A Japanese Twist

This week’s Photo Challenge Twisted didn’t mean much till I found this photo I’d taken in my local Sushi Bar ( I did move the figurine, just a tad.)

The women’s twisted hair and that knotted Obi sparked a rewrite of a traditional folktale I’ve been working on –

Long, long ago in Old Japan there was a young man who loved his old father dearly. Not long after his son’s wedding, the old man died and the young man withdrew into his work as he grieved for his father.

Early one morning, he brought his wife in to show the piles of baskets he had made and said he must go to the  market. She helped him stack them on his back and waved him off on his walk to the nearest town. She felt pleased to see him at last like his old self again. Such fine, strong weaving attracted many buyers so he sold out quickly. and made a good profit. Before returning home, the shy young man had time to wander the stalls.

An array of silver objects caught the light. He had never seen anything like these before. The Gaijin vendor signalled they were delicate and would break if dropped. He nodded as the young man gingerly picked up the nearest. One glance and he was amazed … for there was his father looking at him.

“Oh father!” he muttered, lifting his eyes to the sky, “What are you doing here in the town?” No voice spoke from the clouds.Was this some kind of magic? Looking around him, he wondered why his father had come back to see him.  He quickly bought one, tucked it safely in his belt and anxiously hurried home.

As soon as he got there, he placed his precious object in their family shrine and said nothing of it to his wife. From that day on, he prayed fervently each dawn and dusk.

Naturally, his young wife noticed how much time he spent praying. One day, after her husband had gone off to gather more bamboo, she looked inside the shrine and gasped. There, she surprised a lovely young woman who looked back at her. She quickly closed the door … only to look again several times through the  day. The woman was always there.

As soon as her husband came home, she turned on him angrily. and pointed to the shrine “How dare you bring home another woman! You worship her! How could you do this to me?”

“What woman?” her husband stammered. “That is my dear departed father in there!” He rushed to to make sure. Yes … there was his father, looking worried. As he stepped back with a sigh of relief, his wife pushed past and grabbed the disc . One triumphant look and she handed it back saying “That is not your father … that is a jealous young woman!” Then she hurried away.

They argued till they were speechless and miserable. After a sleepless night, the young man suggested they talk to the wise nun who lived in the village temple.

One look at the pair and the nun ushered them in.  She listened with a kindly smile while the pair took turns to tell their part of the story. When tears had been shed and both were finally still, the nun stretched out a hand for the source of their troubles. After she studied its smooth surface, she exclaimed. “Goodness! This woman has repented and become a nun. It’s best that she remain here, for a time, in the temple.” Then she opened a wooden chest beside her, put in their mirror and closed the lid.

It did not take long for the news of the arrival of a wonderful mirror to go round the village. The young couple laughed together when they, in their turn, heard the story  from a friendly neighbour. How mistaken they had been! How foolsih! How marvellous!

Next morning, they found their furoshiki swathed mirror on the doorstep and agreed it should be hung by their door so anyone could look in it. The tale of the mirror spread to many districts. The young couple gained status as the first family in that village to own one and they were not the last … to see their truth …  in a mirror.

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Twisted

A Japanese Twist©2018Meg Philp

Adapted from ‘The Mirror’ by BANG, Garrett, Men from the Village Deep in the Mountains. New York, Macmillan, 1973: 67- 9.

Some of the sources consulted

Japanese Bamboo weaving 

Japanese Historical Timeline

Japanese Mirrors

Mirror (See History)

Sacred Mirror: Japanese Imperial Regalia

All text  and photos by Meg

Story Twigs the Imagination! by Meg Philp is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License and is also Copyright © under Australian Law.

 

 

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Love the Tree that Gives You Shelter

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Huge tree in Pukekura Park, New Plymouth, NZ.

While mulling over last Week’s Photo Challenge of a Favourite Place, I recalled an old Russian proverb tale “Every Man Loves the Tree that Gives Him Shelter.”

It celebrates regeneration symbolised by the oak tree that grew from the acorn planted by Great-Grandfather on the day his son was born. That child became a Grandfather at forty years old when Vanya’s Father was born and ninety-two when Vanya ( the latest in the family) was born. The old man keeps his grandson company under the tree, enjoying the shade while his parents work in the garden.

“I love my mother best in the whole wide world,” says the child. His grandfather nods, adding ‘Your mother is your shelter, Vanya’ …

Trees shelter and protect. They provide many other benefits.They change with the seasons, bud, flower, fruit and drop seeds. Most grow taller and have a longer lifespan than we humans.

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This Spanish Chestnut at Balmerino Abbey, Fife, was said to have been planted by Queen Ermingarde in 1229. Tests have revealed it’s only 400 – 435 yrs old

By the gate of the house I grew up in was a Rowan tree. The Scots’ superstition was that it kept any evil from your door.

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Old Rowan tree in Autumn, berry-laden, among the ruins of a cottage at the back of Tobermory, Mull.

If you’re fortunate when you were growing up, you had a family to protect you. On the TV news, the sight of a huddle of women, fleeing the bombardment in Ghouta stays with me. They were scurrying away together, shielding small children as well as carrying whatever they could – for the last woman it was a bright blue plastic bucket – in chaotic street full of gray rubble, guns and fear.  How will this civil war ever resolve so that the people can live in peace? How will they ever build homes again and plant their Olive trees?

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Cherry Tree in Spring, NZ

Standing under a flourishing tree lifts my spirits … the way a friend does when we hug … no matter where I am. One of my favourite places full of trees is on top of a nearby mountain ridge. In the quiet spaces within this soft, dappled forest are sculptures created by Graham Radcliffe.

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Created by Graham Radcliffe in his Phoenix Sculpture Gardens, Mount Glorious, Brisbane.

… The story continues …

When the child asks his grandad what the old man likes best, he replies “My tree,” He then fishes an acorn out of his pocket and gives it to the child saying “Plant that and when your mother’s no more and you’re an old dad like me, you’ll not want for shelter till the earth is your roof.”

NB. This is an old story and as a sign of its time has much gender bias. Everyman means every individual to me.

Many years ago I remember we had a speaker from a charity ‘Men of The Trees’ talk to my class of eleven year olds about tree conservation. The organisation has planted 26 billion trees internationally since it began in 1926

(Just found out in Wikiwand that the original English Branch of MOT has rebranded and is now the International Tree Foundation.)

T T T T T T T T T T T   T T T T T T T T T T T  T T T T T    T T T  T  TTTTTT TTTT TTTTTtttt

Sources

Balmerino Abbey. National Trust for Scotland. Accessed 29 March, 2018.

Everyman loves the tree that gives him shelter. in FARJEON, Eleanor. Eleanor Farjeon’s Book: Stories – Verses – Plays. Harmondsworth, Penguin, 1950:95.

Men of the Trees.

Top 22 Benefits of Trees. TreePeople. Beverley Hills, Cal. Accessed 29 March 2018.

See also http://www.treesisters.org. Their focus is on reforesting in the Tropics.

Favorite Place

All text and photos by Meg

Story Twigs the Imagination! by Meg Philp is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License and also Copyright © under Australian

Mangoes: WPC Growth

In Queensland, luscious mangoes signal our summer holiday season over the New Year. So juicy and delectable, they are best eaten leaning over the kitchen sink!

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A few years ago, my neighbour’s Bowen Mango tree used to produce so many mangoes, she couldn’t give them away … so she had it lopped!

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Whenever I see a mango tree, I remember an Indonesian story retold by storyteller Helen East. My version goes something like this –

One still, summer’s night the moon shone full on a tall, dark mango tree. Cicadas suddenly ceased chirping  and listened. Disgruntled voices were drifting up from the tree’s roots  “After all,” they complained, ” we do all the work and get none of the attention or thanks!”

They muttered on about how hard it was deep down in the dark earth, holding the whole tree fast, while keeping water moving up to the trunk, the branches, those leaves and all that fruit.

“Look at that lazy trunk, just standing there!” they yelled, looking up.

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Hearing this the trunk yelled back “ Not, so! My job is constant strain. Holding all this tree together in wind and storms is much harder. If I break, we all die. You forget too that I carry all the food back and forth to all parts. I’ve also had limbs chopped off for firewood, bark stripped by foraging animals: the pain of it all.”

Then the trunk added “It’s those leaves just hanging there, dancing in the breeze. I wish that was all I had to do!”

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Surrounding branches swayed in disagreement. They thought differently.

“How little you know, “ whispered the leaves in chorus. “ All day long we convert energy from the sun sharing it with the whole tree. We’re up all night releasing air for the tree while it rests. We shelter you all from too much sun. Heavy rains often tear us down.You wouldn’t want to have our job. Look at the fruits, all they do is hang around, grow fat and glow with pride when they’re ripe. There’s the kind of job we’d like!” they sighed.

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The fruits held their tongue at first. They knew it was because of their existence that this tree was valued. Then they indignantly pointed out how badly treated they were, often ripped off before they were ripe or gnawed at by bats and rats.

“We have the worst of all – such a short life. Though prized by humans, many of us can be left to rot at the base. The rest have to give ourselves up to be eaten, pulped, sliced and worse…”

A deep voice broke through the babble.

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“Enough! … I spend a long time waiting for my fruit to ripen,” said the husky stone.

“We fall together. If I am cast aside and land on good earth, we go on. When I dry out, I force my case to split open so the seed can begin to grow into a sapling. I remake all of you from my core when a root descends and a shoot ascends. Trees like us have flourished for thousands of years. We all have our part to do in the growing …”

Just then,  a woman came softly into the garden to look at the moon so the tree fell silent. And the cicadas began their rhythmic nocturne once again.

Growth

Sources – Story adapted from Helen East’s retelling “The Heaviest Burden” in  BRAND, Jill, BLOWS, Wendy & SHORT, Caroline. The Green Umbrella: stories, songs, poems and starting points for environmental assemblies. London, Black, 1991:93.

Mango – Wikiwand article

All text and photos by Meg

Story Twigs the Imagination! by Meg Philp is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License and also Copyright © under Australian Law.

 

Sheltering Green : WPC

This week’s Photo Challenge reminded me of a Russian proverb “Everyman loves the tree that gives him shelter.” Last Fall, we had a leisurely walk around Green Lake. People were in the lake, on the lake but mainly, around the lake.

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Green shade is a blessed relief in our hot Australian summers. A local family of Boobook Owls have moved to smaller trees which give denser shade, so they can sleep better.

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Continue reading

A ‘Good’ Match : WPC

This week’s Photo Challenge gave me too much choice. I scrolled thru my photos and mulled over my choices for a while. ‘Good’ is such a loaded word.

The colour of my neighbour’s ‘Tilly’ (Utility Truck) is pretty close to the blossoms on my Illawarra Flame Tree. Reds are hard to match.

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Last year I was keen to get a photo from the train going over my favourite railway bridge. Continue reading

Re purpose: WPC

This week’s photo challenge is about repurposing? …”discovering an object for which you’ve discovered a clever new use.”

Like Phoebe Anna Traquair?

Painted in 1920s by Scottish Artist Phoebe Traquair for the Great Hall of Lympne Castle, Kent

Painted in 1920s by Scottish Artist Phoebe Traquair for the Great Hall of Lympne Castle, Kent ( National Museum of Scotland)

Art galleries and museums ‘repurpose’ objects all the time to engage visitors, of all ages; to make them inquisitive; puzzled; challenged to compare, and contrast; to critique and make recommendations: to appreciate differences and similarities; to remember images of what they treasured; to open up to wonder. It’s more than just labelling and classifying – they want to get people talking and reflecting on what was most memorable for them.img_1035-1Most Scottish museums and galleries are free. We visited Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum last year for a special (ticketed) Mucha Exhibition. I’d last been in the building when it was a dusty museum/storehouse last century.

fullsizerender Caught a glimpse of some refurbishment and wondered why they put these objects together – a Spitfire behind an elephant? Did you have to guess which is heaviest?

Our tour guide was very informative but I didn’t get time to ask these objects which caught my eye, so I nipped back and took this photo to look at later.

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The curators must have a sense of humour. What do you reckon? These are twice the size of tennis balls and thought to be pre-Viking.

One ‘repurpose’ – You stirred them in the cauldron to help tenderise the meat being cooked.

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PS. An adult elephant can weigh up to 4500 kg. This 1944 Spitfire’s max. weight is 3565 kg. For an image of the completed display, click here.

PPS. Yes. The Mucha Exhibition was pretty. But I got fed up looking at so many draped, ornamental women on posters … time to move on. Spent a more engrossing, enlightening time in the galleries upstairs. I’d go again any day.

All text and photos by Meg

Story Twigs the Imagination! by Meg Philp is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Graceful Nature: Weekly Photo Challenge

When I wonder about ‘graceful,’ images of dreamy movement and soft curves come to mind.

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Sometimes graceful movement is so fast – like a butterfly. I have to follow till it rests. Standing very still, I hold my breath and ‘click.’

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Other times, a curve catches my eye. As I stare, I sense some infinitesimal movement within … an unfolding.

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and then … there’s my own, walking times, when what I see makes me feel infinitesimal … and my heart leaps!

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Sometimes I go about pitying myself, And all the while I am being carried across the sky by beautiful clouds. (Ojibway poem)

Here’s another graceful image from a story that I tell –

Out in the cattle kraal, a silver cord descended from high in an African night sky, down, down … to its dusty centre. By the light of the moon, a crouching man keeping watch behind the thorn-bush fence, saw his black and white, speckled cattle move apart. Hearing singing, he looked up and there, round the shining cord, he spied a line of beautiful women floating down, one after the other. Singing softly, they spiralled down till they touched the ground. All wore wondrous clothes and ornaments which flickered in the moonlight and carried a calabash held against one hip. Then they walked silently, gracefully, to an animal and murmured soothingly as they sat. Sing together again, they steadily milked his black and white cows.

As a child, Laurens van der Post was told this story about women of the sky by a black woman –servant. It’s on pages 132-4 of his book “ The Heart of the Hunter.” If you want to hear my version of the whole story, you’ll have to come to Storytelling Unplugged: the Meetup group I organise, next first Friday of the month!

Graceful

All text (except those in italics) and photos by Meg

Story Twigs the Imagination! by Meg Philp is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

White Samite, Mystical, Wonderful

 

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This abstract image reminds me of a scene in the Grail legend, when the vessel, covered in white samite, is reverently carried aloft through the Great Hall.

The words, ‘Clothed in white samite, mystic, wonderful,’ come from Tennyson’s poem Morte d’ Arthur , and was a line I heard but couldn’t see: something not of my time and wasted on me in high school English class.

Many years later, on a raw, winter’s day in Cornwall,  I stood at the edge of Dozmary pool, listening to Canadian Ed Kylie telling the story of King Arthur’s death based on Tennyson’s poem. This was the  place where Excalibur was said to have been returned to the Lady of the Lake. In my minds’s eye, I did see the glittering sword flung, turning, end over end through the air. The arm I imagined coming up was pudgy and chilled pink.  All I could see of the ‘samite’ was a draped, white, sodden bedsheet. I couldn’t see more of the story for the cold.

Wikiwand can give me interesting facts about samite. It was the most important silk weave of Byzantium, reserved for kings and church leaders. But, clothing is such a personal, fragile artefact. I like to feel fabrics. Mostly, it’s the colour and patterns, the warp and weft that draws me in. I have only poured over many fascinating remnants under glass in museums – from christening gowns, to shawls and mummies.

Visualising the colour and texture of fabrics and matching these to the clothing characters wear helps make them, and the story, more visual, more believable, more memorable.

The ‘fabric’ in this image might not only be white Samite, but also

  • a cloak for the wicked lead in Andersen’s ‘The Snow Queen.’
  • the stone horse’s hide in the Asian folk tale about a magic brocade, when the horse is magically brought to life.
  • Sleeping Beauty’s coverlet
  • the magic tablecloth Mannannan spread before Cormac when he was in the Land of Faery
  • a dress for the woman in the moon
  • What do you imagine?

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Abstract

This week’s Photo Challenge was to turn the concrete and familiar into something new and mysterious.

Sources: Poem – Morte d’Arthur, http://www.bartleby.com/42/637.html

Wikiwand entry’Samite,’ https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Samite

All text (except that in italics) and photos by Meg

Story Twigs the Imagination! by Meg Philp is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Half-Light Stardust: Weekly Photo Challenge

Winter sunsets by the sea, here in Coolum, Queensland, often have a sugar-almond blush … before the stars come out.

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And now the purple dust of twilight time … 

‘Stardustwritten by Hoagy Carmichael, was one of the romantic songs my father liked to sing over the years. When it was his turn at family celebrations, he would stand in front of the fireplace. We all sat round our living room, hushed, expectant. Inspired by Nat King Cole, he’d smoothly slip into the song, looking at mum and she’d blush. The rest of us were held spell-bound there, till he raised his glass to her at the end, and we did the same.

All text, except those in italics ,and photos by Meg. Story Twigs the Imagination! by Meg Philp is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

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Sources: Stardust sung by Nat King Cole on Youtube :https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VezW1PtDq5E

 

 

 

Feeling harmonious: WPC

I first saw Mount Taranaki (formerly Mt Egmont) over ten years ago. “Awesome!” I thought.

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I love seeing this “ ever-fixed mark.” It helps me get my bearings and draws me in like a magnet, every time I go back to NZ to visit friends. Mt Rainier, near Seattle, has the same effect on me.

 Once, at the end of a NZ holiday and feeling wistful, I had this view out the aircraft window. Just one look and I was on “Cloud Nine!” MtTartop (2)

Human beings, vegetables, cosmic dust, all dance to a mysterious tune, intoned in the distance by an invisible player. (Albert Einstein)

Harmony

Text (except quote in italics) and photos by Meg Philp

Story Twigs the Imagination! by Meg Philp is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License