Walk out to Winter

Tamnen slipped silently through the woods, the sound of his steps muffled by the snow.  The trees were frosted white, each leafless limb delicately outlined, each plump conifer draped in a glowing blanket.  The moonlight caught on each snowflake as it fell, a disco-ball of iridescence.

If he weren’t so distracted by the cold, he might have been able to appreciated the evening’s beauty.

“All a scarf really does,” he huffed, breath misting, “Is remind you that your head and torso are naked.  What the hell kind of tradition is it, really?  Might have been practical back in Greece, but I doubt our ancestors would have trotted about this exposed to the elements they’d had to experience frostbitten nipples.”

It was useless, of course.  He’d tried the same argument, minus the reference to nipples, with his father that very morning, but it was hard to have a proper debate when your opponent’s only response was a growled, “This is the way it has always been, and always will be.”

Tamnen supposed he ought to be grateful Tumnus and leave it at that – before that Lewis fellow’s chance encounter in the woods, even the scarf would have been ‘an affront to the ways of our ancestors!’  Tamnen wondered if Tumnus’ father had been as obsessed with keeping to the old ways.

a sketch done by my long-suffering sister who tolerates my random requests for drawings with grace.  Fun fact - if you ask someone to draw you a faun, they will, at first, assume 'baby deer'.

a sketch done by my long-suffering sister, Doodle, who tolerates my random requests for drawings with grace. Fun fact – if you ask someone to draw you a faun, they will, at first, assume ‘baby deer’.

His own father had been too outraged at Tamnen’s temerity at comparing himself to the great Tumnus to give any real answer.  It seemed to Tamnen, however, that the great Tumnus had had the temerity to be caught out by a human, and was only revered because his image, wearing non-traditional clothing, had been inscribed into children’s books everywhere, the first of their kind  not depicted as naked.

An unexpected dip in the ground sent him tumbling into deep snow with a loud yelp.  He leapt to his feet, brushing frantically at the clumps of snow clinging to the hair on his chest and head, his entire body trembling with cold.

He snapped his scarf out a few times, cursing, to shake the cold from his only protective covering.

The muffled silence of the woodlands was broken by a surprised gasp.  Tamnen whirled with a yelp of alarm, tripped and tipped back into the snow with only a momentary glimpse of a red hat, brown ringlets and a pair of wide blue eyes framed by icy branches.

“OH!  Oh my gosh, are you ok?”  the rapid-paced crunch of snow under boot grew closer, interspersed by the whoosh of her breath as she stumbled through the undergrowth.  Even as Tamnen scrambled out of the shallow defile, his skin bright pink with cold, her mitten-clad hand closed around his arm and pulled.  They tumbled down into the snow, and once again, Tamnen found himself covered, scrambling to his feet and shivering.  He reached out and hauled the girl to her feet before shaking himself off.

Steadying herself on his arm, her eyes widened, taking him in.  “Oh. My. Gosh.”

Uh Oh, Tamnen thought.  Is not being seen rule one, or is freezing one’s ass off in honor of the ancestors?

“You must be freezing!  What do you think you’re doing out here with no shirt on?”  She yanked a mitt off and tossed it aside, pressing her plump hand against his chest.  “You’re cold as ice! Hang on.”

The girl stripped off her thick coat and shoved it at him.  Hardly daring to believe his luck, Tamnen slipped it awkwardly around himself, the residual heat from her body shrouding him delightfully in warmth and the summery smell of peaches.  He surrpetitiously shuffled a few steps until the snow came up to about the girl’s knee level.

“I’m Amanda,” she said, gesturing impatiently for him to lower his head.  He obliged and she plunked her hat down on his curly hair, pulling it down as far as it would go.  Tamnen re-adjusted it, tucking his ears safely out of sight.

Amanda stared at him expectantly, their breath clouding out between them, her cable-knit-sweater pulled tightly closed.  “Well?” she demanded.

“Um, Tamnen.”  Tamnen said, rubbing his arms through the delightful wool of the coat.  Amazing, absolutely amazing.  It’s like having upper body fur.

“Well, ummmTamnen, that answers one question, but more importantly, why are you wandering around in the woods at night, in the winter, and naked?”

“I have a scarf,” he offered weakly.  “And what are you doing out here so late?”

She lifted the camera that hung around her neck. “And weird fur-pants, yeah, I can see that.  Not exactly winter appropriate, though, is it?”

“Right?!” Tamnen exclaimed, happy to hear someone finally agree with him.  “It’s ridiculous – it’s winter, below zero, snowing!  and yet, we go around dressed in the traditional garb of our ancestors, ancestors who never experienced anything like this kind of cold!” his voice deepened in an immitation of his father, “This is how our ancestors dressed, who are you to think you’re better than generations of Fau-” his voice cracked, “F-fausts before us?”

Amanda hadn’t paid attention to his slip-up, however, her eyes were locked on the hard-packed snow patch he’d created with his energetic pacing.

“Ohmygosh!” she gasped, one mitten-clad hand pressed against her mouth, the other pointed at his completely visible cloven hooves.

“Um…”  Tamnen wracked his mind for an explanation.  A hand raked through his hair pulled the hat loose, to further delighted exclamation from Amanda.  The small horns previously hidden by hair were now poking through.

“Ohmygosh, no-one will ever believe this!  It’s like I’m in freaking NARNIA!  Are you real?!”  Amanda did a little jig of excitement.

Narnia, Tamnen thought, suddenly feeling elated.  His ears perked up, and Amanda squealed excitedly.

who am I to not emulate the great Tumnus?  Tamnen smiled, and said, “Haven’t you ever heard the expression, a picture’s worth a thousand words’?  And… can I borrow your gloves too?”

Check doodle out on DeviantArt or on her infrequently updated blog, DrawninandQuartered

Check doodle out on DeviantArt or on her infrequently updated blog, DrawninandQuartered

***

My goal this year is to write more fiction than just prompts.  Prompts are great, but they don’t often open you up to going over 500ish words.  I like including pictures that either (as now) were drawn particularly for my story, or that I see and either inspire a story or suit it.  So if you want me to write something inspired by your artwork… drop me a line (in comments, or at lexy3587 (at) gmail (dot) com).  I love a good challenge, and having your art featured on my blog will lead to fame and fortune… or at least fame… or some renown… amongst the people who read my blog.  The important thing is getting your art out there, really.  

Write On Edge: The Road Ahead

  Write on Edge this week provided a quote and a photo, and I decided to use both for my response to the prompt.  click the link above to go to the prompt page.  Submit your own story (500 words or less), or read some of the other responses.  The quote and image are below.  The picture, I have to say, gives me the willies.  There was a time that farmed lumber could be planted in neat and tidy rows.  It isn’t allowed any more in Canada (I think, anyways), but there are a few such old plantings you might walk through in provincial or national parks – it gives you the oddest sense of wrongness, as every tree in all directions abruptly lines itself up perfectly with every other step you take.  That’s what the prompt this week reminds me of.

“The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.”~ L. P. Hartley: The Go-Between (1953)

Image courtesy of Unsplash.

“The past is a foreign country.”  Marta smiled smugly down at her sister from her perch on the wagon seat.

Natalka scowled and stomped her foot.  “That doesn’t even mean anything!  When you were my age, you got to go to market with Papa, it’s unfair!”

Gregor swung her up in a bear-hug.  “Oh, my little girl, the woods are much darker and more dangerous than they were back then.” he said, “You’ll stay here and keep your mama safe, eh?”  He set her down and swung easily into the driver’s seat and gathered up the reins.  “Remember the rule, my lovely?”

Natalka rolled her eyes and sullenly replied, “always stay behind the fence.”

“Good girl.”  He set the massive draft horses off with a flick and a shout.  As the wagon rumbled through the gate, Marta leaned out of the wagon and stuck her tongue out at her younger sister.

***

Natalka hummed to herself, winding her way through the woods and picking a bouquet of wild flowers.  Intent on finding just the right one to complete her bouquet, she hardly noticed the fence until she hit upon it.  She scowled through the wooden bars, at woodland that looked just like the woodland on her side, but more… something.  There were the same types of trees, the same ferns and shrubs and vines.  The same squirrels and mice rustled the underbrush, the same birds fluttered above, though none would cross the fence.  

And yet, in comparison, the world within the fence seemed drab and gray.  Natalka sighed and chucked a branch over the fence.  Even it seemed more… something… there.

Off in the distance, she heard her name.  Forgetting her anger at being left behind, Natalka squealed in delight at her father’s early return and turned towards the house.

His voice again, calling her name, but this time clearer, and more clearly coming from behind her.  Natalka peered through the slats at the greenery on the other side.  In the distance, she could just make out the road to town, and on it, an occasional glimpse of the cart.

“I’m coming, Papa!”Natalka laughed and slipped through the slats.  She ran through the underbrush, towards his booming laugh.  She was breathless and flush when she stumbled out into the roadway, empty but for a path of logs laid out in a perfectly delightful wave.  Perfect for a little girl to balance on while dreaming of daring adventures.  Her papa called again, and she hopped onto the logs and skipped off in search of him.

***

Marta cried and struggled as she was dragged back to the house.  “I can hear her!  She’s just over there!” she shrieked, clawing at the strong arms wrapped around her.

He set her down gently.  “You only hear what you wish to hear, my little one.  You mustn’t follow the voices, you’d break your mother’s heart.”  Fat tears trickled into his beard.  “Losing you both is more than I could bear.”

Gone Campin’

There is nothing I love so much as being in the woods.  The prospect of a trip north leaves me giddy and making lists, even if it’s just for a weekend.  Since Gwynn is back up north with my family, it’s doubly exciting to go up.  After all – what’s better than the woods?  Seeing one’s pooch for the first time in a week.

It might just be one of the most wonderful things… to be greeted with such absolute love and happiness.

This trip, I drove up with some friends of Doodle’s (and mine).  One advantage of this is that we actually got some photographs of the drive up!

Another is that K has a fancy camera, an artistic eye, and an enjoyment of taking pictures.  Any pictures with unusual colouring are definitely hers.  Other pictures, it’s probably equal chances being from my camera or hers.

Fiddling with colours…

… and artistic 🙂

It was considerably chillier up there than it has been most of the summer.  And rainy, though we lucked out with clear skies friday night, saturday morning, and sunday morning.

I’m kind of in love with her camera’s selective colour options

K & S … Doodle had to work on Sunday, unfortunately, so she missed out on hiking shenanigans

Gwynn found some puddles after all that rain

He’s very good at recall lately, and we practice a lot… still, on trails in this kind of woodland, I let him drag the long-line for short stretches, and call him back often.

We had a great trip, even with the rain.  Less fun… the trip home.

two lane undivided highway + Sunday afternoon cottage traffic + an accident closing the southbound lane = usually 4 hour drive extended to nearly 7… shoot me now.

a better picture to leave you with… sometimes Gwynn chickens out after he gets up on the rocks. Or his ‘getting up’ point is too close to a very long drop for my sanity.

Activity Improved By Woods

My mom is a high school teacher – she’s officially on her two months of consecutive vacation from teenagers, grading papers, and jammed photocopiers.  My dad recently had a knee surgery that has left him with very little skip in his hobble, and a 12 week recovery period that takes him right through to September.  Peanut (aka middle sibling) is on a hiatus from work that I won’t be getting into.  Doodle just started back into her glamorous summer job of Maintenance Worker at Grundy Provincial Park.  Don’t feel too bad for her – any job can be improved by adding the phrase “in the woods” to the end of it.

Yuck … cleaning toilets.  Yay, cleaning toilets in the woods.  Even more improved by the addition of with a pressure washer.  Bet you wish you could have that kind of entertainment in your own house cleaning efforts.  This is why rooms should have drainage holes in the middle of them.  All rooms.

Blah… mowing the lawn.  Cool! Mowing the lawn in the woods… on a ride-on lawnmower!

Not to mention, staff-house in the woods, Picking up Garbage in the woods, Waving and being friendly to visitors in the woods, and Honking at Bears in the woods.  That last one might just stand up on its own, but it is made even more exciting by the forest aspect.

What this all means, ignoring the massive discomfort my dad is in, and Doodle’s run-ins with washroom horrors, is that my entire family has a two month vacation in the woods compared to my measly 15 days total vacation each year.  And they’re taking the dog.

Balto had to slog through snow, and could have died. All the outdoorsy fun without as much chance of being eaten or dying.

Gwynn will be having, within a few short days, a most excellent adventure the likes of which Balto would be jealous.  He will be a Dog In The Woods, far superior to his in-the-burbs and in-the-city brethren.  Without me.

So many pros and cons, but overall, the guilt of not being around to ensure feeding, watering, exercise, entertainment, training, and a showering of love and affection is overwhelming.

I’m looking forward to the chance to sleep in that extra hour before work.  Really going to miss having an overriding requirement to go for a walk in the evening, even when I’m feeling lazy.

What if he needs me?  I know, I sound like such a clingy parent, but I am the Prime Doggy Caretaker.  There is a large portion of my not-at-work day that revolves around my shaggy shadow.  A great feature of dog ownership is that a lot of your time is scheduled for you, and you stay active whether you want to or not.  What on earth am I going to do during the week?

2-3 hours of weekday, and 4+ hours of weekend-day in which I won’t need to go for a walk.

TV watching time will not include dog grooming.

Training?  What training? 2-3 hours a week

Does a vacation from your pets feel like punishment or a reward?

What would you do with the time you usually spend with pets?

Feel free to substitute “children” for pets if you don’t have any feathered, furred or finned companions.  Those of you without pet or child… seriously, do you grasp the enormity of just how much time you have?!

Shades

Write On Edge: Red-Writing-Hood

This week, Write on Edge’s Red Writing Hood challenge was to roll with the quote “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here”.

I decided to expand on the Witch Story.  If you are interested in the rest of the parts of this story, check it out in the Fiction tab at the top of the page.  The previous post in this story is here.  Let me know what you think – can you picture the characters well?  The emotions?

Go check out the rest of the prompt responses, or submit your own, HERE.

Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.

She glowered at the sign, a strong suggestion that it ought to change its tune if it knew what was good for it.  It remained, as signs are prone to do, unabashedly unchanged.

She sighed, lifted her skirts and stepped over the stile, twisting to the side to avoid contact with the stubborn plank.

She put her hands on her hips and surveyed the forest before her.  It was grim, all dark pine trees weeping lichen tears, mist twining serpentine about the branches.

An hour trudging through the forest, passing signs proclaiming more and more wildly unlikely dooms to be meted out, and all she had to show for it was a bug bite on every exposed inch of skin.

“Show yourself, damn you!”

She wiped her hair away from her face, flailing at the mosquitos that buzzed excitedly at her exposed skin.  She was hot and sweaty, sticky and less than impressed at the only answer being a plank warning her of her upcoming disembowelment by rabid demon dogs.

“Is that before or after the herd of caribou grind my bones to dust?”

“Probably after – rather hard to be disembowelled once one has been ground up.  I’d reshuffle the signage, but you’re the first one to make it this far.”

There had been no telltale rustling in the underbrush.  When she swung around, the old woman was simply there.

“Are you the witch?”  She combated her surprise with abruptness.

“Gretal Baer at your service.”  She flashed a crooked grin, the laugh-lines around her eyes and mouth creasing her face.

“Agata Schwarze,” she replied grudgingly.  She shuddered, loathing the feeling of sweat dripping down between her breasts the fabric of her dress clinging to her back.  The old woman brazenly wore mens’ cotton trousers, cut off just below the knee.  Agata frowned at the sight, propriety warring with jealousy.  Strongly muscled and tanned forearms visible below the rolled sleeves of her shirt, a kerchief tied snugly at her neck in the way of farmers, the woman looked completely at ease.

As though reading her mind, Gretal chuckled.  “So young and yet so judgemental.”

She felt her face flush more.  Who was she to judge?

“What do you seek?”

“Witches.”

“Which Witches?”

Agata frowned, sensing another meaning behind the question but unsure what it might be.  “Good witches.  Witches to teach me.”

“You are young and the world is still in black and white.”  The old woman’s shoulders slumped with the weight of years.  “Come back to me when you can see the shades of grey.  Come back when you can abandon all hope but still enter.”

Agata would have argued with the woman but in one step, she was gone, as swiftly and silently as she had appeared.  All that was left was the pattern of light and green shadow playing across the mossy forest floor.

My Spidey Senses are Circling!

A walk yesterday reminded me of my pre-Gwynn dog walking experiences.  Gwynn is normally very quiet (a fact for which I’m very grateful), and his barking usually consists of a high-pitched whiney bark at other dogs in the park when they won’t play with him, or when he can’t catch them.  He’s a big wuss.  Yesterday, he brought out his deep manly bark, jumping and darting backwards on the leash, half playful, half thoroughly spooked, leaving me 100% baffled.  What was he barking at?  A friendly couple I ran into in front of their house, a few blocks from my home.  He runs into plenty of people who don’t have dogs with them but still want to pet his rock-star hair-do, and get a good close look at his pink nose while showering him with compliments.  This time, however, instead of grinning his big goofy grin, wagging his big goofy tail and soaking in all the attention, he twisted and jumped backwards to avoid being touched, and he slapped his paws on the ground, bum up, tail flagging, like he would if he was encouraging another dog to play.  And he barked his deep bark, the one I rarely ever hear, the one that makes him sound grown-up and far more intimidating than you’d expect of a dog with his goofy-cotton-ball appearance.  He acted, simultaneously, like he was terrified of the people, and like he was trying to play with them as though they were dogs.  I’m pretty sure it must have been because they smelled like other dogs(their own), and it confused him that they didn’t have the dogs with them, because I wasn’t getting any creepy vibes from these people.  And I’m a very paranoid person – my imagination brings up the worst possible situation I can think up on a regular basis.  So, while I think Gwynn’s spidey senses have not yet been refined enough to entirely trust, yesterday’s encounter brought to mind my walks with Sadie, the sweet blonde mystery-lab. 

I walked her twice a week (and still do), pretty much rain or shine, and learned A LOT about dogs, and about my own commitment to my future dog’s well-being.  If you’ve never had a dog before, and are unsure about your commitment (to walking your new dog in all kinds of weather, to dealing with poop-pickup, to the less fun aspects of dog ownership)… I highly recommend taking care of other peoples dogs.  But that’s not what I wanted to talk about.

I wanted to talk about walking Sadie in the winter.  It’s dark when I get home from work and darker when I drop her off at the end of her walk.  Her owners live about 10 minutes away from an access to the creek-valley, which is a great place to go for letting a dog run around a bit off-leash.  Great, except that, in the winter, it is pretty dark, very isolated, and kind of ominous.  It isn’t the kind of place I would walk through alone once it starts getting dark, but being with a dog makes all the difference.

Having a dog with you is like having a security blanket.  As sweet and gentle as your dog might be, people around you don’t know that, unless they’re people you already know.  Rather like carrying a realistic looking fake gun, you’re holding the leash of a dog that may or may not be fierce and protective.   But without the likelihood of someone calling the cops because there’s a nutcase with a gun walking through the neighbourhood. 

Walking with a dog is also kind of like having a divining-rod that tells you whether a person is a good or bad-egg.  Now, I know I had some pretty disapproving words for Red, and his smarmy “My dog is a good judge of character” comment, but it is true that dogs have an entirely different perspective than people do.

Walking through the dark creek valley with Sadie off-leash and ghosting quietly through the woods, most of the people I ran into were dog people.  The rest of them were just walking through, having, for whatever reason, chosen to take the dark and ominous route to their destination.  Sadie never reacted with anything but cheerful exuberance when we crossed paths with a dog person.  These are people we’ve met before, with dogs she’s played with before, and nothing to be worried about.  With most of the people without dogs, Sadie was cautious (because they were strangers, and she is a fairly timid dog), but not concerned.  They just weren’t all that interesting, since they didn’t have treats or dogs with them.  And then there were the very very few people she picked out as ‘the enemy’.  This quiet, sweet natured puppy would circle those people, hackles up.  She didn’t growl or bark, she didn’t snap at them, but I can only imagine how creepy it would be to have this ghostly dog circling you until you were past her owner (owner is what I’d look like to them, since I don’t wear a neon sign saying “just walking, don’t own”). 

I have an over-active imagination when it comes to things going wrong.  I get uncomfortable if a person appears to be following me, especially when it’s dark out, or if they’re doing anything I’d consider unusual.  I have, at my most paranoid, fumbled with my keys while walking up a random driveway, and I have taken some very convoluted paths in order to establish whether or not someone is following me.  Fine, sure, you took the same left as me, but will you take the next left as well?  And the one after that?  You just circled a block with me – AAARGH!  STALKER!!!  Picture that with me walking and someone in a car, and you can see why my attempt at early morning jogging in high school was abandoned so quickly.

So, when this dog I’ve already known for over a year changes from friendly puppy to silent warning, I get a bit uncomfortable.  And when she circles a person in that way, clearly warning them to stay away – “Yeah, keep moving, buddy!” – I don’t say anything.  I don’t call out, “don’t worry, she’s friendly”, or “Hi, how’s it going?”, or “Nice night”.  I don’t say anything that might make Sadie stop doing this thing that she’s doing, because my imagination has grabbed hold of the reins, paranoia ramped to 10, and I don’t want to find out why Sadie doesn’t like this person.  The world isn’t always a friendly place, and so I let them walk past me in silence, and keep a sharp eye out in the woods for the remainder of my time on the trail.

This is just a glimpse into my crazy-paranoid side.  The part of my mind that assumes that people really are out to get me.  Before the criticism about judging people based on their appearances starts, let me just say… it isn’t like the only people I get this vibe from are tough-looking or hulking.  Sadie did react poorly to an intimidating biker-looking gentleman while on leash once, but he said himself that his dog (not present) was vicious, which kind of says something about the person who trained it.  But the people we run into in the creek valley are a wide assortment, and the people she has given the circle-treatment to (very few people), wouldn’t fall into the ‘typical movie bad-guy’ category.  And she has, happily, sat leaning against some pretty intimidating looking guys while they coo over her and scratch behind her ears.

It’s entirely possible that I’m nuts for reading so much into a dog’s opinion of a person, but it is comforting to know that I’m the only one in that kind of situation who knows that I’m just carrying a realistic looking water gun. 

What are your thoughts about this?  Can dogs tell more about a person and their intentions than we can?  Or am I just a nut-bar who lets my dog get away with circling an innocent stranger in the dark woods?