Wayward Wednesday

Three flower photoart pieces, today. While the temperature was higher, so were the wind speeds.

Today I am remembering my sister Bryce, who died a year ago today. She was a visual artist, as well as a vocal soloist, instrumentalist and member of the 188th Army Band here in Fargo. After graduating with a degree in Child Development, she joined the Army National Guard, where she worked for almost 20 years. As my parents continue downsizing and passing along mementos, I have received are a black-and-white and several colored-pencil drawings that she had given to my parents as holiday and birthday presents.

I also edited a poetry/short story chapbook for Bryce during the 80s, which proof copy I gave to Bryce’s son after her death, after scanning the pages to files, so I can someday reproduce it. Nice stuff. There were seven of us until the end of September 2014. Now we are six. She was twelve years younger than me. None of us were close. Scattered, mostly, as we left for college or life’s work. As the acrimony increased at home and our numbers grew, we children did not maintain family ties as adults.

Too young to recognize what was going on, old enough to have a sense of self-preservation, and not smart enough to see that we could/should have established and maintained ties and open communication among the seven of us, independent of the family home.

I owe all of me that is good to the early presence of parental support and encouragement and the literary/artistic environment I grew up in, and I took that with me when I left. That’s been worth a lot.

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Various Flower Art

Fallen Petals
Fallen Petals

The weekend was somewhat occupied by various other activities, but I did get into the garden for short time periods over the two days to take photographs of the flowers—some of which were petals fallen in the grass by the time I got to them.  I also looked through some of the Wild Flax flower photos from previous years. It is interesting to me to see the variety of colors that emerge as the lighting/light quality changes.

 

 

Sam and Flea kept an eye out for marauding bunny rabbits while I took photographs in perfect safety.

Sam and Flea
Sam and Flea

 

Anniversary, Love (A Poem)

Today we are celebrating our 23rd wedding anniversary. As per my previous post: Throughout the past 20+ years, I have occasionally written stories and poems that include thoughts about my husband, marriage, relationships, love, &c. We were in our mid-forties when we (once more…after a lapse of nearly twenty years) began dating and married. I wrote this poem in 2007, shortly after our fifteenth wedding anniversary, imagining what I might feel if Al were dead, recasting the emotions in a “Halloween” poem for publication on the SFPA Halloween page. I did something similar for a science-fiction poem (Outward Voyage, bottom of page) that was published in Star*Line in 2011.

Enjoy!

“At Allantide”, by Liz Bennefeld

At Allantide the young girls sleep,
an apple beneath each pillow,
dreaming of their love to be.

At Allantide I sit awake, apple in hand,
waiting for the dear, sweet Allan of my dreams
to come again and dance underneath the moon,
orange above, amid dry barley propped up in sheaves.

Bones rattling, he takes my hand.
We spin across the threshing floor in tight embrace.
He promises, this Allantide . . . or maybe next,

Only a ghostly apple will sit upon a pillow
not dented when I can no longer stay awake.
Face matching his, I’ll dance a final song with him,
And then we both can sleep.

– Elizabeth Bennefeld, © 5 Oct. 2007 [Written for the Science Fiction
Poetry Association’s 2007 Online Halloween Poetry Reading Web page (MP3 available at SFPA)]

Source: At Allantide (SFPA – 2007), QuiltedPoetry.net

Falling in Love Slowly

Throughout the past 20+ years, I have occasionally written stories and poems that include thoughts about my husband, marriage, relationships, love, &c. We were in our mid-forties when we (once more…after a lapse of nearly twenty years) began dating and married. The following short story was written about four years after we married.

“Falling In Love Slowly”
by Lizl Bennefeld

When life became unbearable and those with “witch” talents were branded unacceptable by the local clerics, Tharal, the one who founded our family, crossed the western border into a more hospitable country, leading a string of horses fit for the army’s elite, seeking a new life. How he acquired those horses, we were never told.

Tharal traveled as far as the foothills on the northern border of his adopted country, where he entered into a partnership with Dalen, a local farmer, to breed a new strain of horses for speed and endurance that would far surpass the best stock ever seen in those parts. While they did not achieve their goal, the resulting breed was good and much sought after. More successful were the offspring of the union between Tharal and Dalen’s daughter, Eilis. Among their descendants was my father, Karlin. To him and my mother Maia, I owe the love and security of my early life. My name is Althaia.

Thanks to foreign blood, I’m tall and thin even in my sixth decade, and although my hair has turned from black to grey, my eyes are still sharp and my fingers are nimble. Growing up on a farm near the village of Ravendale, helping in the kitchen garden and fields, tending the horses and cattle, and, my own peculiar domain since the age of seven years, the herb gardens, provided me with a wide range of interests and skills. I was named Althaia after one of Dalen’s sisters, in the hope, no doubt, that I would also become a healer. I don’t know what they would have done if I’d shown no promise in the calling. Changed my name?

One doesn’t expect to fall in love for the first time at the age of forty-four. Life has settled down, by then, into a comfortable routine, with only the expected daily trials and challenges to cope with. The life of a healer and herbalist, teaching at a university, is taxing enough to consume at least thirty-six hours out of every twenty-four hour day. Love? Wedded life? No, thank you! No time available! Althaia, daughter of Karlin and Maia, is no fool. When there is no room on the schedule for one more activity, it cannot even be considered.

Even so, common sense and well established routines not withstanding, Alain and I were wed, and as we approach our fifteenth anniversary, it seems as though we’ve been together forever. It would appear that there’s always time for love, no matter what else must be neglected or postponed. And, the daily trials aren’t as difficult to cope with, when there is someone at home with whom to share them when the day is done.

During my youth, Alain’s path crossed mine a number of times. As far south as our farm was of Ravendale, his family’s farm was to the north. Alain loved to build things–storage sheds, stables, mills, bridges, whatever was needed. He thought out his projects beforehand, and planned and sketched until his drawings matched his own visions of what should be.

He and I knew of each other since early childhood, but it wasn’t until our early twenties that we actually spoke more than a “good day” to each other. The summer before my twenty-second birthday, having finished a good portion of my training as a healer, I was sent with one of my teachers to a border area near the coast where there had been some trouble with pirates coming ashore to loot and burn smaller, undefended villages. A coward by nature, I had not looked forward to this assignment with any measure of anticipation. I could deliver a child or help a new foal into the world, set a broken arm or leg, or concoct a brew to bring down fevers, but the thought of digging an arrow out of a leg or stanching the flow of blood from a sword wound distressed me. When we reached our destination, a crew was busy erecting a new bridge across the stream that flowed past the village. And there was Alain, sketches in hand, calling out directions to the workers.

I suppose I should say that I was immediately attracted to him, but I wasn’t. Alain is an ordinary sort of fellow. We’re of a height, but he tends to stocky, where I’m thin, and his hair is a washed-out brown, while mine was black. Today, my hair is stark silver, but his is still a light brown. His round face and pale blue eyes are tense, always concentrated on whatever task is at hand.

Yes, that fascinated me! The intensity of his concentration! He and I talked after the evening meal about my training and his bridge-building. In later years, other conversations were always lacking by comparison. I had never before been listened to by anyone like Alain listened to me. In turn, in explaining the processes of planning and building, Alain drew me into his own excitement at the process of creation. I was totally absorbed. But, the next morning we were summoned to a neighboring village to treat a child with a high fever (why do children eat everything they’re specifically told not to eat?), and Alain and his crew were gone by the time we returned.

We next met ten years later, when Alain was hired to remodel the stables for the new university in Beaveis, the capitol. He hadn’t changed–still intense and meticulous. While he was there, news arrived that his parents had died in a fire that destroyed the family’s house. We spent a whole night sitting beneath a tree near the stables, talking about our families and what they’d meant to us. He left the next morning for Ravendale. I later heard that Alain’s younger brothers took over management of the farm.

I didn’t see Alain again for over twelve years. Perhaps remembering our last meeting, he volunteered to bring me the news of my father’s death. I wish that I’d been there. I’d been out with a border patrol, two years before, when my mother died. Over the years, my visits home had been less and less frequent. It’s funny. We imagine that our parents will be there for us forever, and suddenly they’re gone, and we’re the oldest generation. For the next few year, Alain’s work kept him in the vicinity of Beaveis, where I had begun teaching courses in herbal medicine at the university, and we spent more and more time together. He was the only man outside of my profession who really heard me when I spoke, listened behind my words and answered my heart as well as my head. Perhaps it was living together through the loss of our parents, crying on one another’s shoulder and knowing the grief was both understood and shared, that finally cemented the bond that had begun to form so many years ago.

Alain is a good man. I love him dearly, and I find that our love continues to grow and deepen with the passing months and years. We have made a new, a fuller life with each other, here. Someone to share the joys, the secret smiles, the burden of the losses and the exhilaration of each day’s achievements. I could regret the lost years, the years spent alone before we discovered our love for each other, but that space apart shaped who Alain is today, and I love him as he is.

Copyright © 1996, by Elizabeth W. Bennefeld. All rights reserved.

 

Where was Thursday morning?

fog at 9:00 a.m.
Fog at the End of the Street

I think that rain may have continued through the night. But even so, the fog was still relatively thick and the flowers and grass heavy with dew at nine o’clock, this morning. Samantha decided to leave Flea inside, today, possibly thinking that she did not care to drag a wet toy into her dry burrow beneath the end table for their morning nap. She stared morosely at the foggy street, and then turned toward the house and trudged to the (new) back step to wait for me to finish with picture-taking.

my black cocker spaniel staring through the backyard fence
Samantha, Staring into the Fog

The blue wild flax was soaked, stems, flowers and leaves, and the lighting was nonexistent. However, I have had fun playing with filters to bring some definition to the flowers and their stems. Only one “flower art” piece, today.

2 wild flax flowers, colors manipulated reddish gold, fresh dew throughout
Art Piece, No. 23904

Still feeling quite tired after our trip to visit the parents. I slept straight through until eight o’clock, this morning. I expect that I should have something to eat before I go back to bed. I made yogurt Tuesday evening, and we bought ice cream. Maybe I will simply go back to sleep. (I think that Al has.)

Yesteryear’s flowers

Flower Art, September 2014
Flower Art, September 2014

The rainstorm let up, but the air was cool enough to make the drive to my parents’ place comfortable. We had a nice visit, and then Al and I carried to the car the things that we are to keep for them. Dad insisted on giving me two of his reference books from writing. The 20th Century news day by day (must check on the actual title) and the Encyclopedia of Ireland (ditto—they’re in the other room), both of which I shall enjoy. He said that he is not writing, now, and does not do much reading, and he wanted to be sure that I had my pick of books, again.

I now have, also, the pencil drawings that my sister Bryce gave to my mother over many years. They are framed. I shall enjoy being able to look at them when I like. The first anniversary of her death is next Wednesday.

There are areas in which I am not gifted—too slow, too elsewhere oriented and tightly focused, oblivious —that did not have any positive impact on relationships within my family of origin. Given the trade-offs as I now see them, I don’t think I would have been inclined to change earlier. Life certainly is odd.