Zēngzǔfù’s Bridge

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Photo: pngtree.com

 

He had made the pilgrimage as promised. He didn’t know if he believed the ancestors would know he’d kept his word, but life was complicated enough without angering spirits, ancestral or not.

And it would have made his mother happy to know he’d visited the bridge his great-great-great-great-grand (or however many generations it was) had helped build. She’d always longed to make the trip back herself, and couldn’t.

“The sweat of your ancestor dripped into the stones,” his mother had told him, “his blood and thus yours lives in them.”

He heard her voice in Jia’s when the child, sober in pigtails and pink frilly dress, studied the structure. “So this is where we came from?”

He nodded.

His daughter walked to the first pile and touched it reverently. “Zēngzǔfù built this one,” the six-year-old stated. “Nǎinai told me. She showed me in my dream last night.”

 

 

 

For What Pegman Saw: Jaingxi province of China

 

Nest Egg

a view of the island of tortolia, british virgin islands

Photo: silvervoyager

 

It was the view that caught his heart when they’d first visited Tortola. The twins had just turned ten. He’d gotten a miserable case of traveler’s diarrhea and spent two days cocooned inside Aunt Essie’s cottage while everyone else was at the beach. He’d initially felt sorry for himself, but then the quietude enveloped him, and he found himself cherishing the time away from chit-chatter and the demands of the children, love them though he did.

He’d recovered sufficiently by the third day, and the shore was fabulous. Still a piece of him remained on the cottage’s porch, gazing into the horizon, sipping bland tea, and feeling a calm he hadn’t known possible.

They’d visited several more times over the years and when Aunt Essie died, she left him the cottage to sell, “for a nest-egg.”

The boys were in college. Bernice had moved on. He decided to move in.

 

 

For What Pegman Saw: British Virgin Islands

 

The Cost of Living

smallpox hospital Roosevelt Island IngeVandormael

Photo: Inge Vandormael

 

She had come to make a new life.

She found illness. She found death.

And life, perhaps, hiding in the shadows

Of her convalescing sorrow,

Waiting

To take hold.

 

She had come in search of meaning.

She found a babble of confusion.

Within. Without.

Rising skyward. Buried underground.

She found hope, too. For things she didn’t know

Even had names

But sprouted meaning

In the corners of what she believed

Was ruined,

But had in fact been opened

To allow in the winds of change.

 

She came seeking answers,

And found the cost

Of living

Paid for little more than added questions,

And that she had to look

Quite closely

At what wasn’t there,

To find

What she did not even know

She had been searching for.

 

 

 

Photo: The old Smallpox Hospital on Roosevelt Island (a narrow island set in the East River between Queens and Manhattan).

For What Pegman Saw: Manhattan Island

 

Tempting Karma

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Photo: canesjurij on Pixabay

 

“I’ll be building what?”

“Holzhausen. Firewood stacks.” Brother Joosep pointed at several rounded structures that looked like hermit huts (and that I had desperately hoped were not accommodation for trekker volunteers).

I didn’t know whether to be happy these weren’t meant as my lodging, or to be terrified at the prospect of having to produce one of those. The contraptions had to be twenty feet tall, and I could not imagine how anyone pulls out a piece of wood without the whole thing toppling on their heads. The mere thought of the Karmic penalty for causing the death of a monk was giving me palpitations.

“Do you need anyone to peel potatoes?” I tried.

The monk grinned. “Brother Ruuben, our cook, has all the hands he requires at the moment. However, we might need you to bring in some wood later. It helps ward off the evening chill.”

 

 

For What Pegman Saw: Estonia

Trivia: Holzhausen are a centuries old European method of stacking firewood. Many are about 2 meters tall (6-9 feet), though some – as in the above photo from a Monastery in Estonia – can be upward of 6 meters in height (~ 20 feet). Holzhousen are self-standing structures that are reportedly quick to make and don’t need to be braced. The circular format is not only self-supporting but provides good airflow for split wood to dry quickly. As the wood is stacked, rows are angled down slightly toward the center. This helps drain rain and melted snow and helps support the tapering of the stack.

 

Radium Springs Roulette

radium springs ga casino pc

 

“Well then,” Mom exclaimed.

She was going over Poppa’s papers while I boxed seemingly endless books.

I looked up. There was an album in her lap, black pages empty but for an old postcard.

“He denied it when I’d said he’d taken me there,” Mom whispered. “I was young and believed him, but my heart knew all the same.”

I shook my head. Poppa was as straight-laced as they came.

“He gambled,” she explained. “A salesman meant frequent traveling. He used it to hide visits to casinos.”

She fingered the card. “Radium Springs Casino. I knew I hadn’t dreamed this place. The deep blue water wove tightly with the wheel.”

I gazed at the memento. At my mom.

“I was not-yet-four,” she sighed. “Thomas was just born and Dad took me to ‘work’ so Mom could rest. He played the roulette. … Perhaps his keeping of the card was another gamble.”

 

 

For What Pegman Saw: Radium Springs, GA

 

Mumbai Muscle

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Photo: Simon on Pixabay

 

“This is too much.” Prama frowned at the heaped cart. “I don’t know how he’ll manage.”

“He will,” Abhi responded. He did not like the meddling of women in his business. Never had. But now that one of his eyes rested in a trash heap, he knew that customers found the presence of his wife reassuring. Better they talk to her than stare into his eye-patch and worry about the evil crouched behind it.

“Gaju is no longer a young man,” Prama insisted.

“Do not try my patience, woman!” Abhi growled. “Gaju feeds his family by the kilo-carried. Let a man earn a wage.”

“You could pay him more per kilo,” she shook her head at him, unimpressed. “You know he is too old to be hired by someone else and cannot lose this job. You overload his cart. Take care you aren’t also overloading your Karma in the process.”

 

 

For What Pegman Saw: Mumbai, India

Perfect View

aerial photography of tree surrounded with fogs

Photo: Markus Spiske on Pexels.com

 

“There!” Angelo pointed.

“There what?” Payton panted

“There if you bother to lift your head.”

Payton scowled but was more occupied with getting oxygen into his lungs than wasting it on responses. He was sure that Angelo-The-Braggadocio had set the punishing pace deliberately to get him gasping. Not everyone climbed mountains for recreation!

The stitch in his side finally subsided enough to allow him to remove his fists from his thighs and straighten to take in the “amazing vista” Angelo had promised.

Dense fog. Vague tree tops. Milky air.

“There goes nothing,” Payton grouched.

Angelo chuckled and the saturated air softened the sound into something almost vulnerable.

Payton glanced at his friend. Glanced again. Was the wet on Angelo’s cheeks mist or liquid feelings?

“It is the perfect view,” Angelo murmured, his oft guarded face as open as a child’s. “To be inside Big Sky is to revisit Heaven.”

 

 

For What Pegman Saw: Big Sky Montana

 

 

The Chief’s Command

Ethiopia OfirAsif12

Photo: Ofir Asif

 

“They are not welcome here,” the Chief decreed.

His eyes regarded the troop that was his to protect. The land was plentiful, but his soul recalled the stories of Times of Famine, when many had been reduced to skin and bone and many more had died. Legend had it that The Others had brought it on, had taken more than was their share, and angered rain from falling, seeds from growing.

He sensed Bannu’s discontent. Chiefs didn’t have to grant permission for anyone’s opinion. Life showed him, however, that good Chiefs balanced silencing with persuading.

“Bannu?” he grunted.

“What if they return with more of their kind?” The youngster’s sparse ruff bristled apprehension.

The Chief nodded. Foresight was rare. The youth had potential. It also made him someone to watch out for.

“If they challenge us,” the Chief bared teeth and growled an answer and a warning. “We fight.”

 

 

For What Pegman saw: Ethiopia

 

No Chicken, No Egg.

bridal_veil_falls_sign_in_provo_canyon

Photo: An Errant Knight @ Wikimedia Commons

 

“The sign says not to hike beyond this point.”

“Signs can’t talk,” Jerry guffawed, “and anyway, that’s just legal butt-covering.”

Robert looked at the icy terrain. It looked awfully slippery. It was getting late and they still needed to hike back. He didn’t think they should continue. He also hated being Nagging Grandma. He shrugged.

Bennett elbowed him and pushed to the lead. “Well, I’m no sissy. All the fun’s up there. Road less traveled and all that.”

Robert’s neck warmed at the insult. Bennett always had to make things a competition, including who was Jerry’s ‘real’ friend and who the fifth-wheeler.

“You coming or you chicken?” Bennett sniggered.

“Last one up’s a rotten egg!” Jerry grinned.

The two barreled ahead.

Robert trudged below them, full of dread.

Later he would wonder how to tell their parents that chicken and rotten egg were the last words they ever said.

 

 

For What Pegman Saw: Bridal Veil Falls, Utah

 

Bayou Bridged

City Park (New Orleans) - Wikipedia
City Park, New Orleans (Photo: en.wikipedia.org)

 

They always met in the park. There were spirits there, too, of course: The drowned. The lost. The desperate. The abandoned young. However, these tended to be the milder spirits, mellowed by moss and rain and the freedom to roam on whispery winds. House spirits were harsher, meaner, and angrier. They carried histories of rape and whippings and the smaller everyday murders that chip at a soul until there is nothing left but agony and bitterness.

It was better to meet in the park, on a bridge between this world and the other, chiseled by masons, anchored by time.

She lowered herself onto the top stair and waited. She’d hear him come, but she would not turn. He did not bear to be looked upon.

“I will take him across,” he’d said when they last met. And he had. It was a gentle death.

Now it was her mother’s time.

 

 

For What Pegman Saw