Twitterpated with Wild Turkey by Janine Donoho

Flock of wild toms

Flock of wild toms

During our nearly 200 hikes yearly, we revel in seasonal birdlife, although twitterpated spring and wildcare summer offer choicest viewing times. As avian couples woo and mate, then raise their young, you glimpse variations on parenting themes. For wild turkeys, commitment shy toms have all the fun while hens band together to raise their broods.

Full plumage tom

Full plumage tom

Treed tom

Treed tom

A slow-mo hike along an old logging road in Okanogan National Forest with our fourteen pound predator, otherwise known as Mighty Italian Greyhound (MIGgy), prompts spontaneous flushing of a Meleagris gallopavo from the underbrush. As often happens, this wild tom exceeds cartoonish expectations by being quick on the wing, cunning, and beautifully feathered in iridescent bronzes and greens with the hallmark scaled legs and wattle reminiscent of its reptilian ancestors. Its verbal complaint while flying resembles gobbled outrage rather than the silly preschool sound human throats make. Once the tom alights on a ponderosa pine branch, MIGgy takes a victory lap. Wild turkeys protecting their territory can be aggressive. Who can blame them when so many end up on dinner tables? So give the hound a nod.

Why does the turkey cross the logging road? It’s all about food, water, and shelter. Like us, turkeys appreciate the finer things in life. For our local populations that means established ponderosa forests, where turkeys feast upon seeds and fruits along with occasional insects and a chaser of grit—yum! Hens hollow out ground nests in debris at bases of trees and shrubs, but roost on higher limbs due to rapacious coyotes, bobcats, raccoons, mountain lions, raptors, and—yes, us. They’re also one of this nation’s few conservation success stories, returning from populations of 30,000 birds in the early 1900s to over 7,000,000 today. Evidently the idea of facing an empty Thanksgiving platter roused our national fervor to deal with habitat degradation and poaching.

Wild thing, I think I love ya...

Wild thing, I think I love ya…

With their dense bone structure, turkey fossil records date back to over 5,000,000 years ago. Undomesticated birds are no more like their meal-on-the-talon version than cows are like fierce and extinct aurochs. Today we incapacitate domesticated turkeys by favoring massive breasts that overbalance the poor beasties—and no, we’re talking meaty breasts versus silicon here. This trend began five hundred years ago, spreading to a global phenomenon when Spaniards made off with turkeys domesticated by Aztecs. The bird’s eponymous name may originate from early transport through Turkey on their way to Europe.

Wily tom heading for deep cover

So today, up with turkeys. Yes, call me twitterpated.

Turkey hens & brood

Turkey hens & brood

What local birds raise your spirits? How do you enhance their habitat?

A Walk on the Primitive Side by Janine M. Donoho

Primitive RoadSnow, rain, wind, extreme heat and cold, my pack and I take a hike—nearly every Gift of a Plowed Roadother day. Doing so feeds our brains and recharges our bodies. With our environment stretching from sere winter into lush spring, you’re invited to take a photo journey.

We drop about 1200 feet during a winter walk. That’s about 365 meters for those Well Groomed Pathin the know. The loss of altitude takes us from Ponderosa pine forest into sagebrush steppe. Of course, that means you climb on the return.

Where Primitive Roads MeetI’ve retired my YakTrax and the pup’s Muttluks for the year and will soon graduate from hiking boots to lighter Saucony or Asics. Once we can navigate dilapidated forestry roads dependably, we’ll begin exploring higher elevation National Forest. This continues throughout spring, summer and into fall when heavy snow sends us back to hiking within ten miles of home.

As a creative process, hiking works for me. So long as I remain aware of my surroundings. Mountain lions, coyotes, and bears—oh, my!

Do you embrace an activity that stimulates your creative juices?
Nearing home - on, on...


Shadow Coyote by Janine M. Donoho

Lapping waves of fogLapped by vapor—

An islander on high ground.

Step, together, step in a

Freezing fogDance of nuanced solitude–


First above the flowing sea,

Then confronted by amorphous mist.

To enter?Ridge through fog

Or not…

Giant sage cold-sculpted by

Frozen drizzle.

Shadows parallel our track

Along shrouded ridge lines—

Four legged.

Climbing back into sunlight,

Manga spiked hair drips moisture.

Complex yips

In an untamed tongue

Follow.Reflection of trees against fog

How Natural Settings Double as Character by Janine M. Donoho

Ponderosa pine forest. Kings Canyon National Park, California, USA.The boundless wild has always called to me. Growing up in, then choosing to live in rural high desert brings primitive territories into focus. With critters ranging from scorpions to rattlers to black bears, I’m reminded that we humans are only one among a vast suite of species—all subject to catastrophic events

Daily serenades by coyotes punctuated by rarer wolf howls add to the sense of being a part of this greatness. That awareness leads me into ongoing studies of biology—literally ‘study of life’. Thus when I write, the natural world takes precedence.

While finishing yet another edit, this one epic fantasy, I noticed again how nature intrinsically evolves through story. Then I strengthen those components through sensory detail beyond the visual. What does Natural granitegranite smell, taste, and feel like? When you crush a jaffafruit, what do you smell, taste, and feel? Confronted with a clowder of mekesh, how do they smell, feel, and look? For me the quality of setting begins with detailed natural elements as filtered through my characters’ emotional responses.

For instance, Elishandra ser Dancheʹ serves as a trained observer in an unfamiliar world. When voids spring up from the rift between, she recognizes their wrongness, then extrapolates what causes them and how this incursion affects natural systems. She takes personal responsibility for the degradation and commits to stopping further invasion. Most other inhabitants simply see ruin where thriving systems once lived. Fear, anger, and confusion drive their responses with nuances specific to each.

Sun superstormGauging these changes over cyclic time also informs story. For instance, out-of-sync seasons reveal Morchem’s effects in two ways. First otherworldly beings rush through the widening rift. These exotic beings have no natural predators in this world and many find the existing natural systems ill-equipped to meet their needs. They cause havoc. Then Morchem corrupts life energies, exposed by huge shifts between extreme conditions and growing pockets of devastation. Again perceptions and emotional reactions differ according to which person’s point-of-view carries the scene.

Understand that each character’s history colors their view of their surroundings. The warrior Galena ben Inees is more likely to kill a predatory lifeform first, then ask questions later, while the Zinolian Culturist attempts to accommodate lifeforms unless they place her charges at risk. Having retained clarity throughout her studies of various worlds, Lisha tends to analyze before acting. For others, the choice is simply the difference between yum and yuck.Yuck or yum

Taking this deeper yet, setting in terms of time and place varies dramatically with each viewpoint. Multiple viewpoints actually strengthen setting, since each imbues the environment with that person’s emotional memory. While Ambassador Anmir reacts with deep shock and mourning at his civilization’s ruin, Galena chooses culturally prescribed defensive strategies first, then progresses to offensive mode when that proves inadequate. Lisha attempts to understand the destructive mechanism even as she searches for a remedy.

To my eyes, the natural world displays a layered richness missing in human contrived settings. What may appear to characters as chaotic often equates with too narrow a view—or lack of knowledge. Besides when it comes to raising the stakes of your story, what works better than placing entire worlds at risk?

Sending love deviant artists

Sending love deviant artists

Soundings, Water Elemental

LaunchFebruary 27, 2015
The big day is here.

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