The street where I live is actually a Circle. They tell me it’s about one mile all the way around. My furry Baby Girl and I walk half the length a few times a day. Sometimes, out my front door and past the parking lot, I feel like I’m stepping into a magic forest.
The Embers is an apartment community in the middle of a large city. I’m told the project was built inside a protected conservation area. It’s generally quiet and tranquil except for the occasional ambulance in the distance or helicopters flying to the Trauma Center at a nearby hospital.
The street is lined with all kinds of native trees and plants. The street lamps seem to have been strategically placed, so that during the hours just before nightfall or daylight, shadows can play tricks on your eyes. The soft light from the moon and stars seems to make the street glow, and it’s easy to forget that I’m not really out in the woods.
On our street, the regular small woodland creatures like possum, armadillos, snakes, and squirrels forage for food and make their homes in the thick vegetation. The trees are filled with all kinds of birds, each one signing a unique melody with the woodpeckers keeping rhythm with their tap, tap, tap.
There is a large population of cats – blacks, and tuxedo, marmalade, and tigers in grey and black. It’s hard to tell if they are all feral or just out for the day. Baby Girl loves the kitties, but whenever we come near, they scamper away into the tall grass just beyond the road where she can’t reach them. Each time she catches a whiff of a kitty, she gets so excited and desperately wants them to play with her. I can see them watching her from within the bushes. Sometimes I wonder what they think of all her enthusiasm.
There are no sidewalks on our street, but boulders where placed near the ends of speed-bumps to keep drivers off the grass. Covered in moss and dirt, on days of dense fog, these boulders appear to be stunted creatures trying to climb out of the ground. I’ve wanted to photograph them, but these crafty creatures turn back to solid rock when they see me take out my phone!
My imagination ponders about the natural history of this place. Who were the first dwellers here, and how did they spend their day?
It’s great that this piece of land has been kept in some kind of land conservation trust. I’m especially glad that with all the social distancing regulation, I have a nice space to walk and let get inspired.
As some may have noticed, for the past several months, I’ve had a hard time getting back into a regular rhythm of writing and posting at “Self Censored.” I can write about why and where my energy is going, but the bottom line is I’m trying to figure out where I want to go with this blog. This ambivalence makes it easy for so many other things to get in the way.
For example, while I’m on a roll and in the groove at the computer today, Eliza – my furry baby girl jumps on my lap because she wants to go out. I put her down, but she gets back up and desperately tries to get my attention by licking my face. Naturally, I stop and go out for a while as she examines all the spots she missed the last time we were out. Needless to say, when we get back, she needs a snack to reward her for doing her business outside, and while I’m at it, I decide to warm up the pumpkin muffin that is still waiting in the fridge.
Let’s get back to why I’m here today. I want to change things up a bit on my blog. I’m thinking about changing the layout, title, and domain name. I’ve been working on WordPress.com, but I’ve been recommended to try WordPress.org because it has more flexibility. As I’m mulling ideas about the nuts and bolts, I’ve also been thinking about my content. Is the “About” page still accurate? Are my goals the same? Is my motivation the same? Who I’m writing for? Maybe I don’t want to be censored anymore.
The idea for change came one day as I was at the library working on “collection maintenance” (re-shelving books, straightening up and making the place look presentable). That day I found a little book called “Why We Write. Twenty Acclaimed Authors on How and Why They Do What They Do.” By Meridith Maran. I tend to be a wee bit superstitious and thought to myself, “Hmmm, maybe this is the insight I need right now.” Truth be told, the book did turn out to be encouraging and stimulating. Of course, there was the usual advice from well know authors about perseverance and dealing with rejection, but it was the similarities to my thought process that inspired me.
Like myself, many of the authors included in the book found reading and writing as an emotional outlet early on. I’ve been journaling since I was a kid. I had poems and prose entered in my school papers and yearbooks since middle school. At one point, I thought I would make journalism a career. A friend and I fantasied as kids about working on projects together. He’d be a famous photojournalist, and I’d be the writer. Ahhh youth….
In the book, I found some authors began writing to explain or to make sense of the changing world around them – first to themselves and then to connect with others with the same uneasiness in spirit. They described taking ordinary moments from one’s particular point of view, “freeze-dry” the moment to let the reader “add water,” connect with the notion and make it their own. As I read, I could hear that voice of affirmation and validation in my head.
It was from this book that I decided to write fantasy or magical realism instead of continuing with the short stories and snapshots of my memories. It was with this new project in mind that I started connecting with co-workers in the Nanowrimo model. But alas, here I am reaching the end of November but still quite far from finishing a novel or novelette or whatever. I do however have a better idea of what I want to write, how, and most importantly why. I’ve done some research to move my story and characters forward, and I count that as progress. I see my finished project as a female version of Santiago the Spanish Shepard looking for The Alchemist, meets King Arthur’s Merlin at The Shack with Mack. Wish me luck!
As for you, keep writing. I check in to the blogs I follow and get inspired. I enjoy getting updates, reading your stories, and delight in how creatively you let your voices be heard.
In my life, the summer months bring anniversaries filled with memories of lessons learned, loved ones who have passed or chosen to move away. I celebrate the lessons learned by remembering a friend who taught me that you have to take a chance and savor the moment because you don’t know if or when the opportunity may come again. I celebrate my Mom, who will forever be a part of me. I send a virtual package of loving vibes to family far away in celebration of life.
This month, I’ve enjoyed getting into my fantasy fiction piece and taking a break. I’m totally appreciating the fact that it’s not an actual event or a true story. I feel it gives me a bit more license to explore other themes or enter other realms. The story that I’m working on had been floating in my head for years, and I wondered how I would bring it to life. As is true to much of my other writing, this story started with a snapshot of a memory. A seemingly insignificant incident has blossomed into a fantastic account of what could be if we were to believe in alternative truths. In our current society, we cringe at the words “alternative truths.” There is a dark side to an “alternative truth,” but I want to make this one fun, positive and thoughtful.
I have been encouraged to put extra energy into this project after a writer friend from work, reserved a small virtual cabin at CampNaNoWriMo 2019. Three of us share this cabin, which I believe, sits next to a beautiful, clear lake in the woods where there are no mosquitos or snakes, and the temperature is never above 75 degrees – even during a Florida summer. The virtual campground seems endless, and along with countless other campers, we each pick out a time and a place that best suits our creativity.
At registration, we were asked to identify our favorite camp activity. My first inclination was to respond that what I like most about cyber camping is sleeping in my own bed and not in a sleeping bag on the ground. I won’t have to worry that night critters are trying to get in my tent. I conceded, however, that I enjoy singing campy songs around the fire and walking on trails to take in all the sights and sounds of the forest. To get inspiration, I sit out on the imaginary porch with a glass of iced tea or climb into my hammock and start swinging to get into the rhythm of my story – all in my head, of course, just a warm-up.
I’ve written before that I like letting my imagination explore beyond the edge of reality. I’m looking forward to discovering where this story will take me. So far, it’s been fun, gathering unusual individuals who coincidently have some characteristics of people who have crossed my path or shared valuable lessons in different stages of my life. I’m working on telling the story in a way that has a message while still being amusing, sensational, and unpredictable.
Next installment coming soon.
Photos are my own; taken with my phone on recent walks. I find them a bit odd or surreal but inspirational for my story.
“Looking at life from a different perspective makes you realize that it’s not the deer that is crossing the road, rather it’s the road that is crossing the forest.” – Muhammad Ali (reddit)
For days Estrela Mann felt a heaviness in the air. Not as in the humidity of the tropics where she lived, but as a wave of negativity from the people around her. Each morning she would summon the light within her to fill her heart in order to illuminate the darkness around her. So it was that Stela, as her friends called her, made it through each day weary and exhausted but in good spirits.
One particular morning as the alarm rang out its cheerful tune, Stela prepared for the day ahead, resolved to make it a good one. She still had lots of errands and things to do to prepare for her trip. She allowed herself to feel good about the workshop this weekend and was looking forward to it.
Stela was eager to get going, but just before stepping outside, through the door’s glass panel, she caught sight of an unfamiliar car parked across the street with three angry faces glaring at her house. At first glance, Stella didn’t recognize them without the masks of pleasantry they always wore in public, but over the past few months, her awareness and intuition had sharpened. Stela knew exactly who they were, but what were they doing here and what did they want?
As she considered how to handle the situation, her phone rang. It was a video call from her friend Tom Aldi. This morning was getting more bizarre by the minute. What did he want this early in the day? She hadn’t spoken to him for months, but she smiled, it did make sense. They each had an uncanny sagacity of reaching out to the other in the most opportune moments. “Guess what?” he told her. “I’m almost at your back door. Open up and let’s put on a fresh pot of coffee. I’ve got great news!”
Forgetting the strangers outside for a moment, Stela went to the back of the house without hesitation. She would save her questions for later. Stela was glad to see him and was surprised at how relieved she felt to have him here right now. They had been friends since high school, and Stela often shared things with him that she felt foolish to tell others. She was sure he could help her sort out the signs to understand what was going on. Tom had a naturally keen ability for solving such puzzles.
Stela watched him casually walking out of the woods as if this morning’s visit was an everyday occurrence. She stepped out the door and was about to reach him when out of the ground in front of her, there arose a cloud of black smoke as when a small brush fire suddenly turns large and menacing. Stranger still was that someone appeared to be trapped in the smoke waving hands and screaming, “Get away, get away!” A hand making a fist shot up from out of the blackness as if to stop Stela from reaching Tom. The voice in the black cloud screamed obscenities at Stela. Amidst the confusion, Stela seemed to recognize the shrill voice. It sounded like Melana. As Stela approached the screams became louder, “Stay away! You ruined my life! No, not again! I forbid it!”
Was she dreaming? Was it Melana’s malicious nature from across the miles after all these years? This situation was all too much, too absurd! She told herself. She tried to look into the smoke. There was no flame; there was no one there! Just ear piercing sounds like a screaming Banshee. Frustrated and confused, Stela raised her hands and shouted back, “Stop it! I never ruined anything! Your own deceitfulness and manipulation achieved that! Now leave me alone, I have more important things to deal with!”
As Stela put out her hands toward the screaming smoke, rays of bright light shot out from her palms. Stela watched in astonishment as the smoke turned from black to gray to white, and finally, a thin fog evaporated into the fresh, quiet morning air. Through the light mist, Stela could see Tom getting closer as she stood there trembling in disbelief.
“Did you see that?” she asked Tom as they embraced when he reached her.
“The brush fire? Yeah, that was weird. There were no brush fire warnings. Good thing it fizzled quickly. Are you cold? Why are you trembling? Let’s go inside.”
Stela stared at him. Was that all he saw? “Did you hear the screeching?” She asked.
“Oh yeah, that old car parked across the street finally got going. If I were them, I would drive it over to the nearest auto repair shop.” She suddenly remembered the car out front, but when she looked, it was no longer there.
Was it the car that produced black smoke and the screeching? That reasoning would make some sense of this wild morning. Stela tried to relax as she half listened to Tom’s stories, but she remained restless. Either she was losing her mind, or something very strange was going on around her.
She thought of the Gandalf-look-alike she had met at the coffee shop a few months ago and again began to shiver as she remembered what he told her. Stela needed to get hold of him, but because she hadn’t taken him seriously, she didn’t even remember his name. Where did she put his business card? She had missed Tom, but now was trying to find a way to get him out of her house so that she could concentrate on finding “Gandalf.” Maybe he’ll sense my distress and find me again, like in the movies. She thought. “This is not a movie.” she scolded herself.
Tom noticed she had stopped listening, and she was trembling again. “Is everything alright? What’s going on? ” Stela wasn’t ready to share her ideas with Tom. When they were kids, she felt she could tell him anything but the events of the past few months were too much for her to try to explain, even to Tom. He had always been tolerant of her beliefs and ideas, but this went beyond anything she had experienced before.
“I’m not feeling well this morning. I was going to call in sick to work and lay down for a while.” She lied.
“Ok, if you don’t mind, I’ll wait in your TV room in case you need anything. I don’t want to leave you like this. “
Stela stared at him and started to argue, but he gently pushed her into her room and closed the door. She had to admit that the events of this morning left her shaken. She was sure she had not imagined them. Again she noticed that she was glad Tom happened to be around.
In her room, she noticed a shiny business card on her nightstand. Had it been there all along? Was it glowing? Ridiculous! Stela thought as she picked it up and sure enough, the card read, “Dr. Ailfred Cleary: Light Theory.”
She rolled her eyes as she read to herself, but picked up her phone to call.
(TRYING SOMETHING DIFFERENT. A FANTASY FLASH FICTION, PART OF A PROJECT I AM WORKING ON)