Weekly Photo Challenge: Time

Speaking of time…I’m about to run out of it on this challenge (that was posted last Friday).

My submission for this Weekly Photo Challenge is the Tower of David at the wall of Old Jerusalem. I took this photo a few years ago on a friend’s old borrowed digital camera. I was walking quickly in the rain under my hood around the outer wall (you can see the raindrops refracted in the light in the photo) when I looked up and realized how welcoming the warm yellow light appeared cast against the natural stone and its twilight setting. I couldn’t help but wonder how this same setting would’ve looked centuries ago, with dancing flames providing that same evening light.

DSC01091

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Optimism

In the Daily Post Weekly Photo Challenge, we were challenged to reflect on Optimism.
Specifically, “How do you fuel the fires of optimism?”

The other night, as the winter day seemed particularly short and dreary, I climbed atop my bicycle in the warm indoors, attached to a trainer that allows me to travel no further than my imagination can take me this time of year. About 35 minutes into my ride, my brain became more complacent than my legs. I reached over to grab my iPhone, switched from the MapMyRide app that was faithfully ticking away with nothing more than time, likely anxious as to why it wasn’t being allowed to log a more interesting route of progress. After thumbing myself into boredom with a few other apps, I noticed a new email had popped up a few hours earlier in my special email account – the one that has, as of late, been reserved for receiving polite rejection letters on my finished novel, Rolling River. (Granted, I’m convinced there’s a steeper learning curve to writing query letters than the actual book, itself. Yet, I’m also determined to woman-up and keep at it for the sake of all my wonderful friends who continually encourage me to persist.)

Lo and behold, I had something completely unexpected and earth-shattering happen! I opened an email response to my query that began with, “Sounds intriguing!  Please send the full manuscript + synopsis as attachments to my direct email.  I look forward to reading your material.” By the second reading (the one where I realized this wasn’t just an encouraging “this isn’t quite right for me, but best wishes” response), I nearly toppled off my trainer! Seriously. I forgot I was clipped in, as I tried to climb off to greedily gobble up those delicious words again.

Let’s be clear. I understand that, as of this moment, this doesn’t mean my book will be published. But this event is still magnanimous, as I won’t ever forget the literary agent who gave me that gift of optimism. (I may surely share her name at some point in the future, but I won’t put that pressure on her today.) She will always be my first non-rejection hopeful response – the person (beyond those who already loved me) to say that my project had enough value to earn her attention. It was a mountain-top experience, to be certain!

And I surely yearn for mountain-top experiences. Admittedly, I’ve had some colder-weather ones lately; but this photo from Grandfather Mountain this past July (in near 100-degree heat) best brings the appropriate words to mind when it comes to climbing on toward your challenge:

mountaintop

So how have your fires of optimism been fueled lately?

Freed Christmas Tree: My Traditional Heart-Warming Christmas Story

I first posted this story last Christmas season . Like all good stories (or not), I decided to make it an annual tradition – at least this year (mostly because I’ve been too busy lazy caught up in the awe of the season). This is one that deserves a hot cup of cocoa while reading it by the fire.


 

I need to begin this story with a very important disclaimer. By the time you get to the end, I can’t imagine that there could possibly be a dry eye among you. Consider yourself fairly warned.

I was driving down the road the other day with a couple of family members in tow. I’d give you their names, but it’s not easy to recall who always does or does not decide to go along with me on excursions I can’t clearly remember. Besides, you’d probably want to corroborate the details of this story with them – if you knew who they were – and, er, they probably wouldn’t want to be bothered with such disturbing distractions. Just take my word that this is how it all went down…

Early on in this outing, I realized that swerving to miss a large object in the upcoming lane was going to be called for. It was a green, bushy, triangular-shaped something or other that we managed to just barely miss while traveling 65 miles per hour down the Interstate. I couldn’t help but frown as my mind registered what sort of bundled-branched package would meet these specifications at this time of year. Sadly, it appeared as though someone had lost a Christmas tree. (No, I do not have a picture of this particular event, as I was driving 65 miles per hour up – I mean down – the Interstate and had to quickly swerve to avoid impact with this misplaced seasonal symbol. I’m going to have to ask you to help me out here, even if you weren’t prepared to be participative this early in the story.You’ll have to use your imagination on this one. Tis the season for that, you know. Ho ho ho.)

But I personally wasn’t feeling ‘ho, ho, ho’ over this incident. I was feeling ‘no, no, no’…this can’t be. What a terrible thing for some family (couple, crazy cat lady, whoever) to have traveled up the Interstate to have so lovingly picked out the perfect holiday tree (so they could curse stepping on old, hidden, sap-stuck pine needles that would painfully sink into the base of their toes by Easter) and to be on the way to take that new puppy home and unwrap it – so they could proudly re-wrap it in hazardous lights and decorations to the point that any Fire Marshall would blatantly and openly cringe – only to find it had escaped from the top of their vehicle somewhere between stopping to engorge their bodies with a dozen snow-capped Krispy Kreme donuts and home. I tried to imagine how I could help.

Perhaps I could…

turn around at the next exit, backtrack north on the Interstate, turn around again at the exit coming back in this southward direction,

stop my car in the middle of the Interstate with no worries of trucks that looked like they could turn into Decepticons barreling down the muffler of my little car that sips gas through a coffee straw,

strap that cumbersome tree onto the hood of my cargo-challenged car without the benefit of any twine (perhaps my un-remembered family members would hold it across their laps in the back seat and out both sides of the windows?),

and get it home so I could post it on a Lost and Found site until someone filed a Missing Christmas Tree report.

The site of the reunion would be tear-jerking. (Okay, my imagination gets a little outside of its own limits sometimes.)

About the time I was ready to convince myself that I could have this story all wrong – that maybe these people were driving through with their Christmas tree from the east coast and heading back to Colorado, where they’d be too tickled and too hungry with themselves to notice they were even missing the tree, I had to swerve to miss clipping another one…then another one. The next three were dotted, back and forth, on the opposite shoulders of the road. It was beginning to appear more like the driver of a Christmas tree delivery truck who was from Colorado – happily buzzing down the Interstate without a care in the world about flying Christmas trees in his rear view mirror.

This led me to a string of other theories (not to be mistaken with THE String Theory, of course, though that, too, could have been a possibility).

Some of my more plausible theories included:

  1. Santa had gotten into the eggnog and rum cake early this year while thinking of the needs of the poverty-stricken who might otherwise be treeless. Of course, Santa doesn’t prescribe to the notion of welfare without work, as evidenced by his Northern elven sweat factory. Rather than allow these poor families to feel as if they were recipients of charity, in which they might feel looked down upon, Santa decided he’d create a challenge for them to claim these free Christmas trees. If they could dodge the oncoming traffic, heck, that was proof enough that they’d earned ’em – fair and square.
  2. This was the work of a disgruntled member of the Elf Manufacturing Union (EMU – not to be mistaken with those freakishly frighteningly large birds, who are much more freakish than gigantic 20-point reindeer who fly and stomp across roofs; or with Eastern Michigan University, which is very close to the North Pole, from my southern state perspective). I’m guessing this elf was clearly upset because he was expected to labor during the holiday season. He was making his way south to apply for a job at Walmart. He’d laid out a trail of Christmas trees, so that he might find his rebellious little way back home if things didn’t work out any better for him at Walmart.
  3. Colorado driver buzzing down the road with his package of holiday brownies – oh yeah, I forgot. We’ve already covered that one.
  4. Perhaps a boyscout, who had been working on his Christmas Tree Ranch Handling merit badge, suddenly felt convicted over holding all those poor Christmas trees for ransom. Fed by the holiday spirit (and the 2 dozen cookies one of the moms had dropped off that he’d scarfed down in the last 5 minutes), he might have experienced a rush of compassion (okay, maybe it was just sugar) that caused him to throw open the corral gate and yell, “Run for your lives!” while barely escaping with his own before the stampede began. Some of the strays had apparently made their way out onto the freeway. It’s possible that this incident will lead to the discontinuation of the Christmas Tree Ranch Handling merit badge.

In any case, by the time I came back onto the scene from wrapping up my errands, I noticed that the southbound lane had been freed of all the Christmas trees. Just as I was about to wonder where they’d all gone…

When what to my wondering eyes should appear?
Why! An F150 truck, its bumper hanging off its rear!

I noticed one of the concerned Citizenry for the Over-Forestation of Freeways (OFF) promptly dealing with the issue. (Incidentally, I’ve heard rumor that this group actually wanted to be the Federation for the Over-Forestation of Freeways, but when their president made application, it was denied because – for some strange reason – the court clerk took it as a personal offense that he wanted her to sign approval to F-OFF. More unfortunately, there is an insect repellent company who is rumored to have filed a lawsuit for use of its registered trademark name.) Nevertheless, this particular concerned citizen was not going to let that pesky little aggravation stop him from performing his self-assigned civic duty.

Upon spotting the poor, frightened tree from over the tipped-up end of his nearly emptied quart of beer, this in-the-seasonal-spirited gentleman yanked up on his emergency brake and selflessly turned a 360 in the middle of the freeway. He had to thereafter signal with his most visible finger for the trucker – who was leaning out the window while jake-braking and laying on his horn, urging this upstanding citizen as to how he might best go about his business – to go on around him and responsibly get back to his own. As Mr. Civic Duty got around to the rear of his F-150 truck with its holiday-tinted primer/rust mix, he joyfully threw his arms around that lonely, abandoned Christmas tree and adopted it quicker than if it had been his long, lost cousin, Earl, who’d just won the Powerball. He then tossed that tree into the bed of his pick-up, trading it out for about a 12-pack of empty beer cans that bounced off the tail gate and down the freeway behind him. I couldn’t help but think what a considerate and generous person he must be to want to leave those cans for someone to pick up later and exchange for the high rate offered in aluminum trade.

As if he hadn’t already exhibited an over-abundance of holiday spirit and generosity, I truly came to understand the meaning of Christmas in my final glimpse of this remarkable citizen in his over-exuberant heroic act.

Found at: http://gallery.markheadrick.com/humorous/christmas-tree-with-beer-can-ornaments/“Yeehaw!” he belched, as he floored it out of sight.
“I got this durned Christmas tree for freed – without a bar fight!”

I ask you, where else could I have witnessed such a spectacularly heart-tugging story during this special holiday season?

So, now I must say…

Merry Christmas to y’all! And to all a good night!

Ah, crud. That was a copyright issue, wasn’t it?

(Nope, nope. It has ya’ll. I believe I’m good on this one.)

***

 

Photography 101: Treasure

The Daily Post asked today:

What’s your treasure? Perhaps you found a coat at the thrift store like the one your grandfather wore, or took a once-in-a-lifetime trip through the Himalaya. Maybe you treasure your children, or your cat, or a quiet space in the woods. Show us an image that represents a treasure to you.

Tip: Get close to your subject — either use the zoom function in your camera, if it has one, or physically move closer to it.


I treasure being outdoors, especially on a crisp, fall day.

This weekend, I went hiking around the Ocoee River, where the 1996 Centennial whitewater events were held. I treasure the Ocoee River – but its levels are down for the winter. I treasure the time spent talking with a companion as I hike – but my faithful companion, my Weimaraner, could only wag his tail back. So I took a little time to treasure the details more closely than I might have otherwise done during my times there before.

559632_10152586413233227_845888608632364385_nI’ve always liked the bridge that crosses the Middle Ocoee section, but this is the first time I’ve ever studied the construction of its sign’s suspension. I liked my zoomed angle of the suspension cables highlighted by the signage.

A full side view of the bridge taken in early Spring.

The last time I hiked up o15901_10152586413238227_7195704398622400204_nnto the ridge that overlooks the river, I took a picture of this empty bench. On this trip, I took time to notice that it wasn’t empty at all. It was holding many people’s memories, in fact, of when they’d sat here, treasuring their time in this place.

A passing view of the seemingly empty bench, taken in early Spring.

Surely seeing the world through a different set of lenses (or sometimes just a different perspective) makes it a more interesting & lovely place.

Now there’s a thought to treasure…

True Love’s Falling

In the midst of cold, wet, dreary weather, I spent most of my weekend trying to console one of my characters, Cody, with his loss (by working diligently to finally put a large portion of this manuscript together). Meanwhile – in the real world – one of my best friends spent the weekend caring for her elderly aunt in her final hours while trying to console her family over the loss she was sharing.

I came into work this morning feeling particularly melancholy (probably because it’s still cold and wet and especially dreary, being a Monday and all). I had (took?) a few spare moments to pen these thoughts as they came to mind.

I’m sure my poem could use some work, but I hope it brings comforting thoughts to those who need them today. Blessings. -j

True Love’s Falling

 

Here is it in print form only, for those who might have trouble reading it in its “artsy-fartsy” form:

 

True Love’s Falling

 

Don’t let the sun set on your tomorrows

Though darkness may cloud your todays

Our falls always take us to sorrows

In due course,

Cold months surrender to Mays

 

The day’s sun approaching future horizons

You haven’t yet stepped out to greet

All of life’s best and mesmerizing surprises

In God’s time,

Will remove your false sense of incomplete

 

Breathe deeply the crisp wind that’s blowing

Take hope in all future renewals

Cleanse your heart in solely knowing…

Set love shines more brightly

Than all polished jewels

 

 

Related Link:  Rolling River