May 16: Flash Fiction Challenge

Written by Charli Mills

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

May 16, 2019

Two days after my middlest child turned 29 years old, I’m seeking trees. My daughter, Rock Climber, lives on a craggy glacier island in the Arctic, surrounded by massive mountains, polar bear prints, and eternal snow beneath skies as wide as any final frontier. She travels by Zodiac in seas so tumultuous she has to wear a full life-suit with a beacon. When she flies between islands, she lands on airstrips made of permafrost. For fun, she rides snowmobiles in the midnight sun and sends me goofy snapshots. When her dad was in the hospital, she taught her Norwegian friends to sing a raunchy rugby song she learned when watching him play in a Montana league.

This is my Bug Child. My wild girl crafted in her Ranger/Rugby father’s image.

She tells me she misses trees.

Have you ever lived someplace where there were no trees? Even in the North American deserts, juniper, pinion, and Joshua trees grow. I was born beneath a canopy of California oaks and raised in the Sierras where the Jeffry pines and cedars grow. Eyes wide open, I can still smell their scent — Jeffrey pines smell like vanilla when the sunshine warms their broom-like clusters of needles. I’m not a tree-hugger as much as I’m a tree-cuddler.

I used to ride my horse Captain Omega (don’t judge, I named him when I was 12, reading Greek Mythology) to the cedar groves. There, I’d sit with my back to a cedar with its auburn bark that I could peel like fiber. I used to compare the color of my long braids to the tree and pretend we were distantly related. I’d read, devouring books and traveling in my mind to places as remote as where Rock Climber now lives.

Trees are in my DNA. Bumpa, my nonagenarian great-grandfather who used to tell me stories when my mother dropped me off to visit him in the nursing home beneath the oaks. I only knew him in his nineties. He died when I was ten, and he was 99. But those stories live on within me, roots of his life touching mine. His parents were farmers from Denmark, immigrating to America. They came west to California and planted apricot orchards. He grew up, tending those trees. My grandmother continued to harvest their fruit even after her father sold the orchards. My mother and her sisters would eat green apricots until their bellies ached. I grew up eating dried apricots every Christmas. When my Bug Child was two, my mother taught her to filch fruit from low-hanging branches, declaring these were the one’s Bumpa’s father planted.

I once wrote a story about the sweetness of stolen sunshine, keeping in mind the female tradition of San Benito apricots. Those trees produced fruit I thought must taste like the ambrosia of the sun. Throughout life, I continued to nibble from trees. First apricots, and then the nuts from Sierra pines. Jeffry pinenuts are flat and acrid but carry that luscious scent. Pinion pinenuts are fat, greasy, and sweet. Yet they don’t produce every year. When pinenuts come into season, the Washo and Ute would flock to high desert groves and harvest from pitchy stunted trees. I can taste American history with each nibble, I can experience Johnny Appleseed with the plucking of wild apples. I dream of Rock Creek and Little House on the Prairie when I slurp the tart fruit of a wild Nebraska plum.

Family legend holds that my other great-grandfather could create trees. He knew how to splice and get a crab apple to grow on a Macintosh. What scientist do in labs with genes, my ancestors did with trees. They brought their own hybrids with them from the Basque lands, the Azores, and beyond. Not from Ireland though. I once had a family member tell me that the English cut down all the trees in Ireland, and perhaps my Irish blood still misses those trees. I’ve watched shows on how the modern English take care of ancient oaks, and Monty Don is welcome to teach me anything about trees. My British roots are all mixed up in the different eras of history, place, and culture but undoubtedly go back to the Celtic worshippers of trees.

Deciduous trees of the Keweenaw have root systems that communicate throughout the woods. When  I’m alone on a trail, I can hear them talking. White pines once grew in abundance on this peninsula, but like most other places, trees of today displaced the trees of yesterday. Climate change is displacing us all. Weather patterns and extreme weather events change what trees grow where.

At times I feel like a wind-whipped pine holding onto the cliffside. Then the sun comes out, or a gentle rain washes away the dust. Maybe I’ll find a home in a tree, a nest to call my own.

So I ask again, have you ever lived someplace without trees? Can you imagine having to hunt for them, to grow up not knowing what it is to smell bark or rake leaves or taste fruit?

My daughter misses trees. So I am seeking trees to give her stories to remind her.

May 16, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that goes in search of trees. It can be one particular tree, a grove, woods, or forest. What makes the tree worth seeking? Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by May 21, 2019. 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 to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.


Laid to Rest (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Danni asked Ike to fall the tree, an ancient Ponderosa with thick plates of bark assembled like puzzle pieces. She estimated it had stood over the abandoned cemetery at least three centuries before burials. Mostly sawyers and log-camp followers found final rest beneath its branches. A hundred years ago, this Ponderosa would have netted the logging company enough money to cover wages. Yet they had spared the tree. Danni didn’t guess why, but she asked her husband to fall it because he understood the code of the forest. He’d remove the diseased old-timer with respect to those it guarded.

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  1. cindy knoke

    What an amazing daughter, and wonderful life you have led!

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Cindy. When I’m unsure of my contributions to good in this world, I pause and look at my kids. And hopefully, more life to come! 😉

  2. dharkanein

    Wow! Thats so amazing.

    • Charli Mills

      I find trees amazing, too! Thanks!

  3. calmkate

    I have certainly found myself occasionally in lunar landscapes = treeless environments and it does feel like a freak of nature, sinister. Can’t imagine how she does it but with her parents blood she is doing what she enjoys!
    Your history with the fruits of trees is delightful Charli … busy this week but let’s see what I can do 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      I wonder how long we can take a lunar landscape before a longing for trees hit? Ah, that one has her Dad’s wanderlust. Have a good week, Kate!

      • calmkate

        not long, I’d say …

  4. Prior...

    “roots of his life touching mine”
    That was my favorite part and when I got to that section I was feeling the connection you have to trees –
    I like your 99 word fiction too – the “fall
    It” phrase let us feel that jargon of that culture –
    And when you noted how cutting it down would have “covered wages” – you let us feel the “need” that business owner had because covering wages means barely making ends meet and also means the livelihood for all – which elevates the tree being spared – respected and all allowed to live.
    The cemetery added another element as did the disease at the end – so much phloem here – um, I mean flowing!


    • Charli Mills

      Thank you for calling out the line that moved you to feel the connection with trees. My dad didn’t want to cowboy so he logged. Those wages from a single tree often makes loggers greedy, and yet others, like my dad, would spare a tree they felt deserved to continue life. It’s a strange reverence and hard to explain so I’m glad you caught all that in the flash. You are an astute reader. 🙂

      • Prior...

        Well thanks for the nice reply…
        And still lurking with my flash fiction – but hope to join in by writing again soon.
        In the meantime I am enjoying by reading some entries when I can – oh and I do think about the themes for the week – and participating in that way is a bonus (in the way that blogging enriches life)
        Hope your daughter likes all the trees

      • Charli Mills

        I understand, Yvette! I consider this work to be like a weekly Artist’s Date because I find all the entries thought-provoking and inspiring as a collection and individually. Literary art is made up of three components — reading, writing, and discourse. All are welcomed acts of participation at the Ranch!

  5. joanne the geek

    I love trees. I don’t think I could live in a place with no trees.

    • Charli Mills

      It would be strange, and lonely.

    • Charli Mills

      Woohoo! Breaking records, saving trees!

      • calmkate

        right, a good one 🙂

  6. Anne Goodwin (Annecdotist)

    I was so excited on moving to my current house around twenty years ago because we would have trees – and I still love them. Mr A has experimented with grafting this year – the apples that we like best don’t seem to grow as well as the others, so trying to rectify that. Buds now forming on one of the three attempts.
    I’ve never lived in a place completely devoid of trees, although I have visited, and it does seem strange. Love your flash and hope we can generate lots more for your daughter.

    • Anne Goodwin (Annecdotist)

      Back now with my tree-themed flash and a few photos, mostly through bluebell woods yesterday, though a pity it wasn’t sunnier.
      It goes with a post on revising a blurb and I’d be grateful to anyone who can pop over to take the poll to vote for the opening line that appeals to you most.
      The trouble with #amwriting blurbs: can’t see the wood for the trees?

      • Charli Mills

        Blurb writing gets tough (TUFF it out, Anne 99 –> 59 –> 9). I’ll pop over for the poll, too!

      • Charli Mills

        Link them together like Lego blocks! 😉

      • Jules

        Loved the story and the photos 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Grafting! That was the word my mind was seeking. As a child, I have a memory of sticks tied together. Or I could have imagined it! I can understand loving the trees of home. We are so close to calling a place home again, and if so, we get to love trees, too. Our eldest did one better — she and her husband now own an abandoned apple orchard and a grove of trees, including a gnarly maple with a resident porcupine! We are getting a fine collection of trees to share with my tree-less daughter.

      • Anne Goodwin (Annecdotist)

        I’m excited about you getting your own place and your own trees — although we never actually own them, do we, and with luck they’ll outlive us.
        I imagine your daughters reviving sibling rivalry: one with a surfeit of trees, the other with none. 😉

      • Charli Mills

        Native Americans think it’s a mental health issue, this mindset that declares ownership of land and trees. Trees mark the passing of our lives, of memory of places.

        Ha! Yes, I can see the daughters getting salty over who has trees and who does not. That could be a fun story for sibling rivalry.

      • Anne Goodwin (Annecdotist)

        That’s interesting, there’s a lot about our cultures that’s insane.

  7. H.R.R. Gorman

    I’ve never lived somewhere without trees, and I’ve only driven through Death Valley once. I think the easiest way for someone to live without trees would be as a sailor – if you’re at sea, there’s no trees, that’s for sure! I’d wonder if sailors miss trees.

    Either way, I’m pretty down about global warming and the future of the planet, so I wrote a dystopian tale about the end of all trees.

    ***The Last Forest***

    I plodded into the forest with a tape measure. The age of a tree couldn’t be divined without coring, but I don’t have that equipment. Size will have to suffice.

    Grandma once told me that the forests hold memories and grudges. She taught me how to ask forgiveness from the apple tree in the backyard, to seek the oldest tree for the absolution from a grove.

    I decorated what limbs I could with prayer tags. “Please, don’t leave. Please grow again.”

    It didn’t work, but maybe that wasn’t the oldest. A lot of trees had a five inch diameter.

    • susansleggs

      I’ve never heard heard forests hold memories or grudges. I wonder how one knows.

      • H.R.R. Gorman

        I took inspiration from Japanese kodama and added some Buddhist prayer tags to the story. Trees show their memories in their rings, whether with cellulose, lignin, or hemicellulose. If only we could divine those chemicals!

      • susansleggs

        Hadn’t thought about the rings telling the story. I have heard of that. It would be nice if the prayer tags could work.

    • Charli Mills

      There’s a marvelous book called The Hidden Life of Trees, and it includes how trees talk to each other. I can understand those living intimately with trees, assigning them emotions and traditions. My dad didn’t want to cowboy so he logged. He loved trees (probably more than people) and became self-taught about their well-being. He called global warming and its impact on trees in the Sierras before GW was a thing. I remember being a kid and he was teaching me to read weather patterns in the rings. I read your comment on your post about your dad, also a logger, flagging trees to save from the saws. They must be kindred spirits.

      Your flash carries the weight of the burden we place on the younger generations who might try to save the last forest and fail. It is our failing, but they will be the ones to experience the loss. And that cuts deep.

      • H.R.R. Gorman

        Aww, I love your story about your dad! My dad had plentg of faults and failings, but when I think about him and the trees, it’s only good memories. If only logging corporations could feel like the small time operations!

      • Charli Mills

        I feel that way about my dad, too. Too bad more of the contracts didn’t go to the small-time loggers who were in the profession because they just wanted to be in the forest.

  8. denmaniacs4

    I was feeling a little stumped by this latest post, Charli.

    Island of Trees

    They’re always there, you know. Likely always have been.

    Eons, I expect.

    I don’t think about them much. Maybe I should. There’s that old saying…you can’t see the forest for the…and here I am, knowing they are there. In my face. Never really paying them any heed.

    Like the air.

    The dying air.

    Or the sea.

    The dying sea.

    Every so often, we get hit with storms. Fierce gales, they are. Whipping in from the north, the south, occasionally from the west.

    The trees sway.


    They surely loom.

    Sometimes, threatening, bending towards me,

    towards my house,

    my life.

    • Jules

      I once read a sci fi story about a tree that failed to loom…
      it was hit by a car.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      You are stumped no more. This response looms large.

    • Charli Mills

      You weren’t stumped for long, Bill! I love the imagery of looming trees. Great pacing, too.

  9. pensitivity101

    Our Tree

    It was just one, but in the company of others.
    It was an elm, or was it an oak?
    It was tall, and had several broken branches, one of which dipped down to the earth as if bowing in servitude.
    It was along this path, or was it that one?
    No, it was this way, towards the clearing, where it stood magnificent and almost alone.
    One mile in, or maybe two? So long ago. It may not even still be there.
    I hope so.
    We designated it as Our Tree, and buried bottles with love messages in its roots.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      It’s good to have A Tree. If you don’t find it, don’t worry, it’s still there.

    • Charli Mills

      Di, I enjoy how your flash invites us to journey down memory lane, hinting at the passage of time. And then we arrive at the significance of the tree. Lovely!

      • pensitivity101

        Thanks Charli. We spent a lot of happy times there.

    • Charli Mills

      You’re an early bird this week, Robbie! I feel like a flitting chickadee. 😉 Thanks!

  10. Susan Zutautas

    I’ve always had trees around me, thankfully. I have a friend that cut down all the trees on her property when she bought a house. I never could understand how someone would want to do this. When I asked her why her reply was
    Might as well chop them down before they fall down. There was nothing wrong with the trees she cut down. It actually made me pretty angry as I adore trees.
    Your daughter sounds like she has an amazing life. Not that I’d want to live in the Arctic. 🙂
    Here is mine for this week. Not sure that it’s what you’re looking for but I went with my first thoughts of what to write.

    • Charli Mills

      Susan, like you, I have a strong affinity for trees, and have even felt attached to many (I especially miss the apple tree on Elmira Pond). I’ve encountered your friend’s attitude in other people. Maybe it is a deep-seated worry over safety and security that overrides what it is to live. We had a neighbor who fretted over some of our old pines, saying we should cut them down before they fell down. They were healthy and not in danger of toppling! It would have felt like amputating the property to cut down all the trees like that. Thanks for following where the prompt led you!

  11. Jules


    When one is a child trees seem to live for ever. There’s a popular Chinese proverb that says: “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” – I am still quite amazed that my willow that I planted about 30 years ago is trying to sprout new branches. I am trying to grow some ‘babies’ from her branches…. because one day I know all the dead parts that haven’t fallen may invite disease and she’ll too have to go…

    I like that Danni knows that even trees that are hundreds of years old have an end of life. I know a retirement community that fought to transplant a Japanese Maple that was in the way of a new road. They won. It took a couple of years… they weren’t sure it was going to make it… but it has! I’ve included at my post a photo of the transplanting of the Japanese Maple. It really does look much better today.

    Please enjoy this bit of dream space for my character Lucy Lockett:
    Lucy Lockett’s Missing Trees
    (reverse haibun pair)

    within a mist dream
    desert sands cover the land
    cacti arms blooming

    Where is the sprocket, asks Lucy Lockett
    To turn on the watering hose, who knows?
    Where are the oaks and willows, north moss for pillows
    In this dust dream of desert rust?
    Show me a sign, with an arrow to the Pine.

    within a mist dream
    Haleakala rises high
    date palms far below

    Where’s the maples and wild crab apples.
    Tossing and turning, is a fever burning?
    And where’s the spade, I laid?
    A plum, peach, yes one of each!
    Let a ripe apricot, hit the spot!


    Notes: I’ve visited Arizona… and the area I visited to a man made lake, had very little trees, but many acres multi armed cacti. I’ve visited Maui and the palms swayed tall, but not up on Mount Haleakala.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      If yer the ranch buckaroo poet in residence are you a Poet Lariat? Yet again you’ve roped a fine bunch of poetry.

      • Jules

        That reminds me of a story about knots on a counting rope… each knot a story of family history.
        There’s others that can corral a poetic verse ‘sides little ‘ole me. But that’s sure fun – that title – I like it 😀

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Then let it be yours! The counting rope story clinches it.

      • Charli Mills

        Yup. Jules is our Poet Lariat! She teaches as well as waxes, and ropes in new words and even new writers. I like her new title!

        And Jules, I love how you weave the many different environments using threads of trees. Well done.

  12. Ritu

    Trees are just beautiful. We were lucky to have two huge Sycamore trees in our garden, growing up. In our garden now, there are no trees, but huge bushes instead and our neighbour has towering pines at the end of their garden!

    I have many memories of beautiful trees, growing up, from the trees in my grandfather’s Kenyan garden, to the ones we’d climb, in our youth in the parks we visited.

    Here’s my take!

    • Charli Mills

      Trees are like memory keepers, and it sounds like you’ve had many! I didn’t realize what a variety of trees grow in England until my daughter and I got hooked on watching Monty Don. Now, as she’s planning her gardens at the new place, she considering all kinds of trees to add to her maples and apples. Thanks for your flash and memories!

      • Ritu

        Oh there are so many trees here, I do love them!

    • susansleggs

      I like how you have the same characters week after week. I never be able to do that and make the prompt work. Well done.

      • joanne the geek

        Thanks. Sometimes it can be a bit challenging. 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Joanne! Your story is progressing well!

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Reena!

  13. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    “Look up, Pal. I’m here.”
    “Kid, what’re you doin’ up in thet tree?”
    “It’s my poet-tree. I’m writin’. Told ya, I ain’t waitin’ on whats-her-name. Here’s yer buckaroo-ku:

    when the people fall
    and no trees remain to hear
    deserts on the march.”

    “Two things Kid. First, ya lifted that last line from Paul Sears’ book he wrote back in Dust Bowl days.”
    “Yeah, but no one knows that, Pal.”
    “Second, that ain’t buckaroo-ku.”
    “Ain’t it?”
    “No thet’s highku.”
    “‘Cause yer so high up in thet tree. Now git down.”
    “About that, Pal… Kin you git me a ladder?”

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      “Kid, ya mean ta tell me yer stuck up in thet there tree?”
      “Yep. Seems with trees what climbs up cain’t always climb down.”
      “An’ now ya ‘spect me ta git a ladder an’ hep ya git down?”
      “Yeah, was hopin’ ya would.”
      “Sorry Kid. Ya said ta heck with our writer, so jist now, I’m gonna go write my own flash. Ya kin wait fer D. Avery ta show up and write ya down outta there, or ya kin write the ending yerself. But me, I’m goin’ off ta write a story.”
      “It’s called ‘Tree Huggin’ Kid’.”

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        (Please note: Pal will not be helping Kid out anytime soon and who knows about D. Avery? Please feel free to write this character down out of this lovely shade tree that Shorty has graciously planted and nurtured in front of the bunkhouse at Carrot Ranch.)

      • susansleggs

        “Kid, if you think about it, you can get down.”
        “Yes you can. Think about the position of your hands and feet took for each climbing step and reverse them.”
        “That’d be like writing prose backwards. I only know how to go forward.”
        “Not true….you know how to edit by rearranging or removing. In this case you just have to rearrange by going backwards.”
        “Maybe I’ll try it come daylight.”
        “I’ll have the Ranch cook brew up some strong coffee in the morning…..smelling that’ll get you moving.”
        “Maybe now is a better time if there’s coffee.”

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Ha! Thanks! (Bacon is also a good incentive, sayin’)

    • Charli Mills

      Kid’s up a tree and D. Avery is missing! Sue steps in and Shorty might have, too (gotta catch the final words of the next collection).

  14. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Knowledge of Tree

    He’d gone to her, as most did, as a last resort.
    “You will feel peace when you find a special tree.”
    And so he wandered. He’d crossed desert landscapes and alpine heights but none of the few trees encountered were the one. He wandered deep into the forest searching among the many trees for the one.
    After many seasons he knew the different tribes of trees, recognized their many gifts. Resting now, his back against a sturdy trunk, cooled by the leafy whispering shade, he realized he had long ago ceased to search for the one. He sighed, content.

    • Charli Mills

      You can never have just one tree! Yes, I sighed content at the final line, too.

    • susansleggs

      Not sure I’ve seen your name before Jen. Welcome. I liked your poem, and yes what a waste to cut the beauty and leave it’s trunk.

    • Charli Mills

      Welcome to Carrot Ranch, Jen! Your submission went through and will be in the collection. Thanks!

      • Jen Goldie

        Great! Thanks ????

    • Charli Mills

      Sounds like a good thing for Marge to do!

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks for your thoughts and flash, Michael!

  15. Norah

    I don’t think I have visited a totally tree-less landscape, Charli, though I have lived in and visited semi-arid places where the trees are low-growing and not as majestic as the pines, eucalypts and oaks. I love the trees and greenery of all kinds and am saddened when so many are felled to accommodate homes of one species while destroying homes of many others. We seem to be erasing habits and species quicker than we can count.
    How different would life be for your daughter in her frozen tree-less landscape. It must hold other treasures. I hope she enjoyed her birthday, and that you enjoy yours in a day or two.
    There is already quite a collection of stories submitted but, thankfully, no one has yet tackled my chosen topic, though a couple wrote similarly to my first thoughts.
    Your flash is interesting and it’s good to see that Danni trusts Ike’s judgement. The cemetery perhaps holds more stories for her than does the tree.

    • Norah

      Hi Charli,
      I’m back now with my tree story. I hope you like it.

      What lives in trees?

      The teacher displayed photographs of trees.

      “We’ve been learning about where animals live. Today, we’ll list animals that live in trees.”

      Hands shot up, bursting to contribute.

      The teacher wrote:

      possums, koalas, beetles, snakes, birds …

      Amir’s English was developing but his classmates were puzzled when he said what sounded like ‘goat’.

      “Repeat,” encouraged the teacher.


      When asked, Amir drew a tree with a recognisable goat standing in it.

      “Not story,” smiled the teacher. “Real.”

      Amir nodded and pointed to the laptop. “Google.”

      A quick search confirmed it.

      Everyone cheered. Amir added to their knowledge tree that day.

      • Charli Mills

        What a fun story, Norah! I wonder what teachers did before Google to help back up a fact others questioned?

      • Norah

        I’m pleased you enjoyed the story, Charli. Life was difficult in pre-internet days so far as answering questions goes. Not many homes owned encyclopedias and not many classrooms held one either. I’m doubtful that the amount of information available through these articles would have been matched by anything available in schools in my time.

      • Jules

        That’s a new one… but if those clever animals can climb some really odd mountains and rocks – I guess a tree wouldn’t be problematic at all. 🙂

      • Norah

        That’s true, Jules.

      • Charli Mills

        I don’t think teachers were as thoughtful back in the “olden” days, either. At least not in the US. You went to school to become American, not to share your cultural identity. That is sad. Many cultures were harmed by that attitude.

      • Norah

        I think you’re right. Assimilation, rather than diversity, was the mainfare on the agenda.

    • Charli Mills

      Like you, Norah, I’ve experienced those arid places with bushy trees or unusual shapes like Joshua’s. But I can’t recall a treeless place. I think the pioneers found the prairies treeless and unnerving because of it. That’s where we get stories of them burning buffalo chips as fuel. Funny thing is, once homesteaded, they planted trees and those vast swaths are full. I feel sad too when progress leads to deforestation.

      Thanks for commenting on Danni. I think she sees the tree as part of the landscape where those stories emerge. And thanks for the birthday wishes! <3

      • Norah

        Hmm. I’ve just been reading a book about the treatment of our indigenous peoples by the early European settlers and the changes that were made to the landscape through foreign processes. Makes me wonder about your prairies too.
        I love Danni and enjoy finding out more about her and Ike.

      • Charli Mills

        We nearly lost our prairies to the plows and housing. There’s been a movement to recreate natural spaces. I love writing about the natural prairies, to try and imagine what they were like with grasses so deep and roaming buffalo herds. My Rock Creek characters got to experience the pre-plow prairies. Isn’t it mind-boggling to consider how long indigenous people lived in harmony as hunters and gatherers and gardeners, then along come the progressive merchants and the farmers.

  16. Jennie

    How wonderful and interesting, Charli.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Jennie!

      • Jennie

        You’re welcome, Charli!

  17. reading journeys

    Hi Charli

    Wonderful blog and FF posts: I thought of real & mythical trees; Norse mythology — Yggdrasil. The journeys and writings of John Muir came to mind. And lines from Robert Frost’s poem, The Sound of The Trees:

    “…. Sometimes when I watch trees sway,
    From the window or the door.
    I shall set forth for somewhere,
    I shall make the reckless choice….”

    Thank you! And my FF is in.

    • Charli Mills

      John Muir and California trees are close to my heart, Saifun. Thanks for sharing Robert Frost!

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Jo!

    • Charli Mills

      They are both beautiful creative expressions!

    • Jules

      I enjoyed both 🙂

  18. D. Avery @shiftnshake


    Strong leaders of proud communities, they were protectors, providers of sanctuary, comfort, inspiration.
    How they danced! Sweeping, stretching, swaying movements, at once bold and gentle, a beautiful ballet.
    They were poets and prophets, translating the ancient secrets of stone, their every whispered word lyrical and mystical. They were emissaries, bridging Heaven and Earth. They were heard by any who listened.
    Nobody listened. Their ballet became frenzied, their movements frantic and desperate. Their toppled bodies and exposed roots a broken covenant, we are disconnected.
    The sky is falling.
    We didn’t listen.
    They are silenced, gone. Winds and waters roar, unimpeded.

    • Charli Mills

      What a powerful use of “the sky is falling” after the transition from mystical dance to frenzied warnings. That last line — with no trees to shelter us in our denial.

  19. Sascha Darlington

    Your daughter sounds like a story unto herself.

    I cringed initially when I read your piece until I came to “diseased.” I live where people chop down trees with total disregard, a trait that nauseates me because it speaks to the “me” mindset without realizing the planet and “we” aspect.

    • Charli Mills

      Sascha, I would say that’s true about my daughter!

      One aspect of forestry in Idaho is that a firewood permit holder can only cut deadfall or fall diseased trees. I think it teaches people to be better stewards. We are we — all the me’s connect.

      • Sascha Darlington

        I wish that all people understood this. I am frustrated by my neighbors who continually cut down trees as if they don’t matter.

  20. Pete

    The school said the trees were blocking the cameras. It was for our safety. The acorns clogged the gutters and damaged the roof.

    They did it on a teacher workday. One week before Earth Day.

    Mom said it was sad, but I still had to go to school.

    What was I learning? That nature was disposable? That the admins were cowards? That century old oaks and their shade and shelter, with their gnarled knots and smooth roots, were such a nuisance they should be massacred when no one was looking?

    No thanks. I would rather be in the woods.

    • Ann Edall-Robson

      The woods for me as well, Pete.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Yep, it’s a sad thing to take the trees down in our community places, a bad lesson.

    • Charli Mills

      The safety hazards are those who can’t embrace the life found in trees.

  21. Ann Edall-Robson

    An interesting journey took place for me this week. I wrote not one, but four stories for my Hanna’s Story saga. The other three will sit simmering, waiting for a prompt that will give them life.

    Apple Tree
    By Ann Edall-Robson


    “Mac. Coffee?”

    “No thanks, just looking for the kids.”


    He pointed out the window.

    “They’ve been out there toe to toe debating for quite a while.”

    A quiet rumbling from Mac told Mrs. Johnson he was laughing.

    “He sure gets under her skin.”

    “And she pushes back just as hard.”

    Mrs. Johnson’s comment was accentuated by Hanna poking Tal in the cheese before walking towards the barn.

    “We’ll need to keep an eye on those two. Might be the apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree.”

    Liz heard the door close, leaving her alone in the cookhouse.

      • Ann Edall-Robson

        Me as well, D. I am enjoying how Charli’s prompts take my characters all over the place.

    • Charli Mills

      Oh, wow, Ann! That’s great! This story and its characters have a hold on you. They have a hold on me, too. I feel the inter-generational story simmering.

      • Ann Edall-Robson

        The things that show up on paper when you’re having fun.

  22. susansleggs

    Daughter #2 has my respect. Not sure I would have enjoyed living in those conditions even at a younger age, but I would have liked to defeat the elements. I look forward to finding out how she ended up living where she is. Driving through Alberta, from Calgary to Banff, there are no trees, I was happy when we got further south back into the firs. It felt like we were back among the living. I have read one of Craig Childs books, hence no dialogue this week. (Big step for me) Happy birthday.

    Through the Woods

    Me and my dog walk down the hill through the woods to the river most days, usually to bring the cows back up to the barn. In the springtime we pick leeks that grow under the black walnut trees. Rascal rolls in them and Mama gets mad because he stinks. In the fall we collect the nuts. They’re bitter but add a good flavor to cookies. If we sit quiet under the willow in the summer we see beaver swimming and deer drinking. I wish the house had been built down by the river. It’d save lots of walking.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      That’s a soothing flash. I can even see the stained hands from gathering the walnuts and I can smell the leeks.

    • Charli Mills

      Strong flash! Look at you write, Sue — no quotation marks! It’s not yet refuge time and yet there you are walking boldly into a strong sense of place with your writing. I hope you’ll enjoy our Craig Childs lesson, as there is much we can glean from his writing. Which book did you read? I look forward to all the story-swapping we’ll get to do.

      • susansleggs

        I read “The Way Out” and enjoyed it. I can only dream of being a strong enough person physically to be a desert walker. What a way to live, or is it escape as in his buddy’s case.

      • Charli Mills

        Deserts are intense wilderness areas. Another book you might enjoy is Animal Dialogs. He writes great southwestern anthropology and I’m amazed at the cultures who thrived in the desert. My favorite is The Desert Cries, about flash floods.

    • Charli Mills

      I know what you mean about that “rightness,” Nicole. Thanks for joining us with trees!

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      An ass-inine point of view. You have more twists than Chubby Checker on a Saturday night.

      • anuragbakhshi

        Ha ha ha. Thank you so much 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      What a crazy-fun thing to do, Anurag — go to Serbia, hunting for stories! Welcome back!

      • anuragbakhshi

        Thank you so much Charli 🙂

  23. pedometergeek

    Childhood Memory

    Before Mister Rogers Neighborhood and Sesame Street, there was a local program called Luci’s Toy Shop.

    Luci had puppet characters including George the Giraffe, Dragon, and Mr. Tree.
    Mr. Tree talked after he was awakened with a song.

    “Hi there, Mr. Tree, we’re very glad to see you.
    Wake up Mr. Tree; it’s daytime, can’t you see?’

    With a big yawn, Mr. Tree would finally wake up, and he and Luci would converse about the day of the week. Eventually, Luci would slip, saying the word sleep and Mr. Tree would fall back to sleep until the next time.

    Nancy Brady, 2019

    • Charli Mills

      Nan, I appreciate this memory and the sweet sleep of Mr Tree.

      • pedometergeek

        I can still sing the song. I always wanted to stop Luci from uttering the word-that-must-not-be-spoken, but Mr. Tree was too clever and tricked her into it every time. The station was located in Columbus, Ohio as was Lazarus. The flagship store was six stories high and the children’s department was on the sixth floor. One of the delights of my young life was visiting Lazarus during the holiday season once or twice. One year they had Mr. Tree there, and he would talk to whomever wandered by. Of course, eventually, it was time for him to go to sleep.
        Fast forward thirty years…Lazarus had taken over Rike’s department story, and one year when my sons were about the same age I was when I saw Mr. Tree in person, the Dayton store had a Mr. Tree who talked to them. It was magical! ~nan

      • Charli Mills

        What wonderful memories, Nan! It must have felt like a magical moment to get to experience your sons having one similar to yours. I can understand the significance of Mr. Tree.

  24. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Joelle!

  25. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Gordon!

  26. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Annette!

  27. Charli Mills

    Welcome to Carrot Ranch, Leanne!

  28. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Kate!

  29. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Sarah!

  30. Jules

    Wish I had American Chestnuts… I’ve got Horse Chestnuts…

  31. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Chelsea!

  32. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Sally!

  33. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Frank!

  34. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Tracey!

  35. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Robert!


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