To say it waits for us each morning would be a lie. It’s just a tree, an aspen tree with a tuning fork trunk. But no. It’s more than just a tree. It’s a goal, a symbol, a reward.
Several years ago I invaded my neighbor’s exercise routine by inserting myself and my dog into his morning walk. Since that first hike up the east side of our little town, I’ve come to look forward to rising earlier than I would otherwise rise to get my morning dose of inspiration, and John has grown used to Ranger’s initial excited barking at him and my often incessant chatter.
I remember asking that first morning how far up the moderately steep road we’d go before turning around.
“Where the road turns to dirt, there’s a tree,” John told me, and I couldn’t wait for the pavement to end.
It’s hard enough to breathe some days doing routine tasks at 10,200’ elevation, and before we approached the rust-red bridge, moderate turned to steep. The pavement didn’t stop, but my chatter did.
Beyond the bridge was yet another cruel incline. I was really out of speed-walking shape and thought we’d never reach the turn-around spot, but when I saw the tree just beyond where the pavement ended, elation replaced fatigue.
Years have passed since my first quest to reach the turn-around tree, and not a single walk has culminated without some fresh insight about my life and my writing. In 2015 while searching for the perfect name for the flying frog character in my novel Waterwight, I asked John if he had a middle name. After a moment’s hesitation, he told me.
I recall saying something like, “No way! That’s it!”
John laughed, and my character had his name.
Countless encounters with people and the landscape during our routine walk (which never seems to get much easier for some reason) have inspired scenes and new characters and plot twists for my writing. Walking under the bridge, for example, with its menacing icicles from sunny morning thaws gave me the vision of Orville’s underwater rescue of Celeste. A young boy named Bridger who told me his superpower would be “to build things” inspired the character Bridger. An arrow stuck in a telephone pole inspired John to suggest an archer character (yes, I have dragged John into my fictional worlds), and when I let him get a word in edgewise, he often provides me with ideas to ponder.
“Have you noticed the profile on Mt. Massive?” he asked one morning after we discussed shapes of clouds and already-named stone formations like New Hampshire’s Old Man of the Mountain. When I told him no, he directed my attention to a stony outcropping halfway down from the highest crest of Mt. Massive, the gorgeous mountain range sprawled before us, waiting for us, I imagine, on our descent from the east side each morning.
And not only was Old Man Massive born that day, but the stark outline of mountain against crystal blue sky inspired a vision of the precipice scene for Waterwight.
This morning was the first time I said the words “turn-around tree,” and John suggested I add it to my growing list of title ideas. The tree’s new name reminds me of my favorite Shel Silverstein story, “The Giving Tree,” and its location being where the pavement ends recalls Silverstein’s collection of poems, “Where the Sidewalk Ends.”
I have yet to publish a young children’s book, but I have titles for them on my list. Perhaps “The Turn-Around Tree” will end up as more than simply this blog post title.
While the time it takes us to reach the turn-around tree never seems to vary much despite our noticeable improvement in fitness, the time itself has grown in value. Some mornings it’s filled with chatter (until that last steep spot) about the world and life and the latest local happenings, but more often now there are longer stretches of silence in which to create new worlds.
The turn-around tree is an achievable goal, one that starts each new day with a discrete accomplishment. It’s a symbol now too, of something that continues to grow—like friendship—its tuning fork shape a reminder to stop the chatter every now and then and listen. And it’s a reward, ever-changing in its ability to endure its often harsh surroundings, a visual treat marking our success, there for us as a reminder to consider the turning places in our own lives.
I’ll pretend the turn-around tree does wait for us each morning. The idea might keep me from sending a “too tired today” text on mornings when my warm sheets encourage my bed potato tendencies. And who knows. “The Turn-Around Tree” just might make it to the top of my children’s book title list. I can visualize at least one story ready to be shaken from its branches . . . yet another reward waiting to be claimed.
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If you like my writing, you might enjoy my books! Check them out here, and thank you!
With summer just starting in Leadville, Colorado, it’s hard to believe hunting season is just around the corner! We haven’t yet learned if we drew tags for this year (fingers crossed), but I’m already brushing up on my harvesting skills. We’re down to just a few packages of fajita meat in the freezer from last fall’s roadkill, so I’m looking forward to restocking soon!
If you’re a hunter or hiker (hunting for breathtaking scenery), you should consider purchasing and learning how to use a GPS (Global Positioning System). It will help immensely when you need to remember where you left your tasty meat, or if you’ve lost yourself in the excitement of the hunt, it will help you find your way back home!
Sally, a fellow hunter and writer, recently provided me with a Top 10 list of GPS devices and a link to an article with more information about each. Here’s what she sent:
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In the books I read as a child, the hero, well anyone who was hunting, did so with a bow and arrow. They navigated from memory or by using the sun and the stars (not at the same time naturally). Today, it’s a little different, but a large part of me loves the idea of ditching technology and going out, me versus the moose mano a mano or well, womano a moose.
Now we have small children and I have a tech obsessed husband, the question has not been what technology to use, but which type of each gadget available. One of the ones he loves most is the GPS device, as someone who is great at navigating without a map, using one is a disaster in the making, so I’ll give it to him, GPS are useful because they tell me where on the map I am and how to get to my destination. So, after a bit of trial and error, we’ve worked through and reviewed the top 10 available right now, which are:
Montana 680 Touchscreen GPS (Garmin)
Rhino 750 (Garmin)
Oregon 650t GPS (Garmin)
eTrex 10 (Garmin)
eTrex 20x (Garmin)
DeLorme InReach SE
Back Track G2 (Bushnell)
Foretex 401 (Garmin)
That’s just the list. I’ve put together the pros and cons of each as well as a review in this article covering the top 10 handheld GPS devices.
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Please check out Sally’s article for lots of info on this very important tool! I know that after some of my hunting expeditions, I could benefit from knowing how to use a GPS (but so far, my husband hasn’t steered me wrong)!
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If you like my writing, you might enjoy my books! Check them out here, and thank you!
Alpha Peak LLC (my old publishing imprint) is now STRACK PRESS LLC!
I decided it was time to update my old company name and to create a logo that was more in line with my work. The word “strack” is an old-school military term that means “very strict in one’s military appearance and grooming.” In other words, totally squared away!
After running a 99designs logo contest, the designer Caluya (TM) captured exactly what I was looking for. The logo has 12 open-book-style lines that also look like military chevrons, and the font is clean and bold. I asked for it in red, white, blue, black, and gold.
Books already published will maintain the Alpha Peak LLC imprint, but all future publications will be from Strack Press.
When I finally shook off the shackles of my religion, a process that took years, I freed my suffering psyche from a bondage I felt was never fair or right. After all, if God has made us “in his own image,” then He has made us as flawed as He must be. Instead of humanity being obligated to pray for forgiveness and mercy, should not He ask forgiveness of us?
Would a father or mother today truly condemn their child to eternal damnation for any degree of offense or disobedience? I suppose there must be consequences, right?
But eternal damnation? If my child were born with the genetic makeup to perpetrate a heinous crime, then I ought to weep for passing down that predisposition. I ought not to wish upon that child eternal damnation. Both nature and nurture influence mental health, though as we learn more about the brain and its chemistry, it would appear that nature pulls more sway. Is it a child’s fault that s/he is chemically unbalanced? I think not. Continue reading Easter Weekend: Let Us Rejoice?→
Sign up now for a chance to win one of 5 autographed copies of this crazy adult fairy tale! Until then, download an e-version (for only $2.99) and maybe buy a copy for a friend (for only $6.99)! Thanks!
I’m SO excited about the upcoming release of my Grimm’s Fairy Tales / The Twilight Zone mashup, an adult fairy tale! Written from a second-person point of view, this twisted tale is one I hadn’t intended to write, but hey, when the muse throws sex in your face, you’ve got to do something with it!
Pre-orders for ebooks are open now and will be released with the paperback on March 12, 2017 (a full moon!). And check out the cover artwork!!!
Ask me where I had it designed . . .
Thank you for your support! The ebook is only $2.99 and the paperback will be $6.99. Worth it for the artwork alone, I’d say!
In 2014 I wrote a post called “Brown-Chicken-Brown-Cow” (say it like you’re imitating the soundtrack to a ’70s porn film) in which I exposed my first sexual encounter, one that could have ended in disaster. I was lucky.
Many decades later and with 33+ years of marriage to the same guy, I’m pleased to say my luck has not run out. I’ll soon publish a novella called The Hare, Raising Truth about love and lust and lucky charms, and I’ve dedicated it to my husband. He is, truly, my lucky charm (oh, stop your gagging. It’s true). It’s a creepy story, but Mike said it’s my best writing yet. Yeah, he read it under sedation awaiting surgery, but I’m quite certain it didn’t affect his judgment at all. (read more for quick writing prompts about love!)Continue reading Does Love Need Prompting? Love Prompts!→
In last month’s newsletter I challenged readers to study their hands and tell me their story. Sometimes it’s difficult to create a fresh prompt idea, but I stared at my own suspended fingers over the keyboard and there it was. Art teachers often have students draw their hands, an exercise more difficult than it sounds, so it’s not a unique idea. I frequently say, “Bah, humbug!” to people who complain of writer’s block because even if they may not know how to start their next scene, they can always look at whatever’s in front of them—their hands, for instance—and write a description.
But I don’t want to write a description today. I fear falling into clichéd comparisons between my hands and my mother’s, sentimental ponderings over how my hands have held and fed and clothed and disciplined my children, mundane expressions about how handy these gadgets have been over the years—the anatomy of tendons and veins, the soft cheeks and huggable bodies, the constant completion of tasks performed without a thought. Continue reading My Right Hand(edness)→
This time last year Mike was stacking wood and shoveling snow (I just read last year’s newsletter!) in a “blustery 18 degrees” and today he does the same in 9 degrees of blowing snow. I’m comfy in my fuzzy pink bathrobe by the fire, still determined to give the snail-mail authorities a little extra business this year.
Travel this past year included two weeks in California where I was honored to help my sister Christine and her children with my brother-in-law Keith’s transition from this world to the next, my trip to Smith College to speak on a panel at their Leadership Conference, a trip to sister Carol’s to visit with Mum and sister Charlene, an unexpected trip to Hilton Head to visit with author Janet Sheppard Kelleher (where I parasailed and avoided gators and dropped my phone in the ocean and put together my book Haikus Can Amuse—because I dropped my phone in the ocean), a week in Maine to visit with my Mum and family at Susie and Jim’s gorgeous waterfront home, a road trip to visit Jake in Austin and another couple of weeks in the trailer at Moab and Lake Powell with Mike and the Ranger-dog. I’m becoming quite the Stand-Up-Paddleboarder and absolutely love being on the water! There were also several Colorado road trips to attend various author events at schools and libraries. Pitch: Please support your local libraries! They do much to support their communities and their local authors.
I continue to write and publish my books on Amazon and blog at www.leadvillelaurel.com about lots of things including another no-kill hunting season and my first warm elk harvesting from an early morning roadkill call. We finally had a legitimate reason to purchase a separate freezer. Waterwight hit the streets on Leap Day. It was great fun to write, and now I’m working on Waterwight: Flux, the second book in the series. I have a feeling 2017 will be a year of great productivity as I have several other writing projects in various stages of completion already.
Training for and competing in his 11th one-hundred-mile mountain bike race this summer just wasn’t exciting enough for Mike, and though it wasn’t his plan, he ended the race in time to manage one of many of the wildfires in Colorado last summer. After several exhausting days he returned to a structure fire, and as soon as he was convinced all was in control, I drove him to Denver to have his second hip replacement, but not before I sent him off to California to climb mountains with his brother Mark over Labor Day weekend. He had to make sure he used up every last bone surface and I had to get him out of the house to compete in a 3-Day Novel contest. By the way, he’s now quite happy being Titanium Man, and I wrote my best piece of fiction ever. Not sure what the county would do without his Emergency Manager expertise, and he’s pretty happy with his influence in many areas throughout our community.
He humored me by letting me offer our home for Leadville’s Victorian Homes Tour right after Thanksgiving, for which I felt compelled to complete the installation of hardwood floors in several rooms. We had a toilet in our living room until the day before Thanksgiving and couldn’t really use the kitchen for the whole week prior, but that didn’t stop me from being able to feed an Army Thanksgiving afternoon.
Have I mentioned what a great guy my husband is?
As for our sons, Jake still enjoys life in Austin working in the IT world and still working on the van that broke down there over a year ago. My Mum made the difficult decision to stop driving last summer and sent her vehicle to him, much to his surprise and delight. He visited us this past summer and at Thanksgiving, but will stay in Austin to have a friends’ Christmas this year. I knew it had to happen at some point, and it will be most peculiar having our first Christmas without him home, but we’re happy he has good friends with whom to share the celebration.
First Lieutenant Nicholas McHargue (Army National Guard promotion this past summer) continues to work at the mine while completing prerequisites for applications to medical schools. We still love having him live just a mile away, and I think he enjoys his mum’s home cooking every once in a while.
The Ranger-dog is still a goofball and loves traveling with us. If you’re interested in knowing more about him, I wrote a blog post called “Don’t Get a Dog” which you might want to read before making a decision to get a dog. We really do like him.
And so, as this year comes to a close, I reflect on things that have stayed the same, but acknowledge the many things that have changed. Like most everyone else, we lost and gained family members and friends this year. The gains are always happy, the losses always sad, especially when we think “too soon” or “not fair.”