That Place

On each assignment, I search for That Place.

It only has a few requirements.

      It must be nearby.

      It must bring me closer to nature.

      It must allow dogs (I do make an exception to this rule when Rocky doesn’t travel with me.)

      It must center me.

Sometimes I’ll be almost through my assignment before I find That Place.

In North Carolina, it was Battleground Park in Greensboro. I so loved walking along the winding paved pathways sheltered beneath the branches of great trees, as I watched bluebirds, woodpeckers, cardinals and the occasional vulture. The best part….I shared this time with my closest friend, Jeanne Curtin.

In South Carolina, it was Lake Conestee.  I watched baby herons grow to adulthood, discovered red-shouldered hawk nests, glimpsed a beaver and discovered one of my first tree creatures in this preserve.

In Maine, it was a magical trail in downtown Corinna. It began as a boardwalk at a small dam and wove its way through a marshland rich with touch-me-nots, ducks, butterflies and the occasional hummingbird. It connects with the rail trail, bordered by wetlands on one side and farmland on the other.

In Florida, I never found That Place. There were very few trails nearby that allowed dogs. I considered risking bringing Rocky along in his pouch and throwing out the argument that you can barely consider him a dog.

Today I found That Place here in California. It took some searching, but I knew that it had to be here.

I had tried the Avocado Rim trail. It was disgustingly dirty and really more of a road than a trail.

I had parked at the dam and walked along the river. It was clean, but once again, more of a road than a trail.

I had tried the other side of the river. But the trail petered out into a field of burrs that clung to my socks then worked their way into my shoes. Rocky didn’t like this field any better than me. He insisted on being carried through the burry grass.

Today I headed out intent on settling for a walk along the road across from the dam. As I drove along the Pine Flat road, I passed a sign that said ‘River Access No Camping’. As I rounded the corner, I spotted a Kiosk a few feet beyond the parking area.

Kiosks mean trails!

I made a U-turn, turned into the access point and my oh-too-low-to-the-ground car crept down the partially washed out, steep drive.

The moment I stepped out of my car, I knew I’d found it. This was That Place.

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The river drifted lazily around a tiny island crowded with sycamore trees. A few people fished along the river, but not so much to feel crowded. And there, beyond the Kiosk was a trail. Not a road, but an actual trail.

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And it was perfect.

Scattered craggy trees with their branches twisting over the trail.

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The river’s melody plays alongside me.

Swallows perform their acrobatic aerial dance as they gather their dinner.

Stalks filled with yellow flowers, wild roses, and some tiny flowers that remind me of miniature dragons border my path.

A scrub jays squawks as I pass beneath the branches of its tree.

I scramble up a hill of granite boulders that makes me wish I’d worn my hiking shoes.

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Tiny birds, not much bigger than hummingbirds flit about on giant thistles with variegated leaves.

A waterfall of yellow flowers spills down a rocky hill.

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A red shouldered hawk soars across the river

I climb to the top of a hill that is solid rock. From here I can see the dam, the rolling golden California hills and the mountains beyond. I realize that I’ve made my way almost to the trail that had petered out into a burry field.

Across the river, crows and vultures perch, waiting on bare branches.

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Beyond the rock hill, the trail becomes more difficult to follow. Two picnic tables, one overtaken by tall green grass spur me forward.IMG_8553.JPG

A rustle of grass and a glimpse of a ground squirrel scurrying out of site.

Two quails dash into the underbrush. I’ll remember this spot, because I’d love to get a picture of them.

Across the river, a cow ‘moos.’ I looked toward the sound and spot what I believe is a cormorant with a speckled white upper body and brown lower half.

I stand quietly, my eyes closed and listen to the sounds of the river, birds and the solitary cow. The peacefulness of nature centers me.

Yes.

This is That Place

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Midnight Berries under the Strawberry Moon

I missed the mooIMG_4737n! More specifically I missed the rising of June’s full moon. But that won’t stop me from writing about it, or from gazing up into the night sky every chance I get.

One of the best things about the June moon is that it welcomes the arrival of warm weather. It is the Rose Moon, the Lotus Moon, the Green Corn Moon and the Planting Moon. But those aren’t its only names. My favorite names are the two that make my mouthwater and bring back memories of my recent trip to the Great Smokey Mountains.

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It is the Moon when June Berries are Ripe and the Strawberry Moon. Yum!

The black bear looks up at the sky. The moon is full and it shines brightly through the trees and onto the entrance of her den. She nudges brown and rust leaves from the forest floor until the opening is hidden, then pauses to listen to the steady breathing of her two cubs. Confident in their safety, she turns away to begin her nightly foraging.

Leaves rustle and twigs snap under her paws as she lumbers through the woods to the rotten stump. This is her routine. She uses her claws to tear away the soft wood, then digs her nose into the moist pulp to slurp up the insects before they can scatter to safety. Satisfied she makes her way toward the edge of the forest, snacking on bits of vegetation as she travels. The wind blows, carrying a sweet scent to her nostrils.  Her mouth waters and she breaks from her usual foraging pattern, drawn to the aroma of berries.

But she is tense. This is farther than she usually ventures from her den. She listens for a cry from her cubs, as she allows the sweet, scent to draw her forward.

She steps into the field. Along the edge of the woods are prickly bushes IMG_5213covered with berries, but they haven’t ripened. She looks down. Wild, red strawberries surround her feet. She settles onto her haunches to nibble at the feast, her black fur glistening in the moonlight as the sweet juices run down the back of her throat.

As she stretches her nose to the ground to fill it with another mouthful of the sweet fruit, a whimpering cry reaches her ears. The berries forgotten, she crashes through the brush toward the cries of her cubs.

Outside her den, something moves in the shadows. With a roar, she rises to her hind legs. A raccoon dashes away, disappearing into the night. The bear drops back down on all fours and slips into her undisturbed den. She curls up around her cubs and they snuggle into her fur and begin to nurse. She closes her eyes, content to rest with her young. She will wait for the early morning light, when the sun once again takes over the sky to bring her cubs to the edge of the forest. Together they will enjoy the luscious berries.

I sometimes wonder why I’m drawIMG_5018n to the moon and the night sky. I think it’s because when I gaze into it, I see infinite space. A space not so different from the blank page on my laptop. As my imagination fills the emptiness, my fingers move across the keyboard and soon a story appears.

IMG_4376 IMG_4402Just like the pages of a book, every shining star is a far-away world waiting to be experienced.

What does your night sky represent?

Teri Lee is the author of Troubled Spirits, a YA paranormal novel.

May’s Moon – a ‘Hare’ raising Tale.

Tonight is the night of the full moon of May. Some may call it the Full Flower Moon, named for the abundance of spring flowers that dance in the light of the moon as we sleep,

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or the Full Planting Moon, a signal to begin tucking tiny seeds into their beds of soil. It is also the Full Milk Moon, in celebration of the happy cows that have been moved into the pasture to graze on lush green grass.

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I love each of these names for the May moon, just because I love spring. But my favorite name for this moon is its English Medieval name—the Full Hare Moon.

The moon and hare have a long history together. The Egyptians believed the hare to be a messenger to the female moon goddess. And to the pagans, a moon-gazing hare is a sign of fertility, growth and new-beginnings. But these tales of the moon and the hare are not what draws me to this Full Hare Moon of May.

The hare raises her nose and sniffs the warming night time air. Her long ears swivel as she listens to the sounds of night—the sleepy chirps of birds as they settle into their nests, the song of a cricket from the nearby woods, and someplace in the distance a wolf howls. Feeling exposed under the bright light of the full moon she hops cautiously into the field.

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Spring has taken a solid hold on her meadow and the tender green grass is so sweet that she soon forgets her caution. Only a few hours ago, she’d raced through this same meadow as she’d tested her mate’s speed. It was in this very spot that she’d slowed, then rose onto her hind legs and boxed him in the face. She was pleased that he did not turn away, instead he resumed the chase as she dashed away from him once more. She felt satisfied that she’d chosen a good mate.

A shadow moved over her. With a squeal, she pushed off with her strong hind legs. She felt the owl’s talons brush her tail as she raced across the meadow. She darted left, then right.

She could see the trees now. How had she wandered so far away from them?

The shadow glided across the field—closer, closer… The whoosh of wings filled her ears and she felt the rush of air against her fur. But the sharp talons closed on empty air.

With one final leap, she reached the woods and ducked into the shelter of a large rhododendron. She flattened her ears as the owl’s screech filled the night air. Safe in her shelter, the hare looked up through the leaves at the moon. She thanked the bright moon for its shadowy warning that had changed her fate.

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As I gaze up at the moon tonight, I will look for the hare on the moon. The Egyptians, Chinese, and Native Americans all have legends as to how that hare came to live on the moon. But for me, that hare is a reminder to pay attention to the world around me and to enjoy this life.

This is a shot I took of last night’s moon. The moon was still low in the sky and the reflections ohare moonf light in the atmosphere gave it this beautiful orange glow. Try to ignore my substandard drawing skills, but I traced out the two images of the hare on the moon for you.

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Teri Lee is the author of Troubled Spirits, a YA paranormal novel

Welcome Spring

It might not feel like it to some of my northern friends, but winter is officially over and spring has begun!  I love this time of year, when fresh green leaves burst from their buds and flowering blooms erupt in a kaleidoscope of color.

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On April 4th when the spring moon rises, it will be a blood moon—a total lunar eclipse. As the moon passes through the earth’s dark shadow, it will turn a rusty or red color. But don’t blink, because this eclipse will be over in a five short minutes. Here on the East coast (EDT) I’ll be checking the night sky at 2:01 AM on Saturday morning. Click here to find out the best time to catch sight of the blood moon in your area.

Photo Credit - Kevin Lyons
Photo Credit – Kevin Lyons

Like all moons, April’s full moon has many names.The most common is the Spring Moon, for obvious reasons. To the Abenaki it is the Sugar Moon (now my mouth is watering for some real maple syrup).

 

 

Along with other flowery names, it is also known as the Pink moon, named for the pink flox that burst into bloom in early spring.

But it’s most common name among Native Americans has to do with geese. It is the Moon When Geese Lay Their Eggs, the Gray Goose Moon, and Moon when Geese Return in Scattered Formation. If you’ve stumbled upon my #PhotographyJourney on Instagram, Facebook or my website, then you have already guessed these are my favorites.

 

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The goose thrusts his feet forward and spreads his wings, pulling them back to slow his descent. Water splashes up around him, sending rippling waves across the surface of the lake. There is another splash beside him as his mate lands.

 

 

Together they glide across the lake toward the tall green grass growing along a small island in the center of the lake. This has been their nesting site for the past three years and he is anxious to claim it once again.water grass

The sun has disappeared behind the trees as they step onto the island, shake the water from their tail feathers and waddle up the embankment. A crow caws from a nearby tree, breaking the stillness of the evening, then flies off leaving them alone on their island.

Despite the rapidly darkening sky, his mate begins gathering twigs and grass to start the nest. The gander returns to the water, dipping his head beneath the surface to nibble on the tender water plants. He spots movement at the edge of the water and glides over to investigate. A raccoon looks up. Their eyes meet and the gander circles away, moving silently through the water. He waits until the raccoon is gone before he turns back to the island. Although his mate has yet to lay her eggs he is not willing to risk exposing the location of the nest.

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The light of the full moon shimmers on the now smooth lake surface as he settles in beside her. He tucks his beak beneath his wing. Tomorrow they will finish the nest. He closes his eyes and drifts off to sleep dreaming of the fluffy yellow and gray goslings that will soon trail behind him as he sails across the lake.

I’ll be working in the ER during this full moon, but I’ll sneak outside to soak up a bit of the Moon when Geese Lay Their Eggs so that I can absorb a refreshing burst of spring inspiration while I continue my work on the sequel to Troubled Spirits.

 

Photo Credit - Allen Moscowitz
Photo Credit – Allen Moscowitz

Don’t miss this full moon and if you manage to snap a shot of the blood moon, please share in the comment section below. I’d love to see it!