams of many. Sometimes those dreams are broken, built on poor foundations, corrupted by the hands of others.

Cities grow with each new piece of learning, each page turned and thought expressed. The comings and goings of others, the shifting dynamics and demographics make the dream that was, become something else. Cities are alive. And just as we cannot always predict what will happen to our own body, regardless of the lifestyle measures and insurance policies we set in place, the body that is the city ages; how it ages, is a measure of the attitudes of those who make her heart beat.

My Alexandria is as real to me as Athens, London or Moscow. Away & Beyond is the place of exile that, whilst not a home of my choosing, facilitates the ongoing dream that is Alexandria.

You could probably psychoanalyse the tales if you wished, looked for the hidden meanings, but that is not the point of the tales. The point is the expression of emotions that only seem to find voice in that mystical – and mythical – realm.

I woke on a couple of mornings last week to a thick fog, what we call in Australia “pea-soup”. And I felt like I was walking in some sort of Brigadoon. Walking early on one of those morns, I wondered what it would be like to disappear into the mists of time and only return once every hundred years to see where mankind had taken the world. I’m not sure if the dying vicar in Brigadoon did his faithful town-people a favour or not in asking the Almighty to preserve them against the ravages of progress. As wonderful as the tale sounds – and it is one of my favourite old movies – I think learning and personal growth would cease by being so out of step with the rest of mankind.

Alexandria has changed for me, in ways I did not foresee, even when I first started to write about her. There have been twists and interferences, but there have also been gifts of kindness unexpected. Away & Beyond has become the gift I at first shunned and I’ve come to realize that  the gift bore so much more in blessings than was apparent at the first.

A long time ago, a dear friend with some more years of life experience than me told me that he does not believe in luck. He believes the only luck is the opportunity that man takes for himself. And yet, as much I agree with him, there are still those instances when we have so little control, where the luck of others outweighs the rights or wrongs of our own situations, changing destinies, giving hope or stealing promise.

My Alexandria is the expression of all the uncontrolled in a world of five year plans and ambitious rivals. The tales are a series of vignettes with one intent – to provide release for feelings and wade in the pleasure of true art, the creation that only comes at the highest peaks and lowest troughs of emotion.

I believe in never publishing in the heat of emotion. That doesn’t mean I have not done so. Compulsion sometimes gets the better of my writing at times too. Like now, when the tickle of inspiration has come into my head on a not so lazy Saturday and it would be more practical to spend the time on issues for work. But it’s the weekend and it’s then that my practical tendencies ease the throttle on my mind after a week of grinding labour and allow the soul a little space to simply be. And so I write, about Alexandria in prose; or I read about the Greek gods; or I have long conversations with those I love. And when the work still has to be done, sometimes, the soul says, “No!” and forces the work to wait until Monday.

I will finish reading that novel. But it has become the impetus for so much more than simple mental escape. It is a bind to before, a time marker of change, in my thoughts and in my being. And so, I have read one or two other much shorter novels that seem less imposing as select volumes. Truth be told, I read so much technical and business guff in a day that come the end, I have little enthusiasm for more reading. But that will not always be so and before long the days will lengthen and the sun will invite me to sit under some broad expanse of foliage with a tale of ancient Egypt. And even if I finish this novel, my own Alexandria has a life of its own, one I can craft to a degree, but which is inextricably tied to the fate of the rest of mankind as well. Cities rise, some fall, but none will be the same in twenty years as it is today. Just look at the Alexandria of modern day and the fortunes that city and its people are currently experiencing. The secret is to live in your city as an active participant, not as someone fearful of change. If you foster a city of fear, that is what you will live in. If you foster a city of advancement, it will likely prosper. And if you foster a city of joy, then you invite friends and sunshine even on the dullest of days.

I prefer the sun and it is that I seek in my Alexandria.

Posted in Alexandria, Art, Writing | 2 Comments

A tale from the base of Olympus – Part Eleven

This is a continuation of earlier posts. Context is found in previous parts.

I am crunching through the grass, frost leaving the toes of my shoes damp. Crisp grass, cold morn, frozen nose … I have always been a child of the summer, but these winter morns bring the kind of still, isolated peace that I may enjoy alone whilst others bury themselves deep beneath the covers of their beds.

Temperatures are so much more extreme here in Away & Beyond. The blistering heat of the sun when Apollo drives his chariot close is balanced by a frigidity I’ve not known since my very earliest days. And between the two, the heat and the cold, were the rows of small pink blossoms, picked for my mother as I meandered across paths that just a few months earlier had been white with ice, a few months later would burn my soles.

There are echoes of childhood, though this is not home. This foreign place to which I was dragged by necessity I must grudgingly acknowledge has beauty; beauty perhaps not as spectacular as my Alexandria, but beauty nonetheless.

In my Alexandria, I see the grass grows, the flowers bloom, the trees lose auburn and yellow leaves. The light-keeper’s house has been rebuilt, but it’s tendant has changed, he who once was the keeper having left after the cataclysm that caused such devastation. The people have changed, many having left, others planning to do so, but the most important, my Great Library, remains. I may still sit within the deepest expanse of papyrus and parchment. I look around me and know that no matter where I may be, these sheets and rolls will go with me; a library is not the structure, but the content.

I have brought the simplest opening sheets of one manuscript back form the last return to my Alexandria. The sensation of the pages, the smell of the oils burned in the Library to purify the air and wake the mind alert waft from the silk wrapping protecting the edges of the sheets. This is my precious Library, visiting me in Away & Beyond, a tantalizing mirage. I hold the precious pieces in my mind, gently caressing their soft surface and my will is sated, just a little, in the knowing that the preciousness is at my fingertips.

A little while, and I know I will let her go. A little while, and I will walk away from the lighthouse, its keeper and the veneer over brokenness.

What is a dream lived? A wish granted, a joy beheld, a blessing given.

What happens when a blessing is challenged by another dream, when it is perhaps at odds? The gods are acknowledged for the gift granted and that new, now more precious dream is cradled gently with both hands and pursued with the ardour of a lover possessed, until that sweet fresh dream outweighs what once was treasured, taking the place of that most valued and profound desire. We take nothing with us when we die other than memories. In the soup that is the collected mess of minds when hence we all shall go, those memories will all be drawn to us and bring to each the precious and the paltry, the bitter and the sweet. I know, from here in this less foreign plain Away and Far Beyond that memories will sustain my mind once the dreams are gone.

I take my staff and bind it to the next; soon the next will join it and I’ll start to bend. I’ll bind them all ’til ten in all are wound within the ropes of mine own soul. And in my cart laid flat and dry at the base will be the sheets and rolls that fill my mind’s ever seeking heart. The Great Library goes, sent forward first, so it is safe and free from damage from the seeping ruin that this damaged world now sees. My Alexandria was a dream and I held her close for a while. Now I shed the shell of my heart and slide into a new skin, a mercy from Aesclepius that eases the restriction of this unfamiliar new being. Alexandria, that place of my own making, may be built again better, sweeter … perhaps it will be better left to Chronos …

I’ll take the Great Library, thankful for the salvage that is mine that is so much more precious than the structure that has been the shell of my Alexandria. Pretty, she will remain, even her progressing ruins; but my Alexandria is becoming less mine than that of others with a different view after Atlas’ great twitch.

Tomorrow, I shall go speak with Tyche. Long have I remained without a city’s walls, but a wall I will still seek someplace else … there will be another someday; a clean, undamaged place to start again; a place of privacy and peace, where I may read and think and drink in the comfort of the Great Library with all its vast tales. With Tyche, I will place that which I value most, seeking protection, whilst Athena I will thank for her guidance.  My wagon will be laden once again, this time, with the pieces I left behind with the custodians in my Alexandria. One more trip will I make to my precious home, one more trip I will make … to leave one last time.

This tale is still evolving even as the words are committed to paper. Each post is likely to be a chaplet (a dedication or prayer) in itself. You are free to share this journey with me, even as I know not where it will end.
Posted in Alexandria, Art, Prose, Writing | Leave a comment

Revelation

Escape is a place, one where I stroll among images that make me feel good. Some of those images are pipe dreams, some are nostalgic, some are wishes that hang on gossamer threads that glisten as they slowly turn in the beam of the sun stirred by the slightest breeze of possibility.

I watched the gossamer threads break on a whole raft of wishes recently for someone I deeply care about. Hospitalized and confused at a reality no-one saw coming despite the other impending realities, I saw escape stolen and the Circles of Hell open up before this one person. And I wanted to give that person something to hold onto, some reality that I knew fed a portion of the peace that had gone missing, some wish to make a new hope that everything would be alright.

Like all good tales, that episode was the climax in the book that was 2012. The drama had played out with all its sidelines and mini-apices, until the final big hit near the end of the year. And just when all seemed lost, when the nightmare threatened to consume us all, the soul of my most treasured was expelled and La Porte de l’Enfer, beyond which I could see but could not step to pull my loved one back, slammed shut. I stood beside the battered and wearied heart and thanked the Gods for what I did not expect, reprieve not just for the soul of my beloved, but my own heart, that had shredded at the horror I had watched unfold so rapidly.

The tale of 2012 simpered to its end rapidly and I like many others turned to the sweet elixir of the vine at Yuletide to celebrate the end of the novel that was 2012 and welcome what I know will be a sweeter 2013.

Yes, it will be sweeter. Because my escape, whilst it remains real to my mind, now includes one more vital aspect – my choice to approach life without fear and in doing so, be positive in my outlook. I’m not sure when my positivity began to fade … it doesn’t really matter … because I choose instead to look back on what has been for the gifts I ignored and the lessons I should learn and to carry those forward into this new book that is 2013.

New Year turnings are such arbitrary points in time that really hold no impression on a universal scale. We can make the decision to change our approach to life at any time. But after the insanity of celebrating in a culture that places such emphasis of one point in the year, I like everyone else sit in the sun for a short time and review the year that has been. It is the cyclic arbitrariness of the Yuletide that makes it such a natural point at which to consider the year that has been and compare it against all those before it. Weighed and balanced against its siblings, 2012 came up better than I realized on individual value-for-money, even if it didn’t hold its own in balance against the other years.

And in that cyclic arbitrariness, I have, like most others, sifted the chaff from the grain to choose an approach for 2013 and hopefully beyond. Back to those Buddhist roots, which says I always have a choice, a belief I have found to quite empowering. But I limited that empowerment by placing that belief in a purely physical setting such as I always have choice about what I eat, the hours I work, etc. And at some time in the past couple of weeks, the reality of that limitation became real to me. The choice is of much more simple – I have the choice about how I respond to every situation. I have the choice to respond with a positive light or wallow complaining in some darkened corner. It’s such a very simple concept, although not one always easily put into practice. But with it, when successful, I create a more powerful escape from the bondage of life’s mental traumas than any physical bolt cutter.  It’s about the balance. The negative may not be what I want, but my approach will determine how much harm it does to my own soul.

Yes 2012, you were one almighty badass year, but I will let you define me only in positive terms. From you I take into 2013 a greater resolve to be the person I wish to be and to care for others, both physically and mentally, to be grateful for the blessings and look for the lessons on the trials. And when 2013 is complete, regardless of whatever negativity or vile harassment is sent my way, I hope that the benefits of my approach will be self-evident.

It is a bold challenge I am making for myself. I expect to fail at times because whining and complaining is easier than working through the issues sometimes. But if I am my own jailer, then I also hold the keys to my cell and it is my intention, if it should take a year or a lifetime, to give myself the freedom we each deserve.

I wonder if Alexandria will look different from this angle?

Posted in Emotions, Faith, love, Universal truths | Leave a comment

A tale from the base of Olympus – Part Ten

This is a continuation of earlier posts. Context is found in previous parts.

Before Away & Beyond, before Alexandria, before even that place that once I believed to be my own Utopia, I called the beautiful Pompeii home. With its richly painted walls and the warm glows at the windows, I was ever safe in the arms of those I loved and who loved me. City of promise, such ideals were built there, such dreams abounded, tended at the fertile foot of the great mountain that we worshipped by day, sheltered beneath at night. The soil was ever green and the simple life in the wiles of the lush fields was more than this one small girl could ever fully appreciate. Such fools we are as children, wishing away those moments of boredom. Oh, what I would give for one more hour in the woods, sharpening my tools with the oil stone, carving by the light of a spring sun.

I sit now, at the outskirts of my childhood home watching the breath of Hercules stir dark clouds to life. Even at this distance I see the impending storm; the great mountain is changing before my eyes. The once protective, fertile ground has dried covered with an ash that strays across the skies carried on the fours winds like hands passing a parchment note to all who must be told, “Vesuvius’ time has come.”

Dusk is falling faster than it should. I know what comes. I’ve heard the stories from others, the tales of Krakatoa, of Falcon Island. I do not think this Vesuvius will rise again from the seas as have its cousins. This Pliny cloud I see building will obliterate a fundamental nexus of sustenance if it cannot be stopped. But who am I, a mere mortal, to tell the gods to cease? Who am I but a slave to fate? If Hercules wills his mountain be reshaped none can will him stop.

Dawn will be a long time coming once this volcano ceases its explosion. Am I blessed to be in Away & Beyond? Am I blessed that Pompeii, the home I still visit so oft is not that place of my advancing years? If Pompeii falls beneath ash and Alexandria remains fragile, where do I call home? This Away & Beyond has no hearth warm enough and no blessed temple that calls to my being. Where is the new day to be?

I turn from the hilltop where I have been sitting for the past months and walk into my small dwelling. There is nothing I can do but wait for the inevitable. Make bread, drink mead, stoke the fire. I will go, one last time into Pompeii before the ash covers all and sear into my mind those places that will soon be lost forever.

Sometimes still I wish that the tsunami had taken me after Atlas shrugged … often I wish. I would not have to watch yet another god take the pieces I so cherish. Ah, but what use is a broken jar, I hear the owl speak softly overhead? What use is the leaking vessel, so badly cracked that even Panacea shakes her head in dismay? Better consigned to the earth where weather and water will return the pot to clay, returned to the soil.

Vesuvius shall blow. I always knew it would. Not for the subtle and quiet exit will be the grand mountain that throws its shadow over all. Even the gods must obey Atropos. When calls the hour, neither mortal nor god can stand in her way. I wait to be burned.

This tale is still evolving even as the words are committed to paper. Each post is likely to be a chaplet (a dedication or prayer) in itself. You are free to share this journey with me, even as I know not where it will end.
Posted in Alexandria, Art, Prose, Writing | Leave a comment

A tale from the base of Olympus – Part Nine

This is a continuation of earlier posts. Context is found in previous parts.

Part Nine

She is sitting at the city walls, her meagre possessions, all that she can carry at her side in a canvas sack. On her other side, curled nose to tail is her dog. She has folded a large hessian sack, placed it between the dog and the cobbled stones as they both sit at the city gates; on top she has tucked in one of her own jumpers. She herself shivers beneath Selene, even as she tucks the coverings tighter about her companion.

“He must be a faithful companion to be afforded the warmth you so need yourself.”

“Since a pup has he stood by me. Saved me from the roving eyes of more than a few brigands even before I came to this fate.” A wary glance adds emphasis to her words; would women harm a sister? I shudder.

“What knot in Klotho’s labours sees you beyond the protection of even the winds and rains? Is there none who would shelter you?”

“Would it be so, but not all appreciate my canine companion, for he serves only me. He will go to no other, guard for no other. A truer friend I could not hope for. In him at least are his actions plain, not some play-act for the benefit of another.” The bitterness in her voice belies betrayal, her glistening eyes evidence of a pain not yet hardened by time.

“One who said he loved me, who ate at my table and took of my flesh brought me to this ruin. A soldier of moderate rank, he stayed after a battle, he and others of his corps. It seemed they meant to stay, but when the harvest failed in the floods and coin was available elsewhere for less effort, he left taking with him my purse. The earth beneath our home was carried away by the flood waters, the walls crumbled. With no silver, no crop, I could no longer pay rent to the landowner, let alone rebuild the walls that kept the winter squalls from my pate.”

My blood runs cold. Atlas could be so cruel, the fates of puny humans forevermore dashed by one conquered Titan. Titanomachy or not, the ancient Gods retain more power than any one man or woman can ever dream, I thought. I wonder why they do not dispense their wrath upon those who have desecrated their memory and works rather than some simple person of simple means.

“Your wares, are they your own work?” I ask of the pieces at her side.

“Yes, but I have help from friend. She sells similar in another town. We meet to share our skills to make something that blends from what we both know.”

Not items of any great value are her wares, nor even great skill, but she is not begging. I want to give her coin, a little I have saved from my own toils, but it is better to preserve her dignity by trading. I select a woven band of green and blue and pay her, wishing her better fortunes before heading on my way. I leave the walls of the city behind me and tie my band to the post of my cart when I return to my abode, a reminder of one with lesser fortunes than me.

Next day, I make offering to the Gods in grateful acknowledgement of the opportunities given me despite my losses. I spend some time by the blessed waters and wash to clean myself of the worldly grime. I stand at the sacred flame and gaze deep into it’s glow, seeking some sense for how the world can function thus and not by some more logical mechanism. I wonder, will Athena explain the reasons?

I spend so long in contemplation that when I finally move I notice the curious gaze of a priest has been trained upon me. He approaches, saying “Most people come and pay obeisance to their favoured god, most leave in short time. You have spent until the glowing in the sky has passed it’s apex, something only one dedicated to worship of a god would do, and yet, you wear not the robes of an initiate or a priestess. What brings you hence?”

“Fortune, it would seem, although I never realized how I could be so until yesterday. To give thanks for what I have and wonder at the choice of the gods when others with perhaps no more reason to suffer than I have felt much worse and been left with naught. I had hoped Athena would enlighten me.”

He smiles, guiding me to a bench at the temple’s walls. “No sense is there to be made. For reasons that none will be told, the gods favour some and not others. It may be a blessing from birth, it may be a favour earned. But just as favour can be earned, so can it lost. There is no point in seeking such answers without knowing the tale of each one who lives in fortune or hardship.”

I consider these words, saying “So one must ask of a person his tale before he can know if he is blessed by birth or cursed? And one should follow the path from birth to present to see the point of any change in fortune?”

“Well yes, that would be so, but who will be completely honest about all they may do that fails to appease the gods?”

“It would seem that the councilors and president are immune from the wiles of the descendents of Gaia and Uranus. Such inquisition seems bound by laws not meant for ordinary men.”

“Far from truth,” replies the priest. “Have you not heard of Hypatia, taken by the followers of the One New God for speaking the words of a heretic? Of high family was she, blessed from birth, and yet rise of this One New God had power. It overwhelmed any fortune Olympus may have vested in her and saw her body thrown to the hyenas outside the city walls. A philosopher was she, one honoured by those who worship the Olympians; not so the Christians of this modern era who inhabit some cities.”

I know of Hypatia. It was she who saved much of the writings of the Great Library a hundred years earlier. Much was lost, but some were also saved to be found many years later by my forebears and taken to a new place. Philosophy was still valued in my Alexandria a century later and efforts had been made to restore the losses that had damaged human growth in that one senseless act upon a teacher of reason. It had become apparent to the new custodians of the writings that it would never be possible to completely restore all the knowledge.

“This One New God, as you call him, he is not of Gaia and Uranus, though. What of that line?”

“You need look no further than Helen, again a mortal of high rank destined for destruction by the goddess of strife herself, Eris. In such, it was not any wrong on the part of the human that caused such battles and destructions of lives in Sparta and Troy, but the bickering of Gods.”

“Not unlike the bickering of the councilors and president themselves. I guess they have become our gods. They have elevated themselves above the rest of us.”

His face darkens as he speaks in a grave tone, “Let no man make the mistake of believing he is god lest he anger one or more of those with such universal powers. Once man forgets his place in the grand design of which we are but a speck, he sets mankind in its all on a path to destruction. Any one man who speaks such heresy must be denounced, lest the idea of greatness, that one is worth more than another, becomes so prevalent as to bring discord among people who once were friends. This is the work of Eris, to sow strife.”

He pauses, as if considering whether to speak further. “In the vein of that One New God is a vision that could be of Eris’ making, in which four horsemen ride upon thunderous grey clouds carrying destruction. They have borrowed, these new worshippers I think from our tales, but the lesson is the same. Let no man put himself above his true station. We are all mortal, we are all subject to the whims of the gods. At any time they may choose to strike one man down or raise another, as easily as moving pieces on a chess board in a game where the rules are made and unmade by the game’s very designers.”

I thank him for his wisdom and rise to leave.

“Whatever your worries or fortunes may be, remember what I have said: we are all of mankind. The true power lies with the Gods, be you president or serf. It could be you some day that is given the throne of power that was once that of another.”

I nod and leave the temple, heading back into the world of men, considering the priest’s wisdom and wondering at the games gods play and the presumption of men.

This tale is still evolving even as the words are committed to paper. Each post is likely to be a chaplet (a dedication or prayer) in itself. You are free to share this journey with me, even as I know not where it will end.
Posted in Alexandria, Art, Prose | Leave a comment

A tale from the base of Olympus – Parts Seven & Eight

This is a continuation of earlier posts. Context is found in previous parts.

Part Seven

She is burning, my Alexandria. I can smell the smoke, long before I see it and know that the marauding plague has penetrated my precious city’s quake-weakened walls, seeping into the life-giving water, a black scum over the surface. I must hurry if I am to limit the damage; my salvaged city will not withstand much more attack.

I arrive to find the fire in the Lighthouse still burning, but with people fighting the fire in their midst none has thought to restock the fuel or clear out the ashes. I set to the task myself; the ships bringing supplies and the fresh troops I have requested will not land safely without it. It is dusk when I begin and by the time Selene has risen and Apollo has taken his mighty orb westward I am exhausted, yet I cannot sleep. There can be not even the smallest luxury if my city is to survive.

Seeking out my comrades I find them battling on several fronts, keeping the worst of the viscous slime at bay, but the dregs that still seep through the embattlements have been enough to start the fires. They are stretched, stretched to a limit in protecting the city that for each of us has its own precious quarter, each working to protect that wall or some structure that holds some sweet memory. My Great Library is at greatest risk, sitting at the junction point where the slime has reached, but not yet the fire. I rush to the sea for sand, hauling it back in my wagon, my belongings discarded in some darkened alleyway. They will be worthless anyway if my Alexandria is lost.

The menacing flames are scorching, the heat barely contained by my flimsy shirt. I want to roll up the sleeves, but I know that to do so would be to be burned. I throw sand on the slime that is not yet ignited in hopes that it will contain the approaching fires. As each cartload is emptied I return again to the shores to gather more sand, to throw more of Atlas’ grains on the plague. Be with me now, great Titan, if my comrade you truly be.

It is late, I am weary and I allow myself a moment to stop, the progress of the fires at least halted if not entirely smothered. My Alexandria still stands, the custodians of the Library as determined as I to protect that which is so valuable. I have gathered a little water from one of the jars in the nearby Temple of Asclepius and am sitting on the Library steps when I am attacked by one carrying the plague, a rebel within our own walls. The stench of the vile slime is overpowering. I am repulsed. I struggle to back away, to extricate myself, at the same time realizing that my Library is at immediate risk. I am unaware that I am not the only one being attacked; there are more rebels than I could have imagined. All across the city in what can only be a coordinated attack the people are fighting. Houses are being razed, granaries lost, banks looted. Each struggles for what seems an eternity, exhausted and fragile, trying to save the writings, the knowledge, the means to rebuild and repair, to save my Alexandria. By dawn, the attack has been foiled, but at a cost I could not have foreseen.

Great oozing welts mark my arms. I had rolled up the sleeves in the end, when the flames had abated. It matters not; the oily slime would have melted the fabric on contact anyway; the burns would have simply been melded to cloth. It is better this way, easier to clean. Noted, but knowing there are more urgent matters, I leave the wounds untended and dash about my city to inspect the damage. The devastation is total. Houses gone, their livelihoods ruined. The quake was bad enough; now there are not even four walls left standing. This is my ten of swords. I rush about my Alexandria and find that whilst my Great Library has withstood the attack, almost all else is razed.

I reach the harbour to find dawn’s light illuminating the visage I have so come to cherish, the Lighthouse still turning on the headland, but the light-keeper’s house smoldering at it’s side. The troops I had called to support my Alexandria did not come. Delayed? It matters not, they are too late.

I stand in the dawn’s light under a great pine, an old woman behind me wailing “Why?” beside the ashes of her once humble home, a younger couple standing ahead of me near the sand, staring dazed over the harbour. The cool morning breeze plays at my hair, pretending nothing has happened, that what Apollo promises will be a perfect autumn day is the truth, not the destruction surrounding me. I am detached, clinical; the pain has been burned from me.

The albatross are absent from the harbour, driven away by the fracas; only the crabs remain. Without the sound of wildlife, my Alexandria is a sullen, eerie place, all sound replaced by the voices of a broken people. They say that in years to come, when others asked what happened to my Alexandria, when they ask when this city of light and learning had changed, they will point to this day. I know it to be true. The scars on my arms will be the reminder of how all changed on this single day, how my Alexandria was attacked not just by those without, but by those within her very walls, by those I trusted.

A whisper on the wind, meant only for me comes from some unknown source: it can be restored. To believe the secret deity that speaks for only my mind’s ear now is to subscribe to yet more pain, I think. I waver, for the first time my resolve to save my Alexandria questioned. I look deep inside myself and wonder, but am met only by the silent depths of my own soul.

 Part Eight

So, these burns do hurt. I had thought I had become inured to the sting of fire or the melt of acid. It’s a good thing; how else would I know I was alive, that I could care?

One of the custodians of the Library, himself injured in the battle, sent me back to the Temple of Asclepius, where the heat of the battle had seared my bare flesh, for healing. I resisted; the simple memory of the attack on the steps of one dedicated to healing brought intense fear. I wanted instead, to sit by my harbour, to bathe in my city’s sea-salt air and be soothed by the gentle swoosh of her waves. Away he said, away to the healer. These shores have been here a thousand years, they will be here a thousand years more, be you here or not. He knew I needed healing for more than just those visible injuries, but the flesh wounds needed more immediate attention. A thick unguent was applied to my wounds just once, enough to awaken the senses to the pain that lay beneath.

It has been some weeks since my Alexandria was so devastated. The pain of the burns to which I was once so detached has met its crescendo and now simpers to a gradual diminuendo. There is still a tenderness, but the biting, searing sting has gone.

I was forced to leave my Alexandria before much could be done in way of repairs. I gathered the pitiful remains of the few broken dreams that had remained intact after the quake and carried them back to Away & Beyond, unsure what I was going to be able do with pieces. I had never been the craftsman of these precious pieces of golden and silver light, only their custodian. All the way the pieces jangled in my wagon, not completely cleaned of the sea-salt or sand on which they had been broken. Their constant rattle sliced at my soul.

The calmness of Away & Beyond held no comfort. I wandered the streets and looked to the distance for any sense of peace. I shut myself away lest the burns send me mad, until such time as their pain had eased; I conversed with none. The last vestiges of my dreams I lay within the grounds of another temple dedicated to the gods of healing and left them there. There could be no greater loss if the pieces should remain as such and so I walked away, resolved to accept whatever outcome the gods saw fit. My soul, a broken and leaking vessel, was useless without these simple dreams.

I toiled despite my wounds, keeping them covered in the presence of my new acquaintances. No questions were asked, because none did know, what my Alexandria and I had suffered. At night, I prayed for Morpheus to spirit me to a place devoid of anything but blackness, taking a little of that sweet liquid the Christians strangely believe is magically the new god’s blood in order to buy a more restful night.

Finally, I was bade return to the temple and found the pieces of my dreams repaired. The damage was barely noticeable for some and I marveled at the skill of those who worked in the name of the healing gods. I was told the warmth of Apollo’s mighty orb would repair the remaining fractures and the brilliance would similarly return. The leaking vessel that was my soul they gave a salve and sent me back to the plains of Away & Beyond.

Now weeks hence, the fracture lines are almost healed. My soul no longer leaks and I am preparing to return again to my Alexandria. I have sent what supplies I could to help with the city’s repairs and have attempted to ensure that there remain no rebels within the confines of my Great Library, although I have no means of knowing if I have succeeded. Atlas, true to his word, has remained steady at my feet. The pieces of Egypt remain at my neck, the reminder that my Great Library still holds all its works and my Alexandria awaits my return. I count the days until I can sit on her shores, even briefly, once more.

This tale is still evolving even as the words are committed to paper. Each post is likely to be a chaplet (a dedication or prayer) in itself. You are free to share this journey with me, even as I know not where it will end.
Posted in Alexandria, Art, Prose | Leave a comment

A tale from the base of Olympus – Parts Five & Six

This is a continuation of earlier posts. Context is found in previous parts.

Part Five

I have stood at the end of the road, watching others haul their carts, laden with salvage away from the rising waters. The floods I had feared on this wide open plain have been realized. I made my choice to build at some distance from the river, too afraid of losing the little I have been able to keep from my Alexandria. I haul water in buckets rather than dig an irrigation channel, knowing that it will stunt the growth of my plants, limit the fruit. Everything is in pots anyway. I can load them onto my cart if I should need to leave. I’m not ready for the risks that come with acts of permanency, be they trenches for water or trees in the ground.

I watch the people of Away & Beyond, pitying them as they rush to save their precious belongings. But at the same time as pitying, I am envious. They have time. They have warning. The rains that fell for days on end further upstream have swelled the creeks and rivulets in a predictable rise, villagers along the length of the waterways being alerted by messengers from afar. And so, with warning, these people that I simultaneously pity and envy, have been able to take those belongings they most cherish, rescue those they love from the inevitable floods that have engulfed their open plains. They have lost their houses, will have to rebuild, but they have saved more than I.

Wariness is my bed mate now. I have prepared my cart in case the water rises any higher. I have surveyed my route of escape, set aside a little extra preserved food in case it is needed. The reality is that I will most likely be safe. The town clerks surveying the damage to the outlying areas have noted the water’s rise slowing and expect it will peak this evening, receding again on the morrow. But I have taken the warning to heart and I am ready leave if the water reaches my neighbour’s furthermost fence, even if others choose to stay.

Word of others forced to leave my Alexandria, even temporarily has reached me in my exile. The Great Library continues even though I have been forced to leave it in the care of others. It pleases me that my efforts have not been in vain. It is the one thing that makes living away from my cherished city of learning bearable. Away & Beyond is the only thing standing between saving that cherished knowledge and its loss for eternity.

The plains in Away & Beyond renewed by the rains and flooding waters will bear strong fruit, even for my potted saplings, although they will take another year or two before they fruit. I will need to transfer them to the grounds soon, I suppose, lest their roots become bound. This saturated soil being renewed with the silt carried on the river’s broken breadth will feed animal and vegetable alike well.

Planting, establishing roots. It’s inconceivable to my Alexandrian mind. To plant is to commit to new horizons I am not willing to accept as mine. I still see the sun rising over the broad ocean’s shimmer and set on the houses and hills so absent from the flat landscape I see now. I am not ready for this new world. I will wait a little longer and hope that the river’s waters stay away from all that is mine, at least for now.

Part Six

The day has been long, long but satisfying in Away & Beyond. Despite the turn of the seasons with the cooling days it brings I can see my labours bearing fruit. I am tired, but for once, once in some months, I feel satisfied. I permit myself the luxury of an apple, a pear from the fruiterer by the road. Their sweetness soothes my craving.

Others have moved back to their own homes, taking with them brooms to sweep out the debris left by the floods. I did not need to move afterall; Tyche spared me, this time at least. I’m not sure I would have survived another disaster and I give thanks at the city walls, even though I live beyond their bounds for it was the people of the city that saved the land near me. I stroll by the watercourse toward my abode once my thanks are made, watching the darkening sky. The night is still warm and my meandering along the drying banks shows me a beauty in the dim half-light I had not appreciated until now.

A messenger comes, cloaked to blend with the night galloping on blackest steed, the glint of his stirrups, the horse bit, the late notice of his approach in the moonlight. I expect him to pass me by on his way to some more important person in some grand abode; instead, he halts abruptly by me.

“Ariadne, you would be she? They told me to look on the plains to the south for the woman wearing a neck-band, green-blue as only Egypt fashions.”

My necklace, a gift I wear constantly given to me in my Alexandria. It is my constant reminder of my Great Library. “You saw such hues in darkened night from high upon you horse? The eyes of a eagle must be your gift!” I am wary. I am not well known here, too new, too laboured to have time to form close bonds as I’ve sought to re-establish some semblance of stability. The plains here are wide. How did he find me?

“I have traveled far, farther than you may expect, asking wherever I may for the woman so described. You are elusive; I was told you would be cautious. I bring you news from Alexandria.”

My heart stops. What news could be so desperate as to send me a rider from so far?

“Who are you, messenger and why do you seek me?”

“My name is Hermes. I have traveled by way of Rome and visited your Alexandria before seeking you under instruction of Atlas himself. He regrets the great upheaval his shifting position has wrought upon your city.”

Hermes. Atlas has sent one of his own line to speak to me? “A Titan, pitying my insubstantial human? Can it be so?” I do not realize I have spoken aloud.

“Even a Titan respects the honest of the earth. The gods know the damages caused by their supreme battles and sometimes note those deserving of their peace. We gods would cease to exist if there were none such as you, believing in our power. A little advantage now and then preserves our very being.”

Pieces on a chess board, that’s how most people think the Gods treat us. They move us where they see fit; to hardship, from safety, by pleasure, through pain. I wonder which I am being moved to now.

“The shifting that so shuddered your world has ceased, but there now comes another threat. The marauding plagues of vile darkness that once were content to watch from afar now gather to encircle your Great Library. They are cloaked in slime and seek to smother that which underpins truth and knowledge. It cannot be allowed.”

Pain. And hardship. Again. He has brought me pain and hardship. The satisfaction of my day has dissipated entirely and I sink to sit on a fallen tree. I know not what to do.

“So much for so long. It took millennia to build the Great Library, the resources and knowledge of eons are collected there. Why must others seek to destroy what is light and truth? Is a world where we all feel safe not to be?” I am frustrated, I am angry. These marauding hordes from some unknown threat have been seen at a distance before. I wish I had been able to neutralize them then. Keeping all in darkness is their way, for in that they seek to rule, destroying the legitimacy of the true Gods so they die when men turn their backs on them, when men cease to believe.

Hermes continues. “You have time. And you have this.” He hands me a small laden pouch, the string drawn tight. Within, I find silver pieces. “A little weight to you hands, to help with the search. Use these pieces of Laurium well. Perhaps you will strike gold and save your Great Library.”

Save my Great Library. With silver from the fabled mine. I only hope I will not be using them to pay Charon instead. I look at the watercourse to my side and wonder if I will be returning to my Alexandria not to celebrate in its restoration, but to send custodians of my Great Library across Styx.

The messenger leaves me, no more said, disappearing into the woods. I remain on the mound, wondering where to begin. I had dared to hope for renewal. It seems that I must first work still to save what remains before there can be any new growth. My Alexandria. It seems I will be home to visit sooner than I expected.

This tale is still evolving even as the words are committed to paper. Each post is likely to be a chaplet (a dedication or prayer) in itself. You are free to share this journey with me, even as I know not where it will end.
Posted in Alexandria, Art, Prose | Leave a comment

Ovarian cancer, the silent killer

I was not quite twelve when my aunt died. Ever watchful of her figure, a fastidious housekeeper and the perfect hostess in that 1950s full-skirted style, she accepted the changes in her body with a grace I have rarely seen in another. But grace only goes so far and once cancer hits a certain point there’s no denying that you are very, very ill.

Minnie was diagnosed with ovarian cancer at the start of the 80s. For sometime she’d noticed changes in bowel habit and lower abdominal bloating, but had been reassured by her doctor after various tests that there was nothing to worry about. It was not his fault; in that day it was so difficult to diagnose and the sensitivity of many tests was so much less than today.

By the time the cancer was diagnosed, Minnie’s disease was at a late stage. She persisted with the housework and cooking, keeping the most pristine living environment in spite of her treatments – and I do mean in spite, not despite. She did not believe she would die until the very end.

My mother was a nurse, molded in a cast of the classical Florence Nightingale figure. Having married Minnie’s brother our two families grew up spending a great deal of time together. Minnie held my parents first grandchild, but never saw her own granddaughter. The photograph shows a terribly cachexic woman with the most beautiful coifed hair beaming at the camera holding her grand niece in the flowing lace christening gown. She was so pleased to hold that child.

In 1982, Minnie’s health deteriorated dramatically. She did not wish to die in hospital, so Mum coordinated her home care, teaching Minnie’s family how to care for her. The doctor visited her at home when she became too ill to attend his surgery. Mum managed the drugs, especially the pain killers that became rapidly more necessary in her final days. In the wee hours of the morning the phone would ring. My mother would answer and whilst I was in my own bed supposedly asleep, I could hear Minnie’s scream emanate through the earpiece. Not a word would be said to the caller as Mum simply hung up the phone and left the house. She would generally make it back in time to get me ready for school despite having driven halfway across Melbourne and was almost always home when I got back at the end of the school day. During school hours, Mum was caring for Minnie as well.

In her final days, Minnie would sit in the sunroom at the rear of the house with her beautiful enormous German shepherd; it was the only room her adored hound was allowed into, a concession she made when she could no longer get down the steep steps to the yard. On Easter Monday of 1982, Minnie passed away. It left a hole in my father’s heart and a bond between him and his nieces that cannot be described. Minnie did not see her 54th birthday.

The reason I’m telling you all this is because now, thirty years later, the diagnosis of ovarian cancer remains as elusive as it did when Minnie was diagnosed. There is no definitive test. The disease occurs in 1 in every 77 women; for 75% of those women it will be diagnosed at a late stage, when the cancer has already spread to other organs. Radical surgeries that remove organs such as the uterus, bowel, bladder may be necessary, leaving the patient with a colostomy or urinary bag for the remainder of their life. Radiotherapy and chemotherapy are other treatment possibilities. And the saddest thing about this is that the disease, when caught early, can be curved in 80% of women.

Breast cancer has received enormous funding from so many sources and awareness has improved since the 1990s, making services and survival rates increase dramatically; but ovarian cancer, which shares some of the genetic risks factors with breast cancer, has gone mostly unnoticed. Women with the high risk BRCA1 and BRCA2 genetic mutations sometimes elect to have both their breasts and ovaries removed long before cancer appears. Research into these two gene groups provides data for both breast and ovarian cancer, but the publicity of ovarian cancer remains poor and the lack of a highly diagnostic, specific test remains the single greatest concern.

Ovarian cancer symptoms are subtle: changes in bowel habit, weight loss or gain, bloating, vaginal bleeding, back pain, nausea, indigestion, fatigue, urinary frequency, reduction in or loss of appetite. It cannot be diagnosed by a pap smear. Symptoms such as those described can fit a range of problems, from bowel cancer to irritable bowel, Crohn’s disease and just the vagaries of the menstrual cycle. But if your bodily habits change with no recognizable cause, you should be seeking advice from your doctor.

There are other factors that have been suggested in the development of the disease, that are still under investigation. Talcum powder used in the genital region is one of them. Rather than take the risk when having your bikini wax done, why not request that the beautician not use the talc? Other risk factors include the long term use of oestrogen only hormone replacement or multiple exposures to fertility drugs, obesity, a high fat diet and smoking. These are all things within our control. There are others that are not so much, such as a small number of or no pregnancies and Ashkenazi Jewish heritage.

What I want you all to take from this story is two things. Go to your doctor and push for answers if your bodily habits change and be sure an explanation is found that fits with your symptoms. Treatment should ameliorate the discomforts and be proof that you’ve found the cause. If not, ask the doctor to do further investigation. Secondly, get behind ovarian cancer research and fundraising. Until there is a definitive test women will continue to be diagnosed at a late stage and far too many women will die before they have the chance to hold their grandchildren. After thirty years, the fact this disease remains so poorly understood and vastly devastating is simply unacceptable. I’d like to see a definitive test before another thirty have passed.

You can find further information at Ovarian Cancer Australia.

This is not a sponsored post. It is, quite simply, a cause close to heart. Minnie suffered as no-one should suffer.

Posted in Family, Health | 1 Comment