Pillars – #writephoto

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She walked among the pillars of the old building on the monastery grounds to gather her thoughts. She found it cool and serene here. Many things had gone wrong in her life recently. Not only in her life, but in the lives of some of her friends and family. She touched the cold, gray marble of one of the pillars in the colonnade and she felt a frisson of emotion. She yanked her hand away. It was exciting and frightening. Slowly, she touched the pillar again. The same emotion overcame her. She felt strength. Through her mind and body, she was flooded with the strength to meet her problems head on. She didn’t want to take her hand away, but she finally did. The strength to fight on remained.

She walked to another pillar and touched it. She was shocked with the emotion of hope. Hopelessness about her life had permeated her world for so long that she had forgotten what it felt like to feel hopeful. She felt strong and hopeful. Ready to tackle the problems in her life.

She had to touch another pillar. She could not imagine that it would cause any further emotion in her. Strength and hopefulness had already been granted to her. She touched the pillar. A sense of worthiness flooded through her. She had felt unworthy to tackle her problems. To even live her life. For years now, she had felt no self-worth at all and, by touching this pillar, that changed. It gave her great relief and made her feel that not only could she solve her problems, but she was worth the life she was living.

After she caught her breath and composed herself, she decided to try touching only one more pillar. She walked to one near the front of the colonnade and put her hand on it. She smiled and the smile got bigger as she left her hand on the pillar. She felt gratitude. She was grateful she was alive. Alive to live the life she had been given.

Strength, hope, worthiness, and gratitude. The pillars in the colonnade at the monastery gave her those things that day. She asked herself whether it was real or not. Did they give her those things? Or was she just ready to feel them on her own?

She’ll never know.

 

Thanks to Sue Vincent for the great photo prompt!

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Spectral – #writephoto

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She had brought her equipment out earlier in the day, before nightfall. It was set up, ready to go. Ready to detect any spectral presence at the old fort. She didn’t bring her team this night. She had decided to check out the old fort alone in an effort to disturb things as little as possible. She was an experienced ghost hunter, although it was a hobby and not a vocation. Her field was physics and she was a teacher.

She sat in her car at the end of the road approaching the old fort and observed for a while. Other ghost hunters had examined the fort after reports by tourists that they felt cold spots within the fort, usually associated with a spot of light and an apparition who possibly used to reside there. That didn’t make a lot of sense to her since the fort was mostly open to the elements now. She wanted to do further study.

It was a foggy night. It seemed to be an odd fog. There was no wind, but the fog was swirling around. She quickly got out of her car and went to her equipment set up some distance from the old fort. It was definitely picking up paranormal activity in the area. But what type? She suspected she knew.

The fog thickened. It seemed to swirl more and the ghosthunter had her answer. This was not your typical ghost or your typical fog. This was an ecto-mist or ectoplasm. A ghostly mist identified by the swirling pattern. She knew she must wait quietly. Ectoplasms sometimes developed into full-blown spectral apparitions.

As she watched, the fog darkened as it swirled and then stopped. There was the outline of a being sitting on the ground. She started snapping her camera although all she could see was a man wearing a white wig in an elaborate red costume or uniform. She couldn’t see his face clearly, but she could see that he was holding a rock in his hand. He was holding his head in his other hand. Within fifteen seconds, the dark fog took him away and normal fog settled in around the fort.

Given the time period in which the fort was built, rocks and cannons were all with which they had to fight. He must have been a wounded soldier.

Driving back to her home, she was thrilled with her photos and her discovery. She found herself feeling very sorry for that soldier so many hundreds of years ago.

 

Thanks to Sue Vincent for the great photo prompt!

Turning – #writephoto

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Abigail was curled up in a corner of her sofa going through the photos in the photo album she had kept. She’d just finished a huge project. She’d gone through her mother’s personal belongings. A lifetime of photos, letters, other personal things. It had been very hard, very emotional. Her mom had been gone for a long time and, only now had she been able to bring herself to sort through the dozens of boxes she had left behind.

She knew now, after the discoveries she had made, that her mother had spent a lifetime climbing a mountain like the beautiful mountain in the picture she had taken years before. She’d never known her mother until she went through her things. Odd how you could live with someone all your life and never know them. There was so much more to her mother than she’d ever known.

Abigail looked up from the photos, thinking to herself how she could have been closer to her mother and understood her so much better if her mother had only talked to her. If her mother had talked to someone. She didn’t. She closed herself up in a cocoon and when she did talk to family and friends, it was only about the good stuff. She wouldn’t open up, confide in anyone. Pride. Foolish pride. Pride that cost her family, friends, loved ones, and the affection of her husband. But, perhaps most importantly, her daughter and her own self-respect.

Her mom came by that pride honestly. Her family was so prideful that it silenced them, even between each other. There was no such thing as an apology, an honest discussion, or real interaction. Abigail was glad she was more like her father’s family. Of course, they were proud, but they weren’t afraid of expressing their feelings and they didn’t feel jealous of each other. Looking back, she felt sorry for her mother.

Abigail had been turning away from her mother’s family for many years, even before she realized why she was. There were a few members of the family that were still in her life but very few. As she grew older, she had no patience for the type of pride that cost you loved ones. It was common in Appalachia, in the mountains.

She looked back at the photo album and realized that it was time to turn away from the kind of life where pride was more important than love. She closed the book.

 

*Thank you for the challenging writing prompt, Sue Vincent! What a beautiful photo!

Watcher – #writephoto

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She didn’t walk every day. Only when she had time and they didn’t need her. Only when her weary body could force itself out the door to walk below the ridgeline. She told herself she walked for fitness. She knew she really walked for the fitness of her mind. She would often walk for a short distance, but when he was there, on top of the ridge, she would walk for an hour or more. He fascinated her. Somehow she knew the big, gray wolf was male. She didn’t know how.

She would glance up at the top of the ridge after she had walked away from the house. Most days, she saw him standing there. Facing her. High up on the ridge. As she walked, his walk paralleled hers. She walked the path at the base of the ridge while he walked the top of the ridge. Walking at the same pace she did.

They carried out this ritual for months, the woman and the wolf. Through the summer and into the late fall. She couldn’t imagine why he walked with her, though some distance away. She wasn’t afraid. On the contrary, he made her feel calm. She knew he wouldn’t hurt her. She started sitting down and resting halfway through her walk. He stopped and rested when she did.

One day, early in the winter, she was resting halfway through her walk and she heard the leaves crunch behind her. She sensed it might be him, so she sat very still. The crunching stopped. She sat for a few more moments. Then she got up to walk and saw him mere feet from her. She knew not to meet his eyes. She just started walking. He followed her, this time on the path right behind her. When she turned to go home, he also turned and followed her home. He waited for her to go in the house, then he walked off into the woods.

The wolf and the woman became walking companions. He started walking in front of her and led her up the hill to the ridgeline. When they stopped and she looked down the other side, she saw the men. Men were logging the woods and logging was prohibited in those woods. It dawned on her that this was what the wolf had wanted her to see. He wanted her help.

She reported the logging to the authorities and it stopped. During her next walk, the wolf was waiting for her. When she got to the path, he did the most surprising thing. He leaned his big body against her. Very gingerly, she reached over and took a handful of the ruff around his neck. They stood for a long time like that. Then, he walked off into the woods.

After that day, the wolf didn’t walk with her anymore although she saw him occasionally watching her from the ridgeline. She thinks he accomplished his mission — to get her help in reporting the loggers. He probably had a den, a mate, and pups nearby. She missed his company.

What she didn’t know is that he had become her watcher. She could walk the woods in safety because he will watch out for her as long as he lives.

 

Thanks to Sue Vincent for the lovely photo and writing prompt!

Caught – #writephoto

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She’d felt like it was her tree since she was a child. It was right at the edge of the forest, quite close to the back of the house she shared with her parents. She watched it grow as she grew. A shy little girl, she spent a lot of time playing in the back yard, usually alone. Often under that tree.

One day, when she was a teenager, her father noticed that the tree, much taller now, had grown a bit crooked and was leaning. He talked to her mother about cutting it down. He feared that, in a storm, it might fall and hit their house. It had a curious opening in the trunk that caused it to branch into a smaller trunk. He thought the wind could catch it just the wrong way.

She overheard the conversation and begged her father not to cut her tree. She used every argument she could think of and told him of how she’d played under it all of her life. After doing some calculations, her dad determined that, if the tree fell, it would not hit their house after all. He agreed to leave the tree. She grabbed him, hugged him, and told him she would always appreciate it.

Two years later, when she had just begun university, a tragedy befell the family. Her parents were killed in an automobile accident. The girl chose to live in her parent’s home after that. She continued her schooling, but grieved deeply for her parents. She was hopeless. She forgot about her tree..

One weekend, she went outside to work in the yard. The sun was filtering through the trees. She was so grief-stricken that she hardly noticed nature or beautiful days. She turned around and looked up and the sun caught her in the face, through the opening in her tree. Remembering her tree, she closed her eyes and let the sun soak into her skin. She felt like she was coming alive again. The sun and her tree were wiping away her grief and bringing her back to life.

She remembered her dad leaving that tree there. For her.

 

Thanks to Sue Vincent for the beautiful photo prompt!

Summer – #writephoto

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Summer was not her favorite season. She preferred fall and even winter. Here she was, in the dog days of summer, looking at a meadow that stretched out before her. She pulled over to the shoulder of the narrow, two-lane road in her car, got out and started walking. It was hot. She didn’t enjoy the weather, but the meadow reminded her of a long ago and far away meadow where she and her husband had once picnicked.

That day, that picnic, came back to her in living color detail. How long had it been? 35 years? 40 years? It had been a lovely day. Her husband had squashed down the beautiful white flowers and laid down a tablecloth. The flowers in that long-ago meadow had been a combination of milkweed, yarrow, and wild indigo. The white flowers in this beautiful meadow looked to be the same. This was a little bit of deja vu for her. She stepped from the shoulder of the road into the meadow and sat down on a little rise at the edge of the road with the flowers tickling her ankles.

She’d been carrying the picnic basket that day. He’d been carrying the drinks. She could hear the tinkle of their laughter as they walked through the meadow that long-ago day. They were just married. Newlyweds. So very much in love. They sat down on the bright blue cloth and spread out some French bread, cheese, grapes, and a vintage white wine. She had brought two wine glasses. The sun beat down on their heads as they ate, laughed, and talked and became drowsy. The smell of the flowers was as intoxicating as the wine.

She felt tears well up in her eyes. They didn’t have any baggage back then, but that changed. A popular thing to say currently was that people needed to unpack their baggage. How did you unpack your memory? Forget the events of 40 years? She thought that saying was silly. Their’s was a life fully lived, both together and apart. They were always happier together, but they had spent significant amounts of time apart. The first time her choice, the second time his. That had led to a very odd history for them as a couple.

Until recently, she didn’t think there was a chance they could live together for the rest of their lives. She thought their relationship was over and only the dregs remained. She didn’t know quite what either would do. They weren’t young anymore.

Then, life happens as it will and he started to become engaged in their marriage again. She was suspicious at first and didn’t believe it was real. He started to seem more himself, that boy she had picnicked with that summer day. She became hopeful. It had been so long since she had seen that boy that she had almost forgotten him. Gradually, she became convinced. He did seem to be that boy but with the wisdom and fatigue of age. She started to let down her guard.

As she looks at the familiar meadow with the white flowers, she remains hopeful, but still not sure. Will she live the rest of her life unsure? Perhaps. He may feel the same. She’s decided it’s worth the risk although this time, if it doesn’t work, it’s too late for them both. There isn’t enough of life left to start over, together or apart. They will each be alone.

 

Thanks to Sue Vincent for the excellent photo prompt!

Track – #writephoto

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As she walked down the long, dark track in the Appalachian forest, she thought of the wild things that used to be so populous here and how few of them remained. The deer had once walked up on her porch and ate from the troughs surrounding her house. There were hundreds of species of birds. It was quiet, peaceful. Over the last few years, humans had stolen their habitat.

She thought of the author, Wendell Berry’s, poem, “The Peace of the Wild Things,” and wanted to lie by a tree and know their peace. She knew she never would. She hadn’t seen a fawn or a pileated woodpecker this year. This was the first year they were gone. All she had heard was the screech of chain saws and the clang of heavy equipment as they tried to turn the forest into a park or a crowded subdivision. Why did they move here and claim they wanted quiet and solitude and then make it like everywhere else? Was this progress? She didn’t think so.

The track wasn’t as deep in the forest and the wild things were gone. It had only taken twenty years in this small corner of the Daniel Boone National Forest. She had once loved it here. Now, she supposed she would have to leave in search of solitude once again. She had been young when she had come here. She wasn’t young anymore and this had become home.

She considered following this track where the wild things walked all the way to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan where her roots were. She felt she was too old now. Life wasn’t easy there. She couldn’t deal with feet, not inches, of snow in the winter. How could she live without seeing her beloved wildlife daily? She’d kept her blinds closed this summer so she could pretend they were still there.

Suddenly, she remembered that very old movie called “Elephant Walk,” starring Elizabeth Taylor. She thought it was shot in the 1940s. The characters built a home in the jungle and took the elephants habitat. The elephants returned the favor by walking right through the home.

Would the wild things take back their home here someday? Part of her hoped so.

 

Thanks to Sue Vincent for this writing prompt and photo!

 

Wishes – #writephoto

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There was an old tree, crooked and bent after all these years, at the back of their property. It was obscured from view if you were in the house or yard by the jungle-like growth of the taller hardwood trees and vigorous undergrowth. In the winter, it couldn’t be seen from the house since it was over a small bank and near the 40-foot dropoff down to the creek. She never came back here. He considered it his tree. His wishing tree.

When he looked at his wishing tree now, it looked like it was decorated for the holidays with all the colorful pieces of cloth attached to the branches. It was a wild area. He was sure people occasionally hiked down the creek bed below when it was dry. They must have wondered about the old tree with the colorful cloth. They probably thought children tied the cloth to the branches or some eccentric old person. Children didn’t do it. He was getting old, but he didn’t think he was eccentric. He’d had many wishes over the years, all having to do to with her.

Maybe his expectations of her had been too high. Maybe he’d never given her a chance. They came from very different worlds. He had started at the bottom of the old tree, hanging his colorful fabric for each wish. The branches were covered all the way to the top. So many wishes. Too many expectations.

Things were better now. He had realized his expectations had been too high. He had finally let her live her life. After all they’d been through with each other, it was a miracle, but she seemed to be responding to his efforts. They laughed together now. She seemed to enjoy being with him. She smiled at him for the first time in years. They weren’t young anymore. Maybe they had just needed the wisdom that age brings. He felt the beginnings of happiness for the first time in so long.

He had a feeling he wouldn’t need his wishing tree in the future unless it was for wishes for the two of them. He knew what wish every piece of cloth represented. Smiling, he started at the bottom and began to remove them. She was his wish come true.

 

Thanks to Sue Vincent for providing this wonderful writing prompt.

Crossing – #writephoto

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They approached the old bridge silently, hand in hand. They had taken this trip together, knowing it would probably be the last time either would be able to travel this far. It was one of their favorite places. They both had a lot on their minds. He was experiencing the first wave of dementia, caused by another illness. It only cropped up occasionally. It was apparent in his map-reading and directional skills. He was depressed, morose. He knew he would never pass this way again.

An illness was not plaguing her. She was concerned about him. She was also concerned about her age, her level of fatigue. She couldn’t do what she used to do. She was terribly fatigued from this trip and had become increasingly introspective. She wondered where you crossed from middle age to being old. Everyone liked to quip that age was only a state of mind. If they could feel how she felt right now, they would know better.

She also liked to think, most days, that the crossing was in your head and she felt young almost every day. Maybe 30. Some days even younger. That was in her head. When she looked in the mirror, she wondered who was looking back at her. Surely that couldn’t be her. Someone must be standing behind her. Some days, her body failed her and she knew she couldn’t be the 30 years of age she felt in her head. She must be that chronological age number that she hated so badly. When she felt like that, she felt guilty. Many didn’t ever have the opportunity to live as long as she had.

She wondered if, in today’s world of modern medicine, the crossing occurred at 50? Maybe 60? 70? Older? Perhaps it was specific to the person. The same mysterious feeling that always arose grabbed her. She was determined that her crossing had not yet occurred. She was still middle-aged, not old. She was going to fight the forces in her body that told her otherwise. She was going to keep her mind sharp and healthy.

She had to do this. For herself and her husband next to her. He could no longer do it for himself. As women have done for eons, she had to do it for both of them. She would stay young. Her crossing would not occur until the last second of her life.

 

Thank you to Sue Vincent for this incredible prompt.

Wave – #writephoto

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The Native Americans called it Gitchee Gumee. The lake that seems as big as an ocean. Lake Superior that straddles the Michigan-Canadian border. With its rocky beaches and big waves. She walked along the beach and climbed over the rocks where she had to. It had been twelve years since she’d been here. Since she’d been home. It was a summer day, but the water was cold and the wind was brisk. She loved it.

She could be at home in Kentucky. At the island in Florida. Nowhere was she more at home than at the big lake. Do we have cellular memory? That’s the only explanation she had for it. This is where her roots were. She’d never spent much time here. Her father left here before she was born and her family seldom returned. Every time she came back, she knew this was where she was supposed to be. When she saw the relatives she had left here, it felt right. They seemed like she felt. She felt at home with them even though she didn’t know them well.

Her bond with her father, who was from this vast, sparsely populated, beautiful region, had been strong. Every time she came here as a child and later, as an adult, that bond extended to her relatives and the population here, as well as to the big lake. She had tried to write when she was on the island at the ocean. She tried repeatedly. It never worked. There was something wrong there. Something missing. There was no inspiration.

Here, there was an utter solitude and she was always better alone. She could hear the muse singing in her ears, touching her skin. She could see it with her fading vision, flying over the big lake, touching the pictured rocks, raising up the big wave, giving her the inspiration she craved. She felt she could write forever.

The Native Americans thought Gitchee Gumee was magical. They had been right about so much.