LSQ: Harry Potter and the Ivory Vikings

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I’ve taken on a new project! Starting in June I’m writing a monthly blog column for the sci-fi/fantasy mag Luna Station Quarterly. It’s not something I ever expected, but have found that I really enjoy writing for fun again instead of just for work, and I like spending time in these worlds. My first column is based on a book I read about some mysterious little ivory carvings found on the Isle of Lewis Scotland. And since my all time favorite travel experience occurred on this enigmatic little island, and I love the magical world of Harry Potter, it seemed a story I wanted to share. If you’re into Vikings, Harry Potter, Scotland, archeology or ancient mysteries you can read my story here.

Found on the Isle of Lewis Scotland, these ivory carvings are shrouded in mystery.
Image Credit: National Museum of Scotland

Your Teen Mag: Wild Books for Wild Teens

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I love sharing books with readers, and it’s even more rewarding to share titles with young readers. Many thanks to Your Teen Magazine for publishing my story about eco-novels. These teen reads are not end-of-the-world dystopian novels but instead are books where young people are coming of age or facing an adventure set against the backdrop of endangered wild lands or waters. These are all great stories with energy, humor, and drama that nature-loving teens can relate to.

Mesa Verde, Colorado

Statesider: Reclaiming

Many thanks to Andy, Pam and Doug over at Statesider for publishing my travel story from the Kansas Tallgrass Prairie and Matfield Station. Going home can bring an unexpected appreciation for the land, ecology, and deep history we didn’t know as children. Thanks, too, to Bill and Julia at Matfield Station for their hospitality during my stay~

Matfield Station Kansas Flint Hills Photo Credit: Shawna Bethell

Reclaiming

I haven’t posted for a bit, so thought I would share an early-version snapshot from a travel piece I’m working on….

For several years now I have wanted to walk the tallgrass in October when it reached its zenith height of 6 to 8 feet. And this was going to be the year, and Thursday was going to be the day. But it did not come to pass. History got in the way….

For those who did not spend their elementary years coloring photos of buffalo and sunflowers every January 29, (Kansas Day), I will tell you now that the American Bison is the Kansas state mammal. Which is ironic as the bison was exterminated by 1879, 18 years after its ‘proud homeland’ became a state. This was done in effort to get rid of the pesky “south wind” (Kanza) people whose name the state ultimately carried into history. It’s funny to me the things we “honor” and how we “honor” them. But I digress, the point being….

After packing the recommended gallon of water, cell phone, floppy hat and camera and hiking about a half mile across the hills, I and a few other Tallgrass Tourists found the trail blocked by a herd of wild, free-roaming American Bison. Being on foot and there being no fences for protection, hikers are advised to remain a good 100 yards away from the herds. And Kansans being fairly common sense folk, we did. Most took a few snapshots and turned back to the visitor center. But I remained on that sun-beaten, wind-battered hill and watched as the bison grazed and rolled on the dusty prairie.

I knew it would be another year before I could hike far enough into the preserve to see the majestic, rolling tallgrass, but that was ok. Because just for a moment I got to see those bison reclaim–if only symbolically–their natural state of grace. “No,” they seemed to be saying, “not today. Today it is you who must go.”

Rural Missouri: Alpacas d’Auxvasse

Many thanks to Rural Missouri Magazine for recognizing a good story and allowing me to write it.

On a quiet patch of land protectively surrounded by stands of Evergreen and shade-dappled by Maple and Oak trees, Ann Mayes lovingly tends a herd of curious, richly colored, sweet-natured creatures. Alpacas D’Auxvasse, the business Mayes began in 2003, is the result of a “love at first sight” moment, which took place halfway across the country in Seattle, Washington way back in 1993…. Continue reading here.

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Alpaca Photo Credit: Shawna Bethell

Elsewhere: A Letter to a Stranger

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Happy to say my Letter to a Stranger has been published by Elsewhere: A Journal of Place. If you enjoy reading about land, culture, wilderness, cities, travel, et al, I recommend spending some time with them. Great people, great writing based in Berlin, Germany….

The thing I didn’t tell you was that I met your brother on the ferry. He was looking for IMG_0289you. Your father wanted you home. To this moment, I’ve never told anyone that I met either of you. I felt it would be a betrayal of sorts, though I didn’t even know your names. But I knew your stories, two parts of a whole, none of us expecting I would cross both your paths. Yet I did, within a half-dozen hours or so. Harris is a small island, after all.

I was sitting alone on deck watching grey waters when your brother approached and asked to sit. Together we watched sleek arch-backed porpoises rise and fall as they swam alongside the ferry. We watched a low sweep of rock appear in the distance, growing until it became an island large enough for a port, a village and a road up the coast that would cross a narrow isthmus to another stretch of gneiss known as the Isle of Lewis.

Eventually, he started talking. Told me more than he probably should have about your family, but he spoke with earnestness, and I couldn’t help but listen. He had tracked you to that slab of stone sprawling in the distance and hoped you were still there. In time, we disembarked and as I walked away, he asked me to dinner. I declined and wound my way up the hill, unknowingly, to you.   Continue reading

Mesa Verde Christmas

It was a perfect day, an orphan’s Christmas. My friend’s mom, who worked at Mesa Verde National Park, had rented the Superintendent’s House—a 100-year-old stone structure sitting on the canyon’s edge—and invited a number of us to share their family’s holiday. So loaded with the odd assortment of kids and couples, ex-husbands, ex-lovers, good friends, family and baskets of food and drink, we set out early heading westimg_0185 toward to the mesa. It was a festive departure with only the slightest oversight of forgetting one of the kids who had escaped the backseat to play Legos in his room. But we loaded him back in and our little caravan hit the road.

Crossing the plateau, then scissoring up gravel to the mesa, we arrived in our expectant chaos and began to unpack. It was an unseasonably warm day, not so much like December should be on Christmas, but brilliant with sun and crisp air that created surreally sharp edges to the world. Emma—creative, vivacious, and ten—handed out name tags she’d made the night before. Red and green ribbons hung from our necks with our “elf names” inscribed on small, carefully cut squares of paper. Twinkle Sugar Cookie, Tinsel Pointy Ears. The kids tore theirs off as they sock skated across the worn hardwood floors. The adults kept them on with sheepish smiles, pouring glasses of eggnog and settling in for the day.

Back outside, we glided in the porch swing or perched along the low, broad wall that wrapped the covered porch overlooking the slick rock and deep rift of canyon that stretched beyond view. Yucca and Prickly Pear grew from surfaces worn smooth by sand, water, and wind. Branches of Douglas Fir reached from the shadowy canyon floor, while gnarled Juniper and Pinion forests edged the tops of the walls. No one spoke; we just basked–comfortable, together, and lizard-like–under the warmth of the sun. From time to time, kids’ voices broke the quiet with shouts and laughter.

“Let’s pretend…” we heard Emma say, her voice echoing off stone. Continue reading

October

Fifteen years ago this week I landed in a small mountain town sitting at 9,318 feet that felt more like home than any other I had known. I met creative, inspiring people who opened a vibrant new world to me: artists, writers, treehuggers and travelers. It was a place that allowed me to develop my voice as a writer and gave me an outlet to share it. That place and those people will forever be carried with me, no matter where I go. img_0257

Likewise, it was October a few years later when I left for the northwest coast and camped my way from Cali up to the Canadian border. A few years later and another crisp October took me to Scotland, the Hebrides and the standing stones of Callanish. And a few restless falls later I quit my job, headed to Taos and landed a writing gig that began a series of the most surreal experiences of my creative life. Pretty much every year for the past several years, October has found me on the road to somewhere experiencing something Different.

Then, two years ago this month, I packed what I could into a small trailer and headed back over the passes to return to Kansas. I was almost killed when I hit an ice storm on Vail Pass and spent the next few days holed up on the flatlands of eastern Colorado thinking about why we are called to the places we are and how we make the decisions to follow that call. Then last year, well, I landed here.

I often wonder what it is about October that makes me restless, and I can’t help but remember the days of childhood when I envied migrating birds as they crossed the skies above open plains. Other days I wandered amazed through clouds of fluttering Monarchs as they filled the trees in our back yard, resting on their way to Elsewhere. Maybe I’m just feeling the pull of nature’s tide; perhaps others feel the same. We are, after all, not so different from those creatures when you peel away the cell phones, concrete and cars.

Whatever the answer, this looks to be a quiet October for me, and I don’t find myself disappointed. It has been a hectic and somewhat difficult couple of years leaving me happy to sit this one out, content to watch the bittersweet change color and tip back a glass of wine at dusk, letting the wheel of the year turn, rolling on, this time, without me.

Holding On

There’s a box I dig through from time to time that is full of notebooks and files, things I feel I need to keep because they carry some memory I am afraid to lose as the ephemeral flickers and fades. The item I most often pick up and hold is bound with a shiny, black, plastic spiral. The cover is turquois blue. A vertical image of a US SpringfieldIMG_0860 M1 Caliber .30 rifle rests neatly along the binding. It’s rare that I pick it up without heartfelt pain.

It is nothing, really, just a student’s project from many years ago, the summer of 2008 when I taught a tech writing class for a college in northwest New Mexico. It’s his final project, one that asked students to design an instruction manual. El, recently home from three Iraq tours, wrote on how to disassemble, clean and reassemble the M1. His hands remain strong and sure in photographs within the pages I now grasp.

My time with El began when I found him sitting—muscled arms crossed over an equally muscled chest—ten minutes early for the first day of class, which dictated the standard for every morning thereafter. He was always the first one seated, solidly holding down the room, it seemed, waiting for the rest of us to arrive.

His Navajo heritage echoed in dark eyes and black, military-shorn hair. His smile came readily; he joked with his classmates, and his intelligence emerged quietly through discussions of class material. But there was, too, an unmitigated sense of leadership in the weight of El’s presence, an unseen barrier setting him apart.

Together, however, there were 15 of us, an intimate number for a summer session, and we talked about many things, as is the case in writing classes: one must think to be able to write. And as often happens, the students became temporarily bonded through shared experience. Bonded enough that on our last day of class, the day of our final and their last project was due, more than one student was worried when El was not in his seat. There were further concerned glances when he had not arrived well after testing began. Continue reading

October 31, 2015

 

 

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Too often confined to a desk these days, I find sitting down to write has lost its appeal. Instead I’ve turned to my camera….

This is Turkey Tail fungus. Found on dead and decaying wood, its color becomes vibrant on misty gray days.