Cherishing a Short Life

baby in isoletteAlice Park Photography

On a weekly basis parent child relationships are forever severed by the law. I’ve seen it too many times to count. I don’t envy those responsible for supervising the goodbye visit between parent and child. The thought of looking either of my children in the face for the last time brings tears to my eyes. I know many substance abuse treatment programs require their parent participants to write goodbye letters to their children as a way of driving home, how their drug use has harmed their children.

Loss of this sort, is nearly a daily occurrence in my world. Despite its frequency, it never passes over me as freely as water does. It’s more like oil that takes good soap, hot water, and scrubbing to remove. Then you always find it someplace later and have to repeat the process.

This past week was much the same with an enduring difference, I was reminded of how quickly life can pass us by and to cherish all that I have, especially relationships with others because you never know when they will slip through your fingers. Even the relationships you believe will endure for a lifetime, such as your children.

I’ve become an expert at cherishing what I have even during the darkest times of my life because of the frequent reminders I receive, but this one has hung on with more persistence. A short life, which rippled through the world.

A woman with long auburn hair bends over the warm isolette watching her sleeping child through the clear glass. The baby girl’s tiny chest rises and falls, a comforting sight. She weighs a mere 3 lbs and 8 oz. Tubes run into the baby’s underdeveloped lungs through a tracheotomy and into the side of her abdomen, providing her with breath and nutrients to grow and get stronger.  The woman is able to hold her child for only a short time each day due to the child’s precarious hold on life.

Ava was born premature due to her mother’s drug use during pregnancy. Ava is not this woman’s first child and she probably will not be the last because the auburn hair falls on the shoulders of a twenty-year-old woman. Her slender build makes her appear more like a prepubescent female than other’s her age.  Like the baby in the isolette, the drugs have sapped all excess life from her body.  Her hair is dry and brittle. Her cheeks are sunken, and her skin has a grey pallor.

She has watched her child cling to life through the glass for four months. She visits when she can, about once a week. Doctors tell her that Ava, will not survive without the machines. She must decide how long Ava should be forced to remain here. The little blue eyes flutter open and she brushes the fine soft hair on Ava’s small head with her shaking fingers.

When asked why she doesn’t visit more, excuses and justification spill from her lips.

“No transportation to the hospital,” she said as her eyes flicker around the room, pupils the size of the abyss.

“What about the bus pass we gave you?” asks a nurse. They know she is high, but how do you approach that subject with a woman who is here to say goodbye to her baby forever.

“I can’t find it.” She looks at her black converse shoes with grey frayed laces tangling along the floor.

Ava’s father was allowed to leave the prison accompanied by two guards to help make the decision of when his daughter will be taken off life support. It is the first and last time he will be able to see her with his own eyes and hold her. He caresses her cheek, and places his finger in her tiny hand. He understands this loss more than the mother because he views it through a mind that has been forced sober by incarceration for the past six months.

His hazel eyes are rimmed in red and tears trickle down his face. His breath catches in his throat as it constricts with the ache twisting his heart and soul. Our poor choices eventually catch up to us. Sometimes we lose the most precious things in our lives when they do.

Once he’s released  from prison will he remember the short time he was able to cradle his daughter in his arms and make choices she would be proud of him for making?

Ava is given morphine and the machines are turned off and the tubes are removed.  Her breathing slows as her parents cradle her small body wanting to hold her for as long as they can.

Writing Space and First Drafts

I am Writing

Over the last few weeks, I have been thinking about making a space for me to write at home. Up until now, I have just sat at either the living room table or the kitchen table. This arrangement requires me to pack up all my writing gear and move it from place to place. It also means my writing doesn’t have a home.  In my home, I have a room called an office in the basement. No one uses the “office” for anything but a library. A library is important don’t get me wrong. In fact, it’s necessary at my home. There are bookshelves along each wall, and most of my books can be found there.

I’ve tried writing in the “office,” but it never works well. My dogs need in and out of the house to go see their friends, sniff the strange spots in the yard, feel the warmth of the sun on their fur, and all the other stuff dogs do. The coffee maker is upstairs. My children are upstairs. You would think that being downstairs away from the children would help me focus, but it doesn’t. They actually come and interrupt me more when I am downstairs where they can’t see what I am working on.

I realized that this had to change if I was going to make writing a priority. So, I created a space in my bedroom, which is on the main floor, where I can write. I have all of my books on the craft, pens, pencils, notebooks, laptop, children, dogs, and coffee within easy reach and supervision.  I can open the window allowing in the sun, birdsong, and the summer breeze.

Sky, my youngest son who is thirteen, came in and sat on my left while I wrote. He didn’t interrupt. He just watched. The dogs curled up with one another on blanket on my right. Jazz, my oldest son who is 17, popped in and asked questions and let me know what he was planning for the day.

My writing space is not fancy, but it’s mine and it communicates to me and everyone else that writing is important to me. Having a space also preps your brain to get into its creative mode. If you always sit in the same spot to write, when you sit down the creative juices start flowing. With children, my writing time is scattered between all my other responsibilities as a single mom. Having a space always ready and waiting is important because if I have to take the time to set up each time I have five minutes to write, the book will never get finished.

I finished the outline of my fantasy novel tentatively titled Syrain’s Marrow early last week, a whopping 33 pages. It took a few more days to cut and paste it all into yWriter. I had Thursday off work last week because in Utah, Thursday was a holiday, Pioneer Day, commemorating the day Utah decided being a state was more important than bigamy being an acceptable practice.

I took Friday off work to start my first draft and frankly, I needed a break after a busy on call week the week before. I was also able to spend some extra time with Sky.

So far, I have found my outline to be immensely helpful in maintaining my focus and keeping the words flowing. I believe the biggest complaint about outlining is that it is too restrictive. I haven’t found that to be the case.  Since I have scene after scene already outlined I see plot holes much easier. I also notice when I drop a character and never pick them back up again. It is easy to go back and find something I referenced in a prior scene because I can look at my outline and know, approximately, where it is. The outline also helps me maintain consistency with my details and the voices of my characters.

I have yet to become stuck wondering what should come next. The words just flow. I know it will still be a shity first draft, and they always are, but it will be a completed first draft, and that’s what matters.

How You See Me

kids on the street

Seeking eyes and whirling thoughts piece together who I am.

Despite my many faces, my eyes have never changed.

A brief once over tells me if you want to open me up or forget we passed within a breath.

Your suns shine cold on my skin, as the storm clouds wrap me in warmth.

Hold me steady while I skitter and dart toward the trees.

Flitter like a butterfly as I strip you bare.

Covered with dark, they still tickle my skin crawling with one hundred legs beneath my veil.

Draw your curtains closed, but the remnants of who I am remain.

Spread your wings and glide on currents toward the ground beneath my feet.

Search my mirrors lost in your own design.

Dive into the depths and lose yourself in dreams.

Flash Fiction Friday: Frostfire World

frostfire

The ice gods had forsaken the Mirawraith people. They sent the burning sickness among them scorching their young from the inside. Their small blue hued bodies twisted with the flames that licked at their muscles and organs as it fed on their internal frost. It devoured whole generations. The Elder Mother of the tribe warned the people not to turn from the old ways, but Kipland’s father, the chief had grand new ideas.

The Mirawraith were people of the cold. Frost clung to their essence. Kip had survived the burning sickness as a child, but was forever marked with crimson eyes and hair. She was one of the few. Most of the others fell in battle due to her father’s continued arrogance. The people dropped to their knees begging the ice gods for forgiveness, but it was too late. Chief Amun had gone too far by declaring himself equal to the gods.

Enormous fireballs rained from the sky. Searing yellow bolts of lightning lashed at Amun’s people. Those not burned from within were burned from without. With blackened, cracked, and oozing flesh the Mirawraith fled to the foot of the mountains.

That was ages ago, now Kip, one of last of her kind, struggled to free her foot from the two feet of crystalline snow. Her foot broke through the frozen outer crust with the transfer of her weight and dropped to the ground beneath. She forced her cracking determination to continue putting one foot in front of another.

Her breath came in heavy huffs turning to ice just past her sapphire lips. Snowflakes formed on her eyelashes and brows. Icicles hung in her crimson dreadlocked hair. She pulled a gray course fur cloak tighter around her shoulders. The elements of ice and fire were at war within her. Her fingers contorted with a searing internal fire. She grimaced and bit her lip.

A blue and purple marbled glacier loomed above her. The black and gray clouds rolled overhead like thick suffocating smoke. She wrapped one hand protectively around her swollen belly. It’s nearly time for this little one to break free and join the Mirawraith people.

She could feel the fire of his essence warming her from within. Her heart skipped a beat, knowing that his fire would be her undoing if he did not come soon. Kip leaned into the pressing wind stinging her face, and took another step. The leather harness around her shoulder tightened preventing another step. She looked behind her. Her eyes followed the rope to a small sled piled with food and furs. A mound of shaved snow bared the path of the runners of the sled.

She gripped the rope with her hands. Clenching her teeth, she pulled hard and pressed her right shoulder against the leather harness. The sled was jostled free. A low growl emanated from the furs. A moist black nose and emerald eyes peered out from under the pile.

“We’re nearly there Hailstorm,” Kip called to the obsidian wolfhound nestled in the warmth and safety of the sled. She couldn’t leave her behind, and there was no way Hailstorm’s broken ribs had healed enough for her to make this journey on foot.

The orange and yellow light of the sun sliced through the storm above for a second. Kip turns her ruby eyes from its burning light. The child’s body within her own twisted and caused a ripple to course through her stretched muscles. She must hurry.

They had tried to come to the life-giving cave a week ago, before the descent of the arctic winds from the north. Hailstorm had pulled Kip out of the path of an avalanche only to be swept away by the cascading ice and rock. Their survival was a gift from the gods. Hailstorm was her only companion now, and nothing could make Kip go on without her.

Hailstorm would have to be the one to gather meat for the months they would spend within the cave after the baby came. The cold intensified the child’s strange unnatural warmth. Kip was at home in this frozen land. Her child would not be. She had not figured out how she would manage to reconcile their differences, but they had not killed one another during the time they have shared her body.

A crackling rumble pushed through the night air as she stepped through the unseen veil at the mouth of the cave. The warmth of the life within her made her own body rebel against its frozen nature. She had made it just in time.

Quartz crystal of every hue clung to the walls and ceiling of the cave. A deep green moss covered the ground. The fur cloak fell from her shoulders revealing her sapphire skin, which was bare other than the deerskin camisole and loincloth she wore. She stepped into the turquoise spring at the back of the grotto. Walking into it depths, the muscles in her legs relaxed in the cold clear waters. Pins and needles clawed at her skin as the blood began to bring the inner heat to her skin. The vigor of the child within her made her wonder how she would ever provide for him.

The center of her body contracted sending shards of pain through her back. She let out a low moan and pulled her knees toward her chest. Squeezing her eyes closed hard, she exhaled through pursed lips and then let her breath go in a gust.

Small eyes like molten gold peered up at Kip, and a high-pitched wail escaped the child’s throat. Swirls of golden hair were plastered against his pale sapphire skin. Kip’s cold blue lips curled into a crooked grin and she pressed them to his warm skin.

Frostfire’s birth was proof the gods had not abandoned the Mirawraith, at least not her. His birth wove the elements into one. He gave them a reason to reclaim their lives and become great once again.

Death’s Gift

death

“Life is so short,” Jasper said. He stared off into the distance. Sage words from a seven-teen-year old boy, who has his whole life before him. He turned his steel blue eyes toward me. A longing sadness filled his eyes and clouded his expression.

“It is, but the fact that you realize that now rather than when you are fifty is an opportunity for you to make the most of what you have,” I said. He ran his hand through his short dark brown hair.

“Don’t leave things unsaid, set goals, and clarify your priorities. You’ll be all right,” I said.

This isn’t the first conversation we have had about the end of life, and I’m sure it will not be the last. At least, I hope it is not. Jasper often thinks about death. Some may believe he shouldn’t dwell on something so negative. I disagree. The sooner you realize that you don’t have all the time in the world, the more you will strive to be exceptional now.

Immortality is great as an idea. Immortal beings crop up in many fantasy novels and we love them. How wonderful would it be to have immeasurable time to accomplish all we desire?

How many of the things that we hold dear would lose their value because they and we are infinite? You could put off learning to play the piano, writing a novel, camping with your children, and fishing with your dad until there was nothing remaining.

There are those that find the shadowy specter of death hovering in the fog of the future terrifying instead of inspiring. Rather than allowing the end to scare them into taking full advantage of the beauty and happiness before them, they shut themselves off from the world. Not taking risks, not venturing out of their comfort zone, they sit wasting away. They lock up the little life that they have in a safety deposit box. In doing so, they have already breathed their last breath.

Death is a gift, it places immeasurable value on each and every moment you have. Make them count.