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Valued Social Butterfly

Re: House in the Valley

Message 11 of 55

Chapter 38 (Word Prompts: insomnia, wind, edge, change, winter, inactivity, birds, clarity)


Perhaps it was my imagination, but I could have sworn that Charley brightened up when I entered the room. He was certainly sporting a large smile as he welcomed us to the table. I found myself grateful for the insomnia. It was certainly the first time I’d had that thought.


“Well now”, he said. “Who would have thought we would all wind up here so soon?”

I thought about making a comment about having to stop meeting like this but I knew that would be a lie. I had no desire to change this particular circumstance. In fact, I would not be unhappy if it became a habit.


“Have you seen anything out of the ordinary?” This was asked by Barbara who had heard about our visit to the house earlier. We had promised to include her into any additional trips that we might make. In fact the mystery of the house had become more interesting to a lot of people than the planned workshop. I’m certain our teacher was not happy about this but there was little he could do about it.


“No. Everything seems entirely quiet and normal out there, which is why I decided to come inside and get warm. I’ve heard all the usual night sounds. I caught a glimpse of a raccoon and heard some movements in the grass that I assume were other small animals. There are a few night birds calling to each other which also tells me nothing is out of the ordinary.”


He had been speaking to the group, including Lily who had joined us when she brought the coffee pot and a plate of cookies.


“Perhaps the vandals have seen you and are waiting for you to leave.” I could tell she was more concerned about the situation than we were. She felt responsible for the girls who came to work for her in the wee hours of the morning and I knew she must hate to feel like it might be people that she knew who were posing a threat.

“I don’t think so”, said Charlie. “I parked my car well hidden and I’ve been sitting on the edge of the hill where I can see the house below. I can hear any activity on the mountain but I wouldn’t be seen unless someone wandered down that path and I would hear them coming. I’ve set up a little trap of my own near the big rock and if someone ventures up there he’ll get a little surprise.”


I thought about this man sitting there on what I was now thinking of as my spot. He would be silent and still and I wanted to just sit there beside him. I thought of how I felt warm just being around him and I wouldn’t even mind that it might be cold as winter. And I wouldn’t mind the silence.


This last thought came as a surprise. I am not normally comfortable with inactivity nor silence. I always have the TV or radio on even if I’m not listening to it.


I guessed this was one more item I needed to add to my list of questions that I needed to clarify.


(to be continued)


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Valued Social Butterfly

Re: House in the Valley

Message 12 of 55

Chapter 37 (Word Prompts: insomnia, wind, edge, change, winter, inactivity, birds, clarity)


I had been right about the expected insomnia. I could hear the gentle breathing of Theresa and my other cabin mates as I remained wide awake. In my mind I relived so many images I had experienced over the past week and tried to make sense of it all. There had been something so familiar from the first moment I had spotted the house in the valley. It was almost as though it was fate that I was to take a wrong path and find it there waiting for me. That light that brought my attention to it had seemed a signal meant only for me.


If I had been at home I would have gotten out of bed and written in my journal, knowing that sleep was not going to come and hoping for some clarity in all the thoughts and feelings colliding with each other as though blown in the wind. But I was not at home, and I had no desire to be there which was one of those thoughts that kept intruding over and over again. It was becoming more and more obvious to me that I needed to make a change. No, that was wrong. I had already made a change. I wasn’t certain when it had happened. Perhaps it had been a gradual thing that had been coming on for years and I had been too busy to notice.


It was last winter when I tried to talk with my friend, Joyce about it. I had always been able to talk to her about anything and she usually had something insightful that I found helpful. This time she seemed to shrug it off and said it was natural for me to feel this way, called it empty nest syndrome which always follows when the last little bird has flown the nest. I couldn’t disagree with her. It was true I no longer had children at home, but I felt that wasn’t the problem.


I found myself being very cross with Blair. It’s true that he gave me reason to feel dissatisfied upon occasion, but I had never been on edge like this. I went to the doctor and had my hormones checked, hoping there was a pill I could take that would make me feel normal. I was almost disappointed when the doctor said everything was fine. He was right if fine meant “frightened, insecure, nervous and empty”. I wanted to tell him that what I was feeling was anything but fine. Instead I thanked him, got a recommendation for some vitamins and left the office, stopping to reward myself with a hot fudge sundae on the way home.


I was thinking about the hot fudge sundae, when I knew this inactivity was more than I could tolerate. I crept from the bed and dressed as quietly as possible, and as warmly, having learned my lesson. I took my journal and a flashlight thinking I would sit on the steps and write. There would be no coffee, which usually accompanied my sleepless nights, but maybe I could sort things out before it was too late to get some sleep.


I had just opened my journal when a voice came from the darkness. “Who’s there?”

I must have given a little shriek. I know I dropped my notebook on the ground and the thud sounded very loud in the silence. Just then the beam of a flashlight hit me in the face blinding me.


This time I know I emitted more than a shriek and I woke Theresa and Barbara, both of whom came running from the cabin prepared to rescue me. But by now Lily had recognized me.


“I’m sorry. I thought you were one of those vandals”, she said, lowering her powerful lamp. “But what are you doing out here in the middle of the night?”


I was saved from having to give an explanation by Theresa asking me if I couldn’t sleep, saying she was having trouble too, even though I knew that she had been sound asleep just a few minutes before.


“Well, if you girls can’t sleep come on over to the dining hall. Perhaps some hot tea will help you rest. Charlie’s over there taking a break right now, so I’ve already put on some coffee, if that’s what you want.”


I felt warm at just the mention of Charlie and I realized this was something else I had to sort out.


(to be continued)

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Valued Social Butterfly

Re: House in the Valley

Message 13 of 55

Chapter 36 (Word Prompts: insomnia, wind, edge, change, winter, inactivity, birds, clarity)


With my discovery of the missing album all inactivity vanished as the four of us began a much more thorough search. Peter thought there were a few photos missing from both the piano and also from the bedrooms. Of course no one had checked any of the drawers or closets before so it was difficult to know what was missing, but I noticed the edge of some sort of garment peeping from a dresser drawer, which prompted a search.


No further items were found missing, although Peter noticed there was no jewelry, even cheap costume stuff in what had been Kathy’s bedroom. He blushed a bit when he mentioned this which made me wonder how he happened to notice that change. Of course I had a pretty good idea.


By this time we were all back in the great room with our coffee and I thought I was getting a bit of clarity with the missing items. I could tell Peter was still upset by his missing birds and I hoped my theory would make him feel better.


“It seems to me that all the things we have found missing are more of sentimental value than of a monetary nature. Has anyone talked to the family members lately?”


Roger shook his head, as did Charlie. I had already learned that Theresa barely knew the family at all.


“I talked to Jeff sometime over the summer“, said Peter. “We talked about getting together sometime this winter. He said they were thinking about getting the house ready to sell next spring.”


“I’ll bet he or Kathy came to get a few personal items that they didn’t want left in the house if it was to be listed for sale”, said Charlie. “Peter, do you have their numbers? I’ll get in touch with them and make certain.”


Peter didn’t have his phone with him but promised to get the numbers when they returned to the workshop. We had taken so long with our search that it was nearing time for dinner and we were all hungry, having missed lunch. The wind had increased since we had been inside and it was clear it would be another cold night. Any exploration looking for clues to who had built a campfire and destroyed the trees would have to wait for another day. It was possible the family had removed the items from the house, but I didn’t think they had also been hacking at innocent cedars.


It was still warm and cozy when we returned to the dining hall. The aroma was different, no bacon this time, but it smelled just as good as before. And, just as earlier, Lily spotted us as soon as we walked through the door. I wondered if she had been watching for us, or perhaps she had a bit of a crush on Charlie. If that was true, I could certainly understand. She suggested we take a small table over to the side where there were six chairs. I knew she was planning on joining us to find what we had found. I realized she must be even more concerned with the destruction than we were. After all, she lived here while we were only visiting.


Charlie explained to her our theory that the family members had visited the house, probably last night or early this morning. I thought she was about to say something but Peter arrived back with his cell phone and gave Charlie the numbers he had for both Jeff and Kathy. A young girl came over to the table with a tray filled with mugs of coffee and a tray of cookies. I thought she wanted to stay and listen too, but Lily asked her to check something in the kitchen.


I listened while Charlie and Lily talked of memories of the Chatsworth family and speculation as to what would happen to the house. I couldn’t help thinking, as I sipped my coffee and munched on a cookie, that tonight I would be suffering from insomnia as I tried to understand why I was feeling what I could only describe as being violated at the knowledge that someone had been removing things from a house that I had no claim to.


(to be continued)




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Respected Social Butterfly

Re: House in the Valley

Message 14 of 55

I am hanging in here by my fingernails for each chapter, LOL! 

I have been really busy since I just moved and have an endless supply of boxes to empty, so I am leaving 'kudos' just so you know I am readinhg each chapter.

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Valued Social Butterfly

Re: House in the Valley

Message 15 of 55

Chapter 35 (Word Prompts: insomnia, wind, edge, change, winter, inactivity, birds, clarity)


A wind seemed to sweep through the room as I stared at the end of the sofa where the quilt had been. To this day I’ve no clarity as to why I felt such a connection with that particular piece of fabric, but it was unmistakable and I was feeling the loss at a very personal level.


Roger emerged from the bedroom wing to meet Charlie on his way. “Everything seems to be in order back here. I haven’t noticed any changes since we were here yesterday.”


“What about the quilt?” Everyone turned to look at me and I couldn’t help noticing the puzzled look on the assorted faces. Was it possible I was the only one to notice a beautiful quilt of what looked like velvet squares of red, chocolate brown and ivory that I had spotted as soon as we walked into the room? I was beginning to feel that I must have imagined it, perhaps one of those things that occur at the edge of consciousness after a night of deep sleep. I didn’t have time to question this.


Peter had wandered over to the piano where there had been several picture frames with photos of family members and other assorted knick knacks. “My birds are gone”, he cried in alarm.

He was getting the same puzzled expressions as I had received, which made me feel a bit better.


“They were ceramic birds that I made when I was in college and I gave to Jeff and Kathy for Christmas one year. I had forgotten all about them until I saw them here on the piano yesterday.”

His voice seemed to quiver a bit at the end of the sentence and I could tell he was upset about their absence. All of a sudden I had another thought and I ran to the bedroom area, pushing past Roger who was still standing in the doorway. I didn’t have to go very far to see that my suspicion had been correct. The wall that had held Peter’s painting was now empty.


With this news all inactivity ended. Peter came rushing back and began to check all the bedrooms. Theresa seemed to be taking a mental inventory of the great room while Roger looked embarrassed that he had missed something so obvious as a large painting on the wall near where he had been standing. I went into the kitchen but noticed nothing out of place. Charlie was observing all of us with his little notebook in hand.


While in the kitchen I found the coffee pot and coffee in the frig. I thought since today was feeling more like winter, that would be much more fitting than the cold drinks we’d helped ourselves to before. Even though it was the afternoon, I didn’t think any of us would have to worry about insomnia, not because of the coffee anyway. Mugs were in the cabinet and I used the tray still sitting where I’d left it. I hoped everyone drank their coffee black because I had found no sweetener or cream.


I took it over and placed it on the coffee table in front of the sofa. That’s when it struck me. There had been a photo album on that table. I had been so tempted to look inside but thought it would be rude. Now it was gone.


(to be continued)


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Valued Social Butterfly

Re: House in the Valley

Message 16 of 55

Chapter 34 (Word Prompts: quilt, cedar, hope, train, ice cycle, possibilities, teacher, restless)


By the time I rejoined the group they were already entering Charlie’s SUV. Peter and Teresa took the back seat which left the front seat for me. It’s possible this was an accident, but I don’t really think so.


Charlie seemed to be concentrating on driving, although there was a grim expression on his face. I hoped he wasn’t displeased with who was riding shotgun, but then I thought he was probably concentrating on driving and listening to the conversation in the back seat.


There were ice cycles in Peter’s voice, so different from my first impression of him. There were no more of those green pants and he seemed less like the leprechaun too. Of course he had been told about the cedars but I got the feeling that his anger was about something else entirely. He was talking of childhood memories of exploring the mountainside with his friends, of building forts, and having mock battles with their cap guns. I could only imagine the possibilities of growing up in an area like this, so different from growing up a city girl, like me.


I remembered a teacher, 6th grade I think. She was the one who first interested me in art. She was a large woman with gray hair and glasses. She was stern, accepting no nonsense from her students. If I had ever pictured where she had lived it would not have been the place she took us for a field trip. Her house was on the side of a hill with woods all around. It was autumn and she told us to go outside and collect anything that interested us. Most of us came back with brightly colored leaves, but there were a few pieces of bird’s eggs, feathers or insects. I think there was even a mushroom or two in the mix. Then she turned us loose in her art studio for us to use her supplies to make creations from our findings. She had some fabric paint that we could use on the leaves to transfer them onto fabric. I asked for that paint for Christmas.


As he continued to talk his voice began to lose it’s edge and began to sound almost wistful. I wondered if he was even aware that others were listening as he relived one story after another.

“Sometimes we would get restless with the mountain and we dreamed of running away from home. Jeff and I would pack up a few belongings and go over the train tracks and think about hopping on a boxcar and having an adventure.”


I remembered the sound I’d noticed earlier and could picture the two boys thinking of becoming hobos. I wanted to ask about Jim, but I didn’t want to interrupt Peter’s musings. Besides, we were almost to the house.


I thought I recognized Roger’s car already there, but it was empty. We walked to the door and found it unlocked. We all followed Charlie into the kitchen and through to the great room. I noticed nothing out of place in the kitchen and there was no sign of Roger. Charlie called out to him and he answered from the bedroom area. I don’t think anyone noticed my gasp and I seemed to be the only one who noticed that my quilt was gone.


(To be continued)


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Valued Social Butterfly

Re: House in the Valley

Message 17 of 55

Chapter 33 (Word Prompts: quilt, cedar, hope, train, ice cycle, possibilities, teacher, restless)


I was glad we didn’t have to pass those wounded cedars on the way back down the path. I gave Charlie his jacket back before we reached the end. I no longer had to worry about ice cycles. If anything I was now too warm between the rising sun and my own internal heat.


I had suggested that he speak to Peter since he seemed very familiar with the house and might know of additional paths, other than the one we had taken before. I hoped we hadn’t spent so much time that the group had already left on today’s trip. I was encouraged by the fact that we hadn’t met anyone coming up on our way down.


I was glad to see Peter standing beside Theresa and our teacher over beside the cafeteria door. I thought I saw a knowing smile from Theresa as I walked over with Charlie. I felt my face go red even though nothing had happened. At the same time I couldn’t deny that several possibilities were running through my mind like a train at full speed. I didn’t realize it at the time, but all thoughts of my earlier upset with Blair was entirely forgotten.


Charlie explained to the group our discovery of the vandalism. They all seemed upset with the knowledge, although no tears were shed. I knew that mine had not really been about the trees but they had been a handy excuse. I tried to let go of those thoughts. I didn’t want to think about Blair or his ultimatums now. In the back of my mind I already knew that there was little future for me there. I was entirely too restless to head back to that life that had made me feel as though I was dying inside. I didn’t know what my future was going to be but I didn’t think there was a way that my husband would be included. Later I could see that I had already left. I should have known it at the time when I needed comfort and I pictured the quilt on the sofa in the house below instead of the one on my bed at home.


I had been so lost in my own thoughts that I had entirely missed out on the conversation that was going on with the others until I heard Theresa ask me if I was coming. I didn’t have to ask where or to think about my answer as I ran back to the cabin to get my things, this time grabbing my camera too.


(to be continued)



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Valued Social Butterfly

Re: House in the Valley

Message 18 of 55

Chapter 32 (Word Prompts: quilt, cedar, hope, train, ice cycle, possibilities, teacher, restless)


“Those tears will turn into ice cycles if you aren’t careful.”

Something about the way he said it made me laugh. It made me think of the threat received by children that their face will freeze that way. Besides, the tone of his voice was kind with just a bit of tease.


“I don’t think it’s quite that cold”, I managed to comment just as I was handed a clean white handkerchief, the kind my father once carried. I didn’t know men carried those anymore. I choked back the tears that threatened to flow again and took his offering to wipe my eyes.


“I’m sorry. I know it’s silly but just seeing the destruction of these beautiful cedars… I don’t understand why anyone would do such a thing.”


He was silent for what seemed a long time. “I suppose there are several possibilities, but I would imagine it was just some restless kids trying out a new hatchet and giving no thought that anyone would care. I find that some young people are terribly surprised to find that someone has a problem with their antics. What amazes me is that they seem to have made their way up here and back again without being seen.”


“We were thinking about that when we saw the red paint on the boulder back down the path. That’s what took us to the house below. It seemed that if we could see the house from here, there was probably a way to reach it. That would explain how the trespassers were not picked up by the camera.” Then I happened to think I never heard if anything had been picked up by the camera, but since the sheriff had met with our teacher, then he would know. “I assume you and Mr. George checked the video.”


“Yes, he had checked the earlier one and found nothing. I had hoped something would show up from last night, but according to it, everything was peaceful and quiet. Your theory of the path sounds reasonable. Would you show me where you go to see the house?”


I led the way back down the path to where it forked off. Charlie followed just a few steps behind. I stopped at the same place I’d stopped before and listed to the faint sound of flowing water that I had noticed yesterday while I watched Peter. Today the boulder where he had been sitting was empty and I could tell the sun had risen enough to be felt from there. Pulling the jacket a bit tighter, I headed toward the ledge.


The warmth of the sun had not been there long enough to take the chill off the stone and I wished for that quilt to sit on, but it felt good on my face. Then Charlie sat beside me and even the stone began to warm up. I realized that I was now referring to him by his first name instead of by his title, in my mind at least.


He was looking around the area. My focus was on the house itself. I was feeling the same fascination with the place that I had felt with that first viewing. In fact it was even more intense since I now knew what the interior was like and some of the history. I was thinking about how peaceful it had been sitting under the willow tree beside the pool when I heard a sound that didn’t fit. It was a very distant sound, very like a train whistle, but it startled me coming out of the silence.


I must have jumped at the sound, or perhaps Charlie had been startled also because he explained that it was the signal to begin work at the mill. He didn’t add more information but it made me realize how isolated I had been here in our little art community on the mountain. I was surprised by my desire to know more about the area, but my thoughts were interrupted when I realized that Charlie was ready to leave and he was waiting for me to take his hand. I knew he meant it as a polite thing to do, but I felt that if I held his hand it would be anything but an assistance. I could no longer deny the attraction I was feeling for this man.


(to be continued)


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Valued Social Butterfly

Re: House in the Valley

Message 19 of 55

Chapter 32 (Word Prompts: quilt, cedar, hope, train, ice cycle, possibilities, teacher, restless)


A deep sense of foreboding overtook me as I climbed further up the hill and the smell of cedar became stronger with every step. The relief I had felt when I saw the numerals were disappearing from the boulder was being replaced by a fear even more intense. As I looked ahead at a curve in the path I knew that was where I would find the source of my fear. I don’t know why I didn’t turn around and go back, but that thought did not occur to me. Perhaps it was my own restless spirit that would not allow me to turn back.


All hope was dashed as I stood at the curve in that path and looked at the place where we had all stopped to rest just a few days earlier. We had made sketches here because it was so beautiful. The first thing I noticed was that one tree was completely missing. It hadn’t been a large tree but it had stood alone and made me think of a sentinel watching over the path up the mountain side. Now all that remained was a stump about three feet tall. It appeared the tree had suffered a painful death judging from the jagged edges left by a hatchet or perhaps an axe.


Other smaller trees had been merely wounded. Branches were broken, some removed and others left hanging. I could see no reason for such damage to helpless foliage. It wasn’t Christmas when the greenery would be used for decoration and it wouldn’t have been good as fuel for the camp fire. This simply classified as destruction.


I sat on the same stone where I had first talked to Theresa and remembered thinking that she was a newbie. So much for first impressions. It was hard to believe that was only last week. With the thought of what seemed the loss of so many possibilities I broke into tears, not the gentle kind but the ugly sobs that leaves eyes red and nose running.


Now I realize I wasn’t just reacting to the loss of some trees but of an entire train of perceived losses that had been triggered by the ice cycles in Blair’s voice over the phone. What had happened to all those dreams when I had been in college of becoming a teacher and helping children to discover the joys of learning. It had all been forgotten when Blair decided to open his own business and needed help in the office, “just until it got off the ground”, he said. That had been twenty five years and two children ago.


Of course, I wouldn’t exchange my children for anything, but I’m hoping Darleen won’t repeat my mistakes. So far she’s doing a good job of juggling a career and children. Dale was just about to finish college but was already successful in the field of computer games. He seemed to have inherited my interest in art, although taking it to an entirely different field.


I was interrupted by the sound of footsteps that I knew were just around the curve and heading my way. I tried to use the sleeve of my jacket to dry my eyes and was glad to discover a slightly used tissue in the pocket. I had expected to see Theresa but it was the sheriff who appeared before me. He had removed those mirrored lenses as soon as he saw me. He seemed taller than he had before but I barely had time to notice before he sat beside me.


He muttered something about how I must be cold and then removed his own jacket and draped it over my shoulders. Perhaps it was his touch as he placed it there, or the large brown eyes that somehow made me think of a collie dog, but I once again thought about the comfort of that quilt and the tears began to flow once more.


(to be continued)


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Valued Social Butterfly

Re: House in the Valley

Message 20 of 55



Chapter 31 (Word Prompts: quilt, cedar, hope, train, ice cycle, possibilities, teacher, restless)




I was thoroughly chilled again by the time we got back to the cabin. Theresa and I had been talking about how our teacher had whisked the sheriff away with him. I let her think I was just curious as to what he might have thought of our intruders. I wasn’t ready to confess that I felt the beginnings of a small crush on Charley. The situation wasn’t helped by Theresa telling me about the man. Among other things, she mentioned how he had lost his wife just last year and there were several women in the area who were hoping that his period of grief might soon be over and he might start to look at other possibilities.


I was glad to get back and grab my jacket from where I had left it on the foot of the bed. With it wrapped tightly around me, I was just beginning to get warm when my cell rang once again. If his voice had sounded cold before, now it sounded like ice cycles. He was obviously upset about something but I didn’t appreciate his mood being aimed at me.


“OK”, I said. “What’s the problem? I’m assuming you have time to tell me now.” In hind sight I probably sounded less than friendly myself, but I had been concerned since the first call and I still had no information, while he seemed to be angry at me.


“Is something wrong with the children?”


“No”, he said, “The children are all fine, so are the grandchildren, as though you would care.”


I was trying very hard to avoid taking his bait and getting into a fight over the phone, especially with an audience. Theresa was still gathering up her supplies for our morning session.


“That’s good. I’m glad everyone’s fine”, I said.


“I didn’t say everyone’s fine.” I didn’t need to ask who he was talking about. I had never considered my husband to be a controlling man, but perhaps that was because I had spent most of my adult life caring for him and the children. It was only recently that I had begun to revisit my interests from what I referred to as “BF”, before family. Perhaps it was empty nest or a mid-life crisis, but I had been restless just wandering around the empty house all day. He had been discussing retirement and I found I did not look forward to being alone with him all day either. That was why I was thinking this time apart would be a time of thinking of the future, a sort of trial separation.


I managed to shut out a large part of his tirade. I heard enough to know that he was demanding that I come home and if I refused there would be consequences. I wasn’t certain what those consequences would be, but the threat did very little to make me want to cut my trip short and return home. Later I thought it interesting that what I was actually thinking about at the time was not my own home, but the house we had visited the previous day and the colorful quilt that rested on the end of the sofa. I hadn’t even touched it but the thought of the rich red, brown and ivory velvet shapes made me feel comforted.


By the time I heard the disconnect my body was aching from holding it so rigid. I thought this must be the way one feels after being hit by a train, at least a barrage. I felt the need to be alone for a while and found myself walking up the same path as before. I passed the campfire, which was now completely cold and continued up to the rock. Now the numerals were barely noticeable. They must have been written in watercolor of some sort, which I found reassuring. I hated to think of the area being vandalized, but this thought was dimmed as I ventured further up the path and was almost overwhelmed by the aroma of cedar that only occurs when a tree has been cut.


(to be continued)


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