Tag Archives: short stories

Lost and Found 7: Peaceful

Lost and Found 7In late December, while the world carried on in its usual mad dance, peace came to Altona.

It didn’t look much. Mistaken for a pendant, peace manifested itself as a small brass symbol, tiny and easily overlooked. A glint on the concrete, a shape made of lines and spaces.

A modest peace, its effect was localised and felt in tiny ways along the beachfront and in the park, along the streets and among the trees.

This little peace made the sound of gulls less of a strident, frustrated demand and more a cry of endless, beckoning horizons. The cry of a gull, for a time, was a response from the great blue sky that answered isolation and made the world less lonely.

It made the cold, rough waters invigorating rather than daunting; it made the child gaping wide-eyed at the never-ending sea wonder at adventures on other shores instead of fearing the waves, and she body-surfed back to the beach with the feeling that she could fling herself at the motion of the world and never be afraid.

The people who stepped over this unseen symbol on the footpath felt for a moment that all was well or, if not currently well, that it soon would be, or could be. Some of those whose feet hovered above it for that moment felt the urge to forgive a wrong, to take a kindlier view, to judge less harshly.

Some of them forgave not others but their own selves for frailty and perceived failure, and saw that it was in the striving to improve rather than in failing at perfection that their better selves could be brought to light.

In the park, a grandfather, ill-tempered with aches and disappointments, halted an impatient snarl and instead looked at the leaf presented by a small grandchild, and recognised the leaf as an offering and a request, even if the child didn’t know it. The world is huge and fascinating, Grandpa, and it’s so so new to me, show me, show me, show me how to grow in it, oh please.

This modest peace was not a place of stillness. All the world is ceaseless change, much of it unconsidered and reactive, at the whim of chance and resistance, violence and cacophony. But some change happens in the quiet, in the momentary peace, in the pause between breaths.

The change of peace is gentle, a flow that is soft and yet profound, like rain on stone, like roots in the soil. It is a way to tilt the world, to see old things anew; it is the contemplative moment in which the familiar is rearranged and new patterns bloom with potential.

Nobody knows how many little peaces exist in the world. Nobody knows if they bring the peace with them or manifest spontaneously in hushed moments. This tiny symbol is no longer in Altona. Perhaps it was seized upon by a child, or a magpie, or a street sweeper. Perhaps it dissolved on the sea air.

Perhaps in a warm and silent moment, someone will manifest it out of their own brain, and like rain on stone, like roots in soil, a small but significant change will bloom.

Wishing you all a Happy New Year, and that something good will bloom for you in 2014.

Lost and Found 7 (2)

Lost and Found is an irregular series of posts about random items I find abandoned on the streets and the stories I make of them.

Narrelle M Harris is a Melbourne-based writer. Find out more about her books, smartphone apps, public speaking and other activities at www.narrellemharris.com.

Lost and Found 6: Miracles

Montreal Sept 2013The smashed crutch was found in Montreal, at the seedier end of Chinatown. The number of pieces indicated a particularly vehement dislike of the thing.

The popular image of a faith-healed cripple, tossing a walking aid jubilantly in the air as they skipped chirpily from the scene of their salvation was clearly inaccurate. The image conjured by this wreckage of a crutch was more one of vindictive rage. Fuck you, crutch, the pieces said, I always hated you. Fuck off and never come back.

If it hadn’t been for Rosy the Bag Lady, the whole shards-of-crutch incident might have gone unnoticed. But she told someone about the man she’d seen, hobbling along on one crutch. About the angelic little child who had appeared out of nowhere and held hands out to the man. The man had fallen to the ground with a cry, and the child had petted his legs, lifted the crutch, snapped it in two and fled, giggling, into a mist.

To be fair, the first person she told didn’t believe a word of it, because Rosy the Bag Lady was pretty famous among her set for seeing things. Celine Dion bickering with William Shatner over a poutine, aliens singing French karaoke, Jacques Cartier in a bearskin coat, and talking patchwork cats weren’t the half of it.

But by her twentieth retelling, the story had gained some credence, partly because it was being told in loops all around the streets of Montreal. It had been overheard and retold in a dizzy spiral of rumour and breathless hope from the Parc du Mont-Royal to the coffee houses of Mile End; from the biodome of St Helen’s Island and up and down the banks of the St Lawrence River; whispered in the plain corridors of the underground city and amongst the ripest tomatoes of the Jean-Talon market.

People began to visit the grimy street where the miracle was said to have happened. Flowers were left, and notes thanking god, fate, the stars, the mysteries for kindness given, and begging, of course, for one more, just one, gesture of grace. Someone yarnbombed a nearby lamppost with a colourful offering; graffiti of joy got painted over the corrugated iron and the filthy brick.

And a man came, who limped, and stared down at the pieces of a crutch, painted now with happy acrylic daisies, woven through with plastic ivy and rain-damped wool.  Like all the other visitors to this strange holy site of hope, he brought one question and left with new ones, although his new questions were unique.

If that little shit hadn’t tried to mug me, was his question, and broken my bloody crutch, and if I hadn’t finished the job on his thieving skull, would he have staggered off and fallen off the overpass onto the freeway? And does this mean I got away with murder?

Still and all, he gave thanks, and limped away on his newly healed broken ankle, and swore to live a better life.

Narrelle M Harris is a Melbourne-based writer. Find out more about her books, smartphone apps, public speaking and other activities at www.narrellemharris.com.