Harv

man walking away on prairie

In the Depression Harv moved around. He didn’t have his own home. Harv stayed with different relatives. He’d stay on one ranch and help them out. Then he moved on to another kin’s place and helped them do chores and fix things. He tried to be handy, but he was more in the way than useful. He stayed a couple of months usually. He wasn’t always appreciated, but he was family, so folks let Harv live with them to help him out. For a while. Harv made the rounds living with one brother or sister, then the next, and that’s how he got by in those days. After several rounds of putting him up,  Fred had had enough of his mooching brother . You see, Harv drank a lot and wasn’t at all helpful.

Fred liked to get up early and get at the chores. There was a skating rink in the town and Harv would go there every night and drink himself blind. He came home, Fred and Letha’s home, when the joint closed and slept it off until late in the morning. Every day. One morning when the shadowed edges were beginning to darken into things we know, Fred took Harv’s knife while he lay sleeping. He walked to the chicken pen in dim lantern light and selected a young hen. He twisted her head until he felt her spinal cord snap and then he cut her throat with the blade. Then he plucked out her feathers , dressed her out, and sliced her in pieces. He dropped the pieces in a pail hanging on the side of the hen house. He tossed the slick innards into the hog pen. And then Fred carefully slipped back into Harv’s bedroom and put the bloody knife back where he found it. Letha came humming across the yard to the hen house swinging a basket for fresh eggs, the way she did every day. She folded up the bottom of her apron forming a pocket and held it tightly in one hand. Then she picked up the bloody chicken parts and dropped them into the fold. She carried the flesh into the kitchen, rinsed them in the sink, and put the pieces in a bowl in the ice box next to the new eggs. They’d have chicken dinner tonight.

When the sun was well up, Harv sat in a kitchen chair waiting for his breakfast the way he did every day. Fred poured a cup of weak coffee for each of them and looked down at his brother. “Harv”, said Fred as he set the cups on the embroidered table cloth, “Were you at the skating rink last night?” “Sure I was” said Harv. “Every night.” Fred looked at Harv for a long silence. “Harv, the Sherriff was here this morning. He wanted to talk to you. Said there was a fight at the skating rink last night and a fellow got stabbed. He didn’t think he’s gonna live. Sherriff wanted to ask you if you saw the fight, if you know anything about it.” Harv looked at his steaming cup for a long silence. He didn’t remember any fight the night before. He didn’t remember much at all from last night. Harv left Fred and Letha’s ranch that day and he never came back. That’s the way Aunt Jewel always tells it about Harv.

About this story: Duree Shiverick, Eagle, Idaho, told me this story in her shop January 22, 2015 while she replaced the string attachment cord on my antique violin. I was wandering the shop examining imaginatively carved fiddle heads while she spoke. And then I sat on a beautifully upholstered chair opposite her while she worked and gave me the tale. I asked her permission to embellish the story and use it in my storytelling bag. Harv’s name is real but I created the others. After telling the story several times it will change. When I am telling stories to an audience, that’s often when the language emerges by itself and makes a better fit. Repetition of words and phrases like “every night” is common in storytelling. I tried to keep the language simple and straight forward. I am putting more dark or magic or mythical elements in my story making since taking a writers workshop last year in a http://www.mccallarts.org/cabinfever program sponsored by the McCall Arts and Humanities Council, and in anticipation of the Horror Writers Workshop in Transylvania this summer.

How this story originated. After I published this story I was contacted by Miki Odendahl who says she is the original author. She says she wrote it in a high school creative writing class. Duree, who gave me the story, is her mother. I put my own storytelling style to it and the tale above is the result. Stories change over time when they are passed down orally. I want to give credit to the young lady who first composed the plot. She owns the story, though her version is much different from this. I am grateful that she came to me and set me straight, and allows me to publish it here.

In the original author’s words:

Duree is my mother. I grew up in Eagle, Idaho–first on Pimlico Drive, then in the cul de sac on North 2nd Street where she now lives with my 96 yo grandmother, Velma.

The story about Harvey was originally written for my creative writing class at Meridian Senior High School, about my own rabbit in the guise of another, and was a tribute to my friend, Valerie Harvey’s, brother who drowned when we were in grade school at Eagle Elementary. Yes, my mother can spin a yarn, and does so often, especially about me (according to her, I’m a serial killer, too), but this particular story was entirely mine.

Your story was forwarded to me by one of my childhood friends, who knows this story well.

About this photo: Someone took this photo of my nephew on either his family ranch near Sweet and Ola, Idaho, or in Wyoming. I adjusted curves and gave it a shape blur in Adobe CS4. I think it gives a ghostly image illustrating Harv leaving that day, although it’s a sunrise shot. Memories and stories retold have a blurry quality, rather dreamlike and that’s the mood I was trying to capture in this photo.

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Serenity Lake

child in hammock

“If you have time to chatter,
Read books.

If you have time to read,
Walk into mountain, desert and ocean.

If you have time to walk,
Sing songs and dance.

If you have time to dance,
Sit quietly, you happy, lucky idiot.”
Nanao Sakaki

About the photo

This photo is my response to the .https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_photo_challenge/serenity/

It was ever so relaxing looking back on many serene photos in my collection. I chose this child reading at Lost Lake for its universal message, peace and contentment. He’s my first grandson, now 21 years old. He still likes to go to this lake, this spot, and meditate. So do I. It’s 10 – 15 minutes from my home. I scanned the printed photo and used several adjustments in Adobe Photoshop CS4 to remove some color saturation and muddy up the shot to make it look vintage. I wanted a timeless effect.

Winter sunflowers

If I had to choose a religion, the sun as the universal giver of life would be my god.- Napoleon Bonaparte 

Many world cultures have recognized the power of the sun. I don’t claim the sun as my religion but I choose to live where I can see the sun and blue skies more than grey clouds. It’s my blog name, Sky Blue Daze. On this winter day, shadowed by snow clouds and fog, oily black seeds grown from last summer’s sun feed American Gold Finches.

I dried sunflowers at the end of summer and today I attached some to a wild cherry branch near my bird feeder. Even while I was twisting a pipe cleaner around a twig to secure a stem, an early bird began eating from a seed head I had placed above me! The cherry branch attached to the deck rail provides a perch, attracting and keeping birds longer at the feeder. Evening Gross Beaks have dominated the feeder for about a week and I wanted to provide the finches and Oregon Juncos another chance to get some seeds. The Juncos prefer seeds on the ground so I cleared snow off the deck and scatter seeds there. They fluttered to the branches of sunflower heads anyway, checked them out, then left them for the finches.

I know the birds get wild seeds. I like that I grew the sunflowers from the sun, the universal giver of life, and now I can share them with animals this winter. It’s a way I can participate in nature.

More about the cherry branch with Buddha is in this post. https://skybluedaze.wordpress.com/2015/01/05/no-mistake/

This post uses the Weekly Photo Challenge: Shadowed. It’s not my best idea for the theme, but while we live shadowed from seeing the sun, it’s my shot for the week. Once I had the sunflowers on the branch the response from the birds urged me to sit calmly on a wet deck chair and photography them. The birds don’t stick around for much movement from the photographer. I hope to get better at getting close to wildlife and making some interesting images. For more about this week’s theme and to see how other bloggers used “shadowed” click here. https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_photo_challenge/shadowed/

Invitation to Horror

I am thrilled to get to partcipate in the horror writers workshop in Transylvania this summer! I get to visit Bran’s castle and have a bite at Dracula’s house (lunch). I invite you to take up the challenge, too.

Horror is not my best writing genre, but then I don’t really know because I’ve only peered into it. This workshop will immerse me in the craft. The author teacher, Richard Thomas, is one of the best. (More about him in the link at the end of this.) I’ve been assured that exploratory writing will be just the ticket.

When I wondered if my writing is up to the challenge, the Program Director, an accomplished author herself, Tausha Johnson gave me this to think about. (She’s in the link below, too.)

“Writing a Horror Story

Every story is, in its tiny way, a horror story. Horror is about fear and tragedy, and whether or not one is capable of overcoming those things. It’s not all about severed heads or blood-glutton vampires. It’s an existential thing, a tragic thing, and somewhere in every story this dark heart beats.”

She said, “Yes, Kay, horror is very open and covers a lot of ground, such as dark fiction, dark fantasy, gothic, noir, psychological horror, weird, supernatural, surreal, grotesque, suspense & thriller, slipstream (crossing lines with sci-fi and fantasy), etc. Then there’s the horror I write which is more literary horror. Flannery O’Connor & Shirley Jackson often fall into this horror sub-genre. Whatever our style or genre of writing, there are elements to the genre that can help us create suspense and unique, original stories.”

Roots, photo from The Storyteller’s Abode at https://thestorytellersabode.files.wordpress.com/2014/11/roots.jpg

In my LaWrynn stories (in the menu at the top of this blog) there is much fantasy and darkness. She arrives in our world from the other world, the Celtic idea of where we are when we are dead or where the enchanted beings live. She enters our world through a portal on Samhain, the Celtic celebration when spirits can enter our world for 3 days, then go back to their world. It occurs at Halloween time and celebrates the end of the old year and beginning the new with festivities and community bonfires. Once in our world, she lives in the dark underground, Badger’s hole, and encounters life on this side, including dangers and horrors as well as light mischief and fun. She’s trapped here for a year because she didn’t get back through the portal at the end of 3 days. Her horror is having to live in this world. There’s magic and fantasy and lots of room to add darker elements. LaWrynn is mostly living in a real notebook with me for now. I need to prod myself to get more of her stories into this blog.  You can read the draft of her appearance here. https://skybluedaze.wordpress.com/lawrynn-stories-fantasy-and-celtic-lore/

And I have more ideas for dark stories. My new neighbor might be a pyromaniac and he’s obsessed with sealing wasps out of his house. For real! Wasps really scare me!They attack me every chance they get. I feel like their target. His house was abandoned for several years so wasps moved in and I don’t doubt ghosts abide there, too.

In my https://skybluedaze.wordpress.com/the-cat-rock-letters/, I plan to animate the stone formation, a cat that overlooks the river and section house where Frank lives. In Celtic lore rock formations have powers and can change and cause changes. But this set of stories is not so dark and maybe I’ll leave them as they are.

I have other ideas in my journal, too, so maybe horror writing is not that far off for me. My fiction writing is more like dark fantasy than gore. But the horror genre seems to be experimental and flexible these days, according to the instructor’s podcast. http://www.thisishorror.co.uk/tih-025-richard-thomas-on-the-dos-and-donts-of-short-story-writing/

Dracula’s Castle

I like the ravine in Ray Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine.  I long to produce a play adapted from Poe’s “Mask of the Red Death”. I love Stanley Kubrick’s directing in the suspenceful movie “The Shining”. Nicole Kidman’s performance in the ghost story “The Others” convinced me. And I could not put down Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk even when the snow outside was the best ever on my vacation. He wrote Haiku in the story! Poe also wrote poems in his stories like https://skybluedaze.wordpress.com/2014/10/23/haunted-palace/ in “The Fall of the House of Usher”. Shakespeare’s stories showed ghosts and seers and tragedies. Mythology is full of tragedies. I got this!

Farewell Bonfire

If I never wanted to write horror, and never contrived a place I’d like to be when I write it, and people I’d like to be with…well sometimes I just need to be spontaneous and go with the demon when it stretches its claw toward me. With a generous scholarship offer from the workshop director, Tausha Johnson, I am 93% sure I am going to be in in Transylvania in July for the horror writer’s workshop. I’m looking at travel costs before making 7% more commitment. I’m sure I can do it! Just do it for no good reason. Going!

Get me there…alive…

I’ve never traveled off the North American continent and I need a little guidance about making flight arrangements. If you can advise me, please reply! I can fly from Boise or SEATAC. Here’s where I need to go:

“We recommend that guests fly to Henri Coandă International Airport, Romania which is located 16.5km (10.3mi) northwest of the city of Bucharest. Once all travel arrival times have been confirmed, a shuttle will bring you from a designated meeting point directly to the hotel in Bran. Please be aware that travel time to Bran is approximately three hours.”

http://www.workshopwriters.com/

http://www.workshopwriters.com/us/

https://www.smore.com/y6es9-horror-writing-in-transylvania

No mistake

close Buddha in snow OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

New snow falls atop the old. If there is nothing new in the universe, how come each individual snow flake is unique in it’s shape? I am not certain there is nothing new in the universe but I feel quite sure there are no mistakes. I contemplated the idea of “new” in https://skybluedaze.wordpress.com/2015/01/03/new-roots/.

Pretty poor light for photography but the dull winter day prompts me to explore my old Adobe Photoshop CS4 again. I saved a copy of each change I made as I reviewed the Adjustments menu. I’m looking for a happy accident. I’m looking for a mistake made into art. I’m looking for opportunities to experience my 2015 goal: make mistakes.

“Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made
before. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it
isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.” Neil Gaiman

Here’s a link to the complete quote. It’s in my sidebar under “Quotes”, too.  https://skybluedaze.wordpress.com/type/quote/

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “New.”

New Roots

macro new buds
New buds are starting to branch from this stem. Even so, it needs to be pinched off to shape the plant and promote root development.

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “New.”

New Roots

I rather feel like there’s nothing new in the universe. But I’m not certain. Everything is connected or one thing leads to another, or so I’ve seen. Take this little Rosemary start for example. It began about 20 years ago when I bought a small plant in a 4 inch pot in Port Angeles (PA). I repotted it into a larger pot and brought it with me when we moved to Idaho in 1998. It nearly died of a white fungus while it was indoors for a frigid Rocky Mountain winter. I pruned more than half the plant to remove the fungus and let it live if it would. It lived indeed! It thrived from the pruning and when we moved back to PA in 2003 I planted it in our yard and left it alone. Plants do pretty well if left alone, the right plants at least.

yellow flowers over grown
One of my “little gardens”, a sidewalk runs through it. Gone for 2 summer months, this is the result of leaving plants alone. Sheers and a mug of Scotch soon fix it all.

That plant reproduced itself into 4 more plants and they all grew to be about 3 feet high and pretty wide. I found their starts in the soil at the base of the first one, propagated by a natural process called “mounding” in which a branch gets laid down and partly covered with soil. New roots develop and you can just snip the branch off from the original and plant the new start. When I moved back to my Idaho home in 2013 I had 4 big Rosemary bushes growing in my Port Angeles yard. The fifth had been killed by a peninsula winter.

That home has renters now so last fall I started 3 new little Rosemaries from trimmings when I pruned one of the large herbs to clear the sidewalk for safe passage. I popped the little cuttings into small pots of plain old potting soil, kept them damp at the risk of causing rot, and sure enough they began to show new leaves. When new leaves appear you know the roots are developing. I pinch off new growth and use it for aromatic flavors in the kitchen. Even little herbs do their jobs just fine. Removing new growth promotes root development and it prevents the plant from getting spindly, making it bushy.

tall rosemary start
New growth ready to be pinched off. Plants DO grow in winter.

The idea that plants are dormant in winter is not precise. I keep these starts in a sunny south facing window and they are producing abundant new growth. They are beginning to branch out so by late spring when it’s safe to put them outside, they will be nice little herbs to move into larger pots. Look at all the new white branches stemming from the brown trunk.

macro many branches

lop sided plant start
This start needs shaping. Obviously new roots are developing.

If plant life is so well connected, new roots emerging from old stems, how can our human lives not be interconnected, too? I’m not just talking about genetics here. I am rooted in the Pacific Northwest and have restarted myself more times than I can recall. We can nurture our own roots and use them not to anchor us to one place or one idea, but to set us out on new paths. We can nurture new roots in people we encounter, too, without even knowing it. Some people say I am the most grounded, rooted, person they know. If that’s so, it’s because I have learned that I can regenerate myself when I need to and I’m not afraid to take that risk. Well, a little afraid but brave. My daughter calls me spunctuous, a word she created. She asked if it’s OK to make up words. Of course it is.

sidewalk garden