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On the River with David Raines

David Raines is a river barge captain, a killer Scrabble player, a doting father, and a recently engaged husband-to-be. He’s also a natural storyteller and has an amazing eye for photographs. When I first learned what he did for a living, I had all these images of Mark Twain in my head, but the modern reality of David’s life is that it’s one of searching for balance between work on the river, and home-life ashore. (It’s also about not falling in the river while you’re working.)

This is his story, in his own words and pictures.

Photo by David Raines

I started working out on the river when I was 18. I instantly liked the structured life, the danger, wealth of knowledge, history, and most of all – that no one could fake doing their job. It’s a world semi cut off and one that can never be fully understood unless you are actually out here for a few years . I did not have a plan to be the captain. I enjoyed working my way through the ranks. It wasn’t until I became a father that being a captain set in.

Photo by David RainesThe little Wookie is something that my girls ( worms ) got me for Father’s Day many years ago. I take pictures of it each time I leave home . It’s one of many small things that we have developed to stay close . Notice the “crusty captain” logo? The worms started calling me that, so I made shirts for us all with a logo.

I let family and friends know when I get home. I have uninterrupted time to be a dad. I fought hard to be their dad when I am home and I have always been 110% involved. I have custody of them when I am home . We do all things together. It’s all about the memories. We cosplay, bike ride, cook, and do cultural events.

Boat life is very hard on relationships. It was taken me until the age of 44 to find and feel real and unconditional love from a woman. I can go on and on about the dual lives I live, and how both have love, passion, joy, dedication, and much more.

We are our own fire department and first aid out here. Chain of command is very important. I go from being obeyed out here to doting on my girls and finding moments to live in with my girls… it’s completely different.

I can see where many captain ( leader ) skills are transferable to being a doting dad: Never letting up on standards, Being hard core, Chewing people out, Breaking down young men, Having follow-through, Being calm in a crisis, Patience.

Photo by David RainesRiver Lessons #2: Know who you are working with December 14th 1991 at 2:30 pm in Caseville, Illinois I was a green deckhand. It was a normal winter day and we were building tow (putting a block of barges together ) with the boat.

Physically I was tightening the outside fore and aft wire; mentally I was pondering my life choices.  In particular as to why a sane person would want to work in this each day, or why do we have to we woken up twice a day, or why can’t I find a sugar momma?

The other deckhand was 20ft away and just as zoned out as I was. I do not recall his name. I remember that he had a wonderful dream about starting a chain of meth labs and that breaking rocks with other rocks would have confused him. As I went to check as see how tight the wire was I kicked the outside bite of the wire and my foot connected with ice and away I went for a splash.

I was yelling for help while I was still under water and believe me, the Ohio river tasted dirty. I swam back to the barges and could barely reach the rounded edge. The life jacket held me afloat easily but I could not pull myself up . I did not feel any cold because my adrenaline was running hard. I began to yell for help.

The dePhoto by David Rainesckhand 35ft away never heard me but the mate did, and he was 400ft away. As he ran past the the deckhand he said “Dave fell in, grab a line now,” but what the deckhand heard was “take a break.”

The mate was not the best I have ever seen. Matter of fact he was very lazy and quite grouchy. None of that matters in certain moments. He grabbed the coming and stuck his hand down and pulled me out. I crawled to the coupling and as soon as I knew I was safe my adrenaline wore off and hypothermia set in.

As I walked into the boat the captain looked at me as he fired up a cigar and said, “No swimming on watch dumb—. Get warm and dry and get back out there.” Later on each detail was written down and talked about with the entire crew. I learned to not focus on getting to know the person but instead look at the work ethic. Will the person on watch be competent enough to rescue you , turn on the general alarm, notify someone in time? Suddenly spacing out was no longer am option and I could never forget it.

Watching out for one another had nothing to do with being friends or with color or rank and maybe the guys higher up the chain were sharper than I thought. Still, I should have gotten a cake or something for my troubles.

Photo by David Raines

Out here a person in fully immersed in the job. There is no going home. One truly learns the value of watching out for someone even though we may never get along. It also brings what is most important to your heart to the surface. Your hopes and fears will not leave you out here . And once you are home you can be complete and it’s like a holiday each time… even after 25 years.

Photo by David Raines

About the Author: David Raines

David RainesDavid Raines was raised in SE Missouri, and moved to Texas when he was thirty. He works on the river as captain of a barge, but home is ashore, where he devotes his time to his three daughters and fiance. For more about David check him out on Facebook.

 

 

 

 

 

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Feathers by Patricia Wellham-Jones

Gently I place today’s hawk feather
amidst the others bundled
in my grandmother’s
cut-glass tumbler.

Its bold brown and white stripes
contrast with the barn owl’s
rust smudges on cream.

A trio of dusty black buzzard spikes
form a background, graceful
arches from an unfortunate
rooster bracket the group

and tucked into the foreground
the glossy feathers of smaller birds,
scrub jay, crow, kestrel and dove.
I can’t bear to throw away

these gifts dropped on lawn,
driveway, road from birds
busy about their lives,
enriching mine.

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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Clouds by John Hulme

Clouds-185947 by John Hulme

I know you, I found myself thinking.  I have stood beneath you before.

At the very least, I have stood beneath your spirit, packaged in different billow from a long-forgotten voyage across the invisible ocean roads.

 

That was when it struck me –

I really don’t see the same clouds everybody else does.

I don’t see a cloud that looks like a face… or a dinosaur… or a teapot.

 

Clouds-190222 by John Hulme

 

Sure, they conjure their fair share of reflections, positioned as their world is in that upside down place above our own.

There are phantoms here, to be sure –

the ghosts of distant mountain ranges set afloat,

or the crazy nocturnal barbecue where some careless giant has left the heater on and toasted a layer of fluff into sunset red.

 

But generally, I do not see clouds as visions of something else.

 

When I find myself transfixed in the shadow of some leviathan traveler, reaching out with what’s left of my heart to connect somehow with the presence woven behind moonlit billow…

it is what it is.

 

It won’t promise a tour of distant galaxies by looking any more like a starship.

It won’t promise a monstrous ride over the coast by looking any more like a floating plesiosaur.

 

It simply is…

something that calls to me from that thrilling place in our memory where something else has always lived.

Clouds-200248 by John Hulme

About the author, John Hulme

John HulmeJohn Hulme is a British writer from the Wirral, a small peninsula near Liverpool in the North of England. Trained in journalism (in which he has a masters degree), John’s first love was storytelling, trying to make sense of the world around him using his offbeat imagination. Since the death of his mother in 2010, John’s work has grown increasingly personal, and has become heavily influenced by Christian mysticism. This has led to the publication of two poetry books, Fragments of the Awesome (2013) and The Wings of Reborn Eagles (2015). A mix of open mike performances, speaking engagements and local community radio appearances has opened up new avenues which John is now eager to pursue. He is hoping to go on a kind of busking road trip fairly soon, provisionally titled Writer seeks gig, being John.  Find out more about John on Facebook.

If You Step on Ants by Pat West

it will rain comes to mind
on my walk this morning.
Such odd things people believe.
Knocking on wood to avoid
tempting fate. Saying bless you
when someone sneezes
because the heart comes close to stopping.

They seek truth in Tarot cards
or expect answers from shamans
about good and evil spirits.

Some are certain guardian angels
protect them, others think life insurance
will cover everything.

Myself, I’ll marry in black
rather than white, break a mirror
on purpose, give a witch a lock of my hair,
lap up dragon’s blood.
I point at the rainbow and shout, So What!

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.

Through the Lens: Loving Your Body Through Daily Creativity with Nuchtchas

Through the Lens

Daily Creativity is a routine that I developed years ago, to create something everyday, to only spend a day on it, and share it online. This was something I needed in my life, I was too distracted by everyday life and work pressures and my mood was suffering from the lack of my individual creativity. I was nudged in this direction from my partner, who could see from the outside how my mood was directly linked to creating.

I started the challenge as a Lent observance, for every day of Lent I would create. It was so positive that I continued it after. I am only truly strict for every single day in Lent, but am creating a lot more over the year as a result. Plus I am spending less time on each piece and procrastinating and planning a lot less too, the end result is more art, and a happier disposition. This year marks the seventh year of this project.

Creating something every day started a change in me. It allowed me to let go and to use my art as a form of self reflection and introspection. Like a diary or a journal my pieces would reflect things I was thinking about or feeling on that given day. This activity calms me. It stops me from thinking about work, my clients, the dishes in the sink, the bills that have to be paid, the laundry, or any of the other millions of things that come to my mind at any given moment. I sit down, it is me and my canvas. I let the world slip away and concentrate first on the line I’m drawing, then the shape, and then the full composition. Through the process I put up walls in my mind so I can become hyper focused on this one thing. In the end, I feel relaxed, calm, and accomplished.

Due to this regime I have been able to explore things within myself, and one of the big themes has resulted in my Love Your Body series. A series of pieces that celebrate the human form. I’m a fat woman, and many of my subjects are fat women. I practice fat acceptance through my art and while painting these figures I have been able to accept my own body and begun to love it. Coming to terms with a body society is focused on hating is a radical thing and it has improved other areas of my life. I’m more grounded, and focused on what is good for me, not what is expected of me. I’m happier, and I’m healthier. I take care of my body instead of punish it. I celebrate myself instead of hide.

Through my art I have also inspired others to come to terms with their body. My Love Your Body series is one of my top selling series. I have had people buy originals and prints and often the buyers share their stories with me and what the pieces mean to them. Stories of empowerment and self acceptance, accepting themselves and others. When I think about how some of my pieces are hung in living spaces of these people, inspiring them every day, I know my work has transcended my own experience and what it means to me.

love-your-body-03sm-by-Nuchtchas

I use many mediums when creating art, and sometimes I have different incarnations. The image above was created by painting with my iPad using my favorite painting program, ArtRage. This was a daily piece that I then used as inspiration for an art show collection later. The piece below is an oil painting I created later from the original study. I rarely use representational color for my figures and use color to dictate light, shadow, mood, and emotion.

LoveYourBody02-by-Nuchtchas

 

 

This piece was painted using watercolors. Using the colors of a sunset to capture the feeling of standing in the wind at the edge of a beach. That’s what it felt like to me, but what the viewer sees will likely depend on their own experiences.

LoveYourBody-FBP-4-by-Nuchtchas

These next two pieces remind me of each other, but I used different models for them. The first was done with pastels and the second with graphite pencils. Each feels similar in the way they seem to be embracing themselves so content they are smiling. A
feeling I think we all want.

LoveYour-Body23-by-Nuchtchas

LoveYourBody24-by-Nuchtchas

This year I started a new technique, I draw all the angles of a form in pencil and then go over it closely in ink with a brush pen. I like the simplistic look to it and fluid feel of the line. I’m still exploring the technique but this lets me find the movement and curves of a form’s line without getting too caught up in the detail of every spot of light and shadow.

LoveYourBody23-by-NuchtchasLoveYourBody22-by-Nuchtchas

Lastly, this watercolor painting was modeled after a centerfold photo shoot Cass Elliot did in the 70s. It’s inspiration to me; it’s a bit of role modeling. I want to be this celebratory of myself. The original photo is a bit of a lie, as Cass struggled with her self image, and we all do. You don’t get to a point in your life where you love yourself and that is it. It is a daily struggle, every day you must embrace who you are. Every day I can create is a day I get closer to that.

CassElliot-by-Nuchtchas

About the Author: Nuchtchas

RE - NuchtchasNuchtchas is an artist from NY, now living in Canada. Graphic Artist by day working in both web and print medium she finds fulfillment in creating fine art and podcasting. You can find more about her at nimlas.org

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.

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.

 

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

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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