Wednesday, March 13, 2013

STIRRING THE STAR DUST: A short story about digging.

Welcoming The Folds Of Time Gouache on paper 21 x 29.7 cm 2013

Dear Readers,

I have written another story. This one is called 'Stirring the Star Dust: A story about digging'. I invite you to read and enjoy. Grab a cuppa and let the story dig its way into your imagination.

After reading this new story you might like to read another one I wrote recently...  A Not So Impossible Dream: A story about the Earth and the Universe


Stirring the Star Dust: A story about digging'by Kathryn Brimblecombe-Fox

Some time ago seven people from around the Earth decided to dig tunnels. Jack, a clever young jackaroo, living on an Australian cattle station in far western Queensland started digging. He'd found a spot not far from the cattle yards away from the prying eyes of his boss. Sarah, a single thirty-something small animal vet, started digging in the back yard of her practice situated on the outskirts of  Guildford, Surrey, United Kingdom. The old and unused garden shed provided perfect screening from inquisitive eyes. Jerome, a reasonably successful science fiction writer on a long term visit to his aging and ailing parents in Beaumes-de-Venise, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, France, found a secluded spot near the river La Salette to dig his tunnel. Waled, a newly married Emirati architect drove his V8 landcruiser very fast to his childhood secret sanctuary outside of his hometown, Al Ain. His digging implements were hidden under a sand coloured tarpaulin, under the largest palm tree. Divorcee Bonnie, a fitness fanatic and mother of two teenage sons, who live with their Dad, started digging her tunnel amongst the gas wells in Dish, Texas, United States of America. She figured no-one would notice her activities. She was right. In the bustling market town of  Mto Wa Mbu near the Lake Manyara National Park, Tanzania, mother of six Aza started to dig her tunnel in the small room behind her brightly coloured handicrafts stall. In downtown Beijing, China, under the guise of creating a contemporary artwork, buffed and fit Keung jackhammered a gallery's floor so he could start digging his tunnel. He knew that after the initial opening night flurry of great expectation, there would be no more visitors. Anyone looking through the window would think it was a construction site.

So, the seven people from around the world dug and dug and dug. Sometimes a couple, even a few of them, were digging at the same time.

In the cooling twilight Australian outback air Jack digs. He knows his boss and wife are inside the homestead having their dinner with a few beers and a tv show to follow. At the same time as Jack shovels soil and rock, Keung also digs. The windows of the gallery project space slowly collect dust obscuring the scene inside. As Jack and Keung toil so does Bonnie. Early in the morning she dons her protective gear and heads for the gas fields. She looks just like another shift worker making her way to dirty work. She digs and digs for hours before she tires, rests, and returns to her work. In Tanzania, Aza deals with market shoppers and tourists in between digging stints in her stall's back room. She knows her digging time is limited because her children will soon need her at home.  Waled is in his office readying himself for a drive to his sanctuary and a few hours digging, before heading home to have dinner with his bride. In the UK and France, Sarah and Jerome are asleep, although Sarah has only just gone to bed. She spends most evenings after dinner digging in the garden shed.  Jerome digs while his parents sleep. They sleep late into the morning and nap for hours in the afternoon. He knows when they wake up, when he's digging, because he has placed a monitor in the hallway outside their bedroom. He has the receiver strapped to his belt.

Each of the tunnel diggers set a pattern, and around the world this repetition creates a rhythm. They look forward to the hard work and the sense of achievement as their tunnels get longer and deeper. Each digger devises mechanisms to lower themselves into their tunnels and to raise themselves out of them. When they sleep the diggers dream of tunnels.

As time goes by the diggers each encounter challenges that cause delays and sometimes injuries. But, they persist. They are driven by an urge they don't quite understand. It is an urge forced by a shared sense of knowing, yet they do not know each other. Each of the diggers wants to understand the Universe, yet they are compelled to dig deeply into Earth's body.

 Remembering The Beginning Of Time Gouache on paper 21 x 29.7 cm 2013

A long time passes. Jack has become manager of the station because his boss has retired to the coast. Jack knows his dead parents would be proud. They had died in an accident when he was seventeen. His mum was from a mob up north and his dad had been a teacher. Jack writes about his tunnel in the journal he keeps locked in his desk.

Sarah has met a man, but she does not explain to him why she is unavailable after 8pm most nights of the week. Sarah writes letters, she never intends to send, explaining to her man the urge to dig. She feels less guilty.

Keung has taken to living inside the gallery project space. His mother delivers food to the door each day. She is worried, but her heart is comforted by the short cryptic poems Keung leaves pinned to the gallery door for her. The poems seem to be about a journey along a snaking tunnel.

Bonnie takes a short holiday to attend her eldest son's wedding in Miami. The ocean helps her feel a bit cleaner. Yet, she cannot wait to return to her tunnel. So, she writes about it on the hotel notepad. On her last day she takes the notepad into the sea, tearing each page off and casting them into the water.

Aza rejoices when her eldest daughter and son, twins, receive special scholarships to attend university in the big city. Now she only has four children living at home. Aza does not have time to write, so she sings songs she inexplicably hears inside her head. Every time she sings a gentle breeze rustles the leaves in the trees near her market stall. The lyrics allude to a journey along a snaking tunnel.

Jerome's father has died. It was a peaceful death. But, Jerome's mother has sunk into dementia. She does, however, seem to enjoy sitting in her wheel chair beside the river La Salette. Jerome knows she watches the leaves rustling in the wind and the small ripples upon the water. She is surprised and laughs every time his head appears out of the big hole in the ground. Jerome tells his mother what he is doing, but she soon forgets.

Waled and his wife welcome baby Hala, a beautiful dark eyed daughter. Waled now leaves work earlier to dig, so he can be home earlier to be with his family. He tells baby Hala stories about a long tunnel, snaking its way through the earth. Waled gazes into his daughter's eyes and knows she understands.

Cosmic Address Oil on linen 90 x 180 cm 2013

With each story, recount, poem, song and letter the diggers' tunnels become longer and deeper. The diggers are unsure, but they know something happens when they are not in their tunnels. They each decide other forces are afoot. They are grateful.

After more time the diggers are now very deep within the Earth. They can hear the heavy silence roaring. They wonder how much longer the compulsion to dig will last. One day each of the diggers happens to be digging at exactly the same time.

Wet weather allowed Jack some free time, so one Monday mid morning he returned to his tunnel and descended into its depths. For Bonnie it was early Sunday evening. She decided to take advantage of the clear night to return to her tunnel. In Guildford, Sarah had just finished a Sunday night movie date with her man. He'd left on the train to return to London to be ready for a meeting on Monday morning. She decided to dig until midnight or even later. Jerome's mother awoke at midnight. She was agitated. She woke Jerome and insisted on seeing the ripples upon the river La Salette. Jerome decided to dig under the cover of darkness. For both Waled and Aza, disturbed sleep had left them wide eyed at 3 o'clock on Monday morning. Waled got up and checked on Hala, who was also awake, but quiet. Her wide dark eyes gazed deeply into those of her father. She seemed to be imploring him to do something. Waled knew. He drove very fast to his sanctuary and descended into his dark tunnel. As she lay in bed, Aza felt a breeze brush across her face. She knew it was a song calling her to the tunnel. She left her sleeping children and walked the short distance to her stall. The breeze followed her into the small room where she descended into her tunnel.

An hour or so after the diggers had returned to their tunnels, they heard unexpected noises. Jack noticed it first. Every time he plunged his shovel into the dirt, the noise seemed to reverberate six times. The others soon noticed the same pattern. Aza became a little scared. To comfort herself she began to sing. The others heard her strong voice and momentarily stopped digging. In the quietness Aza's voice filled them with awe. They returned to their digging, knowing in their hearts that something momentous was about to happen.

Exactly ten minutes later each digger plunged their shovels into the dirt for the last time. As the rubble fell away a space large enough for a small meeting appeared. The diggers saw each other for the first time. Their eyes met and they knew why they were there. They had dug tunnels to the centre of the Earth, from different countries and continents. Yet, at the core of the Earth countries and continents were meaningless. Earth is one soil.

The small room filled with light. The diggers turned and looked outwards, through their tunnels, to the Universe beyond. From this point, at the centre of the Earth, the heavens opened to endless space and time. The diggers knew that the Universe was calling them, and humanity, to see beyond manmade boundaries, beyond Earthly horizons. Looking outwards from the core of the Earth the diggers could see multiple perspectives and possibilities. They could see the past and the future. Rather than being fearful of the immensity of space and the Universe, they felt comforted knowing, deep within their bodies and psyches, that humanity was part of Universal history. A human race memory of the beginning of time, of the star dust that formed everything, stirred within each of them.

 Seeing The Star Dust Gouache on paper 21 x 29.7 cm 2013

The core of the Earth was imploring them to look beyond to spatial and temporal distances, at the same time as pleading with humanity to look after Earth and each other. Earth was saying, I am your home, and the Universe is your environment.

They all realised that Aza's songs were the songs of the Universe. Aza remembered the breeze and silently thanked it for its messages. Keung realised his poems were Earth's whisperings. He was grateful that his mother had returned them the next day when she delivered his food. He'd buried the poems along the tunnel returning their rhythms to beat in time with Earth's pulse. Waled's eyes widened when he realised the stories he told Hala were drawn from within him by Earth and the Universe. Hala's dark eyes were reflections of Universal truth. Bonnie remembered the notes she made in Miami. She knew why she had felt compelled to return them to the Earth, via the sea. The water welcomed a return of subconscious knowing. Jack thought about his journal. He'd burnt it three days ago. At the time he did not understand why he felt compelled to do this, but he knew now. His journey, an eternal journey, was freed in the smoke that had risen towards the heavens and the ashes that had mixed with the soil. Sarah thought of her letters. Like Jack, she had felt a compulsion to destroy the letters. A few days ago she had euthanised a beautiful, old and gravely ill golden retriever. Her heart had sank, because although it was part of her job, she never liked putting an animal down. The distraught owners wanted the dog cremated. Without really thinking Sarah placed her letters with the beautiful dog. At the centre of the Earth, Sarah thought about her letters returning to Earth with an animal that had only ever given unconditional love and loyalty. She felt pleased and sensed her heart expanding. Lastly, Jerome silently thanked his Mother, for relinquishing his story from her memory and casting it onto the ripples of time.

 Songs Of The Universe Gouache on paper 21 x 29.7 cm 2013
The seven diggers were transported by the light, a Universal light. Their eyes were gently stroked and their hearts warmed. They saw the beginning of time and the Universe, slightly unsure whether it was this Universe or another. It did not seem to matter, because they recognised that the star dust which swirled and spiralled formed everything, always.

The diggers could not remember how they returned to the Earth's surface and their homes. It was pre-dawn for Jack. He stood beside the spot where his tunnel had been, but the hole was no longer there. Rather than looking down he looked up and stared at the Milky Way. The stars reflected in his eyes, sending their welcome and message to every cell in his body. His Aboriginal ancestors spoke through the stars, as did his Celtic and Anglo-Saxon ancestors. In unison they urged Jack to write, to publish and represent humanity. They seemed to fill his heart with a voice that the future was already listening to.  

Sarah, sat on the grass outside the garden shed. She'd been inside, but her tunnel was gone. In the early evening glow she read the letter her man had left for her. She realised he knew everything. A philosopher has that capacity. As she read she saw a vision of a life with this man, working with him and exploring the big questions faced by humanity. She understood now why he never questioned her self-imposed evening social curfew. He'd already seen the light.

Bonnie could not find the hole to her tunnel amongst the chaotic spider web of gas wells. This did not worry her. But, she felt the Earth's fury through her feet. She looked briefly at the sun. Its heat fired her will and stirred her inner core. She decided to return to university to complete her PhD in ionospheric physics. She now knew her path was that of an activist and a scientist.

Jerome returned to his Mother's home, but she was not there. He suddenly remembered she'd been with him when he went down the tunnel. He'd last seen her sitting quietly in her wheel chair smiling as the moonlight danced across the rippling La Salette. Jerome raced to his tunnel and his mother. The tunnel was no longer there, but his mother was. She beamed a wide smile when she saw him. He stood between her and the river. As he bent to give his mother a kiss, she saw light ripple over and through him, enveloping them both in time. Jerome, she knew, would write even more fantastic stories than previously, stories that just might help save the planet by inspiring people to look beyond.

Keung stood inside the gallery project space. In the dead of night he knew his art would no longer be about spectacle, but it certainly would be spectacular. He realised why he had been named Keung, the Chinese name for Universe. With new vision, gained by his experience digging to the centre of the Earth, Keung was aware that the expression of illumination went way beyond individual ego. He now understood more fully why his mother had returned his poems.

Aza stood inside her handicraft stall. The moon shone brightly. She could see into the small room behind the stall. The tunnel was no longer there. Through the open windows she felt a breeze gently brush her face and bare arms. She heard its song in the rustle of leaves in the trees outside. She started to write down lyrics. As the night deepened Aza wrote and wrote. All the lyrics she'd sung while digging streamed onto the pages. It was as if the essence of all perspective, the Universal urge, was writing for her. Aza wrote all night and into the following morning. She became aware of singing outside her stall. Her fellow villagers were singing the breeze's songs. By writing them down she'd given voice to the lyrical sensation. She knew the universal songs would seep into consciousness helping humanity understand. She could already hear the voices of tourists catching the lyrics and humming the tunes too.

Waled was standing beside the spot where his tunnel had been. There was no sign of it. In the evening light he realised that another vehicle was parked next to his landcruiser. He heard the faint sound of a child chuckling. It was Hala. His wife Asima had driven out to his sanctuary looking for him. He wondered how she'd found it. He walked to her car and tapped on the window. Asima was making faces at Hala who chuckled happily. Asima turned her head and when she saw her husband she smiled. She got out of the car, cradling her daughter in one arm and embraced Waled with the other. He wondered why she did not seem too worried. He gave her a questioning look. Asima explained that she had overheard Waled telling Hala his stories of the tunnel and the stories had entered her dreams. On the night he'd left she dreamt he reached the centre of the Earth. She dreamt he'd met six other diggers and that they represented humanity, without borders and boundaries. She dreamt that their hearts beat in unison, with a promise of a shared pulse over eternity. Waled looked into Asima's eyes and then into his daughter's. He knew that the future was bright, but he had work to do.

At seven points around the Earth, star dust swirled and spiralled softly settling into the folds of time before casting its promise across humanity in song, literature and art, in politics, philosophy and science.

Copyright Kathryn Brimblecombe-Fox

 Cosmic Dust Oil on linen 120 x 160 cm 2010

Check out this aerial photograph of a gas field near Dish, Texas, USA...where Bonnie's tunnel was 'hidden'.
Another story:
If you enjoyed my new story about digging you will probably like an older post called 'Body As Site'


masterymistery said...

Hi Kathryn, loved the story and the artwork. We seem to be thinking about similar things, along similar lines...

"Art @ Kathryn Brimblecombe-Fox" is now on the Cosmic Rapture blogroll (under "Other domains" -- right hand sidebar).

masterymistery at
cosmic rapture

Kathryn Brimblecombe-Fox said...

Hi MM,
Thank you! Your site is full of so much interesting work. I've had a short peruse and will take more to time to read and see further.