Author Archives: Miriam Hurdle

Lens-Artists Weekly Photo Challenge #109: Under the Sun

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge theme from Amy for this week is “Under the Sun.” It’s about photo captures anywhere under the sun. I applied the theme to both indoor and outdoor.

Last year in June I babysat my granddaughter, Autumn, by myself while my daughter, Mercy, and her husband went to Iceland on vacation. Some friends said I was brave. Some said it would tire me, but I could handle it. The advice was, “When she sleeps, you sleep.”

Mercy made a spreadsheet of suggested daily schedule and activities, a list of her friends and phone numbers, the doctor and phone number. My mind was at ease without worrying of what to do to fill the days. They rented a car even though I wasn’t planning on driving.

They took a late afternoon flight to arrive early the next day to make the most of their trip.

“I missed Autumn already. Please send us a lot of pictures.” Before boarding, Mercy sent me a message.

“I will do that.” I returned her message.

When Autumn woke up in the morning, she looked for mommy and daddy. I said, “Mommy will be back. Daddy will be back.” She said, “Daddy went to work. Mommy went to work. Daddy will be back. Mommy will be back.”

We went to the park in the afternoon. There were kids playing with the water feature. I looked at the backpack, there was a change of clothes, no I let Autumn play with other kids.

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The next day before nap time, Autumn had a temperature of 101.2. After she woke up from the nap, the temperature went up to 103. I kept Mercy updated. Deep down, I regretted to let Autumn play with the water for too long on the previous day. I hoped her temperature wouldn’t prolong. Most of all, I didn’t want Mercy to cut their vacation short.

I called Mercy’s friends to pick up a few items from the store for me. They came after work. One of them was a nurse. She checked on Autumn and wrote some instruction for me. The other friend bought what I needed, plus some Popsicle.

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Autumn had a good night sleep. I put her on a soft diet, plus the Popsicle. We didn’t go to the park and just did some quiet activities around the house. By the afternoon, her temperature came back to normal. It was such a tremendous relief for me. My first-time babysitting Autumn full time was okay.  I’m glad Mercy didn’t have to cut their vacation short.

“It seems to be a 24-hour thing.” Mercy messaged me.

“I think so. I’m glad it was a 24-hour thing.” I returned the message.

The remaining days, we went to the park, the library, and walked around the neighborhood.

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Mercy and Will had a fabulous trip. We exchange messages and photos many times a day. They got home in the late evening on their return. Autumn was excited to see Mommy and Daddy when she woke up the next day.

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Iceland by Mercy Rossi

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Iceland by Mercy Rossi

 

Lens-Artists Weekly Photo Challenge #109: Under the Sun

 

Thank you for reading. Wishing you a fabulous day under the sun.

 

 

“Fiction In A Flash Challenge” Week #11 – Destination

I am so happy to participate in the “Fiction in a Flash Challenge” by Suzanne Burke. This is her Week #11. Each week she’ll be featuring an image and inviting you to write a Flash Fiction or Non-Fiction piece inspired by that image in any format and genre of your choosing.  Maximum word count: 750 words. Please click the link at the end of the post if you’re interested.

 

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Destination

“What do you think about St. Andrews Church?” Joshua and Melissa were at the café reviewed their notes. He had a Mocha Cookie Crumble Frappuccino and Melissa had a Cinnamon Dolce Latte.

“I like the layout of the sanctuary. The stage is five steps higher than the audience, but it’s not too far from the first pew. I like the alter and the apse behind it.” Melissa took a sip of her latte, recalled the details of the church layout.

“The location is just right with the access to major freeways.”

“We need to write different directions to get there because we have families and friends from all over the state. And we also need the direction to get to our homes from the airport.”

“Yes, I’ll write the directions. Have  agreed that you’ll create the website? You’re the techie.”

“No problem. I picked the template of the website and the color scheme already.” Melissa took another sip of the latte.

“I trust you on that. I’ll admire it when it’s done.”

“I need you to help in making a list of the hotels in town with different price ranges, a list of the restaurants, some entertainments, and places to visit while they’re in town.”

“That part is simple. I’ll have them in just a few clicks. Some tourist sites have plenty of recommendations.” Joshua entered a few notes on his phone.

“I created a spreadsheet of the timeline. Once we decide on the church and reception locations, I’ll plug in the details. We have visited several churches. What other ones do we consider?”

“What do you think about the Lutheran Church?”

“I liked it, but the sanctuary has dark walls on all sides. The church doesn’t have the best lighting for photography.”

“You’re a better one to have any say on that from a photographer point of view. What other churches do we want to consider?”

“The Presbyterian Church has a modern look.”

“Yes, there are plenty of parking spaces, and the structure is on the same level as the church.”

“But it’s too far from the Reception Hall at the Gulf Course. I’m afraid some people may get lost. I know we can give the direction from the church to the Reception Hall.”

“Your concern is valid. Let’s keep talking.”

“I can’t believe it’s been seven years since we met.”

“Time flies when you have fun as people say. I’m so happy that we have fun together.”

“You were so cute when we first met.” Sparks filled Melissa’s eyes.

“How so? What did I do?”

“Well, that’s it. You did nothing. You just stared at me for the longest time until I said ‘hi’ and you startled.”

“I did? I don’t remember that.”

“You offered to buy me a drink. I said ‘I don’t drink’.”

“Now I remember. Then I said I’d buy you anything to drink.”

“It was our first day there at the resort on the mountain. I arrived in the morning and you got there in the afternoon.”

“Yes, I took the gondola lift to get up there.”

“So did I! I wanted to have time to look around before the hiking trip the next day.”

“How did you like the view going up?”

“The aerial view of the water fall from the gondola took my breath away. It was like magic.”

“It was impressive and exhilarating. I had seen nothing like that. It’s not the same as seeing it from the airplane. It’s seeing it in the air yet, it’s close enough to see the rushing bubbles.”

“I’m writing our story to post on the wedding website… That’s it! I want a destination wedding.” Melissa almost jumped up.

“At the resort on the mountain top?”

“Yeah, I want people to experience the magic.”

“I know, people always want to know how and where the couple met.”

 ♥ (¯` * •. ¸ ♥ ♥ ¸. • * ‘¯) ♥

 

“Fiction In A Flash Challenge” Week #11 – Destination

 

Thank you reading! Please let me know what you think!

 

Lens-Artists Weekly Photo Challenge #108: Sanctuary

Xenia at Tranature is the guest host for Lens-Artists Weekly Photo Challenge this week. She invited us to look at the theme of Sanctuary.

We have been in lock down because of Covid-19 since March 11. The initial projection was to close schools and stores for several weeks. Five months have gone by, we see new surge of cases in many countries. This is an unsettling time of the history.

Xenia’s theme is timely for us to think about and find sanctuary among the chaos.

 

Sanctuary is the tranquility where the mind and soul find serenity and peace. It could be in the ocean, a park, or your garden.

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It seems to be miles away but Laguna Lake is in the midst of the residential homes.

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My garden

Sanctuary is the harmony where the chaos, strife, and discords dissipate. It could be somewhere in the forest or the perception through our filtered lenses.

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Trees find their way toward the sun at Laguna Lake.

Sanctuary is the quietness where the demands, interruption, and disturbance fade away. It could be a bench under a tree or in the depth of your heart.

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Benches like this one are facing the water around Laguna Lake.

Sanctuary is a resting place where the struggles, conflicts, and confusion subside. A nap can be a pleasant luxury, a mini-vacation. It can provide an easy way to get some relaxation and rejuvenation.

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Tucking the head under the wings is a perfect way of napping for the ducks.

Sanctuary is a hobby you emerge yourself in for leisure and pleasure. You may find it in reading, hiking, or fishing. I find mine in singing and painting.

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This family enjoyed fishing at Laguna Lake

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My watercolor painting

Sanctuary is a haven where one finds security, love, and care for the young.

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A content mama duck with eight fuzzy ducklings

Lens-Artists Weekly Photo Challenge #108: Sanctuary

 

I love to hear where you find your sanctuary. Please share with us in the comment. Thank you!

 

 

 

Book Launch: Against All Odds by Jacqui Murray

My dear friends, please help me welcome Jacqui Murray, a prehistoric fiction author, to my blog.

Jacqui and I haven’t officially met but we may run into each other on the same beach when the pandemic is over. It is my pleasure to host the book launch party for Jacqui’s new release of Against All Odds, Book 3 in the Crossroad trilogy.

 

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I’m glad you all are here for the party. Help yourself with some drinks and dessert!!

                             A surprise book launch party • A Subtle Revelry    Summer cocktails: 10 party drinks for a crowd | Food | The Guardian

Glorious Layered Desserts Book Launch Party - Glorious Treats

I invited Jacqui to share with me about the prehistoric people.

How do you know Xhosa’s People are as smart as they seem in this book?                 

A study published in the journal Nature Human Behavior places the appearance of human-like ways of thinking with the emergence of Homo erectus. The complex thought required to create their stone tools (called Acheulean) and their functional variety (which includes cutters, choppers, handaxes, cleavers, flakes, and scrapers) have long inspired many paleoanthropologists to believe Homo erectus was smart. A 2017 study that mapped student brains while they recreated these tools revealed that this work required the ability to “hold in mind” information—much as you and I do to plan complete complex tasks. “The fact that these more advanced forms of cognition were required to create Acheulean hand axes … means the date for this more humanlike type of cognition can be pushed back to at least 1.8 million years ago …” [Indiana University. “‘Humanlike’ ways of thinking evolved 1.8 million years ago.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 May 2017]                   

Not definitive but interesting!                                                                                                           

Convince me they communicate effectively with gestures, body movements, and facial expressions.                        

I get this a lot. Let me give you two examples. First, have you ever been around someone who doesn’t speak your language and still, the two of you communicate? It’s probably via hand gestures, body movements, and facial expressions. Much can be said without voices.

Second, think of sign language. Sophisticated ideas are communicated with hands and facial expressions around the world daily. That’s how Xhosa and her kind did it.

I’m surprised by the sophistication and cleverness of some of their actions. Would you tell me more?             

Homo erectus could pass as a modern man dressed properly and if the viewer carried no precognitions about what he expected. But he lacked many of the social constructs we take for granted. Because these traits don’t fossilize, we extrapolate what life was like from artifacts like their sophisticated tools.                                                                   

A recent study out of Gesher Benot Ya’aqov (in the Levant) provides evidence that in that part of Eurasia, Homo erectus lived in a camp—called a homebase—with divided work areas for toolmaking and consumption located near a hearth. These are traits associated with our modern lifestyle and now are found over half a million years ago.

Thank you, Jacqui!

I’ve read your interesting post about writing, Jacqui. Thank you for sending it to me to post it here.

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Writing Quirks That Suck the Energy Out of Your Writing By Jacqui Murray

Writing

An efriend writer originally published this as a guest post on their blog to help me launch Against All Odds August 2020. In case you missed it there, here are my anecdotal thoughts on how to add drama to your story:

Keeping your fiction active and engaging is as much about how you tell the story as it is about plot and setting. You must write sentences that pull readers in, keep them engaged while you maintain a reasonable pace and are clear enough that the reader doesn’t find himself/herself re-reading or trying to figure out what you’re saying.

When my novel bogs down, here are five constructs that are often the culprit. I keep each discussion short. If you would like to dig deeper, there are many great writing websites and books that make that possible:

Passive voice

According to Grammarly:

“Passive voice is when the noun being acted upon is made the subject of the sentence.”

Passive voice moves readers out of the action and puts them in a safe place to the side of the action. They become unaffected by the action and the plot, more of an observer. That’s deadly for a story. We want readers sitting in the middle of events, worried everything will blow up around them. Plus, passive voice often weakens the clarity of what’s being written.

Solution: Rephrase the sentence so that the action noun becomes part of the subject. For example:

Wrong: The grass has been scorched by the wild fire.

Right: The wild fire scorched the grass.

Too many prepositional phrases

Prepositional phrases add interesting information to the story but must be managed. If you have too many in a sentence, 1) the reader loses track of what you’re trying to say, or 2) the sentence becomes unnecessarily convoluted.

Look at these examples from the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s Writing Center:

Unnecessary phrase: The opinion of the manager
Correction: The manager’s opinion

Unnecessary phrase: The obvious effect of such a range of reference is to assure the audience of the author’s range of learning and intellect.
Correction: The wide-ranging references in this talk assure the audience that the author is intelligent and well-read.

Do you notice how the prepositional phrases make the text wordy and choppy? It’s worth noting that the Chicago Manual of Style recommends the use of only one preposition per ten-fifteen words.

Solution: 1) Delete the prepositional phrase. Does the story lose anything? 2) Break the sentence into multiple sentences. 3) Use active voice instead of passive. 

Qualifying words

According to The Writing Center at the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill:

“Qualifiers… are words or phrases that are added to another word to modify its meaning (He was somewhat busy; the dog was sort of cute). Qualifiers give … clues about how confident you feel about the information you’re presenting. …excessive use of qualifiers can make you sound unsure of your facts….”

Qualifying words include a bit, little, fairly, highly, kind of, mostly, rather, really, slightly, sort of, appeared to, and seemed to. They don’t draw a line that when crossed, creates drama. They equivocate which weakens your story and your message.

Solution: Replace these words with decisive ones. Take a stand.

Had

The past perfect tense is a menace to the creation of drama in your writing. It can be spotted, most of the time, by looking for the word had:

“She had been frightened and then had run away.”

We find out that she once was frightened but now she isn’t. It removes the stress of whatever frightened her because we know she’s safe. But as writers, we want readers to wonder if she’s going to fall off that cliff. ‘Had’ just sucked all that drama from the story.

Solution: Let readers feel the drama and then the solution. 

Participles and Gerunds

According to Purdue’s Online Writing Lab, “a gerund is a verb that ends with -ing (such as dancing, flying, etc.) and functions as a noun.” … A participle also ends in -ing but forms the progressive tense of a verb. When you have too many of either in one sentence, readers lose track of the action and the meaning.  As a writer, I know they sap the energy from my writing but I couldn’t find a grammar rule to explain why. Susan B. Weiner did offer this:

“Shorter sentences are easier for readers to absorb.”

That’s part of it. Gerunds also make sentences less direct so harder to comprehend. Geist explains:

“They will not take you to the simplest, strongest, most beautiful prose. …[They] make the sentence less direct and harder to comprehend than it can be…”

Solution: Figure out what you’re trying to say and then say it directly.

Long sentences

I had a colleague in my critique group tell me not unkindly that she had become used to my long sentences.  What she could have added but didn’t was that at times, they made it difficult to remember how the action started. Here’s an example:

Writing 1

The many independent clauses makes it easy for readers to get lost and miss what is being said.

Solution: Break the sentence into manageable pieces that stand on their own.

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You gave so many important tips in a short post. This is very helpful to many writers.

Now Let me share the information about your new release.

 

Against All Odds (Book 3 of the Crossroads Trilogy) by [Jacqui Murray]

Against All Odds

Xhosa’s extraordinary prehistoric saga concludes, filled with hardship, courage, survival, and family.

Summary

A million years of evolution made Xhosa tough but was it enough? She and her People finally reach their destination—a glorious land of tall grasses, few predators, and an abundance that seems limitless, but an enemy greater than any they have met so far threatens to end their dreams. If Xhosa can’t stop this one, she and her People must again flee.

The Crossroads trilogy is set 850,000 years ago, a time in prehistory when man populated most of Eurasia. He was a violent species, fully capable of addressing the many hardships that threatened his survival except for one: future man, a smarter version of himself, one destined to obliterate all those who came before.

From prehistoric fiction author Jacqui Murray comes the unforgettable saga of a courageous woman who questions assumptions, searches for truth, and does what she must despite daunting opposition. Read the final chapter of her search for freedom, safety, and a new home.

A perfect book for fans of Jean Auel and the Gears!

Book information:

Title and author: Against All Odds by Jacqui Murray

Series: Book 3 in the Crossroads series

Genre: Prehistoric fiction

Available digitally (print soon) at: Kindle US   Kindle UK   Kindle CA   Kindle AU

Okay, I don’t want to forget to introduce you properly… Here’s Jacqui: 

 

Author bio:

Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers, and the Man vs. Nature saga. She is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, blog webmaster, an Amazon Vine Voice a columnist for NEA Today, and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. Look for her next prehistoric fiction, Laws of Nature, Book 2 in the Dawn of Humanity trilogy, Winter 2021. You can find her tech ed books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning.

Social Media contacts:

Amazon Author Page:       https://www.amazon.com/Jacqui-Murray/e/B002E78CQQ/

Blog:                                       https://worddreams.wordpress.com

Instagram:                            https://www.instagram.com/jacquimurraywriter/

LinkedIn:                              http://linkedin.com/in/jacquimurray

Pinterest:                              http://pinterest.com/askatechteacher

Twitter:                                 http://twitter.com/worddreams

Website:                                https://jacquimurray.net

 

Now please enjoy this fabulous trailer and the excerpt.

 

 

Excerpt:

Chapter 1

The foothills of the Pyrenees

They came out of the mountains, hair frozen in sparkling strands, hands and feet wrapped in shredded pelts, ribs etched against their skin under ragged hides white with snow, faces haggard with fatigue. Blood crusted scrapes and gashes, many recent, others almost healed, reminders of the violent struggles endured on their journey.

Though their steps flagged, not one of these upright creatures exhibited a hint of defeat. All males and a few females carried at least one spear, some two, many with warclubs strapped to their backs. Despite the anxiety and fear of entering this foreign land, hope energized them today, that their migration might be at an end.

All of them—Xhosa and her tribe, Pan-do and his, Wind, Zvi, and Seeker—had been chased from their homes by enemies. In their flight, they found each other. It took time to work through their differences but now they traveled side by side, respected ideas not theirs, and called themselves the People.

Their charismatic Leaders—Xhosa, Wind, and Pan-do—were known as reliable friends to those who earned their trust and dangerous enemies to those who opposed them. Two wolves—Spirit and Black Wolf—journeyed with them. Though the People lacked the animals’ sharp claws, dense fur, and piercing teeth, each considered the other “pack” and would defend them to death.

The exhausted group straggled down the gently sloping flank, feet shuffling carefully over the slippery scree. The ground changed from talus to stunted tufts of grass, sparse and brown which made walking easier. Optimism shone from their faces even as their tired eyes flicked side to side in search of unexpected movement, ears strained for out-of-place noises, and noses sniffed.

Rather than continue across the meadow, Xhosa led the People into the shade of the edging forest.

“Do you smell it, Wind?” Anticipation filled her gestures.

She and Wind, pairmates as well as Co-Leaders, stood quietly, absorbing their surroundings. Light filtered lazily through the canopy, the shadowed ground dappled with patches of warmth. She sniffed in the essence of wet earth and rotting leaves, the mustiness of moss, and something else much more enticing.

“It’s there.” She pointed and strode forward, lengthening her stride.

An icy gust whipped down the hillside through the shadows and raised bumps on her arms but she ignored it. The forest gave way to open sky and searing heat. It was too hot for her thin pelt but she didn’t stop to remove it. Green stalks swayed as far as she could see, edged on one side by more mountains and the other by some sort of leaves and branches. Sunlight glinted off the rippled surface of a distant river as it curled over the terrain.

“Dung!” The scent overpowered every other odor.

Wind huffed to her side. “It’s been a long time since we smelled dung that wasn’t frozen.”

“We did it, Wind.” Her eyes glistened with relief.

For most of a Moon, dread gnawed at her courage and left her wondering if following the guidance of Seeker—a boy barely a man—was a mistake. But Seeker assured her in his ebullient way that once out of the hills, their new homebase would welcome them. Xhosa wanted to believe him because she wasn’t sure what else to do. Nor did she know what to do if it didn’t work.

Wind motioned, arms inclusive, “It’s beautiful, Xhosa.”

Siri, Pan-do, Ngili, the wolves Spirit and Black Wolf, and the rest of the People gathered around Xhosa and Wind, eyes locked on what lay in front of them.

Pan-do whispered, “We made it.” His eyes were moist, mouth open.

Ngili, the People’s Lead Hunter, motioned, hands close to his body. “With all this grass, Gazelle or Mammoth must be nearby.”

Dust, the Lead Scout, trotted up, coming from a tall cliff far ahead on their forward path. “I think there are caves there.”

The People hadn’t slept in a cave since leaving Viper and the Mountain Dwellers. It would be a treat if true.

Xhosa looked behind. Shadows already stretched as far from the bottom of the rocky slopes as sunlight to the top. Daylight would soon end.

“We don’t have much time. Let’s rest and then see if those are caves.”

Ngili, the People’s Lead Hunter, motioned, fingers spaced out, palms up, “I’ll go with Dust to check.” He added a swift spread-fingered swipe with first one hand and then the other, followed by a quick bob of his head and a puff.

Xhosa brushed both hands down her sides. Go.

The People spoke with a complex combination of hand motions, facial expressions, body movements, and sounds augmented with chirrups, snaps, hisses, and whistles. By the time Ngili finished talking, Xhosa knew how many would join him, where they would go, and how long they’d be away. The People’s communication was sophisticated but quiet, a precaution especially in unfamiliar areas. Unusual sounds—voices, for example—stood out. All animals made noises but few as varied as the People’s. Why alert Others who lived here to their presence? Xhosa would do that in her own time, in her own way.

Dust, Ngili, and two scouts soon receded into the landscape, the only evidence of their passage a slight disturbance in the slender waving stalks. Despite the dung scents, the abundant plant food, and the glisten of a faraway river, Xhosa crossed her arms over her chest and paced.

Something is wrong.

She searched the forests and the rippling field that had swallowed up Dust and Ngili . Xhosa possessed the ability to see great distances in sufficient detail to find trails, footprints, movement, or the glitter of sun off eyes.

She saw none of those and that made her more uncomfortable.

With this wealth of food and water, Others should be here.

Wind motioned, palms flattened against his chest, “The mountains we crossed touched Sun. They’re cold and barren. Few can do what we did to get here, Xhosa. We are safe.”

Xhosa could hear in his voice, see in his gestures, that despite his bravado, Wind too felt uneasy about what they didn’t see and hear.

But she grinned. “I don’t know how I survived without someone being able to read my thoughts.”

She trotted over to a stream that fed into the river she had noticed. She stretched out on her belly, flat on the soft grass at the water’s edge, and took a long, satisfying drink of the sweet liquid. Thirst quenched, she collected handfuls of the tender shoots of new plants growing along the shore, ate what she wanted and tossed the rest into a communal food pile that would be shared with all the People. It was already filling up with fat fish speared from the slow-moving pools beside the river, tasty reeds and cattails, and even a handful of eggs plucked from nests not hidden well enough along the shore and in the roots of trees. The wolves snapped birds from the air and swallowed them almost whole, coughing up feathers.

Xhosa leaned back on her hands, sniffing the unique fragrance of each groupmember. Zvi was sweaty from wrestling with Spirit. Siri smelled sourly of hunger but she wouldn’t eat until Honey’s bleeding foot was wrapped in mulch and leaves. The females with new babies exuded the pleasant aroma of milk. Some scents jumbled together making them impossible to identify. When Xhosa became Leader of the People, before it merged with Pan-do’s and Hawk’s, the People had been small enough that she could recognize everyone by their odor. Now, she kept track of her tribe while Pan-do did the same with his. Wind helped everyone.

Done eating, the People sprawled on the warm ground, soaking up Sun’s remaining rays, chatting contentedly with gestures and the occasional sigh. Water dripped from their thawing bodies, soaking into the thirsty ground, as the remaining ice and snow on their pelts and in their hair melted away.

Xhosa and Wind sat apart from the others, on a log long ago softened by rot. She uprooted handfuls of grass and wiped the sweat from Wind’s body, as he did hers. The soft scratch felt good and the earthy fragrance reminded her of times long gone. When he finished, she harvested chunks of green moss from the log’s decaying bark and stuffed them into her neck sack. All the People wore one of these around their necks. Even the wolves did when they were migrating.

Finished, she leaned against Wind and closed her eyes. In a group of Others, her pairmate stood out. A Big Head, the People’s traditional enemy, the ones who drove Xhosa and her tribe from their long-established home, Wind had earned Xhosa’s trust by saving her life more than once and then, as a member of her People, sharing Big Head spear tricks and warrior skills with her Leads. Before long, each of them individually told her that thanks to Wind they could now defeat an attack which they couldn’t have done in the past. Whatever distrust her People harbored toward him faded away.

“Xhosa!” Dust panted up to her. “I found a cave. And we found trace of a herd. Ngili is tracking it.”

By the time Sun settled into its night nest, the People were ensconced in the cave Dust found. They had to squeeze together to fit but all were thrilled to sleep without waking to frozen toes and numb fingers. Stone and Zvi—the burliest of the People—lugged rocks in and Siri built a fire that quickly warmed the interior. The subadults gathered kindling to feed it and arranged who would be responsible throughout the night for keeping it lit.

Usually, the wolves slept scattered among the People but with Black Wolf close to delivering her pups, she dug out an opening in the back and claimed it as her den. Then she settled to her belly, one leg forward, the other bent back, eyebrows twitching.

Xhosa strode toward the nest she would share with Wind but stopped at the sight of Seeker, weight on his bottom, legs crossed in front of his body in the uncomfortable position he preferred. His pairmate Lyta curled next to him with their best friend, Zvi.

Xhosa approached Seeker. “You are not outside.”

Every night as long as Xhosa could remember, the enigmatic male lay on his back, gaze fixed steadily on the star-dotted sky, spouting what to Xhosa sounded like gibberish to whoever listened. Intermittently, he leapt to his feet and spun dizzying circles or bounced from one foot to the other, huffing and chirping. Lyta and Zvi would either join him or watch. He once explained to Xhosa that this was how he studied the changes in the night sky—the appearance and disappearance of particular stars or their movement in relation to each other—so he could guide the People accurately. This nightly process was how they had moved from the distant start of Endless Pond to this cave where Endless Pond seemed to end.

He didn’t respond to her statement, didn’t even acknowledge her. That worried Xhosa. She hadn’t been able to shake the feeling that danger lurked around them, somewhere. Seeker’s anxious look didn’t help.

She squatted at his side and added a question to her declaration. “The stars aren’t talking to you?”

To the side, Lyta wriggled, not comfortable in the seated position Seeker preferred but determined to try because Seeker liked it so much. Zvi crouched on the balls of her feet, the more traditional pose. She’d tried to sit on her bottom, legs crossed in front, but kept falling backward. Besides, it took her too long to rise from that position which meant if Lyta needed help, she couldn’t respond quickly. Squatting, for her, made more sense. Seeker didn’t care. He expected all to do what worked for them. Both his best friend and his future pairmate were long accustomed to his eccentricities.

Finally, Seeker offered Xhosa only a confused frown.

That’s not a “Yes they are,” and that raised the hair on her neck. Before she could ask more, Ngili scrambled through the thistle barrier the youngsters had placed around the cave’s mouth to prevent the entrance of intruders and hurried toward Xhosa.

He motioned, “I lost the herd’s trace in the dark. I’ll try again tomorrow,” and then raced toward where the hunters had gathered. They were all tired. Some would mate before sleeping but not Ngili. He hadn’t given up hope that his pairmate, Hecate, would come back.

After a final glance at Seeker, Xhosa joined Wind in their nest. She squatted behind him and teased the dirt and debris from his long head hair, occasionally focusing on a difficult tangle until her fingers could move easily through his hair. When she finished, he did the same for her.

As he groomed, he said, “I’ll join Ngili tomorrow. If there are herds, we will find them.”

“Pan-do and I will continue with the People.”

They said nothing more, both enjoying the calming feel of nails scratching on their skin and the intimacy of someone they trusted implicitly. Done, both fell asleep.

The first rays of daylight filtered into the cave. Black Wolf was already outside, padding back and forth restlessly, huffing uncomfortably. Wind left with Ngili and a handful of scouts, knowing Xhosa would leave a trail to wherever they settled when Sun’s light ran out. Though Spirit usually went with the hunters, today he stayed with Black Wolf.

Xhosa and Pan-do led. Dust copied their pace and direction but a distance away. With Ngili and Wind searching for meat, Xhosa focused on finding a cave large enough for the People. They strode onward, gaze sweeping the landscape, everyone grazing on berries, roots, and worms as they walked. Sporadically, Xhosa heard a faraway squawk or glimpsed a covey of birds as they exploded into flight, fleeing an unknown threat. It was the direction Ngili and Wind had gone, and told her how far they’d gotten.

The People rested by a waterhole. They searched its shoreline for prints but found none. Wherever the herds lived, they didn’t drink here so the People moved on, through copses of young saplings and around a bed of haphazardly-strewn boulders. The air tasted of flowers, warm earth, and the mild tang of salt, but the dung they found was hard and old.

Xhosa touched Pan-do’s hand and both stopped, eyes forward. “Do you smell that? It reminds me of Endless Pond.”

He pointed to his strong side and the direction they were walking. “From there and there. How can it be on two sides?”

Xhosa tingled. One of her People—Rainbow—had abandoned them long ago, taking many males and females with him. Others she and her People ran into while migrating here told her Rainbow traveled the same route she did but along the opposite shore of Endless Pond. For him, as for her, this was as far as he could go without folding back on himself.

If they got this far. If any survived.

She pushed aside those thoughts. Before searching for whatever remnants remained of Rainbow’s group, the People must find a homebase. All they suffered to get here—the interminable walking, the loss of Hawk, the death of groupmembers, Nightshade’s treachery—was for naught if they didn’t establish a home.

Spirit bumped her leg. Black Wolf panted at her mate’s side, her belly almost touching the ground.

Xhosa motioned, “Your mate’s pups won’t wait much longer. We will find a den for her.”

Spirit took off, his movements graceful and fluid with Black Wolf lumbering after him.

Not much later, Pan-do squinted ahead. “I think Spirit found a cave.”

Xhosa leaned forward, narrowing her gaze, and finally saw where Spirit stopped. He sat on his haunches at the base of a cliff, facing her, nose twitching, tail swishing the dirt behind him.

It took the rest of the day to cross over the craggy scrubland, up and down the deep ravines, and around the occasional spot of slippery ice. The cave proved too small for the People but not for Black Wolf’s needs. With much scuffling and panting, she created a nest for her pups and disappeared into the cool dark hole. The People settled outside, under an overhang that would protect them from rain and predators, and far enough away to not bother the new mother. As soon as Ngili and Wind arrived, shaking their heads that they hadn’t found a herd, they left again to search for signs of a trail left by former inhabitants of this cave.

Xhosa’s chest squeezed and her stomach knotted. Spirit padded up to her side, hackles puffed, nostrils flaring. He agreed. Something about this area made her tingle but for now, until Black Wolf finished, they must stay.

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Thank you so much for coming to the party. I love to hear how much you’ve enjoyed Jacqui’s post and her new release.

 

 

 

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #107 – Winter

This week for Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #107, Ann-Christine invited us to look at the difference in the winter when we compare the Northern Hemisphere with the Southern Hemisphere. 

The first time I saw snow was my first year in Portland, Oregon. It was in November. I walked along the hallway from one classroom to the next. My eyes glanced through the floor to ceiling window. A thin layer of white stuff drifting down in the air. I stopped and observed. Each layer above seemed to get thicker and whiter. I realized what happened and called out while jumping up and down, “It’s snowing. It’s snowing!” Some male students walked by and looked at me. Probably the last time they saw and heard of it was from their little kids.

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When I finished school in Portland, I went on to Seattle Pacific University for my second graduate study. The city welcomed me with seven inches of snow. When the snow came to a pause, I put on my knee high, custom made leather boots and my leather gloves to make the first snowman. The leather gloves got hard and stiff after they were dry. My boots were fine, probably they were made differently.

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Is winter warm or cold? I think winter is warm because it’s the time for events such as Christmas concert, Christmas light cruise, Christmas parties with family and friends, and my daughter’s birthday the day after Christmas.

One New Year, we visited my sister’s family in Vancouver B.C. We couldn’t go skiing in Whistler B.C. because the heavy fog came in. We managed going to a nearby mountain for my husband, niece, and nephew to do snowboarding.

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Back home in southern California, our chorale started rehearsing for the Messiah concert first week of November, leading to the two performances before Christmas. This is the highlight of the year for me.

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The adult fellowship group at church has many Christmas parties. One year we had a catering dinner at a deluxe retirement home. The chef built a gingerbread village every year. He made one gingerbread house at a time throughout the year and froze them. By early December, he assembled the village with a train track and an electrical train going around it.

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The last two years, we went on the Christmas Light Cruise and watched the Christmas Boat Parade.

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Two years ago was the first-time snow and Christmas met. My husband and I went to Portland, Oregon to spend the holiday with my daughter’s family. I saw snow before the plane landed and was so excited to have a white Christmas.

Most exciting of all during Christmas time is my daughter’s birthday on the day after Christmas. Here, Mercy opened the birthday card from her daughter Autumn.

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Is winter warm or cold in your part of the world? I would like to hear from you.

 

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #107 – Winter

 

 

“Fiction In A Flash Challenge” Image Prompt Week #9 – Star Story

Soooz at Welcome to the World of Suzanne Burke posted the “Fiction in A Flash Challenge!” Week #9 this week with this image.  She invites us to write a Flash Fiction or Non-Fiction piece inspired by that image in any format and genre of our choosing.  Maximum word count: 750 words.

I have been trying to take part from Week #1 but somehow didn’t make it. This week, Mae got me motivated. She started the prompt without know where she was heading. So I tried the same thing. I started a few lines, then went on my walk. I finished my story in half an hour in my head. So this is my take on the prompt.

Flash Fiction week 9 another good treehouse

Star Story

“No, I can’t do it. I’m afraid of heights.” Michelle shook her head, looking at the bridge.

“Don’t worry. Hold my hand. I’ll just be one step ahead of you.” Michael took the first step onto the bridge. Michelle followed.

“But, but… the bridge is bouncing and wobbling.”

“Let’s go slowly. We’ll take one step and stay still until the bridge stops moving, then take another step.”

“I’ll try. Just take slight steps. I can’t go fast.”

“I know. I won’t go any faster than you want to.”

“My arms and legs are tingling.”

“Okay, let’s stop for a minute. Now just look straight at the treehouse. Don’t look below the bridge or even at your feet.”

“Okay, let me close my eyes and think of something else.”

“Good. When you’re ready, open your eyes and just look at the tree house and follow my steps.”

“My legs feel better now. The treehouse has a balcony with patio chairs.”

“Yes, now hold on to the door and step into the house.”

“Phew! I did it.”

“Let’s grab a couple cans of iced tea from the personal refrigerator and sit on the balcony.”

“How did you find this treehouse?”

“Well, that’s a lengthy story. I haven’t told you about that yet. See, my mom died of cancer when I was nine years old.”

“Sorry to hear that. You told me she died when you were young.”

“Yeah, it was hard for me to talk about it. After she died, I didn’t talk for a long time. I stayed in my room mostly when I was home from school. My dad tried to talk to me, but I just didn’t say anything to him. He read me bedtime stories every night. One night he read a book about a treehouse.”

“Was it this treehouse?”

“No, a smaller treehouse in a boy’s backyard. I was curious. I asked dad if we could build one. I wanted to go to the treehouse and stay in it by myself.”

“What did your dad say?”

“He said our trees in the backyard were not tall enough for building a treehouse.”

“Did you think of a playhouse instead?”

“No, it wasn’t the same. Anyway, one day, my dad took me camping and this treehouse was in the campground. We climbed up here at night and sat in the balcony looking into the sky through the opening of trees.”

“Was the sky clear?”

“Yes, there was a full moon. My dad asked me to look at the bright start close to the moon. He said that was where my mom went. My mom could see me from there, and she wanted me to be happy. He said my mom waved at me with the twinkles. I looked at the star and it twinkles. I waved back to her.”

“I’m sure your mom wanted you to be happy.”

“My dad said we could see the star from our backyard on a cloudless night.”

“We could look at the star tonight and you could wave at your mom!”

“I would like to do that. Thank you for believing my Star Story. You’re the best thing happened to me. I’ve never been so happy after my mom died.”

“I like that when you share stories like that with me.”

“I thought some people may think it was childish.”

“I think it is precious. We could come camping and climb up to this treehouse again.”

 

“Fiction In A Flash Challenge” Image Prompt Week #9 – Star Story

 

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge # 106: Autumn

The theme from Patti this week for Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #106 focuses on the season autumn.

Forty years ago, I came to the graduate school in Portland, Oregon. One thing I appreciated Oregon is the distinct four seasons. Autumn is the most impressive with its red, yellow, and orange foliage. The highway by the school lined up with trees displaying the splendid colors for miles and miles. I finished my studies and moved to southern California, and I left the four seasons behind.

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My daughter went to the university in Portland, Oregon. She continued to stay there to work and then got married. Even though I visited her often, but somehow those visits didn’t fall into the season of autumn until my granddaughter Autumn was born.

Autumn was born on September 28, 2017. I was there to help such as doing laundry so Mercy and Will could concentrate on taking care of their newborn.

I took these photos early October in Mercy’s neighborhood. Trees started changing colors. One tree was indecisive, so half of the tree changed to yellow and the other half wanted to wait. Other trees around the corner had green and yellow and orange and red.

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There was a park nearby surrounded by Acorn trees. Squirrels were everywhere collecting acorns, ate some and buried some for the winter. Another squirrel was chewing something. It turned out that what he had was a fruit, not an acorn.

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During my stay in October when Autumn was born, we went to the Cathedral Park. Someone was making giant bubbles. The kids had fun chasing them.

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In Portland, Oregon, one annual fun thing to do in the autumn is going to the pumpkin patch. Autumn picked her favorite pumpkin last year. We don’t know if we’ll go to the pumpkin patch this year but I’ll be at her third birthday party for sure.

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This is the park with the Acorn trees. Autumn is in the center of the autumn leaves.

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I would like to conclude this post with one of my favorite song “Autumn Leaves” sung by Matt Monro.

“Autumn Leaves”

The falling leaves

drift by the window.
The autumn leaves of red and gold.
I see your lips

the summer kisses.
The sunburnt hands I used to hold.
Since you went away

the days grow long.
And soon I’ll hear old winter’s song.
But I miss you most of all my darling
When autumn leaves start to fall.
Since you went away

the days grow long
And soon I’ll hear old winter’s song
But I miss you most of all my darling
When autumn leaves start to fall.

 

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge # 106: Autumn

Sunday Stills: #Wild and #Weird Perspectives

This week Terri Webster Schrandt invited us to look at the theme of “wild and weird” offers photo bloggers a chance to share our random photos for Sunday Stills.

First I wanted to share this photo I took on my walk in a friend’s neighborhood. It caught my eyes when Mr. Friendly trimmed the grass to create a greeting to the neighbors.

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There are some stray cats in my backyard. One day, I caught three but only took photos of two. They seemed to be comfortable around my backyard. I don’t know how they’ve survived.

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On our walk around Laguna Lake close to our home, we were not short of surprises of the behaviors of the lovely creatures claimed the lake their home.

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Rare addition to the lake – Egyptian Geese

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Nap time for geese and ducks

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On top of the world – white heron

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He won the race over the hare

 

Sunday Stills: #Wild and #Weird Perspectives

 

 

SoCS 2020.07.18: You Raise Me Up

Linda G. Hill’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday #SoCS for July 18, 2020 is “link.” I love to play this week. 

I’ve heard the song You Raise Me Up and loved it, but it brought more attention to me when my sister sent me a YouTube link with Chinese subtitle. I felt in love with song all over again and looked into the background of the song as well as the performer who sang this in the center of Maastricht, Netherlands. Here are the info and the links.

You Raise Me Up

You Raise Me Up” was originally composed by Rolf Undsæt Løvland as an instrumental piece and titled “Silent Story” in 2001.  Løvland is a Norwegian composer, lyricist, arranger, and pianist. Together with Fionnuala Sherry, he formed the Celtic-Nordic group Secret Garden. Løvland later approached Irish novelist and songwriter Brendan Graham to write the lyrics to his melody. The song was made by and for Løvland himself and performed for the very first time at the funeral of Løvland’s mother

The song was performed early in 2002 by the Secret Garden and became a minor UK hit. By 2005, the song reached a massive world-wide success.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/You_Raise_Me_Up

Martin Hurkens

In his biography, the unemployed baker Martin Hurkens credited her youngest daughter for signing him up for the RTL program “Holland Got Talent” behind his back. He hesitated a little, then decided to participate in this great program. To his surprise, he reached the finale. Singing was always his hobby and he turned his hobby into a profession.  He “seized the opportunity with both hands.”

After winning the finale, he received more and more requests for performances. In addition to these performances he also recorded a video clip in the center of Maastricht of the song: “You Raise Me Up.” This video became popular on YouTube and Social Media and has been watched all over the world. He received many requests for performances in China, Taiwan, and Japan.

http://www.martinhurkens.nl/biografie

I chose the YouTube link with English subtitle.

 

Lyrics

When I am down, and, oh, my soul, so weary
When troubles come, and my heart burdened be
Then, I am still and wait here in the silence
Until you come and sit awhile with me

You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains
You raise me up to walk on stormy seas
I am strong when I am on your shoulders
You raise me up to more than I can be

You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains
You raise me up to walk on stormy seas
I am strong when I am on your shoulders
You raise me up to more than I can be

You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains
You raise me up to walk on stormy seas
I am strong when I am on your shoulders
You raise me up to more than I can be

You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains
You raise me up to walk on stormy seas
I am strong when I am on your shoulders
You raise me up to more than I can be

You raise me up to more than I can be

 

Source: LyricFind

Songwriters: Brendan Graham / Rolf Løvland

You Raise Me Up lyrics © Peermusic Publishing, Universal Music Publishing Group

 

 

SoCS 2020.07.18: You Raise Me Up

Lens-Artists Challenge #105 – Crystal Springs

Tina’s theme for Lens-Artists Challenge #105 this week is: SPRING

“The promise of spring’s arrival is enough to get anyone through the bitter winter!” –  Jen Selinsky

Some may consider the winter in Southern California as mild because there’s no snow. Usually the temperature doesn’t drop below 40oF. Yet accustomed to the warm climate all my life, this mild winter cold still chills my bones. I find not being motivated to do outdoor activities.

“The first blooms of spring always make my heart sing.” –  S. Brown

Many of the plants and trees in my garden are perennial that doormat in the winter. The earliest budding appeared on the plum tree. The tiny innocent white buds popped out to sing to me, “Spring is coming.” I made a daily appearance in my garden to search every branch of the plum tree anticipating the delightful blossoms. Within days, the scattered white buds became full covering the entire tree and some popped open the smiling faces. How I wanted them to stay forever!

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“The flowers of late winter and early spring occupy places in our hearts well out of proportion to their size.” –  Gertrude S. Wister

Flowers spark my eyes and warm my heart. During our trip to see my daughter and her family in May 2018 as a Mother’s Day outing, we visited the Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden. I wanted to swallow all the beauty of the greenery and vibrant colors and let them forever be alive in me.

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The more than 2,500 rhododendrons, azaleas, and companion plants in the garden have all been donated by volunteers and interested individuals, or purchased with specially donated funds. Beginning in early spring and continuing into summer, they provide a magnificent display of color.

“Sometimes the smallest thing takes up the most room in your heart.” – A. A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh

The Canada geese and the goslings feast on the grain and graze on the grass. The field by the lake is a haven to raise the young goslings.

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I wrote this poem for my poetry collection Songs of Heartstrings: Poems of Gratitude and Beatitude

In Sync with Spring

Seeds were fallen,

hidden in the soil.

Coldness in the dark

keep them quiet in the ground.

Light and shadow

Gradually shift

to bring the warmth of

sunrays to the earth.

Calling the seeds

to wake up and come forth,

to feel the warm breeze and

smell the fresh air.

Slowly and gracefully

buds pop out,

unfold their petals and

the fragrance they breathe out,

dance joyfully in sync with

spring!

~ ~ ~

Lens-Artists Challenge #105 – Crystal Springs

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