Lughnasadh is Near by R.L. Cherry

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Some readers may wonder, “What the heck is a lughnasadh?”  Is it some rodent from the Arabian peninsula?  Is it a balm for wounds used in ancient Persia?  Although there was a movie titled “Dancing at Lughnasa” with Meryl Streep and Michael Gambon that won an Irish Film and Television Award, it was not exactly a blockbuster and not that many watched it in America.  The award gives away that Lughnasadh (also spelled Lughnansa) is an Irish word, the name of one of the four ancient fire festivals in Gaelic (Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man) lands that were celebrated each year.  The other three are Samhain, Imbolc and Beltaine, with Samhain (New Year’s eve), or its modern manifestation of Halloween, being the one observed worldwide with many carry-over traditions from the original form.  But what is Lughnasadh?

Roughly halfway between summer solstice and the autumn equinox, it is traditionally celebrated on July 31st and continuing into the early morning of August 1st.  The name is derived from combining the name of a Celtic god Lugh, who was sort of a jack-of-all trades god, and nasad, which means an assembly.  In Irish myth, it all began when Lugh held a funerary feast and games after the death of his mother.  The Irish are known for having rip-roaring wakes (remember Finnegan) and Lugh threw the grand-daddy of them all.  The ancient Irish kept it as a tradition, eventually celebrating the “first fruits” harvest with a big bash on Lugh’s day, or night.

While the ancient Irish are said to have had games, ceremonies and the sacrifice of a bull along with their feasting, it changed after Christianity came to Ireland from St. Patrick and other missionaries.  Often called Lammas or Lammastide (an Anglo-Saxon term from “loaf-mass”), a loaf of bread would be brought into church and laid on the altar as a symbolic offering of the first fruits of harvest to God rather than a bull sacrificed to Lugh.   Pilgrimages to holy sites became popular as well.  But baptizing Lughnasadh did not ruin the fun part.  It became a traditional time of matchmaking and festival, with feasting and dancing.  Horse trading also became popular, no doubt linked to matchmaking.

Although Lugnasadh waned a bit in popularity in the mid-twentieth century, it has since had a resurgence.  Lughnasadh Fairs, sometimes anglicized to Lammas Fairs, are held all over Ireland.  The one at Ballycastle, County Antrim, Northern Ireland, is called the Ould Lammas Fair, claims to be one of the oldest, more than three centuries, and draws thousands of attenders each year.  Their publicity warns visitors to come early to avoid the long traffic jams.  They have over 400 stalls offering all kinds of crafts, artwork, clothing, jewelry, farm produce and junk.  Well, they call the junk “bric-a-brac.”  There are street performers of all types, pony rides and traditional music as well.  Plus lots of food and drink.  They say not to miss their famous “Yellow Man,” a candy made from honeycomb and “dulse,” a dried seaweed that is also used for medicinal purposes.  That last one sounds yummy.

Ballycastle’s Ould Lammas Fair even has its own theme song, written by John Henry “The Carver” MacAuley, who owned the Bog Oak Shop.  He made his living carving oak recovered from bogs into everything from pipestands to animals, selling many at the fair.  Although crippled as a boy, he was a fine fiddler.  He died in 1937, but his song lives on.

 

Ould Lammas Fair

by John Henry MacAuley

 

At the Ould Lammas Fair in Ballycastle long ago

I met a pretty colleen who set me heart a-glow

She was smiling at her daddy buying lambs from Paddy Roe

At the Ould Lammas Fair in Ballycastle-O!

Sure I seen her home that night

When the moon was shining bright

From the Ould Lammas Fair in Ballycastle-O!

 

Chorus:

At the Ould Lammas Fair boys were you ever there

Were you ever at the Fair In Ballycastle-O?

Did you treat your Mary Ann

To some Dulse and Yellow Man

At the Ould Lammas Fair in Ballycastle-O!

 

In Flander’s fields afar while resting from the War

We drank Bon Sante to the Flemish lassies O!

But the scene that haunts my memory is kissing Mary Ann

Her pouting lips all sticky from eating Yellow Man

As we passed the silver Margy and we strolled along the strand

From the Ould Lammas Fair in Ballycastle-O!

(Chorus)

 

There’s a neat little cabin on the slopes of fair Knocklayde

It’s lit by love and sunshine where the heather honey’s made

With the bees ever humming and the children’s joyous call

Resounds across the valley as the shadows fall

Sure I take my fiddle down and my Mary smiling there

Brings back a happy mem’ry of the Lammas Fair.

(Chorus)

R.L. Cherry is a long-term columnist about classic cars and hot rods for The Union newspaper in Grass Valley, CA, and his short stories have appeared in several eZines.  He has published two books, a female-detective mystery titled Christmas Cracker and a noirish suspense titled Foul Shot, both available in paperback and on Kindle at Amazon.com.  For more about him and his writing, go to http://www.rlcherry.com

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The root of all evil by Stuart Carruthers

picture for blog

“That’ll be two and a half hours please.”

“Two and a half hours!?” he interrobanged, “but it only took you 10 minutes!”

“Ah, but it’s not actually the length of time it takes one to do something, but the length of time it took to do the training. It’s all in the guidelines. Paragraph two point three subsection D. “Where a tariff is not directly applicable, the service provider may set their own rate based upon the amount of training they believe they have had.”

“But you’ve only changed a tire! How much training did it take?”

“That sir! Is not the point, could you have done it?”

“Of course I could have done it! A trained chimp, no offense, could have done it.

“Then why didn’t you? Sir!?” the mechanic, with the air of someone who knows he has the other party over a barrel, obsequiously asked.

“Because, I didn’t want to get my bloody dinner jacket dirty! Oh whatever, give me your card.”

The mechanic, now smiling, handed over his debit card and the surgeon held it against the back of his cell phone and deducted two and half hours off his total.

“Thank you, sir. It was a pleasure doing business with you.”

“A few more of these and I’ll be able to earn a holiday,” the mechanic thought.

A grass roots movement of communities began trading their time, rather than money, for goods and services. What started off as a good idea, started to get out of hand when law suits were filed when people didn’t get the hours they thought they were owed. After several hundred of these and the courts having their time wasted over petty civil disagreements, the government stepped in and issued guidelines as to how many hours a certain task and profession was worth. They tried to consider all jobs, but inevitably things slipped through the net and certain caveats were put in place and in the event that an agreement couldn’t be reached and independent ombudsman was placed in each area to deal with these disputes, his time was charged at a fixed rate payable by both parties.

The mechanic forgot all about it and went on his way, charging whatever he felt was appropriate. It was now manual labour workers who were time rich. Bakers could make a three-dozen loaves in three hours, yet could charge thirty minutes for each loaf. Mechanics could charge two hours for a full service and could do it in one. Solicitors, who in a cash society could charge whatever they wanted, could now only charge one hour for a ten-minute letter. Still a nice markup, but at least people weren’t going to the poor house to visit one. Our friend the surgeon was upset because, despite still being very time rich, he didn’t like being ripped off.

The surgeon contacted the ombudsman, and the ombudsman found in favor of the mechanic who once again smiled slyly at the surgeon. Now, fate is a wonderful thing and it wasn’t long before their path’s crossed once again.

“Help me doc.” The mechanic didn’t recognize his mark, with his medical Google Glasses perched on the bridge of his nose, a fresh tan from a Caribbean holiday and holiday beard he hadn’t gotten round to shaving off.

“How much will be cost?” The mechanic asked once he’d received his diagnosis.

“Hmm an appendix operation? Simple enough. Let’s say one hundred hours!”

“One hundred hours!?” it was his time to interrobang. “But the guide says it’s only worth ten hours!”

“But I foresee complications and besides which, could you do it yourself?” He winked at the mechanic.

“Don’t I know you?”

“Please give me your card.”

The mechanic meekly handed it over.

“Thank you, sir, I’ll see to it that all complications are resolved.?

 

Bio

____

Stuart Carruthers is a sceptical deist, pseudo geek and frog herder. Having escaped British winters he now lives in Taiwan where he shares his house with his wife and two kids. Find his books here: http://www.amazon.com/Stuart-Carruthers/e/B008LR5FRM/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1

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Strawberry Girl By D. M. Pirrone

strawberries

 For the past six years, ever since my best friend Laura gave me a single strawberry plant for my backyard garden, I’ve had a running fight with the squirrels over just whose strawberries they are. Strawberries are replicators, so every year the patch grows. Every year, more plants produce more berries. And every year, the squirrels beat me to every damned one of ‘em.

It got frustrating. I love local strawberries in our too-short season, and there’s nothing more local than picking them from your own backyard. Yet here were those greedy squirrels, depriving me and my family of that pleasure. Last year, when the patch covered nearly a fifth of the garden, there were so many berries—white and unripe when I first went to look—that I was certain we’d get some. There were plenty to share. Surely the misbegotten little critters couldn’t get them all. Surely I’d beat the squirrels to a handful or two, enough to scatter across my cereal or let my husband and sons snag a few from a communal bowlful on a lazy Sunday morning.

But they’d wait, those sneaky bastards, until the first blush of pink on the berry deepened to an almost-ripe red. They’d watch me kneel and run my hands through the leaves, eying the berries I knew would be ready to pick the next morning… and sure enough, when I got back out there, those berries would be gone. Eaten clean off their stems, or bitten in half with the remainder left in tatters just to torment me. We got two, which I dutifully gave my boys (a mother never loses a chance to get her kids to eat fruit!). And I resigned myself to the painful reality that my strawberry patch belonged to the bushy-tailed creatures with whom we share our neighborhood. I wouldn’t have minded so much if the danged varmints had just asked first…

So this year, with the strawberry patch big enough that I ripped out some to make room for tomatoes and peppers, I didn’t have high hopes. Even when I saw a bumper crop of white berries waiting to ripen, I didn’t think I’d get more than half a dozen. If I was lucky. I waited a week and then moseyed outside on a Saturday afternoon just to see how many ripe berries the squirrels had already devoured.

I found two berries half-eaten. A third, miraculously whole. A fourth and fifth, likewise untouched. Then more and more, until my cupped hands were too full to hold them all, let alone the others I glimpsed, rounded red sides peeking out like Nature’s rubies beneath the broad green leaves. Stunned and delighted, I dashed inside the house for a plastic container. By the time I was done picking, I had four cupfuls of ripe berries. The final score: me 60-plus, squirrels 7. I carried my harvest into the house and treated myself to a handful. Sweet, tangy, perfect. An unexpected grace note to the start of summer.

Life abounds in unexpected graces. Sometimes it’s hard to remember that. But every time I look out my back window, I can see the carpet of deep green, tooth-edged leaves that sheltered my bumper strawberry crop. A reminder written in the earth, in air and sunshine and water, that bounty exists where we find it if we know where to look.

D. M. Pirrone, aka Diane Piron-Gelman, is a writer, audiobook narrator and editor. Her latest book, SHALL WE NOT REVENGE, received a Kirkus starred review and is forthcoming in August from Allium Press of Chicago. Feel free to check out her author website at www.dmpirrone.net and her personal blog, Word Nerd Notes, at www.wordnrd.wordpress.com.

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What Did I Do Wrong? by Cynthia B. Ainsworthe

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All pleadings left unheard. Why? The air stinks of blood. Cheers and roars from the crowd pound my ears, and eat at my soul. One by one they leave only to be replaced by new faces—some I recognize—all doomed like me. Terror reigns in their eyes as the guards push them into cells filled with the sickening stench of human excrement mixed in the rotting hay piles. The poor fools try to drink the rust-laden water.

The guard approaches. Yellowing filthy teeth frame a sardonic smile accentuated by his foul breath from rotting teeth. No words needed. A long lust-laden gaze communicates his intent. “You don’t have to worry, Madame. Not as long as you are friendly. The friendly sorts remain a little longer.”

I swallow hard. My eyes fix on his. “Why am I here? I’ve done nothing wrong.”

His sinister chuckle chills me. “Nothing wrong? You’re friends with an aristocrat. That’s crime enough to sever your head. There will be no aristocrats left in France, nor those that are friends with them.”

“I was only an acquaintance of Madamoiselle Gaultier. I met her once at a party,” comes my plea. “My husband was a doctor. I’m a plain person as you.”

“Like me, you say? Not very well likely. You dressed in fine silks and satins.” He inches closer to the cell bars. “Did you not come by those clothes from being friendly with the male Royals your husband tended to? Like I said, do me some favors and you might keep your head a few days longer.”

His hand grazes the crotch of his breeches.

I give no reply.

The jailer turns with an air of triumph, clearly knowing he has the upper hand.

~~#~~

Night. A stream of silver colors my dank and dark surroundings. That small window is my only connection to the outside world. Wailings and moans fill the air.

A woman in the cell next to mine sidles to the bars separating us.

“Have you been here long?” she whispers. Her eyes are wild with fear. “Do you know when they will do it?”

“Some are chosen quickly.” No need to give her false hope. “Others have been here for over a week. I have no idea why. I pray this madness will end before I’m chosen.”

I look at her finely manicured nails and coiffed wig. “Why did they take you?”

“My lover was an aristocrat.” Tears fill her eyes. “They killed him last week.”

“Madame Guillotine took my husband seven days ago. I can still hear his pleadings for mercy in my ears. They might have met in the same wagon.” She looks so frightened. “You’re young and pretty. You might be spared. There’s always hope.”

“You mean, sleep with those filthy jailers?” Her gasp escapes. “I was a mistress because I loved him—not a common whore.”

“Adjust your morals.” She needs to understand the price of survival. “Letting a guard have his way is better than if you don’t.”

~~#~~

Heavy footsteps approach. Keys jangle. Is he coming for me? No, it’s night. Beheadings are during the day after the crowd gathers. Has he come for payment for sparing me one more day? My breath catches in my throat. I dare not move and pretend to sleep.

I peek through my eyelashes. The guard stands there, sizing up his victim–a man picking over the display on a fruit stand.

Please choose someone else.

His hand plunges into his pants encouraging his lust. The guard steps closer. Only the bars separate us until he makes his decision. He turns to the cell next to mine. Please, God, let it be her and not me! Metal on metal sounds from the key turning the lock. The creaking door screeches in my ears. His demonic laugh pierces my soul. I don’t move, still giving the illusion of sleep.

A screech comes from the next cell.

“Please, sir. Don’t!” the young girl cries out.

“What? I’m not good enough for you?” he bellows. “My manhood not adorned in Royal finery?”

“I might be with child,” she begs.

“What is that to me?” He unbuttons his breeches. “If you do well by me, and often. “You might keep your head. Small price for fifteen minutes work. Now, spread your legs.”

The jailer lunges after her, pushing her against the wall, and lifts her skirt. I turn my head in disgust. Her cries and sobs mingle with the others in this rat-infested hellhole. His grunts and moans grow faster. Soon, the young girl’s reprieve from this barbaric torture is at hand. Maybe, just maybe, he will favor her and her life will be spared. This reign of terror must come to an end.

Will I survive? Will she? How many more sunrises are in my future?

~~#~~

Morning.  Sunlight brightens the cell with hope. I begin every day with a vision of freedom.

The gathering crowd cheers for the killings to begin. Hawkers offer handfuls of hair cut from the once coiffed heads of well-known aristocrats.

Heavy, footsteps come closer. The bloodthirsty games have begun once more. I hold my breath. Is it today? Will I join my husband? Two guards swing open the door. A lump forms in my throat. Do they demand favors—or death?

A gruff jailer grabs at my upper arm, tearing my sleeve further. “Come along. You’re turn to go.”

“No!” I scream. “Not yet!!”

I struggle to pull away. His grip tightens. Another guard grabs under my armpit.

God, accept my soul into Your heavenly Kingdom.

A third jailer yanks the Rosary beads from my hands. They walk me out into the daylight, and up the steps to a wagon. I stand with others, who all share my fate—all sport the look of shock and disbelief.

Eager peasants yell with glee and run alongside as the wagon rattles on the uneven cobblestone street. The ride is swift. The abrupt stop echoes the abrupt end of our lives. Lives brought short by this insane mob.

I’m the first . A kind-eyed soldier extends his hand. He looks sympathetic, but is loyal to his orders.

“Please, Madame,” he offers. “Watch your step.”

Despite my tears, I smile knowing his kindness is the last I will ever experience. He leads me to the scaffold steps. Dripping blood, from the guillotine platform, puddles on the ground below. Hungry dogs lap up this treat. Two men stand there, waiting for me—one holds the rope that controls the blade. Another binds my hands with harsh rope. He cuts my long mane at my neck and offers it to the crowd with outstretched arm. “What will you give for this Royal hair?” Their jeers ring in my brain.

All too soon, he pushes me onto a plank. My head is roughly positioned on a jagged neck support. It is wet, cold, and sticky with blood. The crowd chants, “Off with her head! Kill the sow!” Another board secures my neck. I look at the faces eager for my death. All eyes look in the direction of the blade-keeper. The swift thug of mental to flesh sounds. Crushing, burning pain. Someone lifts my head by the hair. I see them laughing.  My eyes close. All is black. I am free.

©2014 Cynthia B Ainsworthe

Bastille Day, July 14, is celebrated by French nationals. The excesses of the ruling classes oppressed the common people to the point of abject starvation. This lead to mass hysteria during the Reign of Terror. Approximately 40,000 died. Of those, it is estimated that 80-85 percent were common citizens.

Author Bio

Born in Mahopac, NY, raised in Yorktown Heights, NY, Cynthia longed to become a writer. Life circumstances put her dream on hold for most of her life. Some eight years ago she ventured to write her first novel, Front Row Center, which won the IPPY (Independent Publisher) Award and is now being adapted to screen with a script is in development by she and Hollywood screenwriter, Scott C Brown. Since then Cynthia shares with other authors the Reader’s Favorite International Award for two short stories, When Midnight Comes, and Characters, she contributed to the horror anthology The Speed of Dark, by Clayton C Bye. It Ain’t Fittin’ earned her the Excellence in Writing Award by It Matters Radio. Cynthia enjoys her retirement from her profession as a registered cardiac nurse in Florida, caring for her husband and five poodle-children.

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00KYRE1Q8

and

http://www.thewriteroomblog.com/?p=2165

 

 

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The Reality in the Fiction by Bryan Murphy

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 I’m working on a novel set in Portugal in the 1970s: the time of the country’s “Carnation Revolution” that put an end to a very nasty dictatorship.

I’d love to say I was there, but I wasn’t. I spent six months living and working in Oporto, in the north of Portugal, before the Revolution, was back in England when it took place, and returned to Portugal to try my luck some months after the event. As that luck would have it, I arrived in Lisbon on the day of an abortive counter-coup. I was overjoyed to join the revolutionaries who took to the streets that evening; the demo was a great introduction to the city, because all Lisbon’s major landmarks lay on its route.

That experience went into a poem, below, which appeared in The Pygmy Giant in April 2011.

The main character in the novel is very different from myself. He is a businessman, a man of action, affable, outgoing and down-to-earth. This forces me to look at the events of those years from a viewpoint that is not my own, a salutary experience, I think. He shares some of my experiences, but, in most cases, he does not see them or react to them as I did. One such experience, though, troubles him as it did me. It comes at the end of this poem: finding yourself part of a crowd braying for blood. It was exhilarating at the time, but is devastating when you look back on it.

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Marching

 

Lisbon! Grungy, unfresh from the train,

I arrive the evening a coup fails, eager

to grab the smudgy, press-hot leaflets

thrust out by enthusiastic scruffs –

revolutionaries for real.

 

I find my two friends – keys to a new life -

dump my shabby case of battered belongings,

sample wine, cheese, coffee: ready for action

in the warm September night.

 

Politics and sight-seeing: sensory nectar

for an eager-eyed anarchist. Better

than Aldermaston, as we flow

from the Bullring to the Edward VII Park

(statue of Marquis with lion)

 

then down the Avenida de Liberdade, yelling

undying devotion to freedom saved today,

into Trafalgar, no, Rossio Square,

our slogans failing to bring down Emperor Maximilian

(bought cheap from the Mexicans who’d shot the real thing,

re-baptised as a Portuguese king, erected too high

for hoi polloi to scrutinise his features),

 

through the commercial district, laid out in a grid

for the king’s men to navigate fast, not this red tide

of want-it-now millenarians plunging with victor’s joy

into the elegant waterside square, Terreiro do Paço,

where, by day, a river that seems a sea

reflects Lisbon’s unique light.

 

Above us, on our left, Alfama, the walled Arab town

(where storming 13th century crusaders,

blind to tolerance, murdered everyone,

Christian archbishop and all).

 

We turn right, follow the river mouthwards,

heaving with indignant, righteous, solid noise,

past a fascist monument to the Discoveries

of long-inhabited lands, past a tiny fortress

squatting on the water, past the delicate fluted columns

of Jerónimos’s closed cloisters

 

to our destination: the president’s palace at Belém,

cradle of the new-born, military-guided democracy,

where after-midnight campaign euphoria

gives vent to chanted blood-lust:

“Spínola, Osório, Galvão:

execução!”

 

Doubt, distaste flash among three friends,

then we rally our voices to the cause:

a mighty shared demand

that the revolution finally begin

to devour its children.

 

Happy endings.

I went back to Lisbon last year and met old friends I had not seen since those days. I mentioned my shame at the poem’s final incident, and one of those dear friends, who has become more Portuguese than the Portuguese themselves, put my mind to rest by assuring me that it had all been “só bocas” – just mouthing off.

The Revolution had a happy ending for Portugal. It got rid of fascism for good and brought the country into the free international community. Forty years on, people were taller, less poor, better-fed, better-housed, better-dressed and better-spoken; they no longer sacrificed their cities to the automobile; creativity had free reign. The Revolution was long past, but, perhaps because its worst face had been “só bocas”, no-one ever devoured its children.

 

Bio:

Bryan is currently working on a novel set in Portugal in the 1970s. He welcomes visitors at http://www.bryanmurphy.eu . You can find his e-books here: http://bit.ly/19vt7Ts and several of his poems and flash fiction pieces here:  http://thecamelsaloon.blogspot.it/search/label/Bryan%20Murphy .

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The Magical Healing Properties of Horses   By   Trish Jackson

child on horse

Whether you are a horse lover or not, you cannot help being in awe of the amazing healing power of horses. From the time of the ancient Greeks, people have recognized the magical curative capabilities of equine therapy, not only for physical disabilities, but also emotional, social, cognitive, and behavioral difficulties, and even to improve speech and educational skills for both adults and children.

Hippotherapy—from the Greek ‘hippo’ meaning horse, is based on the premise of a horse’s rhythmic, repetitive movements, which can help improve muscle tone, balance, posture, coordination, strength, flexibility and cognitive skills. On top of this, the movements also generate responses in the patient that are similar to, and essential for walking.

Therapeutic Horseback Riding, or Therapeutic Riding (TR), Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP), and Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy (EFP) are other recognized types of horse therapy. In addition to horseback riding, participants groom and care for the horses and learn about trust and relationships, and responsibility. This is particularly beneficial for troubled youths, with problems like attention deficit disorder, substance abuse, eating disorders, abuse issues, depression, anxiety, and relationship and communication problems. Their interaction with the horses helps reduce stress levels and anxiety, and encourages increased feelings of self-esteem and patience. Grooming and caring for horses can also help military personnel with post-traumatic stress disorder or other emotional challenges.

You might think this in itself is mind-boggling, but there are more benefits. Adjusting to and accommodating for the horse’s movements stimulates the inner ear, which controls all voluntary movement of the body, including speech, and also increases sensorimotor integration—the nervous system’s ability to create involuntary or automatic movement.

As just one example, autistic children prefer to turn left because they can use their most developed brain hemisphere, the right hemisphere. Right turns on the horse can actually help restart the development of the left brain.

Physical and developmental conditions most often treated are:

  • Cerebral palsy
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Down’s syndrome
  • Developmental delay
  • Autism
  • Stroke
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Spina bifida
  • Convulsive disorders
  • Amputation
  • Muscular dystrophy

Equine therapists must undergo special training and pass stringent exams. They address various therapeutic goals by having patients turn in circles, change direction repeatedly, or ride in different positions: sitting or lying forwards, backwards or sideways; standing in the stirrups; and riding without holding. In addition, patients may be asked to stretch, reach or play games — such as catch — while on the horse.

The horses used are hand-picked for their gentle nature, and are safe and well-trained.

I have personally witnessed a child who stopped speaking for two years after his father was murdered, who learned to speak again when he was taken for regular visits to a horse stable. It wasn’t a recognized therapy center and he didn’t even ride the horses. The simple pleasure of stroking and being around them was all he needed.

I am also about to follow the journey of my friend Anita’s autistic son, Kevin. He is 10 years old and although his parents have spent thousands of dollars on therapy, he has shown no improvement and remains locked inside his private world, a prisoner of his own mind. In desperation, Kevin’s parents are going to start him on equine therapy, even though as a family, they have never owned pets or animals, and Kevin has never touched a horse. I’ll be monitoring Kevin’s progress on my own blog, and I encourage anyone who has an autistic child or relative to join me.

I want to believe equine therapy will unlock Kevin’s mind, but only time will tell.

Equine therapy is still in its infancy in the US, and it seems to have no boundaries. I look forward to the discovery of more of the healing power of horses.

Trish Jackson writes emotive romantic suspense focusing on small towns, country folk and their animals. www.trishjax.com

Soul-stirring, passionate, thrilling – and fun. 

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An American Puppy in Havana By Eduardo Cervino

Eve garden

Eve garden

The puppy came from the United States in the winter of 1947. Carmen de Quesada, wife of a Cuban diplomat and my mother’s friend, brought him to me as a gift.

It was my first visit to the airport. I’d never seen an airplane up close before, and now I could see one and receive my first pet, all in the same day.

The trip to the air terminal filled me with such anticipation I had to visit the toilet several times that morning. Breakfast weighted my entrails like the ballast on a vessel.

My father carried me on his shoulders so I could see over the crowd. I had the best seat in the place, and saw in the cerulean-blue horizon the man-made silver bird get bigger and bigger.

The gracious curves of the Cubana de Aviacion Super G Constellation plane glided in front of me. The roar of the engines calmed the rattle of my nerves.

I took a mental photograph. It still hangs in the ethereal labyrinth inside my head.

Carmen, an aristocratic woman with a strange foreign accent, was as Cuban as the Morro Castle in the Bay of Havana. But she had lived in the USA on and off her entire life. Her way of speaking made me look at her lips with the impertinent curiosity of a child. We waited for her bags to arrive. I kept looking at her and the baggage cart.

My father placed me into her extended arms. She gave me a wet kiss.

“¿Donde esta mi perro?” I asked while pushing against her shoulder to better see the contents of the baggage cart.

My mother reprimanded me, but I couldn’t care less. Then I saw the wire basket with a puppy in it. An airline employee brought him to Carmen. An eternity later, the puppy was free and in my arms. The fluffy white ball of fur with round belly licked my face. His kisses were also wet, but I loved them. He was anxious, too, and a short stream of piss stained my blue shirt.

“His name is Happy,” Carmen said. I had no idea what she meant.

“It means feliz,” my mother said.

 

The rest of the day passed in a flash. Happy and I played in the car, on our house floor, and in our garden full of hibiscus, where he trampled a few of my mother’s red gladiolus. We chased each other on the back patio around the mango tree. My parents argued about letting him sleep in my bed. Father said yes, Mother said no.

Happy’s feeble whimpers by my ear woke me each morning.

Winter went by and summer came. Cubans do not bother with such minutia as the four seasons. If it rains, it’s winter; if it boils, it’s summer. It’s that simple.

Happy grew before my eyes like a balloon. Soon, he could place his front paws on my shoulder and lick my face. I still love the picture showing him doing so. It’s faded and creased in the corner, but the happiness it contains fills my heart just the same.

We ate together. He sat by my side and waited for the crumbs I tossed from my plate.

“Don’t give him chicken bones,” my grandmother warned me.

Her eyes reflected the wisdom of the ages. Her love for the dog and me made her smile a perennial feature of her face.

 

By the end of the next rainy season, October of 1948, my personal low eating table and small chair in the dining room had been put away. I was tall enough to sit at the round dining table with the rest of the family. We had chicken on the menu, and Happy sat under the table waiting for me. A couple of times, I felt his paw’s gentle reminder of our mutual understanding.

“I love you, you feed me, and life goes on happy as a clown.”

I had forgotten Grandma’s advice. When no one looked, I handed him a piece of the succulent chicken breast. After dinner, we retired to the living room and listened to my uncle reading from the book of the week. I can’t recall what he was reading that particular night. Nor can I remember what time they carried me to bed.

But I do remember Happy wasn’t in the bed with me when I woke up. I went looking for him. He favored the mango tree’s shade above any other place in the back garden. He lay there, breathing and immobile. Blood stained Happy’s rump. He moved his head, looked at me, and whimpered. I would never forget it. My mother came.

Father and Mother had divorced by then, but Father came home to go with us to the vet. They engaged in another polite argument in front of me.

“He should not be here,” she said.

“This is part of life, the type of lesson the boy needs. One only Mother Nature can teach him,” he said.

Grandma, the ultimate, loving arbiter of any family discussion, intervened.

“Jenny,” she said, referring to my mother, “in this case, I agree with him.”

We sat in the vet’s waiting room, and she held me between her legs.

“Happy is sick,” she told me. “The vet will explain what’s wrong with him, but we know he is going to go away. Papa God is calling him.”

I said nothing. Nor did I cry. The adults exchanged glances. The vet beckoned us. Father carried me, and we all entered an animal operating room. Happy lay on the shiny metal table moving his eyes inside the sockets, but not his head.

At first, they hesitated talking in front of me. The vet explained that the chicken breast bones were fragile. After Happy chewed and swallowed them, they had punctured his intestines in several places.

“We have to put him to sleep,” the vet said.

Operating on him was possible but did not guarantee recovery.

Everybody nodded. I reached to pet his soft fur. Happy whimpered once more.

It was difficult to see through the lens of tears. I did not notice the vet injecting him. He passed away.

My father had told me men don’t cry. I didn’t know yet how wrong he was. So I didn’t make a sound.

Back at the house, my father sat with me on the porch. His rocking chair swayed back and forth, back and forth.

The morning dew had become a mild drizzle. The gladiolus Happy had trampled his first day in the house had grown back, and rain pooled inside the blooms.

“Eddy,” my father said. “Do you understand death? This is the first time you have seen it close, but son, it won’t be the last.”

“I have seen it before, Dad.”

My father turned my face so he could look straight into my eyes. He said nothing and waited for me to continue.

“I remember the little white box with my baby sister’s body and all the white flowers around it. The candles and the people.”

Father squeezed me against his muscular chest. I hadn’t seen his handsome face so close since he left the house. “I’m so sorry, son. I can’t believe you remember your sister Miriam. You were only four years old. ”

“But I do remember, Dad. It is one of the things I can see in my head from when I was younger.”

Grandma had appeared on the porch carrying a tray with thick, black Cuban coffee. The aroma reached me. She had heard the last few sentences. She sat in another rocking chair. They sipped the aromatic nectar.

“Eddy,” she said, “death is part of life and not to be feared. What do you think, son?”

“Grandma, why does Papa God take away puppies?”

 

# # #

 

Eduardo Cerviño is a Cuban-American writer who often, but not always, bases his novels and short stories on those human encounters that left indelible imprints in his mind. The wide, intense panorama of his life spans his youth in Cuba and his adulthood in Latin America, Europe, and the USA. He resides in Arizona. Please visit his website to learn about his writing:  www.ecbrierfield.com.

 

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WHEN WORDS FAIL, MUSIC SPEAKS… by Roger Ellory

27 05 14 ROCK - ZERO NAVIGATOR

 The irony was not altogether lost on me.  Though irony – possibly – was not the right word.  Perhaps it was just another example of the way in which life can sometimes double-back, can turn suddenly and reflect itself every once in a while.  A variation of déjà vu.  An echo.

I sit in a darkened film-editing suite.  The room is thick with smoke.  I am watching a rough cut of a film by Olivier Dahan, Oscar-winning director of ‘La Vie En Rose’.  On the sound system is a previously unheard soundtrack written by Bob Dylan.  It is my first trip to Paris, and there I am – somewhere in an office within the shadow of the Eiffel Tower – discussing the possibility of writing a screenplay of my book, ‘A Quiet Belief In Angels’.   What happened as a result of that meeting, the three days I spent in Paris, the screenplay, the potential film…all of this is irrelevant to the story.  What was really interesting to me about that first meeting was Robert Johnson.  Forrest Whittaker as Robert Johnson, right there on the screen ahead of me.  The whole backstory of Johnson – how he met Lucifer at the crossroads and sold his soul for the Blues.  That story.

It was a story within the film that Dahan had just made, and it was a story I’d heard before.

Backwards more than thirty years.  A seven year-old child stands in the hallway of a strange house.  His mother has just died, and he has been sent to stay with a relative.  The relative, a great aunt – has a son.  The son is a teenager, a wild guy, a rocker, and he has a room painted black with posters all over the walls – Hendrix, Joplin, Canned Heat, Jim Morrison and The Doors.  He spends his time playing records, smoking cigarettes, drinking beer.

The seven year-old – lost, confused, alone now – finds some strange comfort in the company of this wild teenager.  The teenager tells him a story and plays him a record.  ‘Robert Johnson,’ the little boy is told.  ‘He went down to the crossroads and sold his soul to the Devil for the Blues…’  And the little boy listens, and he hears something in the music that stirs something inside of him, and he knows that no other music will ever sound the same.  Perhaps more accurately, he will never be able to listen to any other style of popular music and not hear the Blues somewhere hiding within it.

Because the Blues sits behind everything.  It is a rhythm, an atmosphere, a heartbeat, a pulse, a colour, a feeling.  It isn’t just a sound.  You hear sounds with your ears.  But this wasn’t just something you heard, it was something you could feel in your heart.

The fact that the seven year-old boy went on to write novels is also not part of that story.  Not directly.  The fact that the boy became a writer who was always trying to capture that feeling, that emotion, that sound with words, is perhaps more to the point.  Because they’re the same thing.  It’s the emotional connection.  The emotional impact.

I was that boy, and now I am that writer.  And I read to feel something.  I listen to Son House and Leadbelly and Muddy Waters and Charley Patton to feel something too.  The emotion comes first, the rhythm comes second, the dancing comes last.  Music is an outburst of the soul, Delius said.

My interest was sparked, like the small flame at the tail of the touchpaper, and at the end of that touchpaper was dynamite.  I moved on from there, found so many different stories that had all been woven from the same original strands.  It was an evolution, a progression – up through British rhythm and blues to The Yardbirds, The Animals, The Stones, and then the sound of the West Coast – The Elevators and Quicksilver, and West Texas variations like Doug Sahm, and out of the swamps came Dr. John and Professor Longhair, ‘Gris Gris Gumbo Ya-Ya’ and its strange, distorted reflection of the same things that the delta Bluesmen were saying.

All the same emotion.  All the same story, just told in very different ways.

My girl gone left me.  She left me alone.  You don’t know how it feels to have no home.  Got no money in my pocket, no shoes on my feet.  Got no food in my belly and my bed’s in the street.

It’s all humanity, the same things suffered a thousand different ways.

Music was the support, the way in which we survived our difficulties, our travails, our losses.  As Virgil Thomson said, ‘I’ve never known a musician who regretted being one.  Whatever deceptions life may have in store for you, music is not going to let you down.’

And even the whites had their own thing going.  They suffered the Depression, they suffered hardships, of course, and they sang and played their way through it.  European immigrants into the Maritime Provinces and the Southern Appalachian Mountains brought Old World instruments with them – the fiddle from Ireland, the banjo from West Africa, the guitar from Spain, the mandolin from Italy.  ‘Little Log Cabin in the Lane’, recorded by Fiddlin’ John Carson in the early 20s, Vernon Dalhart’s national hit, ‘Wreck of the Old ’97’, the flipside of which was something called – not surprisingly – ‘Lonesome Road Blues’, and artists like this were followed by the Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers who managed to fuse hillbilly country with gospel, jazz, blues and folk music.

And without Jimmie Rodgers and the Carter Family the ‘The Golden Age of Country’ would never have happened.  No-one would have heard of the Grand Ole Opry.  Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, Hank Williams Jnr., Townes Van Zandt and Willie Nelson would have just been playing for drinks in some out-of-town juke joint or bowling alley.  And on the West Coast, had it not been for Bob Wills and Lefty Frizzell, we would never have discovered The Bakersfield Sound, and Merle Haggard and Buck Owens would have been packing groceries or fixing cars in a truckstop outside of Mendocino.

And from these strange unions came yet another illegitimate child – real rockabilly.  Without that unlikely collision of hillbilly country music and Delta Blues we would never have had Carl Perkins or Elvis or Johnny Burnette or Eddie Cochran, and without Eddie Cochran we would never have had Chuck Berry, and without Chuck Berry we would never have had The Rolling Stones.

And then the brash parents took a roadtrip, travelled further afield, and as they travelled they produced further offspring – artists like Gram Parsons, Jerry Garcia and The Grateful Dead, Neil Young, The Allman Brothers, Buffalo Springfield and The Eagles.  Country Rock was born.  Lynyrd Skynyrd’s ‘Freebird’ and ‘Sweet Home Alabama’, Canned Heat’s ‘On The Road Again’ – released in 1968, adapted by Alan Wilson from a song of the same name, recorded by Floyd Jones in 1953.  And Jones’ song, well that was an adaptation of a song called ‘Big Road Blues’, recorded in 1928 by Delta Bluesman, Tommy Johnson.  Did they know at Woodstock that they were listening to a song that was twice as old as most of the people there?  Maybe not, but it didn’t matter.  It said the same thing a different way.  It conveyed the same emotions, the same heart, and you either got it or you didn’t.

These were no accidents, no coincidences.  Serendipity perhaps, but not coincidence.  The emotion was always there, always present, always pre-eminent.  The emotion was what it was all about.  And it carried through every thread, and it walked down every road, and it passed from hand to hand, from heart to heart, from soul to soul.  It was a communication.  It was a message.  And those that heard it, really heard it, well they understood that it was not something that could be measured or quantified or given a value.  It was priceless.  The music was priceless.  It was a universal language, applicable to all, understandable by all, and as it evolved it encompassed more and more people, more and more variations on the same theme, and even those that didn’t know exactly what they were listening to still felt the rhythm inside of themselves and got up to dance.

And the seven year-old kid?  He grew up.  He grew up with music everywhere, and if there wasn’t music when he got wherever he was going, well he soon got some organised.  He even played music himself on and off, back and forth over the years – and nearly four decades later he’s still hammering away at the same chords, and singing some of the same tunes, and putting a band back on the road when all sense and sensibility says that such a thing should not be considered by an unfit man in his mid-forties.  But to hell with the rules and regulations, to hell with the conservative, the expected, the norm.  This is about life.  This is about being whoever you are.  This is about feeling something inside of yourself that you cannot exorcise without making a noise.  ‘Zero Navigator’ and ‘The Whiskey Poets’ will appear somewhere, sometime, and they will play riffs invented by Bo Diddley and Paul Burlison and Mike Bloomfield and Scotty Moore.  Why?  Because they are timeless.   People might age, but the emotion stays young for ever.

And now – even when I write my fiction – I am looking for the same rhythm, that same pace, the same tensions that I find in music.  I am working on the sentences and paragraphs like they’re bars of music.  I am losing a word here and there because the phrase has one too many syllables and it doesn’t feel right.  I know when it sounds right to my ear.  I know when it looks right to my eye.  It has a tempo, a timbre, an atmosphere, a colour.  And when I write lyrics my musical heritage is all the more evident.  The girl is still leaving.  I still ain’t got no money.  The train’s pulling out of the station and I’am sleeping in the street.  This is what we do.  This is what we have to say.  This is what we sing about.  Matters of the heart.  Matters of the soul.  The business of life.

Music has always been there, always something to look forward to, always there to return to.  It is both a destination and a home; it is both a familiar friend and a new acquaintance; it is both a parent and a child.  I look back at my life, and all the important events, all the things that mattered – marriage, fatherhood, new jobs, new places and people…well, all of them were somehow connected to music.  I can say in music what I will never be able to write.  I can write in words what I will never be able to communicate with music.  It has been said that a composer composes because he cannot say what he wants in words.  I believe the corollary also, that a writer writes because he cannot yet communicate his thoughts and feelings with sounds.

And I leave the last words to a writer, fittingly.  Not just a writer, but a writer for children who yet spoke to all generations.  Hans Christian Andersen said something so simple, and yet it encompassed all complexities, all truths, all fundamentals: ‘When words fail, music speaks.’

For me, in just five words, I think that says it all.

 

As if writing powerful crime novels were not enough, British writer Roger Ellory is also a musician. Indeed, making music may be the greater of his two loves. RJ is guitarist and vocalist with Zero Navigator.  To find RJ’s books in the US visit

http://www.amazon.com/R.J.-Ellory/e/B002IVGFJO/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1403962252&sr=8-1
In England use
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Roger-Jon-Ellory/e/B002IVGFJO/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1403962965&sr=1-1-catcorr

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STELLA HAUNTS ME!

 

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I’m lying in bed next to my wife when Stella McMasters lifts the covers and slips in beside me.  She taps my chin.

“When are you going to do it?” she asks.

I glance over to see if Stella has awakened Jane.  My wife usually takes a dim view of me sleeping with two women at the same time.  Fortunately, she’s snoring.

I turn back.  “Going to do what?” I ask.

She snuggles closer.  “Tell the rest of my story.”

I sigh, for she’s asked this before.  Stella’s the cyborg heroine I created in Beyond Those Distant Stars, a SF action-adventure romance published by Mundania Press (http://tinyurl.com/74a6zqp).  Twice I’ve tried to write a sequel, Star Warrior, but I’ve been stymied each time by my friends’ substantial and valid criticisms.

I try to brazen it out.  “Listen, honey, you’re my creation, and it’s up to me to continue your story or not.”

This doesn’t fly.  Stella’s face hardens, and she raises a fist.  Two-thirds of her body is synthetic, and she could crush me with a single blow.  “I rule an empire of a thousand worlds,” she says, “and I’ve got enemies who want to destroy me.  Hell, there’s enough for a whole boatload of books.  I can be an even bigger hero than Miles.”

That’s Miles Vorkosigan, the creation of the multiple prize-winning SF author Lois McMaster Bujold, whose name inspired Stella McMasters’ name.  “Look,” I say, “I tried twice to continue your saga, but my writers’ group found too many implausibilities.”

Stella gives me a chaste kiss, which is unlike the passionate ones she gave her unfaithful lover in Beyond Those Distant Stars.  “Screw the implausibilities.  Just write it.”  She smiles.  “I feel great adventures ahead of me.  New challenges, new men, new triumphs and revelations.  Sweetie, my saga is just getting started.”

My name isn’t Sweetie, but I don’t tell her that.  “I can’t do it,” I say.  “I tried twice—”

Her hand squeezes me below the covers, but not as a lover.  I moan in pain.

“Do it,” she orders.  Seeing Jane roll over beside me, she taps my chin again and disappears.

Jane sighs.  “Stella again?” she asks.

Great.  My wife heard.  “Yes.”

She moves closer.  “It was worse this time, wasn’t it?”

I don’t need to answer.  Jane kisses me gently.

“Honey,” she says, “why don’t you do what she says.  Only in the sequel . . .”

“Yes?”

She giggles.  “In it, you kill the bitch off.”

* * *

Being haunted by your own character is no fun.  If Stella wants sequels, why doesn’t she take charge and sweep me along plot-wise like other authors’ characters do?  Doesn’t she recognize writer’s block when she sees it?

Two days later, I enter the shower to find Stella waiting there for me.

“Look,” I say, “we have to stop meeting like this.”

Nude, she taps my chin.  “Then you know what to do.”

* * *

After I dry off, I sit down and start Star Warrior again.

 

John has published twenty books and three hundred short stories, most of them science fiction, speculative fiction, fantasy, horror, and paranormal romance.  He’s the former editor of Horror Magazine and Chairman of the Board of the Horror Writers Association.  Recently, he’s focused on his Inspector of the Cross series which features a 4000-year-old hero fighting to save the human race from seemingly invincible aliens.

Web site: http://www.johnrosenman.com

Blog site: http://www.johnrosenman.blogspot.com

FB page: https://www.facebook.com/JohnBRosenman?ref=hl

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THE ART OF LISTENING MARTA MERAJVER-KURLAT

 7863589-blConversation image

Conversation is defined as a verbal exchange between two or more people. It stands to reason that, for exchange to take place, participants are expected to listen to each other/one another and contribute to a coherent development of the subject under discussion. In our days, it would seem as if the listening factor has fallen into abeyance. In a large number of cases, speech has become dominant, following some kind of interior monologue that overflows the boundaries of sense. Thus, the dialogues found in Ionesco’s plays of the Absurd, for example, have entered the arena of everyday life. We used to laugh at Ollendorff’s method for learning foreign languages. You may remember dialogues like the following:

“Is your mother home?”

“No, but it’s raining in the garden.”

One should say in his defense that he created his system to teach dead languages, especially Latin, and that in those days repetition proved instrumental to remembering. The adaptation to a relatively quick mastery of modern languages through nonsense strings like the above responded to the belief that high-frequency structures and vocabulary items should be grouped together and iterated until they automatically made their way from the mind to the tongue.

Most of the people who nowadays rattle off in blissful ignorance of this long-discarded method must do so for a reason, or at least I’d like to believe so. Otherwise, they would earn epithets I’d rather not bring into this reflection.

In the best of cases, verbal diarrhea might be attributed to extreme anxiety or to a desperate need to cleanse an overcrowded mind. In the worst of cases, self-centeredness rules. Only what the speaker says matters. He thinks so highly of himself that the other/others involved must become a subservient audience allowed to put in interjections or phrases showing assent.

Suppose two equally blown egos engage in a travesty of conversation. Like boxers in a ring, each of them seeks his rival’s weak spots or fatal moments of distraction. In our case, one lurks in wait for the other to stop for breath in order to pour his monologue into deaf ears.

Not listening to others detracts from our bonds to our fellow-beings, turning us into barren isles. Lack of empathy amounts to spiritual isolation and intellectual poverty. Like everything else in life, it is a matter of choice. Definitely not my choice.

 

MARTA MERAJVER-KURLAT is an Argentinean writer, translator, and psychoanalyst publishing in Spanish and English with Jorge Pinto Books Inc., New York. You are welcome to learn more about her on her Amazon page http://www.amazon.com/Marta-Merajver-Kurlat/e/B009TC8C5A

Website http://www.martamerajver.com.ar/marta/

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/martamerajverkurlat

and in The Blog Room archives.

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