MC's Whispers

Whispering Silences

Archive for the tag “experience”

Cat on fire

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She sat on the balcony every morning among the plants breathing in the morning dew and fresh air. It felt nice being outdoors, even if this was on the third floor of a city-centre apartment. This was her ‘outside’.

The days passed calmly, as they do for an indoor cat.

But there was one day when something extraordinary happened.

Her housemates left early in the morning to “run errands”, as they told her. They reassured her they would be back soon as they had left their food baking in that square thing in the kitchen that heated up real fast and they called an ‘oven’.

It was hot that day. She realised it, as there was no fresh air, not even in the shade provided by the plants.

And all of a sudden, it happened.

Black smoke began filling up the house and causing an increasingly suffocating atmosphere.

She found it hard to breathe and snuck further behind the pots of the leafiest of plants. It didn’t work much, as the smoke intensified and there was a pungent smell that hurt her nostrils.

After a while, she heard commotion, but it wasn’t from inside the house. Her housemates had not yet returned.

And then, the sirens. Loud and shrieking, piercing her ears.

The door breaking open and five tall men, dressed heavily with helmets and bearing a long rubber hose that began to shoot out water. Voices shouting at all tones all at once, people moving in and out of the house, staring at her hiding behind the pots.

The smoke dispersed but the smell remained. She tried to go into the house to see who these people were and what happened, and that was when her housemates arrived and she could hear their voices break with agony.

One of them picked her up and clenched her in her arms. She said it was to reassure her that everything was all right and she was grateful nothing had happened to her. But the black cat knew that the hug served more as a comfort for her housemate, to loosen the tension and calm her nerves.

She had survived a fire.

To her housemates, she was the luckiest cat alive.

But to her, they were the lucky ones.

In search of treasures

http://www.treasure-hunt-ideas.co.uk/site/siteImages/bg.jpgSantiago was in search of a treasure. Like all people, he was trying to find his place in this world. He read a lot and tried to travel even more. He longed to find where he belonged and what his purpose was. He was certain he had something exceptional to do.

But not every treasure is silver and gold. It took him a while to realise it.

For after travelling for years alone through sun, rain and snow, in lands that where not so welcoming, meeting all sorts of persons and seeing things he never even dreamt of, all he finally looked forward to was returning home. To a home that would be surrounded by the person who had stolen his heart from the very first time they set eyes on each other. Because life has a strange way of sending us signs for things that should happen. Falling in love is one of the strongest ones. And if you’re strong enough to fight for it, you are bound to find something amazing.

Santiago acknowledged after years of searching that his treasure was not material things. It was the knowledge and experience he had accumulated during his travels. It was the way his mind opened up and his spirit liberated. It was the push he felt inside him to constantly evolve, to want to become better for himself and those around him. It was the urge to become the exceptional person he believed he could be.

Treasures are first and foremost located in our hearts. We just need to first open our minds and souls to realise it.

 

Also part of Daily Prompt: Exceptional

Contractual Obligations

http://worldartsme.com/images/people-signing-papers-clipart-1.jpgWhen the first beam of morning light hit his face, Oliver sprung out of bed. He was excited. Today was his interview. He had been searching for a job for months now and could not even remember how many CVs he had sent out, let alone to whom. Just a few days ago, he had finally received a positive response after so many courteously phrased rejections.

So, he put on his smart-yet-not-too-casual clothes and set off for what he believed was a great opportunity. If he landed this job, it would be a stepping stone to advance into something greater. At least that is how he perceived it in his mind, given all he had read about the said company. Even if it did not work out, however, he still thought it would be a good chance to learn from it and become better, even if it was just at the interview part.

But Oliver could never have imagined what followed.

The minute he walked into the office, the secretary did not even raise her eyes to meet his. She looked at him almost demeaningly and simply grunted when she was to accompany him in to the office of the company’s CEOs.

In turn, these two men stared at him, as if trying to sting his entire body with invisible beams of fire launched from their eyes. Oliver already felt the sweat beginning to form. He sat down timidly without saying a word.

Then the CEOs did something that seemed entirely out of their nature; it was too obvious to miss: they smiled.

It is easy to detect a fake smile, especially when it is so forced upon a person you can see them cringe.

Oliver kept a blank expression. He thought it would be best.

He was asked to briefly introduce himself, which he did. And then he had to listen for 40 minutes, while both CEOs outlined the contractual obligations he would be committed to once he entered the specific company.

Not once was he asked why he wanted to work there. He had prepared an answer for that, as it was a common interview question.

Nor was he ever told what the company could offer him.

Instead, he was bombarded with a list of obligations he would consent to, not least being punctual and succumbing to anything his superiors would ask him to do. Worst of all, he was to provide a monthly subscription to the company for the space he occupied there. In plain: he would pay them to work for them.

Asked if he was clear with the terms, Oliver nodded vacantly. He was then handed an 18-page contract, titled “agreement”, which he was to sign and return by the next morning.

What he did not comprehend, was that he was never expected to read it. Because that would be considered “paranoid”. That was what the CEOs described it as in the reply email they sent him when he kindly declined their offer. Because to them, the simple fact that he attended their meeting was a verbal commitment that he was on board with everything they threw his way.

Oliver knew differently, however. This is not what companies were expected to do. And contracts existed for a reason. To be read and understood before being signed.  If these people were so afraid of revealing the exact terms outlined in a so-called agreement, then something was wrong with it. And if they felt so insanely insecure about everything they said and did, that they desperately needed to conceal it all, then there was definitely something that was not right.

Oliver realized that in time to get away. And he was glad he did. Because sometimes, the greatest lessons you learn are from the places you least expect it. They are concealed behind facades that tempt you otherwise.

 

Also part of Daily Prompt: Conceal

Change in the silence

Change - leavesYou can hear it in the silence. The change that is coming. You can feel it in the air around you. You can sense it In that cold breeze that causes your eyes to water.

Changes are often unpredictable. They are a fundamental part of life. And we are usually the ones we’ve been waiting to change.

But sometimes, just some times, those changes are strange. Not that they are not welcome. On the contrary. But in that they seem to affect everything we’ve ever known up to that point.

It is when you see people who have inscribed their names into your heart, now being with someone else.

Or when you see loved ones being happy. With others.

It is that melancholic feeling of witnessing the change that is happening around you. Without you. Despite of you.

It is that feeling of trying to make sense of everything, but no matter how much you try, or how much you think you’ve managed to sort out everything, there will always be that small “issue” in your life that you can never understand.

There are some things in life that no matter how much everything else changes, those will never do. They usually involve feelings. Ones so strong, they can break down every single defense you raise against them.

But at times, regardless of how hard you fight, resistance is futile, because maybe some things are just not meant to be. At least maybe for the time being.

Perhaps in a year or so, you’ll look back at it all and wonder what you were so worried about. Perhaps it is all just a matter of time. And faith.

But like Alan Watts said, “The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.

Words of the wise

roller-coaster“Do you remember what it was like the first time you got on a roller-coaster? The excitement you felt when standing in line, the thrill that engulfed you as you took your seat, the adrenaline rush, the fear and the nausea, and the pleasant relief at the end? Life is like that. Like a roller-coaster. Love is like that too. In time you learn to become stronger and wiser. But that does not mean you stop loving. Or living”.

Grandma May always had a way with words. Her voice was as soothing as a hot cup of chamomile tea. And she always knew exactly what to say at precisely the right moment. Tricia could think of no other person to turn to whenever she needed a word of advice, a shoulder to cry on, or simply a hug.

Ever since she was a young child, she would run to Grandma May whenever she scraped her knees and needed consolation, whenever she would fight with her parents for some reason or other, whenever she felt betrayed by her friends, and, above all, whenever she experienced a heartache. The latter was Grandma May’s specialty. It was not everyone who could mend a broken heart. But Grandma May knew all too well what it felt like, enough to be able to convince even the most heartbroken of creatures that they will survive. She never told Tricia what she herself had gone through in life. Even when she outright asked, Tricia would never get a clear response, only some sort of wise-person talk, like something Yoda from Star Wars would say.

“How can you be so sure that a love like that will come again? What if that was it? If you had your chance and you missed it? Where will I ever find someone who loves me as much? Who will care for me so? Who will I find to match with so perfectly?”

Tricia was firing out questions as if her torso was a machine gun that had been kept silent for too long. Tears were rolling down her cheeks as she lay in Grandma May’s arms and wondered how life can go on after such intense pain.

Grandma May had brought tissues, tea, cookies and a blanket. And she decided to tell her a story.

“A long time ago, when there were enough women and men to form communities, the first heartache appeared. For now, people were free to choose who they wanted their partner to be. When a pair was formed it was usually for life. But on rare occasions, the couple split. They simply decided they could not continue on the same path together because their thoughts were heading on two different trains. I know you’re probably wondering what these prehistoric people were thinking about, but I’ll have you know that ever since our hearts began to beat, our minds began to think. The couple who split up ran to their own families and asked exactly the same questions you do now. It is natural. Everyone does. It is part of the process. The wisest man in the village – he also happened to be the eldest – took each aside on separate occasions and told them this: In our lives, we all must pass through different stages in order to grow. Just as we go through extreme jubilation when we are happy, we also go through severe depression when we are sad. But our minds and bodies have developed their own mechanism to deal with these roller-coasters. It is something you may know as the Kübler-Ross model, or more simply the five stages of grief. It consists of the stages we go through in order to, in a sense, mourn for a period of our lives that has passed. In these five stages we go through denial (refusing to accept that this phase in our lives is over); anger (at everything and everyone for having led to this); bargaining (in an attempt to make things right if something else where to be done or if we tried harder); depression (because you begin to realize that you have to go on alone, no matter how much you may miss your previous life phase); and acceptance (when you truly acknowledge the fact that life goes on and you must rejoice the memories and become stronger through the experience). It is our process for recovering, becoming more resilient and moving one. Above all, however, it takes time. And just like every heartbroken soul that came after this couple, we all survive. It takes time and patience and lots of strength, but it does work. Keep yourself busy – but don’t forget. Learn new things – but don’t regret. Become tougher – but don’t stop being kind. You will get through this. Everyone always does.”

Tricia was watching Grandma May dumbfounded. She had stopped sniffing and sat there mesmerized by her words. She had nothing to say. No words could come forth to be uttered at this moment. Maybe it was better that way.

So, she got up and brought a board game for her to play with wise Grandma May.

The tunnel

TunnelShe first saw him on a sunny day, in a field strewn with golden hay. He gazed into her eyes with a smile imprinted on his face. She blushed and smiled back, eyes sparkling like diamonds in the sun. He came closer and let his fingertips brush against her arm. She chuckled and lowered her gaze.

Ahead was a tunnel. It mystified and intrigued them at the same time. It was one none had traversed before and it conveyed a sense of foreboding inside them, of exploring the unknown. It made them feel excited, sending shivers down both their spines and rapidly increasing the beats of their hearts. Their hands locked and they entered. Together.

The tunnel was as mysterious and unnerving inside, as it appeared from the outside. It smelled of roses and lilies and offered them food and drink and luxuries to fill their heart’s desire. At first. For later, no-one was to expect what would ensue.

It was surprisingly brightly lit for a tunnel. They realized only too late that it was their own glow that provided the light.

When the first storm came they had nowhere to hide. The tunnel had only one exit and that lay straight ahead. There were no sidesteps, no alcoves, to shade them from the wrath of a suppressed storm. Yet they never let go of each other’s hand. Even if they held on by a finger, they still held on.

After the storm, peace and calm soon followed. And everything seemed to return to the bright, tranquil path in which they had commenced their journey.

“I thought we’d never come back from that one.” This was the first thought both had, grateful they still had each other.

But they soon grew tired. Of walking. Of waiting. Of expecting. It seemed that they were looking for a way out that never came. It was not yet even in sight. And the storm returned. Heavier and more forceful than the first. Everyone told them to be aware of storms and the lightening, but no-one ever warned them of the thunder that came along. For the bangs were deafening and shuddered the very center of their hearts.

They survived yet again, but it was not the same. Something had been broken inside and they could no longer enjoy the tranquilities after the rain, as they first did. Yet they still held hands. Even as the tunnel darkened more and more.

Three years, seven months and 19 days they spent in the tunnel.

When they finally found the exit at the other end, they felt the last winter snowflakes splash onto their nose. It was a pleasant coolness from the humidity from which they emerged. They smiled, but it was a crooked smile. One almost forced. The melancholy released from their prolonged sigh wafted in the air around them. And in the second blink of an eye, the sun appeared from behind the clouds, restoring its light on their darkened eyes. But it could no longer retain the glow of their souls.

They had surfaced from the tunnel seemingly unscathed, but inside, they would never be the same again. They were not the same people they were when they entered. He looked in her eyes and searched for that initial sparkle, but it was gone. And she could no longer fix a smile upon his face. They could not recognize each other anymore.

And that is when it happened.

Their hands unlocked and drifted to their respective sides.

The pain in their heart was more than they could ever bear, but all they could do was struggle to go on.

Yet they always vividly remembered their tunnel journey with its memory forever engraved in their souls.

The tunnel experience made them stronger, for it too made them wiser in the ways of this world.

 

Also part of Daily Prompt: Use It or Lose It

If the stars say so…

horoscopeMrs Karapatsos who lived down the hall had a thing for horoscopes. I don’t know exactly how to describe it because it was much more than a simple addiction, or a fixation. It was much more than an obsession too. She would read her horoscope every single day. And from multiple sources too, “in order to have an all-rounded idea”, as she said. She would never leave the house before having read her horoscope.

In fact, one time she recalled that she was late for a meeting at the bank, yet she couldn’t find a newspaper or magazine with the morning’s horoscope and missed the radio show reciting them, so she had all tenants on foot trying to find something that would appease her enough to get out and off to her business.

She claims she wasn’t always like this.

It all started with a strange coincidence.

You see, when she was young, she too was carefree and didn’t pay much attention to such things. Horoscopes were a thing older women believed in, she thought. She considered it a fun game and would occasionally read through hers, whenever she fell upon it. But she didn’t exactly go looking for it. And certainly did not have the “horoscope fetish” she now did. She believed it was absurd that people would read their star signs and spend the day, week, month, even year, expecting /waiting / fearing for what it said to happen.

She even looked into it once. She had an old woman living in her building and had asked her the same thing, everyone was now asking her: why do you believe in this so much?

Mrs Karapatsos received the same reply, she had now embellished: Because we all need something to believe in. Something ‘lighter’ than religion. Ever since forever people have been trying to predict the future. Horoscopes allude to offer that, even if it is only a short-term version of it. We need to feel assured that we know what to expect. That we know what is coming and are prepared for it. No matter if we are never truly prepared for anything. Let alone fate itself. But this old woman strongly believed that the stars knew something more than we did, and those who could read them gave us a glimpse of the future, and we should learn to acknowledge it.

The young Mrs Karapatsos smiled and took it all in with a glass of homemade lemonade and two freshly baked cookies. She never thought of it again. Until one particular day.

Everything was going wrong from the minute she literally got off on the wrong side of the bed. You see, she always got off on the right; it was nearer to the bathroom. But this day her phone rang and she had to get up on the left as it was closer to the table where she had placed her phone. And that is when it all began: the unexpected water shortage when she was rinsing her hair in the shower; the power cut as she touched the switch with a wet finger; the slip on the wet bathroom tiles; the curly hair and the hippy look during an important business presentation; and then, to top it all up, the car crash as she was coming home in the afternoon. It was simply a horrible day. One Murphy would look at and laugh, as it was the very embodiment of his Law.

Arriving home, exhausted, depressed and a nervous wreck, she ran into the horoscope-crazed old lady with whom she coincidentally shared the same star sign. The old lady had not gone out all day, because she said “it was not a good day for Sagittariuses”.

Intrigued with the statement, Mrs Karapatsos searched for her daily horoscope. It read: Be careful what side of the bed you get up from today. A difficult day in all aspects. Be more patient and have more courage than usual. Attention when driving.

Mrs Karapatsos was dumbfounded. Could it really be?

And well, that is pretty much how she too came to believe in “the power of the stars”.

 

Also part of Daily Prompt: Second-Hand Stories

Il ritorno del grifo

1 DSC08984There are few cities that invite you back no matter how much time has passed. Cities where you spent a significant part of your life, your ‘formation years’ and which draw you back to inject in you every now and then that adolescent hope which you had when you first set foot there. Few cities actually have something new to offer every time you visit. And even fewer make you feel as if you arrive at home. Every time.

The highway ends and you can begin to sense the excitement creeping up inside you. As you turn on those winding roads lined with blooming green trees, you feel that you are returning somewhere familiar. 2 DSC09120And the moment you see that first building, that first location which springs a memory to mind, you know you’re there. Where you left a piece of your heart, a piece of yourself. At a place which is filled with experiences and a best friend who always awaits you with arms wide open. It’s a place where you have a family and it feels like home no matter how long it’s been since your last visit. All it takes is a couple of hours to rediscover it all and blend right back in, as if you never left. As if a part of you continues to live here, evolving along with the city and yearning to remain free, independent and energetic, just like your youthful self when you first arrived.

3 IMG_0746Perugia is a city that registers in your mind and heart. With historic medieval stone buildings, situated in the heart of Umbria at the centre of Italy, between Renaissance Florence and the capital Rome, Perugia is famous. It is a well-known cultural and artistic centre of Italy, rich in architecture.

It hosts arguably the best Italian language school for foreigners, while famous Popes, 4 IMG_0739as well as renowned actress Monica Bellucci (among others) were students at its university. The famous painter Pietro Vannucci, nicknamed Perugino, who was the teacher of famous Renaissance artist Raphael, was a native of Città della Pieve near Perugia, while famous painter Pinturicchio lived in Perugia. Also from Perugia was the famous architect Galeazzo Alessi.

5 DSC08995Situated in the Umbrian hills with an elevation of 493 metres, Perugia is a beautiful medieval city where you can go pretty much anywhere on foot. It is actually more convenient to walk rather than try to drive a car through the narrow winding roads, especially in the city centre.

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With so many uphills and downhills, it is also an ideal city to exercise naturally. Perugia is one of the rare cities that even require the presence of escalators and lifts – hundreds of steps exist throughout the city joining the different levels created due to its very particular geographic location.

7 DSC08989And the most exciting thing is that every strait around every winding corner leads to a magnificent scenery, a stone balcony full of colourful flowers smelling like spring and a series of steps that invite you to follow them to quench your curiosity.

Perugia is a city that inspires and encourages you to enjoy its elegant and interesting lifestyle to the fullest. 8 DSC09145It was only fitting therefore that the city chose as its protector during the Renaissance the mythological griffin – il grifo. With the head and wings of an eagle and the body of a lion, the griffin – found all over Perugia – is the city’s symbol, its emblem, its mascot, and during a football match, the city team’s nickname. It is associated with strength, courage and intelligence. The wings give it speed; the claws give it ferocious power – a proper combination of the king of beasts and the king of birds.

9 DSC09117Even more fascinating is the presence of an old city, buried when Pope III Farnese at the end of the ‘salt war’ in 1540 decided to build a fortress – Rocca Paolina – to keep the Perugians in line. Five levels high and symbolic of the papal domain, it encompassed an entire medieval neighbourhood, complete with houses, towers and streets. It was finally razed to the ground in 1860 and all that remains are the charming and unique basements, crossed through by escalators and used for cultural exhibitions.

No matter how long or how little you stay, 10 DSC09749there is always something new to discover – a small artisan shop, a tasty dish, a delicious drink. With festivals taking place all year round – be it Umbria Jazz in the summer (when the streets fill with music) or Eurochocolate in the winter (when the city is overflowing with chocolate) – the city invites tourists worldwide to discover the fascination of being a Perugino (and this is not only in reference to the famous Baci chocolates).

11 DSC09053In addition, few cities can boast an ideal balance between provincial traditions (the city’s population counts a mere 170,000) and technological progressions. With almost everyone in possession of a smartphone, the Umbria region even offers free Wi-Fi for two hours a day wherever you are in the city. Plus, the Perugini are avid recyclers – with containers separating waste found throughout the town, thus making the city exceptionally clean.

12 IMG_0735The best thing about a constant stroll up and down the city is that you return home tired but upbeat. Particularly since most of the high-ceiling houses here are naturally cooler inside than outside in the summer and in the winter do not require heaters to retain their warmth. This is when you truly feel fulfilled, when you are falling fast asleep in the warm embrace of a bed bigger and more comfortable than the one you usually lie in, to wake up refreshed, elated and safe of being among family.

13 DSC09057Then when the time comes you don’t want to leave. You already feel accustomed to this tranquil life, carefree and stress-free. Why return to the other side of reality? But departing will only make the next return taste sweeter. Because you will return. That is for certain.

 

N.B. All photos are mine taken in Perugia, Italy on 15-24 July 2014

 

Also part of Daily Prompt: Tourist Trap

Anyone for pizza?

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There are people you wish you never knew
Places to which you never went,
Things you wish you had never seen,
And words you never said.

Dwelling on lives of others
Will only make you feel incomplete,
For jealousy comes from counting the blessings of others
And failing to see your very own.

It is hard to continue fighting an unfair battle,
But life was never just
Nor is it the fantasy party you dream,
But an experience you need to pull through.

There are so many things to do,
so many places to go,
so many sights to see,
so much food to share,
so much fun to have;
but it all hardly means anything
unless you have someone to share it with.

Be it a hug from the person you adore,
A kiss from the one you love,
a joke from a friend at heart,
or a gesture from a furry buddy,
having someone by your side,
always makes you stronger.

 

Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.
                                                     – Helen Keller

Love is an island

DSC08896Every now and again everyone needs to get away for a while. From the routine, the noise, the crowds, the hectic lifestyle, the stress, the things that simply aggravate you. You need to devote some time to yourself, to things and people you love, and most of all to relax and rediscover the beauty of life.

What better place to do so than on a beautiful Greek island just an hour away from the bustling capital city, Athens?

Islands like Aegina offer you the getaway you long for since the start of each week. And it is close enough that you can decide to go for the weekend only a few hours before jumping on the ship. DSC08818Watching the waves foam as the ship skids through the ocean leaving the city behind, you can feel your shoulders lighten a little as you leave your troubles behind.

Calmly sliding through tranquil waters, you can already feel the anticipation of what awaits you on the island – sun, sea and relaxation.

Even the seagulls can sDSC08828ense it and come to escort you into port as a VIP entrance should be!

And then you reach the marina. DSC08928That awesome place with all these shiny white yachts finely lined up for you to gaze and wish you owned the one on the right, between the two smaller ones, that one with the large mast and sail.

Being on an island – aIMG_0916 small one that is, no matter for how long, makes you wish your life was as relaxed and carefree as the days you spend there.

Taking long strolls along the golden beaches and watching your feet sink into the sand.
Watching the sunset in the arms of your loved one.

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Having a drink and a snack at wonderful, picturesque villages.

DSC08935Enjoying a carriage ride by a horse you just met and became friends with before taking you around to see amazing old manor houses that even featured in a movie.

Re-discovering the joys of life, simply by forgetting that every day needs to have a schedule and a to-do list.

Love is like an island. Endless, calm, and ready to embrace you as soon as you set foot there.DSC08838

With friendly smiles greeting you immediately and conversations that can start as easily as you take a breath, it makes you wonder why exactly it is that you live in a busy city where you are constantly pushed and shoved around and not there – there where you walk into the supermarket and the next time you go the cashier even remembers your name. Where you are given discounts simply because you engaged in an amusing conversationIMG_0913 with the proprietor. Where you make friends that are always ready to welcome you back.

We all need a sanctuary to recharge our batteries. To re-energise us, at the same time as it calms us down. To remind us that life is not as hard as we all make it out to be. It’s just that we have forgotten how to live.

 

N.B. All photos are mine taken on the island of Aegina on 03-04 May 2014

P.S. This is my 200th blog post!      

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