Quote for Thought: Our Hieroglyphic World

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In reality they all lived in a kind of hieroglyphic world, where the real thing was never said or done or even thought, but only represented by a set of arbitrary signs.

– Edith Wharton, The Age of Innocence

I’m currently reading The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton, and it reminded me of another novel of hers, one of my favourite books ever, The Age of Innocence.

The Age of Innocence speaks about many things, but I think that it’s most of all a novel about human behaviour, the social norms imposed on people, prejudice, hipocrisy and injustice. It also deals with love, and asks whether love is even possible in this superficial world. Yes, Wharton’s novel deals with the morals of 1870s New York society, but many of its issues are still present today, maybe just in a different way. From the day we were born, we had to learn how to fit into different roles that we were “assigned”. Many of these we didn’t chose. And they shaped us more than we are comfortable to accept.

The quote I chose doesn’t address these issues directly, even though the book does. The quote is maybe more about language, and how we express the “real thing”. We learn to express everything by words, but words are not “real”, they are arbitrary – as Saussure discussed in his semiotics, in a completely different context, of course. And words are signs which do not denote a particular “real thing” but a category of things.

The truth is, we rely entirely on words. Words are the way we see and understand the world, categorize things, put them in their proper boxes. Without language, we would not be that same beings that we are now. We are creatures of signs. Is it so strange that, in a certain way, our society is also based on putting everything, including people into boxes? Well, no, of course it’s not the same thing. And we are, I hope, intelligent enought to know that.

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Six Sentence Story: The Stories of Pain

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We have all met Pain.
It comes to all of us, wearing different disguises.
Sometimes it is hidden in heartbreak, disappointment, abandonment, loneliness.
It can also come abruptly, underneath the mask of loss.
Or it can sneak inside our minds in form of fear; common fears and unusual phobias.
And sometimes, just sometimes, it is the pain of sharp teeth and claws of a monster tearing your body apart.


Image courtesy of Pixabay.com

The Prince’s Friend

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A little snippet from my novel that is always in the making but never finished. 😄 It’s an introduction to some characters you’ve never met before…


Prince Edward had one true friend, which was more than many could hope for. William was not of noble blood, but his great-great-grandfather was a great soldier, a hero, and because of him the Cornwell family was always welcome at Court.
William had a lot to be proud of, but Edward never heard him brag. He did not care much for his heroic ancestor. He learned how to fight, of course, because he didn’t seem to have another choice. He was a skilled swordsman and rider from an early age and was now a member of the royal guard. Still, he never became a knight, which was a disappointment to his parents. It was not the kind of life he wanted to live. He knew that noble causes were just causes, without the misleading epithet.

“Tell me about your great-great-grandfather!” Edward would ask him. “Tell me how he fought and what a great hero he was!”

“Why are you so interested in those stories?” William seemed almost angry when Edward insisted.

“Of course I’m interested! Was he very brave? How big was his sword? Did he slay many enemies?” Edward was always impatient and was not used to his wishes being unanswered. He loved the stories about heroic knights and powerful warriors, and considered them a source of greatest inspiration. He wanted to be like them and never feel fear.

“I don’t want to talk about that. It’s boring. And half of it is made up anyway”, William responded with a frown on his face.

“Oh, no! It’s all real! I don’t understand how you are not intrigued by it. People say there were even dragons involved!” Edward looked very immature next to his friend.

William was not convinced that the story about dragons was true, even though his father was among those who claimed that at the very and of the battle, dragons really appeared and many soldiers were drowned in their breath of fire.

“You must be very proud of him”, said Edward calmly once he was aware that William would not answer him.

“Why would I be proud? Those were his actions, not mine”, William hissed through his teeth.

“But he is your ancestor. And he killed so many enemies”, Edward could not understand his friend’s reaction. He did not want to fight and he regretted starting this conversation. He would, however, repeat the same mistake many times again.

“You keep repeating that word – enemy. But were the people my presumably heroic ancestor killed really his enemies? Did they really do him any harm? I think they weren’t guilty of anything. They were only doing what they were told. And so was my great-great-grandfather. They listened to the orders, and I don’t think there is anything heroic about that”, William sulked.

Edward thought about his friend’s words. He was impressed how smart William was. He could never see things the way his friend did. Still, Edward was not convinced that William was right.
At the time this conversation took place, the boys were fourteen years old and they have already developed their personalities and attitudes. Edward was easily influenced by others, not because he was stupid, but because he was insecure. He listened to other people and found them more eloquent and wiser than himself. There was no harm in listening to others, he thought. It would help him become a better king one day. It would enable him to make his own decisions. When he thought about himself, Edward always pictured a little boy who still had a lot to learn. One day, he would also be wise, but not yet, not just yet…

The Witching Hour

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“My lady!” Frederic gasped.

Frederic had been a servant for the Tormount family for many years. He had seen many Tormount children grow and become adults, slowly before his eyes. And never in his years of service had he felt as afraid for one of them as he felt that night.
Lady Gemma was dripping wet, her golden hair seemed almost grey, and something behind her clever eyes seemed broken. She had been gone for three days, disappeared without a trace, during the night. Nobody knew what happened. Until this night, when just after the clock struck three times, he had heard the knocking on the door. Weak, silent knocking that someone less attentive would probably not hear. He had shuddered as he opened the door. Three o’clock, the witching hour, never brings anything good, he had thought to himself. But sometimes, even Frederic could be wrong. The night brought his dear lady back.

“Where have you been?” Frederic cried out, but he knew he would not get an answer.

Lady Gemma almost fell to the ground, but he caught her with the swiftness of a young man. He took her in his arms, as if she were a child again, and stepped inside the mansion to carry her to her bed.
The household had already awakened. Master Edmund and his wife were standing on top of the stairs in their night robes, their eyes heavy and their minds not yet aware of what was going on. The mistress was the first to run down the stairs.

“Gemma! Oh, my, Gemma is home!” she screamed.

“What’s happened?” the master stood motionless, unable to follow his wife downstairs.

“I don’t know. I heard the knocking and went to open the door…” Frederic started.

“Did she say anything?” the mistress’ hands trembled as she removed the wet hair from her daughter’s face.

“No,” Frederic replied. “We must take her to her room. Warm her up.”

The mistress nodded. Frederic carried Gemma to her room and she followed him. The master soon joined them, together with the two servant girls.
Everyone was silent, doing the best they knew to get the lady dry and warm. The girls bathed her in warm water, dressed her and put her in bed, while the others waited. The mistress then approached her daughter and covered her in warm white sheets.

“She doesn’t have a fever. That’s a good sign,” said one of the girls.

“Yes, yes…” the mistress had retained her strength for days, but now she started to cry.

“We must look after her through the night. Not leave her sight,” the master said.

“Of course. The girls can stay here until the morning,” Frederic said and looked at the girls who nodded in agreement.

“I’ll stay as well!” the mistress said. “I can’t leave her.”

The master approached his wife and patted her shoulder.

“If anything changes call me immediately. I don’t think I will be sleeping anyway,” he told her.

“I hope nothing horrible happened to her… She doesn’t seem harmed,” the mistress mumbled, as if she didn’t want to say it out loud.

“We’ll know more tomorrow. Now it’s important to let her rest. She’s obviously exhausted.”

The master left the room and Frederic followed him. In silence, they went each to his own room. They both knew they would wait for morning with eyes wide open. Frederic watched as the pale light of his master’s candle disappeared down the hallway. The mansion always looked different in the dark. It seemed less luxurious and felt less like home.
The door screaked as Frederic closed them. His room was small, but tidy. Tidiness always gave him comfort, made him feel like all is good with the world. Everything can be arranged and all broken things could be fixed. This time, it only reminded him how little his room resembled the real world. He had seen many injustices, many evils. All he could hope for was that none of those horrible things would touch those he cared about.
And then, he heard a scream. Piercing, loud, short. Everything was silent in the very next moment. Without really knowing what he was doing, Frederic ran to lady Gemma’s room. He opened the door, without knocking, something he would ordinarily never do. And then he realized what had happened.
The window was open, and the bed empty. The once white sheets were soaked in crimson, the floor covered in red. Three women lied, their bodies contorted, their eyes opened but blank. Just dead meat left of what used to be the mistress and two young servant girls. Their throats have been cut. A massacre.
They were back. Frederic didn’t think it would happen, but it has. He had to find them, end them. He had to catch his lady as well, his little girl, Gemma of the golden hair. And he had to hurry. No time to think. The master must’ve heard the scream and is coming towards the room.
Frederic growled, in anger and in pain, and his pointed, ivory teeth showed. The witching hour had passed, but it wasn’t witches he had to deal with anyway.
He followed the trace of moonlight and flew through the window.


Image courtesy of Pixabay.com

The Diamond Poem

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Image courtesy of Pixabay.com

Today, I thought it might be fun to share with you something that we do in school, with our students. By we, I mean my mentor and I, who are Croatian teachers, but it works in any language. This is a writing practice, or written expression exercise, and it’s quite simple but can give great and interesting results. It’s called the diamond poem, because the final result takes the shape of a diamond.

The task is to write a poem following these rules:

  1. First and the last line of the poem are two nouns, but of opposite meaning.
  2. Second line consists of two verbs that decribe the first noun, and the third line consists of three adjectives which describe the noun.
  3. The fourth line consists of any four words that connect the two nouns, or can be related to both.
  4. Next two lines consist of three adjectives and two verbs again, this time describing the other noun.

To make it simpler, it should look like this:

noun

verb  verb

adjective adjective adjective

word          word          word          word

adjective adjective adjective

verb  verb

noun

Looks like a diamond, you see? 😉 Now, here’s my try at it. I chose love and indifference as the two opposite nouns to begin and end the poem with.

love

 embraces   smiles

warm    soft    changeable

passing    time    evanescent    emotion

  cold unexpected unstoppable

grabbs       pains

indifference

So, what do you think? Would you like to try this form?

Quote for Thought: Just Write!

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“If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”

-Toni Morrison

I haven’t done this kind of post in a while, and this time it’s more inspirational than food for thought. I love this quote by the wonderful Toni Morrison. I love how it makes you want to write even more. It reminds you that you truly have something to say, that you can offer something new to the world. You are writing something that nobody has written before.

There are many authors here on WordPress, and I wanted to share this quote with all of you, even if you’ve already heard it. It’s nice to be reminded that your writing is important. Art is important. Expressing yourself is important. It’s neccessary. It’s wonderful! 🙂

And thank you, Toni Morrison! She is a great writer, and she even had a mural depicting her, in Spain. Apparently, it’s been removed, which is really sad…

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Mural depicting Toni Morrison in Vitoria, Spain. Picture from Wikipedia.

 

 

Once more…

She thinks of him once more,
Of all the times they shared,
She thinks of him once more,
As he sleeps –
Unaware.

She thinks of dirt underneath their feet,
Soil damp and soft, a living thing,
She thinks of leaves floating in the air
Trees greeting them with a wave,
She thinks of the wind brushing her hair,
Songs of birds and crickets’ chirps,
She thinks of the cage she used to wear,
Gown caught by brambles, lacerated,
She thinks of the woods, cruel and kind,
Silence, music; warmth and cold.

She thinks of him once more,
Of the honesty they shared,
She thinks of him once more,
And then she leaves –
Far away.

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Image courtesy of Pixabay.com