Hiking in Spring

Lately, I’ve been going on hikes to prepare for an upcoming road trip.  On the weekend, no matter the weather, I spend my morning at my local state park.  There is a five mile loop that goes along the river and up into the bluffs.  It’s a great place to train and an even better place to think.

This morning, rain was in the forecast and I had the trail all to myself.  One of my favorite things about hiking is the way the cadence of my footsteps pushes my brain to places that feel high and rich.  As I scrambled over rocks, past trees, and up high hills, I found myself deeply moved by spring.

In Minnesota, spring comes slowly.  It comes in waves of warm and cool weather, rain and sun, green grass and sticky mud.

On the trail, most of the forest was still brown and dead.  The leaves were just starting to peek forth–a green blush against the rainy sky.  The ground was scattered with little flowers–pink and white and purple and yellow.

What a miracle it is, that life emerges from the bare earth. It reminds me that there will come a day where there will be no more crying, no more pain, no more injustice.

Spring comes forth in quiet radiance, whispering of life and peace and, best of all, hope.

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Southern Spring & Dear Friends

There is something about a road trip that gets my heart racing.  When I’m having a bad day, thinking about an open highway is the perfect escape.  Growing up, my parents loaded my brothers and I in our minivan and drove us around the country–from Maine to Alabama to national parks out west.

It’s been about a year since I’ve properly traveled.  Last April, I did a month-long trek across Europe on my own.  Upon returning, my bank account was dangerously empty and I’ve been focusing on my librarian career ever since.

Still, it was high time for a road trip.

This past weekend, I took a few days off and made the trek with a friend from Minnesota to Nashville, Tennessee.  Round-trip, we drove 1,500 miles and spent about 24 hours in the car.  Our only mishap was a speeding ticket in Iowa.

The further south we went, the world came alive.  It was as if we pressed fast-forward on Spring.  Grass and flowers emerged, the temperature dropped, and leaves sprouted from trees.  By the time we arrived in Nashville, we had stripped down to t-shirts and shorts for a few days of summery warmth. Continue reading

Lilly and the Unicorn Magic

In the midst of cleaning, I’ve discovered many of my early attempts at writing.  Did you know that I wrote a fifty page story about fairies when I was in fifth grade?  Yeah.  Neither did I.

I also discovered the following story that I penned at the age of ten.  I found it to be wonderfully awful, so I present to you:

Lilly and the Unicorn Magic

One lovely day, Princess Lilly of the Fairies was out in the castle gardens with her best friend, Violet.

“Mmm,” said Lilly while sniffing a rose.

“You have such a beautiful garden, Lilly. How do you manage it?” asked Violet.

“Well, we use fairy magic,” replied Lilly.

“Oh yes! Fairy magic! How can I be so stupid?” asked Violet.

“Sorry Violet, Mother is calling me! I’ll meet you at the Daisy Slide this afternoon!”

Lilly rushed into the Rose Palace.

“There you are!” Queen Rose exclaimed. “Didn’t you hear me calling?”

“Mother, I’m fifteen now. You don’t need to worry about me as much,” complained Lilly.

“I know you’re fifteen, but that doesn’t keep a fifteen year old from coming when she’s told”

“Yes, mother,” sighed Lilly.

“Now go up to your room and get changed out of that filthy dress!” Queen Rose ordered.

As Lilly fluttered up to her room, she wondered what it would be like to live a life where there were no rules, no one to boss you around, to be free! Lily chose out a fancy dress and took off her old one. Then she dashed through some corridors, sped into the ballroom, slid down the banister, and hurried into the throne room.

“What took you so long, dear?” Queen Rose asked.

Lilly didn’t answer. She was too fascinated with what she saw. A beautiful princess was standing on a flying carpet with a gift in her hand.

“I am Dawning, the Gypsy princess. I have noticed it is your daughter’s birthday today,” she said.

“I completely forgot!” gasped Queen Rose.

“Me too!” Lilly added.

“Well, at least I remembered!” laughed Dawning. The gypsy handed the present to Lilly. “Open it later,” she said.

Dawning then flew out of the room. An old lady in tattered clothes came in. “I am the unicorn herder, Madiline. Here is my gift to Princess Lilly.” The old lady left the room. She reentered leading a baby unicorn. It was midnight blue with a silver mane and a transparent horn on its head. Its hooves were black as coal and had eyes like the stars in the sky.

“This is Starlight. His mother Moonbeam wanted me to present him as a birthday gift,” Madiline said. Bowing, she left the room. Madiline was a close friend of the queen and always gave Lilly a baby unicorn for her birthday. Lilly received her first one when she was ten. She now has unicorns named Rosebud, Vica Violet, Morning Glory, and Kingstoil. Lilly loved unicorns. Rosebud was due to have a baby!

“Thank you, Maddi! I love him!” said Lily while stroking the mystical animal.

As Madiline left, a fat dwarf came waddling in. “Hullo! I’m Stubbs! Lilly, you’ve grown a lot! Here, in addition to all your emeralds, sapphires, rubies, topazes, amethysts, gold, and silver, I give you a chest of aquamarines!” said the dwarf, who always gave Lilly a chest of gems.

“Thank you again, Stubbs,” said Queen Rose.

From Apple the pixie, Lily got seeds for golden woods. From Melinda the mermaid, Lilly got five beautiful fish. Last, but not least, her fairy godmother Stacivia gave her a magic book.

After a grand feast with her guests, Lilly met Violet at the Daisy Slide.

“Happy birthday!” Violet said and handed a not so neatly wrapped gift to Lilly. Lilly opened it. Inside was s tiny white kitten with a pink nose and blue eyes.

“Wildcat’s kitten!” exclaimed Lilly. “Oh Violet, this is my favorite present of all! What is her name?”

“You can name her,” said Violet.

“Oh wow, I can? Hmm… I dub thee… Snowball!” Lilly petted the kitten. Snowball purred. “Want to see my presents?”

“Sure,” said Violet.

The two girls went to Lilly’s stables. Violet marveled at Starlight’s beauty saying, “Wow, he’s beautiful!” Lilly was feeding Morning Glory a bleakburn berry when she noticed something strange. Rosebud was lying on her back. Her mouth was open and music was coming out of it.

“Violet, quick! It’s Rosebud!” Lilly yelled. They ran to Rosebud.

A few minutes went by. Suddenly, there was a flash of light. Lying next to Rosebud was a baby unicorn. Rosebud neighed.

“His name is Bristlethorn,” said Lilly.

“How do you know?” asked Violet.

“Rosebud told me.”

That night, Lilly told her mother all about Rosebud’s baby. “His name is Bristlethorn!” said Lily.

“Bristlethorn? You should have named him better,” said Queen Rose.

“I can’t name him, Mother. I told you, Rosebud named him and told me,” said Lilly.

“Well, your horse doesn’t have good taste then,” replied the Queen.

“Unicorn,” corrected Lilly.

“Whatever. Off to bed now. You have your ball tomorrow,” said Queen Rose.

Lilly flew up to her room. She put on her nightgown and crawled into her very large bed. She dreamed of unicorns all night.

The next morning, Lilly looked at her calendar. It was the first day of a new month. Each month had twenty-five days. It was the first day of Jewly. The day of Lilly’s ball came. Princesses from all over came. Lilly was only a child, but being a princess she had a ball every year. Fairies live until they’re about three hundred, so you are not of age until you are one hundred. Lilly was stuck inside all day getting her make up on. She had a marvelous dress to wear.

At six o’clock, the guests arrived. All the snobby dukes and princesses came. To Lilly’s surprise, her older brother was there. He had run away ten years earlier. Lilly ran up to him and gave him a big hug.

“Cornflower! What are you doing here?” Lilly asked him.

“I have come home to live,” he said, “and I have brought something with me.”

“What is it?” Lilly asked in excitement.

Cornflower motioned to a lady. The woman stepped forward. She was tall, had flowing honey brown hair, and amber eyes.

“This is Primrose, my wife and your new sister. Primrose, this is Lilly my sister,” said Cornflower.

“Hello, Lilly. I am so excited about getting to know you. You can call me Aunt Rosie,” said Primrose.

“But you’re my sister,” stated Lilly.

“Well, call me Rosie,” said Primrose.

After the ball was over, Primrose didn’t act as sweet anymore. She interrupted the Queen and called her mom. She was always muttering, “When I am queen…” Under her breath.

Months went by. Lilly’s birthday came again. She got many presents. Her new unicorn was named Firespin and he was blazing orange. Rosebud had another baby. She was silver. Her name was Silvermane. Mazy Daisy had a baby. She was sky blue and was named Skylight. Lucky Clover’s baby was black. Her name was Duskfall. Morning Glory’s baby was a she and was white as snow and was named Snowmane. Vica Violet had a golden baby and he was named MorningSun. Now Lilly had fourteen unicorns.

Primrose had a baby boy named Snapdragon. She cooed over her little boy. He was the heir to the throne. Queen Rose got very ill. Lily rushed to her room. She stood at her mother’s side.

“I love you, Lilly. Primrose is an ugly gift. I love you, Lilly,” with that, the queen fell unconscious.

Right then, Primrose rushed into the room. “Lilly! What have you done? Oh my god, she’s dead!” she screeched. She pushed Lilly from the room. So passed Rose, Queen of the fairies, daughter of Elenore. Lilly ran to her room and bawled. Primroe didn’t allow her to see her mother’s funeral. Lilly had managed to keep her unicorns secret from Primrose and Cornflower. One day she was followed by little Snapdragon to the unicorns. Snapdragon ran to toll his mommy about the unicorns. Primrose followed her angel to the stables.

“Lilly! What are you doing! Those are dangerous beasts!” Primrose yelled. Lilly jumped. “Now let’s cut off their horns and be all-powerful!” Primrose said, her eyes glinting.

She grabbed a scythe from the wall and was about to swing it at Starlight when Lilly rushed to block the blow. Lilly thought it was the end. A light blocked the blow and saved Lilly. Primrose fled in fear.

Lilly had trained her unicorns to come when she whistled. “When I whistle, come. Goodbye!” Lilly flew up to her room. The year Lilly turned sixteen she got a box that holds any amount of things inside from Dawning. It could grow or shrink to the size needed. Lilly packed her things into the box, shrunk it so it would fit in her pocket, and went to her garden. She collected all the seeds from the flowers and put them into separate pouches. Lilly grew expensive flowers and gave them to Violet. Violet’s mother was a servant in the castle so Violet was Lilly’s only friend. After Lilly collected the flower seeds, she set the unicorns free. Then she ran to the hut Violet and her family lived in. Lilly knocked on the door. Violet opened it.

“Lilly, what are you doing here?” asked Violet.

“Primrose found the unicorns. I set them free and am running away. Do you know where I can stay?” asked Lilly.

“Yeah, see that open lot next to our house? Build a house there,” answered Violet.

Lilly went to the lot and poured lots of fairy dust on it. A large hut magically grew there. Lilly went to the hut and opened the door. It was empty with a dirt floor. Lilly unpacked her things. She had a long day and was exhausted. She crawled into her bed and went to sleep.

She woke up hungry. She had breakfast and went to Violet’s house. Violet came out carrying a leaf bag full of books.

“Time to go to school,” she said. They walked to the schoolhouse. There, a group of girls were chatting. “Hi girls, this is Lilly. She will be joining our group. So introduce yourselves,” said Violet.

A girl with honey colored hair and brown eyes stepped forward. “I’m Iris. Pleased to meet you,” she said.

A girl with blonde hair and blue eyes said, “I’m Buttercup. How do you do?”

“I’m Chicory,” said a blonde curly-haired girl with blue eyes.

“I am Columbine,” said a girl with brown eyes and short brown hair.

“Hi Lilly! I’m Thrift!” said a girl with short, curly red hair and green eyes.

A girl with long gold-brown hair said, “I’m Yarrow.”

Last , a girl with curly dark brown hair and brown eyes said, “Hello, my name is Ladysmock. You can call me Lady.”

THIS IS AS FAR AS I GOT.

Here are my thoughts:

  • At beginning, it says she takes her dress off, but never says she puts the new one on. So basically Lilly goes through her entire birthday celebration naked.
  • How do you forget your birthday when there’s all these people giving you gifts?
  • Lilly never actually opened the gift from Dawning the Gypsy Princess
  • If fairies live to be 300 and she gets gifts like this every year, where will she put it all?
  • The unicorn birthing scene was pretty magical.  I mean… music comes out of their mouth, there’s a flash of light… and voila!  Hello, baby unicorn!
  • Lilly’s mom is SUPER unsupportive.  Woah.
  • The passage of time is really weird
  • Cornflower??? What was I thinking???  What kind of name is that?
  • All of a sudden all the unicorns start having lots of babies and I’m torn between being disgusted by their awfully written descriptions and the desire to own a unicorn army of my own.
  • Why was I so obsessed with flower names?
  • The queen’s death is the most dramatic, masterful death ever created in all of literature.  Also, her last words… what.
  • DUDE, Primrose… chopping off the unicorn’s horns?  That got dark fast.
  • You really ran far from home, Lilly. You really think Primrose won’t be able to find you in a hut on the castle grounds?  Nice work.
  • How many people in this story have honey-brown hair?  And seriously… how many friends are there at school?

All I know from finding this story is that I was a very special child.

What do you think, readers?  What’s the weirdest part of the story?  What’s your favorite part?  If you could re-write it, what would you change and why?

February 14

This morning as I entered the Student Center after class to check my mailbox, a guy opened the door for me.  He didn’t do the whole enter first, then prop-it-so-I-can-catch-it-thing.  No.  He pulled the door open, looked at me, and gestured for me to enter.  It was probably the most romantic thing to happen to me… well… in a very long while.  Maybe ever, actually.

It’s Valentines Day, which means love is in the air.  Campus is decked out in cutout hearts, friends are giving each other cards, and I’ve overheard multiple conversations between male classmates trying to one-up each other on their efforts to impress their vegan girlfriends.  (One guy acted all macho because he was going to make a salad with raspberry vinaigrette instead of ranch dressing… oh so classy.)

The funny thing about today is that for people without lovers, it inspires all sorts of angst.  “Single Awareness Day” they call it.  All the talk of romance brings out all sorts of insecurities.

As for myself, I find myself single for the 21st Valentines Day in a row.  Am I bitter?  Am I depressed?  Am I drowning myself in chocolate and romantic comedies?

Nope.

I mean… I’d like a romantic relationship any more than the next girl, but for the most part, I’m happy being single.  I always have been.  Why?  Well, when you plan on getting married someday (which I do), that means you only get to be single for a certain amount of time.  Going solo can be lonely at times, yes, but it also enables you to do all sorts of awesome things… like move to Europe!  Which I totally did!  Dating or Europe?  Dating or Europe?  Sorry, but Europe wins hands-down.  (Although if I happened to be dating someone and we happened to go to Europe together… I’d be cool with that.)

Anyways…

I’ve had some pretty odd Valentines Days.

When I was sixteen, I spent the day with my nose entrenched in Les Misérables (unabridged).  Now, this scenario has lots of potential.  I could have been at the part that describes Fantine’s lover who abandoned her.  Or, I could be experiencing Marius and Cosette’s beautifully written first encounter.  But… can you guess what part I was stuck on?  If you guessed the fifty page deviation Hugo takes where he describes all the details of convent life, you’d be right on the spot.  Let me tell you, nuns aren’t very romantic–especially when there’s fifty pages about them.

Then there’s last year, where I judged a high school speech meet on February 14th.  The categories I weighed in on were Prose and Drama.  Do you know what those speeches contain?  Death.  Rape.  Suicide.  Parental abuse.  Drug abuse.  Alcohol abuse.  More death.  More rape.  More abuse.  Talk about getting in the romantic mood, right?

As for this year…

I’ve got a date with Mrs. Dalloway, plans to watch a zombie movie with a friend, and (as you already know) a random guy opened a door for me.  So until I someday have a special someone to share this holiday with, I think this year sounds about perfect.

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