All posts by Sonja Hakala

I have been a professional writer since 1987. I've written for newspapers, magazines, worked in the book publishing industry, and published novels and non-fiction books. In addition, I've guided numerous authors through the process of independent publishing, and offer workshops in that same vein. I'm the founder of the Parkinson's Comfort Project and over the course of six years, we gathered and gave away over 500 handmade quilts to people with Parkinson's disease.

Lost—Then Found

SH-lost and foundToday is Thanksgiving. I think it’s the favorite holiday at my house—just family and friends and eating and laughter.

So I know you’ll understand if I repeat a story today because we’re busy making and eating food. Hope you are as well.

This one features Edie Wolfe, the closest thing Carding has to a matriarch (a title that just makes Edie laugh), and the executive director of the Carding Academy of Traditional Arts.

Somehow, the Academy’s lost and found box always ends up in her office.

You can visit Carding any time in my novels, The Road Unsalted, Thieves of Fire, and The Dazzling Uncertainty of Life. The fourth in the series, Lights in Water, Dancing, will be out later this year.

You can subscribe to the Carding Chronicles by clicking the subscribe button on my home page. When you do, my stories will speed from my keyboard to your inbox every Thursday without any further effort on your part.

Enjoy!

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No matter how many times she cleaned out the closet in her office, Edie Wolfe always approached its door with caution.

“We ought to call this the Academy’s catch-all,” she told her dog, Nearly. He tilted his large ears forward with apprehension, remembering the time his person opened the door and he’d been beaned by a basket full of mittens.

Being a smallish dog and feeling no need for outsized bravery under the circumstances, Nearly retreated to a promising patch of sunshine on the braided rug by the bow window that looked out into the woods behind the Carding Academy of Traditional Arts.

“Hmph, smart boy,” Edie said. Then, grasping the closet door handle firmly, she stood to one side and opened it just a few inches.

Inside, things adjusted themselves with faint but ominous sounds. Nearly considered moving out into the hallway but with so many students in the classrooms, the odds of being stepped on were higher than he liked.

Edie peered inside, and then sighed. “It’s the lost and found,” she said. “I wish someone would figure out a better place to put that box.”

She eased the door open, letting the ungainly cardboard box settle slowly to the floor. Once the lost-and-found box landed, it tipped its contents to the floor—single mittens, water bottles, a hair band, a paperback book with a broken binding, two kazoos, a hacky sack, three scarves, and enough boots to see any woman with a size-eight foot through the winter.

“What the…?” Edie grunted as she paired up the sundry footwear—knee-high boots with a set of blue ice-grippers, heavy over-the-ankle boots for serious tramping in the snow, fleece-lined slide-on mocs for short goings-from-here-to-there, and a final pair of rubberized slides for mud season.

“Well, someone must be running around barefoot,” she told Nearly. He raised his head but didn’t bother to move from his sun patch.

“Hi Edie, I was just heading to the post office.” Agnes Findley craned her head around the office door. “Do you need…oh, what have we here? Looks like an L.L. Bean delivery.”

“Yeah, one would think. Look, they’re all the same size,” Edie said.

“Ha, do they fit you?” Agnes asked.

“No, I wish. I’d give them a new home.” Edie smiled at her friend as she stood up. “Where do you suppose the souls of the stuff in a lost and found end up if no one claims them?”

“Probably with the lost luggage at airports. Oh look, there’s my mitten.” Agnes grabbed a blue hand warmer from the pile. “I love these for shoveling because they’re lined. I was really upset when I lost one.”

Edie picked up a black and white scarf. “Need an accessory for that?” she asked. “And can you tell me why this box always ends up in my closet?”

“Because it was in mine, and I didn’t have space for it any more.” Agnes looked sheepish. “Sorry.”

“Hmph, well it’s time to bring this horde out of the dark and into the light,” Edie said as she tossed everything back into the box. “A little artful display in the lobby and a deadline for claiming ought to do it.”

“I’ve got some  twinkly white lights in my office, and there’s that step display in the copy room,” Agnes said as she helped Edie tug the box into the Academy’s lobby. “Let’s give this lot a big send-off.”

An hour later, an artful display of the lost-and-found articles took center stage in the lobby of the Carding Academy of Traditional Arts. The mittens were the first things to be reclaimed, then the slides for a rainy day, and then a scarf was scooped up with a loud “oooh.”

Edie, who was the Academy’s longtime executive director, bustled about her day, answering emails, directing traffic, writing up the class descriptions for the coming winter schedule, and taking Nearly out for a couple of walks.

So she didn’t get back into the lobby until the sun had almost disappeared behind Mount Merino.

“Well, let’s see how we did, shall we?” she asked her dog as they ambled down the hallway. And then she spotted the empty display—no mittens, no scarves, all the shoes and boots gone.

“Hey, that was a success,” Agnes said. But then her face drooped, and she pointed to a plastic tote that stood to one side. Someone had taped a handwritten sign on its side—New Lost and Found.

It held a pair of flip-flops, a plastic watering can, two pink bandanas, some silk sunflowers, a leather-bound notebook, and a gilded pen. The two women sighed as one.

“Can you…?” Edie started to ask.

Agnes shook her head. “Nope, my closet’s full of brochures and catalogs. It’ll have to be you.”

Each of them leaned over, grabbed one side of the tote, and walked it back to Edie’s closet

Shiver Season

SH-shiver seasonThis week, the cold weather has finally returned to Vermont. While Edie Wolfe, Ruth Goodwin, and Andy Cooper are scrambling to find their winter accoutrements, their dogs are eager to get outside!

You can visit Carding any time in my novels, The Road Unsalted, Thieves of Fire, and The Dazzling Uncertainty of Life. The fourth in the series, Lights in Water, Dancing, will be out later this year.

You can subscribe to the Carding Chronicles by clicking the subscribe button on my home page. When you do, my stories will speed from my keyboard to your inbox every Thursday without any further effort on your part.

Enjoy!

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The weather had been deceptively warm—too warm, really—for so long that the first real cold of November caught everyone by surprise.

Edie Wolfe’s winter jackets were still packed in the back of her closet. Andy Cooper couldn’t find his heavy gloves, and Ruth Goodwin stayed up very late at night, swapping her summer shirts out of the closet to make room for the turtlenecks she’d packed away in April.

That morning, to add an edge of interest, the wind stepped up its activity from ambling to blustery, spinning a sprinkle of cold rain into tiny balls of snow that coagulated in the hollows among the brown leaves hugging the ground.

Edie pulled on an insulated sweatshirt as she stirred up her kitchen’s wood stove, laying small logs on the embers to get the fire hot. It was quite the juggling act, placing the wood just so while hopping from one foot to the other in an attempt to warm herself.

It was tempting to turn on the furnace for a few minutes to warm up the house while she waited. But every time her eyes strayed to the thermostat, Edie heard her father saying: “Real Yankees don’t use oil when they can use wood.”

She jumped around some more, wishing she didn’t agree with her father.

Across the green at Cooper’s General Store and Emporium, Andy hitched the old rocker he kept in the basement closer to his wood-burning furnace. Over the years, he’d hired out the stacking parts of the store’s heating system to a series of high school students who worked under his watchful eye. But he reserved the stoking of the furnace for himself. Not only was he sensitive to its many eccentricities, Andy thoroughly enjoyed the daily opportunities to bask in its heat.

“There is no heat that warms you quite the way that wood does,” he told himself with a sigh, his hands wrapped around a large mug of cocoa laced with strong coffee.

Ruth carefully spread her jeans and a thick sweater out on the floor of her bedroom while her coffee brewed in the kitchen next door. Her small and tidy home was one of the many rewards she’d reaped from her first—and so far, only—husband when she divorced him. And he had been a devotee of radiant floor heating.

A few minutes later, Ruth sighed with satisfaction as she pulled on her pre-warmed clothes.

While their humans acted like so many heat-seeking missiles, the dogs in their lives parked themselves close to the doors that led outside, each of them ready for a morning frisk.

Edie’s cocker spaniel, Nearly, rocked from side to side, excited little whiny noises escaping from him from time to time. This was his kind of weather, and with the die-back of the thick undergrowth, it was his kind of terrain as well. There would be so many new smells to investigate.

Ruth’s beagle, R.G., occasionally abandoned his post in a vain attempt to herd his human toward the door. Coffee in hand, Ruth opened the back door to see if he needed to relieve himself but R.G. made it clear he was not leaving without her.

“Oh, all right, all right,” she muttered. “I supposed I can grab a bagel at the Coop.”

R.G. tilted his head back and howled with joy when Ruth grabbed his leash. Then he rushed out the open door, his tail lashing the cold morning air.

Sable, Andy Cooper’s rescue dog, tried to be a bit more diplomatic. She sat close by her human’s rocker, her chin up, shoulders back, and ears tipped forward.

“You look like you’re getting ready to salute,” he said, his hand cuddling her chin. Sable had been rather a surprise in his life. Andy thought he was done with dogs after he lost his chocolate lab a few years back. The heartache had been almost unbearable.

But he’d never regretted Sable for a moment. “It was a mutual rescue,” he’d confided in Edie.

He drained his morning mocha then stretched upright, pushing his hands into the small of his back. “Let me get my boots on, and we’ll be off,” he said. Sable was up the stairs, and seated at the store’s back door before the last word was out of Andy’s mouth.

“Hmph, I guess we’re in a hurry,” he muttered.

Sable got more excited by the second as she watched Andy draw on his boots and pull a hat over his ears. As soon as the back door opened, she exploded into the yard to run several yards up the path leading to Half Moon Lake, their favorite walk, and then ran right back again, barking joyously in the cold air.

Andy had just grabbed his favorite walking stick to follow the dog when two cars pulled in next to his truck.

“Well, this is a pleasant surprise,” he said as Ruth and Edie swiveled out of their seats. The barking index rose several notches as the three dogs greeted one another, ran, pivoted, and then ran some more.

“This cold sure does wake them up, doesn’t it?” Edie said as they watched the canine greetings.

‘Yeah, sure does.” He looked at his two friends. “Would you be in the mood for bagels?”

“I sure would,” Ruth said. “R.G. had me out of the house before I could finish my coffee, never mind grabbing anything to eat.”

“Be right back,” Andy said.

And so shiver season began in earnest that morning with a quick-stepping walk down a path through the woods, the dogs taking ten strides for every human’s one as they darted through the shriveled undergrowth to follow every promising scent.

November can be a very good month.