This is going to be the last time I edit Showcase. It’s been a pleasure to be able to share such diverse pieces of writing throughout March. We end the month with a spring story (Victory Of Spring Over Winter) and another piece (The Dress), which shows a woman getting back her mojo as a fitting finale women’s empowerment month. As we move into April and the easing of lockdown, I finish with an April poem.
The first piece is about spring traditions and was written by Sura S. Al Khasawneh, who lives in Jordan. This was spotted by Madeleine, our Editor, on social media and Sura has kindly shared it with us.
Sura tells us: “Believe it or not, The Martisor is not about just spring, March and stories. It has a magical effect on all those people who look for inspiration. We need this inspiration today more than ever, as coronavirus is taking the lives of many. I pray that this spring, in particular, will conquer winter and the world will come through this struggle.”
Victory Of Spring Over Winter
Years ago, during a work trip, I met a young Moldavian woman. We talked about the different traditions each of our countries celebrate. In our chat, I learned about a beautiful Moldavian tradition of The Martisor (The Amulet). It refers to March, or ‘dear little March’ and consists of a white flower tied to a red and white string.
The Martisor symbolises the coming of spring, the rebirth of life after hard winter. It’s meant to bring faith and optimism. Usually, men and women of Moldova and Romania wear it around their necks for the whole month of March, to regain their optimism, faith and hope for a brighter tomorrow. Moreover, people give it to their loved ones as a symbol of love and respect. In the past, the Martisor was believed to enhance fertility and provide beauty for women.
The legend says that, one day, when the sun was joining a local party on earth, while taking the shape of a young man, a dragon crashed in and kidnapped the sun, locking it in a cage. Everybody felt really sad, the birds stopped singing, the streams ceased to flow and children lost their smiles. Nobody dared face the dragon, apart from one courageous man, a strong, well-built fellow who decided to go and rescue the sun. With the help of the people on earth, who gave him their strength, and using his own will and determination, he was able to defeat the dragon and managed to release the sun from its cage, to return to its natural place in the sky.
The sun rose from the earth to the sky, giving joy to the world again. Nature came back to life and there was much rejoicing.
However, the young man was not able to live and see the spring season, as he had been badly hurt. His wounds were dripping warm blood on to the white snow; with lovely flowers shooting up from the earth where his blood touched: snowdrops, the messengers of spring. Since then, young people wear this flower and offer it to the one they love, tied with two strings, red and white; the red symbolising the love of beauty and the white symbolising health and purity of snowdrops and of spring.
Today, I am sharing this story with you because in so many ways it reflects what we face in our daily lives. Every year, we’re confronted with challenges and obstacles that can prevent us from reaching our goals. Sometimes this can cause unbearable loss. At the moment, people are losing loved ones who are falling victim to untreated sickness. And nations struggling for their freedom suffer bloodshed and misery as consequences of war, while others strive to just make a living. These life challenges and what lies beyond them need us to be courageous and strong, like the brave young man who fought the dragon for the freedom of the sun. Just like the flowers blossoming beneath the snow, we need to believe in a brighter tomorrow, holding on to the belief that, after all the misery, there is better to come.
Therefore, I dedicate this Martisor to all who are struggling and who have had a year of sadness: through death, loss or illness. This is my message: “Let’s forget about the winter and pray to God for happiness this spring.”
May this spring lend us the warmth of its sun, the tenderness of its flowers and the ability to heal hearts.
© Sura S. Al Khasawneh, 2021
Thanks to Sura, whose story is very much about symbols. In a way, the second piece we’re sharing today uses some modern symbols in its telling, as well. Written by Madeleine, our Editor, it’s told from an unusual point of view. I’m really pleased she’s shared it with us.
She was looking forward to being back on her velvet coat hanger. It had been a busy day. As a little black dress, it was her job to make Kay look good on important occasions. Kay had had her for years and even though she could easily afford others, had faithfully kept coming back.
Today though, most other people were wearing black also.
‘Not long now,’ she thought. Most of the other guests had left, mumbling muted goodbyes and sympathies on their way out. Pete, Giles’ best friend was the last to leave. As always, he was most attentive and she loved the fact that he was also a natty dresser. As a designer item herself, she always noticed quality in others.
“Chin up, Kay. Remember I’m here. When Monique died, I forced myself to do something fun every day. These days, I’m doing all kinds of things I never thought I’d be doing, so, if you fancy a bit of skydiving, I’m your man.’
He winked to show he wasn’t completely serious. If ever a dress could have given a disdainful sniff, she would have done. Sky-diving indeed! Referencing the opera, or even a nice dinner would have been far more appropriate. She wondered whether Kay realised that, in an oblique kind of way, she’d been asked on a date at her husband’s funeral.
It was far too soon, in any case and, for now, they both needed to rest. She, in her designated pride of place in the corner of the dressing room and Kay herself, in the sumptuous, memory-foam bed that Giles, once again riding roughshod over his wife of 40 years had, last year, insisted was necessary. At 65, Kay would have much preferred an electric blanket.
Usually, at the end of an evening, she would spend some time in front of the mirror. Admiring her paper-thinness, Kay would twirl this way and that to make sure none of her carefully coiffed, made-up personage had slipped in the course of the night. Only when Giles called out, “Well done, darling,” was she finally able to relax. The Dress always dreaded the released tension of that one out-breath, which stretched her seams to their limits.
Tonight, though, there was none of that. In fact, Kay almost ripped her in her haste to get undressed. And this time, instead of watery blue eyes gazing at the vintage satin with reverence, there was barely a second glance.
“That’s that, then.” Kay’s soft, albeit determined, voice reached into the corner where The Dress hung. “A bit of fun every day. I can do that and I’m going to start with a different piece of cake for breakfast every morning. I don’t care whether I fit into you any more!”
With that, she firmly closed the door.
As the weeks and months wore on, The Dress felt increasingly discombobulated. She’d previously welcomed her place at the end of the row in the far corner of the dressing-room. These days, though, being out of the way meant not being able to witness the comings and goings of the new styles her former devotee now seemed to favour. Even tracksuit bottoms, it seemed, now had a home in this increasingly cluttered space!
The Dress thought back longingly to the times when everything had been pristine and ordered. What’s more, her side of the room – with the expensive shoes, handbags and designer suits – kept shrinking. The ultimate insult was when a pair of slightly muddy wellies came close enough to brush her hem.
Giles hadn’t ever particularly liked the grandchildren, so Kay only ever had them visit when he was at work. Similarly, The Dress shuddered as the house rang with childish laughter. The final horror came when six-year-old Ellie started playing hide-and-seek in the dressing-room. Burying herself amongst the netting, she left a big sticky mark right in the middle of the sash.
Then, one day, The Dress felt the old excitement bubbling again. Kay looked as though she was coming across to her corner. Ooh, to be worn again! She felt like singing. However, there was not so much as a glance thrown in her direction. Instead, eager hands searched out flowery chiffon. Giles hadn’t liked that one. She remembered his shouting out for Kay to go for the little black number instead. However, now it was Kay’s voice that came floating through.
“Well, it’s time. I haven’t been out in ages and Pete wants to take me to dinner. Giles is gone and I’m not, and, on that note, I think I need to get rid of some of this.”
The outrage! The Dress found herself cast on to the floor, along with the rest of her rack.
“Ellie, darling, Granny’s having a clear-out. Come and choose something to play with. The rest can go to the charity shop.”
Well, at least she had been kept… Although, as The Dress felt Ellie lose her balance and the oversize stiletto heel rip through her layered skirt, she thought she might have been better off being sent away after all!
© Madeleine F White, 2021
I’d like to finish March with a poem that takes us forward to those inevitable April showers:
Raindrops carefully descending
The steaming tube window
Blind man and dog flickers by down the platform
Mortgage cheque bouncing around the darker recesses of my mind.
Grey April morning past Willesden Green.
The train clatters past Dollis Hill and beyond
A shaft of sun bursts through the gloom
Turning the rain into a sparkling shower
Spotlighting vivid pink blossom beside the rails
Spring has returned.
(C) Allan G Lochhead, 2021
Thanks to Allan for sharing this. We’re all looking out for the blossom these days; it’s such a potent sign heralding the arrival of summer.
I’m handing over to Palak, who’ll be guest editing the April page. I’m sure she’ll have some real treats for us all to share.
Don’t forget, Issue 7 of Write On! magazine is out now. Read it online here.
If you’d like to see your writing appear in the Write On! ‘Showcase’, please send your short stories, poetry or novel extracts to: firstname.lastname@example.org.