Conversations Over Coffee: Mario Batali

Mario Batali

Conversations Over Coffee with MCL


In November, 2008, I had the great pleasure of interviewing one of my favorite celebrity chefs, Mario Batali for All Things Girl. Our phone call was only about twenty minutes long, but he talks even faster than I do (people who know me will be impressed by this), and we covered a lot in a relatively brief time.

We’re re-running this piece today (with a few edits), because it’s one of our favorite pieces, and because all of us on the editorial staff here at Modern Creative Life love to play in our own kitchens, and believe that cooking is just as much a creative pursuit as writing, art, or music.


Mario Batali

First, tell us a bit about yourself: How did you get into food? How does someone from the West Coast end up in New Jersey?
I grew up in Seattle to a half-Italian half-French-Canadian family. We were always into food. Everyone in my entire family: my uncles, my aunts, my cousins, my brother, sister, mom, dad. Everybody I know knew how to cook and was interested in food from the inception of picking something or growing something, picking things wild or harvesting them, or shooting birds or fishing and doing the whole thing.

My grandfather was actually a game guide in British Columbia, and brought home lots of moose and elk and all sorts of weird stuff for us to eat – so it was always part of our lives.

When I was fourteen, my family moved to Madrid, Spain. My dad worked with Boeing, so we had some kind of foreign brat lifestyle over in Madrid, which was delightful. And when it was time to go to college, it would seem to me that it would be easier to get to the east coast than to anywhere else, and I had never been to the east coast, let alone anywhere east of Idaho, for that matter.

Oh, wow. Was there culture shock?
You know what? I fell in love with it immediately. I don’t know that my brother or sister would have been ready for it, but after I spent a year there, my brother came and went to Princeton, just down the street. (I went to Rutgers.) I fell in love with New Jersey. I liked the idea of being close to New York without being in New York at that early age, and I went to school to get a degree in Spanish Theatre of the Golden Age and in finance, or economics.

I did that, but while I was doing it, I worked at a place called “Stuff Yer Face” which is a Stromboli and pizzeria in New Brunswick, and fell in love with the immediacy of a dinner rush and – kind of – my ability to actually react well under pressure and cook very quickly as well as making something delicious, so that’s really the start.

Food was obviously a big part of your family, as you’ve said, and you mentioned growing it as well, which brings me to my next question: The concept of “slow foods” and buying local and eating local is very popular right now. What are your thoughts on that?

Long before it was considered a “carbon footprint massacre” to ship things around the world, I have always been a fan of local produce, and for one reason only – a very selfish reason: it’s easier to make food taste delicious if it hasn’t had to travel very far.

Understanding seasonality is something that is born into Italian people’s mentality, when they’re in Italy. Americans have been able to eat asparagus on Christmas Eve for as long as I’ve been alive, and that’s one of the tragedies of successful commercial farming is that in fact it removes seasonality from things. It also removes the kind of high points that you can get when you eat something that is in season, so I’m all about eating seasonally, eating and buying locally, and supporting farmers whose names you actually know.

And what you’ll capture is: when you’re tasting something in Parma, on a Thursday afternoon in October, and it’s either right in the middle of, or right before or right after the grape harvest and you taste a plate of prosciutto – nothing more, just a simple plate of prosciutto, maybe with some bread on the side – you can smell in the food everything that’s going on around you in the atmosphere. You can smell the way the – kind of – wind smells, and the flavor of the localness, and if you can capture that in whatever part of the country that you’re at, then you have done a great job as a cook, and understanding and working with that kind of local flavor is something that is so unique.

What happened a lot of times in the fancy restaurant world of the last twenty years is that a luxury item became the item that everyone wanted to have, so they had caviar and they had fois gras and they had all this stuff that had really nothing to do with the place that you’re at. What I’m looking for – when I go somewhere traveling, what I’m looking for is something that is geo-specific, something that tastes like it could only be had here, and that – in Texas – could be any kind of barbecue; it could be any kind of crazy onion; it could be any kind of good chili. It could be made by anybody and it doesn’t have to be fancy, but what it has to do is represent that local flavor.

You’ve mentioned living in Spain as a teenager. Did that experience have anything to do with the decision to make your show On the Road Again: Spain [PBS, Fall 2008]?
Yes, well. When I started to talk about the producer – about us doing TV – and he said, “Well how about doing something on Spain which is an undiscovered jewel?”

And I said, “Well, that’s a great idea. I would love to go back to all my old stomping grounds,” and as it turns out, I was at a dinner party and Gwyneth [Paltrow] was at it and we’ve been friends for about ten years and I was talking to everyone at the table about this kind of new show idea that we were working on, and she demanded to be let in, and it was – I thought she was just being polite.

About two months later, when she heard it being talked about again by somebody else, and I wasn’t there, she called me and said – to make sure that I didn’t cut her out – and that kind of worked. So she also spent some time in high school as an exchange student in Talavera de la Reina, I think it was, outside of Madrid.

And so, the whole Spanish thing is to go back and see how it’s changed – I lived there when [Generalissimo] Franco just had died – and to see how it has come a thousand miles and become the forefront of molecular gastronomy, in addition to being still very much its traditional –kind of – old world self was an easy layup for me, and traveling around, I think it looks like we’re having fun, because in fact we are having fun.

Let’s talk more about Spain. What typifies the cuisine of Spain, as opposed to other Latin countries? We in America tend to think of Latin food as primarily Mexican.
I would say that when you talk about European food, it isn’t really Latin. I would say it’s Mediterranean at that point, and that kind of adds a component to it. Clearly like a lot of southern French cooking, like a lot of northern African cooking, and like all Italian cooking, it’s really based on the lipid of choice and olive oil, of course: number one.

So you have that kind of olive culture to it, which is, for a lot of people, something that tastes exotic, but for most people that I know, that’s something that almost says “home.” It says you’re where you should be, and the olive oil being kind of pervasive in all of the dishes, if there’s another flavor that I could put my palate on, there’s almost a smoky component to a lot of the things that they cook, and even some of the things that are raw. And they are not afraid to bring things to the edge of nearly burnt or very dark brown and letting that be kind of the extension of its ultimate caramelization.

And when you taste these things, and even – sometimes the ham and sometimes even the wine, or like a soup, a bean soup – it will have just lightly scorched on the bottom and on purpose. I’d say that there’s something almost smoky to it and whenever anything gets in touch with that magnificent paprika they call pimento, then that also becomes a real kind of intensive part of the flavor – kind of – portfolio.

You mentioned the term molecular gastronomy. Can you explain that a little bit?
Ah, well that is where food preparers, cooks, guys like Ferran Adria (perhaps the most famous member of the molecular gastronomist club) – they choose to provoke people by changing the texture or the appearance of food into something that it never was before while still trying to retain its essential flavor.

So you’ll have caviar that’s made of green apples, and it’ll have that same kind of pop-y texture, and what they’ll use to do that is some form of sea algae that they mix into a liquid and then they add a different kind of algae to the original substance – say, you took a puree of beans and you mix it with this one product and then you drop it into a water solution that has another product and it will sphere-ify the actual item – the whatever-you-dropped-in-there and then it will allow it to be stable for twenty-four to thirty-six hours. So then you’ll make like a little – some kind of a soup, and then you’ll put something that looks like a little glass ball in it, and in fact it tastes like another kind of soup. Or it tastes like salmon. Or it tastes like… whatever.

So they mess around with the basic tenet of very simple products, and yet they don’t – they do it in a way that will make you feel more intellectually stimulated by something that was already very physically stimulating.

And if they get lost it’s – sometimes it’s just like it’s too abstract. You know, there’s something that doesn’t have any connection, and because the food wasn’t very well prepared, or wasn’t very good when they got it raw, it’s wrong, but that doesn’t happen in all of these restaurants. Generally they’re pretty smart about it and it’s very…provocative…to eat in some of these restaurants. And it’s very much fun. But that said, sometimes it loses its way.

Fun seems to be an important element for all really successful chefs. Do you think fun is important?
Above all, fun should be important. And childishness is superior to adult-ness. And there’s a certain whimsical-ness that is what makes really good meals taste really good.

Sometimes you’ll sit down in the fanciest of restaurants and they have removed any of the fun from the experience in the name of creating high art, and that is when, suddenly, it’s no longer interesting to eat.

I like things to be fun. I like them to be unexpected if possible, but most importantly if the cooks are having fun and making things with really good natural products, odds are possibly with you that it will be delicious and fun to eat as well.

Do you think that a chef’s joy in what they’re making transfers to the end product, when a stranger is tasting it?
Absolutely. As in all art.

I mean, there are the members of the “tortured artist” school, and they work their world, and they do it, and they can still come up with great things, but certainly if something is loved and enjoyed by the person who is making it – you know – I mean, when you see a great rock ‘n’ roll band play, they are having fun on stage because they’re doing what they’re supposed to do and they really dig it. Like, REM on tour is one of the greatest bands you’ll ever see ’cause they’re great at it, and they know what they’re doing, and they have a blast and it’s that same way in food.

Comedians are often expected to be “funny” on command. Do you find yourself being “volunteered” to cook? Do you mind?
No, I’ll happily – at the drop of a hat, I’ll cook any time, all the time. Being funny’s a little different because you have to have an intellectual component to it. You could cook silently, and still make delicious food, even if you were not necessarily in the mood. The techniques of the purchase, and then the actual heat transfer is something I enjoy all the time.

That said, being funny’s a little harder.

True confessions time: Do you ever resort to having Chinese food delivered in a plain brown bag, after midnight?
Of course I do. My kids love delivery Chinese food. I wouldn’t want to cut them out of an essential part of New York Culture. I believe they had Chinese food here last night. (I wasn’t here, but I think they did, last night). It’s from the local Grand Szechuan. They make these soup dumplings that are to die for.

You have a wonderful television presence, but you don’t fit the conventional “handsome actor” television host model. How did someone like you become one of the coolest chefs on TV?
You know what? Being in front of a camera for a long time only makes you more like what you are naturally. You can’t really practice to become relaxed, it just eventually happens to you, but I think that my reliance on the traditions of the Italian table and the obviousness of it being merely my interpretation gave me a certain platform or a soapbox to talk from, and in the end, I didn’t really have to invent a character. I really just interpreted the great things about the food that I love. And that, I believe, is what makes it evident.

It doesn’t look like I’m trying to be a performer. I’m just doing what I do. And in that way, there’s no kind of strange colored glass that everyone looks at you through because you’re trying to do something that maybe is like trying to memorize someone else’s play, which is what actors do all the time.

I could never do that. I could never remember lines. But if you can give me the idea, I can kind of espouse what that is, and that’s really what I’ve done. I’ve taken really good Italian cooking and just kind of shown people where and how it came from. And my reliance during a show, if I ran out of things to kind of show you, I just talked about the history, which I already knew because I pay attention. I’m a student of that game.

In your career, you’ve been involved with the design of a specific kind of rolling pin. Is there any kitchen gadget that you’d love to re-engineer, or any that you think should be eliminated?
You know, tools are something that are very personal. There’s things in each one that I find I’m very excited about but there’s nothing I would say should be absolutely removed except for the syringe. I don’t think anyone needs a syringe. But that’s – you know – if you need to marinate your turkey and you want to do it that way then you’re going to put it in there, but other than that, I think that all tools are very personal, and once you discover a way to do it, everyone should use whatever they’re comfortable with. There should be no dogma.

Do you have a favorite tool that you use? Are you a knife guy or is it the wooden spoon for you?
I like… you know my favorite tool is, I have this – in my kitchen there’s a giant (well, not giant, it’s probably ten feet by four feet). It is a marble slab. We do our – we live our entire lives on top of this piece of marble. We do homework there, we make pasta there, we roll out dough, we – tonight, for example, there’s a bake sale. My kids are doing a bake sale tomorrow for something called the Imagination Campaign, and everything we’re gonna do from now – they’re just walking in right now, from school – until everyone goes to bed, we will live our lives on our marble counter.

Connect with Mario

Follow Mario Batali on Twitter (@MarioBatali) and check him out on Eataly NYC‘s #TakingRequests.

About the author: Melissa A. Bartell

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

The Bone Gatherer by Imelda Maguire

The Bone Gatherer (photo of woman in field)

(in memory of Seena Frost)

She set me to gathering bones,

the ones I’d lost;
set me to travelling
old roads,
and off the roads,
into wild spaces,

My basket began to fill,
and she set me to naming the bones,
feeling the places from which
they’d fallen,
marking the spot where they landed.

She set me to minding the bones,
sitting with them,
rubbing their ridges and spurs,
looking and watching and noticing…
This is the shape of that bone,
there is the mark of its pain.

She set me to seeing the whole,
to piecing the bones together,
the slow and gentle work.

As I sit now with the bones,
look at this strange harvest
of mine, I hear a humming,
a chant, low and gentle,
and know, she is with me now,
watching over the bones.


About the Author: Imelda Maguire

Imelda Maguire bioImelda Maguire has lived in all four provinces of Ireland, and now resides in Donegal, the far north-west of the country. Her poetry has been published widely in journals in Ireland, and she has read at many literary festivals and events throughout the country. A practicing counsellor, she facilitates creative and personal development activities with individuals and groups. Her first collection, Shout If You Want Me To Sing, was published in 2004 by Summer Palace Press. Her second, Serendipity, was published by Revival Press in 2015. They are both available by contacting her on Facebook or by email at

Ireland Professor of Poetry, Paula Meehan, says “There are many ways Imelda Maguire will lure us into her world…”, and poet Denise Blake recommends Serendipity as a “collection to cherish, (to) keep close at hand.”

Waspish by Melissa A. Bartell


The door was open, and his bags were waiting beside it. “Sweetie,” he said, “I’m sorry. I hate traveling this much. This is the last trip this quarter, and I’ll be home in a week.” He tried to kiss her, but she stiffened, and pulled away.

“Go,” she said, in a flat tone. “Just go.” Something flew past her face–a wasp–and she reached a hand up to brush the feeling aside. Waspish

They had been fighting ever since he arrived home from his most recent trip. Hong Kong, she thought, or Tokyo. She really couldn’t be bothered to remember any more, where he was at any given moment, and she was also tired of fighting, tired of trying to make him hear her. All weekend, when they could have been in bed making up for all the days he had been gone, she had been in a mood, sometimes crying, sometimes screaming.

“It’s my job,” he threw back at her. “You knew I’d have to travel when I accepted the promotion.”

The wasp followed a scent trail to the kitchen window, and alighted on the screen, but neither noticed.

“I thought I’d get to go with you. Working from home was supposed to give me that option.”

“None of the wives get to go,” he said. “It just isn’t done.”

“I’m not ‘one of the wives.’ I’m your wife. You wouldn’t even have this job if I hadn’t written your resume.”

He walked to the kitchen window and slammed it shut, trapping the wasp against the screen. It buzzed angrily and tried unsuccessfully to escape. The buzzing didn’t cease, but neither of them noticed. “Is there someone else?” he asked softly.

“No,” she said, and then. “I just don’t like the person I’ve become. I don’t like that I’m always at home, waiting for you to come back. I don’t like that you have an entire life separate from mine, and when I ask how work was, all you say is ‘busy’. What kind of an answer is that?”

“Work is busy,” he said. “It’s always busy. I don’t even take lunch most days. And when I go away, all I do is work. There’s no time for sight-seeing. You’d be bored.”

“I could sight-see without you, you know.” She opened her mouth to say more, then closed it, and stared at him mutely. He was silent as well, staring back.

The blast of the horn from the taxi waiting at the curb jolted them out of their silence, and masked the soft thud of the tiring wasp falling to the bottom of the casement as it struggled to break free. Wordlessly, he picked up his bags and left.

She watched the taxi drive away then sank down onto a chair. She hated these chairs. They were too large for her short frame, and the table was too tall, and it made her feel small and helpless. He hadn’t closed the door behind him; she hadn’t bothered to do it after he was gone.

Her cell phone was just in front of her. She should pick it up. Apologize for being a basket case. Apologize for not kissing him goodbye or wishing him a safe trip. But she didn’t. She made coffee, instead, and fetched a magazine from the living room.

Behind her back, the wasp kept up a relentless exploration of every corner of its prison, looking for a way out.

When it grew too dark to read she looked up, and realized she’d never turned a light on. Her coffee, poured and forgotten, had grown cold. She didn’t remember a single thing she’d read in the magazine.

Her cell phone rang at three in the morning, and she groggily answered it. “Hello?”

“Hi, Sweetie. My plane was late, and I just got in.” A pause. “I wasn’t going to wake you, but…”

“No–” she interrupted, sleep leaving her, “–I’m glad you did. I’m sorry I yelled at you.”

“I know.” He took a beat, and she could hear the faint static that represented the thousands of miles between them. “I’m sorry I had to go.”

“I hate when you’re away.” She sounded pathetic, even to herself.

“I know. I hate being away.” His voice was soft.

“Forgive me for being so bitchy?”

“Always. I love you.”

“I love you too.”

She hung up the phone, and went back to sleep, her arms holding his pillow close to her body.

Downstairs, trapped between the screen and glass of the kitchen window, the wasp died.

Image Credit: victorass88 / 123RF Stock Photo

About the author: Melissa A. Bartell

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

Sunday Sanctuary


“The ordinary arts we practice every day at home are of more importance to the soul than their simplicity might suggest.”
–Thomas Moore

If you were to travel back to 1976 and tell a little Debra she would one day choose to write a series of esssays about her love of Keeping House, she would think you’d lost your marbles. And the 1996 version of Debra – a harried young mother with two children under five – would appreciate a new dishwasher, but she could never have fathomed the best purchase of the fall of 2015 would have been a new vacuum cleaner.

Yet, here I am in 2016 writing a monthly love note  around the concept that caring for my home nourishes my daily life, feeds my soul, and yes, fuels creative life.

During the process of planning and plotting here at Modern Creative Life, we envisioned a series of intimate letters and essays on Sundays. There is Sunday Brunch from Melissa and Becca will chime in with her  Sunday Salon. And at first, I thought the idea of writing about the love of my vacuum cleaner or lamenting my nemesis dust would be silly.

Yet, to pretend that the status of my home environment doesn’t greatly impact my ability to create would be dishonest. Some people do their best work when times are tough and stressful; I do my best work when I feel safe. And, a clean home makes me feel both safe and loved.

My contribution to our Sunday conversations – Sunday Sanctuary – was born.

The concept of Keeping House isn’t new to me, yet it’s something I’ve always struggled with.  I’ve never been a naturally organized person, yet I am at my happiest and most productive when my surroundings are neat and tidy.

That is the conundrum for not just me, but many creative people I talk with. Creative genius leads to a messy environment and the messiness distracts us from creating.

To be honest, though, when I first read the Trixie Belden books as a child, I envied Trixie her chores.  Trixie was paid trixiebelden_secretofthemansion_deluxeedition$5 a week to help her Moms around the house. Of course, I also envied Trixie her adventures and her friends, but I also envied her having Helen Belden (aka Moms) living an example of how caring for home and hearth equaled love.

Deep down, my intuition was on to something.  Moms understood that the efficient running of a home meant that everyone was in a better position to pursue their dreams.

My mother never got on board with an allowance for chores.  She suggested I just keep my room clean, and I never could. My solution to a messy bedroom in my childhood was shoving stuff under the bed.  Frustrated with my lack of tidiness, she Did It Herself. When I had a house of my own at the tender age of 19, every aspect of caring for a home felt foreign: I didn’t know how to clean, cook, or do laundry.

As I approach my 48th birthday, I can tell you that my skills have come a long way. I get laundry, though I still don’t iron. I love spending time in the kitchen. I strive for a tidy home because it leads to productive days.

Maybe I connected to Trixie and Moms because deep down my soul understood that in order to be my best creative self, I needed to live in a clean and organized home so that I felt free, safe, and loved. It doesn’t come easy to me, but keeping my home neat and tidy means I have a sanctuary where I can create.

About the Author: Debra Smouse

debra_Smouse_mclDebra Smouse is a self-admitted Tarnished Southern Belle, life coach, and author of Create a Life You Love: Straightforward Wisdom for Creating the Life of Your Dreams. She resides in Dayton, Ohio where she practices the art of living with the Man of Her Dreams. When she’s not vacuuming her couch, you’ll find her reading or plotting when she can play her next round of golf.  She’s the Editor in Chief here at Modern Creative Life. Connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Plotting and Planning by Æverett

old farmhouse window

Great, empty house with old, wood floors, and open rooms. Unclaustrophobic. The realtor would not shut up about the damn kitchen – how it’d been upgraded not so long ago, or how beautifully painted the cabinets were. She’d grimaced and immediately decided to strip them to the wood. The powder blue had to go. It was too… bright. Brushed steel would be less garish.

If the realtor’d been male, she’d have offed the awful woman already. She’d insold farmhouse windowulted the old windows. Truth was, the old farmhouse windows were a draw. She’d keep them, but refurbish and weather seal them herself. Couldn’t have the neighbors hearing screams.

But it was the yard that sold her. A wide swath of lawn and room for a shed. Room for a Garden. A place to plant her flowers.

She’d been searching for that for ages.

That’s *exactly* what she’d been searching for.

“I know, the rest is a bit rough, but…”

“Sixty-thousand, right?”

The realtor’s face went blank with shock – then lit with glee. “Yes. I’m afraid the bank won’t go any lower than that.”

“I’ll write you a check whenever we get the paperwork handled.”

“Oh! Wonderful! Let me just make some calls!”

She gestured the other woman out the door as she pulled out her phone and started dialing. *Yes, dear god, woman! *Get Out!** She closed the door and was alone.

Yes… Living room, spacious and dark, neat bathroom, modern kitchen, two bedrooms upstairs… and down, space for the Guest Room. Planning would be key. Soundproofing and insulating. Resealing the floors. Carefully furnishing. And the Garden.

She smiled at the thought: A sprawling herb garden… chamomile and bee balm blooming… feverfew in one corner… monkshood in another. Foxglove and anise. She would enjoy plotting the layout, constructing the beds, cultivating the plants. She looked forward to those long afternoons in the dirt.

But first, those fucking blue cabinets had to go.

And first the Guest Room had to be ready.

* * *

The neighbors were impressed with the new resident’s work. She’d cleaned the exterior, sorted and trimmed the yard. And she was making steady progress at refurbishing the old windows – one at a time, by hand, and by herself.

Mr. Tammond said she was an example of female ingenuity and resourcefulness. He said she’d be a good role model for young girls.

Alone, she laughed about that – as she considered welding the bed frame together. She didn’t *like* any man, but she thought it was okay for him to keep breathing.

The neighbors were impressed with her work. With the clean front walk and fresh windows. With the newly green trim and sealed wood door.

To them, she was just a quiet do-it-yourselfer, who worked odd hours and loved to garden. They were shocked when the FBI started digging up bodies.

Aren’t they always?

In hindsight, they realized why she never had any of them over for dinner.

Image Copyright: pavelk / 123RF Stock Photo

About the Author: Æverett

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

A Night with Hathor by Pat West


Sky goddess whose long curved body
touches the earth only with the tips of toes
and fingers. Queen of the sun, sky,
music and inspiration, it was her starry belly,

men saw shining in the night
above them over Alexandria or Cairo.
Here in Portland, I lie on the wet grass,
the bright beam of a waxing

full moon illuminates the inky night
like a silk lantern held high. I ask
for some mystical mojo.
These days I can’t get over being old.

It’s new to me, that my life like a book
has to end. Is tonight any different
from all the others? I know an answer
is as likely as hearing the famous gap

in Nixon’s tapes, still I ask.
Why do I hesitate to leave this place,
even though certain
this is not where I’m meant to die.

My tribe. My people: all dead,
gone decades ago to heaven or hell
or just plain done with me,
barely in my dreams any more.

Tell me Hathor, if I give a few falsetto yips,
switch into maniacal laughter, string together
a chattering howl, can I call the pack—
my family group—back together again?

Where is my final home?
What about Seattle, Atascadero
or Philly?

In the clearing, I lay stones
so they point at each of the four directions.
Jade to the west, smoky quartz north,
hematite south, and to the east tiger’s eye.

About the Author: Pat West

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

Your New Moon Creations (Full Worm Moon)

When it comes to launching a new endeavor, some pieces go forward with a bang and others start small and grow. We began Modern Creative Life with a way to be of service to other creatives and build connection with our #NewMoonCreative Prompts with the promise to circle back around and see what was created.

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

Nothing says new beginnings like a brand new journal. #newmooncreative

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

Our next New Moon Creative is April 7th .

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

Why Not? by Sue Ann Gleason

art journal_500

She is the first in line. With her collage and splash painting standing precariously between her carry on and camera bag, she reaches into her purse for her ID and hands it to the ticket agent at the United Airlines counter.

“Are you the artist?” asks the agent.

Looking behind her for the artist and finding none, she turns back to the agent and sputters, “No, this was just an exercise. I was playing with watercolors.”

“You should frame it,” she says.

Getting through airport security is always an adventure. The woman ahead of her fills five plastic bins. Toiletries, shoes, and various electronic devices tumble and spill as fellow travelers grab their belongings and scramble to make their flights. Grabbing her carry on items from the conveyor belt she shuffles back into her shoes and glances at her poster boards to see how they fared. The collage is still intact but the watercolor piece looks a little tattered. The gentleman standing beside her asks, “Are you an artist?” “No,” she replies. “Just playing in paint.” He smiles and says, “I like it.”

The airport is especially busy this morning, people bumping and jostling their way through the crowd, all in a very big hurry to get to their next destination. At least she’s early. She likes having time to dally a bit before catching her plane. Sourdough bread. Yes, she can’t leave San Francisco without a loaf of that. The line isn’t too long, thankfully. The woman in front or her chooses a thick, creamy soup ladled into a hollowed out, crusty sourdough bowl. For a minute she contemplates the same but the thought of savoring bits and pieces of that loaf on the long flight home is far more appealing. She reaches for a little jar of blueberry jam. The young man behind the cash register asks, “Are you the artist?” She looks at her watercolor splash and thinks, why not

“Yes,” she replies.

About the Author: Sue Ann Gleason

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

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

You can connect with her in a few different places. Delicious freebies await you!
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Jump Dive Leap by A.R. Hadley

Clouds forming all around me
Afraid to be myself
Afraid to write
Want to take flight

JumpLeapDiveWriteInto the unknown
Where no one can find me
Can I find me
Can I see myself there
In obscurity
Is what I have worth sharing

Losing the ability to trust that mirror

Forming words out of fear
Is it good enough
Reminding myself
That it is for me
To live
To breathe
To tell
To testify
To be alive
It is for the positivity
It is for the energy
It can only be truly seen
By those with an open heart
By those free
By those unafraid
By those willing to leap

About the Author: A.R. Hadley

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

No more.

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

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

Connect on Twitter and Facebook.

Letter: Words Unspoken by Caroline Persson

Letter Writing

To my Love…

The first time I met you was five years ago. It wasn’t meant to be anything more than a cup of coffee between two friends; you were just passing through on your way to somewhere else on a road trip through my country.

Letter WritingThen I saw you, and my heart forgot how to beat as it recognized you from somewhere else. Another time. Another life. Or maybe from a dream.

You must have felt it, too, because that one cup of coffee lasted for a week.

One week of laughter, of time with me and my daughters. One week of seeing you sleep with my youngest girl on your chest during the afternoons, and that’s the moment that I knew that this was where we all belonged: right there, together, was where we would find home.

When the week had passed, you needed to leave and I understood. You had places to be, things to see. Three more weeks until you had to return to work.

So you left…

One week went by, then two…

And you came back. You didn’t visit all the places you’d planned to because you wanted to return to us.

I was given one more week of sleeping with my head on your chest and your arms around me. I was in heaven. We never even did anything really special – just family things. And yet it was the most amazing time for all four of us.

We both knew it couldn’t last, but we never said anything about it. Not out loud.

Time went by fast and you returned to your work and your studies across the sea. We kept contact. I made some things right and I made some things wrong but you always understood and I always tried not to show to much of what I felt. (May I add that I’m really bad at not showing my feelings?)

You always told me to not put my life on hold for you. You didn’t want a relationship, couldn’t have one. There was just no time, no possibility, no chance to make it work.

I always told you it was okay, even though somewhere inside of me I knew it wasn’t. But I accepted it: this is how things had to be.

More time passed by… You wanted me to come to you and I never even thought twice about it: I just got the ticket and left to follow my heart.

I thank the greater power every day for giving me that one more week with you.

You were working when I was there but I didn’t mind because we were together. I spent the days exploring the city, reading a book with a coffee in my hand and getting what I needed from the store to have dinner ready when you came home.

I was in my own paradise because I shared it with you, but still, the insecurity of the young woman I was lingered, always present just under the surface.

There were moments when that part got the best of me –  moments when I let silent tears fall while lying in your arms. Moments when you were sleeping and I told you I loved you, words I could never speak while you were awake.

I knew you couldn’t be with me. I knew it would break your heart to hurt me. But it made me love you even more.

I loved you for always ‘hurting’ people with the truth rather than making them happy with a lie, even when the person was me. I don’t think I have ever thanked you for that, maybe someday I will.

After I left, we stayed in touch the way people do these days: Facebook, email, the occasional phone call, but we still haven’t seen each other again.

Five years… You told me not to wait, you told me to find someone to love me because you couldn’t give me what I deserved… So I did; I found someone.

But what I did was wrong for all of us.

I entered the relationship with the thought that I would make it work just to show you I really could. I was childish in my actions, and for that I’m truly sorry.

When he asked me to marry him after just a short while I said yes, but then I wrote you an email asking you to stop me, telling you that all you needed to do was say you wanted me the way I want you and I wouldn’t go through with it.

Of course you didn’t. Instead, you wished me luck. But I could read between the lines. I could see that just as you’d hurt me, I had hurt you, too. By not stopping me, you tore my heart in two but worse still, I hurt us both because of stupidity.

I got married, and I stayed that way for a while but our contact never stopped and my love for you never faltered. In time even my own husband knew that my heart wasn’t in the relationship I had with him.

He asked me a few times about you, and I told him you were – are – my closest friend, and that I’ll never give you up.  He knew, because it was etched in my eyes and face, that I would never come to love him like I love you, and in time that knowledge is what killed our marriage.

Since then, I’ve been on my own, just me and my daughters who are growing up fast, but they remember you. They still talk about you. They always have. (My youngest one told me at one point to kick my ex-husband out and marry you instead. If only it were so easy!)

Every time they make a picture of us, you are always in the picture too. Every time they write our names, there’s always your name too. They haven’t seen you in five years, still you’re always in their hearts and minds.

Love like that is pure and hard to find.

My mother asked me a while ago why I don’t start dating again, and all I could do was to tell her the truth:  If it’s not you then I’d rather just be on my own. It’s not worth it. I’m doing really good by myself with my girls by my side. We are strong and happy. Why would I change that for someone I do not even know?
My heart and soul belong to you and you alone, and while I hold out the hope that we will, someday, be able to be together, if it should happen that you meet someone who fits better into your life, then I hope you will find the greatest possible love with them.

How strong is my love for you? I love you enough to wish you love and laughter and children of your own. I love you enough to live my life without you if it is what I have to do.

But most of all, I just love you.

Image Copyright: dedivan1923 / 123RF Stock Photo

About the Author: Caroline Persson

Caroline PerssonCaroline Persson is the founder of Perfect Balance. She lives in Osby, Sweden with her two daughters, where she enjoys reading, writing, and family silliness, all punctuated by cups of coffee. Find out more about her on her website: Perfect Balance, or on Facebook.