A Swan Friend

Decades ago, when we went to visit one of my Aunts, we would take a walk after lunch. Often we ended up at the park and watched the swans. It was an elegant chance of pace from watching the ducks in my hometown.

Meeting them in the park. Finding them in a storybook — I had a copy of “The Ugly Duckling”. Even small girls in tiny Midwestern villages meet the animals.

Perhaps it is these very degrees of separation which encourage the imagination. White — clean and pure. Does that make them kind? Gentle? They glide across water with few ripples. Does that make them quiet? Sneaky? A few drops of information can fuel daydreams.

A colorfully dressed lady shares the puzzle with her swan friend.

Can you create a story from the picture?


Point of View Counts

The fable of six blind men and the elephant is a classic. It was in one of the many books around the house, and read or told many times while I was a child.

Is it true? Well, let’s see.

Pretend you are blind and you are asked to give a quick examine and then compare the animal modeled here to something else.

In the story (as I recall it) the first man walked up and encountered the animal’s side. “It’s like a wall.”

The second blind man bumped against a leg and wrapped his arms around it. “No, it’s like a tree.”

“You’re both wrong,” the third man spoke up while holding the tail. “This animal feels like a rope.”

“Not at all. I’m reaching up and feel a portion very much like a fan.” The fourth man insisted while holding the edge of an ear.

The fifth man slid his fingers across a hard, smooth surface. (I doubt the animal was in the pose above.) “The elephant is very like a spear.”

The final man stepped forward and reached out. “Snake, snake,” he called as he encountered the trunk.

Who was right? Who was wrong? It depends on what you encounter. Perhaps if each man had explored further, they could have argued over the results less.


My Library Shelf — G

The movie was good.  The book was better.

Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Oh, the hero. Strong. Handsome. A little bit dangerous.

The heroine. Self-centered. Impulsive. More than a little determined.

With the American Civil War as a centerpiece, this story has come to define certain aspects of life in the South.

Are they accurate? This is fiction.

Are they interesting? Absolutely.

Probable? In varying degrees.

If you are one of the rare people who is not familiar with this story — I recommend reading the book first. Give your imagination free rein with the lush descriptions before you see the Hollywood interpretation.

Your local library should have this.



The Scene of the Crime

Conventional wisdom claims people return to the scene of their crimes.

Personally, I think it depends on the crime.

Littering? Yes, I’ve returned to the same site over and over where either I or my fellow humans have dropped trash and been too distracted or lazy to pick it up for proper disposal.

Theft? I can imagine a thief returning to a previous site where he was successful. After all, he’s familiar with the geography and hazards. And shouldn’t a new replacement be as easy to fence as an older original?

Murder? Sounds foolish to me. However, sound reasoning doesn’t always enter into the incident.

Would you walk into a murder site? (As a non-criminal.) How would you know? What if????

Anything can happen in a Big Red Barn.
Anything can happen in a Big Red Barn.



An Oral Tale

Come back in time with me. Gather around the evening fire and listen to the elders.  No — further back in time — before automobiles, ships, or written language. As far back as your imagination can go.

Listen up, children. Tonight I tell a story of life in the Garden. Years ago, before you were born, your mother and I lived in a special world. The animals didn’t snap and growl at each other. The foxes didn’t kill mice.

The fruit was perfect, the woman took over the narrative. Three kinds were always in season. Plump. Juicy. No bruises or worm holes.

Dew in the morning, the man resumed. No rain. No storms.

And then, the woman sighed. The talking serpent arrived. Cain — stop pinching your sister.

Is this how Adam and Eve passed history to their children? I doubt the words deserve quotation marks. But telling history, relating oral stories, is as old as humans.

We have stories recorded in print now. Books make great gifts. Check out Starr Tree Farm for a story with a winter setting.

Starr Tree Farm: Ellen Parker: 9781440571589: Books




Hazards to Green

I’ll have to agree with the frog on this one. While green is useful and I wear it with pride – it can be hazardous at times.

This winter was difficult. Yes, my roots were secure. The cold temperatures were expected and the abundant snow welcome. You see, I’m designed to endure long, cold, dark winters. My friends and I in the field flex in the storms and then capture the snow in drifts around our skirts. It’s so nice and comforting to the roots when it melts, trickling into the soil at all of thirty-three degrees. (One above for folks that think Celsius.)

But deep snow brings hazard as well as welcome moisture. My friends in the rows nearest the woodlot get the worst of it. Three or four heavy snows into the winter and the deer discover that our tops are easier to find for a snack than their usual woodland shrubs. It hurts when they visit. Chomp. Chomp. There goes my leader – trimmed down to less than an inch from the proud crowning glory of early December.

Warmer, longer days and vanishing snow changes the hazard. The deer retreat but the field soon has a new visitor. Legend among the trees tells of the ‘good old days’ – before the wild turkeys came. Now they move through the field in a flock. Peck. Peck. They pull off and gobble down another growth bud. How am I to grow straight and tall with they pick away at my potential? Days like this I wish for a little mobility – or a strong breeze – to wave my branches and discourage them.

Wait. What’s that sound? It’s growing closer. Yes, here come the humans. They are walking between the rows – scooping and tossing cups of nutritious fertilizer at our drip lines. Go rootlets – Go. I stretch them out to claim my portion of precious minerals mixed with fresh spring moisture.

Green Narrator
Green Narrator



Winter Bear Tale

Why? Why? Why?  The favorite word of toddlers. Today we answer one of those why questions prompted by pictures of animals.

Why do bears have short tails?

Long ago, before humans moved into the Great North Woods, bears had long, slender tails covered in fur. Come with me on a winter’s day when Mr. Bear is hankering after one more good meal before hibernation.

Mr. Bear is walking in the woods, looking for a fresh, filling treat when he meets Mr. Fox. Now Mr. Fox is carrying several nice big fish.

“I say, Mr. Fox. Where did you get such nice fish?”

“In the lake, Mr. Bear. I’ve been ice fishing.”

“Ice fishing? Tell me how it’s done.”

Mr. Fox gave one of his smiles and started how to describe the procedure. “You dig a hole in the ice. Not too large. Then you dangle your tail in the water. You must sit very still waiting for the fish to come by and nibble on your tail. When the fish has a good hold — you stand up real quick and flip the fish out of the water.”

“And this works?” Mr. Bear suspected Mr Fox left something out of the directions.

“The proof is right here.” Mr. Fox held up the fish he carried.

“I’ll try it.” Mr. Bear rubbed his empty stomach. “Today.”

A little later, Mr. Bear dug a hole in the ice, sat down, and let his long, slender tail dip into the water. He sat very still, for he was a patient bear. He watched geese fly high above and the sun move across three treetops before he felt a fish nibble at his tail. He waited for the fish to gain a firm hold.

Up he jumped. Owwww! He turned around to discover the hole he’d so carefully dug was frozen over and held tight to his long, slender tail.

To this day bears have short tails. (And they don’t follow fishing tips from foxes.)



Using Abundance

Work with the tools you have. Make the best with what’s at hand.

You’ve all heard them. The little proverbs, sometimes twisted from the original, that elders use with the younger generation.

Children growing up in the northern tier of the United States experience winter. A winter that contains ice, snow, freezing temperatures — and yes — the temptation to lick cold metal. (Not recommended.) My generation and many others were encouraged (forced) by our parents to “go play outside”. This accomplished several things.

It gave the adults a few moments of peace and quiet plus an opportunity to do some of their own work without small supervisors.

The children burned off energy (and excess Christmas cookies) playing tag, experimenting on sleds and skis, shoveling out the sidewalk or driveway, and building snowmen. These same children returned hungry and a degree more docile an hour or two later.

College students do not lack for energy. Our campus celebrated a Winter Carnival each year. This included several activities such as a talent show, a formal dance, and snow sculpture contest. If the material on campus ran out other neighborhoods contributed the raw material for these temporary works of art.

The Great Race
The Great Race

After an afternoon in the winter outdoors curl up with a good winter story such as Starr Tree Farm. Available from or Barnes and


Wooden Tale

A large, tidy stack signals preparation for the next season.

How? Why?

As a fiction writer those are two of my favorite questions to twist with a “what if” and embellish.

This is the American Midwest. I’ll start my short, short, short story with a storm damaging a large tree. I’ll add a tree service with their special equipment but the owner makes a deal to have the truck and larger limbs remain on his property, cut into fireplace sized chunks.

Now I see a father and teenage sons moving the pieces and tipping them on end. Wedges. Axes. Learn by doing. Swing into the wood. Release frustration. Work in a team. Work as punishment. In early morning before the heat makes it unbearable. On a crisp early fall evening.

Carry. Move. Stack. Clean up the scrap for the backyard summer fire pit.

Stand on the porch and savor the result of your labors. Enough fuel for evenings around the fireplace. More than enough for one winter of storm caused power outages.

Suburban Wood Reserve
Suburban Wood Reserve