Friday Fictioneers – The Last Gardener

Every week, Rochelle Wisoff-Fields (thank you, Rochelle!) hosts a flash fiction challenge, to write a complete story, based on a photoprompt, with a beginning, middle and end, in 100 words or less. Post it on your blog, and include the Photoprompt and Inlinkz (the blue frog) on your page. Link your story URL. Then the fun starts as you read other peoples’ stories and comment on them!

FF - russell-working 180530

PHOTO PROMPT © Connie Gayer

The Last Gardener

I’m odd. I like to go outside, walk under the open sky. I was doing that one day when I met a bearded giant wielding some primitive implement.

“What are you doing?”

“Plantin’ beans.”

“What do you mean?”

“I put beans into the ground. They grow, and in a few months I’ll be eating fresh beans!”

He beckoned.

“See this? Proper sweetcorn. Not that stuff you grow in tanks. ‘Nother eight weeks I’ll be eatin’ corn on the cob.”

“You’re going to eat that?”

“Absolutely!”

I fled from him back to the hygiene of the city.

I’m not that odd!

Advertisements

Friday Fictioneers – In Memoriam – Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School

Every week, Rochelle Wisoff-Fields (thank you, Rochelle!) hosts a flash fiction challenge, to write a complete story, based on a photoprompt, with a beginning, middle and end, in 100 words or less. This week’s prompt was a beautiful photograph, but it took me to a place of sadness. No matter how hard I tried to go elsewhere, this was the story that I had to write.

FF - In Memoriam 180221

PHOTO PROMPT © Marie Gail Stratford

In Memoriam – Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School

The gardeners worked hard. They mulched the soil, banished pests, fought diseases and pruned; pruned so gently and so carefully, shaping the rose bushes to produce beautiful and healthy flowers.

Fourteen bushes stood in an oval bed surrounded by immaculate lawn. The blooms were red, orange, pink, and yellow, teasing the eye with vibrant potential. Their sweet perfume delighted.

What was in the young man’s mind? Pain begets pain – but he knew what he was doing. He stripped those blooms, slew the gardeners, with a hail of lead.

He ended their potential.

Rest in peace, beautiful blooms and faithful gardeners.

Friday Fictioneers – A Confidant

Every week, Rochelle Wisoff-Fields (thank you, Rochelle!) hosts a flash fiction challenge, to write a complete story, with a beginning, middle and end in 100 words or less. Post it on your blog, and include the Photoprompt and Inlinkz (the blue frog) on your page. Link your story URL. Then the fun starts as you read other peoples’ stories and comment on them!

Photoprompt (c) Kent Bonham

Word count 100

A confidant

Rebekah stretched. It had been a long drive to her parents’ home in Galilee from her workplace, the Monod Institute, in the Negev. The garden, her father’s share of Abraham’s inheritance, held grapevines, a few olives and a fig tree.

Rebekah frowned, as she had for months. Could she tell her father?

She climbed up to be enfolded in her mother’s arms.

“And, guess what? We have your brother, David, for dinner tonight!”

Rebekah tensed with realisation. David! He was a physician, and discreet. She could tell him about the bioweapon, the Doomsday Plague, being developed by the Monod Institute!

In the moment – beautiful tulips

How beautiful tulips are, and how diverse! The chaste elegance of pure white, the sombre glow of purple, the flamboyance of scarlet and yellow parrot tulips, all grace borders and vases. In our garden there are some crimson and white blooms that are almost heartbreakingly lovely.

Tulips crimson and white 170501

And they seem to last so well, even as cut flowers. I’m sure they last longer than they used to in my childhood. Human actions have modified tulips dramatically. It’s an intriguing thought that this has been done largely for aesthetic reasons. We have changed the world to indulge our passion for beautiful things.

While we’re thinking about our impact on the world, we could also consider what we eat. Although most of my food is locally sourced, today I will also eat food from Morocco, Kenya and – where do bananas come from anyway?! The greater variety of food means that it is easier to prepare tasty, nutritious meals; but it comes at an environmental cost because the food is transported further.

It’s good to eat tasty, nourishing food. It’s good to plan a garden, to work to achieve harmony of colour and form and scent. It’s good to enjoy the results of that effort.

There is, though, a way that we can enrich our lives and, at the same time, lighten our environmental footprint. We can explore locally sourced food; appreciate seasonal variation in availability. We can be aware, too, of the beauty that is around us all the time, without effort on our part. Bluebells in a wood under the bright new leaves of the trees. Brave scarlet poppies flourishing on a building site for a few short days. The tiny flowers of toadflax clinging tenaciously to dry stone walls.

If we live in the moment, we will see beauty everywhere, perhaps in the sunset, or a cloudscape, or the harmony of a building’s proportions, or in the face of someone dear to us.

Let’s be awake to our surroundings, and open to the possibility of beauty wherever we are!

The Hakone Open-Air Museum

Combine the Japanese flair for gardens with a mountain setting and the absolute pinnacle of twentieth century sculpture, and what do you have? The Hakone Open-Air Museum.

It’s a great display, and well worth a visit. We were there two and a half hours, and we could have spent twice as long.

Unfortunately (from the pov of writing a blog) we’re staying in a ryo-kan, and I’m typing this with the laptop on a relatively low table and me standing. Uncomfortable? Very.

So all you’re getting is pictures! I hope you enjoy them. I can assure you that the real thing is much better!

Hakone landscape with sculpture 170403

 The sculpture below is “La Pleureuse”. It’s awesome!

Hakone La Pleureuse 170403

The next sculpture is “Symphonic sculpture”.

Hakone Symphonic sculpture 170403

And finally, a piece on a more human scale – “Alba”

Hakone Alba 170403

Senso-ji Temple – and a quaint alley

The longer I live and the more I travel, the more I realize the extent to which all religions are syncretic. For example, today we visited Senso-ji, the oldest Buddhist temple in Tokyo. The temple is, apparently, dedicated to Guanyin, the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy. I may be wrong, but I had thought that Buddhism was established on the basis of the four Noble Truths, and the eight-fold way, none of which relies on a deity at all. Of all the ancient religions, Buddhism seems the closest to modern humanism, and yet here in this temple many people are wafting holy smoke over themselves for healing, and using divination to foretell their future.

 Tokyo Senso-ji smoke 170402

The temple was founded in 645 AD. It was destroyed by Allied bombing in WW2 but has been rebuilt. In the courtyard is a tree that was hit by a bomb, but has regrown in the husk of the old tree. I’m encouraged by that symbol of hope. The firebombing of Tokyo was an appalling act – I won’t enter the debate as to whether it was essential to end the war and limit Allied casualties – I shall just mention that 100,000 people died by fire and very many more were injured and made homeless. Justified or not, it showed the depths to which human beings can fall.

 Tokyo Senso-ji buddha 170402

Here, I shall declare an interest. I am a Christian, and I try to write from a Christian perspective. However, I do not see Christianity as exclusive. There is fine moral and ethical teaching in many religions, including humanism, and those who follow them sincerely are likely to be more humane as a result. So I am gladdened by the fact that 30 million people every year visit the Senso-ji. Many of them come with sincere hearts and I feel sure they are spiritually uplifted by the experience.

Tokyo Senso ji entrance 170402 

After visiting the temple, we took to the Sumida River, and cruised down to the Hama-rikyu landscape gardens. Like the other gardens we saw on previous days, these were wonderfully laid out and cultivated.

Tokyo Hara-kyu Gardens 170402 

Then, this evening, we went from the sublime to the ridiculous – a walk down “Piss Street”, or “Nostalgia Alley”. This narrow passage is lined with tiny food outlets, with and without seating. A quaint and picturesque finale!

Tokyo Piss Alley 170402

 

Shinjuko Gyoen and a hearty meal

This morning we braved the Tokyo public transport on our own to visit the Sankyo flute atelier. The journey was not difficult, but it took us some time to locate the right building. In the end we asked a local – who referred to her mobile phone and directed us. The flutes we were shown were wonderfully crafted – you would desire one for its appearance even if you couldn’t play it. And the sound Daphne produced playing it was amazing, with tremendous dynamic range and control.

Tokyo cherry blossom vista 170331

In the afternoon, we visited Shinjuku Gyoen, the National Garden. This is a beautiful park, with a mixture of open spaces and trees and lakes with wooden bridges over them. Despite the cold rain, Japanese tourists were out in force, smiling and being positively British about the weather.

Tokyo Kabuki-cho 170331

However, don’t let me give you the impression that Tokyo is all culture and tranquil parks. In the evening, our tour guides took us to one of the areas for entertainment, where there are pachinko parlours, hostess (and host!) bars, cinemas, karaoke bars and, of course, a vast diversity of eateries.

Tokyo okonomiyaki 170331

We were taken to a restaurant where you cook your own okonomiyaki at the table. What could be better after a cold, wet afternoon, than a hearty serving of pork, cabbage, prawns and other stuff in a matrix of egg, everything being liberally drenched in soy-based sauce and mayonnaise? And seaweed. And dried flakes of bonita tuna. All washed down with beer.