A big horse fly buzzes from one window to the next. Each time the winged intruder hits a window, the glass makes a thunking pop. I duck as buzzing nears my desk. Why do flies bust down the doors to get inside only to frantically hunt for ways to escape?
Like a disoriented fly, I carry armloads of books downstairs from my Finlandia office. Profs arrive with boxes and I wonder why I thought I could do this task without containment. Books scatter in disarray in my truck.
Each passing in the hall illicits, “What next for you?”
“I don’t know,” is the common response. A few profs have already found new positions. One is heading to Montana. A part of me that will always feel home pull from out West wants to load my stuff in his truck and blow out of town.
The impulse is “flight.” Avoidance of the work it takes to begin again. Seriously, how many beginnings do I get?
When I pull up to my home on Roberts Street, I let the front garden soothe my jangly nerves. I’m aware of the day, of the lateness of my post, of all responsibilities, but I’m so off my schedule, I can’t remember what Tuesday means. So I examine my emerging flowers and let nature calm me, remind me that Tuesday doesn’t have to mean anything.
I’m in awe of life. Tarragon spears the soil with red stalks. Delphinium rounds into a bushy pile of fresh leaf salad. Scraggly lavender spreads. Tulips unfurl fancy wavy blades. One green stick announces the survival of Todd’s tea-cup rose. Phlox greens. Glories of the snow pop their purple heads from the Poet Tree’s leaf litter. Trout lily leaves blend as effortlessly as a trout hiding in a stream. And succulents appear like a plant mosaic among Gratiot beach flagstones, a work of nature’s art. Not only does life find a way, it signals the Beauty Way.
It’s in these moments I find what I need to. Reminders. Encouragement. Wonder.
Today, I interacted with my Finlandia staff more than usual. Everyone wanted to connect, use nostalgia to sooth our disorientation. We paused to comment on the dismantling of offices, some decades old. We didn’t share stories, we made thunking pops as we edged around desks and book cases in the stairwell. Good will toward humanity hung in the air like a living thing between us and you had to be in that hall at that moment to catch it. The campus was a desert. The parking lot empty but for our trucks. I lingered when I turned in my office key, knowing the door was not only closed but locked. We’d all depart in different directions.
At home, I had legal papers to contend with, although with no key and the assurance of my final check on Friday, I don’t think the papers matter. Yet, I set them aside in case I don’t get paid and have to file a claim. Another legal document I signed yesterday in hopes of extending a contract for freelance work. I feel untethered between incomes. But it’s good. Theoretically. On paper. Even the timing is set to work out.
Meanwhile, I’m finding a flow like my garden and visiting fly. Since October, I’ve been on a journey to explore mythic imagination with Sharon Blackie as a guide. It’s my Hagitude work. Today’s lesson makes sense to me: Death.
She looks back over her life, understanding cause and effect, and takes responsibility forThe Fool’s Journey by Sharon Blackie
her past actions and beliefs – the double-edged sword of consequences – in order to ensure a
truer approach to the future (Justice). In order to carry on, the Fool must learn to let go, and
enter the Underworld (the Hanged Man). This can represent a period that is difficult to endure:
an existential crisis, a challenge, a loss, a breaking.
Life and death are one. We live as if death is the end, but in truth, we all experience little deaths. Women in particular have a season of deaths. The child dies so the maiden lives; the maiden dies so the hag lives; the hag dies so her bones join the ancestors to feed the earth for the next generations. It’s like Jung’s theory of Wholeness — the light and shadow of our many selves must integrate into a Wholeness to actualize the Self. We live in the tension created between the duality of life and death.
Over the weekend, we paid a quick trip to Wisconsin to see our son and his wife before his sabbatical. They leave for Germany and Switzerland in two weeks. All three of our grown kids are facing major life changes and we want to be involved in their lives throughout the ups and downs. I feel like I’m sitting on a keg of secrets in the meantime. But they are not mine, so sit I must. Life is changing for many of us. The joke is that life is always changing and none of us get to escape consequences. We all get sequels.
My garden is different this year. And I want to re-home the rambling roses. All in due course. Sprouts emerge all over Carrot Ranch. Some of you have entered your writing and await news. Some of you are poised to publish more books. It’s hard to wait in the inbetween stages. I want to snap my fingers and be a hag. But the process is not done with me. I die my little deaths and wonder what nature will think of my next emergence.
It’s no secret that I have plans for Carrot Ranch and expanding my veteran work into my literary teaching goals. I’m excited to be working with Colleen on the first Around the Campfire literary journal we’ll publish under Gitty Up Press (be sure to check out the details for submission). I have a lot of details to point in the direction of my North Star this week, but then…
…it’s Vermont time! Loons, paddling, campfires. As much as D. Avery can put up with from me. I’ll be in full smiley mode by the time my plane lands, ready to let go the endings, and play until the new beginnings take shape. Then, I’ll return to Roberts Street to tend the gardens and possibilities. I’m grateful for all the beginnings I get.
This post is late, but so will it’s collection be. I’ve extended the prompt deadline to May 23 and will post the Collection on May 30. The next Challlenge posts May 29. That will give you time to also work on submissions to Around the Campfire (wink, wink). I’ll return refreshed, on the other side of closure, and in full frontal door opening mode. Then, I’ll let you in on a secret!
May 9, 2023, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about two who cankeep a secret. Is the secret between them or is one keeping a secret from the other. Who are they? What remains unknown? What is revealed? Go where the prompt leads!
- EXTENDED DEADLINE: Submit by May 23, 2023. Please use the form below if you want to be published in the weekly collection. The Collection publishes on the Wednesday following the next Challenge. Stories must be 99 words. Rules & Guidelines.
- Writers retain all copyrights to any stories published at Carrot Ranch.
- A website or social media presence is not required to submit. A blog or social media link will be included in the title of any story submitted with one.
- Please include your byline with your title on one line. Example: Little Calves by Charli Mills. Your byline can be different from your name.
- Please include the hashtag #99WordStories when sharing either the Challenge or Collection posts on social media.