Broken… But Not Beyond Repair (Weekly Photo Challenge)

This week, capture something broken.

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Renovation… Restoration… These notions don’t apply only to buildings, do they? We all too often undergo a process of renewal ourselves, we try to repair broken parts of our being, we piece together shards of our soul, our hopes and dreams, in desperate attempts to become what we had been ‘before’. Such an intimate struggle is often best kept hidden from prying eyes, we need time and privacy to recover.

Do they think they’re fooling anyone? That’s the question I heard from many people when passing buildings covered in an image of what they looked like and/or what they would look like once all the repair works are carried out. I know they’re joking, the same way I know they know nobody is expected to mistake an image on a panel for the real thing; and often enough, when I’m deeply involved in my own life and thoughts, I don’t even pay attention to these walls about to be fixed. But when the building is a special one or when I’m in a melancholic mood, I can’t help but wondering, how many times do we manage to piece ourselves together as discretely as we might think do? And when those around seem not to notice, how often is it out of respect for our privacy and how often is it mere indifference?

We develop acting skills we aren’t always aware of; and we need our masks, so underneath them we can take our time and restore our true, broken selves. Like many women, I am well-versed in applying my ‘mask’, and that is also because it can be that actual first step towards feeling better and getting better. Think about it, ladies… Dark circles, puffy eyes, pale skin and any other sign betraying sleepless nights, tears, disappointment and pain have been and will be concealed by our expert touch countless times, simply because we don’t want to answer any questions, we don’t always need to share our hurt – be it superficial or of the deepest kind – before we are ready to do it. Once the mirror projects an image closer to that version of us we like, once we are done practicing our relaxed, carefree smile until we have once again perfected it, we might even feel a shiver of relief and budding confidence – yes, if that small part of who we are can be fixed, then perhaps we can do the same with our entire being. So we continue the process, not only to hide our suffering from others, but to give ourselves hope and confidence that we are going to get over yet another bump in the road. We go on and wear that special outfit, so that when we look in the mirror we see the person we want to be and not the mess that we might be at that particular moment and we are a little bit grateful that at least we still have control over some things.

Some might call it shallow pretence, but small things do make a difference. After all, we fix what’s broken the way we know best, we make use of whatever small things work for us. We might simply need a boost, we might have to entirely rebuild or reinvent ourselves, we have our own more or less controversial ways of achieving it, but there are times when we want nobody to witness our struggle. Certain broken parts can be fixed, but time and privacy might be required – hence the cover-up, it just makes it easier. The worthy ones will see beyond the ‘screen’ anyway.

Parallel Lives – Sample Fragment 61

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Their night in the mountain resort was one of innocence lost, but what surprised Amalia was how normal it felt to her; it wasn’t so much a change, but a realisation of how things should be, who she was as a woman and how great it felt to control and lose control at the same time. Insecurity left room to pride and she felt happy, as she realised what an effect she had on the man who was now driving silently.

“What do you think about a repeat of all this in a week or so?”

“I wouldn’t say no, but at a different time.”

“Why? Have you got plans with your boyfriend?”

“No need for sarcasm…”

“I was just saying… Maybe the poor sucker is looking forward to coming back and seeing you and for once you don’t want to disappoint him.”

“You’re the poor sucker, if that’s all you could understand so far. That being said, perhaps we shouldn’t make plans in advance.”

For more sample fragments from Parallel Lives, see: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/396169

Forces of Nature… Or of Human Nature When Travelling (Weekly Photo Challenge)

This week, share a force of nature from your corner of the world.

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I managed to get to my window seat without anybody stepping on my feet; there was plenty of room for my carry on bag; there were no screaming children seated close by; and the gentleman seated next to me appeared to be a very civilized, polite person. I sighed with relief – all these aspects were nothing but miraculous, given the chaos of people boarding what was obviously going to be a full Airbus A310. There was still hope, I could enjoy the flight, I could relax and empty my mind while staring at the clouds – yes, I know, I have all too often bored everybody with my predilection for seeing the wonders of nature from above. I could even take a nap – I was exhausted after all. As it turns out, it was indeed a good opportunity to ponder on the wonders of nature… of human nature when travelling, that is…

Has it ever struck you how people undergo a radical metamorphosis when traveling, especially if they are on vacation? We often resemble a swarm of locusts rather than the civilized individuals we embody in our day to day life. Yes, I am aware of the psychological factors, but that doesn’t mean observing this manifestation is any less fascinating. We eat and drink everything and anything, dishes and beverages that we wouldn’t even touch at home. We wear the most ridiculous outfits either because they are more than comfortable, or because we have some distorted, cliché ideas about what we should wear in a particular place. But it’s allowed when travelling, right? And let’s not even get into all those ridiculous souvenirs that we buy, only to wander what we were thinking when we get back home. I admit I also have a couple of tacky fridge magnets which make me doubt my general sanity… Somehow, travelling makes most of us more desperate to consume everything that’s available, from food and entertainment to art and culture.

The trip isn’t really over until we get off the plane, so the flight time is the final occasion to let our inner locust thrive. But while many of my travel fellows were restlessly looking forward to their snacks and beverages, I was contemplating going to sleep. The view out the window wasn’t too impressive, I didn’t feel like reading and my inner locust draws the line at airplane food, since I am a picky eater even if I am travelling. I knew I had to wait until they were done with their food, the unappetizing smell of the warm meal and the noise were going to keep me awake. But who knew the travel habits of the gentleman sitting next to me would keep me awake too?…

He was clearly very interested in his appearance – a man in his early fifties probably, in good shape and neatly dressed in his casual designer clothes, to which he had matched a rather expensive watch and a very nice pair of shoes. Thus I wasn’t at all prepared for what followed…

The flight attendant served us our lunch and as usual, I couldn’t bring myself to tell her I didn’t even want to see the unappetizing dish on the folding table in front of me. So I thanked her politely and thought I could eat the chocolate bar and have a glass of orange juice. After all, there are people starving in the world… but since I couldn’t figure out how my consuming that awfully smelling meal would help them, I didn’t touch the rest. While I couldn’t help a grimace of disgust, my neighbour asked for a glass of wine, a glass of apple juice and a glass of water, which he carefully aligned next to the food tray. After almost inhaling the questionable meat and whatever gooey things accompanied it, scraping the dish clean, he moved on to the bread roll… which presented a certain cardboard-like quality. With expert moves, he spread the small lump of butter in a thin layer and even the crumbs were gone in record time. I would imagine slightly buttered cardboard makes one very thirsty, so this is probably why the gentleman proceeded to drink from the carefully aligned glasses – apple juice, wine, some more juice, water and so on, until no drop was left in any of them. Just as I was watching him with the corner of my eye, thinking he had nothing left to devour, he made one final discovery – there was a bit of jam he hadn’t seen before. In a matter of seconds, everything had been scooped out of the minuscule plastic container. In a fit of restraint, he set aside the chocolate bar, so he could have it with the cup of instant coffee and with that of hot tea the flight attendant served after the meal. True enough, she did ask, “Coffee or tea?”; but when our gentleman replied, “Both,” she chose not to debate it any further.

Now I can finally go to sleep, I figured, once the trash had been collected. I was just dozing off when a somewhat familiar rattling noise brought me back to reality. It was time for my neighbour to check his finances, obviously – he had taken an impressive amount of coins out of his man purse and now he was counting them diligently on the folding table. Lots of five cent pieces, I couldn’t help noticing… Once that little task was performed, he could finally find some peace of mind and move on to taking a little after lunch nap. Good, that meant I could sleep too.

He’s chocking, was the first thought to cross my sleepy mind some ten minutes later. No, not chocking, just snoring… And to think I had assumed peace and quiet were guaranteed just because there were no screaming children around… Luckily, there were still things to be consumed, so he didn’t sleep for long. Once awake, the ladies’ issue of the airline’s magazine received his undivided attention, so I could take a blissful half an hour nap. It was an overwhelming aftershave fragrance and some unexplainable warmth that woke me up this time. I opened my eyes to see the fashionable gentleman leaning over me, only a few centimetres away, staring at the clouds, his forehead close to the window. I cleared my throat and my angry glance made him sit down and stare at his shoes for a while. Well, I was certainly awake and since sleep was no longer an option, I started analysing the oddities of human nature when traveling… I suppose they need to be referred to as eccentricities when it comes to certain people…

And speaking of eccentric individuals… after another nap, our gentleman proceeded to entertain himself with the other magazine the airline had so generously provided him with. For my final delight, he took interest in the map showing all the flights and destinations of the airline we were flying. And that’s when it happened. A strip of paper found its way out of my neighbour’s bag and after a brief, yet careful analysis of both the map and the paper, he started measuring. Yes, the width of the paper became a measuring unit, allowing him to roughly calculate the length of various routes on the map…

I tried to immerse myself in the grandeur of nature and life unfolding under us as the plane started to descend. Humans have managed to tame and control forces of nature in many situations so far. How do we tame and control the human nature of the traveller though, especially of the eccentric one? Is it advisable to try or is it one of those things that should be accepted as they are, an integrant and undeniable characteristic of our species? Humans might be one of those forces of nature more difficult to tame and contain after all… But between the people sitting behind me bragging about how much they had spent on their holiday and the eccentric gentleman surreptitiously “borrowing” the free magazines, I just couldn’t reach a conclusion…

Parallel Lives – Sample Fragment 60

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Images of the sun setting over a vineyard fade away in one’s mind; so do those of the mountain peaks seen from a hotel room. It’s the sensations of some summer nights that cannot be swept away by storms over the years, because they find a special corner in a woman’s mind, sheltered as defining instants and melancholy triggers.

The first time a girl has sex is one of those memories, but it’s often facts, not sensations, it’s often contexts and people that confer it an unalterable place in the girl’s mind. Some women, some special women, choose to also note and treasure a different kind of a first time – the one with that man who has finally taught them what it is and what it feels like to be a woman. Because it takes more than sex and more than just a male for such a moment to come to life for the first time – it takes a real man, one with real character and personality, one with ambition, experience and strength, one with a past and a future. And it also takes a woman able to note and appreciate such qualities, one that can be his equal and can also allow room for him to be himself.

For more sample fragments from Parallel Lives, see: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/396169

Parallel Lives – Sample Fragment 59

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The barrier of polite speech was gone between them and being crude about the realities of their interaction was not meant to be offensive; if anything, it was a term of endearment, a testimony of their intimacy, but also a turn on for him.

“I don’t think I was so exhausting, you didn’t have a problem keeping up with me.”

“That’s not what I meant. I was referring to your mis-en-scene. The outfit, your actions, everything was perfect, like a movie moment really. That’s what I hadn’t had since too long to remember: a beautiful woman, who’s not afraid to be perfect, who creates a night like that, who turns screwing into a phantasy… or the phantasy into real sex… I don’t know. You know what I mean.”

“Sure. You like me because I’m not real. Or you think such a thing cannot be real. And I agree with you.”

“So… what do you think? Was I what you expected?”

“Of course,” she muttered, looking away distracted.

Everything and more… so much more. But that’s something to carefully dissect and think over at home.

For more sample fragments from Parallel Lives, see: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/396169

Motion (Weekly Photo Challenge)

This week, share your photographs that have captured motion, and tell us the stories behind the images.

I took these photos quite a few years ago in a small town in the south of Italy. It was Ferragosto and everybody was celebrating – the dancing was just starting as we arrived. I felt out of place at first, overdressed as I was, coming straight from the nice restaurant where we had dinner. But such a trivial matter made no difference in that small town square, where vibrant traditional music sipped through old walls and narrow streets, invading every fiber of our beings. People were just people for one night, it didn’t matter who they were, what they wore or what language they spoke. It didn’t matter that I was still struggling to understand their dialect, it didn’t matter that my Italian friends had immediately disappeared into the crowd, joining the dancers. I soon understood that I didn’t need to know anyone or anything, not even the steps to the pizzica or the tarantella, that night was all about enjoying the moment. They had accepted me as one of their own even if I couldn’t dance their dances or speak their dialect too well :-) … That was the night when traditional folk from Southern Italy appeared to me more welcoming and open than ever before, thus proving once more that music, dance and celebration help us relate on a completely different level.

Early Bird (Weekly Photo Challenge)

This week (and especially if you’re among those who find the early bird concept cringe-worthy), I encourage you to set your alarm for the early hours, grab your first (several) cups of coffee, and challenge yourself to capture an outstanding photograph in the early morning light.

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Let me preface this by saying that I am not a morning person! Say what you will, laugh if you must, but waking up earlier than my normal hour equals torture to me. Personally, I blame it on genetics – both my parents suffer from this ‘ailment’ :-) .

I will wake up early in the morning whenever I must, but I will also hate myself and the world for it… especially if such a depressing situation occurs at the weekend. So this Saturday was no exception to the rule… While driving through the almost deserted streets on an already warm and sunny morning, all I could do was think that I really should have drunk that third cup of coffee before applying my makeup. That way I might have not been yet again reminded that early mornings, mascara and contact lenses often don’t go well together.

Once I sorted out that aspect while being the only one waiting at a traffic light, I could move on to hating all those fortunate people who were still in their beds. But if everything went well, if I found parking right away and the annoying little task presented no unexpected complications, I could be back home and under the covers in about half an hour.

Yes, that was the only thought that made me feel better. Did I care about the unique opportunity to see the town so calm and sleepy in daylight? Not even a bit… Did I reach for my phone to take at least one photo of all those traffic lights with no cars waiting for the lights to change? The thought never crossed my grumpy mind. I caught a glimpse of the sea with the corner of my eye – I think it looked calm and lazy – but I couldn’t even be bothered to turn my head and take a better look, much less stop and think about it. So that chance of having some fresh, new photos for the challenge was lost on me :-) .

That being said, I will admit there were many occasions when not only was I lucky to be awake at an annoyingly early hour, but I have done it on purpose, without it being a must. Such a case was on a trip to Rome a few years back. We caught a very early flight, dropped the luggage at the hotel and started wandering the streets at an hour when sleepy waiters were still trying to get the cafes ready for another day of touristic invasion. That’s how we accidentally got to the Trevi Fountain without any effort, without even trying, without having to fight hoards of people in order to get close to it. I took my time to look around and cherish the peace and quiet. Only a few more sleepless souls were there to enjoy the morning treat – it looked so different, the experience felt so much more real then all the other occasions on which I saw the fountain later on, during the same trip…

There already were tourist out and about by the time we made it to the Pantheon and we could even stop at a café and reward ourselves with much needed espressos and breakfast. But those special, almost private moments by the Trevi Fountain will always stay with me… That’s probably why I didn’t even considered throwing in a coin and wishing to never have to wake up early again… :-)

Parallel Lives – Sample Fragment 58

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She did want to get home, but not just because she felt suffocated, she also started to like this, to like him, his company was pleasant and intrusive at the same time, and that was much stronger a reason. Certain complications need to be avoided.

“You were great last night… It was like you were reading my mind.”

“Was I really?”

“Give me a break, false modesty doesn’t become either one of us. You were unbelievable and you know it very well.”

“What can I say, I aim to please… See, I can do cliché as well.”

“You can do lots of things. Is there something you can’t do? I got a hardon only seeing how prepared you were… that sexy outfit of yours, the massage oil… and that stuff with the ice cubes, I didn’t even know I liked that. I haven’t been fucked this way in a long time, you know…”

She flinched at the sound of the word. Why can’t men just call it having sex?

For more sample fragments from Parallel Lives, see: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/396169

Parallel Lives – Sample Fragment 57

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“Nice place… You can’t even see this entrance from the main road, how did you find it?”

“I got lost years ago and I took this little country road by mistake, thinking it was the one which was supposed to take me to a hotel I had never stayed at before. Instead I found this place and decided to spend the night here and do some damage to their wine collection. Plus, they’re very friendly at the little inn they have, and the food is great.”

“Of course, the stuff of legends, the universally agreed upon way to find little gems and picturesque places.”

“Sure, go on, mock all you want, but it’s a very nice place, you’ll see.”

She looks absentminded, staring at the vineyard like I’m not even here… Robert couldn’t avoid acknowledging the return to her original distance and cold front. One person last night and another one now. The view of the vineyard surrounding them while having lunch didn’t fail in melting some of her indifference, but she was still restless halfway through her desert, when a small revelation cleared her mind.

For more sample fragments from Parallel Lives, see: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/396169

Parallel Lives – Sample Fragment 56

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She did want the full experience, she thought, and in his turn, Robert not only wanted the same thing, but he was clearly a lot more invested in obtaining it and enjoying it than she was. That might have something to do with one’s age, but the real culprit is most likely the selfishness that makes some people so detached and indifferent to others’ needs, once the body and the ego have obtained the sexual gratification and acknowledgement for which they were initially striving.

“You said your family had a small vineyard when you were a child, right? You’d go and play around, while watching the adults pick grapes and make wine every autumn.”

“I did, yes. And your point is…”

“Then I know where we’re having lunch. It might be too early to fool around and watch how they make the wine, but it’s never too early to take a few bottles home with us.”

The car swerved abruptly to the left on a deserted country road and after a few hundred metres Amalia could see the name of a vineyard carved and painted on an old wooden sign as they were entering the gates.

For more sample fragments from Parallel Lives, see: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/396169

Ephemeral (Weekly Photo Challenge)

This week’s theme: ephemeral. Show us your interpretation!

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Waves calm down eventually. At least that’s what we tell ourselves, even if we have no idea when and how that might happen… It helps us find the strength to fight the storm. Struggle may be futile, but those of us who aren’t fatalists need to know that at least we’ve tried and did our best, no matter whether we succeed or not.

The Inspiring Blogger Award

 

Every once in a while I get reminded how many interesting, amazing people there are in this blogging world. Their stories are unique in their own way, yet how many times have we not found ourselves in a stranger’s words?… How many times have we not relived our own traumas and joys simply by reading somebody’s poem, by emerging ourselves in somebody else’s experience?… Words pour into our minds and souls – strangers’ words, not even our own – and they help our personal feelings, emotion and ideas crystalize. We may not always agree with certain opinions, we may often disapprove of certain choices and lifestyles, but the moment we learn to accept that all these people are as entitled to have a voice and share their individuality as we are, is the moment when we start growing. None of us can hear all the voices, nobody can read all the words, but trying to discover, understand, recognize and accept more of them is never a waste of time.

On this note, I would like to thank somebody I have recently discovered, for having nominated me for the Inspiring Blogger Award. Thank you, Sue Dreamwalker from https://aquileana.wordpress.com/ :-) .  Your incursions in mythology is a nice reminder of all those school days when I used to read stories about ancient times, sometimes forgetting to separate history from myths.

It’s good to give back once in a while, so the second rule implied by receiving this award – nominating 10 other bloggers – is really no chore. I won’t pick favourites this time, I will simply refer to a few of the newer blogs I have started to follow. All of them bravely share bits and pieces of their lives and souls, be it in prose, verse, or photography. So let us all stop being critics for a moment or two and pay them a visit, trying to see them for what they are – individuals with a voice and a story (the same way we would perhaps like others to perceive us).

https://lillianthehomepoet.wordpress.com/

http://suejudd.com/

https://janeslittlesecrets.wordpress.com/

https://kritidhingra.wordpress.com/

http://thejamielea.com/

https://harbourgalleryblog.wordpress.com/

https://theentiretyoflife.wordpress.com/

https://poetsmith.wordpress.com/

https://jsegarra.wordpress.com/

https://bythebriny.wordpress.com/

Let’s see… I have displayed the award on my blog, I have thanked and linked back to the person who has nominated me and I have, in my turn, nominated others and let them know about it. My job here is done. Oh, wait… I was also supposed to mention 7 facts about myself. Perhaps I could overlook this one… I have accomplished this task when receiving other awards, so I hope I’m covered ;-)

Have a nice weekend, all of you!

Parallel Lives – Sample Fragment 55

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The two day trip was as close as you can get to an out of body experience, a step towards something else that resembled readjustment, more than change. The drive back home takes forever when all you want is to finally be by yourself, so you can analyse and categorize all aspects of a new experience; closeness becomes overbearing, and indulging in another person’s company all of the sudden turns into an ordeal. Sex tends to bring people together, all the barriers or propriety and privacy are expunged and such devouring closeness allows for no personal space. So Amalia was trying hard to accept, perhaps even enjoy the other person’s company, in spite of his growing, suffocating familiarity towards her; she knew he meant well, she knew he was trying to offer her a beautiful day in the mountains before heading home, and she knew that – above everything – he was trying to prolong their little adventure away as much as possible.

For more sample fragments from Parallel Lives, see: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/396169

Driving By A Marriage Proposal (Weekly Photo Challenge)

For this week’s photo challenge, share with us a photo that expresses something fresh.

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No, no, it wasn’t meant for me (good thing it wasn’t, because I would have kept driving)… :-)

I have unwillingly intruded – together with hundreds of unsuspecting drivers – upon a somewhat unusual marriage proposal. The sun was shinning, flowers were blooming, birds were chirping and there it was, stopped on the side, in a dusty, empty parking lot – a car with a banner awkwardly tied to it’s trunk. That simple question so many girls dream of hearing, resonating deeply in their hearts, was spray-painted in black, uneven letters on said banner. A photographer was immortalizing the special moment for the happy, strikingly young couple, so I suspect the question was met with an affirmative answer :-) . People were slowing down, many of them even stopping to take a closer look at the unexpected, personal unfolding of the fresh start of a life together for the young couple. Will it last or will their story have peaked with that proposal on the side of a road, on a sunny, early spring day? Who can tell… I wish them well, whoever they are.

One thing’s for sure – the fresh flowers, the budding trees and the bright sun have gotten to all of us, not only to the birds and the bees ;-) . I look at many of the people around and it seems that something has melted within their souls – it’s that recurring transfiguration we witness every spring, the very one that disappears a few days later, as soon as warm days and lively colours become the norm again. But it’s fun while it lasts. ;-)

World Poetry Day

“The truth seems to be, however, that when he casts his leaves forth upon the wind, the author addresses, not the many who will fling aside his volume, or never take it up, but the few who will understand him better than most of his schoolmates or lifemates. Some authors, indeed, do far more than this, and indulge themselves in such confidential depths of revelation as could fittingly be addressed only and exclusively to the one heart and mind of perfect sympathy; as if the printed book, thrown at large on the wide world, were certain to find out the divided segment of the writer’s own nature, and complete his circle of existence by bringing him into communion with it. It is scarcely decorous, however, to speak all, even where we speak impersonally. But, as thoughts are frozen and utterance benumbed, unless the speaker stand in some true relation with his audience, it may be pardonable to imagine that a friend, a kind and apprehensive, though not the closest friend, is listening to our talk; and then, a native reserve being thawed by this genial consciousness, we may prate of the circumstances that lie around us, and even of ourself, but still keep the inmost Me behind its veil.”

Nathaniel Hawthorne – The Scarlet Letter

http://www.un.org/en/events/poetryday/2015/dgmessage.shtml

Take a few minutes and read a poem today… feel the words and let emotions take over you… Remember how the written word enriches our lives, it’s World Poetry Day after all! :-)