Sunday Brunch: Melancholy

The days may not be so bright and balmy—yet the quiet and melancholy that linger around them is fraught with glory. Over everything connected with autumn there lingers some golden spell—some unseen influence that penetrates the soul with its mysterious power. ~Northern Advocate

Copyright: <a href='https://www.123rf.com/profile_ajalbert'>ajalbert / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

As much as I often protest that September is still summer, at least until the equinox occurs, the reality is that fall begins to displace summer sometime in August. Where I live, in north-central Texas, that displacement is a gradual one, and for me, it’s tied to the way the sunlight begins to seem thinner, and that a 90-degree day in late August has an underlying crispness to it that you never find in a similarly warm day in early June.

But it’s not just the light that heralds the change of seasons. For me, there’s also a combination of wistfulness and melancholy.

Most years, it’s the wistfulness that dominates my being. As my friends’ children return to school (many before Labor Day – that seems so wrong to me) and the rhythm of my neighborhood changes to accommodate earlier nights and earlier mornings, I find myself longing to be back in that dance of school days and work days. I imagine myself braiding the hair of the daughter I never had, or making sure my non-existent son has his shoes tied correctly.

Most years, the sense of melancholy is a subtle note among the harvest gold and darkening reds of changing leaves, and the soft blue-black of cool night air. That annual melancholy manifests itself in me as a sort of restlessness. My feet get itchy, and I feel a bit suffocated in my life, despite the fact that I’m living the live I chose, with a man who both adores and understands me.

This year, the melancholy is dominating, and it tastes like grief and loss and absence.

While the annual die-off of plants, the sloughing off of leaves, the shriveling and drying of grasses, represents change more than death, it is death that is prevalent in everything I see, this season.

Why? Because this year, death is close to me.

My mother-in-law died about a week ago. My husband has lost his mother, and I lost one of the many women who surround me with love and wisdom and stories.

We buried her on Tuesday. We spent the week in Sioux Falls, SD, surrounded by Fuzzy’s family.

This isn’t the first family death I’ve experienced. My grandfather died when I was twenty-one, and my grandmother died about a decade later, but somehow this death, this loss, struck me differently. Perhaps it’s because the funeral was two days before my husband’s birthday, or perhaps it’s because seasonal melancholy is making it worse, or perhaps it’s because I had my forty-seventh birthday a few weeks ago and am feeling my own mortality in a way I haven’t before.

Death is never convenient. Loss is never easy. No matter how prepared you are for an event like this, it stabs you in the gut, and rips a hole when the blade is pulled out.

For me, grief comes in random waves of tears. Sometimes they’re a quiet trickle, but sometimes they’re sobs that come as a roaring waterfall, like the falls on the Big Sioux river that runs through the town that may not be the family’s true hometown, but is certainly its adopted one.

For my husband, the same grief comes in a deepening sense of broodiness and his need to play hermit for a few hours, or days. Both of us balance the grief with humor and laughter and fond memories, and we seek physical contact with each other more than is typical.

Tuesday night, after all the relatives had dispersed, we left our hotel room, went for a quiet dinner, and then drove to look at the Falls that Sioux Falls, SD is named for. There was a full moon in the sky, and an autumnal bite to the air, and as I watched and listened to the rushing water, I had a moment of peace, and the sadness was temporarily eased.

Melancholy will remain with me for a few more weeks – it usually dissipates by the beginning of October, when fall is fully present – but grief doesn’t last forever, it fades like a soft, slow, late summer sunset.

And, at least for another couple of weeks, September is still summer.

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, or connect with her on on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

Uncertain, Scary, Thrilling by Christine Mason Miller

In a last-ditch effort to ignite the spark of inspiration needed to compose a meaningful, thought-provoking piece of writing around the theme of light and shadow, I went on a two-hour hike today through Peninsula State Park. As excited as I was to explore this theme when I was invited to write about it, I’ve been stumped for days. With a looming deadline (that would be today), I put on my hiking shoes and headed to the trails I’ve been wandering and cycling on for years.

When my husband and I made our plans for this visit to Door County, Wisconsin—the third time we’ve come here for an extended stay—we chose to rent a cabin for the entire summer. Between the time we finalized those plans and the day our rental period started, we decided to move to Milwaukee, which means our drive back home won’t involve a cross-country return trip to Santa Barbara, but a mere three-hour drive south.

On that day, we will move into our new home.

If you know me, follow me on Instagram, or read my latest piece here, you might very well be sick of hearing me talk about this move. It has been the main topic of conversation in most areas of my life since last spring and still dominates my thoughts. Because we had our Door County plans in place before we decided to change zip codes, I’ve been in a state of in-between ever since we pulled out of our driveway, and I won’t really begin to come through on the other side until the moving van shows up at our storage unit to take everything we own to our new address at the end of September.

The good news is that in the meantime, I’ve been relishing these first experiences of living in a part of the world that doesn’t provide blue skies and sunshine 24/7. You read that right—I’ve been loving it—the rain, the morning chill (it was 54 degrees outside this morning), the way the clouds hover low above the horizon like a puffy ceiling of cotton. And when I look outside our windows, hike in the park, or ride my bike along trails in the woods, it is the shadows that make things interesting.

On my hike today, the shadows created a perfect halo of light above a tiny mushroom the color of a persimmon and they created small sparkles of sunlight that danced all over the ferns. All around me, I’m discovering some of the unique flora and fauna the shadows nurture and protect. I happened upon an Indian ghost pipe this week, growing along our street like a lone soldier, which is a plant—not a mushroom or fungi—that is entirely white. Lacking chlorophyll, it gathers all of its nutrients exclusively from the soil, and has been known to help alleviate both physical and emotional pain when utilized as a tincture. Who knew such a thing existed? (Apparently many people, as a quick post on Instagram with the question, “What the heck is this?” gave me an answer within minutes.)

Strange and exotic wonders are abundant in the shadows, a fact that is true not only in the woods outside our cabin windows, but also within my very self.  I have been thinking about that particular landscape quite a bit this summer, eager to clear out what doesn’t belong and what I no longer need as I become a new resident not only of the Midwest but also of midlife, as I’m turning fifty in less than three months.

As I ponder what lies beyond my summer of in-between (and my forties), there is much that feels uncertain and kind of scary, but also thrilling in its mystery.

Many of the roads in Door County are surrounded by wide open fields of corn, wildflowers and farmland, but some cut a smoothly-paved swath through thick forests of trees. I find those stretches especially fascinating. The density of the foliage means it is almost impossible to see what is beyond the tree line. There is much more shadow than light, which feels—can you guess?—uncertain and kind of scary, but also thrilling in its mystery. Beneath the canopy of happy, healthy trees, there is much to inspire wonderment and awe—a particular kind of beauty that only exists in the shadows, and only thrives beyond the light.

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. Transplant: A Podcast about Home, inspired by her recent move to the midwest, can be found at www.christinemasonmiller.com.

Nocturne With Bonfires and Volcanoes by Pat West

We celebrate our twenty-year class reunion,
notes vibrate through the atmosphere

full of frenzy like Debussy’s two movements:
Festivals and Sirens. Whirling around the bonfire

raising dust in the clearing behind the Grange Hall.
The band, a standup rock-and-crazy-roll group

with legs skinny as bed slats,
wail their tune of love lost and found and lost again.

The same story we heard back in high school
when we swayed to “Only the Lonely”

in the basement. Roy Orbison,
master of the romantic apocalypse

everyone dreaded.

A supersonic boom rattles windows

as Mount St. Helens blows out sideways.
The forest flattened

by a force equivalent to five hundred
Hiroshimas.

Ash billows from the new crater,
climbing miles into the sky. Blue lightning

flashes in the cloud. Downwind, for hundreds of miles,
day turns to night. Roads and airports close.

Ash falls like heavy snow. Downstream, rivers choke
with mud, trees and ice blocks.

Harry Truman, David Johnston and fifty-five others
lost under smoldering rubble.

About the Author: Pat West

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.

How I Save My Own Life: The Healing Power of Words by Diana Raab

When I was ten years old, my mother gave me a journal to help me cope with my grandmother’s suicide. That seemingly benign gesture changed my life forever, and served as the groundwork for my life as a writer.

While I continued to journal over the years, I became much more regular after my breast cancer diagnosis in 2001. At the time, my husband, Simon, my three kids, and I were living in Orlando, Florida. My doctor suggested that I obtain a second opinion from a Los Angeles specialist in this type of breast cancer. Within a couple of weeks, my husband and I had boarded a plane to LA, and after enduring all the necessary tests, the doctor presented me with my options—either have radiation and chemotherapy, or undergo a mastectomy with reconstruction. After years as a practicing nurse, I knew that the best way to make a decision when given a choice by your physician was to ask what he’d suggest for his own wife. Because of how he answered, I opted for a mastectomy and reconstruction.

While in California, and a few days after my surgery, I sat in my hospital bed surrounded by orchids sent by loved ones from around the country. Tear-saturated tissues lay piled high on my bedside table, and the early-morning sun peeked through the large window in my room. The emotional pain of losing a breast had hit me hard. When my surgeon said he would soon remove the tight, corset-like bandage wrapped around my chest, I feared seeing what lay underneath—that is, what one of the breasts that had nursed my three now-teenage children would look like.

Just days after my surgery, my husband reached out across the sterile, white bed sheets to take my hand. Simon, an engineer and a “fixer,” had a difficult time watching me navigate the intense physical and emotional pain. He nestled up close to me and looked deep into my eyes, as he had years earlier on the day of my father’s passing.

“Right now,” he asked, “if you could do one thing that would make you happy, what would that be?”

Aside from transporting my children across the country to be with me, I confessed that I wanted to return to school for my master’s in writing. For years, this had been a dream of mine, and the recent surgery had forced me to confront my own mortality and my apparent race against time. I wanted to make this dream come true. “Well, then, we’ll make it happen,” Simon said.

It’s not that his offer healed the deep psychological wounds involved in having lost a breast, but the idea of returning to school gave me something to look forward to. After a fair amount of research, I applied to some out-of-state, low-residency programs. I was ecstatic to be accepted into Spalding University’s charter class, led by Sena Jeter Naslund. It was to commence on September 25, 2001, in Louisville, Kentucky, about a month after my surgery.

Ever since that day in my childhood when my mother had given me my first journal, I had always found solace in the written word. Journaling became a passion that I turned to during other turbulent times—whether my own adolescence, difficult pregnancies, or cancer. So, to meet the requirements of my graduate work, I decided to gather the journal entries, reflections, and poems I’d written about my breast cancer journey.

It took a full two years for me to compile all the information and journal entries into a book my mentor suggested I publish. The surprising part is that it took eight years for me to find the courage to actually write about my cancer journey.

I simply wasn’t sure whether its personal nature was something I wanted to share with the world. For me, revealing the intimate details of my story was akin to hanging my underwear on a clothesline outside my window. As someone who has always been a relatively private person, exposing myself seemed neither intuitive nor a good fit for my personality. In the end, though, after speaking with my mentor and some colleagues, we decided that the process would be cathartic and, most important, beneficial for others—particularly my two daughters, who would one day have to face the torment of possibly being affected by cancer.

In 2010, my second memoir, Healing With Words: A Cancer Survivor’s Story was published. It was a huge accomplishment for me and I was happy to be able to share my journey to inspire others to also write their story. The book is a narrative of my experience woven with my raw emotions. It also includes my journal entries, writing prompts, and poetry I wrote during my journey.

Here’s a sample:

To My Daughters

You were the first I thought of
when diagnosed with what
strikes one in eight women.

It was too soon to leave you,
but I thought it a good sign
that none of us were born

under its pestilent zodiac.
I stared at the stars and wished
upon each one that you’d never

wake up as I did this morning
to one real breast and one fake one;
but that the memories you carry

will be only sweet ones, and then
I remembered you had your early traumas
of being born too soon, and losing

a beloved grandpa too young. I have
this urge to show you the scars
on the same breasts you both cuddled

as babies, but then I wonder why
you’d want to see my imperfections
and perhaps your destiny. I cave in

and show you anyway, hoping you learn
to eat well and visit your doctors, but then
I wonder if it really matters, as I remember

what your grandpa Umpie used to say,
“When your time’s up, it’s up.”
May he always watch over you.

I’m so glad my husband inspired (and encouraged) me to get my master’s in writing. Since then, I’ve published two more books, Lust: Poetry and Writing for Bliss: Telling Your Story and Transforming Your Life which is a culmination of my life as a writer. It was inspired by my doctorate research on writing for healing and transformation. I tell others to follow their bliss because that’s what life is all about.

About the Author: Diana Raab

Diana Raab, PhD, MFA, is an award-winner writer, speaker, and educator. She’s an advocate of writing for healing and facilitates workshops in writing for transformation and empowerment. She believes in the importance of writing to achieve wholeness and interconnectedness, which encourages the ability to unleash the true voice of your inner self.

Raab blogs for numerous blogs, including: Psychology Today, Huffington Post, Elephant Journal, Global Thrive, and PsychAlive. She lives in Southern California. Connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads.

Labor Day: Honoring Hard Work

In the United States, it’s Labor Day. It’s the day we honor the labor movement and the contributions that workers have made to the strength, prosperity, laws and well-being of our country. In some ways, it’s a social holiday – the bookend to Memorial Day, marking the unofficial end of summertime and when we head back to school… and work.

All holidays allow us to revel in creative living. On this particular one, we honor the sacrifice of other workers, toiling for their art and their livelihood. We gather with loved ones for shared meals and mutual celebration. We bask in the last carefree rays of summer sunlight.

We also take the time to consider the ways in which we mimic those who have come before us, in honor of our art and for the pure freedom of living a creative life.

Here at Modern Creative Life, we won’t be offering you a new poem, story, or essay to celebrate Labor Day, but a collection of a quotes that reflect upon the value of hard work and the need be true to our creative souls as we look at both the light and dark sides of laboring and creating.

“It would be a great disappointment for you to give up on yourself before the appointed time to reap the fruit of your labor.”
― Edmond Mbiaka

“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.”
–Robert Louis Stevenson

“Keep expecting and believing that your due season is coming. Declare that the good you have harvested in your life will manifest.”
― Germany Kent

“Make a pact with yourself today to not be defined by your past. Sometimes the greatest thing to come out of all your hard work isn’t what you get for it, but what you become for it.”
― Steve Maraboli

“The three great essentials to achieve anything worthwhile are, first, hard work; second, stick-to-itiveness; third, common sense.”
― Thomas A. Edison

“…talent means nothing, while experience, acquired in humility and with hard work, means everything.”
― Patrick Süskind

“It doesn’t matter how great your shoes are if you don’t accomplish anything in them.”
― Martina Boone

“The dictionary is the only place that success comes before work. work is the key to success, and hard work can help you accomplish anything.”
― Vince Lombardi Jr.

“What we plant in the soil of contemplation, we shall reap in the harvest of action.”
–Meister Eckhart

“There are no shortcuts to any place worth going.”
― Beverly Sills

 

Sunday Sanctuary: Blessings in Leather

I’ve never been a purse person. Well, I’ve carried a purse since I was in junior high, but choosing a purse had always been about practicality: is there room for my wallet, some lipstick, and a couple of books? Oh, and a pen and a journal (or two).

What I never understood, though, was so many lady’s love of the designer bag. Dooney and Bourke was a big deal in the 80’s and I remember shaking my head when my friend DaLana splurged on one our Junior Year of High School and I wondered: why? Why pay all that money for a purse that gets stuffed in a locker or dropped on the floor in the movie theatre?

I’m all about functionality. I usually buy black purses and black wallets.

Up until last year, the most I’d ever spent on a purse was $50 back in 2006. And that was because the strap on my purse broke while I was in DC for work and the most practical purse – a Fossil messenger bag – was on sale at Macy’s. And I had a coupon. It was black. It was serviceable. I carried it for at least three years until I just wore it out.

Then, last Christmas, I bought myself a cherry red Michael Kors Wallet at Macy’s.

My previous wallet was small: just the width of a credit card. It was usable, but not stylish, and I’m sure I got it at Kohls or Target for $10 or less. Yet, it was falling apart. In addition to falling apart, I had just read an article from Briana Saussy and buying a New Wallet for the New Year as a way to put Mojo into your Money Mindset and invite prosperity into your life. After reading Bri’s piece, I decided I needed a green, royal blue, or red wallet.

And yes, I looked at Target and Kohls for a “cheapie” wallet. Then it hit me: if I wanted to not only replace something that needed replacing, but also put the psychology behind it of choosing to invest in myself and the way I manage money, settling for a crappy clearance wallet wasn’t the way to go.

Yet, it’s in conflict with one of my core beliefs: use your good stuff every day. Wear your best perfume, use that china, and eat the best foods you can afford. And my experiment with higher quality make-up had shown to prove the adage “you get what you pay for”.

And hadn’t choosing to seduce my writing life by using beautiful journals shifted something within my soul?

And then there was the vow I made to myself shortly after the elections: I can’t expect to change the world if I’m not even taking care of myself. So, I committed to performing at least one extreme act of self-care each month. I’d already survived a several thousand-dollar dental visit. And going for what’s cheap doesn’t sound like extreme self-care.

So, why not do it in leather? If this were to be an extreme act of self-care, then I needed to invest in something that was both beautiful and of high quality.

For months, I carried that beautiful cherry red leather wallet in a $10 Target fake-leather purse. Which in some ways makes me think about the Hannibal Lector said of Clarice Starling: good bag and cheap shoes.

That $10 Target Purse, barely a year old, was falling apart and needed replacing. I may lust after the iconic Quilted Chanel bag in Vogue or obsess over an Ox-Blood Coach thanks to regular emails from Dillard’s, But the thought of spending triple figures on a purse just made that Inner Critic of mine begin to chastise me:

Who do you think you are?
What do you need with a designer bag?
Choose something practical.
And cheap.

Though I was looking for something more fun than hours at the dentist, this seemingly frivolous and surface level purchase wasn’t just about replacing a wallet. It was about the psychology of self-care and my money mindset. Since that purchase, I have been treating money – and the ideas behind personal wealth – differently.

I also treat myself differently every time I pull out that cherry red wallet: more thoughtful treats, more investing in nice things, less buying the least expensive item on the rack, and less random indulgences on stuff I don’t really need. What if a nicer purse could extend those feelings?

Then, a blessing arrived by email; a gift certificate to The Coach Store.

I’d coached a client through a challenging break-up. Yes, I’d gone above and beyond the norm, with daily calls and multiple emails and texts. But, I would do the same for any of my friends in the midst of a crisis. Providing kind words and thought-provoking questions in tandem, just as I would for anyone I cared for. He saw beyond me doing “my job” and wanted to give me a gift to show his appreciation.

We had talked about the need for him to treat himself: quality shoes, a beautiful briefcase, stylish clothes. So, he turned the tables on me, forcing me to walk my own talk. If I were to commit to extreme acts of self-care and if I were to encourage clients and readers to invest in themselves, and use their best stuff: shouldn’t I invest in something for myself?

And let’s face it, a purse is like a traveling sanctuary.

Your home for all things important, especially when you aren’t at home. There, I have not just my wallet, but my library and Starbucks cards, which gives me easy access to the life bloods of life: books and coffee. My purse holds lipstick, hand lotion, and pens. Gum. Pens and journals. And, of course, a book and my phone.

I walked into the Coach store and welcomed like an old friend. Katie seemed more excited about my gift certificate than me and couldn’t wait to help me find just the right bag. Not a purse, an investment in walking my talk. And I purposely didn’t look at practical black bags. No, I looked at their bags in Prairie Print, OxBlood, Olive, and Saddle.

A new sanctuary for that wallet. And the four pens and my journals. And my Kindle and a paperback book. And two shades of lipstick. I wanted a bag that would hold not just one journal, but two. I wanted to be able to have at my fingertips everything possible to manage bad breath, a desire for a snack, the need to check in on the world, and escape in a good story.

I had expected a snooty sales lady and feeling out of place. Yet, Katie felt like an old friend and confessed that the leather lined bags meant you could spill an entire smoothie in there and not ruin the bag. “Don’t ask me how I know!” she says as she sheepishly grins.

I left the Coach Store with a big bag, which inside contained a big black box wrapped with a copper colored ribbon. Inside was an Olive Leather Brooklyn Carryall, designed to hold it all (including a 13-inch laptop or tablet).

After unboxing it in my office – and storing the nifty storage bag – I discovered it would hold my wallet, a small make-up bag, two pairs of glasses, gum, my Kindle, two journals, four pens, two sets of earbuds, my phone, my iPod, and a book.

Then, an hour later, I got the call from my sister that my dad would be moving from the rehab hospital to hospice care in her house. Just two days earlier, I’d talked to my father and he sounded good. Stronger. Suddenly, the need for having a sanctuary in a bag became more real. This wasn’t just about running to the grocery store and stopping for a coffee, this was now a space that would hold everything I needed to hop a plane and head to Dallas.

As I sat in the Dayton Airport waiting for my flight to board, I sent (another) thank you text to my client: blessings in leather, I told him.

That bag had everything I could need for both practical reasons and comfort. At the airport, I added a banana and a granola bar. It held handkerchiefs and lipstick. A bottle of water and credit cards. My much-needed journal and pens.

When I returned home from Daddy’s funeral, I discovered that Coach had not forgotten me. In the mail was a handwritten thank you note from Katie informing me that I could bring my bag in for cleaning every three months at no charge for as long as I owned the bag.

After a week filled with grief and some drama, it was like a tiny love letter offering a port in the storm.

For me, it’s not about being able to say I own a designer bag, the reason many women tell me they indulge in Louis Vuitton or Kate Spade because of the way buying one makes them feel about themselves. I’ve learned that investing in a quality handbag provides me with comfort away from home. To have at the end of my hand a handkerchief, a piece of gum, or a pen.

And I have to confess: carrying it makes me feel different about myself. All the way down to my soul.

And I also was reminded that though I am simply a gal in Ohio with a single Coach purse, Coach wants me to feel valued as a customer. Investing in our relationship with taking care of me in a time when what I most need is a gentle gesture and kind word.

Blessings in leather, indeed.

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.

My First Kriya Yoga by Dona Murphy

I am not a morning person.

At 5:30 a.m., the 40-day kriya yoga practice I committed to seems like a terrible idea. There is faint light coming through my bedroom windows. The shadows hide danger – slippers I could trip over. A cold hairball left by my elderly cat; ready and waiting for my careless foot.

This is life in the gray. I want my life orderly and organized. Light, bright and clear over here please; dark, obscure and unknown over there. Where I can keep an eye on you, or better yet – a lid. Accelerating through bright flashes and dark voids is disorienting. The chaos feels a lot like living under a strobe light. Without the music. Without the Moet. Without the molly but with all the bashing and bruising of a righteous molly-whop.

Repeating patterns are what I see as I brew tea and prepare myself for this morning’s meditation. Daily I work to discard what no longer serves, to see old patterns dissolve while new ones take shape. Transcending both the old and the new by being in the present moment, in the breath, is the challenge of the morning. Every morning.

Today joy bubbles up and I laugh for no reason as I begin to chant. My hands form the mudras. Yesterday morning I wept. I had no other way to expel the rage and sorrow that climbed up my throat and had to come out but for which I found no words.

I’m riding a roller coaster – and how I hate roller coasters. But how else can the spark within grow and find its own expression? What lives in us ready to destroy and negate is also ready to create and affirm. Unleashing it is frightening, exhilarating, seductive – necessary.

Enhanced expression and communication is the purpose of this practice. I serve my clients through speaking (and active listening), so I can’t work without my voice. I’ve suffered with a bad respiratory infection including laryngitis through most of this. The Universe was not going for subtlety. I began to question how I could help my clients find their voices – if I couldn’t use, find or trust my own.

As day 35 drew to a close I was healthy, my voice was strong and I knew I was in the home stretch. I knew I could complete this and I felt clean and ready to receive. I reached day 40 primed and ready to say “yes” – to anything and everything. I am welcoming what I am offered; ready to embrace and accept and celebrate.

I didn’t become a morning person. On day 41 I slept in.

I still don’t like roller-coasters. You won’t see me at the local street fair or at Six Flags Great America even though it’s only a few miles away from where I live. You will see me here, often I hope. I’ve kindled the light inside and climbed out of the comfort zone where it was oh-so-easy to hide.

One of the greatest gifts of working with my clients is the chance to learn while teaching. I have the opportunity to grow by nurturing growth in another. The generous mentor and teacher leading the kriya shared her own experiences with us. She was transparent about her own challenges and triumphs, highs and lows. This gave me the freedom and space to do likewise with my own, and I am grateful.

The light, the dark, and all the various shades of gray look different to me now. They’ve opened to me for exploration and integration. The colors of the spectrum are alive in my body and in the world I look at with new awareness.

Good day.

About the Author: Dona Murphy

Dona Murphy is the owner of Destiny Tarot. She lives and works in Lake Bluff Illinois as a Tarot reader, Intuitive Counselor and Life Coach. Dona combines her metaphysical and spiritual studies, natural gifts and real-world experience to help her clients solve problems and live their best lives. As she says, “The cards don’t predict your future, they help you create it”.

Reeling by Patricia Wellingham-Jones

Reeling
behind a mother’s eyes
I watched you
learn on one day
you had cancer
and exactly four weeks later
breathe your last.
I only let those eyes
weep on you, my child,
twice in this brief time.
The tears will reside
always
in my heart.

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.

Dear Shadow by Denise Braun

Little hands nestled over a fuzzy blanket. Pinky, finger, finger, finger…thumb. Every nook and fuzzy groove in that coverlet was security. And in my six-year-old heart, feeling safe was concrete. Night light? Check. Clicker flashlight? Check. Bobo the stuffed elephant? Check.

“Goodnight sweetie. Kisses…”

Mom blew 3 kisses from the bedroom door to the top of my bunk tucked underneath the window.

“Muah.” A kiss back to mom.

Peeking out the blinds of my room window, the stars were sprinkled across the Prussian Blue sky and eased my discomfort. It was always at night I felt the most vulnerable.

Alone. Scared. So the moon, coming out of hiding from behind a gray blob of cloud cover, made me smile.

“Oh Mr. Moon….you are so beautiful.”

I sang a spontaneous song about a little girl who ran across the surface of the happy planet, wearing ballet shoes. Moon beams dashing through her hair. A constellation of stars shining down on top of her head. Releve, grand jete! Smile.

Deep sigh.

A shadow on the wall. Another.

Shadow.

Shadow.

Moon Beam.

My head flopped on the flattened feather pillow.

With my active imagination fully engaged, every shadow on the wall opposite my stuffed unicorn became a story. As a way to avoid fear of the dark, and with focused vision, I would watch the grey spots move and dance. The moon, a lighted back-drop for the show, accompanied the performers.

Expansion. Constriction. Expansion. Constriction. My pupils looked for light.

“I see a doll, a cat, a bat…”

Turning over under the safety blanket.

“And a rhino, a teacup, a spoon.”

Thoughts and images made a soup of wide-awake fascination in my tired mind.

Shhhhhhh. Go to sleep little girl.

Shhhhhhh. Dream.

Shhhhhhh. Imagine sunbeams and water puddles.

Wide yawwwwwn.

Fluttering eyelids.

“Dear shadow….” I said aloud. My legs could feel the little grains of dirt under the sheets at the foot of my bed. Leftover residue from a day of play and spontaneous beach-castle-joy.

“I was wondering…could you show me some magic? My mom read me a story about a little girl who fell down a rabbit hole. And suddenly everything had changed. I think her name was….Uhm….”

Big yawn.

“But it was full of magic. I believe in magic. I just saw some today, shadows. Because I was standing outside under the Mimosa tree. You know which one I mean? With all the red bottle brush blooms? That’s what my sister calls em. And all the red sprigs started falling down on top of my head. They smelled flowery and grassy.” Giggles. Smile.

Eyes fluttering.

“I’m not afraid shadows. I can only see Mr. Moon beams when you’re here.”

Shhhhhhh. So hard to stay awake.

Shhhhhhh. You are divine light and shadows beautiful child.

Shhhhhhh. Quiet watching. Moon beams.

Now my head facing towards the night sky in that window. A star shoots across the framed glass.

“Ohhhhh wowwwwwww. So bright!”

And if by magic, I counted as many twinkles as the brightest star could muster. Before every muscle gave in.
Pinky, finger, finger, finger, thumb. Released. Breath.

Shadow.

Shadow.

Shadow.

Moon Beam.

Sleep.

Love.

About the Author: Denise Braun

Denise lives on the Central Coast of California with her husband, three daughters, 11 chickens, 4 cats and one dog. Her passions include writing, creating artwork, and supporting others in a soulful therapeutic modality she created called Artful Hypnosis.

When Denise isn’t enjoying life in the spaces in between, she organizes retreats for women, teaches paint classes around the U.S., and organizes her ever-growing shoe collection.

Her favorite things include freshly outta-the-oven banana bread, dragonfly-fly by’s in her backyard, and pumpkin-scented sache’s in her sock drawer. True story.

Studio Tour: Erica Goss and a Room of Her Own

Before I moved to this house, my office was a five-by-five space between the living room and the kitchen. I could open the refrigerator and grab a snack without getting up from my chair, but I had no privacy. The result was a lack of concentration, frustration, and a drop in productivity. However, I completed my book Night Court in that tiny office, so I guess I did get some work done there.

My current office is a room in the western part of my new home. I like that, because I have always loved both the word “west” and the direction “west.” It might have something to do with the spectacular smog-streaked sunsets I observed when I was a child in Southern California during the 1960s. The air is cleaner now, but I’ll never forget watching the red sun sinking into the Pacific on summer evenings. That sun appears in many of the drawings I made as a child.

I’m deeply grateful to have this space where I can work, this room with green walls and a quirky ceiling that goes in every direction. It has a door. It is private. Even though I have not occupied it for very long, it already feels like a sacred space. Virginia Woolf would be proud of it.

I do most of my work at the desk in the above photograph, but I also have an “analog” space with my grandmother’s 1932 Royal typewriter and a windup clock.

A triangle of light takes all afternoon to travel to the corner of the wall above the desk before it disappears. It reminds me of when Lily Briscoe says, “A light here requires a shadow there” in Woolf’s novel To the Lighthouse. She’s talking about making a painting; a good poem is also a balance of light and dark.

I have a space on top of a bookshelf where I’ve collected a few mementos. The stuffed cat and teddy bear were my children’s, the Kalimba came from The African Store in Eugene, Oregon, the red car is from Dresden, Germany, and the book is a handmade art book I bought in California. I can’t remember where I got the Troll Doll. When I was a child, my aunt had a bunch of them and they fascinated me.

People often ask me where I get my ideas. Many begin as notes, doodles and sketches in journals. I started visual journaling about fifteen years ago – adding drawings, watercolor, and collage to the written word.

Here’s a journal page featuring a quote from Thomas Paine, some interesting postal stamps, some collaged images, and a note that might have made its way into a poem.

While pondering the meaning of life, Lily Briscoe concluded, “the great revelation perhaps never came. Instead, there were little daily miracles, illuminations, matches struck unexpectedly in the dark.” That’s what I want to discover, as the triangle of light travels across the wall in my green room. Like Lily, I try to “make of the moment something permanent.”

About the Author: Erica Goss

Erica Goss is a poet and freelance writer. She served as Poet Laureate of Los Gatos, CA from 2013-2016. She is the author of Night Court, winner of the 2016 Lyrebird Award, Wild Place and Vibrant Words: Ideas and Inspirations for Poets. Recent work appears in Lake Effect, Atticus Review, Contrary, Eclectica, The Red Wheelbarrow, Main Street Rag, Pearl, Rattle, Wild Violet, and Comstock Review, among others. She is co-founder of Media Poetry Studio, a poetry-and-film camp for teen girls. Please visit her at www.ericagoss.com and connect with her on Facebook, Linked In, and Vimeo.

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