“In Wildness is the preservation of the world.” ~ Henry David Thoreau
At the outset, I must acknowledge that I’m not a great hiker, definitely not a mountain or rock-climbing enthusiast, but I do find wilderness the only place where my internal batteries fully recharge. So even if it’s just a drive up a jutted dirt road not on the map, along a twisted winding street that snakes through wooded areas rarely traveled, or a hike along a quiet trail by the sea, that’s enough to release the stress from this fast-paced, congested world in which we live.
Wilderness holds an exalted place in my heart and imagination. Thus, wild places and dense forests feature prominently in my stories and poetry. Any vacation that includes an excursion into mountains, under big trees, or into hushed wilderness where I can hear the scurry of small animals or spy an eagle in flight provides the perfect escape. If I encounter the thrashing sounds of some larger creature, one that raises the hairs on my arms and neck, well, I might consider that an added bonus (stated here with lifted eyebrows!)
I recall just such a jaunt into the wilderness north of Vancouver on a peaceful lazy September day still warm enough that only light a jacket was required. At that time of year, the weather can be unpredictable, and easily drop in a sudden plunge to the first frosts of winter. But we were lucky, no hint of rain or inclement weather threatened the horizon and the sun shone bright above our heads.
We only intended to take a leisurely drive into the mountains north of the city and didn’t wear typical hiking gear. We carried a road map, water and a few protein bars, but no backpacks or other wilderness accoutrements. In typical spontaneous fashion, we stopped at a parking lot from where several trails launched.
Signposts indicated the lower part of the trail went from light to moderate difficulty with uneven surfaces and modest incline, transitioning to a more rugged difficult trail after a few miles. That sounded perfect, as we had no desire to go further than those first few miles. I’d be lucky to make it that far.
We passed no other hikers along the trail and heard no human voices in the distance. The forest seemed eerily quiet except for the racket of our feet kicking an occasional rock or stick, the sporadic tweeting and squawking of birds, and our voices, which were far too loud for the hushed surroundings. I always feel compelled to whisper when I’m in the forest unless the quiet seems exceptional, as it did that day. Then, I want to make noise. Some inner sense of self-preservation rises up and I think loud noise will deter any large prey. A ridiculous notion, really. If anything, the noise alerts all creatures to our presence, and a hungry beast might just decide lunch has arrived.
I readily identified Mountain Maple, Hemlock, Yellow Cedar, Lodgepole pine, and a variety of other towering conifers. These beauties reached heights of anywhere from 15m to over 85m (50 to over 285 feet!) Along the first half-mile of our climb, the sun laced golden streams of light through the trees and brush. But the further we climbed the thicker the trees and the denser the overhead canopy. It didn’t take long before this dense cover cloaked the brilliant blue sky and the afternoon sun dimmed to the shade of late twilight. After we’d traveled over a mile up the trail, we noticed a crisp drop in temperature and our climb grew precipitously steeper.
My husband and I froze mid-step when the birds suddenly quieted, and no scuttle disturbed the undergrowth. The hairs along my arms and neck had jumped to attention. We strained to hear something, anything besides the wind in the trees or occasional plop of a pinecone dropping. Nothing.
Simultaneously, we bent to pick up a large stick but my husband reached it first. I grabbed two palm-sized rocks. A sharp crack of breaking branches sounded further up the steep incline to our left. Then another and another until it sounded as though a very large creature thrashed about tearing down trees and shoving large boulders into each other.
This certainly was not a mountain lion, he would have stalked us stealthily through the brush, coming from behind, gauging which of us (most definitely me,) would make the easier, tastier catch. Deer are not so careless as to alert predators to their passing, unless it was an entire herd escaping some threat. Though I’d feel bad for the deer, at least they possessed four legs and were fleet of foot. I, on the other hand, am clumsy and slow.
I thought the hill entirely too steep for those sounds to be a moose, though I might have been wrong. Since no human voices accompanied the noise, we ruled them out too.
No, the loud thrashing noises came from a much larger, wild creature. If he wasn’t already killing something, he definitely sounded disgruntled and headed in our direction. That left the most likely candidate a bear. In those woods, it could have meant a black bear or a grisly, neither of which I had any desire to meet in close proximity. We certainly weren’t going to share our protein bars and engage in a pleasant chat about the weather.
The time for lots and lots of ruckus had arrived. We smacked our sticks and rocks against the trees, called out to make sure a person didn’t require our help (though what kind of help we might offer, I couldn’t imagine,) picked up bigger sticks, and scurried back to our car keeping a keen eye over our shoulders and on the hill above. We never caught a glimpse of that creature, which was fine with me because it could have been anything, even Bigfoot.
Exciting, enriching experiences like this will continue to show up in my writing, if for no other reason than I’m here to share the tale. I need to know that wilderness, though diminished by man’s intrusion, still thrives somewhere out there.
However, I’ll be honest; for all the recharging I crave and receive from wild places, I enjoy my excursions far better when observed from the safety of a sturdy cabin porch, a well-made boat on a placid lake, or a nice travel van. At the very least, I’ll take my wilderness experiences from a position close enough to retreat to one of those aforementioned enclosures, especially when bigger, meaner, hardier wildlife come to call. Even though I doubt I’ll allow characters in my stories the same luxury.
There are no four-legged wild creatures threatening my heroine in Finding My Highlander, but the story is set in wild, rugged terrain. And a twenty-first century woman landing in 1705 Scotland finds the two-legged creatures there are wild enough.
“Lass, can I help you?” His voice was softer than the others, his stance relaxed, composed, despite the dirt and blood splattered over his massive arms and clothing. He seemed to be a quiet, gentle man, though physically as imposing as the others.
“You could bring me my bag.”
He moved his hand from behind him and cautiously extended her mother’s old carpetbag. “Do I need to check it for weapons?” A slight crinkle lifted the corner of his mouth. A piece of leather cord tied wavy, light-brown hair at the nape of his neck and tight braids spilled alongside sharp, scruffy cheeks. His eyes were dark and shadowed.
“Thank you…it’s Rabbie, correct?”
“Aye,” he nodded.
Andra granted him a guarded smile. “I’ll pull no further weapons if you promise to be kind.” The slight attempt at humor from both of them eased the tension coiled in her gut.
He swept an arm gracefully in front of him and bowed, “Always, m’lady, as I learned at me mother’s knee.” Then he left her to tend the horses.
She searched her bag for the washcloth, hand towel, and first aid kit she always carried when traveling. The washcloth came to hand first. She dipped it into the cold water and wiped the dried and clotted blood from her face and hair. Then she dunked her head in the pool several more times.
“I seem to be awake,” she whispered, just for the comfort on her own voice. “My surroundings feel solid enough,” she pounded her fist on the dirt, “so it must be real. Accept it, Andra, and decide what to do next.”
She could hear the men speaking Gaelic, hushed yet clearly distraught about the condition of their clansman. They gathered near another pool of water several yards from where she knelt. She watched them over her shoulder for a few minutes struggling to fit the scene into her new reality. A million questions rose in her throat.
“Not now. Patience and observation are what’s required. All will be revealed in time.” What a stupid cliché.
Should she offer her help with their friend; would they accept it? She could not sit here and do nothing when one of them was seriously injured. Besides, anxiety always spurred her to take action. Her father had always said, “Move, keep busy, and don’t let dust gather under your feet.” With her father’s words ringing in her ears, she approached the men cautiously, keeping her eye on the mean one, Struan.
“May I be of assistance?” She stood with her feet firmly planted on the hard-packed, dirt floor, her head held high, one hand pressed flat against her side, the other rested on the cross dangling on her chest. It took an extreme effort to control her trembling body. Her palms moistened with sweat. She steadied her focus on Kendrick. His strong hands moved carefully over his brother’s body. The mean one harrumphed and growled.
A growl? Really?
Kendrick looked up, concern etched on his face. His dark, probing eyes bore through her. “Are you a healer, then?” he asked.
“Not a healer exactly, but I have cared for ill and injured persons and have some training in first aid. I wish to help if you’ll permit me.”
“I dinnae ken your meaning. What’s the first aid of which you speak? As you can see, we give him aid, but if you can do anything to help save my brother’s life, I will gladly accept your offer.”
The mean one growled again. “Don’t trust her, she’s the enemy and will just as soon slit his throat.”
Ignoring the slur, she continued, “Have you determined the extent of his injuries?”
“Aye, his shoulder is dislocated, several fingers broken, which we have straightened and bound as best we’re able. We need to stitch multiple, deep wounds, and he’s lost a lot of blood, though blood no longer flows freely.”
The injured man lay on a plaid, stripped completely naked, his kilt torn away from his battered body. Mud, blood, and all manner of vile debris caked the hard planes of his bronzed chest. Andra couldn’t identify the severity or location of all his injuries. He moaned but appeared unconscious, or so she assumed, since he hadn’t opened his eyes. Clumps of dried blood crusted over wounds on one leg and foot. Dark, matted refuse covered the entire other leg.
His manhood lay flaccid against his thigh, and none of the men seemed concerned about his state of undress in front of a strange female. She stood quietly, waiting for several breaths.
On a windswept cliff above San Francisco Bay in 2013, 27 year-old Andra Cameron, the last member of her family, prepares to scatter her family’s ashes to the wind. An earthquake catapults her to the Scottish Highlands in 1705. She wakes, aching and bloody, to the sound of horses thundering through the trees. Terrified and with no other options, Andra accompanies these rugged warriors. She can’t deny the undeniable attraction that ignites between herself and the handsome but gruff Kendrick. Will she trust him to provide protection in the harsh reality of 18th century Scotland and with her secret, or will she find a way to return home to the 21st century?
Laird Kendrick MacLean and his men, escaping a recent skirmish with their worst nemeses, clan Cameron and their Sassenach allies, are shocked to find an injured, unprotected female in their path. How could she not know her kin and how had she landed in the middle of the wilderness alone? His men suspect she’s a spy or a witch. Still, Kendrick will not abandon an injured woman, even if she speaks unusually accented English, and her name is Cameron. Will he ransom her to others or will their closed hearts open to each other? Although he questions her every utterance, this feisty, outspoken woman inflames his desire like no other.
Author Bio and Media Links
After more than twenty years writing and delivering management and other training programs for modest-sized to Fortune Five Hundred companies, and ten years developing community crisis-intervention training programs, Aleigha turned her writing efforts to her first loves, fiction, and poetry. Her poetry has appeared in numerous anthologies and university presses over the past few decades. Following a difficult period in her life, she discovered solace in romance novels that inspired her to write in this genre. As she says, “who doesn’t desire a guaranteed happy-ever-after scenario?” Always interested in the concept of time-travel, she knew her first few stories would follow that theme.
When not writing, her trusty four-legged companion/helper, Strider, accompanies her on sunset walks along the shore. During these quiet walks under an expansive sky, with the whoosh of waves across the sand and her gaze drifting over the rolling sea, her best glimmers of inspiration come to mind. Following the recent discovery of distant Scottish ancestors, she embarked on a trip to the Highlands. Although she had already developed the characters for Finding My Highlander, her trip to the Highlands enriched the characters and enhanced the story direction. This is her first full-length romance novel. Aleigha is working on a prequel to Finding My Highlander, and another time-travel novel set in a later period.
WWW (Aleigha’s WebPage): http://aleighasiron.com/
Aleigha Siron’s Book page at Tirgearr Publishing: http://www.tirgearrpublishing.com/authors/Siron_Aleigha/finding-my-highlander.htm
Tirgearr Publishing Home Page: http://www.tirgearrpublishing.com/index.htm
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