As much as I love wilderness areas, there is something undeniably satisfying about hay bales in the field. And round bales are so picturesque.

(Almost as good as hay in the barn, when I have horses. Though then I prefer square bales.)

Anyway, I love the smell of fresh hay. It’s like summer and fall all at once.

I took advantage of the last few round bales in our back field to do a quick place reading. It’s Too Late appears in The Molotov Cocktail, which was a goal publication for me. Extra-cool when it works out that way. Check out the yin-yang illustration that accompanies the story online!

The germ of that story was an incident that happened years ago, before I bought my first horse and had a partial-lease on a horse in Michigan. Dusty was a registered Paint, a tri-color buckskin paint. I went out to ride one afternoon as a storm was brewing, and the tension in the air, and the horses’ reactions to it, made me feel electric. But also, observant enough not to ride.

I called on that memory as I challenged myself to write something spooky about something I love.

I hope you enjoy!

I have a weakness for running water. I love following creeks and brooks along in the woods. When I was a kid, I’d even follow a ditch and imagine all kinds of adventures.

This little creek probably has a name, but I’m calling it Rocky Comfort Creek because it’s near a road of that name. The Shawnee National Forest in Southern Illinois is patchwork in places, and Rocky Comfort Creek is one of those places. I love living so near a forest, and so near places to hike and explore.

I wrote this story from a prompt, and like many stories written that way, it wandered around until it figured out what it wanted to be. I see an influence from We Have Always Lived in the Castle. It was first published in Ghost Parachute, a journal that has gotten better and better over the years. I absolutely love the illustration with this story. I hope you enjoy!

Once upon a time, I went to a car show and it changed my life.

I was a newspaper reporter at the time, working for a hometown paper that came out twice a week. It was a pretty good hometown paper. I even won an award for a story I wrote there. ‘Nother time.

We took turns, the other fulltime reporter and I, covering weekend events. I got the car show. Father’s Day weekend, as I recall.

I like Corvettes, myself. Mustangs. El Caminos – I had one of those once.

I walked up and down the rows of cars, snapping pictures (we were our own photographers at this paper), talking to people for my news story. You know.

I went past a few cars parked together, and a group of 20-somethings sitting in camp chairs. The three or four girls in the group were similar to what most girls (or maybe just me) want to look like – slender and toned, great hair, great legs. They and the guys of the group were sitting, looking around. Looking bored.

I noted them and moved on, just about ready to wrap it up and file my story. I heard music coming from across the park – 1950s music. Thought I’d check it out on my way out.

It was a bit of a party. The first thing I noticed was a woman, a bit older than me at that time, probably mid-40s, about my build, which is to say, could lose a pound or 20. She was wearing tight pants and a halter top and had her hair piled up on her head rockabilly-style. She was on the rumble seat of a car dancing to Chuck Berry. She was having a great time. Some people were watching her, some were dancing by their cars, some were drinking beers and chatting. Like I said, a bit of a party.

I was jealous. What confidence! Call her an attention-seeker if you want to, but you weren’t there. She was living in the moment. She was “let’s have fun, right now, let’s do this, fuck you if you judgy.”

Before I left, I noticed the 20-something guys hanging out near that car with that slightly-overweight “oh hon should you really wear that?” dancing redhead. Their cute little, asses-in-chairs girlfriends nowhere to be seen.

I decided right then I’d rather be the less-than-perfect-but-enjoying-life woman than the super-cute-and-super-uptight girls.

Yeah, I know, judgy. Unfair. Making a determination based on very little evidence.

C’mon, you wanna be her, too.

I was in New Mexico over Christmas. It’s my third visit in the past couple years as we travel to visit family. This time we stayed near Albuquerque, in a rural neighborhood in Sandia Park.

Here’s me in the front yard / sometimes goat run reading my story Wicked Road, initially published as an Ekphrastic Flash in Largehearted Boy. It’s inspired by Reckless Kelly’s song “Wicked, Twisted Road.”

I promise to do better with the audio in future. It was windy. (One reason I look so glamorous in the video.) (Love that video still! Not.)

I’m reluctant to say anything too early as I don’t want to jinx myself, but I seem to be on the recovery side of Covid-19. I’ve been fortunate – mild symptoms, and also, I had early warning that I’d been exposed so I was able to isolate right from the time I was contagious.

For me, it’s been like a combination of a cold and flu. I’ve got some of the congestion of  a cold, and the skin-hair ache and fatigue of the flu. The first two days, I checked my temperature obsessively because I couldn’t believe I didn’t have a fever. But in truth, the highest I went was 101 and that for less than an hour. Mostly I was at high 99/low 100 – or normal.

But the fatigue. Whew! I’ve never spent so much sit-on-the-couch-and-watch-TV time ever in my life, I think. It’s important to get up and move with this, so I’ve gone outside and walked around every day of this, and it really does feel good to breathe fresh air. Funny how little it takes to get me tuckered out though!

But… feeling better. More energy. Less fatigue.

Tim has it too, of course. We went yesterday to get monoclonal antibody infusion treatments. We were told we’d probably feel better within 24 – or 32 – hours. Gotta say, I think it’s working. I’m glad to see some early treatment options now.

What’s weirdest, though, is the loss of taste and smell – a common symptom / side-effect. I’ve been drinking my coffee black. I can register that it’s bitter, but can’t taste it. Weird. Unpleasant. Every now and then I’ll get a little bit of a taste of something, especially on the first taste. Like, this morning, I could taste my banana for a second. It makes me wonder if what I’m experiencing is the memory of taste – as if my brain registers “banana” and supplies, momentarily, the taste.

I hope that symptom will diminish soon. But if not, maybe I’ll lose some weight. Silver linings, right?

Also, the congestion … well, it isn’t really congestion. I’ve heard people talk about brain fog, and I’m not sure it’s that. It’s more like my hearing is muffled. So I’m moving through life right now with muffled senses. Writing prompt!

Really, though, I’m profoundly grateful that my symptoms (and Tim’s) have been mild. And I’m not counting myself out of the woods yet – this is too much of a sucker-punch virus, I’ve heard. But, fingers crossed, I’m on the mend.

Be well, everyone!

If you look at a map of Illinois, at the bottom, where the state is shaped like an arrowhead point, you’ll see a whole big swath of that part of the state is Shawnee National Forest. Which is part of the reason I moved here. Once you get into Southern Illinois, though, you realize that the forest is more like a patchwork quilt in areas, interspersed with farmland, vineyards, houses, pasture.

I live near part of the patchwork. It’s literally true to say part of the Shawnee Forest is across the street from me. If I walked sort of northwesterly, I could go several miles until I came to Panthers Den Wilderness area, or either of the two wineries in that general direction, and never leave the forest. But there are places where I would be able to see sky on either side, and probably private property. Nevertheless, part of the forest it is, and I love having it there.

This story, “We All Make Mistakes,” appearing in The Tiny Journal, is inspired in part by my several encounters with venomous snakes in the area — Copperheads and also Water Moccasin (aka Cottonmouth). It’s also partly a musing on how sometimes we do things in spite of having misgivings, and how sometimes these things are mistakes. We all do it.

I hope you enjoy! (PS – Is there a way to make the video still so I don’t look silly? LOL)

“We All Make Mistakes”in The Tiny Journal

I spent Monday through Wednesday before Halloween on a solo writing retreat in the awesome Mississippi River town of Cape Girardeau so I could get a novel I started — and stopped working on — in 2018 back on track. I think it worked! I’m up to chapter 10, anyway.

The Downtown Guest House, hosted by the owners of thrift shop extraordinaire Anna Laurie’s, is perfect for writing. If you are a writer reading this, and you are anywhere near southeast Missouri, consider it. Tiny little house, but just right. Walking distance to the Mississippi River (about 5 short blocks), and tons of cool eateries and drink stops and coffeeshops along the way.

Here are some photos from the retreat. I’m looking to do this a few more times. I definitely plan to come back to the Downtown Guest House as it’s super convenient for me — less than an hour from home. But if any of y’all know of any places in the southwest of the Midwest, lmk.

This is the house. Right on the sidewalk! Which was pretty cool, actually.
Perfect space. I wrote on my Chromebook, but had Tim’s laptop along just in case.
Cape Girardeau has an arty vibe. Anna Laurie’s is kitty-korner from the tree. That’s an awesome little shop with the mural on it.
Breakfast with dinosaurs. Bon-Bons.
And first night dinner at Minglewood Brewery, accompanied by Robert R. McCammon.
River view.