Poster Children of the New Apocalypse by Julie Terrill

Through the Lens

I placed some bills into an open guitar case and sat down on the pavement of Knoxville’s Gay Street to listen to a group of street musicians.

Beautiful chaos

I enjoyed the conversation amongst fellow creatives as we shared a quart of luscious lemon gelato that I had purchased a few doors down.  I asked the name of their group, they shrugged and quickly decided upon Poster Children of the New Apocalypse.

Teresa, on the fiddle, and Rocky, playing the washboard, were the most talkative in the group and most open to my presence and my camera. While we talked I occasionally took photos and paused to show them the images.


Soon Nomad, the guitar player, asked for a portrait. He was pleased to have a photo for his family to see and know that he is well, happy and playing his music.


I spoke at length with Rocky, who possesses a great deal of what I refer to as “uncommon” sense. She spoke of her faith that tomorrow will be safe; she will eat and will find a place not just to lay her head but to actually sleep. Two years ago she made a conscious decision to trade a traditional lifestyle for one of creativity and exploration.

“There are a lot of us,” stated Rocky, “that don’t think normal society is what is best for us. I have played with amazingly talented musicians and seen every corner of the country. This never would have happened if I stayed where I was.”


At home while editing the day’s images, I noted the reflections of onlookers.  Many of them kept a distance, averted their gaze, or stood watching with closed-off body language. Somehow I had not noticed them in the moment. I can only hope that those casual observers recognized the creative joy and beauty that was in their presence.

About the Author: Julie Terrill


Julie Terrill is a photographer and writer with a passion for travel. For ten years, she’s told stories of empowerment through the lens of her camera in an array of unique landscapes, environments, and projects – from a shelter for children rescued from trafficking in Thailand to Faces of Courage, complimentary portrait sessions she offers to cancer patients in her community. She is a photographer and facilitator at Beautiful You and Soul Restoration retreats.

Connect with her at:

Nourishing the Soul by Kelli May-Krenz

Instrumental_Care of Creative Soul

Remember those pieces of YOU that you loved about yourself when you were little? Remember how it felt when you woke in the morning? Before real life and responsibility hit and suddenly some of those closest dearest morning loves fell by the wayside.

By nourishing ourselves we can climb over this mountain of having lost those childhood loves.

Today let’s remember a few things we would love to feel again when we wake up. Joy for the birds singing – so much Webthat we take our coffee, tea, water and sit outside for ten minutes and just listen and sip. Music- yes, music makes us feel happy and alive. Giving the spirit a pick me up and mentally escaping to a happy place.

Perhaps, we create a ten minute music morning with the soul stirring stuff that makes us feel like we can (and will) do anything.

Allow yourself to be empowered by your soulful stirrings. They matter the most. No more dusting them away with I am too busy, I simply have no time for me. Let’s be mindful and practice finding a few lost loves that helped us be our best in the past.

Practicing a daily new routine starting with ten minutes will start your mind dancing in a new direction.

Feel your soul.

Affirmations telling yourself that you deserve this are so important. So perhaps you being with telling yourself, “I deserve these ten minutes. I need these ten minutes. I will give myself this gift.”

Remembering how to love yourself and practicing is the only way to true happy. We all deserve true pure happy. Each of us has our own path but, I believe we all have the path to goodness, grace and happiness.

Lots of memories just lay under the surface waiting to be noticed again let’s find those most happy to us and reclaim them.

I know this journey of nourishing might seem new to some of you. I also know that just showing up and doing nothing will never feed your spirit. I love affirmations around my studio and home that help me remember good stuff. I have designed a page of affirmations for you to print out and trim out and scatter around your sacred space.

Affirmations with practicing them work. I believe I can, so I will.


While we are working on our being kinder and more loving to ourselves bad memories or feeling might pop up. I suggest you write these down and practice on letting these go. The old patterns in your life that no longer serve you are best left in the past. Write them down and replace them with the opposite feeling.

Practicing this climb to creating more self love in your life will change your days so very much. You will notice how your approach to hard days gets better. Why? Because you are taking care of you. It is all about love. Starting with loving YOU!

I believe this is true as I live this life everyday doing these very things.

Gratefully spilling…

About the Author: Kelli May-Krenz

Kelli May-Krenz BioKelli May-Krenz is an award-winning graphic designer and illustrator with more than 20 years’ experience. Her ability to capture, express and visually communicate the needs and visions of her clients has produced designs and promotional materials for everything from independent boutiques to Fortune 500 companies.

Her new stationery line, Pearl Button’s World, recently debuted at the National Stationery Show – where two of her designs were selected as finalist for Best in Show – and she has been featured in an array of print publications including Somerset Studio, Art Journaling, Somerset Life, Somerset Memories, Somerset Apprentice, Room to Create and Uppercase magazine.

Connect with Kelly on Facebook and Instagram.

Studio Tour: Kerstin Martin

Modern Creative Life Presents Studio Tours

When I started my own business 18 months ago I decided to rent an external office space. As a web designer I can work from anywhere but I wanted a dedicated professional location, it made me feel like I had a ‘proper’ job and eased the transition from decades of corporate life to self employment. I think mostly I was just worried that I would live in my pajamas all day and never leave the house! However, one year into running a successful and growing business I realized that I was ready to move into a home office and allocate the rent money elsewhere (like our mortgage). Best decision I made! While I miss some of the interaction with my former business community, which I still visit, I adore working from home.

I converted our third bedroom, which is quite small, into a cozy office den and I love it. I grew up in a 1.5 bedroom apartment with my mom and two siblings and because of this and my tendency to compromise space for location I am used to making the most out of a small room. My studio is in many ways a perfect reflection of who I am and it is filled with many personal items from my family and my travels. I love lighting candles in here and listening to my favorite playlists on Spotify or my preferred London radio station (thank you Internet!). Having easy access to my kitchen is another perk, now I can make myself a coffee or a healthy snack at any time. In the summers you can often find me doing some al fresco working on the balcony. Another plus is being able to go for spontaneous lunches or walks with my husband on those days when he also works from home. He has is own office corner in our guest room and I treasure being able to spend more time with him.

Having never been much of a 9-5 person I love how working from home allows me to find and honor my own rhythm, which in turn has made me more efficient and happier. Oh, and I also got myself an office assistant! He still needs a bit of training though, I think 🙂


How we get work done around here!


My view when I work. I always keep fresh flowers on my desk. There are many reminders of my mom here, who passed away unexpectedly last November: I made the turquoise penholder at a workshop I attended with her when she visited me in Massachusetts, the horseshoe and picture on the right used to hang on her kitchen wall, we bought the colorful cup at our favorite shop in London. My dad painted the picture in the red frame and my sister made the gold frame for me which holds a couple of polaroids from the tulip fields in Skagit County, taken during one of my mom’s visits. The blue glass paperweight is a present from my husband from a romantic weekend in Venice, Italy, about ten years ago. Office assistant on the right, hard at work 🙂


I love this diary with its weekly overview on the left and room for notes on the right. I try to keep my desk as clutter-free as possible.


My summer studio! Another thing I love about working from home is moving my office to the balcony when the weather gets nice. Even here I am surrounded by memories of my mom because creating a little oasis on our balconies was ‘our thing.’ When she visited she always sat in the chair to the right 🙂


The wall behind me when I’m working. I took the photo on the left at my favorite London market, the dandelion on the right during a walk with my mom in my hometown of Cologne in Germany. My mom gave me the cow about 15 years ago. The box in the middle is from her apartment, she bought that at the same London which we both loved visiting. The smaller box to the right is also from London, the three wooden letters on top of the box say YES and are a present from my friend Madelyn Mulvaney.


When I worked in corporate offices I never liked it when my desk was pushed against the wall because I don’t like sitting with my back to the open room. I need open room in front of me, ideally next to a window. Hence this configuration of my tiny space. My studio tells many stories: wall art to the left comes from my mom’s apartment. Antique wooden dresser from Bath, England, where I was living in a tiny apartment. Wooden box and old scale in front of my desk from Columbia Road Market in London. Office chair from Amherst College where I was the academic coordinator for the German department. I found this chair from the 1970s in their storage and I love it, it’s very comfortable. Sid Dickins tile on the wall to the right, a present from a close friend in Vancouver. And, of course, my office assistant being his usual efficient self! 🙂

About the Author: Kerstin Martin

kerstinmartinbioKerstin Martin is a Blogger and Squarespace Web Designer who specializes in creating stylish and affordable websites for small businesses and solopreneurs.

Originally from Germany she now lives in the beautiful Pacific Northwest with her American husband and fluffy grey cat. She muses about life’s inner and outer journeys on her blog at

Sunday Sanctuary: Lush Summer Dreams


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sixty. One. Holes.

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

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

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

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

“So, what do you got?”

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

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

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

An hour later, they leave.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About the Author: Debra Smouse

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

The Language of Loss by Sue Ann Gleason

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

About the Author: Sue Ann Gleason

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

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

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

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

GOD pic

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

Splinter. Crack. Splice.

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

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

The unreasonableness of it all became the reason.

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

Not clear, but clear. Him. An actor.

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

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

I knew why.

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

I. Stopped. Writing.

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


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

It became the easy route.

The familiar.

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

Just. For. Me.

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

I discovered the me I had forgotten.

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


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

I became me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

A reason.

I need to write.

I need to share.

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

It could no longer be hidden beneath my forgotten.

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

I’m writing.

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

I would have said no.

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

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




I rediscovered me.

About the Author: A.R. Hadley

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

No more.

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

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

Connect on Twitter and Facebook.

A Most Important Maker by Lawrence Davanzo

Davanzo Lead Photo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

davanzo Photo 1

Oyster Larvae in a salt water bath

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

davanzo Photo 2

Young oysters attached to recycled shells in net bags

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

Davanzo Photo 3

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

Davanzo Photo 4

Workers harvesting oysters

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

About the Photographer: Lawrence Davanzo

lawrence_davanzo_bioLawrence Davanzo is a Santa Barbara-based photographer.

You can see more of his work at

Your New Moon Creative (Full Strawberry Moon)

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

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

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

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


Movement (by Jeannie Croope):



Our next New Moon Creative is July 4th

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

Dear Stranger: About That Last Statement


Dear Strange Man,

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

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

“So, you’re reading, huh?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Woman at the Restaurant reading 15th Affair

About the Author: Debra Smouse

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


Studio Tour: Bernie Brown – Thimblelina & Me

Modern Creative Life Presents Studio Tours

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


My antique Viking. Long may she reign.


Bernie Scissorhands.


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


Iron’s plain and fancy.


This darling model would make any dress look good.


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

About the Author: Bernie Brown

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