Sunday, July 31, 2011


Over the course of the two weeks while we were on vacation, we had a number of little furry and not so furry visitors. The kids loved it and I enjoyed taking some pictures of all the little animals. The first night we had a campfire, a large racoon emerged from the trees and tried to sit with us.

James yelled at him and he scurried into the bushes only to reappear 2 minutes later with a "What?!" look on his face. This continued for 30 minutes until we were finally able to make it clear that he wasn't roasting marshmellows with us. The kids were upset that we wouldn't feed him but it gave us the opportunity to explain how feeding wild animals is bad for both us and for the wild animal. Although I had wanted to get a picture of him, he never appeared again at our campfire.

So here are a few of the pictures that I took of my furry and feathered friends.

The Wild Rabbit, we ended up calling him Mr. Bunny and he was there every morning:

The Chipmunk, this little guy loved to come up onto the deck and see if he could beg some crumbs from me:

The Blue Jays:

Saturday, July 30, 2011

An Interesting Dinner Conversation

"Mom, did you know..." His eyes sparkle as he leans forward, his gaze fixed with mine over our dinner plates. "Did I know what bud?"

My six year old leans even closer and I wonder if he is going to end up in his plate, "That sometimes two women can get married?"

I pause slightly and then nod, "Yes, I did know that and two men can get married as well."

His eyes grow large and he asks in a voice filled with awe, "But why would they?"

Without even pausing this time, I say, "Because when some women grow up, they realize that they can't fall in love with a boy and instead, they fall in love with another girl. It is the same thing with some men, they just can't fall in love with a woman. There is nothing wrong with it and it is the choice they make."

He nods as though what I have said makes complete sense and I wonder if it really does. My mind is running through what I shoulda, coulda and probably woulda said if I had been given some time to formulate my answer. James is watching me from across the table and I can tell that he is thankfully the question was directed at me, instead of him. He gives me a slight nod and I realize that the explanation must have been good enough.

I return to my meal thinking that the discussion was at a close until...

"But how do they have babies? You need a man and a woman to have babies."

Okay, obviously it isn't over. I set down my fork, glance at my husband who has suddenly become very interested in his meal. I know that I'm a pretty good cook but I am positive that I am not that good.

"Well, they adopt," I say. Thankfully, I don't need to explain adoption to him.

He turns his head slightly and I know that he is thinking about it. He picks up a piece of food, pops it into his mouth and starts to chew slowly. I know that he is processing things and I wait for a few seconds before picking up my own fork. Just as I do, Gabriel, who has been quiet for the entire conversation says, "They also get medical intervention to have babies on their own...well, at least the women do."

I nearly drop my fork as Michael's head jerks up like a hound dog on the scent of something interesting. I shoot my oldest a "why did you do that" look just as my youngest says, "What's medical intervention?"

Clearing my throat I answer, "Well, medical intervention is when a doctor will help a woman have a baby. They often help two women who are married and can't have kids together."

"Oh, well, how do they do that?"

I glare at James, who is still completely enamored with food on his plate. "Well, you know how they need stuff from the dad..."

"Yeah, they call it sperm and the mom has the eggs."

I sigh...thank you human body book that Michael had checked out of his school library..."Yes, sperm and the egg from the mom is called ovum."

"Well, they take both of those and in a lab mix them together and put that into the mom..."

"They call that an embryo Michael and it is the embryo that grows into a baby," Gabriel chimes very helpful.

James is now looking up from his plate with a huge smile on his face and I know he is laughing at me. I shudder...If I was a sane person, I would have nipped this in the bud and said it wasn't polite dinner conversation. But of course, I'm not sane obviously. Anyways, our dinners are lively. We usually talk about everything. Wars, politics, religion, things going on at school, philosophical name it...if we can converse about it, then we will. What had originally started as a quick question and answer was turning into a 9th grade health class lesson (or is it 5th grade now).

"Yes, the embryo grows into the baby."

"Oh, I know that, I saw it at the Science Center."

Yeah Science Center!

Michael falls silent processing all the wonderful information. "Do men who marry men get medical intervention?"

"No, the doctors can't help them have babies on their own so they usually adopt."


And with that, the table falls silent and we finally return to our meal. The conversation returns to regular things and thankfully Gabriel doesn't decide to broach the topic of world governments. Right now he is trying to piece together the difference between Communism, Fascism, Socialism and Nationalism and my mind just isn't in the mood to help him tackle them.

As dinner is almost finished, Michael, who had remained quiet during the rest of the meal suddenly said, "Mom, do you think that when I grow up, I should figure out a way for two men to have a baby together without adopting?"

I stop, not sure what to answer when he says, "I think that would make a lot of people happy because everyone should be allowed to have their own kids."

I smile, "Yes, I think that would make a lot of people happy as well."

With that, the conversation was through but I had to stop and watch my kids. That they are so accepting of other people makes me proud of them. The question about gay marriage wasn't a negative thing. They didn't seem to even be that worried by it but the one thing that Michael got from that whole conversation was an idea on how to make people happy. Regardless of race, sex or creed, the most important thing is that people are happy.

I think that many times, as I struggle to give answers to questions I would rather not have been asked, I am the one learning from my children and they are teaching me to be accepting of a world that isn't just black and white.

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Call

I hear you as I lie in my bed, the lonely trill that means you are close to the dock. I sigh, dawn has just arrived and I don't feel like getting out of the bed and walking down to the dock. I want to capture your beauty on film but couldn't you just visit me later in the day when I am better rested.

As it is, I stumble out of the bed, search for my shoes and creep out of the house, fumbling with the tripod and the camera as I go down the 30 steps to the dock. When I get there, you are floating gracefully on the water but I took too long and you disappear from sight before I get my camera mounted onto the tripod.

I sigh, maybe tomorrow and take some time to capture the lotus as she wakes for the morning.

This continues, every morning, I awaken to your call and I scramble down the stairs, still wearing my pajamas in an effort to capture your beauty. I am successful once, but the photos do not do your enchanted solitude justice and your call has become a chant urging me forward.

Never do you swim close to my dock when I am ready and once I find you looking up at me, your eyes intent as you try to figure out who and what I am. You are less than five feet away, the perfect spot for me to photograph you but my camera is turned the other way and you disappear beneath the water before I can turn it back.

This game we play each day until the final day that we are leaving. I wake up to your lonely call once more but this time, the call sounds more like you are telling me good bye. I don't shuffle out of bed and race down to see you but instead, I listen to your call, trying to brand it in my mind so that the call of my elusive loon will remain with me long after we have left.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Hero Problem

I have been reading a book lately that has been less than stellar in my mind but I keep reading, hoping that maybe the book will pick up and suddenly the wasted hours will seem like they were worth it. Unfortunately, I am about 15 pages in sight of the end and the climax is just being reached. From what I have read the climax will definitely be missing the big "wow" that it should have.

Despite being a poorly written book, it did remind me of something that seems rampant in many books where there is a whole end of the world, hero has to save us thing. The hero problem that I am talking about is the "We don't have the time we need to prepare."

For some reason, this problem has really been grating on me. Story after story, movie after movie, book after book, there is the conflict that draws the characters together...namely the end of the world. Okay, fine, I can get behind those types of stories.

In these stories there is the good side that is trying to tap the main characters and get them ready for the impending battle. And there is the bad side that spends the entire storyline plotting out ways to make the heroes fail before they get together for the final epic battle, which is also the climax of the book.

I get the premise, although I tend to avoid writing in such stark shades of black and white. In fact, I tend to feel that shades of gray are really the best way to create a gripping story. Everyone knows that white defeats black and there really is no surprise at the end when the good guys win. Sometimes it is fine and the story, if written well, makes for an enjoyable read.

However, the true gems are in those shades of grey when you wonder, will light defeat darkness and do we truly know if the person we view as the antagonist is truly one or is the hero. Yes, the story is harder to write but if there is a compassion there for all the characters, the reaction for the reader is emotional and worth the struggle of the writer. The thunderclouds of grey can lead to a kaleidoscope of color that is breathtaking to experience.

But I have kind of meandered off topic and really, my frustration comes down to those stark black and white ideas and the way that heroes are tapped at just the last second. In the book I am reading, the author even goes so far as to spell it out for the reader, just in case it wasn't clear. At one point, a character said, "This type of training takes years but there isn't the time...the battle is upon us." (Paraphrasing a bit but he did say takes years and the heroes didn't have the time to train.)

Miraculously, (hey we are dealing with the light) the heroes managed to learn the ancient skills within an hour and also managed to have sex during that time while demons are hunting them. Wow, riveting stuff.

The moment that sentence was uttered in the book, I actually sighed, rolled my eyes and put down the book, leaving it where it was to read later. First, it irritated me that the author was so blatant about the whole thing. Second, it has been done too many times. Third, what the heck is wrong with the light side?

Okay, I get it. There is suspense in wondering if the heroes will be strong enough to defeat it but unless the writer decides to kill off the main characters and have the bad guys win, then there really isn't that much suspense. There is also the whole underdog thing and we all love to root for the underdog. Unfortunately, if the character can learn what is needed in an afternoon, he is not really the underdog. In fact, he is a protege in the art of mystical powers.

My main problem is that the light doesn't seem to have their stuff together. I mean, you know the Apocalypse is going to come. You have been training people for centuries for this day, have set everything in place but you forget about the chosen one. Oh no, we didn't forget about him, we decided to tap him late in the battle to make things more interesting.

Wait, what? Why would you do that?

Chances are, they wouldn't. It just seems silly. Okay, let's leave our weapon there to rust and then right before the battle, we'll try to flake off a little of the rust and maybe we'll survive. The answer would be no. If you went onto the battlefield with a rusty blade you wouldn't make it through the first charge.

As you can tell, the whole hero problem is really a big peeve of mine. It is okay for the hero to be a little seasoned. It is okay for him to have his loss of faith, his shade of grey when maybe he doesn't know if his next foot will land in darkness or light. It is okay to think of a plot that is completely different from the last.

They say that all the ideas of been used but I really believe that if you wade out into the murky depths of grey, you can pull up a few shining gems of color that are new and exciting. Even the gem is something that has been seen before, maybe, just maybe, by working a little harder, I won't have to read the line, "This type of training takes years but there isn't the time...the battle is upon us."

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Lotus Part Two

You drift there, alone amongst the leaves, almost overlooked in the dark water. The clouds cover the sun but yet you reach out your petals and grasp at the light that trickles through. You are like a ghost upon the water, your delicate beauty a bright spot upon the mind. I am drawn to you, wondering if today a new secret will cause the pond to ripple beneath you as it comes to the surface.
Day two of photographing the lotus started with a very overcast day. I tried a different angle and whenever I tried to get a good shot, a wave would cause the ripple on the surface. Made photographing interesting since I was perched on the swimming dock and bouncing with every wave as well. The water looked almost like ink today when I was taking the picture.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


You always sound so sad...

The words ring through the telephone and I pause, frustration at the caller rearing its head. It is always that way when I talk to my mom. We have a hard past and while a part of me wants to overcome the feelings that still plague me, another part struggles with it.

Usually, I am fine but then there is a moment when she says something that will make me bite my tongue and struggle not to say something to her. It isn't that I don't love her. In fact, I love her a lot, but at times, it is like we are two opposing countries who have somehow managed a tense peace treaty. At any moment that treaty could break apart and we will be back where we were only a few years before when I spent a year cut off from the family. (Which is a long story but it was a healing process for me.)

But regardless of the frustration that bubbled to the surface, a frustration that is more instinctual than premeditated, I had the clarity of mind to stop and think about what she said. Do I always sound sad? Am I sad?

I can honestly say that I am not depressed but there is a malaise in my spirit that I often ignore. It sits there, worrying at me and I flutter around, ignoring it as best as I can. It is a sadness that keeps me from writing my second novel. A nervousness that keeps me from relaxing. A tension that keeps me up at night, anxiety coursing through my body as I worry about sleeping. What will greet me in my dreams? What will tomorrow bring?

The sleep is the worst and I know where the dreams come from. They are from the fact that I am not creating with fiction. It is always that way, I write to expel all that is in my head but when I don't spend any time on fiction, I start to have horrible nightmares. There are nights I wake up in terror. Too afraid to fall back to sleep and too afraid to stumble into the dark of a slumbering house.

The rest of the time, my racing mind won't stop and it can be 2, 3 or even 4 in the morning before I fall into an exhausted sleep. I wake up the next day, feeling even more tired than I did the night before. I used to joke around with James that I was looking forward to retirement so that I could finally sleep but from what I heard, sleep begins to elude you even more the older you get.

It isn't the lack of sleep that has made me feel this uneasiness. I have always lived with little sleep and even as a child, I would lay in my bed, night after night, listening to the soft murmur of the television that was often left on. I think that it is just the feeling of flux that we have been living through.

The last year has been difficult. Many worries, a school that has been detrimental to my children, constant battles with school boards, school councils, principals and teachers. It hasn't been a nice year and I realized that while I am coming close to seeing some change; we have decided to move from our small town to an area that has better schools, the year of being in flux has led me to this place.

The question remains; am I sad? No, I'm not sad but I laugh a little slower and sometimes when I smile, I am aware that the smile does not reach my eyes. I was never a bubbly personality but the quiet in me has grown and I have become even quieter. I stumble over words when I have to speak with people and I feel so much frustration when people are closed minded and obtuse...and I have dealt with a lot of close minded and obtuse people this year.

I have spent the last year hating my frustration, hating the petty digs that I find myself giving because of it and ultimately hating who I am becoming. I am not this bitter person. I try to see the best in everyone and I try to look at life through their eyes but it hasn't been working lately.
So over the next few months I am going to try to find that gem inside me that loves to laugh. I will try to make the smile reach my eyes, and the laughter come a bit quicker. I will truly laugh, not the reserved chuckle that I have adopted in my own embarrassment, but the one that can bring tears to my eyes.

I will stop worrying, if only a little, and try not to let the quiet inside me grow even larger than it has. While it isn't New Years, it is time to start a few new goals and laughter will be the first of many.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Playing with the Camera

Anyone who knows me knows that I love taking pictures. Over the course of 2 weeks, I took over 900 photos and while there are many that aren't worth saving, there were a few really nice gems among the trash.

One of the things that I did while I was away was play around with a few of the settings trying to figure them out. It was fun but some of the shots really weren't that good. Anyway, here are a few of the shots from me playing with the settings on my camera.


The gazebo in the cottage as well as a bit of the lake. This shot was taken from the highest deck by the cottage.

Just a tree but I actually like this shot for some reason.
Black and White:

My black and white photos are really bad since there is so much to consider with lighting and everything but here are a few attempts.

Trees (yep, I love those trees)

Flowers near the deck. These actually became the focus of my playtime with the camera.

Super Vibrant:

Same flower, different setting.


Again,that flower was the focal point. I spent a good hour (probably longer) taking shots of this flower. I think James thought I had gone crazy.


And finally...the flower in soft.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Walking with Ghosts

The road that we turn onto dwindles down to a one lane dirt track and we glance around to make sure that we are on the right road. A sign up ahead, barely visible in the green expanse of the encroaching swamp, reads Umphraville with an arrow pointing off into the wilderness. We don't say anything as the van jumps and sinks over each bump and into each pothole in the road. "I guess they don't get out to do road work very often," I say.

James rolls his eyes at me and turns to peer through the green darkness that has enveloped us. Through the canopy, we can just make out the piercing blue sky but down where we are, only a light shower of sunlight breaks through the leaves of the canopy above.

It is enchanting and I stop the car to take in the sounds and feel of a forest alive. I close my eyes for a second, unafraid that some random car will collide with us and breathe in the damp air that is drifting through the open window.

The sound comes to me layers. The rustling of the light breeze in the leaves. The symphony of songbirds perched in the branches. The hum of the insects flying around the van. The crash as something large moves through the forest. It is both exhilarating and peaceful and everyone in the van is silent as they take in the forest.

I open my eyes and scan the forest, looking for whatever made the crashing sound but all I see is the dark green of a healthy forest and the winding brown of the forest road that is slowly being consumed by it. I start forward again and I finally give the first hint of where we are going to the kids, "Keep your eyes open," I say, "We are close to the ghost town."

Looking in the rear view mirror, I watch as their eyes widen and they begin searching the forest around them. "It just got 10 degrees colder in here," Gabriel says, "That means were close because it always gets colder when you are close to a ghost."

I smile and remain silent, listening instead to the kids talking about the ghosts. Their voices are full of excitement as they begin to imagine the ghosts around them. I remember those days and I remember spending my childhood running through forests much darker than this. I remember the feel of the forest; the way that it had always felt like it was watching, its breath baited as though it was simply waiting for me to discover its secrets.

I wonder if the kids feel the same way as they sit there waiting for the ghost town of Umphraville to appear.

We turn at a fork in the road, heading left and up a steep hill. At the top, the road ends at the start of a hiking trail and I pull off to park. Besides us, an opening in the forest shows a clearing and a large, weather stained cross stands in the center of it.

"This must be it," I say and we all pile out of the van.

It may be my imagination but it is as though the forest has fallen silent as we walk closer to the cemetery; one of only a few things left of the town of Umphraville. A feeling of sadness washes over me as we walk through the gates of the cemetery and realize that these people are almost forgotten and only a few people come to keep it tidy.

The forest has nearly engulfed the road of the once thriving town and the only people to visit it are hunters and the random tourist looking for a scare. I wonder how many people have laughed and joked as they walked around the small cemetery and while I try to do it once, I just can't bring myself to do it.

Instead, we all walk around in silence, occasionally saying something about a marker or how sad it is to see a baby of only 3 months old buried at the site. The kids are respectful but you can see their imaginations racing as they glance around the cemetery.

After a half hour of wandering through the cemetery, we start out on the hike. James tells Michael he can be as loud as he wants so his voice will scare off any large wildlife. I laugh and start talking to Michael to keep up his chatter (if you didn't know, Michael can be very loud).

We end up in a field and it is a stark contrast from the cool forest that we had just left. Up ahead is one of the few buildings left of Umphraville itself and we explore it for a little bit. The feelings of the cemetery slowly lift and we start to simply enjoy the exploring until the deer flies come out and start to pester the kids and James so we decide to head back. Or rather, James and the kids run to the van as I slowly walk back since the deer flies leave me alone for some reason.

It was a nice trip and we took our time driving back down the road, stopping every little while to listen to the forest again.

Like most of the other posts, here are a few pictures that we took of Umphraville.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Ol' Ghost Story

"Who's going to tell the ghost story?"

The eager voice of my 9 year old cries out the moment his mouth is clear of any marshmallows. I remain silent as James says, "Don't look at me, your mother is the writer."

Two pairs of expectant eyes turn towards me and I sigh inwardly, staring into the flames as I try to ignore them. "I don't think you would like my stories," I mumble.

"Please, we can't have a campfire without a ghost story!"

My youngest takes up the plea and suddenly the peaceful campfire that I was enjoying has become an on the spot improve session. I groan outwardly so everyone can see that I don't have it in me to create a new ghost story but everyone ignores it.

"Okay," I say and turn to look into the fire to start collecting my thoughts. Well, there was the one about the serial killer...hmm...nope too graphic. What about...nope...won't even start that thought. we go.

It happened not that far away and it may have even happened on this lake. All I know is that it was somewhere in this area on one of the many lakes that you can find around here. You all know the McDonald Mine right. (The kids nod, we had been there just that day.)

Well, McDonald Mine was owned by the McDonald family and it was passed down through the family until it became the property of Fred McDonald. He was a really happy man and he loved children. In fact, after the mine ran dry, he decided to open up a camp in this area for less fortunate children who never had the opportunity to get out of the city and enjoy nature.
The camp was a big success and everyone wanted to come to it; partly because it was so fun and partly because Old Fred, as the campers had started to call him, was such a nice man. He made sure to come and see the kids every week and he always brought the most amazing stories and gems to the camp when he came. (The kids lean forward, their eyes shining in the firelight as I realize that I was going a little too in depth on Fred's background.)

Anyway, as Fred got older, he began to spend more and more time at the camp and finally became the main counselor. Tons of kids came there every year but the final year the camp was run, there was a group of boys that were a little bit mischievous. They were about your age, five boys between 6 and 10, and while they loved the camp, they loved tricking people even more.

One day, the boys decided to play a trick on Old Fred and they wrote a note saying they were going to explore in the swamp; just like the swamp that we drove by turning into our lane. (The kids glance out towards the swamp, I am positive they are wondering if that was the very swamp the boys had gone into.) Poor Fred found the letter just as it was starting to get dark and he panicked. The kids could be killed in that swamp on their own. There were so many dangers. Poisonous snakes, bears, moose, and there was quicksand so deep that they could swallow a grown man whole. He knew that he didn't have time to waste so after speaking with the other counselors, he raised out into the darkening swamp to rescue the boys.

(Their eyes are wide, their mouths slightly open. Michael has a marshmallow hanging forgotten on his roasting stick) Thankfully, the boys weren't in the swamp but unfortunately, Fred didn't know that when he set out, the boys coming out of their hiding place a few hours after he had left. Fred searched through the swamp but as the sky darkened, he began to lose his way. He had been so focused on finding the boys that he had forgotten to mark his path.

As he was trying to find his way in the dark, he stepped into a large thicket of grass and onto an old rusty bear trap. It tore right through his ankle and severed his foot right off. ("Oh, come on Mom. Bear traps can't do that," Gabriel exclaims. Michael's face has gone a little white at the thought of an amputation. "How do you know?" "Because they are designed to hold the bears foot, not sever it." I try not to roll my eyes at my little fact checker...geeze, can't get away from it even on my vacation. "Yeah, but that's a bear, who has a much thicker and stronger leg than a person. A bear trap will go right through a person's leg." There...a bit of a lie but I had to think of something to make the story believable. Michael whispers, "Then what happened mom.")

Well, Old Fred worked through the pain (Imagine that!) and managed to bandage his ankle before he started crawling towards where he thought was the way out. He struggled for hours, avoiding poisonous snakes, quicksand and sinkholes and he managed to find his way to the old mine. He knew his way from there, however, he was so tired and dizzy from losing all that blood that he got turned around on the mine trail and he tumbled down the side of a cliff. (Can you imagine?!)

The bone in his other ankle snapped when he landed and that was how he was found the following morning, nearly dead, his one foot completely severed and the other ankle mangled, bones jutting out. They had to rush him to the hospital and they airlifted him to Toronto for surgery. It wasn't good, they couldn't save his other foot and had to amputate it but despite all of his pain and suffering, the first thing Fred asked for when he woke up was about the boys. "The boys, someone has to go out and find the boys."

(I pause. "He didn't know the boys were okay," Michael asked. I sigh for dramatic effect.)

That's when everything got even worse. Poor Fred was told that the boys had just played a trick on him and that they had never gone into the swamp. They say at that minute, Fred lost his mind (Not that losing both his feet in that manner wouldn't have done that) and he hated children from that moment on. He closed the camp and went to live in his cottage not that far from here. In fact, I think it was one of the cottages up the road from here. You know, the one three houses down that is all overgrown and looks like it is abandoned...

No one saw Fred but he would order food and have it delivered to his doorstep but they never saw him. He would come out after the delivery boy had left and bring the food inside. It went on this way for years and while some people remembered what happened at the mine, most people had started to forget even about Fred...Until it happened.

(The kids lean forward. "Until what happened Mom?" "Oh, I don't think I should say anything. It was really bad." I pause. "Do you think I should tell them James?" He nods.)

Well, one summer, a family was camping with their kids in this area. They had a little boy, not much older than you, Gabriel, about 9 years old. One day during the trip, he just disappeared. They looked everywhere for him and it took weeks to locate him. Only when they found him, not far from the McDonald Mine, he was dead. There was no doubt that it wasn't an accident because the boy was missing both of his feet. ("What? Both of his feet?" "Yeah, someone had cut off his feet. It was horrible and the police had never seen anything so horrible.")

The police tried to find out who had done it but they couldn't figure it out. A few months later, close to the end of summer, another little boy went missing. He was only six and again, they found his body a few weeks later near the McDonald Mine. Just like the last boy, his feet had been cut off. The police decided to go and see Old Fred and find out if he knew anything about it. They thought it was a long shot but when they got to Fred's cottage, they heard him yelling, "They don't fit...They don't fit."

They knocked on the door but he didn't answer so they carefully opened it and sitting in the middle of the room was Fred...(The kids look horrified at this point but I barely realize it as I barrel along, my mouth working faster than my brain as it shouts...Going too graphic Sirena. Abort...Abort...Abort...) in his hands was the little boys foot as he was sewing it onto the stubs of his ankles where his own feet used to be. He sat there screaming, "They don't fit!"

The police officer was horrified and he gasped in shock drawing Fred's attention to the door. Fred saw him, raised up the rifle he had resting beside him and the police officer had no choice but to fire at him before Fred shot him. In the end, Fred died in the cottage and the police thought they had found the killer.

(The kids' faces are white in shock and my brain still hasn't managed to cease the flow of words coming from my mouth.)

They thought it was over but the following year, another little boy went missing and when he was found, his feet were missing. They believe it is the ghost of Old Fred, who is buried in that little graveyard we passed down the road...Every year, he roams through the area, looking for little boys who are being mischievous and unkind. If he finds a little boy who is doing that, he snatches the boy away in the dark of the night and that little boy is never seen alive again. The ghost of Fred always takes the feet and they believe that he is busy looking for a pair of feet that will fit.

I end the story and sit back. The kids are silent but their eyes dart around the dark forest. Michael starts and flicks on his flashlight and points it towards a tree. Gabriel scoffs, "That isn't real. Ghost stories always starts that way. It always happens close by where you are camping and everything."

"Maybe, but why would I make that up?"

They sit hunched over in their chairs, their eyes flicking between the fire to the treeline. They both hear a noise behind us and turn to glance back. In that instant, I toss the magic powder I was saving into the fire. It begins to burn and when they turn back to the fire, it is glowing bright blue. I gasp, "Oh no!! The fire is blue...Do you know what that means?"

"No, what?!"

"Fire turns blue when a ghost is close by. It might be the ghost of Footless Fred."

The kids look shocked and they start glancing around even more. They look so scared that I say, "Just kidding guys. That doesn't happen."

"But the flames are blue!"

"I know, I put a powder into it to turn it blue. It's just burning off a chemical right now."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes, I'm sure."

They give a collective sigh of relief but their eyes can't stop glancing around the clearing. We sit in silence for a few seconds and I try to make a few jokes to get them laughing. Five minutes later, Gabriel asks, "Can we go inside now?"

I hesitate, "Yeah, if you want to. I thought we would wait until the fire died down."

He flicks on his flashlight at a rustling in the trees. "No, I would like to go in now."

"You don't have to be scared. It was just a story."

"I'm not scared," he says, "I'm just tired."

"Yeah, I want to go in too," Michael agrees.

So we doused the fire and made our way inside. Then I spent two hours explaining to the kids that I made it up and there really wasn't a Footless Fred. The kids didn't believe me and I ended up telling them a ghost story about a toothbrush, a toilet and the horror of accidentally brushing one's teeth after the brush had fallen into the toilet. That managed to make them laugh and they finally fell asleep.

And that was it for ghost stories for me. I realized that someone who commonly writes darker, violent adult fiction should not be the one to weave stories for children. They pleaded for me to tell them one every night but I kept the stories light and instead, dredged up old fairy tales for them to hear. I have to say a few of the Brother's Grimm tales made them scared but none could drain their colour like the mention of Footless Fred. Even by the time we left, just saying his name in a joke brought out the worry that maybe I hadn't been spinning a tale after all.

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Lotus: Part One

You float there. Upon the still water, a silent beauty that holds so many secrets. I am enamoured of you, wondering what the kiss of your petal would feel like. Wondering what secrets you have hidden in the depths below you. Are you a nymph? Or are you merely a flower that heralds the mysteries of nature. You have become to me an obsession and I watch you every day, wondering if the sunlight of a new morning would draw from you the secrets that I yearn to understand.

There was a lotus flower on the water that caught my imagination and attention. It was during the first morning, as I sat watching the boys fish. I turned and looked out along the shoreline and saw a flash of white. My attention focused on it and there was the beautiful flower just floating there on the water.

It had opened its petals to the morning sun and just watching it on the water, floating peacefully, its light yellow exposed for all to see, I felt my mind opening. Suddenly, ideas came jumping in my head. Ideas for stories, books, articles. Not all of them inspired by the lotus drifting there but the first one, that first thought had been about the flower.

The rest of the ideas were pulled from the muddled depths of my mind. The depths that had lost a bit of its desire to write, something that had saddened me greatly. Before I left for this vacation, I had hit my wall. I wasn’t enjoying my work anymore and sometimes the thought of writing was more work than passion. I had seen it in my work, the lack of enthusiasm for the written word, but I feel it coming back. And it is all because of that lotus sitting on the waves, reminding me to dip beneath the surface to find that passion I had once again.

So, over the next few weeks, I will share the images of the lotus since it had become my sole purpose in the early morning to find it and photograph it.

Here are my favourite shots from the first morning:

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Day Two: McDonald’s Mine

Although the plan of the vacation was to just sit and relax, I find it hard to do so. The second day, or rather the very first morning at the cottage, I was on edge. I was worried about a dozen things, wondering if I would relax at all and thankful that I had a few weeks to start to relax.

Since I was so restless, I couldn’t bring myself to simply sit and watch the hours go by so we decided to take a drive up to the old McDonald’s Mine. The area isn’t a tourist site but simply a place that you can hike up to.

I wasn’t sure what I was expecting, maybe some Hollywood version of a mine, the old prospect that had been plumed out, but I was delighted when we came to these cliffs. Natural caves made up part of the mine and the rest were manmade caves that were only 30 or 40 feet deep. There was also a slope leading down one of the caves, which took us out onto another hiking path.

We spent several hours exploring the caves and picking up quartz that littered the ground by the mine. By the time we were done, the backpack had increased in weight by about 20 pounds, I felt refreshed, the kids overjoyed at their find, and my husband looked like he was relaxing a little bit more (something he has a hard time doing as well).

Of course, like everything else, I had my camera handy and took some nice photos of the mine. At one point, I was hanging back, trying to get a scenic shot. My husband stopped, and was watching me to make sure I was okay. I said I was just taking a picture and he said, “Take your time.”

Then I mentioned that he was in my shot and received a whole lot of teasing because he was ruining the “photographers” shot! Anyway, here are the photos that this amateur “photographer” managed to capture.

Arriving at the mine.

My boys standing in front of the one tunnel.

Exploring the cavern.

Into the depths

Gabe standing at a cut mine.

Mike standing at a cut mine.

Another part of the mine.

And just a random shot of the scenery.