Impeccably Salvaged

Originally published on State of Liberation

Sure, she didn’t get to study any of the subjects most deem important. Her family was too poor to let her study law. She was too weak to advance in physical areas. Not quite clever enough for technological work. Too high in status to dirty her hands in the farmlands.

In the oversized room, golden with the light of a thousand candles, an exciting atmosphere breathes comfortably, like a tamed animal. At the center of an unwound cornucopia of luxury, she is the mistress of the event. She watches the calculated sparks of laughter rise across the musical landscape. Guests have been fed and befuddled with drink enough to dance attractively on the shining marble floor.

A long and tedious learning process has made her the administrator of an evening such as this one. The privileges earned were well worth the time, even if her role is underrated. Dressed in fine emerald green silks, decorated with metals, stones, feathers and lace, she is as though elevated on a puffy cloud, reaching with ease those typically unapproachable in regular society. The powerful and the rich tend her a trusting ear, or bow down in respect at her passage.

Suddenly, a commotion in the south end of the hall breaks the festivities. The room has gasped into silence, alerted by the sound of breaking wine glasses and sudden raised voices. Two men seem to stand a few feet from one another, weapons drawn.

She glides across the room, the smile on her face unaltered. She steps between them, her presence peculiarly compelling despite the tension.
Not a bad education at all. The kind that gets somewhat unnoticed, that makes difficult things look easy and that require unexpected levels of discipline. The kind that saves men from one another.

“Gentlemen,” she says with a perfectly conjured chuckle.

Her imperative tone, though polite and inviting, lets the rest of the guests know that the situation is being controlled; timid comfort spreads among the witnesses of the scene. As she turns around, she nods at waiters and guards in a subtle manor and each finds the strength to shake up and carry on. Some conversation is resumed, food and drink being once again consumed, musicians start playing again, two maids flutter by quietly and clean up the broken glass. The evening is impeccably salvaged, as though nothing has happened at all.

The two violent men seem embarrassed; they casually lower, and put away their armaments. The schooling she has received is often overlooked. Yet, she has learned to be the one with power, among armed men. Each is charmed by her strong presence, her control over the airs around them. Soon they are individually introduced to skillful hostesses, who guide both in separate directions with refinement, towards interesting conversations, flavours, and pleasures.

Entertainers appear just in time and quickly gather a crowd, eager for a distraction. She moves aside, admiring their fire juggling and acrobatics, enjoying the expressions of the watchers. Their ‘ooh’s and ‘aaah’s of fascination revive the room to its former glorious state. The delight of her guests has wholly resumed. She is indeed, the mistress, tonight.

People have sometimes laughed when she mentioned her education. “Just a party school”, they would call it.

Sayre of Apomixis

I traveled for six days before reaching the desolate Apomixis Manor. I finally saw it, it’s small stone structure fragile against the wind. As I approached it, the level of decay the building had suffered over the years became slightly distressing. The roof of the second floor had long since been abandoned, and the ceiling of the ground base was reinforced with nothing but hay to keep the rain out. It all looked as though it might fall apart at any moment.

I knocked at the dusty and moldy front door and received no answer. I was about to start calling out, when I heard a sudden, gay laughter emerge from the back of the manor; it pierced the gloomy atmosphere with a sudden brand of warmth. Following the voice, I walked along a high and overbearing hedge trying to circle the enclosed garden area. I suddenly came upon a serious looking man in an outdated soldiers uniform. He took a moment to look me over and said:

“Are you lost, sir? The last village is long passed west and there is nothing around here expect the hills and the cliffs.”

“I don’t think I am lost.” I said. I showed him the picture I had of Apomixis, given, from over 20 years ago.
“I was told that Lady Sayre is…” I chose my word wisely, “…housed here. I have news she needs to hear. Do you happen to be Private Gull?”

The man was satisfied with my answer, turned around and led me to the back of the manor, “We have waited a long time for news.”

The knowledge of my message sank heavily within me. “When was the last time?”

“About 16 years ago. Back when we asked for provisions. You know,” he sighed, stopping to look up at the broken stone structure. “I was still trying to save the original roof back then.” We turned the corner to see the ajar back door, which had no doubt become the usual point of entry. He continued: “Mrs. Celina, oh, she’s been wanting those tomato seeds. And the Lady, she had wanted a dog at the time.”

We entered a small and humid kitchen. There were small bouquets, garlands and wreaths of wild flowers everywhere, livening up the dark, mossy stone. Jars of honeys, conserves, and jams lined the back wall, gleaming in the sunlight. A table with three chairs, that seemed to have been fixed with leftover materials time and time again, were set close to the door where the spring air invaded. A small fire burned in the hearth, crackling happily.

An elderly woman entered from the right, fresh fruits caught up in her apron. When she saw me, she let go of her plunder, fruit bounced and rolled on the floor.
“A visitor?” she said with disbelief. She could only be Mrs. Celina.

“News for the Lady,” Gull said, still standing next to me said.

“I’ll prepare some tea,” the elder said nervously. “Fetch her from the garden” she ordered the soldier.

I followed him through a small corridor and out a side door into the Apomixis yard. He went ahead of me and disappeared in a mass of vegetation; flowers grew in every corner, vegetables claimed plots of land in all areas, trees grew splendidly, creating lapses of shade and light and making the small garden seem like a large forest. I saw goats eating shrubbery happily, chickens wandering freely, and a cat purring softly on a patch of grass. Clouds overhead parted, revealing patches of bright blue sky and adding a warm glow to the scene. An unseen cicada serenaded the light, while a honey-bee hive in a flowery expanse sung the harmonies.

I was mesmerised; this is how they had survived all this time this far from civilization. Despite their misfortune, the three isolated here had built a paradise, a wonder hidden from the rest of the world. Some people feel the rain, others just get wet.

The Private then emerged from the thicket with Lady Sayre, wearing a lightweight gown in shades of pink, no doubt dyed with flower colouring. She must have been in her early forties, but seemed to have kept herself young through the years. She smiled and welcomed me, invited me back indoors. I regretted leaving the sight of the beautiful garden behind.

We sat at the official dining room of the house, which obviously hadn’t been used in years. Mrs. Celina seemed to have hastily dusted it, but it still felt stuffy and like forced formality. After allowing the three inhabitants of Apomixis to take a sip of tea, I cut to the chase.

“Lady Sayre, 19 years ago, in the role of what can only be described as ‘hostage’, you, your personal nurse Mrs. Celina, and your cousin who was enrolled in the national army, Private Gull, were to be housed here until conflicts were resolved.”

They don’t really react; they know all this already. I take a deep breath and continue.

“About three years later, those who had negotiated your position were executed, without mentioning your situation, or your whereabouts. Your home city was ravaged by invaders, and your immediate family was unfortunately killed. Not long after that, a peace was brokered, and your position as detainee was fully forfeited, if not completely…forgotten.”

She speaks promptly: “Thank you very much for bringing me news of my family…though I will grieve greatly, I had of course imagined such an end by now.”

She doesn’t seem to realize what I am trying to explain.

“I humbly apologize if I have not been clear…You could have left this house 16 years ago without triggering any consequences. No one remembered you were locked away, the discovery was only made a few days ago.
You are free, Lady Sayre. I am authorized to bring you back to the capital at once, and a rather generous compensation will be given for this horrible mistake.”

The Private seemed somewhat uncomfortable, while the elder was smiling to herself and shaking her head stubbornly. The Lady looked at me like I were a naïve child.

“I think, sir,” she said with a powerful voice, “that the first order of business regarding compensation, would be to fulfill our original order.”

I looked at her slightly confused.

“Mrs. Celina really would appreciate a stock of tomato seeds, and a large guard dog of a friendly breed would be incredibly beneficial.”

“Your original order? But, you don’t need to live here anym-”

“Sir,” she slammed as she stood, her chin high.

“Return from where you came, and get me what I need to fix my home!”

Explore and Choose What You want to Believe in

Originally published for State of Liberation

‘Religious Nomadism’
The largest portion of individuals follow a beloved religion and take part in doctrine study, practices, rites of passage and in their communities. On another hand, at least 1 Billion in the world consider themselves ‘non-religious’. Among them, some are completely devoid of interest for a religious aspect in their lives, and some do have an interest, but seek alternative spiritual paths and dislike the implications of organized religious groups. Many who also identify as followers of large religions for statistical purposes live somewhat detached from traditional practices, and love to explore other belief systems. The inquisitive mind finds that a multitude of spiritual perspectives have contributed to shaping our world. Wanting to acquire more information about faiths different from those we were introduced to is not wrong. Wanting to disperse ignorance if only to better understand the values of those different from us is not a bad thing. New doors of insight and contemplation are opened to those curious enough to venture out of their bubbles and engage in what this era has named Religious Nomadism. The wisdoms those who wander and learn discover, turn into lessons that can be incorporated and reflected in everyday life.


Not a New Thing
Religious Nomadism
or Religion a la carte has the core concepts of humanism as ancestors, and would have truly emerged at the time of the European renaissance. Fresh ideas and conversations formed with the help of newly available religious and foreign texts being printed and floating about. The world seemed bigger and full of new mysteries as the South and North American continents were uncovered. A new interest in antiquity and eastern cultures added a different flair to literature, music, food and even fashions. Extreme religious changes overturned the tides of spiritual power for the western world, making the act of rethinking religious practice and belief a popular trend.
History then repeated itself much later, at the end of the second world war, from the mid 1950s to the coming of the New Age movement of the 1970s. Important denominations began to break away from traditional religious practices and attendance in places of worship dropped. The concept of the self as the only required spiritual authority was introduced, and the movement reopened pathways to ancient religions as well as belief systems foreign to the western world.  A weirdly mismatched yet widely known theology settled, which married neo-pagan, eastern beliefs such as Confucianism and Taoism, aboriginal spiritualties, and even scientific viewpoints.


Exploring the Same World
Religious Nomadism is a subtler and refined incarnation of the historical airs du temps described above. Practitioner may travel freely across the religious landscape and discover new things; the self, our intuition, the natural moral compass within us, becomes the only important spiritual authority. If in our travels we uncover something that resonates within, a story, a symbol, a line of verse, perhaps merely a feeling, or even a divinity, we can add its wisdom to our personal figurative book of beliefs. We let it guide us to who are meant to be, let it be our strength when we need it.

As each person comes to create their own spiritual system, it becomes apparent that the religious concepts we uncover pave a personal way to a common goal that all religious practitioners on earth share.  By accepting that there are limitless levels of religious experience in the world, and that each believer contributes to a greater collective wisdom, the mind, and our social world, opens wide. Conversations can flow freely; the curious accept one another for their views and values as they are. The messages at the core of all spiritual practices, the common denominator that unite us all, becomes clear.


Tread Carefully

Those who incorporate new beliefs from foreign religious systems into their personal faiths must be weary. An intelligent, objective and respectful approach is required to ensure that the concepts we are introduced to are properly researched and delicately interpreted. We must realize that by opening ourselves to the unknown, learning about it and applying its viewpoints into our everyday life, we unconsciously uproot pieces of cultures that are not ours to dissect. We strive to understand different spiritualties for our own personal growth, therefore we become the practitioners of our own system of belief, rather than joining those we have observed. For example, should you be from a judeo-Christian environment, and decide to explore Buddhist perspectives, do not call yourself a Buddhist, but rather see that you are using elements of Buddhism as spiritual inspiration (should you chose to pursue and practice Buddhism committedly, it is a different matter). No matter what and how much we try to learn from genuine sources, what we add to our own corpus of beliefs will always be somewhat converted to western frameworks of thought. We are learning and observing, experimenting, but in no way does implementing bits and pieces of a religious system make us religious authorities for others. Let’s be humble, inquire with reverence. Let’s admire, adopt, but not appropriate.


There are plenty of critics with negative opinions of Religious Nomadism. One of the most obvious detriment to picking and choosing religious concepts to treasure is that it is an individualistic approach. Living your own faith, customized and constructed by no one else but yourself means you will rarely find someone else who maintains the same religious uniqueness as you. The sense of belonging acquired from within a religious group such as a church congregation, according to these critics, becomes lost.

Independence means standing apart, and sometimes swimming against the current, fighting for your right to choose. Why accept, or worse, pretend to accept, pieces of a faith that do not ring true within, for the sake of conforming and acceptance within a group? It is argued that religion a la carte will isolate a believer, but the effect is rather the contrary for genuine adepts of the movement. As mentioned above, religious exploration turns us ultimately to seeing the common patterns between belief systems, breaking down mental walls based on race, nationality or orientation. Religion a la carte opens the channels of communication and creates an environment where differences are celebrated and unique opportunities for education.

Image CC0 Public Domain; Pezibear,

Flash Fiction: Unforgiving is Their Game

I curse at my gods when I awaken.

I lay on a lonely strip of sand barely high enough to emerge out of the low tidal waves. Sand and salt coat my burning throat. The sun is harsh on my swollen eyes, the sea lapping at my legs is ice cold. I rise painfully and look across the horizon; I have no idea where north and south are- all around me is gray sky and black ballooning waves. As far as my eyes can see, the ocean surrounds me. I could have ended up anywhere else…I would have drowned while unconscious, passed on in blissful ignorance. Some cruel destiny has pushed me on this strip of sand, that I know very well, will disappear once the tides eventually rise.

I curse because I cannot, now that I find myself alive, simply give up and allow myself to die.

A frustrating hope keeps my gaze moving across the horizon, looking for anything other than the blank, gray sky. A fog starts to roll in, making the task of searching for a passing ship more and more difficult. Light gets caught in the haze around me, making my surroundings unbearably bright and practically opaque.

Every now and again, a single black spot seems to be dancing in the corner of my eye. I try to discern what it could be, but my damaged sight toys with my hopeless mind, sometimes making me certain I can see a small shadow in the distance, and sometimes making it disappear. I want to stop looking altogether. I close my eyes and bend my head over my wet knees, but in not time at all again I find myself staring again at my possibly imaginary dark spot on the horizon. Was I merely kept alive to be thus tormented?

I should have died, but here I am, breathing, and within me the will to continue to live burns vividly. The immense, cold sea cannot extinguish it. My mind has clearly drawn out the line that separates this world and the next- I stand very close to it, but cannot cross it. So long as my lungs have not filled with salt water, that my heart beats, even if weakly, that my brain has not dissolved from dehydration, I cannot help but live. My nature makes me incapable of throwing myself back to the devices of the waves, my body could not help but swim, could not help but struggle to breathe. How cruel the flow of events is, and if puppeteers drive the stream of lives, how unforgiving is their game. Life, in this case, is an insult, cognizance, a tool of torture.

The fog becomes thinner as the sun seems to be getting lower behind the heavy overlay of clouds. The tides reach my knees and the sand, that has until now supported me, become fluid and impossible to rely on. As the sea reaches my elbows, my tired muscles start, by instinct, to tread water. I breathe slowly as I try to take control of my mind, and force my arms to stop. I want to be thankful that my agonizing dilemma has finally reached an end, I want to accept the final and obvious end to my, so far, evaded demise, but then…

I curse, seeing that my mysterious spot in the distance has gotten definitely bigger…and is definitely a ship.




Image CC0 Public Domain ; Unsplash