Whispers From England — A Short Story

Pre-dawn and cold, I come before her — Kanzeon, Goddess of Compassion, sculpted with the oils and energy of my hands — light a candle, settle into my posture and sit in meditation, the sane part of my day. As I rise and bow, I feel the balance which eluded me for so long. I pull on layers of clothes, my coffee steaming in a friendly way. My boots sit alone in the mud room. The rain of Saturday has frozen on top of the snow. Even the sea grasses are imprisoned in hard stretches of ice. As the sun rises, I try to chip a narrow path to the truck with an old hoe but give up any hope of reaching town today. The sassafras branches strain and then snap, the pieces scattering like cat’s eyes in a marble game. The old pines in back are stronger and more naturally sloped to bear the weight of storms, reminding me of shoulders used to toil and harshness.

 Kira pads softly after me and rests her head on the edge of the bathtub as I sink into the hot water and watch the submerged part of my body slowly turn pink. I gaze at the silvery stretch marks low on my belly that were to bring only joy. His cry, urgent and strangled, comes through the walls and I see the three of us crouched over his tiny coffin. Sara wore grape lipstick that day, her slender face so pale. She was nearly fifteen then, her eyes constantly searching my face for answers. I tried to be those shoulders for her. I used to wake from dreams of him at my breast, pulling at something deep inside of me where, for that instant before my sleep crumbled around me, I lived in a sand castle. The sea of reality has dissolved all of that. There are no instants left.

The stone fireplace never did draw well. At my feet, Kira intently watches me shell peanuts. One for her, two for me, two for her, one for me. It seems important to share equally with her. My hair dries slowly in the spaces of silence, some broken by the splitting and crackling of the fire, others expanding in the coolness at my back. I light a cigarette — the first of the day. Yesterday, only two. Henry would find it ironic. Did I continue to smoke while we were together only to defy him. Passive-aggression was the only way to be heard. The screaming inside me always covered with a smile or a blank stare.

We looked the perfect couple. I remember a businessman stopping us after a flight to St. Croix to comment on what a beautiful family we were. Pristine beaches which we wouldn’t walk on. Henry didn’t like the feel of sand on his skin. We ate local seafood and drank mai-tais, Sara swam in the pool while we watched her, in a tropical-flowered bikini, her slight body beginning to mature. She was proud and embarrassed at the same time. I was overjoyed and then saddened when I realized I had become pregnant on that trip. A new life — a sibling for Sara — a deeper bond with Henry, more to extricate myself from.

We met on a dating website for the disabled, a lifeline for those who found it physically hard to socialize. He was afflicted with MS, I with ME/CFS. A perfect match. Our initial bond was bone-deep, ever-present fatigue and the isolation that is inherent. We emailed each other from August until December, my days began and ended with his messages. They were skillfully composed and ranged from outrageous humor to the soft suggestions that he was beginning to care for me. He collected fancy bonnet or hood ornaments and one was named Alana by the manufacturer, also my name. She was a bronzed and naked woman reaching lithely into the sky, also called by the manufacturer the Lady of Ecstasy. That became my name, Alana, Lady of Ecstasy. Many emails began with Oh, L of E.

[To be Continued]  


Like Children

My hands and cheeks stung from the March wind and the yellow light beckoned

through the skeleton oaks, yet I could not bring her in and end my child’s game. 

The wild bobbing and swooning of my crimson kite to currents I could not know

made me understand that my creation, once in flight, was no longer mine. 

Emily Florence 


Her Hands

They soothed my brow, curled my hair and filled my lunchbox. My feet on cold linoleum, they made eggs with hard edges.

They did laundry in a tub that would freeze on the line and grew corn and beans to fill our hungry mouths. 

 They sewed midnight dresses for parties and dances, simple creations held with loving stitches.

They could turn into fists, blood and trust running out. Whose hands had soothed and then weaponed against her? 

At the end of her life when words had no meaning, we spoke in our tactile way, as I massaged her worn hands with creams and painted her nails the color of love. 

Emily Florence




Seeking Answers

Do not seek the answers which cannot now be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually without noticing it, live along some distant day, into the answers. 

Rainer Maria Rilke



The lion king past his prime still commanded glory, ignored by those unable to see his scars from ancient battles. The lioness wandered from a different strata searching for familiar grounds.

They circled, smelled the scent of forgotten lives, then joined. She licked his amber coat and feared the salty taste. He sank his teeth into the softness of her neck, drank the warmth and took what he thought was his.

 The jungle-gods screamed as they watched her body rise from the dust and lope into the red sky with a heart of thunder.

Emily Florence


Pears and Dreams

We planted a pear tree near the back gate. Through the summer we watered it and dreamed of a life in Johnson Canyon, red rocks and sage trees to color our lives.

The nights are tinged with coolness now and the pear tree is a golden brown. Our dream fades into that place where dreams winter because they are, after all, an illusion. 

Next year pears, as yellow and sweet as summer light, will grace the branches, reminding me of the possibility of dreams, some to be forgotten and others becoming as real as the taste of cool fruit in my mouth.

Emily Florence


“Hope” Is The Thing With Feathers

“Hope” is the thing with feathers — that perches in the soul — and sings the tune without the words — and never stops — at all — and sweetest in the Gale is heard — and sore must be the storm that could abash the little Bird that kept so many warm — I’ve heard it on the chillest land — and on the strangest Sea — Yet, never, in the Extremity, it asked a crumb of Me.

Emily Dickinson 


A Good Day at Trapping

I volunteer for Forgotten Felines, an organization helping the feral and community cats of Sonoma County. I have been a trapper for the past four years helping effectuate TNR, the system of trap, neuter, return. A clinic is held every Wednesday so I go out on Tuesday to different clients who have alerted us to feral colonies. It is a game of patience and many techniques to outsmart the cats and entice them into the traps. If successful and many outings are not successful, the captured cats are taken into the clinic early the next morning to receive a health check for any injuries or illnesses, treatment for fleas, ear mites and worms, microchipping and spaying and neutering. They are monitored throughout the day and picked up later spending overnight with the trapper who will continue to monitor them. The following morning the cats are returned to the area they were trapped, their home, and are released. This is the essence of TNR.

This week I was able to trap an adult and a kitten. The adult turned out to be a friendly female and was microchipped. We learned that her owners had been evicted from their apartment three weeks earlier and had abandoned their cat. Her name is Miso. We are searching for a rescue to take her where she will be adopted. She as all of them so richly deserves this. I’m hopeful for Miso. The outcome for her could have been a very poor one. The kitten, a 6-week old light gray tabby female, was assessed for several days as to her potential for adoption. She quickly relaxed and was taken into our foster program. The foster parents will work to socialize her for a month or two and then she will be brought into the clinic to be spayed and microchipped. At that point she will go into our adoption center. Two lovely cats taken off the streets and into their forever homes.

The greatness of a nation and it’s moral progress can be judged by the way it’s animals are treated.”  Mahatma Gandhi


Late Summer Thoughts

In a few weeks the kids will be going back to school. It all seemed to go so fast. The North Bay has experienced mostly temperate weather this season. However, all of California is looking forward to a robust rainy season to somehow inhibit the raging fires.

The Santa Rosa fires of October 2017 scarred the landscape and the psyche of all of us. I lived downtown at the time. We were told to prepare to evacuate. The air quality was terrible. Many left the area for cleaner air. I stayed because my cats wouldn’t do well with a temporary relocation. I kept my apartment closed with the air conditioning on and only went out for food for several weeks. During one food run, a fire truck from Southern California was in the lane next to my car. I got the attention of the firemen, gave a thumbs up, blew kisses, I couldn’t express my appreciation enough. Then I started to cry and couldn’t stop.

The fires are not threatening Sonoma County at this point but we understand the unpredictability of this powerful force of nature. We hear the grim statistics of lives lost, homes destroyed and now fully understand the long-term impact on those communities. Those who can are rushing to help. We pray for those affected and stay alert for news of any encroaching threats.