THE YOUNG BRIDEGROOM

MICHELANGELO, BOTTICELLI, RAPHAEL

Shaped by the gods of Art
Sculpted by them
They look back down at him
From the Heavens
And smile their secret smiles
He has pleased them
This earthly god of Love
As he gasps with pleasure
Upon his Marriage Bed

They laugh benignly from above
Ahhhhhh, they say
With smirks of self satisfied praise
JUST LOOK WHAT WE HAVE DONE
LOOK WHAT WE HAVE MADE
THIS EARTHLY CHILD OF LOVE

MA©️ Autumn 2019

This was written and inspired by OUTLANDER,
and shared by me on an Outlander, Fan Page

Photo of Sam Heughan as Jamie Fraser
Photo courtesy of STARZ

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Continued….. IN THE PINES…..HARCOURT

circa 1993/5 Living beneath Mount Alexander, on a farm feeding out onto narrow dirt roads leading to Apple Orchards, it was the perfect environment for Gracie Rose to ride her pony, Star. If there were no other riders on any particular day, she would ride ahead, with me and our dogs, Sophie and Winston, following slowly behind in the car. Safety measures….you don’t ride up the mountain alone….ever. And so, she would trot off ahead, long hair streaming out behind, arms stretched out either side, like a bird, practising balance, posture and leg work. Such a sight. Then we would separate, she taking tracks up and into the forest, me, sticking to the road….meeting again at the top…..perhaps exploring the Oak Forest (strangely stunted with overcrowding), but lovely nonetheless. There was also a practical side to these ventures. Old hessian feed bags packed earlier, would be collected once we reached the pine forest. There, she would dismount, tether Star, while the dogs ran free and we filled the bags with pine cones….fast burning fuel for our fire, beneath the red gum or yellow box we added later. On this particular day, having loaded the filled bags, Gracie rode off, heading down the mountain towards home…..and I decided to walk, dogs beside me, up to a lookout nearby….. Continued…. IN THE PINES…. I’m remembering this was around the time of the Port Arthur Massacre, the horror of it seeped into everyone’s consciousness…..that insane, mindlessly brutal slaughter….just because!!! To make matters worse, I had just finished reading “Red Dragon”, by Thomas Harris (more horror….don’t ask, I have no idea why, but the gruesome story stayed with me). The dogs and I stayed at the lookout, looking out….all the way beyond the patchwork of orchards below, to tiny Harcourt , outwards to Castlemaine and way beyond to mountains in the distance, the air filled with a lovely blue haze. As we turned back, towards the car, some 300 feet away, I saw him……a slender, long haired young man in check shirt and jeans, walking uphill through the Pines towards me, carrying a rifle. That, in the circumstances would have been unsettling (I was completely alone, away from any houses, any other people), but what was so chilling was what he did….there was a brief moment of realisation….we saw each other, and then he simply stepped behind a tree, hiding himself. Adrenaline coursed through me, and so full of fear for myself and the dogs, I called them in an urgent whisper, walking fast (wanting to run, but also not wanting him to know how afraid I was), thankfully with the dogs running at my side, instinctively obedient , we reached the car, climbed /jumped in and drove away…..and thankfully he, the shooter, stayed hidden. All the way back down the mountain I gave thanks to the god I don’t believe in…..a mantra of gratitude…..for our safety…..our lives. And back home, immersed in daily practicalities…..rugging horses for the night, herding ducks, chooks and geese into the safety of their pens, feeding them all, I thought about it!!! WHY DID HE HIDE??? and, if he hadn’t, and continued walking straight up towards me, carrying a rifle….would that have been any better??? Probably not. All these years later, I think he was possibly a kid out shooting rabbits, without a license…. or???? I will never know……but I’ll be very pleased not to ever go through that experience or anything close, again!!! Continued….. IN THE PINES…..ON ANOTHER DAY, and a short, sharp moment of Acute Embarrassment !!! Way up there, away from everyone, everything, with just the silence of our feet padding across thick layers of pine needles , the soft soothing murmer of wind above whispering through the big dark trees…..the comfort of shelter underneath ….and a sense of privacy. Fortunately it was a time of loose fitting, layered clothing, long skirts and boots….and having filled our bags with cones for the fire….Grace and the dogs meandering somewhere nearby, I squatted down, lifted my skirts and started to pee….why not, nobody to see. Caught midstream, while I was scrutinizing the ground at my feet, three cyclists whizzed right past me….literally inches away from my small, squatting vulnerability. I MEAN…..WHAT ON EARTH DO YOU DO??? Unable to stop, to move, I simply kept my head down, flaming cheeks hidden by my hair, and pretended under the cover of my skirts, that I wasn’t there. Later, much later, it seemed very funny….
MA© AUTUMN 2018 To be Continued MA© AUTUMN 2018

IN THE PINES

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Continued…..

IN THE PINES…..HARCOURT circa 1993/5

Living beneath Mount Alexander, on a farm feeding out onto narrow dirt roads leading to Apple Orchards, it was the perfect environment for Gracie Rose to ride her pony, Star. If there were no other riders on any particular day, she would ride ahead, with me and our dogs, Sophie and Winston, following slowly behind in the car.
Safety measures….you don’t ride up the mountain alone….ever.
And so, she would trot off ahead, long hair streaming out behind, arms stretched out either side, like a bird, practising balance, posture and leg work. Such a sight.
Then we would separate, she taking tracks up and into the forest, me, sticking to the road….meeting again at the top…..perhaps exploring the Oak Forest (strangely stunted with overcrowding), but lovely nonetheless.
There was also a practical side to these ventures. Old hessian feed bags packed earlier, would be collected once we reached the pine forest. There, she would dismount, tether Star, while the dogs ran free and we filled the bags with pine cones….fast burning fuel for our fire, beneath the red gum or yellow box we added later.
On this particular day, having loaded the filled bags, Gracie rode off, heading down the mountain towards home…..and I decided to walk, dogs beside me, up to a lookout nearby…..

Continued….

IN THE PINES….
I’m remembering this was around the time of the Port Arthur Massacre, the horror of it seeped into everyone’s consciousness…..that insane, mindlessly brutal slaughter….just because!!! To make matters worse, I had just finished reading “Red Dragon”, by Thomas Harris (more horror….don’t ask, I have no idea why, but the gruesome story stayed with me).

The dogs and I stayed at the lookout, looking out….all the way beyond the patchwork of orchards below, to tiny Harcourt , outwards to Castlemaine and way beyond to mountains in the distance, the air filled with a lovely blue haze.
As we turned back, towards the car, some 300 feet away, I saw him……a slender, long haired young man in check shirt and jeans, walking uphill through the Pines towards me, carrying a rifle. That, in the circumstances would have been unsettling (I was completely alone, away from any houses, any other people), but what was so chilling was what he did….there was a brief moment of realisation….we saw each other, and then he simply stepped behind a tree, hiding himself.
Adrenaline coursed through me, and so full of fear for myself and the dogs, I called them in an urgent whisper, walking fast (wanting to run, but also not wanting him to know how afraid I was), thankfully with the dogs running at my side, instinctively obedient , we reached the car, climbed /jumped in and drove away…..and thankfully he, the shooter, stayed hidden.
All the way back down the mountain I gave thanks to the god I don’t believe in…..a mantra of gratitude…..for our safety…..our lives.
And back home, immersed in daily practicalities…..rugging horses for the night, herding ducks, chooks and geese into the safety of their pens, feeding them all, I thought about it!!!
WHY DID HE HIDE???
and, if he hadn’t, and continued walking straight up towards me, carrying a rifle….would that have been any better???
Probably not.
All these years later, I think he was possibly a kid out shooting rabbits, without a license….
or????
I will never know……but I’ll be very pleased not to ever go through that experience or anything close, again!!!

Continued…..

IN THE PINES…..ON ANOTHER DAY, and a short, sharp moment of Acute Embarrassment !!!
Way up there, away from everyone, everything, with just the silence of our feet padding across thick layers of pine needles , the soft soothing murmer of wind above whispering through the big dark trees…..the comfort of shelter underneath ….and a sense of privacy.
Fortunately it was a time of loose fitting, layered clothing, long skirts and boots….and having filled our bags with cones for the fire….Grace and the dogs meandering somewhere nearby, I squatted down, lifted my skirts and started to pee….why not, nobody to see.
Caught midstream, while I was scrutinizing the ground at my feet, three cyclists whizzed right past me….literally inches away from my small, squatting vulnerability.
I MEAN…..WHAT ON EARTH DO YOU DO???
Unable to stop, to move, I simply kept my head down, flaming cheeks hidden by my hair, and pretended under the cover of my skirts, that I wasn’t there.
Later, much later, it seemed very funny….

MA© AUTUMN 2018

To be Continued
MA© AUTUMN 2018

THE CABIN BY THE LAKE

Later, deep in the night, the children long asleep, she feels him wakeful, turns to him, sees him lying on his back staring at the ceiling…..reaches out, touches his face, “tell me about her, what was she like?” and he rolls onto his side, facing her, slowly bringing himself back from the dark, torturous images fixed in his mind.

“She was the most creative child I ever knew”, he said. “Exotic, so intelligent…..she spoke with her hands like a Balinese dancer…..so eloquent I would forget to listen, as I watched her hands lift and weave and swoop through the air, graceful as birds. Vivid, so full of life. Always making things…..little woven creations, paintings, wreaths for her thick blonde hair.” She stirs, fits herself into his shape, “tell me more” she encourages him.

“She made me a leather bracelet once,  plaited, and woven with tiny coloured glass beads, small brilliant feathers knotted into the ties; I wore it for years until it slipped off my arm when I was swimming, sank down…..I looked for it, diving to the bottom of the lake, but it was hidden in the mud…..the lake had claimed it!  She loved walking….she would match my stride, but if she couldn’t, she would skip and run, always ahead, beside, but never behind…..and all the while, making up stories. The most artistic,  enchanting child. It was pure joy to spend time with her.”  “When did you lose touch with them ?”, I ask him softly. He sighs, stretches, reaches for me, groans, holds me tight to him, a protective shield against the painful memories .  “When they moved so far away, when her loser husband took up residence in the bottle. I couldn’t bear it, the way he was with them, always on the edge of violence.

I talked to my sister, but it made no difference….for some reason, she wouldn’t, or couldn’t leave him. After that, I really wasn’t welcome. We drifted away from each other and Sophie was growing up. Everything changed, came apart.”

She turns his face towards her, smooths her hand over his hair, “It wasn’t your fault “, then with unexpected ferocity, he says, “It was ALL our faults, every one who knew and loved her….why did we not see, see how she was sinking ?”

There is no answer, I don’t even try, just take him in my arms, feel his tears wet against my cheek, hold him, speak soft words of comfort, smoothing his hair, rocking him like a small child, feeling his body slowly give , sink into the blessing of sleep.

And still I hold him, comfort and shelter against the dark dreams that hover in the corners of the room. And very soon it will be morning, she feels herself relaxing, match his breathing, and her last thoughts as sleep takes her, “dear God I love him, and how will these wounded children ever heal?”

RETURNING TO THE CABIN BY THE LAKE

The children stand in a tight little huddle by the car, not sure what to do.  Tim, the oldest, Daisy and little Nell. He smiles at me over their heads, then starts unloading bed rolls, sleeping bags, grins and gestures to the canoe on the roof rack. I’ve brought my tent, which we set up beside the Cabin, asking the children to help, handing out tent pegs…..giving them something to do breaks the ice, and talking to them as we work, I unroll a small carpet, just the right size, place inside onto which we lay their bedding ready for the night.

I bought torches, one each, hand them out….the children look pleased, almost happy.

First things done, we sit on the old wooden bench beneath the nearby trees, share food….he asks the children what they want to do?

They don’t know ….so we choose.

It’s a lovely balmy overcast day….”let’s go for a walk, do some exploring”,  they nod politely and I give them some cloth bags, for hunting and gathering.

“Let’s see what we can find”, I say to them, smiling….at them, at him, as he  takes the smallest by the hand, as she looks up at him, begins talking.

I feel their tension ease, and heading out into the dappled shelter of the trees, I find a perfect white feather, turn, slip it neatly into his tied back hair. The children laugh and so does he. Nell lets go of his hand, starts skipping, then running.

“Not too fast Nell, watch out for snakes”, and she stops still, frozen in place . “It’s ok, don’t be afraid, just watch where you’re walking, look ahead, down on the ground….snakes lie asleep, curled up, sometimes they’re the same colour as the earth, the leaves”.

They have to know, but I try and make it into a game for them, before they freeze back into their earlier discomfort. And inwardly….

*Christ, these kids have been through so much, how to navigate a path through their trauma, teach them about safety in the bush, and still encourage them to have fun*

He’s looking at me, serious, intense….feeling it too. The heavy weight of light and shade, to give something to these kids, something different, freedom….yet keep them safe. This moment of awareness hangs over both of us, and then Daisy cries out , in a high excited voice . “Look, ohhhh look, I’ve found a nest!!!”

THE CHILDREN


The fragile link restored between them, they sit together over breakfast outside in her garden. She watches the light touch the  thick silver streaks in his hair, stores up images of him for the times when he’s not there ….watches the deft way his hands peel fruit to share, pouring the coffee she’s made….lifting his eyes and grinning at her, as he catches her watching, and she hears the memory of him, saying , “I love to see you watching me”, reaches out for the coffee, smiles back at him, wants him, feeling a sudden fierce rush of desire. He sees it, smiles, puts down his coffee and reaching out, leads her back inside. 

Coupling on the unmade bed, she stifles her screams against his chest, takes his nipple between her teeth, hears him groan, feels him sink down amidst the tumbled sheets, until head between her parted thighs, he hears from a distance her stifled cries, as his beard rasps against the soft skin between her legs, tasting her sweet, salty spiciness, beyond thinking, but feeling her pulling him up, bringing him into her as he settles deep, as he kisses breasts, throat, mouth, tear streaked cheeks and then, asking, as he plunges deeper….”why are you crying “, but she has no words, pulls him to her tight, weeping, moaning like a felt but not heard singing, singing, bringing him home, moaning.

and as they lie tangled, gasping at the end, he looks to her and asks again “Why were you crying “…..

“crying with happiness “, she says and turns once more to him, as he holds her close, smiling.

AN INTERLUDE IN THE FOREST

Days pass, she lives as she did before, if you can call it living…..enduring. Straightening her spine, easing cramped muscles, walking the dogs…..remembering to breathe.

Working in the garden, digging with a fork removing weeds….replenishing green feed for her little hens, housework, shopping. All the ordinary daily doings…..forest walks in the evenings……and turning on a narrow bush track, as she searches for wild orchids, there he is, blocking her way.

Sees his piercing gaze, turns from it, wants to run, hide from him….but who is she kidding, neither herself or him. Heart thumping against her rib cage, struggling to breathe, legs weak and trembling, face flushed….she faces him. And making a decision he moves quickly, surefooted as a deer, closes the space between them, reaches, grabs hold of her, murmurs against her neck, “Maggie”…..and fiercer now “Maggie, you’ve got to talk to me!!!”

“I saw you….with her, saw how it was.

I saw you together, damn you!!!  What can you possibly want with me, and why are you here….WHY ARE YOU HERE.???”

He shakes his head, moves in closer, holds her tight against him.

“You told me you didn’t care, remember? You said so, to me”

“But that was before, and you know I was lying….even I, in my deluded state, knew I was lying. And then to see how it is between you”,  he stops her with his mouth, hot and urgent, she tastes his tongue, his lips,  feels his hand reaching beneath her skirt, the lovely hardness of him, pressing against her belly.

Biology always wins, mind emptied of everything now but this, her hand unzips him, closes around the delicate silky skin, feels his pulsing match her heartbeat, and right there between the ancient Ironbark trees, he lifts her up, settles her onto him….she is beyond regret or anger, beyond thought, simply moving to life’s oldest rhythm ….the dogs, noses to the ground leave them be, as joined together they sink down and down into blessed comfort of moss and leaves, gasping, her sobbing, pulling at his hair, as he thrusts deeper, kissing her mouth, eyelids, neck, moaning…. “I need you, do you not understand that I need you….I need you, or I can’t breathe”,  she hears him from far, far away….lost in the wild primeval tangle of two bodies struggling to hold on, to stay one, even as they peak, they come, the roaring in her ears fading, hears him, still, gasping, saying “I need you”, as his head falls back, as his limbs relax, yet still inside her, now turning her face to meet his gaze, she sees it….knows he speaks the truth, sees him now, soul bared to her, and gives in utterly spent, gives in to him, all the way.

“I believe you” and with nothing left to lose, she comforts him, as he has done for her…..holds him now, tender as a mother, strokes his hair, his face, touches fingers, then mouth to lips…”I believe you, my love…..I need you too.”

And later, lying behind him, her arm around his chest, fingers feeling his heart beat, listening to his breath as she slowly eases into sleep, still holding him….”there is no room here for jealousy, only a giving and receiving….a mutual need,”  then sleep takes her with him, perhaps to mingle with his dreams.

Waking, in the predawn dim, he finds himself looking straight into her eyes…so close, all he sees are the colours of her iris, golden green.

“Hello you” he says, voice husky with sleep. She doesn’t answer, and he sees the colours change, washed with tears.

“What? What is it?”

And still she says nothing as they well up, overflow, spill, wetting his hand as he reaches, touches her cheek. 

“Tell me, what is it?”

“You know you’ll have to leave me….soon…..eventually. You’ll want your own children, a family.”  He doesn’t speak, just gathers her in to him, holds her, wipes the tears, now falling freely…..murmurs small words of comfort, doesn’t try to rush her, just holds her close until her crying ceases.

“And no matter how I view it, intellectually, I will be broken ….I cannot bear to live the way it was, before”

“You’re wrong” he says, “listen to me!!!  You’re wrong. I have children. I had a family. A girl and a boy. I hardly ever see them….children and a wife, family life. Gone. I have no desire to do all that again.  I had them and I lost them.”

So, he understands….knows about loss and grief. The helplessness of life robbing you of everything you thought you had. She doesn’t ask for reasons, she knows enough to let it be. 

They’re both quiet now, looking into eyes revealing all the untold stories, naked to each other’s pain. 

“I’m sorry” she whispers against his chest, hearing his steady heartbeat.

“I need you,” he says into her hair.

“I need YOU.”

And exhausted from all this day has brought her, from crying, she falls back into sleep, comforted by the warmth, the smell, the strength of him.

AFTER THE FUNERAL

He calls me, late at night…”How are you ?,” I say, voice croaky with sleep.

“Arrrgh, sorry, so sorry to wake you, it’s just…..I’ve been thinking “

and coming fully awake now “it’s all right, tell me?”

“I want to spend time with my sister’s kids….get them out of the house. I don’t know if I’m asking too much of you….but I want you there with me”, I hear the breath catch in his throat, the hesitancy, but I also hear the need, and even deeper down, his knowing, knowing I’ll agree. 

It’s a simple straightforward request, I could no more refuse him, than I could refuse the three children, so, I tell him “Yes”, adding “ it’s not a matter of helping you out, although I am happy to. I WANT to do something for those children, who’ve already seen too much, of one kind of life….not enough of the other” and then, inspired “let’s take them camping, what do you think?”

“Camping? Where?”

“Come see me, soon as you can…..we’ll figure it out”,  and then another small silence, “What? What is it?” I ask him….

“I want to be with you now”, and I hold the phone, listen to his breathing, speak very quietly to him, “Come, come now, come and sleep the night with me, we’ll make some plans tomorrow “, and his voice, rougher now, “I don’t want to sleep “, and me “neither do I,” so, “come, drive carefully, but hurry,”  and then there’s laughter…..I end the call and lie quiet, in the late night pre dawn dark, waiting, waiting for him.

THE FIRST FIGHT

Over a shared breakfast, they talk about the children….the cabin by the lake comes to both their minds….with the addition of a tent for the children, for one thing, the cabin is one tiny room, for another, they both want time alone, together. Hiking, canoeing (he can get hold of a canoe)….”big enough for five?”, she asks, and he laughs, “we’ll manage.”

He licks honey off his fingers, leans over and kisses her mouth, then suddenly business like, he has to go. “Things to do,” he says, looks away.

She leaves the table, walks up to him, but he avoids her eyes, turns briskly, opens the door, walks outside.

And here it is, reality, like a punch in the guts.

A storm of self abuse rains down upon her, as she holds onto the table, feeling her legs give way.

Here it is, REALITY.

“You stupid, stupid, deluded old Woman, could you possibly think you could have him….hold onto him?

Ha!!!  Marry him, have his children.

Go look in the mirror, DO IT!!!”

And she does, and sees many many things….a lifetime etched into her face, tears, rage at all the feared impossibilities, the agony of aloneness, the visceral need of a man. Her mirrored image stares back, ruthless……she sees a face ravaged with loss and grief, and still keeps looking, until she sees her soul self, feels some small relief, some grace.

And looking back once again…..” I am more than a young body, a pretty face. I am ALL that I am, and I am enough.”

Quietened now, she clears away the breakfast leavings on the table, washes dishes…..makes the bed, refusing to change the sheets, remove the stains, the scent of their recent lovemaking….smoothing the old, faded, cherished quilt…..folding the doings of the night in, keeping them tucked away between the sheets…”for now”, she hears her inner voice say. “For now”

And later, she goes out, to the movies….enters another reality, loses herself completely.

The credits roll by on the screen, the lights come up, and there he is, arm around the shoulder of his girlfriend, leaning down to her, as she tilts her face up to him, laughing.

They are beautiful together….she stays in her seat watching them….so lovely, both of them. Watches, waits until they leave….is amazed to find she can stand up, walk down the theatre steps, breathe.

Finds her car keys, drives home, finds some peace in being alone…goes out into the darkness with her dogs, turns on the outside light….and walks among the spring flowering plants, smelling their perfume in this quiet, stillness and realises, “I am all right”

A few days later, a message on her phone, “sorry about the other day, the way I left. I’m sorry…..for being rude, for leaving you that way, I didn’t want to hurt you……

I’ve got hold of a canoe, talked to my sister. She’s grateful and the kids are keen.”

She finds no answer, can’t respond….the image of his other life etched into her mind’s eye.

She’s neither angry or sulking, a wall has dropped down between them, and she cannot navigate a way back through to him….the beautiful stranger she saw just nights ago, arm around his young lover.

And so she does, says nothing.

IN THE FOREST


AND IN THE AFTERMATH when he is gone, she takes her dogs, goes walking in the nearby Forest…..breathes great lungfuls of ice cold air.

The Forest floor transformed after the last few days of rain…..mosses,  dried brown through the long harsh summer are richly plump and vivid green, and infusing everything, the heavy scent of Eucalyptus, strong, sweet and healing.  She turns her mind to simple things, watches her dogs change from bored domestic creatures into their wolffish origins as walking turns to running, their noses lifting, scenting the air, then loping  wild things…..stopping, scent marking “we’ve been here” they say….”THIS is our territory…..WE have been here,” as they piss and piss again, marking ground, grasses and trees, triumphantly.

“Oh yes” she says quietly, “Oh, Yes…..we have been here, we have lived”  and cannot remember a time before, when she didn’t carry him inside her….the very essence of him.

AND ONCE MORE AT HOME…..Folding clothes, making the bed, removing the pile of books she’s read and read, finding peace in simple things, and soon she’ll pick flowers, fill vases, grace each room with them….because he exists. She lights a daily candle, stares into the flickering flame, speaks his name…..blesses him.

 And remembers that first, unexpected phone call….

“It’s Brian….if I’ve read you wrong, I could lose my job.”

“That won’t happen, but tell me….what did you read?”

“That you are interested in me…. like me”,  there is both laughter and hesitancy in his voice.

“I do. Yes, I AM interested in you…..Very!!!”

“Then will you come and have a drink with me….somewhere private, not local” ( and I can immediately see all the tongues wagging, like some ghastly cartoon)

“Ahhhh, what a good idea”, I say….”name the day.”

“Yesterday ,” he says, and then we both laugh…..the early unsureness easing.

“Yes, I respond….. I feel the same way, yesterday can’t come soon enough.”

Then, emboldened “Or right now, if you can?”

“Just let me take care of a few things….give me two hours, then I’ll be free”, and then laughing, relaxed, he says, “Hurry.”