Apollo with Lyre

The small New England town of West Brookfield MA is blessed with a well-preserved and beautiful public common. The land for the common was made possible by the generosity of David Hitchcock and Dwight Foster. In 1791, they both agreed to set aside this space for the benefit of the town and its inhabitants. J. Henry Stickney, in 1874, provided a fund toward the beautification of the space that included planting trees and creating walkways. In 1884, George Rice provided the funding for the construction of a reservoir for fountains installed on the common. Today, the two fountains are in excellent condition. Every day during the warm weather months, the woman with the jar pours out water into the basins. The two thinkers below her ponder the day. And, a little cherub above a public water fountain stands by the road waiting to quench the thirst of anyone walking by.  This is an imaginative story of what the spirits in the statues may have to say about their experiences living among us.

Apollo with Lyre

“My Song, My Song,” finally, it’s in the air. Dear Iris gifted me this lyre on my last birthday. After praying for an age, a way to let out my itch to sing is in my hands. “My Song, My Song!” My fingers sting as I pluck the strings. The tone does sound like the air. The card that came with the present said it all, “better than dry words, better than lonely wind swirls, the lyre will free your spirit to become merry in song. Play your best,” Goddess Iris

My sister Artemis is jealous; all she got was a quiver of arrows and a long bow. The last time I saw her, she was crossing the bridge into Siracusa. She likes to walk under a starry sky with moon shadows all around. “My Song, My Song!” Oh, bliss!

Yesterday was grand. The wind was kind and blew the fountain spray my way. I felt it tickle my wings. I can just about see them over my left shoulder. The naiad, Delfina, and her two friends Tilda and Pastora from Cyprus. I pray the zephyr takes my splendid voice to her tender ears. “My Song, My Song!” Pastora has the garland of marguerites around her neck.

Years ago, I was closer to the women and shared the same water reservoir. When town water lines were dug in, I was moved to give passersby a fresh drink of clean water. I like watching the street and seeing all the humans strolling along. The little kids cool their thirst at the water fountain below. The guy with the beagle always stops and gives his pooch a drink. The bikers fill their bottles. The birds love to fly through the water spray at the women’s fountain. They land on my shoulder and preen a bit.

Temple of Apollo Photo taken at Ortigia May 2015

People call me a chubby angel but that’s not my name. I am the young Apollo with Lyre by Vernetto. My twin sister Artemis and I were born on the islet of Ortigia near the ancient town of Siracusa on the island of Sicily in the Mediterranean Sea. The remains of my temple are still standing near the gateway to Ortigia. The proper name for it is The Apollonion, built in the 6th century B.C. during the Age of the Greeks.  My temple survived the Byzantine Age, Arab Age, and Norman Age and made it to the Spanish conquest of the island in the 1800s. The blocks and columns were taken apart and used to construct other buildings and churches. What stands today is the foundation and a few of the mighty walls to show how grand a place it was.

Artemis has a fantastic fountain built in her honor a few feet away in Archimedes Square. It is a glorious, large tribute to the transformation of the nymph Arethuse into spring water. The mermen ride the sea creatures in the basin pool showing passersby the days of glory when the Greek gods and goddesses ruled the day.

Some of this glory is carved into the base holding me up. Everybody admires the swans and cattails on the plate. You know that is Poseidon’s trident. He gave it to me as a going away present, he said if I am ever homesick and want to visit Mom, just strike the tongs, dive into the sea and it would carry me back to Ortigia. It is studded with pearls and bronze, the tips were made in the furnace at Aetna. It is so special, no one else has one, I am sure.

The little peeps around the foot of the pedestal are my echoes. When I sing, “My Song, My Song” they chime in giving it a little dash of cherub sweetness. I am Apollo, the son of Zeus and Leto. Seekers come to me for healing, truth and prophecy. I am the sun. I am the light. I will help form community. I will protect flocks of animals. I am the god of song and music.

The fountain with the naiad pouring out the water into the basins below is beautiful. The two women sitting underneath are called Meditation. I’ll share a little secret, that pensive air they create with the chin in their hands is really a put on. They just act all serious and calm. Delfina who stands above it all, is watching and they never break their silence with her there. You see, they cannot find the book. They put it down and it “walked away.” It was “stuck” in my hands when I arrived and is now under my left hip. It is my book now. It has the answer to the riddle Delfina asked them. They cannot answer her and are stuck on what to do next. When they answer it right, the jug will finally be empty of water. “My Song, My Song” Oh I love to sing “My Song, My Song”. My joy will never end!

The Fountain of a Naiad with two figures in meditation

Oh my stars! That imp is doing it again! All these years and he has only one tune one simple tune. Why can’t he move it along now? What a bimbotto? (A fat baby.)

My story is ancient. I hear the townspeople talking below and some have said I remind them of Rebekah at the well in the Old Testament. I am a naiad; a water spirit. The spray around the fountain creates water music. I wear a laurel wreath to signify my affinity with Apollo. The Greeks called me a Crinaeae; the spirit of a fountain. My destiny is to pour water from this jar to make the way easy for fertility and wealth. Every morning, Apollo pulls his chariot across the sky and brings us the light. At night, I bathe in sacred moonlight cast by Selene, Artemis and Hecate, the goddesses of the Moon. The stars align and tell me a story. Many creatures come to the fountain in the night. The play of the water lulls us into a transcendental state of being.

The two figures below are indeed from Cyprus. This fountain represents the element of air, water and earth. The water tinkles in the air while the women below ground us. They were very fond of practical jokes and mischief before I gave them something to do. I would not be surprised to discover where Tilda’s missing garland ended up. Our work here is to be beneficial as well as beautiful. The human visitor can look upon us and wonder what are they thinking?

The riddle is: What is always on its way but never arrives?

So, what is the answer?

Every day, we are here. I am as hypnotized as anyone watching and listening to the waters flow. This place gives us something important to do. We were made to be pleasing and so we do. We love sharing our waters with the dogs as they pass by. We love to cool the senses on a hot day. We love to be here and be admired.

I am the naiad of this water fountain. Apollo calls me Delfina. Oh stella! I hope my water jar is never empty. My joy will never end!

by Frances Ann Wychorski

Some of the facts for this story were provided by an article in the Quaboag Historical Society Newsletter, Bringing the Ladies Home: A Brief History of the fountains on the West Brookfield Common by William Jenkins. The full text can be reached by clicking on the link.

Some of the facts for this story were provided by Ortigia: The heart of Syracuse Tourist Guide,  OGB Officina Grafica Bolognese June 2013

The photograph of the Temple of Apollo was taken by the writer on the Island of Ortigia in May 2015. Here is a photo of the magnificent statue of Artemis in Archimedes Square. Sicily is a great vacation destination for those curious about Greek mythology. The ruins and sites are well preserved and numerous on the island. Go for the sun, food and history.

Artemis Photo taken in Ortigia May 2015

Wood Sprite

I twinkle in the twilight by this bend in the river. My name is Adelphi and I was born in the roots of this great old copper beech tree. When I say the magic words, a door appears in the wood. The squirrel hollowed out my little den filling it with thistle-down and moss for my bed. The best thing in the world is to rest in beech while she sways to the rhythm coming up through the soil. The sensation of swirling is always present. She is forever talking to the sky and loves brother sun. The tug of the moon eddy is best of all.

I live in a cove where the river turns in the shy shallow end. The water is calm here. In the warm afternoons, the water striders skate over the surface. Sometimes they let me ride on their backs and we go sliding along. The raccoon always stops here to wash before going to bed for the day. Last night, he got into a nest and had egg all between his toes. A mama bird is very sad now.

The forest always sings, night and day. The chirp of crickets, peep of birds and bustle of bees plays for me. The patter of deer hooves, foxes gentle tread and rabbits silent pass fill my heart with love. What do I do all day? I listen. The water writes new music every moment. It’s always in tune with the great spirit of the forest. Sometimes, I hop a ride on a branch flowing by. We ride the current all the way to the big rock that sits in the middle. I get a ride back from the dragonflies to my beech tree.

There is a water nymph named Xinx under the river bed. I am here to serve her. I’ve never seen her in the daylight. Splash, splash, splash, she wades out every night to tramp into the forest on her midnight rendezvous. The owl knows who she meets but he won’t talk, he just sits up there blinking at me and Hoots! Splash, splash, splash back she comes just before the first wood thrush calls in the dawn. She moves in the mists over the mossy stones. So many stories are here in the river.

Published in the Spencer New Leader, Spencer MA June 30, 2017

Ginger and Me

How strange they are, all green and kaleidoscope colors in the cold twilight. Flash, flash, cascading across the sky. Even Ginger stopped and watched the northern lights. After a few minutes, she snorted and signed almost saying, let’s go home now, let’s go in.

It’d been a long day and when we got to the barn, I was so stiff I couldn’t move, couldn’t swing my leg over the saddle without feeling like I was going to fall down if I touched the ground. I’d been riding since sun up, moving the cattle up to station C. C is for Cavendish but that’s a story for another day.

Ginger is a Mexican horse. She’s almost as old as I am now and loves to roam outside pushing cattle. She’s got a copper chestnut coat with a white sock on her left hind. She stands tall with straight legs and a round barrel. Her face has white flakes all over it that give her a look of being freckled. The first time I saw her was at the spring cookout and hoe down. She was probably three years old and playing in the trough. The water was splashing up and over everything as she pawed it with her front hoof. She raised her head and looked to the sky soaking herself good. Thump, thump, thump, splash! I liked everything about her and when I offered a peppermint over the fence rail, she came right to me. I ruffled her shaggy mane and offered $50 for her.

I brought her back to the ranch where Rusty and me trained her to herd cattle. Ginger has smooth gaits and moves lightly over the ground. She tucks her nose in and moves like a fancy dancy horse. We don’t canter too much. Life on the ranch is mostly about listening to crickets chirp in the grass. When we do, it’s so sweet to feel her take off. When I get the cue just right, it’s like lifting her up and bouncing into the canter. She shifts her weight back and with a big shhhhhhhhhwiiiiiiiishhhhhhhhhhh of her tail, off we rock. She rolls, rolls, rolls along the trail. I love Ginger.

Anyway, spring is trying to arrive early here in Montana. The cattle started shedding out already and get restless easy. It’s after lunch now and Ginger and me were nosing the herd down the north slope when it started to snow. The wind had been turning from the northwest all day. My belly was still warm from the split pea soup and I was dozing in the saddle. Ginger walks so nice and light, she kinda rocked me into a trance. The mooing cows and quiet clouds made it feel like siesta time. Ginger “tripped’ on a stone and woke me up just as I was about to slide off.

hargreavesprairiewinterscenicm6839We looked at the clouds and I swear one was shaped like a big angel. The wind was singing in the prairie grass ruffling Ginger’s mane. She snorted and trotted on. The flakes started falling fast. I heard a big rumble overhead and saw another big cloud roll in. We shivered a little and caught up with the herd.

The big flakes of snow fell on the cows. I watched all the designs form on their black coats. How can each one be different? How can that be? A rhythmic sound started up from all around us. Ginger pranced a bit and turned around looking for something then she looked up at the clouds. I guess it’s true, the angels really do dust heaven out and we were here to see it. Oh wow! They must have gone back to creation cause the mother of all snowflakes fell on the back of cow tagged number 360. I pulled out my rope and measured the flake. Fifteen inches across. I called john Henry and said, hey look at this! John Henry called Caspar over and we all stared at the thing. Wow, the biggest snowflake ever in Montana is on the backside of a cow.

100 miles from nowhere near Fort Keough MT 1887

Manfa ~ Old Maple

manfaEvery year, it’s the same thing. OUCH! The bird with the long beak gives me the needle. I don’t wake up slow and lazy the way I want to, but big and ouchy from that dang flicka drilling on me. It’s not tickling my roots awake, it’s stabbing my veins.

My name is Manfa. I am a big maple tree. I’ve been swaying here for about 100 sleeps. I felt the sun longer on my bark. I felt the winds shift too. The river has been happy and clear flowing by.

I was starting to rise by myself when I was pinged back today. So, I forgot what I was dreaming about too. It was a good one and it’s gone.

I’ll tune in and start to listen for the cackle I love it when the red wing blackbirds arrive. Oh, they make a ruckus and swam my branches.

I see the squirrels moved over to the oak tree this winter. What fun could there be in that one? So stiff and straight. So stingy holding onto it’s leaves still!

I live for the strong winds. I love to feel sister wind push me this way and that. I love when I swing my limbs almost to the ground and bounce back up. Sometimes branches come crashing down but I don’t mind.

Oh that flicka, pecks at my bark and leaves nothing behind but an ouch.

Greetings from far, far away

I’d been listening for the sound a while now. Where are you? Will you come back? The long night sky had come to the tundra. The stars are like clouds now. They are close and blink soft greetings from far far away.

Two years ago, I’d been out on my daily stroll to town when I heard the sound of wings coming closer and closer. A great white something hit the snow bank. A plume of flakes nestled around the bird.

It took me a minute to understand what was happening. Birds land gracefully, this one crashed. I walked over the rise to see what this was all about. There, half buried was a snow-white goose or a swan. I don’t know, but it was laying, panting and shaking all over. It laid its head down on it’s back and became still. A soft wheezing came from its beak.

Maybe it’s tired? I picked up the bird and carefully brought it to Tekee, the shaman who lived over the hill. She had an apartment above the garage, the only garage in town. I kicked at the door cause my hands were filled with bird. She opened the door, looked at it and said, “So?”

“So, aren’t you a healer? What’s with you? What do we do?”

I told her what happened and she said, “So just finish it off and enjoy a roast goose for dinner.”

0580_0Disgusted and shocked, I turned away and headed home. I thought it was a gift from the goddess. I put the swan down in my backyard under the eave. It was a sunny day but the wind had a bite in it. I ran down to the store and bought some canned sardines and fish cakes. The swan was lying still when I returned but I could feel it’s heart beating under my hands. I held out a sardine and didn’t she open her eyes and look at it. Quicker than sunlight, she snatched the fish in her beak and swallowed. In a few minutes, everything was gone down her long white throat.

She gave a soft coo, stood up straight, fluffing out her feathers and took on a regal pose. She blinked three times, stretched her wings wide three times and settled down. “Tea please.” What! “Tea please.” Her light high tone sounded in my ear. “Are you talking to me?” She just stared at me.

snow-goose-007I fixed her a pot of jasmine green tea and brought it to her in a large pail. By gosh, she dank it all down. The swan refreshed, started to tell me all about the long flight from the south. She loved the cold snowy places and darkness of the tundra in winter. She loved to fly in the cold air and feel the icy winds between her feathers. She loved to fly over the frozen lake and see her reflection on the ice. We became friends and I fed her everyday. Her name is Medusine and she is 200 years old.

Every spring, she flies south to spend the warm months at the lake under the mountains. She follows the rivers to her other home. For two years, she has returned to me. There are secrets in her startling sapphire blue eyes. I asked her how can she talk? How come she talks to me?

“Because I like you, and that’s all.”

“Why do you come north for winter?”

”To be with you.”

I pray for her safe return journey every winter. The shaman has become suspicious of what is going on here. Tekee sees the swan flying out during the day and spies on us. Once in a while Tekee is so bold as to creep up and look in the windows. In a flash, Medusine turns herself into a stone of lapis lazuli shaped like a swan. She sits there on the mantel piece ordinary and unnoticed while Tekee makes silly small talk and looks around. Once in a while, one of her feathers stays behind during the transformation. It’s the only sign she has been here.