Saturday, August 16, 2014

On Being Spontaneous

16 Aug 2014: Breakfast at Darbi's with these lovely ladies, Liz and Karen.

I am not spontaneous by nature. I'm a planner. It's probably related to my OCD, but I'm just uneasy about a new situation if I haven't first planned for every contingency. My first husband, Mark, was totally spontaneous. He'd say at 8am, "Let's go spend the day at Big Lake." I'd look at our two toddlers in diapers and ask, "Why didn't you tell me this two days ago?" 
And that was just for a day trip. For family vacations I spend weeks researching attractions to see (including addresses, prices, and hours), printing out maps of the area, checking out local eateries and their menus, and preparing a detailed itinerary so we don't miss a moment of the fun! That's not to mention the packing lists, shopping lists for stocking the condo pantry, and pre-vacation to-do lists that must be drawn up!
So my day started out in the comfortable routine of planned activities. I met two friends at Darbi's for breakfast at 8:30 this morning. Then I returned home to clean the kitchen and wash up dishes, after which I did some laundry. Dylan and I drove over to the water store to refill eight 5-gallon bottles with purified water. Finally, I quickly checked my emails and Facebook before tackling the next chore on my long list.

Sarah this afternoon in Apache National Forest, near Greer, AZ.

Then, to my surprise, my daughter Sarah called me at 2:45. She and her husband Chris left after work yesterday to go camping up near Greer, about 45 minutes from here, along with Chris's mom Brenda and his two nieces, Morgan and Keri. They had invited me to join them, but I knew I'd be too tired at the end of the week, and Saturdays are just so busy!
Even so, I toyed with the idea of going out there for a few hours today. I love being in nature, and it's nice to get away from the chores, where you're kind of forced to relax. I also thought I might scout the area for one setting I hadn't yet located for my novel. The terrain around Greer just might fit what I was looking for. By Friday, though, I'd given up on the idea.

Love the exposed roots of this tree on a dry creek bed.
I might be able to use this!

After we chatted for 15 minutes (I was shocked her cell had such good reception out in the middle of nowhere), Sarah mentioned that they'd come across a place during a hike that morning that might fit what I was looking for. The temptation to drive out there was strong. But it was already 3:00 and there was still so much to get done. No, I mustn't. But maybe... No, that's crazy. But what if? You think? Wait, wait! Why wait? Do you think...? Okay, let's do it!

A view of the dry creek, with a bed of smooth stones covered in greenery.

So we hung up and I quickly gathered a few things before heading out the door fifteen minutes later. It was kind of a scary but exciting feeling to just drop everything and go like that. But I'm glad I went.

This cliff at the top of a steep hill will hover over the hero's isolated home.
The final battle will take place here.
The site Sarah found was perfect. As always, when I find the right setting, the action that takes place there becomes clear in my mind, even suggesting other exciting events to enhance the tale. Several elements of the final battle, which I'd been struggling with, fell neatly into place while we stood in the forest, surveying the surroundings.

The hero's house will be in this meadow, with the dry creek running through the yard.
A view of the meadow from the opposite direction.
This shot was clicked accidentally, when I brushed a bee off my shirt.
But I like how it shows the pines towering over the cliffs behind them.

Strange but pretty plant with green flowers.

Fields of flowers.

The rugged terrain is perfect for my story!

Back at camp: Chris, Morgan, Brenda, Keri, and Sarah.

After an hour tromping through the forest and taking pictures, Sarah and I hiked back to the road and drove back to their campsite. Chris and his mom and nieces had recently returned from playing in a large creek back toward Greer, where they'd found wild raspberry bushes and brought a nice harvest back with them. They showed us pictures of their watery fun while we nibbled on yummy fresh berries.

Freshly-picked wild raspberries!

Chris kept saying, "Are you sure this is your mom, Sarah? Maybe someone made a clone and your real mom is at home getting things done!" This really is outside my character.

Keri eats a berry by the campfire.

Diego waits patiently for Keri to drop a crumb of her sandwich.

The sun was going down when the girls started roasting marshmallows.
As she blew out her marshmallow, Morgan said, "Let the Hunger Games end!"

After visiting for a while, Brenda, Morgan, and Keri prepared a nice dinner of hamburgers, hot dogs, green beans, and salad. When we finished eating, the youngsters were ready to make s'mores! 

Assembling a s'more with a well-blackened marshmallow.

That was my cue to head home. I can resist graham crackers and marshmallows, but Hershey's chocolate? Not so much! It was a lovely, unplanned interlude that caught me quite by surprise. I may have to try this more often! Thanks, Sarah, for the opportunity to enjoy three full hours of nature today!

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