Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Winter Blooms

the wild flower stalks
stood stiffly tall
covered with seed heads
and brittle brown leaves.

snow blossoms hang heavy
on stems that bow
and touch the earth,
weighed down by purity.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Is For Apple

Each year, early in autumn,
my mother placed newspapers
on top of the great mirrored wardrobes.
Then, like squirrels, we put aside
our winter supply in the cool upstairs
of the big old house.
Newspapers, apples, newspapers, apples,
in single layers, each apple wrapped
in its own square of newspaper,
so that no apple skin should touch another.

On Christmas morning, in the toe of my stocking
(mother's brown lisle,
with darned holes and mended ladders),
the cool hard roundness of an apple
greeted my outstretched grasp.
I rubbed the fruit against my cheek, breathed its scent
and bit into its juicy crispness with delight.
Awake early as we were, and admonished not to rouse
the adults, I satisfied my hunger,
until my brother blew impatient reveille on his new bugle.

The sound could have woken the dead, and did.
Grumbling parents and visiting aunts got up,
releasing us from our cold rooms and promises of silence.
I bundled my toys back in my stocking,
and took the sticky apple core and brown pips
to the rubbish bin (do not swallow the pips
or an apple tree will grow inside you).
Christmas day wended its way
through the wonders of stuffed goose and plum pudding,
banging crackers and paper hats,
and presents under the candle-lit tree.

The sweet smell of an apple,
fifty years later,
has the power to recall
these childhood memories
of a Christmas in Wales.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Wholeness Within

So many voices speak within—
Heart, mind, ego,
Imagination, conscience, soul.
Each one has a place,
Each one must have
Its chance to speak.

Listening to and hearing
Each voice that speaks
Is the key to harmony within.
If all would speak at once
Chaos is a sure result—
Nothing is accomplished,
Nothing is achieved.

Quiet place and time are needed,
To let each part speak,
Each part listen and
Hear the others’ point of view;
Allowing them to integrate
In one harmonious whole.

Inner song in glorious harmony,
Strength, and beauty
Comes from such a place
And time as this.
Slow down and stare awhile;
Slow down and listen;
Then sing your song.

© Judith Lawrence

Thursday, December 9, 2010


Life held in seed so small
Becomes what it is meant to be.
Giant oak from acorn grows;
A fish from seed of roe.

Each seed produces its own kind,
Though not all seeds beget a life;
Chance and circumstance roll the dice
Of every life’s becoming.

© Judith Lawrence

Saturday, November 20, 2010


Sophia (Wisdom) dwells within me at my core; breath beats in my breast like a rhythmed drum. Radiant, in my deepest place, Sophia gleams with steady light from the ancient day. Down through the ages Sophia shines forth—Wisdom that is from Creation’s time dwells within me. Fire waiting to be kindled glows in hot coals; Sophia breathes her breath upon them; flames flare within my soul; creation, like a phoenix, rises up with beating wings, drums new life into being, bursting forth upon the world.

© Judith Lawrence Prose Poem

“I, Wisdom, was at [the Lord’s] side each day, his darling and delight, playing in his presence continually, playing on the earth, when he had finished it, while my delight was in humankind.” Proverbs 8 : 30, 31. The New English Bible translation.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Fall to Winter

Gone are the tall trees’ leaves now,
Brown are the ferns’ fronds,
Touched by fall’s first frost now,
And a wave of winter’s wand.

© Judith Lawrence

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Becoming Myself

Born into the world
From my mother’s womb,
Though newborn
I was totally myself.

Through my early years
I learned to cover up
A large part of my being.

Hiding behind the hand
I covered and shielded myself;
Learning to live
A life of make-believe.

Now I am discovering
Who I am called to be,
The one who is becoming
Totally myself.

Mature in spirit and emotion,
With no apology
For being totally me;
Totally one with you
Who created me to be
Totally myself.

© Judith Lawrence

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


Ideas, like seeds,
Fall on the mind’s
Rich soil.

Ideas, like seeds,
Put down roots,
Words spring forth.

Ideas can grow,
To become a poem,
A story, a novel,

A speech,
If you nurture them.
It’s up to you.

Will you water them,
Nourish them,
Give them light and air—
Room to grow?

Or will you let them
Lie on dry ground
Dying from neglect?
It’s up to you.

© Judith Lawrence

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


Passion is the
Life of Love;
Passion is the
Heart of Suffering.

Neglect not Love,
Leaving Passion
On the ground;
Refuse not Suffering,
Allowing Passion
To wither away.

Run not from Passion,
Leaving it far behind,
Dying of thirst;
Let not Passion lie
On the dusty roadside,
Sorrowing from neglect.

Take up Love of Life
See Passion flame
And burn up hate.
When Suffering comes,
Take it on,
Let Passion overpower it
From within.

Passion is the
Love of Life;
Passion is the
Suffering of the Heart.

© Judith Lawrence

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


The kitchen is the centre of the home, the place where all can gather together, sharing warmth, food, and conversation. This is where the provider of nourishment serves the household and reigns supreme. The provider of nourishment is at one and the same time the servant and the monarch.

In wintertime, the kitchen is where warmth can be found; generated by baking and cooking in the oven, and boiling of kettles for tea and pots of vegetables or stew. Here, too, is where the mother figure provides generous hugs along with freshly baked treats as they appear hot from the oven.

In summertime, before the advent of air-conditioning or microwaves to keep the kitchens cool in hot, humid days, the pioneers had summer kitchens where cooking and baking could be done outside the main house—protected from rain but open to the air and cooling breezes.

Nowadays, of course, there are bakeries, super-markets, and restaurants where we can get a ready-made meal for our families without having to heat up our homes and make ourselves uncomfortable.

I bake my own bread and muffins on a regular basis. Because I am diabetic, I feel it is better for me—I know the ingredients and can avoid too much sweetener and fat. For about five years I have used a bread machine to bake my bread but recently I have had trouble with the machines. They have been breaking down too often and I wasn’t willing to put out the extra money needed to replace the poorly made machines so often.

I have gone back to mixing and kneading the ingredients by hand, a more time-consuming method of rising and baking the bread; I love the feel of the living dough beneath my hands—the trinity of turns bringing the yeast to life—and the smell of the baking bread in my kitchen.

The kitchen is the centre of the home, the place where the bread and nourishment of life is found, and the place where family, friends and guests can gather, feel at home and share the love.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Wiles, Wisdom and Beauty of Judith

I wrote the following piece under the topic, On Being a Woman, in 2009 for the Summer Writing Group in Muskoka.

Judith from the Apocrypha was a Hebrew woman after whom I was named. She was a devout woman, wise and beautiful, and not beyond using her attributes and wiles in order to stand up for what was right and to help her country. I would hope that I would be like her, if need arose. This is her story.

Judith lived in Bethulia, an Israelite town. Her husband had died from sunstroke while working in the fields and had left her a rich woman. She lived on her estate and after her husband’s death she lived in mourning, fasting and praying in a room she had built on the roof of her house. She feasted only on the Sabbath and on special Jewish holy days.

It was in the time of King Nebuchadnezzar and, like Hitler in our own day, he wanted to rule the world. The town of Bethulia was under siege by the troops of Commander Holophernes and the town citizens were running out of food and water and many were dying. The people wanted to surrender to the enemy in order to save themselves from dying but the officials persuaded them to wait five more days while they came up with a plan or until God showed them favour and saved them.

When Judith heard about this she sent for the magistrates to come to her estate and when they appeared she told them that they were wrong to bargain with God recounting all that God had done for them in the past and would do for them again, if the time was right. They asked her to pray to God to send rain to fill the cisterns so that the people would not die from lack of water. She told them that she would to more than that for she had a plan that would deliver Israel from their enemies and that she could fulfil this plan before the five days were up. All the officials had to do was to not ask her any questions and to open the gates to let her and her maid out of the city at midnight.

Judith then put off her widow’s weeds and dressed herself in her fine clothes and jewelery; she made her face look beautiful “so as to catch the eye of any man who might see her.” She and her maid left Bethulia with provisions of wine and food, which her maid carried in a bag. As they approached the enemy camp they were captured and questioned as to what they were doing. Judith told them that they were running away from her people because she didn’t agree with what they were doing. She told them that she had reliable information to give to their commander so that they could gain command of the hill country without losing any of their men. Holophernes’ men were so overwhelmed by her beauty that they took her to their commander at once.

To make a long story short, Holophernes was taken in by her story. The narrative goes, “They were amazed at her wisdom and beauty.” For the next three days she bided her time and set up the basis for her plan. Each night, with the permission of Holophernes, she and her maid went out of the camp, taking the bag of provisions with them, to purify themselves and pray to God. On the fourth night, Judith was invited into the inner tent of Holophernes where they ate and drank together. Holophernes drank so much that he fell down on his bed, dead drunk.

Judith then took down Holophernes’ sword and cut off his head and she put the head in the food bag. She and her maid then went into the night as usual taking the bag with them. They hurried and returned to Bethulia calling out, as they approached, for the gates to be opened. They let her in and she presented the head of Holophernes to the officials saying, “The Lord has struck him down by the hand of a woman!” When Holophernes’ men discovered his dead body without its head, they panicked and fled. The Israelites army followed them and slaughtered them.

Judith was highly praised and had many suitors in the years to come but she remained unmarried. She gave her maid her freedom. Judith lived to be 105 years old. And the story goes, “No one dared threaten the Israelites again in Judith’s lifetime, or for a long time after her death.

I believe that my father named me after her and, though the Methodist minister did not want to give me that name at my baptism, that is my name and Judith is my hero.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Autumn of my Days

Ah! Comest on the autumn of my days.
When glory wreathes me in rich hues—
Red and gold, yellow and bronze,
Placed on my head in victorious crown

Before the colours die and fall upon the ground.
Then winter will come and wrap me
In its blanket of white,
And I will be at peace
And sleep right through the night,

‘Til spring returns with greening rains,
And gentle breezes melt the icy rime
‘Til warming sun turns rivers’ iron core
Into fast running silver freshets.

And soon, oh yes, so very soon
Summer again will bring its fruits
And feed me with wondrous delights—
The Creator will serve me at the board.

© Judith Lawrence

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Morning Rises

Morning rises later now
As September comes;
Five o’clock no longer sees
Light of dawn appear.

Seven o’clock brings sky’s grey tinge
Yet sun stays hidden in
His chamber—curtained, ‘til he can
No longer lie abed, for shame.

Sun draws his warmth around himself
In secret; scattering only pale, cool treasures
Of light on the ground; leaving behind him
Red-gold streaks in the trees once-green.

Reflections of morning will soon lie late
On icy-white drifts of snow; while sun’s reality
Streams south with the snow birds
And northerners mourn its loss.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Turning Point

A turning point arrives, pivotal;
There is a drawing to some new depth,
I know not the depth—or height—of it.
I feel the pull, strong and urgent.
God leads on. I desire to follow—
Glory, glory. I go along his path—
Lit with lanterns of his love.

© Judith Lawrence

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


This poem was born while reading one of May Sarton’s Journals where she refers to the taproot within herself.

Taproot, descending from the essence of my being,
Grow strong, grow straight, deep down
Into the Ground of my existence,
Into the Godhead, the Trinity;
Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Nourish my soul, my being, with love and strength.

© Judith Lawrence

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Syllable of Soul-light

This poem was written on a line from a poem by Lalla—
a 14th century Indian Mystic

Syllable of soul-light
Enter me
Fill me
Overflow me.

One tiny morsel
Is enough;
One pin-point
Glow expands, reflects,
Overflows my banks.

I long for this
One-toned Syllable;
I’m filled with this
One-toned Syllable;

I become this
One-toned Syllable;
I’m filled with light;
I’m radiating light;

I’m surrounded by
The one-toned
Syllable of soul-light.

© Judith Lawrence

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Haiku Offerings

1. God Delights in Morning

Hear flute’s melody
God delights in morning Lauds
Hidden hermit thrush.

2. No Thorns

Maltese cross flowers
Blood red petals ring glory
Christ crowned without thorns.

3. Light

Last night sliver moon
Lay on its back, its only
Light its own being.

© Judith Lawrence

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Like Lotus Petals

As all creation unfolds
Energy explodes in prayer.

The butterfly emerging
From the chrysalis
Opens its wings and
Flies aloft in prayer.

Bulbs’ leaves push through
The lately snow-covered
Ground and petals
Open in flowers of
Crocus, daffodil,
Lily and hyacinth.

Baby birds emerge from
Eggs and fledge from
Nests in a matter of days.
Young wild animals
Mature in a matter of months.

They write creation
On the forest floor
Flora and fauna alike
Unfold in cosmic prayer.

Humans, evolving into
Spiritual beings, unfold
Slowly and steadily,
Their souls open to
God like lotus petals
In the morning sun.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Dandelion Clocks

Imagination soars on wings of dragonflies
To other countries, other times.
My mouth takes in deep breaths and
Tells the hours on dandelion clocks.

I harness myself to a seed parachute
And lazy seconds drift by on air currents.
I land beside yellow violets and
White flower-promises of wild strawberries.

I sate myself with innocent moments
Of childhood home and yesteryear memories.
Then mystical chariot of winged dragonflies
Transports my satisfied soul to the now.

(The photo is of Judith at a young age with her mother in her home town of Brecon, Wales.)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Trapped in Dawn’s Hour

Morning dawns with darkened sky,
Rain teems down.
Bound in dreams, at edge of night,
I cannot wake from sleep.

Visions unfold and I would follow
Along their paths.
I’m caught up in their web, nor would I
Escape from their enchanted spell.

Voices call for me to come and do my share
Of morning chores;
Echoed words confuse and trap the call
In misted dreams.

Second and minute hands intertwine
Weaving and circling in time.
Is it minutes or hours I’ve lingered here?
Am I trapped in this dream
Or a willing participant?

© Judith Lawrence June 2010

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


This photo shows a mixture of white daisies, sweet william and lilies. Perhaps the young girl's beau was named William.

White-petaled blooms
Stand tall, stiff-stalked.
They hold the secrets
Of a young girl’s future.

They serve to make a daisy chain
For the cherished,
A crown for the maiden’s head,
And to answer the question:
Does he love me yet?

He loves me;
He loves me not, she chants,
And strews white petals in a circle
All around her on the ground.

And when the answer is not to her liking,
She plucks another flower,
And another,
Repeating her question
Until the answer is right.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Milkweed Blossoms

Air, perfumed by the scent of milkweed blossoms, fills the morning space where I meet my God. I have no need of incense to lift my prayers today; nature gathers them in her arms and offers them up to him who has created all things; the circle is complete: Creator and created join together in a bond that cannot be broken. They belong with one another; they long to be with one another; being with one another is their desire and joy.
© Judith Lawrence

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Fireflies and Stars

I couldn't resist putting up one more poem about fireflies. Though, perhaps, the poem is more about the wonders of the Creator.

When I look at the fireflies,
Those reflections of heaven’s stars,
I am amazed at God’s delight as Creator,
His joy at making something so big,
And, with equal attention to detail,
Something so small.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


Playing a game of let’s pretend we’re stars,
Fireflies spark in June’s night-time grass, becoming
Imitations and reflections of heaven’s fire balls.
With rhythmic signals, like Morse code,
They talk to one another, recognize their own kind,
And sport and frolic and create more fireflies.

Here, where all seems innocent, a female trickster
Lies in wait. Using imitation and reflection
Of another’s secret code, she lures an unsuspecting
Male to his death—and her supper.
Ah! Dastardly deed! Yet this too is nature
And must have meaning in the scheme of things.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Recipe for Welsh Cakes

Now that I've finished taking you through my Book of Short Stories I will be writing different things each week. Today, I thought I would give you the recipe for this sweet treat--Welsh Cakes. They are a delightful afternoon snack and, if you're not eating them right off the griddle, just wrap a couple in a paper towel and warm them in the microwave for about 15 seconds. They are delicious!

I hope you like my new background on this blog. I thought a new stage in its writing called for a new design.

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
¾ cup sugar
1 tsp. nutmeg
1 cup shortening
1 cup currants
2 eggs
6 tbsp. milk
Sift dry ingredients in bowl. Cut in shortening. Add currants. Beat eggs and milk. Add to fruit and flour. Mix well. Divide dough into 4 parts. Roll out to ¼ inch thick. Cut with cookie cutter. Bake on ungreased skillet (350 degrees F.) for 5 – 10 minutes on each side.
Yield: 3 dozen.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Sun Dance

This is the last entry in Welsh Cakes: Book of Short Stories. It is more of a descriptive passage than a story. It is very short so I have included the whole piece. Now that the stories in the book are finished, nest week I will start something new.

Winter and summer, I sit in my morning space and write. I watch the sun come up—later in winter than summer—but every day it comes and begins its morning dance.
In summer I see the light shine over the leaves dappling them in green and yellow shades, their breeze-rippled surface dancing green to yellow to green. The sun jumps through the windowpane and lands on the carpet in front of me. Picking up its dance on my own private stage, it moves in seductive steps of muted light and shadow from yellow to grey to yellow.
In winter the sun lands its cool light through prisms. Touching down on snow crystals it sparks ice diamonds of red and blue, green and gold. The sun’s winter light awakens the colors into dance and frost reflects in rainbow hues then rests back into white, as the sun arcs low in the sky and passes across the snow-covered earth.
I sit in my morning writing space and like an artist with her brush and paint; I try to capture the dance in pen and ink.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Boot Boy and the Duke

This short-short story from my book of short fiction, Welsh Cakes: Book of Short Stories, was written when I was involved in Literacy work with adults. I was a tutor with the Literacy Society of South Muskoka.

The story begins:
"Once upon a time there were two babies born on the same day, on the same estate. One was born to the Duke and Duchess amidst great celebration, while the other was born to a lowly servant and his wife in a hut at the edge of the property. This was the poor couple’s thirteenth child and though they were happy at his birth, it meant another mouth to feed with the same amount of money.

"The Duke’s son was given the best of education and learnt many things out of books. As he grew up, he traveled far and wide and saw much that interested him. He met many kings and queens in many lands and, after some time, chose the most beautiful of all the princesses and married her.

"The servant’s son became the boot boy at the age of six. He had to be up early every morning, cleaning and polishing the many boots and shoes in the manor house. He had no time for learning and even if he had, there was no one who would teach him. He never traveled from the estate and knew nothing of other lands and their people.

"But the resident doctor took a liking to the boy and taught him the alphabet and showed him how to use herbs to help people who were sick."

The story goes on through the lives of these two people until the day of their deaths. St Peter asked the same question to each of them. “Have you read the words of my letter? The ones that say, ‘Whatever gift each of you may have received, use it in service to one another, like good stewards dispensing the grace of God in its varied forms.’”

Though the Duke's answer was in the affirmative St. Peter was not impressed. Yes, he had read the words but he had not acted on them. Peter tells him that he must go to the bottom level of heaven where he must stay until he learned to share his gifts with others.

The boot boy's answer to St. Peter was in the negative “ 'Even though you did not know these words nor could you read them,' said St. Peter, 'yet you have acted upon their spirit. You have shared with others the gifts God gave to you. So you will come to the uppermost level of heaven and join with the saints and angels around God’s throne.'

"Peter opened the gate and the boot boy entered the kingdom of God while the Duke was escorted to the lowest level to learn how to use and share God’s gifts with others."

This story is like a little parable or fable which tells us that if we have reading and writing skills it is important that we use them for the good of others.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Red Sky at Night

This is a short-short story from Welsh Cakes: Book of Short Stories based on a border town conflict between the Welsh on one side of the border and the English on the other. Stories of strange goings-on in the area had reached the newspaper The Daily Rumor and Geoff Gordon, a newspaper correspondent, had been sent to cover the story. He is the narrator of this story, which begins:

“Middletown, England: On March 1st 2000, St. David’s Day I arrived at this border town in response to a tip, sent to our Fleet Street Office, about strange goings on in this area. The border I’m speaking about is the one between England and Wales. St. David is the patron saint of Wales and much celebrated across the border from here and mostly ignored in this English town.
"The strange goings on, aforementioned, have been taking place since January 1st 2000, the first day of the new millennium and have escalated to mammoth proportions over the last few weeks. They were building up, according to our source, to a one night stand of terror to be laid upon the English on St. David’s Day.
"This was no man’s doing, we were told, but that of the Welsh Dragon, protector of Wales. Long ago thought to be slain by some power hungry duke or prince, he appears to have risen up to come to the aid of the Celtic people. Whether this is the slain dragon risen like a phoenix from the ashes, or her offspring recently come to maturity, our source did not know. But that the border town of Middletown was in the grip of fear he could attest and the town’s people wanted some witness of the promised wrath to come upon the community this first night of March 2000. ...
"I stayed inside till morning with the rest of the men. They held their weapons at the ready while they slept in discomfort on the upright wooden chairs. At dawn, before coffee, before breakfast, before putting our artillery away, we went outside into the still acrid air. Devastation had come in the night. A field of winter wheat was burnt to ashes; the trees stood blackened and charred, a couple of thatched cottages were gutted.
"I took photographs of the destruction because the familiar action kept me from moaning in despair. I saw one tree with a human face like a church gargoyle burned into its trunk. The locals said it looked like Murdoch the town mayor and he’s certainly nowhere to be found. He’d been giving the Welsh across the border a hard time about coming into Middletown and shooting the rabbits and he’d pooh-poohed all this talk of the Welsh Dragon returning to the land. Late at night, the Dragon Wheel’s patrons told me, if he got drunk enough and there was a Welshman in the pub he would sing the old ditty, “Taffy was a Welshman, 'Taffy was a thief, Taffy came to our house and stole a leg of beef.' ...”

The moral of this story, I suppose, is that one should never put down another country even if it is only in fun. The spirits, gods, or dragons of that country might well take umbrage and take revenge.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Summers and Summers

This short-short story in Welsh Cakes: Book of Short Stories, is in two parts and was written, originally, as a writing exercise of how to tell the same story from two different points of view for a Novel Writing Course. It is longer than my normal post for this blog, but in order for you to get the gist of it, you need to see the whole thing.

"Part One: The Man
Archibald Summers wriggled his toes in a useless effort to rid himself of the gritty sand that had found its way into his open sandals. The slight breeze off the sea whispered through the thick hairs on his arms and legs but did little to cool his sun-scorched bald head. Trickles of sweat ran down his back and settled in the waistband of his shorts in a tight soggy band.
None of this discomfort swayed him from his steady gaze out to sea. He knew the ocean liner would appear on the horizon at any moment and then his body could go into the action its aching muscles craved.
Archie’s sea-doo was on the deserted beach ready to transport him and his package to his rendezvous with the ship’s captain. He had secreted the government papers, wrapped in their protective oilskin covering, in a rock cleft.
He was sure he had not been followed but his years of training and experience caused him to be cautious. His employer did not pay him these large sums of money to make mistakes.
At the appearance of the vessel in the distance, Archie dropped the binoculars to his chest and wiped the circles of sweat from his eyes. Steadying the glasses with a light hand he prepared to move toward the beach.
He hesitated as some sixth sense caused the hairs on the nape of his neck to stand up. Goose flesh rose on his skin with a cold prickling sensation. He whirled round and his eyes took in the person before him in a glance: the army fatigues, the eyes hidden behind dark glasses, the camouflaging scarf around the nose and mouth.
He estimated the size and strength of his opponent and moved to grasp the hand that held the knife, rendering it useless. Archie swung the lithe body around with little effort and clasped his would-be attacker in a strangle hold. Pathetic animal sounds came from his stalker’s throat.
Archie steeled himself for a counter attack as his captive’s left hand rose up in slow determination. Then, recognizing the distinctive family ring, he released his hold on his daughter, turned her round to face him and embraced her.
Archie hardly felt the knife as Josephine plunged it through his cotton shirt, under his rib cage and into his heart. He fell to the ground and attempted a smile to reassure her. He knew she’d done what she’d been sent to do and was proud of her.
In his last conscious moments Archie wondered whether she would be skilled enough to find the hidden package. He wanted her to succeed but not her mission; though he was well aware that, in the espionage business, she could not have one without the other.

Part Two: The Woman
Josephine Summers had committed the details of her assignment to memory. She turned with confidence onto the dirt road, pulled into the bush and concealed her motorcycle. She hiked along the trail, ignoring the sweat that ran down her chest and settled in the elastic of her bra. Her camouflage fatigues and combat boots were good protection from the rough terrain.
As she neared the sea, bush gave way to sparse grasses and Jo dropped to her knees at the foot of the incline. She sneered at the sight of her target standing in full view at the top of the rise, his back toward her. His holiday shirt and shorts in their bright Hawaiian colors made him an easy mark.
Josephine made her way up the bank. She was sure that any sound she made would be attributed to the breeze that played in gentleness through the sedge grass. Her knife was ready in her hand and she stood upright prepared to strike. In an instant her intended victim whirled round to face her and she lost her advantage.
He grasped her right wrist with such strength that she was helpless to wield her weapon. He twisted her round and imprisoned her in a choke-hold so that she was unable to speak. Her heart pounded in her ears.
Jo raised her left hand in a slow motion and felt her captor tense as he prepared himself for a counter attack. Then he released his grip and turned her round to embrace her. He must have seen the family ring on her finger.
Josephine took full advantage of her opportunity. She plunged the knife under Archie’s rib cage and into his heart. She ignored the chill that ran through her as she saw the look of pride and forgiveness pass across the face of the one person in her life who had shown her love.
Archibald lay helpless on the ground. For a moment Jo’s feet noticed the weight of the combat boots she wore and the irritating itch of the prickly heat on her body. She had experienced this before, and been trained to disregard it and concentrate only on the job at hand.
She turned away and saw the sea-doo waiting at the end of the deserted beach. To complete her mission she had only to find and retrieve the package of classified documents and return them to her employer.
Josephine walked down to the shoreline, looked around as her father had taught her and walked forward to a rock cleft. She felt the oilskin covered package under her hand and removed it from its hiding place. She walked away without looking back at her father’s lifeless body."

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Writer

This is another postcard story from Welsh Cakes: Book of Short Stories. It is written in the voice of the author's cat. It begins as follows:
"My name is Jack. I am a brown tabby, male. Well, I used to be male. I am six years old and I’ve been with my mistress for six months. She adopted me from the humane society. She says that on the whole I’m a good cat; the only thing I do that she doesn’t like is scratch the furniture. But, what’s a cat to do? You’ve got to keep your claws sharpened up for those mice.
My mistress is a writer. She likes playing with words almost as much as I like playing with mice, but she doesn’t need long claws for typing so it’s hard for her to understand my situation.
She has many names for me. Jack in the Box, Jack O’lantern, Jack of all trades, Jackpot, Natterjack, Hijack, Jack be nimble, Jackson, Mr. Jackson (when you’re this big they call you mister), Jack in the pulpit. She says my name 'lends itself', whatever that means, and she plans to write some stories about me under my different titles.
The name 'Natterjack' is the one she likes best. She found it quite by accident when she was looking up 'nattier blue' in the dictionary. Natterjack is a species of small toad with a yellow stripe down its back; it runs instead of hops. Well, I do run a lot and I rarely hop, and I do have stripes down my back though they’re not yellow, and I do talk a lot, so I think this name is quite appropriate for me."

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Old Bones

This postcard story written in Welsh Cakes: Book of Short Stories, was originally written for Halloween. It has memories of student nursing days from 50 years ago. The story is so short, it is given in its entirety.

What Old Bones had been called when he was clothed in the flesh and walked the earth he couldn’t remember. His brain was pickled in formaldehyde and sat in a jar on a laboratory shelf, and his memories came to him now through his bones. He was left alone in his closet for days and months on end—the instructor brought him out in front of the class only when he wanted to give particular emphasis to a certain bone. Little else happened that would jog his memory these days.
Old Bones did remember, however, that tonight was All Hallows’ Eve; and it gave him a thrill knowing that he might be hi-jacked from his hook. Tonight, a medical student might carry him to the nurses’ residence, enter a room, and place the skeleton’s trembling bones between cool cotton sheets. He wouldn’t be able to smell the perfume, his olfactory sense lay with his brain in the jar of formaldehyde, but the feel of the sheets as they caressed his frame would be enough to stimulate his scent memory.
Old Bones felt himself become young in spirit in anticipation of the evening ahead; his jaw chattered and his bones rattled with excitement at tonight’s possibilities. Perhaps the nurse would take him in her arms and dance with him down the corridor of the nurses’ residence. If not, Old Bones would do a tap dance of his own in honor of this night.
Halloween was Old Bones’ very own celebration, his patronal festival, so to speak. He would make the most of it before the moon was set this night and the sun rose to shine its rays on empty eye sockets. Old Bones gave himself a shake. This was no time to think thoughts of melancholy; he had 364 other days for that.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Never Too Soon

I saw her on a hot summer day, one of those sidewalk-shimmering July days, more typical of Toronto than Muskoka. Her grey hair was pulled into a bun, and her blue silk dress told of a more gracious time. She stood on the curb watching the traffic, hesitant, unsure of herself.
I finished my errands and had almost forgotten her. But there she was, still standing on the sidewalk, as if the cement had set around her feet and held her to the ground.
I put aside my ‘mustn’t get involved’ thoughts.
“Do you need help?” I said.
“I’m waiting for a ride. Jean said she would pick me up and take me across to the other mall. It’s too far to walk.”
“I could take you, if you like,” I said, “I’m going there, anyway.”
I thought she might be too afraid to accept a ride from a stranger, you hear so many bad things on the news these days, but it made me feel better that I’d offered.
“Thank you, it’s very hot standing here.”
I helped her into the car and buckled her into the seat belt. The whole exercise took no more than a couple of minutes of my time. I gave her my name and address before we parted.
“Thank you,” she said. Her voice crackled like radio static and a smile crinkled her face.
A few days later I got a note in the mail.
“Dear Grace, At eighty years of age you don’t expect to make new friends, but I made a new friend today. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, ‘You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.’ Thanks for not being too late, Iris.”

This story is based on an actual event. This lady was a writer and I visited her in her apartment and helped her with some writing about her life that she wanted to record for her family. A couple of years after we met, she passed away. I was glad I had got to know her.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Music of the Night

This is another short-short story from Welsh Cakes: Book of Short Stories with a widow living alone and lonely, missing her husband's presence.
The venue of this story is a house in Toronto, where I lived for many years, and the situation is summed up in the following words from the story:
"She listened to the sounds of the night. The reggae music poured into the darkness and mixed with the sounds of laughter and bottle clinking. Smells of late night cooking rose from hibachis and seeped through her screened protection.
The Saturday summer gatherings were regular rituals in the back lane and Dorothy hated them. She knew that the morning would reveal unpleasant sights of litter, broken beer bottles and the mark of men on the garage doors; the smell would be rife in the hot humidity.
Even though she dreaded these nights, she felt sorry for these immigrants who were taken advantage of by landlords getting rich off their desperation. Dorothy understood their need to escape from the dark and airless rooms in which their poverty forced them to live; their need to go into the night air, to sit on fire escapes and in concrete yards without walls.
They were full of hope when they came to Canada, and an infusion of the music of their homeland was a renewal of optimism to them like an infusion of blood would replenish the white blood cells of a leukemia victim."
The story ends with a decision to make a new beginning:
"Dorothy rose from her bed and began another day of putting her life in order. She turned the radio up in an attempt to let its music and talk drown out her thoughts and heart beat. She had to stop grieving soon and listen for a new beat, a new song, a new voice. Perhaps today she would take her daughter’s advice and look for an apartment and open her heart to a fresh start. The music of the night had forced her into an awareness of a life grown stale. She made up her mind. She must begin again and this time she would, as the old song said, begin the beguine."

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Holy Week

Through Lent’s discipline,
Journey’s road
Becomes repaired.
Vigilance discovers debris;
Diligence repairs
The potholes on the path.
Stones are rolled away
Life is renewed,

New fire is lit,
Kindled from last year’s
Forgotten promises and
Rituals are gathered together,
Built into a funeral pyre.

New fire is kindled from
Old dead deeds; new light
Flames in heart and soul.
Let us rekindle
Promises of devotion;
Exchange new lives for old.

© Judith Lawrence 2010

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

This Is Your Life

This is another short-short story in Welsh Cakes: Book of Short Stories. The basis for this story is the old TV program that showed the life of a person through the eyes of different people who had known him or her at various life stages. The person was presented at the end of the evening with a book of his or her life. This is the story of a fictional teacher. She is retired and is asked to make a presentation about someone whom she has known. Estelle agrees but was none too pleased. "Estelle hung up the phone. Always someone else in the limelight, she thought. Even now, when I've had my first novel published at almost eighty years of age, my ex-student gets recognized ahead of me. How old would Martin be now? Forty? Half my age! Writes those self-help books and makes a fortune off other people's inability to make their own decisions. Oh well! Never mind! It will be a night out and I don't get many of those now. I'll get Joyce to make sure that I look presentable. She's always been a good daughter to me. I think she had a thing for Martin at one time." So she prepared her speech about Martin and was totally taken by surprise when the evening began with the introduction, "Born in 1920, in this very town; devoted almost forty years to teaching here in Crane High, Estelle Samoth, THIS IS YOUR LIFE."

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Ice Storm

This is another postcard story from Welsh Cakes: Book of Short Stories; and, again, it is narrated by an elderly woman. I wrote this story after a particularly devastating ice storm in January 1998. Many people had no power for many days and elderly people, in particular, suffered and some died from hypothermia. I am putting this story in its totality.
My teeth chatter and my body shudders deep inside, so that my muscles and spine ache from the effort. The layering of clothes isn't helping at all and I fantasize about lying naked inside a sleeping bag next to Joe's unclad body. If I could wrap my arms around him and entwine my legs with his, skin touching bare skin, I would feel better.
I can't feel my toes, not even a tingle. My fingers are waxy-white like the emergency candles we keep in the kitchen drawer. The candles are almost finished, burned down to streaky grey-black stubs. I hold up my bloodless fingers in front of my eyes and contemplate snapping them off at the knuckles like frozen twigs and striking a match to them to light the dark.
A cup of tea would be nice, but there's no power. I'd have some brandy even though I'm teetotal, but Joe finished the bottle a while ago. Doesn't look like it did him much good.
“At a hundred degrees below zero, I button up my vest.”
I shake myself to stop the words of Joe’s firewood song repeating in my brain like a needle stuck in the worn groove of an old 78. With a final hiccup the singing stops in response to a loud knock on the front door. A young chap in army fatigues, no older than our Billy would have been next birthday, peers at me with eyes wide and bright from too little sleep and too much coffee.
“I'd better take you somewhere warm, ma'am,” he says.
“We'll wait. Joe'll feel better when the guy comes with the generator to warm the house through.”
“I'd better take a look at Joe,” he says.
He comes in without so much as a “by your leave” and walks over to where Joe propped himself up next to the wood stove last night.
“Ma'am, he don't look so good. I'd better get him to the hospital.”
“I told him we should get naked together in the sleeping bag. But he never would let his skin touch mine, something to do with his religion he always said. I told him, that's the way God made us, Joe, naked. That's the way we came into the world and that's the way we'll go out.”
“Ma'am, will you come with me to the hospital?”
“Billy? My, you've grown tall. Are you taking your dad and me home?”
“Yes, ma'am. Let's go home.”

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Green Carpet

This post is about The Green Carpet, a postcard story from Welsh Cakes: Book of Short Stories. The story is narrated by an elderly woman who is standing at the graveside of her recently deceased husband. She has been married to her husband for so many years that she has trouble thinking of him not being there when she returns to their home following the funeral. "This ceremony is outside of me, apart from my reality. When it is finished, I will return home and tell you of my morning's experience as I always do. We will have lunch and all will be as it was before...My eyelids are cold behind my glasses. The tears collect at the corners of my eyes and run slowly down my cheeks. I look up and see the snow falling in big flakes, gathering on the carpeted mound. The snow will blanket the earth and settle on your grave. It is the right time in the seasons' circle for death to come upon you. It will be your winter's hibernation. I break free from my son's support and walk toward the mound. I reach under the coarse green covering and my hand closes around the cold wet earth. I throw the clod into the hole and it breaks into tiny pearl size offerings. It is my last gesture of love for you. I turn away, the smell of earth's promise of new life still on my fingers."

Saturday, February 27, 2010


This is a short-short story based on an actual event. Some years ago, when I was in the convent and traveling to England to see my family, my luggage was misplaced. When one traveled as a nun, one often got unwanted attention. For instance, once a very drunk passenger came and knelt in the aisle next to me begging me to hold up the plane. I wished the flight attendant would do something but she, I'm sure, was only too glad to have him focus on me and not hold her up from her many duties. "The carousel went round and round, empty at first, then a suitcase bumped down, then another and another, as if someone had opened a dam causing a waterfall of luggage to flow into a meandering river. The crowd was close and thick around the carousel; I could smell the tired bodies and the alcohol breath on the more vocal ones. I waited in stillness, long black robes keeping me apart from the others even though I was in the midst of them...I walked to the exit to look for some place to report my loss. There was my bag on the floor and I wished that I had looked around earlier. Then I smiled, allowing myself a picture of the robber as he investigated the name and address on the baggage tag. I shared the joke with God, imagining the thief's shock when he saw he had taken a suitcase full of nun's paraphernalia...Holy baggage, Angels! God works in mysterious ways!"

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Reception Room

This postcard story is given in its entirety. This is the reception room where I had my first interview with the Mother Superior before entering the convent where I subsequently spent 16 years. The sisters now have a new convent so this is a story that has historical significance. The building is now being used as a Roman Catholic school.
"The reception room was small. It was no more than a bulge at the end of a corridor, for it was here that the original grey stone house connected to the red brick addition by means of a second door. The fireplace with its marble surround cried out for the crackle of logs; and each tick of the brass domed clock on the carved mantle piece held a moment of waiting, as if the room longed for its earlier life.
The window seat, now a shelf for potted African violets in colors of white through pink to deep purple, called for the long forgotten chintz-covered cushions. The oak-paneled wall seemed to anticipate the imminent return of family photographs, while it fulfilled its temporary duty as backdrop to a wooden crucifix and a portrait of the Mother Foundress.
I sat on one of the chairs, their needlepoint seats and backs reminiscent of days gone by, and awaited my appointment with the Mother Superior. The hardwood floor beneath my feet drummed the footsteps of long dead patients, for this had been a doctor’s house. The patients’ ghosts released hundreds of butterflies satisfying their search of a home by invading my stomach."

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

What Happened Here?

This is a postcard story--a story that is very brief. It is a story where nothing actually happens but something almost did. The potential for changed lives is enormous but nothing happened. The female narrator of the story realises what could have happened and is affected by the whole non-event. "'O, my God!' The words came to my lips, drawing in a prayer breath, and holding it in my heart. It took a few seconds, no more, for the car to run the red light. It missed the child, whose outstretched hand pointed her way across the street as the lighted sign instructed..." The narrator wonders what had caused the driver to run the red light. He was apparently unaware of what almost happened. "I'm a little more aware of my actions today," the narrator says, "s little less sure that I'll arrive at my destination, a little more thankful for my life and loved ones. I call my husband when I get to work, just to check in. I say a prayer for the unknown driver and for the little girl. And I say thank you for the guardian angels."

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Picnic Table

About 15 years ago I had aspirations to write a book about Muskoka Lodges and, to this end, I went to visit a lot of holiday lodges for research purposes. Some of the lodges are open in the winter time and I visited a particular lodge in the month of February. I did a lot of work on my proposed book but it didn't come to fruition. However, I did get much fodder for short stories and The Picnic Table was one of them. It begins, "I ask for a table by the window. No matter that it's an overcast day in February; I want to see the lake. Through the grey-white opacity of winter-ice rises an abandoned picnic table. It awaits a fresh coat of paint, something to give it value, something to say it's wanted, needed." This is a story of a woman who feels like this picnic table. She has come to the resort to recover memories of her summer holiday with Paul, a man who has promised that he will leave his wife and child to be with her. Of course, this hasn't happened and she feels betrayed. As she drives on the highway, "The drone of the engine gives rise to thoughts I should not allow myself--jealous thoughts of Paul living with his wife and child all those months, while I waited on the side-lines for a crumb of his love." She is distracted and not concentrating on the task at hand. What happens next brings her to her senses.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

No Danger

This short-short story is about living alone in a rural area, far from hearing ears should one be in danger, loving the seclusion but nervous of any approaching strangers. The dialogue in this story is a dance of words between an intruder who says she is searching for her lost dog and the owner of the property who doesn't want to show her fear but is wary of the intruder's intentions. The owner's dog, once a good watch dog but now old and deaf, sleeps through the conversation despite the owner's prodding foot. "A million mosquitoes are crawling in the woman's hair and she slaps at them with no effect. I feel sorry for her and think of inviting her into the protection of the porch. Then, a recent report of a robber who took advantage of someone's kindness flashes through my mind and I withdraw my hand from the cool iron of the door latch...'I'll call if I see him.' I want to terminate the visit. She turns away and disappears into the shaded driveway. Five minutes later my dog wakes up and sniffs the air. She barks once, a sharp warning bark, then sighs and goes back to sleep. I think of what my life would be like without her. 'Good dog.' "

Monday, January 25, 2010

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Long and Winding Road

Another short-short story based on a memory from over 50 years ago, a time when I was only 17 and just beginning to step out on a life away from home and a job where I lived in residence with other women. At that time, when I was leaving the proverbial nest and beginning on a nursing career. I had thought I would go into teaching but found that the pre-university courses at high school were too much for me. I left school abruptly and didn't know what to do with my life. My sister-in-law was a nurse and she suggested that I might like to try nursing and with her help I entered into life as a nurse with the thought of going on to train as a registered nurse when I was 18. The Sanatorium was a T.B. hospital where all the patients had tuberculosis in some form or other. As I was under 18 I worked in the children's ward where there were no infectious cases--the children had bone or glandular T.B. I had suffered from T.B. of the neck glands when I was younger caused by drinking unpasteurized milk so I already had resistance to T.B. anyway. The Sanatorium was out in the country, at least a mile away from where the bus that brought me from my days off with my brother and sister-in-law dropped me. This particular story tells of a day in late fall when I had miscalculated the hours of daylight. I arrived at the end of the road when it was getting dark with no lights on this country road. Susan's young imagination takes over and the snort and great shape of a cow in a farmer's field becomes a monster in her mind. "The final curve of the road came at last and, beneath the shining light, the Sanatorium's iron gates stood open in welcome. The path to the nurses' residence was well lit by tall lamps hovering over the walkway." This story does not end here but one more paragraph takes the reader into pure fiction giving a surprise and not so pleasant ending.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Teapot

The Teapot is a postcard story in Welsh Cakes: Book of Short Stories. It takes a look at Marilyn's new found freedom after being divorced by Sam after 25 years of marriage. Sam thought he was getting the best of the deal but he missed Marilyn and the life he had with her, the life he gave up so quickly and without thought for Marilyn's feelings. "Marilyn opened the front door just as Sam had his hand up to ring the chimes. 'Hello, Sam. Bye, Sam.' She pushed a black and white teapot, shaped like a cow, into his hands. 'Take this out of my way, would you Sam? I've got no use for it. Give it to Cora, I'm sure she'll love it.'...Sam watched her drive away like a sad puppy looking through the window as his people went off on a trip." The teapot, a gift given by Sam to Marilyn on her 45th birthday, is a symbol of how little this man knew or understood about his wife or his marriage to her, and how much Marilyn had gained in her life after Sam divorced her.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Dust of Days

This is the first of 24 short stories in Part Three of Welsh Cakes: Book of Short Stories. This section consists of Postcard and Short-short stories. Dust of Days was written originally for my local writer's group, and the title was taken from a phrase in a book I was reading at the time. The story begins: "The dust of days settled on everything. The land was dry. There had been no rain for months. I wandered from room to room, carrying the duster in my hand. It was a useless task, this dusting. All it did was move the dust into the air only to fall, a moment later, onto another surface." The story finishes: "Released, in an hour of rain, was the long pent up energy of the dust of days."