Crazy Fall Love

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I’ve always loved fall. After August heat, it’s nice to feel cooler air on my skin.

Out here in the Pacific Northwest, the cool, moist air smells amazing. When I step out  onto my front deck to refill the bird feeder early in the morning, my first sniff of the air never fails to invigorate me. I can smell the sea, only a couple of miles west,  the oak trees, and cedars and spruce and Douglas fir, and combined with the rich, moist earth they brew up a kind of perfume I like to call ‘Dena’s magic elixir.’

When I get my first whiff of my ‘elixir,’  it’s like a cup of stiff coffee, and all of a sudden I’m filled with ambition and creativity. Do you feel like that too?

This morning,as I pulled up and parked at my hair salon for a cut and color, I saw this:

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Incredible isn’t it? God is so good to let us experience this kind of beauty especially when the rest of the plants on our hemisphere are ready to go to sleep.

In the early years of our marriage, Bruce and I lived in a farming community in northern Illinois. In the fall we sometimes went to a local orchard to pick apples. The kids loved the hot cider we could buy at the farm. Sometimes we’d go for hay rides, then roast marshmallows over a big outdoor fire. Out there, the pleasant odors of drying corn stalks and hay made me wish I’d grown up on a farm.

Later, when we lived on Long island, New York, fall was the time for us to have our annual treasure hunt. We’d hand out clues and maps and send a hundred friends out into the dark to search for treasures and clues in cemeteries, around old barns, empty parking lots. Afterward we’d have a party and hand out prizes. Such fun.

We carried the treasure hunt tradition into our years in Colorado with good success. One year, I bought a good-sized pumpkin and turned it into some pretty tasty soup.

Now that we’ve put in a new gas fireplace, fall is the perfect time to have friends over and sit close to its warmth.

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When I was a child, one of our family traditions was to make the long, long journey (really about four hours from the San Francisco bay area, but it seemed like forever) south to Reedley, California. The town of Reedley was founded by my great-grandfather. It’s close to Fresno, if you know where that is.

Reedley was very small at that time. The current population is about 30,000. We kids used to go to the orchards to pick all sorts of fruit, sometimes cotton, sometimes persimmons—which I didn’t like—and hang out with cousin Bob. My aunt Helen Mae would cook a huge turkey dinner and Bob would play his recent compositions on the piano. He was hugely talented. Grammy and Granddaddy sometimes let us stay with them at the Reedley motel. That was a big treat.

Lately, we’ve been driving down to the San Francisco bay area to see my mom and my brothers and sisters. But Mom died last year and everyone’s decided to do their own thing this year. So I’ll miss being with my sweet sisters and brothers. But next year we’ll get together again.

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That’s my big brother Jay and my older sister, Lori.

Oh, and one last thing about fall: I’m extra creative then. I think 99 percent of my book ideas have come to me between September and December. In fact, another story idea just came to me last week, and it will soon become an outline for me to write from.

Yay, fall!

Thank You, Lord, for the season of fall.

 

What if you could…?

 

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I remember when I was a kid,  thinking it would be a kick to have the gift of knowing everyone’s thoughts. Or knowing the future. Or being able to fly, etc.

But now that I’m older, I think, ick! wouldn’t it be awful to know what others are thinking? I don’t think I could handle it. It would be hard to stay friends if I knew my friends’ thoughts.

What if I knew everything that was coming down the pike? How awful to know about tragedies or catastrophes beforehand!

And can you imagine the kind of trouble you could get into if you could fly over people’s yards, see inside their windows, spy covert government operations?

No, sir. Make me normal.

It’s a good party question: would you rather have a super power, knowing it’s going to dramatically complicate your life, or would you choose to be normal? Why?

Your answer says a lot about you.

Here’s Bruce, showing his characteristic confidence. (I’m pretty sure he’d choose to be a superhero):

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I’ve just finished writing a new novel about a young woman who possesses a spectacular gift. She’s counted the cost of using her gift and decides she’d rather be normal. But how do you give it back? Does God take His gifts back?

Another good question for speculation.

 

 

On My Way!

I’m on my way to the 2019 American Christian Fiction Writers conference in San Antonio, Texas.

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We’re staying at the Hyatt Regency. Here’s a view from the fourth floor.

Our flight: I love it when Bruce and I get upgraded to first class. It’s like a special gift from the Lord. I have a nice big window…and I have control over the window shade. I’ll never understand why people get the window seat and then close the shade. How can they stand to miss out on the spectacular scenery below, not to mention the clouds? I love clouds. I think, what’s outside is much more interesting than anything on a computer screen. But that’s just me.

So, since I’ve got the window seat, I’m able to snap this wonderful photo of cloud- crowned Mt. Rainier. Wow!

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We have an older gentleman named Joe as our personal flight attendant, and man, is he charming and helpful. He waxes eloquent about San Antonio, announcing about ten times over the course of our 3 1/2 hour flight how it’s his favorite city.

I have an ear-worm that I’d like to gouge out of my brain right now. I woke up super early this morning hearing the song, “Kids,” from the musical “Bye Bye Birdie.” It just won’t go away even though I’ve tried to replace it with several more apropos pieces of music.

Apropos—that is—to the emotional tone of the next four days at the conference. Shouldn’t it be serious, but worshipful, full of confidence and expectation?

Here’s a photo from the lobby of the Hyatt. Can’t you just hear the sound of the waterfalls?

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I love the air-conditioning in here. Outside, it’s about a 100 degrees and kind of muggy.

My latest manuscript is tentatively entitled, The Girl Everyone Wants, and it’s a Young Adult thriller. I’m hoping to interest an agent with the plot and the teenaged main character. We’ll see.

Here’s a photo from our room of the River Walk, a charming, winding walk bordered by the river and lovely trees and flowers and flanked by tempting restaurants of all types. Plenty of outdoor seating, if you can stand the 98 degree heat. We’ll take the air–conditioned interior, thank you.

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You can’t see the river walk too well from this photo, so I’m going all the way down there to take a better photo…even though—I’m reminding you— it’s really hot and muggy! Am I a hero, or what?!

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There. That’s better. But even this photo doesn’t do it justice. At night, there are lights all over the place, and boat tours up and down the waterway. I’ll try to get a few photos of the hotels which look out over the river. The architecture is beautiful.

So far, I’ve met ten writers. Some write historical fiction, others write romance. It met one sweet lady who’s a Genesis finalist (sure hope she wins) and one lady who writes suspense, is a dog trainer when she’s not writing, and always includes a dog in each of her stories.

By the way, I actually sat next to Robert Dugoni—a wonderful best-selling suspense writer—at Seatac— while waiting to board our plane.  But he was focused on reading the sports section and I didn’t want to disturb him, so I just watched him surreptitiously. I whispered to Bruce, “that’s Robert Dugoni.” Bruce said, “Nah, it’s not him.” I brought up photos of the writer on my phone. Bruce still insisted it wasn’t him. I waited until we had boarded and said, “Well, I know it’s Robert Dugoni because he gave a talk at my writer’s group about two years ago, so there, I’m right, it’s definitely Robert Dugoni.”

I see Frank Peretti  down the hall, talking to some important people.(Remember This Present Darkness and Piercing the Darkness?) Again, I don’t even try to barge in an introduce myself. He’ll get plenty of that after he gives his keynote speech later this afternoon. So I head for my hotel room.

That’s about it for now. I’ll keep you updated.

Have a great day!

Juneau and Skagway!

 

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Last week I wrote about our lovely accommodations aboard our cruise ship and how Bruce and I went zip-lining in Ketchikan. The next day we docked in Juneau and took a bus to the Mendenhall Glacier.

Our bus driver, Steve, was a tall, lean Scot with hippie hair and clothing but a wealth of local and state history. His Scottish brogue made his stories even more entertaining. Along the way, Steve pointed out eagles, spawning salmon and a  bear up a tree. At the glacier, we didn’t have time to hike all the way up close. But even down river the glacier is beautiful but intimidating: a blue-iced monster with craggy crocodile-like dorsal spikes and crevasses so deep you don’t want to imagine what it would be like to fall into one of them.

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One of Steve’s interesting tidbits about Alaska was how the U.S. ended up buying the Alaska territory from the Russians. It seems that the Russians were realizing that it was expensive and challenging to take care of this huge property. Indeed, in the time it would take for Russia to be apprised of a foreign invader and to respond with troups—well—it just was too darned hard to keep tabs on her. Besides, the fur trade was about the only thing she was good for. So in 1867, William Seward, then Secretary of State, arranged the sale, for 7.2 million. (About 125 million in today’s market) Most Americans considered this sale “Seward’s folly” until gold turned up not long afterward.

Here’s a spectacular view from the tram looking down on Juneau, the capital.

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In Skagway, we had arranged for a morning’s brisk hike—and I do mean brisk— followed by a raft trip down the Skagway River. Here’s our wonderful and incredibly in-shape guide, John, who hails from New Jersey, but you’d never know it by his accent.

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The Skagway River, surprisingly, is silver colored because of all the glacial silt.

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I wish I’d been able to take more photos of our raft trip, but we were all hanging on for dear life. John acted blasé, but at one point where he tried to avoid getting our raft caught on a snarl of dead trees in the river, he almost blew his cool, huffing and straining at his oars.

This land is magnificent. I’m so glad that God, in His sovereignty, made it a part of our nation. We are enriched and blessed by the wonders of Alaska.

Next week I’ll tell you about the drama of a real-life rescue at sea.

Have a great week and, if you haven’t already done so,  consider a cruise to Alaska!

Alaska!

 

 

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Visiting Alaska was definitely on my bucket list. Had been every since I read Jack London’s books about the great Yukon gold rush of 1898 and began to dream of experiencing my own Alaska adventure. Of course, I knew I would never be physically strong enough to cart 2000 pounds of food and gold-digging supplies from Skagway up the Chilkoot trail to the Yukon.

But seeing the world that Jack London a hundred years ago saw made my heart thrill.

Here’s Vancouver, Canada, where we began our adventure in mid-August.

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We took a Princess cruise. (I highly recommend them!) Sumptuous accommodations and too much food made us feel sluggish and fat. I told myself I was simply storing up energy for our land excursions! Ha, ha.

We had a good-sized suite and hung out on our deck, thrilled to view humpback whales and porpoises at a distance cavorting in the icy waters.

When we reached Ketchikan, our first stop, we debarked the ship and waited for our  tour guides. We had elected to go zip-lining. I know, you think I’m kidding. Little old lady, going zip lining? But Bruce thought we could handle it.

I think Bruce was way more capable, though. The zip-lining part is easy-peasy. You just hang on and yell like crazy when you step off the platform onto nothing, and whisk along the cable. But in-between the zip lining, they had erected various types of obstacles. Like a series of rope loops that we had to step on. It didn’t look too hard when viewed from the ground. But when we got up there, about thirty or forty feet high, those itty bitty loops were wiggly and hard to snag with our feet.

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Being pretty little I had a hard time stretching between the bottoms of the loops and all the way up to the hand rails. Perfect for an average sized man. Not so easy for a short person. However, the little girl in the photo was amazing. Maybe she’s too young to comprehend the concept of DANGER!

But that wasn’t the only obstacle. Next, we had to step down onto a jouncy log and balance to walk about ten feet across to our next tree landing.

The really, really worst obstacle, though, was a series of wooden planks that hung suspended by ropes, like swing-set seats. The obstacle stretched about twenty feet from landing to landing. If you stepped wrong, the seat swung out from underneath your feet. At one point, that’s what happened to me, leaving me hanging almost upside down. It took me a few desperate back and forth swings to right myself. And I secretly applauded myself for having such strong shoulders and pecs. Yay, Dena!

At the end of the zip-lining exercise, we zipped out over open water which formed part of an inlet where canoes and kayaks take off. We landed high above the water and thrilled to hear the cries of eagles nearby. Doesn’t Bruce look handsome in his zip lining get-up?

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The next day, my shoulders were sore from the zip lining exercise, but I felt proud of myself, as if I had successfully completed a kind of “outward bound” challenge.

By the way, I kept a pretty detailed journal of our trip (like always). You never know when you might be able to harness some of the memories for future stories!

Next week, I’ll share more about our Alaska adventure.

Seeking the Creator in nature and the arts

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