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Sunday, September 30, 2007

MY HOUSE OF MUSES



"A little house -- a house of my own --
Out of the wind's and the rain's way..."
Padraic Colum 1881-1972 "An Old Woman of the Roads" st6


The poet Sappho called the finishing school she ran for young girls on the island of Lesbos The House of the Muses. These are some of my own House of Muses where I have spent many happy hours writing.

"May I a small house and large garden have;
And a few friends, and many books, both true,
Both wise, and both delightful too!"
Abraham Cowley 1618 - 1667 "The Wish" 1647

The shepherd's cottage, Lala, Evvia Greece
I lived here 1985 - 1987 and stayed a few times after that.

This little shepherd's cottage up in the mountains of Evvia, five kilometers from the port of Karystos, was lent to me by my Greek Canadian friend Antonia. The house was on their property but it was being used as a storage building. I cleaned it up, whitewashed it inside and out, hung herbs from the rafters, found abandoned furniture that seemed to fit and made a most beautiful, harmonious space where I could meditate and write far from the bustle of Athenswhere I also lived and taught English to children. I spent every free weekend here and all summer long when the students were on holidays. This was one of the most fantastic places I've ever lived, my retreat, my Garden of Eden. The house was very old and built of thick stone and mortar walls with a cellar underneath which was to store foods or, in winter, could shelter animals. The roof and floor has been fixed over the years but the corner stone that had been set in the fireplace was marked with a Byzantine symbol and the date 1458. It had two rooms, one with a corner fireplace. In the winter months I only used the main room and gathered wood every day to burn. It was cozy and comfortable. No electricity, just lamps, and the only running water was outside from a hose that Antonia usedto water her gardens. I spent a lot of time working on my Celtic novel while I lived here and also some travel stories. It was hard not to be inspired in such a serene and beautiful place.

After I left Greece to return to Canada every time I visited Greece I'd spend a bit of time in the little house, even after Antonia and her husband moved into it (they had they own other house next door but she saw how happy I was in the old house and decided to renovate -- 'modernise' -- as in 'tampering with an archaeological site'. It was never the same after that, with electricity, running water, crammed with stuff, some which was second hand junk brought from Canada. Except one room, the bedroom, she turned into a 'museum' of all her mother's old things. But it was never used, just as 'show'. Ti krema. What a pity! Somehow after that, the house lost it's soul. It's hard for me to visit now and the last couple of years although I really wanted to go, I didn't. After my shepherd, Mitso, died four years ago I feel very sad when I go to the village. Maybe next time though...


14 Vironos St. Plaka, Athens Greece
I lived here 1984 - 1987

"The ornament of a house is the friends who frequent it." Ralph Waldo Emerson 1803- 1882 "Domestic Life"

In Athens, I lived on the poet Bryon's street, Vironos 14, in Plaka. Here I am standing outside the gate (the photo was taken in June when I was visiting friends in Athens.) Through the gate, you went down a narrow walkway to an open courtyard where my landlady Kyria Dina kept pots of geraniums and other plants. Then you went down four steps to a basement suite which is where I lived. I had a fairly large salon, bedroom, small kitchen and bathroom. My friend Roberto lived in a spitaki in the courtyard and behind the back gate was another courtyard where there was another little house owned by the Ministry of Culture where one of the curators of the Acropolis Museum did restorations. When I lived here I tutored English to Greek kids and wrote travel stories, or worked on my Celtic novel Dragons in the Sky, and for awhile I co-wrote a mystery novel for a guy who was part of our Dirty Corner Gang. (I still have the copy of that manuscript even though he stole the original from me and tried to get it published although it was only a first draft. No luck. Hahah). My idea for Shadow of the Lion was conceived when I lived here. I loved this house and hated to leave it. Every time I pass by it when I'm in Athens, I stop and touch the gate and peek inside.

This is where I live now. What an appropriate name!
2006 - ?
"Peace be to this house." The Holy Bible Luke 10:5

This is where I live now. I didn't know the name of this building when I first moved in and when I discovered it I knew that this was the best omen, because it is here that I am working on Shadow of the Lion and spend so much of my time immersed in Alexander's world. I was lucky to get this beautiful apartment, a 'gift' from my friend who wanted to rent it to me. It is truly one of the loveliest apartments I've ever lived in, a strata-council building where most of the tenants are owners. It's safe and quiet and friendly, unlike the last place I lived in where there were so many unpleasant distractions. Here I can work quietly in an environment that is conduscive to creativity. And I love walking about my neighbourhood with its shady streets and gorgeous old houses. It's here that I will finish my novel (I'm aiming for the end of Fall) and then I can go back and finish the Celtic novel which I had shelved out of frustration.
I'm happy here, content and inspired. And though I often dream of my other two favorite Houses of Muses, I know this is the place where I belong now. I hope I can stay here for a long time.

"We all dwell in a house of one room -- the world with the firmament for its roof -- and are sailing the celestial spaces without leaving any track."
John Muir 1838 - 1914 "John of the Mountains"
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Thursday, September 27, 2007

PLACES WHERE I WRITE





"Give me, kind Heaven, a private station,
A mind serene for contemplation!..."
GAY "Fables" pt II


I like to have a serene work place. It can be in various places so long as there is harmony and a peaceful atmosphere. I've written in coffee shops and jotted notes down while the music played at the Latin Quarter Bistro. I've walked the sea-wall in Stanley Park and sat on a bench over looking the Bay to write. I've even dashed out a few lines while riding home on the bus. But my favorite (and most productive) work places are usually in a special, quiet place with beautiful surroundings and no interferences so I can hear the Muse speak.

When I am in Athens, this is often where I write: In Christina's courtyard. I've planned scenes and plotted stories here in this lovely courtyard. Usually I go out there first thing in the morning with my breakfast: some little toasts, yoghurt and fruit, my journal, my notebook, sometimes the morning paper. I love this courtyard and have many happy memories of sitting here with friends. When Roberto was alive we often sat here together, me writing notes, he reading. Or we'd just talk and discuss my novel's progress, or make plans for the day or reminisce about our past adventures. That last times I saw Roberto it was in this courtyard. So whenever I'm there, sitting alone contemplating, I can feel his spirit near.
I'm often a solo traveller. So when I go out for my evening I choose a particularly appealing place -- usually a taverna by the sea. I take my journal and sometimes my notebook, order my dinner and a carafe of red wine and enjoy the solitude and serenity of the scenery.
This is one of the places where I ate dinner and wrote journal notes last summer in Naxos at Plaka Beach. You never feel entirely 'alone' if you have your journal with you!

It's important, when I'm seriously into my work on the novel (or any other writing project) to have a work space that is reasonably uncluttered with few distractions. In my bedroom, where I work at home, I have many pictures and objects around that remind me of Greece and, in particular, of Alexander's world. I even made this screen saver with his pictures. My bookshelf is nearby, and I also have another wall with a poster-board on which I have written the current events of whichever part of the novel I'm working on. As I finish writing those scenes, I scrub them off the board. That way I can clearly see my progress.

Usually, when I'm in a writing frenzy, it doesn't take long before my work spaces is full of junk, papers, tissues, pens and other paraphanalia. But once I come to the end of the piece I'm working on, before starting anew, I clean everything up so I'm not distracted by the mess. Behind the stand with my current notes is a little reminder to myself with a picture of Alexander. It says:
ALEXANDER IS THE BEACON, THE LIGHT THROUGH WHICH I SHALL ACHIEVE SUCCESS. On the cork board are various notes to myself about the novel: correct spelling of names, bits of research information, words of wisdom, and a postcard from Lesbos of the statue of Sappho. She's one of my Muses. The photo above is one of Georges Meis's lovely photographs of an old Greek house. And the calandar is made by my friend Patrick of photos he took on our visit to Chile.

On the wall behind I have a cast of Alexander's face and above it a wreath. Beside it is the painting of Achilles' triumph at Troy, a plaque of Kallisto playing a pan pipe, a picture of the Muses, and a beautiful icon of Gabrielle the Archangel as well as a couple of watercolors of my village, Lala, a painting by my daughter of a Greek door and a photo of me sitting on the mountainside at the village (Lala Evvia).

"The love of learning, the sequestred nooks,
And all the sweet serenty of books."
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow 1807-1887 "Morturi Salutarnus" (1875) st9
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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

MOMENTS OF MEDITATION


"Let the most absent-minded of men be plunged in his deepest reveries -- stand that man upon his legs, set his feet a-going, and he will infallibly lead you to water, if water there be in all that region...Meditation and water are wedded forever." Herman Melville 1819-1891 "Moby-Dick" 1851 Ch 1





There's nothing like a quiet meditational stroll in the forest. Here's one of the paths through the woods in Stanley Park where I walk on my way to the beach. This Park is a beautiful forested area within the city of Vancouver. Unfortunately, last winter a terrible storm took down thousands of the trees. To this date parts of the seawall are still closed due to the destruction of the storm and wind-falls. Ecologically it was a disaster, and for the people of the city, like me, who love the Park, it was a heartbreak. Fortunately there are still some parts, like this, that didn't suffer damage.

I walk through the woods and then along the path by Lost Lagoon. At one time, this was the place where the poet Pauline Johnson used to paddle her canoe. She named it "Lost Lagoon" as when the tide went out, the water receded. Now it's enclosed so there's always water in the lagoon. When I was young you could rent rowboats and canoes there, but not any longer. And once in a blue moon in winter it used to freeze over enough to skate on it. But that hasn't happened for years. Now it's a waterfowl refuge for lovely swans, herons, Canada Geese and various species of ducks. There are also turtles in the lagoon and if you're lucky you can see them basking on the rocks.

Another of my favorite summer fields trips was to the beach. There are various beaches around Vancouver. I usually go to Second or Third Beach in Stanley Park. But this day I went with my son to Locarno Beach with it's long stretch of silky sand. When he was little I used to take him to English Bay beach and this day, at Locarno, was the first time in years we'd gone to the beach together so it was very special!

I find that my excursions to the outdoors, whether it's a quiet neighbourhood walk, a stroll in the forest or the Park gardens, or along the seawall by the beach, it's a great way to relax and clear out your mind. I sit for awhile and meditate, then write in my journal, and contemplate life. It's always been an excellent way to get over 'writer's block' and come up with fresh, brilliant ideas for my writing.
I tend to be a 'walking writer' so much of my novel has been sorted out while I've been walking about. Therefore, I always carry a notebook and pen as you just never know when the Muse is going to speak to you and you'd better be ready to jot down those words!

"Where there is peace and mediation, there is neither anxiety nor doubt."
St. Francis of Assisi 1181-1226 "The Counsel of the Holy Father Saint Frances Admonition 27"
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Sunday, September 23, 2007

MY SUMMER MEMORIES

It hardly seems possible that summer is over already and now it's Fall. I took advantage of any of the nice days we had and managed to have some interesting and pleasant field trips to the parks and beaches, lots of picnics and fitness walks. Usually I wrote in the morning and had a special trip planned for my afternoons, taking advantage of any days that were sunny. These are the flower gardens in Stanley Park where I'd walk through from the bus stop to the beach where I liked to swim. I'd pass by the Lost Lagoon and then arrive at the beach and the pool for a swim and picnic. (I put some photos on my travel blog of the Lost Lagoon and will post some here later. See: http://travelthroughhistory.blogspot.com )

Here is my favorite swimming pool at Second beach. Deserted, because the city workers went on strike at the end of July so all the pools and rec centres have been closed since then (and still are!). I love swimming here as I can drift in the water and pretend I'm in the warm waters of the Aegean so I was pretty upset when the pools closed. But I made the best of it and went swimming in the ocean because after all, for years, that's exactly what we always did. The water is cold but refreshing. I'll post some photos of my beach trips later. I had many pleasant afternoons visiting the various beaches around the city and having picnics usually by myself but a couple of times with friends and with my son too.



This is the Stanley Park sea wall where I love walking. It's a great place to walk when you are trying to sort out ideas for your writing. Sometimes I play music when I walk, sometimes I walk with the Jenny Craig fitness tape, but often I just walk along and meditate, stopping now and then on a bench to jot down ideas and random thoughts. I can still go walking on the sea wall, even though swimming season is over. It's a place where you can walk in any weather. There are always a lot of in-line skaters, joggers and cyclists as well. It's one of the favorite places in Vancouver for people to enjoy the outdoors.

I haven't done much today as I felt a cold coming on. But I did a bit of writing, finishing up a project for the tour company and making more notes for the novel. I wanted to go for a bike ride but didn't feel up to it, so aside from walking the dog and going over to the drug store for meds I just relaxed. I started my classes last week and felt quite exhausted by the end of the week. Friday and Saturday night I went to have dinner with my extended family and on Saturday with all my sister's clan (a lot of them!) so that was fun and a change of pace which I really needed. I also started Spanish classes Saturday morning as prep for the trip my friends and I plan to take to Cuba for the Havana Jazz Fest. in February. I was a bit stressed this week after being sick the week before, and now I've run myself down so I've been sniffling and sneezing all day long. Hopefully the Redoxin and Tylenol will do the trick!

Progress on the novel has been very slow but by tomorrow I should be back in the grove again.
Meanwhile:

Summer's over
Now it's Fall,
Quite the nicest
Time of all!

ENJOY!
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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

ONE OF THOSE DAY!

Here's the Wordie Birdie sitting on my arm where he likes to perch while I'm writing.


Yesterday (Tuesday) was one of those days! First I woke to the bling bling of the fire alarm bells that went on consistently all morning while the guys were checking fire alarms in all the suites of my building. I had lots to do yesterday and had hoped to get back to my writing. But alas! It turned into 'one of those days'!

I took Monday off to travel out to the suburbs for a visit with my sister who has just moved back to the Coast. Sometimes I think it's a good idea to take a break from your writing and this was a most enjoyable break. But yesterday I had lots of catching up to do and, as well, had to sort all my class notes for my night school classes which started yesterday. I didn't get much co-operation from my two little companions. Between Puppy's incessant coughing (which she does for attention) and Cheeky bird's incessant high-pitched one-note-samba screeching I was fit to be tied! I put Birdie on the balcony, and took Doggy out for her walk but I could hear the Wordy Birdie screeching a block away so I knew it would annoy the hell out of the neighbours if I allowed it to continue. Of course I had to bring him inside then and he continued to be a pest (both of them did) until I was at my wit's end. In the end it took me six hours to prepare my class notes, sorting and tossing and rearranging stuff in my loose-leafs. Boy! Was I ready to make my Great Escape by the end of the day!

It's always stressful anyway, the first night of the classes. But in spite of my frazzled state I think it all went well and we had fun, which is important in a writing class. This one was How to Start your Novel or Memoir. Tonight is Prompting the Muse. And tomorrow is Travel Writing.

Needless to say, I didn't get any work done at all on Shadow of the Lion so I don't have any progress to report. Today I have a massage which should help matters a lot, and then some shopping. At least today the sun is shining. Yesterday was rainy and cold. I have a plan to do a few more notes for Shadow and then I can proceed to finish this new chapter. I think once this week is over I'll be back on my writing schedule again. ***So long as my naughty little pals behave themselves!


Cheeky Bird is quite a handsome fellow, don't you think?
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Friday, September 14, 2007

PROGRESS REPORT #12: MY LITTLE WRITING PALS

"It is not only fine feathers that make fine birds."
Aesop 550 BC "The Jay and the Peacock"



CHEEKY ENJOYS DINNER WITH MOM

I was sick this week so I got behind in my progress on Shadow but I'll be back at work editing and writing new scenes before the day is out. Meanwhile, after recovering enough to see the matinee of Julius Caesar on Wednesday, and attending an art gallery opening, yesterday and today I had coffee breaks with two actor friends and this revived encouraging and inspiring talk about my currently shelved play "House of the Muses" about Sappho. Meanwhile I got another project to work on for the tour company I'm doing some writing for. By tomorrow I should be back on track with my daily writing program.

At the moment I am taking care of my friend's cute little toy Pom doggie, Niki. She comes and spends time with my bird and I quite frequently. Cheeky the cockatiel loves the doggie and when Niki's here, birdie walks around on the floor pretending he's the same as his four-legged friend. Doggie is very non-impressed by the whole show, even when Cheeky chatters to her.

My bird is my writer's mascot. He loves sitting on my wrist or shoulder when I'm writing although at times (like today) he can be most annoying. He actually thinks he's a person. He has a small vocabulary, repeating in various orders "Pretty bird. Pretty Cheeky. Cheeky pretty." and lately tries to say "Whatcha doin'?" Niki doesn't know what to make of a talking bird!

So for the next while as I work I will have the two little writing friends to keep me company and having doggy-woggles here reminds me that I occasionally need to get up and go for a walk. Not that Niki likes walking that much. Usually it ends up being a 'carry' instead of a 'walk'.

As for the Birdie-wordie, he makes sure Doggie knows who's Boss around here!! My two little pals!

NIKI LOUNGES ON THE BERBER PRAYER RUG

"Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore."
Noel Langley 1911 - ? "The Wizard of Oz", spoken by Judy Garland



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Thursday, September 13, 2007

I LOVE SHAKESPEARE



The play's the thing...
William Shakespeare 1564-1616 Hamlet



The "Bard on the Beach" main stage tent

I love Shakespeare. My first Shakespearean play experience was when I was 13 and attended a school outing to see "Richard the Third"
After that, I was sold on the Bard. So a few years ago when a theatre company called "Bard on the Beach" began a yearly Shakespearean Festival here, I started to attend regularly. This year I managed to take in three performances, all of them superb.

My first show this year was "Timon of Athens" one of Shakespeare's little known plays about a wealthy philanthropist who gives money to his friends but when he finds himself penniless is shunned by them. For this production the performance was staged on the Bard's small stage and it was done in modern dress. The stage itself was interesting, in the centre of the tent with an unusual set design and minimal props.
"'Tis not enough to help the feeble up,
But to support him after."
Timon of Athens, 1605-1618 Act 1, Sc ii l 108

The next production I attended was one of my favorites, "Romeo and Juliet". This was performed in the large main stage tent.
It was presented in a more renaissance than traditional style and I was especially impressed with the young lovers, Romeo and Juliet, and the interesting stage choreography, including the excellent sword play.

"Good night, good night! parting is such sweet sorrow,
That I shall say good night till it be morrow."
Romeo and Juliet Act II, ii 184


Yesterday I managed to recover from a bout of the flu long enough to attend a matinee performance of
"Julius Caesar"
It was interesting going in the daytime rather than at night. For one thing the tent(s) were full with school groups, and I couldn't help but remember that day so long ago when I, a star-struck 13 year old, attended my very first Shakespeare play. This was usual considering I'd spent a number of my childhood days in Stratford Ontario, named for the Bard, and located on the Avon River. I even went to "Shakespeare Elementary School." But this was, in fact, the first time I'd seen Shakespeare performed. I wondered how many of the kids present yesterday would be so affected by the play as I was when I first saw "Richard the Third."

I get so much from watching Shakespeare and love the plays as much as I love the Greek tragedies. For me, a historical writer, I think it's important to soak up as much of this historical 'writing' as I can and as I'm also a playwright, I find I get a great many tips and ideas from watching how the plays are staged as well as how they are written. It has inspired me to return to my Sappho play and hopefully get it finished as I think it's a great idea and just needs to be staged right.

"His life was gentle, and the elements
So mix'd in him that Nature might stand up
And say to all the world, "This was a man!"
"Julius Caesar" Act V ii 73

Besides enjoying the theatre events, each time I've gone to the Bard I've made a special outing of it. Because it's located in a Park near the beach, I've taken a picnic lunch and had a lovely walk along the seawalk as well as attending the production. Here's a picture of the scenery around the Bard location. And as the tents open to the outdoors, in particular from the main stage tent, you get a backdrop of sky and natural beauty that adds to the ambience of the productions.


View from Vanier Park

You can look up events for the Bard on the Beach at www.bardonthebeach.org You can catch snippets and interviews with the directors.

The fourth production this year was "The Taming of the Shrew" which was done as a western. Unfortunately I haven't seen that one.
Now it's time for the Fringe Festival. And yesterday I learned of a play "His Greatness" about two days in the life of Tennessee Williams, my favorite playwright, so that will be my next theatre outing.
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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

IN REMEMBRANCE



THERE WERE TWO 9/11s.
The first was September 11, 1975
when Gen. Augusto Pinochet staged a military coup in Chile backed by the C.I.A.
On September 11, 1975, my late friend Anibal recalled seeing planes flying over Santiago bombing the media buildings
and the Presidential Palace. This coup resulted in a blood bath that lasted years, resulting in the death of democratically elected Salvatore Allende (in the Presidential Palace) and thousands of other men, women and youths who were killed, imprisoned, tortured and 'disappeared'. Many others, like my friend, escaped but were forever affected and traumatized by what happened. Pinochet finally died in Dec. 2006 without ever having faced punishment for his crimes against Chile and the Chilean people.



The Presidential Palace

Grave memorials for Victor Jara, a popular university professor and folk singer who was tortured and killed in the stadium



The Memorial wall listing the thousands of missing and presumed dead Chileans

The General Cemetary of Santiago is full of graves marked Sept 1975, all victims of the junta. I was most impressed when I visited at the number of young people, many who wouldn't have been born then, who were bringing flower tributes to the graves of Allenda and Victor Jara.

AND THEN THERE WAS THE GREAT TRAGEDY OF 9/11 2001 IN U.S.A
When I was there last year on the day of the memorial I didn't visit the site
but I went on the round Manhattan boat tour
and saw the great gap between the buildings where the World Trade Centre had once stood, and eerie reminder of a tragedy that changed the world.

*** I blogged some photos of NYC but they didnt' come through on here. When I was there last year, the whole city was preparing for the memorial and even Canadian police and firefighters were there to participate.


LEST WE FORGET

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Thursday, September 06, 2007

PROGRESS REPORT #11: THE MOTHER-IN-LAW FROM HELL

DODONA: The palace was up near that wall

Helmer: First and foremost, you are a wife and mother.
Nora: That I don't believe any more. I believe that first and foremost I am an individual, just as much as you are.

Henrik Ibsen 1828- 1906 "A Dolls House"

I've been making good progress on the novel but had to take the day off to prepare and deliver handout material to the School Board, as my classes start in two weeks.

The parts I've been writing lately, in Roxana's point of view, brought to mind some memories, not entirely pleasant ones, of my former married life.
The Mother-in-Law from Hell. Well, perhaps in my case it's an exaggeration, but truly, she was a weird one. I can recall first meeting her and being quite disturbed by the way she'd sit, almost silent, and stare at me with her odd eyes, like she was giving me the Evil Eye. (Truly, at times I think she was!) She was the kind of woman who buried her money in coffee cans in the back yard and wasn't terribly generous. My husband's young brother, living at home, was never given gifts at Christmas as it "wasn't his birthday". She was a Seventh Day Adventist, Ukrainian immigrant woman and had odd ideas.

I've always made a point of not being the 'interfering mother-in-law' in my kid's marriages. I adore my son's wife and think she's an absolute angel. I loved my daughter's ex too and was very sad they split up. But then, I'm not a conventional kind of mother either. (I remember once seeing a Peanuts cartoon of Woodstock lying on the top of the dog house waving at a plane flying overhead and saying "Bye Mom!" And I thought how much I was like that kind of Mom. The gypsy Mom, always on the go.)

Well, poor old Roxana unfortunately has the quintessential "Mother-in-law from Hell". Olympias. She herself is a pretty tough lady but she's met her match in Alexander's mother and as the story progresses we see her losing her power and being reduced to nothing more than a detested alien woman, eventually a prisoner of her dead husband's enemies. Poor Roxana. She's far from her homeland, a widow, disliked and resented by the Macedonians and now she's under the control of the formidable mother-in-law. She's even losing custody of her child.

What will happen to her next?

"What greater grief than the loss of one's native land."
Euripides 485-406 Medea l 650
"Sons are the anchors of a mother's life."
Sophocles 495-406 BC Phaedra fragment 612


View of Dodona

Here is a new segment of "Shadow of the Lion" in which Roxana is reminiscing about her life past and present.

DODONA, EPIROS
It was early summer in Epiros. The warm sun had melted the snow filling cascades and streams so the mountain shoulders, watered from the snow-melt, were fresh and green . In the valley the fields were ablaze with crimson poppies. Blossoms fell from the orchard trees and new buds burst on the vines.

Roxana sat by the fountain in the forecourt enjoying a quiet time alone. The child had gone to his grandmother as he did most every day. In spite of her
loneliness, Roxana had spent a pleasant winter at Dodona. and felt more at home there than she had anywhere before. She and Olympias spent hours together in womanly talk; she was always careful to curb her tongue and acquiesce to the old Queen’s demands. Olympias instructed her in local customs that were not so different from her own, except here she had more freedom. The harem life seemed strangely distanced from her now. In Dodona a woman ruled, Alexander’s mother, and her will was obeyed by everyone from her regent cousin to the most menial servant.

Still, she did not regret that they had come to Epiros. She and her child were safer under the watchful and critical eye of Olympias than she had ever been before when she had been left to the mercy of the Macedonians who resented her. Iskander, at least, was learning more about his father than she could ever teach him. Olympias’ domineering nature was no match for her own and more and more Roxana saw the child come under his grandmother’s influence. Iskander no longer ran to her with his questions, but to his grandmother. Although she felt resentful and seethed with jealousy she could do nothing about it. Only yesterday she had watched them walking hand-in-hand down the path toward Dodona’s sacred oak shrine. Olympias had even suggested she would take the child to the Nekromanteion where he might speak to his father’s Shade. There was never any hint that she was to be included.

Olympias had declared at once that Iskander should speak Greek and in no time he was chattering fluently in both Greek and smatterings of Olympias’ own tribal dialect, quickly forgetting the elegant Elamite Persian he had grown up with in the harem. Iskander was, to his grandmother, Alexander, and in the old Queen’s eyes, the child had replaced her own son. She coloured all the tales she told him of his father’s boyhood instilling in the child the belief that truly his father was god-begotten. She embellished details of her own family’s glorious past and regaled him ancient family lore handed down from generations, tales as exciting as Homer’s in which Achilles’ became more than a storybook hero but one of the child’s own kinsmen. She even arranged a formal engagement between Iskander and his playmate Dedemeia, insisting it was necessary despite their tender ages.

When she had protested, Olympias reminded her of how disappointed she had been with Alexander when he refused to take a Macedonian wife before he went off to war.

“I do not wish to live to see the day when my grandson makes the same impulsive mistake as his father and ends up taking a foreign bride when there are noble Macedonian girls who he might have wed, keeping the Archaiad blood line pure.”

She had felt crushed being so belittled by Olympias words but she swallowed her anger and held her peace, though she felt a lingering hurt.

“I have chosen Deideima, my cousin’s child,” Olympias told her. “They will make a perfect match. Dedemeia is a beautiful child, and very bright. I will see that she is trained in all the arts. She is clever with her hands and already capable at the loom and will make an excellent wife for little Alexander when she is grown.”

Roxana argued that at the age of five Iskander was far too young to be ’engaged’ but Olympias explained it was customary to make a marriage contract, a promise so to speak, to ensure Iskander would have a suitable wife when the time came for him to take the throne. When Iskander was told of his grandmother’s plan, he was pleased, though he did not understand the meaning of being ‘engaged’.

“It means when you are old enough, you and Dedemeia will marry.”
“You mean we can play together forever?” he had asked.
“Yes. As often as you wish,” she replied. “Forever.”
And he had skipped away happily to tell Dedemeia the news.

The sound of hoof beats and shouting voices roused Roxana from her reverie. She ran quickly to the postern gate to investigate and saw that a crowd of people had gathered along the road that led up to the palace. A cloud of dust hovered over the valley and from the road that led through the mountain pass, the sun glinted off of armour.

Alarmed, she summoned a servant to fetch Olympias.


The Sacred Oak Grove



The Sacred Oak where the oracle was read in the shifting of the leaves.
(Of course, this is a distant relative of the ancient tree)
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