Circles of Gold
Philip J Bradbury
Copyright 2016 by Philip J Bradbury
Published by:The Write Site
Typed (with two fingers) by Philip J Bradbury
Typeset (with brilliance and majesty) by Philip J Bradbury
Front cover designed (with flair and imagination) by Philip J Bradbury
All rights reserved. Although this book is copyright and you’re not supposed to reproduce it in any form, I know that some of you will. As a sculptor of words, I’m well aware that it’s so easy for anyone to pretend these words are theirs and receive acclaim for that. If you can live with that then, please, go ahead.
All I can do is ask that you treat the spirit of these words with respect, treat me with respect and enjoy the product thereof. I can live with that.
With Love, Philip J Bradbury
Once upon a time, when dreaming was useful, a child was born. His father, with youthful exuberance, watched his son enter his world and exclaimed, “Oh, me God, he’s beautiful! He’s ...” He stopped exclaiming for he had seen something he had not expected. His silence was palpable as he frowned and quickly forced a smile back to his face. Too late. His straining wife, focused on her own exertions, pains and joys, sensed a peripheral shiver touch her heart. She looked at her husband’s wooden smile and knew all was not well. The midwife and her two assistants – village girls learning this important craft – caught the cool wind of concern and they stopped momentarily, uneasily, for a second that travelled into eternity.
An impartial observer would have sensed nothing but, for those involved, a ripple of time, a shadow of unease, passed through all of them. They then returned to what needed to be done, pretending they had not seen what was fully evident.
The naked wee babe was wiped of the wax over his pink body with damp cloths infused with herbs, and then placed on his mother’s naked belly, flesh to flesh. Her fervent panting had by now given way to gentle sighs and grateful smiles and all looked a picture of peace as the three other women gathered their ewers, bowls, utensils and unused liquids, to be cleansed or buried in the ancient way. They left the candles burning and the bundles of sage and lavender smouldering to help cleanse and purify the room.
The young druid, his wife and son were soon alone. As he sat smiling at his wife and child, he wondered why the Goddess, The Mother, would give him perfection in everything and then mar it with deformity. He considered whether he should rewrite tomorrow’s sermon which was written, in anticipation of this sweet moment, on the Goddess’s preference for providing us with perfection if we would but get out of His way, stop judging and love what is provided. Perhaps the point is to accept perfection and imperfection, beauty and deformity, for life was never perfect, easy and fully joyous. Lovely sentiments, nice theory for a priest to talk about but, blast it! This was his son, in his life, in his house and they’d all have to live with that abnormality, that un-human monstrosity, forever. It just wasn’t fair, especially for a man of the Goddess to have to deal with the cruel humour of a vicious creator. The Goddess had always been so loving till now so why did She have to turn on him, a good and pious man who had given his life over to Her and Her mighty works and now, now that he had all he wanted, She savagely distorts that which he must live with. Why, oh why, Dear Goddess? Why me? Why now? His thoughts raged on.
The dread that had been instilled in his heart from the gathering of men of his calling, two valleys away, two moons ago, rose as bile in his throat. In their flowing white cloaks the men had stepped down into their sacred pit, inside the heart of The Mother, to hear The Mother speak to them through the voice of their gutuatri. Instead of uplifting, the words were, this time, quietly foreboding of a time to come. This End Time, The Mother said, would see neighbour fight with neighbour, famine would be on the land and peoples’ minds and bodies would be deformed. This Time, She said, may not be in their lifetimes and they must not talk of it to the uninitiated, to the villagers. In fact, She said, the priests must bring as much light and love to their people for that could, perhaps, keep the blackness from this land. It would, at least, reduce its tragic effects.
This message of doom, though a long time off, had shaken Bryn to his bones and he could not share it with anyone and so it grew. And now his son – his son, the son of a druid priest – was deformed. Was it a reflection of his own impurity, the ungodliness he kept inside? He felt The Mother pointing at him, not with her usually loving smile but with an accusing grimace.
He knew that the deformity was there – he had seen it – but it was now hidden, pressed against his wife’s soft belly. He felt himself slipping off the map of his life, his fingers clinging to the edge as pebbles loosened themselves and spun into the abyss below. This was not as he had planned it to be and now he could feel himself about to plummet into the rude forests of his ancestors where gnarly, savage creatures waited to taunt him, if not to devour him. As that ancient fear of all men – the fear of not being in control – threatened to swamp him, he remembered his training. So he invited the Goddess inside. He sat with Her inside. He stilled his mind, opened his palms, softened his jaw and smiled his eyes and mouth. He crawled back from that cracking edge of a life so-dreamed and lay there panting on the warm earth as She stilled his rushing thoughts. Through the panic he arrived back home to a comfortable peace, a knowing that he knew nothing, and that was as it should be, somehow.
He smiled an easy smile now and his young wife opened her eyes at its invitation. At the instant that she had first seen the uncertainty and fear in her husband’s eyes, as their child entered his new world, she had shut the doors of doubt and cocooned herself in that sweet and primitive first moment of embrace with what had been inside her, returning to her as the perfect embodiment of their love. This moment would never come again and her bliss kept the dark wolves of doubt far from her door.
Time passes in this world and we must move on or be swallowed by the giant of indolence. We have our dreaming but we must awake, face the rising sun and return to the world of sharp edges and defined tasks.
Her husband’s soft smile was the rising sun she woke to and, despite his easy manner and loving looks, she knew there were going to be sharp edges and defined tasks to encounter this day. Many, probably.
“What is yer concern, Bryn?” she asked.
“Hold our baby up and ye will see, Eryn,” he said, not daring to move a muscle. She did so and gasped.
“Oh, Bryn, that be amazing!” she exclaimed.
“Amazing? It be ugly!” said Bryn, grimacing.
“No, not ugly, husband, not ugly at all,” said Eryn, looking at him softly. “It be different, it be ... um, unexpected, but it not be ugly at all.”
“It’s not normal, not normal at all,” said Bryn, remaining very still, attempting to control his emotions with his muscles.
“Oh Bryn, me husband, ye be disappointed, let down, for ye wanted to have ye own kind of perfection, not God’s.”
“But that be not human, not normal. Humans have flesh there. They have, um, belly buttons of flesh,” said Bryn, daring himself to ease forward to take a closer look.
“Well, yes, I be surprised, shocked even,” said Eryn, considering her son’s belly button. “But no matter how I try, I cannot see ugly. I just cannot see that.”
“But it’s not normal. What will we tell people? What will they think of a priest’s son with a golden belly button? We’ll be laughing stocks. He’ll be ostracised ...”
“Bryn! Bryn, Bryn, me darling man. Go quietly for a moment now,” said Eryn, trying to soothe his turbulent waters. “What other people make of it is what we make of it. And if they don’t, they’ll make of it what they will anyway.”
“People will see this deformity,” said Bryn, sitting back and closing his eyes to keep the crowd scene out of his mind, unsuccessfully.
“Bryn me love, this is our son and he has what he has. We have what we have – a son with a golden belly button,” said Eryn, holding her little boy closer while stroking his shiny belly button. “He has what he has and we have what we have. Would ye have us throw him out with the rubbish? Feed him to the wolves?”
“No! No me love, of course not!” said Bryn, reaching forward and touching her arm. He realised, in that moment, he was unable to touch his son and an ice shard stabbed his heart as he thought on that. “We have him but ... but, oh, I don’t know. I just don’t know.”
“But ye do know, Bryn. Ye know quite well,” said Eryn, smiling at him. “Ye asked God, with all yer fervent might, for a perfect son who was special. I heard ye, many times, asking for such. And I agreed with ye. I wanted that too. We asked God and God delivered our desire.”
“But I didna’ want summat inhuman,” said Bryn, wiping the back of his hand over his forehead. Tears were forming but he was just not going to acknowledge them with a wipe.
“Me darling sweet Man of God, do ye not see?” asked Eryn hugging the sweet child asleep in her arms, oblivious of the talking about him. “He is perfect. He is special. We got what we asked of God. Do ye not see? If he is of God, from God, then nothing but good can come of this. Nothing but good.”
“Nothing but good for a child with a deformity!” said Bryn, leaning forward, his hands clenched. “How can that ever be?”
“We donna’ know how God makes a golden belly button – we certainly cannot,” said Eryn evenly. “So if we leave the rest, the future, in the hands of God, we canna’ know, right now, how he makes the goodness come of it but we know he can. It not be our job to know how but our job to believe how. Isna’ that what ye tell the villagers in yer sermons?”
“Hmph! That be the problem with being a priest,” he said. “I might be knowin’ all the scripture and all the wise words known to man and I can tell them to those who canna’ read them. But once they’re out of me mouth, in public, people expect me to live them, to know how to deal with all of life’s challenges. And, quite frankly, Eryn, me wise woman, I feel like I know nothing.”
“But me darling man,” she said, patting his arm. “Ye’ be honest about yer not knowing and ye be sincerely trying to live as a good Man of God.”
“Ye have faith in me that’s higher than mine, Eryn!” he said, chuckling and sitting back. “It’s almost that I used to know so much and, as I grow older, I grow dimmer. I talk the words and ye live them – ye should be the priest!”
“We make a good team, then!” said Eryn, laughing. “Betwixt me wise doing and yer wise sermons we’re the wisest couple that ever was.”
And so their lives continued for some time, with Bryn trying to come to terms with his son having a golden belly button and with Eryn accepting the perfection and specialness of young Donal, as they called him. They agreed – till they heard differently and clearly from God – to do or say nothing about Donal’s golden belly button and to keep it covered at all times. Living in the public eye and in a public place – a priest’s home was a sanctuary for anyone needing succour, physical or spiritual – they had to be ever vigilant. That wasn’t always easy. The midwife and her three apprentices had seen but their calling swore them to tell nothing of the births they attended. Birth was a sacred and private process and they kept their sworn vows.