All posts by K. Rawson

The Beast is Back

Under the heading “Truly Strange” I offer this:

I have a battery-powered ambiance lamp which I keep on my nightstand. I started the habit after spilling my wine for the 400th time.

Josh and I binge-watch shows on his laptop before going to sleep, so I put the ambient light in red-mode (which allegedly supports melatonin production), and so I don’t try to set my wine on a part of the nightstand that isn’t there. (I know, I know, I probably shouldn’t drink wine in bed, but it’s the only way I can think of to make sure it’s handy when I wake up in the morning 😉 ) Anyway, when it’s time to go to sleep, I pick the lamp up and fumble for the tiny switch on its base to turn it off.

However, this morning at the stroke of 4:00, while I was in the midst of explaining to my dream-mom that gardening IS work and not just a hobby, because it could potentially IMPROVE the value of my home, and that was why I had no free time to see her, because I worked two jobs–both the day job, and my dream-imaginary part-time job, and plus all the mom-things I do, and the job of keeping the house clean and the laundry washed and the pantry stocked…

And that’s when the light came on, which sounds like a metaphor, and a cliché at that–but no. The light came on. The
Taipow LED Night Light, Bedside Table Lamp for Baby Kids Room Bedroom Outdoor, Dimmable Eye Caring Desk Lamp with Color Changing Touch Senor Remote Control which I got at Amazon.

The light that can only come on by picking the damn thing up and feeling around the base for its switch (yes, there’s a remote, but I threw it away in fit of konmarie).

I have no explanation for this. It was in bright-white mode (the default), but my point is that it’s not like I left the damn thing on in a pinot-induced stupor. This was no accident. It was a wake up call, and no I’m not talking metaphorically.

When I was writing HitList I’d find myself waking up at four, completely and unable to get back to sleep. And on more than one occasion it felt (or seemed) like someone, some thing had tugged at my foot, or yanked at the covers. I’d roll out of bed and write for two hours, until it was time to get ready for the moneyjob and see the urchins off to school.

At the time I joked about it–called it The Beast–but I was only half joking. I was filled with fire. I wrote the first draft of HitList in three months, a feat I haven’t been able to duplicate in the three novels since.

I have a new baby now and it’s something different than the four Contemporary YAs I’ve written. It’s a memoir manifesto on life-and-gardening in the age of climate catastrophe. It’s about what it’s like to live in a town gut-punched by two massive natural disasters in less than 15 years, what is like to grow up in the state with the least amount of natural land than any other, and about what happens when an inexperienced gardener goes native.

Today is our Derecho-versary. One year ago today, a category four land hurricane flattened our town. It blew off the top floor of apartment buildings, peeled the roof off of a number of area schools and businesses, and left a 200-year old oak tree in pieces on my yard. We’re still trying to stitch our city together. The woman two doors down from me has been a climate refugee ever since.

Our house, immediately after the derecho. One year ago today.

There’s just so much to say about this–the growing gravity of unprecedented climate events: fires and windstorms and floods (oh my). About everything: from the precious monarch eggs on the milkweed outside, to the deadzone in the Gulf of Mexico larger than Connecticut. And I’ve got plenty to say about it; enough to fill a book, I think.

Not a book filled with grim warnings and dire predictions. Rather, I think it’s a book about hope. It’s about how wonderous the world is, how resilient, and how much we can accomplish if we put our minds to it, if we work together and quit letting change-fearing hate-mongers sway us with cheap manipulations. And about how much we stand to lose if we don’t.

Which is why I’m up at 4:00am and why I’m pretty sure The Beast is back.

If you want to keep up with me, follow The Official Karen© on Medium where I post angry letters to the Governor and will be submitting a series of essays for their Writer’s Challenge. Or, check out Iowa Native Gardener, where I blog about my attempts at native prairie restoration and try to justify the copious amounts of pokeweed in my yard.

Love you, my most dear readers, and if you’ve read this far, well then, thanks.



What Pegman Saw: Leaving Chechnya (a draft)

Ulitsa Chernyshevskogo
Grozny, Chechnya | Google Maps

He felt the thud of the hatchway as it closed and released a long breath. It felt as if he hadn’t breathed since that moment at security, the guard’s frown as he perused his passport and boarding pass and handed it back. The flight attendant smiled on her way past and he realized it was the first time he breathed—really breathed—in years.

Out the window, a row of beech trees darkened the horizon. As they taxied down the runway, he remembered his grandmother’s place in rolling hills of Vedensky.  He might never see her again. He might never eat her chepalgash, or stroll the grounds outside of Serdtse Chechni, or let his feet dangle from the bench swings at Ulitsa Chernyshevskogo.

What he would do was as uncertain as [and here the author makes a brilliant observation]. The only thing certain was life.

145 words or so

This has been an edition of What Pegman Saw. To read more stories inspired by the prompt, click here.

Inspired by ‘Welcome to Chechnya’ Trailer Highlights Hidden Gay Atrocities.

A note: I wrote this story meaning to edit it sometime before it went live this morning. Then, I forgot about it.

Once I was able to get into my wordpress editor, I pasted in the original draft, which I am really unhappy with, but in the spirit of releasing perfectionism, I’m putting this out anyway.

What Pegman Saw: Women’s Days

Panama City, Panama | 360 Explora Panama

“I should be going with you,” he said, expression more glum than worried.

Before the law changed, he would always go to the day market with her. There he would watch not the streets or milling crowds, but her. Heaven forbid she make a wrong choice or a bad bargain. ‘Why did you pick those plantains and not the larger ones?’ ‘That fisherman always cheats you.’

She adjusted her shawl and slid her feet into worn sandals. “You know the law,” she reminded.

He grumbled, not because he was ruled by law, but because a man could not go out unnoticed in times such as these. She shouldered her bag. As the door closed behind her, she felt her spine straighten, her shoulders grow light. It was always like this now, on days such as these.

137 words

This has been an edition of What Pegman Saw. To read more stories inspired by the prompt, click here. Inspired by this little news story out of Panama:
In Panama, coronavirus lockdown means separating men and women.

Their unique approach to dealing with the coronavirus outbreak was to allow women out on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and have men-only days on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays.

Letting Go of the Breakers

The Breakers | Thomas Obara, Google Maps

“They’re going to turn this place into a carnival.” Paul let the heavy drapes fall closed.

He was grumping on about the Welcome Center again. The Preservation Society planned to break ground on the structure next spring.

“Come now, is it really that bad? We can’t even see the site from our suite,” Gladys said.

“That’s not the point and you know it. Our grandfather built this place.”

He was always saying ‘our grandfather’ as if the old man had bounced them on his knee. In truth, he wasn’t a grandfather but a great-grandfather. To Gladys, he was a stern face staring from an oil painting. “Things change,” she shrugged.

“We’ve kept the very roof over their heads. And at great expense, I might add.”

She stared past the collection of dusty antiques wearing their skins of fading silk, to the watermarks along the south wall. That was also true, which was maybe why it was time to let go.

160 words

This week I went over by 10 words, which I am counting as a birthday present 🙂 This has been an edition of What Pegman Saw. To read more stories inspired by the prompt, visit the InLinks.

This story inspired by Are the Vanderbilt Heirs being forced out of the Breakers? The answer is yes, and to give away the ending: They were.

What Pegman Saw: What’s Left Behind

Kihonda Rice Fields
Frank Marwa | Google Maps

She was four days gone when he came upon her. A grand dame of a beast, perhaps forty, although it was hard to say without her tusks. Flies buzzed around the carcass like static from a distant station. He listened for movement. Hyenas had been at the place where her head had been, but something had scared them off.

He padded across the soft dirt, studying the story left behind the slaughter: a drag of flattened grass, a tusk gouge where they’d hoisted their dirty prize onto their truck, and the twin crocodile-skin of their tire tracks, heading west. And then he saw it—an elephant track half as small as the murdered cow’s. Somewhere, there was a calf.

He raised his head, neck taut, scanning the mancala of whistling thorn and baobab trees which stretched as far as the horizon. Maybe this time, he wouldn’t be too late.

149 words

This has been an edition of What Pegman Saw. To read more stories about the prompt, click here.

Elephant calves will sometimes remain by the slaughtered mothers for up to five days before they succumb to starvation. The mission of the Ivory Orphans in Tanzania is to find and protect these orphans until they can be raised to adulthood.

Learn more:

Tanzania says elephant, rhino populations rebounding after anti-poaching crackdown

Elephant Orphanage to Open in Tanzania

What Pegman Saw: Her Own Laws

It’s been suggested that I participate in What Pegman Saw since I haven’t in awhile.

I have to admit, I have about as much desire to write as I do to pull out my eyelashes with tweezers, which is to say, none. I tried to rework a handwritten story that’s been sitting on my desk, but had no luck trying to resuscitate it. So instead I’ll reblog the story I did the last time Pegman was in Arizona.

Happy trails.

k. Rawson

Palisade Rim/Ute Petroglyph Trail, Colorado © Google Maps

Her thighs ached from the ride. Not the days’ ride up from Delta, but the ride the night before with the rustler from Laramie. As he’d slept, she’d pilfered his pockets and his money had bought this mount. She was northbound before the sun had climbed over the sagebrush east of town.

It was a sorry state of affairs that had brought her here. She had no say in the laws of man. Laws that would let her hold no property, or earn an honest living better than starvation wage. Laws that said she must submit to the hand of a drunken fool. She had as much right to live free in this country as any man.

She nudged the toe of her soft kid boot at the mare’s belly and clucked. As the mare cantered to a gallop, she decided: from…

View original post 122 more words

What Pegman Saw – Three Stayed Back

Frenchman's Cap

Frenchman’s Cap, Tasmania | Mungo Jones, Google Map

Here on this hill, we stayed back. We watched the other survivors pluck their way down the mountainside, past the burned shell of the fuselage, until the half-dozen figures were lost among the rocks and landscape; wondering, hoping, waiting.

We turned our eyes skyward and watched for rescue planes that never came and comforted the girl who grew tired as the hours turned to days, shivering even as we bundled our parkas around her, and gave her the last of the thin crackers wrapped in foil which we found amidst the wreckage of holiday baggage and broken bodies which were strewn upon the slope. And as waited, we told rescue stories which started out with big headlines and TV interviews, but then were more about meat pies and brown trout cooked on a fire, and finally just about living long enough to say goodbye to the ones who mattered most.

150 words

This has been an edition of What Pegman Saw. To read more stories inspired by the prompt, click here.

Sorry so late! I never could get my first take completed to my satisfaction, so I abandoned it and wrote a new one! This is actually a photo of a climbing expedition and plane crash survivors, but there was something kind of forlorn in there which inspired this story.

A Fresh Start

S Railway Ave Drinkwater, Saskatchewan | Google Maps

S Railway Ave Drinkwater, Saskatchewan | Google Maps

“But Papa, he wants to marry me.” Her cheeks were bright. Whether it was from chill or passion he couldn’t say. He rested a hand on his shovel and studied her. Loosed from its braid, a strand of her hair waved in the wind.

He had plans when they pulled up stakes in Iowa and came to this featureless flat—plans that did not include marrying his sixteen-year old daughter to a handyman fifteen years her senior. “You’ll do no such thing,” he said.

“You don’t understand. We’re in love.” At that, her hand went to the curve of her belly.

It was a gesture he knew all too well, having seen it from his wife eight times these past twenty years. He understood all right. He understood there was no such thing as a fresh start.

137 words

This has been an edition of What Pegman Saw. To read more stories inspired by the prompt, click here.

I have a personal connection to Saskatchewan so I took this opportunity to fictionalize a page from my family tree. My grandmother was born in Saskatchewan. My great-grandfather is the handyman of this tale, and the headstrong girl is my great-grandmother.

Like Forbidden Fruit

Greenwood Avenue, Tulsa, Oklahoma | Google Maps

Greenwood Avenue, Tulsa, Oklahoma | Google Maps

She had seen him before. He was one of the pretty ones, broad of shoulder and slim of waist. He had almond eyes and high cheeks, but it was his lips she thought of the most. She wondered how they’d taste. She wondered what it would be like to kiss them.

Would it be different than kissing a white boy? The thought sparkled like a sky full of stars under a new moon. Milky way stars. But instead of Clarence’s face huffing over her, drops of July sweat dripping down, it would be this boy, this beautiful boy.

She realized as he boarded the elevator that she didn’t even know his name. She only knew she had to know once and for all how those lips tasted.

He walked to the back. He stood at one corner, eyes looking down. She smiled and closed the elevator door.

147 words

This has been an edition of What Pegman Saw. To read more stories inspired by the prompt, click here.

No one can say for sure what happened in the elevator between Dick Rowland and Sarah Page, the pair whose encounter launched the controversy and violence that was the Tulsa massacre. I went through many possible permutations in my mind, most of which I didn’t want to write, since neither of them can speak for themselves. Not exactly thrilled with this one either, but it’s hard not to wonder what really happened that day.