Share Your Story: Tara Fox Hall
Deep Breaths: Tales of Hope and Inspiration II
The inspiration for Deep Breaths II grew out of the success of the first Deep Breaths anthology. The original stories were published one or two at a time in a catnip-promotional magazine put out by Dusty Miller Farm in the early to mid-2000s. They were all stories of wildlife rescue, dog/cat shenanigans, or my making my sometimes crooked way adapting to country life in my 20’s and 30’s after living in the city for most of my life. All the stories had a lesson of some kind, such as treasuring the moment/a loved one, letting go of fear, seeing the silver lining, adapting to change, or learning something new. After the catnip magazine closed its doors, I published the first anthology as a way to hold onto some of the most memorable moments of that era and because I had people who wanted to buy the collection. But life also goes on. I found more moments of inspiration in the following ten years…and enough stories for a second anthology.
It is always a challenge to put out any writing project (see one of the stories “Why I Don’t Write for more details, lol!). For Deep Breaths II, each one-two page story was a snapshot of the event or moments that inspired it. Sure, the event or moment was memorable to me, but I had to make it memorable or at least moving to someone who hadn’t experienced it with me. I had to bring unknown readers into my life and give them enough details and emotion to make them feel something in about 700 words. Passing on inspiration to others makes me feel as if I’m helping the world to be a kinder place, and hopefully making people a little happier by helping them to connect to nature, to animals, or to one another.
Setting and Worldbuilding
The setting and worldbuilding in my stories are not hard to come up with as they are from real life. I begin usually with the setting of how the moment started/wherever I was struck with inspiration. This is easy in a tale of animal rescue, which has a clear beginning, middle, and end. Worldbuilding requires more details in stories that span months or years, or a decade, such as “Pumpkin Patch Finally” or “Happy Silver Maples”. Every word has to count, and everything unnecessary needs to be dumped. But either way, the key to the story working is to get down all the details as soon as possible after the moment passes. I jot down notes to describe what I was feeling, or heard, or thought as the moment unfolds, the weather, the time of day, and why the moment was important (if it’s not obvious). Sometimes stories wait months to be fleshed out from these notes, but if I have the details I can recreate the moment. Then I must go over and over the story to make sure that the wording is perfect, so that when I read it I get the same emotional connection to the moment that initially inspired me.
If there is an overall message of Deep Breaths II, it would be summed up in the final story of the collection, “A Morning’s Reflection.” I was thinking about my life and where I was, how far I had come with my hopes and dreams and what else I wanted for and to do with my life. Taking stock of where we are is important, because you can’t achieve what you want unless you know what you want and have some plan to get there. You only get one life. Make it count.
Excerpt from ONE WINTER EVENING:
One winter evening, I was driving home from work, talking on my cell phone on speaker. It was cold enough that it was snowing lightly, and full dark. These are the kind of nights I hate driving, as the way home has no streetlights, and it is difficult to see the road in places, especially when it’s covered in fresh snow.
As I crested the hill and began driving down, my headlights illuminated a cat in the middle of the road that had been hit. While I thought it was dead—and I wanted to get home as fast as possible—I hurried to turn around in the next driveway and go back to pull it off the road. I was able to pull alongside the body, just avoiding the ditch, as headlights slowed at the stop sign a hundred yards from me. A car was coming!
I hurried to the cat and pulled it up into my arms, just closing my door as the car went careening by. It was at this moment I realized the body wasn’t cold, it was warm. The cat was still alive!
I headed toward home, holding the cat on my lap as well as I could, figuring it would pass before I got there. But as the minutes passed, it kept shifting, obviously still alive and in pain. My mission now had to be to try to get this cat veterinary care instead of last rites. I called my mom and asked her to try to contact Dr. Tina and call me back, giving her as much info as possible, from what I’d been able to see, it was the cat’s rear leg that was damaged, her head, front and torso was intact (and likely why she wasn’t dead). I kept driving and got a call back in a few minutes – Knoll’s End was closed, but Dr Tina and Dr Jim would meet me at their clinic and put the cat to sleep, as it was likely in a lot of pain and had internal injuries. I agreed, texted my husband to tell him what was going on, and drove past home to the clinic, arriving there about a half hour later. Though I’d been driving now with the cat for an hour, it was still alive. I parked and carried the cat into the clinic wrapped in my jacket, which already had blood smears.
The vets examined the cat, and gave her a painkiller immediately, and she relaxed, rubbing her head against our hands. Dr. Tina said that the cat was young, around a year or less. Her back leg was broken in multiple places, and what did I want to do, as the vet care was likely to be expensive. I asked her to do what she could, that yes we should put the cat to sleep if she had internal injuries. Dr. Tina said she would keep the cat for the night and see how she was the next morning, if she made it through the night. I agreed and headed home through the swirling snow.
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“Beauty and joy are all around us, from nature’s creatures to the smiles of good friends to the last beams of the setting sun turning spider silk into spun gold. There is magic in everyday life, if only we take a few moments to discover it.”