Here there be dragons...

"I'm telling you stories. Trust me." - Winterson

Beast vs Rabbit

Line of the day: “You can’t boost a beast with a rabbit; you need a bigger beast.”
Hahaha yes indeed, the beast died again (apparently it doesn’t believe cold days are in its contract) and boosting it with the rabbit failed miserably. Boosting it with a bigger beast however, worked wonders. Thanks Steve for saving the day :) Again!

All this was so I could take Sienna to a clinic with Ian Roberts, which went really well. That story’s on the Graduate Riding School blog if you’re interested. Short version – exercises not particularly challenging, quality of instruction was excellent (no surprise there), Sienna went from disaster to brilliance. So overall I was pretty thrilled.

After the clinic I finally booked our trip to Varadero; for the curious, Sunwing won the travel site debate. Escapes.ca lost because they were only offering a 5 day trip, whereas Sunwing had a 7 day. I’m very excited about the hotel we found; it has amazing reviews and hadn’t been on my radar at all, so it was a great find. I suspect it was too expensive until it really was last minute :)

Anyways – I have approximately six days worth of stuff to do in the next two days, so I’m off. My theory is if I don’t sleep, I may have almost enough time. I can sleep on the beach :)

Flash Fiction 23: City Meets Country

So I'm considering entering a short story contest -- to any who've read any of my previous flash (esp if you've any experience with this sort of thing...), favourites? Thoughts? Recommendations? They can be expanded/developed a bit as the contest word count is higher than for flash... No guidelines or genres stated.

And now back to our regularly scheduled program:

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Flash Fiction 23: City Meets Country

The snow fell gently as she looked at her vehicle in disgust. The stunning beauty of the large flakes and the perfect quiet of the scene seemed to heap insult upon injury. The teenage girl kicked the tire in futile frustration and muttered language that her grandmother would’ve washed her mouth out with soap for. It was bad enough she had to spend winter break in the country with her grandparents when all her friends were going to Florida, but now this.

In the distance she heard the guttural sounds of a diesel engine; shortly a truck that had seen better days before she’d been born pulled past her and stopped. Anxiety over years of warnings about strangers warred with hope that this person might be able to help – or at least have a cell phone whose battery wasn’t dead.
The young man got out of the truck and smiled kindly, “What can I do to help?”

“Know anything about cars?” she asked, hopefully.

“You see what I drive?” he asked with a grin.

“It died,” she explained, informatively. Realizing a bit more information might be required she added that it had been driving fine, she had stopped at the intersection and when she tried to start again it went a few feet and then sputtered to a stop.

Within minutes he had his truck turned around and hooked up to hers. They heard another car approaching and watched as a second truck pulled up. A window rolled down, “truck die again Jake?” the passenger asked teasingly.

“Yes Ma’am, this young lady kindly stopped to give me a hand.”

“Well now dear, that was very nice of you.” The woman commented before turning serious, “you ok here on your own with Jake?” Jake somehow didn’t seem the least bit offended by the comment.

“I’m fine,” she told her, hoping she was right, “thank you though.”

“Alright then,” she said as she rolled up her window and the unseen driver drove away.

“Try it now,” Jake told her. Sure enough when she turned the key, it zoomed back to life.

“You’ll be ok as long as you don’t have to stop,” he told her. “Are you going far?” She thanked him profusely and told him not to worry, she wasn’t going far. “I’ll just follow you, to make sure you make it ok,” he told her.

Years of warnings surfaced again; was it really a good idea to let him follow her to where she was going? What if he was some sort of psycho? But then, if he’d wanted to harm her, he probably would’ve already done so. Right? But she quickly realized that either way, there was no way she could stop him. Thanking him again, she got in her car and drove off, being careful not to actually stop at any of the intersections she came to – fortunately there was only her car and the pickup on the road.

When she got to her grandparent’s farm and pulled in the lane, the pickup slowed and then with a quick honk of the horn was gone. And for just a moment, she wished he'd come back.

Impossible? No problem.

Ok so for a few of you who have asked I’ve opened anon comments again; will stay like that until the next time I get spam flooded… No idea how long that may be, but we shall see :)

Just cause it amused me – the line of the night: "when looking for a bird, it's going to be hard to find a didgeridoo". You definitely had to be there. But I thought I’d share anyways. Which of course reminds me of “writing well means never having to say ‘you had to be there’.” But sometimes the story is just much better left at that.

*edited after writing to add: this post turned out to be long, and in the blog’s original “horse related” theme…. So for those who are not of the horsey inclination the short version: I'm tired of having ignorant students and trying to fix that, and my superpony really is super. The end :)*

For the dedicated of the Truly Intelligent People:

So I have discovered that many of my students while turning into decent riders, have a really disturbing lack of knowledge about those wonderful animals they claim to love. Like not even D level pony club knowledge. This particularly worries me as experience has shown me that good riders who are not good horse people tend to lead to disastrous consequences. Things like "training" a horse through punishment due to lack of understanding of their natural responses, or causing a horse to tie up from being put away too hot because they don't understand why it's critical to cool them out, or having their horse go permanently lame due to not recognizing poor shoeing, etc etc etc. Bad - very bad.

Now I regularly "slip" theory into my lessons (in the same way my hs english prof used to smuggle in grammar even though she wasn't allowed to teach it :) and I have to admit, my students not only refrain from rolling their eyes, they actually seem to make a genuine effort to learn it. I've decided to assist that with once a week online theory. Over time will cover the Pony Club and Rider Level curriculum as well as some random things that I feel should be covered :) Theoretically anyways. But we're gonna start with the real basics cause really it's very sad the level of knowledge I'm seeing... This'll end up on the GRS blog methinks :) Since Friday is Flash Fiction Friday, I'm thinking Thursdays can be Theory Thursdays. Cause you know, I have time for another writing project; really I do.

Awesome ride today. Sienna pulled a shoe on Sat and so hasn't been ridden since then so she was, understandably, a little high. Was a lesson starting just as I went in; two riders who are entirely competent and the coach was kewl with me riding around them even if she was a little bouncy. So I warm up with them and it occurs to me that I almost never ride with other riders who are actually riding (I often ride with others but they tend to be novice and or hunters who kinda walk/trot maybe canter a little.... nothing fast or exciting and nobody ever jumps but me). So as Sienna's busy shying at her scary corner, one of the other horses has an overly-dramatic leap into the canter, which entirely fried her little brain. But eventually she got accustomed to the fact that the other horses were going to trot and canter around the ring and maybe even make noise once in a while and while she'd still flinch whenever they did anything, she very quickly realized that running away was not required.

Now the ring was all done up because the BO has a lesson tomorrow, so nice course built with pretty jumps -- complete with decorations. Since coach is kewl and students know how to ride, when they started jumping I asked her if she'd mind if I jumped Sienna as well (while not an explict rule at this facility, jumping around an in-progress lesson is generally considered a faux pas at best and both disrespectful and dangerous at worst so it's not something I'd ever do w/o asking first, and most days I would never even ask -- but it seemed such a perfect schooling opportunity, and the riders are not nervous or concerned so worth asking...) Anyways she was kewl with it, so as they trotted around over their w/u fence I did the same. Sienna jumped it quietly, absolutely no problem, cantered away like an old school pony... And then one of the other girls jumped the fence, and as Sienna heard her horse land and canter off she left. hahaha got her back, rinse and repeat. She fairly quickly got to the point where she didn't even flinch as they jumped (woohoo superpony) -- well, until one of them knocked it over *g*

Si had a good run around at the sound of the jump falling and an even bigger one when we tried to go past the person setting it back up; standards are *not* supposed to move! Reinstall the brain and continue jumping -- until she too knocked over the fence, including the standard (they're a little fragile @ this barn). She lost it -- and of course the boos and commentary inspired even more dramatic results -- she even tried to buck! hahaha poor girl but after Zel her drama just doesn't seem nearly so dramatic!

But we just kept going. I'd trot around while the others were jumping so she'd get used to continuing to work even with other horses doing scary things like landing and cantering, and then occasionally jump things. N by the end she was absolutely awesome. And even when she got chased by a very high and very mad mare, she shot forward enough for self-preservation, but didn't loose her brain. N then of course the eventer in me looks at the course they've been jumping and sees far more interesting lines. Which I suggest to their coach -- "why not have them try this to that?" This being a skinny on an angle, the other being planks on another angle, about a 10m circle. She looks at me and scoffs "yeah sure, you go try it if you want." Thinking that'd be the end of that. hahaha doesn't know me very well yet. So when her student finished her more-interesting-than-hunter/less-interesting-than-jumper course I trotted off to try my little line, picked up a random fence on the way and she realizes what I'm doing it's "you've got like 2 and a half strides there". "No problem, we'll do it in 4." I told her.

The first attempt I actually overdid the turn. Was very impressed w/ my pony since I didn't think she was strong or balanced enough to do that, but she cantered a tiny little circle inside the two jumps; not a runout or disobedience, entirely pilot error. She clearly thought that was what I was asking her to do. hahaha the second attempt, seconds later, I made it clear to her that it was only half a circle and then she should straighten up and jump the fence. Flawless. Jumped the first one perfectly quietly, nice round balanced canter, smooth turn, over the second fence, nice lead change for the new direction, and no explosion on landing. "And that's how it's done." hahaha I love shocking the hunter people :) I was thrilled with the superpony. Proving yet again that the impossible is not so impossible -- even on a green horse who's never done anything remotely like that. And for the record -- we did it in 4 strides.

Social Media Adventures

Ok so I posted my random thoughts yesterday about the various travel sites I've been shopping on and within an hour of my post going up, I received this comment:

Hi Lauren,


Appreciate your post and hope you find the perfect trip.

I noticed you mentioned that TargetVacations.ca had the least variety and higher pricing.

I would welcome further feedback at your convenience as we want to be able to provide the best online experience and our package holiday pricing is guaranteed.

Sincerely,
Jason Sarracini
TargetVacations.ca



Total PR move of course, but it was impressively effective PR. Every blogger I know of LOVES to get comments on their posts; it's definitely the highlight of my day *g* Little things in life people :)

The only thing that would've made this post better would've been if he'd included contact info (although he did include an id that I could follow through to his website and presumably contact info there if I were so inclined). What it did do was inspire me to revisit their site -- and since I was impressed by the response, I did so fully willing to purchase from there if the experience was better.

Unfortunately it wasn't much.

The first issue is the insanely long search. A friendly message appears on the screen: "we are working hard to find you the best options ... sifting through thousands of vacation packages" -- Promising and cheerful the first time. But by the 3rd, 4th, 10th time you've seen it, far less fun. Really, you know your search algorithm is too slow when you have to keep your customers entertained in the interim. They are not the only travel site that does this, but the better ones do not seem to. Certainly not to the same degree. After the second or third time I was forced to wait while it did this, I found I was spending that time tabbing to other travel websites whose searches were quickly displayed.

After the search a chart of random prices showed up; lots of pretty numbers, with no countries attributed to them. Strange. I clicked on some random numbers and after they worked hard to find me the best options I *finally* got some results (seriously, your vacation might be over by the time you manage to research and book it on this site!) I was sorely disappointed with the quality of the filters.

I had picked "All South" -- now given that I live in Canada, this does, technically, leave a significant portion of the world open. *Most* of the other last-min travel sites are intelligent enough to limit results to SA and the Caribbean. However in the wisdom that is TargetVacations (and incidentally itravel2000 -- which is also painfully slow to use) some of the Southern States are included. If I'm looking for a winter vacation, the Holiday Inn in Orlando is just not going to cut it. If I wanted to go to Orlando, I'd be searching accordingly. Besides, both FL and CA have had snow this winter; that's a deal breaker to me. Maybe including this is a value-add to some people, but to me it just wasted my time forcing me to look through more items that I have no interest in. And I stand by my theory that most people wanting somewhere in the States will search differently than those aiming for a random beach escape.

On top of that, the majority of the responses on the first page, while cheap, were not all inclusive. Some of which had that noted more obviously than others. At which point I realized there was no box to check (or if there is one, it's well hidden). Likewise no box for "beachfront" or "adults only" or "couples only" or any other number of things I might want to filter by that were standard on many of the other sites. Booo. Such a little thing that makes such a huge difference.

When I did *finally* get something worth reading, I discovered the same bland hotel summaries that are provided on all the sites; no personal reviews or even site reviews (such as escapes.ca provides "Our Opinion" for many of the hotels). Many of the hotels also had no thumbnail image. Pictures sell the trip -- I'm not going to book something I can't see.

For reasons I don't understand the "Last minute" search provided trips that cost more than simply entering the date into the normal vacation finder. Last time I didn't try the normal one, hence the "more expensive" comment; this time I did both and found prices matching those of the other site's.

Now the first time I visited the site I never got to the multiple room display -- I found this the second time around which was the site's one redeeming feature. This shows the prices of various other rooms for the same package (as does escapes.ca) and I found it to be very useful.

On the site there is a somewhat interesting blog, but I found it more an amusing distraction than a value add; perhaps you could read it in another tab while waiting for the search engine to do its thing. My thought is though, if their search engine were as impressive as their blog bot, and they put a little more info about the various hotels, this could be a great site; right now, however, it's mostly an act of frustration.

So this inspired me to take a second look at some of the other sites I had already dismissed. The winner -- sunwing.ca. Once I found my way to the right section (which clearly didn't happen the first time) I found a ton of super-cheap trips. The limit, of course, being they only feature their own packages -- but it does mean if I decide I want a sunwing package from one of the others I'll be double checking the price there first! My fav thing about this site that I didn't see anywhere else was that for every trip alternate travel dates/prices were included. Most of the sites somewhere had an "alternate dates" category, but it was a fresh search -- not the same locations on other days. That to me was very useful -- if the price drops $400 (as one example I looked at did), I'll wait an extra day. Downsides to this one -- very slow and no reviews.

Tripcentral seems to be cheap but stupidly difficult to navigate; itravel2000 I was thoroughly disappointed in - all the negatives of targetvacations without the promise of potential.

selloffvacations is incredibly easy to navigate and has great reviews posted; the only downside to this site was the results weren't displayed in as useful a manner (ie no other dates/room price options for a particular trip).

escapes.ca is still coming out on top of my completely informal study. They have stupidly locked departure dates in their "last minute" trips -- for which I can see no purpose, but so long as you use the regular vacation search it's excellent. Lots of detail, some reviews (albeit not as many as selloff), all the search filters I want, and a very user-friendly display for the results.

As to where we're actually going? I don't know yet! And I have exactly a week to figure it out :)

Here there be dragon . . . fruit?

So a friend and I are disappearing for somewhere warm next week. Doing the "last minute" thing -- and while we've both booked the time off work, we've yet to actually book the trip. Online prices are significantly cheaper than what I was quoted at the travel agency, although the woman there was very helpful and able to provide more info on some of the places I'd found online.

Escapes.ca seems to have the best prices (and the best site to navigate), followed closely by selloffvacations.com (which has the most useful hotel reviews and an easy site to use).

itravel2000 has some good prices, but not nearly the variety of the others and their site is more clumsy to use.

Sunwing.ca has some good sale prices, but only if you're going on those specific dates; less good for the random "last minute" thing.

Tripcentral seems to have the cheapest prices, but the website is pretty harsh to navigate and details on the vacations rather skimpy.

Targetvacations was both more expensive and offered the least variety.

Anyways -- that's just been my findings; anybody else done the online last minute thing before? Suggestions? I know a lot of people who've been very happy w/ selloffvacations.

I've been having a blast with this idea. But as one whose been known to hop on a plane and figure out where I'm going to stay when I get there, this isn't much of a surprise :)

Overall looks like we're probably going to Cuba -- I'm leaning towards Varadaro, but that could still change :)

On a complete random note -- I tried a new (to me) fruit today. Dragon fruit. Have to admit I was attracted both by the name and the colour :) Was actually pretty tasty (although I don't know that I'd ever eat a whole one, but a slice was good :). Anyways - just amused me so I thought I'd share.

I so did not want to be at work today. No interest at all. Usually I like my job but today, just not so much. Blah.

Ok off to teach -- at least that job's still entertaining; although it'd be more so if it were my school! So much I would change...

Flash Fiction #22 - Cassandra's Story

Her fingers flying she typed her memoir of things that hadn't technically happened yet. They thought she was crazy; she hoped they were right. But just in case they weren't, she wanted a record.

Writing in past tense, for in her mind the horrific chain of events had already unfolded, she wrote of the ice war between Canada and Iceland that would change the shape of the world forever.

"No wonder they think I'm crazy," she mutter to herself, "two of the world's supporting cast causing a global catastrophe? Never going to happen." But in her heart, she feared she wasn't crazy.

She wrote of spies and super-spies, those determined to save the world and those determined to exploit it. She named names. And times. And dates -- where she could remember them. History of war had never interested her, but suddenly she wished she had a head for dates. It could be important some day.

She wrote of the large corporation slowly and quietly buying up large portions of each country, and she wrote of the lone environmentalist trying to stop them. Her daughter. Who had less interest in the environment than her pet cat. And who thought she was crazy.

Lastly she wrote of the one who saw it all happening from a distance, as though watching a horrific play. And how the key players couldn't afford an audience. And she hoped she was crazy.

She heard the unmistakable click of a revolver behind her, and as she instinctively hit send her last thought was "I wish I really was crazy; just this once."

Where's my clone when I need her?

So I passed just about the worst marketing example ever the other day.

A billboard, on my way to work, that stated "Accord, by definition it means compromise." And that's all I saw. So for the next few days every once in a while this would flip through my little brain. It made no sense as an Accord ad, but otoh clearly failed miserably as an ad for whatever vehicle it was supposed to be, since I had no concept of their product but was continually thinking about the one they were against. Just goes to show why "competitor bashing" ads are a waste of time and effort -- not only does it make your company look bad (since it's basically as though, you can't compete so you'll try and shoot down the others rather than raise yourself to their level.) but it puts your competitor forefront in the client's mind. Bad idea all-round. Whoever pushed that campaign through should be fired. Just my 2 cents :)

So if you put in 2 cents but are only offered a penny for your thoughts, who's making the penny? And how do I get to be that person?

I'm so far behind on absolutely everything this week. Not such a good thing. Esp as I'm trying to get ahead so I can run away!

Rode a friend's horse the other day; really was not expecting much from what I've seen of him in the past. Was quite pleasantly surprised to discover there's some really decent training in there. Once we got past the "forward is not negotiable" discussion he was really quite nice to ride. Very happy about that :) It's been a while since I've ridden anything other than Si too, and he's oh about the extreme opposite, so that was a little interesting. Got on Si after and put my leg on and she just about launched me. hahaha right, gotta remember to turn the volume down for her :) He did make me appreciate how well Sienna responds to the half-halt. Will take me a day or two to (re?)install that on him. It'll come though. He certainly tried really hard.

Gotta run.

Wii Psyc

I think when I finally make the opportunity to study for my phD it my have to be in psychology. Partially because I'm really interested in learning what makes people tick. What *are* they thinking? A question asked all so often by those confuzled by the actions they see, but one I genuinely want to know the answer too (this because I've met a few people I just can't understand - I like them and am highly amused by them, but have absolutely no idea what's going on in their heads). And partially because I'm really interested in studying what the little things you do can reflect about your personality.

For instance -- (guilty secret time) I play Dance Dance Revolution. Regularly. It's currently my fav low-level cardio workout (as in not equal to spinning or step, but substantially better than sitting on the couch), and I have managed to hook a few of my friends on this (all women). My guy friends refuse to be involved BUT the only two people I ever saw succeed on this at the stupidly-high you-must-be-kidding-me level, were boys competing against one another at pladium (ummmm see the post about the 12th bday). So my battle-of-the-sexes theory is women play because it amuses them, men play to win. And if they're not going to win, they're not going to play. Overly simplified generalization of course (with multiple exceptions), but I think it'd be interesting to study the adult m vs f enrollment in beginner level activities. If my theory's correct, it'd be substantially skewed towards women (maybe with a seperate category for men-trying-to-impress-a-woman since that does tend to override natural tendencies).

Anyways -- back to DDR... I've noticed distinctly differnt playing styles. The game itself is esentially set up for self competition; even when you're playing with multiple people, unless you all happen to be at the same level (which seems fairly rare) there's really no competition. You can even play in "friendship" mode where there is literally no competition. Blah >;-P hahaha but I'm wondering what the styles represent about personality.

For instance, some of those I've observed:

- one friend who tried once and now won't even get on... Mostly due to self-doubt. "I'm not coordinated enough for this." But really, we all (well except one - see way below :) do horrendously badly the first few times. That whole riding a bike thing. Have to fall off a few times before you get the hang of it. So why not keep trying? And how does it apply to life, if the first try at something doesn't go well? On the other hand, you know she's amazingly brilliant at all the things she *does* do!!!

- this is contrasted by the one who won't get on because "it's silly" (ummm insert adult vocabulary there). She never even tried it once, being far too refined for such pursuits. Makes you wonder though what other undignified (read fun :) pursuits she might be missing in real life?

- there's the one who completely aces one level and has no interest whatsoever in moving up. I meet a lot of these in riding too. DQs in particular :) They get really *really* good at one level, comfortable there, but still find it sufficiently challenging that there's no need to move up. And strive instead for that perfect (and I mean literally perfect) score. IRL, these people tend to be super-organized, rule-oriented, list makers, clean house, etc. Or so my rather limited study would suggest :)

- then there's the complete opposite who gets a barely passing grade, deems that sufficient, and moves on to the higher one. This one fails more often than any of the others, but also ends up eventually playing on the highest levels. The IRL problem with moving up too fast being that basics may occasionally get missed. Think putting together Ikea furniture starting w/ step 4.

- there's the naturally talented. Can do it all (even with the hands turned on) and never break a sweat. We hate her. >;-P (sorry A, you know we really love you :)

I'm sure there are lots of other styles that reflect life skills, but those are the ones I've personally experienced. And yes, one of those is me (question is, do you know which?). And something that interests me is, when I was in highschool a completely different option was me (bonus points if you know that one!). And I don't entirely understand how or why it changed. I remember @ the time being envious of one of my best friends who was so naturally in the section I'd put myself in now. Or so it seemed to me :) But I'd be interested in knowing how such a deeply ingrained personality shift happened (and it wasn't complete - there are situations that still draw the HS me back - usually to the surprise of those who didn't know me then; I can override them if I want, but it has to be a conscious decision), and even more so, knowing how to use that to effect other changes. Hence the whole psychology idea :)

Anyways -- there's wii-psyc 101 for ya :) My greatest thanks and sincerest apologies to my "subjects" whose permission I most decidedly did not have. hahaha I hope you won't take this as grounds for unfriending me. Luv ya all.

Oh and here's another random question. Who thinks this stuff up? Really? Is there anybody else out there who seriously contemplates the power of wii games to reveal psychological characteristics? And other such completely random topics. I think I might need help. Anybody know a good shrink?

Flash Fiction #21: What the Kookaburra Saw

I was walking by the pet store with my fiancée when I heard the kookaburra's mocking laugh and was instantly reminded the day my mother first told me I was a witch.

"We have to talk," she informed me. At thirteen, I'd already long since learned to fear those words, although in this case I'd been fully expecting her to tell me she was getting remarried. Again. I didn't remember my real father, and I'd had seven stepfathers already so I wasn't particularly concerned anymore. The various fathers would come and go, but in the end it was always going to be just Mom and me.

We were on vacation, enjoying every minute of our stay on the Sunshine Coast of Australia. Sitting on our rented veranda overlooking the ocean as the sun set behind us, the bird in the garden laughed at my mother’s statement. Perhaps he knew what was coming; I certainly didn't.

"I'm a witch," she told me. Short, simple and to the point. Always. "And so are you," she added. I didn't have a clue how to respond to that. Really, what was I supposed to think when my perfectly normal if endearingly flaky mother announced that she was a witch? The bird repeated his shrill laugh.

"It runs through the women in our family," she continued as though we were discussing a unique hair colour, "you'll probably start to discover your skills in the next couple years, and I just wanted you to be aware. Grandma never told me and finding out was... well... a bit of a shock to say the least." I wondered idly if she had just revealed to me the source of animosity between her and her mother. My mother was looking at me for a response, but what could I say?

"Skills?" I asked, choosing the simplest thing I could think of.

"Most of us have a smattering of all the skills, but everyone I know is particularly strong in one. Grandma was a telepath, although she'd never acknowledge it. Aunt Ally is both an empath and a healer -- she can literally feel what other people feel, and has the ability to heal both physical and emotional problems. Hers is a powerful but very difficult skill to live with. My skill is magic. Old-fashioned magic."

"Magic?" I asked, with a level of scorn and doubt only teenagers are capable of. Usually I would've been in serious trouble for speaking to my mother that way, but with a strange half smile she let it go. I shivered as the wind picked up and the kookaburra laughed.

"Watch," she said, and blowing gently across the palm of her hand, a flame suddenly lit. She tossed it to the wind, and we watched it swirl around, this one little flame being lifted, swirled and dropped much like a fall leaf. She held out her hand and the flame returned to it like a trained bird and vanished at the same moment the wind died.

She looked at me and I carefully kept my face blank, determined to display the apathy required for my age. She raised her arms and seconds later was sitting on the roof, her feet dangling over the side. She tilted her head to the side and suddenly I was beside her, and all attempts at indifference were abandoned. I clutched the edge of the roof and looked at my mother with a mix of fear and awe. And suddenly I had a million questions.

She laughed delightedly at my enthusiasm, thrilled to finally be able to share with me that which set her apart from the rest of the world. We spoke through the night, sitting on that roof-top on the other side of the world. And as the sun rose in front of us and the Kookaburra sounded his cheerful twitter again, this time I felt I could laugh with him.

Hire teenagers while they still know everything!

Highly entertaining lesson today :) Or @ least I found it to be -- I'm sure my coach rolled his eyes more than once *g* I probably would've.

Background is simple -- Sienna has recently turned into a teenager. A little bit of a late bloomer since she should be almost done being a teenager, but sobeit :) hahaha On Tuesday she had a complete meltdown for absolutely no apparent reason. 2h later I had finally found her brain and we finished at about the place we would usually start. The next day she was zonked (geee can't imagine why!) so we took it easy and stretched a little. Day after that we were able to work but she was still clearly a little tired.

Then we have today. And she's feeling good again. And she's still a teenager *g*. Flat work was excellent. Through and connected and soft and willing. She was really trying. I'm having a bit of difficulty w/ her dropping behind the vertical, but that's not disobedience or attitude it's just a bad combo of conformation and lack of understanding -- so we're working on it.

Anyways -- the jumping exercise my coach built was a take off on the zig-zag. 4 fences on the center line. The ones between A and X form a greater-than and the ones from X to C form a less-than. But w/ just enough space to ride between the two at either end if you wanted to. So the lines (in a 20x40 arena) are basically K-B and E-M; then fences at each of G and D on the other angle. (for those who are now TOTALLY lost -- the arena letters are here)

The K-B line was built over the mounting box -- insta A-frame. hahaha I was amused at that anyways. The E-M line was a square oxer. The other two were just really simple verts. All were low -- 2'6 range. So we trotted over everything to warm up as my coach was setting up the course -- and Sienna was great. We've mastered the art of trot fences.

So then the exercise is trot first fence, land in canter, ride a circle that goes between first and second fence (in nice pretty canter), jump second fence (calmly), change direction. (ie start left rein, change direction over D jump, canter a 15ish-m circle right, then jump K-B fence, land going left). No problem right. Then we remember that my pony has become a teenager. And teenagers know everything. And MY teenager knows that if you are jumping and you canter a turn that there's even the remotest possibility might line you up with a fence, you jump that fence. This has recently become a bit of an issue because she'll pick up a fence and decide we're jumping -- even on dressage days! So I've been working on that a lot in our flat work and it's been getting better, but today was the first time we've really had it out.

Jump the first fence, lovely bouncy dressage canter, make it *very* clear that we're doing a circle (since I am entirely against ever putting a horse on a line and pulling them off it. That, to me, is not fair. I'm working very hard to teach her that if you're on a line, you hold it. End of story.) So as far as my directions go, she's bent, on the circle line, and then she focuses on the jump. "Laur we go HERE. NOW. Over THIS fence." ummmm no dear, you go where I ask you to. Which is on a circle that doesn't have any jumps on it.

So the first time we had this conversation nothing terribly exciting happened. She scooted and hollowed a little bit but nothing tragic and I was able to get the nice canter back in time to actually jump the second fence. Not bad.

Get a nice canter left heading up to the other end of the ring where the goal is to circle and stop. Except that as I turned her onto the circle line, she picked up one of the angles again (this time one WAY off the line and at the other end of the ring.) And she was *not* happy when I insisted on the circle. Got the full teenage rebellion. Middle finger up then storming off and slamming the door. Which in horse language translates to her head in my face, bolting, and kicking the wall on the way by. Very dramatic.

The head up and bolt she used to do fairly regularly, but I haven't seen in several months. Fortunately for both of us, she's much stronger now than she used to be so when she did that, we didn't die on the corner. But it did take me a while to get back to the nice canter. And once I did she had to come back to a walk rather than jump more (gotta love having a horse who wants to jump so much that it actually becomes the reward for the flatwork).

And then we start all over again. Jumping random fences and circling around/between others. Always being very careful to make it very clear whether we're on a jump line or a circle line. And I got a couple temper tantrums, but none quite as dramatic as that first one. So things were getting better when . . .

The rider screwed up. Booo. Got to a wicked spot (which theoretically isn't a big issue since the jumps are tiny and she's super scopey and can jump from just about anywhere) except of course it tossed my balance way off; I slipped the reins, but not enough and caught her in the mouth. Wow, explosion and a half there; almost worthy of Zel in her younger days. "You told me I could jump let me jump!!!" Bucking (well to the best of her abilities) and running (this she does *very* well) and tossing her head around. Take an already huffy teenager and then screw up something you promised them and picture the results -- yeah that's about what happened, just make the teen a horse and we're good to go. After we finally get stopped, my coach says to me "so should I beat you up for that, or are you going to take care of that?" It would seem he's already figured out how much I hate it when I screw up. hahaha

So the next fence which I nailed text-book style I still got the same hissy fit after it ("so there!"), but eventually I got her chilled and gave her something else to think about.

Finally, following that, we were able to put a course together properly. With quiet turns, taking only the fences I asked her to, landing in rhythm, good spots, circles where I wanted them, etc etc etc. All this for a 2'6" course of only four jumps. Which she would've done with no problem this summer. Teenagers are so much fun.

Zoom Zoom

Ended up giving a Blogger lesson @ work today. hahaha that was kinda entertaining. Random client who wants a blog - ummmm you can do that yourself, don't need us to do it for you. Half an hour later she was up and running and very happy with the whole idea. hahaha

Came across a new (well new to me anyway) form of "art" the other day. GPS drawing. For an example: The World is my Canvas. I found this guy to be so obnoxious I had trouble watching, but found the idea intriguing. Is this art the modern version of the Nazca lines?

Had a brilliance or disaster ride yesterday. Started off riding the horse I had this time last year and ended up with one of my best dressage rides ever. hahaha classic :) Forward is good. Today pony was a *little* tired (can't imagine why -- I'm sure it had nothing whatsoever to do w/ bouncing around like a hummingbird on speed for 45 mins before agreeing to work yesterday). First time ever though that she did the trot cavelletti with them all on the high level and no canter steps. Woohoo! Pony's learning :)

Flash Fiction 20: Variations of the Truth

Awwww there’s one fewer “Truly Intelligent Person” in the world today. So very sad :(

Anyway – today’s challenge was one first put to me by one of the more interesting profs I had in my undergrad years. “Write your paper without using any form of ‘to be’.” I remember that being quite the challenge, so thought I see if I could make legible, enjoyable fiction following that same rule. Let me know if I pulled it off :) And then, if you’re looking for a challenge, try it yourself! I actually found it easier in fiction than academia, but I also have several more years of writing experience now too so that *might* make a difference.

Thanks for reading!

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Variations of the Truth

"Don't even ask," I told my coworker as I hobbled into the room. She looked at me with a laugh and raised eyebrows.

"Marc told me to go jump off a cliff, so I went base jumping," I told her straight faced; a perfectly logical explanation. In somebody else’s world perhaps. "Didn't land well." I finished.

"So I see," she said, knowing the details as I’d described them didn’t likely occur in precisely that fashion, but willing to play the game that amused us both.

But Jamie, poor Jamie, the third person in our now three-person business, still didn't understand the games Ally and I played and had the disturbing tendency to take us seriously. "Carrie! You could’ve died! What happened?"

"Well," I started, unable to resist the challenge and sticking as close to the truth as I possibly could under the circumstances, " a bunch of us hiked up the steps carved into Baker Hill; everybody else seemed so cheerful about it, but to me it seemed just like a workout."

Jamie looked at me knowingly, "who do you jump with?" he asked.

"The others didn't jump," I clarified, "they came from some exercise club. I just happened to run into them on the trek up. They had planned on doing some yoga type exercises at the top, then I guess hiking back down. I watched the start of the yoga, but since I really don’t care for it I continued off by myself. A thick coating of mud covered the rest of the path to the point it resembled an obstacle course -- I had to jump from rock to rock, and even slipped off one particularly nasty one; I should definitely have considered that a sign to stop."

"Oh Carrie, you had a sign like that and you didn't go back?" Ally tried to play along but it came out sounding false, at least to my ears. She could never pull off surprise parties either, for the same reason. I turned slightly so Jamie couldn't see me roll my eyes at her.

"Anyways, I got my chute all set and took a running leap off the face, but I misjudged the distance and landed just a little short. Not so badly as to do any serious damage, thankfully, but I sprained my ankle and now I have to hobble about on these." I finished, waving a crutch in the air.

At that Ally lost it entirely, laughing so hard tears ran down her face. Really, I didn't think my story seemed *that* funny, and Jamie looked utterly appalled at her behaviour.

"Sorry Care, but I just figured out what happened. You told the truth!”

“And that’s funny?” I asked, playing my role well.

“I can picture every single movement of it. Because I've done it! Including the flying leap that landed short. However, I followed the instructions. And that made all the difference."

"Instructions?" Jamie asked dubiously, finally cluing in to the fact that perhaps the details of my story lacked a little accuracy.

Jamie looked at me curiously while Ally tried to contain herself enough to explain. I simply shrugged, trying my best to look as though I had no idea whatsoever what she thought.

"The instructions," she started, still giggling, "at the start of the obstacle course state very clearly 'Do not jump on the wii balance board'. Carrie clearly missed that rule."

I looked at Jamie, somewhat apologetically. "She's right," I told him with a shrug.

He looked at me silently for a moment, trying to decided whether he felt angry at being played. "Next time Carrie," Jamie started with his frustration evident in his voice, "if you're going to jump off a cliff, find a cliff -- you clearly need a longer time to get your feet under you!"

"Now shall we get to work ladies?" Jamie asked, with half a smile indicating he had accepted his role as audience-participant with good grace. Perhaps he would fit in after all.

When Murphy and Gravity team up bad things happen.

woohoo -- I cleaned up in Jeopardy today. Shakespeare category (ok so that's to be expected) AND got the final question. I almost never get the final question. Ok so yeah, it's the little things in life and happened while I was typing this so I figured I'd share :)

So yesterday N came and rode Sienna (makes her exactly the second person to ride her since I got her, and the first to do more than walk around :) And I have to say she did an absolutely amazing job!!! It was super-kewl to watch -- pony's looking pretty good. Seeing all was well and good I asked N if she wanted to jump (as if there was ever any doubt about the answer!). So she shortens up her stirrups making some comment about falling off while she did it -- not cause the horse was doing anything bad, but just to fall off for no apparent reason. Yeah we know what Murphy does when people make those sort of comments. Sheesh. Anyways -- I had warned N about Sienna's recent habit of stalling before the first few fences, and of course it was also her first jump in four months, so of course Si did *not* follow through on that and instead cleared their first fence (that was all of a foot off the ground) by an extra two feet easily. hahaha was pretty impressive. Even more impressive was that N stayed on w/ no apparent effort whatsoever. Anyways, after that Si chilled a little and began to jump like I normal horse and N started to get the hang of her so landings were slightly less ummm frantic and then the world got better and we could make the fence into something a little more worth jumping over. Anyways, they stopped pretty early cause ummm Sienna was tired, but I think both had fun. It was really well done all round and despite her threat N was not overwhelmed by gravity at any point.

So it turns out Murphy's a vindictive little bastard. He wasn't about to let that comment of N's go. So sure enough the next time that horse came in that ring the rider was destined to hit the ground for no apparent reason. And his good buddy Gravity was all too happy to help. Unfortunately for me, I was that rider. And it happened pretty well exactly as N described. Short version ends there. Long version follows.

I warmed up my horse and she was good. Started jumping her and she was brilliant. Working on the whole adjusting the stride thing over poles again (this time they were closer together and it took a couple more tries but we got there) and gymnastics (vert, one stride, cavelliti, one stride, oxer - 1st fence about 3', 3rd @ 3'3, striding set to approach at a trot). So we jumped the gymnastic a couple times reasonably well, always trying to refine etc. Si was being very quiet and jumping like an old school pony.

While we're riding there are two other horses in the ring. One ridden by a more novice rider lunging @ first and then later just walking/trotting around and the other ridden by quite an experienced rider who was planning on schooling a slightly lower version of the same gymnastic I was working on but was still warming up. So I went through the gymnastic, landing a few strides behind the experience rider who was cantering. All good -- lots of space, safe distance to land and turn, etc. Except that her horse objected to Sienna coming towards him at speed, so he tried to accelerate and his rider promptly parked him in the wall. All good and entirely appropriate, except that when she did so, he spun his hind end out so that *my* remaining choices were halt or run into them. So we halted. No problem. Sienna wasn't even remotely frazzled by it; I was quite proud of her actually.

So we go through the gymnastic again, I'm thinking if she does it well, we're done, and the other rider intentionally times it so we end up in the same position as last time as she's hoping to accustom her horse to other horses. No problem right? I know to turn a little tighter to leave extra space just-in-case and otherwise the world is good. She jumped it flawlessly. Our best line of the day. Perfectly in stride, dead straight, centered, knees up around ears, quiet. Couldn't've been any better. We land from the last fence and I'm grinning ear to ear from that line. Cool out and go home. Right? You remember my good friend Murphy? Sienna took one look at the other horse she was coming up behind, the horse who stopped abruptly last time, and spun out the other direction.

I was on the ground before I even realized what had happened. Usually when I come off I have time to think about life the universe and everything before Gravity wins. Today, I hadn't even clued in that something was wrong when I was brushing the dirt off. I'm not sure if she got me cause she was incredibly fast or if it was cause she caught me so completely by surprise. hahaha Picture those cartoons where the edge of the cliff drops out beneath the character and they float there for a second before Gravity does his thing.... Yeah I suspect that might be fairly accurate. I was sitting on my horse and then I was sitting on the ground and she was off to the side.

And Sienna was wandering off towards the barn. The door to which was open. "Sienna Stand!" -- yeah nobody was more stunned than I when she actually listened. hahaha stood at the open door between the arena and the barn and waited while I walked over and lead her back to the mounting box.

So even though her last line was perfect, we had to do it again. *sigh* And I wimped out and asked could the other horse please be anywhere *but* that location while we did it. hahaha So they stood still and the line went perfectly. Then they started working again and we did it a few more times with them in various locations and she was pretty good. Doesn't like when he's beside her, but otherwise was kewl. Suppose it's just as well I discovered that here and not in the warm-up ring at a show *g* Have to find more people to ride with so she gets used to passing and being passed. Is kewl with it at walk and trot, but cantering tends to be a little dodgy... Anyways -- other than the completely random and uncalled-for dismount it was actually an amazing ride.

If God is dead, would God's murderer not himself have been a superior God?

So I'm reading the Lapham's Quarterly publication on religion. Not a topic that's usually my first choice since my experience with religions has been with their writings as really interesting works of fiction, and the historical results of interpretations of those writings. But it would seem the editor comes to it from much the same background (albeit a more learned one than mine) as in his introduction he writes: "I came to my early acquaintance with the Bible in company with my first readings of Grimm's Fairy Tales and Bullfinch's Mythology, but as an unbaptized child raised in a family unaffiliated with the teachings of a church, I missed the explanation as to why the stories about Moses and Jesus were to be taken as true while those about Apollo and Rumpelstiltskin were not." He moves on from this in a way I haven't yet quite managed hahaha. Flipping through the book (that I haven't had time to read beyond the intro -- hey it only just arrived! Well that and NCIS was on :) -- anyways flipping through the book I'm not sure yet the variety of religions represented, although I did stumble upon one page listing various Superheros of religions -- Gods, their names, responsibilities, abilities, etc. Thought that was an interesting way of presenting the summary. Obviously not a comprehensive list as that'd fill the book itself, but some of the perhaps you should know but maybe you don't variety. Anyways -- I was amused, so I thought I'd share :)

On a completely different note -- a take on a digital magazine reader that looks fairly interesting. I don't read many magazines, but I could definitely see doing so with that interface. Only thing missing is a search feature (after all, I'd theoretically eventually have MANY magazines on there -- I might want to have it search them all for specific information. -- ie, search the horse mag collection for all gymnastic exercises; suddenly winter wouldn't be nearly so tedious :)

Gotta say I'm still loving the magic picture frame. Except when it dies. Is that normal (are they not meant to be on for several hours @ a time)? Or should I return it?

Superpony was amazing, yet again. Working on consistently hitting a spot and lengthening/shortening stride on request. So think 1 baby-sized fence, and a pole on the ground about 7 strides away. Jump the fence, canter 7 strides to the pole, 15m circle, pick up the pole again on stride on a bending line. Repeat with 6 strides in the line. Repeat with 8. Change direction and start the game all over again *g* And you know what? She was really good about it. Never lost her brain, and very quickly learned to wait for me to tell her what pace we were going at. The 15m circle thing was more for interest sake than anything -- she's pretty good at that game now, esp as it was just a pole on the ground (as opposed to, say, a bounce?) Compared to last week where cantering a single fence then took a lap and a half of the ring to relocate her brain *g* Or a few months ago when if I tried to alter the canter even the slightest we'd either break to trot or frantic gallop. hahaha As good as she was though, I couldn't help thinking of Zel and the first time she did the same exercise (well except she had 2 fences). We were at a clinic, she was 2 years younger than Sienna, and had absolutely no difficulty with it. As a 3yo she had a 5-stride range (as in we could get anywhere between 4 and 8 strides) w/ no issue at all; when she got older we got up to about 8. That little horse could collect like there was a cliff at the end of the line. Gotta admit some days I really miss the princess. But then Si goes and trots over a 3'3 fence w/ absolutely no effort at all -- so pluses and minuses :)

hahaha ok so this made me laugh. The most useless machine ever! And yes, that's 15 seconds of your life you'll never get back -- but just think how much *more* time was spent building it!

Winter Teaching Adventures

*stolen from GRS blog*

Ok so there aren't too many days that I really don't want to teach, but every once in a while they happen. For instance -- first day back at work after a vacation, temp in the -15 range, no sleep the night before, no time for dinner, and horses that have had a wk off and will be spun, with students who aren't necessarily up for the challenge of a fresh horse on the best of days AND who haven't ridden in two weeks. So starving, tired and bitterly cold with the promise of disastrous lessons. Teaching, theoretically of course, may not be high on my priority list.

Except that through years of experience I've learned that the days in which I *really* don't want to teach, generally turn out to be the best ones (even if they do require a quick nap in the paddock while the student warms up first -- not that I've ever done that of course... *cough*Right N?*cough*) hahaha ok anyways -- the whole bad=good thing has happened consistently enough that my twisted little mind has got to the point that on days when I *really* don't want to teach, I actually start to look forward to it because I figure it'll turn out well. Yeah I told you it was twisted.

On the plus side it always gets me to the barn cause even if I only *kinda* don't want to teach I can convince myself I really don't want to, so I should go cause it'll be good. Unfortunately it doesn't work nearly as effectively for the kinda days. Not sure what that's about. hahaha

But tonight was a really day. And I had *so* much fun it was ridiculous. Of course it's a problem cause now it's 11:00 and I'm WIRED. Up for an hour or two at the gym. Except that I have to be up in 6h and so going to the gym now would be a very bad idea as regards tomorrow's survival.

So lessons were amazing. My beginners rode like pros and their sainted horses only gave them as much as they could handle (one little girl discovered she could handle a fair amount! The others were fairly civilized). Intermediate riders were very successful. One learned the 101 of horse training; another discovered she IS, in-fact, capable of chilling her hot horse out. And the advanced guys got to try some exercises they've never done before to rather amazing results. At some point in there I seem to recall jumping a gymnastic w/o a horse (12 remember?) -- the audience even awarded me first place! hahaha we don't need to mention there was no-one else in my sad little competition. But @ least I wasn't 2nd. One very kind parent gave me her hot-pockets when her daughter's lesson was over, which had me set for the rest of the night. hahaha it's the little things in life eh? I even had students asking me *intelligent* questions!!!! All night! And as anybody who's ridden with me for any length of time has learned, I love it when my students think *g*

Anyways -- I should go get some sleep or tomorrow's lessons will not be nearly so much fun. But I'm on such a high now I just had to share :) Night!

brrrrrr

So back to the real world today. Not so bad actually -- only 100 emails in my inbox. Way better than I was afraid of :) I was sort of amused by the autoresponder wars. A few times a client who was technically on vacation would email me -- which my autoresponder would answer which their autoresponder

N it's a little thing, but I love having my digital picture frame on my desk. The photos make me smile every time they change -- which is currently set at 60 seconds, so that's a lot of happy moments. On the down side, I think I got a lemon :( It often randomly freezes and then none of the buttons will work and the photo won't change. Boooo. But so far turning it off and back on again seems to solve that, so we shall see. On the plus side, I love the quality of the display. Pics are super clear.

Gotta admit on days like this I miss teaching in the heated arena of my last job. My arena will be heated. One day :)

My magic picture frame just flipped past a castle pic I took in France that would work for a bg here... hmmmm maybe :) Still think I need to find a good dragon for the top corner first :)

Miss Sienna has been... Well... A teenager as of late. Sunday though she was absolutely brilliant, so I figure there's hope again :) I wanted to get a dq lesson or two in over the holiday but I was grounded due to a flat tire on my trailer. Booo.

Awwww magic picture frame froze again. And it always picks pics I don't care for to freeze on. Never quits on the ones I could stare at for hours. Sheesh. Booo on that :(

Ok time to go freeze... ummm I mean teach. Yeah that's it. Yeah for Tim Horton's gift certs! hahaha hot chocolate here I come!

Time flies...

So I'm sort of amused that the first post of the year was fiction. Not sure exactly what that means, but I'm sure there's something to it. hahaha or maybe not.

So vacation's over -- back to work tomorrow. Somehow didn't get half the stuff done I wanted to. Booo. Ah well, such is life eh? And there's tons of white stuff on the ground. Not sure where that came from >;-P

Off in search of food!

Flash Fiction 19 – An Average Life

Ok so I pushed the word count a bit with this one. I even know what sections I *should* cut – but I’m rather attached to them, so they’re staying :) I hope you’ll read and enjoy anyways!

For those who've been here before -- what do you think of the new template? Server where the old images were hosted disappeared so I had to start over. Lesson learned!

Wishing you and your loved ones a fresh year of magic and miracles!

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An Average Life

It was New Year’s Eve. I was 25 years old and the world was mine for the taking. And I was alone.

The snow fell softly outside my window, lit by the vibrant lights of a town that was not mine. I was here to study history. Learning about a time that fascinated me, in the culture that arose out of it. I was an ok student, eager to learn and with grades strong enough to get into grad school. Barely. I’d been in the second round of acceptances and I knew it. Somebody else had had to decline in order for me to have a spot. Maybe several sombodies. But I was in – the hard part was over. And while I rarely had anything brilliant to say, I knew enough to keep my mouth shut and avoid revealing my ignorance. Through that, I came to be known as the quiet girl, but one who was worth listening to when she spoke. Yeah, I was surprised at that too; happy, but surprised.

I was afraid to leave the academic world. For while I was merely average here, I was afraid of being far less out there. My abilities were no match for my dreams. So when the opportunity to do post-grad work in France arose, I took it. I would never have gotten in had my peers applied; fortunately for me, the medieval studies department is run by academics, not marketing whizzes and nobody else knew about it.

So this is how I came to be alone, far from home, on New Year’s Eve. I didn’t have any friends – only acquaintances of the smile and nod variety. Theoretically we were working together; realistically all hoping to be the first to find and publish. Publish or perish – rule one of the academic world. Publish documents nobody outside would ever read or care less about, yet it all seemed critically important to those on the inside. And the few of us who saw it for the game it was? Well it was a game we chose to play, so we too followed the rules. After all, being average here was still pretty good – and there was never any shortage of intelligent conversation to eavesdrop on.

I sat up till midnight – even though it was just another night – watching the snow fall and contemplating life as it was, as it had been, and as it would be. Or could be. Maybe. The clock struck twelve, and I heard a knock at the door. I stared at it in disbelief – as though puzzling about it would reveal who was on the other side.

Convincing myself I had misheard, nonetheless I went and opened it. And was surprised at the crushing level of disappointment when there was nobody there. A knock at midnight. Right. Not in my world. Blinking back the tears of heartache that threatened to come, I almost missed the little package resting off to the side. Almost.

I picked up the wrapped box – although the wrapping was unlike any paper I’d ever seen. Almost metallic, it reflected the light in ways that made the paper appear to be made of liquid. There was a card attached and I opened it as I stepped back into my apartment.

“A lost soul,” I translated as I read, for it was written in a dialect of old French that few would be able to comprehend today, “sometimes, cannot find its place until its place is ready to be found.” Ok so that was weird.

I started to open the package, and as I did the strange wrapping fell away and disappeared. No, that’s not quite right – it’s more like it soaked into the carpet, much like spilt water. I could see where it went, but I couldn’t pick it up again, and after a few moments it faded, until all that could be seen was my ratty old carpet.

I looked at the box a little apprehensively after the mysterious vanishing paper trick, but excitement won out over caution and I opened it to reveal a necklace. A pendant, beautiful in its simplicity, appeared to be of Celtic origin. The chain it was on looked like silver but was so fine it felt like a piece of tinsel.

I picked the pendant up gently. It felt warm in my hands, and though it appeared tarnished, it was highly reflective, presenting a distorted view of my apartment. Ever so carefully, I tested the weight of it on the chain it came with. It seemed to hold. I did it up around my neck to find it fit just right.

I wandered to look in the mirror, tracing the unusual shape with my baby finger, as one might caress the scars of a loved one. The heat of the pendant on my chest warmed me straight through and the sensual tracing became hypnotic as the reflection in the mirror changed.

My apartment slowly disappeared from the mirror while I watched. It showed my walls becoming forests; my dying plants took on new life; my couch became a lake and the coffee table its beach. It was nighttime and my overhead light transformed into a moon. High above, yes, and yet so much closer and larger than I had ever seen it.

Gradually my reflection faded too – replaced by what, I couldn’t tell. The reflection was dulled until all that remained was the vision of the pendant. And with a blink, it was gone.

I looked around to find myself in a world that I almost knew. The colours were straight out of my dreams; close to normal but far more vibrant and alive.

I looked into the lake my couch had become and saw the moonlight reflected. A lightening bug danced out in front of me. There seemed to be a pattern to his movements, but at first I could not discern what it was; eventually I recognized the same script that was on the card.

“What do you want to see?” the little creature spelled out. My hand reached of its own accord toward the moonlit water while I pondered the question.

In a flash I was taken back to the time when the language of the lightening bug was the common tongue. The times I’d read and dreamed about became real, and I quickly learned that nothing I’d read or dreamed had come close.

I sat for months watching the years go by. I lived the lives of kings and peasants. I loved and I lost. I found disturbing similarities between their lives and ours, and differences so vast it astonished me that one culture sprang from the other.

But then, one day, something triggered a thought of home and the vision on the lake changed dramatically. I saw my own life, from the outside. I saw what had been, what was, and what could be. And I no longer felt so lost.

My eyes were scratchy, as though I’d left my contacts in too long. I was back in my apartment and my baby finger was still tracing the pattern of the necklace, which was no longer there.

I’d learned enough about the culture I’d come to study to write papers that would send the academic world spinning, and might even interest the outside world. And write them I did – but it would take several years to find enough proof so that I could publish. Suddenly my studies had focus and passion and no longer seemed like a game. And once out there, my papers held up to all peer reviews. Of course I couldn’t exactly reveal my sources, but by then I had others to back me up.

From this I found the life I’d been looking for. Making history come alive for others as it had for me. And while I never did leave the academic world, within it I found friends, family and a home. An average life, perhaps, but one worth living.