Sunday Salon: The Time for Art


“In these relentlessly dark and riven times, I find myself beset by a near ravenous hunger for beauty.” ~Claire Messud

It happens when I hear the extraordinarily poignant melody of a Chopin Nocturne, when I gaze on the placid hues of a Monet watercolor, when I read the lines of a Mary Oliver poem. For those moments in time, my soul expands, my spirit quietens, my heart calms its racing, and I feel reassured.

In our modern world it’s so easy to discount the importance of Art. There are such huge divisions among people, there is massive weaponry being tested and touted, there are innocent children being killed in school and separated from their families by virtue of nationality alone. We are taking sides against one another, brother against brother, mother against daughter, husband against wife. There is so much work to be done, even to begin the long process of bending history toward justice, as Martin Luther King promises us will occur.

What use is a song, a painting, a poem in the face of so much outrage? Who feels like dancing or singing anyway? Isn’t it just easier to go to work, do your job, come home and settle on the couch watching TV news or scrolling your Twitter feed for the latest outrage? Or try and escape from it all by numbing yourself with food or alcohol or other destructive behaviors?

We have been trained to believe that if something isn’t immediately useful and purposeful, its benefits cannot be measured, evaluated, calculated, and monetized, then it’s not worthy. It’s dispensable. We can get along without it. But if we accept this, I fear we risk losing sight of what makes us human.

I believe the quality of life is not measured by material goods or celebrity or social media status. It is a rich and sensitive mind, a giving heart, and meaningful human relationships that feed our souls and lead to the truest fulfillment we’ll find in this lifetime.  Art is a bridge between the chaos of the modern world and the spiritual refreshment we so desperately need.

As difficult as it may be to scientifically analyze the benefits of art on a personal or societal level, there is no doubt in my mind that Art has the power to heal, to reframe thinking and to encourage justice. We learn compassion for others when their circumstances come alive in stories. We see the beauty of nature in paintings on canvas. We hear emotion come to life through music. We marvel at the fortitude these artists demonstrated, making art in the face of terrible trouble. Art lifts us up to possibility, to the creation of beauty within our own spheres. It encourages quiet and thoughtfulness. It makes us take stock and think.

Because truthfully, every nation at some time in its history has faced a reckoning similar to the one we’re facing now. Where will we stand – on the side of truth and honor and service? Or on the other side.

And what will we do with our anxious minds and spirits while we make that decision? We will illuminate and observe and perform. Our soul cries out for it, our hearts ache for it.

Novelist Claire Messud writes: “Art has the power to alter our interior selves, and in so doing to inspire, exhilarate, provoke, connect, and rouse us. As we are changed, our souls are awakened to possibility – immeasurable, yes, and potentially infinite.”

So go and make some Art. Create it or soak it up in silence. Lift your voice in song, spin your body in a dance. Awaken your soul to possibility, immeasurable and infinite.

You will be changed. And so will the world.


About the Author: Becca Rowan

becca_rowan_bio_may2016Becca Rowan lives in Northville, Michigan with her husband and their Shih Tzu puppy Lacey Li. She is the author of Life in General, and Life Goes On, collections 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 playing with the puppy 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.

The Aurorean Morning Mist by Bobbi Sinha-Morey

I never dreamed I’d see
the parasol lady again who
would only appear in the
aurorean morning mist to
take me away from my
stressful reality, from the
emotional burdens of my life.
This time, a wrap about my
shoulders, I went after her,
eager to escape the pallor of
my unwanted life; and, in
the orphic wind, she led me
to a world I never thought
I’d be in. An elegant two story
house, a wide patio set up for
a party decked out with fine
china and white tablecloths,
long stem glasses with honey
apple wine. Paper lanterns
with candles to illumine the
walkway inside each one of
them. And a little girl in a blue
dress seemed to fill the lilac
shadow with her own light
wherein she quietly played.
The splendor, the simple
beauty reminded me of my
favorite story by Virginia
Woolf, the coming summer
night like a perfection of
thought. This house, these
gardens, for me to wander
in as I please. A breakfast
kept for me until I choose
to arise, with puff pastry as
a daily repast, stitching
booklets of verse that fit so
petitely in the palm of your
hand. A new family I can
cling to; their gaiety, their
genuine smiles that just stick.
I’ll never go back to what I
used to be.

About the Author: Bobbi Sinha-Morey

Bobbi Sinha-Morey’s poetry can be see in a variety of places such as Plainsongs, Pirene’s Fountain, The Wayfarer, Red Weather, Oasis Journal 2016, Helix Magazine, and Uppagus. Her books of poetry are available at, and her work has been nominated for Best of the Net. She loves taking walks on the beach with her husband.

Sunday Sensations: Electricity and Light Combine

Slipping fingers trace each slick page. This happens so rarely these days. Paper, colors, ink, form and function mix into one solid mass. Light and electricity combined these atoms and, as a result, I’m holding these photos of you.

Printing seems obsolete. Even grandmas pull out their phones to show you pictures of their grandchildren. Brightness, smoothness, simulated on the screen.

And yet, there’s something about holding this after-image of you that invokes so much more than scrolling through my phone. Printing photos isn’t obsolete, it’s absolute.

You were here.
You were real.
You now aren’t.

It doesn’t contain your laugh or your smell, but the photo invokes both in my memory. Glossy, fragile, frozen you stand there. How does a small rectangle have the power to both pierce and heal me?

There are books of these photos in a box in my parent’s storage. Frozen snippets of my childhood awaiting reclamation. There are notebooks full of silver nitrate from my grandmother’s journies. Hand-scrawled names and places that are foreign to me. There are shoeboxes full of missing tooth grins, proud smiles, and “firsts” in our closet.

Each page is imbued with laughter, sorrow, pain, and joy.

There’s echoes of the ones who have moved on to their permanent location. There’s sighs that stir forgotten memories. There’s love.

My fingertips trace the only piece of you I have left. Tears form despite my best efforts. I slip into a moment where the world is only me and my loss. Just for a moment, I let myself feel the missing you feeling that hangs in the back of my mind.

I put the photo in a place of prominence. Here I raise my Ebenezer, grateful for the help that gets me through. The help you left behind. The help that is your love.

I think it’s time to print some more photos.

About the author: Tabitha Grace Challis

Tabitha Grace ChallisTabitha is a social media strategist, writer, blogger, and professional geek. Among her published works are the children’s books Jack the Kitten is Very Brave and Machu the Cat is Very Hungry, both published under the name Tabitha Grace Smith. A California girl (always and forever) she now lives in Maryland with her husband, son, and a collection of cats, dogs, and chickens. Find out more about her on her Amazon author page or follow her on Twitter: @Tabz.

Create an Escape in Your Home with Decor by Laura Pursley

Escape…. We all need to be able to escape, to relax and recharge from our busy lives. Actually doing it can be very challenging, especially in this day and age where everyone is connected 24/7. Information is at your fingertips at all times, and there are more and more demands put on us, or we put them on ourselves.

Summer is often a time when people slow down, spend time with family and friends, and enjoy the sometime short lived beautiful weather (depending on where you live). Some are able to take vacations to escape for a short time. The trick though, is finding that feeling of escape in your daily life so it’s not just a one-time thing.

One of my favorite artists/photographers that epitomizes the feeling of Escape is Gray Malin. So much so that his latest book is named “Escape” and is full of beautiful beach pictures. Even if you can’t go to all of these beaches, just looking at these beautiful beach pictures immediately gives you the feeling of escape.

Gray Malin Book Cover

Not everyone is able to take a beach vacation, and even if you do, it can be short lived. The secret is finding a way to escape on a regular basis to really be able to recharge.

If you can’t take a beach vacation, but still want that feeling of escape, here are a few ways you can do this.

One way is to create this same feeling of escape in your own home, in your daily life with your home décor. Adding décor to your home that reminds you of your travels with pictures or mementos, or decorating rooms in your home that evoke the feeling of your favorite places can create the escape that you need.

Here are some examples of what I’ve done to create an escape for myself in my own home.

The first way is to use pictures from vacation to create décor/art. You can either enlarge special pictures and frame them, or use some easy apps to create a unique piece of art. Here are a couple examples that I added to a gallery wall.

Gallery Wall with Family Memories Laura Pursley

Here is an up-close view of this dear moment captured with our son and his Papa on the beach, watching the Northern Michigan sunset, pondering life. It is now part of a gallery wall in my office, that I see every day.

Gallery Wall with Family Memories Photo Laura Pursley

Another example is a sweet moment between my two kids captured on the same vacation in Northern Michigan, and I turned into a watercolor (using an App called Waterlogue).

Family Moment Captured Laura Pursley

Here are a few more examples of how you can turn your family memories into artwork using an easy free app.

Turning Family Memories into Artwork

Turning Family Memories into Artwork Escape

Just looking at these images brings me right back to that specific vacation.

Another way to create an escape is to think about your ultimate vacation destination and what this might look like. For me, I love the beach, and my ultimate beach house (if I had one) would consist of a lot of white, some blues, some natural elements and have clean, wide open spaces. So, I have incorporated some of these elements into my home.

Here’s an example of our wet bar in our basement.

Home Décor: Create an Escape in Your Own Home Laura Pursley

Here, in our wet bar in the basement, I used a lot of white, clean simple lines, and natural elements in the beams to create a calm setting. Being in this area just makes me happy. You can also see that one of the items on the shelf is the framed picture from our beach trip this year.

Family Beach Trip Framed

Being in this room makes me feel relaxed and clam. If I choose to, I can escape from my responsibilities or I can do work in a calming atmosphere.

One of my favorite things that Oprah once said was “your home should rise up and meet you, it should be your sanctuary”. (I may be paraphrasing a bit). But, I couldn’t agree more. You should create spaces in your home that you love, that can be used as an escape and incorporating special things from your travels or just things that remind you of what you love is a great way to do this. Even if they are small, subtle things, they all add up to create a calm, relaxing space that you love.

We can all get caught up in our crazy busy lives, but if you can find your escape, it will do a lot for your happiness, and your sanity! Décor can be a powerful thing, and can create a feeling of escape, without even taking a vacation!

About the Author: Laura Pursley

Laura is a home decor blogger, marketing professional, mother of 2, living in Michigan. Laura has a passion for design that she uses to transform her home into a comfortable, livable, beautiful space for her family. Her design motto is that you don’t have to be a designer to have good design in your home. She believes that everyone deserves to be in a space that they love, whatever that means to you.

Laura likes to mix a little bit of modern with a little bit of farmhouse, and she likes textures, patterns, and in some instances, is not afraid of color. It is her hope with her design blog to inspire others to transform their own spaces into something they love.

Visit her blog at to get inspired, or follow her on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest

Sunday Sanctuary: on Books and Authors I Have Known

If there’s one thing I’ve learned throughout my life, there is nothing like a great book to escape. I learned this at an early age, that books took me to other worlds: Narnia, Sleepyside, and Victorian London.

Books saved me, too. I was a inquisitive and talkative child. By encouraging my love of books, my mother found a key to a few moments of blessed quiet: I didn’t talk (as much) when I was reading.  Besides adventures, I found answers to the ways the world worked in books. And recall one summer when I decided to read the encyclopedia. That was back in the days when the way to find answers was found in beautiful hardback books, not with the click of a mouse.

Some of my fondest memories are climbing into a tree in my grandmother’s front yard on a hot summer day. Armed with a pillow, a Dr. Pepper, and a book,for long moments I escaped the oppressive heat of a 70’s era summer. She didn’t have air conditioning, but there was shade from the oak leaves and if I was lucky, a breeze to stir the thick air.

Books have been a constant companion all these years. I’m fifty now, and though I’ve had periods of time when I didn’t read as much, I don’t recall a time when I didn’t have a book close at hand. I still find great pleasure in taking a good book and myself to lunch. I can’t imagine traveling without a book (or two) (or now a loaded Kindle in my purse. When I traveled a lot for work, the airport bookstore became my BFF.

And I am one of those rare people that can read in the car without getting sick to my stomach. So a long car trip with John at the wheel is an opportunity for diving into a great story.

In all the years of reading – and later writing – I haven’t had much opportunity to attend book signings. It seemed such an exotic opportunity, designed for the fancy folks living in New York City. Oh, how I envied the idea of those literary salons and easy access to famous authors at Barnes and Noble. I was from a small town in Texas, and authors didn’t really come to little old Mansfield. And if they came to the big cities of Fort Worth or Dallas? I don’t know how in those pre-internet days we would have found out about the events.

All those years of loving the written word and I was almost 21 before I met my first real author. Well, I felt like I knew Sandra Brown because she was a weather girl on Channel 4 when her first book came out. But that isn’t the same. No, the first author I met was Larry McMurtry.   I was a junior in college and he was to be a guest lecturer. I took a literature class composed entirely of his works.

He was quieter in person than he seemed on the page.

With All Things Girl, I began interviewing authors. Meeting them online and sending emails back and forth, often with a PR agent as our go-between. I know a lot of authors that way. Always game to help them promote their latest book. My love of books and their work makes me want to see them succeed.

That’s how I met George Pelecanos in 2008. Because we were both in DC at the time, we did a telephone interview rather than email.  And then, as luck would have it, I was in DC and got to attend a lecture and book signing of his.

George Pelecanos - August 2008 - Poetry & Prose in DC

Talk about mesmerizing! That man has charisma. The sheer power of his presence invited me into another world and I saw clearly how he was not just a successful author, but a screenwriter that invited me into another beloved escape: television.

In the last few years, I’ve met many authors online and I am grateful. I have dear friends that have written books. Somehow, knowing a writer as a friend before you read their book puts them in the friends I love, so of course I love their books.

Settled in Ohio, I have now met three authors in the last four years that I didn’t know as friends first. Can you imagine? In forty-five years of reading, I met two authors between the ages of twenty-one and thirty-six.  And now, in my middle age years, I’ve met Tess Gerritsen and Jill Santopolo. Both thanks to my local library and the Jewish League of Dayton. Each was delightful and talked about their writing process and answered questions. And though I knew Gerritsen’s Rizzoli and Isles characters thanks to TNT, I didn’t read either of their books until after meeting them.

Then this past week, I met Fiona Davis.  Fiona is a former Broadway actress and she has such charisma!

Fiona Davis - August 2018 - Bexley, OH

I have devoured Davis’ previous books: The Dollhouse and The Address. And have recommended them to friends. So, when I found out that she was going to do a luncheon and book signing in Columbus, I reached out to a girlfriend and we attended together.

I loved hearing about how she approaches a book. She’s the most logical writer I’ve ever heard speak.

She begins first with a location. All her books are set in a specific building as the backdrop – and almost character. Her new book, The Masterpiece, is set in Grand Central Station. Since her book are historical fiction, she must do extensive research. She allows herself two months to do research. Enough time to dig in without going down the rabbit hole too deeply. Also a way to ensure she doesn’t use research as an excuse to not write.

As historical fiction, she has two timelines in each book. One in the past, one more modern. Both set in the same location, that becomes a character of its own.

She outlines. Extensively. Before she gets to the page, she knows the general trajectory of each character, the two plots, and when the timelines of the main characters will collide and merge. On some rare occasion, a character goes off the outline and demands to do something earlier than she planned.  But that has only happened once so far.

She says she doesn’t suffer from writer’s block. Sure, she said, she has better days than not. But her years as a journalist taught her that if she wanted to get paid, she had to get the work done. And knowing that she has a contract to do a book with a deadline propels her forward.

After lunch, her reading, and her answering questions, she lovingly signed books and chatted with the attendees.

Fiona Davis - with Debra Smouse & Blaze Lazarony

Her obvious love for the craft, for writing and creating stories, reminded me once again why I love books. Why their companionship has comforted me over the years. Why reading is still one of my greatest pleasures.

I waited until Friday night to begin The Masterpiece. I devoured the story of art and women and the fight for what is right. I finished it last evening. Discovering once again that between the pages of books, I could escape to another world. That the curious and inquisitive child I was at five still lives inside me. Always there waiting  to see what a turn of the page brings next.

About the Author: Debra Smouse

debra_Smouse_mclDebra Smouse is a self-admitted Tarnished Southern Belle, life coach, and author of Clearing Brain Clutter: Discovering Your Heart’s Desire and Clearing Soul Clutter: Creating Your Vision. 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.

Truth by John Hulme

Copyright: <a href=''>nejron / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

It was so hard in the early days,

scanning pollen grains through beams of curdled magnetospheric plasma,

examining their intricate combinations under the microscope for evidence of a release mechanism.


So arduous, painstaking and dispiriting was the work, I was often driven to riding Ergannine across the moors


(Ergannine was my pet sauropod dinosaur, thawed out and reanimated from the secret ice caves of East Cheam, and the quiet majesty of her company would do much to soothe my tortured soul in those days).


Many times I considered giving up the struggle – but Truth, as elusive and omnipresent as it was, would not let me go.


There was a secret coded into these pollen grains, and I knew it.


Once I had liberated it, I would know how to open up these giant alien flowers that now dominated the skies over London, Liverpool and Glasgow.  I would be able to decipher the intricate petal work and reveal what our cousins from across the stars were saying to us.


Eventually, a pattern revealed itself.


Using the algorithms gained from studying the pollen, I was able to trace a core pathway through the petals of one of these enormous blooms, using a giant steam-powered laser and a set of felt tip pens.


It worked.  The petal sculpture unpeeled itself, and the aliens’ message was revealed.


“Truth,” it said, “is about who has the best video on Facebook.”





What could it all mean?

Image copyright: nejron / 123RF Stock Photo

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.

My Horoscope Said I Would Travel by Patricia Wellingham-Jones

Surgery loomed, escape was needed
before the body shut down for weeks.
I smuggled myself on a friend’s
casual invite to San Francisco.
She didn’t think I’d go.

Top of my list of wanna-sees,
Coit Tower, symbol of that magic city
standing proudly over the bay.
We parked blocks away, strolled by an alley
with almost hidden door.

I was drawn to the wood surface
carved with names: Flaco, 3D, T+M, Scott, AlexT.
Some were freshly dug with a sharp knife,
some with ballpoint pen,
many engrained from years of exposure.

I wondered what connected these guys,
if they were winners – or losers –
in ancient gang battles
or someone just passing by, as we were.

Breathless at the top of the hill
I gazed at Coit Tower, enjoyed
the murals on its walls, its iconic form.

More than the landmark, what dazzled
was the view of sparkling water,
sailboats tacking in a fresh breeze,
smells of salt and diesel and distant air.

I sighed, replete. Escape complete.
My back to the famous icon
I savored the sea.

About the Author: Patricia Wellingham-Jones

PatriciaWellingham-JonesPatricia Wellingham-Jones is a widely published former psychology researcher and writer/editor. She has a special interest in healing writing, with poems recently in The Widow’s Handbook (Kent State University Press). Chapbooks include Don’t Turn Away: poems about breast cancer, End-Cycle: poems about caregiving, Apple Blossoms at Eye Level, Voices on the Land and Hormone Stew.

Alchemy by Fran Hutchinson

Photo by Baher Khairy on Unsplash


Your past knows where to find you.

I’m fond of using that phrase, because it’s true.  It may sound a bit sinister, and perhaps at times it is.  But at times it’s more of a reunion than an unwelcome surprise.  My past recently paid me a visit, via a collection of old-school cassette tapes, Scottish music, and what happens when musician joins instrument creating music, when music joins technology creating memory, and memory creates… the place where your past can find you.

Once upon a time, my life was music. Lively, gentle, joyous, heartbreaking. Straight from the source… from Scotland, Ireland, Britain and Brittany, Australia and beyond, spun by artists who shone in their realms. And I was lucky enough to be surrounded by it, and them. Paths too complex to trace here dropped me into the company of the kind of people who made the purest kind of sounds.  They joined with their wire and wood, their reeds and bellows and bows and gut and voices, and together they made the air ring with magic.

That was some years ago.  Paths diverged, as they often do, and connections were lost. Some of the finest people and musicians I have known are no longer with us.  But where music meets technology, memory is created.

“Back in the day” (the 70’s) I was a denizen of a New Bedford, MA coffeehouse called Tryworks.  Some of the greatest music makers anywhere, both known and un,  played on its stage.  The director of Tryworks was a formidable woman named Maggie Peirce.  Maggi had a daughter named Cora.  Forty years on, our paths converged again when Cora began working in social services at the senior housing where I live. When we’d recovered from the shock of reunion, we fell headlong into our shared history of bearing witness to alchemy.

The alchemy of music can only be witnessed as it happens (unless you’re lucky enough to create it yourself).  No matter how many roaring choruses or stamping of feet you take part in, in all music the highest magic happens only in that place where the musician and the instrument are joined as one. There music results.  There is no space between them for anyone else.  You can only bear witness.

Which brings me to the cassettes.  Cora had, by a series of circumstances, come into possession of studio-quality recordings of some of the very people and events that once were such a part of my life. Knowing their significance, she passed them on to me.

Thus on a recent Sunday morning, as the tape spun out, I recognized a concert I had attended at the Old Cambridge Baptist Church in the early 80’s featuring two exceptionally gifted Scottish musicians.  I smiled as I recognized singer/guitarist Dick Gaughan’s rough ad libs with the audience, and positively wallowed in the guitar tunes and songs.

And then… the fiddle.

There was no name on the tape’s case except “Dick Gaughan”, but the sound was unmistakable to me.  Nobody spun fiddlesong like that except Johnny Cunningham, the unparalleled master. After that set of tunes, when the wild acclamation had died down, Dick acknowledged Johnny by name. For another thirty minutes Johnny and his fiddle swooped and soared through raucous reels, lively jigs, and finally a set of weeping airs.

There, right there, is where my past found me. And once more, I bore witness.

Your past does know where to find you.  It can and it will, often when you least expect it.  And if you’re very lucky, the result will be alchemy.

Author’s note: Dedicated to the late Johnny Cunningham… master of the Scottish fiddle, occasional whisky buddy, and my “ghost” writer for this piece.

About the author: Fran Hutchinson

Fran HutchinsonCurrently a resident of New Bedford, MA, Fran Hutchinson experienced a “poetic incarnation” while embedded in the 80’s folk scene in Boston.  Occupied variously as live calendar producer for WGBH’s Folk Heritage, contributing editor at the Folk Song Society of Greater Boston’s monthly Folk Letter, artist manager and booking agent, and occasional concert producer, she was surrounded by exceptional music and musicians, including those she had long listened to and admired.  The result was a rich source of inspiration for verse, of which she took full advantage. No longer writing poetry, Fran has recently been the recipient of a surgically altered back and two new knees, and spends her time reading and listening to music (natch), texting and emailing long-distance friends,  and hanging with her posse at the Community center.