The KISS Principle: An Introspective

Last night I dreamt that I was trying to write a case note, when my co-worker said to me, stick to the KISS principle. I struggled. Information, Support, Service, but what does the K stand for? Konnect?

Keep it Simple, Stupid.

Ah, if only I could. If only I would. I really really should. Why on earth am I having to remind myself, in my own dreams, to keep it simple? Stupid. How easily I, like you, befuddle and make things mean so much more than they are? How easily do we take the more difficult route to get anywhere?

I am a great believer in not reinventing the wheel. I am more than happy to enhance what already exists, build on what is. I feel absolutely no compulsion to have everything done my way. And yet? And yet. I still find that I weave my own story into everything I do, whether it began there or not.

Is that not the human condition? Is that not how we frame and contextualise our lives by creating stores of meaning out of what simply is? If we did not, if we did not create complexity, create meaning in our lives, would we then be content with the simple truths. Of course we must then ask, what is truth? Is ‘truth’ simply complexity to create meaning where there was none. Is ‘truth’ simply created meaning? Is it not our drive to create meaning, in an attempt to understand, what consumes us from our physically individual entry into the world?
If it is our physicality that manifests our individuality, then any meaning is part of that physicality, rather than that which lights us up and animates us and connects us all. Without our physicality, we would be one. We would not be. There would be no I, nor you, and never we. There would be nothing. Simply being.

Being what?

And, there I go again. I can write screeds of the winding threads inside my brain that I follow to ascertain meaning. Keep it simple, I said. Stupid. Alright. I’ll tell you what I find most appealing and the simplest understanding my story can create: Life is empty and meaningless.

Isn’t that great? Life is empty and meaningless. There is no story. There are no threads to follow. There is nothing to unravel. There is only…nothing. Ahhhh. So restful, so peaceful. Damn! There I go again. Life is empty and meaningless. Relax.
Any threads I therefore choose to pick up, unravel, re-weave, and create into stories are my choice, my decisions, my responsibilities. If I choose to create complexities from the tales I weave, then that is my choice. To those who complain that I make things too complicated, certainly I do. I like to think about things and look at them from every perspective. This enables me to consider all aspects and yes, it may get a little knotty at times but in the end, in the end it unravels and I re-weave it into a whole, a gossamer beauty that rivals the stars within. If I may be so bold.

It is from this gazing upon stars, the unravelling and re-weaving that the words fall upon the page and settle lightly, so lightly down that the most ponderous thoughts become feathers. If my heaviest thoughts are but feathers, they do not weigh me down but lift me up as if I have wings where I might marvel and my words sing.

Keep it Simple, Stupid. No, not I. I don’t want to keep it simple. Oh, my life is for living, I will sleep when I am dead (though I do like many hours snoring in my bed). I work hard and have many commitments to meet and when I sit in my chair or my swing seat and stare into the sky or the leafy green, it is the complexity of Life that I ponder and See. I see the myriad, interwoven strands, like star dust across the sky, the tiny thump of life in a leaf or that dang mozzie larvae in my pot (meant for fish but the Currawongs ate them). How is that not complex?

There is nothing simple about the lives we lead or the world we live in, natural or made. There is nothing simple about the companions of our lives, family, friends, furred or finned. There is nothing simple, except, except those moments when all is still in me and I feel, our oneness. Then, in those moments is simplicity to be found, breathed in, held, light and flickering.
When the Light within no longer lights me up and animates me, then I will let go of physicality, of individuality, of complexity. Then, oh then, I will step into Simplicity.

Until then, I will not keep it simple. Stupid.

(c) CLHHarper April 2014

Blackfellas’ Way: A Jumbly Tale


Deirdre got in the door at Lauren’s, through her hat on the dresser and flopped down on a kitchen chair.
“Oh, Lauren,” she said “I’m simply exhausted.”
“I’m not surprised,” replied Lauren Higginsbottom, as she bustled around her kitchen, doing a final tidy up. Dinner was ready but she liked a clean kitchen before they gave thanks.
“Your work with Doc Mason is taking you all over. Why you must know nearly everything he can teach you. Doesn’t leave you much time for relaxing.”
Deirdre knew this was Lauren’s way of saying that she hadn’t been much help around the house and that Jumbly was probably missing her company. She was missing his company too. He had his own work to keep him busy and they just had not managed to find much time together.

“I’m sorry, Lauren. Here I’ll wash up. Just the thing, my hands are quite chilled.”
Lauren smiled and began laying the table as Deirdre plunged her hands into the hot water. Ooh, so nice. She really had walked miles and miles with Doc Mason today. Deirdre began telling Lauren about the injuries they had treated and what she had learnt. Lauren was a little squeamish and only listened with half an ear until Deirdre mentioned the Blackfellas.

“Goodness, did Doc Mason take you all the way out to the camp. You want to be careful going out there, you never know what you might find. Always cover up and make sure your stockings are well tucked into your boots.”
Deirdre had turned open-mouthed towards Lauren, wondering what she was leading to.
“Snakes, dear, and spiders. Leeches and bull ants. All nasty biters, can’t be too safe.”

Deirdre nodded and was about to respond when she noticed that the table was set for three. She felt a flutter of excitement. “Is Jumbly coming for tea?’ she asked.
Lauren smiled at her, “I wondered when you’d notice. Yes, he is. All excited and everything. Bet he spruces himself up,” nodding at Deirdre’s dusty clothing. Deirdre laughed. You could always rely on Lauren for her subtlety or rather lack of it. Finishing the dishes, Deirdre gave Lauren a rather soapy hug on her way upstairs to clean up.

Jumbly! How she had missed him. She hadn’t seen him since Sunday Meeting for Worship and here it was Friday already. Goodness, by the time she was up and gone after chores in the morning and off to Doc Mason’s, out with that lovely old gentleman all day, it was night before they were back and she was exhausted. Deirdre dearly wished to spend more time with Adam but the Doc really needed her. He was their only medical man for miles and miles around and he wasn’t young. What to do? Oh, Jumbly! She was so looking forward to seeing him.

Lauren was putting the food on the table, ready for serving, when there was a knock on the door. She opened it to find Jumbly taking off his boots before stepping into the kitchen.
“Jumbly! It’s so lovely to see you. Come in. Come in.” He did and scooped Lauren up in a big hug that made her blush with pleasure and fuss to be put down.

“Jumbly! Jumbly! I’ve missed you!” Deirdre came flying down the stairs and leapt in an unseemly display into Jumbly’s arms. Jumbly laughed, gathered her up and gave her a resounding kiss on her cheek.
“Well! Really! Come on, you two, we can’t let dinner get cold.” Lauren wasn’t offended by their enthusiasm in the least, just a trifle overwhelmed. Laughing, they all sat down and enjoyed a delicious roast followed by crumbly apple pie with fresh cream. When they were full to the brim, Lauren shooed them off to the sitting room while she cleaned up and made a pot of tea.

Deirdre felt suddenly shy. She and Jumbly walked into the sitting room and sat on the chairs near the fire. It wasn’t quite cold enough for a fire but Lauren loved the flames and enjoyed nodding off in front of it.

Jumbly looked at Deirdre sitting suddenly all lady like in her chair and tilted his head at her, quizzically.
“Oh, I know, Jumbly. It’s just that we hardly get to see one another and then I feel so strange. I just want to hug you and hug you and I know it’s not really proper, for all Lauren is an easy chaperone.”
Jumbly looked quite pleased at the idea of being hugged and hugged. His eyes twinkled and his smile curled into his beard. Throwing a surreptitious glance to the hallway, he gave Deirdre a truly wicked grin and patted his knee, eyebrows raised in expectation. Deirdre laughed, all awkwardness forgotten, and jumped onto Jumbly’s knee for a cuddle. Jumbly sighed and smiled at her. Such lovely brown eyes he had. Deirdre gazed deeply. Jumbly was caught by her green gaze and her hair tumbling out of it’s knot and curling around her face and gave her an extra squeeze. Deirdre could feel herself falling into him. She did so love this man. Jumbly’s eyes dropped to her lips and she nervously moistened them with her tongue. His eyes flicked back to hers, darkening with.. Deirdre had no idea but she felt the excitement in herself. She leaned forward, eyes now on Jumbly’s mouth.

Deirdre jumped guiltily from Jumbly’s lap then turned her glare on him as he rumbled a chuckle. Lauren was smiling too. Was there no decorum to be had? Deirdre heard herself and snickered which set them all off.
“No-one minds here, Deirdre. We are only too glad to see our Jumbly loving and being loved in return and you deserve Adam, we all love him and you. All you two have to decide is when to announce the banns.” Lauren and subtlety had little acquaintance.

Deirdre’s cheeks reddened. She lowered her eyes then looked up through her lashes at her Jumbly Man. He grinned at her, his smiled curling through his beard until it was wide enough for him to laugh. He raised his eyebrow and gestured palm up to Deirdre.
“Oh. Why? Why do I have to decide? Why can’t we go on as we have been? Only we hardly get to see one another and I can’t cuddle him in public and …oh.” Understanding dawned. If they were married, she’d see him every morning and every night and all night long if she wanted to stay awake and…look at him in …their …bed. Suddenly shy again, Deirdre bit her lip and swung her gaze to Lauren to see if she had read her mind, cheeks aflame. Lauren stood there, looking all pleased with herself, glancing at Jumbly and back at Deirdre. Deirdre swung back to look at Jumbly. He grinned again and raised eyebrow and hand once more. Drat that expressive face! How could she decide?

Lauren laughed and taking pity on her, led Deirdre to an arm chair.
“It’s winter now. If the Elders announce it at Meeting for Worship on Sunday, you could get married in the spring.”
Eyes wide, Deirdre looked at Jumbly, whose eyes had widened too. This was a big step but, but, “Let’s do it!”, she declared, startling everyone, herself included. That emphatically decided, they all settled down around the fire and enjoyed their tea and cake.

Deirdre was up early for her rounds with Doc Mason after a restless night trying to imagine being married. Her excitement would peak in a rush of panic and she would be left staring into the dark wondering how she would ever get to sleep. No time to sleep now, she had a hurried breakfast and left as the sun was rising. Today they were back out to the Blackfella camp down along the river. One of the men had a spear injury. No-one would say how he had come by it and Deirdre didn’t want to pry. When Doc had asked they all looked away and changed the subject. It was Men’s Business though and Doc would attend to him. The women had offered to take Deirdre out and show her bush medicine. She was very excited. She liked the Blackfellas and their little fellas, smiling with with wide mouths and white teeth. Hmm, that was something else. How was it their teeth were so good? No tooth brushes so they must have some other way to keep their teeth strong and healthy. So much to learn. Despite her restless night, Deirdre was excited. She chatted away to Doc as they trudged out to the settlement of stone huts. He grunted in response. He had many years on Deirdre and had long since run out of enthusiasm for early mornings. Still her energy lifted his spirits and they hadn’t far to walk.

Doc Mason had a long history with the Blackfellas and knew many of the family groupings that travelled through the area, along the river to the lands in the west, good kangaroo hunting grounds. This wasn’t a main gathering place but he had been there too. Invited as if he were one of the clever men and women. Blackfellas had Elders too. He knew their names and tried his best to use the words in their language he understood. Pyemarriner. He couldn’t quite get the pronunciation correct but they really enjoyed his efforts. They had more English than he had their language, which he felt quite ashamed about. He was doing his best to get their language down, so they didn’t lose it. He knew Whitefella (as they called him) history and the scientist and storyteller in him dreaded the loss. Still, he did what he could. Shared his knowledge and learned theirs.

The Pyemarriner mob were a generous people and those who treated fairly with them received like in return. They hadn’t met with much generosity from the Whitefella’s settling their Country and mourned the loss of their connection to the land taken up by more and more settlers. The village that housed the Doc was well thought of. No poisoned flour there and they honoured their Elders too. Those Whitefellas took their responsibilities seriously and the Pyemarriner could understand that. They travelled the lines from the coast to the plains, following old traditions and were always glad to see Doc. They were most entertained that he had the young woman as his apprentice. They understood passing on the learning and responsibility. She was young and full of enthusiasm. They laughed when talking about her. They had heard she was to be married to Jumbly Man, who was a great friend to them and always shared whatever he had. They thought they were a good match and had embarrassed Deirdre more than once enquiring.

This morning though, they were delighted to hear that they were going to marry in a short time. When they discovered that the wedding may fall during the season of big winds they tried to convince her to marry sooner. Deirdre didn’t understand. The women laughed and took her off to the bush and let Doc tend the wounded warrior. They’d let the men explain it to Jumbly.

Deirdre had a wonderful day, full of amazement. The women acted out the various uses the plants were put to amidst much laughter. Deirdre wrote it all down as best as she could. Between the little she knew of their language and the little they knew of hers, they managed remarkably well. She would check it with the next group to come though and compare her notes with what she had been told by others in the meantime. There was an Elder in the next family who took her responsibilities to Deirdre very seriously and would test her. Deirdre loved Aunty and saw her much as the mother she lost long ago.

As Deirdre, the women and children were returning to camp, a great shout went up. The women dropped the bags made of grasses they were carrying, full of gathered tucker, and ran back to the camp. What impressed Deirdre was how silent they were. She tried to be as quiet, as they ran swiftly, then dropped and crawled through the bushes on the outer edges of the camp. Hidden behind tall grasses and bushes, Deirdre saw to her horror a group of white men gathered around the campfire. The tribal men had rope from one neck to another, sitting on the ground away from the men but facing the fire. All weaponry was piled together on the opposite side, up against some bushes, just to the right of where the women and children were hiding. Behind the men diagonally opposite the women’s and children’s position were the horses, lightly tethered. The white men were laughing and eating the wallaby the warriors had hunted and cooked in the pit, bringing it up for the women’s and children’s return. Deirdre cast about and saw, lying near the pit, Doc Mason, his head bleeding. She held her breath to stop any sound and watched carefully until she saw his chest move.

A tiny movement to her right caught her eye as a spear was dragged stealthily though the bushes. Deirdre turned to see one of the women grinning fiercely at her. She motioned the children to creep around to the horses and let them go as quietly as possible. The woman nodded and signalled some of the women and children around to the horses. Deirdre looked again. Pointing to the men, she mimed with her hands moving around the camp and letting them go one by one. The woman nodded and several women and older children left silently. Deirdre had to get to Doc to make sure he was alright but she needed to make sure the men and weapons went first.

Deirdre knew men like this. This was the type of criminal who had killed her father in front of her and taken her for their own use. She had been beaten and raped repeatedly. Dazed she had finally managed her escape only to run lost in the bush until she stumbled upon Jumbly. Jumbly! She caught her co-conspirator’s eye once more and signalled someone fetching her Jumbly Man. The word passed and another older child disappeared without sound. Deirdre couldn’t spend time now thinking about what those men did to her. She knew it would catch up with her later but now she needed to focus.

Looking back at the campsite she saw the white men were now passing bottles of alcohol and had become noisier in the last few minutes. Glancing to the warriors, she could see that half of them had slipped silently into the bush, with the rest spreading out to take up their space. Turning her head to the right she saw that most of the weapons had been retrieved and the horses were wandering slowly away, eating noisily. The men would notice any minute, she needed to offer a distraction. Taking a breath, Deirdre looked down when a hand lightly grasped her arm. Her eyes flicked to her friend who was shaking her head, no, no. Deirdre shrugged, much as she had seen her tribal friends do, what would you have me do?

Deirdre stood and stepped into the clearing just as one of the men noticed a clubbing stick moving by itself into the bushes. “Wha?”
“Doc! Doc! Are you alright? What have you done to him?” she rounded on the men, feigning indignation when her heart was thumping with fear. If she could distract them a few minutes more until all the men were free. She daren’t look at the warriors but focussed her fury on the white men now looking at her in astonishment. Glancing down at Doc, she saw his eyes open and slightly shake his head. Sighing in relief she examined his wound.
“Quick! I’ll need warm water to clean this and then clean cloth to bind it.” There was silence behind her for a beat then an ugly laugh rang out.

“Do you now, girly? Well, that’s a shame because there’s none of that here. Just some dirty blackfellas and their…hey! Where did they go?” The man, a big brute with missing teeth and ingrained dirt whirled about the campsite. No men. No weapons. No horses!
“Why you little slut. I’ll teach you to meddle!” and he advanced toward her.

Deirdre dragged at Doc’s arm, desperately trying to help him up and away. In a few strides the brute would have had her but for a blood curdling yell and the whole tribe erupted from the bushes, brandishing weapons. The white men were quickly subdued and tied with their own ropes. The warriors surrounded them, scowling furiously down at them, threatening them with spears and clubs should they move at all.

“There’s no need for this. We were just having a bit of fun. You know the government is rounding all these fellas up. They’re not allowed to roam around free. They’re dangerous, they are.” called the big man from the centre of the circle of stinking criminals.

Deirdre had heard it all before and said about her. She was just bending to tend to Doc’s wound when she heard a shout. She looked up in time to see her Jumbly Man stride into the camp and across to her. He scooped her up in his arms and breathed his relief noisily into her hair. Checking her over for injuries, he looked down at Doc, who was sitting up now. Doc’s eyes flicked across the campsite to the men. Jumbly turned.

“Mate! Mate! You gotta help us. Look what these blackfellas have done!”
Jumbly could see the story immediately. He scowled at the white men huddled in a circle and for once they had the good sense to be quiet. Jumbly advanced on them, big and furious, and the men cowered back.

His gaze took in the warriors and the women and children, the horses still wandering away and the remains of rope where they had bound the men. His gaze returned to the white men.

“It isn’t…It isn’t what it looks like..” the big man stumbled. It was exactly what it looked like to Jumbly and he opened his mouth to vent his fury. As he roared at them, the warriors, women and children brandished their weapons and yelled war cries. The lily-livered group at the centre cowered and quivered under the onslaught of sound and fury.

The Elders and menfolk of the village arrived and the criminals were walked away to the holding cells and things put back as right as they could be. The Blackfellas packed up their campsite and hurried away from this bad place. The Head Man stopped to speak with Jumbly, indicating Deirdre, now tucked under his arm, saying they would be back for their wedding. With a flash of teeth in a wide grin, he too vanished into the undergrowth.

Jumbly helped Deirdre back to Lauren’s. Doc was already home in bed, his head wound tended and his wife worrying. The Elders gathered to decide what to do and sent a runner to the local constabulary, once again. Their village had seen more criminals in the past year than it had in its many years of quiet Quaker living.

Jumbly saw Deirdre settled, allowing Lauren to fuss over her. When she was clean, dressed, her scratches tended and wrapped in a warm quilt by the fire, she gladly drank the herbal brew Lauren had made. Jumbly was reminded of when he had found Deirdre and her long recovery at Lauren’s. Here they were again, waiting once more for the Elders for Deirdre to tell her tale.

As he listened to her story, Jumbly felt humbled by his Beloved’s courage and resourcefulness. What an amazing woman his Promised was. Jumbly felt so proud of Deirdre that he felt he could burst. That turned to concern after the Elders left and Deirdre deflated with exhaustion.

“Why? Why? Why are men so evil? Why do they do such terrible things?” she cried. Jumbly scooped her up and settled her in his lap to comfort her. Lauren reached out as if to stop him and he met her eyes. Yes, why? Why with all the terrible things Deirdre had experienced did she not despise men, was she not afraid of them? Was she afraid of him? Was that what Lauren was trying to tell him? She was obviously not over her ordeal from her tormentors and he had jumped the gun in proposing. He should give her more time. His poor Deirdre. She may never be ready. Jumbly felt his heart break. He really couldn’t blame Deirdre if that was the case and prepared to put her down.

Deirdre however, had other ideas. She threw her arms about his neck and cried into his chest. When she had finished sobbing and was soothed by the circular rubbing of her back, she said, “You know, Jumbly, if it wasn’t for the good man my father was and the good men of this village and,” she looked up at him through tear spiked lashes, “the truly excellent man you are, I can imagine being so disappointed to almost hate men.” Jumbly nodded. Deirdre sighed and nestled against him. Jumbly’s big heart started beating again.

“Thank God, there is you and more good men than bad. Thank God for you who takes away my nightmares.”
Jumbly’s startled eyes flicked up to Lauren, who nodded sadly, admitting Deirdre’s nightmares although she had never mentioned them to him.

“When we are married, I’ll have you beside me and be safe from them all. Won’t I, Adam?” her voice, muffled by his shirt, sounded sleepy. “I’m so looking forward to telling everyone on Sunday. Good news should always follow bad.” Deirdre fell asleep. Jumbly, still holding her close, felt his eyes fill with tears and saw that Lauren’s eyes were brimming too.

“She’s a brave, strong girl, your Deirdre. You make a great team.”

Jumbly nodded and sat in front of the fire, holding Deirdre close for as long as she needed.

(c) CLHHarper April 2014

Zero to Hero: Day One/ Why I blog.

One of the many (and I do mean many) blogs I follow was blogging about setting goals and undertaking Blogging 201. Now I’m always up for a bit of a challenge (unless it’s abseiling, not that kind of challenging) so I clicked over. Apparently it was a follow on from 101. As you know I like to have my ducks in a row, so clicked to Zero to Hero: Day One, Blogging 101 and here I am.

There are a few questions to prompt thought and being logical, I’ll answer them.

Why are you blogging publicly, rather than keeping a personal journal?
All that I write is personal. I am in there somewhere, whether it be a traditional story I’ve adapted, a story I’ve created or an introspective. In fact I’ve categorised my blogs into Adapted Tales, Journey Tales, Jumbly Tales and Introspectives. When I write things tend to fall into place, even if I have been thinking about a particular issue for a long time, writing helps me sort it. I found myself writing my first introspective when I had muddled through some rather large upheavals and facing some sad sad truths in my life. I did not write directly into the blog and kept the writing for some time before sharing it. I felt I was complete with that and it held universal themes that I believed others would resonate with plus I needed to set it free. Setting stories free, to see what they can be, no longer works for me in a private journal. What readers contribute in their thoughts and responses can shift and change the way in which I perceive things. 

I have been a storyteller for decades, in fact I earned my living for ten years as a storyteller in early childhood settings, both as performer and educator/ trainer. I ran my own agency and encouraged other oral storytellers to branch out. I told a lot of personal stories. One particular gig comes to mind (yes, we call them gigs too). I performed for the Association of Relinquishing Mothers and told adapted and contemporary personal tales. As an adopted child myself and foster carer moving into permanent care, I found myself in an unique position to tell those stories. More than ten years after the performance, I still bump into members of that audience who remember me and the stories I told. Now that I am not telling regularly, I needed to find another outlet for my stories.

I blog because it allows me to resonate with readers.

What topics do you think you’ll write about?
I write my stories. I started with commentary before the stories, then moved quickly into the tales. Very early on I found that I had some stories to tell, such as Tricky Tricksters, that called on all my skills but were of a personal nature. At one point when I thought I was going to tell one story another came up for telling. That is how the Jumbly Tales came to be. I have not had opportunity to follow my characters through before and my blog allows me that.

I thought I would tell adapted tales but it is my stories that have finally found an outlet. The instrospectives, when I am pondering something, seem to find resonance or dissonance with others. Either is fine with me. For now I will stick with my categories of Adapted Tales, Journey Tales, Jumbly Tales and Introspectives.

Who would you love to connect with via your blog?
Other storytellers are always welcome but I am interested in people who are interested in the same subjects I am. I am very curious about the human condition (why I read so many blogs) and why people respond in the way they do. I am interested in people who have adopted or are adopted, foster carers, community development and engagement workers, people involved in sustainable living (ah, those tiny homes, I love them), autism and parenting a child with disabilities, children and teens, conditions that set us back and move us forward (rape, abuse, violence) as a civilisation. I am interested in Community, with a capital C. I am interested in reaching out across communities and connecting in common humanity to make this world a better place for future generations.

If you blog successfully throughout the next year, what would you hope to have accomplished?
I would like to accomplish a body of work of which I am proud and to reach as many people as possible. I want to develop as a writer and teller of tales that resonates within Community. That doesn’t look to have much meaning when written on the page so I will put it this way.. I see the lines of connection that light our way and link us one to the other. When we pull on those webs and find like-minded people, we strengthen the bonds that bind and support us. To contribute to the strengthening of those bonds is what I want to achieve. To do it through the telling of my stories is what I would like to accomplish. There!

Finally, of what benefit would it be to you to read my blog?
You will be amused. I know that I am frequently entertained by the contents of my brain and how they juxtapose and connect. You may be inspired or moved or relate to my stories or introspectives. You may feel moved to respond. You will find me delighted that you have. You will meet a story of mine that you want to share with another. Then we will all be happy!

Thank you for reading.
Yours in Story,


Sorrow’s walls came tumbling down PART 3 – A Jumbly Tale

Jumbly joined them for breakfast every morning. Lauren was delighted to have so much company and someone to fuss over. Deirdre grew stronger every day and learnt about all the people of the village long before she met them. The Elders came to visit her and solemnly heard her story. They wrote it down and sent word to the villages around to be on the look out for these criminals. For the first time in a long time, Deirdre felt cared for and safe.

It wasn’t long before Lauren took her out to the market, stopping to chat to everyone along the way. Deirdre soon learned that everyone knew her tale. They all felt furious on her behalf and spoke their condolences for her father’s murder, her kidnapping and torture. Deirdre wondered that she didn’t feel ashamed that they all knew but it seemed that all of them placed the blame with the criminals and all of them wished her well. There is nothing like open, honest empathy to assist a traumatised person to heal and Deirdre flourished under their care.

Every morning she woke, Deirdre would freshen up and rush downstairs to help Lauren with the breakfast, watching anxiously out the window all the while, to Lauren’s amusement. Jumbly always came, right on time and they would share their morning repast after giving thanks. Quite how they communicated, Deirdre wasn’t sure, but they did.

One morning Jumbly indicated that he would take Deirdre and his little mate fishing the next day. Deirdre was delighted. She had never learned to fish and excitedly planned what they would take and where they would go. Before the day was over, Jumbly returned with her very own fishing rod and they spent a few hours casting and catching Lauren’s flowers before evening came. Jumbly went home and Lauren fairly danced into the house, smiling at Lauren. Lauren smiled back and said she could see how much Deirdre was looking forward to it and that she would pack them a lovely picnic basket. Deirdre was thrilled and helped Lauren by flittering around, getting in her way, until Lauren laughed and sent her up to bath and bed. That night Deirdre knew what her feelings for Jumbly were. His kind brown eyes, his handsome face, his big strong body and gentle hands. Holding herself tightly, Deirdre sighed and smiling, slid into sleep.

She was awake again as the sun rose over the hills to the east and flooded her room with its golden warmth. Deirdre dressed warmly and went down to the kitchen to find Jumbly and his little mate already hunched over hot cups of tea and a bundled and not-quite-awake Lauren bumping around getting breakfast. There was already a big basket of food ready packed. Deirdre exclaimed over every item and Lauren looked very pleased. The two males made appreciative sounds as they ate and Lauren felt it had been well worth loosing her beauty sleep. Jumbly and the lad snickered and Deirdre, eyeing Lauren, bustled them out the door, calling good bye.

They walked quite a way in the crisp dawn, still damp with dew and the birds just beginning their calls. The lad and Deirdre carried the rods and Jumbly the picnic basket. When they finally reached the river, the lad declared he was starving. Jumbly laughed and Deirdre agreed, knowing Lauren had packed enough food for two growing boys. After inhaling a second breakfast, the lad groaned and laid down for awhile. Deirdre and Jumbly were soon sniggering at the snores coming from such a small boy as he slid deeply into a food nap. Not long after they were laughing outright as Jumbly chased Deirdre around with squishy pieces of bait and she shrieked in horror any time he got near. Eventually they collapsed onto the bank of the river and caught their breath, still burbling with laughter whenever they caught each other’s eye. After a bit Deirdre stopped looking away and gazed deeply into Jumbly’s eyes of dark dark brown. Jumbly gazed back, a small smile tucked into his beard. Her eyes weren’t just green, he decided, they were gold too. Now that her injuries had healed and she had her health back, Jumbly thought Deirdre glowed with goodness.

“Alright, you two, I thought we were supposed to be fishing!” Deirdre blushed but smiled when Jumbly laughed good naturedly at the lad and patted his belly, causing the boy to groan. It wasn’t long before all three of them were sitting on the bank mesmerised by the glittering water. Deirdre caught a fish and excitedly squealed, following Jumbly’s gestures and the lad’s instructions until she landed it. The two males ended up on the grass, helpless with laughter, watching Deirdre’s horrified efforts to removed the hook from the flapping fish. Eventually Jumbly, unable to stand, crawled over to her to help.

So the day passed, in good friendship and fun. It was quite the best day Deirdre had ever had in her life. After cleaning their catch, more cause for shrieking and chasing, they bucketed up their fish and headed home. The lad ran ahead with the fish, eager to show his mother, and said he would drop their share at Miss Higginbottom’s. Jumbly and Deirdre waved him off and began their ramble home. Deirdre shouldered their fishing rods and Jumbly their basket which left them a free hand each. Jumbly offered his arm to Deirdre who, with much blushing, took it. Jumbly was so focussed on the feeling of her close to him that it took a moment for him to notice a change in the bush.

All was quiet. The birds were silent. The animals were not moving. Even the insects seemed to have ceased their drone. Jumbly came alert just as two filthy men stepped into the path. Deirdre screamed and pulled back behind Jumbly.

“Well, well, what have we here. I believe that belongs to us.” said one. Jumbly looked around confused, not sure what they were referring to but certain of their menace.
“Her, you bumbling idiot, she belongs to us! Must say you’ve taken good care of it and we’re very grateful it’s cleaned up so well, but we’ll be taking it now.” and the second filthy man actually reached an hand toward His Deirdre.

Jumbly looked at Deirdre and saw the fear in her eyes. He nodded at her and gestured to the men.
“Yes,” she gasped,”They killed my father and tortured me.” At her own words, some of Deirdre’s fear fell away. She wasn’t alone any more. She had an home, Friends and Beloved. Deirdre shook off the last of her fear and anger boiled up.

“Oh, come now, your old dad dying was an accident and what torture? We were just having a bit of fun. You know how it is.” the shortest filthy criminal assured Jumbly, with a sneer.

Jumbly roared! He was absolutely furious! These were the criminals who brought his Love so low. How dare they! How dare they hurt any woman! Deirdre screamed her fury at the cruel vagabonds. Yes! How dare they?! How dare they kill her father and torture her and try and excuse it. How dare they!!!

The two filthy men stumbled back in surprise only to find the villagers gathered behind them. The lad had noticed the silence and raised the alarm. The Elders and all their Friends had come running when they heard Jumbly roar. The men were quickly taken into custody and locked in the cellar of the Meeting House until the local constabulary could be contacted and deal with them. The men were pleased to go, away from Jumbly’s fury and Deirdre’s wrath. They were frightened and pleaded to be kept safe.

Jumbly and a shaking Deirdre were returned to Lauren’s home where she took care of them. Later the Elders returned and sat in Silence until balance was restored. They talked with Deirdre and would do so as often as she needed. Deirdre was fine. She knew what she needed. She needed Jumbly. Somehow the shock and horror of seeing the two men, roaring her fury at them alongside Jumbly had broken through any last reserves. Deirdre returned to the kitchen to talk with him.

Jumbly had gone home. Sadly. He understood that he loved Deirdre. For the first time in his life, Jumbly was deeply in love. He also understood that a terrible wrong had been done her and it may be some time before she would be ready. He reckoned he would just have to be patient and wait. He reckoned without Deirdre.

Just as he reached his front door, he heard his name called and turned to see Deirdre flying down the path. She hurtled into his arms, gasping and laughing. “Jumbly! I love you!” He looked down into her green eyes with the golden specks as she gazed into his deep brown eyes, full of love, for her. Jumbly smiled and his smiled curled into his beard until his mouth opened and he laughed.

and that is the end of the story

(c) CLHHarper February 2014

Letting Go: An Introspective Blog

Whoever thought letting go would be the hardest part?

When you’ve done as many years of analysing, therapy, counselling, processing, meditation, art therapy, music therapy, re-birthing (remember that?) and introspection as I have, you begin to wonder if there will ever be an end to it.

In short, no.

Those few years of childhood, confusion of your teens, followed by the fruitcake mixing years of your twenties, followed by the baking years of your thirties, upheaved by your forties (when you have to get the cake off your hips) and sliding in your fifties (when you realise it isn’t going), take a lot of getting over, on, through, out and done with. In fact, I largely suspect that we are never ‘done with’ it and spend our entire lives winnowing the chaff from the seed. How ironic that people of a certain age (and I don’t mean mine) will not recognise that saying, winnowing the chaff from the seed. This was a process (there’s that therapy word again) by which the un-useful portion of a seed head was fluffed out (technical term), leaving the heavier seed. I feel my fifties, and I’m only one year in, are my winnowing years.

There is a great deal I have learnt and even more that I have picked up through observation and careful listening. This listening is not something I indulged in as a teen or a twenty but came to grips with in my thirties when I realised all my errors. It’s quite disconcerting to realise that the know-it-all twenties don’t know much at all. I see it now in my young ones. They really do think they know everything and you have grey hair. Reminds me of when my youngest was six and became suddenly concerned that I was terribly old and would obviously die very soon. We had to have a number of conversations about my great age (I wasn’t) and what would happen when I died. I worked out that she wanted to know what was going to happen to her, she wasn’t too concerned with me. Sorted to her satisfaction, we happily sang “When I die, I’m gonna go to God and we’re gonna have a cup of tea” on many car trips.

I often tell my young ones to draw on their inner wisdom. I have persistently reminded (aka nagged), imparted sayings and my knowledge and wisdom that they must have absorbed some of it. When faced with a dilemma I ask them, what would you tell a friend with the same problem? Give yourself that same advice. I have to do this with myself too. If a friend came and said she was drowning in debt because the government had callously taken away the single parent health care card and now there are no concessions and utility bills have gone mad, what would I suggest? Oh yes, I’ll try that and let-it-go. If a friend came to me and was hurting because her child had left home, cut contact and their new partner of three months was controlling all communication, what would I say? This last one is a doozy and one I have been travelling through of late. The advice I give myself when I ask me is this, “Self”, I say, “Make it work for you. Leave the door open but don’t stand right behind it. They may come slamming back home. Just gently move back and wait for openings.” Easier said than done, but that’s all about letting go, isn’t it?

Most of the time we have distress about it situation is because we think it shouldn’t be like that. I learnt long ago that as soon as I heard me think the word “should”, look out. Sometimes situations just are like that. Now, I know my son is on his big adventure, living with his girlfriend for the first time and not actually doing anything to me. The fact that he has not called me once, only texted, is what it is. Sad and hurt is how I feel about it. The fact that I thought I was talking to him on Facebook only to discover it was his girlfriend shattered me. It seemed as though I was not going to get to talk to my son at all. (I showed my eldest the strange thing he had written, calling me by my name, and she said that’s not him but his girlfriend, speaking as him. I know, right?) Who knew that it was so painful for your child to move away and ‘forget’ you? I know I’m not really forgotten but we can only tell how someone feels toward us by their actions. Let it go.

Letting go. Not something I have been particularly good at. Not something any of us are particularly good at. I’m working on it though. My baby will be ready to leave home in just a few short (oh, so short) years and I had better be ready. Hmm, I’ll actually be child free then. What an interesting idea.

(c) CLHHarper April 2014

Sorrow’s walls come tumbling down PART 2 – A Jumbly Tale

Jumbly woke with the dawn and his eyes sought the woman. Bundled in her blanket, she was still asleep. He prepared himself, fire, breakfast and brew before she woke. The woman roused from sleep panicked, calming when she saw Jumbly on the other side of the fire. She groaned as she stood, muscles and injuries stiffening over night. Without a word, Jumbly handed her a cup of water, then the bowl of steeped herbs. She took it and tended to her wounds. The woman returned the bowl and meeting his eyes, pointed to herself and said, “Deirdre.” Jumbly smiled and burbled at her encouragingly. Her dark eyes watched him solemnly. Deirdre nodded and settled herself by the fire for breakfast.

When everything was packed and put away, Jumbly and Deirdre began their walk back to the village. Jumbly took her by the river road. It took longer but he saw that she was not ready yet for company and at the river she would have a chance to wash. They walked for hours in silence until Deirdre stumbled. Jumbly stopped and began setting up camp. Deirdre jumped up and said she could go on but somehow he gentled her and communicated that they were not in any hurry. He made their midday meal and indicated the river for a wash.

Deirdre went red with shame. Jumbly was horrified but had no way to tell her that it was not her shame. He hung his head. After a long time, Deirdre came closer and tugged on his shirt sleeve. He looked up, his eyes sad. The corner of Deirdre’s mouth lifted and she assured him that she understood that a swim was just what she needed. Jumbly beamed. Deirdre looked momentarily startled then smiled back. Jumbly found soap root for her and a place in the river that was more sheltered and private.

Once she was settled, Jumbly returned to the river near their camp and waded in for his own wash. He sang as he scrubbed and his melodic voice curled in ribbons of bright sound along the river to Deirdre. She stopped and listened. There were no words but she heard the heart of the big man in his song and the fear left her.

Deirdre returned to find Jumbly stoking the fire with a pot bubbling already. Deirdre was famished. Exhausted by her ablutions, she sat abruptly on her bed and stared at the pot. Jumbly rumbled a laugh and Deirdre turned to look at him. His clothes, which he had worn into the river and washed, were lying in the sun to dry. His spare britches were all he wore, enjoying the last of the sun on his skin. Deirdre saw a tall, very tall, well built man, with close cropped hair and kind brown eyes. His beard was neatly trimmed and his smile. Deirdre realised she was staring and sighed, looking away. Jumbly rumbled away at her and Deirdre found if she listened to his voice, not the words, and watched him, she understood him very well.

Jumbly wanted to know if she needed help with her wounds. She shook her head. Taking a breath she told him that the cuts and scratches were clean. Jumbly patted his belly, then pointed to hers. Deirdre looked away. Another deep breath. She looked back toward him and said that she was alright there too, just badly bruised and sore. Deirdre was startled by a growl and involuntarily glanced at him. He looked furious. Deirdre realised that he was angry on her behalf. She forgot to breathe for a minute. Pushing up painfully she walked toward him, patted his arm and looked straight into his gaze. “Thank you.” Jumbly breathed. The anger went out of him. He looked into her green eyes, his own dark with sadness for her. Deirdre’s breath caught. Here was a good man, a good good man. She was safe with him.

The moment passed and they busied themselves with food, drink, herbal brew and sleep. Jumbly lay looking at the stars for a long time, thinking about Deirdre. In the morning they continued on, stopping when Deirdre was too tired, letting her sleep, heal, rest and recover from her ordeal. Finally they were one night from home and Jumbly indicated they would be in the village the next day. He saw the flare of panic in her eyes, saw her master it, reason herself through it and was angry all over again about what had been done to her. It seemed to Jumbly that Deirdre was a brave, good, modest, kind woman whose life had been torn apart. He suddenly realised that while he had been taking her to his home, he hadn’t asked about hers. He was mortified.

It took awhile for Deirdre to understand what he was asking. She shook her head, eyes brimming with tears. She explained that the men who took her to use had killed her elderly father and there was nothing left for her. A great surge of pain and helpless fury swept through Jumbly. He was brought to his feet by the power of his emotion. He roared his fury into the night. Sanity returned and he feared he may have terrified her only to hear her matching roar as Deirdre screamed her loss, fear, pain and grief to the stars. Then she tumbled to the ground. Jumbly swept her up. She stiffened then relaxed in his hold. She wept, great tearing sobs that abated only when she had passed out from exhaustion.

Jumbly laid her down on her bed and bathed her poor swollen face in cool river water. He wrapped her in her blanket. She whimpered when he moved away, so he dragged his bed next to hers and held her through the night. Deirdre slept soundly, safe in his arms, for the first time in weeks since she had been taken, tortured, escaped and traveled lost and hurt.

Morning came and Deirdre felt ready to meet the villagers. She helped Jumbly tidy the campsite and they set off. All too soon they came out of the forest to the road that ran alongside the river and into the village. Deirdre moved behind Jumbly and shuffled along falling further and further behind. Jumbly stopped and looked around at her. He rumbled at her, nodding. Deirdre knew he meant to be reassuring but she just couldn’t move.

“Jumbly! You’re back!” and Jumbly’s young friend flew to greet him, fishing rod clattering behind him onto the road, barrelling into Jumbly. The Jumbly Man laughed and wrapped his young friend in a big hug. Deirdre smiled and moved closer. The lad looked shyly at her. Jumbly did the introductions which made them all laugh. Chattering excitedly, the boy looped Deirdre along with them and they lurched into the village like a drunken three legged race.

Lauren Higgenbottom, Jumbly’s very closest friend, saw him and waved, hurrying over to say, “Welcome back! We have missed you!” then noticed Deirdre who hung her head and tried to hide behind Jumbly. Jumbly hurried to explain what had happened but got so jumbled up that he just stopped.

“It’s alright, Jumbly. I can see that this young woman needs some care.” Lauren looped Deirdre, bundling her off to her house, leaving Jumbly and the lad standing open mouthed in the middle of the road. They looked at each other and laughed. Returning to pick up his rod the two talked their way down Jumbly’s path to his cottage and settled in.

Lauren, who lived vicariously, learned Deirdre’s story and soon had her soaking in an hot tub with herbs. When Deirdre was soothed and her injuries treated and bandaged, Lauren made her an hot herbal brew and bundled her off to bed. Deirdre slept the rest of the day through to morning. When she awoke she was greeted by an anxious Jumbly and amused Lauren.

“He had to see that you were alright dear. He’s been here since daybreak. Sit down and I’ll make you both breakfast.” Lauren happily bustled about while Jumbly and Deirdre smiled at each other. Deirdre sighed. She did feel better now he was here. Lauren smothered a giggle but neither of them noticed, which made her giggle all the more. She placed an enormous pot of tea and huge breakfast before them and soon they were all tucking in and talking.

“I think Deirdre should stay here for the time being, just until her wounds heal and she’s feeling a bit stronger.” Jumbly looked up in surprise and burbled a question at Deirdre.
“You’ll come and visit every day, won’t you, Jumbly?” He stared, disconcerted, looked at Lauren’s stern face and huffed his agreement. Lauren snorted in a most unladylike manner. Jumbly scowled at her which made her snort again. Deirdre looked from one to the other, perplexed, then smiled at Jumbly, poured a cup of tea and went on eating.

to be continued

(c) CLHHarper March 2014

Sorrow’s walls come tumbling down: A Jumbly Tale

Let me tell you a story

Once, the Jumbly Man was returning from washing his woes, striding along, deep in thought. It was coming close to night and he began to look about for a camp.

As the sun gave the trees ever longer shadows, he saw a she-oak that would provide shelter and fallen needles, a comfortable place to rest. As he came closer he saw a figure huddled to the side of the tree. It appeared to be a small woman, huddled in on herself. He called out a jumbly greeting, saw a flash of a face full of fear as she scrambled to her feet, trying to stumble away.

Jumbly could see she was hurt. In a few long strides, he reached her and caught her under her elbows before she tumbled. The woman whimpered and cowered away from him. He jumbled soothing sounds at her and brought her back to her position at the tree. Distressed he watched as she huddled away, her face averted, shaking in fear. In rumbly jumbly tones he told her that he would not harm her and left his canteen near her while he set about making camp.

After gathering wood for the fire, he used the she-oak leaves to make cushioning either side of the fire and placed a blanket across each. Her clothes were little more than rags. He dug into his pack and took out his long weather proof coat and laid it on the bed closest to her.

The woman had seen the canteen and was greedily gulping water, watching him from behind tangled hair and the corner of her eye. Jumbly smiled and indicated that he would get water for her to wash and make food. The woman turn her back, shaking.

Jumbly was nonplussed and shook his head, jumbling softly to himself as he tried to figure out what to do. He could see she was badly beaten, covered in bruises and swellings. The arm he could see was nearly black with bruising. He shook his head. He suspected she had not moved away because she had given up and was exhausted. That she was afraid made sense given the blood that had poured down her legs and dried there. She was injured in some way. Jumbly could help but how was he to get near her?

He returned to camp suddenly anxious that she wouldn’t be there. She was. She still had her back to him but had moved closer to the fire. Jumbly decided. He had found animals over the years, hurt, caught by snares, severe injuries, or simply exhausted beyond endurance and afraid. He decided to treat this situation as though she was a small wounded creature who needed his help.

Moving slowly about the camp site, he heated water on the fire and pulled a bowl from his sack. Sprinkling herbs from pouches into the bowl, he poured the water just before it boiled. She watched him. While it steeped, he set about making dinner. The woman’s eyes were riveted on the fire and the stew bubbling there. Jumbly scooped a cup, offered it to the woman, who reached to snatch it away. Jumbly held on to catch her eye. She scowled at him but nodded when he mimed to eat slowly. When she was done he rinsed her cup and gave her water to sip. He gave thanks and ate his own stew. The woman indicated that she wanted more food and was startled when Jumbly rumbled a laugh. Yes, there would be more if she kept down what she’d already eaten. The woman looked down at her starved, bloody, bruised body and the eyes she raised to Jumbly were haunted. She nodded, sipped her water and began to doze by the fire.

Jumbly gently moved the stew to a less hot part of the fire until later, keeping his movements slow but not silent. She hadn’t slept long before she jerked awake and looked wildly about her. Her eyes fell on Jumbly, the fire, the stew and she calmed, holding out her cup in silent entreaty. Jumbly burbled with humour and the woman tilted her head as if just now realising that she couldn’t understand his words. She took his meaning though and settled back with her second cup of stew, eating slowly, after giving thanks. When finished, Jumbly indicated the bowl of warm water and herbs with the rags he had steeped in it, for her to wash her wounds. The woman’s eyes were darkened with pain but she nodded and took the bowl, retreating from the fire for a modicum of privacy.

Jumbly could hear her soft sobs as she wiped away and cleaned the horror that had been done to her. He heated more water, slipped different herbs into her now clean cup and waited. Again, before the water boiled, he poured it into the cup and set it aside to steep. He made a drink for himself and took the chance to ready himself, his pack, the fire and campsite for the night. The woman returned. She looked exhausted. Jumbly moved slowly, took the empty bowl from her and helped her to her bed. She crumpled down and would have fallen but Jumbly caught her and handed her the brew. Sniffing, she nodded, sipped, returned the empty cup, then rolling up in her blanket, she laid down, sighed and fell asleep.

Jumbly let out a breath he didn’t know he was holding, finished cleaning up, rolled into his own blanket and lay, staring into the fire as he pondered her story. Whatever it was, she was safe now. He felt a great welling of fierce protectiveness for her and rage at those who hurt her. They would pay. He sent his rage into the Light and vowing to protect her, he gave thanks and slept.

to be continued…

(c) CLHHarper March 2014