Sunday Salon: Comfort Care

Sunday mornings come quietly here at our little house, especially in this frigid Midwestern winter. We start a fire, settle in with our coffee and a book or newspaper, munch on some toast and honey from our local bakery. As the morning progresses, we might brew another pot of coffee, put some music on the CD player. I might finish one book and pick up another; my husband might move into the den and catch the latest replays from Saturdays soccer matches.

Sundays haven’t always been this way. For many years, we were very active in our church music programs, and would hustle out of bed on Sundays just as we did on other weekdays, needing to be there prior to service time to rehearse. After worship, we often went out for brunch with friends, arriving home mid-afternoon. This was all quite lovely, of course, but it often made Sunday mornings feel frantic. So perhaps this was one reason we’ve fallen away from regular church attendance. With age has come a sense of needing to choose those activities that serve us best, that provide comfort and care, rather than the sense of one more obligation to fulfill.

Until the last few years, the idea of self-care was foreign to me. By nature and nurture I am a caring person, born with a deep sense of responsibility and need to be loved, but also trained in the Golden Rule. The top priority for most of my adult live has been caring for others – my husband, my child, my grandparents and parents, my dogs, my friends and jobs and volunteer work. While I never begrudged any of that, it kept me in a perpetual state of agitation and anxiety, trying to juggle everyone’s needs. There were many times when I felt out of sorts, or even physically sick, without really knowing why.

My Self became lost in the mix of caring for everyone and everything else.

As the years have passed, many of those obligations have disappeared quite naturally, with no intervention or intention on my part. My son grew up and moved away, all of our relatives have died, and last year we lost both of our precious dogs within five months of each other. I’ve retired from all my jobs and narrowed down my volunteer work to one or two activities. Life is simpler, and it’s easier to make those choices I mentioned before – the ones that provide comfort and care.

Of course comfort care for me is heavily weighted toward enjoying a creative life. It means books and music. It means enjoying lovely scented body creams and fresh home cooked food. It means a soft blanket to wrap around my shoulders on chilly mornings. It means looking for beautiful moments in the day – watching the sunrise from my favorite window, hearing a friend laugh, cuddling on the couch with my husband.

In actuality, most of my mornings look a lot like that idyllic Sunday morning I described in the first paragraph. Hot coffee in my favorite cup, an hour of two of reading a good book.

I came across this quotation and it spoke volumes to me: “You have permission to rest. You are not responsible for everything that is broken. You do not have to try and make everyone happy.  For now, take time for you. It’s time to replenish.”

It’s a relief to give myself this “permission” – to take care, to replenish the needs of my own body and soul for a change. It’s been a long time coming, but now it’s here.  And it’s really comforting.

How about you? What are some ways you provide your own comfort care?

About the Author: Becca Rowan

becca_rowan_bio_may2016Becca Rowan lives in Northville, Michigan with her (newly-retired!) husband. She is the author of Life in General, and Life Goes On, collections of personal and inspirational essays about the ways women navigate the passage into midlife. She is also a musician, and performs as a pianist and as a member of Classical Bells, a professional handbell ensemble. If she’s not writing or playing music you’ll likely find her out walking or curled up on the couch reading with a cup of coffee (or glass of wine) close at hand. She loves to connect with readers at her blog, or on Facebook, Twitter, or Goodreads.

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Mockingbird by John Grey

Sure I know it’s a forged song
but that doesn’t stop me listening.

It’s a snatch of titmouse, a little ambulance,
some Sinatra through a window,
and the opening bars of Fur Elise.

That’s not a bird singing
from the chimney-top
but the world’s first sampler.

Like me,
it has no tune of its own,
must borrow, steal,
and hope the mishmash
is unrecognizable to its source.

Out of bed I get,
drink coffee as the commercials say,
kiss my wife on my cheek
as my father did my mother before me.
I shower for no reason
other than I always do.
I wear what my job demands.

Off I go into the world,
whistling something
I must have heard
somebody hear somewhere.

About the Author: John Grey

John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in New Plains Review, South Carolina Review, Gargoyle and Big Muddy Review with work upcoming in Louisiana Review, Cape Rock and Spoon River Poetry Review.

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All That is to Come by Christine Mason Miller

In three weeks time, I’ll be on the other side of the planet—traveling through India with three companions, my second visit to that part of the world. Just like the first time I went there, I don’t know what to expect and I’m excited for a new adventure. Even though we’re headed to many of the same places I visited before, four years have passed since that trip. During that time, I’ve written a book, moved across country and turned fifty. The world has changed and so have I, so I’m not heading to Delhi assuming I’ll love India the same way I did last time.

Who’s to say how well I’ll be able to handle the colorful chaos that is India this time around? Who’s to say I won’t love it more?

I traveled with my friend Barb on 2014 visit, and we went to Ranthambore National Park, a wildlife preserve in Rajasthan best known for its tiger population. As we both got situated with the guided jeep tour our first morning there, we were told not to get our hopes up with regard to seeing a tiger. None had been spotted for days, so expectations were tempered right away.

Over the next few hours, we were driven all over the park, observing sambar deer, monkeys and all kinds of birds. While we weren’t finding any tigers, it was fascinating to watch our guides try to track them. After pulling up near the edge of a dramatic vista and turning the engine off, they listened for the telltale signs of smaller animals’ sounds and movements that might signal the presence of a predator. Sure enough, there seemed to be a bit of commotion, and the guides immediately headed in a new direction. After checking in with another guide down the road, following tracks and taking a few more detours, it eventually came time to wrap up our tour with nary a tiger in sight.

On the route back to the entrance of the park, ours was the only jeep in sight that morning, and it was a small one compared to the twenty-person caravans we saw on our way in. All the other vehicles that had entered the park the same time we did at the beginning of the day were in search of tigers in other areas, so our small band of less than a dozen tourists had the road in front of us all to ourselves.

We’d passed a small body of water on our way into the park, and stopped on our return to see if we might spot a crocodile. While scanning the shoreline, something unexpected came into view, and once my brain caught up with my eyes, I realized what I was looking at: a full grown tiger, walking straight toward us, eyes locked, it seemed, on mine. My eyes went wide, my jaw dropped, and I immediately started crying. Even the guides were freaking out, exclaiming, “THIS is magic moment!” with a hand raised in the air as if in an exalted prayer. Looking at him with tearful eyes, I knew, body and soul, he was right. This was a magic moment.

I know people see wild animals all the time, all over the world. Whether on a jeep tour similar to ours, a safari in Africa or a fishing trip in Alaska, I’ve heard countless stories of encounters with creatures big and small in their native habitat. Seeing an animal in the wild isn’t terribly unique or even difficult. But for whatever reason, on that particular day, the rush of excitement upon seeing the tiger poured through me like a meteor shower—all stars and light and, yes, magic.

As the tiger walked toward us, our driver backed up and pulled up to a small hill just off the road. For a blissful ten minutes or so, we had front row seats to the tiger’s quiet meanderings. We watched him walk toward the water and sprawl out on the ground before offering us a big, gaping yawn, perhaps to let us know our presence in his home couldn’t possibly bore him more. We were guests in his domain, so we all sat quietly and watched him, the most audible sounds being the click-click-click of all the cameras. After taking a few photos myself, I set mine down, wanting to watch him with my own eyes for as long as possible rather than through a viewfinder. When I turned around to look at Barb, sitting behind me, I saw she had been crying too.

We cried quite a few times on that trip—at the sight of other animals, at the kindness of strangers, out of exhaustion and overwhelm. We laughed and sobbed and whooped and prayed, letting all the emotions flow through us day by day, moment by moment. In order to fully experience all the beauty and wonder India had to offer, we had to be open to all of its challenges too—the poverty, the crowds, the constant noise and movement. We came home filled in ways we hadn’t expected, having been pushed far out of our comfort zones and given gifts we didn’t see coming, like the tiger that emerged, seemingly out of nowhere, right in front of our jeep on that cold, misty morning in Ranthambore.

I am returning to India in a few weeks with Barb again, along with two other first-time visitors. While we aren’t visiting Ranthambore this time, there are, no doubt, many magic moments ahead of us. I don’t know what they will look or feel like and am not going to try to predict where they’ll happen, but I know they’re there—waiting for us all like unopened, beautifully wrapped presents. As I prepare for the journey ahead, I’m already saying thank you for everything that is to come.

About the Author: Christine Mason Miller

Christine Mason Miller is an author and artist who has been inspiring others to create a meaningful life since 1995.

Follow her adventures at www.christinemasonmiller.com.

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Welcome to Issue #9: Selfie

Is our culture’s obsession with The Selfie causing a generation of narcissists? Or is it simply the modern-day sign that we humans have always desired looking ourselves in the eye?

If you look at photographs from beginning of photography, you’ll see taking photos of oneself has often been a subject of choice. And what about the self-portraits of artists through the ages? What about the writers who publish their journals ala May Sarton? Is The Memoir a Selfie? Why are we called to explore our own story in a variety of ways and mediums?

How does self-portraiture open our eyes to our beauty and our flaws? Is all the “navel-gazing” of self-help and self-discovery and good old therapy pure silliness or a truly valuable way to grow as a human? How does it heal us?

How does exploring who we are at heart open us to creating from a space of realness and vulnerability? How does the brave task of self-refection and self-evaluation allow us to grow as creative beings as well as human beings? Does diving into self-exploration make us better makers, partners, parents, and lovers?

Is self-care selfish? Is self-care critical to being healthy mentally, physically, and emotionally? How does caring for ourselves – or letting self-care fall to the wayside – impact us as makers?

What happens when we completely re-invent ourselves? What is the path to destroy old versions of ourselves and emerge from the fire like a Phoenix? What does that do for us as artists, writers, and makers?

Is the desire to understand who we are and how we tick at the heart of everything we create?

“I believe I know the only cure, which is to make one’s center of life inside of one’s self, not selfishly or excludingly, but with a kind of unassailable serenity—to decorate one’s inner house so richly that one is content there, glad to welcome anyone who wants to come and stay, but happy all the same when one is inevitably alone.”
― Edith Wharton

Welcome to the first issue of 2018 – Issue #9: Selfie.

When we were choosing themes for Modern Creative Life, I thought that choosing “Selfie” was just the right subject to dive into as we enter 2018 and kick off our third year. In what ways can all sides of the “self-ie” allows us to connect with our art, meet our deepest needs for creation, and honor our love of beauty?

What does it mean to examine one’s self? Can self-portraits – and all versions of that such as memoir, personal essays, and such – heal us and help us grow as creatives? How do we make the space for blank canvases and blank pages if we ignore our need to create? Can we expect to fill those pages and canvases with our creations if we dive deeper into who we are?

Part of living a creative life is the understanding that we must refill our own wells in some way on a regular basis, otherwise, we find ourselves resentful of our own lives. Without the time or space to pursue our creative ways, we will burn out. Our souls demand that we uphold the responsibility of using our gifts. So how does looking at ourselves help us or hurt us?

This what we are exploring in this issue.

In this issue, you’ll get a peek into the daily lives of other creative folk in our Studio Tours and Typical Tuesday series, and meet people walking fascinating creative pathways in Conversations Over Coffee. With photos and fiction, poetry and essays, as well as all kind of enlightenment, help each of us find a deeper understanding into all the ways in which you create.

As always our mission at Modern Creative Life is to honor the pursuit and practice of joyful creativity. We believe that the creative arts enrich our everyday living, enhance our environment, create lasting connections, and sustain our souls. Please join us as we look to other creatives for ways in which they nurture and tend their own creative life so that they regularly find their process – and lives – feeling nourished instead of parched.

As we share the stories of other makers, use their experiences to illuminate your path into your own Modern Creative Life.

What lessons might you have to share with the world? Share your stories with us, serving as the example or others to learn from and get a sense of permission to take time to restore their own hearts and minds.  We are open to single contributions as well as new regular contributors. Email us at moderncreativelife@gmail.com.

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Sunday Sanctuary: Magic, Hope, and Wonder

As I write you this note, we have just returned home from 2900 miles of travel. We stayed in six hotels over the course of eighteen days. I should be wrung out, exhausted, and devoid of any creative juice. Yes, I am tired after being in the car for more than ten hours just today. But the synapses in my brain are firing away with ideas, and  I’m filled with a sense of creative hopefulness I didn’t posses a month ago.

I won’t bore you with every detail of our time away, but I will tell you that I owe this feeling of renewal to a mouse. The Mouse.

Sandwiched between eight days with John’s family and John teaching a course in Orlando, we spent four magical days at Walt Disney World. Considering I booked us a room at Disney World with less than 45 days notice, I felt pretty darned lucky to walk into my room and realize that from my bed, I could see Cinderella’s Castle in all its glory.

And that also meant we could see the Happily Ever After Fireworks from the comfort of our balcony.

In a moment, I was seven years old again and sitting in my room playing an LP on my record player, listening to songs from Cinderella, Mary Poppins, The Jungle Book, and Winnie the Pooh. Long before the days of Cable TV, VHS, and The Internet, I watched black and white re-runs of Annette Funicello and the rest of the Mouseketeers. I danced around my room and sung along with every song, wishing for the moment I could be a Mouseketeer, too.

Color me envious:  when the new Mickey Mouse Club arrived with Julie and Lisa and all their friends, I wanted to join in their fun!

I would love to tell you that John and I did EVERYTHING at Disney World. To be honest, we took a laid-back approach, a vacation from the tightly-planned trips I orchestrated when I was primarily a mother, and my number-one goal was to ensure that each of my girls saw the characters they most loved. Instead, we lingered over meals and ambled from one attraction to the next.

Rather than being the one confirming that every box was checked, I got to step back and be what fuels my creative spirit: a curious observer. For a Type-A Planner, this was also a little terrifying. To wander into the vast world of Disney with only a couple of dinner reservations and a few Fast Passes was akin to organizing a major project without a day-planner and cell phone.

On our first night, we slept with the blinds open so that anytime I awoke, I could see the turrets and spires.

To be honest, giving my inner people-pleaser and planner time off is damned difficult. No matter where we went, I worried that John was having a good time.  I wanted to ensure he was fed, watered, and getting to ride what he wanted. No concerns about Character autographs, but still, the incessant worry was there.

In our explorations, I was reminded about an article I read many years before. It revealed Walt Disney’s biggest regret about Disneyland: folks could see the city. He wanted it to be a place where anyone visiting could escape the real world and enter a world of dreams and imagination. So, when they began building Disney World in Florida, Walt was determined that anyone arriving in the Magic Kingdom, would have journeyed into a space and time where the outside world was completely unseen.

He accomplished this dream  by creating a large parking lot with access to the entrance to The Magic Kingdom possible only via ferry or monorail.  How magical is that?

We are, in some ways, trained to allow folks into our sacred space of creating. To show them how we make our magic happen. People want a blueprint. They constantly seek a Magic Formula. Are we allowing too much of a peek inside the curtain? A question I will be asking myself in the coming weeks.

 After visiting The Studios, Magic Kingdom, and Epcot… and after three nights, we had a final breakfast at the crown of the Disney Resorts: The Grand Floridian. Best. Pancakes. Ever. Then we trundled off to the other side of Orlando so John could teach his class.  (This is us in the UK at Epcot)

But the thing was, I still had 2 days left on my fancy MagicBand. Waking up early one morning, without the magical castle view, I decide to take up John’s suggestion: drive back to the parks and spend the day.

I arrived around 7:30 in the morning. I parked, boarded the monorail, and entered The Magic Kingdom almost an hour before official opening time. I strolled down Main Street, still humming a song from a video my oldest  daughter used to watch on a loop:

I’m walking right down the middle of Main Street U.S.A……..

I strolled. I lingered. I popped into the Main Street Bakery (a Starbucks) for coffee. I wound my way around families and skirted the Castle that was a constant reminder that while my chronological age is nearly fifty, inside me, my seven-year-old self still exists.

I chose to see this solo day in The Magic Kingdom as an Artist Date. I enjoyed the rides, I wandered in and out of shops, and I ate a good  meal at an extravagant price. An elderly worker at the Peter Pan Ride whispered to me as she ensured I was safely seated “I prefer to fly solo” as I soar off to Neverland. At my own pace, I experienced the world Walt imagined in a different dimension.

More than a visit to a theme park, this day was an exploration into my own curiosity, and rather than worry about the experiences of others, I filled my thirsty well for the year to come.

And now, back home, I am that seven-year-old once again. Seeing things in a new light. Allowing my creative spirit to be fed by magic. Embracing the world around me as a place of hope and a space of open, delicious wonder.

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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Dark Hope by Selena Taylor

Photo by Cherry Laithang on Unsplash

I was made from evil, to do evil for good. It might seem complicated, but really it isn’t.

I walked from the darkness into the light. The only one of my kind.

I am the one who tricks the humans who steal innocence.  I am never kind to those humans. My duty is to make their worst nightmares come true. I  love to spice it up and make the nightmares more extravagant.

I was made shortly after the Fall. There was not much law to the land those days, so I had my work cut out for me. Still, it was nothing like today. When I look back now, I think maybe humanity is never going to get better.

I do not have a link to these humans, so it is always by word of mouth, or by what I see during my wanderings, that my targets are chosen.

Or at least, it was.

Technology has changed things.

Before, I had to stalk the humans I was targeting.

Now-a-days, I only have to go online and find where they live.  With over 7 billion people on this single world, I tend to pick off the big guys the most. It’s the trickle-down effect really. Take out the ones who set up the human trafficking rings, the men who make their living as destroyers of hope and murderers of innocence.

Those do take the most time.  They make me long for more powers, something I’ve rarely done during my long existence.

What powers do I mean? Well, I really possess only three:

  1. Ability to change how I look
  2. Stronger then any human.
  3. Knowing if they are innocent or guilty

It would be nice if I could just think them all dead, or… it would be a lot easier, anyway.

Oh well.

Guess hard jobs must be done the hard way.

I do not hide in the shadows like those nasty humans do. I confront them directly, and make them pay.  I have had small children cling to me – yes,  me the thing of evil! –  as if I was their last hope. Sad, really, that a demon is their hope at all, first, last, or otherwise. I tell them they are worth it, and to stand strong in the light. I promise them that true justice has come to set them free.

In between my targeted hits on the pedophiles and human traffickers of this world, in between the hours spent planning and learning – following their habits and mapping their routines – I take care of the small-time creeps, too. The casual sex offenders, the ones who have to be on lockdown when kids are out to play.

Those are easy pickings, thanks to the general helpfulness of the Internet. I  wake up in the morning, make my coffee, sit at my desk and go to the website they have to register on, and by the afternoon they have paid their dues.

See, it is not that complicated.

Really.

But the list is long.

And I do ask for patience, since there is only me.

The hour grows late. Perhaps it’s time for a light dinner, before I venture out once more?

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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For the Love of Bread by Joy Plummer

Instrumental

I first made bread in 1994. I bought a bread machine from a friend for $75. I made one loaf, and it came out perfectly. I made a second loaf, and it was about half right, half edible. The third loaf was completely wrong and inedible. I had no idea why.

[interior crumb of sourdough]

At the same time, my mother gave me an old hippie cookbook called Laurel’s Kitchen, a vegetarian cookbook published out of Berkeley in the mid-1970s. The vegetarian recipes were awful – way too bland for today’s palate. But the bread recipes were wholesome and excellent. While I was failing with my bread machine, I started attempting bread by hand. It was awesome! I made whole wheat bread, rye bread, and I don’t even remember what else, but it was all so good. I sold my bread machine for $75.

sliced multi-grain with cranberries

When my oldest daughter was born, I found freedom by carrying her everywhere in a Baby Bjorn. I remember the first time I decided to make challah. I put Sophie in her carrier, and mixed my dough. I remember kneading the dough on the counter, and noticing that the gentle rocking, back and forth from my heels to my toes, had put Sophie to sleep. It was, indeed, entirely soothing to me, too.

sesame challah

And then, I discovered a bread revolution happening around me. Jim Lahey’s no-knead bread method started sweeping through the DIY foodie community, so of course, being somewhat undaunted by the bread process, I tried it. CRUSTY BREAD!! And it was so easy and OUTSTANDINGLY delicious! I joined a bread group on Facebook, and someone recommended Ken Forkish’s Flour Water Yeast Salt. Now this was serious. I read every page and followed the instructions exactly as written. And I was becoming more advanced with every boule I made.

4 boules of sourdoughThe next big step was attempting sourdough. I’ve failed many attempts at growing things. I used to say that I could grow anything, as long as I could nurse it. But again, I followed Forkish’s instructions, and I made sourdough! I was making bread rise with a precious mix of flour and water!

3 seeded boules

I noticed that every time I put my hands in dough that any tension, stress, or frustration I had, dissipated. I was calm, focused, content. Making bread requires presence. All the mathematical calculations (it’s a ratio, yo), the weighing, the testing, and then working the dough to where it feels right, feeling how it changes over time…. You breathe into the process. It’s a meditation.

twisted chocolate challah

Now, I’m a member of a global community of people who nerd out on milling grains into flour, trying different kinds of breads from all around the world, and who strive to perfect our craft. But bread people are also generous and kind. Someone posts a picture of a crusty boule that pancaked when they put it into the oven. “Does it taste good?” That’s all that matters. Everyone makes a loaf that doesn’t perform the way you expected sometimes. It doesn’t matter. Try again.

baguettes

I started selling bread to friends less than a year ago. My first week, I took 25 orders. The week before Christmas, I took 73 orders. Every week since I began, I have gotten one to two new customers. People are hungry for fresh bread. People are so happy when they get bread from me. Bread is goodness. Bread is for feeding your body and your spirit. Bread is for feeding your family. Bread is for sharing. Bread is love.

English muffins

About the Author, Joy Plummer

Joy PlummerJoy Plummer has been working in the food industry for seven years as a baker, caterer, and personal chef. A desire to set boundaries on food intake led her to a brief 2-year stint as a vegan, but she decided that she loved food adventures and her zaftig body more. She continues to serve personal chef clients, but bread is her true love. She plans to open a bread-centered restaurant in 2018. Joy lives in the San Francisco metropolitan area with her husband and three kids. Learn more about her on Facebook.

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Sunday Brunch: On Silence

Silence. Most of us either love it or hate it, sometimes both depending on the circumstances.

From our earliest ages we’re taught that certain places are meant for silence. We are shushed in church, and reminded to be quiet when we visit libraries. We write poems about silence, repeat proverbs about it, and even sing songs lauding it, or, in the case of lullabies, we sing songs to coax it from others.

But those early types of silence, the enforced silences, are radically different from the kinds of quiet, of silence, that we embrace as adults. We might take our morning coffee out to the deck or patio to enjoy the quiet of an early morning. We make time in the middle of a busy day to meditate or pray. We seclude ourselves in the bathroom and soak in a scented bath in the evening.

And in all those moments, we think we’re experiencing silence, but really, we’re not. What we’re truly hearing is the lack of intentional sound. We may have turned off the radio, set our phones to do not disturb, or locked the bathroom door against chattery interlopers, but that isn’t really silence.

Fireplace

Last Wednesday evening, my husband and I sat in our darkened living room and listened to the crackle of the fireplace. We’d just finished eating tacos by candlelight. It wasn’t the meal I’d planned for us – I try to limit our ‘wrapper food’ to the occasional lunch – but the power had gone out late that afternoon, and our house has an all-electric kitchen.

It was late enough in the day that neither of us had fully-charged phones or laptops. We’d received an initial text that power would be restored at five pm, then seven, and finally midnight. It was supposed to dip below freezing that night – not as cold as the conditions our friends and family in the Midwest and Midlantic states were experiencing, but cold for Texas, where houses are built to shed heat, not retain it.

So we stoked the fire, and we lit all the candles and we brought blankets out to the living room and cuddled on the couch. We played games on our phones while we could, but eventually, we lapsed into quiet.

Into silence.

It’s a strange thing about modern life. We so rarely experience true silence. Even when snow blankets the world with its special, magical hush, we are still surrounded by electrical hum.

But when the power is out… when the fridge ceases cycling and the clocks stop blinking in digital blue or green… when light pollution is suddenly dimmed… that’s when silence truly falls.

As a rule, I’m not a fan of silence. I can’t sleep without white noise distracting me from the external house sounds that come with life in outer suburbia and muting the often too-loud thoughts inside my own head.

Last Wednesday, silence was an annoyance. I complained loudly to my husband. I even texted one of my friends that it was too quiet, that instead of being soothing, the silence felt oppressive and creepy.

But eventually, I relaxed into the softness, the cool darkness, and the almost perfect soundlessness. I went to the bedroom to curl up with my dogs and let the steady sound of their breathing – the only discernable noise – lull me into sleep.

My husband guarded the fire until it had burned low enough that it was safe to leave it, and then joined me in the bed. We lay together in the darkness, not speaking. Not really touching. Just breathing in the silence.

Shortly after midnight, the power returned, jarring us out of our quietude and into wakefulness. I wish I could say that we looked at each other, laughed, and turned the lights back off, but we’re tech addicts and habitual night owls.

We went back to bed around two in the morning, our usual hour, but something of our evening of enforced silence lingered. We were gentler with each other that night and the next day, more mindful.

I’m still not fond of silence.

But I like quiet.

And I love the peacefulness of snuggling on the couch with my husband, not talking, not watching television, just being together.

About the author: Melissa A. Bartell

Melissa 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, listen to her podcast, or connect with her on on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

In Theory by Æverett

Open Book

I have faith in impossible things.
in angels and airwaves and mystic tarot.
angels with black wings and blacker eyes.

A metric ton of sound bursts overhead, ringing and vibrating and thrumming. Alive. Real. It digs in, it melts, it Becomes. It grows at an exponential rate and tears the flesh before its rampage to shreds. It reverberates and the onslaught repeats. It hums. It swells. It smashes all the windows.
Glass on the floor cuts my naked feet.

 

I believe in heartfelt androids—
he smiles so sweetly, you know.
I believe in Tongues—
it just takes learning.
Saints are just dead men. Don’t worship them.

that’s blasphemy.       It is.

I have faith in impossible things.
in the end of everything and the kindness of others.
a touch on the shoulder…

a gentle kiss—       I miss that.

I pray for impossible things. I always will.
go on, fight me! *thumps on chest*

The book sits there, untouched, and weeping. He bleeds for her. And she doesn’t even care. The ache is raw— and the cacophony is shredding his every. damn. page. Flesh thrown asunder in all directions, splattering on the walls, the ceiling. And the voice laughs. And she echoes it. It’s a friend of hers, and she loves that sound; it always makes her joy. She is, in fact, in love with him. And he is so very jealous. So very, very fucking jealous.

 

He lets it go, lets himself die— And cries with regret when she begins picking up his disparate pieces, still crying with laughter in echo. Crying with laughter in echo.

I love you.
damn do I love you.
Seeing your name on the caller ID makes me so happy.
Thank you for being.

Thank you for being.
On an empty street, I hear a familiar voice. I guess the street isn’t so empty. I follow it, and for the first time, see the face. It echoes in my memory with so many accompanying images. But not this one. Never this one.

Fear. Thrill.

I have never felt unsafe in a dark parking lot. I have always felt the Predator. I am a Predator now. But I will not hunt this. I back away. I watch. And I etch it in my memory— the sound of your laughing and the sight of it leaving your lips. I turn from you, completely unseen, unknown, undisclosed, and I walk away from you.

The sound of laughter chases me.

I will remain undisclosed.
You will never know.
It is my sick little secret.
sick little secret.

Little do I know, you saw me there, watching. And you knew.

You too are the Predator.
Kindred. Trouble.

I have faith in impossible things.
Theoretically, every reality is possible. So this isn’t even irrational.
String theory, man. String theory.
Shut the sound off.
and put the angel to bed—      kiss him to sleep.
And the laughter will never end.
Und das Lachen wird niemals enden.

Niemals enden.
In theory, anyway.

 

Photo by Cathy Mü on Unsplash

About the Author: Æverett

ÆverettÆverett lives in the northern hemisphere and enjoys Rammstein and Star Trek. He writes both poetry and fiction and dabbles in gardening and soap making. She has two wonderfully old cats, and a dearly beloved dog. He also plays in linguistics, studying German, Norwegian, Russian, Arabic, a bit of Elvish, and developing Cardassian. Language is fascinating, enlightening, and inspirational. She’s happily married to her work with which she shares delusions of demon hunters, detectives, starships, androids, and a home on the outskirts of a small northern town. He’s enjoyed writing since childhood and the process can be downright therapeutic when it’s not making him pull his hair out. It’s really about the work and words and seeing without preconceptions.

 

Male Voices by Patricia Wellingham-Jones

That I don’t understand a word
adds to the soaring sound.

I have no need of the richness
of gilded wood and sacred icons.

The male voices exalt
in Russian Orthodox chants and hymns.

Tenors coil crystal chimes,
baritones thread intricate melody,

and the basso profondos
hold the whole firmament aloft.

Their earth-deep, cave-dark rumbles
lodge in shuddering bone,

quivering heart, and deliver me
past the elements.

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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