Earth Day is coming up this Friday, so my contemporary co-writer and dear sis, Jaz Kennedy, and I decided to drop in for a visit to Harmony Falls!
With all the farms, forests, mountains and rivers that surround our fictional small town in Pennsylvania's Laurel Highlands, we decided it would be fun to see what some of the outdoorsy heroes and free-spirited heroines in our upcoming small town romance series have got going on for the big event!
Read on for a peek into everyday life at Harmony Falls...
She tingled a little inside, hoping her efforts to get the whole town involved would prove to be successful.
Retirees, teenagers, single dads, preschoolers, farmhands, sorority sisters, doctors, painters and firemen packed into the Knickpoint Brewing Company for a hearty breakfast before setting out.
“Come on in, everybody! You’re gonna need lots of energy before you get working. We’ve got a beautiful brunch spread here for all our dedicated volunteers!”
The Knickpoint was an old speak-easy-turned-brewpub, owned by Jules’ good friend Jack Brand–and the giant ex-Marine was a bit of a hometown hero. After his last tour of duty, he’d bought the abandoned pub and refurbished it with his bare hands, right down to its original mahogany carved panels.
Now the town’s preferred watering hole would serve as Earth Day Festivity Headquarters, and it was already getting crowded. Folks lined up at the buffet table nestled by the jukebox, chatting excitedly as they loaded their plates with waffles, scrambled eggs and bacon, getting fueled up for a day of honest work.
Jack placed a gentle but calloused hand on Jules’ elbow. “Hey, red, make sure you let everyone know to report back here for free pints when they’re finished. We’re tapping a keg of Happy Planet Pilsner at fifteen-hundred hours.”
“Yes, sir!” Jules replied, pulling a pen from behind her ear. A strand of ginger hair flung down below her chin as she reviewed her list.
“Where are my garbage pickers?” Regina DuPont bellowed from the doorway.
“Reggie!” called Jules, waving. “You made it!”
One of Jules’ best girlfriends, Reggie was a petite yet regal blonde with ice-blue eyes. As an EMT medic, she was absolutely unflappable—with an occasionally wicked sense of humor.
At the moment, she had her hands full, balancing boxes of trash bags and rubber gloves, and a stack of yellow safety vests ready to distribute to the roadside cleanup crews. [CLICK READ MORE BELOW THE PICTURE TO CONTINUE!]
Jules helped her friend set the supplies on a long oak table at the center of the bar.
“Patrick’s on his way down the mountain,” Reggie reported. “He’s tagging trail blazes with a fresh coat of paint so nobody gets lost today.”
“Brilliant.” Jules beamed. She could always count on Patrick Finn, their local outdoors guru and mountain sports tour guide, to help when it came to anything involving the lush Pennsylvania forests encircling the town.
Today he’d be leading a team of erosion prevention workers up to Monarch’s Peak to rebuild stone steps that had been washed out with the winter snow melt.
“Hey, it was my idea! You’re welcome,” Reggie added with a pointed smile. “If it were up to Patrick, he’d still be out there meditating on his favorite rock in the middle of the river.”
She’s probably right, Jules chuckled to herself. The roaring Onatah River that cut through town was magical, and Patrick did seem to let his mind wander when he set out there all alone in his kayak.
Legend had it that the Onatah held mystical healing powers once its crystal waters gushed over Harmony Falls, bringing luck and love to certain visitors.
According to a century’s worth of Native American history, the tales appeared to hold some truth, and Jules could hardly dispute them, though she herself hadn’t ever experienced the waterfalls’ dizzying love powers, she thought with a sigh.
At least not yet.
Just then, her friend Beatrice Palmer and her grandfather, the crusty old corn farmer, Ed Palmer, pushed through the pub’s heavy teak doors carrying wide plastic flats of seedlings.
“Sorry we’re late!” Bea cried. “Is the garden crew ready for us?”
Bea’s face was smudged with dirt and a few loose strands of her dark brown locks had escaped her ponytail. She set a tray of basil plants that she’d brought from her farm on a table and brushed some potting soil off herself before she wiped her brow.
“Hi girls!” she said, giving her friends hugs.
Reggie made a blechh sound and waved her clipboard at Bea like it was a fan. “You been hanging out with those cows of yours again, little miss organic?” she asked with a playful scowl.
“Of course,” Bea shot back with a wink. “What? I skipped the shower this morning in honor of Earth Day.”
Reggie feigned disgust. “At least you saved some water, I suppose…”
Jules laughed, just feeling blessed that her friends were so willing to help.
Old Eddie Palmer, or as Bea called him, 'Pap,' wore a yellow trucker’s hat atop his gunmetal gray hair and dark glasses over his piercing eyes.
Ambling behind Bea, who was taking over the family farm, he grumbled,
“Beats the hell outta me why Earth Day ain’t every damn day…”
Jules and Bea exchanged hidden giggles.
“Oh, Pap,” Bea said, shaking her head. “Not everyone’s as wise as you.”
“Damn straight,” the old farmer agreed.
The Knickpoint grew more packed as workers checked in with Jules to get their assignments for the day.
Chloe Morgan, a waitress at the diner and part-time yoga teacher, popped by before her Vinyasa-in-the-Plaza class got underway, and as usual, the foodie came bearing baked goods: a giant bowl of edible dirt for the workers.
“Whaaat?” Jack wrinkled up his face as he inspected it.
“It’s just mashed up brownies and chocolate pudding, honey!” Chloe teased, giving the giant ex-Marine an affectionate shove. “I added the gummy snails just for you.”
“Uh, thanks, I think.”
Bea threw an arm around her friend. “I think it’s the perfect Earth Day treat!”
As the townspeople finished their breakfasts, Jules sent them off to work.
Some collected trash out on Clover Highway. A few planted flowers along Main Street. Others tidied up the banks of the Onatah. Some erected an organic community garden. Still others headed into the mountains for trail maintenance.
All day, they stuck their hands in the dirt, waded in the river, sweated under the hot sun, knelt in the soil and shoveled in the rocks. They learned how to grow their own food, how to recycle properly, how to conserve water and how to upcycle old junk.
The people of Harmony Falls labored to make their beloved mountain town spotless, although they tried all year long to keep the place pristine – that was just the kind of people they were – but it was coming together on this special day, working closely alongside one another that bonded their community and rooted them to the land.
Even the heartthrob Chief of Police, Mike Walker, strolled up to Jules after spending his day digging holes in the garden. Instead of his usual uniform, today he wore dirt-stained jeans, a t-shirt and a baseball cap.
“Well, Jules, m’dear, you’ve done it again,” he said, folding his arms over his chest and gazing at the mountains in admiration. “Thanks for all your hard work on this.”
Jules’ heart warmed with pride. “Just doing my part, Chief.”
After the cleanup, Jack threw a rocking party at the Knickpoint. Under a clear blue sky and blazing hot sun on the pub’s back deck, a Bob Marley song echoed from the jukebox, and a free round of Happy Planet Pilsner tasted like a dream.
Jules, Reggie, Bea and Chloe clinked glasses, honoring the beauty of nature all around them—rolling green hills and fields, rugged mountains, rolling rivers, blue skies. Just then, the unmistakable thwap of helicopter blades came hovering overhead.
“Look!” Jules cried, pointing to the sky. “There’s Ian!”
Ian Cooper, a local pilot, swooped his Eagle 400 helicopter high above the treetops, arcing gently over the mountains. He towed a banner behind him that floated gently in the breeze, and sent his friends a casual salute as he buzzed by overhead.
In unison, the crowd on the deck read the words on the banner he was pulling: “Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful!” and a roar of applause filled the crisp mountain air.
# # #
We hope you enjoyed this sneak peek at life in Harmony Falls! We'll soon be having a cover reveal for Book 1: DREAM OF ME. Thanks for reading, and remember, make Earth Day every day! :)
(With special thanks to Shannon Reiter and all the folks at Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful, a nonprofit organization and affiliate of the Keep America Beautiful program. They work hard every day, empowering Pennsylvanians to make their communities clean and beautiful! Visit their website at www.keeppabeautiful.org)