A Letter to Spring by Melissa A. Bartell

Little Flower Crocus

Dear Spring,

I have to confess, I’ve developed a sort of love/hate relationship with you over the years. It was inevitable, I guess. I mean, no one stays in love forever, right?

As a child, the coming of spring meant that I got to put away heavy winter coats and thick tights that were always too long for me. I could wrap my feet in sneakers instead of boots and sometimes, I could even wear sandals.

Even now, you bring with you some important rituals, like changing the wreath on my front door to one that celebrates flowers, birds, and butterflies. After a winter of wearing shoes and socks inside the house, your return sends me to the nail salon for a luxurious pedicure with time spent soaking my feet in hot wax and then getting pink polish on my toes. Sometimes, even with a flower.

And then there’s the first new pair of flip-flops of the year. I found mine at the grocery store this time – no, really! – but usually Target is my go-to source.

There are certain aspects of you, Spring, that I never want to miss: dancing on the deck in a warm rain-shower, the return of fresh, seasonal fruits to my store, the opening of the local farmers’ market.

But then there’s the flip-side.

The part of your arrival that beings out the hatred in me.

I mean, yes, I love spring rain, but I live in North-Central Texas, which means that we get days on end of weather that threatens – promises – rain, but never delivers. The gray light and thick skies go right to my head, and I’m forced to retreat to a cool, dark room until the tension breaks and the water cascades down.

And then there’s the mud. All those storms mean tons of it, and, you know, I have dogs who won’t go outside if there’s the merest hint of a drizzle, but if they realize there’s mud, all bets are off. Two of my dogs are mostly white, though if you look at them between March and June, you’d never know it.

The mud doesn’t just stay on the animals, either. They track it everywhere – the floors, the couch, my bed. Seriously, if our country ever goes to war again, they should just weaponize mud. It’s cheaper than nukes, and less harmful to the environment.

Of course, a letter to you, Spring, would have to include a word about tornadoes. I don’t know what you’re trying to prove with those twisting funnels of instant mayhem. None of us really believe that you can get to Oz that way, and frankly, they feel like a desperate grab for attention.

Seriously, Spring, must you be so needy?

It should be obvious, oh Season that transitions Winter into Summer, that my relationship with you is laced with ambivalence.

You bring so much destruction, but you also apologize for it with radiant blooms of colorful flowers – daffodils, tulips, daisies – all harbingers of happiness.

And so, Spring, I leave you with this thought: these mood swings of yours are not healthy. Do us all a favor: seek therapy. I know, I know,  you’re going to say that it’s we humans who have made you this way; that you’re only reacting to what we’ve done to your Planet.

And maybe that’s valid.

But couldn’t you at least meet us half way?

Image Copyright: ljubomirtrigubishyn / 123RF Stock Photo

About the author: Melissa A. Bartell

Melissa A. BartellMelissa is a writer, voice actor, podcaster, itinerant musician, voracious reader, and collector of hats and rescue dogs. She is the author of The Bathtub Mermaid: Tales from the Holiday Tub. You can learn more about her on her blog, or connect with her on on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

 

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The Old Gent’s Evening by Patricia Wellingham-Jones

With a clip of glass
on mahogany
he sets his after-dinner
port on the table,
replenishes it as needed.
He folds and buckles
creaking legs, drops
into his rump-sprung chair,
settles with dog at his feet
and paper rattling
for the evening.

About the Author: Patricia Wellingham-Jones

PatriciaWellingham-JonesPatricia Wellingham-Jones is a widely published former psychology researcher and writer/editor. She has a special interest in healing writing, with poems recently in The Widow’s Handbook (Kent State University Press). Chapbooks include Don’t Turn Away: poems about breast cancer, End-Cycle: poems about caregiving, Apple Blossoms at Eye Level, Voices on the Land and Hormone Stew.

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Orion by Selena Taylor

Orion by Ian C. Grey

She runs her fingers through her hair, making sure to pull it back in a lazy bun. As she pulls her hair up, she checks that her children are snuggled under their blankets, pretending to sleep. Smiling, she turns the lights off and says goodnight one more time.

When she enters the living room, her husband is starting to get up. He gathers his cup, which is in need of a refill, and his phone. He walks to the kitchen with her right behind him. He places the items down and reaches for his jacket.

They stay quiet – no need fill the silence.

He opens the garage and walks out to the chill spring night.  His jacket is quickly zipped up. She, on the other hand, finds the cool air refreshing.

A cigarette finds its way to his mouth. She turns as he brings a flame to the end. The warm glow gives way to a small orange tip. With his first puff taken, she turns away and tilts her head up to the night sky.

The stars begin to whisper their stories to her and she relays them to him. He stands quiet, only taking puffs every so often, but with a small smile. He does not question her stories; he only lets her go wild with them.

As the short stories come to an end she points up and quietly says “there he is.”

He knows what she means. Her favorite constellation, Orion.  Her other love. Her stars.

Spinning quickly, she watches him flick the cigarette.  Stomping out the cherry, they both shuffle to the house.

Soon, Orion will be gone for the summer, but she will always have her husband.

She will always have the man who will quietly listen to her stories, under the supervision of the stars.

Image Credit: Ian C. Grey

About the author, Selena Taylor

Selena TaylorSelena Taylor is a wife, a mother, and a woman who strives to tell the many stories that occupy her mind. She is active in the Rhett & Link fandom and appreciates dark humor.  She and her family live in Illinois, where she takes every opportunity to lose herself under the stars and let her imagination run wild. For more from Selena, check her out on Facebook.

 

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Sunday Sanctuary: When Makers Gather

SundaySancturary_WithDebraSmouse

I take the Q Train to Brooklyn on a sunny September Wednesday to have coffee with another maker. We know each other the way people know each other these days – mutual friends, becoming Facebook friends, witnessing the ways we each make art. She tells me about an idea she has for a film, confessing she’s only told one or two others so far.

There’s something about the vulnerability of a new idea for a creative – the need to share pieces of it with others, the desire for another soul to see the glimmer of brilliance within it. We need to see the sparkle in someone else’s eye or a nod of the head to let us know that they get it.

There’s also something delicate about a new idea – and we know that we can’t share even a smidge of the idea to just anyone for the idea is too tender. Nor can we overshare, knowing that too much talking about a project can shift us into perpetual talk and no action. Or worse, take the magic out of the idea.

Steven Pressfield confesses to using a code name for each project… so The Devil doesn’t Know The Real Name. We all have our suspicions around art making.

Her moment of sharing is an act of sacred trust, the acknowledgment that she sees a spark within my soul. I treat the moment like a china figurine filled with gossamer light.

I’ve brought her a gift of tea towels, one of which sported a map of Ohio. We spread it on the table between us and talk about the geography of Ohio and the surrounding states.

Her idea for her next movie involves a Road Trip through the Midwest.

***

Five months later, she asks me if I’d be willing to act as a producer for the film. There are too many logistical pieces. I agree and begin leaning into one of my favorite things: spreadsheets!

We rely upon a new-to-me app: Voxer. And over the months, as we talk about the film we do what we humans do best: we share stories. As we discuss our daily moments and confess our strengths and challenges over the months and a deeper connection between us forms.

I talk her off ledges and fill out paperwork for SAG. She talks me off ledges of art making and witnesses the ways in which I serve those I love. I remind myself and her time and again that “life is happening FOR you, not TO You.”

We set the schedule for the road trip to coincide with my partner, John, being away on a business trip.

***

Seven months after we spread the tea towel across a table in a coffee shop in Brooklyn, she pulls into my driveway. She has driven from New York to Ohio and her car is filled with people she loves: another filmmaker, an actor, and an artist. Her car is also filled with clothes and food and computers and cameras.

We hug and I usher them into the house. We have an aggressive time table for the evening, but first: dinner.

Already at my home is a local gent and his daughter. He’s part of the larger Kindred Community and has agreed to serve as a mentor for those in need of connecting with other creative souls.

I’ve reached far and wide to provide film extras. They arrive, one by one. A consultant turns storyteller. A champion of film making in Dayton. A girlfriend from my book club along with her husband. A local coaching colleague who also happens to be a musical theatre actor. Her neighbor.  The mentor’s wife and his middle daughter. A writer and member of the Dayton storytelling community.

We range from fifteen to seventy.

Folks mingle. Migrate to the porch. Connect with strangers. Tell stories. We shuffle folks upstairs and down. A mock workshop on art. A mock workshop on storytelling.  We snack, laugh, connect, and share our own stories of joy.

Folks leave and I shift into nurturing mode: ensuring everyone has a bed, a towel, and the WiFi password. We talk about future film days and locations. We review the morning schedule, agree to a 9 AM breakfast, and I ensure that both coffee pots are full of beans and ready to go. There are tea bags and teakettles filled with water, just waiting to boil.

We make adjustments to the filming schedule for the next day sitting side-by-side at my dining table.

By midnight, each of us is snug in our bed for the night. Less than six hours after they arrive, the first full day of the road trip and filming is officially complete.

***

It never matters how late I go to bed, I wake around six each morning. The morning after is no different.  Yet, my world is different. I’ve spent the last twelve hours immersed in the creative lives of others. My house is quiet as I toss on clothes and a long sweater. I start the coffee and join her on the porch.

Everyone else is still abed so It’s just the two of us as we talk about the previous night, the day ahead, and life. And how life is affecting our art.  We begin to look ahead to the rest of the road trip, the schedule, and I pull out my laptop to fire up a Mailchimp note with location details for two nights away.

She leans into me and smiles.

“I hope we get to do this again. Sit on your porch and work together.”

Others begin to rise, float in and out. More coffee and tea. I warm a breakfast casserole and set out fruit. And before long, the food disappears and it’s time for them to go.

What began as an inkling of an idea has begun to be born as a film.

***

“If we could make our house a home, and then make it a sanctuary, I think we could truly find paradise on Earth.”
— Alexandra Stoddard

When we create art, we must make it from a space of vulnerability. And safety. We need a sanctuary from the rest of the world and that safety comes from people we connect with, a favorite piece of equipment, and a port in the storm.

I am reminded that a roof and walls is a house, but what makes it a home is the choice to curate a nourishing environment. I’ve taken the best of who I am and proven to myself that creative a life includes curating a sanctuary.

As such – both an extension of my creative spirit and my safe haven – I protect it fiercely. I know that the wrong energy can damage or taint it, so it was with great care that I open my home – my sanctuary – and provide a safe haven for folks to land, be themselves, and create.

And I am also reminded that though we are often alone when we create, we are always a part of something more.

About the Author: Debra Smouse

debra_Smouse_mclDebra Smouse is a self-admitted Tarnished Southern Belle, life coach, and author of Clearing Brain Clutter: Discovering Your Heart’s Desire and Clearing Soul Clutter: Creating Your Vision. When she’s not vacuuming her couch, you’ll find her reading or plotting when she can play her next round of golf. She’s the Editor in Chief here at Modern Creative Life. Connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

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The Word Wakes You by Téa Silvestre Godfrey

The word grabbed me awake in the wee hours of the morning. Was it something I dreamt? Or did it dream me?

Admirabilia.

That word flashes relentlessly on the inside of my eyelids. I turn to look at the clock. It’s 4:08.

A few minutes pass and I give into the urge to get up and pee.

What does it mean, I wonder?

Is it a real word?

Back in bed and snug under the covers, I turn it round and round in my head.

Little bits of admiration?

Intangible moments of gratitude we collect like memorabilia?

How does one collect the intangible?

I roll over onto my other side.

Isn’t admiration about big things?

Her bravery in the face of that cancer diagnosis.

His ability to create and build a thriving multinational business.

Their courage to leave Syria and cross the ocean to Greece.

At 5:30, I reluctantly give up hope of going back to sleep. Deep snores rumble at me from Ira’s side of the bed and he won’t be up for at least another hour.

I slip on on my fleece robe and climb the stairs to the kitchen in slow motion.

If being admirable means we’ve done something worthy of recognition, who decides what’s worthy?

I stand at the sink and stare out the window into the inky dark morning. I can’t see the rain, but I can hear it.

The ritual begins.

Turn on the water. Fill the pot half way. Swirl it around. Pour it into the sink. Repeat the process twice more.

And what if there’s no one around to witness the wonderful thing done?

‘To admire’ implies both an observer and an observed.

You and me, right?

The proverbial tree-falling-in-the-forest question.

Open the coffee maker lid and pull out yesterday’s filter full of grounds.

On Facebook we have a never-ending supply of potential observers. Lurkers, yes. But also ‘friends’ willing to spend a millisecond to click the thumbs-up or maybe the heart button.

If we share — if we post the thing — then technically we’re asking to be admired, right?

Look at my beautiful baby (who I created with my very own body). Isn’t she delightful?

Look at this puppy I rescued. Isn’t he adorable?

Look at this poem I wrote. This meal I cooked. These flowers that grow in my yard.

I’ve seen them, but you need to see them, too. Your admiration is the true validation of my worth.

Admirabilia :: Smallish things to be praised with affection.

Open the grinder and fill it with beans. Push the button and listen to the high-pitched whir of the blades.

The wonders of modern living. Electricity. Running water. Central heating. How often do we stop to admire these things? Or the folks who made them happen for us.

The designers, the builders, the inspectors. The ones who sourced the materials and manufactured all the tiny moving parts. The ones who boxed them up and shipped them to where they needed to go. The ones who sold them to me. And to you.

All efforts of daily work and rituals of service.

When I turn the ignition and my car starts without a hitch, do I stop to honor the many MANY humans who contributed to that particular moment?

“Everything in life has brought us to this moment.” (Something my son likes to say at random for an easy laugh.)

Do I post pictures of those little everyday miracles on Facebook?

Mmm. Not so much.

A deep breath while I empty the freshly ground beans into the brown paper filter. Tap, tap, tap. Must. Get. Every. Last bit.

Next, cold (Clean! Thank you, municipal water guys!) water goes into the machine and I push the little red ‘brew’ button.

The water begins to heat and then it’s pumped and through to the grounds. The familiar clicks and sighs of our beloved appliance signal there will soon be coffee.

The elixir of life. A truly marvelous ritual if there ever was one.

But only because I’m here to experience and witness it?

On its own (without me), it’s simply just a blob of atoms shaped like a coffee maker.

I walk to the couch, sit down, and wait for the magic to materialize.

My son’s bedroom door opens and out bounces Max, his little dog. He’s up and on my lap quicker than anything should move before 6 a.m.

It’s like he hasn’t seen me in weeks.

I stare into his chocolate eyes and tousle his big floppy ears.

This moment. Something he and I share almost every morning.

I close my eyes and catalog the feeling for my ‘collection.’ Fully awake now to a practice of meaning and presence.

About the Author: Téa Silvestre Godfrey

Téa Silvestre Godfrey is passionate about community and loves to cook (and eat) with friends. She’s the author of Attract and Feed a Hungry Crowd,” the editor of “30 Ways to Bloom Your Online Relationships,” and works as a writing coach and freelance editor. Find her at StoryBistro.com

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Connecting to Your Creative Heart by Anna Oginsky

Albert Camus wrote, “In order to understand the world, one has to turn away from it on occasion.” While I wholeheartedly agree with Camus, I am finding it harder and harder to turn away from the world. The world is demanding! My life is overflowing with obligations. Slips of paper with reminders scribbled on them and to-do lists are literally busting out of every book, calendar, and bag I own. Yes, I desperately want to turn away from all of it, but sometimes I wonder: What will happen if I do?

Almost nothing.

When I returned from my first ever art retreat experience, the fact that everything I feared leaving behind was right there waiting for me when I returned came as a big surprise to me. After just one day back at home, I wondered if it was true that I even left? Was it a dream? Nothing really changed while I was away. When I returned, my children still needed me. My husband still wanted me. My dog still barked at me. There were still groceries to buy and meals to make. There were still appointments to make and playdates to keep. All the pieces of my life were still intact.

Nothing around me changed, but I was different. I changed. I changed a lot. I left for the retreat feeling overwhelmed, tired, and fearful that I had made a big mistake in investing this time and money in a retreat, of all things. It seemed impractical, indulgent even. I felt unworthy. Simultaneously, I was exploring new territory in my life at that time. I was healing old wounds and growing into a new way of living my life. I suspected there was a whole other way of moving through my days, but I couldn’t seem to access it. A retreat seemed like a great way to, at the very least, try something new.

When I returned from that retreat, I was lighter. I had the air of a child who just came in for the night after a day of playing outside — soaking in sunshine and inhaling fresh air. I was still tired when I returned, but it was a different kind of tired than I was used to. I felt it in my body, my mind, and my spirit. Just as a growing child needs sleep to integrate what transpires during the day, I needed sleep to integrate what I was learning.

Attending that first retreat was so powerful for me that I decided to create something like it for others. I had envisioned creating something similar at other points in my life, but it never seemed like the right time to pursue bringing those visions to life. Upon my return, I set to work imagining what I would offer, who would be involved, and where it would take place. Slowly, all the details fell into place and it was only up to me to make it happen.

One of the challenges I find in being creative is that it’s not always easy to know which path to take. There are always so many options! Turning away from the world not only allows us to understand the world better, it also allows us to understand ourselves better. In the time spent at that first retreat, I remembered the dreams I had previously. Away from my everyday life, I could see that what once seemed impossible was quite possible. Rather than causing my life to fall apart, attending that retreat helped my pull my life together in a new, more meaningful way by creating space for me to experience something new, different, and wildly inspiring.

As I begin making plans for this year’s retreat, I am feeling that same, familiar pull back to my lists, my calendar, and my obligations. I again wonder what will planning this retreat mean for me? How can I make it meaningful for others? What will happen if we all get up and leave our everyday lives for a few days to retreat into art, nature, writing, and each other? Now I can anticipate the answers to these questions. I know that to better understand myself and the world around me, I must turn away from it all. I know the same is true for others. I also know that we will all return to our homes changed —refreshed, renewed, and wildly inspired.

To learn more about The Heart Connected Retreat, visit here.

About the Author: Anna Oginsky

annbioAnna Oginsky is the founder of Heart Connected, LLC, a small Michigan-based workshop and retreat business that creates opportunities for guests to tune in to their hearts and connect with the truth, wisdom, and power held there. Her work is inspired by connections made between spirituality, creativity, and community. Anna’s first book, My New Friend, Grief, came as a result of years of learning to tune in to her own heart after the sudden loss of her father. In addition to writing, Anna uses healing tools like yoga, meditation, and making art in her offerings and in her own personal practice. She lives in Brighton, Michigan with her husband, their three children, and Johnny, the big yellow dog. Connect with her on her websiteTwitter; Facebook; or Instagram.

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The Goodnight Ritual by Kolleen Harrison

Ever since my two daughters were little girls we have had our “I love you” rituals at the end of each day.

As a single mom it was very important to me to tuck my girls into bed each night, snuggling them in just so, making certain they were warm and cuddly, and had whatever they may need before calling it a night. This time of days was hands down my absolute fav, as they were typically all sleepy eyed and mushy and willing to let me love and hug on them as much as I wanted to. Often times even asking me, “Please stay” or the obvious nightly question, “Mom, can we sleep with you?”

One night, when my youngest Sydnie was about 3 years old, I went in to her room per usual, sat down beside her as she lay in bed and said “I love you Syd”.She looked up at me with her beautiful big blues and said “I love you too mommy.”

I then proceeded to delay the goodnight a little longer, asking her, “Syd, how much do you love me?” She looked at me, smiled, and innocently responded, “I love you 47 mommy.” I sat there for a minute, smiling and laughing under my breath, thinking to myself, “This kid, never ceases to surprise me with some of the things that come out of her mouth!” I leaned down, gently planted a kiss on her forehead and quietly exited her room.

As I began making my way down the hallway towards my bedroom, I started to giggle even more, reflecting on her words and admiring the sweet innocence of my littlest.

The next day started out as “one of those” days. Syd didnʼt like the way I did her hair, I ran out of milk for their cereal, an argument arose because Syd wanted to wear her favorite pair of jeans AGAIN, (for God only knows how many times in a row!), and traffic was a damn nightmare!

On top of that Syd had to pay a visit to the principalʼs office at her school for continually not listening to her teacher. (Iʼm pretty sure this was Ms. Flippenʼs absolute last straw with my little bit and her “very social” ways!)

Unfortunately that evening when we arrived home, I had to do what I believe many parents dread doing, and implement a consequence for her behavior. Her punishment – “No TV, reading or coloring, and then straight to bed.”

As bedtime rolled around, the normal routine played out. I went into Sydʼs room, sat down beside her on her bed and began to get her all nestled in. I looked at her and softly said, “I love you Syd”. She hesitated and reluctantly muttered “I love you too mommy”. I could tell in her face and body language she was still somewhat mad at me, not really making eye contact and barely letting me hug on her. I asked her, “Syd, how much do you love me?” To which she replied, “I love you zero mom”.

It took all I had to not bust out laughing at her response presented in such a stoic, matter of fact, steadfast manner.

The following day came and went, without much fuss or drama. (Thank God!) Once again as bedtime descended upon us, the “I love you” exchange occurred between Sydnie and myself. Although, this particular night it was a bit out of the ordinary. Tonightʼs response not only completely and utterly melted my heart, it created a night time ritual to this day, 11 years later.

This special night when I asked Syd, “How much do you love me?” She looked at me, sat up in her bed, wrapped her precious little chubby arms around my neck and whispered “To the last number mommy.” (MELT YOUR HEART, right??!!) I squeezed her tightly, whispering back in her ear “I love you to the last number too Syd”.

Thus, The Goodnight Ritual was born.

Today, Syd is 14 years young and we still say those words to one another every night, although we have shortened it to “TLN”. (We decided to do this knowing it can be our little secret for when her friends may be around). It is a beautiful, tender night time ritual birthed from humor, love and innocence which I will gladly continue on for as long as I am able.

“I love you to the last number. Goodnight”.

About the Author: Kolleen Harrison

kolleenHarrisonbioKolleen Harrison is a creative living in the beautiful Central Coast of California. She is the Founder of LOVEwild and Founder/Maker of Mahabba Beads. Her passions lie in nurturing her relationship with God, loving on her happily dysfunctional family, flinging paint in her studio, dancing barefoot, making jewelry (that is so much more than “just jewelry”), and spreading love and kindness wherever and whenever she can. You can find her popping in and out at LOVEwild.org or MahabbaBeads.com

Sunday Brunch: Carousel of Memories

Sunday Brunch With Melissa Bartell

Calliope music, tinny and over-loud coming from the speakers, doesn’t quite drown out the sounds of human voices: small children squealing in delight, parents warning them to hold on and be careful. The lights blur as I ride by, my painted pony leaping upwards and gently descending as it chases other ponies (and sleds) around and around in an endless circle.

Asbury Park Carousel

The music slows.

The lights resolve into individual incandescent bulbs.

The ponies stop.

With watery legs, I slide off my stalwart steed, jump from the platform and launch myself at the adult who has been watching me. My grandfather, most likely, or maybe my great-aunt Violet.

“Did you see? I caught the ring!” I ask, and their answer is a blend of weariness and positive reinforcement.

I am five, six, seven years old, and I’ve just ended a day at the Asbury Park boardwalk with a ride on the carousel.

* * *

Outside the carousel house, the twilight of evening is melting into full darkness. The scent of hot dogs and cotton candy mixes with the salty brine of sea and sand. The lights on the rollercoaster are reflected upon the glassy ocean.

The night feels made of magic.

I am twelve years old, and I have no idea that it will be the last time I see the boardwalk with its rides active, with children running back and forth, with indulgent parents and grandparents handing over money in exchange for pretzels with mustard, paper cones full of popcorn, or wax-coated bags of salt-water taffy.

On that night, surrounded by the teeming throngs of little kids racing for the teacups, kids my age who are at once too cool to be seen with their parents but not quite ready to be away from them, and older kids – teens, really – making out in the gondolas of the Ferris wheel, I cannot even fathom that such a thriving place – an icon of the Jersey Shore – will be a dead husk just a few years later.

* * *

It’s 2009 and my husband, my parents, and I are on the east coast because my aunt – my mother’s younger sister – got married a few days before, and we’ve extended our trip to visit family none of us have seen in years.

The October wind blows cold through the two layers of sweaters I’m wearing, but I turn my face into it, and let it push my hair back behind me. The ocean is deep blue and steel gray, primal and fierce, crashing its fists of white foam on the cold sand.

The boardwalk is empty, save for a few hard-core athletes, sheathed in thermal exercise gear and clutching their dogs’ leashes as they pound down the slanted, weathered boards.

We leave Asbury Park, and head to the next town over, Ocean Grove, where the cute shops are open for business, hoping a few errant tourists will wander in.

My mother and I lived there for part of a year when I was nine, and walking those so-familiar streets fills me with bittersweet nostalgia. I liked my life when I was there, when it was just Mom and me in our apartment on the second floor, where you could see the ocean from the bathtub.

Even so, thirty years later, I must acknowledge, that her life and mine are both happier with all the changes that have taken place since then.

* * *

It is last Wednesday of March, 2017, and I’m in Asbury Park again, with just my husband this time.

We woke early that morning to the total darkness of the power being out, and the insistent keening of tornado sirens, drove to the airport feeling a bit shell-shocked, then landed, several hours later, under sunny skies.

Our hotel room has a view of the beach and vintage photos of the Jersey Shore on the walls, and after we have dinner – truly sinful burgers made of ground beef mixed with ground bacon – at a local pub, we go to the boardwalk.

The sun is low in the early-spring sky, and the air is chilly, but I find a bench and enjoy the peace of the waves, and smile at all the people walking their dogs, or just enjoying the pre-tourist season calm.

The city has changed since I was last here.

What was once a dead town is alive again.

Many of the Beaux-Arts buildings have been lovingly restored. The old Arcade is now home to small boutiques and a coffee roasting company (with a brewery right next door). Restaurants line the waterfront, and the town hosts many trendy eateries and bars – ethnic, Vegan, brunch – including (as their sidewalk sign proudly proclaims) “The Best Gay Bar in New Jersey.” (I take their word for it.)

My husband walks off to explore the Arcade, to take pictures at my behest, and I stay on my bench.

It’s probably just my imagination, but I can hear – very faintly – the sound of calliope music.

Asbury Park Carousel House

 

About the author: Melissa A. Bartell

Melissa A. BartellMelissa is a writer, voice actor, podcaster, itinerant musician, voracious reader, and collector of hats and rescue dogs. She is the author of The Bathtub Mermaid: Tales from the Holiday Tub. You can learn more about her on her blog, or connect with her on on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

Obsessions, Compulsions and Conversations with Cats by Pat West

Dickens slept facing north. He’d even rearrange furniture in hotel rooms.
The man swore by baked apples and their ability to prevent seasickness.
Favorite recipe: apples soaked in a sherry bath, filled with apricot marmalade
and drizzled with sherry syrup. He thought pears a lesser fruit.

John Cheever wearing his only suit, would take the elevator
to a maid’s room in the basement of his apartment building,
strip to his boxers and scribble short stories. At eleven
he’d have a secret slug of whiskey, at noon two martinis
and a Turkey Monte Cristo sandwich before afternoon gin and tonics.

William Faulkner typed with his toes. Stories about his drinking
might make one think he just poured bourbon into a bowl
and never ate. Not so, the man loved salmon croquettes,
made right from the recipe on the back of the salmon tin.

Eudora Welty straight pinned her pages together,
when they grew too long for the room
she put them on the table, a patchwork quilt
you could read in any direction. Her writing
filled with stuffed eggs, seafood
gumbo, beaten biscuits and Vicksburg Potato Salad,
richest food in Southern literature.

Capote wrote horizontal on a couch, cigarette and coffee
handy. Editing took place in the afternoon and his drinks
went from coffee to mint tea to sherry to martinis.
Evenings he ate Italian Summer Pudding: creamy chocolate
mascarpone and macerated raspberries, with layers
of coffee-and rum-soaked ladyfingers.

While living in Key West, Ernest Hemingway worked
in a pair of oversized loafers, typewriter chest-high
and only discussed the day’s writing
with his six-toed cats. He thought regular-toed cats
poor listeners. His recipe, Pan-Fried Mountain Trout,
remains a secret. He stopped each day’s work

About the Author: Pat West

PatWestBio

Pat Phillips West lives in Olympia, WA. A Pushcart and Best of the Net nominee, her work has appeared in Haunted Waters Press, Persimmon Tree, VoiceCatcher, San Pedro River Review, Slipstream, Gold Man Review and elsewhere.

Book Club by Patricia Wellingham-Jones

Ten women, at first unknown
to each other, gather each month
in the rear of the old library.
Shadows haunt the back spaces
behind the racks of books,
the computers are shut and silent.

The women shove two tables together,
settle with their cups and books.
The first round is social
chitchat and by now, two years later,
our stories interweave
and overlap.

One woman clears her throat,
the talk subsides, questions begin.
For an hour the air is filled
with lively discussion, thoughtful
silence. Even, on occasion, tears
and always laughter.

What seems a marvel is the way
the book club has spilled into friendships.
We support one member’s chorus,
attend a play with another, drop off books
and stay for tea, visit at the market,
post office, café.

Our small town book club
is not small to us.

About the Author: Patricia Wellingham-Jones

PatriciaWellingham-JonesPatricia Wellingham-Jones is a widely published former psychology researcher and writer/editor. She has a special interest in healing writing, with poems recently in The Widow’s Handbook (Kent State University Press). Chapbooks include Don’t Turn Away: poems about breast cancer, End-Cycle: poems about caregiving, Apple Blossoms at Eye Level, Voices on the Land and Hormone Stew.

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