Making History (Fiction) – Emilio Pasquale Photo

The challenge:  write a story inspired by the photo below, provided by Emilio Pasquale.   If you didn’t read our first team-up, click here to read it!  And, if you haven’t checked out his photography site yet, you really should 🙂

An Emilio Pasquale Photo
An Emilio Pasquale Photo – click it to check out his wonderful photography site!

Marianne Sutter stoked the fire with a long broken branch she’d foraged in the woods surrounding camp.  The logs, moistened by last night’s rain, had been slow to burn, but finally rewarded her with meager warmth stifled by billowing smoke.  One of the few women in camp, she kept to herself.

“Well, well, Ms. Sutter.  How ‘about you warm yerself by my fire?”  The man gave an exaggerated wink.

“No thank you, Mr. Muehlling.” Her revulsion at his advances culminated in a deep shiver that she hoped had been concealed by her wool overcoat.

“If you change yer mind…”  He nodded toward his tent.

Marianne’s husband, Cortland, had led her to this God-forsaken land four months ago.  Enticed by adventure and gold, he moved them west.  When he first shared his plan to leave Virginia, she insisted he take her with him.  She’d thought being alone at home would be much worse than being with him on the frontier.  How wrong she was.  California turned out to be a fickle host.  Although Cortland had found a small amount of gold, months later, he succumbed to fever, leaving Marianne to fend for herself.

***

Marianne’s eyelids grew heavy as her fire dwindled to pulsing orange coals.  In the periphery, she caught sight of a movement to her left. She leaned forward and squinted, branch clenched tightly in her hands.

“Who’s there?”  She asked in a hoarse whisper so she wouldn’t disturb the panners who’d already retired for the night.  The bushes rustled and Marianne raised the stick over her head.

A young child stepped into the clearing.

She gasped and relaxed her arms.  “How old are you?”

“Six.”

“Where are your parents?”

“Dead.”

The matter-of-fact tone caught Marianne off-guard.  “What’s your name?”

“Carrie Benton.”

Marianne leaned forward so her eyes were at the girl’s level.  “Carrie, can you take me to your family?”

They walked a circuitous route in between tents before Carrie stopped and pointed.  Marianne moved forward and saw two rigid men in sleeping bags beneath a make-shift tent.

“They been sick,” Carrie said.  “Daddy and my uncle.”

A breeze slid through the campsite, flapping canvas and fanning the stench of death.  Marianne leaned against a battered supply wagon and heaved, supper barely missing her boots.  Shaky and weak, she grabbed a wool blanket.  She kneeled down and said a prayer for their souls’ safe-keeping and covered the men.

Marianne smoothed her skirts and took the girl’s hand.  “You can stay with me.”

***

Continue reading

At Our Fingertips

In a day, we can find patches of calm that soothe our nerves, put our soul at ease.

We discover a place where our mind and body rest in harmony.

In that place, our hearts soar and nourish our dreams;

At our fingertips, we encounter finite peace.

In the distance, looms another reality.

View from vista on Mogollon Rim
View from vista on Mogollon Rim

I had a post all ready to go today about my migraine-inducing weekend with my younger sons’ sleepover friend, but I decided to pull it, for now.  It was supposed to be funny, but in thinking about it, maybe I wrote it too close to the event…I think it may be too harsh on the kid.  Or maybe not 😛

At any rate, I decided to write something inspired by the date.  The world feels even more uncertain than it did twelve years ago.   Every day, I seek peace in my interactions with friends and strangers.  I don’t like conflict.  It makes me feel all jumbled inside.  In my life, I manage to co-exist with people who are unlike me- people with different backgrounds, those who don’t accept my God, people who eat bratwurst.

I don’t watch the news very much these days.  I find that isolating myself from world events allows me to enjoy my personal peace.  I know that it may be an illusion; that it’s built on unstable ground- but it’s the only way I know to keep anxiety at bay.  I can’t understand how people can exterminate one another.  I can’t fathom hatred for strangers so deep that killing seems a good option.  I can’t grasp why my country tries to take on the role of peacekeeper with brute force.

This is why I find solace among the trees.  Their size makes me feel safe.  They have managed to survive in an uncertain world, and they give me hope that I can do the same.

I appreciate you stopping by to read my ramblings.  May you find peace today, tomorrow, and every day.

Hope and Promise

Winding steps

Of hope and promise-

Reach for the sky.

I don’t know

Where the path will lead-

But still I climb.

My reward

Is pain or beauty-

The choice is mine

Stairs at Natural Bridge State Park (AZ)
Stairs at Natural Bridge State Park (AZ)

I’ve always been drawn to stairs and pathways.  I’m often urged to stop and snap a photo.  To me, they are a promise of things yet to come.  They are my future.  They hold the mystery of something new.  Even when I have seen what’s at the end of the stairs, the view is different each time because my perspective constantly changes.

Sometimes I get discouraged when the stairs don’t seem to end.  It feels like I’ll never get to where I want to be, so I pause for rest.  When I glance behind me, I am reminded of how far I’ve traveled.  Stairs get tiring, but I’m stronger after climbing them.  That urges me to continue.

When I reach the top, what to do is my choice.  I can rub my aching feet and complain about my sore legs, or I can take in a view I wouldn’t have seen if the journey had not been taken.

Sometimes I choose to focus on my pain.  Other times, I choose the view.

Natural Bridge State Park (after descending under the bridge, then climbing out the other side)
Natural Bridge State Park (after descending under the bridge, then climbing out the other side)

That Friend

The phone rings one evening and Caller ID reveals it’s a friend who has been MIA for over three months.  Curiosity wins.  Pick up the phone.  Friend’s car is in the shop and she needs a ride to work.  Never a call just to see how things are going…only when she needs something.  Last time, she needed a dog sitter for a weekend vacation.  Before that, she spent two hours complaining about her problems.  The one-way conversation was an emotional drain.  Can you help this time?

Attempts to sustain a friendship stall when messages go unanswered.  How do you feel when you’re on the trying side of a relationship and the other person doesn’t make an effort?

One-sided friendships feel like this…

As I said my prayers one night for those I know who face struggles, I also asked God for inspiration on my spiritual posts.  I’d been praying for days (weeks?) and still, no inspiration.  That’s when it hit me:  I’ve turned into that friend in my relationship with God.

I’m the one who expects God to bless the lives of those in my prayers.  I expect Him to drop blog ideas into my lap so I feel enlightened.  I ask for guidance on my story writing.  I expect Him to be there for me, when I want Him to be, yet I slack in my efforts to know Him better.

Here’s where I could insert a laundry list of excuses, but it wouldn’t matter.  Excuses are just free passes to continue on the same path.  The whole point of writing about my spiritual journey was to keep myself moving.  (I tend to linger in stagnant pools simply because they are familiar.)

It would be easier if the Bible flew off the shelf and whacked me in the head.  Since that hasn’t happened yet, I moved it back onto my desk.  I want to get back into nightly reading (I’m not sure when or why I stopped.)  Right now, I’m putting it in writing that I commit to find fifteen minutes even if it means I skip reading a couple blogs, omit a comment or two, or write a little less.

I know things are bound to get off-balance when one half of the relationship is human, but I need to make more of an effort if I am to grow my spiritual self.

Do you ever find yourself as the “slacker friend” in your relationship with God?  How about in a human relationship?  Come on, you can share your best excuses here 🙂  (Maybe I could use them.)

Did I mention that I have a lot of growing to do?

Inspiration and Sadness

During my breaks at work, I like to peruse the articles on Yahoo!  It clears my brain (or perhaps numbs it, depending on what I choose to read.)

This week, I read an inspirational story about author Kathryn Stockett.  If you haven’t heard of her, you just might live in a cave deeper than the one I’m holed up in.  She’s the author of The Help, which was made into a movie just released a few days ago.

I haven’t read The Help, but I plan to – especially after knowing what she went through to get her book published.  I sent out queries on my first novel.  I honestly don’t know how many for sure, but I’m guessing around thirty.  Kathryn Stockett claims to have received sixty rejections from literary agents.  Sixty.  And she didn’t give up.  I am in awe.

Over five years, she edited and revised the novel – it had become an obsession of sorts.  She persevered and succeeded.  Her story gives me hope that I might catch my dream – when I apply myself.

~

image by John Moore - Getty Images

As I previously mentioned, I live in a cave.  Okay, I live in a house, but I’m fairly insulated from the happenings of the world.  I’m familiar with the domestic affairs, like the stock market roller coaster, debt downgrading and politics as usual, but I’m not as familiar with global issues.

I read two disturbing stories that brought tears to my eyes, which was embarrassing because nothing good ever comes from tears shed within cubicle walls.  The first story reported that two mothers in Kenya got in a fist fight because one cut in line as they waited for their children to be treated for malnutrition. The second story was also about Kenya.  This time, I read about how families are unable to care for all of their children, so the ones who are too sick are left to die.

A three-year-old weighing less than thirteen pounds is heartbreaking.  My own children weighed that at two months old.  They have never passed out from hunger or even missed a meal.  I have never had to wait in line for hours to get medical treatment for anything, much less a supplement for malnutrition.   And, thankfully, I’ve not be faced with the wrenching decision of leaving a child to die in hopes that others would survive.

With the stock market fluctuations, I’ve grown more concerned about 401K balances and the ripples that are bound to shake the economy in the coming months.  Money is not abundant, but we have a house to live in, water to drink and enough food to eat.  The plight of those in Africa puts my worries in perspective – they are miniscule in comparison.

Click to hear “My Own Little World” by Matthew West.   It is a song about what we see when we look beyond ourselves, and it rings true for me.

What inspired you or saddened you this week?  What do you think of “The Help” (book or movie)?  How connected to world events (including the famine) are you?  Please share your thoughts 🙂