NWW Photo Prompt: The Lake

Once again, I’m coming in just under the wire for NWW’s photo prompt from August 15. As before, I’ve created a scene that will be used in my Donovan Family Saga. Enjoy!

The Lake

THE LAKE

When morning came, Adam sat and watched the sun rise over the canyon walls. One moment, the shadows were deep in the darkling dawn – the next and the sun had burst over the rim, covering everything in a warm golden haze. The canyon sunrise is like life: you jump from dark to light in an instant, and sometimes you’re caught unprepared.

He had spent most of the night pacing along the banks of the brook. He’d built a small fire when the night air became damp and chilly, and spread his bedroll out on the soft ground. But he nodded off infrequently and for short periods during the remainder of the night. When dawn began to break, he roused himself, made coffee and rolled a cigarette, then sat against a tree smoking as the sky turned suddenly blue.

There were biscuits and jerky in his saddlebags, but he wasn’t hungry. He forced himself up, finished his coffee, and buried his cigarette along with the fire. The sun was already hot – too hot for April. He walked to the edge of the brook and inspected it closely. Clear and a few feet deep, it ran swiftly with the melting snow off the mountains. He bent to taste it: colorless, odorless and icy. He splashed it over his face and neck, wondering if it were the only water on this ranch.

He’d ridden deeper into the canyon last night, away from the cabin and the girl who was so much on his mind. He decided to follow the brook further west to get the lay of her land. Thinking the walk might clear his head, he left the horse behind. He stopped from time to time to smoke, and took notice of the prints of many animals: deer, fox, raccoon, and once the spoor of a big cat. Cougar or mountain lion, he supposed, then realized that he had seen no cattle.

He had walked about a mile when he noticed that the brook seemed to be running more swiftly. From the distance he could hear the sounds of falling water. He increased his pace and came upon a beaver dam and a rippling waterfall that he judged to be some eight feet tall.

He’d been on an incline for some time, and it was quite steep here. There were terraces and ledges between him and the brook, but he climbed them easily. At the top he stopped in his tracks, awed by the size and beauty of the lake before him. For over four acres it spread, deep and pure in a natural bowl. He gazed in silence for a long minute, then uttered one word,

“Arizona.”

Like the sunrise, it caught him unprepared. But unlike the breaking morning, this sight soothed him. He slowly sat down on the rocky ledge. It was here that the cattle were – some two hundred of them. Here also the deer whose tracks he had seen, and even a small band of mustangs that had come down from the mountains to drink. Here the air was cool and clear, and the blue of the sky was reflected in the calm waters.

This Arizona. This land of surprises. What a wonderful place!

He wondered why the girl had never mentioned it. Could it be she didn’t know? How far from the cabin could she have gone with her father so sick these past years? That dam, if he was right, was only a few years old.

It was a sizable inheritance. This lake and those cattle would put the ranch on a prosperous footing again. He jumped from terrace to terrace, hurried back along the trail, his singular purpose to surprise her. Then he stopped in his tracks. What if she wanted to leave this place and all its associated misery behind?

Thoughtfully, he saddled his horse and mounted, turned toward the cabin. He’d just have to convince her to stay.

NWW Photo Prompt: Palm Fronds

My second attempt at a photo prompt. Since it worked so well last time, I decided to write another vignette that can easily be converted into a scene in my WIP, The Winds of Morning. Kills two birds … (on the other hand, why kill them at all?) Enjoy!

palm

As the small ship sailed into port, he heard his wife humming. It took him a moment to pick out the tune, but then John Patrick smiled and began to sing. His whiskey-flavored baritone seemed to float on the waves into shore.

The palm trees wave on high all along the fertile shore.
Adieu the hills of Kerry, I ne’er will see you more.

The hills of Ireland were so far away, but Savannah was right there before them.  Warm and golden under the sun, with lush greenery and tall, tall trees.  The city looked clean and crisp in the early morning light, and he hoped it would be better for them than Philadelphia.

Philadelphia – where every single “Help Wanted” sign said also “No Irish Need Apply.”  Philadelphia — a putrid, reeking city where people threw their garbage out onto the streets and walkways, and unleashed hundreds of hogs to forage through it at night.  He’d been disgusted, though Molly had said simply, “’Tis better than waste.”  He’d agreed to a point, but he’d also heard her screeching like the fish-monger’s wife when some of that refuse landed on her good walking shoes.

His song continued, the words coming without thought.  His heart was heavy and hopeful at once.  Savannah would give them more than Philadelphia.  How could it give them less?

If you’d like to hear The Kerry Hills in its entirety, you’ll find it here.

NWW Photo Prompt: DIMPLES

Now that I’ve gotten a handle on this “blogging” thing, I’ve decided to participate in a Photo Prompt challenge.  This prompt was created by North West Writers and new photos are posted bi-monthly.  The current photo is near and dear to my heart.  As this is my first “assignment”, I thought I’d try something with characters I was already familiar with; the scene, and the lyrics contained in it, will fit beautifully into my second novel, THE WOODSMAN’S ROSE. The setting is the 1880s Arizona Territory; a masquerade dance is given for Irene Donovan’s eighteenth birthday, which falls on Hallowe’en.

Dimples

The band took a break and the dance floor was cleared for the children, who ran and jumped and chased one another merrily until many of them fell into exhausted heaps in the corners.  Sixyearold Kathleen Flaherty was still going, though, and approached Daniel with a request.

“Would you play your fiddle for us?”  Several voices chimed agreement.

“I don’t have my fiddle with me, but maybe I could borrow the band’s.  Would that be okay?”

“Sure.  But you’ll have to be careful not to break it.”

“I’ll be real careful.  Let’s go ask them, shall we?”

Kathleen did the asking and the band’s fiddle was delivered into Daniel’s hands.

“What should I play?”  he asked Kathleen.

“Rory and me can jig.”

“Well, you go get him and I’ll play a jig for you.”

RORY!  Startled, her brother jumped up from the floor.  “C’mon, we’re gonna dance!”

They took their places in the middle of the floor, Kathleen in her velvet dress, Rory in his kilt.  He was several inches taller and as dark as she was fair.  They stood perfectly still while Daniel tuned the instrument, and were ready with the first note.

Their little legs flew so fast it was hard to tell when their feet touched the floor.  Their arms hung unmoving at their sides.  They faced their audience, then each other, then turned and danced in a circle –- hop, skip, fling out the legs in perfect time with the music.  Suddenly Norah Riley joined them in her petticoats, her brother Tim in his kilt, and they missed not a beat as they took on their new partners. Their faces were stiff with concentration.  Kathleen’s curls were flying around, Norah’s petticoats looked like a bright, everchanging rainbow.  The boys skipped back to let the girls have the limelight, then took their own turn front and center.

They were dancing together again when the music ended.  They were so still when the last note sounded, it seemed that they had never moved at all.

“Hurrah!” shouted Brian, clapping his hands against his massive thighs.  Every voice echoed in praise for the children.  “Start it up again, brother!”

As Daniel began to play again, Brian grabbed Irene by the arm and hauled her out onto the floor.  Brian’s dancing had more energy than grace, but his sister matched him step for step, her long slender body lithe as a fairy’s, her feet touching the floor lightly each time he landed with a thump.  The fringed hem of her dress flew up with each step, revealing the knees that had captured Jeff Scott’s attention. Yet it was her feet they watched – so quick, so light, so graceful in movement.  She seemed to be dancing on clouds.

Her parents joined the dance, then Frank led Patricia to the floor.  John Riley asked his new bride, who laughingly refused him, then turned to Moira Flaherty.  Daniel picked up the tempo and when he finished the song, they were all redfaced and panting.

Daniel saw his wife beaming at him, the tiny dimple in her chin deepened by her smile, and he began to play again.  Sweet and soft, slow and loving, came the old Welsh ballad, and he played it for her alone.  Though the floor was filled with dancers and a score of bodies moved between them, she heard the words from his heart to hers,

Of all the proud fellows, the proudest I’ll be
When the Maid of Llanwellyn smiles sweetly on me.

It was the song that had won her heart, the song he had courted her with.  That he had played for her at their wedding.  And her heart responded now.

I love you, arrah. All will be well. Believe in it. All will be well.