Friday, November 30, 2012

Photo-Finish Friday -- A Splash of Blue

With the grey light and the shorter days I thought it would perk readers up a bit to see some brilliant colour.
For your viewing pleasure, a pair of bluebirds on the Kootenay Plains near the Banff Park border last spring.
I've left the size medium.
Please click, enlarge, enjoy.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Tuesday Tales --The Bed Monster

Hello and welcome to Tuesday Tales.
I've got a few stories kicking around I'd like to share with you.
I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoy writing them.

The Bed Monster

It was once, not so very long ago, that a monster had a favourite boy.
The monster lived under the boy's bed at night and often stood at the window and watched the boy play during the day.
All bed monsters serve many children over their lifetime  and each child is always the favourite.
This monster was Laurentian Jasper Feldenride the Third. He was descended from a long line of bed monsters, and he took his duties very seriously.
Each night after the lights went out in the boy's room Laurentian reached a long, thin, hairy arm up and patted the bed to make sure the boy was tucked in securely. He cared enough to make sure the boy believed in him, but not so much that he was scared to sleep alone.
He'd wait until the boy was drifting off to sleep then he'd puff or snort or drum his fingers on the floor.
This would make the boy sit straight up and yell for his father. Laurentian often had to cover his sensitive monster ears because the boy always made sure his father heard him.
On winter nights when the tile on the floor seemed harder and colder than even a monster could bear, Laurentian slipped out and went to the closet. He'd see to it the door was open just enough to let him make sure the boy was resting properly.
Once he was assured the boy was almost asleep he'd move a few clothes hangers or push the toy box along the floor until it thudded against the wall.
"Daaaaaaadddddd. There's a monster in my closet."
The boy's father would come in to settle him down. He'd talk in a calm tone, or bring him some water, or sometimes he'd read the boy a story.
The monster loved those nights. He'd stretch out his ear to the crack in the closet door or stay as still as he could under the bed while the dad read.
But being a monster made it difficult. Laurentian sat on his hands during many a story so as not to reach out and drum a finger on the dad's foot while he read.
That would never do. Monsters must never let the parents know they're real. It gets a monster banished from a home. If it happens too often, they are banished from monstering.
Laurentian couldn't let that happen. No member of his family going back 15 generations was ever banished.
He was lucky with this boy. The dad loved to read stories almost as much as the boy loved to hear them. Sometime the monster had a question about a story. More often than not the boy did, too, and it was answered. This made the monster happy.
One night a few weeks before the boy's very first day of school he got out of bed a few minutes after being tucked in, but before the monster's nightly bed check.
Laurentian had to do something. School was always a dangerous time for monsters. A child may have gotten rid of his or her monster early and would tell the others there was no such thing.
If the child grew to believe it, then the monster's time was done. Laurentian had lived though many a friend's despair. Just last year three of his colleagues were outgrown by the second month of school.
"No more stories," said one.
"No more nightlight," said another.
"I've nowhere to winter," lamented a third.
The monster stretched out his arm and tapped three times on the boy's foot.
He jumped and flew back into bed."Daaaaad. The monster  touched me. Heeeelllp."
His dad came right away.
"Son, I've told you. There are no monsters. No one's under your bed or in your closet or anywhere. You're almost in school. It's time to get rid of this silly monster nonsense. There aren't any and I'll prove it."
The father got down on his hands and knees.
Oh, no," thought the monster. "I can't be found."
He covered his fangs with his bottom lip and pulled his long hair dark hair over his body all the way to his abdomen.
He stuck his long, knobby fingers underneath him and scrunched as close to the wall as he could.
His big feet drooped forward. He was almost as tall as the bed was long. If he relaxed his feet poked out from underneath. He was tense, but he would not take any chances. He heaved his thick body over on his side and brought his knees up toward his chin.
He held his breath and closed his eyes until there was just a thin opening for him to see through.
"I don't see anything, son. Should I get a flashlight?"
"Oh, no. Please, no," the monster begged in his thoughts. "I don't want to leave."
If he was found, then the job was over.
"I believe you, dad. Look in the closet?"
The dad opened the closet doors wide and moved some of the clothing.
"Nope.  All clear."
The dad sat on the edge of the boy's bed. His legs were in comfortable grabbing distance for Laurentian, but he refused to take the chance. The check under the bed had been too close.
The dad spoke to the boy in low soothing tones for a few minutes.
"You're getting awfully grown up to have monsters under the bed, son. I'm sorry if I was harsh earlier, but you've got to get over this nonsense. What are you going to do when you get to school? Do you think the other kids are going to go along with  your monsters?"
"No, dad. I'm sorry."
"That's okay, son. I know you're upset. Do you want a story?"
Laurentian heard the dad get out a story book. He asked the boy what he wanted to hear. The boy selected a story that was a favourite of his.
It was one of Laurentian's favourites, too. He settled in, sighing softly enough to not be heard.
At the end of the story the dad tucked the boy in, shut off the light, and then closed the door firmly behind him.
Laurentian waited a few moments and then reached up to confirm the boy was tucked in properly.
His work was done for now, but what about the future? The  dad wanted the boy to stop believing in him. Laurentian wasn't ready to say good-bye just yet.
He'd just relaxed enough for his feet to poke out from underneath the bed when the boy shifted.
A small tousled head appeared in front of him upside down.
"G'night monster. I won't forget you."

Monday, November 26, 2012

Gratitude Monday -- The Stories Edition

I've been writing short stories lately, and I am having a blast.
It started earlier this month. One idea has turned into an assortment of ten stories to date.
I'm so grateful to have these ideas and to be able to execute them.
As well, I am also grateful I have a blog to post them on in order for others to read them.
I don't know how many stories I have in me. Right now I can hear several clamouring inside for attention.
I am grateful for this clamour.
For as long as they want to be told I will write them.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Photo-Finish-Friday--Wash Day

Guatemalan women do their laundry in a public washing area.


Thursday, November 22, 2012

A Personal View

Today is my 54th birthday.
Whatever else birthdays are good for, be it eating, relaxing, enjoying life, they are good for introspection.
It's a good time to reflect.
It can be a day of personal assessment, a time to vow to change or improve something in your life.
It can be a day to look back on where you've been and look ahead to all the wonderful things yet to come.

Good for it.

I'm going with eating, relaxing, and enjoying.
Because even though I look like this:

I still feel like this.

The photo was taken in spring of 1980 making me 21. It was taken by fellow J school grad Chris McKerracher.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Prince Frog -- A Story

I've been having a blast writing these stories. I hope you're having as much fun reading them.

Prince Frog
It was once in a faraway land of kingdoms and great forests and pools of fresh water and rushing streams and craggy mountains there lived a prince who didn't feel very princely.
He was a happy enough prince, so it seemed, though all who met him remarked afterward he carried a sadness with him.
"It is a most distressing dampness of manner," some would say after leaving court.
Others shook their heads in sadness. Often the prince, believing himself alone, let his eyes grow large and would utter several low, abrupt groans in a row.
The truth was he was a very sad prince. He moped around the castle deliberately shuffling his feet to prevent himself from leaping like he wanted.
"Son, you're prince. Act like it. Stop hunching over like Old Hulda and pick up your feet when you walk."
The prince did not dare to tell his father of his desire to jump about the castle. Jumping and leaping were for young boys, especially the common people. It was not for a prince.
"The Princess of the next kingdom will make a fine wife. King Larken and his daughter will be here tomorrow. There shall be a feast."
The King fixed his gaze on his only son. In a low tone that would brook no argument he said, "If you are smart, my son, a wedding will follow shortly."
The prince only nodded and asked to be dismissed from his father's presence. He went to his rooms in the far end of the castle and threw open the shutters. He stuck his head out as far as he could until he saw the great royal pond.
Black–beaked white swans glided over the water. A hart startled by a noise, looked up from the pond toward the prince.
"Oh, to be there instead of here," lamented the prince. "What do I want with a wife?"
And he absent mindedly flicked out his long, thin tongue at fly buzzing near him.
The day was bright and warm. The prince decided rather than look at the royal pond he would swim in it instead.
The swans glided by him and dipped their beaks in his direction as if to greet him. He threw himself down on the cool grass at the water's edge and stared into the water at his reflection.
"Arrbat," he moaned.
"Yes?" came an answer from just in front of him.
"Frog, you're talking. Since when does a frog speak to a prince?"
"I might ask you the same," ribbitted the frog in return.
"How is it I understand you?"
"You're speaking frog. It follows logically that if you speak a language, then you understand it. Am I right?"
"I don't know what you mean," said the prince.
"Then you're a fool," said the amphibian and he disappeared beneath the ripples.
"What an odd, ill-mannered fellow," said the prince as he took off his cloak and boots and prepared to leap into the water.
"Ho there, young one."
An old hunched woman stepped out from behind a clump of alder near the prince.
"What do you want, Old Hulda?"
"To tell you something before your wedding tomorrow."
"I'm not marrying tomorrow. I am only meeting the princess."
The old woman threw back her head laughing until tears streamed down her face and coughs wracked her body.
"Boy prince, tomorrow is your 21st birthday. If you marry before midnight you will stay a prince. But if you get through the day there's a chance you will return to your true nature."
"What true nature? I am a prince. My father is King Reld and someday I will be Dorold, King of all my father's lands and properties."
"Do you wish to marry this princess?"
"I will know that once I meet her. Now leave me, hag. I've only let you speak to me because you are old and I have to respect you. Get away."
"What do you remember of your princelinghood? What did you do as a child?"
It was true he did not remember much of being a boy. His mother and father told he had been very sick as a child. Fevers ravaged his body for many months. They stole his health and his memory.
"It's why they say there's a dampness about you, my son." said his mother, the Queen. "The medicine the doctor gave you to rid your body of the illness left it."
The prince confided in his mother once that he wanted nothing more than to leap about the castle instead of walking.
"Dorold, that's because you were so sick and could hardly move. Now that you're well you've got so much energy to use you can hardly contain it."
She reached over and kissed his round cheek, and brushed the thin blond hair off his strong forehead. "That's all."
"I was ill. I only remember the last few years," the prince told the old woman.
"What else do you remember, prince?"
He thought about her question at great length. Since he'd healed he'd been having strange dreams. In them he was surrounded by water. He swam and jumped and covered himself in mud. Sometimes he was so filled with joy to be in the water he would sing to the stars all night. When he did all his friends and family sang, too, and the night was filled with their deep  choruses.
"Nothing, he said, and jumped into the pool.
He swam and swam and dived to the bottom of the pool. There he pushed away the small rocks and wished he could lay himself down in the mud.
The next day the royals from the nearby kingdom came for the feast. His father and the visiting king held a private meeting leaving the princess alone with the prince.
"Would you like to see some of the grounds?" The prince was at a loss as to how to amuse the princess, but he thought a walk was a reasonable idea. He would have rather spent his birthday by the royal pond, or any pond to be completely truthful, but he had a guest and it was his duty to keep her entertained.
They walked through the gardens and past the outer hedges and soon found themselves at the pond.
A low groan escaped the prince without his even realizing it.
"What an odd noise to make," remarked the princess. You sound just like a spring peeper."
"It is but a moan and it is for no reason," said the prince. He searched for something else to say but all he could think of was, "Today is my 21st birthday. I suppose we are to marry, if that's all right with you."
"Not in the least," said the princess. "Not only have we just met, I have plans for my life. There's a world to see and much to learn and, I already love someone else. I'm only here because my father bids it. I'm no more happy about it than you seem to be."
"There's a feast tonight. I believe we're to marry after it. Perhaps we can bargain for some time. We'll tell our fathers we'd like to know one another better so could we wait until mid-summer to be wed?"
"I'd rather tell them we won't marry at all," said the princess. She picked up a small rock from the water's edge and tossed it in the pond.
A large frog broke through the surface croaking and splashing.
 "I wonder what that's about?" said the princess.
"He's upset. He's thinks you threw the rock at him."
"You speak frog, my prince?"
"No," he said, shocked by the question. "I don't know why I said that. I suppose I assumed it."
They made their way back to the castle. Before the feast they spoke to the kings about waiting. Both kings were upset at putting the marriage on hold, but relented.
"As long as you swear to go through with it," they both said, "Our kingdoms have a great deal riding on this arrangement."
"Come, let's go to the feast," said the prince, feeling the need to avoid agreeing to anything.
After a few days the visitors left and he once again found himself at the royal pond.
The swans glided serenely along the calm surface. The sun shone on the water at just the right angle for the prince to see right to the bottom and to gaze at his reflection. Soon he was lost in his thoughts.
"Well done, prince," came a cackling voice behind him. "You've survived past your 21st birthday unwed. Do you wish to know who you are?"
"I know who I am, Old Hulda. Go back to your forest and leave me to my thoughts."
And she laughed a bit more and then cleared her throat.
"I've taken a liking to you, prince. "I've always been fond of the creatures of the wood and water and air. Tell me, would you like to be free of your obligations to the king?"
The prince thought for a moment. He had no desire to marry anyone. The princess was a fine woman, smart and beautiful. The agreements their marriage would finalize would benefit both the kingdoms. He'd marry someday, it was expected of him. It may as well be her.
But something nagged him. His dreams had gotten stronger. He'd awakened that very morning feeling an unusual dryness. His body felt soft to him. He'd had to stretch out his fingers and toes to make sure they still were separate.
He'd caught himself flicking his tongue at a passing insect before he was fully awake.
"I think I'll swim on it," he told her and jumped into the water fully clothed.
"That ought to do it," said the old woman as she turned and walked toward the forest.
The moment he hit the water the prince felt odd. His body seemed different, lighter, better.
His limbs changed in front of him. His head grew larger, his eyes got bigger. He felt more alive and at home in the water than he'd ever felt in the castle.
He dived to the bottom and crouched down in the mud.
He was the happiest he'd ever remembered being.
He swam to the surface and jumped out of the water.
Everything was bigger. He turned around to the pond and saw his reflection. Instead of a human prince he saw a large green bullfrog.
Someone hopped beside him.
It was another frog and she was smiling. "It's over. It's over. The enchantment's over. Oh, you've come back to me."
Everything came clear to him then. His memories, his life, it all flooded into his mind.
He was not a prince at all, at least not a human one.
He was a frog of the royal line and would be king of this pond one day.
The frog at his side was his own betrothed. When the full realization hit him he let loose a joyful ribbiting that echoed through all the kingdom, frog and human alike.
The two dived down into the water and were as happily from then on as any two frogs could be.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Gratitude Monday --Funeral Edition

Am I saying I am grateful for funerals?
Well, yeah.
Saturday was my Uncle Marvin's funeral. He was the last of my dad's siblings.
It was a good service. The Bag Lady put together a fine eulogy. We had plenty of time afterward to visit and several of us had dinner together afterward.
And really, that's the point.
Funerals are for the living to gather, say good-bye, share memories, and if you really want to honour someone like my uncle, you'll find a way to enjoy yourself while doing it.
I got to see cousins I only converse with through social media. Saturday's service provided the opportunity to socialize in person, and that's getting to be a lost art.
We had plenty of reunions growing up and have kept the tradition, after a fashion, over the years even though they've gotten farther between.
On Saturday there was talk of reviving the reunion, and that's another reason to be grateful.
 The gentleman responsible for Saturday's gathering is second from right.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Photo-Finish Friday -- Public Transportation

People ride in the back of a truck on a Guatemalan highway.
I shot this through the bus windshield, thus the odd frontage.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Another Story - King of the Fields

King of the Fields

In the greenwood by the spring where the waters bubbled and the frogs sang long into the night there sat a young man.
He was a fellow of middling wealth. His clothes were neither shabby nor fine, his manners were rounded on the edges, and he was of a handsomeness no less than a prince.
His head was in his hands and a great sob could be heard wrenched from the very depths of his being.
"This is a fine way for a man to carry on, alone in a wood crying. Why aren't you out tilling your fields or slaying one of the local dragons?"
The young man lifted his head from his hands and looked about him for the source of the voice. He looked and looked, did not see anyone.
A faint sound like a leaf rubbing against another leaf in a springtime breeze made him look down. At his feet was a stout worm with a body green as new grown grass and two horns on his head which lent him a stern look.
"It's you who has spoken to me?
"Who else do you see?" demanded the horned worm flashing his deep brown eyes at the man.
The fellow rubbed a clean and calloused hand over his eyes and stared in wonder at the creature.
"You have a fine spirit for a creature I could crush with a foot."
"You'll do nothing of the sort. My kin in the fields tell me how you lift them out of the way. My own cousin lives in your garden. He knows you well and watches you tend the soil of his home. You'll no more kill me than you'd strike off your own hand."
The fellow smiled at the worm for he knew it was the truth.
"Now what is this problem that disturbs you this fine day?"
"It is a woman. The finest, most beautiful in all the world. She would have me, but her father does not approve."
"And crying will change this?"
"No. I've no one to fight her for. I've no great stores of gold with which to win her. I've nothing of my own save a bit of land and a cow to convince her father I am worthy."
The worm narrowed his brown eyes which made him look even more stern.
"Have you spoken to her?"
"We've gone for long walks in the gardens and down the lanes."
"Does she seem disposed toward you?"
"I think so."
"Have you told her how you feel?"
"No. Her father ordered me away from her before I could confess my love."
"This is why you sit in wretched loneliness at my spring?"
"I wished to be alone. I won't have anyone see me in such despair."
He reached into the water and splashed a handful on his face to refresh himself.
"How is this your spring?"
"My kind have tended the spring for hundreds of generations. Thousands perhaps. We see that it flows from the ground underneath. Without us the waters would cease. If the waters ceased, then the spring would be barren. The animals would have nowhere to drink and the land would dry. We maintain life here."
"Thank you," said the young man remembering his manners.
The worm lowered his eyes and nodded his head in a shallow bow.
"Why does her father chase you away?"
"She is his only daughter. He wishes for her to be wed to a gentleman of land and wealth."
"You have lands. You must have some means about you."
"I have more than is needed for one. I can support a wife in comfort though not in luxury."
"What luxury does she need?"
"She does not say."
"Does this woman have mind of her own?
"She is wilful, I'll allow. Strong of heart, too, as she has seen me even knowing her father was against it."
"These lands of her father, are they vast and fertile? Does he needs servants to work them?"
"He has a few fieldmen."
"You are a strong man, and young. You must convince the man you are good enough. A willingness to work hard and help out when needed may turn his heart."
"What do you suggest, friend worm?"
The worm thought for a moment. The horns on his head wiggled as he cogitated.
"I will speak with the others of my kind. Come to my spring tomorrow at this time. I will have a plan for you."
And so the man when home to tend his house and land and to milk his cow.
The following day as the sun rose high in the sky he made his way through the greenwood to the spring. He sat down on a rock and waited for the worm to announce himself.
Soon he heard a faint rustling again and looked toward his feet.
"I have spoken to my clan and kind. We till the soils as much as any of you do, in our own way, and without us the lands would grow hard and the plants would struggle to break out of the soil.
"If you wish to convince the father of your worthiness, then this is what you shall do. When the time comes you will go to his fields and lay yourself down on the hard patchy soil.
"Put your ear to the ground and then announce the worms are in revolt. They do not till under the surface and make the seeds a soft bed to grow in."
Then the worm told him he should put his mouth on the ground and say a certain word and all would be well.
The man went to his lonely house and planted his fields and garden and tended his cow day after day. And each day his thoughts went to the young woman.
On occasion after his day's work was done and he'd dined as he could alone in his kitchen he would walk along the lanes to see how the other farmer's crops were faring.
Fields of grain and hay stood up in the fertile soil along his path. But when he got to the land of the woman's father he saw little if any greengrowth in the fields.
He remembered what the horned worm told him and knew it was very nearly time.
In the later morning of the next day the man put on his cleanest clothing and washed his face and hands. He took up his walking stick and made his to where the desire of his heart lived with her father.
"The land is so hard this season," she lamented as she tried to break up the ground with a small iron claw. The garden does not want to feed us this year. The fields have stayed near bare and it is already late. My father is near at his end trying to coax the crops to grow."
At that moment her father came out of the pigshed. "You again. I've told you to stay away. We've enough concerns without the sight of you. Go."
"I wonder, sir, if I might be of help?"
"I don't see how. It's a punishment I'm sure for not marrying off the girl to a doctor or a businessman in the village. Barren girl makes barren land, they say."
The young man had never heard such a saying and did not believe it. Neither did he believe that marrying off the girl to a moneyed man was the answer.
"Nevertheless, sir, you are a neighbour and I wish to offer my assistance. If I help you, may I ask one thing?"
"I don't think you'll be doing anything for me so go ahead. Name what you like. You won't earn it."
With that in his mind the young man took himself to the nearest field and laid down along the hard ground. He put an ear to the soil and announced the worms were deserting the farmer.
"They tell me, sir, you hold too much of your wealth to yourself. You keep your beautiful daughter from living."
"Nonsense. What does a worm know of life?"
The young man put his lips to the ground and spoke the word the horned worm had given him.
Shortly thereafter a great rustling came from under him. The soil seemed to lift and roll before his eyes.
But the farmer was looking at the young man and not his field and he did not see anything.
"Away with you. You'll not waste our time again."
In a few days the young man walked to the farm to see if anything had happened. He stayed a good distance from the house so he'd not be seen.
Before him was a fine crop of grain sprouted as if it had been there all along.
"You. Come here."
The farmer had seen him despite his being so careful.
"Whatever it was you whispered to my crops they liked it. A man who has such powers about him to make the land produce is worthy enough. I know what you'll ask, and I grant it.
The young man and young woman were soon walking together as often as the times would let. When he wasn't walking or working the young man went to the spring hoping to see the horned worm so he could say thank you.
One morning around mid-summer he heard a faint noise near his feet.
"Friend worm, I wish to thank you. The farmer has relented. I and the young woman will marry soon."
"It was my pleasure to be of service. Please, will you do a favour for me? Give your thanks to the soil and we who live in it and work it. Continue your kindness to my kith and kin.
The young man said he would always do so.
"One more thing. Remember the word I gave you, and all will be well."
The young man did remember. When the season was mean and crops failed he would lay on the ground and whisper the word into the soil. The crops grew tall and strong and he became know through the land as the King of the Fields.