Tamara Danoyan and Helen Whittaker

Tamara Danoyan
Created using Helen Whittaker’s poem (below) as inspiration

A Geologist’s Love Song
By Helen Whittaker

When all that’s left of London is a pile
Of trendy rubble on the ocean floor,
When Everest’s a gentle, rolling mile
And the blue-green Orinoco flows no more,
When poison arrow frogs and parakeets
Paint a jungle sprung from Egypt’s sand,
When thorn trees offer shelter from the heat
That bakes Alaska’s dry and dusty land,
When our race takes up its place beside T. Rex
As ‘Homo Sapiens – Exhibit A’,
When scholars scratch their heads and try to guess
The meaning of these words I write today,
The atoms that were me will still be true
To everything that once was part of you.


Tamara Danoyan
Inspiration piece provided to Helen Whittaker

A Souvenir of France
By Helen Whittaker

Gaby glanced at her watch. She had twenty minutes before her interview – enough time to fit in a quick trip to T-MAG, which was just around the corner from the Astro Corps recruiting office.

Gaby had wanted to visit Earth ever since she could remember. Her mother, her teachers and all the other elders told such amazing stories about the place that she made up her mind at an early age to go there as soon as she was old enough. Joining the Astro Corps was a colonist’s best chance of getting a ticket to Earth.

But six months ago things had changed. First her mother had died, then she’d met Tom, and now her uncle had offered her a job. Gaby was beginning to doubt whether joining the Astro Corps was what she should be doing after all. Maybe she’d skip the interview.

T-MAG, the Terran Museum and Art Gallery, was a square, brown building near the centre of Hub 2. Because of its shape and colour it was commonly referred to as the ‘Teabag’. Gaby was keen to take a look at the latest exhibition: ‘Memories of Earth: the founding parents remember’.

As Gaby walked into the Teabag’s entrance foyer, one particular exhibit attracted her attention. It consisted of half a dozen flouncy flowers in sunset colours, and a bowl full of smooth, blush-red fruit roughly the size and shape of gooseberries. Gaby wanted to reach out and touch the papery fragility of the flowers’ petals, but like most of the exhibits here it was just a hologram.

She tapped the information icon. The hologram’s title popped up on the front panel of the display case: ‘A souvenir of France – still life with poppies and grapes’. An animation showed the position of Europe on a map of Earth, and then zoomed in to show the position of France on a map of Europe. Gaby remembered, the first time she had seen a map of Earth as a child, being amazed at how the land was broken up into pieces, bobbing around in the water like toy ducks in a bathtub.

So this is what grapes looked like. She’d read about failed attempts to grow grapes here on Mars. The agridomes had to be kept at a constant temperature, and grapes needed frosts for at least part of the year in order to grow well. They should try putting the grape vines outside for a while, but maybe sixty degrees below would be a little too frosty.

As for poppies, they were her mother’s favourite flower. Before coming to Mars her mother had lived in France for a while. She’d told Gaby that one of her most vivid memories of the place was the rash of poppies that covered the fields every spring, after ploughing. Gaby had never seen poppies before, and had imagined they would be less showy and more down-to-earth; more like her mother.

A couple of paragraphs of text flashed up next. Normally Gaby didn’t bother reading this part, but the mention of France had piqued her curiosity. The first paragraph contained lots of boring factual stuff about poppies and grapes, and Gaby almost stopped reading, but then something caught her eye further down: her mother’s name.

This exhibit was bequeathed to T-MAG by the artist, Sandra Duncan.

Gaby thought she’d seen all her mother’s holos. Her usual style couldn’t have been more different: stark, monochrome landscapes of Martian hills and canyons.

Gaby read the ‘Artist’s comment’.

‘I took this holo when I was living in the village of Saint Claire, in northern France. While I was there I fell in love with Claude Sevigny, the son of a local vintner. When I found out I was pregnant, Claude became even more insistent than he was already that I should give up my crazy idea of becoming a Martian colonist. I was equally adamant that I was still going to Mars, and I did everything I could to persuade him to come with me. But Claude wasn’t the adventurous type. What could I do? I’d known Claude for six months, but I’d dreamt of going to Mars since Kindergarten. Claude gave me the poppies and grapes as a farewell gift. Our daughter was born just two weeks before I arrived on Mars. This is my gift to her.’

Gaby didn’t know how to react. For one thing, she was embarrassed by the private nature of her mother’s comment. This was almost as embarrassing as the time when her mother accompanied her to school and told the teacher, in front of the entire class, that Gaby might be ‘a bit sensitive’ for a few days because she had just started menstruating. She was also puzzled by her mother’s description of the hologram as a gift for her daughter. If the piece was supposed to be for her, then why had her mother left it to the museum? But more insistent than her feelings of embarrassment and puzzlement was the shock of finding out who her father was. Gaby had pestered her mother for years about his identity, but she had always been evasive. Now, six months after her mother’s death, Gaby had stumbled on her father’s name like tripping over a coin on the pavement.

Gaby looked for the nearest place to sit down, and found a bench in the shape of a blue whale. She sat for five minutes next to the whale’s blowhole, concentrating on her breathing, gradually slowing it down to a whale’s pace, letting the thoughts and emotions come and go, and waiting to see if any insights arose.

Gaby realised that when her mother wrote, ‘This is my gift to her’ she didn’t mean the hologram. She was referring to her father’s identity. For whatever reason she didn’t want to give up the secret while she was alive, but was prepared to reveal it after she was dead. It was typical of her mother that she would do so publicly rather than in private. Even though she didn’t like the way it had been offered, Gaby decided to accept the gift her mother had given her. It was something she had wanted for such a long time. Having to wait for it didn’t make it any less valuable – if anything, it made it more so.

Now she came to think of it, her father’s name wasn’t the only gift from her mother that she valued. There was one other gift, given unintentionally, at the moment of conception: a genetic predisposition for adventure.

Gaby knew what she had to do.


‘Hi,’ said Gaby, smiling nervously at the clerk at the recruiting office, ‘I’ve got an interview at 11:15.’

‘Name?’ enquired the clerk, without looking up from his computer screen.

Gaby had three middle names, and she’d always avoided using them. Of course, she’d never understood their significance before.

‘Gabrielle Claudette Saint Claire Duncan,’ replied Gaby.

The hologram of poppies and grapes wasn’t her mother’s only souvenir of France.

Note: All of the art, writing, and music on this site belongs to the person who created it. Copying or republishing anything you see here without express and written permission from the author or artist is strictly prohibited.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: