Flags of Peace.

When dreadful things happen in our world we feel at a loss to know what to do. Maybe we feel rage and question how any higher being could let such atrocities happen. I like to think of the explanation a close friend gives when he says it is not until we move on from this world to the next that we will know real peace and all our questions will be answered. He likens it to the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle finally fitting together and forming the picture we have waited for all along. All we can do today is pray for all the broken hearts.

I wish that I had special powers

And could turn everything around

So we could change the way we look at things,

And keep our feet upon the ground.

To ask the floating clouds above

To spill the gentle rain,

To water the dry and barren land

And make it green again.

And could I harness the force of the wind,

Calm the raging sea,

Reign over nature’s wayward mind,

And let it quietly be?

For every child in every land,

There would be food enough to eat,

Arms stretched out to hold them tight,

And shelter from the heat.

And what if I could ask the world

To find the path to peace,

With every country’s flags unfurled

As all the wars have ceased?

But if I cannot change the world,

I can bend when the storm appears,

Do great things in smaller ways,

Dry another’s tears.

For I alone cannot decide

The way the world should be,

And I cannot begin to know

What there is still to see.

Lyn Halvorsen (c)

Blessings to you.

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A Short Story for May

This is the time of year my imagination runs wild – I love the way the countryside looks and the circle of trees I pass quite often…..

The Circle of Trees

Mary was looking forward to the day ahead. Through the kitchen window at Honey Banks House she could see grey clouds scudding across the sky, threatening rain, but refused to let this dampen her spirits. She looked out across the garden to the field beyond where the beech trees stood; she could almost hear their leafy umbrellas rustling in the breeze, and felt the pull of the outdoors.

She looked at her watch; there was time to have a quick walk before starting work.  Shrugging on her battered old raincoat and her well worn boots she headed out of the back door. She clicked open the gate at the bottom of the garden and walked into the field beyond. It was a cold day for May, but who could fail to be cheered by the sight of the cow parsley filling the whole field almost as far as the eye could see; a frothy ocean of lacy white flowers, interrupted only by the trampled grassy pathway.

She liked to think the beech trees at the far end held a secret; there were seven of them forming a circle, and she liked to imagine fairies sneaking out at night and dancing under the shelter of their handsome branches. She was getting older but she could still believe in such things couldn’t she? They were purple now, but in the autumn, the leaves turned from purple to a showy copper, giving them a majestic air that somehow eased the way gently into winter.

Mary had read somewhere that if you hugged a tree it would benefit your health. She wasn’t sure if she believed that or not but she was drawn to the trees and always felt comfortable in their presence and liked the feel of their smooth, silvery grey bark. She liked the way their lower branches almost reached the ground, sweeping the woodland floor in her wake.

As she had so many times, Mary wondered about the history of “her trees” as she called them. Had their seeds randomly arrived, haphazardly blown there by the wind? Had they been lovingly planted by an unknown person long ago in the hope of establishing a beautiful vision on the landscape for the likes of her? Who could tell?

Mary looked at her watch and raced back to the house. She looked at her pen and paper set out on the table. She should be writing. She had an article to write and a deadline to meet in her job as a journalist, but somehow she felt restless and couldn’t settle. Inspiration just wasn’t coming. She walked from room to room, straightened cushions and folded laundry. She brewed some coffee and listened to the radio. She rumbled over plans for the weekend and made some phone calls. Then she decided to pull down the loft ladder and climb up with some boxes that needed storing away.

With the loft ladder safely locked in place, she climbed up to the attic space. Mary rarely came up here now, but it was oddly comforting to be up in the dusty space among old mementos.

Under the eaves she had stored some old suitcases years ago.  Opening one, she smiled as she found the old dressing up clothes the children used to love playing with, including an old lurex evening gown which had been, or so Mary had thought at the time,  the height of sophistication in the 70’s. Mary spent some time poking around the various storage chests; there were boxes full of keepsakes and the familiar and well loved Christmas decorations that were faithfully taken downstairs every year. Looking up she noticed a small box she had never noticed before, pushed between the beams.  Pulling at it and enveloped in a cloud of dust, she opened the box.

Inside she found a beautifully bound leather journal. Aware that it had laid there undisturbed for many years she wanted to give the book her undivided attention so she set it to one side for later.

The hours ticked by and Mary tried to concentrate on her work. Outside, the sun was setting and filtered through the trees. She sighed and put down her pen. It was no good, work would have to wait until tomorrow. She went back to the field and sat in the protective shelter of the trees, the branches meeting together over her head like a wondrous leafy roof.  The peaceful feeling here was overwhelming and Mary knew moments like this were never wasted, whatever demands life held. She lay back until her head rested on the grass and looked up as the last remnants of light filtered through the leaves.

Later, after clattering around in the kitchen, preparing supper and sipping a glass of wine, Mary’s thoughts returned to the journal in the attic. She went back up to retrieve it then settled down in her favourite armchair to look at it.

Inside the front cover she read the inscription:

The Journal

of

Lucy Ellen Smith aged 14

Honey Banks House

Devon. 1917.

Mary was astounded at what she had found. Over a hundred years had passed since this young girl had written her journal in this very house. She turned the pages with care. Each page contained accounts of the wildlife in the garden; the plants that were growing and the weather for each day. Some pages had simple but charming pencil sketches of flowers or birds that brought the journal alive.

Mary read the journal to the very last page and then her heart almost stopped. The date was May 9th 1917, a hundred years ago to the very day.

“Today we are going to stay with my grandparents far away from here. We do not know when our Father will return from the war and it is hard for Mother to cope alone. I have been down to the field beyond our garden and sat under the circle of beech trees. The buds have turned to purple leaves. Oh how I will miss seeing them turn to their beautiful shade of burnished copper as the autumn approaches. How will I celebrate Christmas, if at all? I feel homesick already and wonder if I will ever return. But I will think of “my trees” standing firm in a time of adversity, their branches bending but never breaking in the storm. Perhaps one day, someone else will shelter under the very same branches. That thought makes me happy.”

The house was silent, almost lending an air of quiet reverence. Mary closed the journal and looked out of the window and down to the field. The trees stood resolute and firm in the moonlight. She knew what she would write about tomorrow.

2012-08-18 09.28.14
One of the beautiful copper beech trees

Back to the Forgotten Way of Life..

It was a beautiful day here at Dove Lane yesterday. A perfect winter’s day with clear blue sky and not a breath of wind. The freezing air brought a crispness to the leaves bejeweled with frost that crunched under my feet,and as a big golden sun just topped the fir trees, it was the sort of day that reminded me a  magical Christmas could be just around the corner.

Thinking about Christmas drawing closer, I was prompted to wrap up warmly and head off to the shopping centre to start some Christmas shopping. ‘Himself’ had gone fishing with his oldest friend who was over from Canada and was therefore well occupied, so I was ready to devote some hours to serious shopping.

Driving along with the radio on I listened to the news and to a report on the situation in war torn Syria, I listened to the  very sobering news of people in Aleppo walking over the rubble of damaged buildings, while carrying their belongings. Around twenty thousand have fled their homes just over the past 72 hours. Many more thousands left before. Some people live in shelters, some in mosques, schools or tents, while others find refuge in damaged buildings. The majority of those who flee are families, many with infants and young children. How can they cope in flimsy shelters; their situations made worse for all as winter takes hold and temperatures drop?

I feel ashamed to think I have been a bit stressed over an imminent house move; bickering has broken out with some of the people in our housing chain who want to get on with things. This move is a chosen one with excitement and promise for the future. It has not been forced upon us in dire circumstances. Whatever happens, the situation is not dangerous or life threatening.

But for some, the implications of fleeing home are immense. It’s not just a matter of picking up a few things and leaving. There is a huge knock-on effect. Apart from leaving the familiarity of home, when sometimes it is all they have ever known, all their security, their haven, is gone. All they have left is a few belongings. I can only pray these innocent people, caught in the ugly crossfire of war, can be guaranteed a safe passage, and access to food and water, and medical care if they need it.

I saw a picture of children as young as six playing together amongst the destruction in Aleppo, with beaming smiles on their faces as they looked at the camera. Children are our future, the future of the world, and whatever their race and wherever they come from, they need a safe place to live; to learn and grow, and most of all, play without fear.

By the time I had parked in the busy town car park, I was in much more of a thoughtful mood. I listened to the cheerful Christmas music blaring out in every shop and looked at the shops loaded with luxury goods of all descriptions and wondered about all the commercialism, and how it is so easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of the festive season. Do we lose sight of what is really important when we rush around trying to tick everything off our shopping list? The paradox is this: we get stressed at Christmas because we want to please everyone, and yet we would probably please them more if we reverted to the more simple ways of doing things.  I still did my shopping; of course I want my loved ones to have a good Christmas, but I was more mindful of treading lightly with my thoughts, being considerate, and realising that everything gets done in time.

It is always easy to look back with rose-tinted spectacles. To look back at a time when life was simpler, and there was no online shopping, no permanent bombardment of advertisements tempting us to buy things we don’t really need, and we didn’t spend a fortune on gourmet foods with exotic names,( because we hadn’t heard of them and didn’t know we needed them).

But maybe sometimes it is good to stop and think about what we really need to be happy. And to think about those people who are just trying to survive.

You can donate to help a child in Syria at http://www.savethechildren.org or call 0800 8148 148

Every amount, no matter how small, will make a difference.

I’ve just been listening to people talking about having arguments at Christmas; how to keep the relatives happy and how can they make time for themselves. Every year it happens and yet the year rolls around and we forget about last years trials and tribulations and start the whole process again. Maybe this year things could be different!

In these frantic weeks before Christmas I wish you peace and love and the power to make a difference in whatever small and positive way you can.

Blessing to you.

Flags of Peace

I wish that I had special powers

And could turn everything around

So we could change the way we look at things,

And keep our feet upon the ground.

To ask the floating clouds above,

To spill the gentle rain,

To water the dry and barren land

And make it green again.

And could I harness the force of the wind,

Calm the raging sea,

Reign over nature’s wayward mind,

And let it quietly be?

For every child in every land,

There would be food enough to eat,

Arms stretched out to hold them tight,

And shelter from the heat.

And the warmest blanket

In the coldest night;

Comfort from a stranger;

And a candle burning bright.

And what if I could ask the world,

To find the path to peace,

With every country’s ‘flag unfurled

As all the wars have ceased?

But if I cannot change the world,

I can bend when the storm appears,

Do great things in smaller ways,

To dry another’s tears.

For I alone cannot decide

The way the world should be,

And I cannot begin to know

What there is still to see.

                            (C) Lyn Halvorsen