Our Forest on an Artist’s Conk/Hencroft Hub

I am happy to announce the publication of my first short story. Our Forest on an Artist’s Conk has been accepted and published in Hencroft Hub‘s first Issue. The theme of ISSUE ONE is FUNGUS. I took inspiration from the large tree mushrooms my sister harvested from the forest around her home, to use in my artwork. This short story is my first acceptance from a themed publication. It was a lot of fun to work around their theme and stretch my writing experience. Thank you to the Editor’s for giving my story a home.

Our Forest on an Artist’s Conk can be read HERE and don’t forget to read all the other great contributions to ISSUE ONE.

Six Word Stories (18)

I used to sit in the field making wishes on dandelion fluff.

I once rolled through the tall grasses, collecting the white seeds on my clothes and dark curls. Helping them spread as I ran back to the house, arms outstretched.

“I can fly!” I would cry, and daydream of Peter Pan and Tinkebell.

It was my life’s spring.

Now I watch my own children wading through puddles. The freshness on their cheeks and sweaters always flavored with a hint of damp growth when coming home from an evenings play.

But I still dream of fairy wings and mermaid foam.

My sisters and I used to rub our cheeks yellow with dandelion buds, and weave tiny field daises in to wreathes for our head.

Now I watch my own girls pick wildflowers and supervise as all kinds of pretend soups are mixed in sandbox buckets with sticks that are just as much magic wands as they are spoons.

The right now is there spring.

The scent of fresh tree blossoms might hold different meanings for me then they once did. But it doesn’t matter what age you are, if you listen closely with your heart they will share wisdom with you.

©2021 Mary Grace van der Kroef

Photos sourced from unsplash.com

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Six Word Stories (16)

In the age of information, I have been given the chance to write. The chance to tell my story in my own words. The chance to dream my dreams and share them. What a gift.

I always knew that I would be at least a closet writer. But I never dreamed my form of expression would touch poetry. It has only been three years since I have discovered this gift, within a gift.

Empty auditoriums, silent church buildings, and closed temples. Despite the shutdown, writing has never stopped. We still need the writer. The storyteller is ever vital.

We have again been shown the power of written words.

Be it fiction, poetry, memoir, or essay, written words have sustained many of us this past year. Did we take them for granted?

Today I thank God for this gift in all its forms.

©2021 Mary Grace van der Kroef

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Six Word Stories (15)

The workings of nature are intricate and beautiful.

Fierce and unforgiving.

Gently yet unrelenting.

Stalwart, but still fragile.

Every element working together in a mind-boggling harmony.

All following rules human are still only beginning to grasp.

Yet, we are privileged to watch their mighty witness.

Witness to what?

To that which holds all things together.

Binding and molding and moving and fusing.

Using gentleness to brake, and the breaking to create.

He makes the beaten and bruised things of this world what they are,

art.

©2021 Mary Grace van der Kroef

Photos sourced from unsplash.

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Six Word Stories (13)

I used to choose a seat closest to the doors, in the single cubbies to either side of the true passenger compartments.

“Why do you sit here all alone? It’s dangerous for a single girl.”

I had never thought of it as dangerous before the question. I enjoyed the nods and light conversation with strangers. Many of them dressed roughly, carrying bikes, or oversized backpacks.

I remember one early morning two backpacking couples joined me in the cramped space. The men sat on the ground closest to the sliding doors. I moved my backpack to make room for the two women, tired and clearly already stressed. They didn’t speak Dutch or French or even German, but their chitchat was earnest and careful.

One man wished me well on my journey in English, nodding at my bag as proof I was a kind of comrade, before departing.

The contrast from those small cubbies to the larger passenger compartments with row after row of benches is striking. Few words are ever spoken. Everyone keeps their heads bowed, their minds busy on themselves, appearing to ignore everyone else on the commute. Even so, with the clatter of the train, the call of the ticket master, and the shuffle of shoes, there is a strange companionship.

I have spent quite a few hours waiting on train platforms. In the early morning, or late in the evening, I have found them to hold a strange peace.

Everyone has somewhere, and nowhere to go. Everyone is expectant, yet bored. Isn’t that just like life can be?

I would finally reach my destination in the shadows of night. Night grows and shrinks things. It hides and reveals. It is a different world than daylight, and many people fear it. But I don’t. I know that is only because I have been kept safe. I am blessed.

Night has always been my refuge. Not a time of hiding, but a time of quiet. A time when others retreat, leaving the streets almost empty. The dirt of the day is pushed to the sides, and lays waiting for the morning to come. It’s hidden in the shadows, but it still whispers to the world all the stories it holds. Every cigarette butt, every discarded coffee cup that missed the trash can. Even the caked on muck, scraped from boots at the end of the day. It will all tell you a story, if you only stop and listen.

©2021 Mary Grace van der Kroef

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One More Time

She poses, one hand at her waist, one lifted as if to invite a question. One skate blade poised, toe and tip to ice. The other is ready to propel her body into motion.
She stands there, frozen, every muscle straining then relaxing, waiting. Then it comes, gentle notes drifting out of her deep and buttoned coat pocket.

Arms move with grace to the music only she can hear. Sturdy legs propel her forward, around in a steady half spin, and stop. She bows to the woods. There is no human in sight to witness this dance on ice. The snow-ladened evergreens shimmer in the bright sunlight, the naked birch is unafraid to bare all its beauty.


More notes come. Arms and legs now work as one to propel her form across the sheet of ice. The air smells of cold crystals, mixed with sun. Her own breath reveals its presence in puffs of white.


“Count Mary Ann.” She speaks to herself in the quiet.
“One, and two, then stop. Three, then four, and glide.”


Bare fingers stretch to the sky as one, a gentle turn while holding speed. One leg lifted ready, arms controlled but relaxed. Speed perfect, she punches the ice with power. The tip of her skate kicking up an ice shower. For a split second she is free of the earth, then down to touch the ice again. One rotation, but well done. Balance perfect, arms out and poised. The tones from her pocked lifted with her to spin and again down, slowing. Now they resemble the slow trickle of a stream, gentle and playful.


Wind sends the naked branches into a gentle clatter. Her steps become skips across the ice. Build speed, turn, then building again.


“One more time!”
Her heart beating faster, her breath fogging the air behind her, her toque threatening to fall away, but ignored.
“One and two and, oh!”


The blade of her skate finds ripples she had carved in to the ice some days ago. The uneven surface jolts her sideways and down she falls. Bare hands stop her face from touching the ice sheet. They are red from cold. The air chilled them as she moved through her dance and now pressed to the ice, it stings. The surface a beautiful shimmer but biting.


A deep sigh pushes itself from her chest out in to the daylight. She closes her eyes. An unexpected fall. Checking her lumps. One, two, three, four. Jared, but all in the right place.
“It’s okay, Mary Ann. One more time.”


She pushes herself up, a slide and a momentary wobble are evidence her internal rhythm needs righting. Once firmly on the blades of her skates face to the sun, she checks her pocket. The phone is still in one piece. Time to start the song over again.


Ruby red fingers fumble for a moment as again a guest of wind rattles the branches. There clatter is the only sound until in the distance, a dog barks. The others will come soon, there is a need to hurry.


One more time around before the boys take to the ice, sticks in hand. James has promised to bring her hockey stick out for her. She will soon need to change her white skates for the black pair, waiting by the rough-cut log stools.


Breath in, breath out. Pose, one hand on waist, one hand in questioning greeting, toe out.
As the notes once again hum from her pocket, just for her, so starts her dance, only viewed by the trees that line the west side of the rink.

©2021 Mary Grace van der Kroef

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