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A Mostly True Story

Sunlight poured in through white lace curtains. JL stretched lanky arms and legs beneath her cozy blankets. She reluctantly cracked open one eyelid.

It was Saturday. A faint smile played at her lips. Freedom.

She readied herself for the day ahead, brushing her long brown hair back into a neat ponytail and scrutinized her bangs in the bathroom mirror. Her nose crinkled slightly as she surveyed the face before her. Fair, freckled skin, prominent ears, and a long neck reflected before her. She sighed. No matter. Today was hers alone, she wouldn’t be seeing anyone.

She pulled on her favorite t-shirt, a worn pair of jeans, and her scuffed boots.

A quick survey of her bedroom and she had located the necessary supplies for the day. These she hastily stuffed into a green canvas bag that she flung over her shoulder as she headed down the hallway and into the kitchen.

Her mother greeted her there.

“Good morning, Daughter,” she said as JL grabbed a granola bar and filled a bottle with water. “What are you up to today?”

JL smiled top at her, “Oh, I’m just going outside for a while.”

“Won’t you be lonely out there?” her mother asked.

“No, ma’am,” JL hastily answered. “I’ll be just fine.”

And with a mother’s kiss on the forehead, JL bounded out the door and into the morning air.

The sunlight washed over her and the girl closed her eyes and turned her palms upward, as though to absorb energy from the light to fuel her. She had recently become intrigued by each of her individual senses and felt this was a prime opportunity to listen to the world around her. She grinned as she picked out varying sounds—the wind through the oak trees, birds in morning song, squirrels sounding the alarm of her presence, the buzz of insect life, her own breathing. She opened her eyes and studied the yard, determined to pick the perfect spot for her mission this morning.

She fixed her eyes upon the lowest slender limb of an orange tree on the edge of the driveway. It had a little dip in it just right to hold a girl of her size. Yes, it would do nicely. JL was soon nestled comfortably in the little crook, canvas bag hung upon a branch that had been broken off recently. She dug to the bottom of the bag and pulled out a worn copy of Treasure Island. She read the familiar passages once again and enjoyed her solitude for quite some time.

When she had her fill of reading, her thoughts turned to how alone she was sometimes. And not by choice. Most days she felt as though she didn’t quite fit into the world to which she had been born, didn’t settle easily into the friendships she always had to fight so hard to forge. Solitude was not always voluntary. In times like this, she would wish to have just one person who understood the world in her head. She would wish to be someone else in a different place altogether.
A lone tear fell from her troubled brown eyes and down her freckled cheek.

No, no tears today. Today was freedom.

JL dug in her bag again, this time bringing forth a white journal with rainbow hearts, the inside filled with lined bubblegum pink pages. She flipped it open and began to write:

She stood in front of a brilliant green dragon with gilded wings, her sword drawn.

“Aren’t you afraid, little maiden?” the dragon asked with a gravel voice. “You are all alone with no armor and only your sword to save you. You are no knight, little girls never are.”

“In that you are mistaken, dragon,” replied the maiden. “I am forged of steel. Aren’t you afraid?”

The dragon realized he was indeed afraid. Little girls are often stronger than knights.

She studied her tiny cursive writing and grimaced. It wasn’t quite the story she wanted to tell today, so she tried again:

“Come, come,” said the fox impatiently. “You really must hurry along, young lady. We’ve much work to do and little time in which to do it. It’s not every day you get the help of a fox to, well—outfox—a jewel thief. You did say the ruby was priceless, didn’t you?

“Yes,” she replied breathlessly. “How do I know I can trust you? Foxes are notoriously sly, as you well know. I would hate to be outfoxed by a fox!”

“Pish-posh! We’ve no time to go through this again. You can trust me. I’m not your average red fox. Red foxes are known for their double crossing. No, I’m a silver fox. We are known for our honor. Though, you’ve known few woodland creatures, so you will have to take my word for it. The opportunity to capitalize upon my talents will pass us both by if we waste any more time debating my trustworthiness.”

She hesitated for a moment longer before sticking out her slender hand.

“Shake on it,” she insisted.

A most convincing smile spread across the fox’s face and his black whiskers twitched with anticipation as he extended a furry paw.

“Very well! We have an understanding!”

She laughed to herself. She would very much like to be friends with the silver fox she had created. He was far more interesting than her classmates at school. She turned her journal page and tapped her pen impatiently. After a moment, she began:

“The village will be here, just north of this crossing. See, all we have to do is follow the river. It’ll be impossible to miss! We can get the rest of the supplies we need once we get there. But we have to stick together.”

Everyone in the band of adventurers nodded in agreement. The maps were gone over once again, and the weary band of travelers took the narrow pathway along the river’s edge.

The mud was slick and the trail was steep. The jungle echoed with strange and wild calls that made the hair on the back of their necks stand up. But the party trudged on together, determined to reach their destination before nightfall. Much was at stake.

“Winston! Hey, Winston! What’s that up ahead?” she called out from the front of their party.

Winston, shuffled nervously to the front and stopped short before a sign written in a strange language.

“Will have to consult the reference books. Yes, yes, consultation will be necessary,” he muttered to himself as he hoisted a huge volume from his pack and placed it upon a felled tree with a resounding thud.

“Yes. Umm-hmm. Ah! I see! Well, that is cause for concern, isn’t it?”

“What? What’s cause for concern! Speak up, man!”

“It reads, ‘Turn back now and live, continue on and face peril.’”

Everyone laughed nervously, then looked at each other seriously, then looked at their leader with uncertainty.

“Well, there’s only one thing to do,” she said. “We keep going. Carefully.”

She smiled with satisfaction. There was no adventure in the front yard, so she had created some.

Hunger and bugs began to get the better of her. She packed away her things and abandoned the sanctuary of her orange tree. When she walked inside, her mother asked what she had been doing all morning.

“Oh, nothing much,” JL replied, never letting on that she had faced a dragon, trusted a fox, or gone on an expedition. A day of freedom to let loose her active imagination, to be someone else, to travel somewhere new was just what she needed.

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Georgia Wilds

These woods have a particular wildness to them. They are not the woods of my youth, full of familiarity and safety. They are the woods of rambling black bears and screaming wildcats on the prowl. In this place there is a kinship, creation’s very heartbeat in sync with my own. It’s not safety or peace that I feel, but a pulse within me that it is a part of who I am. I sway wildly in the cold wind with this slender pine. I brace myself for the hard rocking and give myself over to its rhythm. No, there is no safety here. Just a wildness that resonates in my soul. I am one moment a predator in these woods with weapon in hand and the next a girl with wide eyes and cold fingers. The nighttime gives way to the morning light. The entire earth looks warm and new and inviting. The birds come alive as they always do with the rising of the sun. I remember as a girl learning of the word cacophony. I thought then that a cacophony is the riotous sound of birds at daybreak. They each have something to say. Not me. I sit in silence in this cold and watch. And wait.

I am ready.image

Memory Immortal

A remembrance. A fleeting moment in time to grasp and gaze upon in wonderment. To be taken back. To feel the depth of emotion fresh, both glorious and devastating. I live in memory, what has already passed me by. I revere them, make them something immortal in their telling and retelling.

As a girl, by the red glow of campfire I learned this, listening to men old and hardened by age and experience come to life and youth once again in the telling of their former glories and defeats. I came to know their tales, their histories by heart, and they became a part of me as well.

My own stories I hold back. They are not to be spoken aloud to drift to the sky with dark wisps of campfire smoke, to be lost somewhere among the stars. My stories are to be touched and handled, ink to paper, more vulnerable because they are not erased as the echoes of my voice fade away into the night air.

On Paper

On paper my life
Is a series of the extraordinary
Fascinating, unique, adventurous
A girl, who by the ripe age of 18
Had replaced a roof for the inner city needy
Ran off to Russia
Lived the summer in an orphanage
All broken windows, bedbugs, and greater purpose
Looked bravely into the eyes of grown men
And declared that there was hope for them yet

They believed her

Found herself in the elaborate stone archways
Of St. Petersburg and Moscow
And carried them in her heart as a beautiful secret
Her greatest treasure
Her heaviest burden

A girl, who by 18 years of age
Embraced wild woods
And was intoxicated by the spicy smell of myrtles
Home in the lost places far from homes
Alive in the sounds of crickets and whippoorwill
Where her feet left no trace on thick pine straw
And her soul entwined with the solitude of swampland

A girl, who at 18 years old
Walked down streets in New Orleans
Embraced the homeless
Loved the palm readers
Gave warm smiles and sandwiches
Bourbon Street only confirmed her innocence
Drunk only on love for mankind

Left the only home she had ever known
Went to college, fell in love
With a boy not yet a man
Explored endless miles of mountainside
And poured out her heart
While the waterfall continued to crash and thunder

A young woman, who at 21 years old
Boarded a plane for China
And wandered the streets and got lost
And then found
Who embraced the beauty of terraced hillsides
Who felt the pulse of the city and loved it
And left her heart with children
Dark almond eyes, begging for love
Learned what it was to feel small
In the shadow of ancient temples
Learned what it was to find joy
In the presence of lepers
Learned what it was to be broken
Upon boarding a plane for home

On paper, a story worth telling
Yet out of sync with what I am now
Tired, small, cynical
Forever wondering what happened
To take from me all the zeal
The passion, purpose, wonder

Orion

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Orion is a friend of mine, we are long acquainted.

The cold air of nighttime hunts gripped me. I pulled my jacket closer around me in response. Silence all around, save the normal late night sounds of crickets and breeze and plants rustling. I would wait perched upon toolbox in the truck bed for my father to return.

Alone.

Children learn to entertain themselves in still quiet. My games were listening for the sound of my father’s return and scanning the sky for familiar constellations. The first I was good at, but there were long lulls in activity there. The second…I found myself to be no astronomer. I would have to find contentment in locating the star bodies most easy to pick out in the deep black night.

Orion’s belt was always easy for me to find.

I would watch him from my earthly seat and wonder how he ended up there in the first place. I was convinced he stood ready, bow drawn. I wondered what prey or foe was before him. Was he lonely, as I was? I felt him brave, and I willed myself to be as well. No fear in the darkness, the hunter overhead. How did he find himself among the stars? My overactive imagination spun tales in silence, halted abruptly by the voices of men returned with hounds and prey of their own.

Orion, my silent winter friend. With me through the years, a spot in the heavens I mark as familiar and cling to, a speck in a vast universe.

 

 

 

Bullseye

bullseye

I let loose my arrow and buried it deep in the target.

A self-satisfied smirk danced on my lips. Sweat trickled down my spine and I brushed back from my forehead damp hair broken free of its ponytail prison.

I drew another arrow from my quiver, felt the snap of nock on taut bowstring. A burst of strength and energy as I drew back and stared down my mark. A deep breath in. I smiled as I released my bowstring, satisfied as I heard the sound of my arrow hitting bullseye.

Relief in the release.

Gravel crunched under my boots as I crossed to remove my arrows from the target.

Another successful practice.

If only the rest of my life landed center bullseye when I drew back and took aim.

Just Musings

The summer is not hotter than it was in my childhood.

Banished to the outdoors in the scorching days of late July. My mother had enough of children underfoot. Grudgingly we would tromp out the side door and blink at the overwhelming afternoon sun. The air would hang heavy, damp and humid. We breathed it in, and exhaled all our bought air crazy. A quick assessment of what to do with our time suddenly free, and we were off.

There is freedom perched upon a hot pink bicycle seat, no hands, down a dusty, white driveway.

I would sing at the top of my lungs. No one cared about my noise. There is freedom in not being heard. To speak whatever you wish without reprimand and only a younger brother to judge you is freeing.

But younger brothers grow tired of the bossiness of older sisters. I was often left by my own younger sibling, who favored pellet rifle hunts to my ramblings. It was in those moments I would sit on our creaky front porch swing and surround myself with my most treasured belongings.

This collection consisted of a dogeared copy of Treasure Island that both looked and smelled ancient, any type of snack I felt I had hidden from my brother, and a journal with a lock and key. I read and reread that text with great glee, thrilled with the tale though I had read it dozens of times. I was on that ship, far from my own front porch and the safety of home. I had a thirst for adventure with little means of quenching it.

Pen in my hand, I would do my best to imitate the writing of the authors of the classics. I felt destined to one day write something worth reading. I filled many bubblegum pink journal pages with my youthful observations. I was certain I was going places.

I don’t know when I gave up on becoming remarkable.

Life can leave us jaded.

I look back with longing on days of youth and simplicity and dreaming. Some days I try to reach back to that place and retrieve all that I’ve let slip away. How does a woman dream new dreams, find a new remarkable? I hope sometimes that the girl who really was quite remarkable is quietly waiting for me on a front porch swing somewhere, and that when I find her it will all come flooding back.