The best way I know to make you smile.

I’m not a smiley person. (Shocker.) I grin a lot. And I laugh all the time, but I’ve got one of those resting serious faces. Of course I am quite capable of soft, sweet, gentle smiles, but those are reserved for close family and friends.

Also, I don’t take a lot of photographs of happy-smiley subjects. (Outside of family snapshots.) When I’ve got the camera, I’m usually going for atmospheric, or evocative, or — yeah — creepy.

For both these reasons, this week’s photo challenge stumped me for a long while. Tonight, though, when I went back and re-read the prompt, and I got an idea.

The prompt says,

This week, show us a smile (yours or someone else’s), make us smile, or both.

“… make us smile …” That I might be able to do.

For years now, I’ve been gathering up “paranormal” themed memes / funnies / comics, and curating a collection of them at cheeseburger.com. (Which you may remember from the LOL Cats mania in days past.) If you’re looking for a grin, a snicker, a chortle, or a snort, you might find something to please you at my gallery.

Pop over to paranormallols.cheeseburger.com to see my collection.

Of course, I didn’t take any of the photographs used to make those memes, (except one) nor did I make the memes themselves (except that same one.)

So, if I left it at that, I would be kind of cheating the challenge, wouldn’t it?

Alrighty, then, I’ll share a photograph I took a few years back, when I was training our older dog. Every time I see the picture, it makes me smile.

That’s the best I can do 😀

 

~***~

Here are some of my favorite SMILE responses from others:

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

smiling lizarda sketchtears of joycrushedcarousel horsea horror haikuBare Bones Landscaping Co.killdeer (I love a blog that teaches me something)hey! a cat meme 🙂 plus real live onesBuddha smile – A wide green smile leeks an odd toothy grin

click her for more on the Weekly Photo Challenge

 

Fair warning: I’m returning to regular blogging after a long hiatus. I haven’t quite got the hang of it yet. My posting schedule is off, and things might be a little messy if you wander around long enough. 

Advertisements

How far would you go to get to your favorite place?

This week’s photo challenge is to show a favorite place … a happy place, a secret spot. In the first half of my life, I had many favorite hideaways, almost all of them outdoors.  As I begin the second half of my life in a new part of the country, though, I have to find my new happy places.

This is a shot of my local park, taken back in October, 2017. The foliage has already started to die down for the autumn, but the grass you see here would have been up to my knees. In the foreground of the photograph, you can see a bit of railing. When I took the picture, I was standing on a bridge-like path that runs through the park. The walkway is designed this way to keep folks safe from the wildlife, not to protect the habitat from traffic. This is a common arrangement, here in North Carolina, and it’s a wise precaution. One that I’ve taken seriously because I know just enough to know that there are some dangerous critters hiding in all that grass and in the underbrush.

As a native of Minnesota, I was comfortable with my biome. I knew which plants to avoid. I knew how to stay clear of the icky but harmless creepy-crawlies that inhabited the areas I prowled. I knew where the dangerous critters might be, and what to do in the (unlikely) event that I encountered one. In most cases, I had a good chance of seeing the trouble coming. (‘Pretty hard to miss a bear or a temperamental deer, if you’re paying attention.)

In Minnesota, there were two (rare) species of venomous snakes, and both were polite enough to stay within a confined, easily identifiable, ecosystem and come equipped with a rattle, in order to warn an unwary trespasser.

One other significant, hard to detect, threat came in the form of the Northern black widow spider (L. variolus) — the least aggressive of all the widows.

As a transplant to North Carolina, I’m less confident. Here, instead of staying alert for big stuff, I have to watch for sneaky dangers. Here, the Northern widow is joined by both Southern (L. mactans) and brown (L. geometricus)  widows. Here there is also the brown recluse (Loxosceles reclusa) which creeps me out more than the widow sisters. Probably because the bite of a recluse causes something called “external tissue necrosis.”

On the non-venomous front, we have a whole host of spiders that I’d rather not surprise, including the Carolina wolf spider, the largest wolf spider in the US. (It can be as big as the palm of your hand.) And let’s not forget the possibility of running into the uncommon but not-unheard of fire ants that are trying to expand their territory up from the deeper south.

The biggest difference between my old stomping grounds and my new home, though, lies in its venomous snakes. Here, they are not exactly rare. And there are SIX of them — three rattlesnakes, and three silent snakes: the copperhead, the cottonmouth, and the coral snake. (Which is both the rarest and the deadliest of the bunch.)

Being the cautious sort, I’ve pretty much stayed on the paths and boardwalks as I’ve been exploring my new state.

Today, though, I realized that the season has opened up more options for a just a little while. Right now, the undergrowth is mostly still dormant, so I can see what is underfoot much better than I will be able to once the verdant growth begins. The bugs aren’t yet active. The snakes will most likely be slow and dimwitted from the cold, if they are out at all.

Today, I stepped off the path. I followed the little stream that runs through the park instead. It was a joy to be able to get close to some of the details that have been hard to see from the approved walkways.

(Can you tell I was closely watching the ground?)

Then I came to this, one of Mother Nature’s little personality tests.

Which led me to a question — a kind of poll, if you like — that I want to ask you:

If a new favorite place might be on the other side, would you cross by walking over the fallen tree (spiders) or or by wading through the water (snakes)?

~***~

Here are some of my favorite ‘FAVORITE PLACE‘ responses from others:

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

amongst the elephantsunchangeddownfalllook for the “bathing hut”the spider web video at the bottom seems aptrugged beachlost in the pines

click her for more on the Weekly Photo Challenge

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

Fair warning: I’m returning to regular blogging after a long hiatus. I haven’t quite got the hang of it yet. My posting schedule is off, and things might be a little messy if you wander around long enough. 


Can I “camp” in a van, so the monsters don’t get me?

This week’s weekly photo challenge prompt is “I’d rather be …”

I had to think long and hard about this one, because I pretty much love my life as it unfolds; I’ve reached an age where I decide what I’m doing in any given moment. (Not that I always choose the right thing to be doing, but that’s on me.)

It wasn’t until I saw Facebook post from a friend who had a bonfire over the weekend, that I knew what I should share.

The truth is, I’d almost ALWAYS rather be tending a nice, manageable backyard fire. Preferably with my husband, my family, a good friend or ten,  a couple of dogs, a cold beer, a hot mug of something tasty, some marshmallows … or any combination of such treasured companions.

I have to confess: I didn’t take this photograph. It’s actually a shot my son took, when he was visiting his girlfriend in MN last summer. But it’s the only campfire picture in my photo files, so I stole it. I did a little cropping and re-touching, and adjusting. I played with it until it looked “right” to my nostalgic eye.

You see, I haven’t been able to sit fireside since we moved to NC, two years ago. (We’re in an apartment as we explore the state, looking for Home.) The closest I can get to a fire in my current living situation is to creep down to the charcoal grills late at night, once every month or two, to burn up journals filled with Daily Pages-style ramblings.

These charcoal and paper fires are not satisfying.

So. I’m using this prompt to remind myself to get out there and find a way. I don’t think we’ll be buying a house yet this year, but I know there must be campgrounds where fire-making is allowed. I guess I’m just going to have to learn to camp.

Baby steps, right? The Ogre and I (and the dogs) took an impromptu trip to the Uwharrie Mountains, on Friday. It was just a day trip, and a good one, but we only walked a short trail before we had to head back home. We didn’t have time to explore campground options. (And I was unable to convince him to find an all-night diner and park in the lot. Between the two of us, there was too much uncertainty about how likely it was that we’d get ourselves rousted or arrested.)

Does anyone know if it’s okay to “camp” in your vehicle? Apparently, I have been deeply scarred by too many horror movies that prove the thin fabric of a tent is no protection from the serial killers and monsters that inhabit campgrounds. I’d feel a lot better if I could sleep in my van.

~***~

Here are some of my favorite I’D RATHER BE responses from others:

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

old men on a beachwalking in the woodscontemplating – Frank Lloyd Wright – Carolina BeachRome at night

click her for more on the Weekly Photo Challenge

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

Fair warning: I’m returning to regular blogging after a long hiatus. I haven’t quite got the hang of it yet. My posting schedule is off, and things might be a little messy if you wander around long enough. 


A picture can prompt a thousand words.

My first thought, when I saw this week’s prompt, was to share a few of the photographs I’ve taken which have either inspired stories and story elements, or served as reference for scenes I’ve written.

And I will do that, in just a sec.

First, though, I must share my all-time favorite story-in-one-picture shot:

I call it: “I do NOT like celery, Mom.”

It’s not the best photo, but it perfectly captures my dog’s sense of betrayal. In my defense, he likes almost everything people eat, so I had no idea he’d hate it so.

And, as promised, here are a just a few of the shots that have prompted some of my writing:

~***~

Here are some of my favorite STORY responses from others:

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

winter noir –  love storycanvas tool kitbeginners chessfrogs are backmatchbox cars in Georgia (the country)this makes me miss the beach so muchforsakena Raleigh ghost storywitch house visitors –  cemetery guardian  – where did he go? –  some party last night, eh?careful!St. Louis Cemetery 1october 2, 2017simba, king of the neighborhood

Click her to view the photo challenge.

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

Fair warning: I’m returning to regular blogging after a long hiatus. I haven’t quite got the hang of it yet. My posting schedule is off, and things might be a little messy if you wander around long enough. 


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.

2016-12-08-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.

2016-07-08-great-blue-heron-at-library-park

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.

my-rock

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.)

the-rock-on

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

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:

quest

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.)