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A Much Needed Walk in the Rain 1

A Much Needed Walk in the Rain

Yesterday I did something I’ve never done before — I attended the Connecticut Cactus and Succulent Society Annual Show and Sale. It’s the society’s 37th year of running the show/sale — who knew?

Apparently many, many people. When my friend and I made plans to attend, we decided leaving at 8:55am would give us plenty of time to get Bristol before the doors opened at 10:00am. The Society promised a free plant to the first 50 families each day and we felt confident we would be one of the first in line.

We arrived shortly after 10am to a parking lot jam-packed with cars. A line of people spilled out the doors of the Bristol Senior Center. People exited the doors with plants already in their hands or clustered in a box.

Turns out we had NO IDEA what we were getting into. I expected maybe 10 people would be there and maybe a few tables with plants.

WRONG.

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Wall-to-wall plants and so many people that I ended up trapped in a corner at one point and couldn’t get out for over three minutes. Thank goodness almost everyone was wearing a mask! I haven’t been in a crowd like that since before the pandemic. Add that to my high levels of introversion and I was ready to go 1.5 hours later.

Thankfully, I had Annie waiting for me when I got back to Norfolk since I’m taking care of her for the week. We played multiple rounds of fetch.

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Taken from earlier in the week; yesterday was too soggy to take a photo.

I learned the secret to fetch with Annie is to always have 2 or more balls ready to throw. I also learned that when Annie gets tired of running, she trots towards the woods with her ball and buries it in the leaves only to dig it up and bury again.

After about two hours of playing (and resting), I left Annie home while I went to the Norfolk Library to attend a Celebration of Ukrainian Song and Dance. It was again a large crowd and the dance company had 14 dancers total. All the dances were lively with clapping, stomping, twirling, and jumping.

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I enjoyed myself; however, by the end of the hour I again felt all my energy had drained. Thank goodness (also again) that I had Annie waiting for me at home. The rain had finally stopped and we headed out for a walk.

The Barbour Woods served as the perfect antidote to the crowds, noise, and overwhelm from earlier in the day. I didn’t even mind when a gentle rain fell from the sky. On the contrary, I lifted my head to the tree tops and let the drops splash my face. I felt refreshed and renewed.

When the rain stopped a few minutes later I whispered, “Come back.”

The rain didn’t come back, but Annie and I kept walking. Quietness surrounded me, except for the sloshing of my boots through the mud and leaves. With every step I took, I became more at ease until finally a sense of peace and joy had replaced the overwhelm from earlier.

Being with Annie in the woods was exactly what I needed it to be.

If you remember from earlier this year, I had a walk with Annie on a very cold winter’s day that I pronounced “the most invigorating thing I’ve done this year.” I was going to use that walk as benchmark for all other notable events this year. That walk still remains my most invigorating moment, followed by the walks I took in the aftermath of the ice storm. This walk also makes the list for the way it rejuvenated my spirit after such a draining day.

Thank goodness for walks. And woods. And dogs.

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Annie wouldn’t cooperate for a photo on our rejuvenating walk.

 

A Different Kind of Tired 8

A Different Kind of Tired

I have re-discovered a new form of exhaustion! The good news is that this re-discovery means I’m sleeping well enough to notice. The bad news is that, well, I’m exhausted. I’m calling it bone-weary tired because it’s not just mental. This tiredness has seeped into my infrastructure. It comes with the territory of being a housesitter.

After fifteen consecutive months in the same housesit (phooey to you, covid), the owners finally made it home from being abroad. Fifteen months is a long time to housesit, and the effort and diligence of packing up, moving out, and making sure the house was ready to welcome their family home took several days of nonstop work. Up early. Late to bed. Oh, and also work at the library in the meantime.

Did I mention the ice storm? Yes, because there was also an ice storm that hit Norfolk on Friday, February 4. The storm itself was nothing special. Except a few tree limbs hung so low in the driveway that for three days, I couldn’t drive it.

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Packing your car is not easy when you have to walk approximately an eighth of a mile one way on solid ice. Nevertheless, I did it. It helped to have the best form of motivation — mother nature in all her icy glory!

In the days following the ice storm, Norfolk turned into a sparkling ice palace thanks to the thick coating of ice everywhere and the brilliant blue skies and sunshine. I’ve never been so happy being so exhausted.

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As I walked up and down the driveway over and over, I marveled at the wonder around me.

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I also had my buddy Fergus as a companion, but I’m not sure he appreciated the splendor as much as I did. He likes to run, sniff, and be as cute as possible.

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So even though I’m bone-weary tired, I got to spend a lot of time outside enjoying myself. I also chuckled to myself more than once to be careful what you wish for. As you may recall, in my last blog post I was craving functional fitness. I certainly got it this past week, and then some.

I’m also keeping track this year of invigorating experiences since I had one early on. The standings so far:

Most Invigorating: My walk with Annie dog in the woods on January 11

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Runner Up: Packing up my car after an ice storm, February 5-6.

Starting on Thursday, I have five days of vacation. They cannot get here soon enough. My bones and brain need it. And the best part — I’ll be with my buddy Fergus the entire time.

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Festive Holiday Fun (and Fergus!) 19

Festive Holiday Fun (and Fergus!)

Yesterday I made a Christmas wreath at the Great Mountain Forest’s wreath-making event. To my pleasant surprise, my wreath did not end up looking like a whale, as most of my art projects do.

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My friend Shelley made the mermaid on the right. See my whale on the left.

In fact, what I made looks down right like a proper wreath — luscious greens of fir, pine, spruce, and mount laurel, berries, and some other plants I can’t remember right now.

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THIS IS NOT MY WREATH! THESE ARE JUST THE LUSCIOUS GREENS.

I attended the morning session with a friend. Our plan was to get there an hour early and go for a quick hike before the 9:00am start time. Our part of the plan was a success; we did indeed get there early. The hiking part was thwarted because the trail we planned to hike was closed for hunting. Big signs said KEEP OUT, so we did. GMF commended us for that decision because if we had been shot, they could have also sued us.

Instead, we walked down the road, petted some horses, kept on going, and about half an hour later turned around and hiked back up the road. The return hike kicked my butt as we had to walk up approximately five hills (give or take a hill).

Once the wreath making got going, I found myself delighted with picking my greens, twisting the wire around the metal rim, and making sure the materials fanned out the way I wanted. I couldn’t believe how easy it was.

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Bonus: the barn smelled like a fragrant pine forest.

Here is my finished wreath:

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Here are some of the other wreaths from that day:

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I can’t wait for next year!

The only downside to wreath making was that I couldn’t bring Fergus (yes, I asked). I’ve been taking care of him for these last two weeks. I’ve probably taken hundreds of pictures and created several Canva graphics. This is my favorite one:

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Although now that I think about it, I created this graphic, too, and it also doesn’t look like a whale. How exciting! Maybe my whale period is over. Time shall truly tell….

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My purple whale in the back; turtles made by elementary school students I was tutoring.

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Beary Good!

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers out there!

I’m especially grateful to the mama bear of this baby bear!

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You can watch a short video of this baby bear snacking on clovers and dandelions here.

Thank you, mama bear, for choosing our yard! And special thanks for not being grumpy at me when I finally got out of my car and ran to the front door.

At least, I think she wasn’t grumpy at me. I don’t know as I never actually saw her! Talk about a suspenseful moment of my life. After watching the baby bear for several minutes – my stomach complaining loudly the entire time that I needed to get inside and start working on my dinner – I pulled in as close to the front door as possible, put Heath on videophone just in case, and then ran to the front door and unlocked it faster than a bear licking a pot of honey.

It’s funny to think that just a few years ago my “Norfolk Bear Story,” was that I’d never seen a bear in Norfolk. It felt like everyone else had some sort of bear story. Bears showing up in their yards. Bears splashing in their ponds. Bears crossing their paths in the woods. Bears going through their garbage.

I didn’t think I was EVER going to see a bear like that, and, in fact, the first time I did see a bear in the wild it was at the Grand Tetons National Park in Wyoming in the summer of 2018. The experience wasn’t as magical as I hoped, since we saw signs warning park guests that bears were out and about, and then park rangers stood on the side of the roads controlling the crowd of onlookers. It totally lacked the wonder and awe that I crave during those sorts of natural encounters.

But here we are in May 2021 and now my Norfolk Bear Story is, “I’VE SEEN SO MANY BEARS.”

Here’s a bear outside my bedroom window!

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Here’s a bear crossing in front of me while out for a walk!

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Here’s a bear looking at me as I snap their picture from the safety of my car!

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And, of course, the baby bear in the yard!

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When I first encountered the baby bear, I called Heath on video phone so he could see the baby bear, too. He really couldn’t see it from where I was in the car. So I took plenty of video and pictures to share with him later.

Heath, who has SO MANY MORE wildlife stories than I do thanks to his job at Great Mountain Forest, shared these photos with me a few days later.

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I CAN’T BELIEVE I MISSED IT!

I have since asked Heath TO STOP HAVING WILDLIFE ENCOUNTERS WITHOUT ME!

I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of bear encounters. I always feel like the luckiest person in the world when a bear graces me with their presence. It makes me wonder what else is waiting for me in my future? And it serves as a good reminder that just because something you want isn’t happening right now doesn’t mean it never will.

The best part? When it finally does happen, it may even be better than your wildest dreams!

When You Have Nothing to Say, There's Always Mushrooms 37

When You Have Nothing to Say, There’s Always Mushrooms

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This is how I’ve been feeling lately.

It’s been two months since my Dad and then Smudge died.

The days are getting shorter, which screws with my narcolepsy almost as badly as jet lag.

I’m also now working 8am-1pm at the library Monday-Friday, which I love, but keeping these hours is also challenging my sleep-wake cycle.

All to say, I don’t really have much to say right now. So instead, I will regale you with some mushrooms from my recent walks in the woods with Annie.

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Being with Annie in the woods is a health tonic unlike any other. She truly is a divine being living a canine existence, and I’m so grateful every chance I get to be out in the woods with her.

I usually get to walk her twice a week and we always hit the Barbour Woods. I’ve never noticed the mushrooms until now. I think I’ve been missing out.

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I also posted some of these pictures on Facebook. Here’s what one of my friends said:

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I guess I am old. Or at least I’m getting there. If I live as long as my Dad, God and Kelly willing, then that gives me a solid more 30 years to take more pictures of rocks and trees (and dogs, of course). Sounds like a wonderful way to spend time.

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Enjoy these beautiful fall days and please be gentle with yourselves during this time of seasonal transition. If you ever start feeling that something’s not right, it could very well be the change in daylight. Just know you’re not alone.

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Smudge Love

One month ago today, the world lost Smudge.

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This loss came four days after my dad succumbed to complications of Guillain-Barré syndrome.

July was a tough month for me.

In some ways, losing Smudge is more difficult than losing my dad. With my dad, I had a few weeks to prepare. I saw him suffer – first in the hospital and then at home in hospice care. Even with the hourly morphine he lived in pain. Nobody should have to live or die like that. I’m grateful he’s now at peace.

With Smudge, I had no preparation. I received a message on my phone that Smudge had been taken to the vet that morning. The vet recommended he be put down as soon as possible because tumors had infiltrated several organs.

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I remember sobbing words like, NO, and it’s too much. I remember the weight of the news literally knocking me to the floor. I pushed a button on my phone and talked to Smudge’s human brother. He held his phone out so I could see Smudge at the vet. It was through video messenger that I said goodbye to him.  I told him he was so handsome. That he was the best good dog ever. That I loved him. Then I hung up because I was afraid my sobbing through the video was causing more stress to Smudge than he needed.

I will never be able to thank Smudge’s human brother enough for calling me. For giving me a chance to say goodbye.

One of my biggest regrets is that I didn’t see Smudge before I left for Pennsylvania when my dad took a turn for the worse. I stopped to see my friends Cecily and Dodger on my way out of town. I didn’t know how long I’d be gone, and I thought if I didn’t see them, I would regret it.

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Dodger of Cecily & Dodger

The world can be cruel that way.

It didn’t occur to me to stop and see Smudge and Faith. I knew Faith might not be here when I got back. The vet found a tumor on her liver in January. Every extra moment I’ve had with her has been a gift. I already said goodbye to her, just in case, when our housesitting gig with them ended in June. I whispered in her ear all the things I love about her. I told her how much I loved taking care of her.

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But Smudge … the last time I saw him he danced around the yard, splashing in the pond, and wagging his tail at the speed of light. I thought Smudge might actually live forever. Or at least to 16 or 18 years old.

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The last time I said goodbye to Smudge it was more of a see you later. I fully expected to have more time with him. I would sit on the rock in the pond and we would be together. I would nuzzle his head and rub his ears. Then, I would kiss his forehead and say see you later. We would then repeat this togetherness for months or years to come.

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I could not have been more wrong.

This pain and regret will be with me for months, if not years, to come. Much like the time I thought I had with Smudge.

The thing is, it’s totally worth it. Because I got to love Smudge for almost four years. I wouldn’t trade that time and those experiences for anything.

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Good-bye, Smudge! I’ll see you later.

 

Celebrating Mother’s Day 2020

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I’m at a loss today for what to say to all the people celebrating Mother’s Day. As a writer, I feel compelled to make my sentiments witty and heartfelt, with a dash hilarity. Yet, I don’t have it in me today. I suspect part of it is quarantine fatigue. I miss seeing my friends and friends who are family.

I suspect it also may be because I’m just tired today. I’ve had a few especially long and emotional days in a row. On Wednesday at 4:50pm, I took Dodger to the vet and we found out he had an abscess that needed to be removed ASAP. I picked him up on Thursday morning at 8:00am and brought him back to the vet.

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On our way to the vet Thursday morning. You can tell he felt poopy.

Around 3:00pm I got a call that everything had gone well, but he was still quite loopy from the anesthetia. When I picked him up at 6:00pm, Dodger stumbled out with the vet tech. I opened the car door for him and before the tech could help him up, he tried to jump into the backseat of Cecily’s car. This feat would be no problem for regular Dodger. Dopey Dodger, however, belly flopped as the tech and I gasped in horror.

As Dodger recovers (he’s doing well, btw), he can’t be a free-range dog in Cecily’s yard and always needs to be on a leash. For the past three days, I’ve been getting to Cecily’s around 8:00am to take Dodger out and give him his medicine. It’s a break in routine and I even missed meditating this morning, only the fifth time in 2020 that I’ve missed my morning meditation practice.

Like a lot of other people, I haven’t been sleeping well anyway from the stress and uncertainty about what’s going to happen with the pandemic.

We’ve also had some really weird weather as of late, what with freezing cold temperatures and snow. It’s not often you see forsythias blooming and snow on the ground. Third Winter is definitely messing with my mind just a bit.

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Add in the typical sleep problems of a person with narcolepsy, and you’ve got yourself a tired person.

So words fail me on how to properly say thank you to all the Moms out there, and all the women and men who serve in some mom capacity.

The best I can do is represent my feelings in these cards I made this morning.

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I realized last week I haven’t done any just-for-fun creative endeavors since the pandemic started. Since I was too tired to write this morning, I got out my art supplies and set to work making some cards.*

If you can believe it, I painted those cards myself using a gel plate painting technique under the instruction of Norfolk artist Tom Hlas. Tom gave a gel plate painting workshop a few months ago (feels like years ago), and I ended up loving it! I also ended up with multiple gel plate paintings left over to use as I so desire for future projects.

The hearts on these cards aren’t perfect. They’re lopsided and uneven. They’re splattered, messy swirls of color that shine in some areas and fade in others. Yet, they are beautiful in their imperfections (at least I think so) and the whole of each card is greater than the sum of its parts.

Which I think pretty much sums up the way we love each other in any relationship that we have, including the relationships we have with our moms and mom-like figures.

Happy Mother’s Day, everyone!

*Shout out to Norfolk artist Leslie Watkins! Without her support, not only would I NOT have art supplies, I wouldn’t even know how to begin being creative with visual arts. You can watch her teach me how to make a card here.

Thinking about Death in the New Year

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Photo by Ray Hennessy on Unsplash

It’s that time of year again – when I think about what would happen if 2020 was my last year on Earth. Before you start worrying that I’m in a deep, dark place this holiday season, have no fear. I’ve been doing a death meditation for years now, as recommended by some of the most notable authors on how to live joyful lives.

This practice is one of the best ways I’ve found to make sure I’m doing what I want to be doing with my life. Because of my death meditations in recent years, Heath and I traveled across the US and Canada on an epic 11,500+ mile road trip, and I went to live among the polar bears in Churchill, Manitoba.

So, in looking towards the year ahead, I find myself reflecting on this past year to help guide me.

I didn’t have any grand adventures in 2019 and I felt disappointed by that. The unkind Kelly, the one who loves to beat herself up and make “big, fat judgments” about herself (a concept I learned from Julie Hedlund’s 12 Days of Christmas for Writers), likes to tell myself I am no longer interesting and, therefore, I don’t do interesting things.

The truth is I did less travelling, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t do anything interesting. This past year, I had an actual dream come true in Norfolk with the salvage shed opening up at the town transfer station (aka the dump). This project is more successful and going better than I could have ever imagined. This success is due in large part to two volunteers who stepped up, just when things were getting out of control with donations. God bless those volunteers because they have now become the lifeblood of our salvage shed.

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Before

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After

I also helped orchestrate Can’d Aid giving 75 bikes away to students at our local elementary school. The way that happened is I eavesdropped on a conversation about how Can’d Aid does bike builds throughout the country, butted myself in, and said, “Have you heard of Norfolk NET? Let me tell you about it!” NET is a grassroots organization I belong to that was created to alleviate poverty in Norfolk. Three months after that conversation, which coincidentally took place at the salvage shed, this happened:

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If you want to see a video of the big reveal of the bikes to the kids, you can watch it here.

When I think about 2020 being my last year on Earth, making these connections in the community are ways I would still want to spend my time. So expect more do-goodery from me in 2020 (Note. Do-goodery is a word I learned from Can’d Aid’s tagline: People Powered Do-Goodery).

My single best moment in 2019 happened fairly recently on December 8th. That was the Sunday the Norfolk Church of Christ, Congregational (UCC), formally blessed me as I started a part-time position working as their new Director of Community and Creativity. I stood in front of the church with the senior deacon and the pastor and then they led the congregation of maybe 100 people in the following prayer:

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I teared up about halfway through. The power of blessings from all these people as they prayed for me was overwhelming in the best way possible. When they were finished, I wiped away my tears (futile, because more kept coming) and told the congregation, “I’ve never been prayed over that way before. It’s really nice!”

Two other of my best moments in 2019 also happened in the Congregational Church, when I got to preach in both June and November. It still amazes me that anyone wants to listen to what I say, especially as someone who had students literally turn their backs on me when I would be lecturing during my research methods class.

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Thanks to Heath for taking this picture!

So if 2020 were my last year on Earth, I would still want to keep connecting with others through God.

Hmm. I think I’m noticing a theme about connections here….

This brings me to what I think is my biggest disappointment in 2019. It’s the same as 2018: I still haven’t sold any books. Last year, I set out that 2019 would be the year “I went all in.” I would try to conquer my fear of failure, which leads to self-doubt and wasting of my time.

I’m happy to report I did make progress on this goal. For example, I queried quite a bit and got several requests for more work or for full manuscripts. A few agents with fulls are still considering me as I write this. I also got a few personalized rejections, which suggests writing that is suitable for publication.

Most notably, I did, in fact, have an offer of representation from an agent whom I liked quite a bit in terms of their work ethic and enthusiasm for my work. At the end of the day, I didn’t think I was a good fit at this person’s agency, and I declined their offer. That was a big step for me, to believe in my work so much that I didn’t want to settle for anything less than the best fit for me.

Of course, the unkind Kelly has a lot to say about my biggest disappointment in 2019. Here’s how it goes in my mind: I’m so embarrassed I told everyone I’m going to be an author, and it hasn’t happened yet. What if it never happens? What if I’m on the wrong path? Do I really want to be an author for the “right reasons?” Is this really my life’s purpose?

For 2020, I’m letting go of my desire to be a published author. After 2019, I don’t actually think it’s my life’s purpose to write books per se. One of the biggest reasons I wanted to write was to connect with others; so they would read my words and stories and feel like they’re not alone. I’ve had those feelings of isolation many times in my life, and I found solace, friendship, and hope in the books I was reading. What I really want is to connect with others so they don’t feel alone. Building those connections – I think that may be my true life’s purpose. One of those ways to do that is through my writing. But, it’s not the only way. I’m still going to write. I’m still going to query. I’m still going to go all in and face my fears. I’m just not going to let it define me or the amount of joy I experience on any given day.

Going forward in 2020, I am prioritizing connections in my life. Connections with God, with myself, with Heath, with others, and, of course, with as many dogs* as I can find. May 2020 bring you joy and contentment.

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*All animals are welcome 🙂

 

Fox Through the Forest – Chapter 8

fox-through-the-forest

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

The next morning dawned bright and clear, but it wasn’t until mid-day that Malcolm roused himself from inside Ozzie’s napping tree.  He shook out every inch of his body, from the tip of his little black nose to the end of his scruffy tail.  Then he yawned, trying to remember where he was and what he was doing here.

“Good afternoon, Malcolm!” called Ozzie’s chipper voice.

Then it all came crashing back to Malcolm – berry night and playing in the waterfall with his new friends.  It had been much later than Malcolm was used to going to bed and he moved more like a turtle than a fox this morning.  His brain trudged on in the same way too and it was a few more moments before he remembered the most important point of all – Nana Owl was no longer on the Western edge of the forest.

“Good afternoon, Ozzie,” said Malcolm in a voice that was decidedly less chipper.  His mind was already whirring around and around with what to do about Nana Owl.  Should he stay or should he go?

“Late night?” Ozzie chuckled at his own joke.

“Something like that,” Malcolm said with barely a glance at Ozzie.

“Oh, come on now,” said Ozzie, who must have sensed Malcolm’s preoccupation because he added, “still thinking about Nana Owl, aren’t you?”

Malcolm nodded, but didn’t say anything.

“Well there’s your problem, then,” said Ozzie who had come over and put a paw around Malcolm.  “You’re doing too much thinking.”  He then tapped Malcom’s head.  “Give it a rest, would ya?”

“But I can’t give it a rest,” said Malcolm.  “How am I supposed to figure out what to do?”

“Maybe you’re not supposed to figure it out.” said Ozzie.

“That’s helpful.”  Malcolm snorted, though, because he found it wholly not helpful.

“What I mean,” said Ozzie who rolled his eyes at Malcolm in exasperation, “is maybe you should listen to here,” and he put his hand on Malcom’s chest right where his heart beat, instead of here,” and he moved his hand to tap Malcolm’s forehead.

“Ow,” said Malcolm, rubbing his head.  But maybe Ozzie had a point.  What was it Malcolm really wanted?

Malcolm thought back to why he started looking for Nana Owl in the first place.  It was to help him find his waterfall and mountain.  He didn’t know if they really existed or not and that’s why Carl the cardinal had recommended Nana Owl.  Maybe she can help you, he’d said.

Well, she had, thought Malcolm.  In searching for Nana Owl, Malcolm had met Jersey the squirrel and Ozzie the skunk.  He’d also met Ozzie’s friends.  He’d been shown kindness and given food and a place to sleep.  He’s also come to Evergale Falls, the most beautiful place he had ever been.  Searching for Nana Owl had so far been quite the adventure.  What would happen if he kept going?  Would he find his mountain?  Would there be a place more beautiful than Evergale Falls?

All of sudden, Malcolm realized what was happening.  He was afraid.  This time it wasn’t the night creating his fear, but the worry that he would never find what he was looking.  He remembered what he thought at the start of his journey which now seemed a very long time ago – he would never know if he didn’t try.  And right now, he wasn’t trying.  He was letting his fear slow him down.  Not that he wasn’t grateful for his new friends and their hospitality, but he had a dream.  And there was no time like right now to get it back on track.

Malcolm felt a surge of energy rush through his body.  He immediately brightened at the prospect that lay before him.

Ozzie chuckled again.  “You seem to have perked up.  I guess you ‘figured it out.’

“That’s right,” said Malcolm and he gave Ozzie a hug.  “Tell Arthur and Milo I said goodbye.  I hope someday soon I’ll see you again.”  And just like that off, Malcolm took off running through the forest.  He had places to go.

To be continued….