Outhouse

 

out3

old-outhouse-in-baw-jeff-swan

Here’s a new snippet from my novel-in-progress: The Rocky Orchard

Mazie rubbed her hands along the back of her chair, then along the table top.  “I guess I should deal another hand?” she asked. “I’m not really sure what to do.”

“Mazie, gin rummy is a grand old game, indeed.  Nonetheless, I suggest we get off of this damn porch and give you a chance to feel the sun on your face, even if all we do is take a lap or two around the house.”  Lula hooked her arm through Mazie’s and tugged her gently toward the porch door.

Lula stepped off the porch.  The steep path that led to the road straight lay ahead of them. The short distance to the orchard sloped to their right. Lula bore left.  She and Mazie walked, arm in arm, across the flagstones that ran along the front of the house.  Passing under the canopy of towering pines, the two women paused at the edge of what Mazie’s family had always called “the lawn.” The swath of coarse, broad-leaf pasture grass that took up a good quarter-acre on one side of the house has always been referred to as “the lawn.”  Her parents kept the assemblage of mostly-green, low-growing plants trimmed very short, so from a distance, it presented a vast visual field of verdant green.  From a closer vantage point, the lawn looked exactly like what it was: dry, cocoa-powder-colored dirt covered sporadically by weeds, clovers and various invasive plants that had been chopped off close to the ground.

“We seem to be headed directly for the outhouse,” Mazie said.  Was that your intention?  To get me off the porch and into the fresh air and then explore the old outhouse?”

Lula laughed and squeezed Mazie’s arm.

Toward the far end of the lawn — quite far from the house but in the dead center of the grassy field — a small, wooden structure that could only have been an outhouse perched.  “Speaking of things that completely terrified me,” Mazie said.

“Really?” Lula asked.  “The outhouse?”

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outhouse-sept-2015

“Oh my gosh, are you kidding me?” Mazie said.  “Every single thing about it scared me.  Including – and this is my lot in life, Lula; this is my lot in life that I am this particular sort of a person – I am the sort of person who worried about the people who lived at this farm before my family bought it!  Before there was a working toilet in the basement, and they would have had to actually use the outhouse for all of those outhouse-y-type things.  It’s so far from the house!  I worried: what if someone were really sick, or just waited a little too long, or there were little kids who were just learning to use the bathroom?!  Or, what if it was the middle of the night?  Although my parents told me that people used chamber pots in the middle of the night, which is just a different kind of gross and scary and gruesome.  Anyway, the basement sump pump — which, by the way, I was also terrified of – well, it would go out of whack on a fairly regular basis.  And when it did, we couldn’t use the toilet. We’d have to muster our Early Settler, pioneer spirit and do our toileting right out there in that outhouse.

I was scared just reaching for the door, waiting for the sound of the noisy spring that whined and complained when you pulled the door open, then snapped the door back lightning-quick, with a ferocious thud.  I was immediately convinced that I was trapped, that the outhouse held me prisoner and laughed at the silly, naïve trust I’d shown by having entered.  I was a goner.  But just in case I was wrong, and that my brother might try to mess with me while I was in there – which he often did –I locked the rusty old hook-and-eye latch, being convinced that it would rust in place, but not before giving me a fatal case of tetanus.”

“What an imagination you had, dear. It takes my breath away.”

“I’ve hardly begun, Lula.  Do you know that there is always a breeze that blows through an outhouse, blows right across your…bottom.   I guess I don’t know about all outhouses, really, but there was a hefty breeze blowing right across my ass in this one!  Now, how could that be?  No breeze blowing across the lawn, no breeze blowing through the little outhouse room, but a good, stiff breeze blowing across my ass. I used to get in all kinds of crazy positions, looking up and down and here and there at the way the little house was built, even looking right down into the unspeakable depths where all that bodily waste fell, trying to figure out how there could be an eternal breeze.  Only thing I could figure: had to be haunted.  Another reason to be terrified.”

“And please notice that I’ve gotten this far without mentioning the smell. Holy cow, how could you not be scared out of your mind, as a little kid I mean, by a smell so strong and so awful that it surely must spring from something Evil, something way beyond just…shit.  I rest my case.”

“Well, if that’s your way of saying that you’d rather not explore the outhouse…” Lula said.  “I thought it might be an interesting diversion.”

“There’s that sense of humor of yours, Lula.  Such a card,” Mazie said.

outhouse

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aftermath of a Dream

girl-having-nightmare

Here is the latest snippet from my novel-in-progress, THE ROCKY ORCHARD.

“Lula,” Mazie said.   Lula held her hands on Mazie’s upper arms and squeezed.  A shudder ran through Mazie’s body and left her trembling.  Her lip quivered and she said “Lula” again, as if testing the sound of her own voice.  “What just happened?  What in the world just happened to me?”

“You were telling me about your dream.  It must have been very powerful, especially for such a young child,” Lula said.

“But I was really there.  I felt the same exact things that I felt at the time.  When I had that dream in the first place,” Mazie’s breathing became uneven again.

Lula ran a gentle hand down the length of Mazie’s hair and brushed Mazie’s cheek with her fingers.  Mazie felt the tension drain from her body, and she inhaled a great breath, feeling the mountain air rush into her lungs.  “Your memories are quite vivid, dear.  And that particular dream was so frightening. You must have been so scared, so confused.”  Lula squeezed Mazie’s hand and asked, “Did you ever tell anyone about it?”

Mazie let out a small chuckle and said, “No.  No way.”  She thought for a moment and added, “I might have gone into my parents’ room.  I used to do that when I was still little.  If I was really scared about something, I would get up and wander into their bedroom and crawl under the covers beside my mother.  They would never wake up or anything, but I would lie there for a while.  I used to watch the little patterns and swirls that your eyeballs see sometimes when it’s dark and still.  They were strangely comforting; in fact, I would crawl into their bed and wait for the patterns to show up.  After a while my mother would stir and say, ‘OK, Mazie, that’s long enough.  Go back to your own room now.’  But that was OK, really. My parents’ bed always smelled really strongly of the two of them, all intermingled, and between the smell and their heavy breathing and the little floating dots, I felt OK again.”

Lula smiled but said nothing.

“You must think I was the strangest little kid, Lula.  Well, I told you I was.  Now you can see for yourself.”

“Not so far, dear.  Not so far.”

cabin

 

The First Time I Died

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When we get back home, I am convinced that I am adopted, that I come from different people entirely than these two grown-ups who ping-pong between sphinx-like impenetrability and crazy, nonsensical laughter.  I start to have scary dreams.  In some of them, we are back on our road trip vacation, and my parents leave me behind at one of the endless places where we stop.  In others, I try as hard as I can to run away from something awful, but my legs don’t work.  It’s like I’m in super slow motion, while the rest of the world – and the scary threat – come closer. 

And then, I die.  For the first time.

 It’s so hot, and so dry.  The sky is a burning blaze of white. No wind.  The air is so still that it’s completely silent.  It’s like being in a movie theater when the sound snaps off, and the picture continues.  I think I must have suddenly gone deaf, and I look around to see if anything is moving – a branch, a lizard, a bird – something I should be able to hear.

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There is young woman in front of me.  She wears full native dress. A skirt that goes all the way to the ground, a long sleeve shirt with the cuffs rolled up to reveal inches and inches of bracelets. She has a single, waist-length braid that’s bound with a thin leather strap. She turns when I approached the edge, briefly, then looks back down. She doesn’t say a word. She doesn’t say hello, which I think is odd, because almost everyone says hello to a four-year-old child, especially one who is approaching the edge of the Grand Canyon.

She sits very near the edge herself. But she’s not actually sitting.  I realize that she’s crouched, and she stays like that, as if it’s the most relaxed position in the world. She is weaving a basket. I watch the quickness of her hands, young hands, and I think she might be very young despite the baby beside her. A papoose. I am proud of myself for knowing the word for an Indian* baby who’s all bound up in a beautiful little cocoon. The baby is wide awake, but utterly silent, his calm black eyes staring far into the distance.

I think that both of them must be miserably hot. In my 1960 shorts and sleeveless blouse, I can’t imagine how they seem so——————

Complete 20 Volume Set Of Edward Curtis' Landmark The North American Indian

My foot slips. My saddle shoe’s heel scrapes against the parched dirt. It’s so slow at first, just a grating of my calf.  I feel the skin rub away, then the first tiny droplets of blood rising to the surface. But then time speeds up.  My feet fly out from under me. I am face-to-face with the white-hot sky.  I am in free fall.  Falling, Falling.

My back hits first. The sensation, the pain I suppose I would call it, lasts for a mere second. It’s like the wind being knocked out of me, except I know that it’s not the wind. I am surrounded by the blackest darkest night, but within the black, an ocean of spark-like bursts fly from my body in all directions at once. I die.

I am dead. 

I am gasping for breath I am trying to reach the surface I am trying to keep my lungs from bursting I am straining to see something besides the sparks inky black nothing and the sparks and I gasp and I cough and I sputter and an arm is on me no two arms are on me, they’re around me and it’s Lula and she’s with  me and I hear words, she’s saying words to me.  She is saying, “You are right here, Mazie.  You are right here.”

curtis

 This partial chapter from my current novel has been reworked from a piece I wrote a few years ago.  You never know (or at least I never know) how writing will proceed.  For me, it’s never orderly. As I now envision The Rocky Orchard, this cast-aside piece now stands as a pivotal scene in my fourth novel.

Bottom three photographs: Edward S. Curtis

 

 

Bad Apples

levi.apples

Here is a new snippet from my current novel THE ROCKY ORCHARD.

Up until I said that last bit to Lula,  I was right there, right on that boat.  I could see the walls of the cabin heaving up and down; I could smell the faint trace of salty air mixed with baby puke and the strong smell of the thick coats of varnish on the boat’s wood.  But now I feel ashamed, self-conscious, about being such a serious and scared and kind of creepy little kid.  I’m back on the porch.  I take a big drink from my water glass and look through the porch screen to the orchard.  Little green apples have started forming on the trees.

“You know what, Lula?”  I say.  “I don’t remember eating a single apple from that orchard that tasted good.  Ever.  With all the different trees, and all the different varieties of apples – not a single one, not one that you could pick off the tree and take a big bite out of and really like it.”

“You don’t say,” Lula sounds absent-minded.  She rearranges several of the cards in her hand without looking up.

“My mother fed them, sprayed them, pruned them, read books about them and fussed over them. In the end, we made gigantic amounts of applesauce every fall. Even pies made with those apples weren’t so great.”  I feel awkward, and pissed off, for no reason at all.  I say, “Seriously, they tasted like shit.”  And then I feel like shit.  Maybe Lula hates swearing.  Maybe she’s decided I’m a motor-mouthed, foul-mouthed, suspicious-if-not-paranoid creep.  Maybe she won’t come back.  I want her to come back, so I let her win the game.  And the next one, too.

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She pushes her chair back.  She’s getting ready to leave.  I’m scared so I say:  “Lula, here’s the thing.  When we got back from that trip, I had a dream.  I died.  In the dream.  But I thought that I really had.  Died, that is.”  I hate myself for my naked attempt to reel her in, to make her interested enough to come back again tomorrow.

Lula says, “you don’t say,” as if it’s the most mundane thing that she’s ever heard, or pretty near it.  “When I come back tomorrow, I’ll look forward to hearing more.”

You don’t say!”  I know I’m being mean, mocking, and Lula looks at me like I’ve wounded her.  “Those are the exact same words you said when you left the other day.  Exact. Same. That’s a little weird!”

To my surprise, Lula laughs.  “Never said I wasn’t a little weird, Mazie.  Never said.”

Jean-baptiste-simeon-Chardin-_Three-Apples-Two-Chestnuts-Bowl-and-Silver-Goblet-...Silver-Goblet-_

Paintings, top to bottom: Levi Wells Prentice, William Rickarby Miller, Jean-Baptiste Simeon Chardin.

Jewelweed

Here is a sweet little snippet from my new novel, THE ROCKY ORCHARD.

jewelweed

“Good morning, dear!”  Lula said brightly as she stepped into the porch.  “I brought you some flowers I picked along the way.  Thought it would brighten up our table to have a nice centerpiece while we played our gin rummy.”  Lula held out a bunch of wildflowers on long stems, stunning little orange and yellow spotted blooms that looked like tiny orchids.

“Oh my God, they’re beautiful!” Mazie said.

“Watch this,” Lula said as she reached out a single finger and touched what looked like a green pea pod attached to one of the stems.  With Lula’s barest touch, the seed pod burst apart and shoots of curly green confetti shot out.

Mazie gasped, then laughed. “Oh my gosh, Lula, I’d forgotten all about these things!”

“Aren’t they a marvel?”  Lula said.

“I used to love these!” Mazie gushed.  I remember the first time my brother and I discovered them.  The orchard was filled with them; they appeared out of nowhere.”

“That’s because they’re wildflowers,” Lula said, “All wildflowers appear out of nowhere.”

“I can’t even remember which one of us – my brother or me – accidentally touched one of the seed pod things while we were looking at the flowers, and BOOM, an explosion of…crazy seeds, right?  Crazy seeds disguised as tiny party streamers!  We spent the whole afternoon combing through the orchard and popping the seed pods.  A whole afternoon.  When we’d found every single one, we lay down on the ground, head-to-head, staring up at the clouds and making up stories. That was a great, great day.”  Mazie threw her head back and laughed.

“It’s jewelweed, sometimes people call it orange jewelweed or spotted jewelweed,” Lula said. “The common name is touch-me-not.  You can see why.”

“We never had any idea what they were.  Looked for them every year, but I don’t think we ever found them again,” Mazie said. “Made it seem like some kind of…magic.”

“Oh, wildflowers do seem to have minds of their own – they appear here and there and disappear.  But it’s Impatiens Capensis, not magic,” Lula said.

“What?”  Mazie asked.

“That’s the Latin name for the plant – Impatiens Capensis.”

“You’re starting to remind me of my mother.  She knew a lot of things about a lot of things, too,” Mazie said.

“The juice from the stems and leaves has long been used for itching – going back ages.  It can actually stop poison ivy from getting bad if you rub the juice on right away.  I’ve even heard tell that it can clear up ringworm, and athlete’s foot as well,” Lula said.

“Now you’re really reminding me of my mother.  When I was a little kid, I was convinced she had to be making stuff up – no one could really have such an encyclopedic knowledge of so many different things.  Later on, we used to tease her that she got some kind of secret newsletter that was filled with random bits of information, and she would memorize every bit of it while we were at school, just waiting for an opening to throw in some new tidbit of knowledge.”

“Everybody around here knows about ol’ jewelweed,” Lula said.

“ ‘Everyone around here’ just happens to know that Latin name?”

“Oh, well, I suppose not,” Lula said.  “Now that you mention it.”  She gave Mazie a wry smile. “How about we put these beauties in some water and play some cards?”

“Thank you for bringing jewelweed, Lula.  Thank you for reminding me of one of the very best days I ever had,” Mazie said.

 

The Hand You’re Dealt

I’m about 11,000 words into my novel THE ROCKY ORCHARD, so have not exactly perfected the elevator speech.  Here’s a stab at a synopsis, following by a new snippet:

A woman retreats to her old family farm and encounters an older woman. The two form a friendship over daily gin rummy games. As the younger woman reflects and remembers her past times at the farm, it becomes increasingly unclear exactly what is happening.

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Mazie and Lula cut the cards to determine who would deal the first hand.  Mazie drew the ten of spades.  Lula drew the nine of clubs, and Mazie began to shuffle. “You know I promised myself I wouldn’t talk you to death again today, but, do you know what?  These cards were here when we bought this farm. The Bishops – the people who owned this place before my family did – just walked out one day, and we walked in.  They left everything.  Everything! Like a neutron bomb had gone off.  Every sign of human life had vanished; every remnant and relic stayed behind.  The kitchen cabinets were filled with their dishes.  The drawers held their silverware, their cooking utensils, their pot holders.  Towels hung on the towel racks.  Freshly washed sheets lay carefully folded in the upstairs bureaus.  Extra ones, because all five of the beds had sheets and blankets and pillows already on them, carefully arranged.  They left their board games, and their decks of cards, even their jigsaw puzzles with a piece or two missing, in an old oak table.  I used to go around each room of the farmhouse, opening every single drawer and looking at the things inside.  It was as if my family had walked right into someone else’s life.  I mean, look at these cards!  At some point in history, somebody went into a store somewhere and looked through all of the decks of playing cards, and they picked these – the ones with the Grecian urns overflowing with fake grapes.  One deck with a watery purple background, the other deck a muted peach.  Someone thought these extremely odd cards were the perfect thing.  And here we are, two people who were complete strangers just a few days ago, who met by chance, now playing a game of gin rummy with those very cards, so many years later.”

“Two people who at some point may play gin rummy,” Lula said.  “Or may not.”

“Point taken. Your turn,” Mazie said.

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tandy

Top photo: Harry Lapow

Bottom photos of Jessica Tandy, the image I have of Lula.

 

Dew

Early morning dew on grass

I hope you enjoy this snippet from my novel-in-progress, “The Rocky Orchard.” And if you’re in the same general vicinity of the U.S. that I am (Chicago), I hope this snapshot of a glorious summer day provides a bit of comfort against the brutal cold!

There was not a cloud in the sky the next morning, the sun dazzling the first second it burst over the horizon.  The morning dew, heavy on each individual blade of grass, lit up into a sea of sparkle as millions of dew drops reflected the sun’s rays.  Mazie opened the porch’s screen door and let it slam its completely-familiar slam behind her.  She needed to feel the carpet of wet grass outside on her bare feet.  She kicked a foot hard into the grass, sending a fountain of droplets into the air.  She watched their arcs of ascent and fall.  The power of the early sun combined with the chill of the dew on Mazie’s feet sent a thrill through her entire body.  The eerie silence of yesterday’s fog had been displaced; the forest erupted into raucousness, birds seeming to have increased their volume in jubilant recognition of the day’s beauty. An industrious spider had spun an intricate web that ran from the screen door to the nearest bush, and each of the delicate strands glistened with dewdrops.

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Mazie kicked once again into the grass, and when she looked up to watch the droplets spray into the air, there was the old woman, walking stick in hand, standing at the near end of the orchard, no more than twenty feet away.

“Oh, hey!  Hey there.  Hello.  Sorry, I don’t know your name,” Mazie said.

“Lula, dear. My name is Lula,” the woman said.

“Holy Cow,” Mazie said.  “My mother had an Aunt Lula – my great aunt!”

“Well, it was actually a rather common name way back.  Sometimes short for Luella and sometimes for Lucretia, even Louise or Talullah.”  Lula tapped her walking stick against the bottoms of her shoes to knock off the clumps of dirt, and she adjusted her hat.  “Funny thing is: my name isn’t any of those.  It’s Eulalia.”

“Eulalia!” Mazie said.  “That’s beautiful!  I’ve never known anyone named Eulalia.”

“Oh, I’m glad you like it, dear.  Can’t say that I was ever nearly as excited as you seem to be.  Not that I ever heard anyone call me that.  I was Lula as long as I can remember.”

“I’m not sure that I can call you Lula,” Mazie said. “Sometimes we just can’t stray too far from the ways that we were raised, I guess.”  Mazie smiled.  “My parents would faint if I called an older person – a person who was older than me; I hope I’m not offending you – my parents would die if I called you ‘Lula.’”

“Are they here, dear?”  Lula pretended to crane her neck and did a quick, exaggerated scan of the area.  “I hadn’t seen them.”

“No,” Mazie laughed.  “All alone here.  Just me.”

“Then I think you should call me Lula, and I should call you…?

“Mazie.  My name is Mazie.  Not short for anything.”

 

The Woman in the Orchard

Please enjoy this continuation of what I expect to be my fourth novel.

orchard

 

Mazie stood behind the chair that had always been her mother’s place at the porch’s outdoor dining table.  She ran her hands along the welted seam of the – what was it called…Naugahyde? – chair, the miracle synthetic material that supposedly lasted forever.  Mazie smiled down at the gray, marble-patterned Formica table.  Her parents would be astonished to know that the chairs and table they had carefully chosen with their eternal vigilance to thrift would one day be precious collector’s items for scores of retro-crazed home decorators.  Neither the word “chic,” nor the value it represented would ever had entered her parents’ lexicon.  They insisted that their furnishings and possessions be practical and durable enough to weather children, animals, friends and the vicissitudes of life in general with a minimum of worry or bother.

Mazie ran her hand along the Formica, and once again along the welting at the top of the chair before lifting her gaze back to the orchard.  She thought she saw a flicker of movement between two of the old apple trees on the far slope, and she unconsciously rose up on her toes to get a better look.

It was mid-morning, not a time of day that one would expect to see a deer.  It was also unlikely that a deer would decide to amble through a relatively open orchard well before the time of year when any apples could have ripened enough to fall.  Mazie saw a flash of red, high enough above the ground that she reckoned it could only be a person, one who seemed to be plodding in slow motion through Mazie’s orchard.

old-woman-stands-in-flowers-near-his-house-and-looks-at-the-camera-ukrainian-elderly-woman-in-red-headscarf-stands-near-wooden-hut-and-looks-at-the-camera-female-looks-at-the-camera-and-

Mazie stood and watched fixedly, shock, wonder and suspicion whirling within her, as an elderly, snow white-haired woman came into focus.  The woman wore a cotton print dress, much as Mazie’s grandmothers and their various sisters had worn most days, with ankle socks and well-worn walking shoes.  Around her neck she wore a red bandana, the flash of red that Mazie had seen from afar.  The woman carried a cane in one hand, or perhaps it was a walking stick, which she leaned on heavily.  She watched her feet intently, making her way among the multitude of rocks in the thoroughly uneven, hazardous orchard.  The woman had gotten all the way to the near end of the orchard before she chanced a glance upward, at which point, she immediately saw Mazie standing behind the chair at the outdoor table on the porch.

The woman raised her cane in the air, a kind of salute.  “Oh!  Hello, dear!”

Mazie was not sure what else to say besides, “Hello!”

“I’m not used to seeing anyone!” the woman said. “You gave me rather a start.”

“It’s my place,” Mazie said, “my family’s place.”

“Oh, I’m sure it is, dear, seeing as you’re standing there on the porch.  But I walk through here every day, through your orchard there.  So, you’re what’s different for me.  Never saw anyone before.”

“I was just thinking about the orchard,” Mazie said.  “Wondering why anyone would choose such rocky, uneven ground for an orchard in the first place.”

“Well, I can’t answer that one,” the woman said.

“What I’m wondering is, why you would walk through such an… inhospitable orchard, when the road is right there.”  Mazie pointed.

“The road gets a little boring after a while, lovely as it is.  I do walk on it.  This is my little foray off the beaten path, as it were.  Just through your orchard and back on up to the road.”

“You know, when we first bought this place, my parents were intent on trying to mow it, you know, tame it into a nice, grassy meadow kind of an orchard.” Mazie laughed.  “You can’t imagine the sound when a ride-on lawnmower hits a rock.  The lawnmower engine stops dead, and this…enormous…noise reverberates through the woods in every direction.  Oh my gosh, I can still hear it clear as day.”  Mazie laughed.  “Except that one time, the whole lawnmower rolled right over, right on top of my father.  That wasn’t so funny.”

Mazie observed herself, talking to a total stranger, who was technically trespassing on her old family farm.

The woman smiled.  Mazie regarded her.

elderly-woman-walking-woods-400x400

“Oh.  Perhaps you’d rather that I don’t walk through it,” the woman said.

Mazie considered. “Well, I’m not sure that makes any sense,” Mazie responded.  “Seems kind of mean-spirited and arbitrary, out here in the middle of all this land.  No, you go right on walking through the crazy, rocky orchard any time you like.”

“Very kind of you, dear.  I suppose if you’re up and about, I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Where are you headed, anyway?”  Mazie asked.

“That way.” The woman pointed up the road, the opposite direction from the one she had come, and began walking without another word.

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Bottom photo is of Emma Rowena Gatewood, better known as Grandma Gatewood (October 25, 1887–June 4, 1973), an extreme hiker and ultra-light hiking pioneer who was the first woman to hike the 2,168-mile (3,489 km) Appalachian Trail from Mount Oglethorpe in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine solo, and in one season.

 

That Thing We Call Inspiration

InspirationMuch has been thought, and written, and even researched about the nature of what we call “inspiration.”  My Oxford online dictionary defines it as “the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative.”  The second definition listed is: “the drawing in of breath; inhalation.”  What a magnificent concept.

Most writers have various little rituals and incantations we perform in order awaken the Muse.  Most of us also find that, however we may try, that crazy thing that we call inspiration, that deep inhalation of fresh, creative air, finds us at the most unexpected times.  Never did I imagine that, recovering from a total hip replacement surgery, an image would pop into my head, and I would know that it was the foundation of my next novel.

Here, then, is the beginning of what I have tentatively entitled “The Rocky Orchard:”

__________________________________________________________

orchard“What a strange place to put an orchard,” Mazie thought to herself.  Mazie stood at the exact spot on the wrap-around porch — the one that covered two full sides of the old farm house – where she could see the farthest in three different directions. “I never could figure out why there.”

There was not all that much to see to her left, as the stone path leading from the porch door was steep enough that you had to stoop down just a tad to see the old dirt road at the path’s end.  To her right sat the old shed, and the small, spring-fed lake her parents had dredged, and the wide expanse of field that abruptly ended at the edge of the thick woods.  In the spring, if you listened very carefully, you could hear the little creek that lay just beyond the farthest edge of the field, at the very beginning of the trail into the woods.  Full and ripe with the winter’s runoff, the freezing water tumbled over the rocks in rushing abandon.  You could hear it, even from such a distance, before it began its languishing journey from bursting its muddy banks, to flowing in a steady and patient stream, to trickling in ever-shifting paths between the mossy stones, to its eventual disappearance in the flush of summer.

Where Mazie came from, it was a point of contention whether the proper way to say the word was “creek” or “crick.”  Feelings ran strong about this.  Weekend people, people who did not live there full-time – like Mazie’s family – generally said “creek;” locals said “crick.”  But if you tried to say it like they did, to be nice when you were talking to them, they assumed you were making fun and immediately got quiet or mean.  It made Mazie tired to think about.

1200px-White_Deer_Hole_Creek_near_4th_Gap

 

 

Hip, Hip…Hooray?

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I cannot predict the future, but I do know what will happen.

This morning, when I set out for my morning dog walk, my calendar told me that the date was November 10, 2018.  The sunlight that shone through my window was vast.  The air that hit me in the face when I opened my back door was not the bracing, invigorating air of late fall, the chill that brings a healthy rose to your cheeks and energizes your step.  It was the unwanted, unwarranted, unexpected, entirely RUDE slap in the face of mid-winter.  21 degrees.  I could sense the sun laughing at me.  Hahaha, fooled you.

Here is what will happen.

One hundred nineteen hours from now (seven thousand one hundred forty minutes, four hundred twenty-eight thousand four hundred seconds), a man will hold a brutally sharp knife just above my skin.  He will have marked the spot.  Possibly with a Sharpie.  He will slice my skin on a precisely drawn line, and he will watch as six or more inches of my skin separates into parts.  Copious amounts of blood will spread from the split.  People, ones who are not holding the knife, will have prepared for this.  They will mop up the streams and rivulets with highly absorbent sponges.

The fall has lingered this year.  It has taken its time, languorous and slothful in showing its colors, the trees refusing to let go of their flaming displays.  But after a blustery rainstorm, many trees gave up all at once, raining a thick carpet onto the ground.  When it dropped well below freezing last night —  for the first time —  another miracle.  Trees and leaves can no longer cling to one another.  Emblazoned leaves let go, one at a time, in a slow motion and silent shower.  They spin, twirl, dawdle in their descent, and they come to rest among the thick carpet of their brethren.

Once the myriad tissues have been cut through or pulled to the side, the man will put down the knife.  He will remove my femur from my acetabulum, or in simpler terms, he will dislocate my thigh bone from my hip socket.  He will then take a bone saw and cut off the top portion of my femur – the largest bone in the human body.  He will cut it entirely off.

Perhaps I can predict the future.

On the morning of November 10, 2018, I watch the leaves drift one at a time to their resting place on the newly-frozen ground.  Their crunch underneath my feet, even as I walk along with my cane, is one of the glorious sounds on earth.  My dog sniffs for the perfect place to plop down and roll back and forth in the leafy carpet.

When I walk among the leaves a year from now, I will not need a cane.

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