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Showcase: The Beginning Of The Beginning + A Field Of Stars + Ending And Beginning Intertwined + Leap Year

Edited by Niema Bohrayba

We are under the rays of a waning gibbous moon as February comes to a close, and time has flown by. It’s my pleasure to bring you my final Showcase for this month with an eclectic mix of pieces from diverse authors, speaking to our theme of Beginnings And Endings.

Our first piece this week is a beautiful piece of prose from Amber Hall, reflecting on her writing journey. The Beginning Of The Beginning captures the rediscovery of the creative spark we sometimes think we have lost, but by reaching inwards we connect with it again, because it never goes away, it just becomes buried under so much ‘life.’

The Beginning Of The Beginning

Someone once told me that the way to ‘sort your shit out’ was to imagine your mind like a chest of drawers. Inside these drawers were the memories and feelings collected from life; to be content, you had to keep them organised and throw out anything that no longer served you. I always imagined a chest with shallow drawers, like the ones they had at school to store huge sheets of colourful card. I feared getting lost in anything too deep. I thought about the detritus of my life, stuffed and seeping out over the edges in papery fronds. It jostled to escape, but I wouldn’t let it.

But all that stuff had turned acrid, and it was making me sick. Apparently, I had some tidying up to do. The problem was, no one had ever really taught me how to do that sort of thing. So, I kept pressing on the drawers and pushed everything deeper into its enclaves. Eventually, when my mind and body had started to crumble under the weight of it, I thought about what I could do to tackle the big clean-up. I knew that if I could make sense of everything, I might find myself again. I might even meet myself fully for the first time.

I thought about writing, having written creatively on and off for most of my life. As a child, I crouched for hours over notepads, penning fantastical stories about anthropomorphised rabbits and other creatures I had spotted in the woodlands that surrounded me. When I finally rose, my knees were left dimpled by our cheap carpet and my spine creaked after spending so long hunched over. These stories distracted me from the chaos of my life, and I found solace in the worlds I had created.

As I grew older, the drawers became fuller and fuller and my creativity waned. Creativity is a great healer but, when you need it most, it’s usually nowhere to be found. Survival makes creativity feel frivolous at best, but also strips away the freedom and energy required to do it. I packed away my pens and wrote only for sustenance, securing commercial writing jobs while trying to manage those messy drawers. I had lost my drive to tell stories because what I had to say now seemed silly and unimportant. I was terrified my words would be ridiculed, so I sunk deeper into the silence and shame that overshadowed my life.

Then, one day, I picked up my pen again. I had sought comfort in everything else and it hadn’t worked, so I returned to the blank pages of my youth. I signed up for creative writing classes in the hope that I might finally get my drawers in order.

Once again, writing became something that anchored me. I finally found my voice, both in a literal and literary sense. I began to understand what it was I wanted to say and got to a point where I could share it. It didn’t happen overnight, though. I had to go through the pains of reading my work out loud, clammy handed, to groups of wide-eyed strangers. But, like anything else, the discomfort eased the more I did it, until it became nothing more than a small flutter in my chest. The wings of a butterfly.

I started to appreciate how connecting the act of writing can be. It’s like watering a tree so that its branches spread outward – so far, perhaps, that you can’t be sure where they lead. Today, my drawers look a lot neater, but I’m also more concerned about other people’s drawers. I want my work to resonate with someone, if only in some small way. Even when I write about my own life, which I often do, my aim is to tap into something universal. I no longer write just to know myself; I write to know others, too. I have always written, but now is the beginning of the beginning. This is where my story starts.

© Amber Hall, 2024

You can connect with Amber on Instagram: @amber.marie.123, X: @amber_marie_123 and visit her Monday Moments page


Next up, we have a delightful poem by Jonathan C. Ukah. When I read A Field Of Stars for the first time, it came alive for me, and I found myself ‘seeing’ all the beautiful descriptions of plants and astronomical phenomena in my mind’s eye in full colour.

 A Field Of Stars

Your hair glows like a field full of stars,
your eyelashes sparkle like diamonds on flowers;
your smile illuminates every dark corner,
and proclaims you as the light of the morning moon.

I wish I were among the first stars,
to watch your beauty within the quiet clouds,
I would hide you from rain and thunder
that threaten the peace of the sky.

I’ll be among the last to gloat about beauty,
when others search the sky for a sign of death;
sweet is the memory that stretches like time
and the tongue to speak about your love.

Time tries to paint a cursed mural of you
so men would make vain of God’s gifts,
but not even time can destroy shielded beauty
if hidden away from disease and distress.

When grief gnashes at the sacred straws of life,
we tuck a thousand nights into our right ventricles;
there is something in the air causing us to shudder
when your face glows like a field of stars.

A thing of excellence glitters like a rainbow sky,
Its fire burns through every hurdle of the night.
Though it’s solemn and settled as a life in silence,
where going downhill is the same as walking up.

Yet beauty cannot hide from its shadow;
It must spread warmth and glow to flowers around,
It glows the dews and waves at the clouds
Though casting a stone on its destruction.

© Jonathan C. Ukah, 2024

You can connect with Jonathan on Facebook: CHIBUIKEUKAH15, Instagram: @JOHNKING1502 and X: @JOHNKING1502


Our third contribution is a powerful piece of fiction by Dr Afsana Elanko. Ending And Beginning Intertwined reflects the challenges and sense of loss experienced by those of us living with cancer. With World Cancer Day occurring in February, I wanted to reflect on this important subject in a Showcase.

Ending And Beginning Intertwined 

The doctor and nurse had told me that there would be hair loss with the cancer treatment. I’d read the information leaflets in the waiting room that told me about the causes of hair loss and how some treatments caused partial or complete hair loss and how the texture of my hair would change. The leaflets and websites describing wigs, scarfs, hats or bandana that can be used to cover hair loss became my bedtime reading. They talked about hair regrowth and how it would be different. Fellow patients were so supportive in talking through their journey, so I felt prepared with the wig and hats in the cupboard, the self-visualisation of life without hair and the edit photo of me without hair.

The hair was shed in clumps, it was falling. Nothing had prepared me for this. It was like losing a part of my integral being. I had not cut my hair the entirety of my life, not even trimmed it. My hair was a part of my body, an important part of me. I was determined not to be upset and to hide the grief. I didn’t know what to do. I was lost. I fell to the ground and crumpled into a heap with my hair surrounding me, cushioning and comforting me. I picked it up and looked at. I cradled it in my arms like a baby and held onto it with all my being. I had no choice; this was inflicted upon me. I would never be the same person again.

I had fallen into a world I didn’t know. A world that arose emotions inside me I didn’t know existed. I was confused, sad, and lost. It was the end of everything familiar. I had plunged into a world no one had prepared me for. I felt naked and bare. Every essence of me seemed lost. I was lost. I was sad and so desperate for all this to stop so that I could get control of my life again. I sat there weeping like never before. I was so, so lonely. This was rock bottom.

I had to build myself up again. The first time someone looked at me in my new form, I saw the sadness in their eyes, their sympathy, their care and, most of all, their love. They knew what I was feeling. After all, they knew me well. I couldn’t break down or upset anyone. I didn’t want to make anyone sad. This was my grief to carry and I didn’t want anyone else to suffer. This meant being invisible to expressions and comments.

When I look back, it was an ending and a beginning like nothing I’d  experienced or imagined. I think of all those that have walked  this journey before me and those that will be walking on this journey behind me. As I sign off, I take my hat off to you, dear brave traveller.

© Dr Afsana Elanko, 2024

For information on organisations that offer support visit Macmillan Cancer Support:, Cancer Hair Care: and Cancer Support UK: Cancer Support UK: Supporting People with Cancer, During and After Treatment


As I bring my February Showcase month to a conclusion, I’m truly grateful to all of our participating authors for their inspiring pieces. With the advent of Spring just around the corner, I’m looking forward to all the upcoming season has to offer. Before we get there, though, February this year will offer us one more gift, in the form of an extra day, because it’s a leap year. So, I thought I would dedicate my last piece to this interesting occurrence.

Leap Year

We experience a leap year when the month of February contains 29 days instead of the usual 28. Most people assume this takes place every four years, when the year is divisible by four, but this is not true. Take, for instance, the year 1800. Despite it being divisible by four and since 1796 was a leap year, it would be easy to assume that 1800 would be a leap year, too. However, a quick wander through some historical calendars proves this is not the case.

The reason for this is the 356 day a year is actually rounded down, because the year is approximately 365 days plus a quarter day long. So approximately six hours every year that are not accounted for. To even this up, these extra hours are added up almost every four years to make up for the unaccounted hours.

You may ask why this should be important? Well, without this adjustment, our seasons would drift and, over the course of several hundred years, this could mean a reversal of the seasonal timings we are accustomed to.

However, remember I said earlier that a leap year doesn’t happen every four years? This is because the year isn’t exactly 356 days and six hours long, it’s a little less (about 365 days, five hours and 48 minutes), so we are giving ourselves a few extra minutes every four years. To balance things out, we need to take these back; hence why every 100 years or so we miss out on a leap year.

(c) Niema Bohrayba, 2024


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