Walking on Water

Last week, we were up on Bays Mountain in northeast Tennessee, hiking around the reservoir.

Much to my chagrin (which didn’t last long because I was enjoying the crisp air & colorful beauty too much), I didn’t have my Nikon with me.

Regardless, I happen to live in this wonderful technological age where I can pull an i-magic box from my back pocket and still share some of my glimpses with others. (All are unedited phonography.)

Here was the first event that pulled me to the water’s edge.

Because of the loss of resolution in my zoom function, my i-art looks a little Monet-ish.
But those of you who remember the Tennessee artist Ben Hampton will appreciate that I’ve added some of his artistic flair (a piece of wildlife that blends into the imagery). Did you spot it right off the bat? (No, sorry,didn’t mean to mislead you – it’s NOT a bat…)

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A coot in the lily pads

Here’s a broader view of the lily pads with brighter fall plumage on the opposite bank’s trees than on our silly little coot.

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And here’s our first crossing over the reservoir. It was awesome to walk across a field of lily pads!

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Here are a couple of other great shots of crossing more lily pad mines – exploding with fall’s magnificence!

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On the way out, we spotted a funky little fungus (or maybe just a fun guy – get it? Fungi. If you pronounce it with the j sound, you won’t get it…) He’d artistically blanketed himself with contrasting & complementary colors for his photo op.

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More proof that nature has great taste! (No, um, I wouldn’t suggest eating him.)

Falling for fall again, -jody

Revisiting an Old Favorite: Yeats

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I recast this “old favorite” of a poem on a new background this week.

As much as I love much of Yeats’ work – even going so far as to make it a key centerpiece in At the Water’s Edge – I love none more than the depth of this tenderly romantic, yet heart-breakingly vulnerable, message. To me, true love encompasses and sets itself on a tier of trust that allows the lover to open up on both of these levels. Like revealing the precious contents of one’s lifelong hope chest and seeing their use come to fruition is how I imagine making such a profession when fearfully yet reverently revealing the contents of one’s heart to another.

Trifecta Fiction: Seeking Graceful Closure in a Generational Gap

There she stood, in that dream space of familiar unfamiliarity, gazing upon a fair-haired young lady displayed in a breath-taking formal dress, likely dating to the early 1900’s, with a hand-tatted lace chemisette collar matching the gloves spilling over her wrists. Mounds of navy taffeta swirled about, pulled up into a small bustle in the back. A satin sash gathered it all in, with dainty pearl buttons carefully placed as opulent accents. The woman’s hair was elegantly piled upward in a loose pompadour. She had a fancy parasol opened to cover her in the mist, though it looked too elegant for anyone to actually consider using.

Danielle searched the beautiful profile questioningly, wondering who she was – until the other young woman turned directly towards her, her gaze soft, loving and kind. She extended a gloved hand to Danielle’s face, fingertips gliding across her cheek, brushing away a tendril of hair. Danielle gasped at the flawlessness of the woman’s skin, the way her bright blue eyes glittered and danced, rather than being faded to gray and sunken back into her head. This woman’s lips were full and vivid, her skin was the peachiest shade with the rosiest of cheeks. Danielle wanted to call the woman by name, but the only label she knew for this angelic creature didn’t suffice.  This beauty could surely never pass for anyone’s ‘Granny.’ After a few seconds of consideration, the best she could conjure was, “Mary?”

The other young woman’s eyes twinkled, her lips spreading upward, as she nodded her head, her face radiant. She took Danielle’s hand, gently pulling her back towards an ancient stone that could serve well as a make-shift bench. Mary carefully sat sideways, one foot crossed over the other in such a lady-like fashion that Danielle felt archaic and without any sense of grace at all. Mary daintily closed her parasol and leaned it against the rock, taking both of Danielle’s hands. Her eyes searched Danielle’s face, intent on finding something specific there.

_________________________

This one’s a little rewrite of a scene from At the Water’s Edge, in which my protagonist, Danielle, is wrestling with an important life-altering decision…and about to engage in a life-altering (as in, she might not have hers anymore) action. She’s in her current predicament after trying to honor her now-deceased grandmother’s final words to her. Or were they?

I’m submitting these 333 words in response to the Trifecta Challenge for Week Ninety-Three, in which the word was:

GRACE (noun)

– See more at: http://www.trifectawritingchallenge.com/#sthash.d4MOL4ll.dpuf

And thanks to a lovely invitation from my lovely friend, Kir, I’m also submitting it to WriteOnEdge’s Write at the Merge, with this week’s theme: “The Space Between” (the pause between two events).

Weekly Photo Challenge: HOME – Permit Me a Voyage

The WordPress Weekly Challenge has asked for a share that evokes HOME, whether the representation is literal or abstract.

Home is more often a concept concerning our personal identity that we carry with us wherever we go, even once the memory of a specific place might otherwise have faded, growing dark and hazy. Still, we find commonalities with others when comparing our memories of home life. Sharing experiences, such as a book or a poem or a song, can spark connections (and even serve to make new memories).

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Here’s a writing I’d like to share from my home area, if you’ll permit me.

Permit Me (a) Voyage (from The Third Voyage of Hart Crane) is a poem by James Agee, a fellow mountaineer from Tennessee (now gone from this world), who is likely best known for “Let Us Now Praise Famous Men” – a significant literary document about three impoverished sharecropper families during the Great Depression.

Agee’s poem gets a cameo role in my own writingAt the Water’s Edge, when Wil and Danielle are sharing a moment about forced memorization of their regions’ poets in their earlier school years. Though their regions were countries apart, they can relate to this common experience (just as some of you may). She can’t recite the poem in its entirety, but she makes the mistake (or is it a Freudian slip?) of mentioning that she can still recall the final line. I’ll save that for after you get a chance to read the poem for yourself.

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Permit Me Voyage

Take these who will as may be: I
Am careless now of what they fail:
My heart and mind discharted lie
And surely as the nerved nail

Appoints all quarters on the north
So now it designates him forth
My sovereign God my princely soul
Whereon my flesh is priestly stole:

Whence forth shall my heart and mind
To God through soul entirely bow,
Therein such strong increase to find
In truth as is my fate to know:

Small though that be great God I know
I know in this gigantic day
What God is ruined and I know
How labors with Godhead this day:

How from the porches of our sky
The crested glory is declined:
And hear with what translated cry
The stridden soul is overshined:

And how this world of wildness through
True poets shall walk who herald you:
Of whom God grant me of your grace
To be, that shall preserve this race.

Permit me voyage, Love, into your hands.

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Back to a little awkward banter concerning Agee’s poem that’s taken place between Wil and Danielle:

***

“You said you remembered the last line too. What was it?”

She sighed in mock exasperation. “Doesn’t anything get past you Donnellys?” Her voice resonated with the panic she was feeling. Why had she even mentioned the final line? This was nobody’s fault but her own. She should’ve expected him to be this attentive after spending the day before with his ever-so-astute brother.

“Permit me voyage, Love, into your hands,” she hastily murmured, looking down at her fingers that were nervously wiggling and interlocking in her lap.

To assure her he’d heard every single syllable, he repeated the words – each with the same passionate enunciation he’d used at the waterfall while reciting Yeats, “Permit me voyage, Love, into your hands,” even adding an over-pronounced exhalation of breath at the end. His own hands locked tightly on the steering wheel as he drove further into Sligo, refusing himself access to his companion’s lovely (though now-scarlet) face. His stomach twisted into a small knot. Yet, he merely nodded casually, fighting an irresistible urge to allow the corners of his mouth to turn upward.

The Conasauga River: An Accidental Adventure

Admittedly, I stumble along in life quite often.  But…Have you ever stumbled upon something absolutely marvelous, by complete accident?

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For me, it’s the fairy tale of hiking. Like Belle, stumbling through the obscure forest map, lost from her original destination, having a beast of a time finding the turn-offs because the ruts in the one-lane road are bouncing the not-so-reliable-directions out of her hand (and, no, this place doesn’t exist on any GPS) — there’s just no turning back…Suddenly, out of nowhere, she spots her trailhead of destiny!

This one happened to be Conasauga Trailhead 61. Let me say, my photos don’t do the place justice! My camera’s limited capability (okay, maybe it was the operator’s limited capability) couldn’t fully capture the water’s exact beauty as it went from deep forest green to clear emeralds, teals and jades. The river also transitioned between exciting rapids, suitable for a kayaker, to calm swimming holes, one complete with the addition of a rigged wire/rope swing that I wouldn’t trust any more than a grinning politician. That – and the pair of undies snagged in a tree – were the only signs of civilization I encountered on the trail. I’m fairly certain all that will change in the summertime, but I also know the rapids won’t be as impressive once the spring rains subside.

The Conasauga River - Is this Heaven?

The Conasauga River – Is this Heaven?

The trail is an easy one to hike, with the most challenging feat being to keep your feet dry at a couple of creek crossings and mud holes. The second crossing is rather wide and does require some skill at creek rock jumping, so those who are balance-challenged should plan to un-boot – or bring a change of shoes. (Not many southeastern trails come without creek crossings – and most don’t have bridges, in case you were wondering.)

Rolling Out the Welcome Mat...

Rolling Out the Welcome Mat…

So how do you get to this accidentally magical place, you ask? The directions are quite simple…You adventurously drive around the Tennessee-Georgia border while looking for another trail you were actually searching out (from directions supplied by a deranged Eagle Scout) until you pass this old tractor in the middle of nowhere.

You thought I was kidding about the tractor, didn't you?Nope. I had to stop for a visit - 'cause I thought this tractor was sexy. :)

You thought I was kidding about the tractor, didn’t you?
Nope. I had to stop for a visit – ’cause I thought this tractor was sexy. 🙂

Then you veer right onto a one-lane, once-graveled, now deeply rutted trail that is meant to serve as a mountainous lane. If you’re acrophobic, best not to look out the window while topping the mountain ridges, wondering why there are no guard rails – better just to pray for the next several miles, as you bump along, that you don’t pass any other vehicles. You will pass three moonshine stills (but you probably won’t notice them unless someone fires a warning shot, since they’re covered in digital camo netting); you’ll continue to check your map that hasn’t done you a bit of good since you set out much earlier that day; the road will turn back into asphalt for approximately 50 feet and you’ll wonder why they even bothered (apparently they just needed to clean out their asphalt truck); you’ll then wonder if you’re going to run out of gas before you ever reach civilization; eventually you’ll convince yourself that the mountain creeks are better than civilization – and maybe you could move there and get on your moonshine neighbor’s reality TV show; and then…out of nowhere, you’ll inadvertently pass Trail No. 61. This would be a good time to back up and find a parking spot.

Conasauga Trail No. 61.You Are Here (however that happened!)

Conasauga Trail No. 61.
You Are Here (however that happened!)

Quick (and Possibly Imperative) Geography & Translation Lesson (most especially if “you ain’t from around here”)

If, on your trip, you begin to hear banjo music playing from a front porch, you’ve traveled too far east to hit this Conasauga River trail. You would be on the Chattooga River instead. The Conasauga River is part of the Chattahoochee National Forest, but don’t confuse this with the name of the Chattooga River (upon which the movie, Deliverance, was filmed). Chattahoochee is loosely translated as ‘painted rock,’ while Chattooga means ‘he has crossed the creek and come out on the other side.’ If you saw the movie, coming out on the other side takes on an entirely new meaning. Conasauga means everything from ‘sparkling water’ to ‘strong horse’ to “let’s mess with the white man and not tell him what it really means. Hey, your mama’s a Conasauga!” Now that we’ve got that all straightened out…

WELCOME TO THE CONASAUGA!

WELCOME TO THE CONASAUGA!

I’d love to share with you some of the views I stumbled across. I am serious when I say that, once you’ve traversed all the ridges in your car, the hiking is easy, being fairly even and following the river the entire way – always providing a gorgeous view. Various generations in your family could enjoy it together, if they’re reasonably steady walkers. Kayakers could also enjoy it when the water’s elevated with decent rapids because carrying your equipment back up the trail would be a breeze. (I wouldn’t be as enthusiastic to do that with my canoe – the portage part, that is.) Lastly, I’ve not forgotten you fisher-people. This river was once stocked with trout and though it’s no longer stocked, they’ve bred and are present. There are also bass, catfish and bream – and even geeky little fish that like to be studied by scientists.

So, without further ado (or probably just in addition to it), here’s my geeky slideshow for your viewing pleasure:

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Happy Hiking! -jody

I’ve Been Tagged as ‘The Next Big Thing’

(Er, you do understand this isn’t about weight gain, right?) And, by appropriate southern states terminology, it’s actually ‘The Next Big Thang,’ but when you’re braggin’, you wanna’ make sure the rest of the world can understand you too.

I’m actually not bragging on myself nearly so much as I am the person who took the time to throw some encouragement my way by making this nomination – and some other folks who I’d like to take the time to pass the baton forward and maybe some of them will run with it.

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I greatly appreciate the gift of exhortation, and especially appreciate MommyVerbs directing her particular gift towards me. She told me to “Engage the Day!” Thank you so much for “verbing” me!

In her post, she explained that The Next Big Thing involves bloggers who either have a book under their belt, or are in the process of writing one, or should be writing one. What a great compliment to receive!

And, yes! I do have a novel I just recently finished! Thanks for allowing me the opportunity to share. My best current share is that I finally figured out how I wanted to classify its genre this week – as mystical realism. I’m currently working on its sequel, as well as another unrelated novel between work on my dissertation. But this first novel is closest of all to my heart, and I can’t wait for it to find its way into yours!

I’m getting ahead of myself though. Apparently, there are some specific questions that I’m supposed to answer in order to officially accept such a Big Thing – Next. So…here goes:

What is the title of your book?

At the Water’s Edge

Where did the idea come from for your book?

Its background comes from many personal life experiences, one of those being the loss of a daughter for whom I wanted to provide with her own life venture; another coming from the loss of my grandmother’s Irish father to her in her childhood. The mystical portion was the impetus, sparked by a recurring dream from various times in my life. And its setting in the reality context of the story (versus the supernatural one) came from my ‘little-brother-like’ nephew’s shared fascination in our family’s Irish heritage, which he was studying prior to losing his battle with leukemia in his early twenties. I wanted us to be able to make this trip to our ancestors’ homeland together, and I wanted (perhaps needed) a way to express restoration in the midst of loss.

What genre does your book fall under?

As I earlier mentioned (bragged?), I’ve just decided it belongs under the genre of ‘mystical realism’ (more often referred to as ‘magical realism‘ – but Ireland is a mystical place, as are the book’s experiences).

Which actors would you choose to play in your movie rendition?

Funny how my characters have lived among me for these past three years to the point that I can see them clearly in my mind. However, I can’t place a finger on specific actors that match those characteristics. I would want the Donnellys to all be authentic Irish actors.

Setting: It begins briefly in Dublin, then transitions to the Lietrim/Sligo region of the Irish Republic.

What is a one-sentence synopsis of your book?

My tag-line rolls into three thoughts. Here they are:

Restoration. All souls need it in a broken world. So much so that some unknowingly seek it out – not only for themselves, but also for others.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I’m in the process of query letter submissions to literary agents. This process is helping me learn to better summarize my overall project, but I know I still have much to learn in the area of appropriately marketing my work (since it wasn’t written as the product of a business mindset – which may be the greatest struggle for many writers).

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

The concept for this novel was birthed in early January 2009, and although I had completed a massive amount of it within months, I had to set it aside due to the demands of my doctoral studies. I got around to penning the final words on September 1, 2012, when my characters (and one of my test readers) demanded resolution to their story (or just their freedom from being held captive in my brain – who could blame them for that?).

What other books would you compare this story to?

I’m fairly certain I was strongly influenced by all the Sidney Sheldon books I read in my earlier years – his many female protagonists, with their unexpected adventures and romance always in the way, so to speak (but I guess Sheldon’s Genie is the closest he got to mystical). 😉

Though there are a good number of mystical reads around, and a good number of suspenseful adventure journeys that include a romantic element, I haven’t personally run across a similar read to this. (If I had, I wouldn’t have felt compelled to write about it, I suppose.) The main characters are interconnected from an historical past of which they aren’t even aware; while being influenced from a mystical dream that has occurred their entire lives, yet neither can bring themselves to reconcile (much less admit to) such a connection in reality. This element of uncertainty/denial actually serves to move the story forward.

Who or what inspired you to write the book?

At the Water’s Edge began as a personal expression for processing some losses in my life, while honoring those precious loved ones – all of whom have inspired me, one way or another – throughout my own life’s journey. This is a surreal tale, though, combining both natural and supernatural elements to speak to the importance of relationships with both those in our present and the ancestors of our past. After all, what’s life without a little magic sprinkled in?

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Readers are likely going to feel pulled along in indecision with Danielle in the decisions she’s going to finally have to face, both practically and relationally, as they become drawn into the lives and experiences of the Donnelly family with her.

I’ve included excerpts from the Irish bard of my story’s area, W.B. Yeats, particularly seeking to embrace his style of sharing the love of his land, drawing his reader into both the content and context surrounding his subjects.

It’s my hope that, through the descriptive aspects of the landscape, the people, and this region’s poetic elements, readers particularly of Irish emigrant descent might allow their souls to make that magical, ancestry-laden connection with the Emerald Isle.

And now…I would like to tag these folks as…. “The Next Big Thing!”

  • Marla at TravelingMarla surely has a fun, inspirational book in the works on her transformative experiences.
  • Joe’s a Poet and He Knows It (joe2poetry) – with a book of poetry! And he’s bloody Oirish too. 🙂 (I may be pushing it again.)

  • Tom at Cobbie’s World continually inspires me and others with his observant and gracious comments and feedback. I always enjoy reading his shared thoughts and bet you would too.

  • There are, of course, so many more talented bloggers whose work I read & with whom I have the privilege of interacting. It’s an exhaustive list. I’d invite you to peruse my “Whispers & Shouts” section for some of my more prolific commenters, as these are generally the ‘writer-types’ who actively interact on my blog.

  • And if you have a recent project in the works or under your belt that you’d like to brag about, have at it in the comments section! We’d love to hear about your ‘next big thang’!

Dream big,  -jody