Dawn Pisturino's Blog

My Writing Journey

October Sunrise

(Photo by Dawn Pisturino. Copyright 2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.)

October Sunrise

by Dawn Pisturino

Orange cotton candy balls

Burst across the sky,

Playing peek-a-boo with Mr. Sun,

Slowly rising from his slumber,

A comical clown dressed in lemon yellow.

~

Dawn Pisturino

October 26, 2022

Copyright 2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

49 Comments »

Reprise: Vintage Macabre

Ransom Riggs pieced together a whole novel around his collection of weird photographs. (And I do mean pieced together because, by the end of his book, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, the story had become disjointed and frayed around the edges. The photographs were always the main selling point for the book, however, so that hardly mattered. I still gave it 4 stars on Goodreads.com.) But what a brilliant idea, writing a novel around weird photographs!

So I scoured the Web looking for a few macabre samples—photos¬†that would make your skin crawl and send the heebie-jeebies up and down your spine.

Did I succeed?

Are you feeling just a little bit uncomfortable?

What kind of book could you write around these morbid photographs?

A blood-sucking dummy? A ventriloquist that kills?

A writer and his muse? A Bram Stoker-winning team!

.This photo really gives me the creeps!

Halloween—or a twisted version of the high school prom?

What does your imagination tell you to write?

Dawn Pisturino

May 9, 2012; June 22, 2022

Copyright 2012-2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

22 Comments »

Blooming Desert

(Pink blossoms on a beaver tail cactus. Photo by Dawn Pisturino.)

ALL PHOTOS BY DAWN PISTURINO.

We got enough rain this winter for the cactus to blossom. It truly is a lovely sight when the desert is in bloom.

(Rose-colored blossom on a prickly pear cactus. Photo by Dawn Pisturino.)

But those cactus needles are nothing to mess with! They hurt!

(Creosote bush in bloom. Photo by Dawn Pisturino.)

Creosote bushes are indigenous desert plants with deep roots and waxy green leaves which help them to retain moisture. They mostly stay green year round. But, in the spring, they burst forth with lovely yellow flowers that brighten up the landscape. On the downside, these yellow flowers mark the start of allergy season. Nothing lasts long in the desert, however, so we enjoy them while we can. Achoo!

Have a lovely day, wherever you are!

Dawn Pisturino

May 3, 2022

Copyright 2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

16 Comments »

Two-Word Story: All Gone

All gone. (Photo from Reuters)

All gone. (Photo from Bright Hope)
All gone. (Photo from Shutterstock)

Two-word story:

All gone.

I’ll let you decide which photo fits best.

Dawn Pisturino

April 28, 2022

Copyright 2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

13 Comments »

Coyote Update

(Close up photo of the Baby coyote and wild birds. Photo by Dawn Pisturino.)

This morning, the baby coyote was lying down in the backyard, waiting for his breakfast. (This is an update to my post, Coyote Whisperer.) As soon as he saw me, he stood up and waited patiently while I put out his dry dog food. Actually, he was patient for about two seconds, then he began dancing around in anticipation of eating.

He looks so healthy and beautiful! His winter coat is shiny and full, he’s put on weight, and his fur has beautiful markings on it. He let me get up close enough to take pictures with my phone (camera clicks scare them), but what I really wanted to do was stroke his lush fur with my hands. I’m not foolish enough to attempt that, however! I really can’t even call him a baby anymore, and I don’t actually know if he’s a male or a female. (And there again, I’m not going to risk getting mauled by poking around.) We call all the coyotes “Bambi,” regardless of sex. That’s our signal to let them know we are going to feed them.

Not long after, his Mom and Dad showed up. They, also, look healthy and thriving, which makes me very happy.

(Mother coyote standing guard while Father coyote eats. Photo by Dawn Pisturino.)

Coyotes are very sensitive to noise, and they’re always sniffing the air and looking out for predators who might harm them. They don’t like my neighbor’s dogs, who chase them back out into the open fields. They’re used to our dog, Max, who’s usually locked up in his kennel, and playfully tease him because they know he isn’t going to hurt them. Even if he chases them, they just run a short distance, stop, and turn around and look at him. Then they wait for us to call him back. It’s like a game to them. And when Max goes after the Baby, they chase each other around a bush until we call the dog back. It’s the cutest thing to watch. But the Baby isn’t afraid. He just wants his food.

(Max. Photo by Dawn Pisturino.)

And then there’s the birds!

(Hungry quail. They are very aggressive when they are hungry. Photo by Dawn Pisturino.)

Well, that’s how our day starts out every morning!

Dawn Pisturino

December 7, 2021

Remember Pearl Harbor Today.

Pearl Harbor Day, December 7th

Copyright 2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

21 Comments »

Reprise: The Woman with the Blue Tattoo

Olive Oatman, Library of Congress

Olive Oatman became famous in the 1850s for the blue perpendicular lines tattooed onto her chin. She called them “slave marks,” and people all across America wanted to know how and why she had acquired them.

On the afternoon of February 18, 1851, while camped along the Gila River in Arizona, Olive and her younger sister, Mary Ann, watched in horror as a band of Western Yavapai Indians massacred their mother, father, two sisters, and three brothers. Held back as captives, the two girls, fourteen and seven, were forced to walk barefoot through the rugged desert to the isolated Yavapai camp. For a year they lived there as slaves, fetching wood, hauling water, and gathering food, until traded to the Mohave tribe for two horses, three blankets, vegetables, and beads.

The Mohaves (Aha Macav, “along the river,”) inhabited a lush, fertile valley along the banks of the Colorado River, the traditional boundary between Arizona and California.

Chief Espaniole and his wife, Aespaneo, welcomed the girls into the tribe and adopted them into their own family. They were proud to have rescued the girls from the cruel Yavapai and vowed to treat them well.

The girls worked alongside the other women of the tribe, gathering wood, fetching water, and planting seeds. They soon learned the Mohave language and developed close friendships with other members of the tribe.

Olive was variously called “Ali,” “Aliutman,” “Olivino,” and “Owich (cloud),” the clan name of Chief Espaniole’s family. Mohave women inherited clan names passed down from their fathers, and bearing a clan name meant Olive was considered a full member of the tribe.

Facial tattoos were common among the Mohave Indians because they believed the permanent marks guaranteed a place in “Sil’aid,” the land of the dead. Tribal members who died without tattoos would spend eternity in a desert rat hole. Since Olive and Mary Ann belonged to the tribe, they were expected to undergo the tattooing process.

The girls lay quietly on the ground while experienced tattooers drew designs on their chins. Since the tattoos were meant to be decorative, they chose designs that would enhance the girls’ faces. Using cactus needles or sharp sticks, the designs were pricked into the skin until the wounds freely bled. The sticks were dipped in the juice of a special river weed, then into a powder made from a blue river stone, and applied to the pinpricks on the girls’ chins. The process took several hours to complete and several days to heal.

With this rite of passage, Olive and Mary Ann became permanent members of the Mohave tribe and the first white females in the United States to wear tattoos.

A terrible drought in 1855 brought famine to the tribe. Many people died, including Mary Ann. Olive soon fell ill herself. Aespaneo saved her life by feeding her gruel made from cornmeal.

In January 1856, a Yuma Indian named Francisco arrived at the Mohave camp with papers from Fort Yuma ordering the release of Olive Oatman. Chief Espaniole refused to release her. But Francisco persisted, claiming that five million white soldiers were hiding in the hills, ready to attack and destroy the Mohave village. The Mohaves reluctantly gave in.

Once again, Olive was traded for two horses, blankets, and beads. She arrived at Fort Yuma ten days later, tanned, tattooed, painted, her hair dyed black, and wearing only a bark skirt. She was nineteen years old. Her brother Lorenzo, who had survived the massacre, traveled from California for a tender reunion with his long-lost sister.

Olive became an overnight sensation. Newspapers all across America printed stories about “the white Indian” and her blue tattoo. The Evansville Enquirer reported on November 9, 1859: “She will bear the marks of her captivity to her grave. Her savage masters having tattooed her after the customs of their tribes.”

In 1857 Royal B. Stratton published the first book detailing the Oatman ordeal, Life Among the Indians, which became an immediate best-seller. Olive and Lorenzo traveled to New York, where Olive promoted the book with autographed photographs and lectures. She openly displayed her tattoo while relaying the tragic story of the Oatman massacre and her life as a “slave” among the Mohave Indians.

When not delivering lectures, Olive self-consciously covered her chin with her hands to avoid the staring eyes of curious people.

Olive married wealthy cattleman John Brant Fairchild in 1865, left the lecture circuit, and eventually settled down in Sherman, Texas. She became reclusive, hid her face behind a black veil, experimented with make-up to hide her blue tattoo, and refused to discuss her life among the Indians. She died of heart failure in 1903. Afraid the Mohaves would claim her body, John Fairchild had her coffin sealed in iron and covered her grave with a thick granite tombstone.

(Mohave Indian woman with body paint and tattoos.)

Dawn Pisturino

October 17, 2012; November 25, 2021

Copyright 2012-2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

Please contact author for sources.

19 Comments »

Turkey Mish Mash

“In 1863, a year filled with pivotal historical events — the Emancipation Proclamation, the Union victories at Gettysburg and Vicksburg, and the Gettysburg Address — Abraham Lincoln issued what has become known as the first annual Thanksgiving Proclamation.”

~

The Three Amigos by C.L. Evans – Showcased in the top 100 photos of 2014 of the North American Nature Photography Association. I love this photo!
from Pleated-Jeans
Such beautiful plumage!
Beautiful . . .

~

“Thankful” – sung by the Rise Up Children’s Choir. (This song was originally sung by Josh Groban.)

HAVE A BLESSED THANKSGIVING!

Dawn Pisturino

November 24, 2021

59 Comments »

Coyote Whisperer

(Injured coyote. Photo by Dawn Pisturino.)

ALL PHOTOS BY DAWN PISTURINO.

My first experience with coyotes was two eyes glowing in the dark, watching me from the sagebrush. People told me lurid tales of coyotes snatching little children, eating family pets, and circling around people who were out hiking in the desert. So, naturally, I developed a fear of them when we moved to Arizona from California in 1987.

Over the years, coyotes have roamed freely on our five acres of desert land, especially when we started putting out food and water for the birds. Some days, it felt like Grand Central Station, with coyotes coming and going. I never felt comfortable with this, but I also didn’t want to fence our land off all the way around. We keep the land cleared around our house, but otherwise, we leave the land in its natural state. We like watching the birds, rabbits, and other critters. We maintain our land as a wildlife sanctuary.

In 2017, an older coyote began hanging around, and I would go out and talk to him and leave dry dog food out for him. He was clearly tired and worn out and became a regular visitor. I worried about the other wildlife, but he never tried to harm a rabbit or a bird or anything else. In fact, on Christmas Eve, I saw him lying down in the back yard, like a dog, enjoying the sunshine, with birds and rabbits milling around him, and never bothered any of them. I remembered that Bible verse (Isaiah 11:6) about the wolf dwelling with the lamb. It was a beautiful thing to observe in real life and a wonderful Christmas gift. I was truly amazed.

In the summer of 2018, we experienced a severe drought in Northern Arizona. Even in Flagstaff, where I was working at the time, pine trees turned brown, the normally green meadows looked brown and dry, and wildfires threatened the whole area. For the first time, the campgrounds prohibited campfires — something long overdue. Around Williams, there seemed to be a constant wreath of smoke as the U.S. Forestry Service conducted scheduled burns.

The coyotes looked horrible! They were skin and bones and struggling to survive. My husband and I agreed to put dry dog food out for them whenever they showed up. The number visiting had already shrunk over the years, and we wanted them to live.

One day, the old coyote was carrying something black in his mouth, and I chased him around the yard, trying to figure out what it was. I was praying it wasn’t one of our wildlife. It turned out to be an old, dried up watermelon rind. That’s how hungry these coyotes were!

He started showing up around 5 pm every day, and that became our routine for dinner. One afternoon, I was sitting on the front porch waiting for him to show up. A truck driving down the road suddenly stopped, and I heard a gunshot. I figured the driver had killed a rattlesnake, but a chill ran through me when I thought about the coyote. I prayed it wasn’t him! The driver smiled and waved at me as he drove by as if he had just done me a big favor. The coyote never showed up for dinner, but I also didn’t see anything lying in the road.

The next day, my husband and I were walking down in the wash and kept seeing strange circular markings in the sand. I thought maybe kids were playing there. Then I found strange markings in our yard. I couldn’t tell if they were big-ass snake trails or if the dog had been running around with his leash on. But it really bothered me. And that night, the dogs kept barking.

At 5:30 the next morning, my husband woke me up and told me there was an injured coyote in our yard. I ran outside, and there he was — my coyote! He was lying in the dirt with a big gash in his right shoulder. I got as close as I could so I could look at the wound, but he lifted his head and bared his teeth at me. So I snuck up from behind and looked, and yes, it was a very deep gash. He had been shot, and even though the wound looked clean, it was very deep. My poor coyote was dying.

It was very hot outside, so I put food and water next to him. As the sun got higher and brighter, he moved to another spot. I moved the food and water with him. He raised his head and looked at me with such a look of gratitude in his eyes, I will never forget it. If we didn’t bond before, we certainly did at that moment.

My husband told me, “He’s going to end up under the front porch. Just watch.”

I didn’t think so because he kept moving farther away from the house and into the bushes, where it was cooler. As I watched him, I figured out that the strange markings in the yard were caused by the coyote dragging his right front leg. Later, I found him lying under the car — and then, I found him under the front porch! My husband was right.

Photo by Dawn Pisturino.

The next morning, my husband found the coyote’s dead body under his truck. I cried my eyes out. And I was so angry at that driver for shooting him! There was absolutely no reason to shoot him. I still cry when I think about it. And I figured out that the circular markings in the wash were caused by the coyote thrashing around in a circular motion in the sand because he was in so much pain. I found the same markings under my husband’s truck.

At the same time, I felt honored and grateful that this poor creature – that was so injured and in so much pain – had made his way to our house for help. He knew he would be taken care of here.

Since then, we have other coyotes who come for breakfast and dinner:

(Coyote family. The baby coyote is on the left, looking up at the camera. With Mom and Dad. Photo by Dawn Pisturino.)

Welcoming new baby coyotes into our life gives me hope that the local population will survive.

Dawn Pisturino

November 16, 2021

Copyright 2018-2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

34 Comments »

Autumn Leaves

Photo by Yue Xing Yidhna Wang

In 1955, pianist Roger Williams recorded the pop hit, “Autumn Leaves,” which became the biggest selling piano recording of all times — even today. The song hit #1 on the Billboard pop music chart and earned a gold record. Williams, born in 1924, was a popular pianist who scored 22 hit singles and 38 hit albums during his lifetime. He died of pancreatic cancer in 2011.

“Autumn Leaves,” performed by Roger Williams. Incredible mastery at the piano!

“Autumn Leaves,” performed by Nat King Cole.
Jazz version sung by Eva Cassidy.

Autumn Leaves

The falling leaves drift by my window
The falling leaves of red and gold
I see your lips the summer kisses
The sunburned hands I used to hold

Since you went away the days grow long
And soon I’ll hear old winter’s song
But I miss you most of all my darling
When autumn leaves start to fall

Since you went away the days grow long
And soon I’ll hear old winter’s song
But I miss you most of all my darling
When autumn leaves start to fall

I miss you most of all my darling
When autumn leaves start to fall

Source: LyricFind

Songwriters: Giorgio Canali / Francesco Magnelli / Gianni Maroccolo / Massimo Zamboni / Giovanni Lindo Ferretti

Autumn Leaves lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

Dawn Pisturino

November 11, 2021

Copyright 2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

9 Comments »

Free Range

Photo by Dawn Pisturino.

Yesterday, I spent all day working on a paper for the university class I’m taking. My brain was mush by the end of the day. I just wanted to go to bed early. I had just gotten into bed when my dog started barking like crazy. Right away, I knew why.

The ranchers’ cattle were in my front yard, drinking up all the birds’ water. They knocked over the birdbath, broke a limb off my cherry tree, and left deep footprints everywhere. When I opened the window, I could hear them crashing through the bushes and clop-clopping through the yard. I was scared they would damage the water faucet and water meter. These cattle or so large and weigh so much, they could easily cause a lot of damage. Plus, the bull has horns at least a foot long, which really scares me.

I grabbed a flashlight and ran outside. They got scared and headed toward the road in front of my house. Luckily, they are scared of people and don’t try to charge at you. Once I thought they were gone, I went back into the house and back to bed. But not long after, I could hear them back in the yard, tearing through the bushes and cracking the limbs on the trees. I got a lantern this time and ran outside. I started yelling at them to get out of here and tried to steer them in a different direction. This time, they took off toward the north part of the yard and out into an open field.

I looked at the damage they had done and decided my husband could clean it up in the morning. I finally went to bed and slept. If they came back, I never heard them.

Why did I have cattle in my front yard?

I live in rural Northern Arizona. Miles and miles of open desert lie, unused, across the road from us. So, the ranchers use it in the winter for grazing cattle. They drop off the cattle in the fall and let them roam freely through the desert — and through the neighborhood. There used to be watering stations in place a long time ago, but I have no idea where they get their water now, except in my front yard. When the cattle stay on the other side of the barbed wire fence, it’s a pleasure to watch them grazing on the desert plants and just meandering around. But when they wander out of their allotted acreage, it becomes a problem, as described earlier.

For one thing, they stand in the middle of the road and block the cars from getting through. If it’s night-time and and you don’t see them, you’re going to plough into one and wreck your car. There are no street lights, and they won’t move out of the way.

Normally, they just follow a path along the fence and find their way back to the open field. But sometimes, they act like they’re lost and disoriented. They start mooing and wandering around haphazardly. I usually end up calling Phoenix at least once a season to let them know that the cattle are running loose through the neighborhood. I worry that someone will get hurt – especially a child – and they know how to contact the ranchers to come check on their cattle.

Arizona has free range laws which allow the cattle to pretty much go wherever they want. And woe to anyone who harms one of them! There are stiff fines for harming or killing one of them. I have no idea what happens if you accidentally hit one of them and wreck your car. It seems like the rancher should bear some responsibility.

But that’s life in the desert! Beautiful, barren, harsh, deadly, and spiritually uplifting. The free roaming cattle just add to its charm.

Dawn Pisturino

November 11, 2021

Copyright 2015-2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

19 Comments »

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