Moving to Mandalay, Myanmar

Hi All – Big news, if you haven’t already read below – I am moving to Myanmar to teach 5th grade at an International school.  I’m very excited!

And as I will be having so much fun and trying to keep everyone abreast of my adventures, I’ve decided to just have one blog that will capture my photos, stories, adventures etc.

So please join me at my blog: Sunshine Impressions.  On the right side of the home page there is a follow-me button – type in your email address and you’ll be notified when I post.

Hope to see you at Sunshine Impressions!

Gretchen

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Talk About Turning A Corner!

First let me apologize for not getting new Storied Impressions Photo/Words for this month yet.  It has been a bit of a unique month so far.  Here is why…

Last Saturday I was searching the TIEonline site for international teaching positions and a new one pop in that said Burma.  What the heck, I thought, why not check it out.

The description of the school and country were mesmerizing and I just had to take a chance and apply.

A bit silly of me as the open position was classified as Elementary – which I have never taught.  My teaching certification and experience thus far has been in Middle School, High School and college.

So I was thinking it was a long shot.  But they obviously needed someone asap as the school year starts May 20th.

On Sunday morning I woke up to an email from the director of the school saying he wanted to speak with me.

So Monday morning, 6:30am my time (8pm there time) I was interviewed via Skype.  I thought it went well, but he was flying to Thailand the next day to interview 3 other candidates.

So to my huge surprise, on Tuesday morning I woke to a job offer and contract!  WOW!

So now I have 22 days until I fly out on May 9th (just booked my airplane ticket last night).

I am so excited I can barely stand it.  Such an amazing country to go and explore.  Talk about turning a Corner!

Myanmar (Burma) is primarily a Buddhist country full of wonderful traditions I am so excited to delve into.

The school is an International school and will be starting its second year when I arrive.

Here is the link to the school – check it out!

Ayeyarwaddy International School: www.aismyanmar.com/

You pronounce the school name: Aye-yar-wah-dee (stress on “wah”) according to the director.

So packing, packing, packing… and then I’m outta here!

***And on that note, I’m going to combine my two blogs so that I can more easily update you all on my adventures through photo and non-fiction stories of my experiences.  So anyone wanting to continue to follow me on this adventure – sign up for my Sunshine Impressions blog here as this one I will not be updating any longer.

I hope you stay to enjoy the ride with me!

Mingalar Bar (Have good things unto you!)  🙂  Gretchen

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April Theme: Corners

When I conjured up the theme for April, back in December, I was envisioning sunshine filtering through the branches creating long shadows that bend and fracture.  My mind thought corners.  But of course your corners could be a photo of the edge of an iPhone or a door jam, someone (or something) walking away, turning a corner.  Be creative with your photo and then write something fun to accompany it.

Dog Turning A Corner, 1980
By Fernando Botero

Then, most importantly, share!

Send your photos (via attachment and in jpg format) – paste your story/words into the e-mail body and send to:   

storiedimpressions at gmail dot com.

I’ll then post and we can all enjoy.

Have a great and creative April everyone!

Gretchen

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Musical Inspiration for the Writer

Does music inspire you to write?

For instance, if you were listening to Tchaikovsky’s 1812 overture, the part where it is at the peak of the crescendo and the canons are exploding… do you see anything?

Is there a character running from the guns, blood-stained face with bayonet in hand?  Is the sky dark and brooding, then flares and explodes?  Do you hear the cries of the wounded soldiers?

I was reading one of my favorite blogs today: Nail Your Novel, and the focus was on a Russian writer that uses music to inspire his writing.  Here is a bit of what Grigory Ryzhakov said:

“Music was also very important to me when I first started writing fiction seven years ago. My so far unpublished and untitled Russian-language sci-fi novel contains several episodes of gripping action. I listened to the Inception film soundtrack by Hans Zimmer to get myself in the mood for writing them. Thumping drums and basses associated in my mind with escalating threat of peril, I could feel the adrenaline rush as if I was at my character’s side. This music affected the way I wrote those action scenes: with shorter sentences, rhyming syllables, like gunshots. No room for reflection.”

He goes on to say that he writes in silence.  He just listens to specific types of music before he writes to get himself in the mood.  I thought this was genius.  I have never tried it.  I have three pieces I am currently working on – all kid-lit, so what to put me in the mood?  Hmm.. iTunes here I come!

Do you use music to inspire your writing mood?  Do you listen while you write or just before?  Can the music have words?  Curious to know what you think – leave a comment below!

~~~~~

As to Storied Impressions’ NEST theme this month of March – not many participated – in fact just AR Neal of One Starving Activist and myself – thanks AR!

As for myself, I have been busy on writing projects that I am trying to get published – I know, no excuse!  I’ll definitely get some good stories up for April – the theme:  Corners

The angle of the sun right now is great for capturing all sorts of corners.

I hope you’ll join me!  Send your photos and stories and I’ll post them.

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Food Fight – Concluded With Participant Help

Today I post again the story “Food Fight” with all the additional sentences for the food fight itself.  Then I wrapped it up and concluded the story.  Over the last week I have helped others create their food fight scenes by leaving sentences or paragraphs in the comments under their story, and they in-turn wrote for mine.  Fun participation and fun to see where the story went.

Hope you enjoy how it concludes.

Photo Credit: fineartamerica.com

Photo Credit: fineartamerica.com

FOOD FIGHT – A collaborative story, created by 10 of us.

There were four of them.  Two were strong and loud; Sarah and Sally.  They reached higher, made more fuss, got more attention.  They seemed to take up more nest space too.

Two were scrawny and more reserved; Ralph and Rusty.  They let the girls bask in the attention of their parents.  They sat back and took what was left.  But it wasn’t enough.  They were always hungry and the girls stepped all over them.

Then one spring morning after dropping a large worm into each of the girls’ mouths, Father pulled out another one, snipped it in half and dropped the pieces into each of the boys beaks.  They swallowed.  They coughed. They felt alive.  Energy flowed and they stretched their wings.  It felt good.  They wanted more.  So Father decided more was what they would get.

That evening Father flew over the river looking for food and he spotted a fisherman.  He was lying on the bank, boots floating in the water.  Seems odd for a fisherman to be lying down, thought Father.  So he circled round to get a better look.  As he swooped in he saw that the man’s hat was over his face and his belly was rising and falling in a rhythmic way.

Father landed and hopped over.  Curious about this massive up and down, Father jumped up on to the man’s belly and rode the rise and fall.  It was thrilling.  As the belly rose, Father would get a better view of all the equipment, bags and poles the man had scattered about him.  There was so much.  At the fall of the belly, he could nearly see straight up the man’s nose and witnessed tiny little hairs quivering as he exhaled.

At the next rise of the belly, looking once again at all the scattered stuff, he spied a bucket.  Hmm, that could be interesting.  He hopped over and peered inside.

His eyes widened and he jumped back.  It couldn’t be.  He shook his head and flapped his wings and took a deep breath.  He jumped up to the rim and peered down.  It was half full.  Everything was moving.  Little slimy, wriggling worms.

Goldmine!  I have to get this home!

The bucket had a handle and he lifted it up with his beak.  Not too heavy so far.  He clutched the handle with his claws and he could get the bucket up a few feet.  But this wasn’t going to work.  Then he had an idea.  Grab the jacket lying next to the guy, cover the bucket, fly home as fast as possible, grab Mother and get back here.  Done.

He swooped in, told Mother of the amazing bounty and off they flew like lightning.  The girls chirped their disappointment and the boys, feeling confidence due to their somewhat full bellies, shushed them.

Together Mother and Father were able to lift the bucket and within an hour, after a few rest stops, they slung the handle over their home branch and exhaled.

The smell of those wiggly worms was too much.  Sally started an all-out tantrum, screaming at the top of her lungs for the food.  Then Sarah chimed in.  The noise was obnoxious.  The boys, sniffing the air and feeling a bit more self-assured, reached there small necks as high into the air as they could stretch and let out a bawl of desire their parents had never heard.

The girls stopped their screaming and gawked.  Mother and Father stared and then smiled.  Their boys were energized.

With a great show of abundance, Father picked up a claw full of worms and flung them into the nest.  The girls and boys went crazy; flapping wings, hopping around, diving beak-first into the squirming.  It was a mess of fun.

As Ralph was diving for a wiggling tail, it slipped through his beak and landed “slap” right on Sally’s face.

Everyone stopped.  Sally peeled the worm off her face and glared with squinted eyes at Ralph.  Rusty burst into laughter and Sarah, giggling, grabbed half a worm in her claw and squeezed.

But she squeezed too hard and the worm slipped out “BLOOP.” It boinked off Rusty’s laughing beak and landed down Ralph’s throat, making him cough.

Normally, Sally would have gobbled up the offending worm, flung on her face, but she wasn’t going to let her brother get away with this. She swung the long wiggler around and around her head like a lasso and”SWOOSH” it circled Ralph’s neck like a scarf!

”CHOMP”, Rusty bit down on his brother’s ‘scarf’ to make it release; then he flung it back at Sally in a way that it wrapped around her beak and shut her up. Rusty to the rescue!

By this time even Mother and Father couldn’t hold back the laughter! That’s when Father got an eyeful – “PFLUP!”

Sarah wouldn’t stand for her sister being worm-wrapped. She hopped over to the bucket of bait for more ammunition and found a cricket.  Smiling, she hopped back and kicked it up on Rusty’s head where it got stuck in his feathers. Rusty “BAWLED” having never seen a cricket before.

As Father was shaking his head to slop off the mush, Mother quickly tried to calm Rusty. But she couldn’t duck fast enough, as Rusty clamoring to get the thing off his head, shook violently and the cricket went “SHWING”, right at the side of her beak.

“Sorry Mama; I was trying to get it”…”THWAP”- Father bopped Rusty on the wing with a soft worm. “Just defending my lady’s honor son,” said Father as he bowed towards Mother.

“Defending my honor?” Mother replied. “I can do that myself, thank you very much.” Smiling, she hurled a writhing worm that smacked Father smack-dab in his chest – “THWACK!”

 This craziness went on until dusk.  Exhausted from laughing, ducking, throwing and scraping worm slime off themselves, they collapsed as the sun set.  A happier afternoon none had ever experienced.

Father put some moss in the bucket of worms to keep what was left safe from other birds.  And with full tummies the baby Ravens tucked in tight and snuggly for the night.

Father and Mother sat on the edge of the nest and reflected on the day’s events.

The bucket of worms was a wonderful find.  They had done such a good job working together to get the heavy thing back to their tree.  Father preened Mother a bit, showing how much he loved her.

But the biggest and most special discovery was the new-found energy of the boys.  Mother and Father had feared for them as they hadn’t been very interested in food.  But today, they swallowed and grew strong before their eyes.  It was a miracle.  And the joy that afternoon, on all their little one’s faces, was to be cherished.

The story of the Food Fight went out on the wind that day and soon, after much exaggerated additions, took on mythical proportions.

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The Food Fight

Photo Credit: fineartamerica.com

This story is part of the Food Fight Write Routine  combined with Storied Impressions’ March Theme: NESTS

Story Starter
by Gretchen Fogelstrom

There were four of them.  Two were strong and loud; Sarah and Sally.  They reached higher, made more fuss, got more attention.  They seemed to take up more nest space too.

Two were scrawny and more reserved; Ralph and Rusty.  They let the girls bask in the attention of their parents.  They sat back and took what was left.  But it wasn’t enough.  They were always hungry and the girls stepped all over them.

Then one spring morning after dropping a large worm into each of the girls’ mouths, Father pulled out another one, snipped it in half and dropped the pieces into each of the boys beaks.  They swallowed.  They coughed. They felt alive.  Energy flowed and they stretched their wings.  It felt good.  They wanted more.

That evening as Father was flying over the river looking for food, he spotted a fisherman.  He was lying on the bank, boots floating in the water.  Seems odd for a fisherman to be lying down, thought Father.  So he circled round to get a better look.  As he swooped in he saw that the man’s hat was over his face and his belly was rising and falling in a rhythmic way.

Father landed and hopped over.  Curious about this massive up and down, Father jumped up on to the man’s belly and rode the rise and fall.  It was thrilling.  As the belly rose, Father would get a better view of all the equipment, bags and poles the man had scattered about him.  There was so much.  At the fall of the belly, he could nearly see straight up the man’s nose and witnessed tiny little hairs quivering as he exhaled.

At the next rise of the belly, looking once again at all the scattered stuff, he spied a bucket.  Hmmm, that could be interesting.  He hopped over and peered inside.

His eyes widened and he jumped back.  It couldn’t be.  He shook his head and flapped his wings and took a deep breath.  He jumped up to the rim and peered down.  It was half full.  Everything was moving.  Little slimy, wriggling worms.

Goldmine!  I have to get this home!

The bucket had a handle and he lifted it up with his beak.  Not too heavy so far.  He clutched the handle with his claws and he could get the bucket up a few feet.  But this wasn’t going to work.  Then he had an idea.  Grab the jacket lying next to the guy, cover the bucket, fly home as fast as possible, grab Mother and get back here.  Done.

He swooped in, told Mother of the amazing bounty and off they flew like lightning.  The girls chirped their disappointment and the boys, feeling confidence due to their somewhat full bellies, shushed them.

Together Mother and Father were able to lift the bucket and within an hour, after a few rest stops, they slung the handle over their home branch and exhaled.

The smell of those wiggly worms was too much.  Sally started an all-out tantrum, screaming at the top of her lungs for the food.  Then Sarah chimed in.  The noise was obnoxious.  The boys, sniffing the air and feeling a bit more self-assured, reached there small necks as high into the air as they could stretch and let out a bawl of desire their parents had never heard.

The girls stopped their screaming and gawked.  Mother and Father stared and then smiled.  Their boys were energized.

With a great show of abundance, Father picked up a claw full of worms and flung them into the nest.  The girls and boys went crazy.  Flapping wings, hopping around, diving beak-first into the squirming.  It was a mess of fun.

As Ralph was diving for a wiggling tail, it slipped through his beak and landed “slap” right on Sally’s face.

Everyone stopped.  Sally peeled the worm off her face and glared with squinted eyes at Ralph.  Rusty burst into laughter and Sarah, giggling, grabbed half a worm in her claw and squeezed.

~~~

Now You Help Me Finish It!

~~~

This post is part of FOOD FIGHT, the Onomatopoeia Appreciation Week.  The idea:  I start a story and take it right up to the point where a food fight ensues.  Then stop.  The story is then continued through YOUR individual comments.  Each new comment has to add on to the story where the comment before left off.  Also you have to add in as many ‘pows’, ‘zaps’, ‘zings’ – it is Onomatopoeia Appreciation Week after all.

Join me in this fun?  Let’s make a great story together!

We only have until 3/8 – so comment today!

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Filed under Contests and Such, March

Snow Birds

Snow Birds

Photo and Story
by AR NEAL

It is November; I and my family are preparing to travel to warmer climates, to new fields. Planting and harvesting is done here and it is time to move on. The children hate it, the moving, the change; they want to be like their classmates who stay in the same home all year. They want to go to school and stay in school. They tell mama and I to stay home when it is time for parent conferences because they are ashamed of our callused hands and poor language. I am a simple man who loves his children; I care not for formality but only for what is best for them. I too wish we could stay, not travel south to north and north to south, but that we could have a permanent nest like the blackbird who lives in the tree outside this home. He does not worry about his food for today but rests in the Lord for provision. I and many generations before me continue to labor for morsels, following the heat of the sun and the sprouting of the plants. My children don’t know but I have plans for them; this will be the last year we go. After this winter harvest, we will have enough to come back and call this place home.

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Theme for March: Nests

New Month, New Theme… Nests

Review of Instructions for Submissions:

Grab your camera and take photos that represent the theme to you.

Then, once you have a bunch of stellar pictures, choose your favorite and write a creative piece that shares your insight into the photo you took: story, poem etc.  Be extraordinary!  (250 words-ish)

Now…

Send your photos (via attachment and in jpg format) and  your story/words to the following e-mail:    storiedimpressions at gmail dot com

In the subject line:     SI Submission

Please make the size of your photo a max of 680 pixels horizontally so it will fit prominently in the blog.

In the body of the email – paste your story/words.

Please include your name and website so that I can give you full credit and link it to your site.

THEN…Read at least three other posts and comment, comment, comment!

Be interactive.  A community is more fun than going alone.

Have fun – submit often!

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February Winner of the Clematis Award

Clematis Award IconClematis Winner for February 2013

Red Ribbon
by Alexandra Weston
Twitter: @AlexWestonyork

Congratulations to Alexandra for a beautiful photograph and words.
Alexandra, feel free to download the Clematis Award icon to let your followers know of your great success!

And a BIG Thank You to all who voted!

To read Alexandra’s winning piece go to the Clematis Winner’s Circle page.

Then participate for MARCH – the theme is: Nests

Take a photo of something you consider to be a nest and then write a short (250 words-ish) piece to accompany the photo.  Email me (storiedimpressions (at)gmail(dot)com) your photo (jpg) and words and I’ll post on this blog shortly thereafter.

Have fun, enter as often as you like.  Looking forward to seeing and reading great things from you all.

Here’s to March!

Gretchen

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Voting Time!

Clematis Award IconTime to Vote for February’s
Clematis Award Winner.

Voting is only open 24 hours.
~  So don’t delay!  ~

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The Cornelian Cabochon

New Amazon Collection

Ring by Gisele Ganne: http://www.giseleganne.com/

Story by
Gretchen Fogelstrom

She awoke in the darkness.  Her eyes opened but the blackness was complete.  She took a breath and felt the deep chill of the air rush into her.  As panic tugged at every fiber of her body she began to move her arms into the surrounding space, hoping to feel, something.

The air seemed to grow colder as she reached out from her body.  Trying to control her trembling, she started inching herself up to a sitting position.  As she moved, her leg slipped off an edge, nothing below, just empty.  She quickly retracted and started to scoot away, but her hand slipped off another edge and she teetered prone, half on and half off of, something.  Stifling a scream she made herself freeze. Stop, take control!

Slowly, rotating to her hands and knees, she gained solid ground.  Slow down, she told herself, see with your touch, move slowly.   The flat stone she was on sloped upward toward a rough wall of sorts.  Taking a deep breath, she inched herself closer to the solid wall and exhaled.  Now think!

And then it all rushed back to her.

She felt her finger and yes, it was there;  the blood red Cornelian Cabochon, the Life-Ring of the Amazonian Under-Lord.  The gift was from an antiquities dealer she had supplied for many years.  As he grumbled about having to pay her high fees  he turned, winked and tossed her a small package.

“What’s this?” she asked suspiciously.

“Just a knock-off, thought you’d find it funny considering what you went through to get that last piece for me” he shrugged.  Then added “Don’t say I never gave you nothin’.”

As she opened the box to the exquisite ring.  He told her it was just a re-production and with a snicker, said not to worry, the legend wasn’t true anyway, so the Under-Lord wouldn’t miss it.

As she left him, she chuckled, she had saved the best piece to auction off herself.  That sleaze isn’t paying me enough for all I do for him.  Walking through the steaming streets of La Boca, she felt a movement between her fingers, slippery and slimy.  As she looked down at her hand the skull head on the ring twisted and turned its head up to hers, the eyes piercing a yellow glow.  Then the red pool of the cornelian began to swirl faster and faster and then splashed over onto the cobblestones.  Hissing and spitting the stones broke apart and she was sucked through, down, down, down.

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Dwelling On The Mystery

Oscar + Museu de ArtePhoto and Story
by Gretchen Fogelstrom

He just sat there staring.  I think he could see his own reflection in the glass.  But from my angle it looked like he was dwelling on the tears streaming down her face.  I could almost hear him say to himself, “why, why does she cry?” as he cocked his head to the right.

He sat there for nearly an hour.  So quiet. So still. Just staring.

Then, slowly he raised his paw, reaching out to touch the red side of her face, sweet and caressing.  It was so gentle and full of emotion.  His paw curling and un-curling.

His head righted and then all of a sudden he jumped, straight into the picture, the blue and white strands of her hair parted and he was gone.  I think I saw a small upward movement in the corners of her mouth and the tracks of her tears seemed to fade.

~~~~

The Trifecta weekly challenge word: DWELL, combined with Storied Impressions theme: RED.

I took the photo of this painting I have hanging in my house – painted for me by the Director of the Museo de Arte in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala 20 years ago!  And then super-imposed the silhouette of my cat Oscar.

Ever thought of jumping into the world of a painting?

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The Big Day

Photo Credit: Ermisenda: http://ermisenda.tumblr.com/

Photo Credit: Ermisenda: http://ermisenda.tumblr.com/

Story by Gretchen Fogelstrom

The morning had been dark and threatening.  My mood was the same.  I felt I couldn’t rise to the occasion.  Even if the occasion was a celebration of Me.  But did I really have any choice?

My friends, thank goodness I have good friends, had been organizing a party to celebrate my 50th birthday, under the stars, with sparkling lights of all colors, a fun band, good food and drink and probably lots and lots of dancing.

I had to pull out of my funk.  I needed to feel alive, not half-way to dead.  But just as I was about to crawl  back-under the covers a knock at the door.  I grumpily got up and opened to my dearest friend, coffees in hand.   “Happy Birthday” she gently said as she noticed my scowl.

In her hand was a not only coffee, which I took greedily, but a bag with the insignia of my favorite dress shop.  As she sat down she told me that I had half an hour to shower and then she was whisking me off to a day at the spa – full treatment.  Just us girls.  Being 50 was going to start off with luxury and end with laughing on the dance floor, according to her.

I couldn’t help but smile.  Before I could rise to shower, she pulled out of her bag the beautiful red dress I had been eying for a month, but couldn’t justify the cost.  I couldn’t help but start to cry.  How could I possibly have such an amazing friend?  50 was going to be great.

~~~

Picture It & Write!   I decided to combine Storied Impressions RED theme with Picture It & Write’s photo prompt this week – hope you enjoyed!

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Red Mini

red miniPhoto and Story
by Neens

I remember the miles of open grey road
Tom sitting comfortably behind my wheel,
The time he took Rose to the Town Hall
to dance the night away.

Her lipstick smile, when we pulled up
to greet her with a large bouquet of red and pink roses,
How she ruffled her dress as she slid
carefully into my passenger seat.

For years they sat inside me,
Laughing and talking long journeys through,
Tuning in my crackly radio and praising
me for my faithful service.

Tom started to worry that I would break down,
Cost them money they no longer had,
Rose filled out paperwork for bus passes,
tried her best to convince Tom to accept.

He hid it inside my glove box
And drove me through the Winter and into the Spring,
Patting the seat where his wife used to sit.
Talking to me in lieu of her absence.

Tom’s bus pass is still in my glove box,
I am just as I was left, minus my driver,
Rose could never bring herself to sell me,
I am part of their story.

Sitting out here, marking
the passing of time.

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RED RIBBON

Red Ribbon (423x640)Story and Photo
by Alexandra Weston

Twitter: @AlexWestonyork

I twisted the ribbon nervously around my fingers.  It was red for love, red for loss. 

Around the tree other ribbons flapped in the breeze.  I caught a white one. Letters were written on it in a language I didn’t understand but I could tell I held a prayer.

That faith shamed me.  I had none.  I didn’t even know why I was here.  I didn’t really believe in the thorn tree or the legend of its origins.  How likely was it that Jesus’ uncle, Joseph of Arimathea, had actually come to Glastonbury?  And if he did, that this tree had taken root and grown from his staff?

So why was I here? What had made me trudge up this hill with a ribbon in my pocket? 

There was only one answer to that.  I was as broken as the tree.  Only my wounds were a lot less visible than the vandalism the holy thorn had suffered. 

I stretched out my hand and rested it on the trunk.  My finger brushed against a small, bright green shoot pushing through the bark.  A tiny sign of regrowth, of hope. 

Suddenly, I was crying.  With shaking fingers I tied my ribbon with the others.  Held it tightly as words tumbled out of me, whispered to the wind and the silent tree.  Then I let it go and my red ribbon fluttered brightly, joining the tapestry of prayers woven around the holy thorn.

 

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