krampennacht

silver bullets clinked against each other as mariah searched her pockets for a piece of peppermint. her throat was hurting after yesterday, a long day out in the cold prepping the deer for the trip. too much happened at this time of year. there was the annual light-bringing, then she needed to make sure the deer were ready for the trip. 

but first there was the first visit. 

sure, the man in red had his part under control, but the other, well…he was a different matter. he didn’t seem to think there was a line. red got the good; he got the bad. but he wanted both and someone needed to remind him every year. 

turns out that in addition to deer herder, mariah was deemed lead communicator at the pole. the elves were too busy, red was prepping, and the lady was too busy maintaining the massive database. thank gods they got that cook a while back; no one was eating, and red had an image to uphold.

sighing, mariah sucked on her peppermint, donned her snow gear, and headed out to talk to the other. he made her uncomfortable and was hard to get to, but he listened to her for some reason. 

whistling softly, she headed out into the woods toward where she thought he lived. he moved every year, but there were signs throughout the year – mostly dead plantlife and lack of songbirds – that let her know where he shacked up for the warmer months. (not that it got that much warmer here, but the other liked it cold.)

it wasn’t long before she got to the upheaval in the earth where a small opening indicated a cave. he generally didn’t stray too far from the man in red. they worked together, despite what the other thought. 

she crouched down and looked at the small crevice that led into his lair, scrunching her nose. it smelled of dirt and rot. she dropped the small pack she brought onto the ground outside the entrance, pulled a flare from one of its outer pockets, and stuck it into the ground. she’d learned early on to set one so she could easily find her way out. she grabbed another flare and got on her belly to crawl inside cave. 

this one was tight for a few feet, then opened up so she could at least stand on her feet and crouch. then the descent began.

every year it was the same, and mariah began to dread the conversation she’d have to have. but the man in red counted on her, and so did thousands of the littles who were too good to be taken by the other. so she picked up her pace. the sooner she got there, the sooner she could leave. if only the other were as easy to deal with as vampire deer.

soon, too soon, the floor evened out and there was his door – a golden-handled, wooden monstrosity that had carvings of wood switches hashed over it. she had no idea how he transported these between his different dwellings. 

mariah knocked twice, once, three times, then grabbed the handle. it glowed briefly, warming her hand. she dropped her flare and pulled the door open. 

he sat low on the ground on a wooden stump, his cloven and human feet stretched out, a small fire in the middle of the room. he never talked, just stared at her with his tongue hanging out, glistening. 

she found that if she walked with confidence and got her part over with, he generally didn’t object.

“you know why i’m here. tonight is the night, and the man in red has sent me to make sure you’re on the same page.” she wished she had another peppermint. her throat was still hoarse.

“tonight you and he will go visit the littles. he’s got the really good ones, the somewhat good ones, and the okay ones. you get the bad ones. and you know which ones they are; you should’ve gotten a list from the lady the other day.” how the lady sent this list, mariah didn’t know. she was just glad she didn’t have to haul that with her during her visit. 

“the man wants to remind you, again, that you just. get. the. bad. ones. no others.” mariah dug around in her pocket searching for a peppermint. the other still stared at her. his cloven foot jiggled slightly but that was the only movement from him. “and you can use your switches, put them in your bag, and hang them from the tall tree, but you CANNOT eat them. we’ve been over this.” he used to eat the bad ones on the solstice, but the committee had put a stop to that when they realized that it was interfering with the ritual. 

“then the next morning, you let them go. that should scare them. any repeat offenders, you can hold two nights.” ah! she found her peppermint. she popped it into her mouth. sweet relief. 

“do we have an understanding?”

the other stared, blinked slowly, and then nodded once. mariah nodded. 

“then we’ll see you tonight. sundown sharp – the man in red will be ready. and don’t forget your list.” 

the other nodded again. then again and again, much too quickly for a beast like him to be able to do, and mariah stepped back in alarm. she had never seen this before. she glanced behind her for the door, then back toward the fire, and he was right in front of her. she could smell his rotted breath, see the strands of fur on his face, the saliva on his tongue. she scrunched her nose and did the only thing she could think of – she spat her peppermint out of her mouth directly onto his slimy tongue. 

he screamed and jumped back. his tongue seemed to be smoking. mariah widened her eyes, then took her chance. she leaped backward to the door, got out, and slammed the door shut. her flare was still there, so she grabbed it and ran. she didn’t think he would follow. 

the trip out seemed much quicker, and she breathed a sigh of relief when she saw the matching flare sparking at the narrow exit. she crawled out of the cave and stood up, brushing dirt and leaves off before putting her pack on and heading back to the pole. she took the knife from her boot and held it, just in case. 

this would need to be reported to the man. and she needed to add peppermints to her list of essentials. 

prior

and prior

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harvest

and suddenly it’s fall.

the dust from the combines cutting their way through the corn fields is so thick on the rural roads, it’s like fog. it smells of dried grass, starch, and autumn. the valleys are heavy with the corn dust, with the lights of the giant tractors blinking in the dark like UFOs. the time is ripe for harvesting, and farmers make the most of the time, hauling corn from the fields into the early hours of the mornings.

because the first hard frost came late (last night), the leaves are browner than normal, even though the conditions throughout the summer were perfect for a spectacular fall foliage showing (lots of rain). spots of yellow, orange, and red poke through the drabness here and there, and they help shout out the season.

the roadside stands boasting pumpkins for $3 are picked over, the only pumpkins left being the oddly shaped and not-quite orange. gardens are cleared out of usable vegetables, with the only exceptions being hardy veggies like broccoli, brussels sprouts, leeks, onions, carrots, and the like. the defeated tomatoes that were so boastful during july and august are now nothing but darkened, wasted stalks with any leftover fruits littering the ground: squashed, deflated, wrinkled, and decaying.

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the summer’s been well for hay, and the corn stalks have been rolled into bales. the entire growing season has been great: seeds went in early, the rain was relatively steady, and september was warm into october. the minnesota harvest is set to be a record-breaking one

ready for winter.

…and so…

it was 85º outside today, while the wind blew and the somewhat-turned leaves on the trees held tenuously to their homes. is it fall? is it summer? when winter blows in, will we know it and be prepared? 

it was a perfect couple of days for nerdcon. jane and i walked down nicollet ave. and marquette more than once to get some food and kill some time. the event itself was a pretty great event in general. friday was better than saturday (less people and the mainstages were much funnier). the breakout sessions we did go to were great and got us both fired up for writing. (when we could get in.)

i have a feeling next year it will be held in a different location; i think the only one i’d be willing to travel to would be denver. but we’ll see what goes. 

i had a couple ideas for some blog posts for kablpomo in november or whenever (depending on when some inspiration strikes). 

i’m also considering nanowrimo for the first time in a few years. the thing about nanowrimo is that once i commit, i’m doing the whole shebang. there’s no 40,000 words. no 20,000 words. it’s all or nothing. 

the thing is, creative nonfiction is the type of writing i prefer over fiction, so topics are a little different. travelogue? more food writing? i’ve already attacked corn syrup. i could do travel writing about the black hills or something. i’m not sure i could eke out 50,000 words on it, but i could try and then end with some fabulous anti-corn propaganda. 

what say you, kablpomo followers?

neglect

i have really neglected my poor little blog this past year, and especially the past few weeks. after last year, when i blogged every day, this seems like a huge departure, and i’m not quite sure why i haven’t kept up with it. 

but today jane i went to nerdcon:stories, and we attended a couple sessions specifically about writing, which made me super excited about nanowrimo, for one. and also about kablpomo! november is close approaching! so, any ideas for either would be welcome.

more on nerdconlater! (i hope!)

belief

i believe in the sun. i believe in the stars, the moon, the constellations, the dark indigo of twilight. i believe in fireflies. i believe in grass beneath my feet. i believe in sprummer days of excited greens and happy bugs. i believe in trees – small, tall, old, ancient, spruce, oak, maple, plum. i believe in growing things. i believe in a good night’s sleep. i believe in the inherent good in people and their subconscious willingness to do the right thing. i also believe in a healthy dose of skepticism. i believe in questions. i believe in answers. i believe in purring kitty cats who try to get up your nose. i believe in trying my best to live in the now, even though the past and future crowd in. i believe in family and friends. i believe in laughing a lot. i believe in tradition. i believe in trying new things. i believe in an even keel. i believe in rocking the boat. i believe in riding in fast boats on summer lakes. i believe in art. i believe in reading immersion. i believe in earl grey tea.  i believe in the smell of autumn leaves and burning brush. i believe in enveloping yourself in a forest of yellow aspen. i believe in keeping an open mind. i believe in making an effort. i believe in living this life the fullest because it’s what i’ve got right now. 

but after all this? i do believe i have been a disappointment.

getting back in the groove

my blogging has really been waning lately, so i’m trying to make a point of blogging daily again for a bit. maybe it’ll work; maybe it won’t. but i kind of miss blogging every day – making a deliberate choice to sit down in front of a keyboard and putting thoughts to screen.

i also have been feeling like a slob lately when it comes to writing, so another reason. with my devil’s syrup book pretty much done (for now, until i get some input from ANYONE who’s willing to read it – i’ll take anyone), it seems writing’s taken a back burner. i’ve been making my way through my reading stack pretty well, but that’s not quite the same.

so back to the blogging board. i really want to take my laptop to SD and blog every day, but i’m not sure that’ll happen for sure. (the blogging part; not the taking the laptop part.)

so, expect to see more regular updates. and if you don’t see them, send me a note and tell me to get my but in gear.

(i was going to correct that but to butt, then realized that the one-T but was more than appropriate as well, so it stays.)

(seriously, download and read my devil’s syrup novella memoir. i want feedback and input on what else i can add in there so it’s NOT novella length!)

time to travel

when you wake up early on a saturday and jump in the car to go somewhere, and it’s almost summertime or it IS summertime, and the sky is blue, the sun is bright, and maybe there are big, puffy white clouds in the sky, and you for some reason are driving away from the sunrise, and the windows are down, and the morning air is a little chilled but not too chilled, and the tires are humming the pavement beneath you, and the road is before you, it might be time to travel.

I-90 swings across the bottom of the state. when i tried to sleep at night with the windows open while growing up, the hum of truckers and travelers whizzing past austin, mn, lulled me to sleep. now the freeway calls me to travel. i hop on and think, hmm, what if i just keep going…

when april comes…

daffodil

the hopeful part of me gets wildly optimistic when we get the first few nice days of weather in the year. what is it about sudden 60º weather that grabs minnesotans’ attention and drags it to the outdoors? the small, green buds? the sun’s, which has been subdued and southerly for six months or so, trip north and lengthy day stays? the warmth? the combination of events excites every single person. maybe talking about the weather is a cop-out conversation piece, but here? it’s the number one thing on our minds, especially during seasons’ changes.

but to understand this, you have to understand upper midwest winters. 

around september and october, we start to notice the sun’s early setting times. the weather gets a little chilly. this is fine, especially if, like me, you enjoy autumn. 

then it gets cold. and the leaves are off the trees. the ground turns brown. then the snow comes, and while it’s pretty, it does make everything pretty stark looking: white snow with black tree limbs dotting the countryside. the wind blows. snow swirls. it gets so cold that it’s hard to breathe. your nostrils glue shut because it’s so cold.

there are some plusses: you get to ski and ice skate and sled. christmas is pretty nice. sometimes when the snow is falling, it’s so silent you can hear it. 

but after a while, it just gets oppressive. february is so dark and cold, and the sun barely peeks through the entire month. it’s been so cold for so long, it seems like winter is never going to end. was there ever a time when i wore short sleeves outside? who knows?

so when it starts to peek above 30º, we northerners get a little anticipatory. above 40º? looking good, but we don’t want to get our hopes up. 60º in march? we’re downright giddy. then april comes, and trees start to bud out, and there are days above 70º, and the air starts to smell like dirt, and if you’re like me, the smell of mud and manure brings thoughts of spring, and the ground starts to get squishy, and birds flock back, and oh my goodness the frogs are croaking like CRAZY, …. and april, being april, sinks us back to freezing for a couple days just to let us know who’s boss.

may, on the other hand…

tulip

let's talk about kablpoye…

from http://inkhouse.com/is-blogging-passe-we-say-no-way/

from http://inkhouse.com/is-blogging-passe-we-say-no-way/

my blog-posting year was an almost success. i took a break over some vacation time, and i missed a couple days. overall, however, i made it a priority to post at least SOMETHING every day last year. 

i’ve heard from a couple people that they really enjoyed kablpoye, but a couple people does not a trend make. if you’re reading this, i’d love to know if you liked kablpoye or if you’re like, “meh.” 

 basically, should i continue writing every day? will you read it? what do you want to see?

meta takeaways

here's a photo of a cat to keep you entertained.

here’s a photo of a cat to keep you entertained.

this is going to be a blog post about blogging. how meta.

i went to the minnesota blogger conference today and learned stuff about blogging. here are the top takeaways i got from the conference.

1. your blog post needs to be at least 300 words for google to index it. not 280. not 299. 300. THAT is the biggest thing i learned, and i believe the most useful for work, where i just started a news blog. the more we can get out on google, the better. 

2. another useful thing i learned that i will apply to work: it can take at least 9 months for a blog to really take off. i’ve gotten more than one comment about how no one’s reading the blog (they are) and it’s useless (can’t say that yet!) so why are we bothering? if we are still getting the numbers we are getting now, which are not horrible (the most read post is 500 views), then i will put a kibosh on it. 

3. i found out a useful wordpress plugin that gives a calendar view of posts versus a listing.

4. a personal thought process from novice to expert: “this is neat. -> i might be good at this. -> i’m a _______.” 

5. find 6 characteristics you value and use them as a filter for everyone and everything you work with. does content serve your audience? does your content fit your values? don’t dilute your message with extraneous crap. be the guardian leader of your blog. *

6. be the best answer. what can i be the best answer for? what is it i’m best at? what do i want to be known for?

* what are my 6 values?

1. eat well, but remember to eat socially as well. 

2. pay attention – beauty is in places you least expect.

3. be cynically optimistic. or optimistically cynical.

4. it’s ok to be excited about weird stuff.

5. be an environmentalist. we only have one earth.

6. still working on this one!