10.31.2008 | By: Alisa Callos


A restless wind rustled the leaves as Jonah and I crept down the dark street toward Mr. McGregor’s house. Clouds covered the moon and then skittered away creating deep shadows that drifted and crawled ahead of us. On the next street over, we could hear laughing children run door to door with delighted cries of “trick or treat!” Mr. McGregor’s street was empty.

Mr. McGregor’s house sat back from the sidewalk, across from the cemetery, and all of us children knew that it was haunted by the ghost of Mr. McGregor’s dead wife Jennifer, who came out every Halloween night to walk among the graves. Mr. McGregor, we knew, was not far behind, being the closest thing to a walking skeleton that we had ever seen. We would watch him from across the playground next to our school as he tended the graves in the cemetery. On sunny days, we would sneak into the graveyard through a hole in the fence to play tag or read the headstones, but always with a watchful eye for Mr. McGregor who took a grim view of children.

That Halloween night, Jonah and I were on a Scavenger hunt. It was hosted every year by our best friend Michael’s mother. Our list of items was almost complete. We had a dead spider with web, a feather, a pebble from the lake, a purple leaf, a broom, a piece of candy—the easiest one, a cross we’d made from two twigs and a piece of straw, and a head of garlic. The only thing left was a picture of a haunted house thus the reason we were sneaking past the graveyard to the only ‘genuine’ haunted house in town. Jonah had gotten a digital camera for his birthday last month and we knew no one else’s list would be as complete as ours—if only our courage would hold.

Walking past the cemetery, shadows from the moon, made the stones seem to shift and shudder. We walked a little faster. Neither of us would dare to speak for fear of attracting unwanted attention. The sound of our feet on the sidewalk seemed unnaturally loud. We paused briefly as a low growl came from up ahead, it was followed by a spate of barking. A cat yowled to the right—a short screech and then silence. The trees that lined the street menaced, branches taking the shapes of skeletal fingers with long black nails. The house ahead loomed, growing taller and more sinister the closer we came.

Jonah had his camera out and ready. Just a little closer and we could run for it. The house was dark. Deserted. We stopped at the end of the sidewalk, and Jonah raised his camera. Screeeech…the front door began to open. Was it the ghost of Mr. McGregor’s wife? Hurry up Jonah! My heart racing, I grabbed his sleeve. We have to get out of here! The words stuck in my throat. Suddenly, a sound behind us. “Booo!” A flash of light. Not waiting for my friend, I turned and ran.

We were right of course—the picture clinched it—but forever in my nightmares, I will hear Mr. McGregor’s laughter following us all the way down the street.
10.25.2008 | By: Alisa Callos

The Obituary

Today’s prompt for Sunday Scribblings (#134) is bragging. It is my first posting as a Scribbler and thus somewhat intimidating. I guess maybe this is why I wanted to try, because while I may not be good at bragging, I can always imagine ‘what if...’

The obituary in the paper could never begin to capture her life…the subtle nuance that enfolded the sum total of her days. Her philosophical mind that always inquired into the ‘why’ or ‘how’. The vivid laughter that rang out at the absurd or whimsical. The words in her mind, always seeking to be written in an order that would explain the world and paint a vivid picture. Or the thrill and tingle that would go down her arms when those words ordered themselves into a masterpiece and made her fingers tremble and her heart shake. It could not capture her love of the forest and mountains or show how her heart ached when she was away from them. It could not show the joy her children brought her or tell of her belief that a child’s laughter could cure all the worlds’ ill’s if it would but stop and listen.

The obituary was dry and boring…when she was born and when she died. It did not show her love for sunny yellow daffodils or the giddy delight she felt when the first winter snow fell. It didn’t show her love of all things artistic or her secret wish that she could paint beauty. Nor did it show her talent for cooking. Her fondness for all foods foreign…Thai, Greek, Mexican, or Japanese…she could find a recipe and make it shine. It didn’t show the pleasure she felt after a run well skied or her terror of going too fast. It didn’t show her love of history or how much she loved a good cup of coffee while talking with friends.

The obituary showed nothing of her caring. Caring that had started in childhood with the first stray kitten brought home from Bible school. Caring that made her a loving daughter, mother, nurse, and wife. It showed nothing of her faith, or politics, or hope, or knowledge. Nothing of her belief in humanity’s goodness. Or her belief that someday the world would be a better place. No. None of these could be captured by the words in the paper. Instead, her life is captured in the mind of every child hugged, every cut that was bandaged, every meal cooked, every friend laughed with. It is written in every story she told, every person she loved. It is my story.
10.23.2008 | By: Alisa Callos

Tamarack Pines

The Tamarack Pines have burst in to flame this past week. Everywhere I look the forest is bright with their golden beauty. Fall has come in full force here in my little hollow with the pines and birch competing for the brightest colors. Icy crisp mornings turn golden in the afternoon. There are still a few Shaggy Mane mushrooms bold enough to poke their heads above the frosty lawn but the smell of snow is in the air and I think it will not be long before we are again in a winter wonderland.

My harvest is mostly finished. Ruth is bringing apples this weekend, which means that sometime in the coming week or so, I will go to my parent’s house to “do applesauce.” My sister-in-law Mae, who is beginning her own journey into the world of food preservation, will be joining us for the first time this year. Yesterday, despite a wicked head cold, I cleaned out the freezer to make room for a hundred pounds of elk meat coming from the meat processor. This courtesy of Kevin’s hunting partner Craig. While cleaning, I found three lone quarts of raspberries sent to me last year by Aunt Nancy and made them into jam.

The bulbs have been planted, the pots put away and the garden hoses stored. I’ve still a little work to do in the garden, but it feels good to be wrapping up the season as fall temperatures drive us more and more indoors. The forest glen below my house has taken on that special fall smell that so drew me to our property… an odd mixture of Christmas tree, rain, wood smoke and frost. It always makes me think of forests and camping…a smell of my childhood. To be completely honest, I have to admit that because of my cold, I can’t really smell it right now, but the air does feel crisp and cold in my nose. It's the perfect temperature outside, for a warm cup of cocoa.

10.15.2008 | By: Alisa Callos

On War and Leadership

I wanted to share a quote for your consideration. It was given to me recently by a friend. Ask yourself: How could we let this happen? What do I need to do to make a difference?

"Naturally, the common people don't want war, but after all, it is the leaders of a country who determine the policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag people along whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. This is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in every country"

-Herman Göring, Nazi leader

Recorded by psychologist Gustave Gilbert who spoke to him at the Nuremberg trials - April 18, 1946
10.14.2008 | By: Alisa Callos


I wonder if the word ‘harvest’ has much meaning for most Americans in our society today. I imagine that most would envision fall, Thanksgiving maybe, Halloween and pumpkins, autumn colors: green, gold, orange and red. For me and other gardeners and farmers however, the word conjures a completely different meaning. Namely, lots of hard work.

My grandfather was a farmer. He grew wheat, potatoes, mint, alfalfa, flowers and gardens. For my grandfather, harvest was a backbreaking, never-ending, daily grind. As a child, I remember harvest times as great fun. Mint harvest was my favorite. It meant riding on the combine behind my grandpa, watching great rows of green as they were picked up and shot into the truck we were towing. April would drive the truck and sometimes she would let me ride with her. I felt so grown up riding with her because she let me shift the truck as we slowly wound our way up and around Haystack Butte to the mint still. I remember the sharp, eye burning, nose tingling, overpowering smell of mint when you went in the still, the ancient refrigerator where everyone kept their lunches and the drizzle of gold coming from the trucks into great metal barrels. One summer, my aunt and uncle stayed in a travel trailer out back of the still. They had a cocker spaniel puppy named Tuffy who loved to bite my toes. That summer my aunt and I painted the still doors a lovely pea green. I was six. It was 1974.

My grandfather has been dead for many years and harvest has new meaning for me. I’ll probably never know it as the chore it was for him, but I can now more fully appreciate the work it entails. The harvest work that links me to every ancestor who harvested before me is part of my family’s legacy. It links every mother, father, grandmother, and grandfather who harvested, canned, or froze the fruits of a summers’ garden. It links my family as we get together to share the labor of canning salsa and shucking corn with all those who came before. And despite all the hard work, I realize how lucky I am to have such a wonderful gift from them.
10.04.2008 | By: Alisa Callos

The Bird Feeder

Sam and I have set up a bird feeder outside our front window. It sits on the rail of the deck and we have filled it with black oil sunflower seeds. The song sparrows have come in droves…along with about eight pairs of Red Crossbills, a small chickadee and a couple of very shy Black Headed Grosbeaks.

Immediately after setting up the feeder we got out our field guide and set to work. The Crossbills were easy as they have a very distinctive bill and there aren’t very many species in our book. The Grosbeaks took a little longer because they never stay at the feeder for long and they spook very easily. The sparrows are almost a lost cause for amateurs like Sam and I. There are so many of them, they all look alike and they won’t sit still. We have several different sizes however and so I think that we have probably 3-5 species.

The sparrows are by far the funniest. They fly at each other, flutter their wings and get down-right snippy. They’ll fluff up their feathers and open their beaks as wide as possible when trying to intimidate their neighbor. Sometimes they’ll even land on each other as they jostle for space at the feeder. Yesterday I set another pie tin of seeds out on the deck because there were just too many of them. Now we have our very own flock of birds. One minute they will be at the feeder and then for no apparent reason, all will swoop off to the trees, sometimes leaving only a straggler or two. A few minutes later, they are back again. What amazes me is that despite all the twitting and fluttering, everyone gets fed, they don’t seem to mind if the fellow next to them is the same species or not, big or little, one and all eventually get a turn. Nothing is wasted. I’m sure there is a parallel to be drawn, a possible commentary on our society, but today is Saturday, and I am content just sitting here with my cup of coffee, enjoying the show.
10.02.2008 | By: Alisa Callos

A Zachary

“Hi Mom,” says Zachary looking in through the drivers window at me. “There’s two horse poo’s up here.” He is standing on the back seat leaning out the car window looking at the top of the car. We are waiting for his sister’s dance class to end and the car has suddenly become to small to contain his imagination.

“I can see your ‘peuter’. He says, again looking in the window at my laptop this time. I glance up to see his pixie smile above my left shoulder. I have always loved his pronunciation of this word.

“You can?” I say grinning at him.

“Uh huh. And your glasses, and your phone, and your seed.” This last a horse chestnut picked up by his sister to take home and plant.

“I can sit on the window and not fall out.” He says with a three year olds confidence. “Wanna see?”

“Yea.” I say with a grin. He sits in the window to prove his point before moving on to climbing into the cargo area. A friendly yellow tabby cat jumps up on the hood of the car and proceeds with curiosity, to explore the outside of our car before climbing in the front window and walking across the dash.

“Why’s Sidney wanna come in our car Mom?” He asks, back from the cargo area to the backseat again. Sidney, our own yellow tabby, is quite a bit larger than this kitty.

“That’s not Sidney, love.” I say. “Sidney’s at home.” We both watch as the cat explores the dash and then walks daintily out the front passenger window and along the backseat window before jumping to the roof of the car. A large blue Suburban parks next to us in the parking lot. Another Mom here to pick up a child from dance class. Zachary looks on with interest. She gets out to go into the studio.

“Hi!” Zachary calls to her, getting a friendly “Hi there” in return.

“That’s my friend.” He says of this complete stranger.

“You’re a good friend.” I reply sagely.

“No I’m not.” He says.

“You’re not?” I ask puzzled.

“No. I’m a Zachary.”