Relaxed in an endless autumn.

I’ve been spending a lot of time on the keyboard lately, working on my carnival novel. (It’s still going well!)  Today, though, I took a break so that I could spend the afternoon with my (adult) kids. We had a tasty lunch in a retro diner, did some Christmas shopping, and finished up with a walk at a local park.

I hadn’t yet found a good image for this week’s photo challenge prompt, so I was going to skip it (again.) Then I saw this swing, in this light, on this brisk but lovely afternoon. Just before the sun dropped below the treeline, I snapped the following picture … I had my response to the prompt: RELAX.


I’m pretty sure I’ve never before been this relaxed on the eighth of December.

In my former life, as a Minnesota woman, I would already be anxious about the weather by now.  Even in those rare years when winter conditions were delayed by a long, mild autumn, my delight in the season was muted by my dread of the coming snow and cold and ice. By December, I was almost always deep in the season of  treacherous paths and chilled bones … which meant I was also deep in the season  of regular anxiety attacks, though I didn’t recognize them as such at the time.

I didn’t realize, until I experienced the unfolding of my first North Carolina autumn, just how much that winter-dread was affecting my life.

What I can tell you so far is this, in North Carolina:

  • December feels likes late October.
  • November felt like late September.
  • October felt like … September too, just the earlier part of it.
  • September felt like late August.
  • (And August wasn’t any worse that a normal Minnesota August.)

I’ll let you know when “winter” arrives.

EDIT: December 9th

My Facebook told me I had a “memory” today. (That means it wanted to show me something I’d written on this day in a past year.) My memory was from 2009, and it’s connected to this 2016 post. (Caution, there’s a dark turn ahead.)

My dad didn’t have a lot of time to leave me things before he died. A record player, a bike, a little money that I used to buy my first car – all gone now. What lingers are the other bequests. A self-imposed identity as a writer, an unslakeable thirst, and a terror of winter driving.

It is a ridiculous fear. His death wasn’t caused by a car accident. Drunk beyond understanding, he drove along a deserted road until he neatly pulled over, then he wandered into a featureless field where he either got lost or tired. He laid down and he died.

How does such an event translate to my paralyzing phobia about driving, especially after dark, in the winter? I figured it out today, I think. Or I figured out another layer of it. My dad died because he made a foolish mistake. He was not in control of what he was doing.

That happens to me all the time. I might drive angry or sad. I might be in a hurry. I might take that slippery curve just a little too quickly. Or I might drive too slowly, too cautiously, and another driver might get impatient with me and make a foolish mistake of his own.

All of that is true year round, of course. So why do winter roads make me panic? Because winter is a cruel, merciless bitch. Roads are more treacherous. Lane markings and signs disappear. (Erasing the clues that tell me that I’m not screwing up.) The consequences of a mistake, even a tiny error in judgement, can too easily become lethal.

Had it not been the coldest night of 1977, he would have survived that night’s mistake. Had he laid down in a field of grass rather than in snow drifts, his loss of self-control would have been pathetic, but not fatal. And I wouldn’t hate this vicious season quite so much.


Find all my photographic projects at Haunting Photos (there’s also a link in the blog header.)

Click to visit the homepage of Post A Week.

Click to visit the homepage of Post A Week.



BFQ Diary #2: Something Old and Something New

Something New: Anticipating Hurricane Matthew

So, there’s this hurricane. Named Matthew. And he might pay a visit to Raleigh in a few days. Scenarios vary, and it’s still quite possible that he’ll veer out over the Atlantic, but the speculation and discussion about his approach is making it hard for me to concentrate on my Boss-Fight Quest. (Said quest being to finish the first draft of a novel within one season, deadline Nov. 30.)

About a month ago — over the Labor Day Weekend, just as I was getting rolling on my draft — Hermine brushed the coast of North Carolina, but it was almost a non-event here in the center of the state. In Raleigh we got a lot of steady rain for about two and a half days. It was good writing weather.

At her strongest, Hermine was a Category 1 hurricane, but she had been downgraded to a “post tropical storm” by the time she tickled the Carolinas on her way north. (I don’t mean to minimize. The Outer Banks took some damage, but even that wasn’t too bad according to the news.)

Hurricane Matthew appears to be a different kind of beast. He intensified from a Cat 1 to a Cat 5 hurricane in just 24 hours. Now he’s settled down to a Cat 4 and is ravaging the Caribbean. He’s expected to weaken to a Cat 2 before Friday night or Saturday, when he will arrive in or near my state. The TV meteorologists are in their glory. The governor (boo-hiss, for other reasons) has declared a State of Emergency for Central and Eastern NC.  It’s all making me … ansty. It’s hard to relax and drop down into my work. Hell, it’s hard to sit in a chair.

Okay, that’s an understatement; let me try again: If I had a visible meter on my forehead, its indicator needle would be frantically sweeping back and forth across the dial, from “nervous*” to “thrilled.**

To be clear, those theoretical meter labels should be translated thusly:

  • * Ohhell we could lose power, and windows could shatter, and Very Important Plans could be disrupted, and we could run out of bread, and …
  • ** Ohmygod this could be the most awe-inspiring storm I’ve ever frolicked in!!

A few minutes ago, I opted to make a quick visit to the store, even though my daughter and I will go on our regularly scheduled grocery shopping trip tomorrow. I needed to find out if a run on milk and bread and bottled water has begun yet. It has not. All the shelves and cases are well-stocked. The atmosphere is calm. Everything is normal. I bought bread … and an unneeded gallon of chocolate milk. (I don’t buy bottled water, because the tap water here is fine, but I figure having a spare empty gallon jug around sometime on Friday won’t be a bad thing.)

The trip helped. A little. At least it relieved enough of my antsiness so that I can sit here now, to a write this BFQ Diary entry.

Something Old: This week’s photo prompt is ‘NOSTALGIA’

Nostalgia for me right now is more like déjà vu than like reminiscing. It’s being pleasantly surprised when a new experience arouses familiar emotions, emotions that were once inspired by something very different.

Here in NC there are not as many natural bodies of water present in daily life as there were in MN. (Land of 10,000 Lakes and the Mississippi and the pond my old apartment overlooked.) I know North Carolina has lakes and rivers too, but they aren’t yet within my personal driving territory. What I have now is the Atlantic Ocean. As spectacular as the sea is, it’s only a rare treat for me, because it’s a three-hour drive away.

I’ve been missing water badly.

This week, I went to a local park. There’s a bit of water there, in the form of a small drainage pond fed by some culverts, but, even though it’s pretty enough, it just hasn’t been inspiring the same feelings I had while gazing into the waters in MN.


Still, I’ve gone back to the park several times. And each time I’ve noticed this magnificent rock that lies just off the boardwalk that winds through the dense wood.


This time, I finally decided to kick off my shoes and clamber up.  (Yes, I’m in a skirt; luckily there was no one around to flash.)


Which was fun, because I like boulders too. Then I turned around to see the view from my new vantage point.

At that moment the sun peeked out from behind intermittent clouds and the breeze picked up, making the leaves flutter and the shadows dance. That’s when my nostalgia hit. The peace and joy I felt was just as good as it used to be when I was sitting on a bank overlooking the Mississippi. Maybe even better, because now I know I’m really home.

EDIT: As I wandered the nostalgia responses, I found a reference to this song, which I’d entirely forgotten:

Talk about nostalgia! As a 10 year old, I spent a lot of time pouring over my sister’s collection of 45s from her youth. I remember listening to this one over and over while I was babysitting my nephew; he loved it when I’d pick him up and wildly whirl him around the room in my arms. And now I have tears in my eyes … ah, nostalgia.


Find all my photographic projects at Haunting Photos (there’s also a link in the blog header.)

Click to visit the homepage of Post A Week.

Click to visit the homepage of Post A Week.

Here are links to some of my favorite entries for the NOSTALGIA prompt  from others:

(I’ll add more as I have time to browse the entries, so feel free to check back.)

Missing Mongolia | If you Only Stay Little | Just look at that bread! | 1963, captured beautifully. | A sheep queen. | Dreams of Childhood | Dad’s Tools |

My Boss-Fight Quest Diary — Inaugural Entry.

I’m giving myself 15 25 minutes to write this post, then I’m heading down to the pool. It will not be perfect, and I’m not going to spend time trying to make it so. (Yeah. We’ll see if I can actually live with that.)

Long term followers have figured out by now that, this year, I’m not doing things the way I usually do. I honestly don’t yet know if I’ll be doing any Halloween-centric posts in 2016. It’s weird, I know, but my heart is in my fictional world right now, and deeply resistant to creating evergreen-style blog content.

That said, I really miss blogging, so I think I’m going to use this space, for a little while anyway, as a personal diary, more than a professional platform. I’m going to write about the journey I’m on, the one in which I finish a full, first draft manuscript in a single season. This is my boss-fight, as my son would say, and it’s worth journaling.

I’m going to loosen up on the structure here at The Paranormalist, and write more often, more briefly, and about whatever is going on in my life on a given day. Thinking too big and being too concerned with theme has already prevented me from sharing some events that might have made good posts. (Recently I sold one inch buttons from a gypsy tent at a pagan festival. Our 15 year old cat died very suddenly, and I think he lovingly haunted us for a couple of days. We’ve had our first brush with a hurricane. I finished a kick-ass detailed outline for a novel that I’m going to write the first draft of by the end of November.  (See, I’m not going to go back and fix that grammar.)

This week’s WordPress photo prompt is “Quest.” Since Friday, I’ve been thinking about what majestic and intriguing photo I might already have, or could take, to symbolize this quest I’m on to make a full and rich life here in North Carolina. And that has gotten me precisely nowhere. I’ve locked up.

The truth is, my most concrete quest right now is my fiction work. It’s what I think about through the day, before I fall asleep, and the moment I wake up. And this is what it looks like right now:


So, I’m going to take that notebook, outline, and my laptop down to the pool  — which is likely to be deserted now that people here think it’s autumn, and too cold to swim — and I’m going to get back to work.

PS: As a MN native, I can tell you that it feels a LITTLE like fall. It is NOT too cold. And if this long range prediction, based on past history is any indication, I’m about to have the longest, most beautiful autumn of my life.


Find all my photographic projects at Haunting Photos (there’s also a link in the blog header.)

Click to visit the homepage of Post A Week.

Click to visit the homepage of Post A Week.

Here’s where I will link to some of my favorite entries for the QUEST prompt  from others:

(I’ll add some when I’ve had time to browse the entries, so feel free to check back.)

Creepy North Carolina: The Blue Devil / Organ Pipe Mud Dauber Wasp

Since moving to North Carolina from Minnesota four months ago, I’ve been extraordinarily aware of all the creepy crawlies that share my new biome. It seems like each week reveals a new species for me to contemplate. And by contemplate, I mean decide if the species in question freaks me out, or if it’s just interesting.

When it comes to the Organ Pipe Mud Dauber / Blue Devil Wasp, I’m going with interesting — even though its young-rearing behavior is … well let’s say, off-putting.

This set of NARROW tubes is a Blue Devil nest. (Narrow is this week’s Post A Week photo prompt.)

Mud Dauber nest

I came across this construction at a local park, while on a Pokemon hunting excursion, with my daughter (who has been living in NC for seven years or so.) This particular nest is attached to the underside of a park shelter’s roof, in plain sight of the picnic tables below. My daughter identified it as a “mud dauber nest” but didn’t know much beyond that. Later, after the hunt, I was compelled to hit the interwebs to find out more.

It turns out this is the home of a rather special mud dauber. (Not rare, but certainly creepy-cool.) Several species of mud dauber live in North Carolina, but only one builds a nest that resembles a pipe organ.

After reading up on  Trypoxylon politum, I now know that the big, blue-black wasp that was flying around us was the father Devil, guarding the nest. (The species is harmless to humans, and only stings people when tormented.)

I also know that those tubes were crafted by the mother Devil, who transports innumerable tiny balls of mud to the site, and painstakingly builds individual cells into which she will lay eggs. Then she stuffs each cell full of paralyzed spiders, as food to be consumed by her larval offspring. (Whimper.)

You can find more detailed information about the creature, along with other photographs, at the following links:


Find all my photographic projects at Haunting Photos (there’s also a link in the blog header.)

Click to visit the homepage of Post A Week.

Click to visit the homepage of Post A Week.

Here are some of my favorite entries for the NARROW prompt  from others:

(I’ll add more as I have time to browse, so feel free to check back.)

A Haiku on “Narrow” | New York City Pocket Park | Jazz Alley | paths & journeys | pretties in gutters | crematorium | through the forest | butterfly from a different angle | crab spider in rose | the light | nope, nope,nope | narrow street in Prague | a reference to “Laura” | mountain goats | straws | child’s focus | boardwalk in the woods | Yellow | Annie’s Canyon | abandoned kitchen | too narrow for a wheelchair | palm tree | eye of the needle | alley in Hoi An, Vietnam | communications tower in Tasmania | a bee’s passage | American Bittern | Narrow Bridge in G Scale | in the side mirror |

Grave and scary numbers.

On Fridays, when the weekly prompt for the Post A Week photo challenge is revealed, I try to think of a way to respond that will suit the theme of my blog. My first thought for this week’s prompt Numbers was to seek out the number 13, but even though I kept an eye out all week, 13 was elusive. Other numbers, though, prominently featured in my week, in fact I was haunted by them.


As recent transplant to a new state, I’m desperately trying to figure out how to get around. This process is complicated by my multiple driving phobias. (High bridges, high speed, ramps, forced merges, and getting funneled against my will, to name a few.)   I am determined, however, to establish some comfortable routes, and carve out a territory that feels safe. That means I’m spending an awful lot of time pouring over maps, trying to figure out how to stay off the roads that have numbers but no names.

scary map for numbers 2

#FunWithFilters — I see versions of this and other local maps in my dreams. If only that were actually helpful in any way.


I had one slight territory expansion success this week. I headed east from Raleigh, in search of two small towns promised by the maps. I found and explored both of them. (One even has a metaphysical shop just a block off Main Street, but that’s another story.)

The excursion was my last ditch attempt to find a good photo op for this week’s challenge. I meant to go to a graveyard — because a graveyard is filled with stories, histories, and mysteries, each told in a few  cryptic words and numbers — but I failed.

(I drove past one that looked promising, but couldn’t figure out how to get back to it. Once the route is more familiar, I’ll make my way  back.)

Luckily, I have a whole folder of photographs taken at graveyards. Here are a few I don’t think I’ve ever published, that have interesting numbers:

2016.05.20 Lexie's Vacation Old Burying Ground graveyard grave 12

This was taken in the Old Burying Ground, of Beaufort, NC, a cemetery that is full of some of the most complete stories I’ve ever found in a graveyard. (There are more photos from the same beautiful cemetery here.)

The iron cross appears to have a ‘4’ on it, but it’s actually a confederate battle flag.

The ’12’ marker at this grave-site is keyed to a pamphlet available at the graveyard. The pamphlet reads:

“(12) Jechonias Willis (1838-1862) — A Beaufort man killed when Fort Macon was taken by the Federals. Beaufort members of the garrison were brought home on a flat and released on parole. The body of Willis was brought at the same time. General Burnside himself stood at the wharf witnessing the joyful reunion between soldiers and families. Then, as the pine box containing the body of Willis was claimed by sorrowing loved ones, sympathetic tears rolled down the general’s cheeks.”


This sad and simple stone, located in White Bear Lake, MN, is a glimpse into history, and we must try to imagine the story behind the memorial, using only the clues provided by the numbers.

graveyard tree growing over grave stone

This gravestone, which caught my eye precisely because it is disappearing, had just enough visible information that I was able to identify the deceased by using the excellent database at Find A Grave. There I learned that this is the grave of the founder of a northern MN city named Staples.

Which leaves me with a new mystery: Why is the founder of Staples buried in Anoka, 119 miles away from his namesake city?

Find all my photographic projects at Haunting Photos (there’s also a link in the blog header.)

Boundaries: a chain link veil.

Maybe it’s the season, but the moment I saw this week’s photo post theme, I knew I wanted to take a shot of a fence around a cemetery. Halloween is, after all, when “the veil between the living and the dead” is at its thinnest.


By the way, I went in search of the source of that phrase and couldn’t find it. I was expecting it to be attributed to a poet or a mystic, but it seems the concept is so old, and so widespread, that no one knows its origin. If any of you happen to know more about when and where the idea was born, please drop me a comment.


Find all my photographic projects at Haunting Photos (there’s also a link in the blog header.)

I'm part of Post A Week 2015

Click here to visit the Post a Week home.

Here are some of my favorite entries for boundaries  from others:

(I’ll add more as I have time to browse, so feel free to check back.)

kittensDusk, the Languorous BoundaryFences and Fear Makes Good Boundaries | Eiffel Tower | rock wall in the autumn woods |  On the Other SideAuschwitz Birkennau | especially the cemetery wall | 9 gorgeous shots | I don’t know what to call this – just click | storm | islet in a sea of clouds | narrow rock path into fog | Jack O’ Lantern guard? |  cannon | Autumn in South Korea | The Great Wall of China | black skimmers | chocolates | 3 boundaries in Cornwall | Venice | baby in a basket | gator boundary | in North Carolina | haiku | public nudity prohibited | sphynx cat | of the same mind | sun breaking through clouds | sun breaking through clouds too | sea, sky and sand … and a rainbow | framed flowers | a ha-ha ditch explained | windswept | child pondering fence | seasonal wall | especially the Sleepy Hollow cemetery shot | mirror | a wall for each vine! | sparklers | six word story | typewriter | of the same mind II |

Dwelling in monochrome; Living in multicolor

I wasn’t going to make an entry for this week’s PostAWeek theme, ‘monochromatic’. The theme struck me as being more for folks who have advanced technical skills than for someone like me. (Which is totally fair … the real photographers must have their fun too.)

But then a funny thing happened. Just having the concept floating around in the back of my mind over the next few days made me more aware of monochromatic color schemes in my environment. When I was walking my dog around the apartment building one late afternoon, I happened to look up and see this housing complex that the swallows had built.

swallows wider

swallows close up

At first what I noticed was the color palette — all those shades of beige against the dull red of the bricks. That’s why I snapped the picture.

When I was cropping and doing some light retouches, however, I found myself amused by the fact that I’d shot  what amounts to an apartment complex attached to an apartment complex. I was particularly struck by how angular the human construction is in comparison to the the bird construction … yet both styles reveal that the housed species can be quite comfortable living in close proximity to neighbors,  who live in an almost identical housing situation … and that’s kind of weirdly monochromatic too.

The swallows who live in those mud balls are colorful little birds. They have iridescent-blue backs, creamy bellies, and russet faces. They spend their days swooping over the pond, first gathering their building materials in the spring, then catching hundred of tiny insects each every day until mid-summer. They court and they fight most of the time, then they rest snuggled against each other, especially when it rains.

Some are more persistent that others when it comes to trying to claim a prime bit of real estate. Some stay far away from us humans with whom they have to share territory, while others pass close enough to move a person’s hair with the breeze from their wings. I assume the birds themselves can perceive other individual distinctions too.

So they are all the same, yet all different. Just like the humans that live beneath them.

I'm part of Post A Week 2015

Click here to visit the Post a Week home.

Here are some of my favorite entries for the Monochromatic prompt  from others:

(I’ll add more as I have time to browse, so feel free to check back.)

stained glass | parrot camouflage (esp. the 2nd one) | esp. stump on the sand | gloriously lit fence | demolitionAn Alley in Prague | magickal girl in meadowLuisenburg Rock Labyrinth | Baredine Cave Croatia | a gallery of six monochromes | golden farm scene | the poem makes the post |