Ancient Majesty

I awake to the sound of a light rain. I feel rested–recovered from my trek across the US. And now my mind moves on to the reason I made that journey.  There are so many things here in California that I want to experience.

Is there a reason I can’t start now?

  • Grocery shopping-done
  • Car unpacked-done
  • Pre assignment checklist – done

I grab Rocky, my camera and a bag of snacks and I’m off to do something I’ve always wanted to do….stand beneath the branches of a giant Sequoia.

As I following the winding road to elevations of over 6000 feet, I stop to admire the beauty of this mountain terrain. And I’m glad that I left my winter coat in the trunk, because as the elevation increases, the temperature drops.IMG_7913

I watch for the ancient trees, expecting to see their branches reaching for the clouds around each corner. But all I see are low growing trees, green grasses and several dead evergreens, their green pine needles turned to rust.IMG_7918

The trees grow denser and I reach the gate to Kings Canyon National Park. (Here’s where I’m once again thankful for the investment in a National Park Pass)IMG_7909

Large patches of snow cover the ground beneath the trees. Warnings of ice on the road slow my pace. I glimpse red trunks ahead. And then I see it. I arrive at the Grant Village Visitor Center and I’m feeling a little disappointed. Yes, I’ve seen some large trees, but nothing none larger than the trees I’d seen at Congaree National Park in South Carolina.

 

After a visit with the park ranger, I’m encouraged that the great trees do indeed exist and I continue along the winding road. And there it is! My first giant Sequoia. It’s not the largest – The Grant Tree- but it is here, unfenced, just off the road waiting for me. This tree has stood for ages. It has seen not only the history of this country, but the hundreds of years before. Could a wooly mammoth have passed beneath its branches? I cant’ really find the words to describe how it felt to stand in the presence of this majestic tree.IMG_7941

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Beneath the surface a seed awakens.

Roots wind their way deep into the rich soil.

A tender sprout bursts through the surface.

Thin shoots of green unfold from atop a reddish stem stretching toward the warming rays of sunshine.

A soft nose brushes against the tips of the leaves. Teeth tear nearby grass from the earth.  A shadow moves across the ground and slender legs glide past, and then the warmth of the sun once again falls on the struggling sprout.

The sun rises.

The sun sets.

Days fade into weeks.

The red stem thickens.

Thin green leaves branch outward.

The sun grows hot and cracks form in the dry earth.

The green leaves droop.

A single drop of rain falls. And then another. And another….

The earth’s thirst is quenched and the roots draw in the needed moisture.

Months fade into years.

The tender sapling has grown into a tree.

Birds nest in its branches.

Men seek shelter beneath its great canopy.

Decades fade to centuries.

Branches disappear into the clouds and what was once a tiny stem is now a majestic trunk that stretches twenty five feet across.

More men arrive. They carry saws and axes. Neighboring trees crash to the ground.

A century passes.

Fire burns through the forest, leaving a deep scar on the great tree. But it does not fall. It does not die.

Decades pass.

The ancient tree stands proud

A woman stands within the scar. Her hands press against the trunk. She closes her eyes and allows the majesty of this ageless tree to surround her.

She opens her eyes and gazes up into the branches breathing deeply of the mountain air.

She watches as a cone tumbles to the ground.

Unseen a seed slips from its shelter within the cone and nestles into the rich soil.

Beneath the earth, the seed sleeps.IMG_7928

 

 

Treasure of The Beehive – Acadia National Park

I’ve been practicing a new skill. I’m learning to reach out to the world around me and embrace it. Which is why, after working the overnight shift in the ER, I wasn’t napping as I waited for my friend to join me at Acadia National Park.

The sound of the crashing surf drew me down the stairs to Sand Beach. My face tingled in the moist salty air and I breathed deeply feeling the ocean energy flow through me, chasing away the last vestiges of sleep.

Sand Beach - Acadia National ParkThe sea glowed a mystical green as she sent her waves rolling toward me. I stood for several minutes and watched them swell, rising to a crest that, for a moment, opened a window to the world beneath the surface before transforming into a bubbly white foam as the water crashed against the golden sand and rushed back to the sea. It would be easy to spend my day here, but instead I forced myself to turn away. Today is not about the sand and sea. It is about challenging my muscles as my hands grip the rockyBeehive Mountain - Acadia National Park surface and my legs carry me forward and up. I turn my back to the sea and join my friend, together we begin the first phase of today’s journey—The Beehive.

Beehive Mountain TrailheadI step along the strategically placed rocks that form the beginning of the trail.
The sun filters through the aspen and maple that stretch toward the sky on either side of me. I can’t help but reach out and runmy fingers along their trunks as I pass.Beehive Mountain TrailAfter a few minutes of easy climbing, we reach a marker. Despite the yellow sign warning of narrow ledges and steep climbs, I veer away from the easy route that skirts The Bowl to ascend the backside of The Beehive and set my feet on the path to ascend the face of the mountain.IMG_9317

Here the trail turned into a combination of scrabbling over boulders and making our way along the narrow ledges.Beehive Mountain Trail As I hugged the rock wall to work my way around a sharp bend in the ledge, my friend spoke behind me.

Beehive Mountain Trail

“I don’t think I can do this.”

And this is where I learned something new about my friend. I learned that she (along with about 5% of the general population) suffered from Acrophobia—the fear of heights.  While I was taking in the view and enjoying the climb, her terror had silenced her. That silence hadn’t been a signal to me, because when we’ve hiked in the past, we’d often walked side-by-side along the trail, breathing in the fresh air and listening to the sounds of the forest.Beehive Mountain Trail

Beehive Mountain Trail

I heard the tremble in her voice and I turned. Her face was flushed red and her hand shook as she clutched the rock wall. I looked down, we really weren’t very far
along and we could turn back. I looked up at the ledges, rungs and rock scrambles ahead of us and did what any good friend would do. I encouraged her on. I talked non-stop about how beautiful it will be when we get to the top. I coached her around tight ledges and coaxed her up ladder rungs, until finally we reached the top.

Below me, the mystical green sea had transformed into a sparkling ocean of blue diamonds. The beach that I’d stood on that morning was only a strip of golden sand. I paused and watched the waves crash against the shore.Beehive Mountain Summit

After soaking up the sun on the rocky summit of the Beehive, it was time to continue our trek. Stubby pines and bushes covered with dark blue berries bordered the trail. I held one of the berries in my hand. It looked like a blueberry, but I’d never seen one so dark.

There’s a comradery among hikers, even day hikers—an opportunity for brief encounters among strangers connected by their appreciation of the natural world. And it was through this connection that I learned that the dark berry in my hand was a huckleberry. Curious, I popped it into my mouth.Huckleberries

I don’t like huckleberries.

The Bowl is a serene body of water nestled at the base of the surrounding peaks. Pale purple aster grows along the banks and tiny fish dart about beneath the surface. It’s a peaceful place and I could have spent the rest of the afternoon there.The Bowl at Acadia National ParkIMG_9385But my goal was to reach the summit of Champlain Mountain, so I turned away from the water onto what I, at that time, believed was the trail.

A red squirrel chattered and scolded me as it raced up and down the trees along the trail. I realize now, that he was warning me that I was off track.IMG_9386 But I pressed on. Before long the ‘trail’ tapered off and disappeared. I backtracked, looking for a blue blaze, then gave up all together and tromped onward to what I at that time believed was Champlain Mountain, puzzled as to why I couldn’t find the trail.

It was a fun hike, scrambling up the occasional boulder, weaving around huckleberry bushes and enjoying the artwork of nature on uprooted tree stumps faded gray but the wind and sun. IMG_9391When I reached the top, I did what I should have done as soon as I lost the blue blazes. I took out my map.

As I looked across at The Beehive, then down to The Bowl and realized I’d gone right when I should have gone left. I led the way back down the mystery mountain, past the screeching squirrel to the water’s edge, then onto the clearly marked trail to Champlain Mountain.

I walked along the double-plank trail alongside the water, enjoying the shade from the maple, pine and aspen that towered over me.IMG_9395Before long, my friend and I left the flat ground and began our ascent up and over rocky boulders. To the delight of my good friend, there were no ledges here. Scattered stubby pines, huckleberry bushes along with the occasional low growing blueberry bush dotted the landscape.

IMG_9389A tiny maple, that somehow managed to root in the rocky terrain put on an early fall display of red-orange leaves. In the sky above, three vultures circled. IMG_9402We crossed a long flat stone clearing where cairns led us on toward the peak.

The sun was highChamplain Mountain Summit - acadia national park in the sky when we reached the summit.

I looked out at the five Porcupine Islands and realized once again, I wanted more time in this beautiful place. I could spend a year here and still not experience the full splendor of Acadia National Park.

The comradery of hiker’s failed me when I tried to convince my friend to take the Precipice Trail down and follow the road back to the parking area. Without fail, every one of them advised against using this as a downhill route! So we followed the guidance of those who’d experienced the trail and made our way back along the now familiar trail to the trailhead.

Although my friend had to return home, she followed me to the Blackwoods Campground. I said my goodbye, then set up my tent. I always feel a little giddy when I manage to get my campfire going, so I settled onto the ground to watch the fire, mesmerized by the flames as my burger sizzled on the tinfoil covering the grate.Blackwoods Campground - Acadia National Park

With my belly full, I dug my laptop out of my car and leaned back against the trunk of a tree and worked on Whispering Spirits, the sequel to Troubled Spirits. After all, what better place to work on a ghost story set in the Maine woods!

As always, I slept soundly in my little tent.

The next day, a steady rain foiled my plan to capture the sunrise from the top of Cadillac Mountain, but still I enjoyed my day. I didn’t attempt to start a fire in the rain. Jeannie's Great Maine BreakfastIMG_9563
IMG_9539 IMG_9472 IMG_9465

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.

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.

daffodil1IMG_0149IMG_0533

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.

 

goose pair

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.

goose solo

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!

 

 

 

Goodbye Winter Moon

This year’s micro-moon will rise into the night sky on March 5th. Because of its current distance from the earth it is the smallest moon of the year, but for me it represents something big—something exciting—the end of winter!

Photo Credit: Jackie Tiner
Photo Credit: Jackie Tiner

Many of the March moon monikers symbolize this welcome transition of the seasons. After months of the bright winter sun reflecting off the snow, some Native Americans call this The Moon When Eyes are Sore from the Bright Snow. And as the snow melts in the warming daytime temperatures only to freeze again at night, a thick crust forms on the snow, providing inspiration for another name–the Full Crust Moon.

Photo Credit: Lyons Den Photography
Photo Credit: Lyons Den Photography

Soon the winds will dry the melting snow, which is why the Celts call it the Moon of Winds.

As always, I have a favorite name for this month’s moon. It is the Full Crow Moon.

Photo credit: Jodi Tiner (Access Photography)
Photo credit: Jodi Tiner (Access Photography)

The winter wind ruffles the crow’s black feathers as he soars just above the bare branches of the sleeping trees, their roots tucked safely away beneath the long winter’s snow.

sunset (2) The  western sky is ablaze with the colors of the setting sun. As the the crow turns eastward he is greeted by the moon.

Impatient for darkness it shines before him in the blue sky.

The crow circles once, then alights at the top of a towering pine. He caws, disturbing the evening stillness as he welcomes the last moon of winter.

He too is impatient. He is ready for the melting of the snow and the softening of the earth which will bring the worms to the surface.  He is ready for the trees to once again be filled with fresh green leaves, teeming with insects. He is ready to soak upearlymoon1 the warmth of the sun.

When I look up at the Full Crow Moon, I too will say goodbye to winter. Although I’ll  pass on the teeming insects, like the crow, I crave the warmth of the sun, trees filled with fresh green leaves, and the emergence of colorful spring flowers. I can hardly wait to soak in their beauty!  What’s your favorite part of spring?

spring

Finding Inspirtation

I originally wrote this blog as a guest post for Sapphyria’s Book Review. You can see the original post here.

Are you a runner? Illustrator? Gardener? Jewelry maker? Or are you a writer, like me? Whatever it is, finding something to inspire you is essential to success. Your inspiration can come from anywhere.  For the runner it may be passing the woman in the pink shirt. The illustrator may spot a tree, which looks like a fish. The gardener may find inspiration in jewelry and the jeweler in the garden

As a writer, my inspiration sometimes comes from the familiar. My first story was inspired by my childhood adventures.  But Troubled Spirits was inspired by something unfamiliar—ghost hunting.book cover

A group of my ER co-workers were planning an excursion into one of the older hospital buildings and they invited me to join them. My brain formulated the word no, but what I heard my mouth saying was yes. And in that moment, a seed was planted. The seed which would grow into Troubled Spirits.  What if a group of teenagers decided to try their hand at ghost hunting? But what if the ghost didn’t want to be hunted?

Although the hospital shot down any possibility of a ghostly excursion into any of their buildings, our little group huddled together in an empty ER room with a spirit box. Not only was that an experience I’ll never forget, it was the inspiration for the scene in the school cafeteria when Logan’s spirit box….

I decided to set Troubled Spirits in a haunted school instead of a hospital. And then another ‘what if?’ popped into my head. What if there was an actual haunted school in Maine?  I scoured the internet and discovered there was one Maine school rumored to be haunted:

“According to legend back in the 1950’s 5 young high school boys were murdered mysteriously at the school. No one knows who did it. Ever since late at night when you’re walking the track behind the school you’ll see glimpses of lights going on and off and hear strange noises if your near the school even feel like you’re being watched. There is also 2 graveyards near the school which also have many hauntings. Like the old man in the graveyard path whom is dark tall you speak to him and he just stares at you then vanishes into thin air.”
Source: http://www.theshadowlands.net

I went back to the internet in search of details, but all I found was this same paragraph on various websites. So I decided to take action. Along with a friend, I jumped into my car and made the two hour trip to investigate in person. We visited the “haunted” school. We visited the library. I searched through books about the town history. Finally, I spoke with the librarian. Yes, he’d heard of the rumors, but assured me they were just that—rumors. But I wasn’t done with my investigation. We visited every cemetery we could find, searching for the gravestones of teenaged boys who died in the 50’s. There were none. Not one!

Although I was disappointed that I hadn’t proven the rumor to be true, I’d gathered up bunches of inspiration along the way. I now had a model (adapted slightly) for not only the Caldwell School, but also the library.  Because the town which inspired Shady Cove is a coastal town, many of the older gravestones belonged to captains. And these gravestones were the inspiration for the short story found within the pages of Troubled Spirits titled The Captain.

What I learned while writing Troubled Spirits is that inspiration can come from any place. Sometimes it comes when you’re not looking and sometimes you need to go looking for it. So be ready. The inspiration for your success might be right in front of you, or waiting for you around the next corner.  I’d love to hear about what inspires you!

The Moon of the Raccoon

The waxing moon is growing larger each night and on the 3rd, February’s full moon will illuminate the sky. Most know this moon as the Snow Moon, a fitting name considering the blizzard that buried the northeastern United States last week. It has other names also inspired by the bitter cold of winter—to the Celts it is the Moon of Ice and to Native Americans it is The Moon When Trees Pop, the Hunger Moon, and the Little Famine Moon. But my favorite name for this moon is one that has nothing to do with the winter chill. It is the Moon of the Raccoon.

As darkness settles over the forest, the raccoon emerges from the warmth of his winter den. He pauses in the shadows as the wolf slinks toward the man-village in hopes of another easy meal. The raccoon is hungry, but it is not the hunt for food that has drawn him from his den. A call much stronger than hunger brings him into this cold, still night.

He waiRaccoon Moonts until the muted sound of the wolf padding through the snow disappears and then slips from the shelter of darkness to begin his search. The full moon fills the sky, casting its light through the bare branches. A sharp pop shatters the stillness and the raccoon pauses once again. But it is only the sound of freezing sap bursting from the branch of a nearby tree.

He has ventured beyond the boundaries of his usual territory when the wind shifts and he recognizes her scent, but there is another scent and it is closer. With a hiss, he turns to face his challenger and then attacks. Growls and screams fill the night air as the two raccoon boars fight for the female.

Defeated, his contender disappears into the night and the conqueror croons into the darkness. Soon the forest will be filled with new calls.raccoon moon2

The Moon of the Raccoon is a reminder that nature has begun its preparation for spring. There is hope. The snow will melt. The ground will thaw. And new life will emerge.

Giveaway

the-kissing-hand

During my search for images to use for this blog, I stumbled across the cover of Audrey Penn’s The Kissing Hand. In this heartwarming story, Chester Raccoon doesn’t want to go to school. He wants to stay home with his mom. To help ease his fears, Mrs. Raccoon shares a secret with him—the secret of the kissing hand.

I couldn’t resist picking up a copy, well two copies actually. One for my two granddaughters and one or you!  I’ll be giving away a copy of Audrey Penn’s The Kissing Hand to one lucky winner. You can enter using the rafflecopter link below or commenting on this post. This giveaway will close on Valentine’s Day.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Congratulations Brantley S.