The Hopeful Wanderer – Last Goodbye

Not often did I pass through a region twice. But between wandering and also traveling the world, the unusual had to happen someday. In a land I had not visited in a long while, I stopped by a mail chain. A wall of lost letters posted for the receiver to perhaps one day find. I sometimes pulled the oldest, most abandoned looking letters for a little light reading. The ones with spattered rain stains and browning edges. The ones no one wanted.

But on this spring afternoon, the oldest letter I plucked happened to be addressed to me. I frowned as I opened it out in the sunlight, the breeze tugging at the letter’s crumbling edges. It read:


We’ve never met, but my grandfather talks about you a lot. He loves the stories you told him and he says he’s ready to tell you his now. Please come to…”

I skipped the last because another letter had been tucked behind the first, from the same writer. This dated a month after the first.

“Grandfather passed away, Wanderer. He said it’s alright that you didn’t show up, but he has the last laugh because you never did get those stories from him you wanted…”

Both of the letters were dated two years ago. A plague had wracked this country back then and I would never have made it, even if the letters had found me.

Blinking back a little mist in my eyes, I crushed the fragile letters between my palms. Upon the opening of my hand, the particles whisked away on the wind, disappearing into the bright sky.

Knowing just where to go, I turned my feet down a nearby dirt path. I was sorry I hadn’t made it in time, but I would go say one last goodbye.

A special thank-you to Jessica Moranty for your support on PatreonYou are the best. Friend to all creators. Thank you so much, again and again.

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My Stardew Valley Life – Ch. 2 The Grand Tour

Though clouds overcast the sky, the weather was pretty nice for the second or third day of spring, so this week I ventured out onto to the property of my parents’ old place. Just to take stock of the work needing done. Given that they had moved away over a year ago, I suspected there would be a lot.

But also, I hoped to get a feel for the place again. Re-familiarize myself with the world where I grew up. Walk the land with my own boots. Maybe the ground and the trees where I played, the fences I helped put up, the porches that doubled as makeshift forts, and the structures filled with memories would remember me, too.

The original back porch, pool deck, and swimming pool.

Starting with the backyard, I knew just in that area alone, things needing to be picked up – toys, trash, random objects – lurked beneath the grass. Because I saw them back in the winter from our breakfast nook, when the grass was short enough to spot even the bunnies who like to visit the yard. But with recent rains, the Johnson grass had grown tall enough to hide it all. Nature, taking over the world created by humanity and hiding all our sins.

My mom’s favorite kind of tree, an Austree Willow Hybrid.

Fallen below this massive tree were loads of broken branches and twigs. I determined to gather them up once we started cleaning the yard and pile them up for fire pit starters.

Cleaning out the swimming pool promises to be a lot of fun. But well worth it.

The storm cellar our entire family helped to build. I have dreams of this place sometimes.

Inside, the storm cellar looks fairly intact, if difficult to photograph in the dark. A couple of spots where the sides have washed out the dirt, but definitely still usable come tornado season. And likely full of spiders. So we plan on tossing bug bombs down there soon before we start work to shore things up.

I have Much Plans for this area, mainly as a patio for hosting company on a cool evening after a long day. But also as an outdoor area for writing. Just have to figure out a way to deal with all the wind around here.

Even bigger are my plans for the old dog kennel. I have visions of chicken coops and goat enclosures running around in my mind. Or any number of other possibilities.

A panoramic view of the inside of the kennel.
Evidence of the former residents.
The roof on the north side, where the winter wind blows through, needs serious work.
A mysterious chair. Why’s it here? Why was it left behind?

The window on each door has been broken, lending itself to a vaguely apocalyptic or abandoned vibe. Though replacing or covering up the broken glass will be a lot of work, I love the atmosphere inside.

Returning to the Stardew Valley impressions I get from this place, nothing says “farm” like a lone water pump somewhere on the property.

At points farther east lay the pasture and workshop. This area before the pasture truly begins hosts piles of building materials and bricks of various sizes, all of which promise Potential. I’m the salvaging sort, so I loved finding materials I can use in some of the work needed around here. Also, I found my old bike!

Unused stock tanks or mosquito breeders?

Many an opportunity for container gardening. I also ventured through those tall weeds to the old horse stalls. My body was not ready for that climb over the fence panels.

The large stock tank features massive goldfish, but the camera couldn’t capture them with the light reflecting on the water.

Halfway between where I stood and that line of houses in the distance, a line of fence marked the end of our pasture. 2.5 acres of heaven, in my opinion. Without any horses to graze the grass down, it grew tall. Not sure where those prickly weeds get off on invading the property though…

Mystery rocks of mystery.

I just had to point out these rocks. They live in one specific corner of the pasture and have been there since my infancy. My parents say they were there when we moved in. When I was a kid, I would regard them and wonder at their history. Who brought them here? For what purpose? They are so resilient to have remained almost 30 years. Perhaps they will still sit clustered on this patch of earth after I have died.

Lastly in the pasture, a mysterious set of steps leading nowhere. They were the original front “porch” that came with the house. I remember them in a distant way from before my dad built a new porch, but not very well. Perhaps just in a perceived memory sort of way, one I don’t really have, but imagined.

My mom’s “Summer trees.”

When I lived in the duplex in the city, I discovered two sapling elm trees while doing yard work. Both growing right at the edge of the house, one beneath the A/C drip, the other in a patch of sand, easy to grow in. They had come from the massive elm tree in the back yard next door. My mom has ever been notorious for planting trees, so I dug each one up, wrapped their roots in plastic grocery bags, and brought them over. These two pictured grew from those. My mom calls them her Summer trees. I think of them as Mom’s trees.

The white building was the first structure that went up on the property. My dad worked his cabinet making business out of it for several years before moving operations to a bigger, rented workshop. I have tons of memories of playing in there, family living in there once (where we played Go Fish and I discovered a love of French Toast Crunch), and climbing up on top of that tin shed to read my books.

A panorama of the inside of the white shed.

I don’t what I plan to do with the space in the white shed, but I do know I want it Cleaned Out. This will probably be my next project after we clean up the yard for mowing. There’s an attic in here too, but the ladder up into it triggers my fear of heights, so none of that for me, thanks.

When you step out the doors in my bedroom, you walk out into what is effectively a garage that does not hold cars. It was built for the hypoallergenic cats my parents raise for people who are allergic to cats but want a kitty. My own kitten, the three-legged Ghost, descends from the cats who lived out here.

Since my parents took all the cats with them when they moved, we plan to convert this space to let our cats get a taste of playing outside without the risk of them wandering off and getting hurt.

This may be my favorite area. It’s a small enclosed space leading out to the driveway. It’s also just outside my study window and full of lush green grass.

I want to take down the fence and create a private space with flowers and some patio furniture so I can come write outside, especially as it has a great windbreak in all directions. Even though I hadn’t planned on working yet, I got excited and cleared out some tall weeds.

The grass inside was so thick that I found myself standing on something I couldn’t see at all.

What do you know? It’s a ladder!

Lastly, my favorite view of coming home: my front porch.

In the end, my old home recognized me, but in a distant, squinting sort of way. Like, “Hey, didn’t I know you once?” Things have changed enough that I had to squint a little right back. But the love I have always felt for this place was still there and within easy reach. It’s still home.

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The Hopeful Wanderer – A Dogged Decree

At the top of a snowy mountain in the earliest morning, when rays of sunlight bloodied peaks and bruised purple clouds low on the jagged horizon, the noise of claws scratching on ice brought my gaze up from my boots. My nose burned with the cold and my hands ached where I nestled them inside my coat. I had no idea where I was going and now something approached when I wanted to be alone. A certain vulnerability gripped me.

When I looked back, a dog was crossing my path at an angle to just pass me on its way elsewhere. For all that it looked like a regular dog – clean, black and white, fluffy fur, forehead smooth and very pat-worthy – its eyes glowed white as the rising sun. It trotted light across the surface of snow that I plunged into as deep as my calves.

I paused, losing momentum as my feet sank a little farther into the freezing slush. Wondering whether I should address what might be a passing god, I said, “What do you know?”

As it moved up beside me, the dog snapped at my heels. I threw myself sideways, keeling over in the snow. Moisture soaked me from hip to shoulder. Flakes puffed upward, suspended on the still air.

With a snarl in its voice, the dog growled, “Grieving for the unknown means no end to sadness.” Looking back not at all to view its handiwork with me.

Half-trapped in snow, I watched until the god-dog vanished over the ridge, considering its words. Should the strange message have meant something to me, or to the dog? By the time it had gone, I still didn’t understand. So before moving on, I took the moment to lay back and make a snow angel.

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Photo by Tadeusz Lakota on Unsplash

My Stardew Valley Life – Ch. 1 Beginning at the Beginning

Who doesn’t daydream of the opportunity to live an idyllic life, whatever that form may take? Mine involves every post you can find on Tumblr under the hashtags #farmcore and #cottagecore. Soft farm animals and well-loved farmhouses, open fields full of open skies, clever box containers of vegetables and flowers, and ideas for building useful things out of scraps and dreams.

Players worldwide get drawn into just such a daydream played out in the simple yet lovely videogame Stardew Valley. Your character’s grandfather passes away, leaving a note for you to open ‘when you’re ready for a change.’ As the suffocating life of working as a corporate drone crushes in on you too much, you finally open the letter to find that your grandfather has left the deed to his old farm to you. A way out.

I grew up in the countryside myself and moved into the city. Rent is much more affordable there for a college kid. While city life has its conveniences — proximity to bookstores and thrift stores, for starters — I began yearning to return to my country roots. A wish to take all my fantasy books and black clothes and city behaviors like not smiling at strangers back to the open plains of my youth. To see weeds and grass and flowers grow again. To feel the wind rushing by. To watch the sun set at the horizon, not at the city skyline.

Fortunately, my parents — the planters of the seeds of love for nature in my heart — didn’t pass away. But they did move away from their farmhouse where I grew up. For awhile, my sister rented their old house, but just as my partner and I started looking to move in together, she bought her own place and moved out.

So we moved in. Throughout the process of moving and getting settled in, I kept comparing the parallels to Stardew Valley. A gift of country life from my own parentage. Moving into the home they so lovingly kept up and added onto over my life. Looking out at the 2.5 acres of land and outbuildings needing love come spring. Even without animals or crops growing, things fall apart and the high plains wind blows trash in. There’s good, honest work to be done here.

So I plan to chronicle the cleaning, the repairs, and the installation of my own visions for this place. Check back here on Sundays for updates as the work gets done.

See you soon.

The Hopeful Wanderer – A Dance at Dusk

In the depths of a cloudy blue twilight, I spotted a darker shape flailing within a grassy field. All around, long stalks reached toward the sky, silhouetted black against the encroaching twilight. Among them, the figure whirled and leapt, feet thumping against the dirt. Shoulders and hips swayed. Though I squinted, I could not make out limbs or face, these blurring with motion and the dark.

Leaving my path, I stole closer, twilight deepening to bluey-black. Even as I got close enough to taste on my tongue the kicked up dust cloud, the figure’s visage never resolved into more than a shadow.

A shadow dancing to greet the oncoming night.

As I stood nearby, watching these wild motions, the leaping shadow moved over a little, as if inviting me in. Blurred arms waved me closer. Blurred feet stepped in place.

The pull of silent rhythm tugged at my bones. Yet I considered the risk of accepting a strange invitation in such transitional half-light. Stars winked on in the darkest parts of the evening, watching.

I joined the dance.

My feet matched the shadow’s rhythm as I moved in. Spinning in a circle, my outstretched palms smacked grass fronds. The scent of broken stalks rose sharp and green. My head tilted back, laughing mouth open wide enough to swallow the night stars above.

A light tug on my hand. The shadowy person’s face crinkled in a smile, it’s other arm motioning me to follow. Somehow, I knew this meant forever. I wanted to go on dancing, too.

“Wait,” I said, slowing my feet with difficulty. “I can’t go yet. I’m still looking for something.”

Indistinct shoulders gave a shrug. With the last vanishing scrap of light, the figure disappeared.

Cradled by a night unspoiled with light, I kept on dancing alone.

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The Hopeful Wanderer – Mirror Mimic

Over a still lake, pale pink fog rolled, muffling the surrounding forest noises to silence. I knelt on the pebbled shore of a small peninsula, cleaning myself in the water. Splashes echoed into the distance. Goosebumps raised on my chilled skin.

Once I finished, the surface became mirror smooth. Reflecting the fog back on itself until every direction appeared soft and billowing as a dream. My own reflection grew crisp. Somewhat at odds with the surrounding blur.

But something seemed… wrong. I’d have thought my reflection had just moved on its own.

I concentrated, not blinking. Not breathing.

Though mine rested at my side, my hand in the reflection reached toward me. Fingertips broke the surface from below, water streaming off the outstretched palm. Plaintiff. Desperate.

I took the hand in my own, fingers gripping clammy fingers. Only now I had my own for comparison, I noted the much greener cast of the other one.

The mysterious hand yanked hard. I fell forward, up to my elbows in water. Rocks scraped at my knees.

Another yank. I scrabbled against the loose stones for purchase. Happened to catch on a big enough boulder to stop myself flying into the drink. Bracing my foot against the rock, I hauled backward on my trapped arm.

With a mighty yell, I flopped my assailant halfway up onto shore. Green limbs flailed and web-toed feet flopped. These attached to a person with all the amenities of a frog. Golden eyes. Wide mouth. Wormy tongue.

The frog-person released me with a hiss. Turning, it hopped back into the lake, breaking the surface again enough to stare daggers at me.

I wiped a sheen of slime from my assaulted arm and flicked it into the water after the creature, who just responded with a long, sulking croak.

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The Hopeful Wanderer – Toxic Remedy

With sickness dragging at my bones, my throat, and the pit of my stomach, I shambled through a flower market nestled in the heart of an unfamiliar region. As I was new to the area, I didn’t know where to find the plant I needed. That plus the language barrier meant this market was my last hope.

Hand on aching stomach, I peered into every stall with swollen eyes. None had the right herb. At least, I hoped I hadn’t just missed it because my eyes hurt so much.

But on the edge of the market, I came across a man selling dried flowers. They hung on a slim metal wrack, upside down in bunches of several kinds. Each bundle tied with a neat tag explaining their contents in that unfamiliar language. But it didn’t matter, because I spotted the very remedy I sought.

Pointing to the bunch I wanted, the seller and I exchanged money for dry, rustling flowers. The moment I had them, I popped a blue, star-shaped blossom into my mouth.

The seller gifted me a surprised look.

Powder puffed across my tongue, tasting like the sky and rainwater. I sighed with relief.

Miming eating and then throwing up, the seller said a strange word that I guessed meant ‘poisonous.’

“Oh, is it?” I asked, crunching down on another flower. “Huh.”

Recognizing my language, he said, “Make trouble?”

I shook my head, feeling so much better already. At least I could see him now without a blurry film over my eyes. “Not at all.”

Smiling tightly at me, the seller made a ‘stay there’ motion and walked off toward a nearby herbalist. I took the opportunity to slip away before someone decided to pump my stomach.

Besides, the flower had made me drowsy. I needed a nap.

A special thank-you to Jenette Baker for your support on Patreon! You are the best. Friend to all creators. Thank you so much, again and again.

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