Writing Assignment: FICTION: Prompt Plus Writing From Three Differing Points of View: “The Little Red Sweater”

Daryl held on to Cynthia’s hand in a robotic manner.  He wasn’t even aware they were holding hands as they strolled through Central Park with the bright noon-day sun peeking through the huge Oak Trees and creating funny shadow creatures everywhere, polka-dots of bright light and deep grays.  Cynthia could feel his distant manner but was determined to not let anything dampen her spirits this day.  Daryl was home, after three week’s absence, she was almost 25 weeks pregnant with their first child, a son, and a radiance shown out and around her that only a woman with child produces; especially her first child.

Daryl had spent the last few weeks in Boston, with his brother and sister,  going through their parent’s home and sorting out their belonging’s after losing them both at once in a tragic car accident involving a drunken driver.  As is often the case, the driver had no outward injuries to show from the accident.  The deep scars he would carry around the rest of his life were the emotional, hidden wounds he could never erase .  The accident had landed him in jail for a short stint and then on to a rehab facility where he was sobering up and facing the consequences of falling off the wagon, yet again.

The accident had disrupted six lives that would require time to adjust and heal.  Two , would never recover; Daryl’s mother and father.

Cynthia had attended the funeral with him in Boston then flown back home to New York to continue on with her work-from-home free lance writing job for as long as she could before the baby arrived.  She was glad to come back to New York as the heavy emotions back in Boston were hard to be around and Daryl’s unresponsiveness to her attempts to console him.  She felt it best to let the three siblings be of solace to one another and attend to the necessary details without her, the outsider, only in the way.

As they rounded the bend at the huge park, following the sidewalk running parallel to The Lake, they both spotted her at the same time.  A slight woman, probably in her late seventies, hunched over in deep concentration as her knitting needles “click-clacked” rapidly at the red wool object they were constructing in her lap.  They couldn’t help pass her by and Cynthia tugged at Daryl’s elbow, bringing him to a reluctant stop right in front of the elderly woman as they approached her and could see she was kitting some kind of small child’s garment.

Cynthia struck up a quick and upbeat conversation with the woman who inquired of her due date and the sex of their child.  Daryl sensed a feeling from the woman that they had interrupted her and that she would prefer sitting there, knitting in her own solitude.  He subtlety hinted to Cynthia that they be moving along but she shrugged him off.  She needed someone, right then, to help break the pent-up emotions between her and Daryl and persisted in this complete stranger as the source.  On and on she went with the woman nodding now and then and offering small tidbits of polite conversation.  Finally, the woman laid her needles down on top of the tiny sweater and looked up, catching the pain in Daryl’s eyes.  There was an unmistakable understanding that flashed between the two.

A softening occurred in the woman as a subtle smile crossed over her expression.  Daryl felt her deep, sincere compassion and that was all it took for his composure to melt.  His bottom lip quivered uncontrollably and his shoulders began shaking slightly with the pent-up emotion he’d been holding in for three weeks now.  He was the eldest sibling and had to be strong for the other two as well as most of the final arrangements and decisions fell upon him.  So much business to take care of at a time like that.  He had not given himself any time to mourn.  That look the woman on the bench gave him was an invitation for the walled up dam to break lose.  Daryl felt himself melt, all his feelings pouring down his cheeks, even through his nose.  Water was running everywhere and the mask he wore, once cracked, melted in uncontrollable waves of anguish. He had no control over his muscles, nothing in his taut body would obey him.  He was melting everywhere.

Seeing this, the woman motioned for Daryl to sit beside her on the bench.  Gathering some composure, his first thought flew to Cynthia who was growing heavy with child and at first he resisted and motioned for her to sit, but the weakness in his knees bade him sit.

In low tones, Daryl explained to the woman on the bench what had happened three weeks ago.  As he told his story, the details sprang up again, reminding him of the horror of that awful day.  He fought for composure and once, leashing his emotions back in, apologized for the outburst.  His attention turned again to Cynthia and he took her hand and pulled her down on the bench beside them.  She appreciated the invitation this time, as she realized how far they had walked and sank down next to him.

This time, Cynthia allowed Daryl to lead the direction of the conversation, realizing the deep hurt and pain needed a way out.  The woman on the bench, seeing the constraint between these two and easily summing up the situation before her, softened and turned her attention to Cynthia, a new mother-to-be who was caught in the cross-fires of this recent tragedy, a victim of sorts.  She needed a husband, and soon-to-be new father, to be there with her 100% as the time drew near for their first child’s entrance into this life.  So many people, so many needs.

The woman asked if they minded, if she could get their phone number and explained that when she finished the little, red, wool sweater she would like to make it a gift for their baby.  Both Daryl and Cynthia were deeply moved by her gracious gift and gave her their phone numbers then after a little more polite conversation felt it was time to move on.

After Daryl and Cynthia had moved far down the walkway and were but small, hazy outlines the woman on the bench also found the wall that she had closed off inside of herself break loose and brought the little red sweater up to her face.  She didn’t try to stop the tears falling upon it.  She kissed the sweater and promised her little granddaughter, that she would never meet, that she was passing it on to a new baby boy and hoped she wouldn’t mind.

She’d found the sweater, that she had started to make six month’s ago, discarded in her sewing basket in her sun room a few weeks ago.  She absently picked it up and began working the needles again, knowing its recipient would never wear it.   She had begun “click-clacking” away at the red wool sweater in a robotic trance.  Her own daughter, her only child, had been killed in a car wreck involving some teens who had stolen a car and taken it on a joy ride.   Rowdy and high on youthfulness, they had taken a corner too fast and left the road and plowed into the mother pushing her newborn in a stroller on the sidewalk where the car crashed and stopped abruptly as it finally came to rest against an ancient oak.

All three of the car’s occupants had died instantly.  Five angels soared heavenward in that instant.

The little red sweater would be a gift, tying these strangers together.  Little did either the young couple, due to have their first child nor the elderly lady on the bench know that there would be a lifetime bond created because two people exchanged a look.

 A look they had both been waiting for to set them free and onto their long, difficult, healing journey.

Writing 101 Day 2 Assignment: Beating the Storm Home

 

4-Wheeling at the Butte

Elephant
This is Pluto, our dog, not Harv. 🙂

I climb on the seat behind Harv on the bright yellow 4 -wheeler and wiggle around to get comfortable in my elevated position above him:  “Room With a View”.  Still I can barely see above the top of his head really so have to crane my head from side to side to see what’s in front of us.  Sometimes I forget about what’s going on down the road and just look at the views I can see flashing by if he is going fast on the narrow, dirt paths we take out in any given direction.

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Today, the skies are full of huge, cumulus clouds that hang very low and look like they are ready to pop.  We figure that maybe we shouldn’t go too far in case we get caught in a downpour and need to head back home.  We choose a path leading us behind the back of Elephant Butte, a pretty drive with two accesses back home although, once we get out there we “get carried away” and forget the weather threat and  verge off onto an adjoining trail we haven’t been on before that leads us further away from “the butte”, the endearing name everyone out here calls this mammoth butte that is the background of our community, whose presence is as familiar as the little cabin we built.

Riding along, Harv slows down so we can enjoy the sights and scents.  Out this far, with nothing else to compete against, the rich scent of sage fills your nostrils and you can almost feel the menthol effect even from a distance. Up close, I always slip some of the leaves off the stem, crush them a little and hold them close to my nose, sucking in the heady aroma that just about knocks you over.

Desert sage in bloom.
Desert sage in bloom.

My eyes dart from the red sand that is everywhere, to hues of sage, yellow flowers, deep greens of the pines and up at the saturation of the bluest sky I’ve ever seen as the 4-wheeler moves past these common points.

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We start heading more north now, enjoying the scenery and the air passing over our skin as we ride a little faster.  This is another fascinating ride.

We’re so caught up with the sheer joy of it we don’t notice, or care, that the clouds are gathering in tighter, piling up one-on-top-of-another and the marshmallow clouds are drawing deeper shades of grays into them.  The little breeze is strengthening.

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No matter how caught up we are in other things, this coming storm is beginning to show too many signs by now to be ignored.  The one thing we have to pay attention to is the streaks of lightning flashing in all directions in the far out horizons.

We have ventured further from home than what we intended.  Literally, “throwing caution to the wind.”  We are a small part of this big scenario taking place, in fact, only a minor part through nature’s eyes.  Just two fools out on a 4-wheeler too far from home.  Realizing our mistake, we now fear there is no way we’re going to beat the storm home.

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Big, fat drops of rain start hitting us…almost one at a time at first.  Plunk, one here; plunk another one there…we can almost count them as they fall.

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Harv has sped up the pace now, taking the rough little path we ride on quite fast and furiously hitting every little bump in the road and driving as one with a purpose; forgetting now about comfort and, I fear, even safety.  We are literally flying home and the rain drops are growing more steady, too fast to count now.  Between the rain, wind and the speed of the bike it feels almost like a sleet of rain hitting us hard.  The sensation is like little pin-pricks hitting us in different places all at once. I pull my head into Harv’s back to try to cover my face.  He’s put on goggles, that blur quickly from the steady stream of water running down them.

We’re really going fast now and I yell in Harv’s ear, trying to be heard above the full-fledged storm that has added some thunder and lightning to its arsenal as well, that it feels like we’re galloping a horse home at break-neck speed.  We are racing over this rugged, primitive terrain still laughing like fools with a mixture of worry, fear and excitement, we feel like cowboys in days gone by flying over the ground on a pony.  It’s an exhilarating experience that has seized and heightened each sensory perception.  The sage, now that it is wet, grows so pungent, it is the only smell out there.  You could drown in the smell of wet sage!

“…Saddle up the horses cause we’re headed for the hall of fame.”

A line from the song,”I’ll be your Belle Star, You Can be My Jesse James.”  From the album, “All the Road Running”  by Mark Knopfler and Emmy Lou Harris

As we near our property and the familiar landmarks appear, we know it’s only a short time before we pull through our heavy, back-gate with the white Buffalo Skull Harv nailed above it.

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Safely  Home  

I jump off, like the coward I am at times, and run for the house; leaving Harv to pull the 4-wheeler into the shed, turn it off and head inside himself.  I start heating water for hot tea.  I argue, to myself, that this is a good excuse for me to get inside first; to prepare things to comfort and warm us after being soaked to the bone.

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Sitting on the upper, covered, deck we sip our hot tea and gaze out at the downpour and the spectacular lightening  show preceded by deafening claps of thunder.

Lightning Sunset

We made it home just in time.  

To think, just a few minutes ago, we were high-tailing it home like outlaw-cowboys on the run, trying to race the wind.

What a life!

En la mitad de la nada…..Casitas de Gila

Loving my times in New Mexico, this blog caught my interest. What a lovely little get-a-way they described. This is a very short blog on pure relaxation as well as learning things about their exact vicinity. Very nicely written and I enjoyed “the break”.
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Cosmopolitana


Larry is a keen astronomer so he was looking forward to our trip to New Mexico where the dry desert air promised excellent conditions for stargazing. He came across a place to stay in the southwest of the state that advertised dark skies as well as spectacular views and incredible quiet. It couldn’t have been a more accurate description.

View of Bear Creek and Pinos Altos Mountains from the casitas In the middle of nowhere

We drove 30 miles northwest from Silver City on a secondary road to reach the tiny village of Gila. Already feeling like we were in the middle of nowhere we then had a further 4 miles to go on a dirt road. As we entered the entrance to the Casitas de Gila there was a sign “Entering Stress Free Zone”, another very accurate description!

Watching and identifying birds from the porch of our casita Our casita

Inside our casita Inside our casita

Becky, our hostess, showed us to our adobe casita, one of five positioned on a terrace overlooking Bear Creek…

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Thursday Tips: You Can’t Win if You Don’t Play

I like this saying.

1001 Scribbles

Back in the film era, there was an adage—really, something between a saying and a mantra—that went like this: f/8 and be there. It was, in essence, a statement that suggested that, when it came to getting “the shot,” the technicals were a whole lot less important than being in position when the opportunity arose. (The “f/8” part referred to the optimal aperture setting for most situations and most lenses.)

We’re now more than a decade into a mature digital age of photography, but the meaning behind the phrase still applies today, even if we’ve effectively left the analog age of film in the rearview mirror. In fact, if anything, the technical nuances of photography have become less and less of an impediment to the successful image making process with each passing year. The key has always been recognizing a good photo opportunity and being in position to take…

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Day 5: Five Day Challenge Assignment: I Am a Water Person

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I have loved water my whole life!  I have a few blogs dealing strictly with my love affair with water

I hope whoever reads this, will indulge me and my desire to combine my “water posts” into one, making them easy to find.

1.     Lake Mead:  Where I first fell in love with water.

2.     Mineral Springs Intro

3.     Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs in New Mexico

4.    Sycamore Mineral Springs on the Central California Coast

5.     Pah Tempe Hot Springs

6.   Poem:  “Sea Fever” by John Mayesfield

DAY 4: Five Day Challenge to post a photo and writing: Desert Varnish

Slot Canyon

Getting Lost in Nature

I consider myself very lucky to have been able to live out in the middle of a forest, off the grid at one point in my life.  We had a four-wheeler that we would take out often.  Any of the many trails leading out our back fence, onto BLM land, would end up in an awe-inspiring view.  We discovered so many places of interest in a relatively small radius just out our back gate.

One place we went to often was this narrow slot canyon.   We had to travel a little distance to get to it and actually ended up riding parallel to the little-traveled road that led into the Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, six miles east from our property.  

One of our favorite places was this little, 3-sided canyon whose entry was so narrow you had to hike down into it from above. We’d park the 4-wheeler and hike into it.  This included hiking up a hillside of huge boulders, an awe-inspiring venture in itself.  When you got to the top of this rugged mound or boulders, sage brush and wild flowers there was an extremely narrow, dirt trail leading down into this quiescent, narrow canyon.  As the photo shows, the floor was soft, red sand (depicting the name of this area; The Coral Pink Sand Dunes).  The walls went straight up on either side.  Both sides of the canyon walls had distinct petroglyphs on them.  

It was so quiet and peaceful in there, with the thick layer of the soft, red sand floor; I often wished I could just spend the night in there.   It was only after quite a few trips to that place that I learned something else about the rock walls.  They were a brilliant contrast of red sandstone and a black coat of something I later learned was called “Desert Varnish”.  This varnish builds up over hundreds of years upon a rock formation that gets little precipitation, fracturing or wind abrasion; usually in an arid climate.  The varnish is primarily composed of particles of clay along with iron and manganese oxides.  There is also a host of trace elements and almost always some organic matter.  The color of the varnish varies from shades of brown to a purplish black.  Scientists can judge the age of the rock from the layers of varnish built up on it.

In this particular canyon, the varnish is almost a bluish black, very dark with a gleam to it.  You can look straight up from the bottom of the canyon to the sky above.  It is one of the most magnificent places I have been to.  I have a hankering to go back.

We sold our cabin that was located in this area and moved away.  I miss those days and the natural beauty we saw in any direction we looked.  I miss the trails and the surprises awaiting at the end of the ride, we were always surprised by something extraordinarily magnificent.  

Blogging U Photo 101

As part of this assignment, I am to challenge another blogger to do the 5 consecutive days of posting a photo with a word or two, or more.  I would like to invite one of my favorite bloggers, whose blog I absolutely love, “Through The Open Lens”, to do this challenge.  He posts daily anyway, so this shouldn’t be anything added to his list.