Sophia’s Return to the Isle

(This is the next installment in the new feature I’m cultivating on my Facebook Writer Page as well as here on the blog: Friday Fiction. This piece continues last week’s excerpt from my current story, Henry & Sophia, a story of lore and legend, love and faeries, oh, and an epic battle. The first 1,126 words were a Thursday warm up. The words following the forest photo are today’s 756 words).

Resolutely, Sophia turned the pages back to the picture of the meadow and her childhood home. She took several deep, shaky breaths and wiped away the last of her tears. Even though she had no idea how she would return here, to Henry’s apartment or the portal, she knew she could get back to Boston the traditional way if that’s what she needed to do, but she knew if she didn’t go now, she might not get another opportunity to access the Book’s portal. Out of nervous habit she tucked stray curls behind her ears repeatedly, smoothing them several times and staring at the picture before her as she placed the book on the floor beside her feet.

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“Here goes,” she whispered, and without further thought, she closed her eyes and hopped onto meadow picture. Her landing on the hard book on the hard floor of Henry’s apartment jarred her slightly and she exhaled the breath she’d held. Obviously, there was a secret to the secret portal, she thought, and her tears started again as she crouched beside the book, running her fingers over the glossy photo. Unlike before, her hand did not pass through the picture; she felt none of the soft grasses or the cool night breeze. “What happened?” she asked herself and the book and the empty room.

“It doesn’t work that way,” a woman’s voice said from the darkened hallway.

Sophia stood quickly, squinting into the darkness but seeing little more than a soft glow of light that seemed to be pulsing. Her hand traced along the bookshelf, seeking any heavy object she might use if she needed to.

“There are rules,” the woman added, but still, Sophia saw no one.

The voice was melodic with a hint of what Sophia thought could possibly be a smile and it seemed to fill the room, as if the voice itself was a presence. It was, at least, familiar, though Sophia could not place a face with it. Was this person a friend?

“Rules?”

The voice shimmered with laughter for a moment before its melodic tone returned. “With legends and lore and magic, yes, especially with magic, there are always rules.”

Sophia was pretty sure that the owner of the voice was quite enjoying herself. “Why can I not see you?” Sophia asked, certain her eyes were more than adjusted to the darkness of the room. Once again the room filled with a shimmering of laughter, but this time the glow of light shifted, burning brighter or at least diffusing through the room. It was almost as if the light were a hummingbird and a firefly flitting around her.

A faerie, Sophia thought as she watched the flitting shimmer of light coursing through the darkness. “Mia?” Sophia spoke into the room. Could it be Mia? Sophia wondered. It would make perfect sense, she thought, given that Henry was her childhood faerie, Anraí, and Mia was Henry’s sister. Wasn’t she? Or was she?

“Indeed it is I,” Mia’s voice was a whispering tickle by her left ear. “Though my name be Máire.”

“Where’s Henry?” Sophia asked.

Máire’s glow came to a shimmering pause above the Book of Lore & Legends and the grassy meadow seemed to come to life beneath her blue-green hue. “Like you, I believe he has returned to the Isle.”

“There is something I must tend to,” Sophia whispered. “What would cause him to go now?” she asked.

“Winds of change are rustling through the Forest of Dearbháil,” Máire replied. “But what of you?” she asked. “What draws you to the Isle and to this portal?”

Sophia wished her friend, Henry’s sister, would take the familiar shape of Mia; she found it quite disconcerting standing in the darkened library of Henry’s home speaking to a flitting, shimmering glow of light by her feet. Hoping to draw nearer to Máire and create some sense of intimacy, Sophia lowered herself to the floor, curling her legs beneath her. “It’s home,” Sophia said. She considered saying more, but thought better of it, at least for now.

“But you are going there soon already?” inquired Máire.

Sophia wiped away a tear. “Not soon enough,” she whispered. “I miss him.”

Light shimmered and glowed brightly along the pages beside her. “Who is it that you miss?” Máire asked.

Sophia breathed in a deep, shaky breath. “My father,” she said. “Lost to us many years ago this month.” Máire’s light dimmed slightly and for several moments she said nothing. Sophia stared into the picture, wishing she had been able to do whatever it was Henry had done before Mia, Máire, showed up. “You were expecting to find Henry here,” Sophia said louder than she intended. “Why is it that you are here as a faerie?”

“The winds of change in Dearbháil bring me here this night,” replied Máire. “I was coming to discuss such matters with Anrái.”

“When, then, is he not here to meet you?”

“I’ll not know the answer to that until he and I shall meet.” Máire’s light shimmered and rose, her aura ebbing and flowing in the dark library. “I should be on my way.”

“Before you go,” Sophia said, “tell me, please, how do I go through the portal?”

“Dear Sophia, there are rules that govern the portal.”

“Please,” pleaded Sophia. “I will tell no one. But I must go.”

“There are not rules only that govern the portal,” began Máire. “It’s magic, it is extremely powerful.”

“Please, this cannot wait.”

“Your presence will be no secret to those in Dearbháil.”

“I pose no danger.”

“Perhaps not,” replied Máire, “but I fear you will find yourself in danger.”

Beside her, the image on the page shifted, and Sophia was sure she saw a soft glow among the grasses in the meadow just along the edge of the wood. “I have been warned,” said Sophia. “Please. Please Máire.”

“As you wish.”

Máire wrapped Sophia in her glowing aura and chanted softly words that Sophia could not make out. As Máire continued chanting blue-green light blazed before Sophia’s eyes and she felt the rushing of wind, prickly cold over her skin as they were swallowed by a sound that Sophia could only picture as a fast-moving freight train; her body trembled and her head, toes and fingers seemed to spark and sizzle with a cold that reminded her of dry ice or liquid nitrogen. Just when she thought her body would dissolve into mist, there was only quiet dewy coolness and darkness all around her.

“Máire?” Sophia pushed herself into a sitting position and blinked several times. There, to her right, stood her childhood home, and, to her left, the woods where she first met Anrái. But Máire was nowhere to be found.

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It was still at least two hours until dawn and Sophia decided to follow the path behind the house down to the tiny inlet where her father had moored his fishing boat. She couldn’t remember the last time she had stood upon its rocky shore or even wanted to, but tonight, she was drawn to its tidal rhythm, the roar of the breakers a siren song to her aching heart. Every thunderous crash was a crushing reminder of her father leaving that day never to return. She slowed her steps as she neared the end of the path where the dunes rose up and the salty mist carried thicker in the air. If she closed her eyes, she was that little girl coming to meet her father at the end of his long fishing day, coming to help him inspect and repair the nets before heading home for dinner.

“Oh, Papa,” she said to the sea, “where are you?”

Under the hazy glow of the moon, Sophia slid of her sandals and cuffed her capris higher and stepped generally over the rocky places until her feet sank into the wet sand covered by the chilly sea that circled around her ankles and then receded back into the sea. The night was perfectly serene without a cloud to cover the stars that twinkled and shimmered overhead, and, yet, Sophia felt a dread resting in her gut, a dread so strong it caused her to shiver. As she scanned the sandy dunes around her, she saw no one but felt she was being watched nonetheless. To calm herself she took several deep breaths and let her eyes travel across the night sky, whispering wordless but heartfelt prayers for her father. In the distance above, she watched what appeared to be a shooting star streak toward the ocean horizon and marveled that it seemed to glow brighter as it neared the water than when it moved across the sky.

The faint but steady glow reminded her of Henry and she wondered where he was right now. Surely, he, too had landed in the meadow if he had indeed come through the Book’s portal. Again, she felt the sense of dread spreading deep in her stomach and she shuddered. Although she saw nothing to cause her dread, she presumed that Máire’s strange allusion to the winds of change, together with her ambiguous warnings of danger and the late hour were probably affecting Sophia’s sense of reason. Of course, there was still the matter that she had seen that picture of her father in the Book of Lore & Legends, and although it made no sense, Sophia was sure there was like a lot more she didn’t know than did. And she was sure that whatever answers she sought likely would be found in the forest, not the sea. The sea held too many unanswered questions; it was time to head into the forest in search of answers and the mysterious Dearbháil.

From the edge of the woods, Sophia watched the living room window of her house, wondering if her mom were asleep upstairs or if she had dozed off in the high back chair beside the piano. There was only a faint glow of light behind the curtain of the picture window. All else was dark and quiet from what she could see. “I’ll be back, Mama,” Sophia whispered, “as soon as I can.”

Sophia took a few steps into the woods and peered past the first rows of trees in search of a path but she could see none. Whatever path she traveled as a girl was long-since overgrown leaving no hint of the passage along which she followed Anrái all those years ago. She closed her eyes and tried to recall the few times she’d ventured into the darker parts of the forest following Anrái’s alluring glow past honeysuckles, bluebells, wood violets, and common wood sorrel. Even now, the sweet summer flower smells awoke her memories of those nights of faerie lights and magic. Of course, back then, the magic held not the uncertainty it had now, the dread that grew in Sophia’s gut with each step away from the meadow she took. The picture of her father, the Book of Lore & Legends, Mia as a faerie, and those strange warnings Mia had spoken, all of it stripped away some of the joy and adventure of those memories Sophia had of spinning and laughing with Anrái as the songs her mother sang filled the night air around them.

Go Winsomely into the Day

It’s Wednesday and you know what that means. It’s time to add a little winsomeness to your day, to your life, to your attitude.

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We all know life is comprised of moments, but sometimes we forget to take time to savor the time we are given.

Most of us are intimately familiar with the fact that our thoughts determine our actions and our actions influence our emotions and attitude, and these, in turn, determine our thoughts. It’s a cyclical triangle and if we don’t choose wisely, we end up in a negative, even downward, thought pattern. In other words, we have a bad day, which can become a series of bad days, until our perception becomes so skewed we see darkness where once we saw light.

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So, today, and every day, we need to take time to just be and to savor the moments of our day.

Take time to notice the beauty in the world and let it renew your soul. Look up at the clouds. Look around at the flowers. Stand still and listen to the birds as they twitter back and forth and enjoy their colors as they flit to and fro among the trees.

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Take time to create or to enjoy art; it’s all around us if we are willing to see it. Photos on a co-workers desk, photos from a favorite photographer’s blog, a child’s unhindered creativity on a blank piece of paper. Take time to doodle, to draw, to color, to create; you’ll be amazed at how joy-filled it makes you feel.

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Take time to read a good story so that you can live out your story with greater courage and boldness and delight (even better if you are able to set aside a chunk of time to read and drink a cup of coffee, a glass of wine, some seltzer or another favorite beverage, like maybe Dr. Pepper).

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Take time to explore or to take a walk or to run down a grassy hill. Do you remember the joy you felt as a child when you rolled or ran down the hill in the backyard or at your grandparents’ house or in the neighborhood park? Take time to immerse yourself in those moments today; even better, share them with your kiddos or a friend or your spouse.

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Take time to listen to the sound of your feet moving over the gravel of a hiking path or exercise your imagination as you wonder where the train tracks next to the road once carried its passengers (to meet loved ones, to find their fortune, to find their freedom).

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Life is filled with choices and we are given the freedom to choose what we will do and how we will fill each day. Yes, there are many things that demand our time and attention. Even so, we can take time to feed our soul, to breathe, to soak in the wonder that surrounds us.

We can take time be winsome.

I’d love to see and hear how you choose to feed your soul today. Share your pictures and adventures in the comments and show us your winsomeness today.

No Eloquence Necessary

Some days bring more anxiety, don’t they? For me, worry comes in like the tide, slowly, steadily, inching its way into my consciousness until I become so preoccupied with the unknowns and what ifs, I falter, my mind mired in the fear, sinking into it like my feet beneath the sand as the waves slowly wash away the foundation upon which I stand.

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For me, when these moments loom large before me, my mind darts the horizon of my memory, seeking scripture verses promising assurance and comfort.

Most often, my mind digs out at least one verse about casting my cares on the Lord; but honestly, I don’t always understand exactly how this works or what it looks like. I love the idea, but, really, it causes me greater anxiety because I become more concerned about whether I’m doing it right than simply doing it. Ironic, right?

Cast Cares

It doesn’t matter how many word pictures pastors or teachers or Bible studies or friends have offered: I’ve not truly understood how, exactly, to cast my cares on the Lord.

Until today.

There were no mental images of me throwing things into God’s hands.

There were no half-hearted efforts to seek His face and forego my fears.

Instead, there was only rough draft, rough-around-the-edges prayer. Not eloquent words that would rival David’s poetry in the Psalms. Not well-wrought, perfectly placed words woven into beautifully inspired passages. No, there was only disjointed, desperate, raw, naked neediness (if you need an image, think of someone spasmodically heaving a hand grenade barely a few inches from her own feet and responding in proper additional flailing spasms).

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It went a little bit like this:

Dear Jesus. I don’t know what to say. Oh Father, Papa, I know. I know you know. How I need you. I love that you care for me. You are mighty and powerful and all-knowing and all around me so that I am never without you, but, you know, you know these worries make me feel so, so, so lost and alone. I want to know what to do. But I don’t. I mean, I don’t want to know, you know?

What I want is to rest in the promise of your Word: be my refuge; be my safe place; help me breathe; help me trust you.

I love the what you tell me, that you care for me. Help me rest there. Help me rest there. I don’t want to worry about autism and medications and therapies and where we’re going to move or live and how we’re going to do all of that. Take the guilt and the tears and the rage, mine, hers, ours, all of it. There are always too many questions. You have wisdom, and I need it. So I’m asking. So, please be generous, because, seriously – I need it. Like I need you.

Oh, and I don’t want to figure out, actually, no, I can’t figure out jobs and income and finances and bills. I can’t do it without feeling overwhelmed. And, really, I have no idea about any of it. 

Seriously, God, I hate figuring things out. But I love knowing that you are here, always here. Help me, help me, help me to believe your words and to rest in them. Speak to me, Jesus, as I train my mind to think on you and to see you in the space around me. Speak, shout, yell, whisper; just, please, be in control. I’m too tired to figure it out. We both know I can’t figure it out and trying, pretending, it makes me tired.

I have no control over anyone or anything. There. I said it. Finally. You’re in control. I belong to you. I trust you. You love me. That’s it. That’s all I can do right now, know and accept that You love me. You made me. So, I give up, because that’s all I can do.

And that’s all He wants me to do: Nothing.

And that is something I can do.

Oh, and you want to hear something amazing?

I got home (I prayed this in the car, driving my daughter home from one of our therapy appointments) to find that God had answered one of those prayers. And that caused me to pray again, my words tripping on my tongue because my thanks and praise and gratitude were no more eloquent than my casting my cares.

But they were equally heartfelt.

A Portal Home

(This is much of what I wrote today for a new feature I’m cultivating on my Facebook Writer Page as well as here on the blog: Friday Fiction. This excerpt continues an existing piece, Henry & Sophia, a story of lore and legend, love and faeries, oh, and an epic battle).

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Meanwhile, in the dim light of the library, Sophia stood tracing the golden embossed letters of the title. She started at the tingle that rippled through her fingers and up her arm. With a glance over her shoulder, Sophia opened the book, letting its pages flutter in the quiet room. She paused a moment, thinking she heard Henry talking to someone, but the draw of the book was strong. She tiptoed to the door and peeked through the crack toward the patio. Henry stood just past the reflections in the sliding glass door, distorted by the play of light and overlay of the reflections of ordinary objects across the glass and for a moment Sophia thought she saw a shimmering flutter of light flitting about his head, almost like a hummingbird.

Supposing him occupied at least for the moment, Sophia turned back to the book lying open on the bookshelf. Its pages seemed to emit a golden, filmy light of the faintest glow. Captivated once more, she moved toward the book. As she drew near her breath caught in her throat and she froze, staring. There, as real as if she’d taken it herself, was a photo of the meadow beside the childhood home where Sophia had spent many evenings watching the sun fade and the faerie lights flicker to life.

It was real, she thought, as memory upon memory began weaving its way through her mind and into her heart.

She ran a hand over the feathery grass in the picture and gasped, watching her hand disappear into the page, her fingertips playing over wisps of grass, chilled by the night air.

“Sophia?”

Sophia spun around, pulling her hand free of the Book and the meadow at the sound of Henry’s voice behind her in the door. She knew she couldn’t hide the fact that she was looking at the Book. She blinked several times, as if trying to focus on something in the distance. “It was real,” she said. “You were there. You were, you are . . . real.”

* * * * *

Sophia sat with her back against the fence, listening intently to the sounds of Henry’s movements on the other side, the clanking of their empty wine glasses and the creak of the swing and the groaning swoosh of the sliding glass door. After several minutes, he turned off the small orange lanterns that swayed in the evening breeze of the trees. She let the darkness settle around her and rested her head against the fence formulating her plan, which involved nothing more than sneaking into Henry’s place and making her way to the library and the book and home.

What if Henry finds me? she wondered. She took several deep breaths and decided she’d deal with that in the moment if it actually happened. Besides, she’d been living beside him long enough to know that he usually only turned off the tree lanterns if he were leaving his house. To give him enough time to leave, she sang softly through two of the childhood songs her mother often played at bedtime three times through each. Hearing no other sounds on Henry’s side of the fence, she took one final breath, pushed herself off the ground and made her way back to Henry’s.

The patio seemed so dark without the glow of the orange lanterns overhead and the sky was equally dark, a thick covering of clouds and fog dimming out the city lights and the faint glow of the moon. Inside Henry’s house everything looked dark. She fit the copy of the key she had into the sliding door and moved almost like a shadow into the living room. Hearing nothing, she began making her way down the hall to the library. As she approached, she noted a faint golden glow and stopped. Is Henry in there? she wondered. She readied her response about wanting to borrow a book after all and moved toward the room, pausing outside the door and listening for any sign of Henry’s presence. After several long moments, she assured herself he certainly was not there, peaked her head into the room, and gasped. The Book lay open to her childhood home, the portal. Had Henry gone back? Is that what he needed to tend to?

Without giving herself time to reconsider, Sophia moved quickly to the book. As she considered how one used the portal, a bookmark caught her eye. She opened to the flagged page and stared, her breath shallow and quick. There, on the page, was a photo of her father, but the name beneath the picture read, Uilleam, not William. But Sophia knew it was him. The sparkle in his eye that he had just before he smiled. The broad shoulders that she’d cried or laughed into so many times as a little girl. The square jaw and deeply-lined forehead that could make him look almost menacing if he was in serious contemplation. Sophia wiped away the tears that fell onto his picture and that blurred her eyes and read the pages that told about her father as a Chief Guardian of The Book of Lore & Legends and especially, the Magic of the Isle. Her head spun as she tried to accept that her father, her loving Papa, was once, or is he still, she wondered, a faerie. As she stood in the darkness of the library, her tears turned to weeping.

Be Still and Just Be

Welcome to Winsome Wednesday, Friend. Defined simply, winsome is something cheerful, pleasant, and appealing, and, honestly, who can’t use a little bit more of that in their lives?

So, welcome. Take a few moments and turn off the To Do lists running through your mind, unplug from the busyness, and tune into your heart. Heed the invitation to be still (Psalm 46:10) and by so doing, relish the beauty and the pleasure that the Creator pours out into this world daily.

For some of us, including me, daily busyness tends to overshadow the winsome moments that abound all around us. So, to get us back in tune with the winsome side of life, here are a few images from my life that inspire me daily to be thankful and encouraged, and to set aside the busyness so I can drink in the blessings of this life God has so freely given to me.

Sometimes, lunch or dinner can give you a smile depending on with whom you are dining and how you arrange the food on your plate. This was my Funny Mother’s Day Lunch designed by my six-year old.

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Sometimes, the mailbox brings a winsome piece of mail that both inspires and encourages you, and reminds you that you are a dreamer on top of all the other things you are every day. Remember, sending mail is as much fun as receiving, so send a note to someone today and bring joy to someone’s life.

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Sometimes, getting up a few minutes before the chaos of life begins makes a cup of coffee feel winsome.

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Sometimes, time outside doing something you love brings you back to that winsome place deep in your soul; the part of you that is stirred by delight in simply being and enjoying. For my girls, that happened to be the mud puddle at the edge of the woods. For you or me, it may be sitting on a porch swing and listening to the birds or hiking through the woods in the quiet of nature.

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When we are tuned in to the world around us rather than the busyness that crowds in around us, we find that beauty, color, inspiration, and winsome moments are waiting for us to discover them, to drink them in like a cup of cold water and be renewed for the things still to get done. But be not fooled; not everything we think needs to get done, are things we need to do.

Sometimes, the thing we need to do is stop, be still, rest, and listen; listen to our heart, listen to our Creator, and listen to those we love. Sometimes, the thing we need is the thing we’ll miss if we don’t take time to breathe and be, just be.

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So, Friend, today, I hope that you will take time to be; to be you; to be in the world; to be inspired by where you are and who you are with. I hope that you will take time to drink in the winsome moments and be refreshed. And I invite you to share those moments in the comments. I’d love to see what you discover when you take time to be still and just be.

I Hate Autism: a manifesto

shadowI hate autism.

I hate the way it makes me feel like I’m failing as a parent.

I hate the way it makes me feel like I have no idea what to do in any given moment or from one moment to the next.

I hate the way it strips away all semblance of calm and replaces it with chaos.

I hate having to watch my kid disengage from the world, from the people and circumstances immediately around her, because they threaten her, intimidate her, challenge her, or confuse her.

I hate the way it steals her away from me sometimes because she disengages with me.

I hate that I don’t really know or understand how she processes the world around her and so I can’t help her when she needs it most.

I hate the way it requires more, so much more, so incredibly often, and so I feel like little more than a shadow of myself.

I hate the way it makes my girl hate to be held or touched in the moment when she’s upset and I feel so far from her and cannot truly comfort her.

I hate the way it struts about as if it owns our world and I hate that I sometimes give it that opportunity.

Rainbow Heart GirlBecause I love my girl.

And I love that my husband gets it and speaks hope and truth in whispers and gestures and by squeezing my hand or rubbing my back in the difficult moments.

And I love that my youngest is learning empathy and compassion in the face of these challenges and reaches out to her big sister when she is hurting or angry.

And I love that God is bigger than autism and my frustrations with it, and that He catches my tears in His hand and that same hand holds the future He has created for me and for my amazing girl and for our family.

And I love and savor the moments when my kiddo seeks me out and wraps her arms around me just because.

And I love that this girl can remind me of wonder and beauty and joy and delight and unconditional love all in a single moment.

I hate autism, deeply and passionately because of how deeply and passionately I love my girl who has it.