Ekphrastic Challenge 15

posted in: Ekphrastic Writing, Flash Fiction | 1

Morea 1 & Morea 2, by Kim Rance




On the edge of the Pacific Ocean, Mother waits one thousand years in shrouded majesty rising through the earth, her love trickles down in dapple light to the smaller trees, to the understory, a tangle of mosses, ferns and shrubbery and

what we cannot see,

the threadlike fungi nestled among her roots Simrod gestures upwards and holds her phone above her head, on the screen, the forest leaps into focus, higher and higher, looking for Mother until her eyes reach dizzying heights, Mother

unpredictable and wild

branching, tangled, messy canopy moving, flushing water through the hundreds of thousands of little mouths into the humid air, Simrod turns her face upwards, she feels the cool peat-ish earth between her toes, she smells it as it rises, she hears voices of the forest, whispering, calling her back home.






Kinship with earth, its agaric and foliage in rocky high plains terrain

I turn to thoughts of ancient

Morea and its Mediterranean climes all

Ripe with olive groves, oranges and prancing wild goats on hillsides, its fishing caiques

Athwart with bejewelled catches from the Ionian Sea

Netted to sustain its demes nestling on the rocky

Coasts in pastel colours at




As she lay down amongst the flowers in the garden bed she let her senses run free. She could feel the fresh green grass tickle her skin as it rebounded from her leaning into it. She could feel the cool dirt as she massaged the earth with her hands in gratitude for it supporting her at every moment. She could hear the bees foraging to collect pollen in their pollen baskets to take home proudly to their Queen. She could smell the floral rose aroma, likened to her nana’s perfume, that took her down memory lane and transported her back to her nana’s loungeroom where she sat and watched television as her nana baked dinner humming to herself. As she mindfully focussed on her breath she could taste the freshness in the air, the pure life force of energy.

As she laid the red gerbera across her eyelid, she looked through the lens of the flower that symbolises purity, innocence and beauty and was yet again transported. She saw nature at its truest beauty and wondered is this how flowers see the world? Where the world sparkles and the colours are abundant. Where there is opportunity for growth at every level.

The real question she pondered was … can we learn from the opportunity of the saying rose-coloured glasses or in this case gerbera coloured lens … can we see the true beauty that is right in front of us and remove the filters that we view through.




Every summer we would leave our house in Geelong behind and drive our car packed with suitcases and over-excited kids to stay at our holiday home in Barwon Heads. It was a converted boat shed and had been moved from its original position along the river to its final resting place at 23 Bridge Road. There were three tiny bedrooms and an outdoor toilet weighed down with so much lantana that it leant sideways. Mum called it the ‘Leaning Tower of Pisser’. The backyard had ti-trees, a small lawn, an outdoor table and chairs, and a barbeque. In the front yard there was a swing set hidden from the road by a tall ti-tree fence.

The summers back then seemed to be long, endless days of golden-blue. Mum and her friends would take all of us children to the surf beach. They would park in the carpark near the Thirteenth Beach Life Saving Club. This meant we had to walk up a huge sand dune, cross the busy beach road, and down another dune to the beach. Our thongs flicked hot sand onto the backs of our legs as we carried our towels, surfboards, cricket-sets, beachballs, and buckets and spades, depending on the ages of the kids. The parents were laden with eskys, picnic baskets, wind-breaks, and beach umbrellas. Looking back, I don’t know how they managed to cart all that stuff, though the eskys and picnic baskets would have been lighter on the way home.

Before we were allowed to swim, always between the flags, the windbreaks and brollys had to be set-up and zinc cream applied. I would wriggle and squirm—how I hated the gritty feel of the sand-encrusted zinc as it was smeared on my face. As soon as this was done, the older children would pick up their surfboards and rush into the waves. The parents of the little kids would take them to splash in the shallows.

I don’t remember ever seeing my mother swim. She preferred to sit under our yellow and white striped brolly with a beer in one hand and a cigarette in the other. Her friends swam, though. I’ll never forget the sight of Betty, a frighteningly large woman wearing red one-piece bathers, shoving her hair up under her bathing cap. The white rubber cap had brightly coloured flowers attached to it.

I loved the water but my brothers and I were skinny kids and got cold quickly. Shivering, we would run back up the beach.

‘Shake your towel over there, Claudia!’ Irritated, Mum would point downwind when sand from my towel flew in every direction including onto sandwiches and into drinks.

Sometimes we walked to the Bluff to swim in a clear, deep rockpool—my favourite place. I imagined I would have a swimming pool just like it when I grew up.


I bought my first home and raised my family in Barwon Heads. No pool, though. You don’t need one when you live at the beach.



I know exactly what I’m looking for, and where to find it.

I push the shed door open. It’s gloomy and cold with the winter smells of stored apples and mushrooms. Contents of tattered cardboard boxes spill out onto the concrete floor. A tiny mouse disappears behind a pile of old suitcases stacked high by the side wall.

I ease my way in like a detective at a crime scene, not wishing to disturb the evidence. Into this mausoleum that guards ghosts of the past.

A large upright trunk stands in the shadows towards the back of the shed. It’s slightly taller than me and covered in a skin of dark brown leather and faded Orient Line labels. Metal strips, dulled over time, protect the extremities of the chest.

I unlock the trunk and inhale the musty sweetness of camphor. Dozens of small boxes full of memorabilia asking to be opened, are neatly stacked on the shelves.

I see the curious ostrich-quilled cigar case, exotic and strange. The battered metal tin containing war photographs of North Africa, Greece, the Middle East. And the Italian dagger. It’s wooden handle is carved with chilling victory notches. There’s room for one more notch. It was meant for my father. Another box holds letters tied together with butcher’s string. They were written by my mother from post-war London when the city was still riddled with damage from the Blitz.

Finally, right at the back of the chest, I find it. The old tin cigar box. My hands tremble as I remove it from the shelf. I experience the thrill of repulsion again, like an electric current tingling down my spine, my arms, all the way to my feet.

I open the lid and lift out the small envelope. Secreted within is a miniscule, thin yellow package, no bigger than a two-shilling coin. It’s wrapped tightly like a folded origami pattern waiting to be released.

I pause, daring myself to touch it, knowing what is inside. I slowly unwrap it. There it is. A shrivelled, translucent piece of human tissue, like a fragment of flaking psoriasis skin. Macabre and grotesque.

It’s a caul, Dad’s caul.

The foetal membrane that covered his face and head when he was born in 1917. His Irish mother believed it was a talisman, a promise of good fortune, a guarantee against drowning.

It floats in my palm of my hand, thin, insubstantial, gossamer-like. I handle it gently, reverently. It’s rare for a baby to be born with a caul intact, and my father has kept it all these years.

I like the way these precious objects, the cigar box, photographs, the dagger, the letters, the caul, tell me about my family. Who they were as people, what was important to them, the lives my parents led before they were my parents.

I return the caul to the envelope, and the envelope to the tin. Slipping out through the door into the sunlight, I leave the past behind.



Just like her life, there was no going back. She’d well and truly ruined the portrait. It had borne the brunt of her anger. At the time it’d felt so good to lash out, deface it and make her once beautiful visage the target. Now, consumed with shame, she melted into a snivelling mess on the floor where dollops of paint and scattered sprays had come to rest. Tears streaming down her lined and wrinkled face, she scanned the damage she’d created. The realisation that she alone would have to clean it all up triggered a further loud yowl of frustration.

She hated this ageing process. Her lustrous hair and flawless made-up face used to grace the covers of international magazines for decades. Vogue, Vanity Fair, Glamour, Cosmopolitan and every other fashion publication had clamoured to feature her stunning head shots. In demand, internationally, she’d even been a stand-in for some of the most famous actors whose hair and skin failed to satisfy the close-up quality demanded by directors of films.

Why me?’ she asked herself.

Why not you, Madeleine?’

‘Mum? Is that you?’

‘Of course it’s me. You know I’m the voice in your head. Change is inevitable, as is ageing. Embrace it, darling. It happens to all of us.’

My hair is thinning. My face has crows’ feet. My forehead has wrinkles. I have “laughing lines” around my mouth! Even my ear lobes have creases in them.’

Stop feeling sorry for yourself. Change your attitude.’ And with that, she disappeared from inside Madeleine’s head.

It was the jolt Madeleine needed. She resolved that since the mess wasn’t going anywhere it could wait to be fixed up. There were now other priorities. Standing up, she retrieved her mobile phone and called her hairdresser.

‘A bob cut? Love-e-ly, daaarling. Come right away. I’ll squeeze you in,’ he said.

Promptly, Madeleine changed into a stunning outfit and gave herself a full cover of make-up, applied flawlessly, by feel—no mirror needed. No mirror needed

Right there and then an idea materialised. Madeleine draped her make-up cape over the upper half of her full-length mirror and stood back to take in the effect. Turning this way and that, she revelled in the image reflected from her waist down to her fine, slim ankles. Blessed with long, shapely legs, she found herself smiling and musing, ‘You’ve still got it.  You can do this!’  She floated out the door.


From that auspicious day onward, Madeleine exuded attitude aplenty every time she ventured out. With rejuvenated vigour, she dressed spectacularly. She brushed her new, no fuss bob hairstyle and applied her make-up by feel. No mirror needed, except for that final glimpse of her well-formed legs highlighted by her ever-expanding collection of elegant, expensive stilettos. For the first time in a long time she felt her confidence and poise restored. With pins like these maybe I could become a parts model—legs only, of course, she thought, then added aloud, ‘Only joking, Mum!’



I see the peaceful tranquil
Society Islands
I see James Cook who thus named them
Awaiting the transit of Venus
While his crew
The ‘Endeavour’ at anchor
Scramble to sample
Tahiti’s femininity

I see Paul Gaugin
A century or more later
Also on Tahiti sands
Lying languidly
The same charmers his subjects
Brush in hand canvas ready
He paints what Europe later sees
And folds avidly to itself
Envy emerges
Envy of life in
The distant French Department
Of Polynésie française

Mighty Mont Routui
Moorea’s guardian
Looks down askance
At what tourisme has brought
And wrought
Will we have tranquility again she asks



Through the eye of the beholder,
what do you see,
Is it beauty or ugliness,
or adoration for thee.

What is real beauty
and how do we view it,
does it all at once hit you in the face,
Or grow in your heart bit by bit.

Do you look into the night sky,
and see emptiness and dark,
or wonder at what it holds,
the twinkling stars in rainbow arcs.

The cold hard ground
looks barren, lifeless, waiting to thaw,
then suddenly colours, blooms and activity,
replace what was there before.

Look at the scorching sun,
that suddenly fades into a breathtaking sunset,
the deep dark murky waters,
move carelessly in swirls and patterned rivulets.

I look into your face and see
angles, structures, eyes that stare,
then in a moment there’s softness
light and love shining there.

Through the eyes of the beholder
what is it that you see,
make a choice, shift your focus,
and let your true vision just be.






  1. Jenny Hurley

    What a delight to read all of these responses to Kim Rance’s evocative images.

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