About Me

My photo

Tracie Skarbo was motivated to write by her father, who was her biggest supporter. “He was always behind me, rallying me on with my writing. I would always see him with a book in hand. He gave me a great appreciation for the written word, and the power and responsibility that writers have to shape those who read their words. He also taught me to respect nature and to value the beauty within it; my reflections on my environment are just an extension of this.” Skarbo was raised on Vancouver Island and is working on her next two books.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Candle Illumination

Mint upon my palate, I rub sleep infused eyes and crawl under the covers.  Oh blessed sleep, please descend upon this body and transverse this fatigue.  Eyes closed, bring a wavering blackness upon subtle lids.  The conversation begins…

“I am worried about the candle.”

“Do not fear my child; you have put the metal cookie sheet beneath it.  Even if it were to tumble your thoughtfulness will save the house.”

“Are you sure it will be enough?”  My brows arch.

“Come now, it is time for the lessons.”

“The book says we should concentrate on the candle, try to become the candle, what ever that means.”  My disbelief hung in the air.

“Observe the candle.  Tell me what you see.”

“I see a white candle made of wax with a flame above it.  What else is there to a candle?”

“Surely this is not all that your eyes bring to you, look deeper and broaden your mind.”  His smile gentle and coaxing.

“The candle is not doing anything that I can see, except perhaps illuminating with the flames light.  It is the flame that moves and dances in the slight breeze.  It consumes the air and the wick.  It is emitting light and heat.  The candle is allowing this as the heat melts the wax and gives the flame more wick to consume.  If you count the candles allowing nature, I suppose it is doing something.”

“Yes, continue to observe.  What is this process teaching you?” 

My brows marry in concentration.  “In a way it is as though the candle has a life of sorts.  Its age is that of its use.  Just as we have, it has a birth, and with use a middle age.  Once spent; a death.  It gives birth to the flame, nourishing it.”

“Exactly, we are more like this candle then you know.  It sits before us doing what it does best, giving light and heat to those who wish to use it.  It is perfect in its simplicity; it does exactly what is required.  Nothing more, nothing less, yet leaves nothing undone.  It does not wish to be anything other then what it is.  Imagine what freedom we could have if only we knew and lived this secret.”  A pregnant pause hung between us.

“I suppose…but you are forgetting that we are not as simple as a candle.  Our complexities and our emotions, although a burden at times, are also what separate us from all other forms of life.  Should this not be celebrated?”

“It is and it should be celebrated, but it also blinds our minds eye with the cataracts of confusion.  We become like cattle in a monsoon, stuck in a quagmire of selfish impulses.  We, like the cattle, know the nature of the mud, yet we are still drawn to it instead of staying clear of what know to be a yoke.  Does this sound like the thought of a clear mind?”

“So how do we cleanse the mind?  How do we gain clarity?” I ask.

“Some say that meditation can bring a sense of clarity.”

“Some say?  So this is not your thinking then?”

“I think this is too simplistic.  Yes, a period of meditation is needed to quiet the mind and still the soul.  It can only be a good path for one seeking spiritual illumination.  However I think much more is needed then this simple recipe.  One must have the eyes in the head and the eyes of the spirit open at all times.  This is needed if one is to observe the world, its ways, and learn the lessons given through out the day.  How else is one to observe the heartbeat of life?”  Silence grows as we concentrate on the candle, and I mull over his words.  I am next to speak.

“So which would you say is of more importance, the candle or the flame?”

“In my mind there is no distinguishing the value between the two.  You can have the candle without the flame; it just ceases to be as useful.  In this instance, the flame cannot exist without the candle.  The flame is dependant on the candle.  When the wick is consumed in its entirety the flame too shall be consumed.”

“Where does the flame go?”

He smiles and gives me a wink.  “Now you are opening your mind.  These are the questions to ponder.  If I knew where the energy of a flame or a soul went after death, I would be a great master who would burst forth in hundreds of rainbows at the time of mine.” 

He chuckles, and his eyes become happy upside down smiles. 

The Execution

**Please note that this story contains graphic material that may not be suitable or may be disturbing to some readers**

~~ I wrote this when I was sixteen years of age in response to finding out about the details of public executions that were still happening in the world.  Here we are another 20 years from when I wrote it and we are still finding out that this is a regular occurence in some countries.  I am posting this story in hopes of shedding light on what others hope to sweep under the carpet. 

The rain pelted down on Lizzy’s head as the crowd gathered in the town square.  She could see people waiting under overhanging roofs, standing on boxes, while others peered out windows, all trying to get a better view.  What were they looking at?

“Pa what’s all this for?” Lizzy asked

“Hush child, hurry it up now.”  He maneuvered her throughout the crowd, his great bulk, demanding attention.  Lizzy looked around, trying to gather the meaning of the commotion.  Why was Pa pullin’ so hard?  Lizzy knew some of the townsfolk she passed, barely recognizing some, dressed in their best as they were.  Why there was Mrs. Liverberg, didn’t know she had richie clothes like that.  Didn’t she look fancy in that new frock?  Over there by the rain barrel, was that Devon?  Oh how he liked to pull her braids!  Not while pa was around though, never then.  She snickered at the thought of Pa catchin’ Devon pulling at her hair, that would be a lark!

“Whatchu laughin’ at Lizzy?”  Pa grumbled

“Nutin’ Pa,” she put a mitt to her mouth to stifle another giggle.  Lizzy looked down at her shoes trying to think about where she was placing them. Where was Pa takin’ her?  So fast he was, she could barely keep up to his long strides.  Lizzy watched her feet appear only to disappear again.  Her big toe sticking out of the top of her boot, how lonely that one toe looked.  On very cold days, she would see steam rising out of that hole.  Pa’s strides on the cobblestone made soft clumping noises, barley touching the crowds’ voice.

“We there yet?”

“Keep u girl!”  Pa was in a mood, all worked up about somethin’.  “Here child, yer eyes on yer feet now!” 

Lizzy nearly fell over the steps, trying to follow in his trail.  She didn’t answer, things were better that way.  Pa broke through the top of the crowd and onto the porch of the Cobblestone Horseshoe.  Through the door, Mr. Granger was waiting.

“Michael, tis been too long my friend.”  Mr. Granger took Pa’s hand and gave him a violent pat on the arm.

“Tis been Paul, it ready?”

“Wouldn’t be anythin’ else now would it?”  Pa gave a hearty laugh and followed Mr. Granger up the stairs; Lizzy could smell the acrid smell of sweat from the two men, mixed with the horses waiting to be shoed.  As they ascended, she felt like the grey stones were dank with long ago secrets.  A feeling of foreboding sent shivers up her spine; Lizzy poked her head from behind Pa’s back to peek at Mr. Granger. 

“Ah and Miss Lizzy has come to join in the festivities.”  Mr. Granger tipped his sweat soaked hat towards her.  Lizzy returned a clumsy curtsey.
“How do you do?”  Lizzy asked.

“I am well me fair one,” Mr. Granger looked at Pa and smacked his knee, “she’s turnin’ out fine that girl.  Should draw a good man ‘ith that face.”

“Ah, enough of yer old man flirtin’!”  Pa laughed, “Lets see the place you have saved for yer old friend.”

Lizzy looked about the rooftop, Mr. Granger had gathered many a friend to see the sights of the day.  Three seats were saved closest to the town square, Mr. Granger led them over.

“Would this be suitin’ to yer tastes?”

“Aye t’would be at that.” Pa said grinning from ear to ear.

Lizzy looked out across the town square, it seemed she could see for miles.  The townsfolk seemed to be wee little ones from way up here.  Something was about to happen in the middle of town square perhaps some kind of dance.  A wooden platform had been erected earlier in the day, a wooden table sat in the middle of it.

“Pa what is going on?”

“Lizzy yer ‘bout to learn one of life’s teachin’s.  I ain’t gonna spoil it by tellin’ ya now.”

Had Pa gone mad?  Lizzy watched him and the others on the roof.  Had they all gone mad?  The glint in their eyes shone through any outward emotion, flushed cheeks and rapid breathing, calmed by steins of Ale. 

She went pale, mulling over the new idea that sprang to her mind.  The Witches, that’s what this was about.  Were they gonna burn them some Witches?  Pa, oh no Pa, I don’t want to see no witch burn!  Lizzy looked over the side, searching the platform.  Where was the post?  They tied Witches to posts to burn didn’t they?  That dumb Devon said so, he loved to tease the girls ‘bout the Witch burnin’s.  Damn you pa, don’t want to watch this.  Gonna cover my eyes, that is what I’ll do! 

There was movement below; men climbing the steps up to the platform.  A man in chains was flung forward, his hands bound.  The men wore black masks, only eyes exposed.  The crowd swayed back and forth, calling out for blood, and throwing things at the stranger.  Soon he was covered in muck.

What’s this?  Lizzy sat forward in her chair, maybe no witch burnin’ after all.  Unless it was a man witch, then wouldn’t Devon talk?  Lizzy learnt some new cuss words.  Smiling, she wondered what Devon would do if she called him some of these names.  An evil grin spread as she thought about finding out.

Pa stood up fast, spilling Ale over his oldest daughter.  He didn’t notice, wrapped up in the event.  Lizzy watched as a collective evil penetrated the crowd.  Faces twisted in fury, arms flung in anger, mouths spurting no mercy.  The people transformed into a mass she could no longer recognize, a form she couldn’t fathom. 

She hadn’t noticed the hanging noose on the old oak tree; the crowd had all but swallowed it up.  She noticed now, as the people parted for the quartet.  The rope, swung over one of the lower branches, displayed its yellow braid.  Devon came to mind.  Damn.  They meant to hang him, for all to see, was that it?  That had to be it right?  It will be over in a second.  She fought the urge to bury her face in her sleeve.  Pa wouldn’t like that. 

The men in black fastened the noose around his neck, the crowd chanting as one, yelling “Pull tight!  Pull it tight!”  Lizzy couldn’t believe what she was hearing, she knew these people.  She had grown up with some.  What had possessed them?

She watched the rope as it was pulled taut, lifting him into the air.  The noose tightened around his throat, forcing his neck to stretch.  Lizzy was sure his head was going to give up the fight, and go flying through the misty sky.  Either that or his eyes and tongue would fly out into the crowd, bulging as they were.  How long could a man hang like that?  She knew he would invade her dreams and thoughts for days and nights to come.  Surely the end was close?  She willed his spirit to flee, to be rid of this place, these people who would do such a thing to a man.

Lizzy caught her breath.  What were they doing?  Why would they go and cut the bugger down?  Is he dead already?  Bit quick wasn’t it?  Confusion set in as they hoisted him limp, upon their shoulders and carried him once again to the platform.

She wanted to pull away, knowing horror was coming, but it seemed as though she was rooted; no longer noticing those around her.  She was becoming part of it, hypnotized in the evil that surrounded her.  She could feel the inner beat, the rhythm of what was happening; the rhythm of life and death.  An inner struggle tugged at her.  Silently she watched.

The stranger was strapped with leather thongs to the wooden table, the remains of rotten food clung to his hair.  She could see the fear in his rolling eyes, as he tried to plead with his captors.  They taunted him as he lie there, safe in their black bag masks, part of the pulsing form that had no definition.

Six inch iron spikes were held up for the people to inspect.  A roar of approval sounded as they were driven into the strangers bound hands and feet.  Lizzy could hear the snapping of bones from her perch above the carnage.  His screams sliced her heart with icy talons.  She cried out when she saw life still breathed within him, tears welling in her eyes.  She saw the glint of metal before she heard the collective gasp, the glint of light on the sharp blade tip.  Lizzy felt her stomach betray her as she saw the sword rip through the air and slice off the strangers manhood.  It was tossed with indifference into the horde.  Men in the crowd flinched at such a sight.  Numb, she could no longer conceive such fiendish acts of cruelty. 

Again the blade came up; it was passed to one of the other tormenters.  He displayed the bloodied steel with pride, boasting towards the man, his prize.  She never saw the movement, it was so quick, and she had to think on what had happened.  Her brain caught up, then fought to bury the knowledge.  The sword had entered the mans nether regions, ripping up into his belly, cutting him in half, stopping just short of the ribs.

She stared at the white cord that fell out of his wounds, a giant white worm, swimming in a red sea.  Blood spurted into the air in a high arch, soaking on lookers in the mass.  They danced madly in its color.

Lizzy was thankful his screams were no longer audible, knowing her mind would not have taken another of his pleas of death.  Sweet release denied him, the nature of the game.  Wrenching her eyes from the lunacy below her, she only found the bizarre, grotesque, beings around her drawing energy from the scene below.  Glee danced in their eyes, righteousness sat upon their shoulders, insanity hid behind their thoughts.

As she watched life drain over the wooden platform, she felt a change, a draining of her own.

Damn  you pa.

Stolen Pillows

I lie beside him and look with longing at what lies beneath his head, I move closer wanting to share.  He has had a ‘night mirror’ as he calls them, and has come to seek shelter and warmth in my warm cocoon. 

His disheveled brown hair, rosy red cheeks, and pink lips remind me of a cherub;  although sometimes when he is awake he grows horns and stomps his feet, most often when he has been told he cannot have his way, or when a nap is needed.

I am careful not to disturb his Duplo dreams, while I breathe in his slumbered scent.  It reminds me of days past, when as a baby he shared my bed and I barely slept as I listened for a halting breath, which would signify a possible soul release.  Those days are past us now, and I wave at them with a smile.  Both he and my worries have grown, evolving as we mature and get to know each other.  I smile; it seems like eons ago I was taking a black and white photo of his ten tiny toes to send with his birth announcement.  Yet my mind knows it was only mere years. 

I snuggle up to him, the curve of his back to my breast, listening to soft snores.  I lie in the darkness knowing that all too soon these nights will come to an end.  Just like the hugs and holding hands in public will.  I wonder how much more time I will have before he doesn’t tell me anymore that one day he is going to marry me.  When I will stop being his best friend and become a foe to rebel against? 

Will I become a third party to his life and all he experiences?

I must remember to give him space when that time comes, so he will be able to stretch his wings.  I will remind him that I am here if need be, no matter what that need is.  I will watch him struggle, just like when he took his first steps, but I know he will prevail if only I trust and let him work through it.  I think that will be the hardest part for me, learning to let go, while still holding on backstage.  For right now I am going to enjoy every one of these moments when he comes in to share my bed, and robs me of my pillow.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Spring Awakenings

March is a time of awakening.  It seems that the earth yawns and stretches while shaking off its shroud of winter, and dons the shawl of spring. 
Spring means different things to different people.  To some, spring means pints of green beer in celebration of St Patrick’s Day, to others it is the official time change that extends the daylight hours.  It could be the official Spring Equinox, the sight of virgin buds springing forth into leaf, or Daffodils stretching their yellowed heads heavenward. 
For me as an Islander on the West Coast of Canada, spring arrives with the Herring Run.  For two weeks annually, the waters around Vancouver Island turn a milky turquoise from the spawning of thousands of herring. 
The changing seasons sing to me with the cries of the gathering gulls and Eagles, the barking Seal and herds of Sea Lion.  I see spring in the buoyant fishing vessels sitting in the turquoise sea, pulling silver bounty from the water. 

I find the rolling briny waves, pregnant with the Herring Roe foam, to be the signal that warmer weather is on its way.  It is when I know that the rebirth of plants and new sightings of my favorite animals and birds are just around the corner.
Every year you can find me down at the water’s edge, snapping photos of this natural wonder as it unfolds.  This year was no exception and the animals didn’t disappoint.  

On one visit down to the water’s edge I counted seven Eagles, sitting in one tree alone.  They would take off from their pine vantage point and swoop down over the water, plucking fish up with ease as though the fish were merely motionless.  Their high pitched whistles almost sounded overjoyed as they spent their days chasing each other then rising slowly on the thermals.  At other times challenging each other for dominance of the skies and best nesting sites. 

The resident Blue Heron let me get close enough to watch and snap photos of its fishing practices.  I have been trying all winter to get close to enough to get a decent photo, and I guess my perseverance and slow steps combined with the promise of an easy meal was enough to do the trick.  Just out of the range of the edge of this photo were a couple of seals keeping an eye on her and her catch. 
Although this year was wetter than last year for the two week period that the Herring Run usually lasts, there was a lot to see on the ocean’s surface and above.  It is a great time for nature lovers, and families to explore our local beaches and become enamored with all that we are spoiled with out here on the coast of Vancouver Island.