Posted in Life, Random

If I Get Eaten By a Chupacabra, Give the Cat His Medicine

Nature gives us gifts every day. Today I’ve already had my share.

It’s summer, which means great bursts of laziness followed by great bursts of creativity, culminating in me keeping vampire hours. I’ve been staying up way too late the past week doing everything and nothing. It’s been great, but I’m determined to get back to a semi-normal schedule. So last night, I promised myself I’d be asleep by 11PM. I went to bed at 10:30. I read my book until 10:59 and turned the light out at 11:00 on the dot.

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The great singer

At 11:15 on the dot, my cat Sneakers began to serenade me.

Ah, nature’s gifts…

It was beautiful really, with low notes and high trills, unexpected breaks and tempo changes. I’m sure some flirty feline out there would have been swept off her paws. Unfortunately, I am not the target audience for this tune, and, sadly, our female cat is deaf, so his song went unanswered, except by me yelling, “Sneakers!!! Kitty kitty kitty! SHUT UP!”

Suffice to say, I was awake until midnight.

As I drifted, finally, into dreamland, I thought, “I hope I can still get up by 7AM. I have things to do…” Then I fell asleep.

Until 4:45AM. When I woke up for no reason whatsoever. Like, REALLY awake. Like, I-have-a-new-idea-for-a-story-and-I-just-remembered-where-I-put-that-thing-I-couldn’t-find-yesterday-and-I-should-clean-out-my-closet-this-summer awake. I tried to ignore it, but there was no ignoring this level of alertness, so I made a few pages of notes for the story (it has potential) and decided to go for a walk.

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The note I left for the hubby

That’s when the real gifts began. While I can appreciate a good cat serenade and a random wake-up call, it was this unexpected morning hour outdoors that I am really grateful for.

I heard doves cooing and saw the shadow of something that might have been a chupacabra but was probably a possum. I saw a roadrunner. I petted dogs and chatted with neighbors about their dogs. I watched the sky lighten so gently that I didn’t see it happen. One moment it was dark; then I turned a corner, and it was light. It felt so delicate, so sudden, that I wondered if I could make the darkness reappear by retracing my steps.

Roadrunners and possums and dogs are common sites in my neighborhood. That doesn’t make them any less delightful, but they don’t cause surprise. What did surprise me was the last gift the morning had to offer. Just before I got home, a pair of bald eagles flew over, low and graceful and… shocking. I didn’t know we had bald eagles in Austin. I’ve certainly never seen any. Before I could doubt myself and wonder if my mind was playing tricks, one of them turned and swooped by again, its large black body, wide wing span, bright white head and white tail. It flew to the top of a big live oak tree and perched for a few moments, sending a squirrel running for cover, before taking off again toward my house. By the time I made the block, both were gone.

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I wouldn’t have seen these beautiful creatures if I hadn’t been nudged awake before sunrise. Their presence definitely felt like a gift.

Now it’s 8:30AM, and I’m yawning in front of my keyboard. I’ve had less than five hours of sleep, but it’s too late to go back to bed. Besides, I’m afraid of what other gifts I might miss.

***

[UPDATE: After doing a little research and talking to some friends, I think the birds I saw might have been caracaras, which look similar to bald eagles and are more common here. However, according to Texas Parks & Wildlife, we do have some bald eagles in Texas. Either way, they were really cool.]

 

Posted in Poetry

Ode to Oak Season

Today at school, my sinus headache made me grumpy with my students, even though they hadn’t done anything to make me grumpy. But I don’t think they noticed; they were grumpy too. One boy bravely volunteered answers and completed his work while holding a tissue to his nose the entire class period. One girl had to go to the bathroom due to a bloody nose. In one class, I counted nine sneezes. (Two of them were mine. One came from somewhere in the hallway.) Everyone who wasn’t actively sneezing, sniffling, or coughing stared at me with a vague, foggy expression.

All of this is to say… oak season has descended on Austin.

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This is the big, beautiful, majestic (evil, torturous, sneeze-inducing) oak tree in our front yard and the top of my car, which used to be blue.

Ten days ago, I was writing on patios and taking walks at the Wildflower Center and sleeping in my hammock. Now, it feels like any one of those things could kill me. The pollen count is in the high to extreme-high range, which means every time I go outside for more than two minutes, my eyes start to itch, my sinuses swell up, and I start talking like the albino in The Princess Bride before he cleared his throat.

Ah, spring time.

I wrote a poem about oak allergies, which is in this year’s Texas Poetry Calendar. In honor of oak season and National Poetry Month, wipe off your glasses, put some drops in your eyes, and read “Yellow.” I’m going to go use my neti pot.

*

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We are covered in cowardice,
seeped in a sickly smear
that sticks in crevices
and crow’s feet,
revealing all our lines.

We wade through
fallen sunshine,
track fresh banana footprints
onto faded dandelion floors,
taste gold dust on our tongues.

We yield to the bitter grime
that clogs our nostrils,
clothing our lungs
in warning shades
with each breath.

During oak season,
we view the world
through a margarine haze,
learn how it feels
to be pollinated.

© Carie Juettner

Posted in Writing

Phoenix

WOW.

That’s how I felt when I found out my story “Phoenix” had been selected as a runner-up in the WOW! Women on Writing Flash Fiction Contest.

I’ve been a WOW! reader for years. I first discovered their quarterly flash fiction contest back in 2013. I submitted a couple of times, without success. My writing wasn’t at the level they sought, and I didn’t yet have a good grasp of what flash fiction really meant. But I started reading their blog, The Muffin, where I drew inspiration from their writing tips and anecdotes, eventually becoming a guest blogger myself, twice in 2014 (in September and November) and again in 2016. I was honored to have my words share space with the women who had motivated me.

This fall, I decided I was ready to give the flash fiction contest another try. I submitted my 748-word story “Phoenix” and crossed my fingers.

“Phoenix” is a subtly witchy story about the power of nature and the power we hold within ourselves. It’s about persistence and sacrifice and a love for unwanted things. It’s unlike most of the pieces I write, and I didn’t know how it would be received, so I was ecstatic when I learned it had placed in the top ten of the contest.

(A visual collage of “Phoenix”)

I want to thank the editors at WOW! for selecting my story as a finalist and Heather Flaherty of The Bent Agency for choosing it as a runner-up. I appreciate you giving Gwen and her story a home.

Go to this link to read all the winning stories from the Fall 2018 Flash Fiction Contest. Or, to skip straight to “Phoenix,” simply click here.

WOW! will be publishing an interview with me on The Muffin, so if you’re interested in hearing the background story of “Phoenix” and what the writing process was like, stay tuned…