Sunday Sanctuary: Lush Summer Dreams

SundaySancturary_WithDebraSmouse

For as long as I can remember, I have loved flowers and plants. Dirt runs through the veins of most of my family members – my father grew up on a farm and my mother had a gift for growing lush potted plants. My granny’s backyard was a paradise, inviting my imagination to run wild as I played. There is a deep soul desire to create WeGrowThingsverdant outdoor spaces.

Traditionally, Southern Women Grow Things, even when we no longer live in the south. And life in suburbia, especially in the land of Home Owner Associations demands careful tutelage. The goal is to own the house that stands out enough to be a showplace yet blends into the rest of the neighborhood so it isn’t an eyesore.

Yes to sumptuous beds edging your home; no to painting the house magenta. Gardening is creative endeavor and I deeply admire those whose canvas is flowers and greenery.

As I have gotten older and grown in my own confidence as a creative, I have learned that sadly, having a green thumb is not one of my gifts. Yes, I can manage choosing plants that present a pleasing visage in the beds around my home, but I can equivocally say that it’s not really my gift, no matter how much I wish. And frankly, it’s a bitter pill to swallow…just like the realization that while I understand the basics of constructing a dress, I’ll never be a good seamstress.

Yet, I live in the land of HOAs and the thread of desiring to connect to the earth and growing things remains as a part of my life.

In the fall, I plant tulips and daffodils. They fit me and my personality: the careful planning of a pleasing design with attention to color, bloom time, and height. I order my bulbs online and when they arrive, I plant them over a series of days. It gives me the opportunity to dig in the dirt and connect with that portion of my heritage without overwhelming myself. Because bulbs come back year after year, I only have to supplement the bare spots.

Best of all, there is no need to do much tending once they’re planted. They just bloom.

As the tulips fade, I am in a space of dread.

Late spring plantings with an eye towards summer demands more. I love the planning part: choosing plants that will grow with a certain amount of sun or lack thereof, flowers with pleasing leaves and colors that will be just the right breakfastonthedeck_springcompliment to the permanent pieces of landscape like trees and bushes and the curve of the walk.

But, damn, I have a lot of blank space to fill, and this is where it gets complicated for me. It requires multiple trips to Lowes to purchase not just flowers but supplements for the soil and fertilizers to help them grow.

After my third trip to Lowes, I have amassed sixty-one plants. Five wax leaf begonias, all white. Sixteen French Marigolds, five rust and eleven yellow. Forty Vinca: seventeen pale pink and eleven cranberry pink for the back; seven white and five lavender for the front.

Want to know another trait of creative people? Sometimes we let our passions lead us into the territory of overwhelmed. On that last trip home in the back in the car crammed with foliage, I was beginning to question what I had committed myself to doing.

One of the ways I nourish my creativity is mornings on the deck with my coffee and journal. The flowers feed that sacred time. Despite my lack of having a green thumb, I’ve spent my years nourished by the presence of growing things. And now, to have that, I need to dig sixty-one holes.

Sixty. One. Holes.

I may have uttered words of prayer as I thought “Oh, I wish I had some help.” More than once. As I paid for the flowers, as I loaded them into the back of the car, and during the ten minute journey home.

I turn into our neighborhood and pass that house. The one with the most beautifully tended landscaping and see that the gardener is there. Impulsively, I pull over, roll down my window, and say “Do you have a card?”

She smiles. “I never had cards printed; my business keeps expanding by word of mouth. What is it that you need? Design? I’m a Master Gardner. Or…?”

“Honestly, I just need help getting all my summer plantings in the ground.”

“So, what do you got?”

I pop open the rear door and she says, “OH, that’s not that much. We’re almost done here and could be at your place and be gone in a couple of hours.”

As I’m driving home, I feel like the luckiest gal in the world. I see it as a sign from God that though my prayers had been silent, I was heard.

They arrive at noon, the lovely Julie, the Master Gardener along with her daughter, her assistant Lucas and his friend Chris. Julie and I walk and I show her what I had envisioned. Meanwhile, her daughter begins pulling back the newspringplantings_2016mulch and the men begin breaking up the soil. Julie compliments my plant choices and with her Master Gardener’s eye, fine tunes placement. I work alongside them, trimming the remnants of tulip leaves as they dig.

An hour later, they leave.

All sixty-one flowers are lovingly nestled in the earth. All the plant debris is gone: weeds, spent leaves, and birch seeds. The backbreaking task I estimated would take me eight or nine hours, spread across two days (or more)? Completed.

Creative folks often look at any and all tasks and believe that asking for help dulls our magic or takes away from the approach we have to living. We believe in order to be successful at any endeavor – be it writing a book, constructing a dress, or planting a garden – we must do it alone.

What I’ve made peace with as I’ve gotten older is that sometimes, we just need help.

We have a vision, but need someone to talk it through with us. Or do the heavy lifting. We want to dabble in an area we aren’t good at, but there’s too much work in getting it set-up we don’t bother trying. We believe that spending money on something we could do our self is wasteful, not considering how that time is taking us away from other pursuits.

Being creative doesn’t mean that we have to excel at every creative endeavor that calls our name.

We can bemoan the lack of having a green thumb and torture ourselves over the absence of natural talent. Or we can get the help me need to overcome our natural shortcomings.

Pay to have your lawn mowed. Hire an editor to help polish your book. Let the cleaners hem those pants. Buy the painting you love instead of living with bare walls.  Listen to your gut when it tells you to pull over on the side of the road. And yes, maybe you pray for help and hope for a divine sign.

This is how we choose creative living. We swallow our pride and admit that we need help so that we can spend our time in the kind of environment our soul needs to grow. Don’t deny inviting creativity and beauty into your world just because you can’t create it all by yourself.

About the Author: Debra Smouse

debra_Smouse_mclDebra Smouse is a self-admitted Tarnished Southern Belle, life coach, and author of Create a Life You Love: Straightforward Wisdom for Creating the Life of Your Dreams. She resides in Dayton, Ohio where she practices the art of living with the Man of Her Dreams. 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.

The Language of Loss by Sue Ann Gleason

language-of-lossForget everything you were about to say.
And the days you can’t bear
to pick up the phone
because you know the news
will be the same
and you feel the weariness
of the stalwart.
And you wonder how long a body
can go without sleep in service
to the one she loves.
And you feel helpless
and hapless
despite the knowing,
the bone deep knowledge
that there are forces so much
greater than you
at work here.
And isn’t that what this one precious
life is?
She said we had to be willing
to live in the mystery.
And yet, regret slips in.
She always does.
Relentless.
Hovering.
Her cadence
the language of loss.
This morning we are awash in rain
as if to say, See? I told you today
would be dismal.
Pick up the receiver.
It will feel like a barbell.
Stop this inner lament.
It’s your turn to be brave.

About the Author: Sue Ann Gleason

Sue Ann GleasonNourishment guide, SoulCollage® Facilitator, and ‘wise business’ strategist, Sue Ann Gleason is a lover of words, a strong believer in the power of imagination, and a champion for women who want to live a more delicious, fully expressed life. She has been featured in Oprah and Runner’s World magazines and numerous online publications.

When not working with private clients or delivering online programs, Sue Ann can be found sampling exotic chocolates or building broccoli forests in her mashed potatoes.

You can connect with her in a few different places. Delicious freebies await you!
nourished living | wise business | instagram

The Door to Somewhere Leads to Me by A.R. Hadley

GOD pic

I made choices, lots of choices, but it was the dream that was random. I’m talking about a real, actual, sleeping-in-my-bed-goodnight-world, dream. Many things led me to here, right now, point A to point B, but the dream was the beginning, the turning point; and what followed, caused me to splinter into several pieces.

Splinter. Crack. Splice.

As I gathered up the shavings, starting that fateful summer, several doors began to open, doors I thought I had sealed off with cement long ago. Wrong. They opened, unravelling me. The most disconcerting and significant door, the one with the words — WRITER — emblazed across it, opened wide and shined a hard-to-miss spotlight on the path leading me back to me.

Sometimes I wonder, if I hadn’t had that particular dream, would I still have decided to write again? Would I have found me? God, I hope so, but it would not have been the same. It could not have been the same.

The unreasonableness of it all became the reason.

In 2014, a man I never met became my muse. I began writing my novel with the familiar stranger as my muse, and he was a man I did not choose — not consciously. I woke up one morning, knowing the man had been a part of my early morning dream. That dream. The random, unraveling, splintering dream. I recognized the man even though he was a hazy outline, as people often are in slumber-land.

Not clear, but clear. Him. An actor.

I only knew of him as an actor anyway, but that was all about to change. Everything about my life was about to change. The dream was a dream I cannot even recall today, but he was a part of it, and I built on whatever wild emotions I felt that morning, imagining an amazing story inside my head. I told the story to myself over and over without even realizing it was a story, without even realizing I had the makings of a book, and I continued to embellish upon that story inside my head for months, utilizing the outward appearance of the familiar man. He helped my character to come alive, and in the process, I came alive.

The beginning of the splintering, the day everything really changed, was the day the story burst from my heart and bled onto the page. A digital page. I opened the notepad on my iPhone and wrote. Finger-typed. I couldn’t stop writing, and I wondered why I had ever stopped.

I knew why.

I had always written, but I wasn’t a writer. Who me? Not me. Published clips, yes. Poetry, check. Essays, yes. A writer? No, no, no. And so, one day, a long time ago, I stopped. Fifteen some odd years ago:

I. Stopped. Writing.

I had two kids. I stopped. I wrote about the kids in a journal, but I stopped pursuing writing with a passion — my passion. I gave up, and deep down I knew the reason.

Fear.

It’s ugly little head held me back. Fear ruled.

It became the easy route.

The familiar.

I was raised with fear, told as a child I had to worry, over-worry, unhealthy worry, about someone wanting to kidnap me and take me away from my family, taught to fear the end of the world was near, always on the brink, led by example to fear people were judging me, and it turns out some people were judging me and are judging me. And ultimately, when I began my novel(s), I feared my good girl Christian conscience wouldn’t allow me to write. It wouldn’t allow me to take time away from my family, to do something selfishly.

Just. For. Me.

I initially held back because the story had to be told completely, in every way the characters dictated to me that I write, (awful little buggers.) I had to use language and actions I may not personally choose to do or speak, things others may find offensive. I had to speak the truth of those imaginary beings, and in the process, I spoke my own truth.

I discovered the me I had forgotten.

Fear gradually began to fall away. Scales dropped from my eyes. I began to write the scenes and people I saw in my mind, including the image of the man from my dream.

Free.

I spent the summer of 2014 writing and crying and heaving and sighing. I struggled. It wasn’t easy. It was difficult because I feared judgment, not just the normal judgment that comes with the territory of being a writer, but I was afraid because the very words I had to write, the story I had to tell, would entertain ideas and actions I had been taught to shame. I wrote about love and heartache and sex. Gasp! I wrote about sex. My body literally trembled as I typed on many occasions. I cried and cried. I sobbed. I released. I set the girl free who was imprisoned inside of me.

I became me.

And that man, my muse, he is real and alive. He is his own man, with his own life, and unbeknownst to him, he is part of my journey. He is a part of the splintering and the healing. I Googled him that summer, curious to see what he was up to, where he had been. I hadn’t seen him in a movie since I couldn’t remember when. I secretly hoped he would disappoint me, but instead he intrigued me. I learned he is a writer and an artist and a unique human being. He wasn’t at all what I expected. Nevertheless, my subconscious believed something about him I had seen on the movie screen, after all it chose him for a dream. Silly. Crazy. Nuts. Maybe. But still, he was solidified in there, in my mind, waiting. Ha, ha. Poor guy.

Well, in discovering parts of that man he chooses to share, parts perhaps hidden from his characters on the big screen, I continued to discover me. I was inspired. I am inspired by his faith. The man is a Christian, sticking to his beliefs even when it’s unpopular to do so, when it’s frowned upon, and even when he is teased or ridiculed. I am inspired by the art he creates and shares with his fans. The art touched my heart.

The man, his faith and his art reminded me we are all connected.

I believe we are all connected on this planet, and the comfort his art provided came into my life at just the right time. I connected to the vibes and the colors and the emotion with which he painted. I connected to the courage I felt he must possess, sharing his creativity with strangers. It inspired me to stop being afraid to share my own creativity.

Hey there lady, yeah you, YOU have value too. Me.

I do have value. I do, and still, it took me months to get to that place. Months of writing. Months of crying. Months of my husband holding my hand and telling me I wasn’t crazy, telling me everything happens for a reason.

A reason.

I need to write.

I need to share.

The random beginning was because of a dream, but the writing was finally a choice, a decision.

It could no longer be hidden beneath my forgotten.

I’m excited. I finally, at the time of writing this essay, ordered my very own piece of art the mysterious writer, actor, father, artist created, and I’m waiting for it to come in the mail. I’m excited! Each day, my first set of novels, a romantic trilogy, are on their way to being finished. I’m writing essays again, sharing my crazy, blasted feelings.

I’m writing.

That is what is amazing. That is the life … altering … decision. I am writing. If you had asked me years ago if I was a writer, I would have said no, even though I was always a writer. I know, I said it before, but it bears repeating:

I would have said no.

Today, I continue to work on owning the title — WRITER. I work on owning myself. Who I am, what I have to say, who I have to be. I work on it every day. And when I finally receive that piece of art, yay! (I have it now) in the mail, I will own it. I will take a picture of myself and my two children (we did!) surrounding it. Our faces will peek out beside the word GOD, beside the turquoise speckles, and I will send that photo (Lordy, I did) to Val Kilmer with a smile. He may never know all that it means, but I hope he smiles too. That is connection. That is our planets endless, circling energy — vibrating and healing and inspiring.

Life changing? Yeah! I’ll never be the same, but I am the same, only different.

Changed.

Open.

Free.

I rediscovered me.

About the Author: A.R. Hadley

ARHadleyBioA.R. Hadley has been a creative writer since elementary school, however, she all but gave it up after her children were born, devoting herself to the lovely little creatures, forgetting the pleasure and happiness derived from being imaginative.

No more.

She rediscovered her passion in 2014, and has not stopped since — writing essays, poetry, and fiction. A.R is currently working on a set of novels as part of a romantic trilogy, and also dabbles in penning short stories.

Day or night, words float around inside her brain. She hears dialogue when awakening from sleep. She is the one who has been awakened. Writing is her oxygen.

Connect on Twitter and Facebook.

A Most Important Maker by Lawrence Davanzo

Davanzo Lead Photo

Last summer I attended a photography workshop in Berlin, expecting to spend time taking in the city’s fascinating street scene—photographing people and architecture and trying to artfully capture the grittiness that is unique to Berlin, one of Europe’s most diverse cities. But on the first day of the workshop I learned we would be photographing two artisans’ studios—a luthier, which is a maker of string instruments, and a pipe maker. Although initially disappointed I wouldn’t get to photograph Berlin’s urban scene, the two days I spent in their studios turned out to be far more satisfying than I had hoped for.

As an amateur violinist, I knew how a violin was made, but I’d never actually witnessed the process firsthand. And during the next day’s shoot observing the pipe maker, who turned out to be a former Major in the East German Army, I learned about the hundreds of different styles and designs his customers could choose from when ordering a pipe, with prices of up to several thousand dollars for his most elaborate designs.

When I returned to Santa Barbara, I began exploring the possibility of putting an exhibit together documenting artisans and craftsmen in their workspaces.

I liked thinking about these people as Makers—individuals who made something that required skill and creativity and gave people pleasure in the finished product. Not long after the new year, I approached a gallery in Los Angeles with the idea of an exhibition and they quickly agreed to host the show in early June.

I had two collections ready from my Berlin trip, but I knew it wouldn’t be enough for a solo show; I needed another two or three makers to round out the exhibit. My oldest friend has been a painter all his life, and has a studio in downtown Los Angeles. When I approached him about including him in the show, he agreed to let me spend a day shooting him while he was working on a new composition. I have another friend with a woodworking shop in Santa Barbara, my hometown, where he’s been making furniture for nearly thirty years. So both of those shoots easily met my definition of Maker.

This provided four series for the show, but I wanted five.

As I was organizing my work for the show I came across images from another photography workshop I attended in 2012, where I documented workers at the Drakes Bay Oyster Company in Pt. Reyes, California. Could oyster farmers be considered Makers? They probably weren’t artisans like my other subjects, but I was intrigued by the possibility.

When I photographed the workers at Drakes Bay, they had taken the time to explain what it actually meant to farm oysters. I love oysters, but I’d never really given any thought as to what was involved in bringing them to the table.

As I reviewed the images I’d taken four years earlier, I realized that the process of growing an oyster from microscopic larvae to its edible state was the literal making of an oyster. Here was my fifth series for the show. It might have been a bit of a stretch, but it met the requirements of skill and creativity—by needing to deal with weather and harvesting variations—as well as by providing pleasure to people.

There were some days when I had second thoughts: Wouldn’t it be better to photograph a chef in her kitchen, making a wonderful meal, giving pleasure to a table of friends or customers? Isn’t a kitchen a better studio of sorts than an oyster farm? But every time, I returned to the idea of including the oyster farmers in my exhibit.

I went back to my pictures, and came across the image below of the oyster seeds or larvae that are the starting point of making an oyster.

davanzo Photo 1

Oyster Larvae in a salt water bath

Drakes Bay would get a few million seeds from a hatchery in Oregon and disperse them in buckets of cold water like the one above, gradually adding warmer water to reanimate the seeds. The seeds would then be placed into a larger tank containing nets filled with recycled oyster shells.  After a few days, the seeds would attach themselves to the shells before being relocated to the ocean while still in the nets, thus beginning their long growing process.

davanzo Photo 2

Young oysters attached to recycled shells in net bags

After two to three months the baby oysters in their shells are attached to “trees” of metal rods that are suspended in the Drakes Bay Estero where they would grow for two years or more until they are ready for harvest. Workers retrieve the oysters, strip them from their metal rods, and harvest them for us to enjoy.

Davanzo Photo 3

Oysters are attached to metal rods and suspended in the ocean for the long growing period.

Davanzo Photo 4

Workers harvesting oysters

Drakes Bay has been in commercial oyster production for nearly one hundred years. Sadly, the National Park Service (NPS), after a lengthy and controversial legal battle, shut down the company in 2015. The workers shown in these images have all lost their livelihood; the historic buildings and equipment at the site have been removed and the NPS is in the process of dismantling and removing the oyster racks and related materials. I was fortunate to have documented the process of making oysters in the last surviving oyster operation on the California coast. Like so many things, it is an art—requiring skill, ingenuity, dedication and care.

About the Photographer: Lawrence Davanzo

lawrence_davanzo_bioLawrence Davanzo is a Santa Barbara-based photographer.

You can see more of his work at www.lawrencedavanzo.com.

Your New Moon Creative (Full Strawberry Moon)

What nourishes you? How do you fill the well so that you can continue to create? How does connection and community nourish you and your creativity?

When it came to the desire to build connection and community here at Modern Creative Life, we decided to offer prompts to inspire your creativity. Our #NewMoonCreative Prompts  are shared with you as the moon cycles to “new”… this is the traditional time to launch new efforts and open ourselves to creativity.

And we circle back on the date of the Full Moon to see what was created.

The full moon will bless us tonight, which means it’s time to celebrate how our creative endeavors have come to bloom. We have a tiny offering this month in response to New Moon in Gemini and here is a taste of what was created in response to our “New Moon Creative” prompts:

Romance

Movement (by Jeannie Croope):

MovementbyJeanieCroope

Wild…

Our next New Moon Creative is July 4th

We hope you’ll join us and share your creations with us.

Dear Stranger: About That Last Statement

opened_book

Dear Strange Man,

We don’t know each other, yet you feel entitled to interrupt my little zone of dual nourishment time. See, one of my guilty (not guilty) pleasures is to take myself to lunch and read a good book.

I am sitting there, thoroughly engrossed in a suspense novel, so it takes me a few moments to realize that you are talking to me. I hear a voice in the almost-empty restaurant and look up to see you staring at me. My silence is somehow encouraging, and you repeat the words I thought I’d heard:

“So, you’re reading, huh?”

“Yes.” I answer. I smile slightly, but not enough to encourage a conversation. I return to my book, but I feel your continued presence as you stand there, staring at me.

When I glance back up at you, you respond with a smirk. “A good lunch date, huh?”

“Yes,” I answer, this time favoring you with a real smile. “The perfect lunch companion.”

“Yeah, because a book won’t break your heart.”

Your words are spit out with such vehemence that I become more than a little uncomfortable, and I cannot help but wonder: why interrupt my quiet when you don’t seem to like women?

Though my plan was to linger over my book, and sip the last of my water as the lunch crowd waned, I am suddenly glad that I’ve already paid my waitress.

I am Southern and exceedingly polite to strangers as I recognize that overtures from people we meet in public usually come from a space of desiring connection. I’m intuitive, too, and deep down I know that the kind of statement you made means that, in the past, you were hurt by someone you loved.

And I am so sorry for your pain. Heartbreak and betrayal is devastating to the mind and soul.

However, your tone crosses the boundaries of polite society, so I break eye contact.

I am grateful when your companion joins you, an elderly woman whom I assume is your mother.

I mark my place in my book, leave a tip, and make my way out as quickly as possible.

There were so many things wrong with our encounter that weeks later, I am still thinking about it. I’m writing you this letter because I want to pass on a little advice.

Maybe you don’t realize this, but being alone in public doesn’t make me “fair game.”  A woman alone in a restaurant is not out looking for a date, and most likely isn’t even seeking conversation. This wasn’t a smoky bar on a Saturday night; it was a family restaurant on a sunny Thursday afternoon.

You may have believed you were saving me from loneliness. I wasn’t lonely because, as you observed, I had companionship: the novel I was reading.

This was not a “missed connection” and you won’t find me seeking you out on Craigslist. Most of our encounter could be seem as misguided attempt at flirting. So let me tell you why I’m still thinking about our encounter: Your last statement to me.

I don’t like to tell folks their beliefs are right or wrong, but I can tell you that you were so wrong when you said reading_wheretheredfierngrowsthat books can’t break your heart.

The first heartbreak I can recall happened in literary form. I was eight and read the story of a boy and two red bone coonhounds. Just writing about Billy, Old Dan, and Little Ann makes me tear up forty years later.

That was my first heartbreak, and it sure wasn’t my last.

There was Little Beth and Alice and Leslie and a slew of others.

When we read, we care about the characters and they become our friends. Their lives are often as real to us – while we are reading their stories – as the people who inhabit the three-dimensional world in which we live.

The book I was reading that day was the fifteenth book in a series, so you interrupted my lunch with a longtime friend. I guess you could say Lindsay Boxer and I have a long-term relationship. Spoiler alert: Lindsay had just discovered that her husband and the father of her child had a secret life.

Her heart was breaking and mine was breaking right along with her.

Books take us to faraway places and invite us on adventure. Books ask us to come along on a journey of life, to share the ups and downs and highs and lows. The funny, the sacred, the sad. Books allow us to witness fear and bravery.

Books will break our hearts in a way that we need. Because books prepare us for life’s reality.

Through the lives of the characters we read about, we learn the different ways to navigate the kind of losses we all will face one day: the loss of a pet or a parent, a child, or best friend. Books prepare us for the betrayal of a friend or lover. Books show us how to fall in love without losing ourselves, and let us experience the inevitable joy of mothering children or animals.

Reading books is good for not just our mind, but our souls.

Books don’t just inform us about historical events or scientific theory. Books allow us to learn about other ways of stackofbooksliving, other cultures, and other worlds. Books teach us how to be happy, and how to find our way in the world when we are different.

You were wrong when you said that books can’t break your heart, because they can. And I’m going to share a secret with you because I think you can use this information:  if you have a broken heart, a book can be part of mending it.

If you find this letter, I have one more piece of advice: rather than interrupt the next woman you see reading in a restaurant, I want you to follow her lead and pick up a book.

Though I doubt our paths will cross again, if they do, I hope it will be because you’ve found this letter, taken advantage of some literary therapy, and have a smile on your face.

Sincerely,
The Woman at the Restaurant reading 15th Affair

About the Author: Debra Smouse

debra_Smouse_mclDebra Smouse is a self-admitted Tarnished Southern Belle, life coach, and author of Create a Life You Love: Straightforward Wisdom for Creating the Life of Your Dreams. She resides in Dayton, Ohio where she practices the art of living with the Man of Her Dreams. When she’s not waiting for the mailman, 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.

 

Studio Tour: Bernie Brown – Thimblelina & Me

Modern Creative Life Presents Studio Tours

The floor is the best surface ever invented for cutting fabric. Nothing falls off it.  There is always more room.  The only drawback is pins end up sticking into the carpet as well as my pattern pieces.

My sweet little Viking sewing machine has been my trusty soldier for over thirty years.  The last time I took it in for its yearly tune up, oiling and timing—which synchs the bobbin thread and the needle thread to form a clean stitch —the repairman said, “Don’t you ever use it? It’s perfectly clean.”

I replied, “I use it all the time and clean it after every project.”

And he said, “It’s a good thing because if it ever breaks, I can’t get parts for it anymore.” If that day ever came, I would weep and moan. I would tear my hair. Emergency vehicles may need to be summoned.

My sewing things live in a loft corner of our third floor family room. The arrangement has never varied for thirty years. Everything is positioned where I can reach for it without even looking or knocking it over.

I learned to sew by watching my mom, who used a thimble like a natural extension of her finger. I never mastered the use of this little tool with the funny name. I kept one at my house for Mom’s visits, and now that she’s gone, I keep it because it reminds me of her. The charmingly ugly little figurine with a thimble for a hat is called Thimblelina. During a brief stint as a stock boy at Hallmark, my middle-school-aged son bought her for me, a spontaneous gift I treasure.

My high school stone-age curriculum required Home Ec for girls. We struggled with our basic shirtwaists with varying degrees of success. Mrs. A, our beloved teacher, scolded me, “You press things to death.” I’m afraid Mrs. A never cured me of that. I can’t sew without an iron by my side. A skillful press job hides many a sewing sin. Near my workaday iron are two beautifully carved and etched antique irons from a Dutch flea market. They are from the era when hot coals put inside them provided the heat. Next to them sits a doll size ironing board and iron that my dad made for me in his woodshop. I love it not only because he made it, but because he got the pleasing angles of the ironing board legs exactly right. And the small iron is crafted of layers of wood, which give it character and interest. So, my sewing area includes not only working tools, but decorative models of them, too, which add a whimsical touch for me to admire as I work.

I have an accordion rack where I hang a number of scissors. Not sure how I acquired so many pairs. And there is all the other stuff a seamstress accumulates: elastic, pins, needles, measuring tape, thread, bobbins and a drawer overflowing with fabric scraps and dress patterns.

Thimblelina and I welcome you to my sewing corner. Just be on the lookout for pins on the floor. They tend to stick in the carpet.

ba1

My antique Viking. Long may she reign.

ba2

Bernie Scissorhands.

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One woman’s thimble is another woman’s hat.

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Iron’s plain and fancy.

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This darling model would make any dress look good.

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I wonder if the naked lady in the background would like for me to make her a dress.

About the Author: Bernie Brown

berniebrownI live in Raleigh, NC where I write, read, and watch birds. My stories have appeared in several magazines, most recently Every Writer’s Resource, Still Crazy and the Raleigh News and Observer. I am a Writer in Residence at the Weymouth Center. Get to know me better my website and connect with me on Facebook.

Tune In to Find What You Need by Bella Cirovic

Instrumental_Care of Creative Soul

I think about the ways in which the experts in books and magazine articles say we should take care of ourselves.  It’s recommended that we sleep for 8 hours a night, that we eat between 3 to 6 meals per day, and that we get in some sort of physical activity. Honestly, these are bare minimum functions for survival. And to think that we should accomplish it all while holding down a job, maybe taking care of children, possibly taking care of our parents, loving our partners, getting dinner on the table, getting the housecleaning done, tackling that huge pile of laundry, socializing with friends, and if we have any time left, we might possibly indulge in a hobby. Or, if we’re being honest, a nap.

There is so much doing that goes on in one day for each of us. How are we feeling in the midst of all of this doing? How is it possible to engage in this life of ours and practice presence? It is possible, I assure you. Here are a few ways I’ve learned to tune in and give myself some nourishment in the form of self care.

From the moment we wake up in the morning, we are given an opportunity to pause. How often do we use that time? In the past, I would jump out of bed to the sound of a blaring alarm. From there I would shuffle into the kitchen and clumsily set up the coffee machine. Beginning each morning like that day after day did not feel calm, it felt like a chore. I knew that I wanted the start of my day to feel soft, like the wisps of a dandelion.

I began setting the coffee maker at night so that I didn’t have to do all of the measuring and pouring with half opened eyes. These days, I wake up to a birdsong alarm on my phone. I take a few moments with eyes closed to give thanks for this day. I give thanks. I pray. I take a deep breath before I begin my day. The ritual of a morning drink is in and of itself a form of nourishment. It is another few quiet moments to myself before the day unfolds.

Bella Photo 1

In the afternoon stretch before heading home from work, I find that my muscles feel cramped from the hours spent at my desk. I keep a bottle of peppermint essential oil handy to dab on my temples. The mint eases away any tension quickly while the overall scent works as an energy reviver. Just a few minutes between work tasks using essential oils can really feel like a lifesaver.

At the end of the day, if I’m having trouble unwinding before bed or if I want to get more deeply relaxed, I pop in my earbuds and listen to a guided mediation. This ritual has been so grounding, bringing me right back to center after a very long day. I spent a few minutes browsing the app store for the meditations that worked for deep relaxation as well as stress relief. While there are hundreds of topics to choose from, I find that these two work best to help prepare me for a good night’s sleep.

These are optional ways I’ve learned to nourish my mind, body, and soul throughout the day. When I’m hungry, my belly growls. It’s my body’s way of reminding me fuel it with food. My body doesn’t ask for essential oils or meditation. I found these forms of self care through a combination of listening to what my body needed and intuitively choosing what to give it to feel well.  Maybe you will benefit from giving these ideas a try. You will know what variety of care is nourishing for you. Just tune in and listen.

About the Author: Bella Cirovic

Bella Cirovic BioBella Cirovic is a photographer and writer who lives with her husband and daughter in the suburbs outside of NYC. She writes on the subjects of self care, body love and nourishment, crystals, essential oils, and family life. Catch up with Bella at her blog: She Told Stories

Note from Bella: Join me this summer for a month of self care through my program, The Holy Hush. I’ll share indulgent rituals, grounding meditations, and sensual journaling through writing and photography. It is a mid year pause to meet yourself deeper. Are you interested in learning more? Click here for details.

My Main Ingredient by Kolleen Harrison

Kolleen Harrison Open Hands

As I sat and thought about the topic of “Nourishment” so many things went through my mind. There is nourishment from the obvious stand point of food and water, yet the nourishment I felt really drawn to focus on was my Soul  Nourishment, my Soul Food.

So I began brainstorming with these questions:

  • Where do I fill my well?
  • What brings me happiness?
  • When and where do I feel most at peace?
  • What satisfies my soul hunger?
  • When, where and with whom do I feel most “Me”?

I made a lengthy list of all the incredibly awesome things that serve this purpose and even posed the question on my Kolleen Harrison Family 3Facebook account. A good chunk of the answers were along the lines of face to face connection with family and friends, time in nature, doing something creative, listening to or playing music, spending time with animals, quiet time in prayer or meditation.

I initially planned on compiling a “Top 7 List of Things to Feed Your Soul”, yet as I sat alone today, I heard a tiny whisper say, “Being a Mom is your main ingredient. It is what comes before any of the others. It is what you NEED, so write about that.”

So as I sat, looking around my family room at all the photos that fill that space, I realized how true that sweet little whisper was. My most favorite thing in the world is being a Mom, nourishing my children, loving on them, supporting them, being here for them, helping to protect and teach them best I know how.

Yet, as I took a closer look at all the photos, I realized my mothering is not only limited to my children, it also extends to my friends and others close to me. I find great nourishment in mothering others at their time of need, their time of struggle and sadness, their time of needing love and encouragement, providing an ear to bend or shoulder to lean into. I honestly donʼt know a time I feel more fed than when I am loving another, supporting another, hugging another, encouraging another, protecting another, mothering another.

THAT, is the main ingredient for any soul food recipe of mine.

It is what fills my well.

It is what I am most grateful for.

Kolleen Harrison Circle of Hands

About the Author: Kolleen Harrison

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

How to Devour the Blues by Pat West

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You receive three rejection notices
in one week. Or perhaps you fought
with your lover. And there are still
things to say. Forget the reason.
Toast a baguette, rub with garlic,
grate a tomato, spoon onto bread and eat.
You feel funky covered with crumbs
and sound like a noisy squirrel chewing
his snack, but feel the buzz in your mouth.

Riff off of something like the article
in The New York Times
about Buenos Aires giving pensions
to published writers. Improvise:
roll the idea of moving to Argentina
over your tongue like the R’s
in Spanish class. Imagine the smell
of parrilla in the afternoon, tenderloin
and strip steak, sausages, rows
of vegetables over fresh wood.

Amp things up a notch. Catch a flight to L.A.,
celebrate an unbirthday at the Hollywood Bowl.
Order the Verano picnic basket from Patina:
lemon poached salmon in dill sauce.
After a few sips of merlot, full of piss
and vinegar, tap the guy on the shoulder
next blanket over, ask to sample his potato salad.

Lean back, close your eyes.
When Diana Krall’s smoky voice reaches
the edge of the sky, you will taste
the sweet man and salty tears in her song.

About the Author: Pat West

PatWestBioPat Phillips West lives in Portland, Oregon. Her poems have appeared in various journals, including Haunted Waters Press, Persimmon Tree, San Pedro River Review, and Slipstream, and some have earned nominations for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net.

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