Tooting My Own Horn

This is a slightly different blog, because I’m sharing places to find my writings that others have published.

Recently, The Deep Music: Offerings for the Awen was published. This is an anthology containing three of my poems, previously unpublished, and a short essay. You can order it here.

The jacket blurb reads:

‘This anthology is a collection of the writings of contemporary awneyddion. Those who have have heard the deep music, followed its call to Annwn, where the awen is breathed into them by the gods, and returned with their own songs.’ The other contributors include: Greg Hill, Catriona McDonald, Angharad Lois, Bryan Hewitt, Lorna Smithers, Cat Heath, Rhyd Wildermuth, Charlotte Hussey, Kevin Manwaring, Hazel Loveridge, Sithearan NicLeoid, Lia Hunter, and Hilaire Wood.

Last week, a story of mine,’The Unexpected Bearer’, was published in the Spring 2020 issue of Shorts Magazine [it’s free]. Just click on the magazine and it opens.

These are the first of my writings published by others in a long time, and it’s been very gratifying see both the book and magazine.

The Unexpected Prospect

This offering is a bit different. It is a story, a tale that I have been pondering and working with for quite a few  years now. It is not a happy tale, but it seems apt for the days in which we find ourselves.

Amongst those who lived now on the sea hugged lands was told the tale of the Crystal Bearer. I knew rumours of such a telling; and, being a collector, I sought someone to confirm the rumour or tell the tale. I spent weeks asking and following clues. One day, walking through a remote village I saw an old fisherman, and on a hunch I asked him. He stared at me, assessing. What he looked for and what he saw I will never know. I waited. In the end it was he who told me. This was many years ago, and to this day I do not know his name, he never used it and no one knew it. When I met him he seemed as old as the sea he upon which he spent most of his life.

What is age? What is being old? What is old? That was the odd part, though I did not at the beginning think much of it: How long is a life? How long can it be, might it be? The experience of the fisherman has caused me to ponder the question more and more often as I have gotten older myself. No one remembered the fisherman not being there. No one could remember when he arrived nor remember being told of his arrival. I know because I enquired. The old fisherman simply was.

But, then I digress.

When prodded he could no longer say where he heard the tale, or would not; for the coastal dwelling folk to whom the tale belonged receded ages ago into the mists of memory and forgetting.

Looking out into the distance over the sea, closing his eyes once in a while, he told the tale this way. His voice, I can still hear, husky with salt spray and the smoke of the long-stemmed pipe clenched always between his teeth.

“They say the Crystal always chose the Bearer. So it was from before the beginning of all that was known amongst the coastal peoples who are no more, who dwell no longer on these rock-strewn shores. The Choosing did not happen often, but in the years when it did the preparations started as soon as it was obvious the next Crystal Bearer must be found.

“Those of proper age were gathered from the land’s length, but only those with an affinity for the Stones of Prospect. Once each of the Prospect Stones was acknowledged the searching ended. On the designated night the Prospects came together, the Stones told them where, and if they could not hear they were not worthy of consideration. As a group they viewed the Beach of Choosing. None were allowed on the sands, which were always patrolled and protected by the Crystal Wardens, themselves chosen from amongst those selected in previous Prospectings. For any family singular honour accrued in having one’s son or daughter recognized as a Warden. It was an honour second only to having the Crystal Bearer from among your closest kin.

“The pattern of the ritual began before anyone remembered how it came to be, and remained unaltered until the last. Only one beach, of all those girthing the land was, could be, the Beach of Choosing. No one went there except the chosen from whom the Choosing would take place. For it was the Crystal’s energy radiating from that one beach that sustained the peoples’ way of life, so they said. They believed and thus for them it was so. The Spirit of the Crystal made the land fertile and the fish run in great schools off the shores. It kept the worst storms at bay. It purified the waters for drinking. The Spirit of the Crystal beckoned souls to new bodies and bid the old to move on making room for the next generation.

The Crystal Bearer was the one who guarded the way of the Crystal’s path amongst the peoples and for them. The Bearer, in wearing the crystal, wielded the power of the Crystal’s Spirit for the good of all. Only the Crystal could choose its Bearer. Only the Crystal knew the one with whom it could work, through whom it could communicate. When the light went from the Crystal its Bearer died. When the fading of both Crystal and Bearer was complete, then the process of Bearing began anew with a new Crystal and another Bearer.

The Beach of Choosing was littered with the empty and silent crystals from previous Bearers, all faded; and, with crystals that never bore the sustaining spirit. There was always one vital flawless Crystal, however, which washed up on the beach at the time of need and that was the one to be found. Always it was found, there had never been a failure of Choosing in the long memory of the peoples.”

“What did it take to be a Bearer?” I could not resist asking.

The fisherman answered, ”The question was often asked and none could answer with certainty, for the times dictated the qualities of both the Crystal and its Bearer. Size was never the determining factor in the selection. Some of the most influential Bearers worked with very tiny crystals. The power was always and only a matter of communication and communion between the Crystal and the one it chose to bear it amongst the peoples.

“So Choosing was then once more about to be fulfilled. The eighty-second Bearer had to be chosen soon. A plague threatened the people and only the Crystal could save them. The last Crystal began to fade. It had been noted that the Crystals faded and Bearers died much more quickly. It was a matter of concern, but no one spoke of it. The silence issued from the uncertainty of the Crystal Wardens who did not know what to say. Who did not know whether it was a weakening of the Crystals or a weakness growing in the peoples manifesting in the Bearers. In the end it did not matter.

“As soon as the Wardens noted the weakening of the Bearer, and she was not very old, the search for the Prospects began in secret. Watchers were dispatched to keep an eye on those who often walked the beaches and how they gathered the treasures there, the ones left and available for everyone. A list was made and hidden. When the eighty-first Bearer died suddenly, for all her gradually deteriorating state, the Prospect Stones were cast on the beaches where the likeliest would find them. It was hoped the strongest as well.

“On the designated night in accordance with the ritual the Prospects, having been tested on their own beaches with the Prospect Stones, were gathered. They moved onto the vast Beach of Choosing at low tide led by the Wardens. The Prospects could range in age from sixteen years to fifty, for none younger or older than that had ever found a Prospect Stone. At this Prospecting those on the Beach were from sixteen to twenty-seven, that was because the previous Bearer had been so young herself when she died.

“Everything moved as it always had. Representatives of the peoples gathered as the Observers on the low hills bounding the beach. They stood at a respectful distance and in silence. No one anticipated anything out of the ordinary. Nothing extraordinary ever happened at a Choosing. As a consequence, no one was prepared when a small boy, no more than four, who managed to wiggle his way from the back of the crowd, moved onto the Beach of Choosing.

“When the Wardens were apprised, only after word passed in whispers from person to person through the assemblage, it was too late. Besides, the boy moved with reverence and deliberation. Unlike the Prospects who stumbled about the beach aimlessly, he went to a particular part of the beach. He alone walked barefoot over the sands littered with spent and useless crystals.

“It was nearly dawn. The Crystal remained unfound. The Observers were getting restless. Uncertainty moved among them like a cool breeze on a hot day. Still, they remained silent.

“Themselves anxious, the Wardens moved onto the Beach of Choosing just before the sun rose. They gathered the weary and dejected Prospects together to lead them off the beach. Nothing like it had ever happened before. The fear of the Wardens and the Observers was growing like a living thing, a menace lurking and filling the space with foreboding. Everything felt different. Something rustled in the air. Change and alternation were palpable. Nothing would be as it had been. These were peoples unused to change. They resisted any alternation in the ways of tradition no matter how insignificant. Silence wreathed the whole area. The only sound was the gentle lapping of the returning tide. There were no gulls crying for they never came near the Beach of Choosing.

“Then it arose, a small wavering cry. The cry was not one he could ever have heard since he was too young. The cry flew to the ears of the Wardens, then the Prospects and lastly to the assembled Observers. ‘The Crystal found me. The Crystal claims me.’

“The Wardens stopped the procession of Prospects and those closest to the boy made their way to him. He sat at the edge of the water oblivious to the rising tide. The Wardens carried him back. He did not seem to notice, for all his attention was turned to the Crystal.

“No one knew his name. No one recognized him. No one could claim him. He seemed to have arrived from nowhere, but it did not matter. The Crystal claimed him, had chosen him. He and the Crystal were one. A single voice, a single mind.

“As young as he was he worked tirelessly with the Crystal. Day and night they strove together. For a time it seemed youth and courage were and would be enough. There were years when the peoples prospered. There was health and abundance. The people ceased to be vigilant. They took for granted the reprieve and the plenty. And, just as suddenly, after the boy had grown to manhood it all changed, again.

“In the end no amount of effort was not enough to save the peoples. The plague came. The land ceased to produce. The fish ceased running in great schools. The storms rose in anger from the depths of the sea. The waters turned foul. The peoples weakened. They wanted to find a new Bearer, but he and the Crystal remained strong. The peoples grew ever more resentful. They could deal with the weakening of the Crystal and its Bearer, but not themselves. Never in memory or telling could a similar circumstance be brought to mind. In half a generation the peoples vanished from the rock strewn shores.”

The old fisherman was looking at me when he finished. When I looked back at him he turned his eyes wearily towards the sea once more. “There are no longer Crystal Bearers, and no one for whom to bear the Crystal. No one to maintain the land, to run the fish, to keep the storms at bay, to cleanse the water or to bid the old move on. No one old to move on.” His voice trailed off like the fog now rolling along the edge of the sand.

“What happened to the Bearer? What happened to the Crystal?” I asked in a whisper that faded into the moaning wind and lapping waves.

For a long time the fisherman looked out to sea and then lowered his head even longer, waiting, deciding. When he looked up his eyes were red and watery. He reached under his shirt, drew out a tattered pouch and emptied its contents into his wrinkled, calloused hand.

He said no word.

© Aurora J Stone 2017

Wood into Stone

In the hand
cool to the touch,
a side polished to a high sheen,
a side smooth and dull,
bark in textured edges
still present in mineral form.

From the land of lemurs,
red ruffed,
ring tailed,
black and white,
the aye-aye and sifarkas,
too long ago to comprehend
this tree may have known
the swinging and resting
of these creatures
on branches hung with
tangles of vine,

Fossilised tree,
wood into stone
a different mode of being,
a different form of existing,
a different sort of appearing,
no longer a branch
wherein the fluid would rise
awakened from the ground beneath,
called up into the canopy.

Stone from wood,
mineral emerged from zylum and phloeum,
patterned rings blurred in alteration
from one material to the other,
longevity a challenge to decipher,
but its beauty not dependent
on its age in life or from death,
wondering how it died,
what disaster felled or befell it
to bring it from tall standing
to resting on its side.

The story of its existing and its perishing,
may reveal itself in time
through meditation or contemplation,
journeying in thought and imagination,
until the breeze can be felt,
again perhaps,
in its twigs and branches,
the creatures of the day or night
swaying or climbing,
hiding or feeding
on its fruit or foliage,
may any revelations be the way
to reach beyond the present material
to touch by mind or heart
a time before humankind
came into the Madagascan forests
leaving trails of ruination and destruction.

Knowing When

Knowing when it’s time to let go doesn’t make doing it any easier.

Whether it’s a relationship with a person or a project to walk away when it no longer works, is no longer appropriate or viable, is a drain on one’s energetic resources, is terribly difficult and will involve some level of pain, disappointment and even guilt.

The idea, the names, the title, the plot all came at once in 2002. I did research for the parts that I needed to. I wrote the four main characters back stories. I had maps. I had notes and ‘scene’ frames.

I moved from the area where the story came to me. When I returned there was not real opportunity to make progress. It was a work of fiction with an historical grounding. Intermittently I took out the maps and notes and worked on bits of it.

Since then I have moved far from the head, heart and soul space that would have made writing the novel possible. I have lots of other projects that are definitely not receding but actively pushing forward.

The challenge is that the characters were quite real to me. They came with me with their story. But I was not able to tell it for them. Part of me feels as though I let them down. Nevertheless, I know I could no longer do it justice, I may not have been able to do it fifteen years ago, but I was closer to it and close to the place in my life when I was able to engage them in their spiritual frame.

Now, as I am getting a bigger study in the house, the room of my own large enough to use for writing and engaging more fully in my spiritual practice, I am ready to work on projects put on hold whilst my life was in chaos. The result of preparing to re-engage is that I have to put some works aside.

So, it’s time to cut the tie that has linked me to A Wintering of Swans and say farewell to the characters. I am sad not to have done this work, but it was not one I could any longer do justice. On the other hand, I am looking forward with great anticipation to re-entering the worlds and lives of stories that I am able and willing to invest my heart, soul and energy.

On this day, Imbolc, a day of turning and change is the right day to do both things: to release and rededicate.

The Covering’s Story


When the telly’s not in use
instead of the black hole
drawing me towards
its rectangular event horizon,
I gaze upon the covering quilt,
each piece of fabric
from my Grandma Bessie’s
stash of bits and scraps,
gathered and collected
over many years.

In these squares of squares,
I see parts of my life,
pieces from a doll’s dress,
one of my own as a child,
or a dress she once wore
sitting kindly-faced
looking out the window
of her little apartment,
or waving farewell to me
when last I saw her four decades ago.
I can see her still
bent over her sewing machine,
hear it clacking away
as each tiny square
added to another made
larger squares,
being brought together
to form the cherished whole.

It bears the mark made
where my infant nephew threw-up,
and wears that stain proudly,
as part of its entire story
seen when sitting down
in the snug of an evening to read,
eschewing televised fare
for the nourishment
of a few chapters of my autobiography
manifest in scraps of cloth
bound with the love
of one who though no longer alive,
is with me still.