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Infographic at the main plaza at Cahokia. Monk's Mound can be seen to the left in the distance.

Infographic at the main plaza at Cahokia. Monk’s Mound can be seen to the left in the distance.

In this blog, I come to you with stories of everyday adventure; I relay the stories to you like you were an old friend sitting with me around a campfire.  To me, a blog is an extension of the age-old tradition of oral storytelling. I like to paint a picture of where I’ve been or what I’ve been up to and then I like to hear your stories of the same.  Anyway, I find writing about adventures takes the experience and turns it into story and the best stories can become something of family legend.  And “legend” is the category where I’ve found myself for a bit of creative writing recently.

There are 3  ingredients to the story I’m about to share.  The  first is a recurring contest on National Public Radio called 3 Minute Fiction.  3 Minute Fiction supplies writers with a prompt and asks for a story that can be read aloud in 3 minutes (600 words or less).  The stories are judged and winners are selected and read on-air.  I did not win this round of 3 Minute Fiction, but I very much enjoyed writing for it.  The prompt this round was to send “original short fiction in which a character finds something he or she has no intention of returning.”  (Click here to read the story that won this prompt.)

The second ingredient of the story was my recent travels to Cahokia Mounds and subsequent reading of a book about the people who lived there.  If you’ve not read about my trip to Cahokia and how I climbed the largest earthen pyramid in North America and a World Heritage Site, I suggest clicking here before you read on!   The people of Cahokia, like many other native peoples, had an oral tradition which includes a Trickster character.   In Norse mythology, the Trickster was named Loki.  In the tradition of the Blackfoot has a Trickster named Napi.  In other Native American traditions, the Trickster is the Coyote or the Raven.  No matter the culture and no matter the name, the archetype of the Trickster is all about chaos.  He’s curious and devious. He’s trouble, but he’s also somehow friendly and likable.  I think of the Trickster as the guy who runs around your house hiding your car key or steeling your left sock.  It’s a character that’s not necessarily malevolent, but sometimes causes harm.  He just spins the situation to see where it lands.

The geodes on my desk.

The geodes on my desk.

And the last ingredient of this story is my own adventures as a child.  My grandmother really does live in a house built in a limestone dell along the Mississippi, and the walls are dotted with geodes.  I spent many days as a child running around by the river and collecting geodes to bring back up to the house.  My mom or dad would have to get out a hammer- sometimes a sledge hammer for a big one- and we’d crack all my little treasures to reveal the sparkling quartz inside.  It was magical then, and when I go back to find geodes today, it’s still magical.  There are 3 pieces of geode from the cliff by my grandma’s house sitting on my desk at work, as a matter of fact.

I hope you enjoy my 3 Minute Fiction story, The Trickster and the Tears of the Moon.  And after the story… read alllllll the way to the bottom because I am giving out prizes.

The Trickster and The Tears of the Moon

The night my mother died, the Trickster was at the window. I saw him there with his bushy tail and eyes glinting, and I knew he saw me crying on grandmother’s knee. He was listening too, when she spoke of the tears of the moon.

“On nights like tonight, the moon cries,” grandmother said. “And tears of the moon find pockets here in the hillside.” And she reached into her satchel and pulled out a small, roundish rock with a crack through the center.

I gently pulled the halves apart and my eyes danced across the most beautiful, sparkling crystals inside the ugly stone.

And Trickster saw it too.

“The tears of the moon hold beautiful memories. When you’re sad and need them, the memories will always be on the inside.”

I nodded through my tears and tucked the stone in my pocket.

And Trickster watched where I put it.

Many people assumed the Trickster had left the limestone bluffs of the Mississippi long ago- maybe when the Indians had left or when the railroad had been built. Surely he was gone when we got cable television? But he never left really, and I knew that as a child.

And the Trickster heard Old Magic in my grandmother’s story and wanted the tears of the moon for himself.

As I grew, I often played near my grandmother’s home. I always kept the little geode in my pocket, but one summer day, the stone fell out and landed among the other stones.

And the Trickster found it.

You see, he had been collecting little, ugly, balls of rock like my grandmother had given me. He’d haul them back to his tree to look for the magic tears of the moon, but could not crack any of the stones. Soon his tree was full of stones that were full of magic but that the Trickster was unable to get to.

squirelBut when he found my stone, he rejoiced because the magic was finally his. He took it to his home where he could barely fit in the opening because of all of his stones. And he bragged to the birds nearby about the magic he had found. He showed them the crystals and told them about the tears of the moon.

I cried that I’d lost my stone and the summer and autumn wore on. The Trickster spent his time in his crowded tree, staring at the beautiful crystals and thinking himself very clever.

Winter came and winter stayed. I had not thought about the Trickster until one snowy night, under the full moon, I saw him sitting on my grandmother’s porch barely able to lift his head.

Hello, Trickster said to me.

Trickster! I said, startled. Why do you look so ill?

I’m hungry, whispered the Trickster. I have no food and the winter has been 
so long.

Isn’t your tree full?

It is full. But I have no acorns.

Then what is it full of, Trickster?

I cannot tell you.

Then I will not help you.

And I could see in his eyes what he was hiding.

You’ve found my stone, haven’t you Trickster?

I have found many stones with much magic and they belong to me.

Then use your magic stones for a meal, I said to him.

I can’t use the magic, he sighed.

And I knew the Trickster had learned. The tears the moon cried the night my mother died were not meant for him. That magic was only for me. And even though he had my stone, the magic stayed with me.

________________

Contest announcement!

Write your own 3 Minute Fiction and share it with me on Adventure Foot and you will WIN a tube of Nuun Hydration!  (I am an Ambassador for Nuun Hydration- wonderful electrolyte drink tablets… read more here)   Your prompt is the following:

Write a story/myth/legend featuring the Trickster.  (Your Trickster may take any form you like… but I want to know what that guy has been up to!) 

Rules:

600 Words or less.  You can submit your story on my Facebook page, in a comment on this blog or by email to laura  sievert  at  outlook dotcom  <- no spaces… you see what I’m doing there.

ANYONE who submits a Trickster story wins, up to 10 winners. 

I really hope I get some entries. Creative writing is awesome. Have fun with it! Contest ends July 6th or when I get 10 stories… whichever comes first.

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Lemme tell you folks, if you’re reading my blog and not taking a little time to search the blog-o-sphere for other wonderful authors, you’re just flat missing out.  But I’ll get back to that in a minute…

I’ve been blogging for nigh on 2 years now and you know what the best part about it has been?  It’s when I meet people who have followed their Adventure Foot and tried something I recommended!

I've been saying, "To wit" instead of "For example" because I've been watching a lot of Archer.

I’ve been saying, “To wit” instead of “For example” because I’ve been watching a lot of Archer.

To wit:

Two thanksgivings ago I was at the Quincy YMCA Turkey Run running the 10K.   Before the race started, a woman jogged up behind me and tapped me on the shoulder and said, “You’re Laura!” and I said… “I am! Yay!”

Okay… that may not be an exact recount of the encounter, but bear with me.  She went on to explain that she’d read my blogs about how I’d just recently taken up running and about the upcoming Turkey Run.  She had always struggled with weight and she was worried that her kids were already struggling too.  Then she decided that the Turkey Run was as good an event as any to get started on being a healthier family.   She pointed out her husband and two kids standing in the parking lot waiting for the start of the 5K and then thanked me for inspiring them.  I was flabbergasted.  I thanked her profusely for letting me know her story.  And I smiled through my entire 10K knowing that a whole family was taking a chance on trying something new and difficult because of something I’d written.

And another time…

Weather+Distance=Adventure (So says blogger Clinton Begley) Biking+Thunderstorm also equals Danger!

Biking+Thunderstorm=Danger! Also, Adventure. 🙂

Somewhere out in the middle of an 80 mile day on RAGBRAI (Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa) a gentleman riding behind me commented on my Quincy Bike Club jersey.  “Hey, Quincy, Illinois! I read a blog from someone who lives there!” he said.  I first looked at him sideways because I assumed maybe he was someone I knew giving me a hard time.  But no!  He actually turned out to be from somewhere near Rockford, IL and when he pointed out my jersey, he didn’t even know that I was the blogger in question!  We rode side-by-side for the next ten or so miles and he told me that he’d been down in Quincy not that long ago and done the Liberty ride on my recommendation.  Crazy, right? 40,000 cyclists at RAGBRAI and I manage to meet one who both read my blog and tried a ride I talked about.

Anyhow… where was I going with this?

Right! Other bloggers!

I read and follow a smattering of blogs, mostly here on WordPress.  And I absolutely love hearing about other people’s adventures!  And I bet it would make them as happy as I was in the stories above to find out that they’ve inspired me.  So, here’s a shout-out to some other bloggers who have excited me, informed me or made me smile.  Click the links, my friends.  You will not be sorry.

T-Rex Runner... a very cool blog!

T-Rex Runner… a very cool blog!

T-Rex Runner: She runs, she’s funny, and she overcomes adversity.  This blog: http://trexrunner.com/2013/01/28/small-changes-for-big-results-or-smaller-thighs/#comment-3209  is the reason I wrote this blog today.  It’s also inspired me to try squats and lunges in the office so as to be in shape for bike season.

All Seasons Cyclist: http://allseasonscyclist.com   If you need to know about GEAR or nutrition for cycling… this should be your first stop.

Brian Pahlmann: http://personalbesttrainingandcoaching.blogspot.com/  If you’re looking for a blog by a guy who simply knows his stuff, this one is it.  Brian is a USA Cycling Coach, a personal trainer, a running coach… and a great guy!  He’s new to blogging, but he’s got a lot of great information to share and I’m looking forward to learning more from him.

Jared Busen, Willy “Natureboy” Syndram, and Laura Paulo: These three people are all ultra-runners.  They run HUGE distances- I’m talking hundreds of miles in a weekend.  But that’s not what I think is most special about them.  What’s most special is they run unimaginable distances and make you believe you can do it too.  Really.  Read and be inspired.    Jared’s is (I’m linking you to my favorite article… it’s about him running with me… hehe)  http://runhappens.com/love-the-hills/   Willy’s is http://runningwithnatureboy.wordpress.com/ and Laura’s is http://ultrarunninggirl.blogspot.ca/?m=1

Body by Brenda http://bodybybrendat.com/ This friend and blogger went from a morbidly-obese smoker to a super fit and inspirational model of healthy living.  She once fireman carried me across an MMA studio.  She’s awesome.

Dan’s Marathon: http://dans-marathon.com/ This guy is on a quest to run a marathon or a half in all 50 states. I like his race reports and his writing style.  Before I sign up for a race, I look to see if Dan’s done it first to learn more.

Ray Heisey: http://rayheisey.com/  Another great blogger always full of bicycle adventures and bicycle advice! Love it!

Clinton securing our gear for my first time rock rappeling!

Clinton securing our gear for my first time rock rappeling!

Clintergalactic: Saving perhaps the best for last, if you click on no other link today, click this one: http://punqroqclimber.wordpress.com/2011/11/22/finding/  Clinton is a dear friend of mine, but even if he weren’t  I would be a fan of his writing.  I get lost in the scenes he describes.  Read the article I’ve linked you to and tell me you can’t taste the salt on the reel or hear the ping of pistol shots on empty beer cans.  Clinton doesn’t post often, but the quality of every post is worth the wait. When he finally writes a book about his adventures (and he will) I will be first in line.

So there you go! Read!! It’s good for you.   And also PLEASE leave comments on my blogs.  Let me know your thoughts. For gosh sakes, let me know if you try any of the things I blog about.  PLEASE! /begging 

thanks-for-reading

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I don’t fancy myself a poet, but somehow, a couple of times a year, I end up writing a poem.  I’m not sure what brings these bursts of outside-of-my-comfort-zone writing on most of the time.  Usually some idea just crosses my hurried mind and I happen to have enough time to think about it a while and… well, poof! I end up writing a poem.  This particular poem started at the not-so-creative hour of 5:30 in the morning when an unusual January storm woke me up.  I don’t share my poems much- but partly because I kind of like this one and partly because I haven’t had any new content on my blog in a while, I decided to share.  I hope you can imagine the cold, January thunderstorm that inspired this poem, and I hope you enjoy.

Horses Are Made Out Of Thunder

by Laura Sievert

“Horses are made out of thunder,” she said.

“Oh?” he replied, not bothering to look up from his morning paper or to acknowledge the unusual January Storm outside the window.

Leonardo Da Vinci's horse sketch; credit Wikipedia.

“Yes.” she responded.  She knew he wasn’t listening anyway.  She busied herself with making coffee as her mind raced away in the sound of the cold wind.

Horses are made out of thunder, she thought, and all the glory of storms.

There were two at the camp when she was a girl; two mares that played in a small pen.  They were distant thunder.  Thunder from a storm that wouldn’t ever drop rain where she was standing.  Hooves in hard-packed mud and bodies bathed in dusty light and a cloudburst never quite realized.

And the time that her parents drove her West through the plains to visit Kansas or Colorado or Wyoming… The wild horses through the minivan window were too many to count but in their great energy raged a wonderful summer storm, replete with wind and lightning and chaos.

There were condemned horses packed in a pen off the highway near Little Rock.  They stood stoic but shuffled occasionally as best they could.  They were a low-skied November shower with tortured rumbles that couldn’t be heard from inside of the house but could be felt while standing on the porch watching the cold, gray rain.

She dated a rodeo rider in college.  His painted barrel racing horse had a sweet face and dark eyes that belied the power he was capable of.  His thunder radiated from his flanks with hail and electricity; bursts that would certainly set off the tornado sirens.

And there were the untamed ponies splashing around in the water on the beaches of South Carolina.  They were a squall that begged to be played in; they stood almost close enough to touch or to stroke.  Almost.  To touch the wild ponies was to court the dangerous reprisal of mighty and passionate thunder.

“I’m leaving,” she said.

“Oh?” he replied, not bothering to look up from his morning paper or to acknowledge the unusual January Storm outside the window.

“Yes,” she responded.  She knew he wasn’t listening anyway.  She stepped out the door without a raincoat or umbrella and rode the thunder away from there.

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If you’re reading my blog, you probably have at least some interest in tales of adventure, so I thought today I’d share 4 book recommendations that will set your feet in motion and give you new appreciation for the outdoors!

Teewinot: A Year in the Grand Teton Range, by Jack Turner

This beautifully written book guides readers through the Grand Teton Mountain Range using Turner’s own experience as a guide in Grand Teton National Park.  The story takes place not so much in a specific year as in the author’s collected impression of years, places and people who give the majestic Tetons rhythm and purpose.  For those adventurers who make their home year-round in this rugged landscape there are challenges, changes, and constants that make the Tetons mysterious and fascinating.   Turner’s greaest skill as an author is his ability to weave his story into a tribute befitting this timeless mountain range.  For me, the whole of the book seemed like a hike through the mountains themselves, and at its end, I felt as if I had been properly introduced to the flora, fauna, geology and beauty of Teewinot by its very closest friend.

The Savage Summit, by Jennifer Jordan

This is the story of the first 5 women to summit the infamous mountain known simply as K2. K2 is the vicious next-door neighbor of Mt. Everest, and has the dubious distinction of being 2nd most deadly mountain on earth (behind Annapurna, another neighbor). Standing only a few hundred feet lower than Everest, K2 is deep in the heart of the Karakoram in one of the most desolate and beautiful places on earth. Savage Summit explores the motivations and challenges Wanda Rutkiewicz, Liliane Barrard, Julie Tullis, Chantal Mauduit and Alison Hargreaves all endured to join the elite climbers of 8,000 meter peaks. Jennifer Jordan does an admirable job of chronicling the factors that led each woman up K2, and only sometimes, back down it.

A Walk the Woods, by Bill Bryson

My friend Sarah recommended this book to me, and it is one of the most funny, touching, adventuresome pieces of literature I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. A Walk in the Woods follows the true story of author Bill Bryson and his unlikely hiking partner Katz on an ill-planned and entirely underestimated bid to walk the entire 2,100 mile Appalachian trail. Bryson’s deadpan humor combined with cantankerous Katz’s belly-aching make for a smart and surprisingly funny account. I was hooked from page one, and by the end, I either really wanted to go hike the Appalachian Trail, or really wanted to sit on the couch and never see another trail as long as I live. I’m still not sure which!

Help! A Bear is Eating Me! by Mykle Hansen

Friends, for a funny frolic in outdoor-themed fiction, feast on this tasty tale by Mykle Hansen! I was sold on reading it by the title alone. Help! A Bear is Eating Me is a scant 132 pages long, but for Marv Puskin, who is trapped under his SUV and, sure enough, is being eaten by a bear, I imagine 132 pages seemed interminable. The real question in this hilarious (and maybe a little raunchy) story is: do we like Marv enough to even care if he gets eaten, or are we really rooting for Mister Bear?

*Quincy Residents: The Savage Summit and A Walk in the Woods are available at the Quincy Public Library. I borrowedHelp! A Bear is Eating Me and Teewinot from the library as well, through inter-library loan. Ask your friendly librarian!

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If you’re reading my blog, you probably have at least some interest in tales of adventure, so I thought today I’d share 3 book recommendations that will set your feet in motion and give you new appreciation for the outdoors!

The Savage Summit, by Jennifer Jordan

This is the story of the first 5 women to summit the infamous mountain known simply as K2.  K2 is the vicious next-door neighbor of Mt. Everest, and has the dubious distinction of being 2nd most deadly mountain on earth (behind Annapurna, another neighbor).  Standing only a few hundred feet lower than Everest, K2 is deep in the heart of the Karakoram in one of the most desolate and beautiful places on earth.  Savage Summit explores the motivations and challenges Wanda Rutkiewicz, Liliane Barrard, Julie Tullis, Chantal Mauduit and Alison Hargreaves all endured to join the elite climbers of 8,000 meter peaks.  Jennifer Jordan does an admirable job of chronicling the factors that led each woman up K2, and only sometimes, back down it.

A Walk the Woods, by Bill Bryson

My friend Sarah recently recommended this book to me, and it is one of the most funny, touching, adventuresome pieces of literature I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading.  A Walk in the Woods follows the true story of author Bill Bryson and his unlikely hiking partner Katz on an ill-planned and entirely underestimated bid to walk the entire 2,100 mile Appalachian trail.  Bryson’s deadpan humor combined with cantankerous Katz’s belly-aching make for a smart and surprisingly funny account.  I was hooked from page one, and by the end, I either really wanted to go hike the Appalachian Trail, or really wanted to sit on the couch and never see another trail as long as I live.  I’m still not sure which!

Help! A Bear is Eating Me! By Mykle Hansen

Friends, for a funny frolic in outdoor-themed fiction, feast on this tasty tale by Mykle Hansen! I was sold on reading it by the title alone.   Help! A Bear is Eating Me is a scant 132 pages long, but for Marv Puskin, who is trapped under his SUV and, sure enough, is being eaten by a bear, I imagine 132 pages seemed interminable. The real question in this hilarious (and maybe a little raunchy) story is: do we like Marv enough to even care if he gets eaten, or are we really rooting for Mister Bear?

*The Savage Summit and A Walk in the Woods are available at the Quincy Public Library.  I borrowedHelp! A Bear is Eating Me from the library as well, through inter-library loan. Ask your friendly librarian!

Original Post From March 6, 2011

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