Have a happy (and safe) Halloween!
All photographs Copyright © 2016 Alex Marlowe
Have a happy (and safe) Halloween!
All photographs Copyright © 2016 Alex Marlowe
I must thank Lady Joyful for lending me the use of her picture, please go and have a look at her lovely blogs. As well as being a talented card maker, she also does the Photo A Day Challenge and we both agreed that this particular picture looked as though it had a story to tell.
So, here you are. Thank you, Lady Joyful, for lending me your picture and providing me with a haunting title…
As The Barrel Swings…
The landlord was proud of his beer and justly so. His inn was warm and welcoming, clean and restful, and the brew he served danced as lightly on the tongue as if it had been stirred by the Little Folk themselves. The landlord like his father, and grandfather before him, believed in giving a good beer to his customers and proudly hung a barrel outside his inn, directly outside his daughter’s chamber window, and as she lay in her bed, she could hear it creaking gently in the breeze – a badge of office and confirmation of the delicate beverage to be found within.
The customers came, from far and wide, to drink this beer and eat home made bread and cheese, the yeasty dough and white crumbly cheese the perfect accompaniment to the golden, summer-smelling beer.
The landlord’s reputation spread, attracting custom from all over the county, including the gentry and their friends. Sometimes the landlord’s wife and daughter would be obliged to help serve thirsty farmhands their drinks, while the sons changed barrels and cleared tables, good humoured and bluff.
And then one day, as the breeze blew, it brought something new. Something slim, dark and rapier sharp, riding on a fine grey stallion, soft of mouth and light of foot. The young man was friend to the squire’s son, but a very different being in this country of blonde men and women, apple cheeked and round limbed. No, this young man was dark and fine, delicately drawn and thin but strong, as the muscles corded and rippled through the fine cotton on his shirt.
The landlord’s daughter couldn’t take her eyes off him. Her eyes lingered admiringly on the strong young throat, shadowed darkly with sleek hair, so very different to the yellow coarseness of those around her like the stubble on the fields when the wheat was harvested.
He laughed and lowered his tankard and his eyes fell upon the landlord’s daughter. A speaking silence hung between them, dark eyes locked on blue. A brother’s shove flung thoughts of love aside and she returned to her duties.
A murmuring, a discontented mutter from the brother to the father and all eyes turned to the dark young man, slim and elegant like a shady flame.
His eyes returned again and again to the landlord’s daughter, plumply pretty and moon fair.
He watched her and waited, a sleek dark fox patiently seeking his prize. As she slipped out the back to empty the spitoon, the young man nonchalantly left to use the privy. He caught her by the stables and looked deep into her eyes. She gazed back and was lost as he raised a hand and placed it gently, oh so gently, on the soft skin of her throat. A meeting was arranged, a time was agreed; and they parted with the promise of passion to be shared.
A figure slid out of the shadows by the stables, a brother had heard and reported back all to their father, not a word left unsaid.
With fury and rage, the landlord simmered. He and his sons swore that the daughter would not stray and resolved to stop this in the country way.
Night time fell, a summer evening sweet with promise, yet anticipated chill as Autumn waited around season’s corner, the wolf of Winter not far behind. The scent of honeysuckle gilded the air as bats slipped through the sky and an owl called softly as it flew past on moth-downy wings, startling the girl who waited by the elm. Her heart beat brightly in her chest with pleasure as she waited for the one who held her love.
The slim young man set out eagerly on foot, weaving through the darkness to where his love waited, the one in whose eyes he had seen his future. His foot fell on the gravel path – at once he felt a warmth at his back and a fear at his soul. The breath left his lungs with a terrible blow.
His love stood waiting, waiting by the tree as he fought for his life and tried to struggle free.
The landlord and his sons – for it was them of course – beat the young man until he was dead. The daughter’s heart broke, piece by tender piece, as the promise of a future slowly disappeared, as the evening dew fell, as mist wreathed the tree.
Left with a body they had to hide, the man and his sons took it inside.
And into the barrel they carefully packed the fine young man from whom they had hacked, body and soul, life and limb. They emptied his life into the barrel, they sealed it with tar and hung it with care.
The barrel was replaced outside the daughter’s chamber window: she returned home, sadly and quietly, a little bit older and a world of grief wiser and retreated to her bed to cry and mourn.
She never married or looked at another man, grieving for a love so briefly held and lost, yet unawares that the man she mourned and longed for hung within touching distance.
As she aged, he decayed, united in loss; and the landlord thrived.
I’m not a great sleeper. Don’t get me wrong, I love sleep, I’m just not very good at it. I mentioned this in passing to my son’s lovely crystal lady Lizian and she suggested I try some Howlite, placed under my pillow.
It’s not the most beautiful crystal I own, but it is certainly one of the most useful. It has a cool, silk texture and a satisfying feel to the hand, one of those crystals that conjure “mind pictures”, and I at once thought of a tall glass of milk, cool, soothing, calming.
I was unsurprised to learn, therefore, that it is in fact, a wonderfully beneficial stone for those with insomnia. I use it in conjunction with Selenite, and these two crystals combined allow me a glimpse of the Promised Land … Slumber.
Howlite stills the mind, turning down the volume of everyday life and allowing serenity and calmness in. In that breathing space, reasoned communication can be achieved as it allows your open mind to receive attunement and wisdom; its patterning of soft grey lines almost showing you a mental map, a way forward, to release selfishness and criticism and fulfill your own positive spiritual and material ambitions.
Dyed Howlite (or Turquenite) balances mood fluctuations and brings inner peace
My appalling sleep habits started when I was tiny, and although I have gone through weeks, months even, when I have slept all right, the demon of Insomnia returns to pluck at the edges of my consciousness …
I had the most terrible nightmares when I was little, perhaps about two or three years old. I can remember to this day the metallic taste of my own fear, the creeping terror that chilled my limbs and numbed my brain, while the blood pounded and thumped its slow sluggish way through my heart…
My parents had finally earned enough to move out of the veterinary practice house, and buy a house of their own, for themselves and their two daughters. It was a brand – new house, built in the late ‘60’s, when the city we lived in had a rise in population and people moving away from the city centre to the suburbs. The sandy coloured bricks were clean, the woodwork shiny white and fresh … an immaculately kept front garden, four bedrooms, good sizes, beautiful modern bathroom and a fitted kitchen with all mod-cons. My mother loved it. I hated it.
She set about making this house into our home, and yet … and yet …
Looking back, this house had the fetid fug of unhappiness clinging to it, like the shredded remnants of a corpse shroud. And I began to dream … and what dreams. Nightmares of being stuck in a multi – storey car park. Hiding desperately behind a car, hearing the tick – tick – tick of its cooling engine, and knowing that out there waited a sword – wielding maniac with clothes that smelt of blood and a laugh like poison.
Dreams of ogres, that clawed and dragged their way up the stairs of this house ; not cute ogres, but creatures of terror and despair, yellow rotting fangs in a mouth open wide to tear my body apart, so afraid, so frozen with fear I could hardly scream or breathe, clawing my way back to cold, sweating wakefulness with tears of sheer horror clinging to my face.
I developed asthma and a reluctance to go to bed. Every night, at a certain time, my parents in the front room – my bedroom was directly above it – would hear a thud, and then footsteps, going from my room across the landing and into the bathroom. The dogs would raise their heads and watch the footsteps travel across the ceiling … My father tried to pass the noises off as my cat, jumping off the bed and walking across the landing. My mother kept the cat in the front room with them, and yet the noises still happened. Whenever my parents went to check on me, I was in bed. Asleep.
And then one night I had a convulsion and stopped breathing. On this particular night, I had already been unwell, wheezy and tightchested, but had gone to bed, soothed by the promise of regular checks from my mother. At the usual time, she heard the footsteps and rushed upstairs to check on me… I remember to this day the awful sensation of trying and trying to expand my chest and simply not getting enough air… and that’s all I remember about that night.
Apparently, I gasped and stopped. Breathing. Panicked, my mother shook me whilst screaming for my father to ring the doctor. The breath came back to me and I was all right, I was breathing, but the doctor came anyway and gave me an injection …
At work the next day, my mother was relating the tale of my brush with Death. A colleague said to her:
“Well, I was quite surprised actually anyway, when I heard you had bought that house…”
My mother, pounced on this statement, perhaps thinking of the faulty damp course and demanded an explanation. The colleague obliged.
“Oh yes, it was such a tragedy. The family that lived there before you, they had a little girl about Samantha’s age. I think she had asthma too… well, anyway, poor little thing. One night she had a really bad attack and died… Couldn’t do a thing for her…”
The house went on the market that same day and my family returned to the practice house.
(As a post script to this story, I Googled the address of this house where we used to live. I was interested to see it was up for sale. Again.)
“What’s that?” I asked, pointing to a slice of rock displayed on a little stand.
“It’s Garnet in Mica…” I was informed.
“Oh. Can I hold it please?”
Yes… we’ve been here before, but my eye was caught by this most remarkable looking piece of rock.
The slice was passed over so I could hold it and I was at once taken by its leathery warmth, and feeling of fluidity in my hands.
Garnet in itself is a lovely, positive crystal that is both energising and stabilising. It is highly protective, especially during times of travel and is linked to the Root chakra. It is said to bring confidence and creativity and define your purpose in life for you. Garnet is also used to access ancient memories, the sort that live in your blood and the folds of your brain, and is, therefore, a useful tool in past life regression work. Garnet brings ordered growth and inner strength and works well with both auras and chakras, to cleanse, re-align and restore.
Mica, the layer that these Garnets rest in, has a beautiful iridescent shimmer to it, and has, in actual fact, been used in car paints and wall papers for that particular quality of shimmer. It is formed in layers that can be split thinly and evenly and these sheets have been used as rudimentary windows, or ground up to be used in makeup and pottery and also in Ayurvedic medicine for the treatment of digestive problems.
Mica is sometimes known as Cat-Gold or Cat-Silver, and I would like to think this is because the mineral itself is as warm and responsive to the touch as a friendly cat. It is a rich soup of minerals that swirled together at the dawn of Creation, bubbling up every so often to form a crystal such as Garnet that encapsulates the hidden powers of the Earth.
Yet as I held it, I was irresistibly reminded of dinosaur dreams as a little girl, being able to stroke the warm living hide of such a creature and feel the lumps and bumps within its platelets of armour.
So then, Garnet in Mica. A wonderful glimpse of our living past, the Birth of Earth, and the secret power that seeths beneath the surface.
“Don’t worry, you’ll make friends once you’ve settled in.”
“Don’t forget to work hard, we know what you students are like, out all night.”
These words fell on frightened ears as her parents left her. They left her, in the hall of residence in a nameless, faceless block in a city she didn’t know and she was afraid.
It was bleak, it was dark, it was autumn and she longed for the golden days of when she was at school. The city was brutal, it was dark and it rained. She didn’t know where she was or she felt to be so tenderly abandoned. She was not equipped for this!
The gentle county of her youth, her kind teachers and thoughtful friends, the lessons, the plans, the routine, these were things she understood.
Scornful tutors mouthed incomprehensible words in echoing lecture theatres and people laughed. She couldn’t eat, she didn’t know how. And yet, and yet, she was touched with kindness as others saw her and were drawn to this sad, lonely girl, “Alice of the Otherworld” as the darkness called her.
“Here, come out with us, have a drink, you’ll feel better!”
The tall, dark, boy laughed like a maniac with knives in his eyes and pushed the glass towards her.
She drank; and was transported. Down and down she fell, tumbling down a smooth golden tunnel that smelled enticingly of childhood and weepingly of home.
When she opened her eyes, she was lying in a field. The day was golden, and dusted with sunshine, the old oak tree she reclined against felt warm and comfortable, as comforting as her bed at home.
She sat up, and her hands touched grass, grass that slithered through her fingers as soft as silk and warm as blood. A winged rabbit fluttered by, its delicate wings etched in green, flushing pink as it startled at her presence and shied away.
And as she looked, and looked again, what at first she took for flowers, beat their wings and flew away in a chattering flock and she heard the swallows singing at home as they prepared to fly to Africa.
She sighed and laid down again. This was not home, but it would do, the echoes were familiar and some of it was comforting. She drew this atmosphere around her, like her duvet at home, and shut her eyes.
“Ally! Ally! No! Ally, wake up! You bastard, what did you give her?”
The dark youth smiled uneasily and slid away, as her head lolled and a trickle of thin, yellow vomit escaped her smiling mouth, while the one who would have loved her grabbed his phone and cried.
Landscape Jasper is actually a wonderfully comforting crystal, I find. My previous experiences of Jasper were limited to Red, and that really did not resonate with me at all.
I was drawn to this piece purely by chance. After I bought my Picasso Stone sphere, I was looking for something with the same reassurance but a little more … pocket–sized.
All Jaspers have the same metaphysical benefits of being supportive and caring, and is also known as the “Supreme Nurturer”. Its various colours are linked to specific chakras to help balance and align them whilst absorbing negative energy as it is another highly protective crystal. Jasper can also dissipate environmental pollution and connect the physical and spiritual body with the higher realms.
Brown, or Picture or Landscape Jasper is the one that draws me … as warming and soothing as standing barefoot in a field and feeling the connection to Mother Earth, surging upwards through the soles of your feet and into your legs, grounding and comforting, giving you a sense of place in this vast Universe.
These varieties of Jasper are pretty much the same entity, but for the purposes of this post I will refer to it primarily as Landscape Jasper. The clue is in the name … the patterning within the individual crystals looks like landscapes, the rich colours showing its connection to the Earth and awakening ecological consciousness.
Interestingly, Brown Jasper can specifically strengthen the resolve to give up smoking – 53 DAYS AND STILL SMOKE FREE!!
The black etched lines within the crystals are said to be Mother Earth speaking to us, information for those who are able to decipher it. All I know is I find it as comforting as sunshine, the warmth of the Earth and the hum of Life that is omnipresent during the summer months.
Erin demonstrating how to use legs…
Legs … are our direct physical connection to Mother Earth, although sometimes we lose contact with the golden tracery that keeps us bound to her surface. Animals are, by their very nature, physically closer, in tune with the comings and goings within the Universe. How many documented accounts have their been of animals leaving an area before a disaster strikes?
Lily’s legs firmly planted in irritation… “LOOK! Will you stop following me around with that BLOODY pumpkin!”
I must confess I am not a country person … too fond of central heating and hot water… but 21st century life can be isolating, frightening, depressing. Apart from the scientific benefits of exercising (it releases … endorphins?) the actual physical act of being out and about, and looking, connecting, noticing, can lift the spirits and alleviate depression; and if you have a dog or two to walk with, then so much the better!
‘She walks in beauty, like the night’ (Lord Byron)
You can walk with cats… but I have had some funny looks…!
The isolation of the dark, cold winter months, although they hold their own magic as Mother Earth sleeps; I find they affect me in a not altogether positive way… Landscape Jasper is the letter home.
“LOOK AT ALL MY LEGS!!”
Tooty had a… confused start in life. She is Ting’s sister, no doubt about that as they share a bond of sibling affection that I don’t see between Charlie and Lily, even though they’ve known each other since they were a couple of months old. How we found them is the subject of an earlier post: ‘The Finding of Kittens’, but although Ting’s place in our family was assured – my partner knew of my secret, long-held desire for a Siamese – Tooty, as a black cat was held as being surplus to requirements in my partner’s opinion. Besides which, we already had a black cat, little Lily, the dainty, pretty murderess who had captured my partner’s heart with her killing charm.
However, I loved Tooty the moment I saw her for her bravery. She was the first one to leave the safety of the hedge for an unknown future with us. I had absolutely no intention of separating the sisters. I just never mentioned it. So she stayed, and I say a ‘confused’ start to life with us since we were convinced she was a tom, and actually called her Derek for her first few months of living with us.
She grew and developed into a black cat with a charm and beauty of her own. She doesn’t have the fragile prettiness of Lily, rather the sleek, powerful lines of the traditional parlour panther. She is the only cat I have with eyes the colour of Citrine or Amber, depending on the light… a proper witch’s cat but she has the temperament of a particularly cuddly marshmallow.
Like all my girls, I took her to the vet to be spayed, however, she did develop a chest infection after, and although it cleared up after antibiotics, it has left her with the tendency to snore. And I mean snore. A real roof rattling reverberation… Her meow is quite funny too. She’s not the most talkative of cats, unlike Charlie or Ting, but when she does meow, it’s more a croaky “Wah!” sound. A bit like a goose. Tooty “Brrrp’s” a lot though.
“Brp! Hi, I’m here,”
“BRPP! I didn’t see you there, you scared me!”
“Brp-wah… sure it’s feeding time…”
Tooty has the most wonderful purr though, a deep, melodic soothing rumble. She likes to cuddle in the bed next to you and will lie, legs in the air, so you can stroke her chest, eyes blissfully closed, purring away like a little motor.
She and her sister, Ting, still play together as well – sometimes a little too roughly and the fur tufts fly. It’s soon forgotten though, as they greet each other affectionately with a tender lick between the ears.
So. Despite having a duplicate of colour in cats, Tooty brings her own special qualities to my feline fur family. She is loving and affectionate, a confident panther who stalks the rooms of my house, “brrrping” and throwing catnip mice around…