Monday, February 27, 2012

On Education

I wish I would have listened to my dad years ago when he emphasized the importance of doing good in school. It was a topic he brought up several times during my high school years, and each time I simply heard the words without the importance sinking in. I didn't really see the need.

I didn't understand how much of a difference it would be to get an 'A' instead of a 'B'. The former would require effort to obtain, while the latter I could get without studying or applying myself beyond showing up for class and doing homework at the last possible minute.

Then I went to college for a semester. One miserable semester where I felt overwhelmed and inferior. Suddenly those 'B' grades were becoming 'C' grades. I didn't get dumber overnight. The material and the grading standards simply increased. I did not return to Simpson College for the Spring semester in 2003.

I kicked myself for years after that. I tried to succeed in life with what skills and opportunities presented themselves to me. I did manage to thrive for a few years until I had a life-changing realization: I hated my job and the industry I was working in.

I needed a change.

At the time I was single, living with my best friend, so I really had nothing to lose by taking a pay cut and returning to the college world. I enrolled at the local community college and came to another realization: "just enough" wasn't good enough for me.

My dad's advice finally made sense.

Over the past three years I've been paving my way toward a college education that I could have obtained years ago. Last May I graduated from Des Moines Area Community College with an Associate of Arts degree. I was inducted into the Phi Theta Kappa honor society. I graduated with honors.

All while working full-time.

I decided last fall to return to Simpson College. Yes, the same place I departed from after a lackluster 2002 Fall term. Then I learned I would retain my GPA and the credits earned from that semester. Yikes!

But I've viewed this as an opportunity to repair the error in my past and finish what I started. And I fully intend to finish in 2013 with honors, in spite of the obstacle.

With this resurgence of focus on education in my life recently, I've paid particular attention to that topic with Obama's current presidency and what the possible Republican candidates have said. And something I read tonight really bothered me.

Rick Santorum came out and said that Obama is a "snob" because he encourages everyone in America to go to college.

An article on Forbes quotes another part of Santorum's speech: “There are good, decent men and women who work hard every day and put their skills to the test that aren’t taught by some liberal college professor… That’s why he wants you to go to college. He wants to remake you in his image,” Santorum said. “I want to create jobs so people can remake their children into their image, not his.”

Wait a minute, Obama wants us to go to college so we can be remade in his image? Really?

 And then I do some more digging into Santorum's educational views. I don't like what I'm finding. He believes that we should reduce government funding for public education and revert to homeschooling.

I don't want to see the quality of education decline.

I value education. It is a value that I hope to foster in my children when my fiancee and I begin to have a family. It is something I encourage everyone to value, because I feel it is important. It is something that President Obama supports, and it is something that the current governor of Iowa supports as well.

And I like that.

What I don't like is being hearing that a possible candidate for the Presidency does not value it. He would probably not get my vote if he beats Romney.

Because I think a quality education is that important in today's world.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Writing Goal Tracker

An odd set of coincidences has convinced me to create this post. A few nights ago I was falling asleep and thought about making a blog post to establish my writing-related goals for 2012. I figured this would be a way of keeping myself accountable, since I would have my readers to encourage me to achieve these goals.

The next morning there was a prompt on The Lightning and the Lightning Bug for "Commitment Device". Coincidence? I hardly believe it could be. It was certainly a sign to get motivated and put an action plan into words.

For those who read my last post about the fear of submission, I will provide a status update. I got a response for three of the seven poems I submitted. They were all rejected by an "Emerging Writers" publication. The kicker? Two were rejected solely because they rhyme even though the submission guidelines mentioned nothing about not wanting rhyming poems.

They don't deserve to publish my poems anyway.

I've decided to break this down into six categories: books read, poems written, stories written, works submitted, works accepted, and works rejected.

An important part of being a writer is reading a lot as well. It helps us to grow and develop ideas and voice in our own writing. This is never an issue for me because I love to read. I decided to finally create a GoodReads account last night, where you can see my collection and which books I've read this year.

I tend to write a lot more poems than stories, but I think it would be best for me to continue to generate new work in both categories. That is why there will be a lot more poems than stories for the goals, and for these categories I'm tracking from today through 12/31/2012.

For the submission-related ones, the reason should be fairly self-explanatory. I'll never become published if I don't submit, and I'll hopefully fail to meet my rejection goal.

Check back often because I'll be editing this page every time any of these numbers change!


Books Read: 17/52           Last Book Completed: The Importance of Being Earnest and Four Other Plays by Oscar Wilde

Poems Written: 2/65

Stories Written: 1/12

Works Submitted: 17/100

Works Accepted: 0/5

Works Rejected: 10/95

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Poem - Facing Fear

Last night, during the breaks in my class, I submitted 7 poems for publication. This marked the first time in over a year that I finally broke down and submitted my writing. For some reason the idea of facing another rejection was something I was intimidated by. Last night, while falling asleep, I had the spark of an idea for this poem. It is unedited, in its purest form. It may not be perfect, but that is facing yet another fear. I want things to be perfect before I share them. But sometimes you just have to jump in and do it anyway.

Facing Fear

A shadow freezes the blood
Flowing through my veins,
Giving my hand pause as my
Mind dwells upon dark fears.
 Hesitation lurks around the corner,
Always there to comfort me with
A pessimistic perspective.
I can't do it. I'm not good enough.
Who would take them, anyway?
You really think it is worth
The monetary prize?

For each thrust from the
Pessimist my mind attempts to
Counter with a quick parry
To drive back this gloomy fog that
I have succumbed to so easily.
This is what I am meant to do.
It is my hobby, my passion, the one thing
That is my calling in life.
I am a writer, not some novice who
Quivers in intimidation and
Cowers in the corner with a tail
Between my legs.

This fear that threatens me daily is
Not something new; it is merely taking
A new form. I have always sought
Acceptance, encouragement, success
And hoped to avoid failure.
It took the form of isolation from intimacy,
Keeping me locked in bad relationships
That never should have thrived.
It took the form of hesitation to leave a job
That I loathed, dreaded, hated
Each day. I forced myself to get up and return
To the grind of a retail void where
Creativity and motivation where sucked
Out and replaced with the possibility
Of becoming a mindless zombie.

I hate the struggle with this fear,
But I know that it is as normal
As the breath I take each moment.
It is there for me to overcome
And push to greater heights. It is His will
That I grow to greater heights
By triumphing over this inner demon
That haunts me at every turn.
Each time I've surpassed the barrier
In the past my life has inevitably become
Better by an unmeasurable quantity.
This will be the same because I know
That God has a purpose for these obstacles,
These fear which dwell upon my mind
And freeze me with doubt.

I will succeed. He has seen it happen
Because He knows me and knows what
I am capable of. He bestowed this talent
Upon me when He molded me in His likeness.
I understand why the fear was placed before me;
If this came too easily I would take it 
For granted and gain nothing. To finally
Get past rejection, and my fears of failure,
And become a published author will be
A sweet victory that I can relish
And revel in. I will have earned my place
Among the others before me who have
Earned the right to have their name published
Alongside their writing.

All I need to do is take the first step.
I need to send my beloved pieces
Out for judgment by the editor. And as I
Hit submit I feel peace, knowing that even if
The result is rejection, my will is strong and
In my heart I know that it was all part of
His plan for me. Because I am a writer
And I will become published.

This post is being submitted for consideration in Yeah Write #45. This marks the third week taking place in this exciting contest! Check it out and enjoy reading all 50 blog posts.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Poem - Drifting Peacefully

Twitter has an interesting trend that I discovered only last week: Follow Friday I'm relatively new to Twitter, having really only used it the past few months as a requirement for class. I realize that puts me about 15 light years behind the trend. Which is slightly closer that the 16 light years from just now really making headway on a blog.  But I love the idea of tagging people you feel are worthy of your friends and followers' attention, and so I hope to do the same here on Fridays with my blog.

And if you want to just skip right over this and get to my writing, then that is certainly your choice. But before I include my poem for the day, I want to make mention to my three blogs of the day.

The first blog I will mention is Chicken Noodle Gravy. I discovered this particular blog through the Yeah Write contest, which is an awesome community of bloggers who take the time each week to read 50 blog posts, comment on them, and then vote for their favorites. Two weeks in a row now this blog has gotten one of my votes. She is a talented writer and I'm glad I found another writer who I can model my own blog after.

The second blog is I Can't Brain Today; I Have the Dumb. I actually came across and began to follow this blog near the end of February when I read his post about how his father, through Dungeons and Dragons, was his greatest influence as a writer. It was extremely well-written. Then a little over a week ago I discovered Yeah Write through my interest in one of his posts where he answered 33 questions and was going to tag everyone who entered into Yeah Write that week. Unfortunately he was unable to participate due to time constraints, therefore was unable to tag people, but I gained something even better as a result.

The third one is For the Love of Writing. This is another gem I've begun following thanks to Yeah Write (notice a trend here. Seriously check it out and read some of these blogs each week. They are filled with awesome blogs and bloggers). She has a sense of humor in her writing that I enjoy, and I believe you would too if you take the time to read her blog.

So now that you've clicked all those links to those other blogs and have them open in new windows or tabs, I'll let you read my poem. You did click those, didn't you?


Drifting Peacefully

You lay next to me, drifting off
Into a peaceful slumber while
I remain awake, reading. The warmth
Radiating from you comforts me,
Putting me at ease. Your breathing
Becomes heavy, growing slower with
Each moment that passes by. My
Book fails to maintain my interest,
Instead I find myself listening closely,
Laying still as a stone.

Every breath you take makes my
Smile grow. Every time I feel your
Body shift, snuggling closer, it makes
Me love you more. You must feel secure
To be with me, so close together, wanting
To touch at all times as you fall into
The realm of dreams. I hear the gentle
Rhythm of your snoring begin to emerge
And I turn to hold you close.

I whisper softly in your ear
The thoughts that cross my mind
As I listen to your sweet
Slumber. You are so beautiful,
So soft, so warm and gentle.
I want to hold you in my
Arms every night. I can’t believe
How lucky I am to have a
Woman as wonderful as you
In my life.

Sleep soon catches up with me
As though it were a contagious
Infection spreading. My eyes grow
Heavy as I think of you and
Smile, knowing I will dream
Of you and soon enough will be
Waking next to you. This last thought
Makes me smile as I begin my
Drifting peacefully, happily, with you here
Sleeping next to me.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Thoughts Upon a Valentine

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day. The day that people celebrate the love they share for each other by purchasing cards, flowers, chocolates, and waiting three hours to get a table for dinner. The day that some single people lovingly refer to as a “Hallmark Holiday”. There was a time when I was alone and bitter and felt that way about this holiday. Maybe I was alone because I was bitter.
I am blessed to have such a wonderful woman to share this holiday with. I am a better person today because she has been a part of my life, and I look forward to many great memories that we’ll share together in the year 2012. She is my valentine every day for the rest of my life. I can’t wait to marry her this summer.
Writing can be a very solitary craft. Even when you have the support of someone else, it can still feel that way when you only hear “I love it!” about everything you write. I do hear my share of positive feedback from her, but she also is not afraid to let me know when something isn’t quite right. If she can’t understand something, I usually wording things poorly or assumed that people would know certain tidbits of information. She keeps my words concise and my focus grounded. She is the best support system I could ask for.
She understands me in a way that no one else has. She might not understand why I get excited about the next installment in the Zelda series, or why I absolutely have to get a 4.0 GPA every semester, but she understands that these things are important to me. This weekend she gave me my valentine/birthday present: a Playstation 3 and Final Fantasy XIII-2. I didn’t even have to hint at a game; she knew the right one to get me.
She encourages me to get homework done even though I know she’d prefer to have me sitting by her side on the couch, watching Twilight for the hundredth time. She tells me to play my games on our only television and that she wants to watch me play, even though I know that it can’t be that interesting to watch another person playing a RPG. She encourages me to write and to submit things even when I feel like I can’t write or that my writing will never get published.
For the record, I’ve only seen rejection letters; however, I’ve only submitted a handful of things over the years. I’m sure I’d be published by now if I submitted more often.
She makes me feel special because she supports the little things that are important to me. I know she doesn’t really want to see Star Wars in 3D, especially after hearing that the 3D is nearly non-existent. But she still declared we are going to see it anyway.
These are a few of the reasons why I love her. The list could go on forever. She is probably the best care provider for children that I’ll ever meet. She will be an incredible mother, and I can’t wait to start our branch of a family together. She wants to make life better for everyone.
She has made my life better.
I’ve finally found who I am through her guidance. I’m not as overweight as I used to be. I don’t play video games for hours every day and spend my days off glued to the games. I have found faith in God for the first time because of her, and can see His blessings in my life that led me on the path to her and the blessings that have come since I’ve found her.
I could never fully express how much I love her. It would never be enough. She has changed my life and who I am, and given me more joy than I knew could be possible.  That is why I help with things around the house. That is why I randomly surprise her with flowers on days that do not fall on February 14. That is why I will remain devoted to her for eternity. For richer or poorer. In sickness and in health. For better or for worse.

But no matter what happens, things will always be better than they were before she came into my life.

Tell me about your valentine. What makes them special for you?
This post submitted to Yeah Write #44. Check out the great community of bloggers taking place in this weekly contest every Tuesday.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

I Can't Write

I can't write today. There is too much to do. Laundry needs folded, dishes need washed, cats need fed, the house needs cleaned. The snow won't shovel itself. The cats won't clean their litter box when they are done. The fridge won't fill itself with groceries. I'm much too busy to write.

I can't write today. There is too much to watch. All of my favorite shows are on and I can't miss a minute. Biggest Loser comes on soon. No, I'm not being lazy while watching the show. I'm doing arm curls while watching the show every time I eat a cookie. And I'm burning calories when I chew. I'm much too busy to write.

I can't write today. I've got to farm on Facebook and manage my mafia. Someone just posted links to a dozen music videos that I simply must watch. I've got to tweet on Twitter and manage my Pinterest. Time to describe my day in 140 characters or less: "Writer's block rears its ugly head. My story seems to go nowhere. I simply can't write today. #notwriting #fail". I'm much too busy to write.

I can't write today. My internal editor won't stop shouting. The comma needs to come out of my poem. Later this afternoon it will demand its return. It grinds my flow of words to a halt as it inspects each word and phrase with intense scrutiny. Revising this poem will take all day. I'm much too busy to write.

I can't write today. Nothing is going my way. I woke up late. My shower was cold. My shoe got wet. I burnt my lunch. My car won't start. My hair has a mind of its own. The whole world stands against me. The stars are not aligned in my favor today. Facing the zombie apocalypse would be a better day than today has been. Sitting in this corner, in the fetal position, is the safest way to pass my day. I'm much too busy to write.

I can't write today. The ideas in my mind have become stagnant and dull. The poetic prose which flows from my pen has passed. The main characters of my story have decided to take a vacation week. The blank white sheet intimidates me and haunts me in my sleep. My words stumble and stutter and fail to evoke emotion. It is far better to wait until tomorrow. I'm much too busy to...


I guess I could write today. All I had to do was start.

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Poem - Thoughts Evoked by Keats' Fears

Poetry is dying. It has been on a slow, but steady, decline for over a century. Who buys a book of poetry anymore unless it is required for a class? What book publisher would want to market a book of poems by one author, unless that author is one of the greats from the past? Does poetry matter anymore?

It is arguable that poetry certainly has been in a state of decline from the popularity it once possessed. Back in the 1700s, poets were respected and valued. Some wonderful poetry came out of that time period, as well as the 1800s. It was the way for writers to make a living, at one point in time. Can a poet make a living anymore? Perhaps by working another job during the day.

The introduction of the printing press, which led to the popularity of the novel, was the event which has bled the fame from poetry. People read novels all the time. Aspiring writers dream of writing the 'next great novel' not the next bestselling book of poetry. The New York Times Best Sellers list doesn't even list poetry as a category. It lists manga, paperback graphic novel and hardcover graphic novel. Not poetry.

Maybe I am the rarity who loves to read poetry. I would love to become a renowned poet. I look to the work of the Romantics for inspiration: Keats, Wordsworth, Shelley. They could command emotion. They could make a place come to life with their poems. The abstract could become concrete. Their poetry has been an inspiration for my own poems during the past few years.

One of the problems that I think people have with poetry is that it defies their logic. They want to read a line at a time, and then get confused when things don't seem to flow together. Yes, there are many poems where the poet intentionally makes the end of each line a stop. If you read poetry from many of the great poets of the past, this will not always be the case. Instead you read by following the punctuation to indicate the pauses, and the flow will follow naturally. My best advice is to read the poem aloud. It is a form of writing that is meant to be spoken and shared. A poem that seems bland in your mind could become vibrant simply by vocalizing it and adding inflection upon words and phrases.

The poem for today's entry was inspired by a poem of John Keats. I tried to imitate the same form he used in his poem. Try reading this poem, as well as the Keats poem I linked to above, both to yourself in your mind and then aloud. See if it makes a difference. I promise you it will be better when you say the words.


Thoughts Evoked by Keats’ Fears

When I have fears that I may cease to be
Before my dreams can come to fruition,
It gives me pause for a moment, that we
Shall never see my name’s publication.
The untold tales are forever lost
Leaving behind no trace of legacy,
No more time with loved ones is quite a cost,
To see them no more would be a tragedy.
To depart from this world having tasted,
But never fully enjoyed, the blissful effects
Of finding my one true love
Who completes my heart and soul.
Alone with these thoughts I sit and wonder
Until these dark shades drift asunder.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Story - Keeper of the Woodland Creatures

I'm currently without internet at home so I'm out supporting my local bookstore/coffee shop and enjoying their free WiFi in the process. I have to admit it is a nice little place, and I think I should set aside a small portion of my spending money this month to purchase a book from them in return. Right now I will find out how good their coffee is.

I've begun a little bit of work on my future entry into the Writers of the Future contest. I think I like where my mind has decided to take things, but so far it isn't coming out as brilliant as I imagine. Such is the nature of a first draft. I just need to set my writing perfectionism aside long enough to get the entire story onto the computer before I begin to revise. I'm sure I am not the only one who feels that is easier said than done sometimes.

The story I am going to share with you today came about from an offhand comment once from my fiancee, Nicole. I am rather pleased with the resulting story, and hope you enjoy reading it. This is certainly one of the things at the top of my list to submit for publication somewhere. She thinks I should try and get it published as a children's story. What do you think?


The Keeper of the Woodland Creatures

            “I wonder where all the animals go when the rain falls and the winds blow?” says Terra, watching the clouds fill the sky. Her hands play with the pink ribbon in her wavy brown hair. A boy, standing next to her, gazes out the window. His face crinkles with lines as he thinks. His blue eyes widen and his face lights up as he finds an answer.
            “They go to the Keeper, of course,” he says. Terra frowns, picking her answer carefully.
            “Who is this Keeper, and why have I never heard of him?”
            “Her,” he corrects Terra. “She is the Keeper of the Woodland Creatures and she cares for all the animals in the world.”
            “That is crazy, Nathan. How can she care for all the animals when the wolf hunts the deer and the hawk hunts the mouse?”
            “They are all welcome under her care and protected from all harm. Not even a lion would dare to hunt while in her care.”
            The rain comes down in dripping droplets. Nathan and Terra play all afternoon without a thought toward their talk of the Keeper. It is much later before it crosses their minds again. The two children, sitting on the couch with their parents after eating a large dinner, are watching the news. The weather reporter comes on with his yellow rain coat and his muddy galoshes, reporting heavy rain and high winds tonight. He advises anyone going outside to be careful, and that sparks a question again in Terra.
            “Mommy, where do all the animals go when the rain falls and the winds blow?”
            “I don’t know,” answers Mother, her eyes fixed upon the television. “They probably hide in the rocks or trees.”
            “I think,” Nathan starts but he is cut off by a shush from Father, who turns the volume up. Their evening passes without word about the Keeper. Later that night, after the children are in bed, Terra rolls over and asks Nathan about it again.
            “Do you think she is real?” asks Terra.
            “I know she is. I saw her with my own eyes.”
            “Really?” asks Terra in a loud voice. Nathan glares at his sister but the sound of footsteps in the hall forces them both to feign sleep. The door creeps open a crack, a narrow beam of light cutting through the darkness. Several minutes of silence passes after the door shuts. As the children are lying there, listening to the rain and the wind pound on the house, Nathan gets an idea.
            “Come see, Terra. I bet there are animals crossing into the forest right now.” The children slip out of bed and walk to the window. Even through the rainy darkness they think they can see three deer and a burrow of bunnies scampering into the trees behind the house. A flash of lightning shows birds diving into the trees, their paths erratic as they fly into the wind.
            “We’ve got to follow them,” says Terra. Nathan nods and they go to their closets and arm themselves with what they think they need. Nathan grabs his Spider-Man rain coat and matching rubber boots. He stuffs his Batman backpack with a flashlight and a dozen toys he thinks the animals might enjoy. Terra grabs her Tinkerbell rain coat and umbrella, along with her favorite pink rain boots. She places her brush and many ribbons into her purple purse, hoping to give some makeovers to the animals. The children look at each other and nod, ready to go. First they have to get downstairs without being caught.
            Nathan goes first, flashlight in his hand. He opens the door, freezing at every sound made. Finally he has it open far enough to wiggle out the door and they sneak out of the room. They push the door shut with equal care but the only sounds reaching their ears come from their beating hearts. They move like a pair of ninjas down the hall, counting the stairs as they descend. Terra loses track and sets her foot down on the seventh stair. The stair moans under the weight of her foot and the children stop. Their father lets out a loud snore from the bedroom. Terra whimpers in fear, biting down hard on her lip to prevent another sound. The two children feel relief when the sound of deep breathing resumes from Father. They sneak down the stairs and dash out the kitchen door.
            Nathan steps onto the deck and is blown over by the wind. He grabs the rail and pulls himself up, but gets startled when Terra’s umbrella flies into his face. It blows into the forest and Terra sprints after it. The wind pushes at her back, adding speed as she chases her umbrella. Nathan lets go of the deck and runs after her as she disappears into the forest.
            The trees crowd around the children, the branches shifting closer to block the wind and rain. Terra gasps when she looks back and notices this. Nathan shouts that he sees her umbrella and they race deeper into the woods. The umbrella rolls and bounces across the path and neither child notices that the trees are getting sparse and the air is lighter. They can no longer hear the sound of rain or wind present, but neither Nathan nor Terra realizes this. They glimpse spotted owls and scurrying squirrels and prancing ponies as they race through the woods. The sound of soft, graceful singing reaches their ears.
Oh where do they go
When bad weather blows?
When rain floods the seas
And the wind bends the trees;
When the snow blankets grass
And storm clouds won’t pass.
They don’t hide in bush, vine, or creeper;
They gather here with the Keeper.

The mouse is most fun
To watch as he runs,
The thrush and the owl
Are among most beloved fowl,
The wolf and the deer
Play together in here.
You’ll never learn this from teachers
But children will find—
This place is one of a kind—
The grove of the Keeper of Creatures.
            Nathan and Terra step into a clearing. Everywhere they look there are animals. Bears are chasing antelope in a game of tag. Instead of growls and snarls they hear laughter from the animals involved. Several squirrels scamper up a tree, leaping branch to branch ahead of a spotted leopard. Frogs sing in harmony with the buzzing of flies and bees. Amidst all these playful animals sits the Keeper.
            Fireflies dance around her and animals approach her in turn. She bows her head to each animal as they come, the silver curls of her hair dangling. She places a hand on their heads and, though no words are spoken, the children understand that she is communicating with them. The children lose track of time as they stand watching all the wondrous creatures. Eventually no more animals approach the Keeper and the children notice she has turned to gaze at them. Nathan and Terra come forward, being beckoned by the old woman in front of them. Her lips move and the singing voice echoes into the forest again.
Many seasons have long passed
Since humans have ventured last,
For among the creatures, great and small,
Mankind is the most dangerous of all.
Their fears are now at an ease
But there is a task to appease;
For trust in people is hard to see,
And if you pass we’ll welcome thee.
            Nathan and Terra exchange a glance that speaks more than words could. Nathan bows as he responds. “Keeper of the Woodland Creatures, we will accept the task.” The woman smiles and a few of the animals crowd in closer. The Keeper springs to her feet, a flower-print dress dancing in the wind as she waltzes through the clearing, singing a new song.
Far to the left, past many a tree,
Caught in the bushes you may see
One small bunny, white spots on black;
This is your task: to bring him back.
The storm rages on ‘round the poor lad,
If he stays stuck his life will end bad;
Hurry my children, no time to waste!
Why are you standing? Away! Make haste!
            The Keeper finishes her rhyme and an aging fox, with specks of gray mixed with his red fur, steps forward and bows before the Keeper. He backs away and, to the children’s surprise, he speaks in a clear voice.
            “Mistress, worry not about the dear old bunny. I shall delight in the task of finding him and breaking his bonds.”
            The fox vanishes into the trees and Nathan grins at Terra. “I guess we no longer need to go, huh? We can just stay here.”
            Terra hits Nathan’s arm. Nathan recoils in pain, rubbing his arm. “If you trust that fox,” Terra says, “you are a bigger fool than I thought.”
The fox is a creature most cunning and sly,
He’ll tell a truth and hide a big lie;
The safety of the bunny is no longer clear,
A dinner he’ll make for the fox, I fear.
            Terra grabs Nathan’s arm and pulls him into the forest. They follow the trail as it twists and turns between trees and bushes. As they get further from the grove they can hear the raging storm again. The children nearly tumble down a slope but Nathan notices the path turning in time. But no matter how fast the children hurry down the path, they are unable to catch up to the fox.
            They come across the biggest thorn bush either of them has ever seen. The fox is sitting nearby, trying to bite a thorn from his paw. The bunny is laying motionless deep within a tangle of brambles. Several deep cuts are still bleeding as he sits there.
            “Oh, good, you’ve finally arrived,” says the fox. “Help me with this thorn and then we can free the dinner. Bunny.”
            “Dinner, huh?” says Terra.
            “A thorn is less than you deserve, Mr. Fox,” says Nathan.
            Terra kneels by the rabbit, untangling the animal from the thorny mess. She pulls the final branch as the fox frees his final thorn from his paw. The fox makes a quick leap at the rabbit, jaws snapping. Terra moves the injured bunny out of the way, and the fox tumbles into the thorns head-first, yowling in pain and in rage. The children get up and walk away when he calls out to them.
            “Wait! Don’t leave me here to die. I’ll never eat another animal!”
            “How can we trust you?” asks Terra.
            “I swear by the good name of the Keeper, no animal shall suffer harm from my jaws or claws.”
            “Let him rot,” says Nathan. “He got what he deserved.”
            “He is sincere,” Terra says. “I forgive him. Let him be free.”
            The fox whimpers in pain as Nathan removes the thorns from the fox. The fox leaps from the brambles as soon as he is free and darts off down the road. The children follow after him with the small bunny in their care.
            The Keeper, and all the gathered creatures, celebrates their return. A feast of honey and bread and fruits and nuts is laid out for all to enjoy while the storm blows around them. With their bellies full, the children lean against a tree to take a short nap before heading home. The sounds of the Keeper singing and the merriment of the animals fill their minds as they fall asleep.
            They wake the next morning in their beds, the sun shining bright in their eyes. Nathan and Terra sit up with a start and look at each other.
            “Was it all just a wonderful dream?” Nathan asks.
            Terra thinks for a moment and answers. “No, I don’t think so. She is the Keeper of all Creatures, and she took care of us, too.”