Wednesday, August 21, 2019

WEP: Winter Heart

https://writeeditpublishnow.blogspot.com/?fbclid=IwAR335phO9h1ERbtEbXriLmn71gWVTtXOPpUllUIF5YwrpQaIPUY3sJGgmF4 

Squeaking in under the wire, here's my entry for the August WEP (Write, Edit, Publish) hop! I've put a wheelbarrow in, but that's definitely not the title of my story, which is kind of a work in progress, as I let time slip away from me. 

I'm open to any level of critique; I may revise this and try to do more with it if I'm inspired :)


700 words; FCA

Winter Heart

One more load, Ilya told herseolf. One more load, and you can sit down in the shade for a few minutes. The unrelenting sun beat on her like a hammer as noon approached, bleaching whatever color there had ever been out of the summer landscape. Out of the everything.

The wheelbarrow that hauled Ilya’s firewood—what irony that, firewood when the mercury tickled the top of the long thermometer—had once been red, but like everything else, the color was long since faded to something mockingly like rust. No rust where there’s no water, Ilya reminded herself. In this climate, there was just color, drained away.

Drained away like all their hopes. Like Jacob’s life, sucked away by the dust that got in his lungs and no amount of coughing would dislodge.

That’s all water over the dam, was her message to herself. Water over that damned dam that had lured them in and never materialized.

“The damn dam,” she repeated aloud, and laughed. There were some compensations to living alone. No one to be shocked that while doing the work of two men, she’d learned to cuss like one. And there was that home-brewed beer in the cellar. She’d learned to make it because Jacob liked it. When he died, the unused bottles had sat in the cellar, until the water in the well fell so low that she’d drunk it in desperation. Now she made a batch every year, grew the hops herself, and when the well water grew warm and tasted richly of the algae that grew in any still water, those cool bottles in the cellar were a treasure.

Dry-land farming had never been their plan. There were to have been canals and irrigation ditches all over, creating a verdant paradise here on the bench so high above the river. The man who sold them the land sold an entire vision with it, but only the scorched dirt held any reality.

She’d finished the last load, pushing a barrow of sticks up from the thicket where the creek ran in the winter. Ilya stacked the wood and went into the house, down to the cellar.

In the cool dim of the cellar she stood a moment and let the heat and weariness of the day drain out of her. In the cellar she could almost remember the winter.

Winter. It was the winters that kept Ilya from leaving, trying her luck elsewhere, however difficult it might be. Life returned with the first rains of autumn. When the snows locked her into her cabin, she began to live again.

Ilya leaned against the cool earthen wall of the cellar, remembering. That first summer, when she had so longed to leave, to return to… no, not to that. But to leave, certainly. Only Jacob had kept her on the farm. For love?

She no longer knew if she had ever loved Jacob. She had gone with him when he asked, too grateful for what he did for her to care where he took her. She had stayed with him, and then with the homestead, from that same gratitude and, yes, perhaps it was love, that feeling that to abandon his homestead dream was to abandon Jacob himself.

By now, there was little of Jacob left about the homestead, and it wasn’t his dream that kept her there. It was fear.

Fear that if she left, she wouldn’t know what to do.

Fear that if she went back, she would know too well what to do.

Anyway, it was only in the summer she wanted to leave. Soon the fall rains would start, and she would come to life again, just like the plants that had turned brown and blown away under the sharp sun.

In the fall, Ilya worked with a will, and the creek returned to life.

But winter. It was winter that kept her there, more than fear, more than need. Winter, when the snow trapped her in the cabin for days and weeks, and no one could come near. When the creek might freeze, or might run swift, deep and icy.

Winter, when at last she was safe.

Winter, when her heart was at rest.

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Wrong setting, wrong gender, but it is a wheelbarrow full of firewood, or something

©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2019
As always, please ask permission to use any photos or text. Link-backs appreciated!


46 comments:

  1. Poignant, painful and lovely.
    I hope winter comes soon for her. The winter of her content.

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    1. Yes! I think that bit about winter is my reaction to my first summer in a hot place :D

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  2. I loved this Rebecca. I found it hopeful. I love the use of seasons and what each means to her. The winter of her content for sure. It does sound cozy to be snowed in. Not something an Australian would ever dream of, LOL.

    Such a cute pic of the wheelbarrow.

    Thanks for your WEP entry. You're not close to the wire at all. Well done.

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    1. Denise, I’ve never been snowed in, so I can imagine it as a positive. I suspect if I lived in, say, northern Michigan, I’d have a different opinion :D

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  3. I love the uncertainty of what she wants to do, as well as her strong will to keep living. Life is so strange, you take twists and turns for reasons not know to you and then you stay, again not knowing why you do so. Amazing!

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    1. I think she is waking up to knowing she’s stayed just because it’s easier than going. She may have places to go.

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  4. Hi Rebecca - beautifully told ... I could feel for her, but she'd found a way and kept her story alive. Wonderful setting ... I could certainly see her annual life ... lovely - cheers Hilary

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    1. I hope you're inspired to do more ... ?!

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    2. Me, too. I want to know her story :)

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    3. Oh good ... more anon - enjoy the creation ... when it arrives!

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  5. This is a wonderful piece! I love the line about selling the vision along with the land - that happens so often. I hope she continues to be safe!

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    1. That part comes right out of our family experience, when my great-grandfather bought a farm in Omak, WA, which came with all sorts of promises about irrigation ditches and water sources. I think they were eventually built, but nothing like as promised, and it was a long time before they made any money,

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  6. Many of us stay where we are because of inertia. It is easier to stay, no matter how hard life becomes, than to abandon all and plunge into the unknown. I think that's why she stays. What would happen to her if she left the farm? She doesn't know. You show her tension, her unhappiness perfectly in this short piece.

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    1. Thank you! And yes, I think that's why she stays. Because however hard it is there, it's the safe choice.

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  7. Sometimes staying beats the unknown, but then you never experience much else if you never leave. As for winter, she can keep that. Buried by snow one too many times at my place haha ugg, snow. But if you don't have to go anywhere and the power doesn't go out, not super bad.

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    1. I think she sees the snow as protection—no one can get to her—as well as pure relief from an unbearable summer. It is just possible that part came from my reaction to summer in Central California ;)

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  8. She seems to have become quite reclusive and finds safety and security during the winter months. There's lots in your writing to think about why people stay or go and what they do with their lives.

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  9. My senses came to life with your incredible narrative of life in a barren land, with only the hope of tomorrow to cling to. Beautifully written.

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    1. Thank you. I set out to write a vivid landscape (with story admittedly coming second). Nice to know I succeeded in creating a setting and a mood.

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  10. I hope winter comes quickly for her.

    PS: In the first sentence 'herself' is misspelt as 'herseolf'.

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    1. Oh, man! That is so obvious now you point it out... can you really be the first person to notice it?

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  11. This piece really struck a chord with me. Your descriptions made me feel as if I was there with her in the story. The unknown can indeed be a frightening thing. The known may not be the best, but at least you know how to get through it.

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    1. Thank you.

      I think she has two “knowns,” and one of them is something that has her pretty scared.

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  12. I hope you develop this story further for it introduces a very strong character, one who has survived somehow a move, a relationship, and now, being alone in an unforgiving land. Thank goodness for her winters that bring solace. Beautifully told.

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  13. It makes me think of the dust bowl. I like this character. She's tough and flinty.

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    1. Twice now I’ve looked at what you wrote and read it as “she’s tough and thirsty”! Which might not be a bad description, either...

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  14. I like this strong female character you've created and this struggle to thrive and survive that she's trapped in. I'm also wondering if the winters keep her there because in the winter, being trapped inside is safer than any other time? I'd love to read more of this character.

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    1. Yes! I see her love of the winter, or longing for it, as a desire for the safety that comes when no one can come near her—isolation is hard, but it’s safe.

      These comments are really giving me a lot of insight into the character I so casually brought into being.

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  15. That was interesting. I am curious to know why winter keeps her safe. And what happened to the two men. Well done drawing the reader into your world.

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    1. I think there's only one man... did I mess something up to suggest two?

      Glad I managed to draw you into the world!

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  16. You must develop this further, Rebecca as there is so much - just as Ilya has made something of her sanctuary. (Strange about the snow. I used it as a positive in my short you critiqued.)

    Anyway, lots to build on here - and a lot that is crafted wonderfully.

    BTW as a Brit, I'm unsure what 'here on the bench' means exactly, although I see it visually. Here in Boise (USA), we have the Boise Bench which matches your description a bit.

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    1. Thanks. I will queue this up to work on when the novel goes to my proof-reader in a couple of weeks.

      I think you have the "bench" right. It refers to an old river or lake terrace. In this case I had the terraces above the Columbia around Wenatchee or Omak in mind, though the setting might prove to be quite literally out of this world.

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  17. Hi,
    As I read your story, I thought about a phrase I heard when I was a teenager, Dreams deferred. Sometimes we defer our dream to live out of fear of what lies ahead.
    You did an excellent job of communicating this fear.
    Great job.
    Shalom aleichem,
    Pat G

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    1. I think I have to write more to find out if that's an accurate description of what's going on with her. Certainly some kind of fear has kept her in her isolation.

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  18. Excellent feeling of entrapment and renewal. Makes me want to know what she’s hiding from and where she escaped from.

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  19. This one touched me a lot, Rebecca. I could relate to the woman's story on many levels. Thanks for this submission.

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    1. Thank you for those kind words! I'm gratified with how it turned out.

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  20. A superb tale with vivid imagery, that reveals how the weather can effect a person's mood. Well done.

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    1. Well, the summer heat has been doing awful things to me, so I guess I could relate!

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  21. Something very primal, eternal in Ilya's struggle to survive, the tug of war between hope and fear - effectively portrayed. Also I found the 'winter of content' rather refreshing, winter, snowed in etc are rarely shown in a positive light in much of the temperate zones. Great imagery and a great take on the prompt.

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    1. I’ve lived most of my life where winter is more a state of mind than of the weather, so I can romanticize it. Though in this case, it’s not so much being all cozy, as quite simply being snowed in means she’s safe from... something.

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  22. This is a beautiful and intriguing tale. Your detailed description drew me in and it felt really authentic. I'm very curious about what they were running away from and what happened to Jacob.

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    1. Well, the dust got Jacob (Valley Fever? Or maybe something alien and sinister...)

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