Clouds by John Hulme

Clouds-185947 by John Hulme

Clouds-185947 by John Hulme

I know you, I found myself thinking.  I have stood beneath you before.

At the very least, I have stood beneath your spirit, packaged in different billow from a long-forgotten voyage across the invisible ocean roads.


That was when it struck me –

I really don’t see the same clouds everybody else does.

I don’t see a cloud that looks like a face… or a dinosaur… or a teapot.


Clouds-190222 by John Hulme


Sure, they conjure their fair share of reflections, positioned as their world is in that upside down place above our own.

There are phantoms here, to be sure –

the ghosts of distant mountain ranges set afloat,

or the crazy nocturnal barbecue where some careless giant has left the heater on and toasted a layer of fluff into sunset red.


But generally, I do not see clouds as visions of something else.


When I find myself transfixed in the shadow of some leviathan traveler, reaching out with what’s left of my heart to connect somehow with the presence woven behind moonlit billow…

it is what it is.


It won’t promise a tour of distant galaxies by looking any more like a starship.

It won’t promise a monstrous ride over the coast by looking any more like a floating plesiosaur.


It simply is…

something that calls to me from that thrilling place in our memory where something else has always lived.

Clouds-200248 by John Hulme

About the author, John Hulme

John HulmeJohn Hulme is a British writer from the Wirral, a small peninsula near Liverpool in the North of England. Trained in journalism (in which he has a masters degree), John’s first love was storytelling, trying to make sense of the world around him using his offbeat imagination. Since the death of his mother in 2010, John’s work has grown increasingly personal, and has become heavily influenced by Christian mysticism. This has led to the publication of two poetry books, Fragments of the Awesome (2013) and The Wings of Reborn Eagles (2015). A mix of open mike performances, speaking engagements and local community radio appearances has opened up new avenues which John is now eager to pursue. He is hoping to go on a kind of busking road trip fairly soon, provisionally titled Writer seeks gig, being John.  Find out more about John on Facebook.

Instrumental: Nature Walks as Ritual in Spring by Bella Cirovic

When the flowers begin to bloom, I happily partake in one of my favorite Springtime rituals: a nature walk. The air feels so fresh while the sun casts a perfect temperature and glow on all the pretty buds that line my path. What a treat for my eyes after a long, dreary winter. I never tire of the scenery.

I fill my calendar with day trips to the farmer’s markets, coffee shops, and museums in and around my town. Seeing like minded people on the streets with their sunglasses on, some walking their dogs, others running with their earbuds in makes me feel like I belong to a family – a community of sun cravers getting their daily fix.

Just before the blooms hit their peak, I know it’s time to tend my own garden. I begin by clipping away anything old and dead. I then crouch down on my knees and start pulling weeds, creating space for leaves and roots to spread. The dirt gets a turn and a spread of new soil before anything gets planted. It’s so fun to plan what vegetables I’ll choose for our small garden. It’s even more fun to collect the bounty at the end of the summer.

My wardrobe colors don’t change much, but I do stray from my all black routine to include some light gray, navy blue, and white clothing. I pull out my collection of nude lip glosses and pack away everyone’s winter boots. The sun has come out to stay. The colors are spectacular. My being feels restored.

About the Author: Bella Cirovic

Bella Cirovic BioBella Cirovic is a photographer and writer who lives with her husband and daughter in the suburbs outside of NYC. She writes on the subjects of self care, body love and nourishment, crystals, essential oils, and family life. Catch up with Bella at her blog: She Told Stories

Sunday Salon: Sands of Time

Sunday Salon with Becca Rowan


“Lately I’ve been hearing a whispered admonition in my ear as I go about my business. Or perhaps admonition isn’t quite right. It seems more of a quiet, urgent instruction issued from a place in the deep anterior that holds within it everything I still need to know… Be careful, the voice says.” ~from Hourglass, by Dani Shapiro

Hourglass, Dani Shapiro’s elegant new memoir about her marriage, arrived in my mailbox early last week. The timing was perfect – my own wedding anniversary is tomorrow, and reading this book provoked much thought about the nature of long term relationships, the role of memory, and how our expectations change.

The book’s structure mirrors thought, so it feels as if we’re inside Shapiro’s head as her thoughts bounce back and forth between the present and various memories of her 17 year marriage to film-maker Michael Maren (whom she refers to only as M. throughout that book). She quotes from her own journals, the ones written on their honeymoon and in the early days of the marriage. She recalls events in their lives that illustrate the complexity and steadfastness of their relationship. She interjects pertinent quotes from writers and philosophers that illustrate her thinking, like this one from philosopher William James that stands alone in the middle of a page: “The constitutional disease from which I suffer is what the Germans call Zerrissenheit, or torn-to-pieces-hood. The days are broken in pure zig-zag and interruption.”

Looking back over the course of a long-term marriage – and mine spans 41 years tomorrow – it does seem marked by thousands of zig-zags and interruptions, any of which could be altered and the course of life changed forever. What if – we had moved from our old neighborhood a long time ago? What if we had had more children? What if one of us had taken a different job?

But it’s useless to dwell in the land of might-have-been. What concerns me at this stage of the game is the what-will-be. At 61, there isn’t nearly as much of it left as there once was. It’s important to handle it carefully and thoughtfully. Shapiro seems to be coming to that conclusion herself. That whispered admonition she writes about, the one that hold within it everything she needs to know. “Be careful,” it says.

“I’ve become convinced that our lives are shaped less by the mistakes we make than when we make them,” she writes. “There is less elasticity now. Less time to bounce back. And so I heed the urgent whisper and move with greater and greater deliberation. I hold my life with M. carefully in my hands like the faience pottery we brought back from our honeymoon long ago. We are delicate. We are beautiful. We are not new. We must be handled with care.”

After 41 years, a marriage is, in many ways, a sturdy old thing, more like a strong wood box than a delicate piece of pottery. But lately I too feel that whispered admonition. Be careful. I want to shield our time together from outside intrusion. I want to protect us from the stumbles and falls that would have quickly healed in our younger selves, but that could be disastrous at this stage of life. I want to hoard every moment of tenderness and passion against the time when one of us might be left alone.

Time. Memory. Like sand shifting through the narrow passage of an hourglass, piling at the bottom of the glass. I look back and see the kaleidoscope of years: the white wedding dress, the chapel filled with people, countless dinners cooked, holding hands on the sofa watching endless television programs, pushing a stroller and walking our dog, being  separated with traveling for work and long days and nights alone. One parent dead, then two, then all four, gone. The loneliness of a child moved far away, the joy of a grandchild’s arms around your neck.

Four decades of marriage. A lot of sand in the depth of that hourglass.

Time to turn it over now, let the new memories begin.


About the Author: Becca Rowan

becca_rowan_bio_may2016Becca Rowan lives in Northville, Michigan with her husband and their two dogs. She is the author of Life in General, a book of personal and inspirational essays about the ways women navigate the passage into midlife. She is also a musician, and performs as a pianist and as a member of Classical Bells, a professional handbell ensemble. If she’s not writing or playing music you’ll likely find her out walking with the dogs or curled up on the couch reading with a cup of coffee (or glass of wine) close at hand. She loves to connect with readers at her blog, or on Facebook, Twitter, or Goodreads.

If You Step on Ants by Pat West

it will rain comes to mind
on my walk this morning.
Such odd things people believe.
Knocking on wood to avoid
tempting fate. Saying bless you
when someone sneezes
because the heart comes close to stopping.

They seek truth in Tarot cards
or expect answers from shamans
about good and evil spirits.

Some are certain guardian angels
protect them, others think life insurance
will cover everything.

Myself, I’ll marry in black
rather than white, break a mirror
on purpose, give a witch a lock of my hair,
lap up dragon’s blood.
I point at the rainbow and shout, So What!

About the Author: Pat West


Pat Phillips West lives in Olympia, WA. A Pushcart and Best of the Net nominee, her work has appeared in Haunted Waters Press, Persimmon Tree, VoiceCatcher, San Pedro River Review, Slipstream, Gold Man Review and elsewhere.

Studio Tour: Daryl Wood Gerber

What is an office? Is it a physical place or a location in one’s mind?

I have an official office in my home and—surprise!—I often write in it. It’s a confined space and keeps me focused. I post things on the walls above my computer that help keep me in the story—maps or notes. It looks a bit chaotic, but it’s not. I know where everything is.

I also have a kitchen office where I do most of the “business” side of my career. Emails, text messages, research, mailings, etc.  I have lists upon lists of to-do chores. I’m not going to share that photo with you. It’s just too messy to behold! Here’s a peek at my book covers, though:

I have an office “outside” in my backyard. I visit when I need to drink in fresh air, admire nature, and listen to my inner thoughts. Occasionally I type!

Roses are in bloom right now. I adore roses! When we lived in Charlotte, NC  (we moved a lot for my husband’s career and finally resettled in Los Angeles, where we first met), I had dozens of roses. They took so much tending that I wasn’t able to write as much. Nowadays just a few bushes seems to satisfy my hunger for tending and tweaking.

There are times when I have an “unofficial” office at Starbuck’s. I go there after I drop my adorable goldendoole Sparky at the groomer’s because the traffic is so clogged (so early in the morning) that I take an hour to simply write while the rest of the world moves past me.

I get some great ideas for characters at Starbuck’s. I also eavesdrop on conversations sometimes, just to hear rhythms of dialogue. I like a decaf café latte. One sugar. I usually bring something sweet that I’ve baked so it’s a real treat time!  [I’m a “foodie” mystery writer; I have to bake!]

Sparky likes to join me in the official office, so he has his “office” pillow and camps out there. He knows the exact moment I’m heading there—when I pour a cup of coffee and grab my computer and a treat for him. Off he runs. So cute! So smart!

Right outside the office is a little nook filled with pretty flowers. When we bought our house in Los Angeles, there was one ugly palm tree in the nook. Yuk!  It took a while, but we were able to create a truly meditative little space. I love to open the door and listen to the birds chirping and the wind chimes tinkling.

What I find difficult when I enter the office is all the other stuff that I have to “do.”

Yes, I’m supposed to write, but oftentimes I’m preparing for a release and I have release party gifts on my couch. I donate baskets to a few charities, too, so I have those baskets “in progress.” Plus I do regular giveaways on my Facebook Author page and on Mystery Lovers Kitchen, where I blog with other foodie-loving mystery authors. Argh.

Looking at the pile of goodies is enough to keep me from ever feeling creative, but PR happens to be part and parcel of selling books. So I remind myself to breathe.

What truly centers me when I enter the official office are all the photos of family on the walls. Everyone in my family has been so supportive of my career. I don’t know what I would do without them. I’m very blessed.

Savor the mystery!

About the Author: Daryl Wood Gerber

Agatha Award-winning and nationally bestselling author DARYL WOOD GERBER ventures into the world of suspense again with her second stand-alone novel, DAY OF SECRETS. Daryl writes the bestselling Cookbook Nook Mysteries and will soon debut the new French Bistro Mysteries. As Avery Aames, she pens the bestselling Cheese Shop Mysteries.

Fun tidbit: as an actress, Daryl appeared in “Murder, She Wrote.” She loves to read and cook, and she has a frisky Goldendoodle named Sparky who keeps her in line!

Connect with Daryl (and her alter ego Avery):  FacebookInstagram | Pinterest  Daryl on TwitterAvery on Twitter

Through the Lens: Loving Your Body Through Daily Creativity with Nuchtchas


Through the Lens

Daily Creativity is a routine that I developed years ago, to create something everyday, to only spend a day on it, and share it online. This was something I needed in my life, I was too distracted by everyday life and work pressures and my mood was suffering from the lack of my individual creativity. I was nudged in this direction from my partner, who could see from the outside how my mood was directly linked to creating.

I started the challenge as a Lent observance, for every day of Lent I would create. It was so positive that I continued it after. I am only truly strict for every single day in Lent, but am creating a lot more over the year as a result. Plus I am spending less time on each piece and procrastinating and planning a lot less too, the end result is more art, and a happier disposition. This year marks the seventh year of this project.

Creating something every day started a change in me. It allowed me to let go and to use my art as a form of self reflection and introspection. Like a diary or a journal my pieces would reflect things I was thinking about or feeling on that given day. This activity calms me. It stops me from thinking about work, my clients, the dishes in the sink, the bills that have to be paid, the laundry, or any of the other millions of things that come to my mind at any given moment. I sit down, it is me and my canvas. I let the world slip away and concentrate first on the line I’m drawing, then the shape, and then the full composition. Through the process I put up walls in my mind so I can become hyper focused on this one thing. In the end, I feel relaxed, calm, and accomplished.

Due to this regime I have been able to explore things within myself, and one of the big themes has resulted in my Love Your Body series. A series of pieces that celebrate the human form. I’m a fat woman, and many of my subjects are fat women. I practice fat acceptance through my art and while painting these figures I have been able to accept my own body and begun to love it. Coming to terms with a body society is focused on hating is a radical thing and it has improved other areas of my life. I’m more grounded, and focused on what is good for me, not what is expected of me. I’m happier, and I’m healthier. I take care of my body instead of punish it. I celebrate myself instead of hide.

Through my art I have also inspired others to come to terms with their body. My Love Your Body series is one of my top selling series. I have had people buy originals and prints and often the buyers share their stories with me and what the pieces mean to them. Stories of empowerment and self acceptance, accepting themselves and others. When I think about how some of my pieces are hung in living spaces of these people, inspiring them every day, I know my work has transcended my own experience and what it means to me.


I use many mediums when creating art, and sometimes I have different incarnations. The image above was created by painting with my iPad using my favorite painting program, ArtRage. This was a daily piece that I then used as inspiration for an art show collection later. The piece below is an oil painting I created later from the original study. I rarely use representational color for my figures and use color to dictate light, shadow, mood, and emotion.




This piece was painted using watercolors. Using the colors of a sunset to capture the feeling of standing in the wind at the edge of a beach. That’s what it felt like to me, but what the viewer sees will likely depend on their own experiences.


These next two pieces remind me of each other, but I used different models for them. The first was done with pastels and the second with graphite pencils. Each feels similar in the way they seem to be embracing themselves so content they are smiling. A
feeling I think we all want.



This year I started a new technique, I draw all the angles of a form in pencil and then go over it closely in ink with a brush pen. I like the simplistic look to it and fluid feel of the line. I’m still exploring the technique but this lets me find the movement and curves of a form’s line without getting too caught up in the detail of every spot of light and shadow.


Lastly, this watercolor painting was modeled after a centerfold photo shoot Cass Elliot did in the 70s. It’s inspiration to me; it’s a bit of role modeling. I want to be this celebratory of myself. The original photo is a bit of a lie, as Cass struggled with her self image, and we all do. You don’t get to a point in your life where you love yourself and that is it. It is a daily struggle, every day you must embrace who you are. Every day I can create is a day I get closer to that.


About the Author: Nuchtchas

RE - NuchtchasNuchtchas is an artist from NY, now living in Canada. Graphic Artist by day working in both web and print medium she finds fulfillment in creating fine art and podcasting. You can find more about her at