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Another time

seven chanterelles

I grew up in a time when I could roam the woods by myself. I could grab a hat, and walk out our back door, not letting the screen slam or else my mother might remember that I should possibly be doing something else, like weeding, or picking beans. I hated picking string beans because of the squashy prickly bean beetle larvae that crawled over leaf stems and beans. They gave me the creeps because they looked as though they had neither tail nor head, just a translucent blob, the naked juiciness of them studded with a pattern of black spines. They would break against my fingers and I loathed the sap of their deaths on my hands.

Quickly walk along the tractor path that traced the base of the hill, so I’d be out of earshot of anyone remembering that I should be tutoring my younger sister, or perhaps vacuuming the living room. Or dusting— the job that never ended. Then, with a deep breath of freedom, across the mown slope barely in view of the house. Don’t look behind, or I might see someone waving me back home for any of those chores I was convinced could wait. Over the rise, almost running, with the sweat prickling down between my shoulder blades, and down past the brushy edge of woods that bordered corn fields green with eager breeze blown blades, taller than my head, the overcast glow of sky hot on my hat.

I always looked for other people. Looked for farmworkers, for wanderers, for the adolescent boy checking out possible hunting ground before the fall, despite the “No Hunting” signs my cousin had posted on this old Gowen land. Then I’d duck down a path into the woods, this path wide enough for a truck. Trucks had come this way, keeping it open. The farmworkers often parked down here where the slope of land deepened, seeking shade for lunch time.

six chanterelles

I knew that if I came across anyone else there, I should not let them know of my presence.. Soft footing around, I prided myself I’d always spot any intruder first, and never would they see me. Every so often, I’d take a pause, breathing through my mouth to listen. What did I fear? Nothing so clear; I simply knew I was safest alone, unknown, unnamed.

Now how many children have such freedom? To lose themselves in the woods and orchards of infinite mystery and promise, discovering animals, spying on insects, picking up a shed hawk feather or collecting a cluster of fresh chanterelles from the duff under the hemlocks? I took part of my education there in the shadows of trees, naming red oak and sugar maple, white pine and the startling silver and black of paper birch. What has replaced this for our children now?

single chanterelle

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When the winds blow

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December 24, 2017 · 6:26 am

A deeper breath of air

       It has been a mess here but things are looking up today. Two days ago we had skies filled by smoke and ashes falling  so heavily you could hear them striking leaves and rustling through branches. Our Thomas Fire is a monster. For the past week a friend and her cat have been with us staying in our front rooms, due to the evacuations east of us.  It is this terrible dryness that has us in this fix. Years of drought followed by one adequate rain last winter, and now this year an even more intense drought. Until that breaks I see no real end to these flames and smoke, even when this particular fire, God willing, passes. For now we only hope there will be no sundowner winds to bring the fire into our laps. But, as said before, this is a fire ecosystem, and we are packed with our cat carriers set out ready for our four beasts should the call to evacuate come.
Our daughter has lingered in Phoenix where she’s a graduate student, because as we have told her, why should she drive ten hours to join us in this terrible air? But she is tired of waiting and has set out this morning. She’s a good driver but I shall be much relieved when she’s actually parked once more in our driveway.
Now, today, there has been a sense of jubilation that perhaps the incredible efforts of firefighters have succeeded in controlling the Thomas fire. My fingers are crossed, but now we have blue skies with only a bit of smoke haze, so different! We all look to the foothills and mountains thad think of those brave souls who have put themselves in harm’s way for all our sakes. All good honor and praise to them. Our sorrow for the fallen firefighter and his family.go-fund-me site
Thanks for all your good wishes and ours to you– may you have happy holidays with those you love, and peace.

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Thomas Fire, a week and counting

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 Nikolas_Abele_SBCo_hand_crew_2017 https://www.independent.com/news/2017/dec/11/fire-crews-fight-by-land-air-to-hold-thomas-fire/

We try to work inside these days, and our feet leave swirls in ash when we go out for the mail, while our protective masks set our spectacles askew. But we can stay home, so far, pat the cats, and feel better.

For those dark figures who stand against the fires when I would flee, I send my gratitude, nearly as deep as my fear. I could not do what you do. Thank you is a flimsy sentiment against what you put on the line by an act of will.

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Smoke

We are in heavy smoke on the South Coast, the sun left us before noon to disappear behind a great blanket of ruddy gray from the Thomas Fire. White falls like snowflakes, except we’re breathing the ashes of other people’s dreams. We aren’t in  danger but I can do nothing without turning on the lights and the occasional sky light is rosy orange. Surreal. Weirdly cold. I should be writing an apocalyptic novel but it’s hard to concentrate, so I am doing massive Christmas cookie baking for my neighbors.

Ray Ford Noozhawk photo Dec 5 Faria Beach
So we are lying low and waiting. I think we are in fine shape but because I am a paranoid person, I have all our cat carriers out and all the valuable documents packed up in bins! My husband kind of smiled at me, but I pointed out that if another closer fire broke out, the firefighters are already over-extended.
Grateful that the winds have quieted!
Time for some super chocolate three-way fudge cookies.

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After Nanowrimo

I’m a little slow posting this, but while Nanowrimo (national novel writing month) is officially over, the greater part of the work on a novel begins. The biggest job isn’t the first complete draft, though you can’t go anywhere without one!

I totaled 67,565 words on mine, working title Living with the Enemy, then over the first days in December I created a chapter log– giving the page number on which each new chapter begins and what the main action or actions may be in each. This allows me to look over the action and pacing, as well as keep a sense of character development– the progression of change in each person of interest. I also note what themes are recurring, so I can figure out what events might better serve in a different order.

Many of you who write, and it doesn’t matter if it’s fiction or non-fiction, make an outline. Sometimes I do, but this November I didn’t. Writing in the first person makes an organized plot harder for me– I feel as though I’m letting another voice speak through me when I write in first person, thus it’s much harder to guide. I feel there’s an organic power rising through first person narrative. Maybe I will cut and shape later, but while the story is first erupting, I hate to dictate what I want to hear about. (No, don’t tell me about the murder right now– I want to hear about the dog…)

I want to invite in the voice out of the darkness that comes and tells me something, sometimes troubling or even terrible. Such a voice gives me a feeling of personhood, and the burden that soul bears. Who is it? How did he or she get there? Sometimes I’ve thought it was a woman or a girl, and then I found out as the reveal progressed that I was wrong, and I have another strange man in my head telling me what happened to him. After all most voices sound alike in a whisper.

So I will confess it right now. More times than not, I write the end of a novel before the beginning. How many of you do likewise?

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A little surprise of a visitor

It’s November and I’m working away on my nanowrimo novel, but of course other matters abound and distract. I’ve been involved with political and local issues, digging up and manuring the rows I want to plant lima beans and peas in, starting the cauliflower and broccoli seedlings, transplanting baby leeks… and what turns up? A tiny wonderful bird. I’ve never seen a ruby-crowned kinglet so unmistakably clear before, the brilliant tiny splotch of red like an extravagant punctuation on the back of his elegant head. A fast sketch later and now I need to go out and soak those lima beans for planting.

ruby-crowned kinglet btr

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