City of Lights – a short story

Mia’s eyes were drawn to the lights on the hills around her. She found looking out in the evening both comforting and hypnotic. Her heart slowed down and she felt relaxed enough to try to sleep. She liked to watch the sunset, when the sky was clear enough. Its rays lit the windows of houses on the eastern hillside, creating an orange glow, an aurora radiating across the old valley.

She lived in a city full of life now. She loved it and was afraid too. In her corner of the mill town Mia watched the world go by every day. She felt safe because no one could see her. Her home was as high as the birds, in the tops of trees surrounding her. They flitted among the bare branches oblivious to the traffic at the busy junction below.

Sometimes owls and foxes haunted the nights, hooting, screeching and screaming. This she did not like, the sounds unnerved her, reminded her of where she had been before. She preferred the ravens and blackbirds during the day.

The city had a smell – dirt and car fumes. Although chimneys dominated the horizon, they were redundant now. Mia couldn’t imagine what it was like to have been around when the mills were open and busy. She was grateful for not being able to smell burning wood, hair and flesh anymore. She was content with her urban landscape and the smell of pollution.

Sirens and fireworks rang out at weekends from teatime onwards. Mia was anxious on first hearing them and didn’t want to leave her home to go outside. So she stayed in, all weekend, looking out at everything around her. The city was safe from her vantage point.

Soon she learnt to draw again. There was no one she could call her own in her new world, although the church provided some contact with others as well as tea and biscuits. But Mia didn’t want to pray, she wanted to return to her flat and observe again.

She drew all the day birds – the family of ravens who talked constantly as they moved from branches to gutters and back again. The pair of doves amused her. They huddled together over the junction, fat from eating her neighbour’s leftover chapatis, the branch beneath them bending towards the ground, struggling with their weight. Blackbirds sang day and night by her street lamp. The small birds in the hedges, cursed one another – blue tits telling the chaffinches to find somewhere else to live. Then the starlings appeared. There was nothing more beautiful Mia thought.

All of this she noted in her drawings. She became numb to the sound of sirens passing below at the junction. The blackbirds accepted her presence at the window every day and sang on her sill. Mia felt the peace at last, in her corner of the world.

 

If we all look for peace, we will find it, together.

 

Knitting in Venice

As I walked down all the tiny streets and over bridges in central Venice I was bombarded by design and fashion. Most of it was luxurious. Some of it was fronted by men selling contraband right in front of Prada’s windows, calling to the tourists to buy their genuine look-a-like goods. At times I felt uncomfortable with this contrast between high-fashion couture set in air-conditioned shops and the men who stayed put on the streets in the sun until caught – which seemed to rarely happen.

I looked out for the original, small artisan seller. Paper, glass and jewellery makers were dotted about here and there. I recall my mother and her friends being very fond of Italian gold – it has a certain patina and weight that distinguishes it from all the others.

Then I found a yarn shop with  smiling knitters inside, despite 38C of heat every day…and like all yarn people, were extremely helpful. They told me their story and all about their yarns. We talked in a combination of English and Italian, enabling each other. We decided to stay in touch to share.

Dio benedice i maghi italiani!