Crown of Petals

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If, while looking upon a flower, someone knelt beside you and whispered in your ear, “Therein sits God,” would you continue to call the flower, a flower? Would not the stem become a scepter and the ring of petals become a crown? If you looked upon a tree and were told that the Divine saturated every leaf, would you continue to use the word tree, or would you call it Heavenly? Would you call a rock, a simple rock, if the whisperer explained that the stone hums along with the entire universe? Would a mountain become a throne? Would not a blade of grass become an ornament of light, a glorious undulation of the whole? What if you could grasp, even for an instant, the marvel of this Unity? How would life change?

If you knew the Divine was in the air, how differently would you breathe? If you knew the Divine was under your feet, how more carefully would you tread? If you knew that the Divine were in every drop of water, how differently would you bathe each limb of your body? If you knew such things, would you partition one thing sacred and the other not?

Would you continue to restrict Divinity to a temple, or a book, or to the Heavens? Would you keep parceling and partitioning yourself and the world, or would you seek out the Presence in all places? Would you at last accept your identity as a precious jewel in the fabric of the whole?

Yet, there is a separation. You are here and the flower is there. But, the whisperer explains: the flower helps us to forget our wholeness for a while, to help us understand that we delve and dance with a will of our own, even as we play within the wonder of creation, within the unity that Is, in the Oneness that will always hold us.

Homeward

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On this side of the door lies opportunity and growth.
Billions of souls scurrying about, learning of loneliness, pride;
Experiencing isolation, jealousy, humility and joy,
Slowly realizing the immutable law of love.
Time expands in these shadows
All we once understood is clouded;
Held in the frailty of human living.
All slows down to a lesser pace,
Freeing us to make each connection anew,
Creating ownership of each delicate idea.
Beyond the doorway, in a small, quiet, unassuming way
Is embossed the word “Entrance".
It is inescapable.
Homeward bound, we will step under its arch again.
Will we do so with a mind full of regret
Or hearts full of love?
Maybe that is all we have to decide.

Awareness

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The watchful animal gripped in outward attention is focused upon his immediate place in the world, not on an abstract notion of it. Housed within eye and ear, suspended above breath, awareness floods into the scene: The animal knows that to be awake is to be alive.
Pure awareness is uncontained by the body, yet, wrapped in a point of being, is absorbed into a frame. So may the perception in man tilt and turn, discover and ponder the quantity of light his wisdom allows.
Within the house of opposites, the palette of ideas paint parallels, and the scene is reinvented along with the long, stumbled steps of instinct and intuition that form the stairway of consciousness.
A Soul may shine the lamp of awareness upon any surface of mind—outward or inward—and there become aware of its own reflection, placed upon an arc of discovery that it might approach completion and know that to be awake is to become alive.

A Prayer for the Wounded

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This is a prayer for the wounded, for the lonely, for the abandoned and frail, for the muted hearts that float with the burden of aloneness upon their shoulder. May they open to Light.

This is a prayer for the forsaken, for the abused, for the stranded and bereft, for the quarantined hearts of this world, and the next. May they allow the great note of Love to heal all they have endured.

This is a prayer for the weary, for the uncertain, for the meek and humbled hearts that have understood what beauty a simple kindness can bring. May they raise the world in a demonstration of the knowledge they have toiled so hard to gain.

This is a prayer for the forlorn, for the rejected and mistreated, for the timorous souls who tread quietly among us. May they reveal the pure life of love they have imagined in the darkness, the great jewel of Light’s permanent treasure.

May all suffering hearts be offered the glint of what possibility awaits; that they will become the strong, the wise and the just, the teachers of perennial kindness and its vehement joy.

If Love demands that its true value be learnt by being hidden, by being veiled by life’s trials and separations, may all wounded hearts be guided to a point of humility and calm, to thereby be healed and made whole by Love’s return.

Amen.

A Work of Art

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In life, a Soul must choose a disguise: city dweller, farmer, soldier, artist, and so on. The costumes we wear have been lived and exchanged over the course of millennia and are so ingrained that a fleeting identity is usually mistaken for the soul that personifies it. Indeed, thought has power and can create a sense of permanence where only flux exists, and yet this is the way we learn and thereby choose who we are and what we wish to become. Over time, each point of light may discover how to release itself from pain and enter into love, and then, leaving behind the weight of injustice and self-pity, venture into fresher fields and finer awareness.

This thing that we seek to master and mature in ourselves—the clay of conscience—is it not character? And what is the great possibility held in deciding the color and contour of that character? Is it not to develop and refine what we are through the disciplines of sincere living? How many of us recognize that by evolving the personality we begin to control the levels of ourselves, the energies of what we are, and therein is the reason for choosing carefully. Each life may choose to become one with the crowd, with the forest, with our memories, or even with kindness itself. At any time, you and I can withdraw and exist elsewhere, just as an actor might decide to enter or exit a scene.

Just think, when we do something as simple as opening a door for a stranger or offering a gentle word to a friend, we express within that politeness a kindness in body, emotion and thought that lifts the elements of both Souls. By developing our character, we align ourselves with the idea we have adopted as truth, evolving it until we open to the greater Truth. Perhaps then, having come to the end of all philosophy, we will stop measuring life, and in that moment, finally understand.

Let us then grasp the longer view, that we are the eternal artists of ourselves, displaying in the mirror of the world what wisdom we have gathered through the tone and beauty of our actions. Truly, the greatest work of art in this world is that of an unfolding human character: a sculpture of intent and imagination held in an ever-increasing love. This great work of art is perfected in the kiln of worldly experience, in the heartache and joy of life’s expression. This being so, surely all life will eventually choose to live as an expression of what is constant, of what rings true, and use its wisdom as a key to the door of perennial love. Perhaps that is why the masters explain that the password to eternal life is spoken with tenderness.

Silence

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Golden silence, envelope me, that the light of my soul may descend and comfort.

Deftly spread your wings and lift me into all corners of Truth and knowing.

Reveal and lay rest awhile the murmurs of mind.

Prepare my heart to listen and receive in purity an understanding of deep love.

Please, help me cast open the windows of my Soul, wide in wordless adoration.

Immensity

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The mountain, the stone, products of time and hardship, grow and recede, soar and dissolve, to perhaps flourish again under different oceans.

With gentle motion all drifts and melts with grace: the pirouette of a tumbleweed, the leaf loosed from its parent, the blade of grass that flickers, the slow curl of ivy as it climbs the mute fissures of mortar, the shadow that drifts across the immensity… Every grain and pebble; a wanted, necessary piece, playing its part in the dance of all that is and always must be.

To be aware, awake to the wonder–that, perhaps, is the greater task, to capture a glimpse of its vastness and let all complexity yield to this marvelous, elegant world: A creation that evolves and beckons me to evolve with calm reverence.

All Is Already Known

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My guide’s voice dipped into my conscience and told me clear that All is already known.
The moon spins, the stars explode, the blood of the Universe pumps, regardless of how I whirl in my anxiety to understand. You understand; that is what I now grasp.
The ocean bed of life exists without my appraisal. All is in order: all planets, particles and pathways are known, of course.
The forests and lakes, the seas and jungles all continue without a man’s understanding. Even my own body works despite my great ignorance: It maneuvers, heals and sleeps. Within it I am alive and well, able to go about the experiences of Earth.
Indeed, All is already known and held together so perfectly, with such precision that there is safety in the acceptance of its certainty.
It is plain for everyone to see that all that does exist is grandly organized and pays no heed to the speculative mind.
The spider spins, the hills roll, my heart beats and I am destined to seek. The daisy will bloom whether I grasp its nature or not and that nature is known to You, a mind.

A Lapse of Time

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As each of us move though space, from this stage to that, and from that hope to this, let us ask, who is steering us through the maze of life? Who is watching? Who is seeing? Who is it that seeks and ponders upon the complexities of life? Are we separate from what we see or are we a product of it; a creator playing with ideas, or a plaything of an insensible universe? Whatever we might say, we can understand well enough that time itself is not chaotic or random: it has the discipline of eternity and cannot fail us. What would happen if we were able to step out of the stream of space and with a lapse of time, lift into an eternal place of being? Perhaps then on our return to home, we would recognize the importance of our time on Earth.

Just think: if in Heaven there were no conflict, no adversity, only a life of perfect peace and certainty, would we not stagnate? Is it even possible to contemplate a change in one’s Self while living in the eternal. After all, what would compel us to grow? Down here on Earth—this place of duality, of right and wrong, of darkness and light—here is where we may decide, rushing through tunnels of experience toward wisdom, a wisdom we must earn and then choose to demonstrate. In duality, on the byways of human life we are given grand choices, for here on Earth is the place to change the essence of who we are, not in the Light, for surely we will carry our earthly choices into Permanence, into timelessness itself.

This being so, could it be then that the Infinite has shrunk our experience into little moments, each just small enough for us to grasp and inspect the deeper reality, but at a distance, there to hold in our minds the wonder, the miracle of what we are? And since we gain wisdom from the trials of life, can we not infer that we are from beyond the bounds of time, not here to merely suffer through our obligations, to reap and suffer as we sow? Then are we not all undying, perpetual points of light, destined to search and create forever? Let us then ask, from where have we come and to where are we going in this great mystery of Light? Let us keep pushing at the edge of mystery and demand to know: Where are we? Where have we been? Where are we going? What is our place in the grand scheme of Light, and what of its energies create the road we're on?

Wherever and whatever we are doing in our lives, surely it has always been our precious work, our own heart's special labor to create and perfect ourselves. Is not each of us, you and I, and everyone we will ever know, unique: expressing, planning, anticipating and reacting, each in our own way? You and I are not products of a cosmic machine; we are creators who are able to build upon our ability to dream and desire. Though we travel along the difficult roads of life, we are and always will be.

Advice From A Tree

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Live your life grounded in the Earth, but always stretching toward the light. When all is calm, rest quietly and learn: the soil will give you strength, the breeze will bring you language, the Sun will send you flowers.

When a storm is nigh, bend with the wind as best you can. If calamity should strike, you will grow again, however impossible it may seem. The great life has given you that power to do so.

Give shelter and food to those in need, taking care to offer a gentle word. Yet know that sure enough, they will fly away. Each has its own riddle to solve.

As to a tree in a richer clime, well, it is there and I am here. I will make the best of things for now. I will tend to this garden with all of my capacity. And when you create a thing of beauty, do not cling and spoil the fruit of your heart. Give freely to the world. Not every seed will sprout but when one does, how the birds do sing!

Climb

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Before I came to this muddy Earth, in joy and immensity
I thought myself satisfied.
But I was undone by the thrill of a new vision,
Of a being so bright, so complete in its capacity
So full in its majestic, ardent love, that my idea was set afire;
My heart leapt with pure desire and I became desperate to achieve.
In my open eyed wonder an angel beheld my thirst
And taking my hand in hers, she softly asked,
"Are you ready to suffer the void of loneliness
That you may know the joy of absorption,
To untie the knot of pride, that you may know the freedom of humility?
Are you willing to transform the blunt blade
Of anger into the intense love you now witness?
Are you ready to rework the threads of yourself
Into the very essence of light’s sacred purity?"
I  stared long and deep into her design and finally said,
“Yes, I am.”
Then she pledged to fold her heart into my will
So that I might reweave the tapestry of my Soul.
“Come then,” she said, “Let us go. Listen for me;
I will be with you for all of your days.
Not even for a moment will I leave your side."
Then she delivered me into this human life.
Just as you have been delivered into yours.
Often about my shoulder I feel the flutter of gentle thought
Urging me towards the edge of truth.
Even now I hear her whisper,
“Climb, climb, climb!”

A Vision of Night

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Seldom is true goodness ambiguous, so we might wonder why a Soul chooses to blind itself with emotion and desire, to delve into the darkness of distraction and to walk through life neglectful of the beauty that sustains it. Could it be that once it has realized the freedom of individuality, a young Soul, a child of Light such as yourself set free in the firmament, must first fulfill some irresistible urge to express itself aloud in the darkness and thereby know what it truly is and what power is its own?

Here on this Earth we see how everyone talks and argues their truth, for the world is a Soul’s mirror, where it may create and recreate itself in its own light as often as it wishes, to thereby entertain its vanity or test its understanding of love.

As the Soul advances, it receives many suggestions on how to behave and who to become, and as the embodied light walks forward through the darkness, it must test the contour of its heart with each footfall. It will stumble at first, and long after, but eventually it will right itself and find wisdom in its expression.

In the beginning and at the end of this night, it is the solitary Soul in the loneliness of his own mind who must decide what ideas he will express and what design his heart will demonstrate—not his neighbor, nor his hero, or his culture. Understanding this responsibility precedes any lasting freedom.

Within this night is our grand experiment, where we, you and I, run this way and that, up and down the avenues of the absurd, sleeping, crying, laughing and dreaming. But above the heaviness of night an idea, like the sunlit moon, looks patiently, placidly, even longingly upon us. It’s light contains the key to our own, a way back that is so simple and so pure, for high up within each Soul resides the perfect idea, the Word, perhaps, and we are here to find it and even emulate its flawless expression of love.

As the Soul treks through darkness with no memory of where it came from, and often having no idea where it is going, there remains that particular knowledge, stirring and agitating the young Soul to move forward and create itself anew. Herein rests the true vision of night.

The Leap

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Imagine this: When in moments of Love when we are able to lift out of ourselves, think of how one day the body will fall away, just as the chrysalis or the seashell releases its hold on the life placed within it. We have become so used to the idea of our human self, so used to its body, appearance, language, and expectation that we have placed our entirety into it. But one day, we will know these things are not truly ours; that they must be returned to the sole sovereignty of Earth.

Could it be that all things in nature have an interior presence, returning to this life and that in order to animate a form and thereby learn of Love? Does not each of us know secretly within that deep Love and its awareness cannot die, but only adapt and turn along a spiral of longing?

What a relief it must be to breathe in the perfumed rays of light after the heaviness of Earth. There! What an extraordinary thought, that we, you and I, infinitesimal persons in the vastness of space, have a life beyond, one that is before and after this worldly place.

Let us take a leap of mind and know that we are but visitors here, like divers who put on a suit to walk upon the bed of the ocean, to rise to the surface when the work is complete and the lesson learned. It is not outside that we will discover from where we have come and where we are going, but from behind closed eyes and within an open heart.

Let us understand then that all we take with us when we leave this place is whatever depth of Love we have claimed as our own. Everything else passes away, and how real can something be if it does not last?

Our Precious Work

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Let it be my precious work: to care for every thought, to let each step, each breath, each softly spoken word, become a deed of light; a feat of unadorned desire.

Let it be my sacred work: to strive as of a voice of light, a golden sweep of bright devotion, where every contour of love’s pure, sure capacity opens the treasure of truth's laboring arms.

Let it be my special work: to toil with songs of love, to thereby illuminate each passing point of life’s demand and soften all edges of pain, longing and loss.

According to my Soul’s ambition, let my grandest work be to place the mark of tenderness upon each endeavor of worth.

Help me steady myself amid these trials of matter and find the courage to express the purity I desire in a prayer of simple, honest days.

Help me place my heart in the heavens even as my hands toil and scrape amid the dust and dirt of Earth. Help me to define myself in service, in my work; nay, in Your work, as a joyful, constant conduit of Beauty’s aim.

I shall strive with You at my side: With Light upon my shoulder, I need no other guide. Accompany me as I discover love’s true contour in the devotions of thankfulness. Yes, let my yearning shine, moment by moment, step by step.

Let my loving serve as a gift to Love, that labor may reveal its pure, engulfing capacity. As a glint of light in the prism of simple delight, let it be our work.

A Doorway Awaits

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Off in the distance, a doorway awaits. Built into the fabric of every soul, it is often indistinct under the dulled light of a busy mind, yet it offers itself as a gateway to a finer dimension, where a forest or an ocean may be leapt across just easily as a searching heart may absorb a thought of light.

All that is required to set the door ajar is a single, definite wish to explore. Indeed, there is no other key than a desire to leap. Its threshold marks the beginning of Infinity and the end of darkness, and more.

But a voice says, “It is only the imagination.” Yes, it begins that way, but we may, if we wish, explore a reality beyond it, a solid reality, a reality for which we have been preparing ourselves all this time; a reality that each of us nurtures in our precious days on Earth.

Belief is the currency of a creator, whereby what is hoped for is conjured in the fire of the will, in the temple of the imagination. In the room beyond the door exists this great treasure. Within it we may resist the pull of memory, of blame, of avoidance and self-pity and recreate ourselves in an image of pure delight, without the weight of Earth and all its troubles.

Once we have stepped across the threshold we may reinvent ourselves in any and all ways we desire, and prepare to lift into a reality that corresponds to that same desire.

Whatever a person believes he becomes. This is the first secret of the inner life, and the marvel of the Soul’s eternal arc. By imagining, a person may fashion himself anew and adjust the foundation of his entire being. The door that links these worlds awaits the single push of a focused heart whereupon we may step from this place to all places and thereby be free.

In Wondrous Company

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I walk this dream in the wondrous company of children and mothers, presidents, professors, gardeners and engineers.
I walk this dream in the wondrous company of brothers and artists, students, librarians, grocers and psychics.
I walk this dream in the wondrous company of dancers and cooks, lifeguards, violinists, seamstresses and florists.
I walk this dream in the wondrous company of nurses and firemen, composers, miners, equestrians and welders.
I walk this dream in the wondrous company of soldiers and secretaries, farmers, waitresses, street sweepers and sages.
I walk this dream in the wondrous company of doctors and poets, sailors, fisherman, journalists and judges.
I walk this dream in the wondrous company of priests and scientists, ballerinas, stewards, merchants and bus drivers.
I walk this dream in the wondrous company of fathers and daughters, filmmakers, bakers, tailors and healers.
I walk this dream in the wondrous company of cleaners and parking attendants, builders, accountants, hoteliers and salesmen.
I walk this dream in the wondrous company of writers and painters, building managers, barristers, actors and chemists.
I walk this dream in the wondrous company of electricians and photographers, athletes, surveyors, psychologists and lawyers.
I walk this dream in the wondrous company of historians and designers, carpenters, architects, mechanics and plumbers.
I walk this dream in the wondrous company of maids and surgeons, models, paramedics, astronomers and school teachers.
I walk this dream in the wondrous company of angels and guides, the Elohim, the Pure Light, the Divine, and you.

In your wondrous company, I dream.

A Portrait of Souls

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Everyone who passes under the grand clock of Lightmere Station has one thing in common—each has a spirit guide to help them navigate life’s trials and opportunities.

Some of the guided are lowly, like George, a homeless man who begs for pennies while he prays. Others are quiet and reserved, like Alina, a florist who seeks a sign from her late mother.  Marcus, the stationmaster, uses the disguise of a monk to walk anonymously among the morning commute, while Adrielle, a cleaning lady, scrubs and scours as she casts colors of goodwill around those who try to derail her spiritual path.

Most are unaware that they have a spirit guide, though some have learnt to recognize the loving presence at their side and its message of hope. Among them is Harvey, recently released from prison, and Annie, a former nun who was cruelly seduced by a priest; like Amalia, she now seeks out the sacred among the churches and chapels of Lightmere, while Nadia, a destitute and homeless mother, is given proof of life after death.

With all its quests and awakenings, each portrait of a soul reminds us that everyone is more than they appear to be, and whether rich or poor, famous or meek, all are welcome to seek the light of Spirit.

Platform Shoes (excerpt)

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George sat upon a plastic crate atop a bundle of newspapers by the vending machine on Platform 4. In his left hand he held out a cup to accept spare change and with his right he propped up the sign that rested upon his knee. It read: Blessed We Be, You and Me.

He seldom looked up at the passersby, preferring instead to study their shoes, thus affording his audience anonymity and himself peace and quiet—they had their business and he had his. Besides, you could tell a great deal about a person from their shoes.

In each grazed heel George saw signs of pride, sloth, humility or temperance; in each scuffed toe, he searched out marks of anger or carelessness, and examined in each taut or frayed shoelace signs of neglect, poverty or exactness. Over time he’d come to recognize the bearing of the lively, the weary, the frantic and the purposeful, and nodded politely at a shoe he saw carry the weight of someone he believed to be forthright and true.

George was a man who spent his life examining life.

George was also mindful of the grand clock that hung over the center of the concourse. Whenever the clock’s hands clunked into place and claimed another hour, George would open his notebook and write down any inspiration that had been provided by a passing stranger, usually a thought about their shoes—their fit, color, style, wear, fabric or shine. And he’d always—always—end with a note about their well-being.

At night George slept in an abandoned signal hut a few hundred yards up the track. Curled up on his makeshift bed, he sometimes twisted in his sleep with pangs of hunger, but most days he found enough to eat, provided he was not too particular. After the evening rush hour he scavenged for food in the bins; once upon a time he’d found this humiliating, but the force of necessity had long since tempered his pride. Indeed, poverty had expanded his idea of what was essential to the survival of a person. A half-eaten burger or a discarded pastry was a welcome sight to a man who had long ago forgotten how to eat a meal in polite company. A discarded sandwich with only one corner missing or a slice of pie with most of its crust still intact was a true prize.

Once or twice a week, Sofia, a waitress from one of the station’s cafés, gave him a parcel of sandwiches and a peppermint cake, sometimes even a piece of fruit she’d saved from being thrown away. George always saved her precious gift until it was time to retire, alone, to his bed of cardboard and newspapers. He always celebrated Sofia’s generosity by lighting a candle and opening her parcel with a smile and a prayer.

Most of the rail station staff knew George, some by name but most by his layers of colorful shirts and bright red hiking boots. He hadn’t taken them off in years. He was afraid that they might be stolen, or worse, spun around the overhead wires outside the station, forever on display but out of reach. According to his philosophy of footwear, this was a sure sign of their owner’s folly, and besides, the laces lasted longer if you kept them tied.

George did not drink, nor did he gamble. He’d never taken drugs, except to help his asthma, and even though he’d often had the opportunity, he had never stolen or taken advantage of anyone.

After so many years of rough living, he’d grown to prefer life around the train station. It was relatively safe, at least compared to the rest of the city, and being elderly, a few of the station staff looked out for him. In addition to Sofia, there was Alina, the friendly flower seller who gave George a carnation for his lapel whenever she had one left over at the end of the day. There was Stationmaster Marcus Manach, whose nod of approval and caring eye always gave George a much-needed sense of stability in his otherwise haphazard world. And there was Adrielle, the large cleaning lady whose territory included his post on Platform 4. She would give him things—little, inexpensive things like a new toothbrush, a full, fresh tube of toothpaste, a block of unopened soap, or even a fresh blanket if it was especially cold—but they meant the world to George. There was also Freddie, Albert, Paul and Johann. While his homeless associates preferred to beg on the street outside the station, they made sure to share whatever gossip came their way, just as he shared whatever bounty was left unclaimed in the vending machine. Sometimes the four of them asked George for guidance, especially Johann who was the youngest and most impressionable of the group.

Before living in the station, George had drifted through the parks and suburbs, churchyards and shopping districts of Lightmere, moving from one neighborhood to another, pushing his belongings in a small metal cart. But life on the street had made him feel anxious and vulnerable, especially at night when prayers alone were not enough to protect him. Platform 4, with its simple routine, its washroom, bright lights and familiar faces, provided him with a sense of safety and of belonging. Besides, he had lived there for so long he wasn’t sure where else to go.

George had no family and no real friends outside of the station, and even those who did know him didn’t know much about his past. He kept it a secret, not because he had something to hide but because it was precious; he did not want the memory of his wife to be tainted or diluted by others’ casual remarks, however well intentioned. He could still remember the day, the hour, even the minute when Mary had died—how he held her hand and kissed her cheek and told her how much he loved her. George had nursed her through a long and difficult illness, and knew that she was tired, but losing her was still the saddest moment of his life. It was the same day that Daniella Parsona, the famous actress, had died on television in front of the world as she’d accepted an award. He’d never forget her death either. Twenty-five long years ago the audience had wept for Daniella, but no one except George had wept for Mary. But the fact that he alone carried the memory of their love only made him love her more.

During Mary’s illness, George fell heavily into debt. He’d been an accountant, a fact that now sometimes made him laugh, but at the time it had been very hard and worrisome. Even though the bills kept piling up, he’d managed to keep things going while Mary was alive, but as soon as she passed, George’s life quickly unraveled. He lost his job and could not settle his debts. Without anywhere to turn, he was forced onto the streets, never quite sure where to go or how to recover. Sitting on his plastic crate on Platform 4, looking dreamily at the ground, most people assumed that he’d lived a wasted life. What they saw was an old man, lost and adrift and maybe even a little mad. But George was a good man, and despite his situation, he tried his very best to live each day with dignity. He knew that Mary would have wanted it that way.



Forever Beautiful (excerpt)

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Alina arranged a halo of baby’s breath around a dozen red roses and wrapped them in pink paper. Then she fashioned a bow out of bands of thin gold ribbon and feathered the ends with her scissors, and as a final touch, she gave the bouquet a careful trim as if she were giving it a fine haircut. Her customer smiled as he left, obviously pleased with his purchase.

With a few moments to herself, she went inside the cold room and closed the door. She tried to calm herself, to stop herself from crying, but the tears came all the same. It was a difficult day for Alina. It was the first anniversary of her mother’s death.

Alina worked as a florist on the concourse of Lightmere Station. She enjoyed her work. It was not particularly glamorous or well paid, but it suited her. It required imagination, an artist’s eye, precision and prudence, and it connected her to complex souls like her own, souls who were in the throes and complexities of love and sorrow. Whether she was asked to design a wreath, a basket, a bouquet or a simple corsage, she tried her best to provide something both fitting and affordable. She enjoyed the language of floristry; the lore of color and intention fascinated her. She saw each design as a palette upon which to paint meaning—a single red rose meant one thing, while a spray of pink carnations inspired quite another. And whether it was a single stem for a buttonhole or a complex garland to celebrate a turning point in a person’s life, she arranged each canvas with care and exacting love.

Alina was one of the world’s thinkers, a careful mind amid so much carelessness. Her mother had said her daughter was born thinking, but Alina had learnt very early on in life to keep her thoughts to herself. Her questions often troubled the people around her, especially the big, difficult, weighty ones, but they were the lifeblood of Alina’s world. They sat on her shoulder like hungry hawks waiting to be fed.

Alina was never one for gatherings or the attention of her peers, not even as a child. She was always the shy, quiet girl in the background, but she preferred it that way—it gave her space to arrange her thoughts while the others polluted the world with noise and endless banality. She enjoyed taking it all in from behind the scenes, noticing what others thought unimportant. Her eyes and mind continually studied the world, analyzing everything within their field. She was in a constant state of curiosity, and spent just as much time untangling what she saw behind her eyes as she did seeing through them. Some complained that she lived upon a cloud, but Alina thought their opinions unimportant. She enjoyed floating off to other places, even if it made it difficult to connect with the everyday world. There had been days in which she’d felt vulnerable and divided, but Elsa, her mother, had always been nearby to offer the blessings of a maternal smile. Now she was gone, and Alina missed her terribly.

Like most people, Alina didn’t know how to process her grief or resolve the thousands of questions that had amassed during the year that followed. She’d reached out to a few people for help—those kind friends and colleagues, a priest, an aunt who had offered to listen—but none had given her answers, at least not answers that provided any real understanding of where her mother had gone, and why, when she had so much living left to do.

How Alina missed her mother! She missed every little thing about her: her cooking, her laughter; her eccentric hats, her dry humor, her perfume, her bright scarves, her sunny smile, the little stories she used to share about her younger days when she was courting Alina’s father, and she especially loved the way her mother made her father laugh. Indeed, they both loved making Nigel laugh—a significant feat, considering what a stern, demanding and practical man he was.

Whenever Elsa had talked to her daughter about angels, her father would tell her to be careful of such nonsense, to use her head and avoid dreaming her life away. Though she respected her father, Alina thought her parents such an odd couple. They were so different, even exact opposites, and yet they were so much in need of each other.

And then there was her mother’s love of flowers, a passion Alina had inherited. Elsa loved flowers, just as she loved her garden. Right up until her last days, Elsa would pat the ground with her palm and beckon Alina to sit at her side and read to her as she tilled the soil and planted fresh bulbs. She occasionally asked her mother the name of a certain bloom, knowing she would never get a straight answer. Her mother had ideas of her own and would give the same disapproving reply.

“It doesn’t need a name, Ali dear, except the one you give it,” Elsa would say.

“But if we all use different names for the same flower, how will we ever know what flower the other person is talking about?” Alina would protest.

“But doesn’t that make life more interesting?”