An Inspired Fellowship

by Betty Thomason Owens

The road of our imagination can be as serpentine as Highway 1 on California’s Pacific Coast. It often leads across bridges that afford vistas of immaculate beauty. As writers, we try our best to “paint” those vistas with words the reader’s brain can translate into scenes.Like that beautiful highway, most roads eventually lead to someplace. In the case of a story, it leads to the final two words, “The End.”

I approach that point today, as I write this final post for Inspired Prompt, the multi-author blog I helped develop eight years ago. When Jennifer emailed me and asked if I’d be interested, I had no idea what I was saying yes to. If I’d had an inkling what it would require of me, I may have run away. Swiftly. With conviction.

In retrospect, however, this blog has developed me as a writer more than I developed the blog. It also gave me opportunities I would never have had otherwise.

So, I’m thankful to Jennifer Hallmark, our “idea person,” who became a best friend. And to Christina Rich, who built the original blog and helped us get on our feet, so to speak. We were a triple threat back in the day. 😊

Over the years, we’ve been through a number of changes. In fact, the blog sort of metamorphosed like the caterpillar-butterfly transformation. You may think that’s overstating but being on the inside and seeing what it was and what it became, I think it’s apropos.

But I am not the reason for that. Jennifer and I managed to pull together a crew of writers who brought enough talent with them to drive us into places we never dreamed of going. The best part is the teamwork, the fellowship, and the friendship that developed. I was able to share with them the knowledge I had gained as they shared with me what they knew.

I think I can safely say, love bound us together. What a blessing!

We treasure you also, our readers, especially those who have remained with us over the long haul. Thanks for being there. Thanks for commenting and sharing. My greatest hope for you is that what you’ve gleaned along our writers’ road will stay with you.

So, this is not goodbye. Though I am sad, it is not an end or a parting of the ways, it’s a fork in the road. Like that beautiful, Pacific highway, ‘round every turn is another possibility.

I will not say goodbye, or even “adieu” but I will tip my hat and say, “thanks, from the bottom of my heart.”

Home is behind, the world ahead,
And there are many paths to tread
Through shadows to the edge of night,
Until the stars are all alight.

– J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

There is Fun to be Done!

“Oh, the places you’ll go! There is fun to be done!” — Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

I don’t know about you, but I look forward to summer all year long. Even now, when I’m semi-retired and could actually take a vacation any time I choose. Well, almost any time.

But summer is the best time, don’t you think? While planning this post, I heard Dr. Seuss’ voice in my head. His books were just pure fun, and fun is what this post is all about. You’re off to great places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, So…get on your way! — Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

One of my favorite all-time summer adventures happened in Colorado. We ascended Pike’s Peak (by car, of course) and on the way back down, stopped to take this photo beside a mountain lake.

When I was a kid, we didn’t really take vacations. We visited family. Grandpa lived in L.A., and we lived in Tennessee. So cross-country drives were a thing we did. My child’s mind was fascinated by the western scenes that passed by my window at breakneck speeds (Dad had a heavy foot). He also loved to hug the edge of the road in those high mountains and hear all of us scream. Mom didn’t scream, but she scolded him, which made us laugh. Ah, the memories…ah, the thrill of it all.

When my sons were younger, one of their favorite things to do in summer was to visit the grandparents in West Tennessee. Mom and Dad lived on a lake way out in the sticks. Dad never lost that sense of adventure. My boys adored him, followed on his heels all week. He taught them to bait a hook and drive a tractor, even though their feet couldn’t touch the pedals. We picked blackberries and took long walks.

Now, those guys are grown with children of their own, and Granddad’s sense of adventure firmly instilled in their hearts. I love that their children are reaping the benefits. Oh, the places they’ll go…

Hubby and I are contemplating an adventure of our own, but we can’t decide—mountains, or sea? Beaches usually win, but it’s been a while since we’ve feasted our eyes on the Rocky Mountains, or the Grand Canyon. Living “sort of in the middle” is a definite advantage, because we can head any direction and find diverse adventures. We’re ten or so hours from the Atlantic, ten or so hours from the Gulf of Mexico, a couple days’ drive from Colorado…where to, this time?

One thing is certain…it’s going to be fun!

You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go… Dr. Seuss, Oh the Places You’ll Go!

Writing Prompt: Dawn broke over the open road, revealing scenes of grandeur. Arlene loved a good adventure, and this one topped them all. [Mountains, or sea? Finish the paragraph with your favorite view.]

Click to Tweet: Oh, the places you’ll go! There is fun to be done!” — Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Places You’ll Go! #Summer Fun via @InspiredPrompt and author Betty Thomason Owens, @batowens: where to now? #travel #adventure

Natural Wonders: A “Mammoth” Good Time

By Sandra Ardoin

With over 400 miles of explored tunnels, Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky, one of our national treasures, is the largest cave system in the world. Its environment changes with the rainwater dripping through the sandstone layers to the underlying limestone, to underground rivers and eventually into the Green River.

The park was established in 1941, but two hundred years after the first formal tour in 1816, hubby and I approached the kiosk outside the Visitor’s Center. No spelunker, it was my first experience in a cavern. I walked up to the counter and asked the ranger on duty, “What tours do you have for old people?” (Okay, we’re not old old, but we get closer with each new ache.)

dscn1605-copyI’m sure the polite man gave me a mental eye roll before telling us about the one-eighth-mile Frozen Niagara tour to see the stalactites and stalagmites. Then he mentioned the Domes and Dripstones Tour, which encompassed more territory, plus the Frozen Niagara. We’d driven a long way to see a bunch of underground rock, so it was the Domes and Dripstones or bust.

Before the tour began, we were told that those who were claustrophobic (check mark), afraid of heights (check mark), and had knee issues (well, on occasion—see above paragraph) might want to reconsider. Really? Did they think they were dealing with a couple of wimps? Bring on the bus to the cavern!

dscn1603-copyAs we approached the cement, bunker-type entrance at the bottom of a sink hole, I thought of the TV show Lost and that underground bunker. I didn’t relish being part of a resurrection of the show and hoped we’d eventually “find” the exit.

Over a hundred people took our tour, with hubby and me almost bringing up the rear, so it was slow going as we descended into the abyss. I’ll admit, I couldn’t help but wonder what would happen if there was an earthquake. Nope. No wimp in that bunny-hop line.

The way was well-lit and the path relatively smooth. No problem, except when we were forced to pause in a tight, low-ceilinged spot. (One of us found out the hard way that you need to watch your head. I won’t say which one, but for once, it wasn’t me.) Occasionally, it seemed the whole ceiling was propped up by one small, well-placed rock.

dscn1591-copyWe spent two hours going down, around, and up, exploring the limestone caverns with their sometimes wet, but mostly, dry walls. I’d come prepared to freeze in what the website said was a constant 54 degrees. About halfway through, I removed my sweater.

Twice, we stopped in large “rooms” with rows of benches to listen to the tour ranger provide more information about the caves. Once, we were in a “dome” room. Unlike the walls with their jagged protrusions, the ceiling was smooth, looking somewhat like stucco with cracks running through it. To me, the dripstones resembled a hanging mud dauber’s nest.

When we stopped in the second room, the ranger explained about the crickets in the cave, one of numerous species of insect and animal life that live there. These aren’t your typical crickets. They’re thin and lighter in color, and they don’t make noise. To show us why they’re silent, she turned the lights off. Yipes! You’ve heard the axiom about it being so dark you can’t see your hand in front of your face? I could touch my nose and still not see my hand. I’ve never been in such pitch blackness. But crickets are a bat’s prey, and bats track by …? Yep, sonar. So, the insects don’t sing.

dscn1614-copyFinally, we reached the Frozen Niagra. Beautiful! Stalactites, stalagmites, and columns of limestone.

From there, we were given the option to take a shortcut to the exit and avoid nearly a hundred steps. Phfft! Didn’t I say we weren’t wimps?

Before leaving the underground, we passed walls populated by those crickets I mentioned, and then ducked beneath a bat hanging from the ceiling—the latter much smaller than I’d expected and seemingly unimpressed by a bunch of temporary explorers.

dscn1624-copyAt the end of the tour, they bused us back to the visitor’s center where we were required to walk over a bio mat with soapy water to clean our shoes. Unfortunately, a disease called White Nose Syndrome is killing the bats and, of course, they don’t want it spread from cave to cave.

We drove to the ferry that crosses the Green River. While the ferry is no longer made of wood and hauling animals and wagons across the strip of water, it can carry three vehicles and was so smooth I only knew we were moving by watching the scenery.

A little history about the river and the ferry from a park sign:

dscn1622-copy

There’s much more to do in the park than wander tunnels. You can camp or stay in the hotel, hike, bike, and horseback ride. But if being underground is your thing, there are numerous cave tour options, including one in which you can prove how adventurous you are when you “climb, crawl, squeeze, hike and canyon walk” for six hours. Crawl on, but you won’t see me on that one!

All right, maybe I can be a little wimpy, but I didn’t ache the next day nearly as much as I expected.

Writing Prompt: I bent almost double, hands on my knees, as ragged gasps erupted from deep inside. The darkness enveloped us, with only the small point of the flashlight to lead our way. How did I get trapped in Mammoth Caves with such an enthusiastic tour guide? Suddenly…


Sandra Ardoin_HeadshotSandra Ardoin writes inspirational historical romance. She’s the author of The Yuletide Angel and A Reluctant Melody. A wife and mom, she’s also a reader, football fan, NASCAR watcher, garden planter, country music listener, antique store prowler. Visit her at www.sandraardoin.com and on the Seriously Write blog. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Goodreads, and Pinterest. Join her email community to receive occasional updates and a free short story.arm-cover

 

 

 

Hanging with the Dogs

by Carlton Hughes

When I think of vacations, I think of family.

My wife, my two sons, and I have had some wonderful trips. In brainstorming for this blog post, I thought back to a small but memorable one.

It was my 39th birthday (a few weeks ago . . . just kidding), and we decided to take the boys to the zoo. I was a late bloomer, so to speak, so my children were seven and five.

prairie-dog-459458_1280We had a ball roaming the zoo and checking out all of the animals. One of the highlights was the prairie dog exhibit. This particular zoo has a tunnel under the exhibit, and you can crawl through it to end up in a big plastic dome in the midst of the super-cute critters.

gophers-850385_1280At the time, my wife had a serious hip problem, so I was elected to accompany the boys into the prairie dog tunnel. I folded my substantial 39-year-old body into the tunnel, crawling on my substantial belly to the dome. My boys were delighted to see the prairie dogs up close, and I thought it was pretty cool, too.

fire-engine-23774_1280Getting out was a challenge, and, for a few tense moments, I thought the fire department would get to celebrate my birthday with me by pulling me out of the tunnel. I eventually made it out, and, of course, we headed to the gift shop, where both boys went straight to the stuffed prairie dogs.

Since my sons were in a NASCAR phase, we closed the day with dinner at a racecar-themed restaurant, complete with kids meals served in cardboard cars.automobile-1299522_1280

It was only an overnight trip a FEW years ago, but I cherish the memory.

WRITING PROMPT: Imagine you are visiting the zoo, and something funny happens. Who is with you? What has happened? Write a paragraph or two with your story.

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It’s May in Australia!

australia-1040062_1280Welcome to a new month and a great big, new topic. It’s a bit ironic that the smallest of the seven continents is the sixth largest country and the only nation-continent. Of course, I’m talking about Australia. During the month of May, our writers will explore the country, it’s history, and customs. And probably tack on some beautiful photographs to please the eye. I believe we also have a special guest later in the month. So please keep us on your radar. Better yet, follow our blog to get our posts delivered to your email.

Why would you want to do that? For all the great information contained here, the frequent book giveaways, and…oh yes, the $100 gift card up for grabs. See details here.

mariner-of-the-seas-112001_1280Australia—it’s another checkbox on my bucket list. Someday when they perfect teleportation. I’m not a fan of long flights. Some of you may have gone walkabout downunder. Or, like my neighbors across the street, taken a very long cruise to the southern hemisphere. From what I’ve heard, it’s worth every hour of flight and/or cruise.

uluru-1076320_1280When I think of Australia, my mind conjures up a picture of Uluru (Ayers Rock), that big, red rock in Australia’s Red Centre. Iconic and impressive, Uluru is a sacred place for Australia’s Aboriginals. The sound of a didgeridoo fills my mind as I’m picturing that scene. It’s a different sort of tune, but different isn’t bad. A kangaroo hops by, a joey tucked into her pouch. Ah, the sights and sounds of the outback.

Australia is well known for its hospitality and, like many other destinations, highly dependent on the tourist industry. Like the US, they have miles and miles of beautiful coastlands, some far more rugged and dangerous than any we have at home. And while we’re talking about danger, one other thought comes to mind…

swamp-wallaby-1107174_1280Weird wildlife. A land set apart must have some strange creatures, right? Strange only to us, I suppose. Wallabies, kangaroos, koalas, kookaburra, goanna, emu, platypus, the list continues and includes feral camels. Yes, feral camels. And of course, some of the world’s largest crocs. Our Creator was very…well…creative when He finally got to the lower continent. Or maybe He started with this one?

bird-655769_1280

Parrots, not parakeets.

Gorgeous birds. One of my favorite among the thousands of species of spectacular birds – the budgie (not the ones pictured, those are parrots). I know they’re kind of ordinary, but I love the budgerigar, commonly known as a parakeet.

There’s gold in them thar hills! – Yes, the same phrase that drew thousands to the California coast way back when, also drew pioneers, gold diggers, hopeful trekkers going “downunder”. Some remained and mingled their blood with the earlier settlers, many of whom arrived on European prison ships. What a rich and diverse history.

tree-214877_1280Well, here I am at the end of my introduction and I’ve only skimmed the surface of the vast amount of information available regarding Australia. The people, the landscape, the flora, and fauna—and a rich culture as well. The Aussies are well known for their bravery in war time, alongside their great love of peace, and celebration of diversity.

And now, just for fun, a different sort of writing prompt. I dare you to try this one!

Writing Prompt: No native Australian animals have hooves. This is a true statement. Now, using your imagination, please explain why no native Australian animals have hooves. It doesn’t have to be true. 🙂 Have fun and G’day!