Letter to My Six-Year-Old Self by Melissa A. Bartell


Dear MissMeliss

Hi, this is your future self. I’m older than Mom is right now, so you might not believe me, especially since I have pink hair, and while you’re a fairly well-traveled little girl (you’re a seasoned pro at flying without an adult), I know for a fact you’ve never seen anyone with pink hair. Still, if you look closely, you can see the echoes of yourself in my face. Like the beauty mark on our cheek, or the way we both have really long eyelashes, or… well, look, just trust me on this one, okay?

So, if I’m timing this right you’re somewhere between six and seven years old. You have your windy wheat-colored hair cut into a Dorothy Hamill ‘short-n-sassy’ wedge, and you’re missing your two front teeth.

Remember that phrase – ‘short and sassy’ – the haircut will go out of style, but you will never be tall, and you will always be sassy. Or snarky. Although at some point you’re going to learn to think first and sass later.

No, really, you will.

You’ll also learn that making stuff up isn’t just something you do when you’re bored or lonely, it’s a skill you’ll turn into a livelihood someday.

But I’m not writing this to scare you with stuff from the future, because, let’s face it, you won’t listen anyway.

And who can blame you?

Instead, I have some advice for you about the now.

Your now, not my now.

Like, when you’re riding your red bike? The one you love to ride through the mud puddle in the vacant lot across the street from Mitzi’s store? Make sure you take really good care of that bike because it’s going to take you to some amazing places.

You’ve already gone beyond the mud puddles.

You ride out to Mrs. Godoy’s house some weekends with your friend Siobhan, and sometimes you spook yourself when you stay later than you’re supposed to and the shadows have descended through the trees on that one stretch of road right before the dirt transitions back to asphalt and you see the lion heads on the old hotel, and the awning of the ice cream store.

I know the shadows are scary, and we both know the Headless Horseman isn’t really following you, but it’s fun to be a little bit scared when you know it’s not real, so enjoy it.

And you and your friends made that trip out to the reservoir, even going on the highway for that one section… You had so much fun skipping stones out there, but then you realized how far you had to ride to get home, and you raced each other, making it a game so that you wouldn’t be afraid of getting caught.

You never got caught.

You take special delight in riding up and down the street outside the Maxwell House. I know you’re in love with the wrought iron trim that looks like the curlicues on a Hostess cupcake, but I also know that you can’t stop wondering if those ghost stories are true, and there’s a part of you that really wants to find out.

Face it kiddo, except when you want to feel that thrill, you’re pretty fearless.

I wish I could tell you to stay fearless, but the reality is that as we grow up and learn more about the world, fear creeps in. Not the kind of fear that involves Frankenstein’s monster hiding in your closet (I promise, Frankenstein’s monster will never be in your closet.) The kind of fear I mean, is the grown up kind about things like getting a good job and finding a nice house, and stuff like that.

Don’t worry, you’ve still got plenty of fearless years left.

Instead, I want to tell you to hold on to your sense of wonder.

Chase the fireflies when you visit Grandmom and Grandpop. Ride every wave you can, and pretend you’re flying while you do it. Watch the way the ripples freeze into the surface of the lake in the winter. When Benjamin comes to visit, climb up to the top of the hill behind the courthouse, and lie on the grass with him, and pretend you can actually feel the earth spinning.

Search for patterns in the clouds, whether they’re the kind in the sky, or the kind in the coffee Mom drinks.

As I write this, it’s pouring down rain outside my window, and I’m thinking about how much you love rain. In about three years, you’re going to spend an afternoon blissfully tap-dancing around an empty parking lot, and when the rainbow comes out after the storm, you’ll take the credit for its existence.

Don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise.

And until then? Read like crazy. When that boy with the freckles asks you if you want to ‘go’ with him, say yes. He’s really sweet. And, don’t be too mad at Mom when she says you’re too young for that Shaun Cassidy album. What she’s really trying to say is that you’re her little girl, and she doesn’t want you to rush too fast into growing up. (Besides, they’ll play his stuff on the radio all the time.)

So, the good news? You will never know a time when you are not safe and loved. You will never have to worry about where you will live. You will always have enough to eat.

The bad news? There are a few things that won’t go your way, but when you get older and learn about improvisational theatre, you’ll understand that what other people call failure is often just the gift of a new direction.

Ultimately, you’re going to end up with an awesome life that is uniquely yours, and you will love living in the future.

Pink hair and all.

All my love,

Your future self.

Image Copyright: waldru / 123RF Stock Photo


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.

Sundays by Debra Smouse


((Part Two of the Colleen Series – Follows The Bookcase))

Colleen arched her back in a luxurious stretch as she waited for the espresso machine to whir and hum, and drip, drip, drip the rich brown extraction into the pristine whiteness of a porcelain cup. The cup was as new to her as the machine itself, both indulgences that her now-ex-husband would have called a waste of money.

To Colleen, though, they weren’t extravagances. Rather, they were investments into what had become her savior: Sundays.

For the past sixteen years, her Sundays were spent tip-toeing around her home, in deference to the ex. He’d always wanted to sleep in. She, on the other hand, had merely wanted to avoid provoking his temper, and protect herself from the days of The Silent Treatment that would inevitably follow if she made too much noise.

Of course, there was the other reason for her early Sunday mornings: in order to have even five minutes of peace and quiet to herself, she had to arise before her children.

Colleen had always embraced motherhood. She loved her children desperately and never regretted a single moment with them, but the problem with being a mother was that no matter what happened, there was no break from it. She had finally accepted that privacy would never again exist in any aspect of her existence, because who can even pee in peace when there are little fingers under the door? And how many times had she slipped into the tub with a book and a glass of wine after putting the kids to bed to suddenly find a child sitting on the edge of the tub?

But now the divorce was final.

During those first weeks after their separation, especially the weekends when the girls were with their father, Sundays were lonesome, and the only peace she seemed to find was during late night solo cleaning binges. At some point the sweat and toil of cleaning had turned cathartic, and after that, the act of reclaiming the house had put her almost into a Zen state.

The real turning point had come when she’d ditched The Bookcase (in her head, the phrase was always highlighted by Capital Letters). Something had clicked within her, and she was able to see the possibility in the old house becoming a home again.

What used to feel lonely now felt like glorious solitude.

The Breville sputtered to a stop, but before she grabbed her cup, Colleen patiently rinsed the porta-filter in hot water.

Lifting the cup from the drip tray she inhaled the heady aroma. The doppio cup of espresso was perfection crowned by a rich layer of crema. Smiling in anticipation, Colleen scooped up a single demitasse spoon of turbinado sugar and let the grains fall into the cup, bursting through the caramel-colored foam with a series of satisfying plunks.

A tiny sip and her mouth exploded with happiness at the rich, slightly bitter, completely heavenly nectar.

Colleen carried her cup to the table where the Sunday New York Times awaited her.

Also waiting was Ingrid, who seemed to love their Sundays as much as Colleen did. The dog had done her business ingid_down1whilst they retrieved the paper. While the coffee was brewing she’d eaten her breakfast, and taken her position underneath the kitchen table.

“I guess you can call that frog-dog spread you do settled, huh, Ingrid?” she said as she raked her toes across the dog’s big, broad back.

Ingrid grunted happily in response.

It was funny, Colleen reflected, how her now ex-husband had done a 180 when it came to spending time with the kids. During their marriage, he had always been too busy to deal with ballet lessons or soccer practice. He’d never bothered to attend even a single Meet the Teacher night.

Yet, during the negotiations with the lawyers, he suddenly declared that since Colleen had “broken their little family,” the least she could do was agree to him having the children every weekend. So, written into the divorce decree wasn’t the standard “Dad” agreement, but the mandate that he was to have the children from noon on Saturdays until Mondays after school.

That meant he had to deal with the inevitable weekend boredom of nine- and thirteen-year-old girls. He had to adjust to the fact that Sunday evenings meant coaxing them into bed at a reasonable hour. Now that summer was drawing to a close, he would be getting a crash-course in the challenge of Monday morning school runs, especially since one child’s school began at eight AM, while the other’s didn’t start until nine.

Colleen wondered how long this new arrangement would last. Despite being part of the divorce decree, she saw the custody arrangements as an experiment. But no matter what the results of the experiment turned out to be, it meant that Saturday nights and the entire twenty-four hours that made up Sundays belonged to her.

And oh, did she relish the nourishment of these Sundays.

For the first time in her memory, she was able to focus on the one area of life she’d neglected in the hustle and bustle of being a wife and mother: tending herself.

Even more, Colleen saw this as an opportunity to begin reinventing herself. She’d colored her hair and was experimenting with wearing her natural curls. She was slowly shifting her wardrobe away from “contemporary soccer mom” and toward classic lines, and a lot less black. She’d even changed up her go-to nail routines of French-tipped fingers and I’m Not Really a Waitress red toes.

Her current choice: Bogotá Blackberry.

Colleen admired the reddish plum sheen of her freshly polished nails as she skimmed the book section of The Times.

As long as she was treating this as an experiment, she didn’t panic about her life not being planned down to the minute. Listmaker that she was, though, Colleen had begun a section in her journal where she collected “All The Ways Sundays Are Saving Me”.

She could stay home, order Chinese food, and catch up on Scandal or read an entire book in one sitting. She could go to bed ridiculously early.

She could go out with a girlfriend on Saturday night, stay out late dancing until the clubs closed and not returning home until 3 am. And on those mornings, she could sleep long past her typical six AM internal alarm clock.

She could go out on a date and invite a potential lover home. And, she could send him on his way after a little necking or after a quick romp between the sheets.

Usually, Colleen would send him on his way because the idea of actually sleeping with someone made her feel more vulnerable and naked than she ever did during sex.

Her belief that no many would be interested in an almost forty-year old woman with two kids had been proven false. And even the 100-pound Ingrid had not deterred most.

She had to admit to herself, though, that one particular beau had begun to worm his way into her heart and a few weeks before she’d broken her own unwritten rule of no sleep-overs and invited him to stay the night.

It had been glorious in a way she’d never imagined or experienced. She felt like she’d had a tiny glimpse into the kinds of love affairs shown in movies and romance novels with the dual passions of hot, after-dinner, I can’t-wait-to-have-you sex combined with the sweetness and tenderness of a slow, morning, repeat performance.

Now sex was an important component of her list.

That perfect Sunday morning coupling. That languid pull. Waking naked after an evening of fucking, with an arm around her waist or fingers on her breast, and the hardness of morning wood prodding her ass, just waiting to for an invitation to make love.  Glorious morning sex – before coffee, before showers – with the sun streaming through the blinds.

Morning sex – and not just on Sundays – was new for her. Unlike most men, her ex had never been particularly physical, and after she’d become a mother all of their lovemaking had been furtive, taking place in the dark.

Colleen had read the articles. She knew she’d been pretty much living Madonna/Whore syndrome. And there was another thing for her list: being seen as neither Madonna nor Whore.

Coffee paraphernalia hadn’t been Colleen’s only new purchases.

She’d also invested in some exquisite Natori Loungewear. She loved to fold back the covers of her bed, climb out of it, and slip into a chemise or camisole and shorts and toss on a matching robe. There was something that made her feel elegant when she wore Italian jersey trimmed with Chantilly lace, so soft against her skin. And the matching robes made her feel pulled together.

Dressing up for herself – whether she woke alone or with a lover – added to the gloriousness of Sunday mornings.

That’s why she would practically float to the kitchen to start the coffee pot or turn on the espresso machine. That’s why she would often sing to herself as she and Ingrid went to collect the two – two! – Sunday papers from the driveway.

That second Sunday paper was another new indulgence, one she’d been without for too long because the ex had espresso and paper photo by Debra Smouseinsisted it was a waste of money, when all she read were the lifestyle, travel, and book sections.

(Actually, Colleen thought, she now had three newspaper subscriptions, since adding the Friday delivery of the Wall Street Journal to the local daily and her Sunday Times.)

Coffee in hand, dog at her feet, Colleen spread the paper across the kitchen table, and let the scent of ink and the feel of the newsprint on her fingertips mingle with the taste of that first cup of coffee.

Maybe later, she’d make a pancake. Maybe the neighbor would notice her paper gone from the driveway and pop in for a visit.

Or maybe not.

These Sundays may not last forever, but for now, the day was hers. And it was saving her.

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. She’s the Editor in Chief here at Modern Creative Life. Connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Your New Moon Creative (Full Sturgeon 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 Leo and here is a taste of what was created in response to our “New Moon Creative” prompts:

Prompt: Light

And here’s yesterday’s bloomer in today’s misty morning light. #newmooncreative for @moderncreativelife

A photo posted by Becca Rowan (@becca.rowan) on

The #light of this morning’s sunrise is shrouded in fog. Today’s #NewMoonCreative prompt is: LIGHT

A photo posted by Debra Smouse (@debrasmouse) on

Prompt: Tribe

Earlier this year, I began handwriting some of my blog posts and articles in my journal before typing them up. In some ways, I connect to the words differently with a pen in hand than I do seated at the keyboard. It’s allowing me to both shift and strengthen my writing voice. I have three journals now: my bullet journal, my journal-journal where the drafts are getting life, and my prayer journal This month, I picked up the WIP that has been laying fallow since spring. I opened my Scrivener file for the project today and dutifully typed all the journal scribblings in and happily discovered the project is further along than I thought. . . . . So today I mention it here to my digital #tribe: I am working on my next original book – a Day Book – and the plan is to finish it by mid-October, get it to an editor short thereafter, and publish it in November. It’s yet untitlted but will dovetail with my current work around choosing to create a nourishing life, loving your daily life and soul tending In between now and then, I will likely be retiring some of my coaching courses. Some will also be taken to book format this fall – and will be published before the current WIP – the Day Book. They are in “finished” formats, just awaiting a new life. The shift between who I was when I began my coaching practice and who I am today is palatably different to me, even if it isn’t to the outside. I am not the person I was, though, of course, many of us are vastly different today from who we were six years ago…. And that, my darling, is a beautiful thing. This is the art of creating a life: to work in the ways that nourish our soul and be dedicated to birthing our work into the world with earnestness , courage, and devotion. This is day 77 of #100daysofcreativeliving for the #100dayproject. #love #soultending #amwriting Today’s #NewMoonCreative prompt is: tribe The Day 3 prompt from #augustbreak2016 is #handwriting

A photo posted by Debra Smouse (@debrasmouse) on

Prompt: Energy

The doorbell rings shortly before 1 PM as we are finishing our lunch. It’s my postal carrier and as I unlock the door, she has already made it down the sidewalk and is getting back into her truck. I holler my “thanks” and we both wave. There on the porch is the day’s mail: a bill, a movie, an advertisement, a party invitation, and a small box. I rush back into the house and snag a knife from the wooden block and carry it all onto the porch where John is working. I hand him the party invitation (bring a swimsuit and a towel, it says on the back of the envelope). I gently open the box and inside is a gift I knew was coming: a piece of art. I know exactly where she will go: the altar space in my office. As I dive into my commitment to finish writing this new book, I need some guardian energy. She will be that talisman of inspiration and lovingly watch over me as I do this work. . . . . . . . . . . . “It is in our own idleness, in our dreams, that the submerged truth sometimes comes to the top.” – Virginia Wolfe. The art is “Virginia” and I am so grateful for the artist @swirlygirl18 This is the art of creating a life: to allow our friends to gift us with art and allow the spirit of their creation to shine a light over us as to inspire, guard, and support us as we do the work to shine our own light in the world. . . . . . . . . . . This is day 78 of #100daysofcreativeliving for the #100dayproject. #love #soultending #amwriting Today’s #NewMoonCreative prompt is: energy The Day 5 prompt from #augustbreak2016 is #Midday

A photo posted by Debra Smouse (@debrasmouse) on

Prompt: Nature

Our next New Moon Creative begins September 1st – when we will be launching our 3rd Edition of Modern Creative Life with the theme: Wisdom

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


Dusk by Bella Cirovic

Instrumental_Care of Creative Soul

Dusk. This time of the day feels so intimate to me. The sun is just beginning to set as night slowly creeps in and takes over. In the summer months, I long to slow down and savor each day, each moment. Dusk to me feels like slipping into a silk robe very slowly. I keep watch at the window for the changing colors of the sky. When I see varying degrees of pinks, oranges, grays, and then blue, I grab a cool drink and head outside to watch the day fade away.

While each season’s sky brings its own form of magic, I can’t help but be mesmerized by a summer sky. It’s an even more magical treat when there is a full moon. I’m noticing more and more these days that nourishment for me at forty one is so much more than food and drink and love and all the things I would normally feel nourish my soul and spirit.

Observation is nourishment. By simply taking the time to insert myself under the changing sky, I feel a sense of fulfillment. I feel like I’ve given myself a gift. And the beauty of this is that I can do this every night if that is my wish.

This begs me to explore the ideas of self permission and action. I can only indulge in the things that nourish me through feeling by doing. Picking myself up and going to the places that I love for nourishment is vital to my well being. Other places I might take myself are: exploring new neighborhoods in the city, museums, the beach, hiking in the woods or just laying on a blanket in my backyard under the summer sun.

Giving myself permission to play, observe, and move means I believe I am worthy of nourishment. It means that I feel I deserve to fill my spirit with positive energy that will fuel all of the other parts of me. I don’t function very well when I’m not tending to each part of me that needs attention. Permission granted and action taken are just some tools I have learned that work for me.


So because I mentioned dusk being a favorite time of the day, I wanted to share some ideas with you on how you might expand on your own nightly rituals or try something new. You can easily begin by typing “what time is dusk” into the Google search bar and plan on having a half hour to an hour of free time blocked out for your own personal enjoyment. If you do this tonight, you’ll get to see what’s left of the full moon.

Prepare yourself a cool drink. I personally love fresh lemonade. There you have nourishment in a cup. Pick a place that’s comfortable for sitting. Perhaps your backyard or front steps will do? If you don’t have a spot at home, what about a bench in the park or if you live near the water, find a seat right there. Maybe you live on a rooftop? Prepare something fluffy to sit on like a folded blanket or beach towel. You might also like to play some music so bring your phone or ipod with you. And finally, it would be silly if I didn’t mention that bringing along a scented oil to anoint on the back of your neck or on the insides of your wrists could lift this whole situation up to another level.

Now, before you head out, I want to tell you that you are so worthy of this time to just sit back, relax, and watch the sky change colors. I want to tell you that your spirit needs this every once in a while for no reason at all other than the fact that you are out in nature drinking in all of her colors and her glory. I want to tell you that you deserve this. And now, you can take action and go.

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

What Fills Me by Pat West


Dark chocolate with black sea salt and caramel
A cold rain quiet as a mirror
Slow cooked eggs
Shanghai silk merlot
Deep yellow heirloom tomatoes
Driving over the Tehachapi Mountains,
down the Grapevine, that serpentine road
The old gray sweater,
that feels like a hug from my mom
Seattle’s lavender sky
Ferries—slow moving castles
across the Sound
People watching
at Pike Place Market
Sunlight cathedraling through
tall fir trees
Muddy Waters playing
bottleneck guitar
Cowboys—the reason they invented jeans
Nana’s sweet relish
Slow kisses
Cold pizza for breakfast
October’s marmalade moon
How in Kansas the earth flattens,
the road straightens
and there’s nothing but amber wheat
all the way to the horizon
rippling on the breeze,
that dry rustling sound

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.

Sunday Salon: Wearing All the Hats

Sunday Salon with Becca Rowan


A few years ago the small office I worked in went through a period of transition and downsizing. Those of us who had been around for a while were asked to take on more responsibilities to fill in the gaps. In particular, one of my colleagues seemed to end up with a task in every department, from marketing to IT, from human relations to account collection.  We kidded her about all the “hats” she wore around the office; for Christmas that year I bought her a box full of hats, each labeled with a company business card denoting her varied positions.

young-girl-walking-in-croatian-city-rovinj-picjumbo-comShe was philosophical about the whole thing, and though sometimes I’m sure it was extremely stressful, juggling all those different roles and responsibilities, she eventually developed the skills she acquired into a much better position at a larger company.

Truthfully, we all wear a multitude of hats in our daily lives. For people who embrace their creative natures, sometimes the roles we’re required to play might seem restrictive – we may even feel stifled and frustrated, trapped in tasks that seem completely opposite of the work we’ve been “called” to do. But if we look closely, there may be ways to express that side of ourselves, even amidst those roles that seem far from creative.

Connor and me disney 2015This week, I’m primarily wearing my Grandmother hat. It’s one I’m thrilled to have in my collection, and each summer when my son and his family come to visit, I plan my days around them. It means a lot of walks in the park, coloring, playing board games. It’s time spent in visits to museums and plays and the pool. There’s little time for writing or reading (anything other than The Berenstain Bears or Frog and Toad that is!)

Still, I feel as if there is creative living inherent in all the things we do together. Instead of sitting at my desk, I’m outside in nature, exploring the world with a little person who sees everything with eyes of wonder and delight. Instead of writing chapters in a novel, I’m helping Connor make up stories about Ping Ping the bear and his friends Harvey and Duffy. Instead of practicing accompaniments, I’m playing and singing “Everybody Loves Saturday Night” or “This Train is Bound for Glory” while my grandson keeps time on the tupperware container that has been repurposed as a drum. All the while, I’m trying to capture these special moments in photographs I can use to create our annual Michigan Trip picture book that tells the story of each year’s vacation – a creative project I’ve been doing each year after the visit is over.

This is creative living, Grandma style.

flowers-871685_1920Most of us aren’t lucky enough to spend our days totally immersed in our creative endeavors, but it might be possible to wear a creative hat during parts of your day, no matter what it involves.  Maybe it’s as simple as arranging fresh flowers in a vase on your desk at work, or setting the table for supper with different pieces of tableware found at resale shops and estate sales. Maybe it’s listening to classical music while you input data on your computer, or taking 15 or 20 minutes out of your lunch hour to write in a journal or capture some photographs or sketches around the office.

Here in the Sunday Salon, I write about the intersection of art and daily living – the way literature and music and art enhance my ordinary moments and invite me to live a more fulfilling life.  My roles as a writer and a musician are important ones in the creative life I try to live. But caring for the people I love is an important role for me too. It’s one that is fulfilling in an entirely different way, and is even more so when I recognize the way I can bring my own creative gifts to bear within it.

It’s a hat that fits me quite comfortably, and I hope to wear it well for as long as possible.

About the Author: Becca Rowan

becca_connor_bio1Becca 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. This week she’s busy being a grandmother – making cookies, reading stories, and going for walks in the park with her four-year old grandson, Connor. She loves to connect with readers at her blog, or on Facebook, Twitter, or Goodreads.

Im tiefen Schlafen (In Deep Sleep) by Æverett

Dunes by Carla Lloret via Unsplash

I had a dream. A man I fell in love with when I was eleven was there, with feathers all down his back, and his dark hair pulled back at the nape of his neck. He wrapped himself in lace, pale and pearlescent, and spoke to me in tongues.

His grey eyes said to me, “Don’t speak,” and sang me a lullaby, crooning in the trees — As the desert sun rose over the meadow, and the ruins of a bombed out city cast hard shadows on the tall grass.

He came close to me and draped his lace about my body. The wind blew it, whipping at my knees. He whispered a grotesque poem — one I wrote from years ago — and my flesh stood on end. There was no wind.

And then his skin was covered in scales, hard and silky, like powder on stone. And his eyes, the sharpest blue, bore into my sockets, pulled apart my limbs, kissed the throbbing from my throat and temples. Cold, grey hands and hips draped in lace darker than the night sky — brighter than the moon.

“Don’t worry, I’ll love you.”

All million languages ringing in my ears. My skin tingles, and we fall into the dirt and debris of the bombed out house. Tattered and worn from the fighting. His tears streak the dust on his face — And I weep for him.

“I could fall asleep…”

The meadow is soft underneath us. The duvet is warm. We look up into the denim abyss and point out constellations, as the boughs on the trees around us sway, whispering, in the warm desert breeze.

I wake in a sweat, still smelling his skin and the lace under my fingers, devastated at the loss brought on by my own ragged breathing and the cruelty of the rising sun.


About the Author: Æverett Æverett

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

The Calming Nourishment of Same by Jeanie Croope

lake sunset (Jeannie) I’m writing this at my summer house in Northern Michigan, tapping on my laptop in a document because I don’t have an internet connection.

Outside it is dark and the only sounds I hear are soft waves, gently lapping on the shore, the occasional fishing boat and soft music coming from my neighbor’s porch. Lizzie the Cat is perched on the back of the chair in which I sit. The table beside me holds the book I finished and the one I started a few hours ago while sitting on the beach enjoying the last bit of a gentle sunset and the dusk that follows. On the table across the room you’d find my art journal, my watercolor brushes and palette and a few more books.

In other words, it’s pretty much the same as always.

I’ve come to this lake since I was a baby and my mother and her family came here for decades before that. When I was 13 they bought this cottage, a short walk from the old family place where my cousins now vacation. They bought it furnished — even much of the art was on the walls.

mantel at the lake (Jeanie)

Over the years, some of the furniture has been replaced — more often than not from castoffs at home — crewel-work still lifes and oversized posters were swapped for new finds from art fairs, special gifts or my own photography. The newer stove and refrigerators were sorely needed birthday gifts from Rick. The bathroom was remodeled — not necessarily for the better, in retrospect — and the old steel sink in the kitchen removed and replaced with nice stainless one surrounded by a second hand cabinet. A porch added on when I was 14 has been rebuilt with a newer model and last year’s project was replacing the screens.

But you’d still find the same braided rugs, the evocative photo of the Au Sable River over the fireplace mantle, the maple buffet hutch and dining cabinet and even a couple of the original end tables. You’d see two old prints of Dogs Playing Poker because it just seems wrong to have an old cottage and not have these iconic images. The bookcases are filled with VHS tapes that moved north when the DVD player was added at home and packed with the books of my childhood, along with mysteries and novels left by — well, I’m not sure.

When I leave the city for weekends or an extended period at the lake, I don’t seek the new, the stylish, the avant garde. I seek the safety and nourishment of “the same.”

Although I have always lived within the same city, I’ve lived in a variety of spots — my parents’ house, the dormitory, college and post-college apartments, a duplex and finally a house I love. With each move there have been the changes one would expect — packing and discarding, accumulating new furniture or art, learning about new neighbors or where things are most conveniently located.

lizzie at the lake

But when I head north, it’s rarely change I seek, except for a change of locale. I walk into the cottage and I know where I am. I know its quirks — tricky windows, for one — and the sounds it makes. (I’ll never forget the time I was reading The Shining alone on a windy night and the tops of bushes scraping against the screen gave me a shiver!) I can count on being awakened by noisy gulls (or grackels?) and going to sleep listening to the sound of the water.

The pressure is off. I’ll make the bed, be sure the dishes are done and on occasion will sweep sand from the rugs. But more likely than not, I’ll settle into a comfy chair or chaise lounge with a book or perch myself at the end of the table on the porch that serves as a temporary art table — at least until dinner.

I’ll walk around the circle road, woods on one side, lake on the other. Lake people wave if they pass you in a car or greet you with pleasantries if you pass on the road. I might stop to visit friends or family in cottages along the way or just do the circle. And my mind is free — free to welcome a new blog post, writing project or art idea.

In the years since my parents have died, I have made few changes to the cottage. Old treasures of my mother’s sit on the shelves, though I’ve added pieces that catch my eye. The dishes in the cupboard are the same, but new placemats or a tablecloth will cover the table. The mishmash of cooking bowls and pans have been accumulated over years, everywhere from my parents’ wedding pans to yard sales.
lake tree heart (Jeannie)

I don’t come north to have the life I have at home with a dishwasher and garbage disposal, cable and yard work. I come north to simply “be.” I grow here. I think, I slow down my mind and listen and in doing so, take in ever so much more. Changes are made gradually and I live with the comfort of welcoming each day with a degree of familiarity, one that can be modified to be sure, but at my whim.

A moth is dancing around the light beside me. Lizzie has seen it and soon will be on its trail and if she doesn’t capture it, I most certainly will before the light is turned off for the night. Tomorrow is supposed to be nice again. I’ll pull some weeds on the beach, take a dip (or two or three) in the lake, work on another painting and run into town for cat food.

Yes, some things always stay the same.

About the Author: Jeanie Croope

Jeanie Croope bioAfter a long career in public broadcasting, Jeanie Croope is now doing all the things she loves — art, photography, writing, cooking, reading wonderful books and discovering a multitude of new creative passions. You can find her blogging about life and all the things she loves at The Marmelade Gypsy.

9 Ways of Nourishing a Writer’s Soul by Andi Cumbo-Floyd

Instrumental_Care of Creative Soul

Some days, it feels like I have so much to learn – about craft, about platform, about critique.  When the world of being a writer is too much with me, I look to these and feel my spirit ease.

  1. They are locked behind the diamond bars of my nightstand, their bottoms out, stacked pages. I prefer the ones without cute kittens and free of lines although this means I will write crooked. I like the scour of rough paper, and a deckle edge lifts my heart.  But I’ll take any journal as long as it’s wide open for wandering.
  2. If it will slide between my fingers without catching on even the paper-smoothed skin, I love it.  The same if it will sway under my touch before pushing back against my hand – velvet or a buzz-cut head. But if it will slide onto my foot and cushion it with soft, fabric that can only be called fuzzy, I love it best. A cold autumn afternoon’s gift rising from my soles.
  3. I don’t know why – until a few days ago, I thought I was the only one, but Kelly loves the same – I love a hot bath where I can let the water run for long, long minutes.  It’s the sound, I think, the white noise of it. I’ve even been known to free the plug with my toes – since my hands are full with pages – and let it drain so I can keep filling the tub with heat and sound.
  4. The gloaming.
  5. When a book jacket will embrace all the pages I’ve read or, near the end, all the pages I have yet to read, I smile.  The flip of opening so easy this way, as if the story has been waiting for me to return. “Here,” she says, “we were here together.”
  6. The shadow of a lamp darkens the corners. The glow is the yellow of tempered light. I don’t have to tolerate the falseness of a bulb so high overhead it only shades my soles. My space. It reminds me of the perfect library carrel, the only place in the world where we use that word.
  7. I want the rasp to be almost silence. The way you only hear your heartbeat when you settle onto your pillow. Pen to paper, I want to not hear it, not feel it even, except in the motion like wind lifting the hair from behind my ears to bring cool to the nearly forgotten folds.  A felt tip, maybe. Or the Uniball Vision Elite. . . one that gives me the shapes I treasured in elementary school pencil tips gone skewed at the tip, where shadows and points play together. But without the pressure of even my hand.
  8. Leave me alone there after you convince me that you really are fine to run errands or sit by the water. Find me a bookstore near your favorite fishing hole.  Then, I will wander amongst the artifacts I love most in the world. I will lift them to my nose and smell their wonder. I will lean them against each other. My fingers will bounce along their spines.
  9. A porch. A breeze. Two friends who know the gift, the languish, the labor of words.

About the Author: Andi Cumbo-Floyd

andibio1Andi Cumbo-Floyd is a writer, editor, and farmer, who lives on 15 blissful acres at the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains with her husband, 6 goats, 4 dogs, 4 cats, and 22 chickens. Her books include Steele Secrets, The Slaves Have Names, and Writing Day In and Day Out. You can connect with Andi at her website, andilit.com, or via Facebook and Twitter.

Small Indulgence – by Patricia Wellingham-Jones

chocolatsoftserve2For the first time in too many years
she treated herself to a softee,
a tall chocolate swirl
rising from a small cone.
It begged for her tongue.
She obliged. Licked and slurped,
tried to keep the sides
from dripping down her white shirt.
Settled at a picnic table under a pine tree
she watched the traffic on Main St. flow by.
She listened to teens just out of school,
watched a mother manhandle a twin stroller,
heard birds above her head bicker and sing.
The creamy sweetness of chocolate
tickled her taste buds, reminded her
she didn’t have to pare everything good
out of her pared-down life.

About the Author: Patricia Wellingham-Jones

PatriciaWellingham-JonesPatricia Wellingham-Jones is a widely published former psychology researcher and writer/editor. She has a special interest in healing writing, with poems recently in The Widow’s Handbook (Kent State University Press). Chapbooks include Don’t Turn Away: poems about breast cancer, End-Cycle: poems about caregiving, Apple Blossoms at Eye Level, Voices on the Land and Hormone Stew.

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