A young woman. A calculated act. The close knit bond of extraordinary women leading ordinary lives. True is a stunning tale, which beautifully weaves these dynamic characters and their pristine wild environment, their families and the animals they love, into what undoubtedly becomes a story one will never forget. “A lesson in healing, strength and courage, and above all, the magnificence of true friendship."

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Wild Autumn

     It was a wild summer here in the high mountains of Northern California. We had over sixteen wildfires..homes were lost, thousands of acres burned, some that will not revive in mine or my children's lifetime. Life is tenuous to say the least and the animals have lost much of their habitat. Our property has become a refuge for deer families, raccoons, skunks, bears and even mountain lions. The fact that we don't have a dog is also a draw, but not as much as the luscious apples in the orchard and the water we provide in this time of extreme drought. I absolutely love the fact that I live in such a wild place. In my regional novel True, animals and the their connections to people play a most important part. I was inspired to write about a human/mountain lion encounter after I had crossed paths with one on a hike near my home. Here is an excerpt from True where a woman is taken by a lion.

            She moved along the path, breathing in the pure air. Arrow was still far ahead, darting in and out of sight. After scanning the sky, she decided there was enough light left to stay a little longer. She turned up the mountain, weaving between giant manzanitas, stopping to stroke the smooth burgundy skin of a twisted trunk. Her small, muscular body climbed the steep incline without much effort. She knew that the dog would find her. As she moved up into a treed cleft, she felt her strong calf muscles flexing inside her blue jeans. She reached the plateau and paused. This was a favorite place. Light slanted through the grove of trees in pale silver bars. She could hear Arrow crashing through the brush. A gray squirrel sprinted, levitating to the top of a pine, while the dog flew in quivering pursuit. They sang to each other; Arrow’s yelping and the squirrel’s raucous scolding reached a pitch so frantic that she laughed out loud. After a few minutes, the dog lost interest and began nosing the ground.
            The circle of oaks was perfectly placed, as if by a landscape architect. She sat down, her back against a tree. The deep quiet and fading light lulled her. Arrow lay nearby in his nest of leaves, taking her in with quiet dog calm. The air was still and cool. Finally, knowing her time here was up, she stood and zipped her sweatshirt, then bent over to tie the undone lace of her boot.
            It hit her from behind. The powerful force of its streamlined body knocked the wind out of her, ramming her face hard into the ground. Her knee shattered in pain; she scrambled on all fours like a crab. Arrow was barking and whimpering. Turning her head in panic, she caught a flash of tawny fur. She screamed as the cat lunged again, its claws slicing, cleaving into the skin of her lower back, while its teeth simultaneously hooked the fanny pack strap and one belt loop of her jeans.
            The lion bounded through the oak circle in a graceful lope, then paused and raised his head. Clare dangled in mid-air, limp and unconscious. Engulfed in the lavender glow of twilight, he moved slowly up the mountain.
            The lion patiently made his way up through the steep cliffs. Night had fallen; above him arced a filigree of stars and an almost-full moon. Sometimes in his exhaustion he dragged her over brush and boulders. The top of the mountain was in sight, but the closer he was to the ledge, the weaker he became. It was midnight by the time he dropped her into his lair. He struggled, loosening the fanny pack strap and belt from his teeth. He didn’t bother to inspect the motionless prey. His legs crumpled under him, and he surrendered to sleep. 
          Clare woke at first light, wondering if she had died. The landscape was eerily unfamiliar. She lay on a rock ledge that jutted out over a small canyon. Above her was an overhanging stone that seemed like the opening of a cave but only provided a small shallow shelter. The lion was nowhere in sight. She could not move. She had never known such extreme pain. Even in childbirth there were moments of reprieve. This was a tight, hot cocoon of constant pain. Besides the crushed knee and clawed back, she was covered with wounds, scratches, bruises and welts. Her clothes were torn, her hair tangled. She wore only one hiking boot. Infection bloomed pinkly in her body, and the oncoming fever made her eyes sting.
            She heard a distant rustling across the canyon, then saw the lion weaving his way back to the ledge. She felt her bladder let go, and a stream of tears slid down her face, landing in soft puffs of dirt. Her heart pounded inside her small chest. She could not slow down her breathing. She managed to move herself, curling inward to protect the soft inner part of her body, even though she knew she was going to die. Instinct and adrenaline running deep in her brain bent her into a
womblike position, waiting.
           The lion moved towards the ledge, lingering at a stream. He paused, enjoying the sun on his back.  More and more, his old bones needed warmth. He drank the clear, cold water and stretched.