It has always been an interest of mine to consider the nuances involved in my encounters with others, those that are nourishing and even those that are more distasteful for some reason. In recent years, my interest has broadened to include encounters with animals, nature, books, movies and now, online conversations with people who I treasure yet may never meet.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012



    Reading a short story that features a favored character from a 5-star novel usually would leave me somewhat disappointed, wanting more. Yet, Julia’s short tale has managed to leave me in the delightfully satisfying spot of saying, ‘Just so.’ Inspector Crombie first endeared himself to me in A Raucous Time during an extraordinary rescue scene that takes place on railroad tracks. In An Explosive Time, Crombie takes a center stage position and this cantankerous yet adorable character became an all-time favorite.

     From the first paragraph of Crombie’s Christmas, I found myself squirming with anticipation for the marvelous tale that I knew was to come. Crombie, a ‘Columbo-like’ detective who is somewhat irascible and slovenly, doggedly follows any unanswered trail to its end. Along the way and despite himself, he cannot help but be a gentleman. On a wild goose chase to find his long-lost brother, Crombie finds himself on Christmas Eve in the Italian equivalent of the House of Usher. All of his fun takes place in the Hotel Perotti and the props for frivolity include Signora Perotti, a bucket of water, an array of dinosaurs, a gnome of a man and his wife, and a trio of feral cats. I needed a few tissues to wipe off my glasses in order to finish the story!

    Ms. Hughes is simply masterful in the way that she weaves these unusual characters and props into such a fun, fascinating story. Within her stories, however, she never fails to offer readers tidbits of wisdom-evoking thoughts. Her use of the two English phrases that are on a cross stitch sampler that hangs on the wall in Crombie’s room is quite clever. Both phrases initially seem menacing to him yet, by the story’s end, Crombie has the last laugh; mostly at himself.

Free download until Dec. 30 U. S. here.  Or in the U.K. here.

Sunday, December 9, 2012


 Julia Hughes is not only an author of 5 thrilling novels that have become personal treasures; she is more so a treasured friend and mentor.  Her newest novel, a YA fantasy that is for all young-at-heart readers, is featured here and is available for download. After a last round of editing and proofing, The Griffin Cryer is formatted and ready to hit the paperback stands. Release is due sometime in March and to celebrate, Julia and Talon Publishing are giving away two signed copies!  In a free and easy-to-enter competition, you can submit as many entries as you wish! To sign submit your entries, click here.

Thank you, Julia, for gracing Treasured Encounters with this, a  most delightful interview!

Frankie Shaunessy's friends are out of this world!

It's an easy mistake to make - instead of whistling and calling for her dog, fifteen year old Frankie accidentally summons a griffin and his rider from another world. The Rider is tall, blond and extremely rude. On the other hand, Balkind is the sweetest, most lovable griffin Frankie's ever met, and Frankie is determined to help The Rider and his griffin find a way back to their own world.
Dealing with parallel universes, disgruntled warriors, and hungry griffins is the simple part of Frankie's life. At school, Frankie learns friends can become enemies, teachers aren't always right, and the boy of your dreams can be all too human.
This adventure for the young at heart is published by Talon Publishing and available to download in the US, here. And in the U.K., here.

THE GRIFFIN CRYER is Julia’s 5th novel.  Four previous novels, each one a treasure, include 3 thrilling Celtic Cousins’ Adventures: A RIPPLE IN TIME, A RAUCOUS TIME and AN EXPLOSIVE TIME; and THE BRIDLE PATH is a delightful romantic drama/comedy. 

 Writing a novel is not as easy a task as some might think! What is it that compels you to pour a ton of glue on your chair, put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard), lock the door and shut off the phone?

(Had to stop and think about this one!) I think everyone indulges in daydreams from time to time – what would our world be like if, say for example, Lee Harvey Oswald had never been born? I take these fantasies one step further and, honestly Dody, it’s annoying to other people because I can easily lose myself in an entire movie running inside my scatterbrain mind. There are more questions than answers; so many ‘what ifs’ and ‘whys’. I guess you could say I’ve invented my own solutions to mysteries that niggle. Writing down these stories seemed a natural progression.

 Since I am an avid fan, having read each of the aforementioned novels, I’ve come to appreciate your great ability to weave into your stories not only the day-to-day minutiae of living but also historical facts, geographical landmarks and mystical possibilities. Are you a student of history; an ardent observer of people and life?

I wish! Who wouldn’t love to live their lives in study? I’m so envious of youngsters nowadays who have so many opportunities to access learning. The internet has widened things up to us oldies as well but, in another life, I would be a historian. For me, history speaks. It’s all around us, sometimes mysterious, sometimes quite plainly saying, “This is how your great grandmother lived, worked and played.” Our ancestors’ ‘magic’ is our science and, in the years to come, for certain many mysteries will be explained by science to our children.

 What genres are you most likely to read? Or perhaps, a more succinct question is, ‘What do you look for in a book; what interests you to continue a read?’

I’m an eclectic reader. Growing up, books were expensive and hard to come by, even second-hand. Your younger readers will laugh, but libraries were strict about lending books. We could borrow five non-fiction, and only two fiction, or stories. Honest! I’m sure the UK has never really gotten over war time rationing! So after picking out the two story-books, we quickly became adept at choosing non-fiction books that weren’t as dry as dust. The Edwardian adventurers were always my favourite non-fictional reads: slap a pair of extra long johns on and off they’d go to conquer Everest or the North Pole!
Eleanor, wife to King Henry II also holds a fascination for me. Her name derives from the Provencal for "other Aenor," (Aenor being Eleanor's mother). I’ve shamelessly used the prefix “Ella” to christen the world of the Rider “Ella-Earth”, or “other Earth.” Books that I love best entertain, enlighten, and leave me with the feeling that I’ve encountered a new experience, and made new friends.  

 THE GRIFFIN CRYER is being launched as a YA fantasy novel and yet I, as an adult, find the story to be delightful, deeply moving and intelligently insightful. What makes this novel one that can appeal to both audiences?

It’s hard being a teenager; it’s also pretty wonderful too as whole new worlds open up to you. I know a lot of awesome young people, and I feel for them; there is so much to learn about relationships and being responsible for your own decisions in those few short years. I can’t hope to get inside their minds, but I hope that the story manages to convey empathy for the problems they face. Hopefully too, those who are young at heart – like you Dody – and those who are able to empathize with young adults will also enjoy THE GRIFFIN CRYER.

 Who is Frankie? From where in your mind did she spring? Is she the young Julia?

Frankie (Francesca) Shaunessy is a little bit of a tomboy. She’s a conundrum, like most teenagers. She’s uncertain about where she fits in and, deep down, she loves her mum, her step-dad and her brother. She wants to be better than she is – she’s worried she isn’t measuring up. She’s also aware there’s a lot of sympathy for her and her brother, Michael, who has been comatose for almost three years. She doesn’t want sympathy; she just wants her brother back. This makes her prickly, and adds to her feelings of alienation. I wanted to make Frankie an ‘outsider’; the Rider of course is also an ‘outsider’ so when they meet, they have this in common. I wish the young Julia possessed half the adventurous spirit of Frankie.

 In writing the exciting segments in which The Rider and his griffin ‘cross through the membrane from Ella-Earth to Earth’ and back, did you conduct research, base the process on scientific data?

I wanted to “research” but, while much better and brighter minds than mine agree that there’s a strong possibility that other universes do exist, they haven’t quite pinned down and dissected the theory. There isn’t just one theory either, there are many. It is something that’s fascinated me since reading “The Magician’s Nephew” (C.S. Lewis’s Narnia Chronicles), and it was a question of mulling theories over in my mind until I felt comfortable with the universe that contains “Ella-Earth”. I visualized ley-lines thrumming with magnetic energy to keep our two worlds separate, yet conjoined.  Next I imagined monoliths, or standing stones, ‘earthing’ this power. I then introduced a third element which could control both monoliths and ley-lines, and so make travel between the two worlds possible.

 When you scripted the dialogues that are especially sensitive and deeply moving, did you ‘step into the minds’ of each character? For example, between Frankie and The Rider; between Frankie and her mum.

Spot on! I don’t know how else to write dialogue, apart from getting inside a character’s mind, and then putting words into their mouths.

 If a stray griffin should come my way and offer me a flight, what would The Rider instruct me to do in order to fly aerodynamically?

If I had one wish to make, I’d wish for a griffin to offer you a ride. The large veins which emerge from a griffin’s shoulders in order to inflate their wings and circulate blood are especially sensitive. Place your hands there, firmly but gently. Now use your body weight to indicate direction and pace, much as you would if riding a horse. Bending forwards or leaning back indicates diving or soaring upwards to your griffin. Griffins are intelligent creatures, and have the equivalent vocabulary of, say, a working sheep dog, so you can also give verbal commands which will be understood. “Good griffin” and “dinner” are what most griffins want to hear.

 Chapter 20 is one that is profoundly moving and special to me though some readers may find it ‘strange.’ What message can you offer readers to clarify its meaning?

Thanks Dody, both for the kind words, and the question! It is a strange, extraordinary chapter. I sincerely hope readers will be willing to allow their imaginations to take flight and go on this journey with Frankie.  I wanted to explore the idea that we have the ability to enter another’s world, either physically or mentally, and to help them escape to a better world.

 There are so many wonderful quirky characters and dialogues throughout the story. Is it safe to say that your own personal nature is one that is quirky?

I like to think that I’m down to earth. Others think I’m a scatterbrain. I do have a terrible curiosity. I always felt so sorry for poor Pandora; I too would have opened that box!

 For the ending, was it difficult to settle on Frankie’s decision? Will there be a sequel?

Incredibly difficult. Frankie’s very loyal, and she was torn. I think she listened to her heart for her final decision, and stuck with the person who needed her most. Stephen King compares writing to an archeological dig. You discover bones, and then have the task of working out what goes where and how the creature looked and moved. In other words, the writer breathes life into dust. He goes on to observe that sometimes you strike lucky and find a complete fossil, which needs little or no assembly. I struck lucky with THE GRIFFIN CRYER. Frankie and The Rider’s story formed complete and almost wrote itself. The biggest difficulty was in knowing when to stop and I’m longing to explore more of The Rider’s world. I hope readers will feel the same way and, if so, there will definitely be a sequel. I’m just hoping for the same excellent beta readers to help mould the next episode of Frankie and The Riders’ adventures. Without the input of one beta reader in particular, this story probably would still be just an idea, and I’m eternally grateful for your generosity.

Thank you, Julia, for being so candid and informative with your answers. I am so looking forward to a sequel of THE GRIFFIN CRYER. Consider me an available fan!

Julia's website treats her visitors to a variety of fascinating posts. To visit 'A Ripple in Time,' click here. There are excerpts from each of her novels, including THE GRIFFIN CRYER. In addition to her reviews of other indie authors' novels, Julia's site showcases incredible modern day fairy tale short stories written by Randall Peterson. Julia also offers recommendations of reviewers and book cover designers that are credible.

Connect with Julia on Facebook.
Connect with Julia on Twitter.

Thursday, November 29, 2012


 Leaving the Hall Light On: A Mother's Memoir of Living with Her Son's Bipolar Disorder and Surviving His Suicide charts the near destruction of one middle-class family whose son committed suicide after a seven-year struggle with Bipolar Disorder. Madeline Sharples is an author, poet and web journalist who goes deeply into her own well of grief to describe her anger, frustration and guilt. She describes many attempts - some successful, some not - to have her son committed to a hospital and to keep him on his medication. The book charts her and her family's redemption; how she considered suicide herself and ultimately, her decision to live and take care of herself as a woman, wife, mother and writer.
Click to order: Paperback  Click to order: Kindle

Contact Madeline Sharples on her blog, Choices, located Here.

The review that I wrote and posted on Amazon was titled, 'A fly on her wall.' Perhaps this may seem to some an odd title. As I was reading the memoir, however, it felt as if Madeline had opened to me, as an observer, a door into the actual experiences had by her family and herself. As an avid reader, those stories that pull me deeply into the experiences portrayed are books that I consider to be worthy of '5-stars.' When a story involves tragedy, an author's ability to invoke in me deep levels of compassion, empathy and even commiseration are key. Chapter One, How It All Began, pulled me in deeply, catapulting my emotions straight into the tragic incident of Paul's suicide then immediately lightening my overload of emotions with scenes of the earlier years of  this fun, loving family. Madeline delivers these scenes as a gift to her readers and gave to me the glimmer of hope that can portend healing and recovery.
If I had not previously worked in the field of mental health, my understanding of a person with Bi-polar Disorder would have been made complete due to Madeline's descriptions that so vividly depicted the emotional roller-coaster ride of this illness, a sometimes insurmountable one. Most compelling for me was Madeline's gut-level delivery of her own emotional roller-coaster ride through grief. She openly shares with her readers the raw thoughts and emotions felt as she and her husband attempted to get her son, Paul, to seek the help he needed and to take the medications that could help him stay more in balance; and, when their attempts failed time after time, to deal with a deep sense of helpless anger, hopeless guilt.
Madeline's journey through grief was a long one yet one that had plateaus of fresh air along her way. Her story portrays a growing sense of hope as each phase brought her towards a place of recognition that the thoughts and emotions within grief are not static; that, above all, grief is 'love in action.' Leaving the Hall Light On is a real-life story that depicts a journey that I would not wish to take yet, it is one that I feel privileged to have been allowed to follow as, 'a fly on the wall.'

Madeline Sharples studied journalism in high school and college, and wrote for the high school newspaper. She only started to fulfill her dream of working as a creative writer and journalist later in life. Her memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On: A Mother's Memoir of Living with Her Son's Bipolar Disorder and Surviving His Suicide, was released in a hardback edition in 2011 and has just been released in paperback and ebook editions by Dream of Things. It tells the steps that Madeline took in living with the loss of her oldest son; first and foremost that she chose to live and take care of herself as a woman, wife, mother and writer. She hopes that her story will inspire others to find ways to survive their own tragic experiences.
Madeline also co-authored, Blue-Collar Women: Trailblazing Women Take On Men-Only Jobs (New Horizon Press, 1994). She co-edited the poetry anthology, The Great American Poetry Show, Volumes 1 and 2; and wrote the poems for two photography books, The Emerging Goddess, and, Intimacy (Paul Blieden, photographer). Madeline's poems have also appeared online and in print magazines.
Madeline's articles appear regularly in Naturally Savvy, PsychAlive, Aging Bodies, and Open to Hope. She posts at her blogs, Choices, and at Red Room. Currently, she is writing a novel.
Madeline's mission since the death of her son is to raise awareness, educate and erase the stigma of mental illness and suicide in the hopes of saving lives.

Madeline and her husband of forty years lives in Manhatten Beach, California, a small beach community south of Los Angeles. Her younger son, Ben, lives in Santa Monica, California with his wife, Marissa.

Sunday, November 25, 2012


I've been nominated for The Liebster Award by Maria Savva. (Click her hame in order to read Maria's fascinating post)

Here are the rules:

1. When you receive the award nomination, post 11 random facts about yourself and answer the 11 questions asked by the person who nominated you.
2. Pass the award onto 11 other blogs (while making sure you notify the blogger that they have been nominated!)
3. Write up 11 NEW questions directed towards YOUR nominees.
4. Of course, do not nominate the blog of the one who nominated your blog!
5. Paste the award picture onto your blog. (You can Google the image; there are plenty of them!)

Here goes! 11 random things to know about me:

1. When a baby, I fell out of the car and rolled downhill a bit. That explains a lot!
2. I am ambidextrous, in a way...write with left hand; play sports with right.
3. I was our local swim coach for two college-time summers.
4. During a freak snowstorm in Washington, D.C., the traffic snarled; it took me 7 hours to walk from work to home. I was wearing clogs.
5. On a 3 month sabbatical out West to 'find myself,' I forgot to take a compass reading & got lost in Canyonlands National Park, Utah's most remote Park.
6. In the mountains outside of Santa Fe, NM, I went skinny dipping in a remote hot springs. I was not alone!
7. Some years ago, a psychic told me that writing was something that I could do well, if I got out of my own way.
8. My hair used to be long, below my shoulder blades; I cut my own now...short!
9. The bottom tendon of the middle toe of my right foot got cut when I was 16, running along the banks of the Suwannee River. It still 'shoots its own bird.'
10. In Washington, D.C., driving home late one night, a dude jumped spread-eagled into the road sans clothes. I'd have hit him if he hadn't jumped out of the way in time.
11. I am rarely without a book, wherever I go; nor without my 4G phone.

Here are the answers to the questions asked of me by Maria:

1. My earliest memory: Riding a tricycle on the sidewalk-such freedom!

2. Favorite food: Asian flatbread with chicken & wild salad greens, spicy peanut sauce.

3. Country I want to visit: The U.K. My dad served there in WWII. He died when I was 3; I was named after the daughter of a British family that befriended him.

4. Song that makes me cry: Bette Midler's The Wind Beneath My Wings; Basia's The Gift

5. Favorite color: Blue of the sky; various shades in the ocean, lakes and seas.

6. Know a foreign language: No, though I do love accents and I enjoy making up my own words, like 'ed-u-ma-cate.'

7. What famous person would I interview on my blog? Pema Chodron. Not so famous to many yet her story is 'everywoman' in a way. How she recovered from emotional devastation intrigues me; she's so down to earth..humorous..a great mentor.

8. What do I want to do before I die? There are a few cyber friends that I'd like to have coffee or tea with; chat face to face.

9. Breakfast: A USANA protein shake..chocolate! Eggs & sausage for dinner!

10. Twitter or Facebook? Both! Tw is easier & faster; FB more fun to share pics.

11. Favorite type music: Gotta' have diversity-jazz, classical, pop, alternative, new age.

Because I am a curious person, I wanted to learn more about a few people whose blogs I enjoy:
Arleen Alleman, Nikki Barnabee, Gerri Bowen, Joan P. Lane, Sonia Marsh, Flick Merauld, Micki Peluso, Diane Rapp, Jan Romes, JT Therrien, and Ben Woodard.

I do hope that your busy schedules can allow time for your acceptance of this award!

Here are your questions:

1. What is the first book that you can remember reading?
2. Did you ever have a nickname?
3. What is the most favorite thing that you did when a kid?
4. What is your favorite thing to do in the summer?
5. Do you have an unusual or interesting habit?
6. If you could have a chat with someone you do not know, who would this be?
7. Describe your ideal bookcase.
8. What is your favorite spot in which to read?
9. What is the most interesting vacation you've ever had?
10. Do you have a bucket list? Share one with us.
11. Complete the sentence: 'I wish______________________________.'

Monday, November 19, 2012


In gratitude for the many gifts that I received during my mother-sitting experience, Adventures in Mother-Sitting is FREE for ebook/kindle download until Thursday, Nov. 22. For the U.S.A., click here. For the U. K., click here.

                                           THE THANKSGIVING DREAM

   The sun was out, warming up my bones. It had been a chilly Florida night and, for the past two days, there had been little sun. After going to our YMCA and plunging into the warmer-than-expected water to swim my laps, I had returned home and decided to have lunch out on the dock. My dessert was one that was calorie-free; a new chapter from Julia Hughes, my British friend; her work in progress, an exciting YA story involving a young teen's encounter with a griffin and The Rider. My delight in this chapter exploded into laughter, scaring off a few wood ducks that had been lazily swimming nearby.
   Highlighting my favorite lines was certainly more fun than finding any scene segments that seemed out of place, a rarity in Julia's creative works. After typing out a short email and sending it into cyberspace to make its way across the sea to Julia, I sat back to soak up the sun's rays, enjoying a bit more of an infusion of Vitamin D. Andy the gator was soaking up rays on my neighbor's dock and a large big blue heron was flying down the canal towards me; he veered away when he saw that my dock was occupied. Another chuckle escaped and then I closed my eyes to rest a bit. My breathing deepened and I drifted into sleep.
   I was in another world though not as 'me.' As far as the eye could see, this was a world of trees, with their branches intertwining, flowing into and around each other. Gibbon-like creatures were collecting nuts and fruit, chattering excitedly as they swung from tree to tree. Iridescent winged creatures of all shapes, sizes and colors were dipping into and out of a beautiful array of flowering orchids and bromeliads that were attached to many of the trees. Many species of small, colorful birds were collecting delicate-looking mosses that grew in the crooks of the larger trees' trunks, and adding cacophonous chirping sounds to the festivity. There were ants of all sizes and other strange looking insects scurrying up and down tree trunks, managing to carry all manner of flora found on the ground below.
   Standing on one of the taller limbs and observing all of the activity, I was startled by a deeply musical voice, reminiscent of the hooting sounds made by the owls that visited me each night. "'Tis the Feast of Life wherein all creatures give thanks to The Creator for the symbiotic relationships that they share with each other. You are our guest and, because it is known that you enjoy the diversity found in all life, your spirit has transformed itself into a chameleon. Welcome to our feast!" With this said, a grand old owl drifted down below onto a platform of sorts, smaller branches and large palm-like fronds woven into a table-like tapestry.
      Gazing into a small puddle formed by raindrops onto a nearby nest of leaves, I marveled at the rainbow of colors that were glowing and shifting on this borrowed body. Chuckling in wonder, I began to make my way down to the platform by crossing over to the next tree and carefully scrambling down the trunk alongside the stream of insects, a usual source of food for a chameleon. It was amazing to me, this curious blend of animals and insects that so often were competitors for foodstuffs and for some, common enemies. The old owl spoke, "Today we come together to celebrate life. All of our differences, our competitive natures have been laid aside. Join with me in celebrating the diversity that some see as divisive; yet we celebrate the joy of living that all of us share until our individual time of living is done." Instead of pushing and shoving to get the choicest morsels first, each creature seemed to simply find their place. It was the great owl that gestured for me to come near. "Celebrate your life each day. Be like the chameleon in that you can flow more easily back into your spirit's center whenever the winds of change seem to blow you off course. For you, there is still life to be lived."
   It was the slight chill in the air that woke me up, as the sun disappeared behind the clouds. I kept my eyes closed, wanting to stay in the comfort of this world of trees and to hold fast to the words spoken by the great owl. As the sun came out from behind the clouds and warmth returned, my comfort began to be infused with a sense of excitement. Gathering up my laptop and the remains of my red tea chai, I went back into my home, greeted my sleeping cats and sat down to write a story.

Saturday, October 20, 2012


Thank you, Madeline, for inviting me to participate in the Look Challenge. The premise is to find a passage in your story or book that contains the word, ‘Look.’ After posting the passage on your blog, we then offer the invitation to 5 other blogging authors. This is a great way to share with others those blogs that are flavorful, interesting and fun to visit. Madeline Sharples’ blog can be viewed at If you have not read her poignantly raw yet heartfelt memoir, LEAVING THE HALL LIGHT ON, the post on her blog, Choices, is a poem excerpted from the book.

 The excerpt with the word, ‘look,’ from my memoir, ADVENTURES IN MOTHER-SITTING, comes from Chapter 9, Where Did My Mother Go? Dementia.

 'By the end of Care Bear year 2, I began to consider that dementia might have provided my mother with some end-of-life gifts in the process. Every moment of Mother’s wakefulness had become fresh and new for her; she had begun to see through the eyes of a child. I can honestly say that the last 2 years of my mother’s life was full of so many moments of joy for her. Regardless of those painful instances due to falls, cuts, tiredness or bodily aches, Mother’s joy literally erupted from her in response to many visual situations.

While riding with me in the car, Mother’s eyes were looking for birds that were sitting on those high electrical wires. ‘Look, look at them, Dody!’ she would say, pointing at the birds. I loved those moments for two reasons: one, my mother remembered my name in such a split second of brain connection. Two, her joy was infectious! Mother never saw that, sometimes, those ‘birds’ were simply pieces of moss attached to the wires. They were birds to Mother so I just played along, captured by her joy.’

The Look Challenge is being extended to 5 authors who have written treasured novels, each unique in their own way. More importantly, I treasure their friendship. Perhaps we shall meet one day. Julia Hughes, author of 3 intricate and fantastical Celtic Cousins’ Adventures; and a deeply moving romance, Bridle Path. JT Therrien, author of Down By Contact (published soon!), which I cannot wait to read! Jan Romes, author of several romantic novels, including the delightful and zesty, Stay Close, Novac! Flick Merauld, author of several romantic novels, including the captivating and quirky, The Aunt Sally Team. Maria Savva, author of several drama-based novels, including the engaging and insightful, Coincidences.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


It is never easy, getting on with one's own life after the death of a loved one. This fanciful short story was written for a friend after the sudden death of a partner.
 Our fanciful story takes us into a region on Earth that supports life forms requiring the seasonal changes in climate, some variance in temperatures though not in an extreme way. The flat areas of land from the south gradually form gradations of hills and then, as one travels farther north, the hills are larger, becoming southern-level-height mountains. The dips of land between these mountains are called valleys and usually are nestled by rivers, streams and creeks. There is a vast array of flora in these valleys.  Many types of trees provide not only shade to other flora and fauna species but also, go through a mysterious process to create the oxygen that sustains all life forms, including humans. One can find several species of deer and bear and even some wild horses. On any given day of observation, the surrounding forest of trees becomes a highway for chipmunks, skunks, beavers and a vast array of birds, each playing their roles in maintaining the symbiotic relationships amongst all life forms.

    On one fine spring day beneath a canopy of trees located about halfway down a region of mountains, several wild horses had gathered and were patiently munching on sparse grasses. Periodically, each horse would look up expectantly whenever there was the noise of dead wood cracking above them. “What are they waiting for?” wondered one great white owl from his perch above the horses. The reason for their patience in waiting was up near the top of this range. Roma was nearing the mid-time span of her life and had asked her friends to head down to the valley without her. She needed some alone time. None of the other horses had needed any explanation for Roma’s request. The sudden loss of a companion was explanation enough.
    Roma stood quietly on top of a large outcrop, her head raised to catch the caress of a light breeze that blew on this day. With eyes closed, she breathed deeply as the warm rays of the sun soothed the tenseness out of her muscles. Winter has its wonder yet also its trials; more so when sadness due to the loss of a companion in life renders one’s own life energy at a lower ebb. In winter, most animals need to stay active in order to retain warmth and take care of the daily needs for survival. For Roma, it helped that other horses counted on her to carry her part of the load. The other horses understood loss and willingly took on a little extra of the load for Roma whenever sadness got to an overwhelming level.
     Taking a last deep breath, Roma opened her eyes and turned to head down the mountain. Just before entering the first stand of trees, Roma heard a familiar snort amid the rattle of rocks being scattered by hooves. Holding her breath, Roma turned and there before her stood an iridescent vision of beauty. “Sydney,” Roma softly neighed. The iridescent vision that was Sydney stepped towards Roma, enveloping her in the softness of her horse spirit’s glow. Sydney spoke, “My dear Roma, I am here yet not here. I know that it seems so hard to be without my physical presence in your life yet, know that the love that I have for you continues to live in your heart. When the sadness is about to take you under, Roma, breathe deeply so that the tension from loss can be released, making way for my love, deep within your heart, to soothe your spirit. Life seems harsh at times, yet the love that we share with others carries us through the harshness. Love yourself, Roma, and, in so doing, I will know that my love for you continues to flourish.” Sydney neighed softly and then, leaning her iridescent body so that she fully touched Roma, whispered, “You must always remember, Roma, that you are loved. As you leave the forest for the valley, look for the tree near the creek with a special sign from me.” In the next moment, the ephemeral form of Sydney was gone.
     Roma stood still for some moments, taking in the wonder of such a heavenly experience. Instead of staying in the sadness of loss, Roma began to feel more light-hearted and energized. She took one last deep breath and then, snorting and stamping her feet, she reared up into the sky before galloping into the forest. Long before they could see that Roma was near, the horses began to neigh in welcome. They had not heard such an energetic beat from Roma’s hooves in such a long time. As Roma galloped past, the other horses joined her, boisterously making their way towards Dogwood Valley below.
      Nearing the valley, Roma noted that the Dogwood trees were moving into full bloom. Silver Thread Falls was making its pleasant tinkling sound as its water made its way down into the good-sized creek which fed into Dogwood pond. Bees, butterflies and hummingbirds were flitting about, attending to their tasks of pollination. The super highway throughout the surrounding forest in which the horses has just passed was busy as usual. Every living being felt a tinge of exuberance for spring was now here, the hard winter behind them. Down near the pond, a turkey buzzard and a tri-colored heron looked up suddenly as a pounding sound emerged from within the forest. Instead of taking flight, however, they gazed expectantly as a small group of magnificent-looking horses thundered towards the pond. “It’s just Roma and the others, feeling their usual spring oats. I thought that, perhaps, Roma might have less zeal than she had last year,” the buzzard said to the heron. Slowing down, Roma and her friends snorted neighs of welcome to all of the wildlife that had begun to gather around the pond. Everyone was buzzing, cawing, fluttering and noisily grunting in their unique fauna ways, excited because the arrival of Roma signaled the start of Dogwood inhabitants’ spring-time fun.

          A word of explanation needs to be made for our human readers. Fun in the flora and fauna world is much different than fun in the world of humans. In the world of plants, animals and insects, fun times occur whenever each species is carrying out their Purpose as assigned by The Great Creator. To the human species, such tasks might seem mundane and boring yet they are quite satisfying, engaging each species' sense of joyous fun. Suffice it to say that the word, fun, conveys a synchronous sensation since each form of species was doing their part in order to benefit the whole.
    Roma was a unique horse to be sure. As one of the larger-brained life forms, one might think that she would have an air of superiority and condescension about her. There were some horses that did exhibit those types of airs. Roma and those horses that traveled with her, however, were attuned to The Great Creator’s plan, that of symbiosis. If asked, Roma would reply, “Everything in life works best when we each do our part. Each of us has a role to play. Sit back and watch us have fun and satisfyingly work together to get done what needs to be done.”
    Roma veered to the edge of the trees nearest to the creek as her horse companions went to take a long drink from the pond. They had traveled some distance from another mountain valley in order to be in Dogwood on this day. Roma halted, gazing at the special sign left for her by Sydney. She then neighed loudly before lowering her head and pawing the land, expressing the strong surge of sadness that had come on, feeling the loss of Sydney in her life. Snorting and stamping out the sadness, Roma next felt an exhilarating feeling of love burst forth from within. She reared up on her hind legs and neighed loudly in wonder at the fierceness of ever-present love. “The best of Sydney is still with me,” Roma thought.
   Her awareness returned to the present moment so Roma turned around and saw that all of the animals in Dogwood Valley were quietly congregating together, respectful of her need to have a moment alone. It had not gone unnoticed that there was a carved heart in the tree that was closest to the creek. All of the animal and insect species knew that this past season had been particularly hard for Roma. She had lost her ever-present companion, Sydney, to sudden illness. Sadness due to the loss of a companion was accorded the highest respect by the residents in this valley.
    Neighing softly as she stood and gazed around Dogwood Valley, Roma had to acknowledge that the winter had been harsh. Silver Thread Falls was exuding less water than usual because the past few months had been dry. More trees had been felled by earlier storms and the creek and pond were covered with debris. Although everyone knew their roles, it was the habit of Dogwood inhabitants’ to wait for Roma to summarize all the tasks that needed to be done. You see, Roma had an ability to quickly ascertain the most efficient ways for all inhabitants to complete their individual tasks together.
     Roma neighed to everyone, a signal that the fun was about to begin, and began to prance around Dogwood Valley. As she passed through the different areas, she conferred with the other animals and insects, making assignments that were particular to each species. Everyone got into their particular brand of fun. Flying insects got to buzzing around, flitting more happily from flower to flower. Beavers and muskrats were their usual grumpy-seeming selves yet to those who knew them, they were happy doing the muddy job of moving sticks and tree trunks around so that the creek would flow the way that best served them all. The bears helped the beavers with the heavy work while the deer assisted the horses in clearing the valley of dead wood. No one minded when one of the bears took some time to scratch her back on one of the trees. The small birds flew around grabbing onto the smaller bits of debris, using the torn bits of grasses and small twigs for their nests. Larger birds, of course, handled the larger sticks. Water birds stayed busy cleaning up and redistributing the flora that lived on the surface of the pond. Nothing went to waste in Dogwood Valley.
     Roma took a moment from her task of clearing away a large downed tree that would become a shelter of sorts near the south edge of the valley. As the usual sense of sadness began to come on her once again, Roma took some deep breaths and felt instead the warmth of deep love burst from her heart. “Thank you, Sydney, for loving me. Your love for me will not go to waste,” she thought. Roma then neighed out loud with a bit of trilling-like notes, sounding like she was chuckling. “You knew, dear Sydney, that there was no way that I would let anything go to waste!” Roma snorted in laughter, reared up again on her hind legs and then got back to work while the other animals stared at her in wonder. “Why are all of you staring?” said Roma. “Haven’t you ever heard a horse laugh?”





Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Dance is in My Soul

A Fanciful short story written for my sister, Marty.

   Once upon a time in a village near the ocean, there lived a female inhabitant named Martinique. Her village was named Allegretto. The village truly lived up to its name for its daily pace was energetic and the villagers went about their daily tasks in the happiest of moods. Though near the ocean, Allegretto was located in a lush valley that was surrounded on three sides by a range of small mountainous ridges. Thus, the villagers were able to maintain a high degree of self-sufficiency. Crops were planted, nourished and harvested then divided into appropriate shares for each family. The remainder was prepared for delivery to the common market. Some inhabitants were building or repairing various structures whereas others were busy at the forge, making the tools necessary to get their jobs done. Another group was out on the ocean since fis hing was one of Allegretto’s main industries. Some of the more recent inhabitants’ hiking and mountain climbing endeavor was even attracting folks that lived in far-away places.
   Allegretto was a fascinating place to visit. It had one aspect, however, that made this village even more unusual. Now some might think that this is because it was the closest village to the mighty ocean. Being close to the ocean is certainly worth a moment of envy. Yet there is an aspect of Allegretto life that is worthy of the highest esteem. The reason relates to an unusual education component for their children. All villages provide education, of course. All children are taught such basics as language and counting skills for villages thrive when their folks can communicate well with each other and do the counting kinds of tasks that keep common goods on an equally shared level. Most children in the surrounding villages also learn to play some kind of musical instrument for music is viewed as a form of communication, speaking more into the hearts of all inhabitants which served to bring on a sense of unity.
   In Allegretto though, one can become awed when observing a most fascinating kind of class. As one of the tallest women in the village, Martinique caught the eyes of most visitors. When she was observed while teaching this unusual class, most visitors became quite spellbound for her movement around the children conjured up visions of such woodland folk as fairies in flight. Rarely were fairies able to be observed by inhabitants. It took more time and patience for such visions than most inhabitants could garner. Martinique, however, was as unusual as the class that she taught.
   When she was just a child, Martinique excelled at every task that was put before her. She completed her language and counting classes, and even the everyday chores, with such ease that there was extra time available for her to explore the nearby forests and beaches. Martinique loved the smell of the ocean and would spend time collecting shells and other interesting artifacts that the tides left upon the shore.
   One test-taking day, little Martinique completed her tests so quickly that she had almost the whole day to explore. It happened to be one of those very sunny days so Martinique decided to have a vigorous swim. As she romped in the ocean’s waves, some playful dolphins joined her for a while in some wave surfing. After one huge wave tumbled her about a little too vigorously, Martinique decided to have a rest and enjoy the sun’s warmth. It was while sitting on the shore observing the antics of some sea birds that she had a moment of epiphany. The birds seemed to be flying down to the waves then zipping back up to the sky, over and over. “They seem to be playing with the waves,” Martinique said out loud. “I wonder if these birds feel as wonderful as I do when I am playing in the waves!  Who else plays together in such fun?”
   With this thought, Martinique began to notice the feel of the ocean’s breezes on her cheek and how the ends of her hair were lifted up and from side to side in concert with the wind. She looked up then at the trees that stood near the edge of this beach. “The trees are playing in the wind, too,” she thought. Smiling, Martinique stood up, held out her arms and began to mimic the way that the tree limbs would dip down, swirl and fly up as the wind caught them in different ways. Martinique yelled and laughed in glee with the waves, the birds, the trees and the wind.
   Exhausted at last, Martinique fell down beneath the trees and just laid there in absolute joy and contentment. Breathing deeply, she continued to watch the trees move in tune with the wind. All of a sudden, her eyes caught a sparkling flicker of some kind of flying creature. At first she thought that the creature was just a small fast-moving bird. When the creature, however, landed upon her raised knee, Martinique became breathless at the sight of a beautiful woodland fairy. Now, here’s something to know about fairies. They communicate through thought to each other and to other creatures who notice them. So it was that Martinique heard the fairy’s thought, “Come with me.”
   Without consideration, Martinique stood up and, though on shaky legs, began to follow the fairy on a seemingly haphazard path through the woods that began to wind its way up and up and up even more. Near the top of a ridge that contained a fall of water, the fairy settled onto a large rock. Martinique was enthralled for she could see everywhere, the beach and village down below and the forests all around. “I came because you called to me,” the fairy said in thought. “‘Dance’ is the term that forest and beach creatures use to describe their play with each other. I am called ‘Dancer’ because the movements of all other creatures call my spirit into dance. Your movements in concert with the dance of the birds with the waves and the trees with the wind called me to you. I brought you here so that you could more fully understand my meaning. Look around you.”
   Martinique took a deep breath as her eyes settled upon the rushing dance of splashes of water as it cascaded down the cliff, dancing up in seeming glee upon all the rocks and making the nearby bushes sway to and fro. “They are dancing!” she thought. She jumped up, clapping her own hands in glee, moving around and around. “I’m dancing!” Martinique shouted out loud and just let her body go, with no hesitant restraint. She ran to the branches of a nearby tree, running her hands through the leaves as she turned around and around. Then danced on to another tree, some bushes and even a fuzzy caterpillar got some attentive movement.  As she was swaying to and fro around this caterpillar, Martinique began to realize that Dancer was also moving in sequence with her. Every movement that she took, Dancer did also. “We are dancing together!” Martinique shouted with glee. Dancer’s own laughter, though silent, was echoed all around them as each aspect of flora and fauna seemed to come to life with abandoned movement.
   After a whirl of dancing around with all of the forests’ inhabitants, Martinique needed to catch her breath. Dancer settled next to her and sent another thought. “You, too, are a dancer. Dance is in your soul and has now been called forth into expression. You will find your way into a Purpose as you move towards being an adult. From this day forth, every aspect of life will be seen by you as a dance and you shall teach this to others.” With that, Dancer began a fluttering kind of exaggerated dance movement and, with a final flicker of her wings, disappeared.

   This is the story that Martinique tells to those who are interested enough to listen.
Some tell others that she is simply a dance teacher. Some visitors tend to look with disdain at her adult class, whispering out loud that such a class is simply a waste of good time, that there are more important things to be done. These visitors are ones that don’t have a sense of vision, however, for if Martinique were to observe them as they go about their daily pursuits, she would classify their movements as dance. “We all dance,” she tells her classes as she takes them on outings to observe villagers at their work. “Plowing a field, harvesting a crop, hammering a nail, cooking a meal, washing the clothes and even diapering a baby are done with movement. All movement is dance and, if one can see their movements as dances instead of just work, they will have more enjoyment of these kinds of tasks.”
   Martinique is not concerned with those who criticize or see her with disdain. She is too busy enjoying the freedom that she feels inside her soul. She still takes many walks up into the mountains, pausing often to rest and observe the many instances of dance that occur in the forest around her. “Even those creatures who allow others to eat them for sustenance are engaged in a dance,” Martinique thought to herself one day as she saw a bird swoop down to grab a caterpillar that had climbed out of hiding behind a leaf onto a swaying limb. “Perhaps I shall continue to dance even beyond the time that my body is laid down to rest forever.” This thought brought Martinique back up to her feet and she kicked her heels up in glee then bumped her hips up against the tree under which she had rested. “Of course I shall,” she said aloud. “Dance is in my soul.”