Since my husband started wearing a Fitbit regularly this year, he has been more interested in going out for walks in the evening. We usually walk all through the neighborhood, and often we take the same path along the sidewalks, but it doesn’t really matter which way we go. It’s just nice to get outdoors and enjoy a little fresh air and exercise.

Word-art that says "There is no path to happiness. Happiness is the path itself."

Nurturing Thursday was started by Becca Givens and seeks to “give this planet a much needed shot of fun, support and positive energy.” Visit her site to find more Nurturing Thursday posts and a list of frequent contributors.

Yesterday morning, I was sitting at my desk with a cup of coffee when, somewhere far away in a dimly lit corner of my mind, I heard a familiar voice lamenting her woes. She was immediately recognizable as the unhappy past self that I had nicknamed Drama-Queenie a few years ago, before I decided to be nicer to her in an imaginary conversation on this blog.

“I am always in pain. I am always in pain,” she wailed. “I’m so very tired. Everything is so hard. I am always in pain!”

Where her outburst might have come from wasn’t as obvious as her identity. As far as I knew, I’d gotten things reasonably well sorted with Queenie (as I had renamed her, somewhat more kindly) when I told her that she was free to begin a new life in the make-believe village of Channelwood in the 1890s.

Evidently, things hadn’t gone as planned. Although Queenie had said she was happy in the village with her new friends, now she was back inside my head again, sounding worse than ever. She reminded me of a zombie with her mindless wailing, or a sleepwalker in the throes of a very bad nightmare.

Hmmm…

After giving more thought to the nightmare scenario, I pictured myself appearing in Queenie’s tiny house in Channelwood very late at night. Yes, there she was, definitely asleep in a long, old-fashioned nightgown. I couldn’t see much because the curtains were drawn and she had blown out the candle on the nightstand before going to sleep, but there was enough moonlight seeping in through the curtains to show a heap of covers on the floor. She had thrown them completely off with all her thrashing.

“Wake up, Queenie, honey,” I said. “You’re having a nightmare. It’s not real. You’re safe here now, remember?”

Her eyes snapped open, and she recoiled toward the wall as if expecting to be attacked at any moment. “I wasn’t ever safe anywhere. They called me nasty names, and acted like they hated me, and laughed at me whenever I made even the smallest mistake, and, and…”

Queenie burst into sobs and covered her face with her hands. Not wanting to say the wrong thing, I quietly picked up the covers from the floor and put them back on the bed.

“And don’t try to tell me it wasn’t really that bad,” she shouted, letting her hands fall to her sides and clenching them into fists. “Because it was bad, it was, and nobody has any right to say it wasn’t really!”

Taking a step toward the window, which had no glass, I pulled back the curtains. Moonlight streamed into the room. The night breeze was filled with the peaceful scents of pine trees and the nearby ocean.

Full moon over a rocky cove with pines.

(Image by Millie Walker)

“I didn’t say that it wasn’t really bad,” I clarified, after taking a deep breath of the lovely fresh air. “What I said was that it’s not real in the here and now. Maybe we can’t undo things that happened in the past, but we do have choices going forward. Listen to the waves breaking over the rocks, Queenie, and to the wind moving through the trees. Life is calling to you.”

Queenie paced back and forth several times, her bare feet padding relentlessly over the thick rug. Finally she stopped at the far end of the room and looked back at me.

“I’ve tried, you know,” she said. “Ever since I came here to Channelwood. Telling myself it was a safe place, everything was all right, I didn’t have to worry, and all that bad stuff was in the past and very far away. But it wasn’t—it wasn’t gone at all. No matter what I do, or how I try, nothing ever goes away. It’s not fair to say I haven’t done enough.”

“The mind has its own cadence, its own natural flow—rather like the wind and the waves,” I told her, as a gust set the curtains fluttering. “Often we can’t control what shows up in our thoughts. In fact, the reason I’m here right now having this conversation with you is because when you get upset, that disturbs my thoughts, and I can’t just switch you off. So, it would be ridiculous for me to say that you haven’t done enough, wouldn’t it?”

“Okay, I guess that’s fair,” Queenie said, giving me a tentative smile. “I’ll try harder not to mess up your thoughts, but I can’t make any promises.”

“No worries.” I smiled back. “If you have any more trouble sleeping, just let me know, and I’ll bring you a nice hot cup of cocoa.”

With this year’s unusually wet spring in most of the United States, there hasn’t been much sun in what seems like ages. Looking out the window at yet another chilly, dark afternoon with a steady drizzle, I decided that a sunny word-art would be just the thing to brighten up my blog. Enjoy!

Word-art that says "I thought I'd send some sunshine your way."

Nurturing Thursday was started by Becca Givens and seeks to “give this planet a much needed shot of fun, support and positive energy.” Visit her site to find more Nurturing Thursday posts and a list of frequent contributors.

June 20, 2019 · Write a comment · Categories: Musings · Tags:

One of the things I enjoy about the rowing club is that we always have plenty of wildlife to see along the river. This spring there was a nesting killdeer (a small bird in the plover family) near the boathouse. She laid eggs in the grass, but they got run over by the park district’s lawn tractor. Then she tried again, carefully building a nest with tiny pebbles at the edge of the gravel path between the boathouse and the dock. One of our club members noticed the nest and put traffic cones around it. My husband took a photo.

Nesting killdeer on a gravel path between two traffic cones.

Because of the cones, the eggs (there were two) survived a large weekend Learn-to-Row class when several boats were carried to and from the dock multiple times. The story does not have a happy ending, though, because on the Tuesday after the class, early morning rowers found that both the eggs and the bird had disappeared. A predator evidently got to the eggs overnight, and possibly ate the bird too, although I think it’s more likely she just flew away because there were no bones or feathers anywhere nearby.

The ways of nature can be hard. Small birds that lay eggs on the ground generally have a high failure rate for the nesting season. Perhaps the killdeer will have better luck next year; but I was left feeling glad to be a human in a safe, comfortable house.

It’s actually Friday rather than Thursday, but oh well, stuff happens. This week, the stuff included computer problems both at work and at home, along with other assorted disruptions to my usual schedule.

I’m not going to complain, though. After seeing all the damage caused by recent tornadoes in this area, my little annoyances look totally trivial. And of course, just about everything has useful learning experiences in it somewhere, even if they are not obvious right away.

Word-art that says "Sometimes you win, sometimes you (lose, crossed out) learn."

Nurturing Thursday was started by Becca Givens and seeks to “give this planet a much needed shot of fun, support and positive energy.” Visit her site to find more Nurturing Thursday posts and a list of frequent contributors.

This morning I mentioned to my husband that it was about time to sign up for a rowing sprint race in Indianapolis, which we attend every summer. The course is always windy, and we’re not the best at rowing in windy and choppy conditions; but every time we try it, we do better than before. Last year we got third place in our mixed double race.

We regularly finish ahead of another couple who are less experienced, but also improving each year. Their goal, for now, is to catch up to us. It’s kind of nice being someone’s inspiration!

Word-art that says "Try and fail, don't fail to try."

Nurturing Thursday was started by Becca Givens and seeks to “give this planet a much needed shot of fun, support and positive energy.” Visit her site to find more Nurturing Thursday posts and a list of frequent contributors.

The factory doors gaped wide on this hot and sticky Tennessee afternoon, without a worker in sight. Someone had taped a BEWARE OF DRAGON sign crookedly to the outside wall before heading for the hills. I parked my truck and walked through the doors, well protected in my fire suit as I searched the rafters for the troublesome dragon.

Yup, there she was, busily building a nest out of boxes and pallets. Her golden-green scales gleamed in the harsh light from the fluorescent tubes. She was about the size of a small horse, with broad, flaring wings. Evidently, she wasn’t at all happy with my intrusion on her nesting space. She turned her head toward me, hissed angrily, and shot a thin stream of flame in my direction.

Green dragon in side view.

(Picture from publicdomainpictures.net)

I wasn’t always a dragon catcher. Three years ago, I was working at an Amazon warehouse with my buddy Shay when we heard there were dragons all over downtown Knoxville. At first we thought it was a hoax, but then some of our friends said they had seen the dragons, for real. So we drove into the city after work. Sure enough, there they were, roosting all over the rooftops like a flock of oversized pigeons.

Nobody had any idea where they’d come from. The most popular theories were secret government experiments or an alternate universe. But however they might have gotten here, nothing was being done about them. The Feds just wanted to send biologists to study them. Tennessee’s politicians were gleefully seeing dollar signs from dragon tourism. Most folks in Knoxville were totally freaking out, needless to say; but the Feds weren’t letting anyone shoot the dragons, and the animal control officers’ union was threatening to strike if anyone ordered its members to capture them.

“What a bunch of wusses, threatening to strike,” I said to Shay, who had grown up on a ranch in Texas and was a regular competitor in the bull-riding and steer-wrestling events at the rodeos. “I bet you could catch a dragon, couldn’t you?”

“Yeah, sure, Chris. No problem. They’re just animals, right?” Shay scratched his bushy red beard. “You gotta show ‘em who’s boss.”

The next day, I asked a guy at the Knoxville Chamber of Commerce to help me write a business plan. He was so thrilled to find someone brave enough to start a dragon-control business, he practically wrote it for me. When I set up a crowdfunding page, contributions from the long-suffering citizens of Knoxville poured in. Shay’s cousin Wanda designed a fancy logo with a hog-tied dragon thrashing and spitting fire.

In all honesty, most of the time it’s not that hard to catch a dragon, once you’ve learned how to go about it. When I went after that dragon building a nest in the factory’s rafters, I ignored her warning flame and took another step forward. Then I tossed down what looked like a big, juicy steak on the concrete floor. I took an aerosol can from my pocket and sprayed some raw-meat scent, just to make sure the dragon would notice.

“Chow time!” I announced cheerfully. “Fresh meat! Come and get it! Yummy, yummy!”

Slowly taking a few steps backward, so as to give the dragon some space, I kept a close watch on her. Most dragons were impulsive enough that they went for the bait quickly, and this one was no exception. Spreading her wings, she glided toward the floor, opening her jaws wide to snap up the steak.

Of course, it wasn’t really a steak. Just as the dragon was about to snatch it, I pressed a button on a remote control, and a finely woven mesh net popped up and settled over the dragon’s head. She could breathe just fine, but she couldn’t see anything, which prevented her from flying away; and although dragons are dumb animals, they usually have enough sense not to breathe fire with their head in a bag.

All she did was sit there on the floor, making pitiful whining noises like a whipped dog and pawing at the net. Shay (who also wore a fire suit, just in case) didn’t have any trouble getting her outside and loading her into the custom-built cage on our trailer.

“Not much different from loading steers for market,” Shay observed in a satisfied tone, after we’d merged onto Interstate 75 and were heading north toward the dragon study facility up in the mountains. Passing drivers gawked, snapping photos with their cellphones. The dragon, with the net still over her head, mostly had settled down by then, although we still heard the occasional high-pitched shriek from the cage. Just another ordinary workday for us.