She hadn’t noticed them there, under the small deck.
Walking out to feed the horses, the rosy glow of the cloud bellies drew the phone out of her jeans pocket to snap the photo. Good Morning make it a great day. Sending the Tweet with the photo and tucking the phone away, she was steps from the hay.
But the “Mornin’ boys” stuck in her throat at the first stab of pain at her ankle. And by then, it was too late.
Lifted off his feet by the miniature donkey was humiliating enough. But landing six feet away in a pile of manure, well, there was nothing to be done about it now. The owner had just come around the corner.
The big paint, who clearly didn’t like him, and tolerated the trim around all four hooves today. He’d been whistling when he began on the donkey, but hadn’t paid any attention when the paint had touched muzzles with the donkey just after he’d top-dressed that last hind.
Twenty or so cows were wandering in the neighbors new wheat and in the corn stalks across the road. When it registered in her mind that these were some of the cows she was on her way to feed, in the pasture. The closed gate was open.
“Do you want me to close that gate?” She’d asked him several hours earlier.
“No-leave it. They won’t travel this far north and I have to go back down to the windmill anyway.”
I’ve been reading some about flash fiction and decided to play.
The November observation was going to happen, already had for most teachers. Betty was still fretting. She’d broken the “rules” again. A first year was not supposed to step outside the bounds. She supposed she must be at the bottom of her supervisor’s list. Well, maybe she’d keep her job through the winter holiday.
Howling winds whipped the once-stylish hair into her eyes and then back across her cheek. She finally sat, exhausted. The knowledge that she’d never find the door brought up a list of things she wished she’d done, said. Betty was not on that list.
The leaves are yellow, the Virginia Creeper is all red and gold, and the air is cold with a fall breeze blowing. Saddling up, my horse is as ready as I am to get out and ride. It’s hard to kick up your heels when the sun is bearing down on you and the hot wind steals any moisture from your nose and mouth leaving you wishing for winter snows.
But not this day. I mounted and we rode off to see what the morning might bring. The dry corn stalks crackled, broad leaves crunching under compact hooves. Fall has that smell that I love but find very difficult to describe, all dry and earth with just a hint of winter.
We soon fell back into a familiar rhythm, his buckskin neck soft under my fingers and his black mane keeping time with the wind. Once-in-a-while, he whinnied back to the friends we left behind, and I urged him on telling him we’d see them again soon.
Passing by a blunt-nosed baby snake sunning in the warm gravel, we moved together into the west winds that blew in the promise of the coming winter.
In An Alliance of Stars, our main character dreams of riding her horse through the stars in space:
“She wasn’t afraid, but lifted her arms out along the line of her shoulders as Smokey gathered himself for the mightiest of jumps. ‘Hup,’ she encouraged him as his front legs came off the ground and the heave of his powerful hindquarters launched them both into the heavens. Suddenly, they were surrounded by myriad points of light. Flying past stars radiating bright blues and reds and oranges, Isa gathered Smokey’s neck in her arms and whispered, ‘Thank you for bringing me here and keeping me safe.’ And she slept there, on his back, as they sailed through space and time.”
I took this goofy slow motion video to give myself an idea of what it might be like to ride in space…if there were a little oxygen!
As my novel, An Alliance of Stars, finds a second life in self-publication I’m reminded of the sweetness of the relationship Isa, my main character, has with horses. In her grief over the deaths of all those she loves, in the midst of abuse no young teen should have to face, she finds acceptance and perked ears willing to listen to all her woes, all her hopes, all her plans for escape and they demand nothing back. They love her soft touch, her attention when she rides, her low voice, and the absolute trust they’ve built with her.
Even when she must sell them off and run for her life, she turns to horses in her new life and across many planets. They mean home to her.
It is the same for me. In this world, filled with hate, filled with no regard for anyone who doesn’t share your view, filled with name-calling and sticking people in categories, this face brings that gentle and loving spirit back to life for me. When I let others make me feel like I don’t count, like I’m invisible, like the only purpose I serve is to meet their needs, I run a soft brush over warm skin, saddle and ride or stand and speak my own woes, and find my home, my safe place to fall.
Recently, like two days ago, my first novel was republished with a new title on Amazon. The paperback version is out now too. While it was published briefly in 2013, the small publisher went out of business, and so Windows in the Loft sat idle and unavailable. Once I got the publishing rights back, I needed to figure out the best plan to get it back out there.
Publishers don’t really want work that’s been previously published, no matter how short the time. My second novel, Worthy of Love, suffered the same fate in an even shorter time-weeks.
I needed to do something but wasn’t sure what to do or how to do it. Enter COVID. My son was laid off part way through the shutdown and has digital marketing skills and time. While he searches for a job, I hired him to work for me. Win-win.
We brainstormed a title that better fits the story of Isa and her escape from an abusive guardian to becoming a part of the Space Alliance: An Alliance of Stars. She has to leave the land and horses she grew up with and loves. Finding the courage to do just that, she steals aboard an outbound starship and finds her way to a new future. Give it a try and leave me a review. It’s out in paperback now as well. http://bit.ly/Allianceofstars
Our next venture will be a reboot of Worthy of Love with a new title and cover.
An ideal space for my little sister, Cathy, would have to include sage, a little forest of aspens by a mountain lake, or a warm beach by the ocean, and quiet space to meditate, think, and breathe. She’d often take off and head up to Rocky Mountain National Park to Sprague Lake or some other spot just to get away from the pressures of her life and find some peace.
Once she came to the point where she could no longer drive, after suffering strokes, I know she missed those places very much. When some friends from the church in Omaha picked her up from our house in Mead to take her with them on a short trip through Wyoming, she wept. To lose her autonomy, her independence, and to have to live with her sister’s very active family, well, it cut deep into her spirit.
I could not understand. You couldn’t either. I had compassion and love, but I couldn’t know the loss she felt.
So, I planted this little aspen and have fought the heat and drought to keep it going. A good friend gave me this memorial stone after Cathy was killed and I plan to set it close by this tree. I want to build a little place here where she might have stood, burned some sage, said a prayer, and found some peace.
We had fall launch on Monday, well, I did. Out of my element with a boatload of lower elementary students, I’ve been up to my eyeballs in parent/grandparent email pleas for help. Supplies are all on back order due to the enormous number of families choosing to do online school with my company. It is all about listening and encouraging and finding links to stories online and reminding those learning coaches (parent/grandparent) that while they wait for the colored math manipulatives to arrive, pennies will work just as well, or marbles, or candies for that matter. And who doesn’t want math you can eat?
I’ve had some pretty angry emails and have learned again that people just want to be heard, want to know someone cares, want to believe this will all be fine once they get used to it.
But I have one wonderful grandmother, trying her best to help her little granddaughter. But Grandma does not speak computer. At all. And she cannot have someone come to her home to show her because she is high risk for COVID complications. Today she told me this: “I’m a retired entertainer. Song and dance. Computers were not in my field. Stage work.”
And I replied: “Why not use your own talents to teach your granddaughter? Pick a favorite show and perform some of it and then have a conversation about characters and settings, plot and conflict.
Talk about the stage and show her the “math” of it: dimensions, entrances, exits, sound. Take her on a “history” tour of a stage or a particular show.
Talk about costuming and the “science” of make-up. I’d say that should cover the basics for a few days.”