June 21: Flash Fiction Challenge

Written by Charli Mills

Charli Mills, a born buckaroo, makes literary art accessible at CarrotRanch.com. She writes about the veteran spouse experience and women forgotten to history.

June 22, 2018

It’s winter, and we’re hiking across snow to the falls. Boots tramp over a trail hardpacked by daily visits. Bare limbs reveal the hillside, bereft of the cover leaves afford the trail in summer. There’s something about the barrenness of winter that strips our souls. In a way, it’s a time to use this vulnerability to heal. We are open.

I shuffle my snowboots in single file with a group of chatting and giggling women. I smile because we were supposed to walk mindfully. But that does not mean silently, right? We’re here to heal at the Ripley Falls. In this glorious mindful moment, my world is white, the snow muffling my steps and sharpening my sense of connection.

Clear waters gurgle over billion-year old bedrock. At the falls I let go. Down, down, down, I drop, falling over backward, this moment captured in a snowglobe somebody has bought and shelved on a mantle in a universe far away — look, you shake up the globe, and the women at the falls fall over. 

We fuss over falling. We don’t even want to trip. It smudges our knees, tarnishes our shoes. Falling means we failed. Falling means we didn’t do it right. Falling carries such societal shame that many people spend a lifetime making certain they don’t ever fall. Lose weight, take a pill, regrow lost hair, make more money, and whatever you do don’t fall from grace.

Falling is not as hard as we think it will be.

I let go, fall backward and the snow catches me. I’ve fallen, so what do I do? I laugh, feel the cold against the back of my wool coat, ignoring the sting of snow that creeps into my mittens, and I fling both arms wide. I make a snow angel. And all around me, I hear the water churn gently over rocks and the sound of other women falling.

No, falling isn’t as hard as they tell us it will be. It’s the getting back up that’s a bear. The struggling, slipping, falling again. A hand followed by another reach down and with help, I regain my feet. Alone, I might have floundered. Falling, if it has a core lesson, teaches us that it’s easy to do, and hard to recover from unless we have help.

That winter hike to Ripley Falls will etch itself in my memory box. It was the conclusion of a retreat at the Ripley House of Healing owned by my friend Cynthia May Drake. She helps veterans, their families, women in transition, and anyone coping with grief and loss. The women who gathered that day I now also count as friends. We’ve seen each other many time since and I always recognize their hands.

I’ve attended several workshops and many Magnificent Mondays with Cynthia. She honors my literary art and welcomes me to share it during these gatherings. That day, after the winter retreat, I asked if I could use her beautiful home to host a writing workshop. She agreed, and we’ve been dancing around a date. Last Tuesday, I met with her on her porch, surrounded by all her rocks and books and peace, we shared coffee and dreams.

As I always do when I leave the Ripley House of Healing, I make a vow to go tent camping. Cynthia sleeps in her tent outside in her backyard near her sauna. Most people up here in Copper Country follow the Finnish tradition and have a sauna. Ours is downstairs in the basement. But Cynthia is the only person I know who sleeps with heated corn sacks to stay warm in her tent. Because she and her dog Monty even sleep outside in the snow.

But, hey, it’s summer (or that moment-savoring time of winter’s coming).

On Saturday, June 16, I comforted Jasper, our thunder-stressed dog because the city of Houghton celebrated Bridge Fest with full artillery. As the final fireworks blasted, I promised Jasper it was over. He might not understand why a community celebrates a bridge, but to us it’s connection.

The Houghton Bridge is the only one that connects the Keweenaw Peninsula to the Upper Peninsula. It crosses Portage Canal which is a waterway that bisects land, connecting one side of Lake Superior to the other. People have mined copper on the Keweenaw for over 10,000 years. Industrial mining came to the area in the late 1830s. Later, the mines created chutes from the top of the mountain to the Portage Canal below to stamp and deliver copper by way of boats.

Ghost towns and abandoned mines scattered across the Copper Country. Cynthia’s Ripley Falls was once an engineered chute, part of the mining. Her house was built 112 years ago, and since that time, Ripley Falls has followed the course laid out for it. A ski resort now spans across Mont Ripley, to the west of her place. Humans have tinkered with the environment heavily in this region, but nature quickly reclaims what was let go.

Nature also follows her own course.

After Jasper calmed down on Saturday night, I heard thunder off in the distance. I groaned as I walked up the stairs, knowing it would be a long night for the dog. I had no idea it would be a night of terror for my community. Several times thunder woke me up, and several times I fell back asleep. Morning dawned, and nothing seemed amiss. Until I saw the social media posts from Cynthia.

All that rubble you see was part of the ski slope above the falls. In a few hours, the thunderstorm stalled over the lower Keweenaw and dumped 7 inches of rain. Cynthia, who usually sleeps where a mountain slammed into her house, slept inside that night. She and her daughter woke up when her refrigerator tumbled over. Water filled her stairwell to the bedrooms on the second floor and pushed against their doors in a torrent, preventing escape.

Cynthia writes:

“Drive to be alive: I am alive because I was saved by my 15 year old from certain death in my beloved tent on a night that produced 7” of rain in two hours and a mudslide from an unstable ski hill which slammed against my home burying my yard in 5-6 feet of rubble and muck.

I am alive because a first responder and my dear neighbors called for help to rescue my Samantha, my wee pup and I from a home where the flood waters were coming up the stairs from the first floor and keeping the doors shut from the inside.

I am alive because a community of neighbors, friends and strangers have poured by the 100’s to my homeplace, to dig through rubble and muck, to lift out treasured photos and sweet memories, to hose down, to kneel and pull out wet insulation from walls, to rip up 112 year old mint condition but wet hard wood floors, to hand pick and haul out sharp rocks from a ski hill burying cars and saunas and garages.

I am alive because blessed members if our Ojibwe people came to honor the waters who flow and give us life when we respect the earth and her ways and death and destruction when we forget and are greedy.

I am alive with the love of all whom I have witnessed the past days of endless work and give themselves selflesssly to it. And I mean all of you, with thoughts, prayers, financial help, phone calls, ideas, hard labor, food, well wishes. All if this is what we live for. Our purpose in life is to serve one another and create a community of bonds so tight that nothing can divide us because we are bonded in love.

One scene I will remember forever was last night on the cusp of Solstice as our days here have daylight until well past 10, I was standing by my beloved and broken sauna, waiting for my girlfriend SD to find the correct drill bit for a bit of sweet salvage, I looked over the scene around me. This is what I saw: beloved neighbors talking with selfless helpers and eating something finally as they gazed over tge work of some long days, people still digging and puzzling in the waterway, laughter ringing, dogs barking, a moon rising… and I was so pleased, so happy, so fulfilled. This is life, this is who we are capable of being. This is who we are. It was such a beautiful scene. It is our new reality. Blessed be.”

Not all is lost when we fall.

Those hands reach down to shovel muck with us, to pull us into a hug, push us to rip out our own walls because it’s necessary for survival. Hands join our hands, and together we move all the rubble bucket by bucket from our fallen environment. Hands do their part — some pack, some organize, some bless, and some write. Not all is lost when a community joins hands to lift the fallen.

I’ve witnessed amazing acts of perseverance in this community. The Red Cross and government officials lagged behind our local efforts to help friends and neighbors. Our efforts are slowing down because we’ve ripped out all the water-logged walls, salvaged 112-year-old trim, firehosed a basement after cleaning it out by hand, and treated interior framework with sprays to prevent mold.

If you are moved to help Cynthia, we do not yet know if her house can be saved, but we’ve set up a fund for her: GoFundMe.

We. Because falling takes others to rise. Just as we are a community of writers, we are the ones to extend the hands up.

June 21, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about “not all is lost.” It can include recovery from disaster, an unexpected insight after a fall, or however the phrase moves you. Go where the prompt leads.

Respond by June 26, 2018. Use the comment section below to share, read and be social. You may leave a link, pingback or story in the comments.

If you want your story published in the weekly collection, please use this form. If you want to interact with other writers, do so in the comments (yes, that means sharing your story TWICE — once for interaction and once for publication). Rules are here.


Not All is Lost by Charli Mills

Annabel retreated from the mourners. Thirty miners, four boys, and her beloved mine captain dead. Fire erupted at level 27 and none evacuated. Men continued to drill, eager to chase the new copper load, believing the updraft would smoother the flames. Greed overcomes common sense, Annabel thought. Ripley was ambitious, a hard-worker and a smart man. He cared about the land and community, but even good men succumb to copper fever. They dug their own deaths. She left the mass funeral and wandered to the falls. Ripley was gone, but his babe grew in the swell of her belly.

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  1. pensitivity101

    Here’s mine Charli

    The land lies barren and dry,
    Drought is a killer.
    Crop fields harvest dust,
    Bairns cry in hunger.
    The heat shows no mercy,
    Hands blistered and sore
    Toil endlessly
    Until the blood flows.
    Animals have deserted
    This once bountiful place,
    The bones of the unfortunate
    Bleach in the relentless sun.
    Bowls and vats lie hollow,
    Their meagre contents
    Rationed rather than shared.
    Their days are numbered,
    Maybe only single figures.
    A tear falls from the sky,
    One becomes many
    And a lone flower dares
    To raise its head.
    All is not lost:
    Clouds are gathering,
    And with them,

    • Charli Mills

      Great use of poetic form this week, Di! Your flash spirals downward in despair until these lines: “And a lone flower dares /To raise its head.” Yes! “Dares to” is so powerful.

      • pensitivity101

        Thanks Charli. I’m glad you liked it.

      • Charli Mills

        I’ve printed this out for Cynthia.

    • anuragbakhshi

      So poetic and powerful.

      • pensitivity101

        Thanks Robbie. I’m glad you liked it.

    • Ruchira Khanna


  2. papershots

    Your thoughts about falling and the stigma attached to it in our society are really powerful. In theatre improvisation there’s a whole section of exercises focused on letting go by actually falling, backward, forward, or with your eyes closed trusting that somebody else will catch you before hitting the floor. And they’re life-changing experiences for a lot of people. Thanks for this prompt and all the best to your friend Cynthia 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      What a great exercise, to fall and trust someone would catch you! I enjoy mixing artistic mediums because we are all artists exploring what happens in the fall and after. Thank you!

      • papershots


      • papershots

        If you ever want to try any improvisation class like this, i’d strongly recommend it. It can literally change your outlook on life. <3

      • Kerry E.B. Black

        Funny, true story. I was in a theatrical production in college. We did a modified kickline where we fell into our partner’s arms with our right leg high over our heads. One day, my partner was distracted. It sure hurt when my head slammed into the stage! Not sure that’s the lesson we’re going for here, but it’s one I remember with clarity.

      • Charli Mills

        I think acting classes would be great for a writer to take. I love mixing up story-telling mediums and experiencing stories in different ways.

      • Charli Mills

        Yikes, Kerry! Not sure that was the intended outcome! Somehow I visualized a person standing line, looking at his cell phone. 😉

  3. calmkate

    wow powerful story, Cynthia and you are such strong resilient spirits ,.. her gratitude shines through! It’s a shame we often need a disaster to bring out the neighbourly love and really serve each other. Praying that all goes well for Cynthia’s home and that the tent wont become a necessity 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Kate! When I met Cynthia, I knew I wanted to be friends with her. So many women up here on the Keweenaw embody resiliency. Today I rode shotgun with another friend, a fellow veteran spouse, and we handed out water bottles to the National Guard. I’ve often felt that way about disasters and neighbors, but I’ve experienced such an outpouring of love and support from this community without the mud! I hope Cynthia gets a new yard and tent! But, yes, her home, too.

      • calmkate

        We are all praying for that and what a blessing we both have to live in communities that are There!

      • Charli Mills

        It is indeed a blessing for us both to have such communities!

  4. janmalique

    It lifts your heart and restores faith in human nature when you see such acts of compassion and help.

    • Charli Mills

      It truly does, Jan! The same people who danced a few weeks ago are now slinging mud. Cynthia laughed, telling me how she grabbed “clothes” and all she could think about in the urgency of the moment was to grab her dance costumes. She’s since rescued her street clothes, too.

      • janmalique

        There’s hope for humanity then! ????

      • Charli Mills

        We can each be that hope. <3

  5. Jules

    Dear Charli and Cynthia too;

    I may have another brewing about this topic, but the first thing that came to my poetic mind was an acrosTic haibun – a poem. At my post I also have a link to both the Carrot Ranch prompt and a current news article.

    May many hands reach out to aide those in need – regards,

    Not All Is Lost… /strong>

    Less light after the solstice here
    Only marginally though as
    Summer starts with the passing of the
    Solstice – here in the northern hemisphere

    Loosened land added by torrential rains
    Over churned mud and debris land-
    Sliding, slipping and seeping while
    Some were sleeping…

    Love is given selflessly
    Over and over – helping those
    Survivors of the unexpected – to them
    Salutations – living saints or angels?

    Lend a hand if you can –
    Over and over, anywhere, then
    Somewhere far or nearer to your heart
    Stop a moment – and say a prayer…

    tears flood, as eyes see;
    welcoming community
    and all strangers too


    Down the first four stanza is the word ‘LOSS’ and the stanza at the bottom is a haiku. Perhaps the first acrosTic haiku? I combine different forms. I hope this has captured the community and the strangers who have and will help.

    May recovery and healing be swift. ~Jules

    • Charli Mills

      Jules, I thought of you and your family of first-responders as the Fire Hall (which is 199% volunteer) opened up in Ripley, helping the recovery efforts. The firefighters even hosed out Cynthia’s basement. What a beautiful poetic homage to this community! Thank you! <3

    • robbiesinspiration

      This is quite extraordinary. I enjoyed it a lot.

  6. tearsofbloodinmyheart

    The contents of the button tin are scattered across the floor. Ruth sighs deeply. Surely Aunt Deborah’s wedding dress buttons must be here.
    She examines each tiny, but different, button. Turning them in her hand, hoping to find the final three.
    At the bottom of the pile there is a tiny gold ring. Ruth remembers the story of the lost Wedding Ring. How the ring travelled from Germany concealed in a coat hem, was lost during a house move long after Deborah had passed away.
    The buttons would need to be changed or maybe she could use odd ones.

    • Charli Mills

      I enjoyed how this search for buttons leads to the family migration story. It’s nostalgic and yet an epic story of lost and found in a simple act of sewing buttons.

    • anuragbakhshi

      So lovely and moving.

    • Jules

      My one Grandma was a seamstress… and I have a tin of her buttons.
      My MIL collected all the extra buttons from new clothes. Finding the ring is a treasure as well as the memory…

      • tearsofbloodinmyheart

        Button tins are wonderful aren’t they? So many untold and long lost stories in them. My Moms button tin was also passed down through the family. There are sequins from old hatpins and buckles from the 1930’s, a whole host of interesting curios.

      • Jules

        Sometimes at yard or garage sales I’ll pick up more buttons to hunt for those types of treasures 🙂

        Some of the buttons I have still have pieces of their store cardboard backs . One I have has twelve fancy silver buttons with the name Nouveaute on it. Some buttons are the size of my pinkie finger nail or smaller and others as bigger than a half dollar coin. Others have fabric covers. 🙂
        Yes I think some I have might be old too. And the rainbow colors… I remember playing buttons as a child. I wonder how many were found in the heating vents when my Grandmother’s home was sold?

  7. denmaniacs4

    A Tumble in Time


    “Yes, sockless. Shoeless too.”

    “On a damp grassy incline?”

    “That too.”

    “So, quite slippery, I assume?”

    “As slick as a grifter’s tongue.”

    “Thanks for that. So?”

    “So, why did I do it?”

    “Yeah, good guess. Don’t you keep sandals by the back door?”


    “For stepping outside?”


    “Too much trouble?”

    “To slip them on? No. But they’ve seen better days.”

    “So have you, it appears.”

    “Never fallen like that before. Scared the bejesus out of me.”

    “Nothing broke, though.”

    “Dumb luck. Still, it took me two hours to crawl up.”

    “Learn anything?”

    “Yup. Never ever go outside.”


    • Charli Mills

      Ha! Love the humor in this snappy dialog flash, Bill. Especially this line: “As slick as a grifter’s tongue.”

      • denmaniacs4

        Thanks, Charli. Given the choice, I always seek out humor. Still, against the devastating backdrop of your post, the eruption of nature, the luck and misfortune, all cascaded together in rampaging water and earth boils, well, I hope I didn’t detract from the larger message. We’ve had similar floodwaters up country in British Columbia to name just one first world cauldron. News reports of rising oceans and the threat to close-to-sea-level communities in North America and around the world are incredibly concerning. Take care.

      • Charli Mills

        I think in order for people to process calamity we need to see it through different lenses. If we only show serious close-ups we don’t see the other effects. Humor gives us a break to be able to process the deeper elements. We are going to need art to get through times that are difficult to make sense of. Despite the increase in extreme weather events, I don’t think many people realize that we need to be adjusting to natural disasters because what was “naturally safe” before is no longer. Ah, I enjoyed your flash!

    • anuragbakhshi

      Lesson learnt!

  8. paulamoyer

    What a harrowing experience you are all having Charli! It sounds like a nightmare — one in which people are bonding and coming together, but a nightmare, nonetheless.


    A Different Way of Being Faithful

    By Paula Moyer

    Jean and Bill had been divorced for 12 years when she got the call. “Your father died this morning.” Her mother’s voice, baffled.

    Later that morning, she and her husband Steve flew to Oklahoma. Later that night, Bill arrived, along with the girls, Lydia and Nola. The next day, as Jean and her mother put together the funeral, they needed one more pallbearer. A quick call to Bill’s hotel room settled it: “I would be honored.”

    At the cemetery, Jean watched the coffin trundling past, Steve and Bill shouldering opposite sides. After everything, she could still count on Bill.

    • Charli Mills

      It’s been amazing to watch and participate in a community that comes together, Paula. And you’ve captured that essence in a story between two people. In times of trouble, you know who you can lean into. Thank you for donating to Cynthia’s fund, too!

      • paulamoyer

        Of course! She and Drew were “buddies” in “Guys and Dolls” and I developed a real liking for her. So sorry that she’s the one affected.

      • Charli Mills

        Cynthia is deeply involved in the community, and the community rose up for her.

      • paulamoyer

        OK, it’s not letting me reply to your last, but I am very glad that the community has gathered around Cynthia. She’s really a great person.

    • H.R.R. Gorman

      Wow – this one is very complex, and it left me wanting more but still like the story was complete. I loved it!!!

      • paulamoyer

        Thank you!

      • paulamoyer

        I also think “wanting more” is inevitable with 99 words!

  9. Kay Kingsley, The Memory Cellar

    Charli, what a beautiful description you give of your place of peace and the beauty of letting yourself fall. Also, what a scary ordeal for your friend Cynthia. Things can be replaced but people can’t so I am glad she and her family are OK. Several months ago I wrote this about falling. Today I was reminded of it and I thought I would share it with you as it seems appropriate: https://memorycellar.wordpress.com/2018/01/30/a-redwood-or-an-oak/
    I haven’t attempted the prompt yet but I am looking forward to it. Thank you, as always, for sharing your stories with us and for always giving us something to think about with the prompts.

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Kay. Yes, things can be replaced. I found out today that one boy who had his bedroom wall collapse upon him has passed away. He was 12. I like to think of those hands from those who’ve fallen into the abyss catching his parents as they must be on their knees in grief. Thank you for sharing your beautiful essay!

      • Kay Kingsley, The Memory Cellar

        So heartbreaking, I shudder to imagine it. Deep grief is the absolute worst. I will keep them all in my thoughts with the hope that one day soon they might feel the sunshine again, even if it is only for the briefest of moments. Unseen hands, unseen wings 😉

      • Charli Mills

        <3 <3 <3

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Jack!

    • Jules

      I know of too many of these types of stories from the firefighters of my family… Yet survivors can rebuild.

    • Charli Mills

      Jan, I’m hopeful that communities can bring out the best in all of us. Thank you for giving the topic reflection.

      • janmalique

        I mourn the loss of communities in many places, but, when disaster strikes people pull together. Compassion always surfaces. Thankfully.


      • Charli Mills

        Community is vital to our wellbeing.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Joelle!

    • robbiecheadle

      I enjoyed your take, Joelle

      • floridaborne

        Thanks. 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Michael!

  10. Miriam Hurdle

    Charli, thank you for sharing your experience of falling in the snow. I could visualize you letting go down, but not panicking. How beautiful it is that you just relaxed and let go, go with the fall. You got up with a helping hand. What a good example of community support.

    It could have been worse if we fall and struggle about falling. It’s not easy to let yourself fall, physically or metaphorically. During my cancer treatment, I was down to skin and bone and my life was failing. I too let go of my responsibilities and accepted help from my community to let my body heal and recover.

    Here’s the Flash

    It’s a Matter of Getting Up

    It was early December 2017, the Thomas Fire in Ventura County, California devoured 307,900 acres and 1,300 structures. 230,000 residents described the wildfires in the neighborhood as a war zone. Smoke stretched 1,000 miles across the Pacific.

    By Christmas, residents came back to their burned home, found pieces of displaced family photos. They pinned them on a bulletin to find owners. Some put up Christmas trees, decorations to bring cheer to the neighborhood. Strangers hugged each other and shed some tears. Homes and belongings were gone. Yet not all is lost. They wanted to rebuild and be neighbors again.


    • H.R.R. Gorman

      My best friend’s parents almost lost their house in the NorCal fires of 2017. We prayed really hard as the flames came toward them. This story reminded me of God’s grace and provision, as he stopped the flames from coming to their house even though the neighborhood was destroyed.

      • Miriam Hurdle

        I’m glad your parents house was safe. My friend’s son teaches in that area. Many major buildings of the school were burned down. He stayed behind to help the students and their families. The freeway was blocked off. His wife took the three kids and drove through the side street for 120 miles to come staying with my friend. It was a scary time, but God is in control.

      • H.R.R. Gorman

        Glad they were ok! Fires are scary.

      • Miriam Hurdle

        Yes, the Santa Ana wind comes every year.

    • Charli Mills

      Miriam, isn’t it amazing how when we finally let go and fall, that’s when the healing can begin? You’ve had a tough fight back from cancer, but you’ve managed it with grace. Thank you for sharing your understanding of falling. It is always good to have hands up.

      Wow, your story of the 2017 fires is powerful. The sheer numbers alone are hard to fathom, but when you add the details of the photos pinned and decorations strung, you give us that image of recovery.

      • Miriam Hurdle

        Yes, I cried when I listened to those people being interviewed and videos of them coming back to their burned home, yet with hope and good spirit.

    • robbiecheadle

      A lovely piece, Miriam. It makes me feel hopeful.

      • Miriam Hurdle

        Thank you, Robbie. Yes, there’s always Hope! 🙂

    • Sherri Matthews

      Moving and poignant flash Miriam. So glad you’re through your treatment >3

      • Miriam Hurdle

        Thank you, Sherri. I’m glad that part is over. <3

  11. Norah

    Oh my, Charli, from your fall to the falls’ fall. What a metaphor. Yes, we do need those hands to help us up when we’re down. You may have been able to see your snowy fall as a snow globe, gently shaken up by another far away. But it’s difficult to see this muddy fall in the same way. I was interested in Cynthia’s comment about the ‘Ojibwe people (who) came to honor the waters who flow and give us life when we respect the earth and her ways and death and destruction when we forget and are greedy’ and wondered how respect had not been shown. Sometimes we take our own power for granted, as if we can control our world. But nature has a way of reminding us who’s boss. I like the way you take up that theme in your flash. You pull together all those threads quite nicely in a piece that speaks succinctly and with clarity of greedy-mindedness and its effects.
    I am amazed that Cynthia sleeps outside each night in a tent. She is obviously one special woman, with a special way of interacting with her world. It’s a good thing she slept inside that night. Perhaps her relationship with the earth told her that was what she needed to do. I am pleased she is safe and that not all is lost. That is a good thing about the human spirit – hope, it’s what keeps us going and get us up when we fall down: spirit and a helping hand or two.
    Best wishes to Cynthia and others who must also have lost a lot.

    • Norah

      Hi Charli, I’m back with my story this week It’s not the end of the world https://wp.me/p3O5Jj-1aF Best wishes to you, Cynthia and all your neighbours affected by the storm.

      • Charli Mills

        Not the end of the world after all! (Here, too.) Thank you, we are cleaning up and puzzling out how to get old mining infrastructures rebuilt as they became our roads and waterways.

      • Norah

        Hmm. We are but pawns in Mother Nature’s game of chess. I think she’ll always win, no matter how powerful or in control we think we are.

    • Charli Mills

      Norah, it is a muddy fall muddied more by the fact that the ski hill on Mont Ripley built a new run which came above Ripley Falls. Cynthia spoke out against it. She was told they put erosion skirting in place — that didn’t hold! Now we are finding out that the ski hill did not secure proper permits, either. These are issues that Ojibwe and other native peoples are fighting in the US, and they are focusing on water all across the states. A group of Ojibwe women came up to Ripley after the landslide and held a water ceremony with Cynthia. Tonight when I was out there, I saw the big trucks hauling away the debris field of rocks from the slide and they are taking it back up to rebuild the sloughed hillside. It seems a poor choice. But Cynthia has a lot of fight in her, and she’s advocating for them to manage it correctly. Yes, the community is surviving with that strong human spirit. Thank you!

      • Norah

        Good on Cynthia. I hope they get it right this time. Thanks for filling me in.

  12. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Reality Check

    “Pal, buy me a beer.”
    “Cain’t Kid, spent ma beer money on the Go Fund Me fer Cynthia Drake.”
    “Same here, Pal.”
    “That’s good, Kid, ‘cause them folks up there really need ta dry out.”
    “Whyn’t they jist come shelter here at the Ranch?”
    “Ah, Kid, the Ranch is a wonderful shelterin’ place, but yer always fergittin’ ‘bout the virtual elements of it.”
    “Here ya go agin, Pal, havin’ ta remind me we’s fictional characters. But I really wanna help.”
    “I’m sure the Drakes ‘preciate you givin’ up yer beer money, Kid.”
    “I’m thirsty.”
    “Could be worse.”
    “Dang right.”

    • anuragbakhshi

      Just because they’re a figment of your fertile imagination doesn’t mean they’re fictional.

    • Charli Mills

      Ah, if only I could get the kid to the fire hall — I think I might know where the beer’s stashed! Actually, I have a funny story about beer and gawkers, but it’s an after-hours kind of story. 😉

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        AAUUUGGHH! My brain. Terrible thing to lose. That should be Drake not Riley. No explanation. No excuse. Please fix.

      • Charli Mills

        Ha, Ha! Changed it to Ripley — for her Ripley Falls, lol!

  13. Jules

    Dear Charli and Cynthia… and community
    When there is loss there is also a gain…
    so I did perhaps another original combination of poetry with an acrosTic renga haibun:

    Grant Gains

    Grant Gain

    Gather together, permit others
    As they offer their aide
    In your heart of hearts, fear not – forbid
    Nightmares their tight grasp upon reality

    Golden opportunities await
    Angels in plain clothes to host
    Individuals, families – some will
    Need less others more…

    Grant those who come as a visitor
    An opportunity to become family
    Include them as repairs begin –
    Not all is lost…

    healing can take years –
    fears ebb and flow like water
    mud can cloud good hope

    let those in who filter out
    dark diteris and debris

    focus on mending
    both that which is solid as
    well as what’s unseen


    • Charli Mills

      Oh, Jules, I’m loving your acrosTic haibuns, loss, and gains. Thank you for sharing these. I’ve placed them in Cynthia’s binder for her.

    • Sherri Matthews

      So lovely Jules…

  14. reading journeys

    Hi Charli,
    A great deal to think about in your post, and in the comments, stories and poems.
    My prayers for Cynthia, and the community, for courage to build anew, and to keep moving forward.

    On a somewhat different note: I think it was either Edison or Bell, who said that “failure is the mother of invention”.

    My idea for my FF story in response to “not all is lost” came from my reading the biographies of women scientists, trailblazers in their fields, very determined and courageous women.

    Here is my response to the FF prompt: “not all is lost”

    In the garden, Lisa grieved for Aunt Veronica, an artist and illustrator of all things botanical. Lisa’s own interest in archaeology was sparked on a family vacation with Veronica, to see prehistoric rock and cave paintings in Brazil. Not all is lost.
    Veronica swiftly sketched the cave artwork, and the prehistoric villages. Lisa caught her aunt’s excitement. She learned how to glean the stories of people, to look for ancient and prehistoric signposts, when there are no written records.
    Lisa inherited Veronica’s Library. Not all is lost. Veronica’s generous gift filled her with a deep abiding sense of gratitude.

    Thank you, for a challenging and inspiring post.

    • Jules

      I had wanted to share this news story with the Charli and the rock hounds of our community and your story is a perfect lead in – Thank you for this uplifting and inspirational tale. I hope you also enjoy the news article:

      LNP News article Set in Stone by Ad Crable

      • reading journeys

        Hi Jules,
        Thank you! How amazing! Thank you for sharing the news story about the Susquehanna rock drawings, and the efforts to record/save the drawings. Never expected the FF to be so completely transformed by a real story!

      • Jules

        I saw the story before reading your piece. It’s been said that truth is stranger than fiction 😉

      • Charli Mills

        Cool article, Jules! The rock they are carved in is schist, which is one of my favorite rocks. But don’t take schist for granite. 😉

      • Jules


    • anuragbakhshi

      Yes, all is never lost, and it is stories that ensure that.

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you. Cynthia and our community are pulling through. We got to swap stories tonight at the fire hall and it seemed such an ancient thing to do after coming together in a crisis. I enjoyed your flash that honors the pioneering spirit of women in science. Of course, I also enjoyed the story-cathing and book sharing elements, too!

  15. The Haunted Wordsmith

    I went a little tilted with this one…

    Disaster Strikes

    Even when times looked their darkest, everyone could count of the sun to rise, and drive away the night and its memories. No one would ever believe that the sun would not rise, but that is exactly what happened on June 28, 3258. Reports indicated a massive black hole developed behind the sun and devoured it, just like one had to Jupiter three years earlier. We had less than twenty-four hours to get off this planet before we all perished. Thankfully though, our global distress signal was intercepted by the Third Intergalactic Fleet. I wonder if they eat humans.

    • anuragbakhshi

      I’m just surprised humans survived for so long 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      With dark holes eating the sun and planets, yes, devouring would be a concern! I enjoyed your sci-fi twist on the prompt.

    • Jules

      Sci fi is a great tilt. 😉

    • papershots

      Hi! Has your website become private by any chance? WP is not letting me in and says i have to require permission…

      • weejars

        Hi, yes I’ve made it private due to some issues with spam…trailing this for a bit to try and reduce it

      • papershots


    • Charli Mills

      I’m intrigued to read your mash-up, Sarah! Hopefully, my request to gain entrance was not lost. 🙂 Sorry to hear you are having spammer issues. I use Askimet and that filters spam.

      • weejars

        Access granted ???? hoping the issue is just a temporary one ????????

      • Charli Mills

        I hope so, too!

    • Jules

      I did that too for about a week or more. I’m still getting stalked by a ‘follower’ who I do not want at another site….
      Put my request in…

      • weejars

        It’s super annoying hey?! I have given you access ????

      • Jules

        Yes… it is.
        Thank you.

    • Jules

      You reminded me of a time when some folks I knew kept a gun under their pillow – so to speak- but thankfully were not woken when robbed.
      I think the ‘loss’ would have been greater if they had been woken.

      An in the news in your face story –

  16. Annecdotist

    How dreadful your friend, Charli, but what a lucky escape that she wasn’t sleeping in her tent. The devastation caused by floods is so demoralising, and seems to be on the increase, at least here.
    Lovely flash to round it off – life goes on because it has to! Beautifully evoked.
    You might be amused that the prompt got me thinking about the cave in the hero’s journey, yes, that story structure I’m gradually having to change my mind about. My flash is about falling into the cave of creativity a.k.a. writer’s block:
    Come into my cave! #amwriting http://annegoodwin.weebly.com/1/post/2018/06/come-into-my-cave-amwriting.html

    • Charli Mills

      Anne, I think floods are becoming more prevalent as we built where we don’t often have such events. With climate change, a signature is that weather events become more extreme. They are calling our flood a 1,000-year flood which really conveys no real meaning to me. I think they say things like that to imply another won’t happen again for a thousand years. As for the cave, I was delighted to find you went there and reflected on the hero’s journey!

    • Charli Mills

      It’s all about the bouquet that comes together, Allison! Thank you for contributing!

    • Charli Mills

      Even from a distance, it’s surreal to watch a loved one’s world come apart like that. Her house is absolutely gutted. I had a workshop scheduled there and she pulled the Rough Writer’s Anthology out of the mud. I feel like I’m right there, too. The community has been amazing and many are letting me collect their stories. Some have twists as amazing as what you write!

  17. calmkate

    Here is mine:

    The company hadn’t ensured that safety was paramount. So sixteen men were trapped underground. Poisonous gas was leaking so nobody could go in or out as the fresh air might trigger an explosion.

    Distraught families and first response teams were anxiously waiting above ground. Children were confused not really comprehending the threat. CWA ladies were handing out cups of tea. People were trying to stay positive but the underlying tension caused tears to fall and fears to surface.

    They heard a resounding crack followed by a loud heartfelt cheer … the engineers had found a way through, miners saved!

    • Charli Mills

      An appropriate flash for the Copper Country, Kate which has known many previous disasters in the manner by which you weave your tale.

      • calmkate

        thanks for making the time to read and comment Charli, really appreciate it as I know you’re so busy 🙂

      • Charli Mills

        Are you up as late as I am, lol? It feeds my writer’s soul to read each story here and revel in how different styles and perspectives can be to shape the big picture of a single topic.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Papershots!

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Kay!

    • Jules

      Names have power… so it has been said.

      • Jules

        Some traditions have children named after the living and others after those who have passed. And other clever people create new names 🙂

  18. susansleggs

    Sorry, put my personal comments on the submission form. I know you’ll get them. I’m sorry about Cynthia’s troubles. Where you live demands you all be warriors…..

    Let It Go

    The cocky author had gone to the writing conference feeling he would come away with an agent; the pamphlet said he could pitch them. He listened, open minded, to the various panel discussions and realized he would have to rewrite his whole manuscript so it started and ended with a bang. He decided it wasn’t worth his time, and appreciated the writing he had done had gotten him through a rough patch in his life. All was not lost: the next time he read a book, he read for pleasure instead of learning the craft. He felt oddly free.

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Susan. And I agree with your flash — we often have more to gain as writers when we let go of expectations and savor reading and writing for pleasure. I hope your character finishes reading and feels invigorated!

  19. notyouraveragemomblogweb

    I haven’t written in awhile. 4 kids on summer break can make it hard to do anything for myself. Add the World Cup on tv and it makes it almost impossible. Here is my submission for this week.

    That Kind Of Day

    Today has been the worst. It started off like an ordinary Monday, but it definitely didn’t end that way.

    My car wouldn’t start right away. I got to work late, but just in time for my boss to notice. If that wasn’t bad enough, they announced that we would be working this weekend.

    I made it home later than usual due to the rain. I poured myself a glass of wine, put my feet up, and turned on Netflix. A large cracking sound came from outside. Everything went dark. Not all was lost. At least I still had wine.


    • Charli Mills

      O, mama! Four kids on summer break! Enough said — but think of the stories you’ll have later. 😉 Certainly, there are days when wine saves it all. Good one, Heather!

  20. Colleen Chesebro

    The Crow’s Secret

    She was losing control of her powers. Zaria woke up, hovering above the bed staring down at the rumpled sheets twisted below. She fell, landing hard on the floor. Without her magic, she was nothing. She would be banned from the witch’s council.

    Zaria arose from the floor. From his perch on the windowsill, crow flapped his wings and landed on her shoulder. He whispered in her ear, “Not all is lost. I’m here to give you the gift of clairvoyance.”

    The young witch grinned. She felt the veil lift. Thank you crow, I see what you are saying.”

    • susansleggs

      Love those friendly crows.

      • Colleen Chesebro

        I was interested in how intelligent they are. I had no idea. <3

      • susansleggs

        I feed the ones that live near our house. They know to come beg at daybreak and will come when I call them. My hubby thinks I’m crazy.

      • Colleen Chesebro

        Not at all. I would say they recognize your spirit. I feed the birds here too. I love them and they are great entertainment. <3

      • Charli Mills

        Crows are among my favorite birds. I’d rather be a crazy crow lady than a crazy cat lady, lol! Colleen, I enjoyed the dilemma and the pun in the last line ads a fun vibe to the flash.

    • Jules

      Fantasy is a good place for reality to get both lost and found. 🙂

      • Colleen Chesebro

        Jules, that is a profound truth. That should be the tag line of my blog! LOL! Thanks, friend. <3

      • Jules

        Change away. Tag you’re it! 😉
        I’ve written some fanciful stuff and love getting lost in that process 🙂

      • Colleen Chesebro

        Love it! Thanks, Jules. <3

  21. susansleggs

    A Tribute to Military Pilots

    An Air Force pilot friend shared: My crew and I were walking to our plane for a training run and stopped in our tracks when the base fire siren went off. We looked around and then up. Our hearts jumped into our throats when we saw a plane rushing the runway on fire. It hit with a huge explosion. We didn’t believe anyone could survive, but not all was lost, within minutes six airmen walked from the smoke. We learned the meaning of “any landing you walk away from is a good landing; some are just better than others.”

    • robbiecheadle

      Gosh, Susan, is this a BOTS? I was in a light airplane that had to emergency land on an agricultural runway in the middle of no-where once. I heard that saying you quoted then.

      • susansleggs

        Yes. This happened to an Air Force friend of mine. He added, “My crew then had to go fly after watching that.” Heavy stuff.

    • Charli Mills

      Oh, wow, Susan! Can you imagine flying after just witnessing that? Yes, it adds meaning to the saying. Thanks for capturing and sharing his story!

  22. Juliet

    Hi All,
    What a moving post, Charli. I hope things are slowly coming right for Cynthia. I’m sure they are.
    My offering this week is something I had totally forgotten about until I read your post. A definite BOTS which happened when we lived on a tiny Carribean island in what seems like another lifetime….All is certainly not lost while we’re still standing and breathing.

    Stand and Deliver!

    ‘Gimme your bag!’

    She almost laughed at her friend’s attempt at the local thick accent until she felt the hard pull on her shoulder.

    He wore a strange trilby hat pulled low onto his forehead and had tied a bandana scarf around his face. All she could see was the shining whites of his eyes and the gun pointing in her direction. Real or a toy? She didn’t want to know.

    She handed over the bag. Keys, credit cards, telephone would now belong to this stranger.

    But she held onto the gold locket around her neck. And her life.

    • robbiecheadle

      A great response, Juliet. I have been in a situation like this and it is very scary.

      • Sherri Matthews

        Glad you’re okay Robbie.

      • Juliet

        Thanks Robbie. Very scary indeed. So scary that I had completely wiped it from my brain!

    • Sherri Matthews

      How frightening Juliet. All was not lost indeed…the most precious gift of life saved. So many times I wonder in awe at the way writing 99 word flash fiction reminds us of true stories and experiences, often powerful, yet otherwise far away in our memory. So glad you’re here to write yours <3

      • Juliet

        Thanks, Sherri. I know, it is amazing what 99 words can drag out of our memories. That episode had been put in a little drawer and locked away for years.

      • Sherri Matthews

        I’m glad you rediscovered it and shared it with us Juliet, thank you <3

    • Charli Mills

      Amazing how your buried memory came to life, Juliet, and what you were able to do with it in 99 words. The last line says it all. You got away with your life!

      • Juliet

        Hi, Charli. Thanks. Yes, that episode was definitely buried. But I now wonder if the gun was real or not. But glad I didn’t have to find out!

    • Jules

      You reminded me of a time when I was driving… in our state you can turn right on red if there is no traffic (doesn’t mean you have to) – I hadn’t – and the car behind me wasn’t happy. When the light turned green ‘he’ followed me! I should have gone straight to the local police station, but I found a cul-de-sac and turned around. When he followed me in… I just floored it out – and took a longer route home!

      • Juliet


  23. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Losses and Gains

    Ilene was first to the lawn chairs, Marge huffing behind.
    “I gotta sit down. Phew! Do your feet hurt?”
    “Not even one of them. Marge, stop walking in your work boots. I happen to have extra left footed sneakers if you want to start there.”
    “Ilene, you’re something, always joking about your leg.”
    “I lost a leg, Marge, not my humor. I’m lucky I didn’t lose my life.”
    “Well, let’s have a beer to celebrate. I think I lost another five pounds on that walk.”
    Ilene watched her friend bend to open the cooler. “All is not lost, Marge.”

    • robbiecheadle

      This is very positive.

    • Charli Mills

      Great characters in this unfolding saga of place and living as you are.

  24. robbiecheadle

    Hi Charli, this certainly is a very powerful story about good fortune, level-headedness and help form society and friends. I hope your friend will be alright financial and will be able to rebuild her home. Here is my piece for this week: https://bakeandwrite.co.za/flashfiction-all-is-not-lost/

    • Sherri Matthews

      I enjoyed the message of the second chance in your flash Robbie.

      • robbiecheadle

        Thank you, Sherri

    • Charli Mills

      It will be a fresh start for my friend, Robbie. She lost everything and insurance will cover nothing. We’re all rallying around the flood and landslide victims with fundraisers and sharing furniture and donating time and skills. Community is not lost and she’ll be okay. Better than okay. Thank you!

    • Jules

      I wish sometimes as a child I had more positive support…
      Your story shows that people as well as our expectations of them can change.

      • Charli Mills

        I want to hug your inner child Jules and tell her she can do it! <3

  25. Sherri Matthews

    Oh Charli, I think of all you’ve shared here and on FB about Cynthia’s plight, and then, when I read her incredibly brave and moving account. all I could think of was Tolkien: ‘Not all those who wander are lost.’ Cynthia is moved to feel joy and great blessing in the midst of great personal devastation and loss. My heart and prayers go out to her, you and your community <3

    Rock Bottom

    He hit rock bottom and I thought it was the end. “If you keep drinking, you’ll be dead in six months,” warned the doctor.

    I was wrong; he stopped, for a few months at least. Then he started again and I knew his next fall could be his last.

    I wondered if spending nights hunched up in a doorway might change things, or late night rants down the telephone cursing his dear, beloved father who he hoped would rot in hell.

    It was the years in prison writing letters to his daughter that told me, all was not lost.

    • robbiecheadle

      I liked this a lot, Sherrie. A powerful message.

      • Sherri Matthews

        Thank you so much Robbie x

    • Charli Mills

      Sherri, you have a huge heart for those to whom Tolkein’s observation applies. You find the wandering as displayed in your poignant and touching flash. Rock bottom still has an up, especially when someone reaches out.

      • Sherri Matthews

        Aww…thanks Charli, and likewise my friend. My mind wandered with this one too, lead by your prompts to unexpected places! <3

      • Charli Mills

        Keep wandering, Sherri! <3

    • Charli Mills

      Great response, you two!

  26. Ruchira Khanna

    I pray Cynthia’s life comes back to normal. You are such a compassionate soul, my friend. I admire you for always being there.

    My take is on a lighter note….just to give a smile in times of adversity.

    I-scream disaster

    “I’ll have the butterscotch, please!” Meghan requested politely.

    “One scoop or two,” he asked in a hurried tone


    “Be quick, young lady! I ain’t the whole day.”

    “I’m sorry, I can’t decide,” she said as she put her index finger in her mouth and swayed her 4-foot skeleton from left to right allowing the frills of her frock to bend along.

    “Next,” he shouted leaving her cup as is and attended the next person in line.

    She was devastated, and tears came along.

    “Nothing is lost! Do not cry,” the mom ushered her on one side, “Let’s share!”


    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Ruchira. I find lots of great souls in my life, including you!

      Ha, ha! A great tale of devastating indecision. 🙂

  27. Liz H

    Here’s my go. Based on a number of prompts and a long, soupy heatwave that only just broke this morning, it resulted in a bit of extra silliness. Hope you all “see” what I sketched out here. 😉

    An Urban Truth

    He shambles out of the park, swaying side-to-side, shyly dominating the Midtown sidewalk. Sun glints in his blonde-bronze pelt, furry toes squashing—or shall we say “squatching”?—his platform flip-flops…
    [Continue ]

    • Charli Mills

      I think we caught the tail end that midwestern soup! Usually, Lady Lake pushes the humidity out but she let it in and I was melting. It’s cold tonight, though…ahhh…! Love the word, squatching!

      • Liz H


  28. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Rugby!

  29. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Sascha!

  30. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Chelsea!

  31. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Geoff!


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