Yellow leaves and snowflakes fill the air. Chickadees burst from the snow-covered brush, searching for seeds and braving human contact. One such bird flutters so forcefully in my direction as I toss a toy for Mause I can see the intricate array of single feathers forming fans to encircle the bird in paused flight. It forms an unforgettable and dubious image in my mind.

Unforgettable for obvious reasons — who can unsee the beauty of nature, resist yet another sunset, or catch the shape of something ephemeral? Once I saw the chickadee fully fanned, my imagination recognized a living image. How that image plays out seven years or seven generations from now is up to the great mystery of life. Yes, I saw it; but didn’t you see it, too?

Dubious for reasons of memory-making. Somehow, we expect our memory to record a given moment clearly as a snapshot. But we are humans, not machines. We all experience input, yet vary in which details to grab, which details to believe. Did I really see both wings and tailfeathers of the paused chickadee fully fanned or did my mind sharpen the blur my eyes caught? Did the feathers make a sound? Did Mause? What did the day smell like? The new snow? What was I feeling at the time? Thinking?

Do you think it matters that memory and imagination are roommates? I’m a truth-seeker, a dreamer, a creative writer, a literary artist. Truth matters to me. Yet truth is not found only in facts and clear unfiltered memories; truth is found in living images. The truth is, factually, a bird flew in my direction when I went outside with my dog. My truth is that a chickadee spread wings so close to me I could see universal beauty. Another truth is that a stupid bird startled someone who gasped and thought who cares what type it was? Thus, image-making is where writers play with pieces of memories like Legos. Yet, by playing, we are spinning the truth — not to change it but to see it from different perspectives; to deepen our experiences and the truth of them.

As a craft, we can add all kinds of elements to give shape to our images, our memories, our fictional truths. We can blend facts with stories; pair new ideas to old objects; give analysis emotional intelligence. We can play with words, build worlds, and bring characters to life. Writers are the best dreamers because we first write in the imaginal and then on the page. Dreamers need to cultivate a bridge between the imaginal and the waking world. Writers use that bridge all the time. Even when forming a memory to commit to story.

My ideas feel flakey to me. Not that I’m admitting to being a flake, even if I do write in a Unicorn Room. Somewhere, if I dig deeply enough, there is a gold nugget in my mind. In the meantime, I sift for flakes of its existence. I don’t know what this idea is, but I know it exists. It drives me to be curious about things like imagination, truth, deep psyche, and collective unconscious. It calls me to pay attention to the wonders around me, including Dreams. The gold nugget is my goal when I write, following the flakes. Beginning this Friday, I get to study dreams and the deep imagination.

What will I learn? How will that change the course of my thinking?

Despite the snow, my rambling thoughts, and the distraction of gold leaves on white ground, a hundred images visited me tonight. Halloween is a great time to people-watch. And remember how human we all are at the neighborhood level (let us not forget to build and maintain our villages). The tiny toddlers in fabric costumes over snow coats and fleecy baby lambs didn’t quite know what was going on as parents collected candy. I shared knowing winks. The ones old enough to understand the candy collection can be strong grabbers of handfuls, eyes glazed. The older groups run together, some dressed alike or to a theme.

A grandmother drove through the neighborhood, and each time her little tricky-treater jumped out, she grinned. I stood on my doorstep and grinned back. Soon, any day, soon I’ll be a grandma, too. I wonder how that will shape my living images? And I may never know because there will always be something to be learned or realized. How I write, where I gain inspiration, even why I write, will change — evolve; become.

Maybe I don’t really want to find the nugget of knowledge. Forever chasing flakes feels more appealing. Dream on, writers!

October 31, 2023, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story using the word or idea, flakes. What or who is a flake? Is there tension or phenomenon that is creating flakes? Can flakes be massive or minute? Go to your flakiest memories for living images to play with. Go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by November 6, 2023. Please use the form below if you want to be published in the weekly collection. The Collection publishes on the Thursday following the next Challenge. Stories must be 99 words. Rules & Guidelines.
  2. Writers retain all copyrights to any stories published at Carrot Ranch.
  3. 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.
  4. Please include your byline with your title on one line. Example: Little Calves by Charli Mills. Your byline can be different from your name.
  5. Please include the hashtag #99WordStories when sharing either the Challenge or Collection posts on social media.

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