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At age five, Amy told her mother that the thought of swimming scared her. Not surprisingly, her mother poo-pooed the idea, and said that fear showed weakness and stupidity. From then on, Amy said she hated swimming and never admitted any fear to her mother again. I don’t just hate swimming, I hate you! Amy’s mother never hugged her, gave her encouragement or praise, or told Amy she loved her. Sometimes she smacked her around. Someday I’ll grow up and get away from you!

Amy attended a few of her swimming lessons, but most of the time she thought of a seemingly reasonable excuse to stay home. If her mother still forced her to go, Amy told the instructor that she was just supposed to watch this week. The instructor never bothered to check her story.

*

At eighteen, a brunette, green-eyed beauty Amy met handsome, blond, blue-eyed, nineteen-year- old Ian. They immediately connected. Amy felt attracted to Ian from the first time she met him. She tried to make sure he would like her too. Yes, she loved football. She mentally stuck her finger in her throat. Yes, she loved the beach and swimming — lie.  Yes, she loved Thai food — lie. Amy ‘loved’ pretty much everything that Ian did.

Ian’s family owned a little cabin at a quiet lake. Ian loved going there, so it became Amy’s favorite too. Not entirely a lie this time, as she enjoyed the cabin, sunbathing and lounging in a beach chair reading, digging her toes into the warm sand. She also liked splashing around in the shallow water. The little cabin sat at the top of the beach, just minutes from the shore. Few people came to that part of the lake. The privacy suited the young couple.

Amy and Ian enjoyed a sweet, passionate romance. Ian expressed his love for her often. It felt amazing to be loved and appreciated. Within a year they got engaged. Two years later they married. Her mother refused to attend the ceremony.

They visited the cabin often. Amy didn’t go into the lake deeper than her knees. I need to tell him the truth. She tried several times, but her embarrassment and shame stopped her.  He’ll know I’ve been lying all along. He’ll also know I am afraid of water. “Fear is a sign of weakness and stupidity”, her mother had said. Amy created a list of excuses to not swim: That time of the month, headache, wanted to sunbathe, felt sick, and on and on.

By the end of their first year of marriage, Amy and Ian decided to start a family. Months went by, however, without a pregnancy. Tests revealed fertility issues. They tried in vitro fertilization, with its daily shots, Amy’s emotional roller coaster from the hormones, and Ian’s stress from dealing with Amy’s volatility. Their hopes lifted then quickly plunged when the in vitro didn’t work. They tried again, unsuccessfully.

The third time they tried the news was good! The doctor confirmed Amy’s pregnancy. They waited impatiently for the nine months to pass. When the time came, the birth had been lengthy and painful. Ian stayed by Amy’s side. “I love you, my darling. I know this is hard, but soon our son will be here.” It wasn’t soon, but eventually Nathan Bryan entered the world, the most beautiful baby boy they’d ever seen.

Nathan couldn’t have been an easier baby. He rarely cried, learned to smile and laugh early, and loved cuddling. They knew Nathan would likely be their only child, but with his cheerful, loving nature, he more than fulfilled their parenting dreams.

As Nathan grew from a tiny baby to a chubby toddler, their trips to the cabin resumed. Nathan loved splashing in the water, digging his little fingers deep in the soft bottom. He’d giggle and clap his wet hands together. Amy sat in the shallow water with him, laughing at his antics.

When Nathan turned three, he took his first set of swimming lessons. Ian encouraged Amy to attend the classes. “It’s mostly moms there. You’d have fun.”

“Come swim, Mama,” Nathan added.

Amy made an excuse. She saw the flash of disappointment on Ian’s face, and looked away. I should tell him now, get it over with. She couldn’t bring herself to confess.

By four, Nathan had learned to float on his back and dog paddle. He’d become a water baby and loved spending time in the lake.

Ian finally voiced his frustration, “Why won’t you go swimming with me? When we first met you said you loved to swim.”

Here is the perfect opportunity to come clean. After a long moment, she replied, “I did. I’m sorry, love, I guess things change.” Fortunately, Ian let it pass.

One warm June afternoon, Amy relaxed at the beach in a lounge chair, reading a mystery novel. Ian played in the water with Nathan. “Deeper, Daddy, deeper!”

“Come out, Nate. I need to talk to mommy.” Ian and Nathan held hands, swinging their arms as they approached her chair.

“Honey, I have an awful headache. I need to lie down. Will you keep an eye on Nate? He wants to go in deeper now so you’ll need to watch him carefully.”

Amy hesitated. What if something goes wrong? “I think you should stay with Nathan, or we should all go to the cabin.”

“No!” Nathan stated. “I wanna swim!”

“Come on, Amy. I need to lie down.”

Tell him now! “Okay, love, I’ll watch him.” Ian left for the cabin.

“Let’s go swim mommy,” Nathan pulled at her hand.

Amy followed him into the water. “Please stay in the shallow water, okay? Mommy can’t swim today.”

Nathan pouted for a moment, then he skipped around in the water, splashing and giggling. I’ll keep a good eye on him, and everything will be fine. They played for a long time. Amy didn’t notice the weather change until rain splattered them. She realized that the wind had picked up. The waves had grown angry, crashing onto the shore. “Come on Nate honey. We have to go in.”

Nathan scowled, “No! I want to go deeper.” Amy reached to grab hold of him, but his wet hand slipped through hers. He rebelliously lunged deeper and a strong wave pushed him out even further. The rough waves tossed him as he struggled to tread water. “Mommy help me!”

“I’ll get Daddy!” Amy made it to the cabin in less than three minutes. She shook Ian awake. “Come with me. Nathan’s in too deep.”

“Why didn’t you swim out to get him?”

“Just come!” She shrieked, sprinting toward the beach, Ian at her heels. Please, please, let Nathan be okay.

“Where is he?” She pointed towards her last sighting of him and Ian dove into the waves. Please, God, let Ian find Nathan, and bring them both back to me safely.

Amy sprinted to the nearby payphone and called the police, then hurried back to the beach. Ian eventually reappeared —alone, exhausted, and shaking. Within minutes of his return, rescue boats were on the stormy lake searching for Nathan. Amy and Ian sank to their knees on the sand, crying in each other’s arms.

*

Fishermen found Nathan’s four-year-old body two days later. After he died, everything became a blur. The tears, the people, the funeral, the heart-crushing little-boy casket.

Nathan’s final words ran through Amy’s mind in an endless loop, “Mommy help me!” She didn’t tell Ian about it. 

Days became weeks and weeks became months. Ian and Amy began to pick up the remnants of their lives and move forward. They were sad, lost without Nathan’s cheerful presence, but at least they had each other.

Then, one rainy day, Ian finally asked the inevitable question. “Honey, why didn’t you try to save Nathan?”

Amy sighed, her eyes stinging with tears. It’s time. Ian deserves to know. “The truth is, dear, I almost drowned as a child, and ever since I’ve been afraid so I never learned to swim. I said I loved swimming when we were dating so you’d like me. The longer I waited to tell you the truth, the harder it got to admit. Then it was too late.”

“Too late?” Ian’s voice boomed. Amy flinched. “No! Any moment until Nathan drowned wouldn’t have been too late.” Tears streaked down his cheeks. “Now it’s too late, Amy, now! You knew you couldn’t swim. Why did you agree to watch him?”

“I thought it would be fine, but then the weather suddenly changed and the waves pushed him too far out. I am so, so sorry.”

“With everything we went through to finally conceive Nathan – the only child we can ever have — your lie cost our beautiful little boy his precious life!”

“You’re hurting and furious, Ian, and I don’t blame you, but this is also my loss. I loved Nathan too.” She sobbed, “I don’t know how to go on without him.”

Ian glared at her. “Then maybe you shouldn’t!”  He responded to the stricken look on Amy’s face and immediately recanted. “I didn’t mean that.”

He looked sombrely at her. “I do blame you. Your lies. You had endless opportunities to tell me the truth, but rather than facing reality you chose to lie. What else is a lie? Is our whole relationship a lie?”

“No. But I’ve told other lies — too many to count or even remember. Most were harmless. It’s a horrible habit, I know. Early on I learned from my mother that fear equals weakness, so I couldn’t be truthful without being weak. I thought you wouldn’t love me if you saw my weaknesses. My love for you and Nathan was never a lie.”

“I appreciate your explanation, if it’s true.” He shook his head, “I can’t even think right now. I’m going to call my brother Cameron to see if I can stay with him.”

“You’re leaving?” Amy’s voice trembled.

“For a few days. I thought we were beginning to heal from Nathan’s death. Now I don’t know what I think or feel. I’ll keep in touch with you.” He hugged her, then left.

Amy remained isolated in the house with the drapes drawn for three days. She spent much of her time in Nathan’s room, sitting on his little bed, her arms wrapped around her body, rocking for hours. The tape continued relentlessly: “Mommy help me! Mommy help me!” A river of tears fell as she whispered “I’m so sorry baby,” over and over in response.

Her phone rang several times. Twice someone came to the door. She heard the ping of messages on her tablet. She didn’t respond. 

On the third day, she listened to her phone messages and the messages and emails on her tablet. There were several from concerned friends and two from Ian. Her mother left one telephone message: “You let Nathan drown. You killed my Grandson! Everyone will know how worthless you are, I’ll make sure of it.” Amy’s body shook after she heard the message. On impulse, she phoned Ian.

“Amy! I’ve been so worried about you.”

“Could you come over for a while?”

“Of course,” Amy heard the kindness in his voice, and it made her want to cry again. “I’ll be there in about twenty minutes.”

When Ian arrived his face looked haggard and thin. They hugged for a long time, then sat silently on the couch.

Finally Amy spoke. “My mother left me a phone message. I don’t know how she found out. She said she will make sure everyone knows about Nathan and how worthless I am.” Amy looked at Ian, tears brimming in her eyes, her voice flat. “She’ll tell everyone. My family, my friends. How can I face them?”

“Honey, this is a tangled mess right now, but things will improve. You may lose some people over this, but the ones who truly love you will stand by you. We know you loved Nathan. Give it time.”

“I appreciate your kindness and support, but I don’t think I can handle it.”

“Amy, I know this whole situation is awful, but please don’t do anything rash.”

“Like killing myself? You said I should.”

He pulled her into his arms, hugging her tightly. “I said that in a moment of pain. I didn’t mean it. Please honey, promise me you won’t hurt yourself. We’ll get through this.”

Amy took his hands in hers. “I promise.” She smiled, “Enough of this talk. I’ll make coffee.”

Later, when Ian left to go back to his brother’s house, Amy considered her options. When she finally figured it out, she felt relieved and slept soundly.

*

The next morning Amy drove down the scenic road to the cabin. She walked to the beach, shivering in the October cold. The weather reminded her of the night Nathan died – rolling waves pounding against the shore.

It felt odd wading into the frigid water with her shoes on and fully clothed. Her body began trembling. Amy halted when the water reached her knees. Much further in and I won’t be able to save myself, just like I couldn’t save Nathan. She’d promised Ian she wouldn’t commit suicide, but he didn’t understand. I need to be with Nathan. Besides, Ian knows I lie, so why would he believe my promise?

Amy pushed into the deeper water, feeling panic, but also a sense of peace she hadn’t felt since Nathan died. Here I am, lake. I’m not afraid of you anymore! She took her last breath, then breathed out, out, out. Cold waves washed over her, filling her lungs. It felt painful, freezing, scary and freeing. As her body unsuccessfully tried to save itself, she heard, “Mommy help me!”

Mommy’s coming Nathan. I’m coming!  


Author Bio: Leslie lives in Saskatchewan, Canada. She has wanted to be a writer since she learned to read and write. During her earlier years, she focussed on poetry. Now her interest is primarily in fiction. Leslie has edited several newsletters as well as writing articles to contribute to them. She is currently working towards her Creative Writing Certificate. 


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Lessons In Plot: From Setup To Payoff

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By Joy Manné (the student) with Help and Encouragement from Karen Barr (the teacher)



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Meatloaf and Mashed Taters

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Art Subklew


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Found: A $20 Bill

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Portrait of the Artist at a Hideous Moment

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Zephyr

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Lesson in Subtext

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Joy Manné and Karen Barr

Roles

Teacher – Karen Barr

Student – Joy Manné

Teacher

WELCOME TO WEEK 8 OF SUBTEXT.

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Show don’t...

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Teenage Escape Plan

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Ylva the Úlfr

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Stargazer

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Stargazer, Rhode Island Red

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Eagles in Winter Storm "Stella"

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A poem in free verse

Before the nor'easter "Stella" arrives here—

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A Chant in Free Verse

Bathed and blessed, in fine white cotton clad,

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Do you wear shoes? Do they make a sound?

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I looked up and saw it.  I would have missed it if I hadn’t looked up when I...

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A Cinquain poem

 

 dragons

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swift runners, fire breathers

...

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Disquiet - Winner of our April 2018 Poetry Contest!

by

Judy Beaston

   

 A Poem in Free Verse

 

Waves crash, tumble, rumble

upon...

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Shellina, Part 2 ~ A Fairy Tale

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It’s winter morning at Bullrush Cove 

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Shellina opens up her eyes. Last night
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Rest In Peace My Canine Daughter

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I don't want a zombie dog,

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Up from...

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Ode To A Pair Of Faithful Boots

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Lina Sophia Rossi

                                        ...

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Sins of Forefathers

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Lina Sophia Rossi

Sinners

Blood stained hands

Must wash hands

Of my sins and sins of our forefathers.

...

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Conversation At The Checkout

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“I love black cats with golden-green eyes”

She said, moving the cat treats over the scanner


...

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Night is a Swim

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Night is a swim of soundless scribbles, clicking keys

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...

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Over cast skies,

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In these first days of fall, I water

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Whiskey Half-Barrel

by

Brigitte Whiting

 

 

Through my back window overlooking the yard

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Brigitte Whiting

 

I've left the last brown-eyed Susans,

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...

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Fruit of Betrayal

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I am disturbed by the inconsistency of yellow apples -

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Roadkill

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Katelyn Thomas

 

Asphalt sprouts wings -

all that remains.

Unfortunate crow.


Katelyn Thomas is...

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When Did You Last See Her?

by

Katelyn Thomas

 

 

The visitor pours out the moon,

watches the top crater,

before he realizes one...

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Serenity Prayer, Long Beach, 1956...a #MeToo recollection

by

Cynthia Reed

 

‘Whiskey,’ said my Nana, ‘too much whiskey in that man.’

he was big and his...

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Recipe for Writing a Poem

by

Glennis Walker Hobbs

After reading How to Write a Poem by Billy Collins

Gather the ingredients:

1 bushel of...

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Queen Elizabeth Gardens - Haiban

by

Glennis Walker Hobbs

The Queen Elizabeth Gardens, hidden in the geographic centre of Vancouver, British Columbia,

come as a complete...

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Bees

by

Gerardine Baugh


Gerardine Gail Baugh is a native Chicagoan who moved into the Northwest burbs of Illinois. Where she...

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9/11 – A Kyrielle

by

Glennis Walker Hobbs

They were days of desperation

and anxious anticipation,

planes hijacked, Bin Laden’s command,

and winds of...

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Farm Field

by

Gerardine Baugh

black dirt in hot sun
pieces of the past calling
seeds sown in straight rows

Sprouting green soft...

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Change Is

by

Albert Orjuela

Change is a boundless mechanism. It is not subject to time,and never seems to have a particular sense of...

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Ragdoll

by

Gerardine Baugh

Ragdoll flopping

Up and running fur flying

Walls, ceilings- my coffee


Gerardine Gail...

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To the Bottle Blonde in the White Car

by

Katelyn Thomas

I thought it was snowing in August until
one of the flakes swirling from your red
tipped fingers as...

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There Isn't Any Narcan In My Purse

by

Katelyn Thomas

She is
another
woman's
daughter.
She gives
her body,
would give
her soul -
funds
for one
more
hit.
...

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Losing You

by

Brigitte Whiting

They said there'd be a new normal
to which others nodded in agreement.
A cliché that implies losses are...

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Twilight

by

Brigitte Whiting

The last hour of dusk, while pine shadows
stretch and lengthen along the rocky shoreline,
and water laps and flows...

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Writing Excuses

by

Brigitte Whiting

I listen to the excuses, all of them finely honed.

He says, I'm reaching for a package of hamburger,
...

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First and Third Person

by

Andrew Dabar

She entered through one door
As he by another
Did cross a crowded floor
Strangers to each other

...

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Halloween Costume

by

Andrew Dabar

Another wolf in disguise
A pair of glowing eyes
Oh, cute little boy
Small as a toy
Let go...

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Why Poetry?

by

Luann Lewis

To capture a moment.
The moment a cool breeze lifts your hair.
The moment the scent of lilacs delights your...

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Why Flash?

by

Luann Lewis

Each story is like stepping through a door to an alternate dimension where time is out of proportion. Intellectually, I...

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Autumn Wind

by

Andrew Dabar

Late autumn wind
Whispering friend
You speak to my heart
Again and again
At times with the strongest of...

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Shellina ~ a Fairy Tale

by

Louise Saywer

Part I Bullrush Cove

The Bullrush Cove is a seaside nook,
Asleep in fairyland.
This summer eve...

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Knitting on the Corner in Winslow Arizona

by

Joyce Hertzoff

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Who Me?

by

Albert Orjuela

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Do They Make a Sound?

by

Gerardine Baugh

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Do you see what I see?

by

Albert Orjuela

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Frosty Morning

by

Gerardine Baugh

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Evening at the Beach

by

Kathryn Pollard

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March Nor'Easter #2

by

Brigitte Whiting

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First Morning Light

by

Albert Orjuela

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A View For All Faiths

by

Luann Lewis

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Feed Me

by

Gerardine Baugh

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A Mid-Winter's Summer Dream

by

Albert Orjuela

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Hitchcock Presbyterian Church at Night

by

Albert Orjuela

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Bodie Lighthouse at Sunset

by

RJ Hembree

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Croton Dam Waterfall

by

Albert Orjuela

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Itching for Your Love

by

Karen Barr

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Winter Tree

by

Hugo Janke

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Not So Fast...

by

Donna Sundblad

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First Encounters

by

Karen Barr

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Time To Shovel

by

Gerardine (Gail) Baugh

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Natural Thoughts

by

Ann Butts

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Super Moon

by

Lina Sophia Rossi

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Get Your Own Flower

by

Albert Orjuela

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Frozen Puddle

by

Gerardine (Gail) Baugh

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Brickfields, Kuala Lumpur

by

Cynthia Reed

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In Flight

by

Karen Barr

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This Guy Cracks Me Up

by

Albert Orjuela

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Cardinal in the Snow

by

RJ Hembree

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White Tailed Deer

by

Bert Piedmont

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Truck in a Field

by

RJ Hembree

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The Nose that Knows

by

Albert Orjuela

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All Roads Lead to Autumn

by

Albert Orjuela

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