willow flats

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Rewatching Buffy again. Here some Scoobie Girls!

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Finally made refs for Celeste and Willow!

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Explore California wild and scenic rivers for outstanding scenery and rafting and kayaking fun with #mypubliclands roadtrip.

North Fork of the American River

The famous Giant Gap run of the even more famous North Fork of the American River is one of the most challenging Class V spring runs  in northern California. Cliffs tower 2,000 feet above clear green streams smashing a path through rapids choked with boulders. Heaps of mine tailings and an old cabin ruin border the course of this roller coaster ride through historic Mother Lode.

South Fork of the  American River

The Gold Rush River, the South Fork of the American River, delivers its own special currency as the most popular (and most populated) whitewater run in California. Tempered by upstream dams, the South Fork lurches and bucks through cataracts of boulders, drops and chutes, on its headstrong plunge through Meatgrinder, Fowlers Rock, and Satan’s Cesspool, then delivers a rough goodbye at Hospital Bar. Along with these heart-stopping rapids, you’ll no doubt come to shore long enough to do some discovering of your own at the Marshall Gold Discovery State Park.

Merced Wild and Scenic River

Beginning in the high country of Yosemite National Park, the Merced River makes a headlong rush through glacially-carved canyons, rugged mountains and foothills to the San Joaquin Valley. Multiple access points allow skilled whitewater enthusiasts to challenge the rapids at your own pace. Enjoy a day of fishing before gathering around the campfire to cook up the day’s catch at McCabe Flat, Willow Placer or Railroad Flat campgrounds.

Experience the South Fork of the American Wild and Scenic River virtually! Video by Maria Thi Mai, BLM.

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Looking for a new story to read? Like apocalyptic stories? Then the Age of Misrule might be for you. Lilmisslau has just started writing it, so there’s not a lot of catching-up to do. While you’re at it, check out her other story, Willow Flats, as well!

Don’t forget to follow Lilmisslau, she is a wonderful person -  so talented, friendly and kind; I love talking to her!

“Willow Flats” - Part 1.7

I finally was alone. The silence surrounding me felt really good. I put my suitcase on the table and opened it. Besides of a handful of clothes, I had only taken the pictureframe, holding a photo of my mother and me. I put it on the table and looked at it. “You are the reason I am here now Mom.” I whispered. “Let’s hope the City you were born in, holds a future for me!”

Willow Flats - Part 221

Parker reappeared after a few moments with a chipped mug of steaming tea in one hand, a folded creased blanket tucked beneath his free arm, and a beaming grin that was explained as words tumbled from his lips in excitement.

“I borrowed a pram for the kids, plus Mira is going to pop up and check on you while we’re out, she sent this for now, but she’s making a welcome stew for us.”

The promise of food seemed to perk Amelia up as she gracefully accepted the cup from Parker, wrapping her pale slender fingers around the warmed china she settled backwards creating a dent in the cushions, smiling as she sipped the dense liquid with a kitten like cough, shooing us away half-heartedly.

“Go on then, off with you all, give mummy some alone time.”

Amelia blew a kiss at her daughter bravely before turning her attention towards the open window frame, fending off my maternal gesture of tucking the scratchy blanket around her thin figure, for I was ever hopeful that the small gesture could provide comfort against the shadows that crept in the corners of her eyes. At Amelias continued insistence, Parker and I bundled up the children between us, my precious baby son tucked in my arms, our daughter swooped up into her fathers embrace, giggling as he pulled face. Tillys previous hesitance was suddenly cast aside in the hilarity of his expression as she trundled along hanging from his shoulder with captivated enthusiasm, pleased to have found a smile beneath the overgrown stubble lining pursed cheeks. With a final wave at our left-behind loved one, I followed Parkers lead into the dim corridor and through uncomfortable suffocation of the communal passageway, we echoed across the stairwell till the narrow front door we had entered through this morning was finally visible in the smog expelled from dozens of people crammed below a single roof. With a creak as the wooden panels sighed open, we ducked into the swirling wind that was gathering in grey cloud fronts high above.

As promised, an old fashioned navy pram stood sentry beside the covered brick porch, supple sheets bearing the cosy softness of dozens of sleeping babies laid to rest in their welcoming grasp, a fabric hood pulled up tight to provide shelter against the elements, curved metal handles telling of the fingerprint touch from generations of overseeing parents. Tilly clambered monkey-like from her fathers arms into the welcoming nest of blankets tucked around the ancient mattress which lined the pram, her small toddler feet kicking around till she was half sat, half leant against the side compartment, glancing around in wonder at the marvellous contraption she could ride along in.

“Scooch over missy, make room for your brother.”

I giggled as her chubby hands waved in the wind, grasping for her siblings company. Although only reunited for a short time, Tilly was ecstatically happy to finally become the big sister that we had promised her she could be, watchful eyes always cast upon the baby as if her proximity to his tiny body could provide some form of sanctuary, a secret bond that we as parents could hardly expect to understand. As I lowered my sleeping son into the soft sheets, I felt the slight pang of concern that always took his place in my arms once they were emptied of the warm weight of the child, the concious missing of my most prided accomplishment, taken from my hold on the same day he was snatched from my womb, I could hardly bring myself not to touch him at all times just to make sure he knew I was still there. Biting my lip, I watched as Parker tucked the blankets tight around the two children, before he took my hand, allowing me to push the pram that contained the most precious cargo.

It took us mere moments to cross the gravel covered wasteland that made up the exterior grounds of our new home, the barren landscape bare except for a few tumbling weeds hanging between pavement cracks, gentle wafts of cast aside rubbish scraps drifting in the wind listlessly. Noting the absence of our arrival vehicle, I asked Parker what had happened to the borrowed car, soothed by his gravelly voice as he explained that it had been returned to its rightful owner, yet dark undertones to the mysteriousness collection of words he spoke bade me to ask no more questions, lest I would be told untruths. We continued in vague chit chat for the remaining minutes, zig-zagging absent mindedly across abandoned side walks and deserted alleyways till the streets became more habitable, and a flashing neon sign of a chainstore supermarket became visible against the dishwater grey sky.

Guiding our feet across the cracked cement, I felt Parkers hand in the small of my back, a tiny touch that reminded me he was there, to any onlooker perhaps we looked like any ordinary family out on a mid morning stroll, two contended gurgling children kicking miniature feet in a vintage pram, parents holding hands and chatting quietly, dusky clouds of exposed breath escaping between chapped lips in the bracing cold. We turned into the overstretched car park, mingling with other families, identi-kit smiling mothers with artificially whitened teeth and bouncing ponytails, complete with dungaree-clad offspring that beamed from designer prams as the entire family searched for the bargains that could be had in this treasure trove, each spouse more chipper than the last. In our hand-me-down clothes and weary footsteps, Parker and I were once again the break from the norm, yet still we pushed the trundling wheels, coaxed by the swish of electronic doors that stood aside gently to admit shoppers onto the cracked linoleum tiles and into Aladdins cave.

The store seemed endless, a tidal wave of wire mesh shelves stacked with every item imaginable, various brightly covered stickers declaring the absolute bargains, a mill of polo shirt bespeckled commentators grappling to throw more stuff than could ever be needed into their already packed carts. Rolling his eyes at me, Parker stifled a grimace as an overtly tanned couple strode past in matching velveteen tracksuits, piling a bleached blonde mane beneath diamonte glasses, the female counterpart of this gruesome twosome declared to her companion that he simply must purchase an inflatable sauna for their deck, the word purchase rolling from her candy pink lips in two screeching syllables- pur-chase - eight letters spoke with the same enthusiasm as a child learning new words they intended to wow their parents with. As her teetering heels clicked in the direction of the activities aisle, Parker wrestled a plastic red trolley free from its stack, spurring me on and into the belly of the warehouse.

Growing up in a fairly shady side of the desert, I was no stranger to small scale chainstore markets or shopping malls, but there seemed to be a space for every imaginable need in this vast floorspace, a catalogue of lifetime desires crammed beneath a corrugated iron rooftop, available to anyone who so choose to visit between the hours of nine am and eight pm. Parker and I began the ascent of the store, weaving through carefully placed sections divided into dozens of categories, choosing goods to line our basket that would hopefully provide solace in our run down home, mentally totting up sums to determine the proximity of our budget which consisted of a hunk of scrunched notes that Parker had displayed before leaving the apartment- another thing I was fairly sure was best not to ask questions about. We claimed a luxurious set of cheap cotton sheets, feeling the thrill of buying something so frivolous, yet a conversation ensued that we both agreed we would prefer to spend on new bedding than sleep in the infested fabric that currently lined our mattress. The bare necessities were surprisingly cheap even despite the bulk buy phenomenon that cried out at us from multi-toned advertisements, we chose vests and nappies for both children, a handful of soft babygrows for Nicolai together with a small assortment of pinafore dresses and jumpers for his sister. Although Tillys eyes lit up at the tempting sight of a tiny pair of calf leather shoes with embellished flowers, we deemed that she could last in the borrowed hob nail boots passed on from a neighbour, and she was soon placated by the promise of a half-priced rag doll with woollen braids, a special treat and a well deserved plaything for her good behaviour watching the sleeping baby tucked in beside her. Some simple underwear for Amelia and I followed the pile of childrens belongings, adult sized cheap printed shirts and thick cable knit jumpers that would hopefully fend off the mid-autumn chill in the air, nightwear and pjamas, all loose fitting garments that would swamp Amelias fragile figure till the weight returned.

Hitting the furniture aisle, we splurged on a travel cot that would fare well for one of the children to sleep in till another could be sourced, the largest addition to the pile that had built up in the shopping cart. With a grin, I tossed in a pair of household scissors, laughing as I told Parker that I would trim the tousled locks that swept across his forehead, his jokingly scathing look was soon replaced with one of confusion as my fingers tangled in his hair, ruffling the roots with a carefree gesture that ensured my smile was mirrored in the curve of his lips. Finally we reached the gigantic grocery area of the store, gathering a collection of own brand produce, we stocked up on store cupboard staples, ten cent dried pasta and tinned vegetables, ingredients that could be blended to make some semblance of a meal to fill aching bellies. Some small treats were added, a tin of powdered cocoa nestled alongside the crate of baby formula, a crushed pack of biscuits at twenty percent off, yesterdays bread to share with the stew our neighbour had promised, a bar of thick sudsy soap, new toothbrushes in individual shades, a soft bristled haircomb, all replacements to help us feel human once more.

With a sigh, we were defeated and done, finally following the pounding of a crowd of footsteps to patiently wait amidst the crocodile of queuing customers, each uneagerly anticipating the hand over of hard earned cash to a checkout assistant sat smugly atop a revolving stool, the electronic bleep of till registers reduced into a symphony of backdrop music, the bass line an impatient tapping of feet as dozens of shopping carts lined up awkwardly, their owners scratching heads and checking cellphones, tired with the exhaustion of working their way around thousands of square feet of discount bargains. Finally, our purchases were stored in brown paper bags and tucked into the under compartment of the spacious pram, and we were on our way once more, returning to the kingdom with salvaged offerings.

Willow Flats: Part 220

It was hard to believe that only an hour had passed since the door had opened, coaxing us into our new tenement tucked up in the midst of the big city, red brick walls that housed a population of foreign refugees scrabbling for freedom for their own, dozens if not hundreds of figures that lived and slept beneath slipping slate tiles of a long forgotten factory roof, each clambering for a tiny square of carpet to call their own. And now we were among them, beating hearts combined that had been tarred with the same undesirable brush, despite the heartache and obstacles we had overcome to be reunited, we were back to scraping the gutter, scrounging for breathing space in this misty fog of human elements.

Aurora had disappeared shortly after we were deposited inside dingy walls, wringing her hands with a coy expression of how she had planned to meet with reunited friends, find her resting place amongst new room-mates, before a nod from her elder brother signified that she need not feel guilt, her light feet skipped across the dust covered floor with a carefree attitude that could only be present in a lovestruck teen, lips lifted in a smile that begged to be kissed. Once the door closed softly behind her, we were alone again, the five of us caught in a surreal family picture set against a backdrop no-one would have planned, two rooms in the middle floor of a criss cross maze of an unwanted community.

“We did well getting two rooms together, a lot of people have to do with one. I remember when we first arrived years ago and there were seven of us camped out in a tiny space - remember honey?”

Amelia smiled faintly reminiscing, a cascade of memories that I was not privvy to, of days gone by, the struggle the two closest to me had already been through together before they were separated by fate, only to be reunited with an extra member thrown into the mix. Parker grinned at the recollection, wiping a strand of hair from his forehead as his strong hands lifted suitcases atop the dresser with the same enthusiasm as a pack mule, gratified to have release from carrying heavy load.

“That feels like a lifetime ago, we were on the top floor with access to the roof. You and I slept on a blanket one night under the stars just to have a bit of privacy.”

His smirk revealed the complexities of making love beneath the moonlit sky, and I was struck with a minor pang of jealousy that my lovers had had their own eternal love struck before I was introduced, a small upset that was dismissed as Amelia danced over to the shuttered window with all the energy she could muster, grabbing my hand in excitement and tugging me along like a small child.

“Ohmygod Camille, look… you have to see this.”

Parker chuckled behind us and I heard the click of the suitcases lock unclasping as Amelia pushed upon the century old cast iron bars with all her might, exposing the small drab space with a flight of murky sun filled daylight that crept into the corner of my soul, pushing out any hopeless thoughts that had embedded themselves as we stood in awe, drinking in the view spread out across the horizon in perfect high definition, a clear lazy mid morning natural sight of beauty that spread as far as the eye could see, unhidden as if it was created only for us. As we had entered the building, it had been impossible to discern the rear views, but set here high in the sky, we were looking down across the port, staring out at the dazzling grey sea that seemed to stretch to the end of the world, dotted with bobbing fishing boats set to catch the daily offerings, far away ships bellowed blooms of grey smoke into the air as they set out on great voyages. Although the strip of beige sand could hardly be called a beach, it’s muddy frontage was abandoned save for a handful of battered deckchairs, tumble-down picket fencing creating useless barriers that lead to the water level, beside which was set a rickety wooden dock jutting out a hundred metres into the deep sea. Perhaps some would see the humdrum of the marina as messy, with it’s mismatch of booted men in waterproofs hopping on and off galleys, tiny pinpricks of people far beneath us that swilled out metal buckets of fish into the ocean as they bartered with common crowds to secure the best deal for their fare. A symphony of whistles, sea shanties and everyday conversation floated upwards towards the approaching clouds, the wind whipping a frenzy as midday sun fought powerlessly to break through the smog, encasing my viewpoint in dazzling liquid diamonds that bounced from the salt water. 

“You see, you see.”

Amelia bounced weakly at my elbow, her pale face lit up with relief of known surroundings and forgotten memories, a girl who would seek pleasure in the simplest things, be they beautiful scenery or a simple family moment. Frail fingers twisted into mine, slack with exhaustion and the knowledge that now she could rest, for we had reached the final destination, she was anxious to help us settle into the new home but fully concious that energy would be a vicious overexertion her damaged body could not deal with till she had rested.

“Come on sweetie, let’s get you sat down and I’ll try to track you down a cuppa.”

Her face clouded up with the anticipation of settling down and being inanimate, but backed up with Parkers reassurances that him and I could be entrusted to unpack, I managed to navigate Amelia towards a stack of packing boxes topped with grubby hand stitched cushions, perhaps the previous owners best attempt at a sofa, placing the sleeping bundle of my son in her arms. Despite the knowledge that we had been blessed with what was classed as a two room ‘flat’, it was merely a single room with a hastily constructed stud wall that had split the space into two smaller areas, an open hole leading from one to the other that had been covered with a hinged concoction of ancient has-been door panels that concertinaed out to enclose the space. Poking my head into the 'second’ room, it was clear to see that both spaces had been left in a hurried manner, the tell tale signs of discarded blankets and oddities of rubbish matted the scuffed carpet, a left behind water bottle that was half filled, for the second room was as devoid of furniture as the first, a stained mattress stacked atop two wooden pallets served as a bed, tossed sheets clung to the fabric suggestively, a couple of crates balanced to create a kind of dresser, the drawers askew with ransacked remembrance, a bare bulbed lamp plugged into a wall socket that had come loose of it’s plastic safety coating. The last occupants had tacked up sheeting across the window, scraps of random printed fabric fluttered in an unseen gust of wind that crept through a crack in the glass, and I matched Amelia’s actions, pushing open the shutters with unabashed glee as the gorgeous horizon shone into the the cobwebbed corners of the potential bedroom, the wind whispering a fresh scented newness to challenge mildew musk.

“Hows it looking in here?”

Parker joined me on the musty carpet, swinging his hand suggestively around my shoulder in a gesture that was half possessiveness and half reassurance, his deft calloused fingers tangling in my hair with the kind of mumbling stroke that explained the comfort shown between us, every inch of me was his, he need not ask permission to encroach upon personal space. 

“Just needs a bit of tlc I guess, some clean sheets and a good scrub.”

“Sounds like a plan. Shall I head and get some bits or do you want to come?”

His head cocked to one side, his gaze leaving my decision entirely upto me, but I knew that to leave a man to his own devices may not be the best option, he would end up returning with a handful of wipes and a tub of bleach - hardly enough to restore the dirt caked walls to any semblance of habitable.

“I wouldn’t mind coming for a wander. Is it far, do you know where we can go?”

“There’s a market just down the street, a few blocks from here, a basic place but it’s huge, should be able to get some linen and a bit of food to stock up with.”

“Awesome, let me just grab a coat. What about the kids, will Amelia be able to handle them on her own.”

As if she had been called, Amelia’s shaky yet firm tone echoed through the thin partition.

“Of course, I’m fine with the two of them… head off.”

Listening to the achy tiredness in her voice, I shook my head at Parker, glad to be hidden from Amelia’s determined stare. She believed she was invincible, yet the ordeal which we had been through was still prevalent upon her waif like figure, dark shadows beneath her drooping eyelids unnerved me almost as much as the yellowing bruises that criss crossed her protruding rib bones. Finally catching on to my gesture, Parker spoke up loudly as he strode back into the larger room, I could hear his footsteps clamber over to the makeshift sofa below the window, legs coming to a still as he bent to kiss her clammy forehead.

“You stay here beautiful, I’m going to nip and see Jakob and Mira, they have a kitchenette and I’ll sort you out with some tea for while we are gone, we’ll take the children with us, they’ll appreciate some time away, like an adventure… won’t that be fun poppet…”

His words took on a playful tone as Tilly gazed up from her position tucked beside the sagging sofa cushions, mournful eyes studying her father with intense curiosity, here was a man who had suddenly disappeared as we were snatched in the middle of the night, yet he had strolled back into our lives and wanted everything to be the same as previously, although it could never be the same. The carefree attitude had been lost somewhere along the long trip east to our captors hidey-hole deep in the country, no matter how hard Amelia smiled, the watery tears still caught in the back of her throat at the remembrance of offering up her body to save her child, so much sacrifice had been demanded, and it was only a matter of time before our shared love would come up against the secrets we had kept, trickling out like a plague of actions at the hands of a brute.

As Parker left, I took Nicolai from his other mothers arms, watching Amelia shrink back slightly as the heavy baby weight was relieved from her, a few pounds of week old child a strain on the exhaustion that taunted her fragile body.

“Hey, you okay?”

My hand that cupped her cheek was as soft as the spoken words, gentle and barely audible against the constant buzz of people surrounding us, a human hubbub that snuck through window panes and beneath doorframes. 

“Mmhmm. I can look after them you know.”

Always defiant, she stuck her bottom lip out slightly in a vague semblance of tantrum pout, her chin resting in the palm of my hand, nuzzling with the crave for contact like a suckling babe.

“I know love, but you can have a rest, besides it’ll be good to get them out in the fresh air, see the world.”

She nodded, not entirely convinced as I wrapped Nicolai back in the faded pillowcase blanket, tucking him into my chest in his meagre clothing that I could only hope would bear contact against the growing storm outside. With her mothers help, Tilly shrugged on the boys coat that had been bestowed upon her thin frame and stood up uncertainly, wavering as she stared around in wonder, waiting hopefully for her father to come back once more.