“Maple leaves turn red first.” One of my Warrior Sisters pointed across the Houghton Canal to a ridge of woods flashing autumn colors. I’m not familiar enough with the North Woods to repeat the assertion, but it reminds me of something an organic farmer once told me in Minnesota. “White flowers emerge first.”
Whether you live where spring has sprung or fall has descended, we have crested the equinox.
The Keweenaw is my community. My home. Home is turning colors and though uncertain about what transitions come next, I’m ready. Ready as a birch tree. Recently I hiked Quincy Hill, pausing to catch my breath and thoughts alongside a pair of birch. As I palmed twin trunks and leaned forward, the trees flexed. Strength comes with flexibility to withstand the winds. I felt solid on my peninsula, holding on, swaying, and trusting what comes of roots.
Here is where I plant mine. I’m a California Girl, long gone from the state that still holds nine generations of my family. I’m a Montana Transplant far from the Queen City of the Rockies. I’ve lived in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Kansas, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona and Nebraska where my third great grand-uncle got himself shot by Wild Bill Hickok. My feet are in Michigan, and sometimes in Vermont.
I’m from everywhere and nowhere. So I follow the People of the Heart.
In Michigan, that means the Good People, the Indigenous, the Anishinaabe and the Finns. Two cultures who know their roots and their mother tongue. In Vermont, I follow the old roots of mountain people who know who they are and live in accordance with nature. Ultimately, that is always where I feel at home — in nature.
For practical purposes, I’m sorting out possibilities on the Keweenaw. One is that I can buy the Roberts Street House from my Wounded Warrior who can’t stay still any longer. I told him this was the last move for me. I’m done rambling about. I’m not a young tumbleweed anymore. I have students, an office, miles of rocky shoreline, friends, veteran community. I have a Ranch and a determination to have writers in residence when the leaves turn red. I have intentions to return annually to Vermont. Maybe see down under, one day. Catch a flower when my leaves fall.
Now is muddy but mud makes bricks and bricks build stories. I’m at peace and feel joy in my heart.
Today, I coerced college students into a discussion, promising them early release if everyone participated and answered the questions. If not, I told them what they already know — I can fill up the time, talking. They all participated and came up with the insight that heavy topics in literature are bearable — even enjoyable to read — when the protagonist balances conflict with perseverance. They also learned I’m not great with dates on a calendar.
Thinking I had the date right, I dressed with intention, wearing a stunning pair of Anishinaabe earrings, a dark green dress, tights and bronze shoes. I had been asked to introduce Angeline Boulley, a great honor. I carefully crafted an introduction to recognize the 1854 Ceded Territory of the Ojibwe. My only mistake was the date. She’s presenting to our University next Thursday.
Linear time was not made for the likes of me. But I manage.
It wasn’t a bust. My Warrior Sisters met at the canal-side home of one of ours, enjoying the patio, water and company. I was too nervous to eat much and left early to the presentation that was not yet. Happily, I returned to the patio party and ate more! We watched a loon fly and the Ranger III pass beneath the Lift Bridge. In the video, you can hear us chattering as we film the ship. One of my WS’s tells me that she got caught on the bridge during a lift! Do not underestimate Vietnam Veteran Spouses. These Ladies are my role models. They are resilient and fun to be around.
Typically, the Ranch would be decked out for the Flash Fiction Rodeo. This year, I’m taking a hiatus from the Rodeo to finish unfinished feedback and think through what next. I dream big and broad and need to decide what is manageable, what supports the Carrot Ranch Literary Community, and what services will be my bread and beans. I want to simplify with meaningful opportunities for writers and time for my writing, coaching and teaching.
I’m grateful to our Rodeo Leaders, Judges, Patrons, and Columnists. In the language of my borrowed home, Chi Miiwech! Big thank you! I’m grateful for the Saddle Up Saloon and our Poets. We are growing, not shrinking. But we are growing mindfully. In fact, we have a new installment to offer at the Saddle Up Saloon where characters run the place.
While kayaking, or maybe it was by the campfire, or over a non-competitive game of Scrabble, D. Avery came up with a way to spotlight the many authors we have in and about the Ranch.
In October, we are introducing the Carrot Ranch Author’s Chair. Did you ever get to sit in one in grade school? D. recalls that many elementary school classrooms had a special chair where a young writer would read their work to their cohort. When finished they would announce, “I’m ready for questions or comments.”
The Carrot Ranch Author’s Chair will be a regular feature at the Saddle Up Saloon. Anyone can volunteer to take part; anything can be read, including previously published or prompted pieces. Pick something that is important or memorable for you. Send the text, audio or video recording, and some background to the piece to D. Avery (email@example.com) for posting on a second Monday at the Saloon.
We want to encourage reader interaction and invite the community to ask questions of the featured author. A week after posting, we will randomly draw a name from those who asked questions to offer a free book from the Carrot Ranch Community. Shorty will pick the book and mail it to the winner (this is also a way to support our published authors). Kid and Pal will introduce the featured author. We encourage you to send a voice recording (YouTube or SoundCloud). Get signed up with D.!
In October, I have a heavy load of client work, updates, midterms (to grade!), and a week on the Northshore of Lake Superior (Minnesota). If anyone is interested in being a guest challenge host, let me know (firstname.lastname@example.org). Otherwise, I will have a two-week challenge mid-month.
To prepare for the Carrot Ranch Author’s Chair, we are all going to take a seat this week.
September 23, 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about an author’s chair. It can belong to any author. Where is it located and why? Does it have special meaning? Go where the prompt leads!
Respond by September 28, 2021. 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.
And Still They Are Missing by Charli Mills
Louise pressed her back against a cottonwood tree, dipped her pen into the ink jar and wrote in her journal. “Silver vanished before the snowmelt and now the mountain aspen turn gold.” Her pen paused. Ink pooled. What else to say? The miners hauled more ore. Investors traded stock. Silver’s mother waited for her “Lord” to return from England. Rumors circulated that Bigfoot carried off Louise’s best friend. No one looked. Only Lord Chalmer’s disappearance made headlines in The Argonaut. One day, Louise vowed to sit in the author’s chair and give voice to the girls sentenced and silenced.