By Lynn Elder Grey clouds form a leaden sky Above the black cattle grazing below. Tree trunks are blackened By the dampness they absorb From heavy downpours Released from above. Dimming daylight alternates Between the various shades Of white, grey and black. Birds and pets alike match The colour scheme of the day.
By Lynn Elder
Listen to the crashing waves, Hear the cry of a lonely gull, Feel the sting of the salty sea. Hear the screams of a girl, Young and frail, As the giant waves, Wash her away. The waves whip the body away, Far away from the sandy shore. To the sea it doesn't matter, Who dies in its icy depths. When the sea is still, And the flock of gulls, Fly overhead, None could believe, That the sea could take a life.
By Lynn Elder
The change of seasons comes in a rush Of hot air and wilted grasses in the bush. No need to clear out the ash and stoke the fire As ceiling fans whir above, and with a beer In hand the farmer wipes the free-flowing sweat From his sun-beaten face, and without a beat Flicks off the pesky blowflies settled on his work shirt. His wife tucks her tea towel in the band of her skirt, Then says as she leans wearily against the kitchen wall. "It's too bloody hot to eat anything at all!".
By Lynn Elder – A short story
She moved a hairbrush through her little one’s tangled strands of long auburn hair. Strains of the Wiggles could be heard from the television in the adjoining room as they jumped about singing “Hot Potato.” It reminded Sarah of the holiday concert she took her twins Annabel and Chloe to last Christmas. There was a red, a blue, a purple and a yellow Wiggle. Times had changed, though, with the arrival of a female Wiggle who donned the yellow skivvy.
The Smith family had survived another Christmas yesterday with the extended family present. Every year there was trepidation as to what the day would bring. Peace and joy to the world were not the first words to spring to mind. Her in-laws were not essentially bad people, but Sarah struggled to find anything in common with Fred and Myrtle. They held extreme conservative political views that did not align with their environmentally minded daughter-in-law.
Buying Christmas presents was not an easy task either, and Sarah’s husband Brett was happy to offload the task to her. It was not something she relished because, in previous years, the response to her gift selections was lukewarm, to say the least.
Sarah braved the crowded shopping centre a week earlier as the dutiful wife she was, searching for appropriate gifts. One positive was the elegant gift wrapping that the shops provided, sparing her from another job in an otherwise busy time of year.
Christmas Day arrived with the in-laws on the front step. As was the custom, the grandchildren insisted that they open their presents before the big, cooked lunch. Sarah thought to herself, let us get this part of the day done with. Brett welcomed his parents with big hugs while the twins tugged at his jumper, urging him to hurry up. Soon they were all settled into the sofas facing the brightly decorated pine tree surrounded by presents. The girls squealed with delight on opening their gifts from Grandma and Grandpa. They were still young enough to enjoy playing dress-ups with their Barbie dolls. Then it was like the game pass the parcel as the various wrapped gifts were handed around.
Fred ripped the paper as he opened his present, which revealed a book about vintage trains. Sarah held her breath as she waited for his reaction. Thankfully, he was gracious enough to say he had almost bought a copy for himself recently. One down. One more to go. The sausage-shaped present was in the hands of Myrtle now. She was more delicate in undoing the pretty wrapping paper and the curly ribbon. A long skinny item fell onto her lap being a posh-looking umbrella. Myrtle exclaimed, “Oh, what a lovely but useful present. Living in Melbourne, you never know when it may rain.” She opened it to display the impressionist art of Renoir. Arty but practical, Sarah thought to herself. The reaction was better than hoped for. The gift-giving ritual was now completed. Lunch was still an hour away, so the adults stood up and stretched as the twins played with their new toys.
Fred surprised Sarah when he picked up the blue guitar leaning against the wall in the living room. Brett had bought it for her last Christmas. Unfortunately, looking after two lively twin daughters and running a business from home, learning to play the guitar was not a priority. Chloe and Annabel were distracted enough to urge Grandpa to play a tune. Sarah imagined him playing something akin to a call to arms for fellow comrades. She did not even know he could play a musical instrument. Imagine her astonishment when the girls’ favourite Wiggles’ tune, “Hot Potato”, was played. Before anyone could protest, all the adults were up and dancing with the twins. Sarah and Brett exchanged a hug and a kiss with her husband, shouting over the music, “Best Christmas yet!.”
12 Days of Christmas writing prompt: Using the following random words, write a Christmas, summer, or holiday themed story. Potato, Guitar, Book, Umbrella, Hair brush
Prompt provided by author Melissa Gijsbers.
by Lynn Elder
“For Christmas I wanted…,” “Where is it?” “I hate you all!.”
A mop of wayward blonde curls was tossed hither and thither as the little girl stomped her feet in anger. The angelic demeanour of an hour ago was but a distant memory for her parents now.
Sipping on a Yule-tide mulled glass of wine, the older woman winched as she remembered her behaviour from so many years ago. It was like she was born into the wrong family because no one understood her passion and took her seriously. She smiled while surveying the unwrapped gifts beneath the Christmas tree. Now, she was able to tick off her wish list.
One painting easel.
Half a dozen paintbrushes to suit different strokes and mediums.
A collection of acrylic and oil paints.
Blank canvases of assorted sizes.
Sketchbooks for forays into the countryside.
A tin of watercolour pencils.
A box of pastels.
A giant workbook.
A large coffee-table sized book about Renaissance painters.
She turned around at the sound of her daughter’s voice.
“Oh, Mum, Dad and I and my brothers hope we didn’t forget anything on your wish list.”
Her mother responded joyfully, “ I have everything I need now for my painting trip to Italy in July. Thank you so much, my darling.”
- Day 1 – The 12 Days of Christmas Writing Prompt. Prompt provided by author and writer Melissa Gijsbers.
By Lynn Elder
To stay or leave? I am torn. My heart and mind are at odds. What is the chance one whispers, of fire reaching us here. The radio crackles. Emergency announcement. "If you have not already left, it is now too late to leave." Decision made.
This poem was included in a collection of poems published in 2021 as High Country Poets highlighting the works of local poets from Mansfield in North East Victoria, Australia. Proceeds from sales of the book go to the Mansfield Secondary College Welfare Fund.
In my home amongst the gumtrees in Victoria’s High Country
The Kookaburras laugh from their lofty perches
At the sight of masked humans going about their business.
The state government has mandated face coverings for public forays.
I can make it to the farm gate without covering up my face
But as soon as I cross the cattle grid out comes my mask;
My defence against a world that is playing host to a virus
That has us locked down in a fight against an enemy that doesn’t bear arms.
In a small town where we are use to greeting one another as old friends;
We hog supermarket aisles; as we compare the price of sheep and cattle;
If we are fortunate we can also boast our latest rainfall readings;
Battered hats and well-worn boots can separate the townies from the farming folk;
But a second look is needed as we try to recognise each other wearing such strange attire.
Face coverings come in all shapes and sizes, some in colours and designs;
In a display of the wearer’s fashion sense and personality.
Forced to adopt this strange new ritual we hope to flatten that damn curve.
Another Aussie take on this COVID thing is a ballad by comedian Sammy J. Apologies to “Banjo” Paterson who penned the “Man from Snowy River”, a poem that inspired the movie made in the High Country where I live. The Bunnings reference is to a rather large chain of hardware stores popular with do DIY types and tradies. Also apologies to anyone called Karen who may be offended.
Words, pictures, voices and actions can be woven into storytelling in all its different forms. It can be an oral history passed down by Indigenous Australians, a Shakespearean tragedy, a rousing Italian opera, tall tales shared by good mates, moving pictures on the screen both big and small, or found in the pages of a book. Whatever means is used to tell a story, there is a purpose behind the telling.
For writers or at least for me, the narrative is the holy grail of storytelling. As children we often heard or read the words, “Once upon a time…” that would lead us into the world of princes and princesses, fairies and elves, wicked step-mothers and ugly sisters. There was usually the elements of good and evil, a sense of injustice and redemption, followed by a happy ending to the fairy tale. Without being aware of the morals being espoused by such tales, our attitudes and morals were shaped by such storytelling. Being able to communicate through narrative is part of our human nature.
When we grow up, we learn not all stories have a happy ending and we need to find ways to make sense of the impact of events on our own lives and the world around us. I recall being fascinated by Aboriginal rock art images in Kakadu National Park, in the Northern Territory. The stick-like figures drawn by Indigenous people thousands of years ago showed swollen joints of individuals. I found out later this is was a result of poisoning from the uranium in the ground. Other rock art depicts many images from the Dreamtime including the Rainbow Serpent. These stories are passed down from generation to generation.
The power of story-telling in much more recent times, is the first-hand accounts of individuals who have endured horrors beyond comprehension. But there is healing in telling such stories for those involved and a challenge to the rest of us not to forget. During my recent visit to East Timor, my travel group had the privilege of visiting the Chega Museum in Dili. The word Chega loosely translated from Portuguese means, “No more, stop, enough!”. Chega was also the title of a report compiled by the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation in Timor Leste. It is a powerful and emotional journey as one tours this former Indonesian prison, the site of many atrocities against the East Timorese and learn of the inhumane treatment of individuals and their families beyond its walls during the invasions. The trauma experienced has left deep scars but the personal stories told are part of the healing and a message to us that we must never permit this to happen again. But the museum is also a place of hope and peace – where visitors can leave positive messages.
The power of one’s own story can have an impact across the generations and across the world if we preserve the narrative and ensure that those “Once upon a time..” stories have a happier ending.