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.

Wings – #writephoto

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As she got older, she realized she would not get to fulfill all of her dreams. She sat at her desk, looking out the window at the glorious summer day. The birds were flying in and out of the feeding station. The deer were at the salt block. Her dog was at her feet. All was right with the habitat she’d built around her. There wasn’t enough time left to accomplish all she wanted to do.

She could feel it. It was a gut-wrenching feeling. That sixth sense you have if you’re in touch with your body and mind. She wasn’t old, yet she knew.

She felt a sense of urgency and wanted to work on everything at once. Most of her projects she had laid out in detail. Some she still had to work on. But a curious phenomenon was happening. Her mind was growing wings. She could be working and suddenly she wasn’t there anymore. In her mind she was visiting people and places from the past. She’d lost so many people that she loved.

Her mind would take trips to visit good times she’d had with her family, her friends. Times that made her smile. Times that would never be again. Then, she would find herself back in the present, sometimes smiling, other times crying. The losses had been almost too much to bear.

Her wings would close until the next trip and she would go back to work. Her gut told her she would join them soon, the people in her past. Perhaps that was just grief and loss at work  Her side trips also provided her with inspiration. The wings of the mind are a powerful force.

 

Thanks to Sue Vincent for #writephoto!

Beginnings – #writephoto

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She awoke to see the beautiful sky. She hardly noticed it. She padded into her kitchen to get a cup of coffee. She didn’t have much time. She wanted to visit the crypt as soon as possible. She had work to do. She had taken care of her second victim last night.

She didn’t like men who hurt women. Or women who hurt women. She had decided, long ago, that she was going to rid the world of them. Her method was so simple it was silly. She got close to them. She was charismatic with a sparkling personality. Then, one night at a private dinner, she spiked their food with a particularly dangerous concoction that stopped their hearts. She managed to load them in her car and drove them to her crypt.

Her crypt was the basement of an old building in town that was easy to access. No one was ever around the old building. It had fallen into disrepair as had so many of the buildings in the small town. The floor of the basement was soft dirt. She dug their graves there.

This second victim was her best friend’s boyfriend who was mean to her. Her first victim, two years ago, had been her own ex-husband. They had never solved his disappearance. She smiled at that thought. She already knew who the third victim would be. It would take some time.

She kept all of her tools hidden in that basement. After she got there, she dug a shallow grave for the man. It wasn’t hard. She kicked his body into it thinking that she hoped he would rot in hell. It was what he deserved. She covered up her crime as well as possible and left. You could hardly tell anything had ever been disturbed. She was meticulous.

On to the third man, she thought, as she left the crypt. It would be a while before she would be back, but she knew this was only the beginning of her career. They say there are no female serial killers. That’s because women are so much better at it.

Conflagration – #writephoto

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They had been looking forward to their camping trip to the national park. The two of them hadn’t taken a vacation together in a long time. This time together was long-awaited. They both enjoyed the forest, the outdoors, the wildlife, the hiking, all the things they would get to do in the wilderness area of the park. They set up their camp with excitement that afternoon while planning their activities for the evening and the next day.

He went fishing in the river that ran nearby and actually caught fish for their dinner. They were both thrilled. They had brought vegetables from home to complete their meal. They were grilling their food over the campfire when they first noticed the smoke. At first they thought it was just smoke from the campfires of other people. Then they saw a herd of deer and even a black bear and her cubs run past them. He became concerned. There was a low cacophony rumbling in the forest.

Quite suddenly, there were people running by them, screaming at them to leave, to run, that a conflagration was heading toward them. They picked up a few necessities and got in their car.

When they got out on the road, they quickly saw they couldn’t escape by driving. The  cars were backed up for miles. They could see the glow of blaze behind them and could tell it was getting closer. It was time to abandon the car.

They felt like they had run, along with everyone else in the same tourist town, for miles. She fell to her knees over a lump in the terrain. When he stooped to pull her up, they both heard a grunt and they thought she had fallen over a person. They started frantically searching the ground and found the body….of a large pot-bellied pig. He was digging himself as deep into the ground as he could. They knew they couldn’t help him and jumped up and ran on. The fire was practically licking at their heels.

When it was all over, they had reached safety, but not everyone had and not every animal in the beautiful park had escaped. Later, they found that the pig was a family pet that knew to burrow into the ground. He’d been rescued and was recovering at the nearest veterinary hospital. It would take longer, much longer, for the national park to recover from the fire that the young boys let get out of control. Some families would never recover from the loss of their loved ones at all.

Dedicated to the victims of the fire in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 2016

Turrets – #writephoto

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How did he ever convince her to visit this God forsaken castle in Turkey, of all places, Rebecca wondered to herself as she and Patrick stumbled down the crumbling, stone steps in the portion of the medieval castle that was still standing.

This trip to Europe had been filled with difficulties. Patrick was determined to make this one last stop in Turkey and she saw no reason, cultural or otherwise, for it. The ruins weren’t particularly noteworthy. The tour group was small. The surrounding area contained little of historical significance. It was also completely off their tour route. She didn’t understand why they were there and Patrick seemed unable and unwilling to explain. He’d hardly even spoken to her as they toured the ruins.

He was walking far ahead of her down the steps when she felt herself stumble. There was nothing to grab onto. She started to tumble down the stairs and landed at the bottom. The remaining two people behind her rushed to her, but she assured them she was fine. They wandered off.

She wasn’t fine. She’d turned her ankle and as she tried to get up, she found she couldn’t put her weight on it. By then, the two other tour group members were gone and she was alone. She called out for Patrick, but after waiting a few minutes, it was clear he didn’t know yet that she’d been left behind.

Rebecca suddenly heard a woman laugh, an evil-sounding laugh. She looked up and on the stair rail stood a creature. A female-looking creature with piercing blue eyes and a long black robe. Rebecca started scooting across the floor away from it.

The creature spoke and said, “My name is Ramona and I am the Dark Fairy.” Then it just tapped its toe on the stair rail.

”I’d make you my pet, but it would be more fun to make that man you’re with my pet.”

Rebecca finally found her voice and said, “What are you talking about?”

”Don’t you know anything? Dark fairies make humans their pets and the humans do our biding.”

Rebecca felt herself jerked up, her ankle painless, and the Dark Fairy fluttered beside her.

”Now get up. We’re going after that gentleman friend of yours. He’s been trying to do you harm.”

#Avenue – #writephoto

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Against her own will, she takes a different route than usual for her morning walk. It is bright and sunny outside. One of the first sunny days after a brutal winter. It seems that the weather has jumped from the dead of winter right into summer. It even seems hot. She vows to cut her morning walk a little short.

Then she sees a tree-lined avenue to her right. Its beauty astounds her. Her feet take her toward the avenue and she spots park benches all along the way. She craves the shade-lined portion of the avenue. She sits on one of the benches. Recently, she hasn’t enjoyed the sun. She feels the sun reveals too much about her. The tired face, the slumped posture, the aging. Those are private things. She doesn’t want anyone to look too closely. They might figure her out.

Beyond the shade is the wondrous sunny part of the avenue. It’s lined with cherry-blossoms. The scent wafts toward her and is sweet. People are meandering along the sunny avenue admiring the cherry trees. She doesn’t feel she has a right to the cherry blossoms, to the sunny portion of the avenue. That is for the young, the people with life ahead of them. Those who still have hopes and dreams. Not someone like her. Someone whose hopes and dreams have been stolen away.

She sits and enjoys the shade for a while. She pulls herself up and starts for home. That’s where she belongs. Behind the draperies. Where the sun doesn’t shine.

Thanks to Sue Vincent