Thursday, May 18, 2017

Well, what have I been up to? by Nancy M Bell

You can click here to find out more about His Brother's Bride.

Now on to the good stuff. I just got back from a 15 day cruise from Fort Lauderdale to Los Angeles. I know! How cool is that? It was a wonderful time with stops in Aruba, Cartagena, Columbia, the Panama Canal, Puentareans Puerto Rico, San Juan del Sur Nicaragua, Huatalco Mexico ( a well kept secret) and Puerto Vallarta Mexico. We went on two tours through mangroves. One outside Caragena where the water was thigh deep and there were no crocodiles. We got in low riding dug out canoes which a local guide poled through the waters past birds and a fisherman who demonstrated how to fish with his net. Then a taste of coconut water right out of the coconut and traditional dancing. I got to take part with a young native man, what a blast. The mangrove in Puerto Rico were another story. We sailed along (in a much bigger boat than Cartagena) the Tarcolas River seeing many birds and lizards. The waters are deep and they do contain many crocodiles! We saw some smaller younger ones and then were thrilled to see Tornado (as the locals call him) The crocodile is a huge 14 feet long. He lay half-submerged only a few feet from us. Then submerged and went off in search non vigilant cattle looking to drink from the water's edge.

Panama Canal was amazing, takes all day to go through the three locks and across Gatun Lake.

In Nicaragua, we visited a 16th century church built by the Spainards. Then we traveled to Amaya which is where the first female president of Nicaragua lived, it is now a resort for people to relax at. No WIFI, no TV etc. It is right on the huge Lake Nicaragua which is home to two large volcanoes. The acid rain from the volcanoes can be an issue for the surrounding farmers. The flowering trees were spectacular, the rainy season is just starting so much of the landscape was sere and brown, but starting to bloom.

In Puerto Rico brilliant yellow trees flared on the hill sides, they are called Yellow Oak by the locals or The Sun Is Shining Tree. We also saw Plumeria trees blooming in Mexico and Nicaragua.

I didn't manage to get any good pictures of the beautiful yellow trees. I've also been keeping busy promoting my Canadian Historical Bride book His Brother's Bride. Here's a small excerpt:

From Chapter Eight

The low winter sun bathed the snow in a red-orange glow and touched the bare trees with gold. Annie’s breath puffed out before her as she struggled to wade through the knee deep snow. Where were those blasted cows? She’d searched all their usual haunts when they managed to knock down the cedar rail snake fence. Today they’d simply walked over the top of it where this afternoon’s wind piled the drift high and hard enough to make easy passage.
She glanced at the sun. If they didn’t miraculously appear soon she’d have to leave them. Father would be livid, but there was no way Annie wished to be caught in the wintery bush after sunset. The moon was full and the chorus of hunting wolves had serenaded her for the past two nights while she lay with the quilts pulled up to her nose in bed.
Sighing, she stopped on the edge of the gully where the small creek lay frozen below. No sign of the five cows she was searching for. Thank heavens for small mercies the bull was in the barn and so she wasn’t also dealing with his fractious nature. Most of the time the animal was quite tractable for her, but in the bush with his harem…? Annie shook her head. Quit woolgathering, girl. Or you will be wolf bait. She let go of the trunk of the maple sapling she was using to balance and stepped back. The wind changed and she froze. Is that them? Is that Sally’s bell?
The evening wind carried the distinct, but faint, clang of a cow bell. Annie frowned, they never headed east when they went on a ramble, especially in the winter. Setting her jaw, she turned her footsteps toward the sound. Now she’d found a trace of the missing animals she couldn’t very well in all good faith head for home. Although that was exactly what her frozen fingers and toes were urging her to do. Wrapping the scarf tighter around her neck and lower face she set off.
A branch sprang back at her and slapped her cold cheek. Uttering words which would earn her a beating if Father ever heard her, Annie blinked back the sting of tears and plowed on. If only Steve and Evan were home she wouldn’t be out in the rapidly darkening woods on her own. Ivan was helping search but only closer to the house. Why couldn’t the stupid war in Europe just end? Annie missed her brothers more than she ever thought she would and not just because they made her lot in life easier. She forced herself to keep moving, distracting herself with thoughts of the war and her brothers. Evan’s last letter had the return address of a convalescent home, he said he was fine but had come down with the influenza that seemed to be running rampant through the wet muddy trenches in Belgium and France. Some associates of Father’s in London had sent some newspapers with their last post. Of course they made the whole affair seem much more glory filled than it was, but Father said if you read between the lines and what they weren’t saying you could determine a great deal.
A loud moo startled Annie so she nearly tripped and landed on her bum. Only by grasping a young birch sapling did she manage to avoid falling. However, the tree did dump its small load of snow on her head. Yelping, she jumped back and beat the wet snow from her coat and scarf. The light was fading and the bush was full of deepening shadow. The cow mooed again and she turned in that direction. In a few minutes she came across the track the silly things had beaten in the snow. Moving quicker on the easier going Annie called for the herd. If she was lucky they would be cold and hungry and quite tired of their adventure and happy to come to a familiar voice. Only Sally and Maud were still milking, but their udders should be making their demands made by now too. Another point in Annie’s favour.
Shoving through some serviceberry bushes she emerged into a bit of a clearing. Releasing a sigh of relief at the sight of all five missing bovines, she spread her arms and began herding them back toward the barnyard. The sun was mostly behind the trees and low hills but there was still enough light in the sky for her to determine which way was home. A long shivering howl rose into the clear royal blue heavens which was answered by another and then another.
“C’mon, girls. Get moving unless you’d rather be somebody’s dinner.” She waved her arms and the cattle obligingly moved off toward home. Annie smiled, their sense of direction when it came to food and home was probably more finally honed than her own. Although, left on their own they would have stayed where they were waiting for someone to come find them and urge them home.
“Need some help?” George’s voice sounded from the deep shadow just to the right of the trail.
“George? Is that you?” Annie couldn’t keep the breathlessness sound from her voice. “You scared the life out of me,” she declared coming even with him. “How did you know where to find me?”
“Ivan told me which way you were planning to go.” He fell into step beside her, the cows moving ahead of them at a quicker pace now.
“You went to the house? Was that wise?” She frowned at him.
“Just by luck Mister Miller sent me with a message for your father. It was fairly late when I arrived and Ivan was just coming in from the bush. Mister Baldwin was worried for you and I volunteered to go out and look for you. Your mother didn’t want him out in the dark with that cold he has.”
“Well, I’m glad it was you who found me. Go on, git up there, girls,” she interrupted herself to urge the cows on.
“I’m happy to hear that.” George took her mittened hand in his.
“You must be frozen! Where are your mitts?” Annie was aghast to see his hand was bare.
“Don’t have any, I’m afraid.” He shrugged.
“Why, that ridiculous! Surely the Millers can spare you a pair of mitts!”
“Not so far, but the winter’s young yet. It’s just the end of November.”
Annie stopped in her tracks digging in the big pockets of her coat. She pulled out a pair of thick hand knit mittens and shoved them at him. “Here, they’re a bit tattered, but they’re warm.”
“No, now. They’re yours, I can’t just take them.” George shook his head.
She ducked her head. “I made them myself. It would please me if you would wear them.”
“In that case, how can I refuse,” he replied gallantly and pulled the mitts over his reddened hands.
“Oh, I can see the lights of the house. We’re almost home. You must come in and get warm,” Annie insisted. The cows broke into a shambling trot at the scent of home and scrambled back over the drift and broken fence into the barn yard.
George halted and caught her hands again. “I mustn’t. Mister Miller was expecting me back some time ago. I still have chores to do there.”
She tipped her head back to see his face better in the strengthening moonlight. “You won’t be in any trouble will you? For being late, I mean?”
“I would for sure, except your father was kind enough to write me a note explaining he asked me to go and look for his lost cows. No, that should set things right.” He paused and leaned down to brush her cheek with his. “You go on in the house, I’ll lock the cows in the barn and throw them some hay. I have permission to borrow a lantern for the walk home. Go on.” George released her hands and gave her a gentle push. “I’ll be fine. Don’t worry.”
“You will be careful? And be sure to take a full lantern.”
He nodded and moved toward the barn.
“Good night then, George,” she called softly.
“Good night, Annie.” His voice floated back to her through the moonlit shadows.