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Pure Michigan Lit

S.M.A.G. Kindness Among Bloggers

S.M.A.G., Norah Colvin, @NorahClovin

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Finding the Balance—Healing through Creativity

Over the years, negativity and fear have adversely affected our relationships, environment, and health. That has resulted in violent crimes, global warming, financial crisis, and planetary shifts. We all have seen the transformation happening in our pace of life. The result is an imbalance in our energy, and that has lead to a poor connection with our fellow humans.

Which came first, the chicken or the egg? 

We always wonder about the above question, don’t we? 

This question has been around for ages, and the answer is still unknown.

The question we always pose is: How can we balance our lives amidst the chaos prevalent inside and outside us? 

Balance word is not just a noun, but also a word that can throw us off a see-saw if we do not hold our grip. It’s like a tightrope walker walking on a line. It’s intricate, so the walker uses a balancing pole in her hands while walking on that rope.

The same holds for all of us. We want a balanced life. Be happy. Be content with the success and the bounties. But are we truly there?

Most of us spend our lives looking for answers; some pretend they got the answer, while a handful of us look for signs from the Universe.

I feel balance comes when we are present in our lives. And one can only be present when we are internally aligned.

The internal alignment comes first, and then the balance is experienced externally.

All of humanity is in search for that balance.

Balance is not only intricate within us, but also plays a vital role in our environment. It is a universal search, and it stretches around us and is within us at a cellular level. Our body’s hormones function courtesy the balance. We see many examples daily, such as when the seed sprouts. It is due to the balance in the conditions of water and oxygen that comes into play. The balance between the air pressure and the feathers and firm muscles make the birds fly. The balance of our constellation that allows our planet to spin and continue to make it our home.

Now that we realize that balance is critical for any living being.

This balance about a human comes from being mindful of his/her emotions. That energy that you exhale out is potent. It comes through your spoken or written words, and just your physical presence.

We can choose to pollute our environment and bring chaos by the choice of our words, or we could filter them and expel only to balance our surroundings and make it beautiful.

In this column, I will explore how we individuals who love to write can fertilize our thoughts mindfully, and deliver our work with love. We can use protection on our thoughts and conceive them intently. This can help create that balance within us so that we can continue to heal the world around us via our words of positivity and wisdom.

There is a Native American parable about a grandfather who says; I feel as if I have two wolves fighting in my heart. One wolf is the vengeful, angry one. The other wolf is the loving, compassionate one.” When asked which wolf will win the fight in his heart, the old man replies, “The one I feed.”

Saddle Up Saloon; Open Mic Poetry Time of the Sign

Saddle Up Saloon

“What’s happening on stage this week, Kid?”

“Poetry. Open mic.”

“Shut the front door!”

“Yep, but it ain’t quite a slam. Fer one it ain’t competitive, an’ fer two—”

“No, Kid, shut the front door, or the back door. Somethin’s gotten inta the saloon, cain’t quite figger whut it is runnin’ about the place. Do ya see ‘em? Jeez, Kid, looks like little … cowboys… in chaps…”

“Pal, have you been samplin’ the wares? Yer eyes is playin’ tricks on ya, is all. Focus, we gotta git tready fer this poetry open mic. Like I was sayin’, with our set up it’s kinda hard ta see an’ hear the spoken word so— ”

“Spoke an’ words? Like spokes of a wheel?”

“Uh, sure Pal, an’ this here saloon’s the hub. So it’s spoken word at the saloon this week. ‘Cept folks gotta write it fer us. So a slim slam, poems of 99, 59, or 9 words, short an’ sweet. Or savory. Or raw. Folks kin jist leave their slim slams as a comment.”

“Kid, shouldn’t ya a done this in April, when it was Poetry Month an’ folks was doin’ thet NaPoWriMo thang? We’re inta the third week a May now.”

“Hey, now, May be, Pal, but April was kinda rough, fact I ain’t so sure there was an April, sure seemed like one long March. Anyway’s this is jist a fun thing ta do any time an’ it’s also ta hep celebrate the tremendous growth a the off shoot poet tree that’s out back a the saloon. Yep, through the miracle a fiction, an’ plen’y a fertilizer, thet little whip grew in a flash an’ is darn near as big as the original back at the ranch!”

“Well, thet’s real good, Kid, folks’ll find inspiration at thet tree. Heck, even I writ some buckaroo-ku at the ‘riginal poet tree. But do you ‘member our first time poemin’? It was fer the 2017 Rodeo, when the Ranch’s Poet Lariat, Jules, gave thet gem of a contest, Septolet In Motion.”

“Oh, yeah, that was a fun form. Fourteen words in seven lines with a break somewheres. Then it was you Pal, come up with the first buckaroo-ku.”

“Yep an’ soon after’s when the ‘riginal poet tree showed up in front a the bunkhouse. An’ now we got this saloon an’ a second tree out back. I jist hope you don’t go gittin’ stuck an’ fallin’ outta this tree like ya done afore.”

“Pal! I seen ‘em, yer teeny tiny cowboys. Quick little fellas, ain’t they? An’ lissen. Is that piano music?”

“Sounds like, Kid.”

“Hello? Kid? Hello?”

“Come right in, the Saloon door’s always open. What kin we do ya for?”

“I think I’m looking for A. Kidd…”

“Well, sure ‘nough, I’m Kid, an’ this here’s Pal. My gosh you’re a jumpy one. Ya got fleas or somethin’?”

“Uh, no. Not fleas. Something else. Faeries.”

“What’s yer name, stranger?”

“They call me Twitch. Yow! What?”

“I’ll bet they do. So what brings ya here ta the Saddle Up, Twitch?”

“Someone by the name of S.H. Ortiz hired me to make a sign. I lost the address where I was supposed to deliver it but recall that the name A. Kidd was mentioned. I gaggled the name and was directed here.”

“D’ya mean ta say googled?”

“Ugh, my words and letters have been all mixed up because of the chapfaeries. Anyway, Kid, here’s your sign.”

“Not sure it’s meant for me Twitch, but let’s have a look. Oh, that is beautiful! But ‘otter pee’? Ya sure yer sign’s meant ta say ‘otter pee’?”

“Ya oughta if ya gotta, Twitch. Restroom’s down thet way.”

“No! Those darn chap fairies moved my letters around. And now I can’t remember what exactly the sign was supposed to say.”

“Relax, Twitch, we’ll hep ya out, won’t we Kid?”

“Sure thing. Pal, ya reckon what Shorty thought was errorists all this time was really chapfaeries?”

“Could be. Twitch, what kin ya tell us ‘bout these here chapfaeries?”

“You know, dang western faeries who wear chaps and just want to be at the center of everything. I could not keep them off the sign. I didn’t know they were attached to the piano wood I harvested from the woods. Every time I turned around, they were dancing on the sign and two of them stuck.”

IMG_5815“Whoa, stop. Back up there Twitch. What is piano wood?”

“The chapfaeries led me to a spot far out in the woods. And there on top of a hill was an upright piano. So I salvaged it. Used some of the wood from it for your sign.”

“Is thet why we’ve been hearin’ piano music?”

“Yes, Pal, when the faeries are around, the piano wood makes music.”

“Huh. Well let’s git back ta figgerin’ thet sign out. If yer sure it ain’t s’posed ta say otter pee, then what? Rope! Thet makes sense… extra letters… rope teet, naw. Trope. Trope Tee? Naw.”

“Twitch, look it that. One a them fairies is tyin’ yer boot lace fer ya.”

“Shhh… ‘Nuther un is workin’ at the letters on the sign… p-o-e-t-t-r-e-e… Poet Tree! Kid, it’s a sign fer the poet tree!”

“Which poet tree? The one back at the ranch by the bunkhouse? Or the one out back a this here saloon? Or is it fer the poet tree at World Headquarters? Dang, I sure wish that Charli Mills kept better track a things.”

“Charli Mills? World Headquarters? In Hancock, Michigan?”

“Yep, that’s right Twitch.”

“Oof. I got turned around. This sign is supposed to be at Headquarters— it’s for the Roberts Street Writery!”

IMG_5814

“Well, why don’tcha rest up here at the saloon afore heading back ta the real world, Twitch, least long ‘nough ta round up them feisty little chapfaeries.”

“Yeah, Twitch, hang out a while. Mebbe that sign will inspire folks ta leave some poetry in the comments fer folks ta injoy.”

“Do you have cherry mead behind that bar?”

“Yep. The Saddle Up has anything and everything imaginable. Though I never imagined we’d have chapfaeries.”

“Ok, folks, it’s a poetry slim. It’s open mic all week long at the Saloon. Slip yer poems inta the comments. Try an’ git ‘em ta be jist 9, 59, or 99 words.”

 

A Poem,  by A. Kidd

No particular reason

Doesn’t have ta rhyme

That’s nine!

Doesn’t have ta be Ranch related

Or ’bout characters at a saloon

Could be, as poems often are

About the sun or other stars

Or the constant moon

Serious or funny, entirely up to you

Limerick or couplets or some buckaroo-ku

In whatever form, leave some nifty lines

That’s fifty-nine!

Going ta the back forty

Jist ta show it kin be done

Inspired by them chapfaeries

So mischievous and fun.

And what a talented artist, that Toj who made the sign

Perfect for Charli’s Writery

An’ guess what? That’s ninty-nine!

 

The poet tree sign was made by Tammy Toj Gajewski at Red Rabbit Studio, her base in Rabbit Bay, MI. Toj is a ‘teacher of joy’ and happily retired. She earned her BFA at UW- River Falls and her MPA from Northern Michigan University. You can find her walking her dogs in Rabbit Bay and playing with her Chaphaeries in her studio.

 

If asked, Pal & Kid will deny that they spill from the pen of D. Avery. They claim to be free ranging characters who live and work at Carrot Ranch and now serve up something fresh every Monday at the Saddle Up Saloon. If you or your characters are interested in saddling up for a wild ride as a saloon guest, contact D. Avery at averydede.1@gmail.com .

Next week- blog blustering!

May 14: Flash Fiction Challenge

Gardening is dangerous. Plant one seed, and next thing you know, you are planting ten flats. You see a corner of your yard, and you dream about how to fill it, and then you notice another corner and another. Yesterday, I carved out more for a small potager, a plot of the front yard that’s absorbed the dreams of several who have lived on Roberts Street. I’m not the only one who lives dangerously, growing a green thumb. My yard is the product of 120 years of cultivation. All around me is evidence of those who came before.

Someone planted six maple trees when my house went up. Four remain, and they are magnificent in all seasons. Sapping in spring, shading in summer, mulching in fall, and whistling in winter. Birds from blue jays to hummers flit in and out of their branches. The canopy provides an outdoor office when it gets too hot to be inside. Fairies, rocks, and gnomes summer at their bases, providing a new level of gardening intrigue. A few neighbors have caught on to my fairy gardens and have left offerings of their own, including a porcelain heart that hangs in one of the maples.

Toward the front, two low stumps from the maples that didn’t survive this long still offer something to my gardens. A discarded iron cauldron leftover from copper mining days sits on one stump, and the other marks the spot for a pallet compost pile. The cauldron served as my eldest’s moon garden — a massive black pot that overflowed with white varietal flowers. She has moved on to construct bigger spaces, and I get to tinker.

A crescent of thyme remains in the cauldron. My SIL had left a small deer skull with forked antlers when they moved to the country, and in the spirit of playing with fairies, I placed it in the center of the thyme. Carefully, I pulled several strands through each eye-socket and placed a pink rock of feldspar the size of a rosette between its antlers. Mind you, my intent is not to be morbid. Gardening is an art, and I’m attempting to replicate a more colorful homage to Georgia O’Keefe. Google “cow skulls and flowers” to see this visual art in full manifestation. Each corner — or cauldron — of the yard becomes its own individual canvas where staring at bare dirt is akin to writers staring out windows.

The frontmost canvas that abuts Roberts Street is where my eldest and her husband planted a rock and succulent garden to survive the heavy street sandings of winter. The sedum, along with hens and chicks, emerge unscathed ready for a spring bath of rain. The flock has multiplied. Last fall, we dug up the garden behind the succulents, leaving the peonies and lavender, but despite my SIL having rooted out bulbs like a pig seeking truffles, clusters of tulips, alum, and hyacinth remained. This is the head of my potager, a traditional kitchen garden that blends flowers, veg, and herbs, incorporating aesthetics and verticality.

All around my yard, earlier bulbs that former gardeners planted a century ago emerge — crocus, Muscari, hyacinth, glories of the snow, old-fashioned tulips of bold red and yellow, snowdrops, and daylilies. Beneath the shadiest area between maples, woodland trout lilies grow, a North American spring ephemeral. This summer, a few months before the first frost, I plan to hit the shady patch with bee bombs loaded with foxglove seeds. I’m going to fill out other shady areas with ferns. I think this will enhance the centenarians and please the garden fey. The potager will start at Roberts Street and go all the way back to the maples.

Yesterday, I relocated a massive lavender to be front and center of the potager. I dug carefully with a spade and felt when she released, willing to go to her new spot behind the succulents, hyacinth, and a border of newly transplanted dianthus from the abandoned homes on my eldest’s new property. On each side of the lavender, I buried two bare root roses of pastel pink. My SIL dug these up for me from roses he found near the ruins of an old mining house. It had survived on its own for at least 50 years, so I think it will be hardy. Directly behind the lavender, I planted a metal trellis and left a spot for my newly arrived purple Polish spirit clematis. Staggered behind and diagonal to that main feature are the beginnings of two shorter mounds. I planted purple podded peas, white sweet peas, and left room for my moonflowers who tell me it’s too cold yet for their sensitive roots. The back edge of this front canvas has established chives, yarrow, monarda, and two peonies.

When it all gets going, I’ll fill in the blank spots with cosmos, bachelor buttons, lemon queen sunflowers, and milkweed. And that’s only the beginning. See how dangerous it is to start with a single seed?

Today, May 14, my favorite middle child, quarantined on Svalbard, turned 30. She had planned to be out on another days-long scooter excursion, but they ran into trouble with bad weather, avalanches, and melting snow bridges. Her scooter took a 15-meter tumble down a crevasse, end over end, busting the windshield. She and her companions are okay, and remarkably, they were able to retrieve her Viper. When I talked to her on Messenger later, they were safely back in Longyearbyen, and one of the local bands got together to play for her birthday. This was my “emergency room” child, the one who lept off of rooftops, competed as an elite gymnast, and rafted raging rivers in snowmelt.

So, when I told her my kayak had finally arrived, she turned the tables and told me to be safe! I’m not going to do what she would do in a kayak.

For her birthday, she has the privilege of prompting our stories this week. I liked that she phrased her prompt as a question. She has always had an inquisitive mind. Others were asking her, now that she’s thirty if she wants to have children. I laughed, knowing her answer. That’s dangerous territory for an adventurer. Funny how women get asked that question. For me, I’ll stick to the dangers of creative gardening and long-term writing. I’ll play it safe on the waters. And I encourage you all to focus on remaining hopeful.

May 14, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that answers the question, “What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you are in absolute danger?” Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by May 19, 2020. 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.

Submissions closed. Find our most current weekly Flash Fiction Challenge to enter.

First Response by Charli Mills

One car flipped belly-up in the broad ditch of Kansas grass and sunflowers, the other crumpled to half its original size against the guardrail. Jess instructed her 18-year-old niece to pull over, her voice calm, all thoughts pushed away except for a running list: check breathing, smell for gas, stabilize necks. Plural. There would be multiple people in danger of dying this moment. They called this stretch of highway, “Bloody Kansas” and it was the route her niece would drive now that she had graduated and would begin college in two months. Check breathing, smell for gas, stabilize necks.

Nourish

Deep down, what truly nourishes us? It could be in the moment, a passing season, or over a lifetime. It might even be beyond death. During these unsettled times of isolation and overwhelm, we need to nourish at all levels

Writers explored what it is to nourish this week. From lacquered nails to after death, these stories will surprise you.

The following are from the May 7, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story to nourish.

PART I (10-minute read)

Lacquered Lovelies by Annette Rochelle Aben

“Ladies, do either of you want your nails done today?”

It was this familiar Tuesday query from the activities department of the nursing home that rallied all the women who wanted to feel special every time they looked at their hands. Usually, everyone except these two roommates said yes.

There was a box of bright colors from which to choose. This day, most of the ladies chose colors that reminded them of beautiful flowers. And here they were, beautiful flowers planted in wheelchairs and hospital beds. Their bodies may be failing them, but their souls were glowing and alive!

🥕🥕🥕

Good Fences by D. Avery

“Tommy, don’t climb the fence! You still have to stay at your house.”

“Nu-uh. My daddy and me been shopping for our party this afternoon.”

“I had a party with my mom and dad too.”

“No, we’re having a real party, with daddy’s friends. There’ll be tons of good food— kool-aid, cheese puffs.”

“Yuck! That’s not good food! It’s not nourishing.”

“Who says, your mommy?”

“Scientists.”

“Scientists don’t know nothing. You coming over? I’ve missed playing with you.”

“Goodbye Tommy.”

Marlie stumbled past the dirt pile, the tree fort, went inside to use a tissue and wash her hands.

🥕🥕🥕

Standing Up to Mother by Susan Sleggs

Tessa’s mother paced. “I’m fearful Michael will suck the life out of you if you move in together.”

“I thought you approved.”

“Not of you living with him.”

“He nourishes the youth choir, the Vet’s music programs, and he goes to D.C. when asked. You don’t think he’ll enhance my life too?”

“Behind closed doors is where the nightmares and anger dwell. You’ll have no escape.”

“Don’t you remember my ex had nightmares. It isn’t new to me.”

“He was an officer.”

“So that’s what this is about, status, not my well being. Good thing it isn’t your choice.”

🥕🥕🥕

Ruminating on Roosts by JulesPaige

Blue Jays prefer string
colorful yarn not so much
for their nest today

somewhere in the pines they build
this Mother’s day, I just watch

my own nest just has
we too – you made me breakfast
will our chicks call home?

We’ve done what we could – had our share of scrapes. Now we get to sit back just a little. Though we need to remember life is a continuing lesson, parent or not. We all need to nourish each other with care as the days pass. Sharing the light of our love lamps to brighten temporary gloom.

🥕🥕🥕

Days I Remember by Anita Dawes

Days I try to remember when food was plentiful
Father in the fields, Mother filling the house
With the warm aroma of fresh bread
We were loved, fed. Taken care of
Now I am alone, remembering new days
That passed when I filled our home
Like mother, with fresh baked bread
That had my children running for the crust
First into the house to claim the first slice
Butter melting, thick home-made jam
Is there anything better than feeding your family?
A fresh-baked loaf on my neighbour’s doorstep
Could be the start of something new
A touch of warmth…

🥕🥕🥕

Matty in Wonderland by Anne Goodwin

Matty was wary when the March Hare invited her to join them. “I’m not thirsty.” The last thing she drank had shrunk her to the size of a thimble.

“Forget tea,” said a fellow in a top hat. “We’ll give you a nourishing story. Dormouse, begin!”

“Not the one about the treacle well.” Matty had a sense of déjà vu.

“A well of kindness,” said the Hatter. “Without food banks.”

“You think it kind to starve the poor?”

“Where this story is set everything is shared fairly. No-one need beg for food.”

Matty sat. “Tell me! I will emigrate.”

🥕🥕🥕

Come In by Priorhouse

Come in, tired one.
Sit down.
I see you are on your way south –
to the sea.
Your bed for the night is there.
Soup’s simmering on the stove – there.

Please leave soup on when you hit the sack.

“Thanks” replied the visitor.

As we left the room, I asked dad if he’d build into the guest – nourish his soul with faith talk or advice before his body was nourished from soup and sleep.

“No,” replied dad.
Sometimes words are not needed. People are often better nurtured by giving them space.
And love.
“Yes, dad, many ways to nourish.”

🥕🥕🥕

The Amazing Jar by Gordon Le Pard

He looked in amazement at the little fern, growing in the sealed jar. According to Dr Ward it had been growing there for three years.

“But what nourishes it?”

“Sunlight.” He replied, “Water evaporates, and condenses in the jar. Minerals feed the leaves, and return to the soil, all it needs is light.”

“Is it of any use?”

“Use! Glass boxes filled with plants, on a ships deck, will carry them safely around the world. We will move useful plants wherever we want. This could end famines, create industries and beautify gardens, it could change the world.”

It did.

🥕🥕🥕

Mindful Eating by Ruchira Khanna

“No, eatables are allowed on the plane.” Said a voice that was soft yet stern.

He had no choice but to comply.

Going home was a definite priority over defying the rules of the TSA.

He chose to empty all his pockets and walk towards his gate with sluggish steps while gnarling noise was accompanying him. His stomach muscles were squeezing tight as if wringing a cloth.

Traveling in wee hours with no shop open, he chose to board the flight.

Mark decided to eat mindfully from the tiny in-flight bag of pretzel that helped nourish his hunger pangs.

🥕🥕🥕

Nourish by Geoff Le Pard

‘I’m hungry, Logan.’

‘You had dinner less than an hour ago.’

‘Can we stop?’

‘Yes…’

‘Why do I feel a but coming?’

‘I’m not spending another moment in one of those fast food places.’

‘You enjoyed the Mexican…’

‘Was that the tackies?’

‘Tacos.’

‘Are you sure they’re not tackies? Mine was pretty sticky.’

‘And you like a Big Mac.’

‘I do not. I prefer my Scotsmen small and easily tamed.’

‘You’re such a fusspot.’

‘Morgan, I need something nourishing.’

‘Isn’t that what you do to a pot plant?’

‘Pot plant? Have you been smoking? Is that why you’re hungry?

🥕🥕🥕

Comfort Food by Janet Guy

One pound of lean ground turkey, one pound of 80-20 ground sirloin, one packet of McCormick meatloaf seasoning, one egg, one generous handful of Progresso Plain Breadcrumbs, half of a medium diced onion, one squirt of ketchup. It’s important to mix everything into the ground meat by hand, but don’t overdo it. Your grandfather and I added a twist: divide the mixture into twelve muffin cups. Bake at 350F for 30 minutes. Your grandmother always tried to sneak a half a meatloaf muffin without us noticing. She was so silly! I see both of them in you, my child…

🥕🥕🥕

Love the World by Chelsea Owens

Broken friendless lying dying, lifts a hand for

-anything-

Walking talking presses buttons, flashes past within her world.

Why stop living in the mirrors, in the spotlight;
save lying dying friendless one?

—–
.sneaky unseen creeping coughing, enters silent crownèd killer.
—–

Broken homebound lying sighing lifts her hand for

-anything-

Walking talking, in his sunshine, stops outside her locked front gate.

Why not wave at silent windows, in the sunshine;
save lying sighing homebound face?

—–

Then or now, we all are people;

Now or then, we all need love.

-Look around-

and nourish others

Smile, wave, and love the world.

🥕🥕🥕

Nourishment by Reena Saxena

The monk has travelled across the world in search of meaning of life.

Gone are the days when people congregated in an ashram to partake of wisdom… there are umpteen agencies to get him online and share his learnings. The digital marketing campaign lasts 90 days to generate a feeling of emptiness in people, and make them pay to find nourishment. The lockdown is supportive, as people struggle to adopt a new way of life.

Finally, the monk’s serenity appears on screen..

You are exactly where you need to be. I learnt that travel serves no purpose at all.

🥕🥕🥕

Survival by Joanne Fisher

All around her was wasteland. Kali’s mouth felt like sandpaper, there had been no water for several days. The hot dry wind whipped the rags of her clothes. She walked forwards and then collapsed. Everything went black.

Kali awoke. She was lying in a hut. She tried rising, but felt dizzy. A woman came over giving her a bowl. Kali drank the soup deeply. After so long it felt nourishing.

“You were near death when we found you.”

“Where am I?”

“In our village. You can stay as long as you want.”

Maybe she would stay here a while.

🥕🥕🥕

Nourish by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Long, dark days alone
Habit well-practiced for years
My coffee brings cheer…

Grateful that strongly suggested isolation began after the bone-chilling months of in-between, she pulls on sweats and Tee, runs a handful or two of tap water through her hair and over her face. The cat’s been provisioned, his vomit mopped up (what he hasn’t re-eaten). She’s set to go.

And yet, even as an introvert, she misses noisy Happy Hours she was pleased to walk away from, the long hikes with the usual crowd strung like pearls through wooded path and prairie.

The Keurig mimics her sigh.

🥕🥕🥕

Noirished by Bill Engleson

First, she sucked on the stogie. Then she plucked it from her gingered lips, glanced skyward, blew a smoke circle that looked, swear to God, like the Greasy Phil’s onion rings of my lost youth.

“I didn’t think you’d have the…” she said, before I rebounded with, “Yeah, I know.”

“So, what’s next?”

“Quarantine for life.”

“Not me, Shamus. Never.”

“You’re a menace, Katie.”

“What, just because I hugged them?”

“And nasal dripped them.”

“My nose always ran,” she snickered. “You know what they’re calling me?”

I did. “Yeah. COVID Katie.”

“Yeah,” she smiled. “Sounds…important.”

And crazy, I thought.

🥕🥕🥕

Nourish by FloridaBorne

“You take too many vitamins,” hubby scoffed, watching me wash them down with Rooibos tea.

Grunting from the strain of standing upright, he held onto the table for support. As usual, he left his soda can and potato chip wrappers for me to throw away.

“I have yoga at 10:00 today,” I said joyfully. “I’m walking with Lois, and grocery shopping after that. I’ll be home around 4:00.”

“You’re 70! Grow up!”

“A person either grows up or gives up,” I replied. “Don’t chastise me for choosing to nurture my body. Ask yourself why you chose to destroy yours.”

🥕🥕🥕

The Smiling Roses by Doug Jacquier

As Phoebe drove home with her husband, Spike, safely strapped into the passenger seat, she decided it was time for him to hear some home truths.

‘You know, Spike, in all our married years, never once have you praised anything I’ve done or supported me when it mattered. Frankly, I can’t even recall you being anything remotely like happy, except when you were sounding off about the stupidity of everyone around you.’

Silence.

Phoebe arrived home, unstrapped Spike’s urn, removed the lid and spread his ashes under her rose bushes.

‘Last chance to nourish something, Spike.’

The roses smiled.

🥕🥕🥕

Nourishment by Sarah Brentyn

She felt magnolia petals falling on her grave.

Freshly dug, soil still loose, the mound surrounded by mourners, she heard crying. Noisy sniffles, gentle sobs, painful wails.

She shifted focus from those above her, fixing her mind on the tree. Its branches reached for her. This time of year, it offered pale pink flowers.

This time of year, it needed her most.

And every spring these coming years. Her body would nourish the magnolia roots and, in return, her grave would be speckled with velvet petals. Nourishment for her soul.

When the grieving left, would dance in nature’s bouquet.

🥕🥕🥕

Bat Incident by Simon Prathap D

Two vampire bats 🦇 talking to each other

I am so hungry today 🦇

Go ahead, get something to Dad 🦇

I am going to get some nourishing foods for both of us🦇

A few moments later….🦇

🦇 Son, this is called being selfish😠

For real?🙄 what makes you ask that?🤔

Look at you 🦇 , mouth full of blood🧛, You had alone🧛? How you got this much blood yourself, where is the nourishing foods for your Dad🤷‍♂️?

Dad🦇, You need to calm down first😠, did you see that black rod in the middle of that gap

Yes I do🤔🦇

But I didn`t dad🤕🦇

😂🦇😂

🥕🥕🥕

PART II (10-minute read)

Hematite Eyes by Kerry E.B. Black

Her baby’s eyes discomforted her. Odd, hematite, and unblinking. But his infant fist encircled her finger, and maternal instinct supplanted concern. She nursed the unblinking child until his eyes slid shut and he drifted to sleep.

He remained odd, different from other children, even when they shared activities. She coached, suggested, scheduled hopeful playdates, but he stayed aloof. With quiet, precise attention, he approached games like a soldier following orders. He studied others’ reactions, mimicked, but without emotion. He made no friends.

“Are you lonely?” she worried.

He studied her face, never blinking his hematite eyes. “Should I be?”

🥕🥕🥕

Nourish by Kathy70

I watch as a street-wise elderly woman takes a small bag out and looks around to see if anyone is watching, she slowly opens the bag and begins throwing out bread on the grass. Pigeons become brazen and hop on her hand to get more food.

Smiling she starts talking to the birds. A mom and 2 small children sit on a bench nearby and the children walk slowly up to the woman to pet the birds.  She lifts her hand to help a bird to sit on the child’s shoulder. They all seem happy and nourished by each other.

🥕🥕🥕

Sand Stories: Inspired by Shakespeare’s words: “tongues in trees, books in running brooks.” by Saifun Hassam

Diamante loved to sit on the seashore when the tide was out. Away from the bustle of village and temple life. Solitude. Calm. No gusty winds today hurling sand across the rocks. No shapeshifting dunes.

Last winter was a difficult one. A raging sea storm took the lives of three fishermen. One empty lonely boat drifted into a sheltered cove.

Today, children’s laughter and chatter filled the air. With Diamante’s help, they would create sand paintings, draw, and learn more about those intricate shells washed ashore. They would build sandcastles on the shore, stories drawn from their vivid imaginations.

🥕🥕🥕

A Little Something by Allison Maruska

I open the pantry, scouring it for nourishment. Scooting cereal and pasta out of the way, I see it–a box of Girl Scout cookies, unopened! My mouth waters as I tear off the tab and pull out a sleeve, anticipating the flood of minty goodness about to find me.

“Dinner’s in an hour.”

Wincing, I turn.

Mom holds her hand out.

Scowling, I hand it over. Instead of returning the box to the pantry, she opens the sleeve and hands me a cookie. “One won’t ruin your appetite.” Winking, she takes one for herself.

She’s pretty cool, I guess.

🥕🥕🥕

Extra Nutrition by Robbie Cheadle

“This bread is delicious, Mom. Can I have some more.”

“Of course, that’s why I’m baking fresh bread every day.”

“Why don’t you just buy it like you used to?”

“The grocery stores are not selling freshly baked bread. When the lock down restrictions reduce, the bakeries will re-open, but until then, I’m baking.”

“You could buy sliced bread.”

“I can’t stand those thin and insubstantial slices that taste like cardboard. Now that I look like Cousin Itt, with all this hair hanging down my back, I need extra nutrition to maintain it. Fresh bread with lots of butter.”

🥕🥕🥕

Sprinkles of Tenderness by Miriam Hurdle

“I’m amazed Rosie has changed so much since we adopted her six months ago,” said Sam.

“For a while, she went to the corner and face the wall every time I talked to her.” Elaine still puzzled.

“The social worker suspected something happened in her previous foster home.”

“She was afraid of us.”

“I admired your patience. You showed your affection by physical touch, warm smile, and inviting gesture instead of talking.”

“I’m pleased she trusts us.”

“It took us six months to break the ice.”

“She talked and called me Mom two days ago. It melted my heart.”

🥕🥕🥕

Nourishing the Mind by Susan Zutautas

Little one, you must always remember to nourish your mind.

But father how does one feed the mind?

Not feed … nourish.

Please explain as I am confused.

Each day, be sure you take time for yourself to breathe and relax, to reflect, to find peacefulness within, to count your blessings. Sit down, read a book that interests you, learn something new. Keep a journal and write what your heart says to you. Write down what is troubling you, your joys, your dreams, your hopes, and your desires. Get fresh air and enjoy your surroundings. Socialize, always be kind.

🥕🥕🥕

The Singing by Wallie and Friend

She liked to listen to them sing. The myyr always sang when the moon first showed its pale silver light over the Sleepless Sea. The little girl would sit on the pier, swinging her bare feet, and look out over the still black water.

Myyr song was not instinctively beautiful. It was a harmonious calling that made the child wonder. She could not sing with them, having no voice herself, but she liked to imagine she sang as she looked up at the thousands of stars. She felt that by listening, some part of their song must be hers.

🥕🥕🥕

Solo Nourishment by Ritu Bhathal

Mae gently emptied the last of the water from her watering can into the flowerbed.

The roses were doing rather well, all things considered.

All around her, news filtered in of the deaths of people around the world, and even some friends.

It had been tough.

Her usual routine of seeing her grandchildren at the end of each school day, with her feeding them nourishing snacks, and sometimes dinner, if her daughter was running late, was gone.

They couldn’t meet one another.

A video call sufficed, and the odd drive-by wave.

At least she could still nourish her garden.

🥕🥕🥕

The Seedling by John Lane

Matthew’s mother watched the eight-year-old remove the weeds, dig several inches, put the quaking aspen seedling in and place some organic compost around. All in the backyard.

Every day he would run out to check the seedling.

“Mom, it is not growing.”

His mom shook her head. “Matthew, give it a chance.”

At summer’s end, Matthew’s mother was hired, and they flew cross-country.

Matthew forgot about the tree.

Sixty years and one accounting career later, Matthew decided to visit the tree.

In the backyard was an enormous, smooth tree with yellow leaves.

He sighed. “Mom, sorry I doubted you.”

🥕🥕🥕

Grandfather’s Legacy by Jo Hawk

We discovered the tenacious evergreen sprig on our daily walk. Grandfather pitied the seedling clinging to bare stone. A full-grown pine needed access to the earth’s nutrients, and the minuscule reserves in the stone’s clefts and crevices would stunt the tree if it lived at all.

I was only a child, but I vowed to help the sapling. On warm days, we carried water. We sheltered it from storms and patted dirt at its roots.

Today my grandson and I took a walk. I introduced him to the tough tree and smiled when he vowed to protect Grandfather’s legacy.

🥕🥕🥕

The Blood-Trees by Joanne Fisher

The two men wandered into the clearing as it grew dark. To their horror it was littered with bodies.

“It’s like they’re empty vessels that were discarded.” One of them said checking a body. “They were exsanguinated. Vampires?” The other man looked around, the colour drained from his face.

“No, not vampires. Blood-Trees.” He stated.

“Blood-Trees?”

“Trees that get their nourishment from the blood of the living, rather than from out of the soil.”

It was now dark. All around them they heard the creaking of branches. The moon arose showing trees with black twisted shapes now surrounded them.

🥕🥕🥕

Apples by Charli Mills

Who’ll love the apple trees, Hester wondered as the wagon lurched forward. The youngest, she sat among her family’s meager belongings. A wagon-train of evicted miners trundled past shuttered copper mines.

When they married, Hester told Albert about the company houses and the community orchard. The county sold them the whole abandoned neighborhood on cheap terms. Albert flattened the other houses to grow potatoes. “Don’t harm the apple trees,” she said.

She nourished the trees into widowhood until they packed her up in a station wagon for the old-folks home. “The apples,” she whispered as the car drove away.

🥕🥕🥕

Apple Charlie by Michelle Wright

There is a place I love to go
Apple trees, row after row
Named after my grandfather who so many know
Apple Charlie’s

Apple Charlie lived there then
He lives there still
In all his descendants
With their strong wills

There is a place where barn animals eat
Children give them feed
Nutritious treat after treat
Apple Charlie’s

Charlie watches the children and smiles
He smiles as they shine an apple on their shirt
He smiles when they savor donuts dipped in cider

Like the bumblebees
We care for the orchard
Like Apple Charlie
We care for one another

🥕🥕🥕

And Then Alone by Sascha Darlington

I didn’t want to come home for Thanksgiving, navigate the endless sessions of why aren’t you like Nathan or Rachel? Why are you working an administrative job, pretending to be a writer? Why aren’t you going to graduate school? Becoming a lawyer, a doctor? It’s in our genes. Why are you our disgrace?

My grandmother survived Auschwitz. You’d think I could survive Thanksgiving.

I breathe a hundred breaths into the ending of this novel. My grandmother read every word, blessed them, before she passed. Now, I am alone.

My homemade pumpkin pie will nourish. Will my novel will appease?

🥕🥕🥕

Scion the Prize by D. Avery

“Kid, git in here! Dang. Shorty entrusted us with runnin’ our own Saloon, a place fer folks ta relax an’ rub elbows— git away fer a while. But then she done gifted ya with a scion, an off shoot a thet Poet–tree ya discovered outside the bunkhouse at Carrot Ranch.”

“Yep. So?”

“So, ya ain’t been tendin’ the Saloon! Yer always out back with thet offshoot an’ them kid goats an’—”

“An what, Pal? What’s the problem?”

“Ya gotta nurture the saloon, Kid.”

“Yep. An’ I gotta nourish the Poet-tree.”

“Why’s thet impor’nt?”

“’Cause it nourishes me.”

🥕🥕🥕

Stand And Deliver

The title for this post should be ‘Drive and Deliver’. ‘Stand and Deliver’ sounds better, I think.  It also reminds me of the song by Adam Ant, conjuring up a wonderful image of him in his heyday dressed up like a highwayman, all eye-liner, lip gloss and black mask. A good look, I thought. I can’t say I wear much make-up these days. But I do wear a black mask, though not for committing any crime. Then again, if someone coughs near me again at the supermarket, I could be tempted…

The theme of highway robbery ties in nicely with our present crisis and the ‘Unsung Heroes’ story I’m priviliged to share with you today at Carrot Ranch. Thanks for letting me loose, Charli!

The story ends well, thanks not to Adam Ant, but to a man called, Rob.

It began just before lockdown, which in the UK started March 20th. Anticipating weeks, if not months, of isolation, I rushed to order the treadmill I had planned to weeks earlier, but never got around to. I got my online order in just in time; it sold out the next day.

Delivery was confirmed at the end of the following week on Friday. The only time the tracking facility could give, due to extra pressures caused by Covid-19, would be anytime up to 8pm. No problem. After all, it wasn’t as if I had plans to go out anywhere…

But my treadmill didn’t arrive by 8, 9 or 10pm. Nor the next day and the one after that. Tracking had no updates. It just stopped. Disappointed but not too surprised with early lockdown in full chaotic flow, I was, however, concerned. And so began a two-week long flurry of emails back and forth between me and the third-party seller, Rob.

It seemed my treadmill had come as far as the nearest depot, gone back up north hundreds of miles to Wolverhampton or such, and disappeared. Great, I thought, I bet someone nicked it. Everyone wants a treadmill now, and this one was a great price (cheap), so I bet it got “re-routed” somewhere… Memories of my laptop getting “lost” in the Czech Republic a few years ago didn’t help…

Rob, the Customer Services Manager of the sporting goods store that stocks the treadmill, apologised and assured me that he would look into it. Full of scepticism, I figured he would fob me off, I would have to chase (and oh, how I dreaded the energy-suck of all that) and would have a fight on my hands for a refund.

Dear reader, I love it when I am proved wrong.

A couple of days later, Rob emailed me back. In touch with the courier, he told me they were trying to track my order. Yes, it looked as if it had been re-routed, but he could not tell where. He would let me know as soon as he heard.

Sure enough, he got back to me the next day. As part of an entire missing delivery gone astray, he reported, the courier had now traced it and would hopefully find mine. But alas, the news came back that all had been traced… except mine. At that point, we both felt it highly unlikely that my treadmill would turn up.

Rob had one more avenue to check, he said, but if no luck, he would make arrangements to process my refund.By then, several emails had passed between us, and I noticed something. The tone of them.

Rob told me was sorry for disappointing news in these “challenging times”. I expressed my understanding of the immense pressure couriers face meeting their quotas.

We signed our emails with “take care and keep safe”.

As much as we sought to resolve my missing order, our messages acknowledged one simple fact: we all are doing our best in extraordinary times.

Believing the matter at an end, Rob emailed me with a surprising glimmer of hope. Another customer had ordered the same treadmill as mine at the same time, but upon delivery, had changed his mind. Would I like him to send that one to me, provided it passed his inspection once back at the depot? Yes, please, I replied, that would be great!

Easter on lockdown came and went, a few days went by when nothing happened and then, at last, a van pulled up outside my house. A young, bearded and cheery chap bounded out. He offered to bring the heavy box inside, self distancing of course. I relayed the story as we chatted for a few minutes.

He nodded, chuckled. Yes, their work load is huge, he said. A massive increase in online shopping. They run out of the time set by government guidelines, get re-routed, drive hundreds of miles each day.

He asked my name so he could sign me off once back in his van (no touching of any electronics).

I’m glad you got your treadmill, he said, as he left with a smile and a wave.

I looked up the courier service online and found their Facebook Page. Complaints about late deliveries filled the comments. Then I read their “Covid-19” update. They apologised for the problems some customers had experienced. They had cut back on their staff due to sickness and isolation from Covid, no longer delivered on Saturdays, and had taken on extra work for the NHS (National Health Service).

I left a message of support and thanks and vowed never to complain about White Van Man again. Even when he tailgates.

My treadmill delivery woes seemed trivial, but walking for my daily allotted exercise outside has become a challenge of its own. With narrow lanes used as “rat-runs” by local drivers and many now out walking, cycling and jogging, it’s more a hazard than a pleasure.*

When my weekly exercise class ended abruptly at lockdown (and I was just in the swing of it too, darn it,) I knew I had to do something for my mental and physical health. So my treadmill serves its good purpose.   And it even has a Bluetooth link for music. A good time as any for some Stand and Deliver.

I salute you, cheery delivery driver. And I salute you, Rob.

Thank you, my not-so unsung heroes.

*From tomorrow here in the UK, we are allowed to exercise as many times as we want and travel to parks and who knows where to do so. Hmmm. Think I’ll keep to my treadmill, for now.

While bringing her memoir, Stranger In A White Dress, to publication, Sherri’s articles, short memoir, personal essays, poetry and flash fiction are published in national magazines, anthologies and online. Sherri blogs at A View From My Summerhouse about her travels, nature and wildlife, Asperger’s Syndrome and her life as a Brit ‘Mom’ in America. She also contributes as a columnist to Carrot Ranch, an online literary community. In another life, Sherri lived in California for twenty years, but today, she lives in England with her family, two black kitties and a grumpy Bunny. You can connect with her on her on TwitterFacebook Page and LinkedIn.

Saddle Up Saloon; Putting Up a Stink

Saddle Up Saloon

“Ya mean ya ain’t got nuthin’ lined up fer this week? Dang, Kid! We best skedaddle an’ git ta the Saloon ASAP.”

“Jeez, Pal, ya don’t need ta call me a sap, I feel bad enough as it is. Cain’t believe I let Shorty down. Dropped the ball. Screwed up.”

“Enough idioms!”

“Pal! Stop callin’ me names already! I ain’t a idiot. Jist…”

“Jist drop it Kid. Ya say ya ain’t been by the saloon much lately. Did ya leave it locked up?”

“Heck no, it’s open 24/7 ‘member? I left Ornery Ernie ta serve folks ‘at might come by. Last I saw ‘im he was singin’ along ta Willie’s Whiskey River.”

“Oh, fer karaoke? How’d he do with the lyrics?”

“R’fused ta change one line, said tamperin’ with a Willie Nelson song’d be a crim’nal act.”

“Reckon so. Whoa. Stop. They’s a few hosses tied up out front Kid.”

“Yep. There’s ol’ Burt, so Frankie must be in there. Ernie’s mule’s out back with Pepe LeGume’s burro a Canadian affairs.”

“Hmff, LeGume. They’s some hosses here I don’t rec’nize. Thet’s a fine bay on the end.”

“That’s Blackjack. You can look over my horse but speak soft, let him know you’re there. He can’t see.”

“Howdy Ma’am. Reckon we’ll jist follow ya back inside, see whut’s goin’ on. I’m Pal, this here’s Kid.”

“Danni. Danni Gordon.”

“Name sounds f’miliar. S’pose ya’ve met these other characters.”

“I like her horse!”

“Bet’cha do, Frankie. Whyn’tcha try tradin’ her bay fer Burt? Then ya could be the blind leadin’ the blind.”

“Funny, Pal, but you’d only be half right, as I at least have my left eye.”

“I see. Frankie, have ya been keepin’ an eye on Ernie? He seems a little drunk there behind the bar.”

“Oh, he’s alright, he’s only half drunk. Danni here’s got him into Whiskey Ditches, and they’re half water. Water’s good for ya.”

“Uh-huh. Who’s thet settin’ aside a Danni?”

“Hard to keep an eye on that one. Little squirrely; seems a might short on postage.”

“Jist wunnerin’ if she should be heading home, ya know? Oh, here she comes. Ma’am.”

“Charmed, I’m sure. Matilda Windsor. You may call me Matty.”

“Oh, yep. You was here fer karaoke. Done yersef real proud. Kinda surprised ta see ya still here. Ain’t some’un s’pectin’ ya ta be comin’ home?”

“That ‘some’un’ is likely chasing me around Twitter, poor thing. I shall get where I’m going in due time. Karaoke was so entertaining, I thought I’d see what you publicans have planned next.”

“Kid, ya wanna tell the nice lady what ya have planned fer the ev’nin’s ennertainment?”

“Well, I, uh…”

“Sharts? Mademoiselle Gordon, I too am an expert on sharts, but do not know why you eenseest dey be old.”

“Pepe LeGume, you numb-nut has-bean, she’s a archaeologist. Shards. Pieces a pottery an’ artey-facts.”

“Hope yew ain’t lookin’ fer skel’tons aroun’ the Ranch, there Missy. Ain’t nobody got nuthin’ ta hide ‘roun here.”

“Aw, Jeez. Kid, fix Ernie anuther Whiskey Ditch, hold the whiskey. Take over b’hind the bar.”

“I like her horse!”

“Frankie, shush. No more highballs for you!”

“Pal, would you ever stop yammering about my eyeball? You don’t know who these two are, do you?”

“Who? Danni and Matty?”

Who? Danni and Matty? Yes, Danni and Matty! They ain’t round the Ranch regular yahoo characters like you and Kid.”

“Or you and Ernie and Pepe?”

“Touché, touchy grouch. No. They are real characters.”

“Ya mean they ain’t fictional like us?”

“They’re fictional characters. But they each have their own novel!”

“Well, what’re they doin’ here?”

“Same as any of us. Taking a break, getting away from their writers. Lookin’ ta be entertained.”

“Alright, folks, might’s well tell ya. Kid got side-tracked an’ ain’t got no ennertainment lined up.”

“That’s it! Matilda Windsor is coming home.”

“No, wait Meez Matty, Mademoiselle Weensor. Dees steenks, eeet ees true—”

“Funny you should say thet, Pepe.”

“Pal. Pleaze. What da world needs now ees common scents. Eet steenks, dat Keed messed up, but just serve a prompt. I am trying to get a sense of dees saloon. Dere have been teengs for da ear, and dere have been attempts to reach out to doze weed good taste— why not serve up someteeng olfactory?”

“Ah, jeez, is this one a them puns, er is it yer secon’ languidge sitcha-ashun?

“Ees a call for common scents, Pal. You serve savory libations for the palate, no? Serve up a prompt dat appeals to da nose.”

It’s not a bad idea, Cowpoke. Heck, there’s lots of material wafting off of Ernie alone. I could tell you what a dig smells like. Or Ike’s roses. Or his grandmother’s spaghetti.

“Kid? What d’ya think?”

“I think next week folks should plan on a poetry slim—”

“Don’tcha mean slam?”

Slim, ‘cause it should be short. I’ll git more on that later. But fer t’night, tell ‘bout a smell in 9, 59, or 99 words. Could be a good smell, could be a bad smell, but jist describe it or what it evokes fer you. BOTS, fiction, poetry, whatever.”

“Oui! Dees makes scents! Share your responses in the comment section.”

 

Warm smells— morning sun, stirred by bacon and coffee. (9 words by A. Kidd)

 

These characters are here at the saloon without the knowledge or permission of their writers. Danni Gordon, the main character of a work in progress by Charli Mills, may be familiar to you from 99 word scenes presented in the Carrot Ranch challenges. Matilda ‘Matty’ Windsor has also shown up for 99 word scenes, and is the title character in Anne Goodwin’s upcoming novel, Matilda Windsor is Coming Home. A host of characters from that novel showed up at the Saloon a few weeks ago to unwind and vent about their writer.

 

If asked, Pal & Kid will deny that they spill from the pen of D. Avery. They claim to be free ranging characters who live and work at Carrot Ranch and now serve up something fresh every Monday at the Saddle Up Saloon. If you or your characters are interested in saddling up for a wild ride as a saloon guest, contact D. Avery at averydede.1@gmail.com .

 

May 7: Flash Fiction Challenge

Soil-babies huddle around my radiators and spread across my dining room table. Hopeful colonists rest beneath soft blankets of moist earth in strange plastic pods as if these seeds were the last hope of a dying planet. With tender care, I convey trays of pods from the nighttime safety of my heated home to glorious life-giving sunshine that heats my back porch by mid-afternoon. At night, when the sun dips and the temperatures plummet, I reverse the trip.

Large plastic trays contain pods of blue, black, white, and red. Some are repurposed from the purchase of annual plants. Some are recycled mushroom trays. Others are fancy containers from the times last year when my daughter and I waited hours for handcrafted orders of maki, sashimi, and unagi from Sky Sushi. Ah, those were the days. The before days. The days before the owners returned to China in December for winter break and have been unable to return to their business on the Keweenaw. The after days is why we need the hope of soil babies.

I can’t call these intrepid garden Argo Sailors, seedlings or seeds because they are neither. They are the stuff hope is made of, something between a wish and a reality. All I can see is soil and humid plastic film carefully protecting the germination. I await signs of emergence. Then, I will know I have a hook to hang heavier hope upon.

And what do I hope for?

Health and happiness, mostly. I hope scientists find a cure for a virus that feeds upon human organs, drowning the lungs and clotting the bloodstream. I hope that as scary as circumstances might get, we all learn new ways to be. I hope for learning from the stillness. I hope for gifts in the silence. I hope to hug again, to travel, and be unmasked from every mask I’ve ever worn. I hope to pet my neighbor’s new puppy, to gather friends around the campfire we’re building in the potager, to hunt for agates and run from black flies again. I hope to have guests and readings and workshops in my new home. I hope no one has to fear losing their home. I hope people find their passion in their work and community. I hope simply to live as fully as I can.

Planting is an act. Waiting is learning to be. Watching what grows is acceptance. Wondering why something didn’t grow is curiosity. All this drives me to garden and write and greet the birds that fly overhead to remind me that dinosaurs never went extinct. Peregrine falcon nails a pigeon, and I nod to the velociraptor and albertadromeus syntarsus who continue the dance between predator and prey. Even the greatest carnivore eventually feeds the soil, which grows the vegetation for the quarry. Life is so grand we can’t possibly understand it all — the brain, the emotions, the viruses, and that’s to say nothing of our human constructions, our artifices that make us believe we are in control.

We control nothing. We carry plants from one room to another, chasing life essences and hope.

To an extent, you can control your writing. But where does creativity come from? Why does the same prompt lead us all down divergent paths? You can spark creativity, you can be disciplined to pursue it, but you can’t control the burst. Writers write. I want some of it to be an uncontrollable mystery. The craft, however, we can control in the same way we can build machines and shelters and societies. Writing is a hope of sorts, too. I hope to convey a combination of feeling, meaning, and story, fulling understanding that the receiver will experience my craft and creativity from a different perspective. Yet that is where art rests like soil babies waiting to emerge.

Craft includes a cast of characters. In addition to the protagonist — the showy centerpiece of the garden — a host of secondary characters adds to who the protagonist is or isn’t, and carries the story to its parameters. Secondary characters should feel as real as bachelor buttons. They might not be the climbing purple Polish Spirit clematis, but they give it definition. Secondary characters have a mission. If they don’t push the character arc or progress the plot, pull ’em — they are weeds. You didn’t work hard to craft hope to give it over to apathy. Highlight beauty. Dare to enter the shadows. Make a path. Make secondary characters part of the team.

And if you need hope, find what nourishes — you, your writing, your world. My daughter shared this article about well being during our times. I wasn’t surprised to see “nourish” on the list.

May 7, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story to nourish. The characters can nourish or be nourished. What else can be nourished? A tree? A setting? Does the sunset nourish the soul? Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by May 12, 2020. 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.

Submissions closed. Find our most current weekly Flash Fiction Challenge to enter.

Apples by Charli Mills

Who’ll love the apple trees, Hester wondered as the wagon lurched forward. The youngest, she sat among her family’s meager belongings. A wagon-train of evicted miners trundled past shuttered copper mines.

When they married, Hester told Albert about the company houses and the community orchard. The county sold them the whole abandoned neighborhood on cheap terms. Albert flattened the other houses to grow potatoes. “Don’t harm the apple trees,” she said.

She nourished the trees into widowhood until they packed her up in a station wagon for the old-folks home. “The apples,” she whispered as the car drove away.

Long Boards

The world has paused. During this stillness, we perhaps look to the past with nostalgia and wonder how our ancestors made do. Maybe that’s how the long boards came up. They were tall Finnish skis used when the snows came too deep to walk into town. For how long have we used long boards for recreation and purpose?

That’s the idea for writers to explore. They could craft a story about the use of any long boards, true, or imagined. Many thanks to Keweenaw storyteller, Myra Möyrylä, for the use of her story and photo to inspire this collection.

The following are based on the April 30, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that features long boards.

PART I (10-minute read)

Finnish Elite Troops by Paula Puolakka

Every time the “Swedish Crown” needed to recapture lost land from Russia, and it was winter, the Finnish skiing troops were sent to action. The old Russian war accounts include descriptions of the swift and almost invisible Swedish soldiers who caused fear among the Russians. No, those were not Swedish, but Finnish elite troops. “Sukset” made them move as smoothly as Tolkien’s elves. Their status was equal to the status of the feared 14th-century longbowmen of England. They were not English noblemen but mainly Welsh retainers. The Finnish peasants (mastering the long wooden boards,) too, were promoted during wartimes.

🥕🥕🥕

Diving Board by Susan Zutautas

Joe had butterflies in his stomach long before his alarm clock went off. Today he’d be diving in a state competition. Scouts from well-known universities would be there and Joe was hoping for a scholarship.

Climbing the high dive ladder a wave of total confidence came over him.

The first dive was a backward dive. He sprung on the board once then twice, then it snapped startling him, but he carried through like a pro leaving the snapped board behind. Three scores from the judges were all 9.5. Joe and his team were ecstatic!

Joe was offered a scholarship.

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Board Games by D. Avery

He skated into the park on the longest longboard any of us had ever seen; stood nonchalantly mid-deck, told us his name was TuKu.

He held everyone’s attention as his due, reveling in the anticipatory silence as we clutched our boards, shuffled in our Vans. Like a patient teacher, TuKu waited for Sammi to follow suit, but Sammi just kept rocking in place, tip to tail.

“Catch me, Not-So-Ku,” she said, and was instantly on the rail, landing after a double kickflip. We breathed, grinned. Nothing had changed.

“Come on,” we invited TuKu, and followed Sammi best we could.

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When Life Gives You Lemons by Dave Madden

To say Josh had been inundated with bad luck would be an understatement: his transmission terminated; the boss made him work overtime, without extra pay; and his girlfriend dumped him, saying he loved Jiu-Jitsu more than her.

Josh’s troubles disappeared in the breeze while gliding on his longboard to practice. His mind was absorbed in the moment, and the board’s polyurethane wheels flattened the troublesome bumps along the way.

After several hours of strangling one another, Josh, carrying his board up the steep hill toward home, was more mentally prepared to tackle the lemons life threw at him.

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Safety Measures by Simon Prathap

What are you doing?

Corona safety measures dad

Is that my board?

Yup the same long board you used in the beach last year

What are you trying?

I tie this to myself

So…?🤔

So that I will maintain social distancing, no one can come close to me

Brilliant son!🙄

Thanks, a help please

Okay, what am I supposed to do?😕

Here hold this, now I am going to tie this with a rope

What are you doing?🤔

I am going to tie this rope in this lock and…

This is a corona safety measure?🙄🤔

It’s Lock down dad!

🙄😵

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The Race by John Lane

Hansel drove his Polaris snowmobile through the snow-covered trails until he hit upon Gretel’s truck. Gretel wiped a greasy concoction that smelled like fecal matter in a pine forest onto two wooden slats.

Hansel chuckled. “You can’t get up the mountain with that.”

Gretel shook his head. “Twenty dollars says that these longboards will get to the top first.”

“Easy money.”

Three times, Hansel tried to climb the mountain. And three times, the throttle safety switch cut out.

Gretel waited at the top for Hansel as Hansel finally made it.

Gretel held out his hand. “Easiest twenty ever made.”

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Winter Roundup by Ann Edall-Robson

Full moon night
Twenty below
Spooked by a holler
From downwind
Horses charge
The chase begins
Handcrafted longboards
Replace saddles
Leather bindings
Cinched down tight
Lariats hung snug
Across chests
The stud horse nips
At rumps and withers
Wild horses
Are running hard
Cowboys push
Keeping up
Down the hill
Through spruce and pine
Frozen ground shakes
Branches snap
Destination
The pawed meadow below
Corral wings loom
Into their path
Slowing
Guiding the herd
Swirling, snorting
Freedom flight lost
Gate rails slide home
Ropes snake out
Horses shy
Nostrils flare, blowing
Winter full moon
Skiing cowboys
Wild horse roundup

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Optimal Velocity by Jo Hawk

Miners extracted millions from Gold Mountain, but Peggy didn’t want money. She sought powder and speed. The day dawned bright and clear, as she and the longboarders climbed the 1,700-foot slope to the starting position.

Reaching the top, she strapped on her 12-foot long Norwegian skates. She had rubbed her secret dope into the hand-hewn, kiln-dried, vertical-grain Doug fir skis. The mixture of paraffin, tallow, tar, and hemlock oil guaranteed optimal velocity.

The contestants crouched, waiting. The starter hammered the giant saw blade. Peggy pushed against her pole and shot downhill. Sixteen seconds later, she began her next ascent.

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Longboard Records Are Meant to Be Broken by Chelsea Owens

Helle sped the slope, pushed and doped. Her longboard grooves dug into powder-kissed snowbase. Down down down she sped, chasing a memory’s record.

“Hm,” said Riku, peering down from winter’s cloud. “Those be longboards.”

*WHOOSH* Helle still sailed. The stopwatch blinked 10 seconds.

“Oh,” said Riku, gripping at edge of sky. “She be a fast ‘un.”

Helle squinted against snow spray, wishing for goggles instead of scarves. She squatted, splashing a trail behind her.

“Oh. Oh!” exclaimed Riku. “She be my granddaughter!”

Sliding to a stop, Helle turned to check her time.

“13 seconds!” The clouds proudly quivered. “She beat me!”

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Making Tracks by D. Avery

The old wooden skis had hung on the wall ever since I could remember. I’ll never forget how Granpa’s eyes twinkled like stars on a winter’s night as he proclaimed they just needed fresh klister, already warming in a crucible. Smiling through his snow-white beard, Granpa spread and scraped molten wax onto the bases of the skis, rubbed it smooth with the heels of his wizened hands. He told me he had waited his whole life to make these longboards sing.

I held the door. Then SWISH! Granpa was kicking up fresh powder, carving tracks along the Milky Way.

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Long Boards Too Short by Liz Husebye Hartmann

“I’m sure there’s an old pair of your mom’s long boards…skis…here, with the children’s skis. Like you, she was full grown when she fostered with us. They should work for you, too.”

Hjordis twitched her troll’s tail as she peered past the snow giant’s thigh. “Sorry I didn’t bring mine, Magnhildr. When the Berserkers raided my home, I had to run.”

“I don’t imagine the horse you stole would’ve been happy galloping with a pair of skis on his back. Ah! Here they are. Hold your arm straight up.”

“They’re too short!” Hjordis grinned.

Magnhildr cursed. “That’s…inconvenient.”

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Alley Oops by JulesPaige
(reverse haibun)

long boards down the lane
oiled for a game of ten pins
are alleys open…

We’ve played other versions too. Duck and Candle Pins. Each just slightly different, but still fun. We used to be in a league and still have our lockers at the local alley. I think hubby’s bowling shoes are at least half a century old. I used to get intimidated looking down those long boards. Shifting slightly left or right, hoping for a strike or spare. All the fears gone though – as now we just play for fun. I wonder is the Alley even open?

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Surfer Girl by Sascha Darlington

The boys from the mainland think I’m weird. I have a shortboard, sitting in the sand, while they ride their longboards. They’ve never seen me ride. They think, because I’m a girl, I’m there to stalk them.

“A shortboard,” the tall one laughs. “Is that to match your height?”

Hurricane Anna builds waves. These boys surf when it’s calm, when waves are weaker. Today’s for real surfers.

I tug off my shorts and hoodie, grab Hugo the Shortboard, and run.

There’s nothing better than balancing on a board, feeling seaspray, adrenaline, unless it’s the shock on surfer boys’ faces.

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The Art of Skateboarding by Ruchira Khanna

While sipping my tea at the crack of dawn, an idea sparked in my mind as I stared at my son’s longboard, “I should try this. After all, it’s all about balance.”

I lifted the board and walked towards my cemented yard.

After centering and grounding myself, I placed one foot on the board, and it whooshed off before I could put the other foot on it.

The result was a loud thud with an Ouch of a higher decibel that was quick to wake up my family.

“Nah! this is all about practice, not just a jiffy exercise!”

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The Move by Priorhouse

Movers came and went.
Packaging tape screeched across boxes.

“Yes, I want them.”
“Mom, you have the other box already. One bedroom, remember?”
“Okay. Charity then.”

Rooms emptied.
Piles dissolved.
Later, a mover held up an old skateboard, “Keep or Donate?”
“Keep” we all exclaimed.

Unwrapping the cover, the wooden longboard was bent – clay wheels cracked. In the 1950s, when waves were flat, this longboard let grandad screech across the land.

“Isn’t that how he scarred his arms?”
“Yup, clay wheels were dangerous.”

The house was completely empty now – but finding grandad’s long lost longboard – filled us immensely.

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PART II (10-minute read)

Due to Unprecedented Circumstances, the Boarders Extend Their Stay by Anne Goodwin

Matty will extend the hand of friendship to anyone, but the manners of her current guests leave much to be desired. There are even men among the party, and bass notes do drum on her ears. She should not judge, for they know no better, but the fellow who sat opposite at breakfast slurped his tea.

Alas, she must continue to suffer their company. She cannot withdraw her hospitality with the world in disarray. Fortunately she has parlour games and monologues to entertain them. Matty will select exceptionally long board games to spread cheer throughout her boarders’ extended stay.

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Long Boring by Simon Prathap

Don’t talk to me

But what did I do?

You hesitated to talk with my family and disconnected phone!

No! I did not hesitate, it’s a long boring conversation and they were not talking to me and they were talking to your parents

I know how you use to talk with them

But darling, I did not do it on purpose I thought the conversation will end and it was long, I am sorry darling, it is my mistake. I know it is our family.

You always realize that late?

Please forgive me, Please

Okay, No dinner for you.

🥕🥕🥕

Borberline Dull by Geoff Le Pard

‘Morgan, what is it now? We need to find a motel…’

‘Stop, Logan!’

‘You can’t need another pee…’

‘I was just reading…’

‘Are you feeling faint from all that intellectual effort?’

‘Shut up. The guide book says there’s this museum…’

‘You want to go to a museum? You are to museums what rats are to traps. Not a happy combination.’

‘It’s the American museum of boards. Skate boards. I’ve got to see this. Next left.’

‘A museum devoted to men whose trousers don’t fit?’

‘There’s the longest board in the world.’

‘It’ll be the longest I’ve ever been bored…’

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Long Bored by FloridaBorne

Tilde didn’t care if yawning was uncivilized.  This museum was boring!

She wanted to see swords and axes used in battle — images of Vikings defeating Europeans, who were no match for their skill; not spun cloth and pottery.

Long boards stood in a row, skis by any other name.  They held no meaning to a girl who loved cuddling in a blanket as her mother spoke about their ancestors.

Her father said they’re name meant “sword,” but the tour guide said that Øster meant someone on the east.  What would she tell her next, that there was no Santa?

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Awaiting Fame by R. V. Mitchell

Einar and Destin shifted the long pine plank into position as Thorbold prepared to rivet it into place.

“Don’t let it slide beyond the mark I made,” the master boat-wright snapped.

“Sorry Thorbold,” the pair said almost in unison.

Destin wasn’t really sure he was “sorry,” after all he had been building clinker ships nearly as long as his brother, Thorbold had.

He would show him one day. Sooner rather than later, in fact, that he, Destin Olafson could rival the skills of any boat builder in all of the Norse lands.

Just, today was not quite that day.

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A Long Board by Doug Jacquier

The boss said to the boy ‘Fetch me a long board from the hardware. Ask Gus, the owner, he’ll know what I mean.’

Gus listened to the boy, grunted, and said to wait.

The boy waited, patiently.

Eventually Gus said ‘How long you been waitin’ now?’

The boy replied “Couple of hours.’

‘Are you bored?’

The boy nodded cautiously.

‘Well, then I guess you’re long bored, so you can go back to work now.’

When he got back his boss said ‘Well, where’s the long board I sent you for?’

‘The pigs are flying it in tonight.’

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Building on a Dream by Annette Rochelle Aben

Frankie let out a deep sigh. No matter how hard he tried, the long boards were too heavy for him to carry. His older brothers, Ron, John, and Al could haul those boards around as though they were toothpicks. When would he be big enough to help his father build houses?

Dejected, Frankie sat down behind the lumber pile and began to cry softly.

“Where’s Frankie?’

“Yeah, we need someone to grab these boxes of nails.”

His older brothers were in trouble and they needed his help!

Frankie dried his tears, grabbed the nails, and ran after the crew.

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Playing Pirates by Wallie and Friend

Two long boards made a very comfortable walk, and Tom appreciated the space to turn around, even though the boards were bendier than he liked. This was the moment he made his grand speech to the evil pirates before plunging into the watery depths of the sea.

Tom was about to speak when the boards suddenly creaked. He lost his balance and instead of drowning, sat down hard on the carpet.

The outrage from the pirates in their coffee table pirate ship made the boy rub his bruised elbow and glare.

“I thought you said that plank was safe!”

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Precautions Not Needed by Charli Mills

Sam King parked the Willys Jeep in first gear. “Get the long boards,” he told his daughter.

Gripping the roll bar, Danni swung out the open side. Near the gate, the Lazy T Ranch kept long boards for crossing the boggiest parts of the high-meadow springs. Using her leather gloves, Danni moved one board at a time, setting each through the open space in the backseat. They stuck up at an angle. “Dad, you want me to tie a bandana on the end?”

Sam laughed. “We’re not likely to get rear-ended, Kiddo. The bulls are all down at headquarters.”

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First Kiss by Susan Sleggs

Tessa stomped snow off her boots before going into her parents’ house. “Is our toboggan still around? The choir kids want to go sledding.”
Her father answered. “I’ll get it out if you promise not to allow co-ed rides.”

“Why would you say that?”

“I seem to remember my teenage daughter coming home all flushed because she had been kissed while in a jumbled pile after a toboggan mishap.”

Tessa’s eyes widened and she laughed aloud. “I haven’t thought about that in years. Wait till I tell Michael you remember that.”

“Your feet didn’t touch ground for a month.”

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The Board Ritu Bhathal

Jonah let himself into his house and popped his keys on the sideboard when a strangled grunt of a noise startled him. It came from the living room.
He dropped the bags and rushed in to find his mother laying on her stomach, or rather, hovering, on her arms and feet.

“Mum! What’s the matter?” He went to help her up.

“Go… away… Jonah… I… am… trying… to… do… a… two… minute… long… board…” She struggled for breath, before the alarm beeped on her phone.
He laughed as she collapsed onto the floor. “Board? Oh, you mean a plank?”

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Crack by Hugh W. Roberts

Rolling his heavy body towards the spot where Clarice had disappeared, Doug rubbed his hand over the long, bare floorboards. A crackling sound of static made the hairs on the back of his hand tingle.

***

Two floors below, Mike looked down at himself and took a deep breath. Pushing out the air hard, he aimed it towards the long boards just below where his other-self lay.

He watched as the boards started cracking.

***

Terrified by what the woman had yelled at her, Sophie’s shielded her face as the long floorboards underneath the woman began to make a cracking sound.

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Ladybug by Saifun Hassam

At each end of the patio there were “steps” each made of two long cedar boards, supported by wood posts, cinder blocks, and rocks. Spider plants, morning glories, clematis, jasmine, and yellow climbing roses spilled over from the patio onto the steps.

Susan loved the mosaic of colorful petals and leaves drifting onto the boards, the changing patterns of light and shade. She transformed the mosaics into artwork.

Ladybugs clambered over roses, coral bells, petunias, hunting for aphids. Soapy water also helped to control aphids.

A strange season this was, also using soapy water to keep COVID-19 at bay!

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Bored by Bill Engleson

She slowly peels the potato, lightly catching the skin. I pull her apron string.

“Not again!”

This time, she’s not smiling.

“I’m bored.”

“Go outside. Play.”

“Too hot.”

“Play in the shade.”

Outside, a buzz saw whines.

I peer through the fence.

Mister Jack is cutting 2 X 4’s.

I crawl through, watch, wait for silence.

He looks up, winks.

“Hot day, eh!”

My feet shuffle in the sawdust.

“Wanna help?”

I beam.

“Good. In the shop, then.”

I follow him in.

The door closes.

In the dark I hold my breath.

He hisses, “Let’s play our game, sweetie.”

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Away From It All by Joanne Fisher

Stacey lay on her long board as she swam out from the shore. When she was far enough out, she sat on her board and waited for a decent wave to come.

Other surfers were mystified why she used a long board, the truth was she enjoyed the stability it offered while she sat and waited. Out here she was alone, she could breathe and think and ponder, and wonder at the vastness of the ocean that lay around her. Then a wave would finally come and she would surf back to the shore, and start all over again.

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Establishments by D. Avery

“They’s openin’ up a ennertainment an libation establishmint over ta the Slim Chance Ranch.”

“Huh. We run sech a place.”

“Callin’ his place the Longboard Lounge. Claims ta have the biggist a ever’thin’.”

“Aw, Pal, that’s jist big talk. Bigger ain’t better. Don’t ya go worryin’ none ‘bout the Saddle Up Saloon.”

“Bigger pours, bigger portions…”

“We’re big on fun, Pal.”

“He’s offerin’ discounted prices.”

“An’ we ain’t never ast no one ta pay, Pal.”

“All ya kin write, he says.”

“An’ we say 99 words. Refreshin’ an’ satisfyin’.”

“Reckon thet’s the long an’ the short of it.”

“Yep.”

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Home with the Kids — Ideas to Keep them Learning

Kids and learning are two things close to my heart. I have always been an advocate for education and learning, especially for young children, for that’s where it all starts. Parents are their children’s first and most important teachers and, although they may share responsibility in partnership with others, they never fully relinquish that position.

I have been a teacher all my life (my mum always said I was good at teaching my younger siblings how to get up to mischief) with involvement in some form of education since earning my first teacher qualifications after leaving school. Probably the only thing I wanted as much as being a teacher was to be a writer. Now I am fortunate to combine both.

I write two blogs, both with an educational focus, and freelance for other educational publishers. My ultimate aim is to be a published author of children’s stories. My first eponymous blog is the one through which I met Charli and engage with The Carrot Ranch. The second is part of a website for which I write teaching resources to support teachers of children in their first three years of school.

Over the years I have written numerous posts that promote early learning with suggestions of how parents can support their children’s learning from birth (or earlier). Having supervised my daughter’s education at home until she was nine, I have some sense of what parents are experiencing now as they juggle their new responsibility for ‘schooling’ their children with other ongoing responsibilities.

I have always promoted education as something different from schooling and I believe that parents would be wise to focus on their children’s learning, as opposed to ‘schooling’ during these different days. Many activities that form part of everyday routines are rich in opportunities for learning and, if we ensure children are interested and engaged, they will be learning. My belief is that we all, parents, teachers (and especially those ‘in charge’ of teachers) need to lighten up and reduce stress all round in these circumstances. The children will survive. They will learn. That’s what they were born to do.

If you would like to check out some of my suggestions, you could read these posts:

Ideas for learning at home when you can’t go out

Five things parents can do every day to help develop STEM skills from a young age

What parents can do to prepare their children for school

In this post, I want to share with you some online resources that you may find useful in supporting your children’s learning. Unless otherwise stated, the links lead to free information and resources and are suited for children up to about 8 years of age. I have avoided school-type resources in favour of those with more general appeal for a family to engage in at home. However, there is so much good stuff available for parents and children, I could not include them all. If you have favourite sites you use with your children at home, please add them in the comments.

Supporting young learners from birth

The Australian Literacy Educators Association has 27 Little People’s Literacy Learning Modules.  They are organised around themes and each is packed with suggestions for parents to implement with their young children at home.

Talking is Teaching (US) is a website that supports parents support their children’s learning from birth. The importance of talking with children, reading to them, and singing with them is stressed and encouraged. There are many online and downloadable resources with explicit suggestions for parents to encourage their children’s development in language, thinking, maths, science, art and social-emotional skills. A great resource for parents of young children from birth, or earlier.

Books, stories and poetry

The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators has put together a great collection by authors and illustrators. There are book readings, audiobooks and eBooks, art lessons, activities and lots of other fun bookish things.

Michael Rosen (UK) has written many fun stories and poems. You can view videos of his recording on his website or YouTube channel. One of my favourites is Chocolate Cake.

You can doodle along with Mo Willems and his Lunch Doodles. If you enjoy Mo Willems’s books and artwork as much as I do, you’ll love these doodle sessions.

Vooks (US) is a child-friendly ad-free streaming library of animated children books. For less than the cost of one book per month, you have access to dozens of animated stories, many of which have lesson notes and ideas for parents. (This site requires payment though offers a free trial for parents and a year free for teachers.)

The Oxford Owl for Home (UK) focuses on learning for children from 3 to 11 years of age and includes eBooks, videos of storytelling and reading (including by Julia Donaldson) and free activities for developing skills in reading and maths. The books and activities are organised according to their suitability for different age groups. Access to the site is free though registration is required for some activities.

John-John Dot com (Australia) is a video channel on which teacher John-John reads picture books.

Goodnight with Dolly Dolly Parton (US) reads a story from the Imagination Library every day for ten weeks.

Across-interests

Kids News (Australia) has a wealth of up-to-date news of interest to children. It covers a wide range of topics and includes suggestions of other things kids might enjoy such as book clubs to join and competitions to enter. The news articles contain video links and exercises for discussion and comprehension. To assist teachers and parents of students who are learning at home, it provides daily activities for children from age 4 to 14.

Scholastic has many free learn-at-home projects from PreK to year 9 with books (fact and fiction) to read, videos to watch and projects to do. There is something to interest every kid.

Citizen Science

If you want to get involved in citizen science projects that advance scientific knowledge, there are plenty of those to become involved in, depending on your interests.

You can help fight disease by solving puzzles on your computer with foldit, or by allowing Folding@home to run calculations in the background using spare graphics processing on your gaming computer.

If you live in Australia or New Zealand, you can help track the spread of influenza and Covid-19 by joining Flutracking.

If it’s natural phenomena you are interested in, join iNaturalist to record your observations of nature and share them with fellow naturalists. Join hundreds of thousands of other naturalists and projects around the world.

There are over 50 projects you can join in from home with Zooniverse, including space exploration like this one:

For these and other citizen science projects, visit the Australian Citizen Science Association or Scientific American or citizen science associations and organisations in your country.

Maths

Kathleen Morris (Australia), a primary tech teacher and host of the Student Blogging Challenge, has published a collection of 20 maths games in a free eBook which you can download from her website here. Like me, Kathleen is not a fan of worksheets and these games are easy to play with resources and equipment you probably already have at home.

Museums

While it may not be possible for you to physically visit a museum this year, many museums welcome you online. Here are links to just of few of the museums you may like to visit:

The British Museum

The Guggenheim Museum

The Museum of Modern Art

The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

The British Natural History Museum

The Australian Maritime Museum has lots of activities for children.

You may also like to explore the Tomb of Pharaoh Ramesses VI.

Art Galleries

The Google Arts and Culture page provides links to many art galleries with much to explore.

Zoos and animals

At Explore.org livecams you can visit  animals in their natural habitat, on farms, and in zoos. You can see dogs, cats, bears, goats, manatees — there are so many different animals and environments to explore.

Just ten of the many places also live streaming animals:

Victoria Zoos

San Diego Zoo

Zoo Atlanta Panda Cam

Houston Zoo

Smithsonian’s National Zoo

Edinburgh Zoo

African Wildlife

Monterey Bay Aquarium

Georgia Aquarium, Atlanta

Aquarium of the Pacific

True to Life Books has 15 wildlife videos taken by wildlife author and photographer Jan Latta. The aim of the videos is to educate children about endangered wildlife. Videos include tigers, sloths, meerkats, pandas and koalas.

On Google Earth, you can explore 31 National Parks of the United States. You might even find others to explore around the world also.

For those interested in space, NASA has made its image and video library available to all.

I hope you have found a few new sites to interest you and your children. Remember to share any other favourites of yours in the comments.

Until next time, Norah.

Saddle Up Saloon; Not Quite Karaoke

Saddle Up Saloon

“Dunno ‘bout this so-called karaoke, Kid. Where’s the soun’ system?”

“Ain’t got sound Pal. The music’s in folks’s heads. Ya gotta carry yer own tune. So yeah, that’s the disclaimer; they ain’t no act’ul singin’. But, see, that way no songs git harmed in the production a karaoke night.”

“But yer ‘spectin’ folks ta change the lyrics a familiar songs?”

“Yep. Let me step up. Show ya how it’s done.”

Yer goin’ up first? Mebbe we should call it chokey-croaky.”

“Gonna do a song ta the tune a Janis Joplin’s “Mercedez Benz.”

“Oh brother!”

“Big Brother, Pal. An’ The Holding Company.”

 

Oh Boss, won’t you buy me a Dodge pickup truck?  
Ranch hands ride hosses, but my hoss always bucks.       

Cain’t sit tall in the saddle, if yer down on yer luck,
So Boss, won’t you buy me a Dodge pickup truck?

Oh Boss, won’t you buy me some bacon an’ beans?
I ain’t a veg’tarian, but my food’s all turned green.
My tummy rumbles like thunder, the larder is lean,
So, oh Boss, won’t you buy me some bacon an’ beans?

Oh Boss, won’t you buy me a decent first aid kit?
I’m counting on you, Boss, I think I been rattlesnake bit.
Prove that you love me, that you give a shit,
Oh Boss, won’t you buy me a decent first aid kit?

Everybody!
Oh Boss, won’t you buy me a Dodge pickup truck?
Ranch hands ride hosses, but my hoss always bucks.

Cain’t sit tall in the saddle, if yer down on yer luck,
So Boss, won’t you buy me a Dodge pickup truck?
That’s it!                       

 

“Thank gawd. Hey, look who’s here! It’s thet buckaroo from the Canadian prairies, ‘Quiet Spirits’ columnist, Ann Edall-Robson. Are ya here ta sing us a song, Ann?”

“Think I will, Pal! I do consider Don Gibson to be one of the all-time greats when it comes to old-style country music. His lyrics are easy to sing along to. And I know for certain I danced miles and miles to his song “Oh Lonesome Me. There was seldom a live band at any rodeo dance or cabaret that didn’t include it. Yup, datin’ myself and don’t give a rat’s ass. So here goes— to Don Gibson, I apologize, and I hope you don’t mind how this one came out…

 

Oh Saddle Sore Me

 

Everybody’s saddlin’ up for some fun 

I’m wonderin’ if Pal and Kid will ever see the sun 

I can’t get down there quick enough, you see

Oh, saddle sore me

 

Now, Pal and Kid, they let us all just hang around

We’re havin’ a blast, kickin’ up our heals or layin’ low

A bunch of literary sorts swappin’ lies and readin’ books 

Oh, saddle sore me

 

We come and go as we please

Or watch it all from the trees

Teasin’, laughin’, playin’ with the words

It’s something we love to do 

While we share a libation or two

With Pal and Kid encouragin’ us from the bar

 

This must be the way to lose these saddle sore blues

Ignore the world and settle in with this crew 

Ponderin’ our fun takes the place of reality

Oh, saddle sore me.

 

“Oh my, Ann, ya done real good. ‘Cept now I got a earworm.”

“That’s better than a bedbug.”

“Well Ann, that all depens on who’s doin’ the buggin’, I s’pose.”

“Hey, Pal, it’s Shorty, an’ she’s standin’ tall as kin be right up on stage. Wunner whut she’ll sing.”

“Reckon some ol’ buckaroo song. Shush an’ jist lissen, Kid.”

 

Git Along Protagonist, by Shorty (To the Tune of Git Along Little Doggies)

 

As I was out riding one morning for leisure, 

I spied a word-puncher a-writing alone.

Her head was hunched down and her fingers were tapping.

And as I approached, she was writing a tome.

 

Yippee ki yi ay, git along protagonist,

It’s your grand epic and none of my own.

Yippee ki yi ay, git along protagonist,

Be a best-seller and make us well known.

 

Early in the springtime writers scan the pages,

Edit and brand ’em and finish their tales,

Round up the scenes, load up the chapters,

Then throw them manuscripts right out in e-mail. 

 

Yippee ki yi ay, git along protagonist,

It’s your grand epic and none of my own.

Yippee ki yi ay, git along protagonist,

Be a best-seller and make us well known.

 

 “Hey, Shorty! Ya struck a chord with thet one! Thinkin’ thet song brought a tear ta some writerly eyes. Yer a protagonist at this here bar, fer sure.”

“Thanks, Pal. I appreciate that the Saloon is a safe place for song slingin’, jist as the Ranch is safe fer raw writin’ an’ discoursin’. Hope others give this a go in the comments.”

“Well here comes someone now. Who’s that ranch hand?”

“Kid, that fella looks ta be more of a farm boy than a rancher.”

“Really, Pal, how kin ya tell? One or the udder, looks like he’s got a song ta sing. Shush. Why, that sounds like that John Prine song, Dear Abby. Ha! I love that song.”

 

“Dear Charli, Dear Charli, my kids are all freaks, 

One’s up in Svalbard and the other two are geeks. 

They all went to school then went their own way, 

Smarter than me but love me just the same.

Signed, Growly Bear Daddy.”

 

“Howdy, Mister. Ya did a real fine job with that song, don’t think Mr. Prine’d mind at all. Somehow the characters in it seem familiar. What’d ya say yer name was?”

“Just call me Sargent Mills.”

“Yessir! Pal serve this man a beer! Well.”

“Deep, Kid. Stop gawkin’ and make way.

Folks, you or yer characters, step right up, set yer lyrics ta a familiar tune, we’ll follow along in the comments. It ain’t quite karaoke, but we kin carry on anyways.

 

If asked, Pal & Kid will deny that they spill from the pen of D. Avery. They claim to be free ranging characters who live and work at Carrot Ranch and now serve up something fresh every Monday at the Saddle Up Saloon. If you or your characters are interested in saddling up as a saloon guest, contact D. Avery at averydede.1@gmail.com .

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