Sunday Brunch: Circumnavigating My Imagination

Sunday Brunch With Melissa Bartell

“Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.” — Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows

I have this recurring fantasy that usually comes to visit around this time of year, when even though the calendar insists we have a couple more weeks of spring, the heat and humidity are adamant that it’s actually summer, and woe betide anyone who thinks a mere calendar can dictate the changing of the seasons.

Woman on a Sailboat

My annual fancy is this: sailing around the world in a wooden boat. I don’t mean one of those race-against-time circumnavigations that are all about being the youngest, the oldest, or (likely in my case) the shortest woman to do so solo. I have no interest in breaking records or beating time. Rather, I envision the nautical equivalent of meandering through a botanical garden. I dream about sailing from place to place, spending a few days exploring this country or that archipelago, and then continuing on.

I’ve loved the sea since birth, of course. I’m a bathtub mermaid because I live five hours from the nearest coastline, but the scents of salt and tar and the feelings of wind in my hair and sea-spray in my face have existed in my memory for as long as I’ve had conscious memory, just as the sound of the surf is my favorite lullaby and the mournful groans of foghorns were the first tones I learned to duplicate on my cello.

My sailboat fantasy was launched because of a book I read when I was eighteen or twenty, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that books are part of a sequence of events that have become a summer ritual, of sorts.

First, I start devouring ‘ocean’ books. I don’t mean beach books. No Frank or Siddons or Hilderbrand or Monroe. I do read all those authors during the heat of summer, but when I say ocean books, I mean books like John Steinbeck’s The Log from the Sea of Cortez, Tania Aebi’s Maiden Voyage, Susan Casey’s trio of travel-journalism-meets-popular-science books, The Devil’s Teeth  (about the Farallon Islands off San Francsico, and the great white shark population there), The Wave (about maritime science, climate change and rogue waves, and Voices in the Ocean (which I’ve just started reading for the first time, having just discovered it exists – it’s about dolphins). I also read the books by whatever contemporary teenager has attempted her own circumnavigation most recently.

I embrace ocean films as well – things like In the Heart of the Sea and The Perfect Storm, yes, but also the various Pirates of the Caribbean movies. Anything where ships and sailing and the power of the ocean is visualized, up to and including shark movies. (Not Sharknado, but definitely the original Jaws.) I’m not a particular fan of Nicholas Sparks’s novels, but I can watch Nights in Rodanthe and Message in a Bottle over and over, when I’m in sailboat mode.

Next, I reclaim my mermaid tail, making sure I swim for at least an hour every day. I’m a chubby mermaid, but I usually finish the summer tanner, and fitter, than I began it, and being in the water – even if it’s only my pool, makes me happy.

My pool time is enhanced by my vivid imagination. My backyard is kind of a jungle (because we are not DIYers and we’ve had a lot of rain) and the trees and flowers obscure the fence that surrounds my yard, making me feel like I’m swimming in a lagoon on a tropical island and the susurration of the balmy breeze through the treetops easily becomes the sound of surf.

Sometimes, swim-time comes with pleasant surprises: a sudden summer rainstorm (the kind with no warning and no lightning), birds alighting on the branches that form a canopy over half the pool, dragonflies showing off their colors. Most of the time, though, it’s just me, slicing through the water or bobbing in it, and letting my thoughts float free.

Finally, I try to make my writing and reading spaces as boat-like as possible. I’ve always wanted a captain’s bed (they make them in queen sized, which is what our current mattress is), but that wouldn’t be practical in the house we have, so I must content myself with our headboard, which has built-in lights and cabinets, and in my collection of nautical stripe sheets and summer quilts. I have scented candles in my bathroom that echo the aquatic scents I love so much, and the Word Lounge is filled with mermaids and seashells and toy boats. I even have special summer coffee mugs that feature starfish and seashells on them.

As the summer heat rises and falls, and then rises again, even higher, I flow in and out of my sailboat dreams. I’ve come close to booking a week on such a boat, but I never quite do it, because while I love the fantasy, I also know myself incredibly well. I’m the girl who never liked camping, and the woman who considers ‘roughing it’ to be staying in a hotel that doesn’t have room service or free wifi.

A few years ago, while visiting my parents in La Paz, BCS, Mexico, I couldn’t sleep – it was too quiet in the desert, even with the water only a couple hundred feet away – so I used the Tune In app on my iPad to find something comforting and relaxing to listen to. I stumbled across a podcast from RTE Radio 1 in Ireland: Seascapes. It’s part fishing and tide reports, and part maritime culture, and every episode begins with the host (who in my head is much older than he probably is in real life) calling out a cheery “Hello!”

For a while after that, I listened to the show every week. Now, though, I save the episodes for when I’m in a marine mood. I seal myself into my writing studio, light the candle that sits in a pile of shells inside a fish-shaped dish, and binge-listen while I write and sip strong black tea.

Isak Dinesen wrote, “The cure for anything is saltwater – sweat, tears, or the sea.” For me, it’s enough to circumnavigate the vast oceans that exist in my imagination, because the waves and I are old friends, and my blood is equal measures of seawater and caffeine.

Image Copyright: nickolya / 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.

Studio Tour: Joanna Powell Colbert

Modern Creative Life Presents Studio Tours

My room at the top of the stairs is part art studio, part office, part writing space, part temple. I love every room in this house — it is a straw bale house that my husband and I designed and built 17 years ago — but this room is the heart for me. When we designed the house, we made sure that we each had our own creative space. His is filled with guitars, drums, and recording equipment. Mine is filled with altars, books, and art.

01-jpc-studio

I love the sensual curve of the straw bale walls, painted a warm buttery color that keeps the gray Pacific Northwest winters at bay. I love the terra cotta tiles that remind me of New Mexico. I love the way the light spills in through skylight and windows, indirect in the mornings, full strength in the late afternoons through the southern and western windows. In the winter, I can see sunlight sparkling on the sea through bare tree branches. In the summer, I feel like I’m in a leafy green treehouse.

We begin in the East. On the eastern wall, I have an altar of beloved objects that I’ve collected here and there, as well as art that I’ve created and art that I’ve bought from artists I admire. Underneath the altar are drawers of office supplies, plus two printers (one archival) and a scanner.

02-jpc-studio

02A-jpc-studio

In the South we find my 27” iMac, which is my digital art studio and the hub of my business. This is where I create my online courses, do website work, and the initial composition work for art pieces. Above the desk is a framed print of my painting Brigids Fire: The Offering (I sold the original). I think of her as my creative muse, fanning the flames of creativity in so many different ways. She also reminds me that every work of art — be it visual art, writing, teaching, or ceremony — is an offering to Her.

03-jpc-studio

There’s a working altar in the South too, that stretches into the 18” straw bale windowsill. Here is where I do my daily practice. I make offerings of rosewater and copal to the Blessed Mother and use one of my rosary necklaces to say nine rounds of a Goddess rosary. I light a candle and pray for those who are suffering. Sometimes I light a piece of piñon incense (there’s New Mexico again!). I ask for daily wisdom and pull a tarot card for the day. I’m currently working with my own Pentimento Tarot as well as the Minoan Tarot by Ellen Lorenzi-Prince.

04-jpc-studio

04A-jpc-studio

04B-jpc-studio

My art table is found in the West. These days I am working in two main mediums — beeswax collage (encaustic) — and colored pencils. I’m also set up for acrylic painting, but that’s taking a back seat these days. This is also the place I often write on my laptop, and it doubles as the packing and shipping table.

05-jpc-studio

05A-jpc-studio

In the North, we find books. Books on art techniques, books about the Goddess, about nature, about tarot, about writing — my favorite themes. There is also a table here that I try to keep clear. It is often stacked with items that need to be shipped, or pieces of art I’m working on, or finished pieces. It’s a constant challenge to keep this table empty, but I love seeing the potential in a cleared table.

06-jpc-studio

06A-jpc-studio

In the Center is the dance floor. I love taking dance breaks when I’m doing intense creative work!

Outside the four walls of this studio is the rest of our beloved Heron House. Outside the house, we find my herb garden in the east; the slough where the herons live and the bay where salmon gather, to the south; leafy woods and rocky beach to the west; and the meadow where the wild roses bloom, up the hill to the woods in the north. On a wider scale, the city of Bellingham and the great mountain Komo Kulshan (Mt Baker) lay in the East; the islands of the Salish Sea gather round in the South and the West; and beautiful British Columbia lies to the north.

07-jpc-studio

We lived here for ten years before moving back to town for six years. We’ve been back for nearly two years now and don’t ever intend to leave again. My creativity has flourished in more ways than I can say since moving back. I am rooted here, in this studio, in this house, on this little island. Not a day goes by that I don’t offer up a prayer of thanksgiving for living here. It’s not something I take for granted.

08-jpc-studio

May you also find your heart’s home and  be nourished by the creative studio of your dreams. Blessed be.

About the Author: Joanna Powell Colbert

joannapowellcolbert_bioJoanna Powell Colbert is an artist, writer, teacher, and retreat host. Amber Lotus Publishing Co. calls her one of “the most accomplished and well-loved artists in the Goddess-spirit community.” She was named by SageWoman magazine as one of the Wisdom Keepers of the Goddess Spirituality movement. Joanna teaches e-courses and workshops on earth-centered spirituality, the Divine Feminine, and tarot as a tool for inner guidance and self-exploration. A new edition of her first deck, the beloved Gaian Tarot, will be published in late June.  She recently released a majors-only art deck, the Pentimento Tarot and her seasonal e-course “30 Days of Midsummer” begins June 13th. She lives on a small island in the Salish Sea near Bellingham, Washington.

Connect with her on Facebook and Instagram.

Conversations Over Coffee: Rochelle Vincente Von K

Conversations Over Coffee with MCL

Interacting with talented human beings doing delicious things in the world is one of my greatest joys and pleasures. Add a healthy dose of chocolate and it’s a treat like no other. I remember the first time I encountered Lover Chocolate; I had to know more about the story behind this “shamanic heart food.”

I think you’ll find this Conversation Over Coffee as luscious as the chocolate. Meet Rochelle Vincente Von K.!

Tell us about your background… how your childhood affected your choices, your training, how did you come to choose music (and food) as your profession, etc.

I was born in Austria and grew up in Australia. Even though I was in Australia my parents spoke German at home and I didn’t learn English until I went to school. My parents stayed in touch with all the Austrian traditions so I grew up as an Austrian Australian. Fully immersed in both cultures!

I had an awesome brother, Herbert, who was born healthy, vaccine, injured and became severely brain-damaged and autistic; this all happened before I was born, he was my big brother. We had an amazing relationship and looked after each other, but there was always an incredible amount of pain in watching him suffer so deeply. I still carry that.

When I was nine,  I decided I wanted to contribute to the world and suggested to mum I ask the shop down the road if I can dust their shelves!!! My mum suggested if I want to work, then perhaps I could do something where I earn a little more per hour!

I was enrolled in a modelling school as a test to see if I’d like it, and then won Miss Junior Victoria! I started in a kid’s agency but was then accepted as the youngest child model in an adult agency in Australia, and from there I was off and away! … Vogue, Harper’s Bizarre, Elle Magazine, etc.

Through castings,  I got acting gigs, and started working as a professional dancer, and then went into singing after Femi Taylor (Oola from Return of the Jedi) wanted me to audition for her band while she was off to England for Christmas. She asked me if I sang, I said ‘Yes, in the shower”. I auditioned and to my surprise got the gig.

It really was just rolling from one thing to another, it kinda chose me, and I never went to school to learn it, I just had great classes and workshops on weekends when I wasn’t working or at school. I studied with the best singing teachers, acting coaches, dance teachers, etc. in my down time.

When I think back now though, I am surprised because it came so naturally. I already knew what to do; they were simply fine tuning me. And even when I was off track, such as working for Virgin Cinemas in Brighton, UK in-between gigs, that popcorn chick job led me to touring with Dubstar and The Lightening Seeds.

Same with the food, coming from an Austrian household it was normal to cook quite extravagant things… so while I was living in England, because it rained so much, the thing to do was experiment with food. I had health issues and I needed to create more interesting things to eat with my limiting diet… and long story short, that is how my raw chocolate company was born.

Rochelle_Vincente_Von_K_by_Alex_Huggan_atNightbired_Recording_Studios-10

What fascinates us even more than the any facet of your professional world, how you nourish your craft as a musician and actor….tell us about that.

I try to look after myself. I am deeply inspired by nature, snow, hot springs, but I also love galleries, movies and parties. I try to live as intuitive to my nature as possible.

I got very overwhelmed when I started to realize, in life, that the more you know, the less you actually know, so I stopped beating myself up about that ! I’ve integrated my art into my life and who I am, but then, I did start when I was 9! So in a way it’s all I’ve ever known.

Can you tell us more about your music? How do you produce your unique electronic sound?

I have always been inspired by electronica. I love everything, but English and German electronica spoke to me to my core as a kid. So I moved there and got busy!

It depends on the situation. Sometimes I will program up my own beats, chords and then write the lyrics and melodies over that, give it to a producer and he can work on the music programming side. Or I’ll collaborate with a producer where he gives me music to write over. I prefer to collaborate with people than write on my own. Now I have a band with a guitarist, Nazim Chambi, and drummer, Ryan Carnes, I haven’t worked with a drummer for a long time, so it’ll be really interesting to see how we write together !!! I’m excited to see this new era unfold.

Writing music is another thing I fell into.

My boyfriend in Australia (at the time) and I decided to record some music. I thought he was going to write songs for me to sing, and he turned to me and said ‘no, I am giving you the music, you are doing the rest!’ I nearly fell off my chair, talk about tough love! I asked how he thought I would do that and he said ‘You’ve heard a song right? Go listen to some songs you like!’ I was SO mad at him !!! The funny thing is, the very first song we wrote was chosen by a famous Australian artist for their album, but they wanted to take my name off it and put theirs on, so I’d be a ghost writer. And I said no.

In what way did the beat of the waltz call to you? And how did you shift to your ethereal sound after earlier working with a more “punk” style of music?

It was another case of falling into it… I was working on some songs with the amazing music producer Stephen Hague, and in my down time I started working on this other project. I essentially wrote 2 albums at the same time. So much music was coming out of me that I was literally looping beats in Logic Audio, writing AND recording the lyrics and melodies in real time. Most of the waltz album is first takes as I was discovering the songs myself. It was a magical time, I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to do that again !

My band with music producer Marc Adamo, Product.01, was song based but thrown into the dance world, so we were quite different to everything else going on at the time, and I’m not sure we ever really fit in but that’s the world that adopted us. It was a fun ride!

My vocals have always been naturally ethereal thou so this feels like the logical next step.

Your music videos are so full of nuance, beauty, and edginess.  Tell our readers more about concept of music to recording to creating a video.

Thank you for saying so, it means a lot. We didn’t have a budget for the music video. So we were limited but it was a fun process. For myself personally, the music video process is the same as any other creative process in my life. I wait for the signs and I go with them. I wait for the music to tell me what it wants. Sometimes I’ll have an idea but then as it evolves it’ll lead to a completely different place. Then working with the director Jeff Skeirik was a beautiful process because he’s great at putting a story together.

My brain explodes off in a zillion directions. I love music videos that don’t necessarily make sense as I’m a very visual person and I fall in love with the little things…And Jeff would help me reel it in. I have never in my life lacked creativity in any area, but I do wait for the impulse and then it’s more about pulling it back.

When I first moved to LA I was taken to the Day Of The Dead festival at Hollywood Forever and it had a deeper impact. I love the way Mexicans celebrate rebirth. Jeff was with me that day, which is interesting, as at the time we had no idea that some years later we would be making this video!    (Here’s a link to the video for Blazing, Directed by Jeff Skeirik)

With my next single Deal Me In, I hadn’t even thought about the music video for it, but this week it started speaking to me, life started putting things in my path for it, and I’m listening!

And how is it recording VS live gigs?

I love both. I find studio work more inner, and live is very outer.  Studio is a quiet process for me and live is loud! I have never liked being on stage to be honest. What I love is connecting with the band and going into that place together, and then the audience feels that and joins us. Music creates a remarkable energetic connection, especially when you are playing at a music festival surrounded by nature. You have nature, sunset or stars, music and people all vibing together. Magic!

rochelle1

You are a singer, a songwriter, an actress, a dancer. How/when did you find yourself entering the world of Lover Raw Chocolate?

It’s a challenge. I had a car accident and had to pull back from everything in order to heal from a brain injury, and it forced me to restructure everything, because I couldn’t do anything! I am in talks with a manufacturer regarding taking Lover to the next level. It’s physically impossible for 1 person to do everything … the chocolate started as band merchandise, instead of t-shirts, super food chocolate! I never imagined it would take off as it has!

Tell us about your Reiki work.

Another accident I stumbled upon! My band way back when was in the countryside in England at a friend’s cottage, and his mum happened to be teaching a Japanese Reiki Level 1 course.  It was already full but we crashed the course! I was very skeptical at first, and almost sarcastic about it… but it very quickly showed me whose boss, I was whipped into place! As it turns out I was lucky to learn from one of the best Reiki Masters in England, who knew?!

Then I figured since it’s free energy, and you can’t put the toothpaste back into the tube, you can’t unlearn what you learn,  so since that weekend I have done my daily practice and never skipped a day since 1999…  and let’s just say, it’s accumulative ! Additionally I certainly never planned to be a Reiki Master Teacher, have clients and students around the world, and a Reiki App called 97 Reiki Tips! (Which is for entry-level students, before they begin).

I was actually a closet Reiki person for many years but after some unquestionable life saving miracles I knew I had to share it. So, it’s been quite the unexpected journey!

How does your Reiki work influence your music? And how has it influenced your Lover Chocolate recipe. Be as detailed as you like here. I think our readers will eat this up!

I do my daily practice so that keeps me healthy and energized, and clears out anything that shouldn’t be there, but also I have had rare situations where I have been sick and needed to sing that evening. I remember one particular time Product.01 had a live performance on a TV show in Manchester and my throat was so sore I could barely swallow. We caught the train up from London and I was terrified! I kept my hands on my throat and did a treatment all the way up and by the time we got there it had cleared and I was so much better, and could sing!

Since everything I do tends to dovetail somehow, I formulated the Lover recipe based on the hara energy points (from the traditional Japanese Reiki system), known as The Three Diamonds! The Three Diamonds correspond to the energies of Earth; our base hara – Maca, Heaven; our Pineal Gland – Purple Corn Extract, and Oneness of Heart – Raw Chocolate!

What are your personal chocolate eating habits?

Gosh! My chocolate habits have always been pretty crazy. Ask my mum about having to hide chocolate from my brother and I in all corners of the house, hiding it so well she didn’t know where she’d hid it, and we’d still find it. Or it’d end up dripping out from under a deck chair she forgot about and was sitting on. I would be able to inform my friends which shops were selling the freshest chocolate that week! So nothing has changed, it’s just now I eat wild heirloom stoneground super food chocolate with no refined sugar or dairy. My breakfast consists of a green juice and raw chocolate. Always!

Would you like to tell us about your music and how that intersects with your love of chocolate?

It doesn’t really come together like that. I was having serious health problems in England and had to get creative, as I am a foodie to the core. So when I needed a break from the studio I’d be in the kitchen doing some raw chocolate wizardry. It was also great for touring because often you arrive in a new city and shops are closed, there’s nothing to eat, so it would keep me going. In that sense I guess the raw chocolate would fuel my ability to perform on the road.

Italian Vegan product shot

You have a lot of chocolate accolades on your site. What are you most proud of?

Doing the Academy Awards dressing rooms and green room year after year has been exciting. Especially when you hear of certain actors calling The Academy specifically requesting they have my chocolate in their dressing room again! I make this chocolate for everyone; the success it’s had has been an organic process (pardon the pun)! But any acknowledgement from someone who has positively influenced my life means a lot.

Will you tell us about your production process for your chocolates (and where is it made)?

I currently make the chocolate myself, yes really, it’s artisan madness! But that’s changing, because otherwise it can’t reach all the people constantly complaining that they can’t access it easily, so I’m really excited about that. The rest will have to remain a mystery for now!

How about the name? I think our readers would love to know more about “the lover”!

So many reasons! Raw chocolate is a shamanic heart food, abundant in nutrients; vitamins & antioxidants, with over 300 compound minerals. I joke about eating it a lot but I actually don’t advise that for most people. I have always been able to eat large amounts of it as I had a magnesium and iron deficiency and it healed that amongst other things. Most people should only really have 2-3 hearts of Lover Raw Chocolate a day. It’s raw, it doesn’t have fillers, it’s infused with other super foods, and it’s potent.

Raw chocolate opens the heart due to the magnesium (back in the day doctors used to inject a property of it into heart attack patients to revive them!), it releases bliss chemicals in the brain.. also vanilla (which is cooling when consumed) wraps itself around cacao trees (which is warming when consumed) in the rainforest, so they are literally lovers.. Cacao trees sustain rainforests and the wildlife within it, plus the more trees the more oxygen for us, so the more consciously sourced chocolate we eat the better it is for our planet. And I wanted to see the word love on billboards around the world.

We all need more love. It’s just one big LOVE fest.

We certainly loved our conversation with Rochelle Vincente Von K!  Connect with Rochelle on her website.  You’ll also find her on YouTube  | Instagram | Twitter . Learn more about Lover Raw Chocolate here.

Photos by Alex Huggan

About the Interview: 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

Online Friendship: Feeding the Creative Soul by Jeanie Croope

The other day I was responding to a comment on my blog. It was to a woman I’ve “known” for a long while online and after replying directly to the comment, I continued with what would seem more like a letter. Remember letters? Those lovely missives on creamy paper or a carefully chosen card, written by hand, carefully addressed and sent in the post with a stamp?

woman-865111_1920I knew that in due course I would receive a reply that I would answer and the circle would continue. And even before those words were typed, I was excited and eager for that reply.

When I began blogging on The Marmelade Gypsy eight and a half years ago, the last thing I expected was a network of friends who would enrich my life in so many ways. It isn’t that I was a recluse, not by any means. At that time I was working in a fairly high profile job. By day I enjoyed the company of creative and clever colleagues and in the off-hours the company of a variety of good friends. I had a group of wonderful woman friends, all of whom were creative and communications oriented, caring and compassionate. Our conversations were passionate and enthusiastic. My book club consisted of intelligent, spirited women who would be perfectly willing to throw over the literary conversation should one of our “Savory Sisters” require a feedback zone. There were two or three very close friends with whom there were hours of conversation covering every topic and in Rick, a wonderful partner whose presence was always welcome.

I didn’t need more friends. (Well, we all need more friends!) And yet, it was through this group of strangers that I found a unique support system, one that remains non-judgmental, encouraging and unquestionably motivating. I realized that those we don’t know face-to-face can still help provide the nourishment we need to do our best work, to be our best selves, to reach out beyond what we thought we might settle for.

I’ve tried to look more deeply into these relationships — most of which have never been face-to-face — to discover just what it is that I find so energizing about them. Perhaps it is the give and take. When I visit a blog and discover something beautiful or a new technique or a photo, story or outstanding writing that moves me, I come away from the experience enriched. I become motivated to not just “put up a post” but to try to put up one that truly pleases me. It might not be prize-worthy; it may be silly or share a bit of creativity or a family moment, but I want it to be one that pleases me — and that I hope will, in turn, please my readers.

It may well be the encouragement. Not long ago a longtime reader commented on how she had seen my art and drawing improve over the years. I was floating on air for days because I didn’t see that. I saw only that it wasn’t quite what I wanted it to be. It wasn’t as good as … well, as many others. She saw that it was better and I felt as though I could live on those words for a month.

I think most all of us are fed by praise. Genuine praise — not just kind and friendly words but those we know are from the heart. When I see that kind of feedback, I smile. Call it feeding the fragile ego, call it stoking the creative furnace. It fills me up.

And I don’t mean all praise and good words. I am equally motivated by someone’s shared experience or a constructive difference of opinion. “Have you tried this?” Or “That reminds me of …” That kind of dialogue fosters understanding and relationships. It helps us to grow.

I can take a long walk on a beautiful day and let my mind run, perhaps tumbling over a new idea or two that will manifest in words or pictures. I might watch the waves lap on the beach and feel the warmth of the sun and piece together bits of a future composition. And I may smile.

But I can tell you that as I answer a comment and especially one from a stranger who has become a friend over years of shared online interests and ideas, family stories and who knows what, that I am smiling. I am “seeing” a face I may have seen before only in a photo on my computer screen. I am smiling at them and I’m pretty sure they are smiling back at me.

And I am nourished.

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.

The Ambition of Brides – by Patricia Wellingham-Jones

enchiladastackwithegg

New boss from Santa Fe, young husband,
and me determined to help him shine.
I refused the council of wiser heads,
planned the whole meal myself,
took a day that was no utopian dream
to cook the feast.

I mixed batter for chile rellenos,
dipped and deep-fried the soggy mess.
Rolled out tortillas the way my mother-
in-law taught, they looked like road maps.
I made New Mexico chile for our New Mexico-
style stacked enchiladas with egg on top,
enough for a legion of invaders.
Beans bubbled on the stove all day
until they turned to tasty sludge.

Just before the boss was due
I washed the sweat off my face,
combed my frazzled hair, settled
my invisible coronet on my aching head
and sallied forth to graciously greet
our taken-aback guest.

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.

Sunday Salon: Eye of the Beholder

Sunday Salon with Becca Rowan

 

When I was a freshman in college my favorite class was Art History 101. Since I was a literature major with a music minor, I was surprised to find myself enjoying the class so much. Especially since I had always considered myself someone with not one smidgen of talent for the visual arts.

I used to arrive early for the 8:00 a.m. class and slide into a plush theater seat in the brand new auditorium. I’d pull out the small writing desk attached to the arm, get out the fat blue notebook emblazoned with the University of Michigan logo, sip my coffee, and wait for Professor Andy Harwick to amble in. He was the quintessential art history professor, in his mid-30’s, with shaggy blonde hair that hung nearly to his shoulders. He wore a crumpled brown corduroy sport coat over wrinkled Levi’s, and stumped around the stage in suede workboots. He carried his own cup of coffee, and often looked as if he’d just crawled out of bed as he paced back and forth in front of the large screen that served as the backdrop for his lectures.

It all seemed sophisticated and ultra-collegiate to me, sitting in this darkened room with at least 100 other students, sipping coffee, and studying the world’s great works of art projected before me in larger than life size.

But I soon became captivated with more than just the atmosphere. What Professor Harwick lacked in style of dress he more than made up for in his teaching skills. In his lectures, each painting became it’s own story. He was able to describe details that made the artist’s vision come to life, and made me realize the ways art reflects the history and culture of its time.

Even more than that, I learned to appreciate the visual beauty art provides. Wandering through quiet galleries and museums, staring into the canvas of a Monet, a Renoir, a Picasso or Degas, letting the colors and composition wash over me, I am filled with a kind of peaceful awe that’s different from the feelings I get in a concert hall or reading a great book.

Art, whether on the walls of a museum or my own living room, becomes a window to another world. Like a time machine, it invites me in and transports me to a different place – whether it’s a field of wildflowers in Giverny, a battlefield in Guernica, or before a simple table set with a “still life” of ripe fruit and cheese. And because I don’t aspire to create art of my own, I don’t feel pressured when looking at art, don’t feel the stirring of my own creative impulses as I often do when reading or listening to music. I’m not tempted to analyze or evaluate or compare. I can simply see and appreciate the beauty before me, let my imagination take me inside the painting and see whatever it wants to see.

Art also becomes a gateway to feeling. I brought home one of my mother’s favorite paintings after she died: it’s a small watercolor of a African woman dressed in a colorful dashiki and dhuku, carrying an infant in a papoose on her back and holding a small girl by the hand. The viewer sees them from the back, but ahead of them stretches a pathway and distant sunrise. The colors are muted reds, golds, blues, and greens, washed with a pale yellow haze. There is a deep sense of love, trust, and contentment in this painting, one that speaks of the bonds of motherhood and the immensity of its attachment. It hangs on my bedroom wall, right across from the chair where I sit and read each morning. I spend some time every day just looking at it, and always feel enriched by the gentle hope it portrays.

Though I can’t recall enough detail from that long ago art history class to intelligently describe my favorite works of art as I might a novel or a piano sonata, I know they speak to me in unique and important ways. One of the characters in B.A. Shapiro’s novel, The Muralist, has this to say about creating visual art: “We want to get at what life feels like. The emotions we all share. Our commonality. To make our invisible life visible. Or experiencable.”

Making the emotions of life visible and connecting the heart of the creator to the eye of the beholder.

It’s a beautiful thing.

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.

Welcome to Issue #2: Nourishment

Nourishment Profile MCL

You’ve stood on the precipice. You’ve taken deep breaths of the fresh, cool air.

You’ve marveled at the wide open space in front of you, the “what’s next” of your imagination. You’ve spread your wings and leapt eagerly into the new, the wild, the colorful creative life you’ve always longed for.

Now you’re flying, riding the currents of dreams. Fingers race across keyboards, paint spatters on the canvas, the shutter clicks in bursts of excitement. You knit and purl, cut and stitch, whirl and twirl around the dance floor.

You come to the table of creation every day, hungry for the way it flavors your daily living. Like a rich spice, it brings a unique bouquet to every dish. It adds enticing aromas and textures that provide so much more than the minimum daily requirements.

Creative living nourishes us. It buffers the winds of change, soothes the stress of daily demands, and calms the wild beating of anxious hearts.

But creativity must also BE nourished. What feeds the fires of your creative expression? How does your creative life feed your soul? And how do you nourish your creative spirit, keep it alive and well so it grows stronger each day?

Welcome to NOURISHMENT, the second issue of Modern Creative Life. We’ll be exploring all the ways creativity nourishes us, and the ways we keep our creative fires fed. You’ll get a peek into the daily lives of other creative folk in our Studio Tours and Typical Tuesday series, and meet people walking fascinating creative pathways in Conversations Over Coffee. With photos and fiction, poetry and prompts, essays and enlightenment, you’ll find something to whet your appetite.

We’ve set a place for you at the table for you and invite you to share your own recipes for nourishing the creative being you are. We are open to single contributions as well as new regular contributors. Email us at moderncreativelife@gmail.com if you’re interested.

 As always our mission at Modern Creative Life is to honor the pursuit and practice of joyful creativity. We believe that the creative arts enrich our everyday living, enhance our environment, create lasting connections, and sustain our souls. Please join us as we bring a feast of rich creative offerings to nourish your imaginative spirit and send you refreshed and restored back into your own Modern Creative Life.

About the Author: Becca Rowan

becca_rowan_bio_may2016Becca Rowan is Executive Editor here at Modern Creative Living. As an author and musician, her creative table is set with wordplay and melody. If she’s not reading, writing or playing music, you’ll likely find her nurturing her creative life by walking with her dogs or curled up on the couch reading. She loves to connect with readers at her blog, or on FacebookTwitter, or Goodreads.

 

New Moon Creative: Moon in Gemini

The New Moon is traditionally the time for new beginnings…. so what would happen if you were to commit to nourishing your creativity when the new moon arrives? How would it feel to commit to channeling the new moon energy into your creative life?

What would it be like to become devoted to the nourishment of your creativity…even for a few days?

And what, my dear, would it be like, if you allowed yourself – and your art – to be witnessed? How excited would you be if you didn’t just create something, but also shared your creation with other people who were also stepping into their creative lives?

While all of us at Modern Creative Life hope that each of our readers is indulging their creativity (even if it’s in small ways) fairly frequently, we are also dedicated to the idea that we get to choose our own paths to creative living each and every day of the year, by writing, painting, cooking, or even making and artful arrangement of the books on our shelves.

As well, we believe it’s important to honor the cycles of life that form currents through all our lives. As part of our ongoing celebration of those cycles and currents, we will be releasing a collection of prompts to inspire you on your creative journey.

Here are the 1st Prompts from our Nourishment Issue – Honoring the New Moon in Gemini:

New Moon Creative Prompts (Moon in Gemini)

Write a poem, essay, or short story. Take a photograph and leave us with the image alone. Create a photo essay.

Make a collage and photograph a detail of it. Write a letter or a Dear Diary Entry….

Post your creation in your blog and/or share your work on Social Media, be it Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or all of those spaces. Use the tag #NewMoonCreative so we can find you. Leave a comment here (with a link) so we can read your words and lovingly witness what and how you are creating.

On the Full Moon (June 20th), we’ll post a collection of the work that was inspired by these prompts and post them here, with links back to the full work (and you).

Steeping by Melissa A. Bartell

Tea by Olu Eletu

Her trench coat was spattered with new and old raindrops, and the cuffs of her jeans stained with mud when she entered the café. Looking around for a table, she noticed that even seats along the bar were full, and that someone had told the students they had to limit their use of space to accommodate the crowd. This was not unusual for a rainy day, and she was about to order her drink to go when a man in a fisherman’s sweater and corduroy pants beckoned her over.

“Join me?” he offered, rearranging the plate, cup, and silverware in front of him, and closing the notebook he’d been staring at.

She wove her away between people and chairs, unfastened her coat, and sat down. “Thanks for the rescue,” she said. “I didn’t really want to take my order to go.” She paused then, looking down at the table-top, then back up at her new companion. “I have to confess though: I know that I know you; I just can’t quite name you.”

He laughed, and she noticed that he had dimples in cheeks. “Sarah! Honestly! I’m David,” he said. “Your bike messenger.”

“Of course you are!” she gushed, embarrassed. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you in clothes before.”

“Do I want to know what that meant?” the server teased by way of a greeting, arriving at their table. “Your usual macchiato today, Sar?”

Sarah laughed. “I meant real clothes. Street clothes,” she tried to explain, both to David and to the amused server. “No… it’s so wet. A pot of tea, please. That tarragon mint blend.”

“Sure thing,” the server said, “For one or…” He let the question trail off into innuendo.

“Make it for two,” David put in on cue. “And I’m done with this cup.” He gestured to the half-empty espresso cup before him. “It’s cold now, anyway.”

“Back in a jiff,” the server said, turning toward the kitchen.

“I can’t believe you lingered here long enough to let espresso go cold, as busy as it is in here today,” Sarah ventured once they were alone again.

“I was working on a poem,” David confessed.

“You’re a poet?  Are you published? Can I read your stuff?”

“I am, when I’m not wearing bike pants and delivering documents around town,” David answered, taking each of her questions in order. “I’ve published a couple pieces here and there,” he continued. “And as to reading it… the stuff I’m working on right now needs to steep a bit.”

“Poems steep?”

“Just like tea,” David said.

His smile, Sarah observed, was a gentle one, and his blue eyes danced with merriment – no – enthusiasm –  when he spoke about his art.

“So, why are you a bike messenger, then?” Sarah asked, and then immediately apologized, “Oh, wait. Was that too nosey? I’m sorry.”

He shook his head. “It’s a fair question.” He took a minute to compose his answer. “I like to be outside. I like to meet different people. I hate to exercise, but this way I get paid to do something physical… and the whole time, I’m writing poetry in the back of my head.”

“But you do put it on paper, right?”

“Eventually. When it’s ready.”

“I always wanted to write,” Sarah confessed. “I got pulled into the family brokerage before I even finished college. Now, Mom’s name is on our letterhead, but I’m running most of the day-to-day.”

“You seem successful.”

“How can you tell?”

“You’ve upgraded to larger suites in the same building twice in two years,” he began, ticking off points on his fingers. “The mood in your office is usually positive – even when there’s a problem that comes up, you and your staff are always pretty happy.”

“And that tells you we’re successful?”

“That and the fact that you’ve nearly quadrupled the volume that goes through our service.”

They laughed at that together, their voices mingling like tea and lemon – not matching but complimenting each other.

The server brought their tea at that moment. “Sorry to take so long,” he said.

“It’s not a problem,” Sarah said. “For me at least. David, do you have to be anywhere?”

“Free afternoon,” he said.  He reached for the pot, one of those round glass ones with the infuser basket, but the server stopped him.

“It needs to steep, still,” he said. He left, then returned with cups and saucers, napkins, spoons, honey, lemon, and a plate of crescent-shaped cookies. “Have some lemon moon cookies,” he said. “On the house.”

“Thank you,” David and Sarah said at the same time.

They waited in silence to be left alone again, for the tea to steep, to see who would speak next. Finally, Sarah decided the brew was ready, and she poured cups for each of them. “It’s hot,” she warned automatically.

“So are you – oh, God, was that my out-loud voice?” David laughed. Then he shrugged, “Well, you are.”

“I’m not sure what to say to that,” Sarah responded, stirring honey into her tea. “Thanks, I guess.” She watched his face for a long while, then nodded once, and asked, “Would you like to have tea again sometime… maybe on purpose?”

David squeezed lemon into his cup of tea, then dropped the spent rind on his saucer. “I was about to invite you to the pub down the street.”

“Now?” she asked.

“Saturday.  Seven-thirty. There’s a poetry slam. I’m reading.”

“I’d like that,” she said.

She sat with him for another thirty or forty minutes while they sipped their tea and ate the cookies (“Oh, God, these are heaven!!”)  By the time they left, the crowd had dispersed and the rain had stopped.

The next three days flew by, but on Saturday she met David at the pub, and he introduced her to the owner and some of the regulars. The event wasn’t truly a slam, in the pop-culture sense of the word, just a night of original poetry from local writers.

David was last. When he took the stage he looked right at Sarah and gave her a cocky wink. “This one is brand new,” he told the people in the audience. “It’s called ‘Steeping’.”

Image copyright Olu Eletu via UnSplash, used with permission.

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.

Dear Diary by Krista Davis

berry scones 10Dear Diary,

Made mixed blueberry and strawberry scones for MysteryLoversKitchen.com yesterday. Dough worried me because it seemed so dry. OMG. Best things in the world. So flaky. Ate one for breakfast without cream but didn’t share with dogs. They didn’t appear to notice that I gave them dog cookies instead. Except maybe for Baron who sniffed my street crew 1fingers. I fear that he’s onto me. Must eat treats in the bathroom. Who am I kidding? He follows me there, too.

Fully intended to start diet this morning. Scone is not a setback. Won’t eat lunch. It will all equal out.

Wrote two blogs this morning. Have finally come to understand why they’re so hard for me to write. They’re supposed to be about me! Ugh. Maybe I should take on an interesting persona. Aha. Am CIA spy. Why would a CIA spy live in a rural area? Aha. Have suspicious neighbors. That won’t work. What kind of CIA spy would admit to being CIA spy on blogs? Interviewed once with CIA. No one would believe that! When asked how I felt about being undercover in covert operations, I asked if they had a nice desk job. Interview terminated. Might have made persistent detective but would have been lousy spy.

Cooked lunch for dogs. Leftover hamburger, steak, and chicken fingers with rice and green beans. I ate salad without dressing. Good for me! Now hungry.

Outline due for next book in two days. Must concentrate on that. No, must finish writing blogs first. Why am I so boring? Oh look! The first review of The Diva Serves High Tea is in. Holding breath while I read it. Aww. Lisa Kelley Tea high res largesaid, “an excellent plot!” Yay! I have earned the remaining scone, with cream.

Sound of fridge opening woke Baron. Forced to share with him. Other dogs still sleeping. Back at computer, I check GoodReads for early reviews. None. That’s okay. Am riding high on Lisa’s kind words. But someone gave it one star. Oh no! Now afraid of reviews. Wait a minute!!! Book isn’t out yet. Only a few people have copies, and I’m pretty sure she’s not one of them. Bang head on desk. Ow. Mistake. Head now matches leg with bruise of unknown origin. Need another scone but have eaten all. Chocolate. There must be chocolate.

Found chocolate in pantry. Diet officially starts tomorrow. Baron looked at me with those eyes again. Gave him an Itty Bitty Buddy Biscuit. It smells like bacon. Maybe he doesn’t care that I didn’t share chocolate?

Am now obsessed with one-star rating. Complained to author friends about one star. Has happened to them, too. Sigh. Thankful for writer friends. Feel better. Why would anyone do that? Has person developed dislike of me? Don’t recognize name. First name only. Is probably undercover in covert operation.

Walked Baron to clear head. Watched tiny sparrow chase crow from nest. Even in world of birds, there’s murder. Checked veggie garden planted yesterday. Weeds have grown nicely. No veggie sprouts yet. Red pepper plants happy. Came up with fun idea for new book while walking. No ideas for blog. Potatoes and ribs cooking for dinner. Glad I postponed diet.

Looked up murder of crows. Hmm, origin of phrase appears to be lost. Maybe sparrows invented it.

Ribs and skin-on mashed potatoes big success. All dogs behaved but settled around the table in case anyone shared. Worked for two hours on outline for new book. Still blocked on blog.

PS – Hope folks like the Virtual Tea Party to celebrate the new book!

About the Author: Krista Davis

kristadavis_bioNew York Times Bestselling author Krista Davis writes the Domestic Diva Mysteries. Her 10th Domestic Diva Mystery is The Diva Serves High Tea, which releases on June 7th. Krista also writes the Paws & Claws Mysteries for animal lovers that debuted with Murder, She Barked.
Like her characters, Krista has a soft spot for cats, dogs, and sweets. She lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia with three dogs and two cats.
Connect with Krista:  Facebook | Twitter  | Goodreads

Powered by WordPress. Designed by Woo Themes