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.

Tough Yankees: A Carding Chronicle

SH-Goldie sleepingIt seems that every creature on earth has a different sense of what’s too hot and what’s too cold.

For example, in high summer Edie Wolfe’s dog Nearly spends his days in the deep shade of his human’s back porch while others seek out the sun. In winter, he sticks close to the wood stove while others romp in the snow.

But it’s those in-between times, such as the ones that can happen in early October, that are such a challenge.

Especially if you pride yourself on being a “tough Yankee.”

Let’s check in with Carding’s favorite canine, shall we?

Welcome to Carding, Vermont where life always includes a dash of the unexpected. You can find the little town that no one can seem to find on a map right here in the Carding Chronicles and in the four novels of Carding, Vermont, The Road Unsalted, Thieves of Fire, The Dazzling Uncertainty of Life, and Lights in Water, Dancing.

If you haven’t already, don’t forget to subscribe to the Chronicle by clicking the link on this page. That way, you’ll never miss a story.

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Among the dogs of Carding, Vermont, Nearly Wolfe is renowned as an excellent teacher of human beings. Just look at what he’s done with his own human, Edie Wolfe. 

Over the years, the handsome cocker spaniel has taught Edie how and when to walk him three times a day, what part of his belly needs patting the most, and that she should never to feed him raisin bagels.

Raisins in bagels? Bleah…

Yes, Nearly has done well…except in one area. He has never figured out how to get Edie to raise or lower the windows of their house to just the right level at just the right moment in order for him to maintain his preferred exterior temperature of 72 degrees Fahrenheit.

Now it’s October and Nearly is determined that something must be done.

Edie sleeps under a quilt (that she made) on all but the hottest of nights and seems to enjoy the bracing temperature of her house at this time of year. As the night wears on, she snuggles deeper and deeper under her covers until her head disappears altogether.

So she’s warm enough.

But down on the floor, Nearly’s bed was cold and he finally decided it was way past time to do something about it. He padded across the room, took a few running steps, leaped and landed in the middle of the quilt-covered bed, right in the spot where the covers are rucked up in small hills and valleys. Edie started but did not wake.

Warmer, Nearly lay down to wait for morning. He knew there would be a scolding—Edie welcomed her dog to sleep anywhere but on her handmade quilt—but Nearly figured it would be shortlived.

And maybe next time, his human would moderate the window openings.

Or make him his own quilt.

Either way, Nearly would be happy.

When Edie finally woke, she frowned at her sleeping dog. Then he heard her growl, a low dark sound at the back of her throat. But nature was calling so she pushed her covers back and put her bare feet on the wooden floor.

She gasped at the cold and then gave Nearly a more thoughtful glance. Scurrying to the bathroom, she whipped a sweatshirt from the back of a chair, yanked it on, and then crossed her arms over its front. 

Nearly raised his head a little to watch his human’s progress across the room, satisfied with the impact of his lesson so far.

Soon he heard the slide-bang of closing windows as Edie whirled around the house. When she reached the kitchen, Edie opened her curtains to see the thermometer recording the outside temperature.

“Forty-nine degrees,” she huffed as she whirled around to dig her slippers out of their summer resting place.

Nearly crept downstairs, dreading the cold of his first snuffle of the day in the backyard. He knew it would be quick. Edie squeaked a little as she opened the door for him.

“Brrrr. Sorry boy,” she said.

The kettle whistled and Edie poured water for tea as Nearly trotted back inside. That’s when her eyes landed on the house’s thermostat. Its digital display affirmed that it was cold enough to justify a few moments of heat.

But as Edie raised her hand to turn the furnace on, she thought about the bragging rights she would lose at the Crow Town Bakery over morning coffee. After all, being a tough Yankee meant not giving into the cold too soon and her friends would surely notice the thin trail of smoke from her chimney. 

So she’d have to admit to turning on her furnace and when she did, Andy Cooper would slide his eyes her way and say: “Yeah, it’s cold. But you just put on heavier socks and you’ll be fine.”

Then Agnes Findley would point out that the sun was still pretty warm in the afternoons. “I always figure that if you heat up your house in the morning, it will be too hot in the afternoon.”

And so it would go around the table, each participant vying to prove that she or he was the toughest Yankee.

Edie swallowed hard as she let her hand drop. “It’s still early October,” she said to Nearly. “I can’t turn the heat on yet.”

Nearly did his best to look pathetic, hanging his head just enough to let his ears droop forward. But Edie only sighed as she put his food bowl on the counter. “I’ll tell you what, I’ll warm up your breakfast in the microwave. How’s that?”

He sighed and let his body slump into the floor.

“We’re supposed to be tough, Nearly. And it’s not that cold. Forty-nine degrees is not below freezing.”

He sighed again and raised his eyes in the pleading look that he reserved for special occasions.

Edie sighed, deep and loud. Then she laughed at herself. Really, what difference did it make at this point? By the end of the week, she knew that everyone who gathered at the bakery would have fired up their wood stoves or turned on their furnaces.

She punched up the number on the digital thermostat to 65 and after a moment, the furnace in her basement began to purr.

Nearly smiled a little doggie smile. His reputation as an excellent teacher of human beings was secure. 


I’m so glad you’ve stopped by to enjoy this Carding Chronicle . Please share it with your friends and be sure to subscribe.

Do a bit of good in the world today.

Tough Yankees

It seems that every creature on earth has a different sense of what’s too hot and what’s too cold.

For example, in high summer Edie Wolfe’s dog Nearly spends his days in the deep shade of his human’s back porch while others seek out the sun. In winter, he sticks close to the wood stove while others romp in the snow.

But it’s those in-between times, such as the ones that can happen in early October, that are such a challenge.

Especially if you pride yourself on being a “tough Yankee.”

Let’s check in tomorrow with Carding’s favorite canine, shall we?

Welcome to Carding, Vermont where life always includes a dash of the unexpected. You can find the little town that no one can seem to find on a map right here in the Carding Chronicles and in the four novels of Carding, Vermont, The Road Unsalted, Thieves of Fire, The Dazzling Uncertainty of Life, and Lights in Water, Dancing.

If you haven’t already, don’t forget to subscribe to the Chronicle by clicking the link on this page. That way, you’ll never miss a story.

SH-Goldie sleeping

Return to Sunrise Hill: A Carding Chronicle

Beech leaves-orangeIn my novel The Dazzling Uncertainty of Life, Stephen Bennett slides off of an ice-covered hill and flips upside down in a brook, almost dying as a result. Earlier that same day, he’d been up on Sunrise Hill with his daughter Faye and her best friend Suzanna to release a hawk back into the wild.

Now Sunrise Hill is a beautiful spot, one treasured by the folks of Carding, Vermont. But for Stephen, the place has become haunted by his memories of what happened that day.

Now Stephen is not a man who relishes fear so he’s decided it’s time to return to Sunrise Hill. It’s a beautiful day. Why don’t you come along?

Welcome to Carding, Vermont where life always includes a dash of the unexpected. You can find the little town that no one can seem to find on a map right here in the Carding Chronicles and in the four novels of Carding, Vermont, The Road Unsalted, Thieves of Fire, The Dazzling Uncertainty of Life, and Lights in Water, Dancing.

If you haven’t already, don’t forget to subscribe to the Chronicle by clicking the link on this page. That way, you’ll never miss a story.

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Stephen Bennett wasn’t much of a morning person. Even though he could stand up, sip coffee, and talk before nine, his wife and kids knew better than to expect him to do anything that required planning or organizing before then.

So his children, Faye and Wil, got a bit unnerved by the sight of their Dad whirling around in the kitchen before breakfast, filling the three tins of their stainless steel tiffin with a variety of foods.

Faye glanced at the clock. “Whoa, Dad. Is the house on fire or are you really just that glad it’s a school day. It’s only seven o’clock, you know.”

Stephen grinned as he arranged a tier of cherry tomatoes stuffed with guacamole in the top tin. “It’s also Monday, the bakery’s closed, and I’m taking your mother out for a picnic,” he said.

The back door opened and Diana stepped in with a bottle of milk she’d retrieved from the Crow Town Bakery, the business that the Bennetts owned. “Good morning.” She shook her head as she looked at her two kids. “My Wil is in his senior year and my daughter is a junior. That is so hard for me to believe.”

“Mom, I think you say stuff like that every year. We’re growing up. You’re just going to have to deal with it,” Wil said as he shoveled granola into a bowl, and grabbed the milk from his mother.

“Yeah, pretty soon it will be just you and Dad,” Faye said.

Stephen stopped for a moment to take in his daughter. She’d managed to lose the last bits of her little-girlness over the summer, and her body now had a shape that he knew attracted attention. Suddenly he leaned over and kissed her on the forehead. “I think it’s because you’re the youngest, and every time you cross a threshold of some sort, your Mom and I want to slow everything down.”

Wil and Faye traded eye rolls as their parents sighed. “It’s still a long way from now to June and graduation, Dad. It’s forever, in fact,” Wil said.

“So where are you two going for your picnic?” Faye asked. “In case we need to launch a search party, that is.”

“Remember where we let that hawk go last spring? The one named Freya?” Stephen said.

He felt his family squirm uneasily. The hawk’s release happened on the same day that he flipped his truck off the Hooke Road bridge, and nearly died.

“Look, I know that none of us like to think about that day,” he said softly. “But I’m tired of feeling so tender every time I remember what happened. I don’t want to live with that fear any more. My accident doesn’t make Sunrise Hill any less beautiful, especially on a day like today. We’ll be able to see clear across the valley.”

Diana lifted her chin. “We used to go up there when we were in high school to…to…” She blushed and stopped.

Wil snorted into his cereal. “Really, Mom. Faye and I know what goes on up there at night. The top of Sunrise Hill is pretty remote, and the kids don’t hide why they go there.”

Diana opened her mouth to ask Wil if he had ever been up on Sunrise Hill at night but then decided she didn’t really want to know.

Faye caught her brother’s eye. “She’s dying to ask, you know.”

“Hmm, but she won’t because then we might guess what she was doing up there.” He looked up at his mother, and winked.

Diana tugged at his hair. “Smart guy.”

With that, the Bennett family crashed through the rest of their morning, making lunches, figuring out who was going to be where at what time and with whom after school, and cramming various parts of their lives into backpacks. Then Faye and Wil disappeared down the stairs.

The air in the kitchen seemed to vibrate with the back door’s slam. Diana strolled over to the coffee maker to top up her cup then leaned against the counter next to her husband. They sipped in silence for a few minutes, savoring their closeness.

Finally she sighed. “You’re sure you want to do this.”

Stephen nodded. “Yes. No. But seriously yes. I’m not sure what it’s going to take to make my fears go away but this is as good a place to start as any.”

He looked down at his wife. Small wrinkles now gathered regularly in the outer corners of her eyes, and worry lines appeared in her forehead more often than before. He kissed her.

“Let’s go.”

The winding dirt road up to Sunrise Hill was a source of disagreement every time Carding-ites got together for town meeting in March. Only one family, the Handy clan, lived up there any more, and they used a back way—Temptation Road—to get in and out of their enclave. Temptation Road was a mile longer but less steep than Sunrise and a lot less curvy.

Over the years, Sunrise had become a beloved byway for hikers, cross-country bikers, birdwatchers, and amorous teenagers. Everyone in town agreed that the view across the Corvus River Valley was spectacular from the top, making it one of the best kept secrets in Vermont.

So far, the Sunrise-Hill lovers had prevailed over the town’s cost-cutters to keep the rough dirt road accessible for recreation. That meant that the road crew kept it clear of winter-felled trees and graded it twice a year but there was no plowing, no salting, no grading, and no sanding.

Stephen and Diana oohed and aahed like tourists all the way up the hill, laughing at themselves. “You’d think we’d never seen this before,” Diana said as they passed under the low-hanging branch of a large maple, half of its leaves orange, the other half yellow.

“This is why we live here,” Stephen hollered over the rumble of his truck. “What’s the sense of living in Vermont if you can’t appreciate the foliage?”

They parked by the remains of an old shed, its timbers weathered to a fine gray, its metal roof a study in the various shades of rust.

“Oh, will you look at that?” Diana said as she ambled through the tufts of long grass toward a bulge of granite where the land dropped away into the forest below. Off in the distance, the hills rippled and folded in tones of red, orange, yellow, gold, and cinnamon brown. To their left, the Crow’s Head Falls glinted in the sunlight.

Diana sat cross-legged on the lichen-stained rock, soaking in every detail. She reached up to encircle Stephen’s calf with her hand. “Are you okay?”

He sat down next to her with a deep, deep sigh. “Yeah. I needed this.”

A breeze swept up the hillside, and they both breathed in the earthy scent of fallen leaves. Diana took her husband’s hand, and let the silence stretch on.


I’m so glad you’ve stopped by to enjoy this Carding Chronicle . Please share it with your friends and be sure to subscribe.

Do a bit of good in the world today.

Return to Sunrise Hill

In my novel The Dazzling Uncertainty of Life, Stephen Bennett slides off of an ice-covered hill and flips upside down in a brook, almost dying as a result. Earlier that same day, he’d been up on Sunrise Hill with his daughter Faye and her best friend Suzanna to release a hawk back into the wild.

Now Sunrise Hill is a beautiful spot, one treasured by the folks of Carding, Vermont. But for Stephen, the place has become haunted by his memories of what happened that day.

But Stephen is not a man who relishes fear so he’s decided it’s time to return to Sunrise Hill. It’s supposed to be a beautiful day tomorrow. Why don’t you come along?

Welcome to Carding, Vermont where life always includes a dash of the unexpected. You can find the little town that no one can seem to find on a map right here in the Carding Chronicles and in the four novels of Carding, Vermont, The Road Unsalted, Thieves of Fire, The Dazzling Uncertainty of Life, and Lights in Water, Dancing.

If you haven’t already, don’t forget to subscribe to the Chronicle by clicking the link on this page. That way, you’ll never miss a story.

Beech leaves-orange