September 9Sometimes I lose my way.

Another 10 feet above the power pole at the Amtrak Train Station in Sandpoint, Idaho a lone osprey chirrups loudly. With great brown wings and brilliant white marking, he hunkers in a stash of dead sticks that have been his nest all summer. And I’m surprised to find him still there.

It’s only September and he has time, yet. The osprey will be gone by October, and a local tour boat on Lake Pend Oreille has noticed that only a few osprey still straggle around the lake. This osprey can still find his way to a winter home he’s never been to before.

Osprey arrive in April or May to northern Idaho and build up their nests of sticks. Many have platforms such as this one at the train depot. It helps the birds and also prevents the havoc their huge nests can create on power poles, stadium lights and cell towers. It feels like a miracle of nature that the osprey return.

My favorite pair are Iris and Stanley over in Missoula, Montana. That’s because Radio Geek interned with the Montana Osprey Project and managed the social media for them while she worked on her masters in environmental journalism. Here’s her podcasts. Listen to the intro and you’ll hear the chirruping of an osprey. The train depot osprey the Hub introduced me to after discovering him on his route. We visit in person when we go to Sandpoint.

Often when I feel lost, I look up. Maybe it’s perspective, maybe it’s spiritual, but often it helps me orientate. When an osprey is lost does the bird look down?

I worry this youngling is lost. He chirrups but no parents respond. Usually the parents help teach their young to fish after a summer of feeding them trout. I think of them flying off together, one happy family unit. But that’s not necessarily the case.

My own children have flown three different directions. I’m pleased that at least one, Rock Climber, is close to us in neighboring Montana. But she works to river raft and rock climb and we don’t see her often. Frequently she works or plays in places with no cell phone service. Radio Geek has used her newly minted masters to get a job at Michigan Tech as a science writer and often flies to D.C. in time zones off-kilter to mine. Runner is finishing his masters in Wisconsin and his phone speaker broke.

This all culminated in a crisis for me as a mother missing her brood on Sunday. It was Runner’s birthday and I just wanted to hear his voice. No answer to my texts. No daughters available, either. No Kate to call and commiserate with, and I felt lost. Like the lone osprey at the train depot nest, I chirruped loudly.

Rain robbed me of my watering duties and I was so thorough at weeding that I have nothing left to pull. September is the month that empties out the pond and I don’t like how empty I feel in reflection. Yet, I am a writer. A writer not writing. How did that happen? When did that happen?

An invigorating trip to LA, promising projects in the works, confidence in my writing…drought, dying friend, heat waves, death, smoke, forests closed…weeding, watering, Carrot Ranch, weeding, watering…and I got lost on my writing path.

Carrot Ranch is path light and one I’m glad I have otherwise I fear that every word inside of me would have shriveled like pine needles in the flames.

I’m surprised how productive watering and weeding made me feel until the need ended and I couldn’t pull myself back to the page. It’s not writer’s block, it’s more like loss of focus. I had so many projects going and now I can’t seem to get any re-started. I’ve lost my way. I can sit at my desk and cry, hoping a muse drops me a big trout until I feel I can find my own fish, find my own way back to Costa Rica. I can talk to the sticks around me, but nothing’s going to happen until I write, until I unfurl my wings and do with them what I intend.

On the upswing, my son borrowed a phone and called me. Then Rock Climber called with good news that she had time off next week to visit us. Radio Geek writes so I can follow her trail at MI Tech, the way I can watch the osprey migrate. I spent all of Monday working out a schedule that focus on writing, not the avoidance of it. I can’t say it’s successful, but I’m working the plan and feel like the terrain looks more familiar each day.

Then I had a surprise yesterday. If you’ll go back to the compilation Migration Reflections & Exchanges, you’ll find a story (second in the line up) by Katherine Sorensen. She sent it to me in an email and my heart burst. Katie is a long-time friend of Kate’s. It was a reminder that our friends live on in us. Kate may not be here to write with me, but another friend has offered the gift of sharing words. No gilded offering or sack of diamonds could be better.

I know that young osprey will find his way off  the nest. It’s the only way he’ll survive. We cannot remain lost. There’s too much for us yet to find.

Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves.” ~Henry David Thoreau

I know well what I am fleeing from but not what I am in search of.” ~Michel de Montaigne

In search of my mother’s garden, I found my own.” ~Alice Walker

September 9, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about someone or something that’s lost. It can be lost in a setting (storm, darkness, ocean) or it can be a feeling. Is there a recovery? What are the consequences of remaining lost? What are the opportunities?

Respond by September 15, 2015 to be included in the weekly compilation. Rules are here. All writers are welcome!


Far From Home by Charli Mills

Mary ignored the nighttime twaddle of unfamiliar sounds while she nursed the baby. After three days on Nebraska Territory ruts, the children needed no coaxing to bed. Even Monroe who tried to act older, curled up in slumber. Settling the babe, she shivered. Not cold. Lost. She craved North Carolina. Longed for home and hearth. Ached for her husband.

Wagon canvas lit up bright as if struck by morning sun. But it was still dark of night. Curious, Mary pulled back the ties to see outlandish hues of green and pink undulating like stars gone mad in the heavens.


Author’s note: Mary McCanles stayed behind in North Carolina in 1859 when her husband set out to find their new prosperity. She was pregnant. She came west later that year with her husband’s brother, his family and her children, including a newborn babe. They would have been on the trail to Rock Creek, Nebraska Territory on September 2 when the largest solar flare ever recorded hit. I can only imagine how such an event would have overcome her sense of homesickness. A weaker woman would have fled. But Mary McCanles was not one to stay lost. She built her home on that strange prairie and despite the murder of her husband, Indian raids, locust invasion and every day hardships of pioneers, she stayed. She is buried on that prairie next to Cob, and her stone reads, “wife.” Mary always found her way.

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