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If Kafka Welcomes Spring, Can Summer Be Far Behind?

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In Kafka In The Castle, I fill in the ‘missing’ diary entries from Kafka’s real diary. He either did not fill in these days himself, or he destroyed them. There are some estimates that Kafka destroyed 70% – 80% of everything he wrote.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

08 April 1917

I seem to end in the most absurd situations. This afternoon, before Sunday dinner, Ottla took me away for some gardening. Rooting around in the earth, with the frost barely gone. Only Ottla could find such a plot of ground in Prague, or expect me to grub about in it like some hungry animal.

It was obviously some sort of communal land – such places are popular during this war. There were even families at work. Children also. One small boy was caught between his interest in the garden, and his desire to be a small boy. And what a dilemma it was. He’d work in the ground for awhile, following the example of his mother, then suddenly race around, exploring like a small boy. He came over to Ottla and me, and hunkered down beside us. He shook his head with a sigh of exasperation, and reached over to put his hands on mine. “Mummy says that’s wrong,” and with great patience and determination, began to show me how to prepare the earth. I thought there could be no better proof to Ottla of how inept I was.

I followed the movements of his hands, and between us, we dug quite a hole. At last the little fellow stood, obviously satisfied. “I go now,” he said, and ran away to see some other entertaining oddity. Ottla hadn’t laughed for fear of offending the boy, but she didn’t show such restraint when we were finally alone.

It fell to me to find the flowers.

Such things prove God’s sense of humour, for I have no interest or understanding for flowers. There was a fellow at university who could talk about flowers for hours. Otherwise, he was quite pleasant to be with. So it seems a joke that I would find them, between a pile of rubble and the wall of a house.

I had been exploring, much as the little fellow had done. In fact, he was running past when I found them, so I showed him also. They were white, with frail leaves close to the ground. Quite nondescript. But the boy was fascinated. He put his face close, although he didn’t touch them.

“Can I tell Mummy?” He obviously thought they were my flowers. “Yes,” I said, and he ran to get her. She followed him as he chattered all the way, and then she too hesitated, looking at me cautiously. “Perhaps your wife would like to see them,” she suggested. It took a moment to realize she was referring to Ottla. The flowers had become my possession. “Yes,” I said, “And tell anyone you like.”  “The first flowers of Spring,” she said, and she went to tell the others, taking care to stop at Ottla first.

Tiny white flowers.

I can still not believe the looks upon their faces, as they crowded around. Even the children were silent.

The relief they showed.

 

(Image)https:/farm5.staticflickr.com/4122/4807642892_042ac4d5f9_z.jpg

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When Jesus Walked The Roads At Easter

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Unicorns are mentioned eight times in the Holy Bible. So – there they were. The list is below.

Therefore, when I have Druids, and their affiliated unicorns,  go to Jerusalem in my novel A Lost Gospel, to make sure Jesus gets crucified, I feel I was on solid ground. And when one of my druids, Ogma,  has the following experience, I believe it possesses a symmetry of Biblical proportions.

Unicorns are mentioned in the following places of The Bible:

Numbers 23:22

God brought them out of Egypt; he hath as it were the strength of an unicorn.

Numbers 24:8

Deuteronomy 33:17

Job 39:9-12

Psalm 22:21

Psalm 29:6

Psalm 92:10

Isaiah 34:7

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

From A Lost Gospel

“Are you lost?”

“No.”

Ogma was taken by surprise, but he did not turn toward the speaker. He had no desire to start a conversation, he just wanted to be left to himself.

“Yet you are a traveller to these parts.”

“Yes.”

Ogma knew only too well the interest local people had for strangers in their midst. It was an interest which could easily turn into suspicion. He was alone, and he did not want to have trouble in this unknown land.

“I had business in Jerusalem.” Ogma shrugged. “The desire came upon me to feel earth under my feet, not paving stones.”

“And you find yourself here.”

“I turned from the main road at a whim.”

“What did you in Jerusalem?”

“I do not intrude thus in your life.”  Ogma kept a steady gaze across the field, though he could not keep irritation from his voice.

“Yet you do intrude – for here you are.”

“If I’m on your land, I apologise. I thought it was a common road. There is no barrier in place to warn me otherwise.”

Ogma wondered if it was time to leave the way he had come, or to stay and talk. Despite the words spoken, the other man’s voice displayed no anger, or annoyance.

“Do you find no peace in Jerusalem?”

“I’ve had a troubled time in your grand city.”

Ogma suddenly realised he had things he wanted to say, which he could not discuss with the other druids. He finally turned to the man, wondering if he should explain further.

“By the gods of death!” Ogma stood back in fear. “This is not possible.”

“There are no boundaries to what is possible.”

“I saw them hang you up.”

“You saw flesh. And blood.”

“Then what do I see now?”

“More than a man of sorrows.”

“Glarus was right.” Ogma began to move further away, but stopped himself. “I’m not to fear you, or the change you bring.”

“Truth deserves acceptance, not fear.”

“Do you know of my burden?”

The other man raised his arm and pointed. Ogma turned to follow the outstretched hand. He saw the two unicorns standing close together among the trees.

“Have they brought me here?”

“They have led you to a place you sought yourself.”

“You know of Glarus.” Ogma stopped abruptly, and his voice lowered. “The gods I understand believe in trade. Take me instead of her.”

“You care so much?”

“I know the worth of things.” Ogma stared directly at the other man. “It is better to have her alive than me.”

“No man knows his own worth.” Yeshua touched the small man, then held him close. “My father’s love does not barter.” He released Ogma with a smile. “Return to Jerusalem. You travel with companions.”

“The beasts accompany me?”

“Thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorns.”

(image)Unicorn Tapestries at the Cloisters – New York, New York https://assets.atlasobscura.com/media/W1siZiIsInVwbG9hZHMvcGxhY2VfaW1hZ2VzL2VmYjZmYmVkZjk1MzNhMDgyZV9GOTNBMjc5My5qcGciXSxbInAiLCJ0aHVtYiIsIngzOTA-Il0sWyJwIiwiY29udmVydCIsIi1xdWFsaXR5IDgxIC1hdXRvLW9yaWVudCJdXQ/F93A2793.jpg

History, Poetry And Religion In A Cathedral For Evensong

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[Bishop John Medley (John Fredericton)]
Yesterday a writing colleague, Robert Hawkes, launched his poetry book about a Nineteenth Century Anglican Bishop, John Medley. An intriguing aspect of the launch was that it occurred during an Evensong service, in the very cathedral  where Medley had been bishop.

I am so sorry to have missed the event, not just for the book launch, but because it was a part of Evensong.  My interest in this service is explained in the following blog, that I posted last year, around the time of Remembrance Day.

~~~~~~~~~~
An evening church service is a favourite of mine – even as a child. However, it has fallen out of favour and is no longer regularly offered.

Trusty Google helped me find one last Sunday. Not only an Evensong, but a Choral Evensong. And not only choral, but it was dedicated as a Remembrance Evensong. I was coming in, out of the cold, in style.

It was held in St. George’s Church – also know as the Round Church for its shape. www.roundchurch.ca

I had been in the church as a tourist, but not for years. A 5pm service in November got me there at dusk. It is a large church, complete with upper balconies. It is close in proximity to the Halifax naval yard, and I wondered if there would be some military presence. As it was, an officer in uniform read a lesson, while a military chaplain gave the sermon.

Not having been to an Evensong for decades, I don’t know if it was a large or small congregation. My guess is there were thirty or so people present, plus 10 in the choir, plus 2 ministers, 1 verger and the organist/choir director.

I would say that Evensong is a modified Morning service, perhaps more fitting for the time of day. In addition to a choral choir singing selections on their own, there were hymns that are favourites of mine. “Oh God, Our Help In Ages Past”  “Abide With Me” and three (3) stanzas of “God Save The Queen”. How close to heaven can one monarchist get?

As an added surprise (which would have made my father ecstatic) it was a High Church Anglican church, and even had incense. Perhaps that explained the choral choir.

At the end, after the procession had left, the large and booming organ belted out a selection by César Franck – Pièce Héroïque“. Members of the choir returned and sat in pews to listen.

When it was completed and people started to leave, I had a tiny ageist and sexist lapse. Two little, white-haired ladies got out of their pew to leave. Walking slowly before me, they talked of the music. I thought they were going to complain about the (admittedly) lengthy organ recital.

“Oh, that music,” said one.

“Yes,” said the other, nodding.

“It’s one of my favourite pieces.”

“I know what you mean.”

Harvest Moon Harvest Leads To Thanksgiving

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The ground has been kissed by the harvest moon.

They put their hands into the rich earth – dark, moist loam, which clung to the vegetables while it caked under their fingernails – and dug at the hills of firm potatoes. They pulled the limp stalks – were satisfied when the bulky vegetables came out of the ground and rolled to a stop by their feet.

They shook the roots, loosening clods of earth and any remaining potatoes, then threw the dead plants onto a pile at the end of the row.

They scraped the excess dirt from the vegetables, placing the large ones into a barrel, and the smaller – even tiny – ones into a basket.

They wasted nothing.

They dug further with a hoe to make sure none were missed.

 

They paused by the remaining tomato plants, and picked the full fruit. Perhaps over-ripe, yet the sun warmed skin was firm

enough, and they ate the red flesh with pleasure, letting seeds and juice gush to the ground.

They smiled at each other as they ate, wiped the back of their hands across their reddened lips at the same time, and dried their damp, muddy fingers on the legs of their pants.

They stood and pondered by the onions, which they had been taking from the field for months. They plant and replant, but there are few left with tops that have not fallen over. They pull about half, but leave the rest for a couple of weeks and the whims of the gods.

They loosened the earth and marvelled in the strong, healthy smell which each carrot released from the good ground. They left the green leaves on the crown to feather from the tops of their baskets.

Occasionally, one of the orange vegetables would branch into a pair of walking legs. Or even form a strange, running monster which clung fast to the earth.

Some were so thick, that forefinger and thumb could not encircle them. Each was carefully drawn from the nourishing land, so slender tips would not break and mar the beauty of the perfect whole.

 

They brushed against the brittle leaves as they checked upon the pumpkins growing among the corn stalks. They tapped the largest of the full, orange fruit, and were pleased at the hefty girth. They saw some could ripen further, and plotted when the time would be best to gather them.

They broke one medium-sized pumpkin free from its dying vines, and put it aside to have with their evening meal.

As they walked through the withered corn stalks, they were surprised to find an occasional ear that – although small – was ripe and full enough to eat. Overlooked when the others were plucked, they had struggled to a humble maturity.

These were also gratefully gathered, and together would afford them one last taste of sweet corn. As they husked their unexpected bonus, they listened to the wind rustle through the dry corn plants.

DE

(image)https://media.treehugger.com/assets/images/2016/09/Harvest_moon.jpg.662x0_q70_crop-scale.jpg

A Story Of Frolicking Beavers For Canada Day, July First ~ 150 Years

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First of all, we know that Canada Day is really Dominion Day. But – that said – there is still no better symbol for Canada than the industrious beaver.  But even  hard-working beavers (perhaps, especially hard-working beavers) need their time at play. This is what I saw.

I was walking along the river and heard the strangest noise.

It was one of those noises which, when I found out what It was, sounded exactly as it should. A beaver was chewing at a branch on the bank of the river. First there were small rolling noises, as the branch went through its hands. Then the ‘gnaw gnaw gnaw’. And then the turning noise and the cycles were repeated.

This went on fifteen minutes or so, until the beaver and I both heard noises in the water.

We both saw another beaver approaching. The beaver-at-gnaw quickly went in her direction (though I can only guess which sex was which). They swam toward each other then rubbed faces. The approaching beaver made small bawling noises like a young calf. They rubbed bodies and seemed to sniff each other. They then swam in different directions.

This performance – the swimming away, the languid circling, the approaches – went on for twenty minutes. A couple of times the ‘gnawing’ beaver clambered over the over beaver’s back, but this lasted just a few seconds. The beaver that had first approached rubbed noses once again, then made the bawling sounds one more time.

I never appreciated how large beavers are until one of them came up on the bank. The water was clear enough to see their feet and tail move underwater (I wonder if the portion out of the water might have the 1/10 proportion of an iceberg). The sun was setting and they became difficult to see. However they decided to part anyway. One began to go down river toward the harbour and one headed to the other shore. For me an experience of a lifetime.

DE

(image)teachershelp.ru/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/beaver1.jpg

Truth And Drink With Alison Alexandra

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The woman straightens with enough speed to lose a few drops of her conversational whiskey. She looks at Alison Alexandra in surprise and appreciation. A translucent mask is peeled from her face. She is animated. Her eyes are expectant.

“You are new here.”

“You’re the observer.” Alison Alexandra smiles.

“But I never say what I really see.” The woman finally takes a real drink. “None of us do.”

“But you come up to me – with your observations.”

“In truth -”

The woman stops. She realises how rarely she tells the truth. She is startled that she is about to do so. She is apprehensive.

“In truth, it is on a dare.”

“Someone has dared you to ask me?”

“Actually, a number of people have put money in a pot to see if this will happen.”

“To approach me?”

“Yes.”

“How much am I worth?”

The woman raises her glass and laughs. “A bottle of Scotch.”

“Good Scotch?”

“Not really.” The woman is apologetic, yet she laughs. “It’s not that calibre of party.”

DE

(image)https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/originals/92/c8/a9/92c8a9d4112b23627fd7c39a07440c35.jpg

Seasons, Storms And Mushrooms Enhance Life And Love

 

the-perfect-storm-in-digital-marketing-q1Dear Eustace:

Summer wings its indolent way past,

and the petal touch of fall floats the air.

If one refused to meld into the other,

would thoughts of mortality arise?

I have often wished

– no, not upon the distant stars (shooting stars are dying a hot death, did you ever think of that?) –

but upon the green/mauve bud and the chill of September morns.

The wishes and the dreams … oh, my.

Have you noticed the abundance of mushrooms this year,

ink caps thrusting to the sky?

Such treats

– such tasty, tasty, treats.

Yours,

Margot.

 

*******

Dear Margot:

The seasons each have their place,

and since I get pleasure from them all,

their comings,

goings

(or, if you wish – passings)

seem not the least profound.

I certainly shan’t waste my time pondering over morality

– what, after all, is more immortal than the changing seasons?

And what might your wishes be, my friend?

I rarely do little more than reach out my hand,

and am fulfilled.

There is so much bounty to partake of

– and no better displayed then at this time of year

(your seasons; Bursting seasons).

Ah, the summer sun has warmed me,

but the crisp fall eve shall make me more appreciate

a warm lady snuggled by my side.

Watch out for mushrooms,

they make the body lament a single bed.

Yours,

Eustace

 

 

*******

Dear Eustace:

My wishes would leave you

– yes, even you –

dazzled.

There aren’t heights on the earth tall enough to reach them,

and the ocean depths would soon be full,

if ever I let my hopes accumulate.

Ask not after a person’s dreams, for you could easily violate a soul.

I put more trust in the unspoken word,

and the unseen deed,

for they are oft the strongest.

There is chill enough in the air this morning to make your warm ladies

work overtime to keep you in a happy state.

What a storm was loosed upon the world last night.

I fear the poor mushrooms

will be more mush than anything else.

I fill my bed quite happily, sir,

do not lament for me.

Yours,

Margot

 

 

*******

Dear Margot:

I shall trust unspoken words

when my ears hurt from the noise they make.

I hear too much as it is,

voices full-primed with choice advice and platitudes,

whether from the pulpit or a cozy bed companion.

You’d be surprised the little that I heed.

With so much new in life,

so much to taste and try,

the wonder lies in the drabness of most lives.

From where do so many fears spring,

and how do they exist?

We also had a grand storm across our lands,

but I had not ignored the signs, and thus picked

a bounty of the succulent fungi.

Whether they aided me or not I can’t say,

but my rest did seem more deserved than usual.

Yours,

Eustace

ps Moira sends again her thanks for your hospitality.

 

DE

(image)https://brand-quarterly-veseycreative.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/The-Perfect-Storm-In-Digital-Marketing-Q1.jpg

The Pagan Feast Of Christmas Where Jesus Tags Along

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Christmas is a fake that has taken root like the holly and survives tenaciously. It has become a goodies grab fest, and helps keep our commercial society stable. Perhaps reason enough to exist.

The wily Christians conquered the outnumbered Celts and supplanted their winter festival with the birth of their God. The wily pagans live on in the numerous traditions the Christians stole, so perhaps it is a fair trade. And no doubt those wily pagans chuckle over their mead, noting this celebration of reverence has become a surfeit of greed.

I have been no fan of Christmas for decades, but its mixed legacy encourages me not to abandon it. My Christian background encourages my enjoyment of the music and traditions. Most commercial intrusions can be muted or turned off. I have some personal traditions I almost follow religiously.

I do not even rail against Santa Claus. I heard his sleigh bells one Christmas Eve when I was five. I saw his sleigh runner tracks in the snow a couple of years later.

I have even been mistaken for Santa a couple of times.

Once, in the line-up in a bank near Christmas, a two year old pointed at me. Unfortunately, my presence terrified him and he started to scream and cry. His parents said things like “But Santa is nice and kind.” I was wise enough not to go Ho Ho Ho.

Another time a family approached me as I walked in a park. A boy, who looked to be six or seven, stopped in his tracks then ran back to his parents. “Santa Claus!”  He pointed. Happily he did not cry. They walked past me in silence.

Also, for decades, I lived close to a residence where one of the very first recitations of ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas happened. The author of that stirring piece, Clement Moore, who wrote it in 1822, sent a copy to his godfather, the Rev Johnathan O’Dell, of Fredericton New Brunswick. However, the poem was not published until 1837.

This year, I have been brushed by Christmas but twice.

I entered a restaurant to meet a friend for lunch. Before any query was out of my mouth, I was ushered to the correct table. I found out the maître d ‘ had been told to be on the outlook for Santa Claus.

And, just this morning, I was told by a revered friend and writer that she was going to write a Christmas Eve column about how silly Christmas really is.

Silly is a kind word.

DE

(image)http://www.irishcelticjewels.com/celtic-wedding/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/irish-christmas-angel.jpg

Thanksgiving As Kafka Gives It

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In my novel, Kafka In The Castle, I follow a couple of years of Kafka’s life through diary entries. Admittedly, I never had him comment about a US Thanksgiving. But this is one take on his giving thanks.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

30 September 1917

There was a knocking at the window this morning. A polite and concise rap rap rap. It awoke me while the room was barely light.

Who could want me so early? And then again, an insistent rap rap rap. I was confused, wondering where I was. The panic of Prague weighted down the covers, and I was sorry I had opened my eyes. The room, the smells – even the bed – was not familiar, so I was both bothered and assured by the strangeness.

When I realized I was not in Prague – for who could knock on my third floor window – I remembered I was in Zurau, where things were different. Here my window looked onto a yard, and anyone could  be at it. Was there something wrong? Was Ottla after my help? I even wondered, as I searched for my slippers, if her young man had somehow arranged leave from the army, and after much travail had managed to reach the wrong room. I could understand that very well.

I walked hesitantly over to the window, and cautiously pulled back the curtain. Such a commotion ensued that I stepped back in some fright. A bird flew immediately past the glass, its wings frantic as it screeched in agitation. It had been perched on my window ledge, pecking away at the frame. Ottla says it may have been after insects or grubs settled in for the winter.

“Insects in the walls of the house?” I asked.  “Yes.” She was quite matter-of-fact.  “It is a warm place for them during the cold months.”  I was not inclined to argue with the logic, but neither had I thought I would be existing in such close proximity with the tenants of nature.

Houses for warmth and bugs for food. It is a blend of the base and the subtle which I can appreciate. Much – I like to think – as does the annoyed bird.

DE

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