Archive for March, 2023

Golden eagle trying to expel pellet
Photograph by Wendy Miller,
Perris, CA
Used under Creative Commons license. Unedited from original. 

When I was in college, there was a series of urban myths built around the town of Stull, Kansas. The story usually involved a friend of a friend who had come to grief in Stull. A disappearance, a murder, a Satanic ritual in the Stull Cemetery, or sometimes just a deeply unnerving feeling experienced while changing your tire by the side of a lonely, rural highway. Sometimes we traded them like campfire ghost stories, especially the more ridiculous ones. The deeply troubling ones, the ones that seemed plausible, however, crept under our skin and stayed there.

These days, I drive through Stull every week or so, going between home and various appointments. I don’t like to drive Stull Road at night, as silly as that is, but see above, for the stories that crept under my skin.

One of the first things I noticed when I started regularly passing through Stull was the absence of any but the freshest of road kill. I might see a freshly splatted possum or a deer carcass from the night before, but when I drove past a week later, the possum would be gone and the deer carcass picked down to white bones. If you’ve done a lot of rural driving, you know that’s not standard. Dead raccoons swell and split on the shoulder, waiting on the arrival of a highway cleanup crew. It can take months for a dead deer to sink into the ditch with its desiccated hide draped over bones like a mortuary tent. In the environs of Stull, however, roadkill mostly disappears before it rots.

I’m not prone to superstition, but it did raise my hackles a bit, until the day I spotted a golden eagle excavating the corpse of deer that had barely begun to attract flies. She ripped her way into its belly, tore out some bloody piece of flesh it’s better not to think about, and flew away. After that, I began to watch more closely, slowing down and searching the skies and tree tops above Stull. Soon enough I discovered a second golden eagle, this one a little larger and with a bit more white among its feathers. He was drifting on a thermal, scouring the roadside for an easy meal.

I’m not a photographer, so I don’t waste my time trying to capture them that way. Instead, when time allows, I like to drive up and down the gravel roads around Stull, hoping for a glimpse of them. My greatest sighting so far has been the pair, rarely seen together, perched side by side on a telephone pole. Driving by, I knew they were watching me back. I have seen, too, what I suspect is their nest. A great jumble of branches balanced in the top of a black walnut tree that stands a few miles south of Stull.

The wingspan of a mature golden eagle runs about about six to seven feet, and when they’re hunting, they’re fast, with incredibly sharp eyesight. Would-be Satanists beware, the thunderbirds of Stull are watching you.

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Brain Tug of War

The human brain is a strange thing. I assume they’re all strange, even though the only one I know intimately is my own. Part of its strangeness is the battle between wanting to write all the time and never wanting to write again. The last two years have been a perpetual tug of war on that front. I got sick, and then as a result of getting sick, I was injured, and because of my injury, I ended up having to move. There was a whole raft of things related to my mother’s estate that I had to deal with. My dog got sick, then died. Even though I wasn’t sure I was ready, I took in another dog who desperately needed a permanent home.

In the middle of all that stress, I started to feel like I would never write again, and part of my brain simply accepted that. That part began imagining a life where I would get a job at the turnpike tollbooth near my house and maybe go back to playing Zelda in my spare time. The other part of my brain insisted it was ready to go back to writing, but it only manifested that by writing random paragraphs about characters and stories I’d never thought about.

The thing about tug of war is that eventually one side has to win, either through trickery or through stamina. In October, I had a vague idea for NaNoWriMo, and I thought having a deadline might help me get back into the rhythm of writing. I made a few notes, so that I wouldn’t forget my idea, but then I got up the next day and started writing. The next day, I wrote some more. This is why I’m generally not interested in books or movies about writers. It’s a bit boring reading about someone writing, isn’t it?

At any rate, between October and February, I wrote a book, which definitively answers which side of my brain won the tug of war. The book went to my agent, and she sent it to my editor, and now we all wait to see if it’s worth a damn. The important thing, at least, is that having finished a book, I think I might finish a few more.

Meanwhile in reading, I’m not remotely close to catching up on my TBR, but I’ve been getting some reading done. Apparently I’m in the L’s.

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