Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Taken By

A phrase was said the other day, reminding me how much I love the words, "taken with" or "taken by" ... as in, "He was quite taken by her" or, "She was taken with him."

There are many old phrases I adore, but those words have always caused a strange feeling inside me whenever I've heard them uttered. Maybe it's because I love the idea that a person can, indeed, be "taken" by something or someone; a moment, a touch, a kiss, a look. Maybe it's also the raw, genuine vulnerability implied by the notion that a part of you can be taken at all; that someone could have that affect on you, without even trying. And that, after it happens, you're not quite sure what has changed, only that something has indefinitely been altered inside you. It's almost a slight shifting feeling, a piece of you gone somehow ... whisked away by something or someone else. Perhaps that's why the words have always stirred something in me. Maybe that's why I've always gravitated toward them, just as I gravitate toward most things or people who move me, get inside me, ignite me somehow.

I suppose there is a slightly more doleful side to the notion of being "taken by" someone ... the idea that once you're taken with someone or something, you're never quite the same again. And it could very well be nothing more than a fleeting feeling you have that passes by as you move on to something else. Or, it could affect a deep part of you, causing you to lose yourself for a time being.

I also came across this quote the other day: "A Christmas candle is a lovely thing; It makes no noise at all, But softly gives itself away." ~ Eva Logue

For me, in the times I've experienced this "taken" feeling, I've felt as though I'm a flower of some sort, a rose perhaps, leaving soft petals the color of warmth at the feet of the things and people I've been "taken by" over the years. Or, like the above quote, perhaps a burnished candle, giving off warmth while softly melting away.

It's not a bad feeling, though I suppose as the years continue to pass by, there will be some moments of forlorn in the looking back. But in general, I like the idea and feeling of "being taken," whether by a moment, a person, a glimpse, a scent ... life. And I'd rather be taken by it all, quietly giving myself away, than remain a rose caged by untouchable glass; a white, wax coated wick --

That is never lit.


Friday, December 16, 2011


"Hello Olive, How are you? Thought I would send you a postal to let you know I think of you once in awhile ... are you coming to the picnic Thursday? I may go for a little while in the afternoon, but will have to work in the forenoon. Don't forget to write." ~ Jina Perry

It's one of those nights, where everything outside of my walls doesn't feel right and so I find myself at home tonight, glass of Bordeaux red breathing nostalgia down my neck and the ink and paper, so to speak, before me. The above passage I found on the back of an old post card from an antique shop in Chardon a few weeks ago. Something about it stayed with me. My favorite part, "I thought I would send you a postal to let you know I think of you." Well, that and the use of "forenoon." I can't tell when the post card dates back to, but it was definitely written by an ink dipping fountain pen. You can see where she runs out and boldly comes back ...

The front of the card, yellowed along the edges, shows a couple, her arm intertwined with his as he stares at her lovingly, adoringly ... and she melts, melting him right back. The bottom reads: May your troubles be little ones.

The post card got me thinking about that time period in general, when instead of an email or text, you would buy something with a picture on it that conveyed what you felt as you took your personal touch, the detailed curves of your unique penmanship and ... just wrote. There is something to be said about old fashioned writing and the personal nuances it leaves behind in its wake; whether it's a postcard or letter, perhaps even just a piece of paper you wrote on to give to another for something seemingly mundane. Depending on who it's from ... sometimes, I bring it softly to my nose and breathe it in, catching a hint of that person's scent. Sometimes, if that's all I have, I commit it to memory for the harder days.

This postcard felt like it was casual, yet intimate in the subtlest way ... like a meaningful look passed between two people. It made me muse about who this woman was, who Olive was and what their respective stories unfolded into. It made me wish I could disappear for a day and go back to that time period to find out. And ... it made me long for that feeling again. The one where, a simple letter, note or postcard, a text, an email, a message ... the mention of a person's name, gives you butterflies. And when those butterflies come to fruition, spreading warmth throughout your entire body from the love you feel for that person. For me, unfortunately, it has oftentimes ended in heartbreak. But in general, it's what I live for ... and yes, while it only merely starts out as butterflies, it has the capability of transforming into other amazing things, and those are the things I crave -- though hopefully one day without the heartbreak.

I imagined this Perry woman sending that postcard and waiting, fervidly, for Olive's response. Would he say he thinks of her, too? Would he reject her and just be polite about it? Perhaps they are merely friends and nothing more. Perhaps it is unrequited and she was a fool to believe otherwise. Regardless, it's fun to speculate. Before technology, it's hard to fathom waiting for a response from someone from the mail ... or from a messenger on a horse or carriage for that matter. I can't handle waiting a day, my body and mind assail me, let alone days or weeks. Nevertheless, there is something to be said for anticipation and hope. Both of which, I'm struggling to hold onto ... but both of which are vital for me to survive and go on. One is the drive, the other, the force behind it -- the light at the end of the tunnel.

Did Jina find her light? I hope so. I feel in the dark right now ... alone with the things in my heart, feeling my way around. But underneath my closed eyelids, I can sense the light somewhere. It'll find me one day, too.


Wednesday, December 14, 2011


I've always been in love with music, using it as a means of channeling for most of my life; whether in the instruments I play or just simply the music I listen to. My friend, Claire, introduced me to this artist the other night and she's stayed with me since. While I'll continue my photograph/story writing challenges, I've decided to try writing poems to songs and what they make me feel.

Agnes ... you're the first.

Close Watch, by Agnes Obel


Curled up on a stone bench, clutching a rough stone
Hands cold, blood hot, the salt of tears stiff on her skin
Breath icy, misty against the stars, sparkling against the snow
The silvery sheen of the doleful moon, coats her skin

A faint beating inside, donned with thorns, many old ... some new
Squeezing her hand tighter, the stone digs into her palm
Nerve endings breathe soft pangs up her arm
People shuffle past, crunching salt, white noise, unaware

She pulls the stone into her cheek, laying her face upon it
Heart pulses stronger, thorns press against her chest
Snowflakes descend, playing against closed eyelashes
Shadows hovering, cloaking, her blood still hot ... she waits



Monday, December 12, 2011

Monday Soundtrack II

As I sat in front of my piano Saturday afternoon, staring at the long ivory keys beckoning to intertwine with my insides, I struggled with what felt right to play. My fingers were heavy against the cool keys. At first, I played my usual mix of music — Fur Elise, Piano Concerto in A minor, Scheherazade, Romeo and Juliet ... but none of them satisfied. So I opened my Pride & Prejudice sheet music to this song. Simple in some ways, yet beautifully haunting ... and utterly cathartic. It was the release I needed and has been playing inside me all day:

 Darcy's Letter

~ C ~

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Water Drops on Glass

"Our life is a faint tracing on the surface of mystery, like the idle, curved tunnels of leaf miners on the surface of a leaf. We must somehow take a wider view, look at the whole landscape, really see it, and describe what's going on here. Then we can at least wail the right question into the swaddling band of darkness, or, if it comes to that, choir the proper praise." ~ Annie Dillard

I was crouched down, turning my face to the left and leaning my cheek against my forearm as I looked at the clouded glass of my shower door the other night. The warped pane of glass was steamed up, the shower head was spouting thousands of hot water drops against my back and shoulders, producing that meditative white noise I constantly crave. My anxious mind, a continuous myriad of thoughts, is often a runaway train; yet when I'm there, it's as though the entire world around me is shut out and I'm reverent, if only for a moment. This time, I became fixated on the glass, I felt myself drawn to it somehow, as though in a trance. More specifically, my eyes locked onto the rain drops trailing from the top of the glass door to the bottom, leaving hundreds of watery, vertical streams in their wake. 

Each drop rolled down at its own pace; some, languidly slithering along the bumps in the glass while others scurried past them, fervidly moving from side to side, as though maneuvering through an invisible labyrinth. I remember just staring at them, transfixed by their diversity from one another. I remember tilting my head with slight curiosity as to what made one drop fall with such velocity while the one following directly in its path started and stopped and eventually changed direction altogether to create a completely different streak. I began to imagine the raindrops as individual lifelines, individual people and their respective paths. No one's is exactly the same, yet they're all headed in the same direction, to the same eventual end or, depending on your beliefs, the same threshold of transition.

It got me thinking about how much I've been looking to everyone around me, to their paths for direction, because maybe they're farther along than I am, or are perceived to be father along. I'd find myself wondering what I could be doing better, what I'm doing wrong; thinking, "one of them must have the answer or know the secret to happiness."

But as I hugged my knees and I homed in on each water drop as it fell, it quickly occurred to me that I could not focus on all of them at once. They were constantly streaming down the glass in every direction, at every pace, forcing me to refocus and look at the entire landscape before me, forcing me to see the bigger picture, just as Annie Dillard describes above. The "right" questions were no longer the above ones, about trying to find my own path in the paths of others. It was about recognizing that even those who begin on the same trail, or those who look to others for guidance, eventually deviate onto new ground and carve out their own channel in life. Some move more quickly than others, some gain far less in rushed movement than those who take their time, and some lose out when not seizing a moment. Regardless, we're all headed in the same direction and we all carve our own, unique paths to get there.

So, as I looked at the glass in front of me, my sight expanded. And instead of watching every drop's path -- just as I've been watching the paths of those people all around me and closest to me, searching for direction, for answers, for the "right" way -- I looked at the entire tapestry before me ...

It was life, in all its magnificent, complex beauty, and it was represented in one of the simplest forms possible.

Water drops on glass.

~ C ~

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Sustaining Forces

“In the end, though, maybe we must all give up trying to pay back the people in this world who sustain our lives. In the end, maybe it's wiser to surrender before the miraculous scope of human generosity and to just keep saying thank you, forever and sincerely, for as long as we have voices.” ~ Elizabeth Gilbert

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, which -- perhaps I'm a little biased in that it's during my birth month -- is one of my favorite holidays, I've been thinking about the things I'm grateful for. Clearly, some of them are no brainers ... my health, my family, friends, pets, job, my parents and upbringing, my grandma and her warm brown eyes, those that have loved me, those that love me still ... those who will come to love me, my home and my capacity for growth.

Thinking about the above leads me to think about those who don't have those things -- some, never have. And that does something to my insides I'll never quite be able to put into words ... only that it's unsettling in a grounding, humbling, overwhelming way.

It's easy for me to think about the negative things in my life, the things I wish I could change, the things that are unsatisfying, the parts of me I want to alter all at once, the sad parts, the memories, the lost dreams. But the truth is, when I bring it all back into perspective, I am more blessed than I realize. In fact, I'm sure many of us are. For me, it's always easier to get caught up in this negative web of self defeatist thinking rather than focus on the benevolent things, the very simple things, like the fact I can get out of bed every day, go to work, support myself and come home to a pair of the goofiest, most loving and amusing pets anyone could have. Sometimes, it can really be that simple.

I've also been thinking about a notion I've mentioned in past posts -- sustaining forces. I believe there are different kinds of forces in our lives: those that drain us, pull us down, try to break us; those that push us, challenge us, help us grow and flourish; and those that sustain us. We all have sustaining forces in one way or another. They're those people, animals, elements, that faith in our lives that keeps us alive, that keeps us breathing, moving forward; that gives us a reason to wake up every morning. And I have many of them. If I really sit here and think about it, they're surrounding me. Whether it's Lakota and Bella with their deep eyes of wisdom, my closest friends and their undeniable way of "getting me," welcoming me and loving me inside and out no matter what, my family and their undying loyalty, understanding and support, my talents and wisdom, my inner strength, my job and the amazing stories I stumble across, my inspiration -- they all make up the very foundation I stand on, the fuel that moves my body, heart, mind and soul.

And the truth of the matter is, if so many sustaining forces have gravitated toward me all my life, then all those negative things I wish I could change truly pale in comparison to the good things. Because, being a believer in the positive and negative forces of the universe, I find we're often a magnet to what we exude. So, despite my anxieties, fears, anger or mistakes and the things they've manifested over the years, none of that holds a candle to the amazing souls I've come into contact with or to the opportunities I've had, to the accomplishments I've made and experiences I've endured.

Some days, like we all do at times I'm sure, I easily forget these things. I get so wrapped up in the broken pieces inside me that I forget the parts that never shattered, the parts that are whole and pulsing with energy waiting to create, to love, to spur growth and to develop. So, even during those times when I feel lowest, saddest, when my heart hurts, yearns, misses, aches, I remember that the force I am, all in all, is reflected in those elements and people around me who are closest to my life, my heart and soul ... to those sustaining forces I'm not sure I could ever live without.

So, as I sit here in my candle-lit living room, gazing over at Lakota, sprawled out on the floor next to me, and Bella, curled up on the couch -- two of my biggest sustaining forces and teachers right now, I choose to "surrender before the miraculous scope of human generosity and to just keep saying thank you, forever and sincerely" for as long as I have a voice.

~ C ~

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Misty Hill

Several ideas swirled through my brain when I first saw this picture Sandy took for our next writing/photo challenge, but I stopped on the image of a girl that's been in my head for years, that's been a part of me. A girl. And a porch. And an older woman walking in the rain ... let's see where they take me.

The Misty Hill

She sat in the old wooden rocking chair on the porch, feeling it creak with her weight as she leaned back far enough to prop her feet, clad in knee-high, chunky black boots on the banister in front of her. A light mist began to fall as Lumina slowly lifted her crumpled pack of cigarettes to her black lips, pulling one out while simultaneously reaching for her lighter. Donning a silver ring on every finger, she threw her head back to get her dark, red-streaked hair out of her eyes before lighting the tip of the cigarette. Closing her dark eyelids, she slowly took in the first drag, reveling in the way it expanded her lungs, feeling instant release as the nicotine coursed through her veins. Slapping the lighter shut, she opened her eyes, releasing the smoke through her lips as she tossed her long bangs to the side once more and looked out to the sidewalk in front of her.

It was autumn, but a cold, rainy one. Lumina leaned forward over her studded belt to pull at her black, fishnet tights before tightening the laces on her boots and recrossing them on the banister. She pulled in another long drag, leaning back farther to blow the smoke up toward the wooden overhang above her. Suddenly, she heard him rustling in the house, stumbling toward the kitchen from the bedroom. Her heart tightened in her chest as her stomach wove into several small knots. She froze in place, not daring to make a sound. Maybe he wouldn't hear her. She lowered her lashes as she took another hit, so quiet she could hear the cigarette paper crackling. It's red butt burned in the reflection of her dark pupils as she stared at it, transfixed.

But the smoke must have wafted into the kitchen, because moments later, his silhouette stood in front of the screen door behind her.

"What are you doing out here? It's cold," he grumbled, his eyes barely open.

"Just havin' a smoke," she said, her voice worn, like sandpaper.

"You look like a whore," he snarled, his bloodshot eyes now more open as he examined her body.

"Fuck you," she snapped, before catching herself. And in an instant, the screen door whipped open and he was in her face, whiskey-filled rage permeating from every pore in his skin. He held both of her shoulders tightly, pinning her against the back wall as the rocking chair creaked under the added weight.

"I, I'm sorry ... please, let go," she sputtered. But he refused to budge, his stale, acrid breath violating her entire existence. She remembered the burning cigarette then, fantasizing the look on his face as she pressed it to his thigh. But the memories of the last time she attempted defiance flashed through her mind, reminding her of the fine, silvery scar next to her left eye. So instead, she lowered her long, mascara doused lashes and simply held her breath, waiting.

His painful grip finally loosened as he realized he was half dressed and freezing. He let go, staring her down a moment longer with his pale, translucent eyes,  before opening the screen door back up and going inside. She looked down at her tattooed wrists, remembering the prick of the ink-filled needle, the intoxicating feeling of relief she'd felt. She zoomed in on the still fresh bruises from the other night. Realizing her cigarette was almost out, she took one last drag before smashing it against the wet wooden stand next to her. She pulled her feet off the banister, leaning forward and resting her elbows on her knees, her forehead in her hands. Slowly, she rubbed her temples, her dark purple nails a stark contrast to her pale, angelic skin. She pulled her pack of cigarettes out again and took another, taking a moment to gaze into the flame of her lighter before lighting the tip of the cigarette.

Suddenly, she heard footsteps and saw a heavyset woman walking down the sidewalk. She narrowed her eyes, squinting through the misty rain. The woman looked Slovenian, perhaps Serbian, but definitely Eastern European, Lumina observed. She'd seen her many times, like clockwork, walking home from the bakery at the same time every day. But something felt different today. Her step was slightly slower, her umbrella tipped a bit farther forward, as though it was harder for her to hold up. And the blue scarf around her head looked iridescent somehow. Lumina took another hit of her cigarette while watching the woman's slow, deliberate gait as she made her way past her house and down the hill. She knew she shouldn't leave. She knew she'd get into trouble, but in that moment, she didn't care. Lumina stood up and walked down the porch steps, beginning to follow the woman. The cool mist clung to her long, dark hair, making it's red streaks a deep burgundy. She pulled the edges of her black sleeves down past her palms, clasping them with her fingers as she continued walking and smoking.

A skater glided past her going in the opposite direction, sneering at her as he passed while mumbling, "freak," under his breath. She was used to it by then. Eventually, the woman turned down a narrow street and into a driveway of a small brick bungalow. Lumina stayed back a bit, not wanting to alert the woman of her presence. She saw now she had a bag in her hand with what looked like a loaf of bread. Lumina's stomach grumbled at the sight, though the cigarette was helping stave off her hunger. Her black, pleated skirt was beginning to get soaked by the continuous mist as Lumina realized she'd wandered off far enough and should turn around before he realized she'd gone. But something made her stay.

She began walking toward the woman's house, not sure why or what she'd do once she got there. But, there she found herself, by the side door, peering through the window. By now, the sun had set and darkness began to cloak her surroundings. Lumina didn't care. She was mesmerized by the scene before her. The older woman had cooked a huge pot of chicken stew and was slicing the rye bread while someone sat down at the table. Lumina assumed the elderly, gray-haired man was her husband. He, too, looked Eastern European, his ethnic nose sharp and filled with character. Lumina quickly realized she'd been breathing onto the windowpane, causing it to fog up. She used her sleeve to clear the moisture while trying to remain hidden from any of their views.

What am I doing? she thought, thinking of the punishment waiting for her upon her return.

She brought her dark, smoky eyes back to the glass, peering in at the couple, now serving the stew with bread and butter. Her stomach grumbled again, pulling her back into reality. She pulled away from the glass and began walking back down the drive, but to her mortification, she heard the side door swing open and a low voice yell, "Hey. Girl."

She picked up her speed, but she heard quick footfalls gaining on her.

Damn these boots, she cursed as she tried to walk faster. But it was too late, the woman had caught up and gently touched her upper arm.

"Child," she said, as Lumina turned to face her, before catching herself and looking down.

"I'm sorry, I wasn't spying ... I was just. I ..." she trailed off, her mind and mouth utterly betraying her.

"I saw you follow me home," she said, her voice thick with a melodic accent that momentarily assailed Lumina's senses. Her words caused Lumina's cheeks to flush with embarrassment. "I was going to invite you in, but you appeared as though you wanted to remain invisible."

Lumina simply nodded, painfully yearning for another cigarette, just something, anything to do besides standing in the rain with this awkward stranger. But she did not relent, even as Lumina pulled away and turned around.

"How about you come out of the shadows for a moment?" She whispered, causing her to pause near a large maple tree. "How about you join us for dinner?"

Lumina knew she mustn't. She'd never talked to a single person in the neighborhood since they'd moved there three months ago. But, everything inside of her overpowered her mindful fears. She timidly turned back around and walked toward the house. The woman examined her entirely now, causing Lumina to slightly cringe. Normally, she never cared what others thought. She wanted to be left alone and dressed the part. But this woman didn't seem to look at her that way. She seemed intrigued instead. It terrified her.

Counting from 10 to zero in her head while taking deep breathes, Lumina walked beside the woman and into the house, where the man had already begun eating.

"Come, sit. Have some stew," she said in that same, thick accent. "I'm Doina. This is my husband, George."

The old man only glanced up briefly and nodded, before returning to his stew.

"I'm ... Lumina," she said, her voice barely above a whisper. And moments later, she was at the table, scooping up mouthful after mouthful of the best stew she'd ever tasted. Every bite of the baked bread felt like heaven. The entire experience was surreal, as though she'd fallen asleep on that porch and was merely dreaming.

"Why do you hide behind this mask?" Doina asked suddenly, breaking Lumina of her contented silence.

"I don't know ... I don't like myself I guess. I'd rather hide than be seen," she answered.

"I've seen the man you stay with ... he's no man at all. He's pure evil," she said, before touching her fingers to her lips as though realizing her bluntness for the first time. But for some reason, it didn't offend Lumina. Instead, her words hit a deep place inside of her, shifting something.

Doina leaned forward, examining Lumina in a way that made her feel stripped to her core. After several long, painstaking minutes, she shifted back in her chair and folded her arms. George had finally stopped eating and sat back as well, watching her.

"How about you come stay with us?" she said. Lumina stared at her in shock.

"But, I've only just met you," she said, completely aghast. Doina huffed.

"No matter. You need a good home. You don't need what that man is giving you," she said. Again, each word cut into Lumina, causing her eyes to water. She dabbed at the inner corners of them with her napkin, set it down and rose from the table.

"I must go," she said, feeling her knees begin to tremble. But something inside her felt different. She felt less hazy, less trapped somehow. George rose as well, trying to stop her, but Doina held up her hand, halting him. Lumina ran out into the biting mist, wobbling under the cutting breeze as she made her way back home. But she felt her knees buckle beneath her, causing her to fall forward, hitting her head on the pavement.

Rubbing her forehead, Lumina opened her eyes, groggily looking around her. She noticed she was back on the porch, a snuffed out cigarette butt under her right hand. It had been a dream after all, she realized, her stomach dropping. But the subtle change inside her was still there. Without thinking, she stood up and walked into the house. She exhaled with relief seeing he was passed out on the couch, the stench of stale beer curdling her stomach. She entered his bedroom and feverishly began packing her tattered duffel bag with everything she could fit. She lifted the loose wooden floorboard beneath the dresser and grabbed the wad of cash she'd stolen, little by little, from him over the last several months. But as she walked past the hallway mirror, she saw her reflection and noticed a gash in her forehead. She quickly looked down at her knees and saw her tights had been torn, her kneecaps skinned. She let out a shaky breath and ran into the bathroom, grabbing a towel. She lathered it in soap and washed her entire face clean, every ounce of black makeup soiling the towel. She then grabbed a pair of scissors and one strand at a time, cut off all of her hair before shaving her entire head.

She stared, examining every defined contour of her skull, her face, her sharp jawline, her prominent nose, pointed cheekbones, her dark green irises and softly arched eyebrows. She felt as though she saw herself for the first time. Tears streamed down her face at the woman she saw before her, no longer hiding behind a mask. She licked her pale pink lips, tasting the salt of her tears before wiping them away with her hands. The scar by her eye was almost translucent in the bathroom light. Lumina heard him stir then and realized she had to go. Taking one last look at herself in the mirror, she shut off the light, picked up her bag and ran toward the front door.

But suddenly, a strong hand grabbed her, whipping her around.

"Jussst where d'ya think yer going?" he slurred, anger, fear and lust in his eyes. She said nothing at first, she only stared at him, watching his eyes widen in shock at her appearance.

"What the fuck have ya done to yerself?" He screamed, wrapping his hand around her throat, closing off her air supply. She desperately grasped at it his fingers before something caught the corner of her eye. Smoke ... a half-burned cigarette in the tray next to her. Without hesitation, she grabbed it and brought the end to his left temple, causing him to wail in both horror and pain, releasing her. She kneed him in the groin then stood over his crumbled body on the dirty floor.

"Don't ever ... ever touch me like that again," she growled in a low, measured voice. She then turned and walked out of the house and down the hill.

She knew she needed to get to the bus station and as far away from him as possible, but something made her turn up that narrow side street first. The brick bungalow was dark. In fact, it looked completely abandoned now, the windows boarded. Lumina shook her head in confusion, looking back down at her skinned knees again. She began to turn away, before something made her try the side door. It opened easily as Lumina stepped in. The house was vacant, without a trace of a human being's presence. Except for something on the table.

Lumina walked toward it, seeing that whatever it was, it was covered by a towel. She slowly lifted the cloth, feeling immediate warmth hit her face.

It was a loaf of rye bread, an umbrella ... and a blue scarf.


Sunday, November 20, 2011


Without passion, man is a mere latent force and possibility, like the flint which awaits the shock of the iron before it can give forth its spark. ~ Henri-Frédéric Amiel

I may have high standards for the way I wish to live my life and the dreams I hope to reach, but I can honestly say there are only a few things I believe I can't live without. One of those things -- passion. To me, it's as natural a feeling as breathing. I don't even think about it. It's just this constant smoldering force I feel deep inside me that ebbs and flows, makes my heart swell against my ribcage or leaves me breathless. But I've come across people in my time that act as though they haven't a clue as to what I'm talking about. Often, these are people who are content to float through life in their comfort zones, who don't have many major aspirations, who don't have that feeling inside them like a burning flame that refuses to be squelched.

And when I've encountered these people, whose very monotonous essence drones on like background noise, I can't wrap my mind around how they do it, how they find purpose in their daily lives. Because to me, experiencing life without the depth of passion is not living at all. And I'm not just referring to finding something that drives you, though that is definitely part of it, but it's more about the way you go through your every day life. It's about finding the passion in the things you do, even the seemingly mundane things, like the walk from your car into your work, or just standing for a moment outside at night and looking up at the moon as you listen to the wind in the trees, or closing your eyes and breathing in the air as a breeze hits.

Maybe, when you're doing laundry, you can let the memories of the day you wore that shirt, that dress or that pair of pants tickle the edges of your mind. Maybe it's breathing in the richness of the leaves as you rake or looking in the mirror and finding one feature on you that you're truly confident about and letting the artistic beauty of it sink in for a few moments. I think people sometimes forget what passion is, how it brings you to life. I think we all sometimes get so caught up in all the things in our lives we wish we could change or we wish we had, that we forget the basics ... the significance of the basics. Sometimes, we forget what it's like, to not just feel a burning inside, but to actually become the flame in your very existence. I certainly have my moments where I forget, where I struggle to keep those embers glowing, especially these days ... but I can honestly say that if I'm not passionate about my life, the things I do with it, the people I share it with, the ways in which I experience it, than it's not a life worth living. And I'm far too restless for that kind of existence.

I could never be that person, nesting in a daily routine of complacency, turgid, buttoned up, reserved, a tiny speck on the drab wallpaper that is tedium. And I've also discovered that I can't satisfy that blaze inside me just through merely doing things I love to do or I'm passionate about. Yes, I can channel it in my work, through writing, music, playing guitar or piano, sketching, exercising ... connecting with nature and people. But the truth is, just those things alone won't satisfy me entirely. They will work for now. But as I'm working through my fears, my issues and rediscovering who I am -- what I want and don't want -- one thing I can say with certainty is, while I can channel my passion all I want in the above ways, when the time is right to share it with someone, I must be equally passionate about that person as well.

Because, settling for anything less, well ... that's just not something I'm capable of doing.


Monday, November 14, 2011

The Door

Random photo/creative writing challenge number II, complements of Mrs. Sandra Ward and her lovely talents. Here goes nothing ...

The Door

There it stood, stark against the blinding florescent light that cascaded down the walls surrounding it. The dark, wooden door, framed by brick walls and an arced piece of glass, looked as though it housed a secret vortex into another world. Or perhaps it conveyed the exit of a long, fitful labyrinth, crowned by a halo of light. Maybe, it was a theatre's backstage door, a place to escape behind the scenes. Evan had so often longed for escape.

As it were, the door was just a door, its pane of glass shielded by disheveled blinds. Evan stepped forward, squinting his eyes beneath the bright light and peering into the glass, but saw nothing between the opened slits in the blinds. He turned around and began walking across the town square toward his home, unsettled somehow.

As he got in bed that night, he looked over to his left, the place his wife once slept, and felt a cold chill slither down his spine. It'd been 7 years since she left. In many ways, he continued to blame himself for her abrupt departure. He had never been in love with her, he wasn't even sure he knew how to love. He shut his eyes tightly, wishing flashbacks of his own mother leaving him as a child would disappear with the blackness of his closed eyelids. But it seemed to make the image of her slamming the door, getting in her jeep and disintegrating into the dusk-filled horizon all the more vivid. He had been 9 years old. His father had always been emotionally detached, an alcoholic; his mother, verbally abused, restless and unsatisfied.

Slowly, he slid his back down the backboard and slipped under his plaid sheets, crossing his hands over his chest as he stared at the ceiling. He felt nothing. The walls practically dripped with stagnancy, as though taunting him with the fact his life was a charade. His thoughts suddenly drifted to his father's funeral two years ago. He had no siblings, his father had been disowned by his family for his drinking problems and Evan had never looked them up once he grew old enough to move out. Sometimes, he wished he had, but he wasn't sure what he'd say. So there he had sat at the wake, surrounded by no one else. His father had drank himself into a life-long oblivion after his mother left. Evan still had the physical scars to remind him just how blind and broken his father had been. These images played like a broken record in his mind, until he fell into a dark, dreamless sleep.

The next morning was the day before Thanksgiving. He'd spend it alone, as he did every holiday for the last 7 years. Evan looked at himself in the mirror, noticing the light flecks of silver hair on the sides of his head. It made him sad somehow, not because he felt his age setting in, but because he was despondent about the entire thing, numb. He worked his shift at the local library before grabbing a cup of hot cider on his walk home. The leaves had turned, the wind was picking up and he could feel winter's breath on his neck. He pulled his coat collar up and his scarf tighter as he began to walk home.

But as he passed the spotlit door again, he couldn't help but see a dark shadow in the peripheral of his vision. He looked to see a young girl, curled up in a ball in front of the door, her breath silver underneath the florescent light. It wasn't the first time he'd seen someone curled up there. Sometimes bums found their way here during the colder months. But this girl didn't look like a bum. Overall, she looked in her early to mid-20s, though her face could have been mistaken for younger. She wore a thick coat, winter hat and gloves, but she was clearly shaking.

Evan hesitated, unsure of what to do. Any other time, he'd have continued on, sipping his cider, without a moment's notice. But something held his feet still. He felt himself strangely sinking in place as though the bricks beneath his feet were morphing into quicksand. He knew he had to move toward her, so he did. He could see she'd been crying, her mascara running, creating subtle dark streaks down her defined cheekbones and jawline. As he approached, she began to pull from whatever trance she had been in and looked up at him. She quickly glanced around her, startled, as though realizing where she was for the first time. He stopped in his tracks and put a hand up, as if to show he meant no harm.

What am I even doing? He thought, suddenly mortified and wishing he'd never stopped in the first place. 

But then she did something that surprised him. She stood up and turned toward him, wiping away some of her mascara streaks with her gloved palms and loudly sniffled. Her long, dark hair poured out of her hat and fell past her shoulders as she put her right hand forward.

"My name is Kayla," she said.

Evan was flabbergasted. For a moment, he said nothing, leaving her hand abandoned. But then he cleared his throat, put his own hand out and shook hers.

"Evan," he gruffly said, before pulling his hand quickly back and shoving it into his pocket. Clearly, she was OK, he observed, deciding he'd better head home. But she moved toward him as he began to turn to leave.

"Wait ..." she said, sniffling again. He stopped and turned back toward her. "May I have a sip of your cider? I haven't had anything warm in days. My insides feel like ice."

Evan felt something stir inside him. He didn't like it. It felt foreign and dangerous. But he couldn't continue on either. So, he bent down, put the cider on the ground and told her to keep it, before he turned and quickly shuffled off. The wind was biting now, as though angry with him.

Kayla scooped up the cider, took a long, mournful look at the door and then ran after him. He heard her footsteps and briskly turned around.

"Don't follow me," he said.

"Why?" she asked, her dark eyes large and innocent. His chest felt tight suddenly, as though deciding to cut off air to his lungs.

What is going on? He thought angrily.

"Look, I only wanted to make sure you were alive. I gave you cider. Please, let me be," he growled before turning back around. But still, he felt her following him. And what was worse, his anger was beginning to subside and confusion had set in. Finally, curiosity won out. He spun back around, jarring her to stop and take a tentative step back.

"Why were you by that door? Why were you crying? Why did you look back at it, as though closing a chapter you didn't want to close?" He hurled at her.

"Because ... I was," she said.

The simple answer somehow satisfied Evan, as he began to walk again, now almost expecting her to follow. They finally got to his door and he turned toward her.

"Do you have no one?" he asked. She shook her head; her sad, layered eyes now brimming again. He unlocked his door and pushed it open, gesturing for her to come in. He felt as though he was possessed. Since his wife, he'd let no one come into his home, and here he was, inviting a complete stranger in, and one half his age for that matter. As she took off her coat, Evan noticed horizontal scars across each of her inner wrists. His stomach tightened again, instantly frustrating him.

How is it possible this mess of a person that stood before him was somehow pressing against his caulked insides?

He decided he must be losing his mind.

"You can sleep on the couch," he said, heading to his linen closet to grab sheets and a blanket. She merely stood in his hallway, in a long, black sweater and torn jeans, staring back at him, before softly nodding. Tears poured down her cheeks again, creating new streams of mascara. Something about the unkempt, messy look of her ignited something inside him, burning his insides. It was a completely unfamiliar feeling, one he didn't understand at that very moment. It was only later, he knew.

He handed her the linens, coming within inches of her face. She softly sniffled again, using the inner sleeve of her sweater to blot her nose before grabbing the sheets from him. Their eyes locked for a moment. Hers were as dark as the oak wood of that door, with faint golden rings of wisdom and age that spiraled to a terrifying depth he was on the brink of plunging into. Startled, he withdrew, quickly pivoting and scampering back to his room. He barely made a sound as he lay in bed, staring at his ceiling, afraid to even breathe.

What is happening to me?

The next morning, he woke up and blearily looked over at his alarm clock. 8:15 a.m. Suddenly, he recalled the girl from the night before and shot up in bed. He felt both terrified and full of anticipation to see if she was up or still asleep. But when he got to his couch, he saw it was empty. In fact, there was no trace of her at all as his linens were back in his closet, virtually untouched. Baffled, he looked around the rest of the place, scrambling to find some semblance she had been there. Nothing. Evan threw on his hat and coat and went outside toward the square.

Toward the door.

He stopped abruptly before it, now cloaked in shadows while the sun peered out from the clouds above him. He looked down on the ground and spotted his Styrofoam cup of cider.

But she'd taken it with her ... I remember it being in her hands as we walked and as she entered my house, he thought, utterly incredulous.

He kept staring at the cup, bewildered, before he finally swooped down to pick it up. It was still half-full, as he'd left it for her last night. He slowly shook his head and began to walk the cup over to the nearby trashcan when something on the side of the cup by his thumb caught his eye. It was faint writing, but distinctively female. It simply said: Call them.

Evan turned the phrase over in his head again and again, pondering its meaning. He searched through his memories over the last several days and then it hit him, like a punch to the stomach.

Today was Thanksgiving. He was alone. He was always alone.

He suddenly thought of his estranged family. He had a number. It had always been there, buried in between the pages of his address book. He felt a sense of madness set in. Quickly, unsure of every movement he made, he ambled back to his house and pulled open his address book. And before he could let a single thought assail him, he pulled out his cell phone and dialed the number. An older woman's voice answered. His aunt Hilda. He hadn't forgotten ... in all these years, he hadn't forgotten.

"Aunt Hilda ... it's me, your nephew. It's Evan."

And as he heard his aunt let out a tearful gasp of relief, Evan's eye landed on the cider cup in his hand -- where he softly ran his thumb over a faint trace of dried mascara.

~ C ~

Saturday, November 12, 2011


She lacks confidence, she craves admiration insatiably. She lives on the reflections of herself in the eyes of others. She does not dare to be herself. ~ Anais Nin

Realities ... are tough sometimes. And what's even harder is facing them, accepting them before letting them go. Who wants to admit faults? Who really admits them out loud? How often?

Well, this is my reality. In trying to get to a better place, I've felt lately as though I'm in the dark, feeling my way around and not quite sure of anything my fingers graze against. However, as is with those who are blind, I'm realizing my other senses have been forced to adapt and dominate over my sight — or lack thereof. It's as though the more I stop trying to squint into the darkness to see everything or even just anything, the more I'll begin to trust in my other senses and instincts, my intuition again.

Eventually ... I'd like to trust myself again.

So, my reality is, I haven't dared to be myself in a long time, if ever really. In some way or another, I've compromised parts of myself to meet someone else's criteria, society's criteria or simply to try and "fit in," somehow, to feel as though I belong somewhere. But the truth is, that never really works, because I can't possibly feel as though I fit somewhere when I'm not being true to myself. And I can't really get to know myself until I face this reality. So here I am, staring it in the eyes, terrified. But I refuse to relinquish my intent to embrace who I truly am. I'm tired of looking to others' eyes to "see" myself in them, to know myself. I'm tired of trying not to draw attention to myself, while secretly needing it to feel validated as a presence in this world. It's exhausting really.

It's not as though I've been wholly fake, ever. In fact, I despise disingenuous people with a passion. I can always spot them by how they make me feel ... I never quite trust them. And I never want to join their ranks.

Sure, different people bring out different parts of me, different sides of me. I think other people might be able to relate to that. Certainly, we're different around our parents or certain friends than we are around other environments, people, places, etc. However, to compromise certain aspects of myself, self-sacrifice myself — as i have in the past couple of years — just to avoid causing tension, harm, anger, frustration or pain, well ... that's not being very genuine either. And it's in that way that I feel I haven't been entirely myself, at least not since I was a child. I've been giving into fear and anxiety. And I'm tired of that, too.

So, I've decided I'm done looking to others to find myself. Because that's just not the real way of things. And while most of my close friends and family know who I am, despite my attempts as masking things sometimes, it's time for me to actual embrace that person.

Because, it's one thing to "hear" what she is to others, but it's another to believe it.

So, I've decided to toss out a few miscellaneous pieces of authenticity:

- I love mystery, whether it's in everyday things, like someone catching my eye and making me wonder what his or her story is, or just in watching the sun set, bewildered.

- I love my grams, she's one of my favorite people in this world. She's one of the only people who DOES make me believe my worth when she cups my face in her hands.

- I'm a total dork. And what's more, I love dorks, men, women. Honestly, I think everyone has a little "dork" in them and if they don't think so, well, they're in denial.

- I love nature. My grams always calls me a pagan the way I worship it, but I can't help it. Everyone has their thing, that brings them peace, whether it's their faith or a comfort food or something else. For me, it's nature. I just need to breathe in the wind or look at the moon or a tree or the sky and I'm at its serene mercy. Sometimes, I feel so much at once, I think I'm simply going to burst.

- I love music, all different kinds. My barometer for good music is the way it touches me, the way it stirs me or makes me feel, if it gives me chills or makes me cry, laugh, sing. Even silly songs, or (my once archenemy) pop music, has its place. I may be a "music" nazi, as one of my friends calls me, sometimes, but I can ALWAYS appreciate song, no matter what kind, that moves me.

- I love books, even guilty pleasures like vampire stories and cheesy romance novels. I love classic literature, poetry, science fiction, fantasy fiction, mystery, horror. My favorite kind of book is the kind that gives me what I call a "good headache." It's when I've been up so late reading for so long that my eyes are strained and my head hurts, but I just can't stop reading.

- I love looking at random people, strangers throughout my day, catching meaningful moments passing between them, or just wondering what they're thinking, what their life is like, where they're going, coming from ... what their favorite childhood memory is. I especially love looking at rough worn people, because they often are some of the best living, breathing, walking novels. Sometimes, certain people make me feel the strangest feelings inside. Sometimes it's hard to breathe.

— I love writing. It's exhausting, but the best kind of tired I can imagine. Every time I write a story, poem or chapter or blog post, I feel as though my entire insides have been scraped by a knife, extracted from inside me and laid out onto the pages before me. It's raw, vulnerable, painful and elating.

— I love fantasy fiction computer video games. If I get started on one, you won't see me reemerge into society or the social network for days.

— I love old movies, black and whites, foreign films, independent movies ... and mainstream as well. But classic black and whites, or 1940s and 50s films, I'm completely enamored of. A large piece of that is the tie to my grandma, but there's a beauty in the simplicity of how films were made then, and how actors truly had to carry every scene, that often steals my breath.

— I have really bad eyes ... and I wear contacts and glasses. I used to never like wearing glasses in public, but not as much anymore. I'm seeing the beauty in being "real" in that way, too.

— I have nervous habits, (how I channel anxiety) picking at my hands, biting the inner lining of my lip, fidgeting, visibly burning up if I'm anxious or flustered or affected by someone or something.

— I hate bullies ... angry people and the way they hurt others, like myself.

— I love romance, seeing the magic in the most mundane places or moments.

— I love making people laugh. When I make someone laugh a good belly laugh (as I call it), I feel everything inside of me melt.

— I love laughing. It's not hard to do, I'm one of the most easily amused people I think anyone could meet. But I love laughing until my stomach hurts and my eyes are watering.

— I hate anxiety. I hate what it does to me and how it makes me not myself, how it inhibits me.

— I love peace. I love bringing someone peace, but I especially love when someone, somehow, brings me peace. It so rarely happens, but when it does, I can't explain what it does to me, just that it does.

— I love feeling welcome, feeling at home, feeling safe. I hate when I feel like I don't belong, when I feel like I have to meet a bunch of criteria to be accepted, I guess that's why I never liked cliches in high school, or fraternities or sororities. The friends I had ... they mirrored my family ... they always made me feel welcome.

~ C ~

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Through the Looking Glass

"I wonder if I've been changed in the night ...Was I the same when I got up this morning? I almost think I can remember feeling a little different. But if I'm not the same, the next question is 'Who in the world am I?'" ~ Alice

The Looking Glass

Feeling her eyes swollen shut with tearful sleep, she lay there. The sun poured through the blinders against her eyelids, tempting her to open them. Slowly, she parted them, feeling her lashes pull against each other as her pupils adjusted to the blast of sunlight. 

With tight fists, she rubbed her eyes like a child before sitting up. As she rose, she felt a slight pull against her skin, as though some unknown force was beckoning her back to the sheets beneath her. But something inside her fueled her body forward to a seated position as she turned around to face her pillow. She gasped slightly, looking at the slight indent on the pillow. She squinted through the sunlight, seeing the vague outline of a body, though it was a phantom image, barely visible, transparent in the shadows. Rubbing her eyes and shaking her head, she looked again, but the ghost did not move. She leaned in a bit to get a better look at the face.

It was her, only she barely recognized herself … ashen, thin, dark haunting eyes. She lay there, staring up at the ceiling, tears streaming down her face. Her lips were slightly parted and her pale inner wrists exposed faint blue veins next to each of her ears, as though pinned to the bed. She was looking up, but her eyes were not seeing the ceiling.

She pulled her eyes away from the image and shuddered in the sunlight before getting out of bed. When she turned back, the phantom body was gone, leaving only the indent in the pillow. Suddenly, she felt a weight lift from inside her as she ran her fingers, still stiff from sleep, through her mangled hair.

After her shower, she wrapped her chocolate brown towel around her and walked into her bedroom, but her dog’s gaze stopped her in her tracks. He was looking at the wall in front of her with his deep, golden eyes. He seemed torn between staying in place and moving toward the wall. She looked to where he stared, his eyes mirroring a desperate, pleading look. She saw a glimmer of a silhouette curled up against the wall, arms wrapped around legs. She felt her heart tighten inside, her stomach turn. She looked at her dog, who was now gazing at her. His eyes, filled with wisdom, loyalty and unconditional love never wavered from hers. They no longer looked torn. They looked to her as though seeing her for the first time in a long time. She felt her eyes brim with tears as she looked back to the wall, now washed in sunlight. She wiped her cheeks, went over and kissed her dog before heading to the kitchen to brew coffee.

Was she dreaming again? Was this all some strange illusion?

She felt lighter with each step, but her heart also began thumping more heavily against her ribcage as she drew nearer the kitchen. It was there she came upon another body, this one slightly more vivid and lying in fetal position on the floor, crying. She took a hesitant step forward, feeling her knees slightly quiver and her breath catch. It was her again, but the body seemed hollow somehow, burning from the inside out. Catching herself starting to sink to the floor, she straightened up, took a deep breath and stepped right into the phantom image, shattering it as she filled the coffee pot. She watched the water rise above each line, feeling as though her insides poured out of her. Suddenly, her lungs felt lighter with every breath she took in.

As she entered her living room, she looked into the mirror on her wall. It was an antique, given to her by her great aunt Mary. She peered into it, seeing her recliner in the background … and another ghostly image of herself, wrapped in her blanket, holding her phone in her hand, tears streaming down her face. Black straps are tied tightly on each wrist, choking the blue veins. Her heart, barely visible beneath her phantom flesh, is pinched by a belt, wound tightly around it. Her eyes, haunted, are almost black as she slowly rocks back and forth ‑- frozen in place with the knowledge that her hurt and pain, this darkness inside her, continues to hurt someone she loves.   

This image does not fade. It only flickers. She brings her eyes back to her face in the mirror and gazes at them. Her heart hurts as she sees they have begun to glimmer with emotion evoked from the fresh memory. She imagines the mirror shattering before her and then slowly glued back together, piece by piece. She feels their ragged, sharp edges press against her insides, as though she were the shattered mirror, slowly piecing herself back together.

Her face begins to slightly distort before her eyes as she looks to the reflected recliner again.  The translucent image remains, yet flickers more fervently as she looks back at her real reflection and feels her heart begin to swell, ever so slightly. The belt begins to wane against the strain, the straps around her wrists start to tear at the seams. She feels her body being pulled toward the mirror, as though her reflected self has wrapped its arms around her neck. The mirror morphs into a metallic liquid mass as she begins to give into the pull. It’s painful, as though layers of her skin are being peeled with every inch she presses forward, but it’s a good pain.

Suddenly, she’s immersed, feeling the mirror encompass her entire being. Its placid mass swells outward into the living room before snapping back into a hard surface.

Silence pours into the dark room, pierced only by the slight squeak of the recliner rocking back and forth.



Monday, October 24, 2011

Sadness, Happiness, Peace ... and Elliott

"Depressing" isn't a word I would use to describe my music. But there is some sadness in it -- there has to be, so that the happiness in it will matter. ~ Elliott Smith (Aug. 6, 1969 -- Oct. 21, 2003)

I'd say you make a perfect
Angel in the snow
All crushed out on the way you are
Better stop before it goes too far
Don't you know that I love you
Sometimes I feel like only a cold still life
That fell down here to lay beside you

Don't you know that I love you
Sometimes I feel like only a cold still life
Only a frozen still life
That fell down here to lay beside you

In light of Elliott's death anniversary last Friday, I've been thinking about the above quote -- the ensuing song is a favorite of mine as well -- which I've always personally identified with in my own life. For me, I tend to feel things intensely on both ends of the emotional spectrum, which can obviously be both amazing and wonderful as well as crippling. But as Elliott so perfectly put it, in feeling the down times, I'm able to better able to appreciate the good ones.

In my recent weeks of self analyzation, which have had me feeling both empowered and completely ragged, I've been thinking about how people in my life have often told me I somehow bring a calmness or peace to them, or this feeling of being a safe space to open up in. It's funny, as I'm definitely an anxious person in general, but I've noticed that oftentimes, when someone is out of sorts, the anxious part of me somehow just shuts down and there I am, calm and grounded to help rein them in. I have friends who have provided me with this same feeling when I've been the one out of sorts. I guess it falls back to my Sway post, having those relationships and friendships that ebb and flow with each other. 

However, thinking about feeling things on one end of the spectrum as well as the other led me to think about how sometimes, I yearn to just find a balance between the two. I've achieved this by meditation or actively practicing various ways to relax and ground myself, but it's been a long time since I've truly felt inner peace. I know that's something that will always have to be worked at, and that's why I've lost it in the recent weeks, but sometimes I wish I could experience that feeling where the mere presence of someone awashes me with some serenity. There have been moments where I've had that, but enough has happened between then and now for me to be generally uneasy around most people, or unsure of what is going on inside me. And I guess, tying things back into Elliott's quote, feeling this way has me sometimes yearning for and appreciating the days when I did feel peace, when someone was able to give me peace.

However, even on these down days, I've continued to breathe in the vapors of hope that are always surrounding me. Because I'm pretty sure -- as I work through the hard stuff, the haunting good memories and my present-day challenges -- I'll eventually find that inner peace again, and when I do, I'm going to make damn sure I hold onto it, because the person that will eventually add to the peace and solace inside me ... he deserves it, too.


Sunday, October 16, 2011


"The feeling of Sunday is the same everywhere, heavy, melancholy, standing still."  ~Jean Rhys

(Haunting Emilie Autumn cover)

Downtrodden, melancholy you are
Veiled in mourning, dew drops of sorrow
Mesmerizing in your doleful whispers against my ear
Someone once told me, we'd change that
One day you'd be something to look forward to
One day you'd be something good in my heart
It's silly really, to be so weary of a day
To have this unexplainable foreboding when you're near
But Sundays ... you're a fickle thing
And hope is an avenue you cannot smother
So, perhaps "we" won't change that
But maybe, just maybe ... I will.


Friday, October 14, 2011


“I believe one has to escape oneself to discover oneself.” ~ Rabih Alameddine

The other night, I had a wine glass in my hand that was half full, my body immersed into a couch as I waited to watch a movie. I stared at it for what felt like an eternity, studying the fingerprints ... my fingerprints, creating a sheen over its once translucent surface. The burgundy liquid swished from side to side as I slowly twirled the stem of the glass, momentarily mesmerized. I felt lost that day ... I feel lost today. But as I stared at that glass, studying my fingerprints, my identity smeared on that glass for all to see -- it mocked me. I wished, in that moment, rediscovering my identity were really that simple. And as I continued to swirl the wine around, I imagined it washing my fingerprints away, as thought wiping clean my very existence. I pictured the glass submerged in a cleansing, crimson sea, leaving behind trails of its potent, aged, grape-fill scent. And then, just as quickly, I was pulled from my trance back into reality.

And when I glanced back down at my glass, the prints were still there. It was in that moment I realized my existence was there to stay ... and no matter how often I felt lost, I'd always remain and find my way back to those prints once more.

Nevertheless, the moment got me thinking about a tendency I have that I really haven't talked to many people about in detail, if at all. Sometimes, I mentally "leave" during times I'm overwhelmed, which may be a blessing or a curse, depending on the situation. I'm often always in my own little world in some ways ... and always have been since I was a child, staring off, pondering life,  thinking about the next story I'll write, trying to figure out other people's stories.

But that kind of escape into another world is not the kind I've recently come to grips with in myself. Because there were times, in my recent past, where I would literally feel as though I'd left myself for a few moments, as though I was no longer present. It's a defense mechanism and it happened when whatever was going on around me was too much for me to handle, or was a situation I was desperate to escape, but couldn't physically leave ... so I mentally left. It still happens now sometimes, even if for just a few moments when I feel filled to the brim without an ounce of space left in me.

To try and put it into words -- more for myself to comprehend than anyone else right at this moment -- what usually happened in the past was I'd try to verbalize that I'd reached that point, but inside, I was too weak to actually do something about it, so I just remained frozen in place, looking down or at some nondescript object. And if I'm being honest, I still do that. I always joke with people that the moment I have no fight in me about something, even if it's just not teasing someone back who is teasing me, that's when they should worry.

Well, joking aside, that's kind of true in a lot of ways. Because in those moments, when I "leave," even if it's just for a few seconds like I've done recently, I'm unresponsive with a blank stare ... and whatever I'm looking at, I kind of melt into. And whatever is happening or being said begins to blur in the background. It's hard to explain, but it's literally a feeling like I'm bursting at the seams, crying out from the inside, yet feeling muted. And then my brain just shuts off momentarily.

The question becomes, is this a good or bad thing? Is it simply my mind trying to protect itself the way it was in the past or is it simply me running, escaping? Is it an instinct I have to overcome somehow or does it still have purpose? I don't know. Perhaps it's a little of both.

Either way, it's something I've just now begun to analyze about myself, something I've only more recently noticed. I know I'll begin to find some of these answers, as I tend to do upon discovery of the questions themselves, but for whatever reason, vulnerable as it may make me, it's something I've decided to share.


Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Leaf

My good friend Sandy Ward (who's awesome raindrop picture I posted on my Comforts ... Poetry post) came across this idea a writer and photographer were doing in tandem where the photographer would take a random picture and the writer would have to weave a story around it. Well, we've decided to steal said idea and do something similar once a week. I haven't a clue where this is going to take me, but I'll just start writing ...

The Leaf

They were walking along one day when she came across it. Like a stark shot of sunlight amidst shadows, it pressed against the damp log. Its edges were frayed, its delicate stem intertwined with the bark, its veins spotted with age and wear, but the yellow maple leaf was the most beautiful thing she'd ever seen.

She broke stride and unclasped their hands to walk over and gently peel it from its lonely dwelling and into her warm hand. Slowly, she brought it to her nose and inhaled. It felt as though the core of the earth itself filtered into her lungs.

He stood, several feet away, smiling softly at her, examining the way a single sunbeam streamed through the burnished tree branches, casting a glowing aura around her dark, wavy tendrils. Her sun-kissed cheeks and closed eyelids looked iridescent in the light as she took another deep breath against the leaf. He took a step backward, leaning against the tree as he propped up his right leg, crossed his arms and drank her in. Finally, as if coming to from a long, dream-filled doze, she opened her eyelids and found his eyes. She quickly blushed under their intensely penetrating gaze and bashfully looked down, lowering her arms while still cradling the leaf.

A nearly translucent mist existed her flush lips as they spread into a deep smile.

"We can add this to our collection," she said in a gravelly whisper before reaching into her knapsack, draped over her right hip, and pulling out her leather bound journal.

She opened it to a blank page and gingerly laid the leaf between the flaps before shutting it and tucking it away. The corners of his mouth pulled back into a warm smile, yet his piercing eyes never wavered from hers. Once again, she coyly looked away and into the distance, furrowing her brow in faux concentration. This caused him to finally break, softly chuckling before stretching his arm out to her, beckoning her to come back over to the leaf-covered trail so they could continue their walk. She practically skipped over to him, a playful bounce in her step that only deepened his smile and swelled his heart. He let out a long, steady exhale that could have passed for utopian contentment as she looped her arm in his and they continued on.

A moment later, they heard a faint rustling in the woods near them and spotted a female deer with a baby fawn next to her, dusted with white spots. The deer both raised their heads, ears and eyes fiercely alert to the couple, yet unmoving. The man and woman continued the standoff for a few more moments, mesmerized by the gentle grace and beauty of the creatures staring back at them, before slowly walking on, intent on not disturbing them any further.

Before the trail wound down to where they were parked, he stopped and turned toward her, bringing her in for a gentle kiss as he untangled his left arm from hers and cupped her face in both his hands, deepening the kiss. He opened his eyes and gazed down at hers, still shut against the red hues of the leaves in a dreamlike trance, her lips slightly parted with a hint of a smile. Finally she opened them and he saw they were glistening with emotion.

The leaf, momentarily forgotten as she thought, he's the most beautiful thing I've ever seen.

No words were spoken for fear of bursting the surreal bubble they found themselves in. But like all moments, it was whisked away by the tepid fall breeze and they turned to walk toward the car, both inhaling the sweet, earthy air one last time.

Once home, she scampered to the den, grabbed the worn, chipped stepping stool her grandpa had made for her when she was a little girl, stepped up to the top shelf and plucked out the large, burlap book at the end of the row. Meanwhile, her fiance put away their coats and strolled into the den just as she hopped off the bench and pulled out her journal. Carefully, she removed the yellow leaf, now dried a bit and practically glowing against her skin as she opened the burlap bound book and sifted through the laminated pages of autumn leaves they'd collected over the years. Finally, she found an open page and placed the leaf over top of it, carrying the entire book to the window sill and leaving it open against the rays of sun pouring through.

"We really ought to wait until it completely dries," she said, as though he knew nothing about preserving leaves.

It only made him love her more as he walked over and enveloped her in his arms, bringing his nose to just above her ear and breathing her scent in.

"I can't wait to fill that entire book," he softly whispered into her ear, causing gentle butterflies in her stomach.

Many autumns later ...

Feeling the crunch of decaying leaves giving way beneath his boots and cane, he ambled on, noticing now more than ever the slight hitch in his step. His wool cap vibrated against the breeze, much brisker than it had been those many years prior. He took a different path this time, however, spotting a fallen tree across the trail ahead.

As he drew nearer, his misty breath slightly wheezing with each stride, he decided to stop a moment and sit on the log, betraying its age with a slight crack under his weight. As he collected himself, something caught his attention out of the corner of his left eye. He turned his gaze toward it and saw, buried in a hollowed out section of the wet log, a tattered orange leaf. Without another thought, he reached in and gently pulled it out, one of its corners slightly tearing. He held it flat in his palm, examining it, bruised and browning by its slow demise, its stem curving toward the pulse in his wrist. He then looked at his other hand, resting on his knee, bruised and spotted with age as well. He tenderly brought the leaf to his nose and lips, shutting his eyelids against the trees, causing tears to roll down each of his cheeks and glisten against the pale light shedding through graying skies.

After a few minutes, he brought the sleeve of his coat to his nose, sniffling against it before wiping away remaining tears with his chapped fingers. With great effort and the help of his steadfast wooden cane, he rose from the log, stepping over it and continued down the path with the leaf in hand. He stopped just before the clearing and peered into the woods, hearing a rustle in the leaves ... or perhaps merely a phantom rustle. There was nothing.

Once in the clearing, he limped over to the right, pulling the bundle under his arms closer to his heart. He spotted the arched headstone, crowned by a wreath of autumn leaves and cloaked in the morning fog. He stopped a few feet away and just stared at the wreath, holding strong throughout the season's rough worn rainstorms.

"I found something today," he said, his voice slightly cracking. "It was buried in the hollow of a tree trunk in the path. If I'd have known better, I'd swear you left it there, tucked away, just for me."

He paused then, feeling the warmth of fresh tears trek down his cheeks, falling to the dead leaves beneath him. He walked over and pulled the plastic off a wood-chapped stepping stool, never having the heart to refinish it. Feeling his bones crack, he leaned his weight against the cane as he descended, sitting just to the right of her grave before pulling forth the leaf. He took the bundle from under his arm and laid it on his lap, removing the cloth it was wrapped in.

Tentatively, he opened the burlap cover, revealing the first leaf they'd ever found together, it's blazing crimson color as breathtaking as it was that day, lying atop shrubbery hidden in the shadows. But she spotted it. She had always spotted them.

In a trance-like state, he meticulously turned each page. Every leaf, every vein, marking, scar, bruising, shape igniting a separate memory -- like an ember catching flame once more. Tears softly fell onto the plastic pages as he continuing turning them, until he finally reached a clear one -- the final one. Just as he was about to place the leaf in the open sleeve, he paused and glanced up at his wife's weathered gravestone.

He felt something inside him shift, like death's whisper, a knowing ... only it did not scare him as he continued to look at her beautiful name etched into the granite stone. He closed his eyes and pictured her that day she discovered a fall leaf much like this one, only a radiant yellow and filled with more life. He saw her dark eyes glisten against the sunbeam before she closed them to the leaf's scent. His old heart swelled so much, it hurt.  He let out a deep exhale, laced with love, yet tethered with anguish and despair as he cracked his heavy eyelids open and brought them back to the leaf in his hand.

Before placing it inside the sleeve, he laid the leaf on his lap, studied it a moment, then carefully tied its stem into a knot. He lifted it to his nose one last time, gently bringing his lips against it in a kiss before placing it in the plastic sleeve. This last one would not be ironed. It would succumb to the ails of oxygen and age, just as it should, he thought, before looking back at her headstone.

"We finally finished it ... my darling," he said, straining against the knot of sorrow burrowed in his throat.

He closed the book and wrapped it back up with the cloth as he gradually got back to his feet and covered the stool back up. However, just before he turned to go, something stopped him, bringing his eyes back to the brown, dead leaves beneath his shoes. The overcast skies ebbed, letting a beam of sunlight shine down near her tombstone. He saw something buried there beneath a mound of dull, amber leaves. Using his cane, he bent down to uncover it. And as he pulled the last decaying leaf aside, there it was, brilliant as the sun.

A yellow maple leaf.

~ C ~

Monday, October 3, 2011

Stormy Weather

In light of the sad clouds, the sullen, sunken leaves and drippy streets ... in light of a teary heart and damp skin, Billie casts me into the wind:

I think we can all do with a haunted love story on days like this:

Stormy weather. The skies filled with dissonant tears, finally bursting like an eroded pipe. You could almost taste the rust, see its carmine hues mixed in the dew drops ... or perhaps it was blood, trickling down the veins of the leaves ... or was it the veins in her wrist, over the faint pulse in her neck. She was mesmerized by the rain's ability to augment the sweet smell of decaying leaves mixed with earth, enhancing every separate strand of scent. As she listened to Billie Holiday's "Stormy Weather," she slowly moved forward and back on her old, wooden rocking chair, feeling each creak reverberate through the porch floorboards. It had been a long few days. Hell, it had been a long few years. Her own bones, still reasonably young, creaked with every movement, betraying the wears of stress and tension curled into the hollows of her marrow.

"Life is bare, gloom and mis'ry everywhere/Stormy weather/Just can't get my poorself together/I'm weary all the time/So weary all the time/When he went away, the blues walked in and met me/If he stays away, old rockin' chair will get me ..."

Tired, she felt so tired inside. Like she could never quite get enough sleep. As though the sleep she got never reached her insides, never put to rest her bones or settled her mind. Her dreamless nights never eased her heart or calmed her soul. It was this time of year she missed him most, when the veil was thinnest, when the moon was brimming. During most of those days, she hardly recognized her dark eyes in the mirror, searching for answers.

"All I do is pray the Lord above will let me walk in the sun once more/Can't go on, ev'ry thing I had is gone/Stormy weather ..."

But none of that mattered the moment the wind picked up around her, fluttering her dark tendrils, now streaked with a few silver strands. It filled her with his warm scent, pulsing her chair forward, lifting her to her bare feet, softly grinding the floorboards beneath them. Billie's quivering chords danced against her eardrums as she began to sway back and forth with him. His spirit dipping below her hips, wrapping around her back, along her spine, caressing her chin.

This cannot be ...

It flowed between her fingers and a tear rolled over her left cheek bone, gathering at her jawline. She felt the air grow concentrated, softly blowing against her skin, evaporating the remnants of her sorrow. Her body was gently pulled forward, before released into a twirl, her arm arched above her head. The stars began to shimmer in the distance as the crippled, stiff crimson and yellow leaves rustled along the worn porch steps and banister, adding extra rhythm to their dance. She felt her toes press against the aged floorboards as the damp sweet and salty fragrance of his skin enveloped her senses, puncturing her heart with familiar elation and deep melancholy. Suddenly the air shifted again as the melody slowly winded down.

"Stormy weather/Since my man and I ain't together/Keeps rainin' all the time ..."

She was swept forward again, her body in a slight backward bend held on the breeze. She closed her eyes to the moonlight, feeling the air press against her soft lips ... grazing her ear in a tender whisper, before vanishing on the wind.

She sank to her feet, letting another tear roll down. Only this time, it met its death ...

In the dimple of her smile.

~ C ~

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Pale September

Pale September/I wore the time like a dress that year/The autumn days swung soft around me/Like cotton on my skin ... and all my armour falling down in a pile at my feet ~ Fiona Apple

As those closest to me know Fiona Apple is my favorite female solo artist on this planet. Now, considering I have a deep admiration for many female solo artists -- including Bjork, Tori Amos, Aimee Mann, Kate Nash, Sarah McLachlan, Loreena McKennitt, Neko Case and more recently, Kristin Hersh -- to say she is my favorite is quite powerful. She takes a box of ivory keys and creates melodic poetry, sung with such depth and soul, you feel as though you're listening to her from her insides. Yes, much of her music is often melancholy, tranquil, mournful or just plain jaded, but she also has many uplifting gems in the mix, such as the one quoted above.

"Pale September" is one of my favorite songs by her and especially at this time of year, for more than obvious reasons. Fiona is also my favorite lyricists. Her songs are rich, poetic and always resonate with me, especially on rainy nights like tonight ...

Reflection has fell upon me. I'm swaying backward today. I've been delving into memories leading up to today ... good ones, bad ones, ugly ones, beautiful ones. And as the leaves begin to change and the smell of autumn filled my lungs, I let out a deep, rhythmic sigh, feeling my insides swell with emotion that reached to the farthest corners of the spectrum. Most days, I know what to do with those memories ... but today, I do not. I'm not quite sure what to do with them all, just that they're there, breathing me slowly in and out, like a shadow in the darkness.

I also feel ripped open this week. But the slits aren't all bad, they just hurt. As my best friend told me a few nights ago, "It's good when you're offered different perspectives on things or called out on things, but what's important is that someone is there to remind you right after just how amazing a person you are just as you are." And she did, as have others. And I felt a little less heavy. Because I think we all should be given new perspectives once in awhile. I think it's important to be shown our flaws, albeit, gently shown. But yes, it is good to have someone there to remind you how, even if a single bone in your body never changes, you've still got things to offer.

And if nothing more, all I could ask of those reading ... is to tell someone, right now, this very moment, what they mean. Because, speaking from experience, randomness sometimes hits the hardest.

So, with that, I'll let Fiona carry it away ...

Pale September
I wore the time
Like a dress that year
The autumn days
Swung soft around me
Like cotton on my skin

But as the embers
Of the summer
Lost their breath
And disappearred
My heart went cold and
Only hollow rhythms
Resounded from within

But then he rose
Brilliant as the moon in full
And sank in the
Burrows of my keep
And all my armour
Falling down
In a pile at my feet
And my winter giving
Way to warm
As I'm singing him to sleep

He goes along just
As a water lily
Gentle on the surface
Of his thoughts
His body floats
Unweighed down by
Passion or intensity
Yet unaware of the
Depth upon which he coasts
And he finds a home in me
For what misfortune sows
He knows my touch will reap

And all my armour
Falling down
In a pile at me feet
And my winter giving
Way to warm
As I'm singing him to sleep
All my armour
Falling down
In a pile at my feet
And my winter giving
Way to warm
As I'm singing him to sleep


Sunday, September 18, 2011


“It can be depressing when no one takes interest, and a lack of response makes the writer question why they’re writing at all. To have one’s writing rejected is like you, yourself, are being rejected. ” ~ Lizz Clements

Got my second rejection from an agent Saturday morning while lying in bed. There I was, buried beneath my comforter and sheets the way I always bury myself in sleep, when I heard my phone signal I had an email. So, groggily rubbing my eyes, I cracked them open just long enough to see the beginning of the email ...

"Thank you very much for giving me the opportunity to read your submission.  I appreciate you considering me for representation of your project. Unfortunately, after careful review, I have decided that I might not be the right agent for your work ... "

I let out a soft groan, turned off my phone, rolled over and fell back asleep.

Granted, this is only the fourth agent I've submitted to -- there are hundreds in various genres my novel could technically fit I have yet to submit to. One ended up wanting to read more, but a published author I stay in touch with and trust told me to steer clear of him after reading his fee requirements, another told me the same as the above and the fourth I have yet to hear from. Obviously, rejection, in whatever form, be it love, academia, family, society, writing, is never easy to take. For some people, it's crippling. Not for me. Perhaps it's in reading about how many rejections very successful writers and authors have had before they finally broke through the chained glass. 

Perhaps it's partly from me learning how to accept rejection and turn it into something constructive instead of letting it destruct me. Whatever the reason, I'm going with it. And on some levels, each letter feels like a skinned knee or when I bust a knuckle punching my boxing bag ... it hurts, but it feels good at the same time, because it happened during something productive, during something that makes me feel alive. I don't think I'd want to get any of my major work published without obtaining a few scars along the way. I want to feel a little dirt caked on my skin, to feel the hurting, elating itch of constructive criticism. I want to falter for a minute and use my strength to pull myself back up again. Because I know inside I'll punch through that glass eventually ... and until then, I'll just keep writing.

The prologue of my novel:

The aged stone walls were dewy with last night’s rain, the dank scent of mold seeping from the dark corners of the room. But the rest of the dilapidated enclosure blazed red from the fire outside the barred windows. She shuddered, her bones suddenly icy with fear.
The ropes around her wrists cut into her damp skin, causing her to wince and grit her teeth. The pebbles growled beneath her as she dragged her bare, cut and calloused feet under her legs, hugging her dirt-caked knees to her chest.
Hearing the scuffle, the guard turned his surly face and pursed lips her way, revealing severe, yet placid eyes that seemed to look straight through her. Whatever spell she was accused of having on others didn’t seem to stretch its gnarled claws his way.
She sniffled and he turned away, looking at the entrance once more, her presence nothing but an afterthought. Slowly, she began rocking back and forth, the rhythmical movement providing a tangent of solace. Though the barbed tentacles of terror pierced her parched throat, somehow her vocal chords found vibration. She began to hum a soft, low melody her mother used to sing to her as a child, after waking from the dark grasp of a nightmare. Its rich, mournful notes laced with sharps and flats brought chills down the guard’s spine, though his expression remained blank.
Chains, crimson with rust, sliced into her ankles and clanked against the cold, muggy floor. She could hear both screams and cheers outside the sole window of her cell, as though a riot were brewing. Each crackle of the fire, as logs collapsed beneath its scalding flames, seemed to puncture her skin.
Suddenly, the creaking strain of a door slashed through her dismal song, jarring her attention to the caged entrance of her cell. She heard footsteps approaching and felt the familiar tingling of his energy filtering through the bars and into her body, causing her heart to jump and her breath to violently catch.
Slowly, with precision and stifling pain, she stood, gripping the bars to provide balance as the tattered remains of a once vibrant peasant skirt shook around her legs. Her chestnut hair fell loosely down her back and shoulders. Its dark, wavy, auburn tendrils playfully tickled the hairs upon her arms and framed her mystic eyes, now fiery embers of emotion.
And just like that, he was there.
The older looking guard escorting him stepped back, allowing a moment of privacy not required.
His turgid eyes locked with hers, and then briefly left their hold to gently skim over her shoulders, collar bone and delicate neck. A place his swollen lips had traced not but days earlier now tarnished with dry blood from the ropes that had dragged her from the warm haven of a bed to this perdition.
He swallowed hard, his Adam’s apple softly rising and falling under her steady gaze. His body shuddered from the sudden jolt of electricity as her eyes once again met his, now glistening with anger from the damage done to her – this beautiful creature he had given up everything for.
Her glowing irises mirrored his, emanating anguish over the bruises soiling his angelic forehead, shoulders and cracked ribs, all places her clement skin had grazed fervidly not long ago. All places she had memorized down to each exquisite freckle and scar.
Before another breath was expelled, he stepped a shackled leg forward and brought his tied hands to the sole bar in front of him, grasping her trembling fingers and closing all space between them. The original guard started forward, but was stopped by the sharp arm and fierce look of the second. 
Gently squeezing her hand, his lips hungrily dove into hers, eagerly swimming in her energy. She softly parted them with the tip of her tongue, intertwining with his and igniting their hearts. The fiery glow that seemed worlds away whipped through the window and lit the tear streaming down his right cheek before glinting off the ones searing across both of hers.
The older guard cleared his throat, bursting the bubble and jolting them both from the trance.
“It’s time,” the man simply said, stepping forward and grasping his right upper arm. 
Nothing could be done. They both knew it. 
“I love you,” he whispered violently, his body pulled back by both guards, shattering his grip from her hands, her pulse.
“I love you,” she managed through cracked vocal chords.
 And just like that, he was gone. 
A tremulous breath captured her, buckling her knees and sending her cascading to the floor, crippled by an excruciating agony planted in the depths of her core. Waves of sorrow rolled through her, tossing her body into billows of misery she could no longer control.
The crowd grew more boisterous, which could only mean his presence was made known amongst them.
A sharp click of the cell door pulled her from her bout with despondency, sending her head jerking toward the guard entering what little space she had left, like poison pervading a vein.
He bent down to pick her up, but her eyes shot up to his, stopping him in his tracks.
He backed up slightly, his face no longer a blank slate, but filled with apprehension and uncertainty for something foreign to him.
Lethargically, she made her way to her tender feet, rattling the chains around her ankles. But her sound calf muscles fluidly contracted, sending her body forward and the guard following suit behind, not daring to touch her flaming skin.
She exited the cell and walked down the short, decrepit hallway, past two more empty cells on her right. Then, the giant, heavy oak prison door swung open, pouring smoke-filled dusk air into her lungs and causing the crowd to burst into more cries and shouts. 
She paused and exhaled, shaking her mane of chocolate locks out of her face and wiping her eyes with her bound wrists. 
Then she took a soft, graceful step forward.
The cluster of onlookers divided, making a path to the wooden steps 20 feet ahead. Some eyes cast to the dusty ground in fear, others looking her dead on, hate in their charcoal pupils, while others gave fleeting glances of sadness and compassion. 
Words of hate were spit at her along with prayers spiraling at her feet.
But she paid no attention to any of this. She was looking for one pair of eyes, and only one.
She found them.  
Surrounded by four armed guards, he stood, his oceanic, helpless irises fastened to hers. As she floated up the steps, it was as though everyone was enraptured by silence. Neither of them heard anything, only the potent heart beat of the other.
The guard behind her untied her wrists, tersely pulling her arms backward to bind them once more around the wooden pole pressed firmly against her spine. Her teeth clenched in pain, but her eyes remained locked on his, her lips slightly parted and still swollen from his kiss.
Heat from the blaze around her grazed her skin and hair, setting her dark eyes ablaze. Gasps were heard from onlookers brave enough to gander. The very priest who condemned her – who had said he, too, had succumbed to her spell, allowing its essence to fill his mind with unholy thoughts – stood cold and black at the bottom of the steps. 
“Any last words?” He asked, guilt like venom dripping from his mouth.
Yet her gaze never wavered. She kept her eyes on the stormy spheres of her mirrored soul.
And the world around her dispersed into the flames.

 ~ C ~