A Long and Winding Road by Janine M. Donoho

Between late April and early November, my two young hounds and I take the high roads. Old forestry roads, that is. A short VW ride away we can access one relatively tiny island of the Okanogan National Forest. By ‘tiny’, that would be from a furry mega fauna’s perspective. You see, bear, mountain lions, wolves, elk and moose need sizable territory to meet their range needs throughout the distinct and oft-extreme seasonal changes we experience here in the highlands. However, the hounds and I do just fine.

With the VW parked just off the main dirt road, we have plenty of choices for narrower and less traveled paths. This has become a necessary break from winter’s YakTrax and layers of outerwear. Black squirrels, chipmunks and rabbits keep the hounds’ interest peaked, while sharpening the wild critters survival instinct. Foraging turkeys roam the forest in polygamous family flocks. The largest flock spotted so far runs at an even dozen with three adults, a gobbler and two hens and 10 lanky poults.The stunning males sported iridescent red, purple, green, copper, bronze and gold feathers. Some mornings, their rich language fills the forest, driving my coursing hounds crazy with longing. Fast as Connor and Kartouche’ are on terra firma, they want to fly, too. Luckily, wild turkeys remain shy, cunning and agile flyers–unlike the domesticated variety.

On a good day, the hounds range about me. They break into sprints only for cagey rodents, who then torment them from treetop or burrow. The sun loosens muscles and fresh air stimulates the creative pathways. Entire stories or scenes come to me in this state. Essays are written and short stories composed. Sometimes a knotty plot problem or deeper character issues from the hike.

Yes, obstacles present themselves. Beyond the above-mentioned critters and my attempts to minimize our impact on their daily lives, cows also graze the forest from June to October. As you might already know, domesticated animals lack the wiliness of wild ones. For instance, once my quickly leashed hounds sight a cow/calf pair, the bovines don’t leap off the main trail into the forest. No, instead they plod ahead until a turn hides us from view. Then they act flabbergasted as we come around the corner–again and again and...

This becomes my upper body workout as Connor and Kartouche’ intermittently try to pull me along at their speed. Did I mention that my whippet and greyhound live to chase anything that runs? Of course, they’re also much faster than anything else in the woods. Especially me. So with top speeds of 40-45 mph, they need to be leashed whenever sign of possible chase-worthy prey comes along. Much as my internal editor must be disconnected during initial drafts, accordingly it helps when I can ‘see’ ahead along the trails we walk.

As with writing, sensory input in the wilds comes in handy. So I listen for the occasional hoof against wood or rock along with unique verbalizations, whether gobble, chuff, bugle or growl. Dare I say that I’m now familiar with the scritch-scritch of bear claws in Ponderosa pine? Trust me, it’s an excellent sound to recognize.

The nose comes in handy for the unique musky smell of deer and elk or the surprisingly sweet scent of berry-munching bear, which exude what they eat. When they’re on a fish diet, the smell’s not quite as luscious. Visually, paw and hoof prints work, too. On moon-dusted or rock-strewn trails, though, it’s difficult to find a good paw or hoof pattern. My favorite was the perfectly preserved icy remainder of a lynx or bobcat paw impression discovered during April thaw.

Then there’s the scat, which can be wonderfully specific about its maker. In the cows’ case, huge mounds of steaming pies present the obvious, which Kartouche’ likes to rub along his pulse points like the finest of perfumes. As for taste, which I’m sure could tell me even more about what inhabits the wilds, I leave that to the hounds. Yum. At that point, it’s always best to go sniff a Ponderosa along the sunny side, where the bark exudes a delectable vanilla scent.

So yes, I can rhapsodize over the smorgasbord of sensory input found along the trails we walk, but in truth, each experience adds to my private library of delights to be shared with my readers. For what I yearn to do each time I write is to bring each reader into my world along the road less traveled. What better way than to do so than enrich their lives with the sumptuous details they may not enjoy in an inner city or houseboat or condominium. Besides, living life closer to the natural world definitely has its perks.

Amanda Pandemonium by Janine M. Donoho

Best garden helper ever - MandyGenerous soul-
translucent skin joining tensile tendons in
breathtaking speed-
Tender beauty and
grand companion.
My sweet girl Mandy has gone.
How can 14 years really be long enough for such a great heart? I’m undone.Amanda Pandemonium, my heart

Famous, Infamous, & Notorious Firsts by Janine M. Donoho

Ooh, ah. My first website as an author. I’m actually giddy with it. Since it’s a first, my brain immediately switches to firsts that led to this one. Never fear, though. You will not be inundated by my attempts at age 7 to write about planets, of which Pluto no longer qualifies, or my angst-ridden teen poetry or even my first produced play at 16. In fact, this won’t be about writing. Instead, let’s make this an intro into firsts that shaped me on a seismic level. There will be pictures…including me with my 1st cowgirl hat.

1st best dogfriend: Springer spaniel Pete, who saved my diaper-clad butt by grabbing onto it as I rolled out the car door on a corner in South San Francisco.

1st best girlfriend: Teresa Giles, with whom I fished for catfish & carp, rode horseback through the Ponderosa pine forests & sagebrush steppes of our youth, and survived the first 10 years of schooling in Washoe Valley, Nevada.

1st amazing son: Chad Elliott, young man extraordinaire, who finds his joy with his equally brilliant & beautiful wife Trina. He spins & mixes incandescent music, then prepares incomparable meals.

1st best horse buddy: Jumpin’ Jack Flash, who I miss daily; great-hearted beauty of thoroughbred & quarter horse ancestry.

1st whippet: Amanda Pandemonium, a washed-out show dog at birth, who still brightens my day with her liquid gaze & joyous, although deleterious, attention to rodents. We blondes stick together. 1st rescued greyhound: Patrick, a beautiful companion gone from this world. This greyt continues to romp through my dreams.

1st girlfriend trip through EuropeBackpacks and public transportation saw us through France, Switzerland, Germany, and Italy. Gnocci, anyone? Here we are at Der Hofbrauhaus in Munich.

1st trip to Malaysia: I emptied my backpack to bring back gorgeous fabrics & other lush trifles.

1st trip to Morocco: Yes, I went to Morocco and all the boys at home received were Moroccan soccer jerseys. For me, mint tea began to equate with stunning rugs. 1st class 4 whitewater rafting: We went to the end of Tumwater Canyon on the Wenatchee River–and yes, I went for my first swim. Here’s a river picture with the Captain of my Heart. 1st trip to Greece: History, anyone? Also, dogs & cats galore with all their bits attached-so shocking to Americans, who spay & neuter their domestic critters.

1st trip to Turkey: Cities carved from the earth and amazing textiles became my focus along with thousands of years of sustainable agriculture. Note the picture of Mustafa and me. I could live there…

1st trip to Spain: Otherwise known as the sangria tour. We wept at the beauty, rhythmic poetry & sadly narrow lives of the Andalusian stallions, who danced just for me.  

1st trip to Portugal: Can tiles be more beautiful? Also, we experienced the best calamari ever eaten.

1st trip to Egypt: Baksheesh demanded and sheesha experienced; Bedouins on the Red Sea. ‘Nough said. 1st pedicure: Yep, only 2 weeks ago.

Now let us raise a glass to all the 1sts in life–and perhaps to those finales we won’t know of until we’re done.

Soundings, Water Elemental

LaunchFebruary 27th, 2015
The big day is here.

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