Sunday, 30 August 2015

Paikea and the Whale.

(This is the second part of my telling of the Maori myth of Paikea. 
In the first half of the story, it is explained how Paikea's brother Ruatapu comes to be disowned by their father, and comes to be jealous and resentful of his many siblings - and how Ruatapu plots to destroy them. He creates a canoe with a hidden hole, so that when his brothers sail in it, it begins to capsize and to sink.
But because the image of Paikea, the whale and Tangaroa came so clearly to my mind, I've written and illustrated the end of the story first - although I will return to tell the beginning of the tale at a later date.
So this half of story begins with tragedy - with Paikea and his numerous brothers helpless and adrift on the ocean, their canoe collapsed, and a tempest brewing.....)

...Although the siblings were hardy men and strong swimmers, they were no match for the squalls that hammered down around them. Waves bellowed and heaved themselves up onto their highest peak, before crashing their weight fully down onto the now splintered and shredded canoe - and onto the helpless souls cast adrift. 
Paikea was dragged under the weight of the roaring waves, gulping in salt water before battling to rise to the surface again, spluttering and coughing. And through the raging storm, he watched helplessly as one by one, his brothers succumbed to the water, and gave up their souls to the ocean. 

And so, in his desperation, Paikea called aloud to his descendent - to the ancient god of the sea. He called again and again, amidst the foam and the deafening swirl - called to the son of Ranginui and Papatuanuku.
And he was heard.

Out of the swirling, thundering waves there suddenly came a gathering and bubbling and a frothing - and from the depths rose Tangaroa.  Impossibly tall, impossibly majestic - commander of the tides and all that swum amongst its blue depths. The water rushed across his vast shoulders and poured in great torrents from his hair, as he cast his gaze impassively over the boiling seas. 
 The god gazed silently down at the tiny Paikea, now desperately clutching a fractured splinter of the ruptured canoe, his grip failing, and about to succumb to the depths. 

Tangaroa raised his hands aloft. And from the waters there was a second outburst, as from the depths leapt a whale - enormous and hulking in its sturdiness - which cut through the raging seas, and towards the exhausted and sea-soaked figure. 
The whale dipped beneath the wave once more, and beneath Paikea - only to re-emerge moments later with the young man clinging to its back.

(Click on image for larger version.)

Tangaroa's eye settled on Paikea, now perched atop of the leviathan, and the smallest hint of a smile broke briefly across the crag of his gigantic, implacable, tattooed face. Then he turned, and sank slowly back beneath the waves once more, the sea blanketing him, covering him entirely, and leaving behind nothing but foam. 

And Paikea clung tightly to the mottled barnacle rubble of the whale's back, feeling the sheer brute force of muscle beneath the rough, and the curious elegance of the enormous creature. It curled with joyful abandon, arched its back, and plunged first into the air, and then down, down, down into the swirling green water beneath. 
The world vanished to that all-engulfing green stillness. The water now becalmed and gentle, cradling the whale and its unusual passenger, swooshing and swirling around Paikea's ears, and surrounding him with the songs and wondrous rhythmic melodies of the ocean.

They swam for countless days, through nights and in and out of limitless hours. Intermittently, the whale breached and broke the surface of the ocean, leaping clear in a joyous curve, before crashing back beneath, leaving a fountain of seaspray in its wake.
Paikea clung to its back, lulled to peace by its haunting, echoing song, by the steady, dependable curve of its back, and of its sweeping tail.

The whale left him, after a time, healed and calmed and composed, and safe. 
Some say the whale left Paikea on the soft shores of a new land - and returned to Tangaroa, bowing its tail as it broke the waves one final time. 
Others say the whale breached onto the shore, and its great body grew and grew - and became the land on which Paikea and his ancestors lived and thrived. The land named Aotearoa (or what is often now called New Zealand. )

But that's a story for another day.

....................

I must credit two sources for the inspiration for this illustration - firstly the great Ray Harryhausen, whose remarkable creations brought Jason and the Argonauts to vivid, spellbinding life for me as a child, in the 1963 Don Chaffey film
It was the magnificent arrival of Poseidon - summoned to hold apart The Clashing Rocks, and to allow our heroes safe passage through - that was one of the film's great highlights for me (well, that and the rising of the skeletons) - and which imprinted itself firmly in my imagination.

And of course, the haunting and beautiful Whale Rider film, directed by Niki Caro, and based on the novel by Witi Ihimaera. The entire film is stunning, but it was the arrival of the whales - and of Paikea's guiding of them back out to sea - that stayed with me long after my first viewing - and which prompted me to investigate the original story. 

And I didn't discover this until after my drawing was complete, but I found Tiki Taane's wonderful Tangaroa to be deeply powerful and compelling.
................

N.B Yes, I know that humpback whales are much, much larger than the one portrayed in my picture. But it would have been tricky to make out Paikea properly, had he been correctly proportioned and scaled down. 
And besides, its a mythical whale conjured up by an ancient God, so I think it can be an unusual size. 
(Artistic licence, and all that. )

Thursday, 27 August 2015

The ninety-eight percent.


In a recent Nerd HQ Conversation with Marvel Q+A session, a fan asked four cast members from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Agent Carter to explain who inspired them. 
Actor James D'Arcy gave a really lovely and thoughtful reply - (slightly edited below, to remove any pauses) which kept rolling round my head for days afterwards:

'...I don't really read newspapers very often, because I find what I read in it to be deeply affecting, and usually pretty negative. 
And maybe it's an age thing? I don't know.... but I am oddly inspired by small acts of kindness that will never be reported in a newspaper. 
So I see .....somebody....helping someone across the street (or something)... And I find myself almost moved to tears - by that. Because that's not someone who's gonna win an award for doing that.  
I see people doing things that go unnoticed. And not all the time - most of the time I miss it - but when my eyes are open, and I manage to catch it... Those are the moments that really floor me - I think that is 98% of what the world looks like
And I feel like I read the 2% all the time. And it's very frightening, the 2%. 
So....it's not a brilliant answer, because I have no name, and nobody who we..... globally recognise to give us an answer.  
But that would be my answer, in terms of inspiration - is.... every time I see somebody do something that is... genuinely beautiful and human. I feel inspired by that.' 

And I completely agree. It's its so easy to overlook these tiny moments, and to get flooded by the deluge of frightening and negative international news.  But it's the small things that really do matter.

(Photograph found here.)
 So lets hear a hurray for people and their everyday small, kind, quiet deeds.

A hurray for our resident Big Issue vendor, who found a debit card on the street outside my shop, and came whizzing straight in to us, insisting that I promptly rung the bank -  in case the owner had realised they had lost it, and was worried.
(The same Big Issue vendor brought tools and glue in with him one afternoon and, unprompted and unannounced, sat and mended the splintered broken leg on our outdoor display board for us. 
And who left his pitch (and any possible sales) in order to help us unload a van full of heavy boxes, tables and shelving. )

Hurray for the very nice man I spoke to at the call centre on the phone at the bank who was genuinely moved and pleased that someone had found the debit card and rung to report it - and thanked us sincerely.

For the woman on Amanda Palmer's Patreon Facebook group, who discovered a forgotten stash of AFP badges, and offered them up - with free postage - to anyone in the group who wanted to claim one. 
Another woman who posted photos of her artwork and crafting, and who offered to make gifts of them - and to send them for free to the first people to say yes, please.
And the countless numbers of people in the group offering gentle words of support, familiarity, love and reassurance to others who have been bravely sharing on the group page their stories of loss, or pain, or anxiety. 

For the regular customer and friend of my bookshop, who not only messaged to offer us vegan cake on a very stressful weekend - but then turned up with four big boxes, for us all to share.

For the woman in my Facebook feed who expressed her delighted surprise at watching a car stop across the way from her - and wait patiently in order for a goose and her large flock of goslings to slowly and safely cross the busy road.

For the member of staff at Manchester Piccadilly who dropped everything to make sure an anxious young woman struggling with a pushchair and toddler was helped onto her train. And then who actually boarded the train with her, moments before it was due to pull out - in order to co-ordinate other passengers and the shifting of suitcases. She and her child were then assured that they had an easily accessible spot to sit and a place to park their pushchair.

For the security guard at my local supermarket, who makes a point of quietly and sincerely wishing each customer a very pleasant evening, as they leave the shop. 

Hurray for the jolly man who served me recently in Lush - who not only stayed bright and chipper on the till with his entire long stream of customers (and in a very crowded and noisy shop), but also gave a woman ahead of me a spontaneous gift of a free Bath Bomb (as a reward for her honesty) - as she handed back the extra fiver he'd mistakenly given her in her change.

For the three different parents of genderqueer and of transgender young adults who've visited our shop recently, and who have all spoken of their pride in their children for being just who they are - and who are all (without any fanfare or fuss) quietly getting on with helping them navigate their questions and choices, and offering them unconditional love and encouragement.

For the woman just ahead of me in the street one day recently, who stopped to speak to a homeless man sitting half-sheltered in the pouring rain - who not only sat with him a while, and offered to go buy him a meal, but also took the time to ask him his preference for sandwich filling, crisp and cake flavour and what type of hot drink he'd like. And returned promptly with them all. 

These are just a few encounters that I've personally been aware of in the last week or so - and are just a handful of the small, quiet acts that take place daily. Not to mention all the tiny moments of courtesy or kindness - doors being held open for strangers, people stooping to help pick up dropped items, or making way for others.
Little moments that aren't newsworthy or reported, but are human and genuine. And well worth noting.

(Photograph found here.)

Friday, 21 August 2015

Ballrooms and blooms and watery dreams: 20 more small, cheering things.

Many were the evenings when, after her friends had gone home, she would sit by herself in the middle of the old stone amphitheatre, with the sky's starry vault overhead, and simply listen to the great silence around her. 
Whenever she did this, she felt she was sitting at the centre of a giant ear, listening to the world of the stars, and she seemed to hear soft but magnetic music that touched her heart in the strangest way. 
On nights like these, she always had the most beautiful dreams.

~Michael Ende
Momo.

I've been writing occasional blog posts this year about small things that I find encouraging, or that make me feel warmed, or happy. They're lovely to write, and to look back on. So I'm going to keep doing them.
Here's 20 more smallish things that have cheered me lately....

1. Celebrating my Gran's 90th birthday in grand style:
My amazing Gran turned 90 this year.
We held an Advance-Multiple-Mini-Birthday-Cake-Making session one afternoon, so that she had many, many little cakes on the day (and there were plenty for the family to share) ....
 .... and we took a special trip to the Blackpool Tower Ballroom, where we admired their swirly twirly solemn ballroom dancers - and partook of grand Afternoon Tea.  
Many of our family travelled from round the country, and braved long heated traffic jams in order to join this marvellous indomitable old lady, and to help her celebrate. 
My Gran was surrounded by people she loved, received sincere and hearty congratulations from countless strangers - and even a surprise round of Happy Birthday that was sung by the whole ballroom.
It was noisy and hard to properly talk - and there was limited time to properly catch up, but big tight hugs were exchanged, and much love.
A few days later I went out for a belated late-joint-birthday-curry with my brother and Dad and Stepmum. And a little after that, enjoyed another belated-birthday-curry, this time with my Mum and brother.
And Tim Minchin* popped into my head. 
I realised how incredibly lucky I am to have such a wonderfully unique, lovely, kind, warm, caring family - as cliched as that may sound. Who are there for me without a moments hesitation and with who there is a years-long ease and acceptance and familiarity, even when we don't see each other for long periods.  I am tremendously lucky to have them all.

*But you will learn someday
That wherever you are and whatever you face
These are the people who'll make you feel safe in this world

~ Tim Minchin

2. This delightful quirky little short - starring Steven Weber and Yvonne Jung - which was created as part of a series for an art installation entitled The Blackout, by the artists collective Six01 Lab.
I love the ingenious use of design, movement and character in such a tiny space... 
How very Buster Keaton-like the tale is, with its quicksilver silent choreography...
And that it has a whimsical happy ending. 



3. Spending a rare quiet few minutes with my brother - while we stood together admiring the tiny beauty of a hardworking bee. We observed the wonder of its fluffy striped body and transparent, veined too-small wings - and of its none-stop, earnest-yet-frenzied pollen-gathering.  We marvelled at how those minuscule wings lifted its (proportionately) large body and allowed the little creature to soar. 
It was beautiful to spend those few moments of quiet marvelling together - voices lowered so not to startle the bee,  and united in our admiration for the complex beauty of a tiny piece of the world, just the two of us together. 

4. Dreaming a long, complex, thundering, exhilarating and strange Victorian dream.

5. Ingrid Oliver's really, really adorable and excited happy Whovian dance.

6. Our lovely supporters and friends at my bookshop, who brought hugs and support and phone numbers, cupcakes, chocolate, songs, music, home-made cake and home-grown lavender sprigs to us on a tough day. 

7. Trying out exciting new vegan recipes from the marvellous Oh She Glows site and cookbook. Everything  I've tried so far has been delicious - particularly the crunchy chickpea salad. Mmmmmmm.

8. And following on from that - finding out  that Ian McKellen has been demonstrating how to make the perfect scrambled egg.

9. Meeting Brett and Martin - two of the original members of LGSM (Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners) at my bookshop - and the next day, a whole load more of the members of LGSM too. 
LGSM was an alliance of lesbians and gay men who came together to support British miners during the 1984-85 strike. Their amazing campaigning story was told recently in the film Pride.

LGSM were formed when Mark Ashton and Mike Jackson collected donations for the miners at the 1984 Lesbian and Gay Pride march in London. LGSM initially held meetings in Mark Ashton's flat and fund-raised in various locations including the Gay's The Word bookshopThe group Lesbians Against Pit Closures was formed by the women involved with LGSM. LGSM made contact with striking miners in Dulais in South Wales and the money LGSM raised was used to help sustain striking miners and their families throughout the duration of the strike. 
The group raised approximately £20,000 for the families who were on strike. The largest single fundraising event was the ‘Pits and Perverts’ benefit concert that the group held at the Electric Ballroom in Camden Town, London on 10th December 1984.

The alliances which the campaign forged between LGSM and labour groups proved to be an important turning point in the progression of LGBT issues in the United Kingdom. Miners’ labour groups began to support, endorse and participate in various gay pride events throughout the UK, including leading London’s Lesbian and Gay Pride parade in 1985.
They were a lovely group, and it was a real and genuine honour to meet them.

10.   Falling in love with Amy Miller's poetry, and discovering her beautiful tribute to Leonard Nimoy.
late at night
the man of science
will hush the universe
to order

11. Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer and Lance Horne doing the Muppets' mah nah mah nah song in the car.  
(I specially love how Neil holds out and resists for a time. 
And eventually relents and joins in, much to his wife's great delight.)

12. Hanging handmade cross-stitched mini craftivism banners up in Manchester.

And hearing that the remarkable Malala Yousafzai has been enjoying joining in with some craftivism too. 

13.  Getting addicted to Thea Gilmore and A Fine Frenzy - putting them on loop and listening over and over and over. 

14. Admiring amazingly beautiful blooms (and vegetables) at the sunny Knowsley 2015 Flower Show.

15. Having brews with two lovely expat friends (one is currently residing in Finland, one somewhere between Austria and somewhere else).  It'd been much too long since I'd last seen them - and was glad to catch them while they were back in Liverpool on flying visits. 
Both wore suitably apt tees for the occasion, and with both friends there was hours-long chat, and the delightful comfortable ease of slipping back straight into conversation - as if it had only been minutes or days (and not years) since meet-ups. 

16. The Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D and Agent Carter cast members holding an epic Twitter-Dubsmash war
This makes me smile every time I see it - specially as it got Love Shack lodged firmly in my head for days.

17. And in that vein.... I have to give a shout out to Please Mr Kennedy - which I've had stuck in my head for over 3 weeks now, and keep find myself absent-mindedly doing Al Cody's shhaaaa-ooop interjections.

Finding these Introvert Graphs.
 (I relate to each and every one, and many made me smile shyly, as they're things I've secretly done or thought for years, but not ever liked to admit to.)

19. This perfect meeting of poetry and illustration.
(Poem by Naomi Shihab Nye. Image by Priya Kuriyan- found here.)

20.  Waking from a dream with e e cummings' verse in my head:

I dreamt an early-hours dream of two young people at their beautiful beginnings - at the blossoming stage of love, where everything is a complex and delightful series of discoveries and whispered revelations and joys. Exploring the tiny intimacies of their lightly-carried fingertip touches and connecting gazes. 
They were at a deep blue indoor pool with huge and cavernous walls, illuminated a little by its high windows and by late afternoon sun. 
He cascaded again and again from a high diving board, hurling himself with joyful abandon from its heights and into the water below, with little accuracy or aplomb. He was clumsy and a little awkwardly lacking in co-ordination - but the sheer delight of the act seemed to redeem for him any lost dignity.  
She watched with a friend from afar, laughing and defiant, more matured and worldly than he, and indulging his simple delight.  She seemed half intoxicated with life,  and with the freedom and possibility inherent in her youth. 
They later perched together on the edge of the impossibly high board, as the narrative slipped and changed - apparently unconcerned by its looming height and the deep azure below.  

Beneath them, another young woman moved with dancer-like grace on the edge of the pool, and swirled and curled, while reciting soft verse aloud to the water. She lifted four cream-white rose buds from her coat - each softly glowing - and threw them to the waves, calling out a name to accompany each. 
They bobbed and floated gently on the crest of each wave.

The diving board pair gazed downwards at the lilting water. I could observe the fine details of the vibrant hues of their amber-ringed irises, and individual strands of hair. Their breath  turned golden, like sunshafts, and mingled as they gazed. 
He called her name aloud - as if this was some great achievement - name you - as if it were the grand unlocking of a complex challenge in a fairy-tale, and he had finally earned the right to ask for her hand. 

She had three names.
Carla. 
One of her three names was Carla. 
When I woke, the full name was on my lips and I found myself whispering it as I broke through dream, but it melted and dissolved almost instantly, snowflake-light and insubstantial.

Then with sudden, unspoken agreement, together they tipped their weight and fell from the board, and down, down towards the rose-adorned waves below.

They fell and fell and fell. Slowly. So slowly. Unafraid.
Their gazes locked, and their hands were held - together and yet distinctly individual, interlocked by mutual unspoken words - clothes billowing, cushioned by time.
(As I was to find on waking, and searching for a similar capture - very like Bill Viola's Ascension or his lovers, towards the blue depths.)


I woke before they reached the water. 
Leaving them foreverlly falling, as Cummings has it.

 the first of all my dreams was of 
a lover and his only love,

strolling slowly (mind in mind)
through some green mysterious land
until my second dream begins-

the sky is wild with leaves;which dance
and dancing swoop(and swooping whirl
over a frightened boy and girl)
but that mere fury soon became

silence:in huger always whom
two tiny selves sleep (doll by doll)
motionless under magical
foreverfully falling snow.

and then this dreamer wept:and so
she quickly dreamed a dream of spring
-how you and i are blossoming

~ e.e. cummings


..................................................................
(Water photographs found here...here...here... and here.)

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

A Victorian dream.

In the early hours today, I dreamt myself into a Sherlock Holmes-Ripper Street tale. 
I dreamt of  a strange blending of figures, with Inspector Reid-as-Sherlock, and Sergeant Drake doubling as Watson.  A quicksilver mind and an almost ruthlessly efficient determination, matched with unwavering loyalty and earthly physicality and strength. 
I dreamt of deviously slippery villains and a mastermind plan of intricate cleverness.

 Snatches and narrative threads remain on waking:

A blur of tweeds and heavy outercoats, stiff collars and long flapping coat-tails.  
Breathless chases, charging through ruined buildings and narrow streets and steep slopes in hot pursuit of unseen villains, and sweeping up clothing intended for swift costume changes and impromptu disguises. 
An inherited meticulous and exhaustive knowledge of the gritty London criminal underworld, of its poverty and desperation - and an unwavering belief in the sanctity of justice and the law.
Of pelting across the hollowed-out ruin of a dusty abandoned building. Of the sweet lung-roasting fire of my hot swift breath, of running full tilt with no illness to hold me back, of the sound of stout soles ringing on hard pavement, the thudding rush of adrenalin.

I dreamt of Captain Homer Jackson, who branched off from Reid and Drake and pursued his own maverick line of enquiry. Also on the run, he escaped his pursuers by dodging through a series of ancient elevators and lift shafts, then took brief refuge in a decrepit orphanage. It was staffed by a ragged-yet-dignified Louise Brealey (providing a pleasing cameo and connection, as she is both Sherlock's Molly Hooper, and Ripper Street's Dr Amelia Frayn).
Near-feral children roamed and played and scrambled amidst this makeshift shelter, absorbed in their own adventures and in the complexities of narratives that no adult can entirely comprehend or follow. They clambered and sprawled and raced round the ancient echoing building, amidst its dust and ghosts and cloudy shafts of broken light. Dozens of ragged half-tamed waifs, with their carer sitting quietly in her frayed frocks - calm and kind and dignified amidst their chaos.

(Original photo found here.)
(Photograph found here.)
 Jackson dipped and weaved his way through the throng, idly charming individual children with throwaway ease (perhaps, partly as there is something enduring childlike in his anarchic refusal to entirely comply to adult rules.) 
Along his path he gathered snippets and nuggets of half-truths and clues from this team of would-be Baker Street Irregulars. 

Then we were on the run once more - off into the depths of the underground train system - somewhat out of time, as the system we found was not entirely Victorian, but modern and smooth and completed. 
Such is the strange half-logic of dreams. 

 In spite of the shocked warnings of those in our compartment, Jackson straightened his hat,  grabbed my hand, and we agreed to leap suddenly off the moving train as it thundered along, in order to thwart our pursuers. We selected a point mid-way between stations, and a path unmapped by the tube system - and made a heart-stopping bound into the dark whirring labyrinth of the endless under-city channels. 

(Photograph found here.)
It was haunting and strange below the city, and somehow lonely. 
We wandered along the tunnel's huge interlocking complexities, with its network of electrified rail - all too-aware  of the deadly danger of stepping bare-shoed onto one of those shining silver tracks. We picked an graceful-yet-cautious path along the gravel between. 

(Original photograph found here.)

Echoing, arching, interlocking tunnels stretched on and on forever into the darkness, both looming huge and spacious above us - but somehow also tightly claustrophobic. They were (paradoxically) both fascinatingly freeing - allowing us a unique, distinctive map of the city - but also frighteningly unknown and unchartered, and I wondered if we could risk losing ourselves forever in their endless winding curves.
(Original photograph found at The Commons.)
And amongst all this, I stepped in and out of the narrative - into a separate reality that was somehow all intertwined. 
I found myself drawing an intricate pen-and-ink sketch. It was a half-cartoonised, half-realistic capture of a busy Victorian drawing-room - comprising all (and more) of my dream companions - of Reid and Holmes, Drake and perhaps Watson - elegant ladies and formal gentlemen amidst the handsome furniture. Gentlemen in neatly cut coats and stiff collars and whiskers, ladies confined by bustles and corsets and lace - a busy crowd all caught mid-motion, mid-turn or mid-conversation. That single moment captured on thick white paper with a delicate, confident thin ink pen. 
The scene grew and developed depth and detail as my dream progressed and I returned to it again and again - Jackson then joining my depicted crowd, and I found faces easily, unfolding them first in pencil and then defining them in pen. 
I re-positioned my engraved Captain as the dream slipped and the alternate narrative continued once more. 

Somehow, within this, I knew this was all a dream. And yet I held the firm conviction and reassurance that in spite of the final details of my picture remaining unfinished, I knew it would be there on my drawing board when I woke - I could pick it up and complete it in the daylight, adding in the final details and figures. 
I held onto the happy anticipation of knowing this was waiting for me - and that for once I would be able to preserve some real and sharply accurate record of my extraordinary narrative dream thread, and that it would survive after waking. 

It ended with a bomb site. 
I found myself on a street with dark skies and burnt clouds, the oppressive weight of unnatural mid-afternoon darkness, of quiet chaos and deserted streets, of rubble, and the world crumbled. 
There was, mercifully, no shattered human remains, no blood or sense of a loss of life - but the sudden shocking silence that follows after a broken storm, of pale brick in unruly heaps everywhere, the hollow chink of stone-falling-on stone that dislodged as we moved, and of gravelly dust rising and coating and covering everything.

(Photograph found here.)
Night but yet not night. 
And an urgency, an unspoken understanding of the next chapter in this strange story, a realisation that the Moriarty-like villain was still at large, and the knowledge of a message that must be conveyed - and yet had not been spoken of. 
The sky falling, and time unravelling. 

(Original photograph found here.) 
It was understood that the message had to be conveyed to Long Susan - but in some unspoken form - and she would be the only person who would be equipped to interpret its meaning. 
The message was to be delivered in the form of a single gold coin. 

 Jackson took my hand and pressed the coin into my palm - small and innocuous as it was, and yet deeply significant. This act was performed with unblinking intensity - and with utmost solemnity. He closed my fingers around its cold curves, and I felt its round edges against my skin. 
He bent then, and kissed my curled fingers, sealing them tight in a protective and almost archaic symbolic gesture, somehow binding that small, significant object - and with a veneration that bordered on the holy. 
Everything now rested on the delivery of the coin, and on Long Susan.

The narrative slipped away suddenly then, and I never discovered if she received the unspoken message, and if the villains were thwarted and the day saved.

I dreamt that I woke from the dream, and opened my palm to see the imprint of the coin circled and stamped into it. I had held it so tight that it had dug in and left its mark inside my fist - painless yet telling. 
I smiled - reassured that the absence of the coin proved to me somehow that it must have reached its intended recipient. 


When I woke for real, moments later, summer soft blue light greeted me through my window, and the darkness, shadows, rubble and dust seem gently alien and long away. 
But I found myself recalling the vivid vibrations of thrumming feetfalls on hard stone, the echo of it still charging my soles, the instinct to cough away stone dust hitching my lungs. 

And the sense of loss and genuine regret when it dawned on me that my drawing room sketch was not sitting waiting on my board, ready to be completed. This seemed the saddest and strangest revelation of all. 
I shall miss that intricate capture, and the chance to preserve my dream companions.

 I found myself reaching to examine my palm - in my mind's eye I could vividly see the dark pink imprint of the coin edge - and I half-expected to see it there, (like Coleridge's flower), still within my grasp.

What if you slept 
And what if 
In your sleep 
You dreamed 
And what if 
In your dream 
You went to heaven 
And there plucked a strange and beautiful flower 
And what if 
When you awoke 
You had that flower in you hand 

Ah, what then?

~Samuel Taylor Coleridge

(Photo originally found here)