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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Retreat Scholarship Prompt and Rules: Fall in the High Desert

By Amy Robinson and Marilyn Friedman

Are you a broke writer who needs a break from the stress of the city? How does a relaxing mini-vacation at the Writing Pad High Desert Retreat sound? Spend a weekend filled with fantastic writing classes, gourmet food, top-notch instructors, and supportive classmates, all set in a beautiful high desert spa. A full scholarship ($815 value) will be granted to one lucky writer to attend our luxurious retreat on October 21-23! All you have to do is enter our writing contest. All rules are below.

Our last scholarship winner, Jim Gillett, got the essay that he worked on at the retreat published in Spirit Magazine, Southwest Airlines' in-flight publication.  You should be next!

Don't be intimidated--apply for the scholarship. You can do it! Good luck! :)

These are the rules that you must follow to apply for the scholarship. Note: Anyone can respond to the prompt and be entered into the August/September contest (we're going to extend the deadline thru Oct. 6th for August/September) for a free writing class!

1. Post 1 writing sample only (that applies to the prompt below) in the comments of this blog AND email a copy to NO LATER than Thursday, October 6 at 10 a.m. Your sample should be a maximum of 5 normal sized paragraphs.  For poems, the limit would be 5 stanzas maximum or if the poem only has 1 long stanza, it should not be longer than 1 page, double spaced with 12 point font.  For short stories, even short lines of dialogue count as a paragraph.  Remember, the shorter your piece is, the better (but it should still be a complete story or a complete poem).

2. Also email proof of current or long-term economic hardship to NO LATER than Thursday, October 6 at 10 a.m. (Ex. Bank statements, letter demonstrating that you have been laid off from your job, etc.) Feel free to also summarize your situation in the email, but send the back up as well. This will be kept completely confidential.

3. Writing submissions can be in any form (poetry, short story, dialogue, fiction, non-fiction, a rant, etc.) but must follow the paragraph limit and apply to the writing prompt below.

4. The contest will be judged by the following esteemed writers (see the next blog entry for their bios): Antoine Wilson, Janelle Brown, Joe Donnelly and Pamela Ribon. The contest winner will be announced by Tuesday, October 11.

Writing Prompt: October in Joshua Tree is the perfect time of year to visit the high desert.  It is warm during the day and cool at night.  Therefore, we were inspired to create this writing prompt:

Write about your favorite fall memory.  Make a list of 5 things/memories that come to mind when I say the word “fall.”  Pick one and add a sensory detail to it (smell, taste, sound, touch, sight). Note: this does not have to be a true story and can be in any form (poetry, short story, dialogue, fiction, non-fiction, a rant, etc.).  For a chance at the scholarship spot, also email your writing sample and proof of current or long-term economic hardship to, following the instructions above.

Fall makes Marilyn think of apples and apple picking.  Here is an example of a lovely fall poem by former poet laureate Ted Kooser to inspire you.  We have also pasted another poem about apple picking by Robert Frost in the comments of this blog to help get your creative juices flowing.  Good luck!

I liked how the starry blue lid
of that saucepan lifted and puffed,
then settled back on a thin
hotpad of steam, and the way
her kitchen filled with the warm
wet breath of apples, as if all
the apples were talking at once,
as if they'd come cold and sour
from chores in the orchard,
and were trying to shoulder in
close to the fire. She was too busy
to put in her two cent's worth
talking to apples. Squeezing
her dentures with wrinkly lips,
she had to jingle and stack
the bright brass coins of the lids
and thoughtfully count out
the red rubber rings, then hold
each jar, to see if it was clean,
to a window that looked out
through her back yard into Iowa.
And with every third or fourth jar
she wiped steam from her glasses,
using the hem of her apron,
printed with tiny red sailboats
that dipped along with leaf-green
banners snapping, under puffs
of pale applesauce clouds
scented with cinnamon and cloves,
the only boats under sail
for at least two thousand miles

~ Ted Kooser

Comment on this blog! Write about your favorite memory of autumn. Even if you are not applying for the scholarship, comment! You could win a free class at Writing Pad!


Writing Pad said...

Here's a lovely poem about apple picking to also inspire you (Obviously, Robert Frost is not applying to the contest!):

After Apple Picking
My long two-pointed ladder's sticking through a tree
Toward heaven still.
And there's a barrel that I didn't fill
Beside it, and there may be two or three
Apples I didn't pick upon some bough.
But I am done with apple-picking now.
Essence of winter sleep is on the night,
The scent of apples; I am drowsing off.
I cannot shake the shimmer from my sight
I got from looking through a pane of glass
I skimmed this morning from the water-trough,
And held against the world of hoary grass.
It melted, and I let it fall and break.
But I was well
Upon my way to sleep before it fell,
And I could tell
What form my dreaming was about to take.
Magnified apples appear and reappear,
Stem end and blossom end,
And every fleck of russet showing clear.
My instep arch not only keeps the ache,
It keeps the pressure of a ladder-round.
And I keep hearing from the cellar-bin
That rumbling sound
Of load on load of apples coming in.
For I have had too much
Of apple-picking; I am overtired
Of the great harvest I myself desired.
There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch,
Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall,
For all
That struck the earth,
No matter if not bruised, or spiked with stubble,
Went surely to the cider-apple heap
As of no worth.
One can see what will trouble
This sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is.
Were he not gone,
The woodchuck could say whether it's like his
Long sleep, as I describe its coming on,
Or just some human sleep.

Robert Frost

Alessandra Rizzotti said...

The Thirty-First of Fall
By Alessandra Rizzotti

They say the leaves don't change in LA
They say everything stays green till it turns brown
But on Fountain, the leaves are yellow, red, and green
All at once
Just one street
Do you know of any more?

My first memory of a leaf falling:
I was two years old
My father gave me a Halloween basket
Shaped like a pumpkin
And told me to collect all the leaves I could
One leaf fell, completely brown
It crumpled in my fingers upon first touch

My father put me inside a pumpkin that day
I remember the gush of the innards
Betwixt my feet,
My body only fitting a third of the way
My toes stayed orange
I took a bath and the water turned yellow,
Like a leaf

The cloak I wore that thirty-first was green
"Little Green Riding Hood," my mother called me
The wool on the surface was rough, the inside silky and warm
For the LA cold, it kept me boiling hot

My shoes were red, like the middle stage of a leaf
I ran so fast, hitting the concrete as the yellow leaves fell to my face
The brown leaves crumpling under my toes
The breeze swimming between my fingers
Apple cider and pumpkin pie hitting my nose
I felt so alive that thirty-first of fall

gabbyrev20 said...


My miniature palms were sweaty from clutching so tightly that I couldn’t feel my fingers anymore. At 10 years old, this kind of excitement made me only think of peeing. I tried my best hold it in, because it had already taken me a few hours to get ready. Waiting 10 years may not seem like a lot, but when its all you’ve had, and its really forever, it feels like more lifetimes than comprehension allows. I tried on 10 separate dresses, finally settling on the little green one that complemented the autumn leaves. This occasion would obviously be documented and I had to look my best. It was after all, my first fall, my first meeting, my first breathless moment.

The doorbell rang and my eyes grew so big they occupied my entire face. My ears felt hot and my smile was shaking. I could feel my little heart physically beating out of my chest as I heard his voice for the first time say my name. Gabriela. I ran and hid in the garage. My mom called out to me.

After a few moments she found me hiding behind my scarf. She had asked him to wait outside while she made sure I was okay. I wasn’t okay. I was having a child like nervous breakdown of adult proportions. Once she assured me that everything would be okay she opened the garage door. I wasn’t sure if I was ready, but I opened my eyes and started seeing him in bits and pieces. First his shoes, then his torso, and finally his smile. My smile. I recognized that smile.

Without thinking, I ran up to him and jumped in his arms. I forgot about all of the father-daughter picnic’s I’d never gone to or the birthday calls I’d never gotten. I hugged him so tightly my little cheek had an imprint of his. I took in a deep breathe. He smelled like cinnamon and cologne and some herbal substance I couldn’t place. When I finally let go, I said

“Hello, Mr. Dad, my name is Gabby”.


color. texture. grounding.
time to shift the closet of white linen
and open-toed shoes
for warm cashmere
blankety golden velvets
corduroy, silk
and stressed leather boots
musky ambers floating
and deep red
line the lips of the city girl
who dreams of the country smell
dewy drops on the barn door
dry, weathered tack
fallen leaves
faded paint
and double-stuffed hay line the stable
for the return of her
favorite four-legged friend
home from Summer at pasture.

Emma said...

This is not a memory. This is right now. It is October 5th. I am sitting in my little, cozy, 70s-build one-bedroom apartment in West LA. Outside, the rain comes down in confident, even streaks. I hear it falling on the skylight above me and see it through the kitchen window coming down in stronger, more concentrated streams – collecting on the roof and catching on the eaves before consolidating and falling to the ground.

Rain in Los Angeles is a rare treat. Usually, it is blindingly bright, blindingly clear, which is why we all move to Los Angeles and stay here. But rain is like a reprieve – an excuse to stay in, to be cuddly, to drink hot tea and wear layers. It transports you – me – to memories of fall – to New England, where I’m from. It becomes an excuse to bake, to slow the movements of the day. We Los Angelenos congregate inside – taking shelter from the storm. We’re in it together – on this voyage – in this foreign place – one where water falls from the sky – together. Later I’ll go to the gym, and the lights inside will be strong – in contrast to the darker, wetter, greyer outside. Somehow even this boring chore – going to an industrial strength indoor space with machines and concrete floor – will feel cozy and special and exciting.

Alina said...


Reds, greens, oranges, and browns crunch under my feet.
They flap their veiny wings in the moody wind gusts.
I walk to see you for the last time,
through the park where we first kissed,
In the Spring, when all was hope and hot happy tears.

They tell me, life is just beginning.
New country, new opportunities, new dreams…
But I dream of you, and me, wrapped in wool
on the royal blanket of leaves,
timeless earthy tokens of love broken by circumstance.

You are waiting for me, breath on the window.
Our eyes meet and I can see my sadness in yours.
You hold my hand, simply, softly, and take me back to the park.
Huddled together, in dripping silence,
we collect leaves in big smelly heaps.

And then slowly, you weave me a crown,
And I weave you one, just like mine.
Crowns are hard to kiss in, did you know?
But we kiss, the new king and queen of this dying love,
We kiss until our lips bleed like our hearts.

At the airport, sentinels of the country borders
take my leafy crown away.
My family, they watch me falling, apathetic.
Pressed into the seat, ground falling away, I hear your voice,
“My heart’s in every fallen leaf, my queen…”

Michael Crowe said...

Black-Eyed Susans

I had the mother of all close calls a year ago last October. At roughly 70 with a build like an ex-linebacker, Mrs. Hooperman was no cougar babe in anybody’s black book. I was late on rent. So she shut off the water flowing to the Apache 2500, the trailer parked in her backyard where I had lived for the last three years. No water meant no high-velocity toilet. This was war. I did what any sane individual would do after drinking a Big Gulp full of Mountain Dew and Smirnoff.

With my bladder heavy like the Hindenburg, I bolted outside to her backyard garden and whizzed on her Black-Eyed Susans. They were flowers with bright yellow petals and black clusters that grew prominently in the middle. Autumn’s finest gift, Mrs. Hooperman had called them. Now I was splashing hot tinkle right into Susie’s black eyes. The crisp fall air started to blow a crosswind of cool eddies below my belt. One by one, the season’s frigid warriors kissed the boys on both sides. I shivered.

“You’re a dead man!” Mrs. Hooperman yelled, sounding like she had a throat full of chicken seed.

I looked over my shoulder and saw her in her house scowling through an open window that faced the backyard. A urine-saturated moment passed and she moved behind a screen door and shook her jowls like she might actually fling them from her face. Run, hop away, do something, I thought, but movement of any kind was nearly impossible during the thick of a long pee. Mrs. Hooperman lumbered down the porch at a fast clip even though she walked with a cane. She held a half-empty bottle of Wild Turkey down by her hip and booked across overgrown grass that Vietcong soldiers could have hid in. By the time I finished dousing the Black-Eyed Susans, she reached me and hoisted her cane towards the clouds. I was going to die with my pants down. Then, out of nowhere, she slowly lowered her cane and let it rest by her side. You’ll never guess where I caught her looking.

Not to toot my own trombone, but this wrinklepalooza of a woman looked impressed. Her bloodshot eyes smiled wide. “Make love to me, Phillip.”

Alana Saltz said...

The Pumpkin Patch

Every year, a pumpkin patch
appeared at the garden store.
The bright orange tent stole our attention,
made us realize that now it was fall.

We waded through the straw-covered floor
to find the best in show.
The spiky pumpkin handles pierced our skin
as we lifted the contenders up by their tops.

We liked the ones that were fat and round,
eager to carve open and pull out their insides.
From the pulpy mess, seeds were sprinkled with salt
and baked on a cookie sheet for us to eat.

In the corner of the tent, a pile of discarded clothes lay
for us to grab and stuff with straw.
Our new scarecrow woman had a lumpy blouse torso,
prickly jean legs, and a pantyhose head.

We drew eyes on her face with magic markers
and a smile on her lips in a simple swoop.
She sat on our porch swing from October till Christmas
beside the carved pumpkin as it started to rot.

Lorinda said...

Albuquerque Autumn
By Lorinda Toledo

Fall in Albuquerque means crisp, cool air in the evenings and warm golden sunlight in the day, and riding my penny-colored horse through a path lined with cottonwood leaves of yellow and orange and auburn, comforting as Grandma's plump brown arms as she welcomes you inside for cinnamon-sprinkled biscochitos, freshly made tortillas and green chile stew.

The rich scent of New Mexico's most well-loved crop is in the air this time of year, as green chiles roast in round black iron cages, spinning over the fire until they are soft and slightly toasted, ready to be peeled. We sip coffee with chile juice-covered hands while we peel chiles and talk. We sit on the patio, surrounded by the cosmos my mother planted in the backyard. They are blooming lavender and white and seven feet tall, and the alfalfa in the fields beyond is tall and green and ready to be cut and baled. Underneath their papery skin, the roasted chiles are soft as silk and juicy as lemons, and they have a deep earthy spice that warms your body pleasantly through from your tongue to your core. We will chop them up and eat them piled high on enchiladas and eggs and even burgers, or we will simmer them patiently in stews and posole.

"As the nights cool," my father reminds me, his green eyes dancing, his black mustache tipped with more silver than I remember, "The chile still left in the fields will slowly begin to turn red, the cool air slowly transforming them until they are red as roses." We will string them into ristras that hang like upside down trees from brown twine, so that the chiles will dry and we can crush them up and make them into a sauce, dark red like rich, clay-filled soil.

Chile season means that it is time for another autumn tradition -- the Balloon Fiesta. There are so many memories there for me in those big open fields, from the time that my brother and sister and I were small children, bundled warm coats and sipping hot chocolate, the sky still black because it's so early in the morning. We watch and wait for hints of pink and blue to slowly appear in the east above the dark silhouette of the Sandia Mountains. When the light finally breaks, it illuminates a giant sprawl of people from all over the world who bring hundreds of giant hot air balloons to fly en masse. The balloons are made of canvas, rougher to the touch than they look, and standing a hundred stories high. Filled with air, the balloons bob in place as if they were live things, anxiously awaiting the roar of orange flames that lick at their giant mouths, ready to fly into the vivid blue New Mexico sky.

Abby said...

The moon hangs low— a giant ball of orange and red— a brief respite from this horrific game. All football games at Ottawa Hills pretty much suck being that the Green Bears tend to lose every game of the season, and this one’s no exception. Go Bears!

“Let’s go! Let’s go! L-e-t-s-G-o!” That’s me. The cheerleader smiling. The one in the legwarmers and mittens. Despite the bounce in my pony tail, really, I’m a miserable sort. The only thing that keeps the cold away is constant hopping. Plus, it burns calories. What looks like ‘spirit’ is really a conveniently masked eating disorder. Lean Cuisine 290. Pumpkin Pie 290. Candy Corn 2… Touchdown! The other team.

It’s homecoming. Naturally, I wanted to be the queen, but it’s not like I’d tell anyone. I wasn’t even nominated. Despite the fact that I’m a cheerleader, I’m a stoner. And on antidepressants. A month ago I ran around naked in an apple orchard with two other boys in my grade who I recently discovered smoke weed. Things like running naked in apple orchards is misunderstood and apparently doesn’t help your “reputation”. Now, even those boys don’t talk to me. Cool breath comes out like a perfectly exhaled cigarette. I wish to the moon that one day I’ll be noticed. Forgiven, even. I’m forgotten. Split jump. Hurkey. Split jump. I’m made of straw and have no brain.

At half time, all the homecoming nominees, decked out in their cashmere sweaters and pearls, do a lap around the track in their convertibles. They wave from Cavaliers, MG’s, even a silver Rolls Royce. Their names echo from the loudspeakers. After the winner is announced, Hope Taylor aylor aylor, she’s applauded and showered with roses and praise. The moon stands watch from above. I run to the bathroom. I need a break before the second half. And a cigarette. Pronto.

On my way back to the field, Mr. Hardman, the football coach/gym teacher, catches me in the parking lot. “You should have been homecoming queen.” His sincerity echoes louder than any homecoming announcement over the loudspeaker. You should have been homecoming queen. As he trots towards the field, I look up to the moon and smile. “Thank you,” I say. Thank you thank you thank you. A tiny white dot. The light at the end of the tunnel.

Anonymous said...

School supply orgasm

By Lisa Hotchkiss

The smell of a new eraser. The subtle crack as you open a brand new spiral notebook. A colorful melange of carefully selected pens, pencils and highlighters. Folders, binders, a small calculator – oh yes, yes, yes – another school supply orgasm.

Maybe because I spent eight uniformed years in parochial school, and the only fashion statement we could make was with our knee socks, back-to-school shopping took on a whole different meaning. With the end of summer, came the anticipation of the coveted event that ranked right up there with Christmas Eve and Pizza Day -- school supply shopping!

In my Central Valley hometown, Longs was the mecca of Pee Chee folders and Flair pens, and it was here we made the annual pilgrimage. As we triggered the store’s self-opening door, I was Charlie in Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory – wide-eyed, with heart racing, as I anticipated my new delicious treasures.

Though the shopping list varied little each year, there was a virginal giddiness each time I selected the exact Pink Pearl eraser that would eliminate my future errors and give me one more shot at perfection. And the pens that would help me to absorb the many lessons presented and allow me to create masterful essays. And the folders that would hold these precious documents.

But the climactic and defining moment came in choosing spiral notebooks. These pristine pages of college rule -- a different color cover for every subject -- would soon be the vessels to hold my manic note-taking and my boredom doodles. They would chronicle this unique year of my life and by June, filled and tattered, they would join last year’s notebooks gathering dust on my crowded bookshelf. And the countdown to September would start again…

Julie Ann McClain said...

Soup, a piquant painting, a swirl of the goodness of the earth, a pot of home cooked love, an excuse to bake crusty bread and smother it in melting butter. A worthy and righteous destination for leftover beans, veggies, noodles, tiny hunks of asiago too small to grate, the tomatoes that have fallen, overripe to the deck, split and squashed but not spoiled.

The season of soup and socks has arrived and the swim I didn’t take on the last day of the Indian summer heat wave now feels months, instead of days, out of reach behind me. The canvases too large to work on indoors similarly reproach me from the corner of my office, blank and now that summer is gone, likely to stay that way til Spring.

As the first real rain of the season tentatively begins and starts to pick up the beat, the drummers that live in the clouds finding their groove, I wander through the house, aimless and bereft, not understanding how I can waste the precious first rain in this mood today. Autumn is my favorite time and it seems really so ungrateful of me to be starting it with the tiniest sense of regret, after a full and long summer- whence comes this sudden greed for hot weather? Whence comes the urge to use the word “whence”? Have I even used it correctly? And where is my mother when I need her English Teacher quick-reference assistance? I do already know the answer to that. Vascular Dementia. There and gone, the same question 20 times in 10 minutes. The same 5 or 6 stories, not even true, reeling out like catechism recited, impervious to correction, to fact. Always so loving; who she is still in there like a pearl earring fallen into a messy drawer that you must shuffle carefully through to get a hold of. I try not to worry that I may be next in line- I inherited her cheekbones and her brain lesions, our MRI’s sort of match; not good news. I dance a lot, just in case. Dancing is supposed to inhibit the onset. We shall see. So, I digress, and now return to musing over why I am ever so slightly holding on to a summer that is already gone, already definitively making its way towards New Zealand, in time for beach pit Christmas turkeys and New Year’s surf trips.

Honestly I can’t figure out this funky mood and I can’t seem to shake it. So unlike the “me” I think of as me. I am the one who relishes the rain, the hush and tap of it, the gloss it lends to all things, walking in it, face wet, my yellow slicker and furry boots feeling like the best times of childhood, stomping my feet, six years old and enraptured with everything and everyone again.
The Canadians I used to work with would say I fucked the dog today. Such a funny and totally crude expression- yes I definitely did pretty much less than nothing. Wasting the rain, too tired or careworn in some way I cannot justify to actually play the piano, paint or even walk up the hill in it today- all the things that are made 1000 times better with even the slightest precipitation. Fall has always been my focused time, my productive time. In this moment of my life, apprehending a focus of mind to bend to tasks is elusive, painfully so. That autumn is here and I feel less able to be productive than ever, may lie the key to my uncharacteristic doldrums at this onset of my favorite time of the year. Well there are always the tomatoes. “Mortgage Lifters” large as softballs, tangy and petite orange Sungolds, others I don’t even know the names of. As the evening settles around me, the lovely first rain is still coming down. Quietly now, soft as silk, inspiring me to make some soup and open my arms wide to all that tomorrow may bring.

dhalloran said...


As we left the valley floor’s 100-degree heat and ascended the hill, I smiled when I saw the first brown leaves on the trees. The air softened as we climbed higher into the mountains and my breathing relaxed with every mile. I rolled down the window and drank in the tingly scent of evergreen-tinted mountain air.
We turned onto the long driveway leading to Stan and Clinta’s house. The crunch of gravel and fallen leaves under the wheels combined with the musky scent of smoke drifting from dozens of chimneys and I was almost giddy with the sparkle of fall. Clinta was already coming to greet us before we’d even stopped the car, and the kids launched out of the back seat to her loving hugs and kisses. George started taking the bags out of the car but I hung back, my senses still dizzy with the newness of a mountain autumn.
Clinta reappeared a few minutes later, a steaming bowl of hot buttered rum in her hands. We exchanged teary hugs as she handed me the fragrant bowl and went inside, where the delirious scent of the hot buttered rum on the stove permeated the cabin with the sweet golden bite of cinnamon and brown sugar. Stan greeted me with a hug and we all sat down in front of the crackling fire to enjoy the warmth of our cups and the greater warmth of each other.

TigerMoonBoots said...

Fall in Salton

You tell me the roads are just a memory of current, and our home sits on an old untouched beach. If I were to believe you, I would have to imagine the crumbling earth under our feet was once sand, and the rocks and mountains were an unholy sized reef.

Where I learned, they said the Indians carved this land themselves. They dragged trenches with oxen and buried food and gold. They told me the Mustang was a wild Spanish horse who fell in love with this country, and when he first looked across the West, he reared up and came down with such force – all the canyons became deeper and the quiet rivers turned to rapids all through Colorado. We were never water or brine. All this hatched from the ground like the very first raptor. Naked, hungry, and bold against the sky.

Ashley Laub said...

On a typical Thursday play date with our daughters, my neighbor had told me about a quiet, tucked-away farm just past the Wisconsin border on an expansive pumpkin patch and apple orchard. It was a perfect place to spend the day with our young children; plus, it was cheap. Intrigued, my husband and I pack up our preschooler, Ashley, and her infant brother, Michael, an overflowing diaper bag, and a 25-pound stroller, and piled into our brand new, 1992 Ford Taurus station wagon to make the two-hour drive to the Elegant Farmer.

We parked at the train station in East Troy and boarded an ancient-looking train that billowed white smoke and occasionally blared a “toot, toot!” that made Michael cackle with glee every time. After twenty minutes of train horns and baby giggles, we exited the train, and I felt the cool rush of autumn air on my cheeks, filled with the scent of apples, horse excrement and hay. My daughter wrinkled her nose at the smell, but I found it almost pleasant – the scent of autumn in the Midwest. We climbed aboard the tractor-pulled hay ride and headed for the apple orchard.

Ashley leaped off the hay ride and ran over towards the nearest climbable apple tree as we struggled to get Michael into his stroller and off the back. “Ashley, get down!” my husband yelled from the trailer, watching her dangle from a branch four feet off the ground. She dropped obediently, crumpling to the ground. I felt my heart stop when I realized she wasn’t moving – I ran towards her, breathing heavily, my lungs burning from the cold air. Just as I reached her, she turned up towards me, dead leaves in her hair, and laughed. I collapsed down next to her. “Don’t scare me like that!” I cried out, wrapping my arms around her tiny, thin body, and she wriggled away. “I won’t,” she said, then immediately hopped up on the tree, grabbing an apple too far out of reach of her miniature hand. I sighed, loud enough for her to hear me.

After grabbing a bushel of apples and several pumpkins from the patch nearby, we loaded Ashley up on a sugar by feeding her candy apples back at the farmhouse, which she got to decorate herself. A McIntosh covered in sticky caramel, pumpkin-shaped sprinkles, chocolate sprinkles, walnuts, peanuts, even more sprinkles, and did I mention sprinkles? She tore into the candy apple, ignoring the apple part; and I tried not to think about my terrible parenting as I sat next to her, rubbing my aching feet.

On the way back, we realized our poor management of our stuff. We had to load four pumpkins, a bushel of apples, two kids, the stroller, a diaper bag, and ourselves into a rickety train that heaved and shook, affecting my motion sickness. Finally, after 10 minutes of cursing from my husband, sweaty foreheads, scratched palms from pumpkin stalks and my sugar-high daughter running back and forth on the train (I was mortified that the other passengers were thinking we were “those” parents), we loaded everything on. Ashley drifted to sleep in my husband’s lap. As he stroked her thin, golden hair, he whispered to me, “We are never doing this again.” Even then, sweaty and annoyed, I knew we would. Year after year, after word got out and it became a lot more crowded (and a lot more expensive), even after our kids have graduated and moved away, he and I do it every third weekend in October. Only now, we skip the train.

emilyslisp said...

Our brother's death at Thanksgiving

My brother visited close
to the Kaibab wilderness with his wife.
Roads he knew well
years ago, he said.
"Beautiful" on the northern rim
of the Grand Canyon.

"Full of deer
absolutely full of deer."
Our brother's death was there, years ago,
at seventeen, hunting with our father.

Where he died instantly, there was blood left
on the ground, hardened, translucent
in pine needles,
strewn from a tree
shedding, for the first time.