Gave It My Best Shot…

Hey all… one of my photos is now a finalist in the 2014 BirdSpotter Photo Contest held by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. The voting is open to the public! I sure would appreciate your vote.

Here’s the link: http://feederwatch.org/birdspotter2014/#26280 that will take you directly to my photo.

Pole Dance

Pole Dance

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Bottling Her Blood’s Worth

As you know my camera is normally pointed in the direction of wildlife and landscapes. (If you follow me on Facebook, you’ll see many of my photos.) Australia has been and is a photographic goldmine for me.

Little Eagle

Little Eagle

I love learning about my new environment and enjoy sharing that knowledge. However, to this date I’ve not really said anything about some of the wonderful people who I’ve met along the way. Therefore in the coming months, I’d like to introduce you to a few so you can get to know them as I have. And what better way than a guest blog. So without further ado, I’m rapt to introduce you to Mardi Alexander.

 

 

 

I met Mardi shortly after I arrived in Australia. Since then we’ve become good mates. Her debut novel, Twice Lucky, will be released by Bold Strokes Books the beginning of March.

Mardi

Mardi

Tell us a little about yourself, Mardi.

I’m the middle child of four kids, eldest girl, growing up in a single parent, super conservative environment on the coast. It took me a long time to put two and two together!

I was lucky enough to go to Uni on a scholarship, later giving up a career to help support my family, working where I could. A thousand years later, I moved to a dilapidated old farm house in a tiny highland country town, fell in love with the lifestyle and now can’t see myself anywhere else. Living on a farm is not always easy, but it has taught me some of life’s greatest lessons and provided the perfect outlet for my love of animals.

Being isolated, I also realized that if the farm were to be impacted by fire, I had no idea what to do, which terrified me, so it was then that I joined the fire brigade. After many years of training and on the job experience, fire still terrifies me, but I now know what to do if my house catches on fire – RUN!

With the drought conditions, are you worried about bush fires?

At the moment, because we have had some rain, conditions aren’t too bad, but at the beginning of every season, or when conditions are extreme, my partner will tell you, I get a tad toey, as does everyone in the country, and everyone’s vigilance goes up a notch.

I met my partner on line and we became mates. When the penny finally dropped to both of us that we had something more than friendship growing, the city girl moved states to come and live in a crappy old farm house. Now, I think she secretly loves it as much as I do, except for the leaking roof, oh yeah, and no shower, and a cooking stove from the 1930’s, and the water pump that keeps crapping out, and…

Your isolation must make it hard to have a repairman a phone call away. I reckon you ‘ve had to learn how to fix things by yourself.

It can be tricky with tradies sometimes charging the earth in ‘travelling’ costs, even though we aren’t that far out of town, but I have certainly learnt to become relatively handy and adept at fixing things.

Do you have solar power? How do you get internet service?

No, we don’t have solar power, sadly, but perhaps down the track we might look at getting it. Internet is via a USB dongle and reception is pretty good now as we have a number of towers around the zone greatly improving reception.

You clearly live in the bush… describe where and what that’s like. 

I live on a sheep farm in the New England, one thousand feet above sea level on the Great Dividing range in New South Wales. On a map, if you were to put one finger on Brisbane and the other on Sydney, then I am about half way in between. True to our New England reference, we have four very definite spectacular seasons in the year.

The air is so fresh and crisp it’s almost cutting. Clear nights reveal the full skyscrape of stars – the Milky Way stretching on forever as satellites track across the vastness and shooting stars race to a fiery end. But the best part are the storms, watching them roll in across the fields and light up the night sky up, making the landscape look like the Flanders Fields, exploding in flashes and noise.

If that sounds too dull and boring, I also live smack bang in the middle of Thunderbolt country, the local bushranger.

That sounds like heaven to me. Please explain Thunderbolt.

Frederick Wordsworth Ward (aka Captain Thunderbolt) (1835–25 May 1870) was an Australian bushranger renowned for escaping from Cockatoo Island, and also for his reputation as the “gentleman bushranger” and his lengthy survival, being the longest roaming bushranger in Australian history.

He spent a lot of his years in and around the New England area. He was reported to be a bit like a modern day Robin Hood, often taking from the well to do and helping out the less fortunate members in the community such as widows and families doing it tough.

Describe your farm.

1459344_1535795713342662_2651269563543856638_n

Home Sweet Home

1656438_1409410635981171_254432857_n

It 350 acres of (at the minute!) green! Every day I marvel at the loud green colours shining out at me – less than a month ago our dams were drying up and we had fields of dirt.

10945683_1543541962568037_6035991191777097304_n

Ripley the lab, looking for Thunderbolt’s treasures

There’s a wonderful little creek running through it and a spectacular granite rock covered hilltop with small cave-like fissures running through it – kids of all ages love to climb over and through the rocks, looking for bushranger’s hidden treasure.

 

Kids young and old I suspect. Have you panned for gold in your creek?Can’t say that we have, but we are in the middle of what used to be a big gold field area, so you never know. ;-)

1016568_1409410889314479_75051355_n

New season lambs

 

800 sheep? Any other livestock?

The farm is a primarily a working sheep farm. There has been the odd cow or two over the years, but for the most part I am surrounded by large groups of natural blondes. Despite the drought this year and downsizing, we still managed to pop out 550 lambs this last season.

Sheep Yards

Sheep Yards

How many hands does it take to sheer that many sheep? Do you use dogs to herd?

10407854_1543541989234701_527841844704908074_n

Shearing Shed

Two dogs and a ute round them up nicely. In full swing we have a three stand shed, so there are three shearers, a rouseabout, a table of wool classers and a baler, so all up about ten people will get through about fifteen hundred or so head in about 4 days if the weather is kind.

What’s a typical day like?

Ahh, that’s a tricky question. I’m not sure I have a “typical” day. The “ideal” day is very simple, get up, breakfast with my partner and the animals, some quick chores, before heading out the door and off to work and pretty much the same in reverse at home time, followed by dinner, family time and a dash of writing to round the day off.

“Ideal” days however can necessitate a large cup full of “flexibility” added to the mix depending on work, weather, my fire pager going off, or calls to rescue, collect or care for an injured animal.

So I guess in reflection, I’m not so sure that I have a “typical” day…but I can honestly say there is never a dull moment.

What a great life though!

It’s certainly a busy one, but one I enjoy. 10885216_1529465037309063_5922861974125830641_n 10378151_1509338052655095_1531308940025376034_n

 

10371889_1509015019354065_7384064941786135436_n

Tell us a bit about your book… how much of it is from real life experience?

My partner and I love our animals and are strong supporters of our local RSPCA. I have trained and worked in hospitals and of course I am a volunteer firefighter and firefighting instructor. So while I have employed small bits and pieces of creative licence in ‘Twice Lucky’, I have been fortunate enough to have had a wealth of real-life material with which to drawn on for my first book.

I’m really looking forward to reading it when it comes out.

Well the good news is, you won’t have to wait long as March is just around the corner.

Tell us a bit about your main characters… what makes them interesting or unique?

Mackenzie ‘Mac’ James is a firefighter at the local station who has been reassigned, away from the front line, to present community education and safety inspection programs. Her nickname is ‘Mouse’ – she’s confident at her job, but a quiet, shy individual.

Sarah is a doctor and in charge of the local Emergency Department. She knows where her life is at and is completely immersed in her work. She’s never had a long term girlfriend, she’s not looking for a relationship and falling in love has never been on her agenda.

Both are well established in their ways of life. So it seems only fitting that fate steps in and turns that all on it’s head.

What is your favorite part of the writing process?

I think I can cheerfully say, all of it. But if I had to narrow it down, I would think that it’s that small point in time, when the research and the story concept circle each other, gathering in intensity, as the plot begins to solidify and grow in my mind, and when the moment is right, it spills over and with great excitement and energy, I begin to put the words to paper, and let the magic begin. That for me is a real buzz.

You sound more like a seasoned rather than a debut author.

LOL. I can assure you, ‘Twice Lucky’ is my first ever piece of writing, so while I am excited about it, I am a bit nervous too, but having a hoot learning all sorts of stuff along the way.

What made you decide to write and what are your ambitions for your writing career?

Impending surgery was my motivator – I knew I was looking at a period of time where I needed to sit quietly while I recovered. Not being terribly good at the sitting still part, I set about looking for some hobbies I could do to keep my head busy. Of course, there was the catching up on a much neglected pile of reading, I bought a mandolin and was going to teach myself to play and I decided to have a go at writing – to see if I could sit still long enough to finish something. Even though I had never written anything before, I sent the script off to Bold Strokes Books on a dare and promptly forgot all about it, assuming it would be rejected. I got the shock of my life when they accepted the manuscript and now here we are on debut eve. Needless to say, I didn’t get much reading done and I still haven’t learnt how to play the mandolin.

My ambitions? Ideally I would love to retire and enjoy the time doing things I love, i.e. writing, reading, animals, firey stuff…but in reality, my greatest ambition is simply to keep enjoying doing it.

How much research did you have to do for your book?

Twice Lucky’ is set in Australia, Queensland – a different state to where I live and am most familiar with, so a lot of my research centred around trying to make sure that I got the references right or realistic and relevant to the states practices in both firefighting and in the health service.

Small things, things like uniforms, town and street references, and radio codes needed to be checked and qualified. There was also a slight blurring of duty roles as I had Mac the firefighter undertaking both a volunteer and a paid firefighting role.

Anything in the works you can tell us about?

I am currently working on a second book, ‘Spirit of the Dance’, which will have a heavy rural Australian flavor to it. It involves a returned soldier, a local saddler and horse trainer and a small conservative country town where life is simple, predictable, and safe. By necessity, it is also full of secrets.

Hurry up and write that one too, will ya? Sounds fascinating.

All I can say is, watch this space in 2016.

Do you have any questions for me?

Probably lots, most revolving around the best fishing spots down your way, but I’ll save them up for when we get together sometime for that illusive beer.

Rock, river or beach fishing… we have them all down here. I’ll shout you the first beer.

Consider it a deal.

One last thing…Can I come visit? :)

10945716_1543542262568007_7358062877066874327_n

Getting Monstered

Absolutely and bring the pups! If you’re lucky, I might even be able to introduce you to a very special koala who loves to cuddle, and I am guessing you would hate that…not!

… Packing!!

 

Contact details:

Mardi can be contacted at: mardialexanderO@gmail.com
Website:  http://mardialexander.wordpress.com
Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/mardi.alexander.1

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Out(and)Back

Geez… 5 months since my last blog. Life got in the way I guess. My sincere apologies for the long delay. I would like to extend a huge thank you to all who read my books. Your support and following are greatly appreciated.

In August,  Blue Feather Books closed its doors, thereby forcing all of its authors to find a new home for their writing. I was honored to have been offered contracts by Bedazzled Ink to re-release A Kiss Before Dawn, Right Out of Nowhere and Positive Lightning, which as of Dec. 29 is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Kobo.

PL Cover The contract for In the Stillness of Dawn, the sequel to A Kiss Before Dawn has also been signed.

I began work on my fifth book, called After a Time, shortly before Christmas. Also, I’m pleased to tell you, I’ve begun work on a coffee table book of my photos.  One of my closest friends, Sheila Pearsons, is co-authoring it with me.

Black-winged Stilt a-8633

 

 

 

I welcomed 2015 in a way that is apparently quite common here… camping. My dogs and I headed into the Great Dividing Range, which is Australia’s most substantial mountain range, and the third longest land-based range in the world. I set up camp next to the Mann River. It’s a beautiful 148 mile river and is joined by four large tributaries before it reaches its confluence with the Clarence River, the same river that flows past where I live.

Gibraltar Mts, Mann River-3I set up housekeeping about twenty feet from the river so that the sound of the water was the first thing I heard in the morning and the last before I drifted off into a dreamless sleep.

Gibraltar Mts, Mann River-8816It was hot. Temps easily rose to nearly 100F if not over. So I spent a lot of the time just sitting in the river, letting the water flow around and cool me. With one hand around a cold beer and the other tossing rocks to splash and play with Leika and Kalie, we managed to stay quite comfortable.

 

 

Gibraltar Mts, Mann River-8813Gibraltar Mts, Mann River-2

 

 

 

 

 

There was plenty of bird and insect life, if one was inspired to look and listen. And of course I was. It didn’t take much effort to push the rest of the world away while in this little piece of paradise.

Little Friarbird

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The property is privately owned, which is the only way the pups could go with me. None of the national parks allow dogs. I’m very grateful to Leika for turning Kalie into a “birddog” because there were three distinct herds of cattle pastured on that huge expanse of land. Each has a very impressive, and thankfully docile Brahma bull. Of course I named them so I could keep track of the herds. Bully Boy, the largest and probably the eldest of the three decided to have a rest right next to my camp. Junior appreciated the shade of the bottle brush trees while Grey Bull waded in the river.

Junior

Junior

Grey Bull

Grey Bull

Bully Boy

Bully Boy

Gibraltar Mts, Mann River (cows)-9106The cows and calves were curious, as was I. (I love cows, can you tell?) All three herds regularly crossed the river in front of me and grazed nearby, so I was able to watch them for quite a while each day. One delighted me by walking up and touching my hand with her nose.Gibraltar Mts, Mann River (cows)-2 Within Junior’s herd, there was a cow who kept track of who was there and who wasn’t. If there were members of her herd missing, she would call and even go searching for, and bring them back to the main herd. It was fascinating to watch her in action.Gibraltar Mts, Mann River (cows)-3

 

Kalie watched the cows from the ground.

Kalie watched the cows from the ground.

Leika watched from the safety of the car.

Leika watched from the safety of the car.


Some heavy weather moved in on New Years Eve. In lieu of artificial fireworks, Mother Nature put on quite a display of lightning. Gibraltar Mts, Mann River (Incoming Rain)-2Gibraltar Mts, Mann River (Incoming Rain)-2-2Gibraltar Mts, Mann River-8906 They were five days of soul-settling peace and quiet. The dogs are exhausted and I’m revived. Happy 2015. That’s what I’m striving for.10884377_917861658237919_1997508126_n

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 7 Comments

Never Give Up… A Dog’s Story

My guest blog with The Liz McMullen Show is out. Click here to read it and get entered for a book giveaway: http://www.thelizmcmullenshow.com/blog-monday-laurie-salzler/#comment-4599

Or, you can read it here if you already have Positive Lightning:

Zach seemed a friendly enough Staffy when he shuffled out of the shade of the house. He and his “sister” Zo, also a Staffordshire Terrier, ran out to greet the car when we drove in to check out a flat available for rent. It met my needs and three days later, I moved in.Zac-1545-300x267

My landlord’s house is a mere fifteen feet away, so I enjoy daily, sometimes hourly, visits from the dogs. My door is always open and the dogs come and go as they please. We all know if the dogs aren’t with them, they’re with me, and visa versa.

One late afternoon, Zach arrived and despite urging to come home from Cheryl, he decided to spend the night with me… and a strong bond began forming between he and I. In the days to come, I learned he was a survivor of abuse.

When rescued by Cheryl he was nothing but skin and bones. Cheryl told me she’d never seen such an emaciated dog. He had numerous lesions from fighting and having to live chained on a cement pad with no shelter for god knows how long. He subsisted on scraps thrown to him…if his owner remembered. The canon bone between his hock and paw on a hind leg had been broken and not properly cared for. So he walks with a swagger and not surprisingly has the beginnings of arthritis in his leg and back.

pl3bOn arrival, he was cautiously quiet, subdued and not sure of what was expected of him. I’m sure to his amazement, there was no aggression, no females to breed, plenty of food and water, and a soft bed to sleep on… and plenty of love. His healing had to start somewhere, and he had to be patient waiting for the memories to fade, the bad dreams to cease. It was only then, many weeks later that an internal change occurred. Zach began actively searching out physical contact. He’s a leaner, but that isn’t always enough. It’s a gentle hand he desires most. Belly rubs are his favorite. Whether lounging on the futon with me, or lying on my bed, he insists on having his head on my chest or tucked under my chin, and always the presence of my hand on him.

In recent weeks, we’ve seen an incredible change in this handsome boy. He has completely exited his emotional shell formed of the past. He ecstatically plays with Zo, he wags his tail nearly incessantly, his ears are up, and he “talks.” Best of all, a beautiful light has ignited in this boy’s eyes. Instead of defeat, bright brown orbs speak of self-assuredness, love and trust.  We didn’t change this boy, but we did give him the platform and tools to do it on his own. When he was ready, he did it.

Zac

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Positive Lightning is about learning to trust and love oneself enough to accomplish feats not within a scope of belief at the time. We learn, we grow…and because we grow, we learn. It’s in the heart, just waiting for that discovery.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

What a Character!

I’ve been invited by Jae (http://jae-fiction.com) and AJ Adaire (http://www.ajadaire.com) to participate in the Meet My Character Blog Tour. This is how it works: I have to answer seven questions about the characters in the book I’m currently working on, post my answers and then tag some other vict… um…authors. The questions are:

1) What is the name of your character? Is he/she fictional or a historic person? Chris Martel is the fictional main character in my work-in-progress.

2) When and where is the story set? Since it’s the sequel to A Kiss Before Dawn it takes place present day in the Finger Lakes Region of New York State.

akbdcover

3) What should we know about him/her? Although Chris tells herself she’s recovered from a horrific assault, there are scars that still remain. The most obvious is the jagged one across her abdomen. One she sees and feels every day. Some days are more difficult than others, and when she finds out the woman who attacked her has been freed from prison, it becomes paramount she convinces everyone who cares about her, that she’s okay. Independent and with a farm to run, she focuses on the horses.

4) What is the main conflict? What messes up his/her life? Chris is very independent and with the exception of her dogs and horses, is used to being alone and running the barn by herself. When the farm work increases because of more stalls built and subsequent horses filling them, she’s forced to hire help. The additional person in the barn is something she has to get used to.

5) What is the personal goal of the character? Chris’s consummation is to care for the horses in her charge to the best of her ability.

6) Is there a working title for this novel, and can we read more about it? In the Stillness of Dawn Here’s the blurb: Fully recovered physically and emotionally from the near fatal assault, Chris Martel built a highly regarded reputation for Went Farm as a top-notch foaling farm. In fact the demand for stalls has necessitated the building of an addition onto the barn. More horses means more work. Under pressure from her partner, Mary Jo Cavanaugh and her Gram, Chris relents and eventually hires Mitch Jordan to assist with the additional load. When her mentor and employer, Doc Hall decides to retire, Mary Jo takes over the equine veterinary practice and inherits a huge clientele as well as all the problems associated with running it. Her days are spent in surgery and treating patients. The remaining hours of the day are spent tending to the business. The extra responsibilities and work load leaves her exhausted despite hiring an additional vet. Chris and Mary Jo feel the stress of their busy lives on their relationship. Mary Jo is too tired to do anything but fall into bed exhausted and Chris is missing her. Mitch is single, cute and exceptionally good with the horses. A fast friendship forms and eases some of Chris’s loneliness. But does Mitch want more? Does Chris? Chris finds herself questioning herself, her relationship and her morals. Is her commitment to Mary Jo strong enough to survive Chris’s doubts?

7) When can we expect the book to be published? It will be released early 2015.

So there you have it. Now, I’d like to tag Marie Logan, Chris Paynter and Lynette Mae.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | 1 Comment

A Big Game of Tag

If you’ve been wading through your favorite author’s pages on Facebook, on their websites, or other social media, you’ve probably noticed new blogs about our individual writing processes.

I’ve been tagged by my friend and fellow animal-lover, AJ Adair in a blog tour where authors answer questions and then tag someone else. AJ and I started chatting one night after she’d made a comment about the photo I’d taken of a Sphinx Moth. From that point on we discovered a mutual love for cats, understanding the heartbreak of losing one, and developed a wonderful friendship.

Sphinx Moth1-4368

 

AJ is an amazing author with a handful of books to her name. Her latest, Anything Your Heart Desires, was released earlier this year, and is the sequel to Awaiting My Assignment, both included in her Friends series. If you haven’t started reading AJ’s work, there’s no time like the present. Check out her website for specifics: http://www.ajadaire.combook signature

 

Okay, so let’s get down to what this tour is all about: Getting to know your authors a bit better, and this time it’s yours truly. We’ve been given four questions to answer about our process and our work, so here goes:

What am I working on?

There are a few things bouncing around in my hopper these days. Positive Lightning was pl3breleased in April, so my fourth book is the sequel to A Kiss Before Dawn. In the Stillness of Dawn will be released early 2015. Here’s the blurb:

Fully recovered physically and emotionally from the near fatal assault, Chris Martel built a highly regarded reputation for Went Farm as a top-notch foaling farm. In fact the demand for stalls has necessitated the building of an addition onto the barn. More horses means more work. Under pressure from her partner, Mary Jo Cavanaugh and her Gram, Chris relents and eventually hires Mitch Jordan to assist with the additional load. 

When her mentor and employer, Doc Hall decides to retire, Mary Jo takes over the equine veterinary practice and inherits a huge clientele as well as all the problems associated with running it. Her days are spent in surgery and treating patients. The remaining hours of the day are spent tending to the business. The extra responsibilities and work load leaves her exhausted despite hiring an additional vet. 

Chris and Mary Jo feel the stress of their busy lives on their relationship. Mary Jo is too tired to do anything but fall into bed exhausted and Chris is missing her.

Mitch is single, cute and exceptionally good with the horses. A fast friendship forms and eases some of Chris’s loneliness. But does Mitch want more? Does Chris? 

Chris finds herself questioning herself, her relationship and her morals. Is her commitment to Mary Jo strong enough to survive Chris’s doubts?

I’m toying with the idea of writing another story at the same time, but I don’t have a concrete mental outline for it yet. … and then there’s the coffee table book of my photography. I’ll soon be in the process of choosing photos for that.

Superb Fairwren (M&F)-0831

How does my work differ from others in this genre?

I think my readers could answer this a bit better than I can. All of my main characters share one thing in common… an intense love of the outdoors. Through their senses, I want readers to mentally see and experience things they may never have before. I spend a lot of time outside, be it in the woods, fields or near the water. I hope through my writing, one or more people per day are inspired to look around and make new personal discoveries.

Why do I write what I do?

I don’t think I could express any better what Chris Paynter said: “I write what I do so readers can get lost in an enjoyable story that hopefully will stay with them after they close the book (or turn off the e-reader!). I hope even as they finish reading the last word of the book, they’ll want to revisit the story. I also write what I do because it’s my passion. I think most authors would agree.”

How does my writing process work?

I actually have two processes: one for my blogs and an entirely different one for my manuscripts.

My blogs are solely inspired when I’m outdoors. My mind, body and soul relax and I start “writing” in my head a description of what I’m experiencing or feeling. It’s all written from one point of view… mine.

When I’m working on a manuscript, it’s a lot different. I come up with a storyline first, and then figure out a rough outline of the human characters who will best fit. I get to know them at the same speed as the reader does in that I develop them as I write. There are authors out there who come up with a complete written outline of all their characters, down to the type of toothpaste they use or which way they prefer their toilet paper to hang. I guess that’s not the way my brain works. As for the non-human characters, I know their characteristics immediately. Most are written after animals I’ve known, loved, lost and/or met over the years.

Stetson

When I compose a scene, I write it as I see it in my head. I try not to jump ahead as I’m afraid I may miss something the characters do or say. But if something does come to me roon1a-1right out of nowhere, maybe some dialogue or a future scene, I’ll write it down. (I don’t bother kidding myself. If I didn’t, I’d forget it and it would never, ever come back.) I try to stay very focused on what’s happening at any one place in my story. I will admit though, that I never know how my books will end. The characters dictate the story, so they pretty much figure out how to end it as well. I nearly panicked not knowing how A Kiss Before Dawn was going to end. kbd4 (1)Hell, it was my first book! Is there a right or wrong way to end a book? I had no idea. When I finally relaxed and listened to Mary Jo, there it was. I could think of no better way.

Upon finishing, I read through it to perform a self-edit, let it sit for a couple weeks before I do it again. Then off it goes to Emily, and eventually to my wonderfully talented editor, Nann.

…and there you have it. Because I came in on the game so late, most of my peers have already been tagged. BUT if you’re an author and you’d like to participate, jump right in. The playing field is wide open.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

I Took My First Breath Today…

…in over two years.

It’s been that long since I’ve gone to the woods. When I lived on the twenty-five acre farm in New York, the woods was literally right outside my door. And go I would…with all the dogs.

When I moved to southeast Michigan, that luxury was suddenly gone. The dogs could run without leashes only in the pastures, and there wasn’t the expanse of unoccupied woods within walking distance that we once had the freedom to roam. Metro parks abound here, but the trails have to be shared with other dogs (and they have to be leashed), bikers and runners.

So today, Leika and I took a walk. It began along a narrow dirt road lined with houses. Some are so close you could stand on the property line and touch the other with an outstretched arm. Others stand maybe fifty feet from their neighbor. We walked to the end of that road and considered what to do. Numerous trucks and cars whizzed by me on the adjoining paved road. I could have turned back right then and there, but something in me urged me to turn right and brave the traffic. Thankfully Leika didn’t mind. We were walking and that was fine by her.

A power line crossed over the road about a mile down. I paused, albeit briefly before cutting into the low brush that quickly opened up to a fairly clear trail. Powerline-8800I unsnapped the leash from Leika’s collar. She looked at me and I said, “Go. Run!” She did a little jump sideways, walked a few steps ahead, turned back to see if I was serious, and then trotted along the trail. Leika on trail-8816

The road ran parallel to the trail, so the traffic noise cancelled out any other sounds I might have heard. I couldn’t even hear the leaves crunching under my boots as I walked, let alone any bird song. As soon as I could, I diverted my direction and moved deeper into the woods. I eventually popped out onto an old logging trail.

Maple, cherry, shagbark hickory, and others interrupted the endless blue sky with their towering, leafless branches above me. A subtle light green aura filled the woods at eye level as infant leaves begin to emerge from their protective buds. I know in a few short weeks this trail will become nearly impassable. The briars will thicken and grow thorny leafed branches, quite like tentacles, that intertwine with one another.  They have no manners and spread into as much space as possible. The tips reach out and grab at clothing and unprotected flesh, quickly drawing blood. The runners on the ground are very adept at tripping up a careless step.

It wasn’t too long before the trees absorbed all noises of human intrusion. Gone were the sounds of engines and tires on the road, replaced by a entirely different living host. The woods. Towhees, chickadees, nuthatches, cardinals, blue jays, and wrens sang, peeped and flitted on either side of me as I walked. Leika bounced from side to side, exploring, smelling, listening, settling. Leika Point-8818 Cross trail-8803The deeper I walked, the more centered I became. My chest loosened and I took a deep cleansing breath. Gone was the tension, anxiety, and suffocating feeling I’d had for so long. Gone was the claustrophobia, the insecurity of putting one foot in front of the other, and the self doubt. I tipped my head back and inhaled again. In fact once I took that first cleansing breath, I wanted more. It was like a drug I couldn’t get enough of.

A deer bounded from one side of the trail to the other, disappearing just as silently as she appeared. If I hadn’t seen the movement, I would have believed it my imagination. Leika stopped in her tracks and waited for my signal to continue. A quiet rustle was all I heard to the right of me. But I couldn’t be sure if it was the deer or a squirrel picking its way through the brush. I crested and descended an easy hill. The upward rush of wind lifted the hair from my scalp. Eventually I came to a T in the road. The river was just beyond. By then I figured Leika needed a drink, so I climbed over the windfall, slid down a bank and walked the final twenty feet to the bank. While Leika drank, I looked around and saw something white sticking out from a shallow cover of leaves. As suspected, it was a bone. I looked beyond and picked out more. I waited until Leika finished before meandering over to what I discovered to be the final resting place of a doe. The remainder of her skeleton lay nearly intact. Doe skeleton-2

Loud cawing from a murder of crows told me they’d discovered something and were now harassing the living hell out of it. Intent on seeing what it was, I took the southern route. Downed trees crisscrossed the trail. Leika cleared them easily…I had to go around the larger ones, or fling one leg over, followed by the other. Leika Jumping-8820

The closer I got to the white pine tree, the louder the crows got. Whatever was perched deep within the thick needle-filled branches was probably getting nervous with my approach, which enticed the crows to a higher pitch. Suddenly a red-tailed hawk flushed with the black demons right behind it. Silence filled that part of the woods again…even as a solitary brown streaked white feather floated softly to the ground. The Woods-2It was at that point I turned around and followed the same trail back. The sun had warmed  considerably. I tasted salt on my lips from where I’d rubbed the back of my hand against them. Leika’s tongue lolled as she walked ahead of me. Her gait had slowed considerably. Instead of darting around, smelling what she could smell, she took on an easy ground covering trot.Leika smile-8832

On the way back, as is the usual case, I saw things I hadn’t noticed on the way in. A maple tree split by unseen forces, but still clinging to life…
Split Maple-8835Another scattering of deer bones…
Deer Bones-8813

…and I wondered…did the woods seem more alive now than when I first entered? Or was it me?Briar sprout-8836

 

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 16 Comments