Prairie Groupings

With apologies to Linda at Linda’s Writing Blog for carrying this to ludicrity. 😉

A bevy of buffaloes made its way across the fenceless prairie, followed by a flock of aboriginal hunters dreaming of sizzling steaks. In the wings, a murder of crows settled on the buckbrush bushes that grew in the coulie. A file of coyotes trotted along the coulie as well, awaiting the aftermath of the natives’ nefarious plans.

Overhead an assassination of vultures circled, hoping the hunt would provide them with a few feasts as well. Should the hunt fail, the vultures, opportunists rather than fussy eaters, might still be left a trampled coyote or two.

Ahead of the buffalo a cluster of startled grouse flew up, propelling their plump bodies toward the coulie. Before they could recover from their sharp-tailed flight a couple of the birds met a sad fate at the paws of the wily lead coyote. Life on the prairie tended to be short for meaty birds.

Slowly the hunters advanced and the buffalo moved ever closer to the ravine ahead. Near the lip of the ravine an amazement of other natives had concealed themselves in the sagebrush. The plan was stellar. As the buffalo approached the ravine, this group would spring out at the side of the herd, making a cacophony of noise. Fenced off from flight on one side, hopefully some of the startled buffalo would dash over the lip of the ravine, where a dispatch of men with spears would finish off any survivors.

The animals, quickly attacked by a clan of carvers, would be transformed into strips of meat to be pounded and smoked by a web of women. This meat would provide the natives with food for another winter. Buffalo hides would become blankets. A scrabble of miscellaneous wild creatures would scrap over whatever remained when the natives were done.

As the moon rose over the ravine that night, a smudge of smoke rose toward the stars. Fifteen beasts from the bevy had hurtled over the precipice; buffalo meat had filled the tribal tummies and the rest was curing over the fires. The hunters, old and young, sat in a circle visiting. A herd of youngsters played “hunters and buffalo” while the mothers sang softly to dozing infants.

Writing prompts for today:
Ragtag Community :  HERD
Fandango’s challenge : FENCE
Word of the Day :  STELLAR

Of Traffic, Tangles, and Tangents

Fandango’s word for today: TRAFFIC

Ragtag Community prompt: COMEBACK

Word of the Day challenge: SCINTILLATING

Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day: WELTSCHMERZ

Autumn’s Goings and Comings and Goings

The snow that fell on our land last week disappeared and fall made a little COMEBACK —until Sunday night when fluffy flakes drifted down on us. Monday our land was white with snow again and all but the very hardiest of our summer bedding plants are stiff.

TRAFFIC news from Calgary yesterday, after the city was beset by its own cloud system and got smacked with 40 cm (16 inches) of snow in twelve hours:
many flights cancelled; 251 collisions reported; 80 city buses stuck or having mobility issues. (The transit system hadn’t put snow tires on yet.)
The city of Edmonton sent thirty snow-plows and other nearby cities have also sent plows to help clear streets.

Traffic news from here is mostly avian:
On our trip to Saskatoon yesterday we passed a couple of fields along the road that were dappled with black and white. I had to look twice: it wasn’t snow after all. I’m guessing at least a thousand snow geese in the first flock and another thousand in a second field nearby, half of these settled and half milling around in one big tangle above them. I think this is the greatest number we’ve ever seen in one gathering. They appeared to be enjoying SCINTILLATING conversation with their fellows.

When the sun shines on milling snow geese they can appear like a sparkling, mostly white cloud. Rather than in clear vees like Canadas, snow geese fly in a number of vee shaped streams that seem to tangle and untangle as they go. The birds come in a mix of true white and “blue morph” varieties, often mingling with Ross’s and other geese. As I’ve said before, they make an amazing sight spread out over ten acres or so!

And on the way home we saw many vees of Canada geese southbound. It seems this latest snow has given the geese a very clear “Time to Go” signal. We’ll be looking forward to their COMEBACK next April.

Weepy Weather

Ragged leaves offer their last respects to summer,
altogether expired now. No wake will be held.
I bring the eulogy, north wind brings the mourning,
the rain brings tears enough for us all.

According to M-W, the word WELTSCHMERZ means:
1) mental depression or apathy caused by comparison of the
actual state of the world with an ideal state
2) a mood of sentimental sadness

This describes to a T how I feel when I look outside. The “ideal state” is a long, lovely fall. Not snow. Not yet! I remember all those promises of “global warming” we heard a decade ago, and see winter settling in at the beginning of October. But this too will pass— for awhile.

It’s not that I want to knock the ideal of conservation, being responsible caretakers of the planet and not polluting nature until it can’t recover. But climate predictions come and go with the wind, I’ve observed. Speaking of wind, there’s a stiff, cold one blowing today. Our cats aren’t very brave to venture out.

At any rate, the general “sad to see summer go” adds its tones, along with an “I’ve accomplished so little this year” sigh, making for a tangle of feelings. A mild case of weltschmerz? I wouldn’t dare toss that word around amongst the unlearned, though, lest folks think I should be quarantined or put out to grass at the Funny Farm.

Avoiding Fruitless Tangents

I try to decide priorities, but there are so many tasks that need doing. Some days I think I should just carry on as I have been and live with the frustration. Surely it will pass? Other times I think of major changes, like giving up my goal of writing books and be content to communicate with the world via my daily blog post. I wonder if I should abandon writing altogether in favour of keeping on top of housework and sewing. Indecision can be an obnoxious little tyrant!

Lately I feel like I’m sitting on the brink of some big decision and dare not jump for fear of breaking something. Like Robert Frost, I see several forks in the road immediately ahead and I must soon choose one — but I can’t decide which. A To-do List wafting down from Heaven would be nice. 🙂

People say, “Which is the most important task?” and I say, “ALL of them.” Plus, I’m so inclined to pick activities that bring the most emotional payback — or back pats — but this activity may not be so important. Dear friends, say a prayer for me. I feel in need of courage and wisdom.

Snow This Morning

Fandango’s word for today is NUMBER

Well, the number here first thing this morning was zero. As in 0̊C / 32̊F. My cell phone tells me it’s +1̊ now, and my eyes tell me the ground is turning whiter by the moment, as a fine snow sifts down.

Our cats are not amused. They’re pacing around the house, bored, wanting the door open every little while so they can see if conditions have improved. The petunias in my big planters by the step are being buried in white — official end of season. A bit sad, I think. The snow will likely be gone once the sun gets out of bed and does its job; however, we’re not apt to see it shine through this dense cloud cover.

Better today than yesterday. Yesterday we, together with Daughter and Son-in-Law, drove two hours west to visit Bob’s cousin and wife, Paul & Vivian Letkeman. We haven’t seen them for a l-o-n-g time. Oh, we’ve visited at family funerals a few times since, but I think the number is 7 or 8 years since we’ve been to their place.

For close to 40 years they’ve had a ranch on the South Saskatchewan River near Leader and raised cattle. In later years they opened a few cabins and turned it into the Leaning Tree Guest Ranch. Now they’ve reached their upper 70’s and have retired from that, still have cattle and horses. Still very fit people. We had a great visit and they drove us around to see their acreage and the Texas longhorn herd Paul is building up. They aren’t ready to sell and move to the city yet.

On our journey yesterday we saw a lot of waterfowl migrating. A number of acres white with snow geese and/or dark patches of Canada geese. Some places the sky seemed full of small and large flocks winging south, or joining their kin in some newly harvested field. As we passed one creek I noted a large flock of migrating yellow-headed blackbirds that had settled on the cattails.

Today and tomorrow I’m supposed to be cooking at the Villa, but the numbers there are really few. The one couple is heading for a wedding in Alberta, which leaves one resident to feed. (Ben, a former resident, has moved to a nursing home in Outlook.) I’ll have to see if I can find some company to join us three for supper this evening. Tomorrow the resident’s son & D-I-L are coming to take him out, so I’ve no one to cook dinner for.

The numbers will be few in church as well, because one of our families’ sons got married in Michigan and the reception will be at another congregation about a four-hour drive from here. This is where the young couple will make their home, so quite a few families from here want to go. Including our own children and grands.

I’ll end this post with a few numbers from Saskatchewan history:

— In Feb of 1947 southern SK was hit by a ten-day mega-blizzard. All the highways into Regina, our capital city, were blocked. Train officials said conditions were the worst in Canadian rail history; one train was buried in a snow drift one km long and 8 metres deep.
— The winter of 1955-56 brought a 129-day cold snap, with recorded temperatures in several SK communities staying below -10C during that time. Perhaps this is why we heard, back when I was in school (circa 1960), that scientists were predicting another ice age ahead.

We were very sad to hear that the area around Ottawa-Gatineau, on the Ontario-Quebec border, was hit by a tornado yesterday. Our sympathies to all the folks and families affected.

I’ve been working on this awhile; by now we have a thick blanket of snow covering all the imperfections of nature, but the wind has come up and is tossing the tree tops around. Maybe I should bundle up and go build a snowman?

Whatever your weather, here’s wishing you all an upbeat weekend.

Of Fall and Fine Details

This morning from my kitchen window I noticed three birds clinging to a leafless branch on a treetop, the sight of which inspired this haiku:

how brave those three
birds still clinging —
facing autumn’s gale

Much as we might wish to cling to summer, autumn has definitely made its appearance in our land. The crops are coming off and the golden brown straw left to hold the soil in place; the maple trees are golden already. Nights are cool, and during the last few days we’ve gotten the rains we wanted.

Hopefully now the Fire Ban will be lifted in our township. For a few months now we haven’t been allowed to light any fires outdoors, including in BBQ pits and such. This month local volunteer firefighters have been called out to several grass fires started by balers as farmers were harvesting hay. Sunday Sept 2nd some of our firemen left straight from church, responding to a fire east of here. About 150 acres — half of it in standing wheat crop — burned, along with four round hay bales.

The hummers left us a couple of weeks ago. Last week the second batch of barn swallows came out of their nest to enjoy the clear blue skies. For the first few days the three newcomers played in the air above our yard, then ventured farther, touring the woods and coming back to roost at night. I was out just after supper together with the cats, and the swallows came buzzing around us. Obviously they weren’t happy seeing cats so close to their residence.

It’s been awhile since I posted anything significant but I decided that if I didn’t get something written I might develop chronic blog-atrophy.

It’s not that I haven’t been writing. In fact, I’ve spent hours at the computer this week commenting on other writers’ work. Last weekend I was investigating the possibilities for having my own short stories critiqued and came across a site called Critique Circle. It It looked interesting, so I signed up and started writing comments on the stories posted.

Basically, anyone may join, and post a story they’ve written once every two weeks — but first they must critique others’ stories. In fact the system works somewhat like that old song about working in the coal mines: you do one days’ work and the company store charges two days’ pay for your groceries. 🙂 I’ve gotten .5, 1, 1.5, and 2 credits for doing various critiques, but it cost me 3 credits to post my story. So participants need to keep writing critiques (of 300 words or more) if they want to post anything.

Which is quite fair, really. I’m not griping. This approach keeps people from “taking” without putting anything in. (And it suits me because I enjoy doing editing. 😉 I do try to be gentle, though.) The “rules state that “critters” shall be encouraging and helpful to new writers as well as more experienced ones. No “Your story is blah!” comments.

I’ve posted one flash fiction story already. The first critique I received dealt mostly with grammar and punctuation — some of which I would contest. The second was an overall “Liked the story.” The third one was worth its weight in gold! It was written by a fellow who’s had a number of short stories published in literary magazines and such. He really knows his stuff and pointed out half a dozen things I SHOULD HAVE seen myself.

The stories I’m working on now are for my upcoming book of flash fiction. And now that I’ve registered it and gotten the ISBN, I can post the cover I’ve chosen (from unsplash.com.) What do you think?

The next design issues: choosing a font style and “outside border or no?”

Abstract cover.all

No Space To Grieve

A pigeon, newly dead,
on the shoulder of the highway,
slaughtered by a passing car.
The bloody heap, still warm,
sprawled on the pavement
while its mate flutters about.

Wanting to be sure,
to give one farewell caress.
The fierce flow of traffic
chases her away repeatedly,
yet she keeps coming back.

How cruel that she gets
not one moment of peace
alone with her lost mate,
no space to grieve.

My response to the Ragtag Daily Prompt today: Bird

 

A Vital Question

Word of the Day prompt for today is PITHY.

Another word I’ve read often and understood in context, yet never stopped to examine in detail. I was thinking it means a snappy comeback; a blunt, even biting remark. My Collins Canadian Dictionary defines it as “terse and full of meaning.”
(This dictionary sticks quite close to “terse” itself, actually.)

Anyway, I hope this not-quite-haiku will qualify as PITHY:

I hear the owl call my name.
At least it’s asking, “Whooo
do you think you are?”

Strange New Critters

As the week, I feel, so the summer. How can it be almost gone? Nevertheless it’s Saturday —and yesterday’s weather was a good taste of things to come. The weatherman has predicted rain for today, but rain in harvest is odious, so none of us will mind at all if it doesn’t come.

There are still a few hummingbirds with us; I saw two, possibly three, off and on yesterday. Last night I actually brought the juice inside so it wouldn’t be so cold for the tiny creatures if they came — spoiling them, I guess.

I waited until after dark to take down the feeder, but while I was still on the deck, two steps up from the ground, I noticed — a hummingbird?? — gathering nectar from the flowers in the three tubs just below me. I watched it zip from flower to flower, coming within a few feet of where I stood. I was rather dumbfounded to see a hummer foraging in the dark. Poor thing must be starving to be so bold!

The tiny bird, not much bigger than a dragonfly, whizzed among the petunia blossoms quite unmindful of my presence so I stepped down and took a better look. I’ve never before seen a hummingbird this small — nor noticed the cross-wise stripes on its back. Almost like a wasp. Wait a minute! This just can’t be a hummer!

So I called my husband to come see this odd creature, which zipped around us a few times as we stood there, then went back to the flower pots. Our cats were outside now, too, and it zipped almost by their noses. I had to chase Pookie away or he would have caught the clueless thing! Bob got a fair look, too, as it slurped nectar from the petunias and said it must be a moth of some kind.

So I Googled, “moth that looks like a hummingbird” and there really is such a thing: a hummingbird hawk moth. This photo from a Bug Guide post shows the exact creature.Hummingbird Moth, black and white, British Columbia, Canada - Sphinx perelegans

Learn something new every day! Here’s another article about it.

This morning I put out the juice again and an adult female hummer was at the feeder at 6am. I think the little guys have been gone for a few days already. How much longer until they’re all gone?

I wonder how you all will be spending your day, and this weekend? Not weekend-at-the-lake weather here; rather, this would be a good day to bake and warm up the house with oven scents. I’m still keying in my misc scribblings and other clipped-out items I’ve saved over the years. I’ve finally decided there’s nothing intrinsically sacred about the words, though; I can toss the poems that aren’t that great. Ditto with my own writing. I’ve been telling myself, “One of these days I’m going to polish all these writings.” Time to face the music.

Here’s one little “thought” I wrote a few years back, in the midst of another decluttering effort.

ACCUMULATION

A lifetime of knickknacks:
souvenirs, gifts from friends,
inherited from elderly aunts.
The accumulation filled
her space. There was barely room
for the stretcher when she died
while rearranging her stuff.

Have a nice weekend, everyone!