author's note:This novel has a soundtrack.
The overall theme song for the story is Home In The Woods by Cory Chisel and the Wandering Sons. Each main setting where events unfold has its own theme song from the soundtrack; some events and main characters also have their own theme song.
The soundtrack is the timeline – the chronology of events
the theme song from the soundtrack for the first chapter is Riddles & Lies by Danny Schmidt www.dannyschmidt.com
"When the light hits me just right and brings a smile to your lips, tell me …and let me taste it."
Vivien would gaze out the windows…the doors…the skylights…ever hopeful, ever watchful for the slightest glimpse of Lancelot’s distinctive shape and coloring in the skies above. So many shadows would swoop into view and her eyes would hungrily follow the soaring movement, only to reveal an imposter or an illusion.
She’d found the wounded osprey in a top corner of the nursery/infirmary at her parents’ wildlife rehabilitation center. Somehow, he’d managed to find his way into the building and up into the rafters, 30 feet in the air, with a broken wing. He was scared and would allow no human within ten feet of his corner yet somehow he knew this was where he needed to be.
Vivien nimbly climbed up the rafters and across the beams she used to play on as a young girl. She tried to bring help to him. His eyes never let go their lock on her movement. And it was his eyes, with an almost imperceptible but unmistakable fire that warned her when she got too close. Vivien would have to wait: she’d have to earn his trust. She returned his gaze, her eyes fixed on his. She’d talk out loud to him. He was hurt: his wing lay listless at his side, somewhat off kilter, askew. But not just his wing, his fierce spirit seemed wounded as well.
Their relationship began cautiously; each had the power to harm the other. Vivien would spend hours watching and talking with this beautiful bird as he watched her. She was so captivated by his beauty – an osprey is a stunning creature. He was so regal, so athletic, so capably built and so wild. His eyes seemed to penetrate her completely: they were piercing and fierce yet never threatening. One might think some of the smaller animals in the nursery/infirmary would be in danger but Lancelot never seemed to look at anything but Vivien yet he seemed aware of everything.
Vivien felt a kind of connection with him. She was also lost, her spirit wounded, she just hadn’t recognized it yet. The choices she’d made, the path she’d led her family…”maybe I was wrong…” she thought.
Vivien’s parents, Nora and Stan bought the sanctuary soon after they wed.
They had decided early on in their courtship that the new life they would start together would be one with purpose. Both naturalists by hobby, not profession, they decided that they would live on and sustain their life with and from the land. They’d made a list of revenue generating ideas: Christmas trees, fruit trees, bees, etc. Wildlife sanctuary had not once entered the conversations.
After having shown them every tree farm, orchard and mill that was available within a 600 mile radius, (and they had rejected each one for a slightly different reason), the exasperated realtor arrived at her weekly meeting with Nora and Stan carrying a folder containing the description and photos of a 225 acre wildlife sanctuary whose owners were searching for a buyer with “a calling to protect and serve the abundance that nature simply provides”. The young dreamers looked at each other and repeated out loud: “with a calling to protect and serve the abundance…” They smiled. They had to go see this sanctuary; they had to meet these owners.
The land was young and heavily manicured: “more domesticated than what we were hoping for”, was Stan’s first response to the realtor. Nonetheless, as young lovers beginning their new life together, potential not finished dream is what they really sought, whether they knew it or not and this sanctuary was rich in potential. It didn’t leave their minds. They called the realtor. The deal was done and Nora and Stan moved in within 6 weeks of the initial tour. They passionately embraced their new roles as stewards of the land, caretakers of the wildlife and romantically dubbed the sanctuary Avalon.
Nora and Stan began immediately, removing fences and other unnatural barriers and inviting the natural sanctuary to return. They fed the young oaks, walnuts and maples. They connected the small ponds by digging out the old creek bed, and planted willows along the banks. They encouraged the prairie and woodland of this land’s past to return; they nourished the roots that remained and added fruit and evergreen saplings.
Vivien was born on the full moon during their third spring at Avalon, on the wave of a forceful storm, the kind that inspires discussion about updating the country’s warning systems and energy grids, survival stashes and basement safe zones.
The storm that chased Vivien’s birth caused the destruction of much of the woodland habitats in the area. The tiny islands, exposed and vulnerable in vast oceans of plowed fields were no more: erased in a moment by the force of the storm.
And yet, there the young family stood, in the middle of a 225 acre sanctuary, virtually unscathed.
Nora and Stan put out a call and invited the authorities to bring the rescued animals to Avalon. They would rehabilitate the survivors of the storm. Within weeks of Vivien’s birth, her world was teeming with habitats and enclosures separating raccoons, coyotes, deer, ducks, owls and rabbits. The very air was alive and moving: nothing was still.
And this is where Vivien and her two brothers grew up.
All three of Nora and Stan’s children moved away for college, choosing institutions in different states. Each had at some point, moved back near Avalon during their young adult lives but only Vivien remained; though she had not been very involved in the sanctuary since before college. She graduated with an English degree and had enjoyed many of her various teaching roles. The English language fascinated Vivien. When her mother suffered an illness a few years ago, she began helping out more and more on the land of her youth, working closely first with Nora and later with her father when her mother’s health worsened, leaving her virtually incapable of physical activity outside the home.
For almost two years, almost every day, often more than once, Vivien traveled the 85 mile round trip from their home in the suburbs of Milwaukee out to Avalon and back again. It had taken almost two years but Vivien finally conceded and moved with her husband and three children out to the land of her youth.
Soon after, it became clear that in order for the rehabilitation center at Avalon to continue, Vivien was going to have to make a more full time, long term commitment. She did not submit her resume to be considered for a position the next school year and instead dove completely into the family land.
Vivien stepped in with a resigned determination to make Avalon safe, legally and financially speaking, long term. For almost forty years, Nora and Stan had kept the sanctuary alive and vital with their tireless passion for the animals and for the land. Vivien feared its vibrant role in the community would diminish in the future without the incredible dedication and passion of her parents.
…she decided that in order to solidify the value of Avalon in the community, the rehabilitation center should expand beyond raccoons, deer, coyotes and rabbits. Vivien felt that if they could add eagles, hawks and falcons to the list of animals they could help, more funding would be available and more community interest generated. The sanctuary needed more people, both physically and financially.
And now it’s today…
Mom had always been resistant to the idea of bringing in large birds of prey. She said they would endanger the other animals…(even when I pointed out that the coyotes didn’t eat the deer, raccoons or ducks) she felt there was way too much red tape for the raptor rehabilitation licenses…Mom always preferred to fly just below the radar…or maybe that was Dad?
…she also thought it was a “selling out” – the large birds of prey garner a lot more public interest – they’re sexy, dangerous, exotic (when compared to the common deer, coons and ducks) – splashy/flashy…like a museum bringing in a King Tut exhibit in order to attract the people and hope they may also notice the less flashy but equally important exhibits.
I knew this. I stood firm and made my case about preserving the legacy and its place in the community.
My husband, Jason is an academic by nature and was only mildly enthusiastic about the sanctuary: “a place for poets to wander, not live” he was fond of saying. The idea of raptors, however, certainly intrigued him. He began reading everything ever written about raptor rescue, thrilled by the challenge of learning something new. We both volunteered at regional facilities: zoos, parks and arboretums; we took classes and attended lectures. Together, late at night, we studied the rules and regulations and procedures. Together, we applied for the required permits to add raptors to the animals we could accept at Avalon’s rehabilitation center. Together, we worried and speculated on the day the inspector was scheduled. And together, we popped the champagne and celebrated this new chapter after the anxious inspector, a rare smile on his face, shook our hands in congratulations and proclaimed: “With the authority vested in me by the state of Wisconsin, I now pronounce Avalon a wildlife rehabilitation center fully licensed and certified to accept hawks, falcons and eagles, in addition to owls, raccoons, coyotes and deer.”
But not long after, we began drifting apart...