Colorful Autumn Nature Walk

Colorful Autumn Nature Walk

Arrogant One facing rightstill raining

“I cannot believe it is still raining!” My Arrogant One stomped his foot and scowled as he looked out the door at the gloomy drizzle.

ShedBounty Hunter

“And I cannot believe you have not yet repaired the leaky roof in the shed.” My Bounty Hunter glowered at his companion.

My Arrogant One drew himself up, rocked back on his heels, and grasped his cloak in both hands. “I have done my part. I do not see you offering to help!”

Dragon breathing smoke

Dragon shook her scaly head, and black smoke drifted from her snout. “I cannot believe you two are still complaining about everything! Did you learn nothing from our recent exercise, the Gratitude Scavenger Hunt?”

(Part 1) https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/09/23/were-doing-what/
(Part 2) https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/09/30/gratitude-scavenger-hunt/

My Arrogant One rounded on the bulky beast. “Oh, and I am to understand that by virtue of the fact you participated in that assignment, you are suddenly Little Miss Sunshine?”

Dragon blinked. “I do not believe there was anything sudden about it. I have always had a sunny disposition.”

What?” My Arrogant One and my Bounty Hunter screeched in unison, and several other of my characters doubled over in laughter.

sorceress-facing-right“You are one of the most mercurial individuals I know.” Sorceress raised an eyebrow at her reptilian friend. “I am always tempted to consult my star charts before approaching you, to determine if you are more likely to aid me or incinerate me!”Elf

Cleric nodded, and she fidgeted with the silken cord belting her robes. “I fear I must agree with Sorceress. You are subject to extreme mood variations.”

dragon looking rightfireplace2Dragon harrumphed and glowered at her companions. “I see. Well, you do not have to worry about approaching me at all. I am going to the conference room and bask in front of my fireplace.” She stomped away in high dudgeon, and the rest of my characters resumed their complaining.

Two days later, the change in both the weather and my character’s attitudes was nothing short of amazing. The day dawned clear and bright and unseasonably warm after several weeks of cool, rainy weather. My characters chatted amiably during a rushed early morning meal. Anxious to be enjoying themselves outdoors, they gobbled their breakfast and dispersed to their individual activities shortly after first light.

My Foreman and the lads headed to the illusory stable to spend the day working their horses. Cleric, Sorceress, and Dragon went out to gather botanicals for their spell components. My Old Dwarf went with them to look for rocks and pieces of wood that might prove suitable for carving.

camera for blogMy husband saw me gathering my camera equipment and gave me a big smile. “No need to ask what you’re planning! Nature photography! Do you have someplace special in mind?”

I returned his smile and held up a brochure from a nearby wildlife preserve and nature center. “I think I’m going back to this preserve. I really enjoyed it last time I went. It has a variety of habitats – a big lake, a hardwood forest and a native pine woodlands, wetlands, prairie, and savanna. What are your plans for the day?”

Miles sighed. “I need to take my car in for servicing today. Then I have to stop by one of the lumber yards and pick up some roofing shingles for the shed.”

I nodded. “Well, okay, I’ll try not to miss you too much!” I gave him a hug and a quick peck on the cheek before we were interrupted.

“Mistress?”

I turned around and saw my Arrogant One and my Bounty Hunter standing there. To my experienced eye, they appeared suspect.

I furrowed my brow. “Yes?”

“Would it be possible for us to join you today?”

I had rarely heard my Arrogant One sound so meek. My frown deepened. “Why?” Realizing how rude I sounded, I backpedaled. “I mean, why would you want to? I didn’t think hiking and nature photography held much interest for either of you.”

“Quite the contrary!” My Bounty Hunter’s eyes widened, and he assumed an open and guileless demeanor. “We have enjoyed past nature walks we have taken with you.”

“And we must wait for Master Miles to purchase the necessary supplies, so we can repair the shed roof. Therefore, we have nothing pressing on our agenda for this day.” My Arrogant One seemed nervous, clutching his cloak and shuffling his foot.

I hesitated, an uneasy feeling coming over me as I watched my two characters standing there awaiting my decision, displaying uncharacteristic patience and courtesy. “Well, okay, but you know the rules. You’ll wear modern garments and take no weapons or magic paraphernalia.”staff

My Arrogant One’s eyes widened. “Not even my staff? You yourself use a walking stick, and my staff functions perfectly as such.”Walking stick - Marge

I narrowed my eyes and considered. “Very well, you may take a walking stick – but remember that is to be its only function.”Walking stick - Bounty Hunter

My Bounty Hunter’s mouth curved into a smarmy smile. “Then I, too, will bring one – I have a thick longbow that easily doubles as a walking stick.”

My uneasy feeling grew stronger.

“Okay, but I want no trouble from either of you on the trail today. If we encounter other people, they best not be able to tell your walking sticks are anything other than just that.”

They both nodded, but as I turned, I thought I saw them exchange furtive glances.

“Meet me at the car in 15 minutes.”

*  *  *

It took less than a half hour to drive to the preserve. I parked near the nature center and the three of us piled out of the car. I grabbed my camera and equipment, and we all took our walking sticks. I locked the car and pointed to a path exiting the parking lot to my left. “Let’s start with the trail to the lake.”

“Why not start at the nature center? We are right here.” My Bounty Hunter pointed to the building surrounded by bird feeders adjacent to the parking lot.

I shook my head. “I’d like to finish our walk there. Right now, there’s too much activity around that area. School groups go in and out all morning, and it can get noisy. The birds tend to stay away. But things quiet down in the afternoon, and the staff refills the feeders then, so our chances of seeing birds there will be better at that time.”

My two characters nodded. I led off, expecting them to follow me. Instead, they hung back a bit. I thought I heard them arguing, but when I glanced back over my shoulder, they were already scurrying to catch up with me.

We had not yet gotten out of the parking lot when my Bounty Hunter grabbed me by the arm. I yelped and pulled away.

He raised an eyebrow. “It is a good thing Cleric is not with us. She would be squealing right now.” He used his walking stick to point to a reddish-brown snake slithering across the blacktop.October Hike - snake 2

I ducked my head sheepishly, realizing my Bounty Hunter’s intentions had been harmless. “Uh, yeah. It looks like a Red-bellied Snake.” I took a few quick shots of it before it reached the edge of the asphalt and disappeared into the grass, and we continued walking toward the lake.

My Arrogant One studied the trees. “The foliage is surprisingly colorful! I did not think this would be a good year, with the earlier drought followed by the heavy rain over the last few weeks.”

I nodded. “I had the same misgivings. Glad to see we were wrong.” I took a few photos of the trees.

As we walked toward the lake, I pointed out the animals I saw, identifying them for my two companions as I took photos. “There’s an American Robin in that tree. There’s a White-breasted Nuthatch on that tree trunk, and another hanging upside down from that pine bough. And there’s an Eastern Chipmunk on that rock in front of the fallen log.”

We passed out of the woods and found ourselves next to a large lake.

“Canada Geese.” My Arrogant One pointed. “We have them on our pond, and we seem to see them on every outing.” He leaned on his staff and watched the birds swimming in the clear blue water.

I nodded, maneuvering to a good spot to get some photos. “They’re very common.”

“Look!” My Bounty Hunter pointed to some birds soaring silently overhead. “Those strange looking birds are not Canada Geese. What are they?”

“American White Pelicans. They’re one of the largest birds you’ll see in North America, and they have massive bills that they use to scoop up fish.” I tried to capture a few images of the birds in flight.

The squadron of pelicans landed on the far side of the lake, too distant for my camera to get any good shots. We left the lake and took the trail to the left, skirting a large wetland adjacent to the lake. We found two more Canada Geese there and I took their photos.

Then my Arrogant One pointed. “Are those not the tall birds you like so much? I believe you called them Sandhill Cranes.”

I nodded and smiled, taking photos of two crossing the meadow toward the tree line.

My Bounty Hunter tapped me on the shoulder and pointed. “Another one.” I snapped a quick photo as it tried to hide in the tangle of vegetation.

October hike - Sandhill Crane 3

As I turned, I spotted a few American Goldfinches eating the seeds of the wildflowers in the field, and I stopped to take several photos. “They flit around so quickly, it’s hard to get a clear image of them.”

After I got their pictures, I took some shots of a tall tree in the middle of the meadow, decked out in its coat of autumn yellow, then took several more photos of the fall foliage.

As I turned around, my companions were standing a few feet away, huddled together, examining their walking sticks and holding a whispered conversation. I furrowed my brow but held my tongue as they quickly rejoined me on the trail.

As we approached another section of woods, my Arrogant One pointed at something with his staff. “I am seeing a lot of similar-looking birds in the trees and bushes along the forest edge. What are they?”

“Fall warblers can be very confusing, but I believe they are Palm Warblers.” I took aim and snapped a few quick photos.

“That one looks different.” My Bounty Hunter pointed at another bird in a nearby tree. “Is that the one the Gypsy identified for me once as a White-throated Sparrow?”

I nodded. “I’m impressed you remembered!” I snapped the photo.

October Hike - White-throated Sparrow 1

My Bounty Hunter also spotted a Blue Jay high up in a bare tree, and my Arrogant One pointed out an Eastern Bluebird on an old fence post. I got photos of them both. Then, just before we entered the next wooded area, we found another snake. “This one looks like a Garter Snake.” I snapped his photo as well.

“Look here.” My Arrogant One pointed. “There are several different types of berries along this path.”

“They’re good food for the birds.” I took some photos of the berries before looking up at the nearby trees.

“Look! The berries have attracted some Cedar Waxwings. Those birds are basically fruit eaters. In the fall, hundreds of them can gather and strip a berry patch in minutes.” I scanned the trees. “This is a very small flock.”

“That one looks different.” My Arrogant One pointed to one of a pair of birds sitting on a bare branch. “But the one with it looks like the Cedar Waxwings you just showed us.”

“They’re both Cedar Waxwings. The one that looks different is a juvenile. I’m surprised there aren’t more with the flock.” I focused my camera and got a shot of the two birds.

October Hike - Cedar Waxwing with juvie

We continued along the path, and I took some more photos of the trees and wildflowers. Once again, my companions lagged behind. They were again whispering, but they quickly stopped and hurried to catch up with me.

Soon we were back at the nature center. There were numerous birds and critters feeding on the seed that had fallen from the feeders, or watching from the nearby trees. I identified a Red Squirrel, another Eastern Chipmunk, some Fox Sparrows, some Dark-eyed Juncos, some more White-throated Sparrows, and both male and female Northern Cardinals.

Finally, I figured I had taken enough photos, and I turned to my companions. “Ready to go home?”

“Already?” They both seemed disappointed.

“Miles will probably be home by now with those roofing supplies you need. And I need to start making dinner if we want to eat tonight.”

My two characters nodded reluctantly, and we walked across the parking lot to the car. As we took our places in the vehicle, I wondered about their behavior, their whispered conversations, and the furtive glances I thought I had seen them exchanging several times. After turning it over in my mind, I decided maybe I was just being paranoid. I decided it best not to spoil the good time we had had by confronting them. If something was afoot, I would probably find out soon enough.

Be sure to join us again next week. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

Fixtures Light Elegant Lighting Fixture And Supply Company Intended For Front Porch Light Fixtures Front Porch Light Fixtures

Advertisements

Still Out Sick – Gypsy Filling in With Recycled Blogs

Still Out Sick – Gypsy Filling in With Recycled Blogs

gypsy-facing-rightHail, good readers! Prithee allow me to introduce myself. I am the Gypsy, sidekick and best friend of the Young Hero about whose exploits Mistress Writer has penned numerous tales. I fear I must report Mistress Writer’s malady has not improved since Dragon so kindly and so capably filled in for her last week. But, alas, now Dragon and half our number are ill as well. Dragon has beseeched me to fill in this week in presenting to you readers an entertaining and informative narrative. However, I most humbly confess I am no scribe!

Since any attempt I would make to author a blog would bore the average reader into a coma, I decided to just . . . what is the word Mistress Writer and Master Miles use? Oh, yes! I decided to recycle two earlier blogs.

Reviewing previous blogs, I have found several times in the past when Mistress Writer was ill. I narrowed down the accounts to two instances. Once, she was afflicted with a very bad cold. Another time, she had contracted an ailment she termed cabin fever. I selected these two blogs to recycle today as Mistress Writer seems to be suffering from both maladies now.

wren 2Also, both blogs relate to birds, a subject near and dear to my heart. I do not mean to brag – after all, I am the Gypsy, not the Arrogant One – but I am extremely knowledgeable about birds. I could identify every bird in my world by sight and by ear, and I have become almost as well versed in the birds of this world. I daresay I play an important role in the first of the two blogs I selected, identifying some birds for my less knowledgeable companions, and relating information about various types of birds. I hope you find both blogs entertaining and informative.

https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2016/02/28/todays-blog-is-for-the-birds/

https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/05/20/backyard-birding-bliss/

gypsy-facing-rightCharing shoes 2I do hope you enjoyed the two blogs I recycled. If so, I would consider it a great personal favor if you could leave a comment for Dragon. She warned me what would happen should I not do a good job filling in for her and Mistress Writer. She will char my shoes with my feet still in them – a threat she often makes to Master Miles. And I am most fond of both my shoes and my feet!

I sincerely hope that Mistress Writer and Dragon will have recovered sufficiently by next week that I can step down from my position as temporary scribe. We hope to see you again next week, when we can ascertain if that has happened! We will leave the porch light on for you!

Fixtures Light Elegant Lighting Fixture And Supply Company Intended For Front Porch Light Fixtures Front Porch Light Fixtures

A Ducky Day for Collecting Flora (and Overhearing a Murder Plot?)

A Ducky Day for Collecting Flora (and Overhearing a Murder Plot?)

horses-all-gone-for-blogfireworks5 for blogThe weeks following our return from our Memorial Day outing were strained. No one wanted to leave the house. We didn’t even go out to celebrate Independence Day on July 4, as we feared another outing might end the way the Memorial Day weekend outing did.

Picnic table by lakeThe Secret TrailMy characters, my husband, and I had gone on a picnic the Saturday before Memorial Day. After lunch, Miles decided to stay in the shade of the trees and take a nap, while my characters and I went on a nature hike. We followed a trail we had never seen before and found ourselves in another world. We embarked on an odyssey that seemed to stretch for days. When we finally found the way back to our own world, we discovered we had been gone only hours.

(If you missed it, the chronicle of that adventure began with the weekly blog on May 27, https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/05/27/lost/ and continued through the blogs posted on the following eight Sundays)

The incident left us all unsettled and on edge, so I wasn’t surprised when I heard voices arguing one morning in the conference room.

sorceress-facing-right“We must go out and collect the botanicals we need to restock our spell components.”

I recognized that voice. Sorceress spoke in clipped tones and sounded irritated.

Elf“I know we are running low on components, but I just do not want to leave the house.”

The second voice belonged to Cleric. Her voice was low, and she almost sounded as if she were about to burst into tears.

I descended the stairs by the conference room, and saw Sorceress and Cleric facing each other in the middle of the room. Cleric was fidgeting with the cord on her robe, as Sorceress stood with her arms folded over her chest, tapping her foot impatiently.

Sorceress nodded at Cleric’s last statement. The sympathy on her face was in direct contrast to the sharpness of her voice. “You are being unreasonable. We both need the botanicals, and I am not going to go collect them by myself.”

Cleric continued to fidget with the cord that belted her robe. Finally, she blurted, “But what if we end up in another world again?”

Sorceress rolled her eyes and snorted. “That was one isolated incident. I highly doubt it will happen again.”

“I do not care. I am afraid.” Cleric lowered her eyes and blushed furiously.

Dragon breathing smokeI entered the conference room, but before I could say anything, Dragon slammed shut the book she was reading in the corner of the room and stomped over to face her friends. The large beast scowled at the two women, and dark smoke started to drift from her nostrils. “Cleric, a portal to another world could just as easily materialize within this house as without, you know. In fact, it has, on several occasions, if you will remember. And Sorceress, everyone is not as confident as you . . . or as unrelenting. Now, if you two are going to do nothing but argue, please go do it elsewhere!”

Sorceress and Cleric were stunned into silence for several moments. Then pandemonium broke out as the three started yelling at each other and gesticulating wildly.

I waded into the fray and held up my hands for silence. “Excuse me. Excuse me! I know everyone’s nerves are still on edge, but that’s no reason to snap at each other.”

The three companions hung their heads and mumbled in unison. “Sorry.”

Without taking a breath following her apology, Sorceress continued, “But the botanicals are essential, this is the best time of year to collect them, and I am not doing it without help.”

dwarf“I kin be helpin’ ye, lassie.” My Old Dwarf entered the room and joined the conversation.

Sorceress started to scoff, but Dragon glared at her and went to stand next to my Old Dwarf, placing her hand on his shoulder. Sorceress quickly marshaled her features into a tight smile. Her voice was strained as she replied to the dwarf. “I thank you, but I doubt you would know a pansy from deadly nightshade. Besides, you have no need of the plants.” She gestured at Cleric. “Cleric uses the botanicals in her spell components, as do I, so she is the one who needs to assist me in collecting them.” Her tone invited no argument.

I furrowed my brow. “Dragon, don’t you also use botanicals in your spell components?”

Dragon narrowed her eyes. “There are very few spells for which I need components. My power is beyond that.”

I raised an eyebrow. “But there are some?”

Dragon nodded.

“Good. Then you will accompany Cleric and Sorceress while they collect the plants they need, and you can get the few things you require for your spells. You can also provide protection for the other two. And my Old Dwarf can go with you to provide additional protection as well as some muscle for carrying everything home.”

As Sorceress and Dragon started to object, I gave them a look that immediately silenced them. “No arguments. Go. But, Dragon, before you leave the house, you’ll shapseshift to a less conspicuous form. And, you, my rotund friend, will not wear your armor or carry a weapon.”

Another look from me quelled any disagreement on that point. Fifteen minutes later, I watched as Dragon, in her customary guise of an elf maiden, left the house with Sorceress, Cleric, and my Old Dwarf. All four wore jeans and t-shirts and carried large sacks for the items they would collect.

* * *

“Last year, Cleric and I found an area where wildflowers abound. There are several large meadows along a dirt road, divided by small woodlots between the fields, and a large pond. We will go there.” Sorceress led the group down the street to the main road.

Dragon raised an eyebrow and tilted her head. “Are these places where collecting is allowed, or will we need to be discreet?”

Sorceress furrowed her brow. “Discretion is always called for, but they are not areas posted as private property; nor are there any warnings against collecting specimens. As long as we do not take too many specimens from any one area, and we fill in any holes where we harvest entire plants, we should be all right.”

“I do na be understandin’ why ye do na jest be magickin’ tha flowers and stuffs ye be needin’.” My Old Dwarf spoke around the bite of apple he was munching.

Sorceress rolled her eyes. “The components of a spell must be precisely developed from natural ingredients. Conjured plants would not work properly.” Her tone of voice indicated she felt this was common knowledge, something the dwarf should know, but he just shrugged.

The four companions continued along the road, arguing and sniping at each other, until Sorceress turned down a dirt trail. “The first meadow is just down here, a little way into the woods.”

Cleric stopped dead. “I . . . I cannot go on.” He eyes were wide and sweat beaded her forehead.

wildflowers along the fence“Aw, lassie, there be no need ta be afeared. The beastie an’ me be here ta be protectin’ ye.” The dwarf patted Cleric’s shoulder.

Sorceress sighed. “Let us just commence. The quicker we start, the quicker we can gather what we need and return home.”

Cleric looked at Dragon and the dwarf. They both nodded and smiled encouragingly at her. She sighed, squared her shoulders, and followed the path to the first meadow.

Her friends followed her and looked around. Dragon nodded approvingly. “Oh, yes, this is perfect!”

Bee on flowerButterfly on flowerCleric walked over to some yellow flowers and started examining them. “Be careful! Gently shoo away any bees, butterflies, or other pollinators before collecting the botanicals. I understand from conversations with Mistress that the pollinator populations are declining here. Do not harm any of them.”

For the next several hours, three of the friends collected flowers, leaves, stems, roots and fruit from the numerous meadows along the dirt road, while the dwarf stood guard and munched a seemingly endless supply of apples from his pockets and pouch.

Dragon kept track of what they were collecting.

“Bell flowers.”

“Bee balm.”Bee Balm

“Two different types of milkweed.”

“Ornamental onion.”Ornamental Onion

“Vetch.”Vetch

“Thistle in three stages – blossoming, in full flower, and gone to seed.”

“Black-eyed Susan.”Black-eyed Susan

“Woodland Sunflower.”

“Prairie coreopsis”Prairie Coreopsis

“Burdock.”Burdock

“Bird’s foot trefoil.”Bird's Foot Trefoil

“Clover.”

“Queen Anne’s lace.”Queen Anne's Lace

“Juniper berries.”Juniper berries

“Purple coneflower.”

“Anything else?”

Cleric nodded. “I have a lily I cannot identify. Should I harvest it?”

Unknown lily
“Yes. If we are unsure of its identification, we cannot be certain of its properties, so we must research it in the books in the conference room. It is easier to research it if we have a specimen, rather than attempting to remember its exact appearance.”

The companions continued their work for several hours. Finally, Sorceress sat back and sighed. She looked over at the piles of botanicals Dragon had organized. “This is enough for today. I daresay it will take all week for us to properly prepare what we have collected. We will return here again in the fall to harvest more.”

The three magic users packed up to head for home.

“Ohhhhh. Me tummy be hurtin’ bad, real bad!” The dwarf started moaning and clutching his stomach.

Sorceress snorted. “How convenient, now that it is time for you to help us carry these heavy sacks.”

“You probably just ate too many apples.” Cleric reached into her pouch. “I have some healing herbs that should quickly put you to rights.”

“We should go over by the pond and rest while we wait for the dwarf to recover.” Sorceress pointed to the body of water adjoining the field.

Dragon agreed. “Good idea. I am fatigued.”

“Oh, look!” Cleric pointed to some birds in a nearby tree. “It is a shame Mistress is not with us! She would love to see that one. She calls it a Common Yellowthroat, but the way she gets so excited whenever she sees it, it cannot be very common.”

Common Yellowthroat
“Is that other bird its young?” Sorceress pointed to a smaller bird in a nearby tree.

Fledgling Eastern Phoebe

“No, I believe I have heard Mistress call that one an Eastern Phoebe.”

“And what is that one?” Sorceress pointed again.

Black-capped Chickadee

“That is a Black-capped Chickadee. That is one we see a lot in the backyard.” Cleric looked proud that she could remember. “Oh, and there’s another one we have at home! Do you see the American Goldfinch eating the thistle seeds? I am glad we did not take too many thistle plants. The birds rely on the seeds as a major source of food.”

American Goldfinch

“Mistress would love the ducks here in the pond. Look – there are even some fuzzy ducklings!” Dragon watched the waterfowl with rapt attention.

It took a while, and quite a few herbs, to settle the dwarf’s stomach, but the companions didn’t mind spending the time watching the birds. By the time they were ready to go home, though, the afternoon sun hung low in the sky, and many of the ducks in the pond had already settled down to sleep.

Dragon frowned. “Is there a faster way to get back home, a different way than the route we took to get here?”

“We could be goin’ cross-country, instead o be followin’ tha roads back.” Dwarf pointed. “It be a lot closer thet way. Ye be knowin’ – tha way tha birdies be goin’.”

Sorceress rolled her eyes. “I believe the correct phrase is as the crow flies.”

“Din na I jest be sayin’ thet?” The dwarf sighed and shook his head. He picked up several of the sacks full of botanicals and started off.

“Wait.” Dragon frowned. “Just in case this route takes us onto private property, I best cast a spell of concealment on all of us.”

“Ye be knowin’ full well, beastie, thet a dwarf can na be majicked.”

“And you know full well that a spell of concealment does not affect those who are to be concealed, but those from whom something is to be concealed.”

“Eh. I be forgettin’. I be guessin’ thet tummyache still be affectin’ me.”

“I have more healing herbs.” Cleric reached for her pouch.

The dwarf made a face at the thought of consuming more of the bitter herbs. “Nay, lassie! I be feelin’ a whole bunch better now!”

Sorceress chuckled. “Amazing recovery.”

As soon as Dragon had cast the spell of concealment, the four companions started off across the meadow. In half the time it had taken them to reach the first meadow earlier that day, they found themselves back in the subdivision where they lived with Mistress Writer and Master Miles.

“Look! Is that not our neighbors, Mace and Gloria?” Cleric pointed to a couple sitting on a gazebo in a lush yard.

“It is.” Dragon glowered at the two troublemakers.

The dwarf stopped and looked around, wide-eyed. “We best be gittin’ outten here right quick-like, afore they be seein’ us!”

Sorceress scoffed. “They cannot see us, remember?”

“I be forgettin’ agin.”

“Shhh. What are they saying?” Dragon furrowed her brow, tilted her head, and cupped her ear.

“What . . .?” Cleric started to ask.

“Shhhh.” Dragon tried to listen to the couple’s conversation. “Let us get closer.”

As the companions crept over to the gazebo, they could clearly hear what Mace and Gloria were saying.

“They’ve been nothing but trouble since we moved here. We need to do something about them, and soon.” Mace frowned.

Gloria laughed a deep, throaty laugh. “Don’t worry, darling! I’ve got it all planned.”

“Oh?” Mace quirked an eyebrow.

“Remember the mushrooms?” Gloria smiled smugly. “Is it my fault some poisonous fungi got mixed in with them?”

“Poison mushrooms?” Mace’s eyes widened, and a smile spread across his face. “Do you think you can get our . . . friends . . . to eat them?”
Stroganoff
“Oh, darling, do you know anyone who can resist my stroganoff?” Gloria simpered at her husband. “By this time next week, we will have one less headache with which to contend in our happy little neighborhood.”

Dragon shoved the dwarf toward the side yard, then reached back and grabbed her other two friends by their arms and practically dragged them along. Once they had reached the street, Dragon let go of them.

Cleric wailed. “Mace and Gloria are going to try to kill Mistress Writer and Master Miles! We must warn them”

Sorceress scowled. “How do you know it is Mistress Writer and Master Miles they plan to murder?”

Dragon snorted. “Mistress and her mate are not among Mace and Gloria’s favorite people. Remember the trouble with Mystery?” https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/01/14/the-return-of-the-neighbors/

Cleric nodded. “But it matters not whom they plan to murder. We must alert the authorities!”

The dwarf glowered in the direction of Mace and Gloria. “No need. I kin be takin’ care o those two. Just let me be gittin’ me axe.”Dwarf
Are Mace and Gloria planning to kill Mistress Writer and Master Miles, or is someone else the target of their nefarious plot? Will they succeed, or will Mistress Writer’s characters intervene? Be sure to come back next week and find out what’s going on in the neighborhood. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

Lost

Lost

Holiday“So, what do you think we should do for the holiday?”

I wrinkled my brow and tilted my head, considering my husband’s question. “Holiday? What holiday?”

Miles chuckled and shook his head. “Memorial Day.”

I frowned. “It’s Memorial Day already? Where did the time go?”

Miles smiled. “Yup, it’s this coming Monday.”

I continued to frown. “I hate that it’s a holiday. It used to be – and still should be – a day for remembering and honoring those who died in active military service. Now, it just the beginning of the summer season, and an excuse for a three-day weekend, with barbecues, picnics, beach parties, etcetera.”


“What be this aboot a bar-be-cue and pick-a-nick?” My Old Dwarf stomped across the room and joined the conversation, a wide grin on his face. “Be ye needin’ me help ta pack up tha food?”

I scowled at him. “Barbecue and picnic. They’re the only two words you heard, aren’t they? I was just saying how Memorial Day is no longer observed in the way in which it was intended.”

“There be nuttin’ wrong wit honoring yer war dead by throwin’ a feast in their memory, lass, an’ raisin’ a mug or two in recognition o their courage and sacrifice. Thet be tha way we Dwarves be doin’ it!”

My husband smiled and shrugged at me. “Can’t argue with the Dwarven way!”

“Be thet ta mean we be goin’ on a pick-a-nick?” My Old Dwarf’s eyes brightened.

I sighed. “I suppose we could go on an outing.”

Elf facing right“What is this about an outing?” Cleric entered the room and caught part of the conversation. “Are we going on another nature trek to take pictures, Mistress?” Cleric’s eyes sparkled with anticipation, and she fidgeted with the cord on her robe.

I shrugged. “I suppose we could do some nature photography as part of the outing.”

“As long as ye do na be forgittin’ tha food!” My Old Dwarf smacked the flat of his axe against his palm for emphasis.

blue-dragon-facing-leftNow Dragon entered the room and the conversation. “Nature photography? Food? What is transpiring?”

“This coming weekend is Memorial Day weekend, and Miles thinks we should do something to celebrate. My Old Dwarf wants to have a picnic or barbecue, and Cleric would like to go on a nature hike. Do you have any preferences?”

“Yes. I think we should stay at home and enjoy a day of rest.”

arrogant-one-facing-rightMy Arrogant One, who had been right behind Dragon, grimaced and stuck his nose in the air. He commented in a petulant whine, “I thought you said it was a holiday. I suppose you are proposing a stayiday, like our last vacation was a staycation?”

I rolled my eyes as I remembered what my Arrogant One had said about that vacation. “The concept of vacation is new to me; however, I do understand it to involve travel away from one’s place of residence. We have traveled nowhere. For the past two weeks, we have not once taken leave of this place.

And when I had attempted to explain the concept of a staycation to him, he had declared the word to be merely another term for boring.
https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2016/12/18/vacation-is-over/

I sighed. “Yeah, I agree. I guess staying home to celebrate a holiday would be much the same as staying home for a vacation.”

“It be all set, then.” My Old Dwarf rubbed his hands together. “I be helpin’ wit tha food.”

“Of course you will.” Dragon sighed a puff of smoke at the old reprobate, who just laughed at her.

“Ye be seein’, beastie. It be a whole lot o fun!”

Dragon lifted an eyebrow and snorted. “I suppose I will be required to go.”

I nodded. “I think it would be nice if we all went. And besides, you’ve enjoyed these outings in the past.”

“Very well.” Dragon shrugged. “It might not be completely unbearable.”

“I will let the others know.” Cleric started to leave the room.

Miles“Wait a minute! We haven’t even decided where we should go, or on which day of the three-day weekend.” I looked at Miles. “What do you think, honey?”

“Why don’t we go Saturday? We should be able to prepare enough food by then. And we can go to your favorite picnic area by that woodland lake.”

I nodded, and Cleric skipped off to inform my other characters of our plans.

My Old Dwarf grasped Miles by the arm and led him off to check out the freezer. “Be ye thinkin’ we be havin’ enough vittles, or be we needin’ ta go to tha market?”

The rest of the week passed quickly as we prepared for our outing. The night before our trek, I called all my characters together. “It’s been a while since we’ve all gone on an outing. Let me remind everyone of the rules. First, all weapons, wands, staffs, and spell components will be left at home. Second, you will all dress in the modern garb of this world. Third, you will behave in a civilized manner. Last, if we encounter anyone, you will tell no one who you really are. If anyone asks, you’re some out-of-town relatives and friends, visiting for a few weeks.” I glared at them. “Do you all understand?”

Everyone nodded. My Arrogant One sniffed disdainfully. “This is not our first outing! We do understand the rules of deportment.”

“That’s rich, considering the last time we went on an outing, I had to remind you that you could not wear your robes.”

My Old Dwarf snickered.

“And I had to remind you that you could not go wandering around in public in your chain mail!” I scowled at the two of them.

Everyone murmured promises of good behavior, but the next morning when we were packing the car, it was as if we had gone back in time. Everything was just as it had been the last time we went on an outing.

Despite the previous night’s agreements, I had to confiscate several weapons and one staff, and neither my Old Dwarf nor my Arrogant One wanted to change their outfits.

I frowned at my Old Dwarf. “I’m sorry, but I’ve told you before that you just can’t wander around in chain mail. It would draw too much attention.”

I turned to my Arrogant One. “And I have told you that your robes are far too extravagant for an outing like this.”

It took another 15 minutes, and a lot of animated discussion, to convince them, but by the time Miles had loaded the picnic hamper and coolers into the car, everyone was presentable and ready to leave.

Ninety minutes later we arrived at one of my favorite picnic areas, a beautiful lakeside venue. My characters were eager to get set up, and they piled out of the car the moment my husband had it parked. Miles and I unloaded our supplies, and my characters helped us carry everything down the trail to the picnic table in the shade of the trees by the lake.

Picnic table by lake

camera for blogEveryone pitched in and helped my husband prepare the food. After a huge lunch, I suggested we go exploring. “I know Cleric wanted to assist with some nature photography, so I brought my camera. You’re all welcome to join us if you wish, to check out the resident wildlife.”

Easter 128“I’m sorry, honey.” Miles looked at me apologetically. “With the medications I take, you know I can’t tolerate the sunlight. I must stay here in the shade. The rest of you go enjoy yourselves. I’ll just clean up everything here and then take a nap under these trees.”

I gave my husband a quick kiss, grabbed my camera, and headed down the path. Dragon, in her guise of an elf maiden was right behind me, along with Cleric and Sorceress. When I turned around to see who else was coming, though, I stopped dead in my tracks.

My Old Dwarf, my Bounty Hunter, and my Arrogant One were back in their medieval apparel, weapons drawn, ready to engage in a melee. My Foreman, my Gypsy, and my Young Hero were also in their traditional attire, astride their horses, preparing to joust.

 

What is going on here?” I think my sister in Connecticut, some 1300 miles away, could probably hear me shriek.

Dragon shrugged. “They wanted to hold a tournament. I did not see the harm.”

Didn’t see the harm?” I gaped at her.

Dragon sighed. “Do not fret. I have cast a spell of concealment. No one will ever see them.”

I frowned and crossed my arms over my chest. “No. This is not going to happen. You three dismount. Everyone get rid of the weapons and return to the clothes you were wearing when we left the house this morning. Now!

“Oh, Mistress, why can we not . . .” My Gypsy started to wheedle but stopped when he saw the look I shot him.

Muttering and sighing, all my characters returned to modern gear. The horses and weapons disappeared, fading slowly out of existence.

“Come on. We’ll all go for a nature hike. I daren’t let any of you out of my sight!”

Grumbling, my characters trudged along as we headed down the trail that took us around the lake and into the woods on the other side.

My Old Dwarf walked next to Dragon and whispered to her. “Sometimes I be wishin’ thet tha lass be a wee bit more understandin’ aboot us. It be difficult ta be tryin’ all the time ta be fittin’ inta a new life. Oh, I be knowin’ thet we be livin’ here in her world for a good long time now, but we a been livin’ in our own world a whole lot longer afore thet! It be hard ta be givin’ up tha life we been knowin’ then.”


“Indeed!” Dragon nodded. “I wonder how well Mistress Writer would adapt to being ripped from her own familiar world and finding herself suddenly dropped into a totally alien society.”

“Now thet be a thought!” My Old Dwarf chuckled at the notion.

small figure on trailNeither Dragon nor her companion saw the small figure on the side of the trail. It was only slightly smaller than the squirrels that were scampering through the tall grass. It had a white beard and long, rabbit-like ears. A sly grin spread across its stony face as it listened to the conversation between my Old Dwarf and Dragon.

Despite their initial grumbling, all my characters joined in with enthusiasm when we started to see wildlife along the trail. They began a friendly competition to find, and identify, each animal along the way.

My Gypsy was first, much to Cleric’s disappointment. He pointed to two birds in trees near the lake “Look! There are two male Red-winged Blackbirds!”

Not to be outdone, Cleric pointed. “And there are the females!”

 

My Young Hero spoke up. “There’s a Song Sparrow.”

My Gypsy looked where the other lad was pointing. “No, that is a Swamp Sparrow. That one is a Song Sparrow.” He pointed at another small bird in a nearby tree.

Sorceress pointed at a group of birds on the lake. “I believe I have heard you call those large birds Canada Geese, Mistress.”

I nodded.

Dragon pointed at a single goose, closer to the shore. “There is another one. What a lovely reflection!”

“That Mallard also has a beautiful reflection!” My Bounty Hunter pointed.

My Arrogant One pointed at a bird on the wooden fishing pier. “Is that another of the same type, a Mallard?”

My Gypsy nodded.

Our attention was drawn to a nearby copse of trees, where we heard a persistent tapping. We followed the trail away from the lake and into the woods, looking for the source of the sound. “There!” My Foreman pointed. “A Red-headed Woodpecker!”

“Red-bellied Woodpecker,” my Gypsy corrected him, as I took some photos.

“An’ there be three right furry little bunny rabbits.” My Old Dwarf pointed.

My Gypsy looked where the dwarf was pointing and laughed. “I believe two of them are squirrels.”

The Secret TrailWe continued along the trail, enjoying the warm weather, the scenery, and the camaraderie. We had walked a considerable distance when I spotted a path off to the right, marked by a sign proclaiming it a Secret Trail. “Hmmm. I thought I knew every trail in this park, but I don’t ever remember seeing that one before.”

I began to lead the group up the overgrown steps rising from the forest floor.

“Stop!” Dragon cried out. “This trail does not feel right.”

“What do you mean?” I called back over my shoulder from the top of the steps.

“Mistress, take heed! There is something amiss here.” Dragon was wide-eyed, and the color had drained from her delicate elven features.

I immediately turned around. “Let’s go back, then.”

But the woods at the bottom of the steps looked different. I could not see the trail leading back toward the lake. From our position at the bottom of the steps, steps which also looked much different than the ones we had started to climb, the trail branched off in three directions. To the right, the path was choked by protruding tree roots. To the left, the trail was lined with boulders. Straight ahead, a wide avenue passed under a canopy of trees.different steps

Wide avenue

This was not the park where we had had our picnic, where we had just been hiking and taking wildlife photographs. Where were we?

Where are my characters and I? How did we get here? Will we be able to find our way back to the picnic grove, and to my husband? Be sure to come back next week for another exciting episode. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

Fixtures Light Elegant Lighting Fixture And Supply Company Intended For Front Porch Light Fixtures Front Porch Light Fixtures

And on this Memorial Day weekend, my husband and I, as well as my characters, wish to offer tribute to all who have perished in the service of their country. They will never be forgotten!

Memorial Day 3

First Nature Hike of the Spring

First Nature Hike of the Spring

Dragon reading to ClericI was on my way to the laundry room to see if the last load I had put in the washer was finished yet. The door to the conference room was open, and I saw Dragon leaning on her reading stand, discussing the contents of a book with Cleric.

I entered the room, and they both looked up. “Interesting reading?”

Dragon shook her head. “Very dry, Mistress.”

Cleric sighed. “We are still attempting to understand what happened last week, when everyone, save Dragon and myself, and you and Master Miles, were struck down by some mysterious malady. Dragon was consulting some ancient tomes.”

“Unfortunately, they have not yielded a single clue to the nature of the illness, nor to its source. And I still cannot discern why the four of us were the only ones not affected.” Dragon snorted a puff of black smoke. “It is very frustrating.”

I nodded. “I imagine so. Still, everyone has recovered from the illness and its effects. Is it important to research it now, after the fact?”

Dragon frowned. “If we are to avoid such a calamity in future, we need to understand what happened and why. I keep hoping I will find some reference to a similar situation in one of these historical records.”

Elf facing rightCleric rubbed her temples and sighed heavily. “I grow weary of all this research. I think what we all need is a diversion. Mistress, perhaps you and Master Miles could organize an outing for us? It has been a very long, cold winter, and you have taken very few nature photos. Now, spring is finally upon us. A good nature hike would be most enjoyable.”

I smiled and nodded. “That’s a great idea, but it’s a bit late in the day for that now. Perhaps we could go first thing tomorrow morning. Why don’t you see if anyone else is interested?”

“I will find everyone right now and ask them!” Cleric skipped out of the room, humming happily.

Dragon frowned. “I hope you do not mind, Mistress, but I will . . . what is that idiom you use? I will take a storm coupon?”

I smiled at Dragon’s attempt to use a modern phrase. “I think you mean a rain check.”Dragon with smoke bubbles

“Of course.” Obviously embarrassed, Dragon morphed to a pale blue, and smoke bubbles dripped from her snout. “Rain check. I will take a rain check.”

“You don’t want to go on an outing, now that the temperature doesn’t have you huddled in front of your illusory fireplace?”

“I think it best if I continue my research, Mistress. I really do fear an illness such as we just encountered could again befall us. I need to understand where it originated, and why only some were affected.”

I shrugged. “Very well, but if you change your mind, you know we would love to have you join us.”Elf

An hour later, I was folding the laundry I had just removed from the dryer. Cleric entered the laundry room, scuffing her feet and wearing a dejected expression.

I put down the sheet I was folding. “What’s wrong?”

“Oh, nobody wants to go on the outing tomorrow. Your Foreman and the lads want to work their horses. They say they have not been able to do that all winter. Sorceress and Dragon want to work on the mystery of the recent illness. Your Old Dwarf just wants to stay home and polish his armor. I got the impression your Bounty Hunter was interested, but your Arrogant One just snorted at the idea of going on a nature hike, and you know the one would not go without the other.”

I sighed. “Miles has other plans, too. So, I guess it’s just you and me!”

Cleric blinked. “You would take me, even if the others do not come?”

I smiled. “Of course! You are the only one who can get the wildlife to pose for me, so I can take pictures!”

I don’t think Cleric’s smile could possibly get any wider. “What time do we leave?”

                                                               * * *

The next morning, I was up early, but Cleric was already waiting for me. I saw she had discarded her clerical robes in favor of a pair of jeans and a sweatshirt, and she had replaced her sandals with a pair of comfortable sneakers. I nodded my approval at her outfit. “You look all set for a nice, long hike.”

“Oh, I am, Mistress. I hope we see a lot of birds and animals.”camera for blog

I grabbed my camera, kissed Miles goodbye, and off we went.

“Where are we going?”

“Well, I thought we’d start at Carver Park Reserve, then go to Purgatory Creek Park.”

“Have I ever been to either of those places?”

“I don’t remember, but don’t worry. I’m pretty sure you’ll like them.”

Ten minutes later, we pulled into the parking lot at the entrance to Carver Park Reserve.

“Look, Mistress! Those birds walking in that field are almost as tall as me! What are they?”

Grabbing my camera, I replied “Sandhill Cranes!” I snapped a few quick shots before the birds disappeared into thicker vegetation.

 

Cleric looked disappointed that the birds didn’t stay longer, but a flutter of movement caught her attention. In a moment, she was skipping over to see some Tree Swallows. One was on top of a nest box, the other watching from a tree. “Here, Mistress! They will pose for you!”

I hardly had time to photograph those birds when Cleric was squealing in delight. “Mistress! These pretty blue birds here will also pose for you!”

“Great! I didn’t realize the Eastern Bluebirds were nesting already.”

“And look, Mistress! I remember this bird from last year – a Yellow-rumped Warbler! You told me they were also called Butter Butts.”

The bird in question didn’t seem pleased with that moniker and refused to show that part of his anatomy for which he was named. He only posed for one quick photo before flitting off in search of food.

“Here’s a White-throated Sparrow!” Cleric smiled, obviously pleased she remembered the identity of another bird we had seen last year.

Carver Park Reserve 066

As I took the sparrow’s picture, Cleric wandered over to the nearby pond. “Oh, look, Mistress!”

I followed her over and saw her engaged in conversation with a muskrat. I took a few photos of him before he made a face at me. Cleric laughed. “I think he said that he is tired of posing and wants to get back to his breakfast.”

Leaving Carver Park Reserve, we drove to Purgatory Creek Park. As we pulled into the parking lot, I explained to Cleric, “I would like to get pictures of the waterfowl here.”

“I will attempt to get them to pose for you, Mistress.”

As we walked around the water’s edge, Cleric pointed to a group of strange looking birds. “What are those? I have never seen anything like them before!”

“Those are Horned Grebe.” She called them over and I snapped a few shots.

“Look! A goose!”

I turned toward the Canada Goose Cleric was approaching. She got it to pose for a beautiful shot with a nice reflection in the water, and then a close-up. “Thanks! That was great!”

As we walked along the water’s edge, Cleric coaxed more birds to come close to us. I snapped a few more photos, identifying the birds for Cleric.

“That’s a male Ring-necked Duck.”

Purgatory Creek and Spring Peeper Meadow 102

“And there’s another Ring-necked Duck with a male Ruddy Duck.”

Purgatory Creek and Spring Peeper Meadow 103

“There’s a pair of Ruddy Ducks.”

Purgatory Creek and Spring Peeper Meadow 142

“What are those different ducks in with the Ring-necked Ducks, Mistress?”

I looked where Cleric was pointing, and took a quick snapshot as I explained, “The one with the blue bill is a Lesser Scaup. The one with the brownish head and white eye-ring is the female Ring-necked Duck.”

Purgatory Creek and Spring Peeper Meadow 107

We continued hiking for the next several hours, snapping pictures of many of the waterfowl in the park.

We saw a pair of the Lesser Scaup, and Cleric called them over. She tilted her head as she looked at them. “So that’s what the female looks like.”

We saw some Pied-billed Grebes.

We saw several Mallards.

Then we came upon a group of American Coots.

“Look at their feet!” Cleric pointed and giggled.

Snapping several shots, I explained, “They have lobed feet. Their toes have stiff scale-covered flaps that help them kick through the water when swimming. When they’re walking, the scales fold back to help them move unimpeded over uneven land or through aquatic vegetation.”

Coot feet

After taking the last photo of the American Coots, we walked back to the parking lot. Suddenly, Cleric stopped short and I almost ran right into her. “Mistress, look!”

There, on a streetlamp, was an immature Bald Eagle. It had some branches in its talons and was trying to arrange them on the light.

“Is that eagle building a nest? There?

I shook my head. “It’s probably just practicing. This bird doesn’t have the full white head and tail of an adult, so it’s not yet of breeding age.”

“Well, I think this one needs a lot of practice!” Cleric giggled as the vegetation slipped off the lamp, and the Bald Eagle started preening itself as if embarrassed. Then, it turned its head as if to ignore us.

 

As we headed back home, Cleric was all smiles. “I really enjoy these nature walks. Can we go again soon, Mistress?”

“We’ll see. I hate to make any promises. We never know what might happen.”
 

Be sure to come back next week and see if things remain calm and peaceful so we can go on another outing, or if my characters will land us in some new adventure. We’ll leave the porch light on for you!

Living Room Nature Photography on a Winter’s Day

Living Room Nature Photography on a Winter’s Day

I walked into the living room, intending to catch up on some reading. I had downloaded Jean Rabe’s new book onto my laptop and was planning to stretch out in the recliner for a few hours and immerse myself in her latest mystery, The Bone Shroud.

Dragon in front of fireplace

On the far side of the room, Dragon was huddled by her illusory fireplace, a brooding expression on her reptilian face.

I tilted my head and raised an eyebrow at her. “A penny for your thoughts.”

Dragon looked up at me, and the corners of her mouth twitched for the briefest of moments. “Forsooth, I am not certain you would receive any value for your coin.”

“Oh?” I wasn’t sure if I should press for details. After Dragon remained silent for a few minutes, I took my seat by the French doors leading to the deck. “You seem troubled, my friend. You know if you want to talk about anything . . .”Dragon with smoke bubbles

“Perhaps . . . at some time in the future.” Smoke bubbles dribbled out of Dragon’s nose. “Right now, I must attempt to make sense of things on my own.”

“What sort of things?”

Dragon discussing thingsDragon sat up, tilted her head, and gestured with her clawed hand. “You know the snow devils accused me of capturing them in a magical conduit that I and another of my kind had created, and through which we were traveling. Their words awakened in me a jumble of memories.” Dragon turned her head away, staring off into space. “I need time to sort through the vague, fragmented recollections and murky images swirling through my mind like smoke in the wind.”

 

I nodded.

Dragon turned back to face me. “But, in time, I am sure we will have need of a discussion of this matter. Meanwhile . . .” The big beast glared at the scene outside the window. “Will winter never end this year?” She shivered violently and huddled closer to the heat of her illusory fireplace.

Dragon in front of fireplace

Elf facing rightSomeone else spoke up. I was so startled, I almost dropped my laptop. Cleric had been so quiet, I had walked right past her and not even noticed her sitting on the sofa.

 

“It had been such a pleasant day when we took Mystery . . . I mean Peaches . . . back to her owner.” Cleric heaved an enormous sigh. “Even with the snow still deep in some spots along the road, the day was warm, the sun was shining, and the birds were singing their spring songs. Today . . .” She wrinkled her nose as she gestured at the snow and sleet falling softly onto the deck. “Today, it is miserable once again.”

“That’s the capricious nature of the weather in Minnesnowta in spring.” I looked out the window. “The birds and squirrels don’t seem bothered by it, though.”

Cleric clasped her hands and gave me a hopeful look. “That is a good sign, is it not, Mistress? Perhaps they know this abominable weather will not last long.”

“Perhaps.” I smiled.

“We should follow the example of the wild creatures.” Cleric walked over and studied the scene outside. “We should not be moping about.”

“Speak for yourself.” Dragon growled softly, and smoke drifted from her snout. “I am most happy to mope.”

Smoke drifting from Dragon's snout

laptopI chuckled. “Well, I, for one, wasn’t planning on moping. I was planning on reading.” I gestured to my laptop.

“Would you not rather take pictures of the birds and creatures today, Mistress?” Seeing the look of alarm on my face, Cleric was quick to reassure me. “You would not have to go outside. You could stay right here where it is warm and dry and take the pictures through the windows. I daresay I could coax the little animals close enough for you.” She looked at me with pleading eyes.

camera for blogI considered Cleric’s request. I knew how much she was missing the little horse we had dubbed Mystery. She had just made a hard-won connection with the horse right before having to return Mystery to her owner. I capitulated, thinking it might help distract Cleric from thoughts of the horse. “Very well. I will get my camera. You do what you do best and convince the critters to pose for me.”

By the time I had returned with my camera, Cleric was coaxing some birds onto the deck. I got a great shot of one of the birds on the deck railing, scattering the snow.

2 - Junco

“That is a Dark-eyed Junco, is it not, Mistress?”

I nodded. “They’re winter residents here. If they’re still here, so is winter.”

Cleric squinted. “What does he have around his beak?”

I looked. “I think he has some hulls from the safflower seeds he was eating stuck to his beak.”

“Look, Mistress, he has turned around and he is looking at us. I think he wants you to take another picture.”

The delight in Cleric’s voice was contagious, and I found myself smiling broadly as I took several more pictures of the little bird as it dropped down to eat some of the seed from the “birdie buffet” on the deck.

“Here comes a Black-capped Chickadee.” Cleric furrowed her brow. “I seem to remember seeing them here in summer as well.”

“Yup. They’re year-round residents in Minnesota. They’re rather friendly little birds. They don’t seem bothered by people taking their picture.” This one posed for several photos on the railing before proceeding to the buffet.

“And here comes one of my favorite year-round residents – a White-breasted Nuthatch.” Cleric was smiling and pointing again.

I quickly focused my camera and got a great close-up of the nuthatch on the railing.

11 - Nuthatch

“Bleh!” Dragon seemed unimpressed.

“You do not like the birds?” Cleric sounded shocked.

Dragon snorted. “Black and white birds? Pfft. They are all just like this day – dreary. Can you not find some birds with color?”

Cleric bristled. “They most certainly are not dreary! They are handsome little birds, and quite elegant.”

Dragon rolled her eyes.

Cleric sighed. “Very well, if you must have colorful birds, I will see what I can find.”

A moment later, Cleric had beckoned a Blue Jay to pose on the railing. “Do you like that one better?”13 - Blue Jay

“It certainly has more color.” Dragon shrank to the size of a housecat and perched on the back of the couch to look out the window, promptly scaring off the Blue Jay before I could get more than a single photo. “Are there any more?”

Dragon birdwatching
Cleric scanned the yard. “I see a male Northern Cardinal. Let me see if I can coax him nearer.”

A few seconds later, the bird was posing on the railing, perching in the spot the Blue Jay had just vacated.

14a - Male Cardinal

“Now, that is a beauty!” Dragon nodded appreciatively.

“There is his mate, in that tree.”

Dragon and I both looked where Cleric pointed. The female cardinal, a brown bird tinged with subdued shades of red, huddled on a bare branch.

“Not as brilliant as her mate, she is nonetheless possessed of a delicate beauty all her own.” Cleric tried to coax the female cardinal closer, but to no avail.

14 - Female Cardinal

“She looks cold.” The heat-loving beast sounded sympathetic to the plight of the shivering bird. Dragon craned her neck and continued to stare at the tree. “What is that bird on the left side of the tree trunk?”

Cleric took a look at the bird. “That is a male Red-bellied Woodpecker.”

“Red-bellied? Do you not mean red-headed?” Dragon watched the bird drilling into the tree.

Cleric giggled. “That’s what I said to the Gypsy lad when he first showed me this bird. But he told me that it does have a faint red splotch on its belly which you can see when the bird’s feathers are not so puffed up.”

I quickly focused on the bird Dragon had seen and clicked the shutter.

16 - Red-bellied Woodpecker

“Hmmm. You seem to have learned a great deal about birds from the Gypsy lad and Mistress Writer. What is this one that has just landed in the snow on the deck?”

Cleric’s face glowed at Dragon’s compliment, and she quickly identified the bird in question. “That is a male House Finch. His song is as beautiful as his appearance, a long, jumbled warble that can be heard year-round, not just during the mating season. And the bird that just landed on the railing is an American Tree Sparrow. See the bi-colored bill and the rusty line through its eye?”

 

I took a few quick photos before the birds scooted to the far end of the deck. I looked at the other end of the deck, and saw a gray squirrel scrambling up the steps. The furry critter grabbed a hazelnut and climbed onto the railing to eat, eyeing us brazenly.

“The cold and snow certainly do not seem to be bothering him.” Cleric waved at the little creature.

I laughed. “If I had a nice, thick fur coat like that, and a warm tail to wrap up in, I doubt I would mind the cold and the snow, either!” I laughed as I snapped two photos of the little furball.

Suddenly, the birds scattered and the squirrel dropped his hazelnut and dashed from the deck.

Dragon blinked. “What happened?”

“I think that happened.” I pointed at a Sharp-shinned Hawk in the tree. He was eyeing the birdie buffet to see if he could grab a quick lunch.

“Oh, my goodness. I do believe he brought some company!” Cleric pointed to some other birds in a tree at the far end of the yard.

“What are they?” Dragon stretched up to see the newcomers.

“Well, two of them are Bald Eagles. I do not recognize the third one.” Cleric turned to me. “Mistress, can you see what it is from here?”

“Let me zoom in on it with my camera.” I took a shot, then looked at it on the camera’s display screen. “It appears to be a juvenile Bald Eagle.”

27 - Juvenile Bald Eagle

Dragon frowned. “It does not have as much white on its head as the other two.”

I nodded. “Bald Eagles do not get their full color – the white head and tail – until they are about five years of age.”

“I see.” Cleric looked around the yard, but the eagles and hawk were the only animals remaining. “Well, I guess the photo session is over.” She sighed wistfully.

“I guess so.” I put the lens cap back on my camera and put the camera down. “It was a lot of fun while it lasted, though. I’m glad you suggested it.” I picked up my laptop. “Now, though, I’m going to read that book.”

Cleric smiled. “I will leave you to it, then. I really should go find Sorceress. We need to work on distilling some potions today.”

Dragon yawned. “And I will go back to moping.” She winked at me as she once again curled up by her illusory fireplace.

I settled into the recliner and started reading: The Bone Shroud by Jean Rabe . . .

reading

 

 
It’s nice to enjoy a quiet, uneventful day occasionally. Around here, they are few and far between. We hope you will continue to visit each week and see what my characters are up to. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

A Break in the Story

A Break in the Story

Elf clericGood morrow, old friends and new readers! Dragon here (in my accustomed form of an elf, to facilitate easier typing).

With the stressful situation of trying to discover who hexed all of us characters and why, determining how to remove the hex, and deciding how to assist the Great Wyrm to return to her own world, we completely forgot about two rather special events. Both our own Mistress Writer and her mate, Master Miles, celebrated their birthdays this week past!

Last year, we had a party for them, complete with homemade cake and ice cream. We also made some beautiful presents for them. You can read about last year’s celebration, and see our beautiful handiwork, here: https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2016/10/09/surprise/

This year, we were so involved in our current mystery, we totally forgot! We are all quite ashamed! Well, all but that annoying elf, the Arrogant One. That one does not shame easily!

Once we remembered, we immediately decided we should do something very special for Mistress Writer and Master Miles. We concluded the best present we could possibly give them was the week off…alone!

They really enjoyed an entire week to themselves, not having to deal with us. Oh, do not misunderstand me, please! The Mistress and her mate are really quite fond of us. Well, most of us. Well, most of the time. But to be able to go out and enjoy themselves without worry or care was a real treat for them.

One of the days, they went to a beautiful spot, full of natural and cultivated beauty – the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. I have taken the liberty of going through Mistress Writer’s notes and photographs, in order to share with you good readers just a few of the images they took.

There was evidently an art exhibit at the Arboretum when Mistress Writer and Master Miles were there. If I am deciphering Mistress Writer’s notes correctly (she has the most illegible script I have ever encountered – no wonder she uses that magic machine that produces the pencraft for her!), the paintings on display were created by three brothers (Bob, Joe, and Jim Hautman) who live here in Minnesota, the state wherein we reside. Mistress Writer and Master Miles must have greatly appreciated these three artists, as they took a plethora of photos of these artists’ paintings. Here are just three of them:

 

Arboretum art exhibit and back road birding 105
Woodies by Bob Hautman
Arboretum art exhibit and back road birding 109
Grey Jay by Jim Hautman
Arboretum art exhibit and back road birding 120
Walking and Talking – Two Trumpeter Swans by Joe Hautman

 

Of course, visiting a place such as the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, one simply must enjoy the flowers.

 

There were also a number of seasonal displays to view, even a few provided by Mother Nature. By some magic unknown to me and my associates, some of the images were lacking in color!

 

Mistress Writer also took some photos of Master Miles. Again, some of the images were magically drained of color!

 

Master Miles managed to get a single image of Mistress Writer, who seems to become most distraught whenever a camera is pointed at her.

Miles' Camera 128

All in all, I believe they had a most enjoyable day without all us characters in tow.

 

Even in the absence of the Mistress and Master, however, our mystery continued. Be sure to come back next week, as we relate the further developments of this suspenseful adventure. We’ll leave the porch light on for you!