Something About the Sound of Wind and Water by Pat West

A wedge of geese circles overhead,
honking as if asking for directions.

There’s a nearby creek I hear
but can’t see, and the solitary cries

of jays, and the low Coke-bottle whistle
of wind through tall trees.

At the top of the hill, there’s a bench
at what feels like

the edge of the world. A place
where earth speaks to sky.

I find it difficult to understand
but here the unfilled-in parts of me

become whole. In this spot,
I am not afraid

of love or fire or fault lines.
Nowhere else do I find

it possible to imagine
my own nonexistence

and feel okay.
Here I sit

empty-handed, taking
pleasure in the long, deep trough of silence

where the ghosts of those I love
linger on my tongue.

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.

Everyday Magic, by Anna Oginsky

I can still remember my desperate longing to follow Lucy into the wardrobe when I first heard the story of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe as a child. My dad read the book to me as a bedtime story and he kept getting frustrated because I was so eager to find out what happened next that I would read ahead of him on the page. I sighed in exasperation as I waited for him to catch up. With the same desire in my heart, as I read I envisioned myself entering The Secret Garden alongside Mary Lennox. Oh how, I wanted to visit that garden. To this day, I picture a secret, magical, flourishing green place behind every garden door I see.

I imagined my dad as a scientist working with Meg Murry’s dad as I took in the pages of A Wrinkle In Time. I so badly wanted to travel to another dimension with Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which by way of a tesseract. I had a vivid imagination and these stories felt like home to me. In the pages of these beloved books, I fell in love with possibility. There seemed to be two worlds available to me¾the one I lived in and the one I fantasized about living in. The second world was comprised of what could be. I’d be lying if I told you the same isn’t sometimes true today.

There is only a small difference between then, when my eyes twinkled at the possibility of magical forces whisking me away into a parallel universe, and now. Then, I was convinced that magic was an influence that existed outside of me. Now, I know have the power to invoke magic from within the skin and bones of my very own body. Sometimes making magic is as simple as letting the beauty in things that might seem rather ordinary to some astonish me.

For the last week, the skies where I live in Michigan have been solid gray. Today the sun is shining and the sky is blue. Seeing sunshine after days of gray feels like magic to me. The way the sun sparkles on bodies of water, or makes the new fallen snow look like a field of diamonds, or sets on the horizon takes my breath away. Hot air balloons floating up and away in the summer sky leave me in awe. I love seeing how the leaves change colors in the fall. I admire apples waiting to be picked from tree limbs. I watch closely as deer snack in my backyard. It is miraculous to see hawks watching over us from trees along the highway. The sound of a creek trickling or waves crashing against the shoreline makes me feel so peaceful. While these are things that happen again and again, they are sometimes so striking that they are unreal to me. Our world is indeed a magical one.

This past summer I was up late at our family cottage in Northern Michigan waiting for my husband and some friends to arrive. My sister and I were painting a bathroom ceiling and all the kids were tucked into beds. My mom was across the street with my nephew. My husband called and asked if I had been outside lately? He was nearby and thought he was seeing the Northern Lights. I grabbed my sister, called my mom, yelled at all the kids to get out of bed and we all ran outside to the beach. I was so amazed by the sight of the lights dancing on the water, that I honestly thought I might die right then and there. I was shaking with excitement. My heart felt like it was going to burst out of my chest. Just a few minutes later my husband and our friends arrived. As we stood together on the beach, we marveled at the brilliance of the Milky Way. We admired shooting stars beaming themselves across the night sky. Every cell in my body was filled with wonder. That was science. And, definitely magic.

Serendipitous moments never cease to amaze me. For example, when I am thinking about a friend and she sends me a text message out of the blue. Or when I am thinking about my dad and Summertime, a song he used to sing as a lullaby plays on the radio. Or when I am wondering how my mom’s day is going and she calls on the phone. Some might interpret all these common occurrences a coincidence, I believe they are magic. I refer to them as everyday magic.

As a child I kept my eyes out for potential portals into other times. I closed my eyes and tried to make myself invisible. I dreamt of disappearing, making wishes, and flying in the sky. I would have done anything for a magic wand that could transform my dreams into reality. Now I am in awe of serendipity. I admire the intricacies of the world around me. I stop space and time by making art. I write myself into other realms. All the magic lies within me and within the choice I make to see things with a magician’s eye. I can transform things, thoughts, and experiences. All of us can.

It is an incredible power to harness that magic by making a pile of scraps into a collage or sorting words into sentences. Each of us is a creative being and as such, when we create, transform, and welcome what we see around us as magic, we feel at home in ourselves. We can mix essential oils with beeswax to make soothing balms or colorful foods together to make meals. We have the power to turn seeds in to blooms and ideas into books. We have the ability to see the ordinary as if were extraordinary. Thankfully, we are every bit as magical as I longed for us to be. We live in a magical place and we are surrounded by magic. It is everywhere. I am so grateful for that.

 

About the Author: Anna Oginsky

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

Learn more about her book at www.mynewfriendgrief.com

Sunday Brunch: Practice

Sunday Brunch With Melissa Bartell

“We learn by practice. Whether it means to learn to dance by practicing dancing or to learn to live by practicing living, the principles are the same. One becomes in some area an athlete of God.” ~ Martha Graham

Copyright: <a href='http://www.123rf.com/profile_evgenyatamanenko'>evgenyatamanenko / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

I think I was five when I took my first ballet class. I don’t have any clear memories of my fellow students. I don’t recall the name of the teacher.

What I remember, when I think about those first classes, was the barre. I remember stretching out my arm so my hand could rest against the wood. My muscles still retain the echos of all those early pliés and tendus. Ballet class was my first experience with practice, and I loved it.

I craved it.

At home, lacking both floor space and proper equipment, I would make the back of a chair my partner as I bent my knees, positioned my feet, and kicked my legs.

But then I got older, and my focus switched from ballet to music.

I fell into cello quite accidentally at the age of nine (old for a string player), after becoming enamoured with my then-best-friend’s violin. I was lucky: Colorado schools had excellent music programs, and we didn’t even have to pay for a cello, because my teacher loaned me the one his daughter had learned on. Copyright: <a href='http://www.123rf.com/profile_monoliza'>monoliza / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

I learned about scales and arpeggios, some of which I’d already encountered as a singer, but this was different. I memorized the feeling of my fingers on the strings, and mastered enharmonic tuning, crucial for me, since we didn’t have a piano with with to check my pitch.

Practice became something new. It was just as physical as ballet, but it was physical in a different way. I was stretching my arms down instead of out. It was my fingers that danced instead of my toes.

But every time my mother commented about how the low strings sounded when I was first learning, making croaking noises, or pretending to be a foghorn, my love of practice was diminished. By the time I finished high school, bad teachers, lack of confidence, and my inability to commit to any one art form forced me to set music aside for a while.

(I fell back in love with cello in my late twenties.)

“Don’t only practice your art, but force your way into its secrets; art deserves that, for it and knowledge can raise man to the Divine.” ~ Ludwig van Beethoven

If this were a novel, it would be in college that I found my Ultimate Muse choosing writing as my One True Pairing of the arts, but the reality is that I’ve loved the written word for as long as I can remember. I’ve dabbled in poetry. I’ve written essays and fiction, compose all original short pieces for my podcast, and have even published a book.

Copyright: <a href='http://www.123rf.com/profile_dedivan1923'>dedivan1923 / 123RF Stock Photo</a>It wasn’t until I was married and living in the first home my husband and I actually owned that I truly developed a writing practice.

Oh, sure, I’d tried, unsuccessfully, to keep diaries over the years, but writing words no one would ever read seemed pointless to me. I’d read Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones when I was nineteen. I had stacks of college-ruled spiral notebooks with my scribblings in them, but writing was mostly a random activity unless I had to do something for a reason.

When I learned about blogging, everything changed. Not only did I accept that I would never succeed as a writer without discipline – without a daily practice – but I’d also found a system that gave me just enough external accountability to keep me going, and just enough feedback that I could learn what worked and what didn’t.

Some writers, I know, are dutiful enough to complete their requisite three “morning pages” every day. In my daily blogging, I found that writing posts of precisely one hundred words helped me more than anything else. I call these tiny entries “distilled moments,” and there are times when I do the just because they feel right, and other times when I create them, daily, for an entire month.

“Practice is everything. This is often misquoted as Practice makes perfect.”

~Periander

Life ebbs and flows, and my devotion to practice tends to do so as well. I actually do write every day, but I go long stretches without blogging, until I realize I miss it, and then I go back to it. In fact, it is this tendency to return to my first “public” forum that allowed to assure one of my best girlfriends, a couple of weeks ago, that no, it was not wrong that she would rather write in her blog than create new content for her work.

For us, I told her, our blogs have always been our practice spaces.

In ballet, when you need to rehab after an injury, or just find your focus again, you return to the basics. Barre work. Warmups. In music, you go back to etudes. You go over scales and arpeggios. In writing, we have journals and we have blogs. These are our virtual studios where we reconnect with the fundamentals.

We say practice makes perfect, but practice itself is imperfect. This is why the act of meditation is called practice. Yes, it’s because it’s meant to be a regular exercise, but it’s also because but it’s also because we are giving ourselves permission to be imperfect.

Because blogging is where I honed my writing voice, it’s my sacred space for my own writing practice. It’s the place where I’m more candid than I would otherwise be, because I’m not being a model for others; I’m being just me.

My blog is also the place where I experiment with different styles and structures, where I play with themes and challenge myself to stretch.

It is the place where I practice.

And – just like the dancer, the musician, the artist – practice is the way I keep my muscles warm and in working order.

Copyright: <a href='http://www.123rf.com/profile_peshkova'>peshkova / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

“Someone who wants to write should make an effort to write a little something every day. Writing in this sense is the same as athletes who practice a sport every day to keep their skills honed.” ~ Anita Desai

About the author: Melissa A. Bartell

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

Metacreation – by Patricia Wellingham-Jones

She blows fireballs
from her mystic lips
in a sheltered pool
behind flowered walls.

Water slick as oil rings
radiates from her glowing skin.
Lightning stabs in silent slashes
between curtains of rain.

The arch of window,
intricate carve of wooden rail
enclose her in the watery womb.
She focuses her being, creates fire.

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.

Flight by Selena Taylor

 Copyright: <a href='http://www.123rf.com/profile_steffe82'>steffe82 / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

She watched the horizon. She did not stop looking to it.

For months, she had helped her child learn to spread his wings and fly. Her barn was filled with insane contraptions that mimicked wing stretches, wing lifting, and gliding motions.  As a mere human, inventing machines was the only way she could teach her child.

The first time they tried to fly, all she saw was her child falling off the barn. She reached the edge and looked down to see him lifting his head from the pile of hay where he’d landed. He shook it back and forth trying to get hay out of his scales. It was a funny moment, one of many.

There were also moments of great frustration. Her limited knowledge of the mechanics of flight made the process difficult. The fails kept piling up until the morning when a large hawk appeared over the cliff that was out beyond the boundaries of her property.

Together, they watched the bird soar and glide over the land.

Her child began to walk toward it. She wanted to stop him, so that she could be the reason he learned. But, no, she couldn’t.

Smiling, she waved him off to follow the hawk. Within a day, she saw her child fly in the sky.

They both rejoiced, each in their way.

Now she was waiting – staring at the distant horizon, waiting for her child to return home. And praying that he would. Towards the horizon…

She knew the tradition, of course. Once those who had wings had learned to fly, they traveled to the island of Draflo. There, they would receive more magic, absorb more knowledge.

Her aging mother and her younger brother had come to see her child off, sharing her delight in the moment he had achieved true flight. But they were not his mother. They did not join in her vigil by the cliff.

The weather turned.

A fierce wind came, bringing with it dark clouds. Her mother left the shelter of their house to beseech her with gentle words: Come inside. Rest. The older woman could feel it in her bones, she said, deep cold and heavy rain were not long off.

She only shook her head, no.

The rain did come, and it was cold, and it was heavy.

Her clothes were soaked. Her hair stuck to her neck and back, the wet weight of it chilling her even further.

Still, she stayed on the cliff.

Her brother came to join her, imploring her to go inside. She would surely die, if she remained at watch.

Another storm came, larger than the first, with winds strong enough that part of the barn was damaged. For a moment, she panicked, concerned for the machines, only to remember that they were no longer needed.

Her brother changed his approach, becoming angry with her. He argued that the child was not worth the price of her life. He insisted it wasn’t even truly hers.

She spoke no words aloud.

But in her head, she was seething: Not hers? Of course the child was hers. Did they bear the same blood? No. But he was hers nonetheless.

The storm that raged around them now was just like the one that had brought her child in the first place.

She had been running, chasing the killer of her husband and infant son. The storm that hid the murderer led her to the cave that sheltered her new child.

He was near death when she found him. His breath was weak and cold. There was no meat to him. His scales were falling off.

Maternal instinct kicked in, and she knew.

She knew.

He was hers.

Her brother turned to leave her, and she let him go.

She caught sight of an object coming over the cliff. She squinted her eyes and lifted her hand to shield them from the rain.

It was him. She was certain of it.

She ran toward the cliff-edge to meet him, but the lightning came closer, the strikes coming more frequently.

She did not fear it.

All that mattered was that her child was coming home.

It was the last bolt that hit him. It was bright and fast. Her scream boomed over the thunder.

Not her child!

She searched the sky: nothing.  She searched the sea: nothing.

Her sobs racked through her.

Not again.

No!

Not again!

When the earth became loose, she did not step back from the edge. She let herself fall.

The air scoured her skin as she plummeted toward rocky shore below, but she embraced the pain. Another child was gone. Physical pain couldn’t touch maternal grief.

She never felt the rocks or freezing water. She only felt warmth and a pulsating wind. Soon, she was back at the cliff-side, surrounded by scales, and wrapped in leathery wings.

Opening her eyes, she met his: black as ebony, with tiny gold flecks.

She knew those eyes; they belonged to her child.

She smiled, and took stock of him. He was different somehow… Stronger, maybe? And when she took a closer look at his scales she noticed blue lights darting across them.

She put her finger in the path of the light, and felt tingles down her arm.

Lightning.

Her child was not only flying, but he had lightning coursing through him.

Her child.

Her dragon son.

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 Tumblr or follow her on Twitter.

The Way of Tea by Melissa A. Bartell

Karuna Tea - La Paz BCS

“Tea is quiet and our thirst for tea is never far from our craving for beauty.”

~James Norwood Pratt

DTiny Tea Cup ecember 26th, 2016. It’s a chilly day in La Paz, BCS, Mexico – chilly for the tropics, anyway – about 65 degrees – and sky is overcast. I follow my mother and her friend Mary into a tiny tea shop in the heart of town, near where my parents, who retired to Baja Sur just after the millennium turned, go every weekend for breakfast and the farmers’ market.

All three tables at Karuna Tea are placed end-to-end to accommodate our group. Soon, we will be joined by another of my mother’s friends, Gari-Ellen (editor of the Baja Citizen), and her fourteen-year-old daughter, Molly.

As we settle into our chairs and find places to stash our purses (in Mexico, it’s considered bad luck to put your purse on the floor or ground) we are also exchanging hugs and kisses. Gari-Ellen says she’s looking forward to “finding my tea,” and we all agree that should be the title of the article either she or my mother will write. (I almost stole it for this piece.)

“Tea began as a medicine and grew into a beverage.”

~Okakura Kakuzō

Hector and Inez, the young couple that owns Karuna, introduce themselves, and explain that there will be a short presentation on the history of tea before we begin the tasting. Along with the demitasse cups and saucers that have been set out for us, there is a two-page print-out so we can follow along.

Wet Tea LeavesThe presentation takes only ten or fifteen minutes. Hector begins by sharing that tea was originally brewed for medicinal purposes, and gradually became used as the beverage it is today. While he speaks, Inez is busy behind the counter, prepping things for the tasting session to follow. Hector is such a captivating speaker that we barely notice her bustling.

Among other things, we learn that tea is the most commonly consumed beverage in the world, far surpassing coffee, even though it’s only grown in a few places. We are also told that all tea comes from the tea tree, Camellia sinensis– and that the differences in the six varieties (white, yellow, green, oolong, black, and puerh (pronounced pooh-er) are due to the way the leaves are picked and processed. The lighter the color, the less the leaves have been allowed to wither or oxidize.

Oh, and those herbal ‘teas’ we all love – peppermint and chamomile? Those are properly called tisanes.

“Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the world earth revolves — slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future.”

~Thich Nat Hahn

White TeaWe are presented with a white tea, first, and it is so pale, it might as well be just hot water, but when we sip from our lovely little cups, we are all awestruck buy the nuanced flavor.  Hector tells us it’s appropriate to slurp a little when you taste tea, because that brings in air, and lets the aroma work with the flavor.

He also reminds us that tea is meant to be a serene drink, and that we shouldn’t rush.

We are given dishes of dry and wet tea leaves to examine as we sip, and we are told that bagged tea is generally made from dregs and dust. If it crumbles into powder in the dry tea bag, Hector says, it’s not fresh and you should throw it away. We laugh about our first introduction to tea being of the worst possible kind – bagged – and then we refocus on the tasting.

I’m struck by the way the wet green tea leaves look as though they’re the result of a fortune-teller’s reading, and I wonder what their message might be. We are all surprised when Hector tells us that the brew time for this tea is less than a minute, and even more so when he tells us that white, yellow, and green tea leaves can be re-used two or three times, if treated gently!

“Water is the mother of tea, a teapot its father, and fire the teacher.”

~Chinese Proverb

Pouring OolongAs we progress through the spectrum of tea, one of the things that we all comment upon is the incredibly short steeping time on all of these different varieties. Thirty seconds for the white teas, a minute or two for oolong, which is toward the middle in terms of strength.

Also important, Hector tells us, is the temperature of the water. White tea is best when the water is about 155°F (70°C), while the maximum temperature for the darkest oolong is 185°F (85°C). We even learn the Chinese method of learning how to gauge the temperature of boiling water by comparing the size of the bubbles.

When “shrimp eyes” appear, you’re at the right level for white teas, and this progresses through “crab eyes,” “fish eyes,” “strings of pearls,” and finally “old man’s water” also known as – “raging torrent” – which refers to the rolling boil you want for black teas and blended teas like Darjeeling and Earl Grey.

One of the green teas we try, a lighter oolong called Sencha, is an instant hit among everyone but fourteen-year-old Molly, and we all leave with a packet of it to brew at home.

Bread and water can so easily be toast and tea.

~Author Unknown

At some point, we notice that there are bowls of cookies on our tables. They’re not icky-sweet, just ginger and Puerh Tealemon biscuits meant to serve as palate cleansers between cups. After the first two cups, Inez also places a large bowl on the table, so that if we don’t wish to finish any given cup of tea, we can dump it, in a slightly more refined version of a wine tasting (no spitting). No one uses it.

We pause, every so often, to compare notes, remarking upon the delicate flavors and the grassy or herbal aromas. We don’t get to taste puerh tea – it’s very expensive, and not really a flavor that the western world has acquired – but Hector fetches a giant cake of it from his pantry and we pass it around and smell it.

“It reminds you of a barnyard,” he says, speaking of the aroma. “But in a pleasant way.”

His description is completely accurate.

“Teas vary as much in appearance as the different faces of men.”

~Hui-tsung

Pouring Earl GreyThe last tea we sample is the one we are most familiar with: Earl Grey. Hector explains that English-style black teas often include essential oils (in this case, bergamot) to alter the flavor, or soften the bitterness or astringency.

My mother remarks that it’s the drying effect that turns her off of most darker brews. Like Gari-Ellen, she has found her tea in the Sencha and the other oolongs.

I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve tasted, but Earl Grey is my favorite, and I’m keen to taste a new version. The cup that is poured for me has a deep amber color, and the aroma is both familiar but also more delicate than the blends I am accustomed to.  Hector explains that many tea companies use too much bergamot to disguise inferior tea leaves.

When we taste this version, we notice how well-balanced the flavors are. Cup of Earl GreyInstead of overwhelming floral scents, there’s just enough of the essential oil to enhance the tea. Again, Hector comments on water temperature and steeping time. He also cautions us that these leaves are not to be re-used. In fact, this is the only tea of all the varietals we’ve been introduced to that Inez has made in a tea infuser – the glass pots made by Bodum that almost all tea-drinkers probably possess.

It’s worth noting that this is the first time I’ve had this kind of tea without wanting to put milk or sugar in it, and even my mother is impressed that it isn’t “…sucking the moisture out of my gums.”

If you ask Zen people they will say tea is not something that you pour with unawareness and drink like any other drink. It is not a drink, it is meditation; it is prayer. So they listen to the kettle creating a melody, and in that listening they become more silent, more alert.”

~Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh

Six adorable tea pots are arranged on the counter, each with their wet and dry leaves nearby, and collectively, we ask Hector and Inez to pose with them.

We’ve kept our conversation on point during the tasting, but the Earl Grey marked the end. Tea and nibbled cookies are soothing, but not terribly filling, and we’re all hungry. Conveniently, Karuna offers sandwiches as well as tea.

We make our purchases, and then we order lunch. I choose their version of a peanut butter sandwich, and it’s a combination of flavors I’m eager to duplicate here at home: Savory peanut butter (no sugar) with a dash of cracked pepper, sprouts, and cucumbers on toasted multigrain bread. It sounds weird, but the flavors combine really well, and the chai I order complements it perfectly.

Molly still hasn’t found her tea, I’ve found far too many, and we all go home with one or two brown paper packets, helpfully marked with recommended brewing instructions.

I am the only one to take home any of the Earl Grey, and even though I’ve now been back in my home in Texas for almost two weeks, I still haven’t brewed it. I’m not waiting for the perfect moment, but the right one. There’s a difference.

That’s the way of tea.

Inez and Hector - Karuna Tea

About the author: Melissa A. Bartell

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

Sunday Salon: Resolute

Sunday Salon with Becca Rowan

“Resolutions are often heavy, self-imposed expectations. Better to open your heart to life’s invitations and opportunities.” – Thomas Moore

To resolve, or not to resolve. That is the question. Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to determine a list of sure-to-be forgotten promises, or to forgo the whole process altogether in favor of a more spontaneous approach to life in general.

With apologies to The Bard, you can probably tell I’m not fond of New Year’s resolutions.We are already a week into the new year, so perhaps it’s a moot point anyway. This year we are spending the month of January in Florida, renting a home on an island near the Gulf of Mexico.  January is normally synonymous with snow and icy winds, and while the warm Gulf breezes are welcome, they are somewhat disconcerting to this displaced Midwesterner.

So no resolutions. Not even a new calendar.  And anyway, after 60 years I recognize the veracity of Thomas Moore’s assertion: Resolutions are heavy, self-imposed expectations, all too easily cast aside, leaving the resolver feeling guilty and disappointed.

How much better then, to do as he suggests: Open my heart to life’s invitations and opportunities.

If I were to open my heart, what would I invite it?

I would open wide the door to Music: To more time at my piano where the intricate harmonies of Chopin or the joyous and orderly progressions of Mozart might knit the frazzled pieces of my mind.

I would throw open the window sashes to Art: To beautiful paintings and shapely sculptures, to delicate blown glass and vibrant fiber art creations.

I would unlock the portal to the magic of Words: To reading the stack of books piled high on my shelf and stacked next to my bedside table, to learning from authors, to falling into the worlds of others.

I would take every opportunity to Dance, even if it’s most often alone, my dance floor the hardwood surface in the dining room in front of that window I find myself gazing out of so often.

If I were to Resolve – not that I will, mind you, but just saying if I did – I would be Resolute in accepting every invitation life might offer to soak up the sights, sounds, and sensations of ART. It is the medicine my world-weary soul needs. It is the mandate for 2017.

So often we forget our most effective medicines. We get caught up in habits that suck the life from our creative minds. We become confused with all the expectations swirling through our networks of friends, family, and colleagues.

When our resolution fails, we need those doctors, need to soak up the beauty of creativity in any possible way. Especially in these days when the world is fraught with anger and uncertainty, when ugliness in word and deed is strewn before us everywhere, we desperately need to embrace the beautiful intersection of life and art in every possible way.

Going forward into 2017, that’s where my resolution lies. How about you?

 

About the Author: Becca Rowan

becca_rowan_bio_may2016Becca Rowan lives in Northville, Michigan with her husband and their two dogs. She is the author of Life in General, a book 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 with the dogs 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.

It Works Because You Think It Will By Melissa Cynova

I started asking my cards to behave differently a few years ago. I always rigidly stuck to the Celtic Cross spread. That was how I learned and that’s where my confidence lived. It’s kind of time consuming, though, and a bit inflexible. I remember sitting with my cards and Deciding that three cards was plenty. This one meant past, that one was the present, and this one was the future. And then I did the reading and it worked!

I got a little bolder and started doing six card spreads, ten cards, even one with thirty cards.

Each time I tried something new, I would hold my cards in my hand and Decide what the reading would be and how the cards would work.

And it always worked.

I write Decide with a capital “D” because there has to be some deliberate thought involved.

I see prayer in much the same way. If I light a candle with a petition underneath it, I have to Decide that it means something. One of my friends is looking for a new job, so I asked her if I could help. She said ok (permission is also important).

I wrote her full name three times across and three times up and down. I did this three times – because I Decided that three was an important number for me. I wrote the logo of the company she’d applied at in the middle. I wrote spiraling words around all of this. “Love, respect, peace of mind, security, love, respect, peace of mind, security” over and over and over. I thought about how much I liked her and how much I wanted her to be happy and to find joy every day. I folded the paper in three parts and then again three times. I drew a wealth rune on it, put it under the candle and lit the candle, sending my petition to the Universe and whatever gods were listening.

The candle burned all night.

Now. Will it work? I don’t know. I made this ritual up by stealing some of Briana Saussy’s witcheries, mixing them with my love of candles and writing, and threw in a healthy handful of Faith.

I Decided that this would work, and therefore made it magical.

There are, of course, more complex and in depth magical practices, but I believe they’re all based on this. If you believe a thing will work, it will work for you. You have to Decide. You have to have Faith.

In believing, you will push your petition forward and upward and the Universe will be ready to receive it.

xo Lis

About the Author: Melissa Cynova

Melissa CynovaMelissaC_Bio is owner of Little Fox Tarot, and has been reading tarot cards and teaching classes since 1989. She can be found in the St. Louis area, and is available for personal readings, parties and beginner and advanced tarot classes. You can Look for her first book, Kitchen Table Tarot, from Llewellyn Publishing in January 2017.

Melissa lives in St. Louis with her kiddos, her partner, Joe, and two cats, two dogs and her tortoise, Phil.

She is on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Go ahead and schedule a reading – she already knows you want one.

Tea Leaves by A.R. Hadley

The kettle whistled.
She burned.
Drops of hot tea scalded her shins, ankles and knees after the mug hit the floor, breaking near her bare feet, splintering into fragments, searing her alligator skin. The jagged edges lay in nearly every corner of the tile floor.
The final crack in a day of unending pressure.
She stared down at the mess, every vertebrate in her body frozen, yet tense and rising, her blood hotter and stronger than the spilt peach tea, but her brain muddled — an avalanche of deadlines and bills, emails and chores. Happy was at the end of that list. Happy had been ignored.
Happy had spilled out onto the floor.
She knelt down, cracking a put upon smile, ready to pick up the pieces, to start again, to throw away, to make new, to boil and rise and dunk and stir, ready to sweep and cut and burn.
She refilled the kettle.
Intent on pouring a new mug.
She eyed the chair with the indented cushion.
She would sit, put up her feet and scorch her tongue on the leaves harvested and dried in the sun. She would surrender to the energy evaporating from the chamomile.
And tomorrow would be fresh.
Another day.
With no mistakes.
Isn’t that what all the great characters say?

About the Author: A.R. Hadley

ARHadleyBioA.R. Hadley writes imperfectly perfect sentences by the light of her iPhone.
She loves her husband.
Chocolate.
Her children.
And Cary Grant.
She annoys those darling little children by quoting lines from Back to the Future, but despite her knowledge of eighties and nineties pop culture, she was actually meant to live alongside the lost generation after the Great War and write a mediocre novel while drinking absinthe with Hemingway. Instead, find her sipping sweet tea with extra lemons on her porch as she weaves fictional tales of love and angst amid reality.

A creative writer since elementary school, A.R. all but gave it up after her children were born, devoting herself to the lovely little creatures, forgetting the pleasure and happiness she derived from being imaginative.
No more.
She rediscovered her passion in 2014 and has not stopped since — writing essays, poetry, and fiction. She is currently working on completing several novels as part of a romantic trilogy.

Day or night, words float around inside her mind. She hears dialogue when she awakens from sleep. She is the one who has been awakened. Writing is her oxygen. Cary Grant fans the flames.

To Patience, From Your Biggest Fan

Dear Patience,

I have to be honest with you—I’ve never done anything like this before. Like, written an actual fan letter. Anytime I think about it, I immediately feel embarrassed, like I’m twelve years old and very small compared to whomever I’m contemplating writing.

I’ve come close a few times. I started a letter to Joy once, but something fun caught my eye and I never made my way back to it. I thought about reaching out to Anger, but it felt too scary (although I actually think Anger is quite misunderstood and would probably appreciate little love from time to time.) And I picked out a really pretty card that I thought would be perfect for Kindness, but then I found out a good friend of mine was having a hard week so I sent it to her instead.

There is so much I want to say to you Patience, but it really all boils down to this: I want to be just like you.

You seem so mystical, so serene. You have a way of creating calm no matter what the situation and you do such an extraordinary job of putting everyone around you at ease (or at least whoever is willing to pay attention to you.) I wish I was more like that. Too often I am so eager to finish—or start—something that I miss out on a lot of details and experiences. Anytime I get it into my head that I won’t be able to feel good or have fun or be OK until this happens or that takes place I always run into trouble. You know what I’m talking about, and you know how futile it always is. In all the times I’ve let myself get frustrated and grouchy because something isn’t happening exactly the way I think it should, never once has it made time move any faster (or encouraged slow drivers in front of me to magically change lanes so I can pass them!)

In situations that have me feeling hurried and harried, I look to you, Patience, and following your example always enables me to turn things around. I stop, take a deep breath, and ponder what you would do in that moment. After I sit with this thought for a while, I usually end up wanting to do the same thing every time—nothing!

If I feel overly anxious to speak up during an argument, you encourage me to remain silent. If I notice myself sloppily folding laundry in an effort to get it done fast, thinking of you enables me to immediately sink into the simple beauty of my soft, clean bath towels. If I’m running errands and wishing I wasn’t where I was but, instead, where I was headed, you inspire me to take a very small action that never fails to pull me out of my wholly unnecessary angst. With your nudging, I look outside my window. Once I spend a moment or two admiring the trees, the clouds, and the sky, I’m no longer concerned with being in such a mad rush.

I’ve also learned that anytime I choose to ignore your example, I’ll likely pay a price. This usually involves a stubbed toe or some other such mishap. When I become fixated on getting something done as fast as possible, I literally become oblivious to my surroundings. How many bruises and nicks and scrapes do I have because there was an imaginary ticking time bomb I believed would explode if I didn’t get something started or finished or somehow resolved as soon as humanly possible?

A lot of people say you’re all about letting time unfold organically.

While I get this, and know it’s part of your charm, I’ve come to believe your most unique and potent genius is in all the ways you teach the world how to focus its attention on what truly matters. Is it important I get my dishes cleaned quickly or that I spend the time it takes to wash them being grateful for the meal I just enjoyed? Does it serve me to feel annoyed if someone doesn’t return my call right away or might it be a better idea to allow for circumstances beyond my knowledge or control? Will the situation be elevated by my saying, “What a jerk for not calling back!” or “Maybe he or she is dealing with a person crisis; I hope everything is OK.”?

You don’t teach me to just sit back and do nothing. You instill a practice of gentle, mindful immersion into the beauty of every moment.

The world is so enamored with speed these days. Immediacy seems to be the goal, no matter what the situation. I bet you feel like your work is never done around here. I wonder if you sometimes feel tired and overwhelmed. Perhaps you doubt whether or not anyone is even interested in what you have to say anymore.

I think this is why I decided it was time to take a leap and write my first fan letter—because it is important you know how desperately so many of us want and need your example, your teachings, and your wisdom.

I know you’re busy, Patience—more busy than ever—so I don’t expect a response. The only hope I send with this letter is that you find some small solace to know what a difference you’ve made in my life. You have helped me appreciate the detours and the delays, the uncertainties and the lulls. You’ve shown me how to gently slip out of tense situations, most especially the ones that became unnecessarily wound up because of my own untamed thoughts. Thank you for all of your hard work. Thank you for all the ways you show up for me.

Happy New Year, Patience. You’re the best.

With admiration, Christine

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. Signed copies of her memoir, Moving Water, are now available for pre-order at www.christinemasonmiller.com.

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