Friday, September 2, 2016

Road tripping, tailgate picnics, Photography, poetry and flash fiction

Though not officially fall, September 1st always ushers in the season for me. Not only is my youngest back in school, my oldest is buried beneath the assignments in his college classes leaving me mercifully free to pursue some of the things I love. Giddy with excitement, I packed a camera bag and a picnic lunch and headed out on a road trip, eager to explore one of the many trails I hadn't visited in over a year.

All would have gone according to plan if not for the mosquitoes who were still tenaciously clinging to their hold on life before Iowa gets cold enough to kill them. God I long for snow. I got pretty bitten up on my journey, but it was worth it to finally have the chance to get back into the woods. So much of the inspiration for my stories and poems comes from these walks and the fallen logs and grassy mounds are plentiful enough to provide me a wide variety of places to sit and writing when the mood hits.

Of course to get out to many of them I rely on Jake. He's my 1989 Chevy Silvarado. Tall enough off the ground that a short girl like me has to hop up into the drivers seat, but it keeps the underside from scraping on the gravel even when we hit some pretty rough potholes getting in and out of the woods.

As you'll notice int he image below, I'm not a fan of the fancy paved walking trails, I don't like to be out where the bikes can go and the ladies with the strollers wander with children who's laughter or screams scar away the birds. I love taking photographs of nature, particularly the animals when I can get close enough, but that requires a lot of silence and patience, and places where the people aren't. This, my paths look more like deer trails because that's what they are. But in those thick canopies of trees I can find peace and solitude. Sometimes the trails and the back roads are the only places silent enough to hear the many voices in my head without competition from ringing phones and inquisitive people. 

The best photo I've ever taken out on this particular trail, was of a barreled owl sitting high up in a naked tree top in January. If not for the time of year I'd never have seen it in the early morning light, but it was beautiful and proud and I'll always cherish that moment of looking through the lens and capturing it. While I didn't encounter anything to incredible on this particular walk, it did allow me the opportunity to challenge my fear of spiders when i came across this beautiful orb weaver working on its nest. 

The first section of the trail winds its way towards the creek, I love searching for unique rocks and even fossils here though I've not found a fossil yet. Some of the other creeks in the area have produced bison teeth and even the teeth of american camel and cave bears and I keep hoping to discover something interesting in this one, besides some of the pieces of quartz and Iowa geodes I've picked up. I've amassed so many rocks over the years that in the spring I plan to incorporate some of them into the landscaping of my garden, building little walls and boundaries to keep the weed wacker at bay. 

One of my favorite spring and fall pastimes is mushroom hunting, I usually carry a guide with me and some containers to store any edibles I find. With all of the rain we've had recently I should have expected to come across several varieties, and I did. These I simply took pictures of, without the color guide I forgot to bring, I couldn't remember which were which, a shame really, as I found a bunch on my walk. 

I love taking photos of insects, too, Macrophotography has been something I've been exploring for the past year now, and I was kicking myself a little for not having packed the macro lens. Still, spotting this small snail making his way up the leaf was pretty cool, and though I couldn't capture him in the same details as I would have with the macro lens, the shot still came out pretty descent for the type of lighting out in the woods. 

At this point, it was lunch time and after all the walking I'd done I was pretty hungry, so I set up my Turkey sandwich with its cranberry bread wheat bread on the tailgate, along with some green seedless grapes, sparkling cranberry juice and half and apple fritter, and listened to the sounds of the woods while I pigged out. In the process, I also wrote a poem, inspired by the experiences of the day. In it I hope I was able to convey a sense of what I feel when I'm out there.

Sunburned leaves fall as loudly as rain in autumn forests
where birdsong trills high above the meandering path
sunlight shimmers off dew speckled spider webs
the lonely orb weaver engaged in an intricate dance of silk and wind
prairie grass rustles, waves
the gentle rhythm section of this cacophony of sound
I recline in the bed of my pickup, sky gazing, cloud watching
mellow and cool beneath the flowing winds
reminiscent of the creek water surging around the rocks
marking the end of the path, which like these seasons, never lasts
we shed the years the way snakes shed their skins,
discard memories and discord in piles of translucent scales 
the closer we get to becoming ourselves
the closer we get to whole int he ground
dying from the moment we were born
we wasted time with fake plastic smiles and unrealistic expectations
becoming the shadows of those who were shadows of others
an unbending cycle unless we break it
shatter the molds, cast aside doubting embers
embrace the brilliant orange, reds and golds of our vibrant selves
wear them proudly through the winters of our lives

My Iowa is a place of farms and fields, tradition and beauty. Below are just a few images of the drive back into town. 

 In closing, I'd like to leave you with the opening scene to something that doesn't know what it wants to be yet. Inspired by the time I spent in New York City, something tells me another road trip is going to be in order to flesh this one out a bit. 

Sometimes it’s safer to cling to the shadows. In the dark of night I can maneuver around the city without drawing any attention to myself. A good thing too, since looking at me tends to make people uncomfortable. Who could blame them, right, I mean it’s one thing to know that shapeshifters and were-creatures existed in the world, but it was another thing to see what happens to one who spent too much time in their animal form and could never, ever shift all the way back again.

My eyes were easy enough to hide if I wished to bother with them, contacts could cover the kitty cat yellow with ease. The thick black strands of my long hair easy cover my rounded, fluffy ears, though they are extra sensitive and I actually hate to have my hair laid over them. Maybe a good dentist could have fixed my fangs, but it wasn’t as if I smiled often, so I didn’t see the point, besides, they were essential for hunting, and every now and again I met a guy who got off on being bitten. I’m always extra cautious though, I know what kind of damage my fangs and claws can do. We can’t turn anyone, you have to be born like us to be Were-kin, but we can fuck you up in a heartbeat if we set our minds to it.

Claws in bed can be pretty fun too, with just the right partner. A broad back that didn’t mind being marked up a little, a strong, muscular chest to tease with one sharp, pointed digit….

Damn. It had been awhile since I’ve gotten laid and it was starting to show. Finding someone who wasn’t turned off by my other more difficult to hide features, however, was quite a chore. Glancing down at my large, misshapen feet that more closely resembled elongated paws, I wrinkled my nose, another feature that was decidedly non-human in its appearance. I was standing in a puddle of gritty muck, which meant I’d be scrubbing them in the shower later to be certain I’d gotten every foul bit of city filth off before I crawled into bed.  

I hated being dirty, but then, that was a trait shared by most cats. At least my kind had evolved beyond licking ourselves to clean away the filth. I shuddered at the thought and picked my way more carefully along the ground. If there was anything better than ice water to kill the urge to fornicate, it was the thought of how many germs had to be swimming around in the puddles beneath my feet.

With a snarl, I turned my attention to the fire escapes, looked for the nearest route to the rooftops and quickly scaled the side of an old brownstone to perch on the ledge of a five story building. It gave me a better view of the streets and the cars streaking past. It also gave me a better view of my destination.

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