Monthly Archives: September 2014

Painted Rocks

Another thing I did on vacation last summer – spent a day enjoying the Painted Rocks National Lakeshore near Munising, Michigan. (The rocks weren’t painted by people – they’ve been tinted over the years by various minerals washing down the face of the cliffs.) We took a cruise along the shore of Lake Superior…

And then there are the hiking trails and waterfalls and mosquitoes. And the walking trees

Solar powered cat

Earlier this morning, one of the local cats – a large gray and black tabby tom with a white face and white bib – was sitting in a patch of sun in our back yard, facing east, with his eyes closed and his face turned blissfully up to the light. Recharging his batteries?

Over the next hour, he melted into a cat puddle, curled up and napping in that wonderful warmth – a splotch of gray and black and white against green grass and a few fallen oak leaves. But everything changes, alas – the world turned and left him in shade, so he woke up and wandered away grumbling.

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Wordless Wednesday – September 24, 2014

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Saturday House Clearing Haiku

Boxes keep falling
On my head, coming apart
Down the attic stairs…

Or, how to end up covered by old clothes and scraps of box. Corrugated cardboard doesn’t last forever, alas.

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Wordless Friday

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Writing 101: Enjoy the View

(This is for Day 2 of WordPress’s Writing 101 – choose a place to which you’d like to be transported at the speed of light, and give plenty of immersive details to help your readers feel what it would be like to find yourself there.

Well, there’s no pleasing some people; I can think of several very different places I like, so if I can get there really, really fast without breaking the universal speed limit, I might as well visit more than one.)

Into the Forest

The air was green, and thick with moisture. Moss coated the earth, and the fallen trees, and the standing trees – moss so green it seemed to glow from within. She wondered if, come night, the moss would light up her trail.

The damp air left her breathless and sweaty in spite of the coolness. The forest was silent, almost muffled. She met no other hikers, but once a bear ambled across the trail ahead. She jerked to a stop, but it didn’t even bother to swing its big head toward her. After a while, she moved forward again.

They had explained everything, she remembered, back when the tour group first arrived at the park. Well, at the time it had seemed like everything. The park was a simple place, really – all you had to do was follow the correct trail, and you could travel anywhere just about instantly. (As long as you weren’t too ambitious. One of the fat handful of pamphlets the rangers distributed after the orientation lecture pointed out that you would still be limited to traveling at the speed of light, so visiting even the closest star meant about an eight-year round trip. She didn’t have that kind of vacation time.)

Well, if she wasn’t going to explore the stars, where should she go? Back at the entrance, there were paths worn bare of moss with signs telling you where they led – “Taj Mahal”, “Las Vegas”, “Venice”, others – and this path, with the sign faded and mossy and illegible. So of course she’d chosen to explore this one.

She was getting thirsty. Somewhere water gurgled – over there, where a green fallen tree trunk with saplings sprouting on it bridged a gulley. It seemed wrong to leave footprints in the moss, but she couldn’t reach the stream from this trail. Slither down the steep damp slope, scoop up handfuls of water, drink – ahhh. She followed the stream for a while, clambering over mossy boulders of some blackish stone.

The stream was wider and slower now, and the banks were less steep. She pulled herself back up, clutching at saplings to keep her balance. The path had wandered off to somewhere else in the forest, but not far away was a small cabin – mossy log walls, a wide porch, a few windows, a door. A door that wasn’t quite shut.

She was tired, and it was getting dark. The door scraped along the warped floorboards as she wrestled it open. Inside was a stone fireplace (but was there anything within fifty miles dry enough to burn?), bunk beds that looked unexpectedly sturdy and almost clean, a table and a few chairs, and another door. A piece of cardboard thumbtacked to this second door said “Library.”

Library. Sure. But she might as well see what was on the other side.

She stepped through onto a balcony. Below, rows and rows of bookshelves gradually curving out of sight to the left. To the right, floor-to-ceiling windows. Beyond the windows, a park dotted with sculptures, and beyond that a city. People wandered through the park. The air here was no warmer than in the forest, and blessedly dry.

She shook her head, trying to shake the world back into something, anything, plausible. Had she dreamed the whole day? She groped behind her; something back there shifted slightly as she touched it. It certainly felt like a wooden door. Very slowly, she turned around. And there was the door in the cabin – to the cabin? whatever – peeling paint and all. There were half a dozen cardboard signs tacked to it on this side.

The top one said simply “Cabin”. The sign under that said “They told you this park lets you travel to interesting places at the speed of light, didn’t they? Here you are, and if you’re not interested you can walk home.” Just to the right, another sign read “Oh yeah, if the speed of light isn’t fast enough for you, the science fiction section starts six rows clockwise from the foot of those stairs over there.” (Whoever was writing the signs had used a piece of cardboard for this one that was too small, and the printing got smaller and smaller and harder to read toward the end.) After that, “Go ahead and stay in the cabin. Clean sheets are in the box at the end of the bunks.” And, scribbled in tiny writing on another too-small scrap, “Free cafeteria in the library basement. Hang out as long as you want to. Or find a job and relocate. Whatever.” And finally, “Enjoy yourself.”

“Thanks,” she whispered. “I plan to.”

 

So – could you picture the places my nameless heroine went? Can you feel what it would be like to go there? Please let me know.

 

 

Writing 101 – Stream of Consciousness

(Added after the fact, so I can include a link: this is for Day 1 of WordPress’s new Writing 101 series.)

Okay, twenty minutes. I can do this. Well, I can do it if my left hand holds out.

Dumpster wrist, is what a friend of mine calls it. You develop it after too many days of lugging trash out of a house you’re clearing out and putting it in a dumpster or out at the curb for regular trash pickup. I’ve spent a LOT of this summer doing exactly that. And now my go-to hand is sore and undependable. Some mornings I can’t trust myself to pick up the coffee pot with it.

(The assignment for today is to write whatever goes through our minds for the next twenty minutes, and it occurs to me that this may sound like a pre-planned beginning. Really, it isn’t. It’s just that if you spend some of your time, as I do, thinking about how to tell stories, you get in the habit of filling in background information when you know you’re writing / thinking / talking for an audience.)

Of course, if you’re talking, you’d better have an audience. Even if it’s only the goldfish.

No, I don’t have a goldfish. But I suppose it’s acceptable to talk to one if you have it. I should ask my son if he talks to his accidental goldfish. Probably not, but who knows?

Anyhow, I hope I can get through this project without resorting to hunt and peck typing. That’s hard. Especially when you were forced through a year of learning to touch type back in high school. I don’t think anybody loved that class – maybe the aspiring secretaries – but it has been useful. Kind of like being tormented by the math teacher who insisted that we all practice adding up columns of numbers by blurting out what each new sum was without taking time to think about it. You make mistakes when you think about basic arithmetic. I suppose that’s why computers are so much better at it than humans.

Well, that certainly rambled a good distance from the original topic – not that there’s anything wrong with rambling stream of consciousness. I probably wouldn’t have remembered where I started if my little finger and ring finger weren’t getting so sore.

At least we’re finally making a visible dent in the mess in my mother’s house. With any luck, we’ll get the attic emptied this week, and also the sewing room and maybe the bedrooms – they’re mainly empty anyhow, except for stuff that came down from the attic a few weeks ago. After that, check the kitchen and dining room and living room, and drag a few things up from the basement. Then we should be ready to clean the whole place thoroughly, and after that talk to a possible buyer and an estate auctioneer. I really hope we don’t have to spend the winter travelling back and forth halfway across Pennsylvania to keep checking on it. We’ll see.

And after that project is finished, it will be time to clear out this house. I’ve spent way too much time listening to my parents’ horror of throwing out anything that could theoretically be put to use. Finding everything that somebody else could certainly have used if only it had been given away twenty years ago, thirty years ago, forty years ago, and that’s now junk, will definitely clear that notion out of your head.

It’s harder to get rid of your own useless treasures, though. But it needs to be done, so that I don’t wind up ninety years old and surrounded by stuff that I don’t even know where to start looking for. Better to have less and be able to find it. But which “less” to keep?

Well, start by locating and dumping things that I don’t need and don’t want and will be perfectly happy without. Then I can start triage on whatever else is left. Not fun fun fun. Hopefully my stupid hand will have recovered by that time. This is frustrating. It does seem to be better than it was last week; I need to remember to take a wrist brace to my mom’s this time so it doesn’t