Posted in Freedom Friday, Photo Opportunities

Let’s Take a Walk

Autumn is my favorite time of year. The foliage changing colors brings me closer to nature. I want to sit in the woods, listen to the rustling leaves swirl, and smell the musty scent of moss floating from the log behind me.

A two-minute walk to the park next to my house.
A two-minute walk to the park next to my house.

For today’s Freedom Friday, would you take a walk with me? It won’t be long. I just would like to show you my neighborhood. Maybe even make you feel what I feel when I look at nature the way I do.

Living in farm country affords me time away from the big city. Not only do I take frequent walks in and around our neighborhood, but I also slip into the woods every so often to enjoy the silence away from it all.

Path leading to the woods.
Path leading to the woods.
Entrance to the woods.
Entrance to the woods.

Our first stop is the park next to my home. Every year at this time, it bursts with color. The mornings are as if someone had taken several buckets of paint and splashed them on all the trees. Yellows are like pots of gold. Reds are deep and rich. Why not? Maple trees line the perimeter of the park and invite the stranger to visit the inner sanctuary.

The woods begin at the park and continue for a mile in all directions, cutting across a street until it reaches the farms. I’ve strolled the distance many times, getting lost in its winding trails. The crunch under my feet stops me from going further. I look around and see trees surrounding me. They are tall and strong. The squirrels are gathering food for the winter. The birds have long left the area, searching for warmer climes, escaping the coming winter.

I turn east and head for the stream, which resides at the other side of the street. Other than the gentle breeze caressing my skin, the rushing water breaks the peace and makes my mind wander.

The woods.
The woods.
Looking high above between the trees.
Looking high above between the trees.

I wonder what it was like a hundred years ago, during the times when the colonialists settled the area. Was there ever a person who sat in the exact spot I am sitting, thinking about the coming winter, dreaming about a hot drink by the open fire? Had anyone lived there who came fishing here in the summer, craving for a good catch to bring home to the family for the evening’s meal? I’m sure there was. How could there not?

Then I see more leaves float from the branches, creating a bed for the chipmunks scampering about below. It’s nice here. The tree limbs overhead provide a comfortable roof. Thankfully, it doesn’t feel like it will rain. I can tell when that happens. The animals disappear, the air tightens and a certain smell hovers over everything until the first drop hits the ground.

It’s getting late. I head back wondering what I will have to eat. The other night my wife made fresh baked bread. Oh, how I would love that again. The sweet aroma is hard to resist. After a long walk, it also makes my house feel like home.

Home. What a beautiful word. Calming. Peaceful. Happy. Home.

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What is your neighborhood like? Do you live where you can stroll in the open country?

Posted in Freedom Friday, Photo Opportunities

Time Is Precious

This has to be my favorite time of year. With the days getting shorter and the nights growing colder, I don’t miss the sweltering heat of summer. But I’m sure if I live through six months of frigid arctic weather, I would grow weary enough to want to have the sun back. Just, not right now, though.

The Woods
The Woods

I can’t believe how quickly October went by. I was talking with a friend of mine the other day telling how this month disappeared. Then again, I did have a book release, so that did make the time fly. Nonetheless, my friend felt time has been speeding along while all we’re doing is enjoying the ride.

A couple of weeks ago, I went to the woods while the leaves were turning colors and I had the opportunity to have my camera with me. Actually, I went out to take a few photos, so the opportunity was a planned event. As I walked through the woods enjoying the scenery, I noticed how quiet it was. I noticed it before, yet it never hit me quite as dramatically as that day.

I sat on a log and took it all in. I could hear the leaves rustling in the wind. The squirrels were dancing along the perimeter foraging for food. And the air was still warm, left over from the summer.

The Woods - A week later
The Woods – A week later

A week later, I went back to that same spot and the leaves had all but changed to a brilliant orange. Gone was the multi-colored tapestry nature gladly spreads honoring those who venture nearby. In its place, a bed of leaves surrounded my feet. A cold wind ran through my jacket as I sunk my hands into my pockets. And the gray sky made everything barren-looking. I couldn’t believe how quickly everything changed.

I’ve been noticing that quite a lot lately. I’m not sure why that is. In the town where I live, construction has overtaken major roadways. What used to be a peaceful area now bustles with workers. They’re improving the area. At least that is what I think they’re doing. I notice it more when I have to drive through it, running errands.

How quickly things change.

The log
The log

This time of year calls for nostalgia, wanting for things to be the way they were. I miss those days when things were simpler, when I didn’t have all the responsibilities I have today. I’m longing for those people who were once in my life, but are no longer there. I miss them. Their ghosts come and go, yet the present remains the same.

Time is precious and there’s no escaping it. What is today will become yesterday. Let’s enjoy every moment.

[Another Freedom Friday post inspired by fall.]

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How do you view time? Does this time of year also spark a longing for the way things were?

Posted in Freedom Friday

School Dance

When I was a teenager going to high school, October was the month I looked forward to the most. It was the month when the long-awaited school dance took place. In the ninth grade, being part of the student council, I got in free. It didn’t matter really, since I would have easily paid double to get in regardless of the price. For today’s Freedom Friday, let me tell you why I thought the school dance was the greatest event of the entire school year.

Gymnasium
Gymnasium

As I’d mentioned, because I was part of the student council, there were privileges attached to being the ninth grades’s representative. One of the key privileges was getting into the school events for free, particularly school dances. Our school sponsored three dances—fall, winter and spring. Typically, the fall one would take place in October, the winter one in February, and the spring dance sometime between the end of March and the beginning of April.

What made our dances special was the DJ we hired for the events. I still remember his name and for the purposes of respecting his privacy, I won’t mention it. Suffice it to say, he was incredible. Prior to the evening of the dance, which took place on a Friday night, the DJ would need the gymnasium for that whole day. He and his crew would set up these massive speakers in front of the stage that would extend from the floor to the ceiling. Other than a small opening in the center where we could see him perform, he had created an entire wall of sound. If you could imagine a rock concert, that’s the power I’m describing in the small confines of an enclosed area no bigger than a basketball court.

Anyway, when the fall dance finally came, I had to be there to make sure all the restrooms were in working order. You wouldn’t believe what went on in those restrooms. I also had to stamp the hands of those who paid their entrance fee. Once my shift was over, though, I was free to mingle. What that meant was hooking up with friends who hadn’t asked any of the girls to dance.

Like any gymnasium, it had four walls, but the students always believed there were three: First, the wall where the girls would wait for the guys to muster enough courage to ask them to dance. Second, the wall where the guys would watch the girls from across the dance floor, wondering if their self-esteem would suffer from the make-believe rejections running through their mind. Third, the ominous wall of sound where the illustrious DJ would spin the tracks.

Eventually, hanging out with the guys became somewhat boring, although we did have fun talking about what so-and-so was wearing, and of who was dating who.

Before going forward, I’ll let you in on a little secret. I’m writing this not out of a haughty spirit or to brag, because that’s not my intention. But when it came to girls, I never really had a problem getting dates. I attribute that to a little secret few guys knew.

The secret?

The hottest chicks were home Saturday night because guys were too chicken to ask them out for fear of rejection. Somehow, in my finite teenage mind I knew this, took advantage of the lack of competition and asked the hottest chicks out without fear of rejection. And they would go out with me!

Consequently, the night of the dance, I had no problem leaving the wall of dejected guys to stroll across the dance floor and ask the hottest of the hot to dance. And they would dance with me!

There was more to the fall dance than anyone else knew, though. Our hired police officers had to monitor the restrooms and on occasion tossed couples outside for making out in the stalls. The smell of weed hovered in the halls. Drinking in the parking lot was prevalent. And girls putting out behind the school was normal. There was a lot more that went on; however, those incidents were in the minority. The crowd I frequented was tame, and we had fun just being kids.

I think the best part of the night was the walk home. My friends and I lived in the same neighborhood so it was great talking about the stupid things we saw happen, who got in trouble, and who ended up with a suspension. Of course, girls came into the conversation, but we won’t get into that.

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What do you remember about your school dance?

Posted in Freedom Friday

The Angel

Her eyes met his and her heart stopped. She never thought it would ever happen to her. But happen, it did, and she wobbled on her feet with the whiff of his scent. By the time her pulse began to beat again, it was too late—she knew she was his forever.

The AngelThat autumn evening was like any other. She left work thinking if she caught her bus, she’d make it home in time to watch an episode of her favorite show on TV. It was dark, but the street standards lit the sidewalk to her usual spot. What she hadn’t counted on was the bus arriving early. She raced in hopes the driver would yield to her sudden appearance in the side mirror. It didn’t work. The vehicle blew smoke and left her behind. It wouldn’t be for another fifteen minutes before another came along.

Alone, she thought of heading back to work and waiting there. Something, though, kept her from returning. It could have been that instance where the rustling of the leaves caught her ear or how the air smelled as if it was just about to rain or the way the wind gently patted her skin to tell her everything was going to be all right. Whatever it was, she stayed, enjoying the moment.

Minutes passed and she noticed a shadow from the corner of her eye. Fear gripped as the thought of violence seeped into her head. It lasted a short time. Somehow, she knew she was safe. The shadow emerged into the light.

She had never seen anyone like him. His eyes blue. His hair black. And, although he towered in stature, she could make out the faint, warm smile dancing on his lips. Time slowed to the beat of her heart, which was non-existent. There must have been a reason she had missed her bus, she wondered. Was it by design? Fate?

When the clocks started again, he asked, “What’s your name?”

A stranger asked her name, and if it were any other circumstance, she’d tell him it was none of his business. Instead, she gulped, then answered, “Kate.”

“Hello, Kate.” He said. “My name is Henry.”

Henry. Henry, she thought. If all the angels in heaven went by the name Henry, the world would be a better place. What did Henry do? Was Henry an actor? A writer? A painter? Had Henry a wife?

“Beautiful evening.” He lifted the collar to his jacket, and slipped his hands into his pockets. “I’ve seen you taking this route every day. Do you live far?”

Another crazy question. Henry, what are you doing to me? I can’t answer that. I don’t know you. But I want to know you. I do! She said, “I live a few blocks from here.”

Henry smiled.

The lights to Kate’s bus flooded the street and when she turned to say good-bye, he had disappeared. Later that night, she tossed on her pillow for hours with thoughts of him running through her head.

Several days went by that she hadn’t seen Henry anywhere, neither at the bus stop or on her way from work. One afternoon during her lunch hour, Kate strolled through the park adjacent to the spot where they first met. The gray sky reflected her melancholy mood. How a man she met only briefly could become such an obsession caused her to stop under a tree where the ducks fed in a small pond. Studying the ripples in the water, memories of Henry’s slight smile filled her soul, warming her.

When she spun around to head back, Kate noticed the tree again. This time, the brass plaque planted at its foot came into view. She’d never seen it before. Crouching to get a better look, she wiped the dirt from its surface to reveal the engraving:

“Donated in memory of Henry McAlistair, a generous supporter for the global preservation of wildlife. b. December 19, 1909 – d. September 26, 1939”

It can’t be, she thought. That’s almost a hundred years ago. It can’t be him. It just can’t.

Below the letters on the plaque, debris covered a photo. Kate violently rubbed the dirt from the face of it as she tried to catch her breath.

It can’t be him, she muttered. It can’t be him.

When his eyes appeared in the photo, she dropped to her knees with her jaw hanging.

It was him.

Years along, the seasons changed. As autumns turned to cold, bitter storms, and the wind yielded to the sun in the spring, twenty summers had left Kate alone, still thinking of the man with the compassionate eyes named Henry.

On September 26, a brisk fall morning, Kate left her apartment, headed for her bus and stepped into the street. She didn’t feel the impact. All she remembered was someone screaming, “Someone call 911!”

As the light in her eyes faded, she felt a hand touch her shoulder. When she set her gaze on the one whose warmth took away the pain, she now understood why she hadn’t seen him again until that morning.

It was him. Henry. You’ve come back, she said to herself. You’ve come back for me.

Kate died that day, but witnesses stated they’d seen a stranger comforting her those moments preceding her passing, holding her hand all the while she was smiling. When asked to identify the man, the same answer came—it happened so quickly that he had disappeared in the crowd.

[I’d written this stream of consciousness, first draft Freedom Friday post in an attempt to capture my feelings about autumn.]

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale October 21.

What do you like about autumn?

Posted in Freedom Friday

Autumn

Autumn is my favorite time of year. I know, it is weird talking about fall in the middle of summer, but if you’ll amuse me for a moment, you’ll see where I’m going with this. Besides, I’m strange that way. I was the guy talking about summer vacation while it was still snowing outside. And believe me, being Canadian, although we do get quite a lot of snow, we don’t receive half as much as some of the places in the States. Anyway, let’s talk about autumn for Freedom Friday.

Small Town in Ontario, Canada
Small Town in Ontario, Canada

I like autumn. Yes, we’ve established that. I like it because of a few reasons. In Canada, we celebrate Thanksgiving a month prior to our American counterparts. So when we’re carving up our turkey, filling our gut with tryptophan, that’s the stuff that makes you sleepy after a turkey dinner, south of the border it’s business as usual. I suppose the reason for this stems from the fact our autumns come earlier. Yet, when I look at some of the northern states, they just as equally have fall around the same time. Therefore, I’m in a bit of a quandary as to rationalize why either we Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving early or Americans celebrate it late. Don’t ask me to google it, ‘cause I’m not going to. If you know, tell me!

All right, back to this autumn and Thanksgiving bit. I enjoy our Thanksgivings here in Canada because the leaves have all changed colors and haven’t dropped to the ground yet. It makes for a perfect opportunity to take some pretty awesome shots.

Now, where I live, I’m in the middle of farm country. We have plenty of cornfields, and tons of cows, horses, sheep and any other farm animals you can probably imagine. No, not velociraptors. Well, other than Halloween. The best part? We have a vast swath of woods to discover. I have been to maybe a tenth of what my area has to offer. The rest lays dormant for me to explore.

Farm Country, Ontario, Canada
Farm Country, Ontario, Canada

What else? I love autumn because it’s not too hot and it’s definitely not too cold. I need a jacket in the mornings, but I can shed it by early afternoon. Also, it’s the rainy season, and if you’ve read my blog long enough you will know just how much I love the rain. I relish the water beating down on freshly cut grass. The smell is intoxicating. Ah, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

My most beloved time is that sweet moment when the leaves begin to fall and the rain has yet to dampen them to a brown hue. The crackling sound under my feet drives me to want to dive into a newly raked pile.

The Woods, Ontario, Canada
The Woods, Ontario, Canada

In that time, one single moment exists I cannot resist. Late in the evening, when the wind tosses and churns the leaves into the neighbor’s yard and I stand there under a street lamp right before it begins to rain. I can feel it. That eerie feeling when everything’s about to erupt into thunder, and the lightening takes over the skies. My nostrils fill with the smell of moss. My ears hear the breeze wafting over my shoulder.

And then—it rains. Like a symphony.

I dash into the house and the skies explode as a choir of angels heralding the second coming. It’s beautiful. It’s spectacular.

Now do you see why I love autumn?

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Do you like autumn weather? Is it strange talking about the fall when we’re still in the midst of summer fun?