The Geography of Longing by Pat West

I depart Seattle and spend three and a half hours
tracing cornfields and mountains from my window.
The plane tilts in to O’Hare, last leg of a last-minute

decision to attend my thirtieth-class reunion.
I park the rental car and head for the gymnasium.
It’s not my imagination or the Washington wine,

I know it’s you next to me when I climb to the top
of the bleachers, sit in the same spot
where you gave me your letterman’s jacket.

Moments jiggle loose, like senior year
you were voted most likely to be first to the moon
and you said this little bitty town wasn’t enough.

Later when Buzz and I dance to It’s My Party,
I keep thinking any minute you might show up
and cut in. Certain when you arrive we’ll act

like explorers searching for a lost city, and uncover
buried artifacts proving first love never dies.
There are two stoplights now.

One’s at the end of Main Street, the Y
where all you guys would hang U-turns
dragging Main Street over and over Saturday nights.

The scent of longing trails me.
I navigate the room asking classmate after classmate
if anyone kept in touch or found you on Facebook.

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.

Sunday Brunch: A Dish of Dreams

It’s four AM on Monday morning, but it’s not the storm outside that wakes me. Rather, I’ve been pulled from sleep because the end of a dream came at the same time as my smallest dog, a twelve-year-old chihuahua, is informing me that he needs to go out.

My husband deals with the dog.

I try to make sense of the dream.

It involved a wedding – not mine – and a white tennis dress that an older woman asked me to wear. Roses were a frequent image, and pearls, and items of clothing that were offered in pink paper-wrapped boxes. Oh, and I was twenty. (In my waking life, I haven’t been twenty in over a decade.)

At one point, I saw the name Margaret, and I realized that some of the clothing being gifted to me had been meant for her, for this mysterious girl who never appeared. I think she was the deceased daughter of the old woman, a woman who felt like family, but whom I couldn’t identify.

As dreams go, it’s not scary or stressful, but it sticks with me, and I wonder where it came from.

I pick up the phone and leave a message for a friend asking her to ask me about the images from the dream. My husband returns with the dog. I go back to sleep and have a deliciously smutty dream about characters from Star Trek: The Next Generation (don’t judge), but the other images linger into the next day, and stay with me all week.

It’s when I enter the kitchen two days later that a connection is finally made.  Dishes. Dishes sparked this dream.


On the previous Friday, I’d received a box of old china from one of my cousins in California. Back in May, her mother had asked if I wanted the remaining pieces from my great-great uncle’s set of dishes, which were likely owned by his mother in the first place. She was asking because her daughter inherited her grandmother’s dishes, and I’m one of the only cousins in my generation who knew this uncle. “My generation,” she said, “is downsizing. So, I’m offering these things to yours.”

I move into the kitchen and pick up one of the platters. It’s worn with age and manages to be both sturdy and delicate at once. Nothing dramatic happens. I’m not zapped back into my dreamscape. No ethereal beings appear in my house to tell me their story.

And yet, I feel a sense of history and connection.

I don’t believe in ghosts in the traditional sense. I don’t believe there are actual spirits trying to speak with us or attempting to resolve unfinished business. I know there’s nothing supernatural about Ouija boards: the planchette moves because of something called the ideomotor effect  – unconscious, involuntary actions in response to prior suggestions, expectations, and preconceptions.

But I do believe that objects and places retain the essences of people who owned or inhabit them. Houses take on the tones of those who dwelt within. And maybe dishes retain something of the people who chose them, and loved them, and passed them down to their children’s children.

My dream remains with me, still, a week later, and I’m no closer to picking it apart than I was when I first woke up, but I now know that the china I received is from an English company called Johnson Bros, and is likely one of the first patterns they sold.

Perhaps this china is connected to the nocturnal imagery created within my mind. Perhaps my dream is merely a combination of receiving the china and watching the Stephen King miniseries Rose Red. Perhaps it’s just my vivid imagination at work, providing me with story-fodder for my annual Horror Dailies writing project.

If there is, or was, an actual Margaret, I wish her well.

And if there isn’t… may whatever story I eventually write honor the memory of her fictional self.

About the author: Melissa A. Bartell

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

Escaping From the Norm by Keva Bartnick


Summertime for us meant that when my husband was done teaching summer school it’s time to go on vacation. Every year we shoot to go somewhere we’ve never been before. Experiencing life in new fun ways. Showing our children that playing hard is just as important as working hard. Adventure is assured.

I don’t want to have a life that I feel the need to escape from all the time, even though I have escaped in the past. I want everyday to have wonderful happenings, even if it’s only a small one here or there. Appreciating what I have in the moment. Every day having purpose in its own right. For me, traveling just adds another layer to what already is and what could be. Growing more beautiful flowers in a garden already lush with life.


I promise I don’t live in Neverland, but I know that when we look at life in a certain light we can see it for all it’s wonders. Being alive holds a certain je ne sais quoi. That there isn’t anything quite like it on earth that stacks up to its many facets.

Where else can you be so unequivocally you? Molding ourselves into the being that we want to be? Becoming and experiencing so many ways of seeing how a people can become what they are, and what they long to be. The sky’s the limit and we all have a round trip ticket.

In times of sadness or discomfort we are offered any number of escape hatches in order to take a time out. Taking a breather if you will, escaping from the norm. Traveling, reading about traveling or watching shows on traveling for me is this kind of escape when I feel I need one. Knowing that there is more to life out there than what I’ve experienced up to this point for myself.


If I could travel to far off lands, taking in the sights and sounds I would do it at least once a month. Spending a week here or a week there. Learning about different cultures and people that are outside of my comfort zone. Breathing in their way of life. Experiencing everything with my senses. Every nuance and every moment beautiful for what it offers me. Escape into another’s life, another view of this world. Seeing it thru someone else’s eyes. Experiencing all life has to offer. Expanding my horizons into the unknown. Capitalizing on what could be and what is right in front of me.

I want to pass that wonder onto our children. Realizing that the world is big and beautiful. That there are so many people to meet, so many stories to learn about and share. To experience the escape of listening to another’s story. For in many ways listening is a cornerstone of healing. When we listen to another human being and their story it takes on a healing property unlike any other. We hold space for them in that moment. Letting them express who they are to us in their own way. Showing us all of them in that space, like we’ve been told, “better out than in.”

When we hold space for someone in these moments it offers them an escape too. Escaping from the confines of who they believe they are and must be. Free to express themselves in whatever way they see fit. Telling us, sharing with us, their lives in ways only they can. Taking into ourselves the energy of their words. Transmuting it into something good, healing, and full of compassion. We become the living conduit for this energy. Listening to them, holding them in awe and reverence. Compassion is assured. We would ask the same of them if the roles were reversed.

Their stories not unlike our own. Some of pain, some of heartache, of joys unmeasured and of love. They have a certain flavor and tastes not known to us before this time. The story lines may seem similar, but the way they share them is unique.

We get to see and feel their lives in ways not seen before. For they are them and we are us. A symbiotic relationship not yet seen up unto this point. We bring too with us our stories not known to them. This goes for any human being experiencing another’s story. Our background and culture different from the other. Offering each other a peek into the other’s world. In the end changing both the issuer and the recipient in ways unseen. Changing everyone’s chemical makeup because of the energy that was exchanged. Coming away better than when they arrived. In a way feeling more whole than expected.


This is the best way I know to escape from the norm. In doing this it brings me back to center. Understanding the world around me just a little bit better. Softening my edges and continuing to show me compassion for others. Life is not always easy, and escape sometimes is a must. Whether we escape inward or outward we change ourselves regardless. We experience our lives from a higher perspective. Taking in new energy from our surroundings. Solidifying the fact that living is such a beautiful gift. Sharing our lives with others is even better.

About the Author: Keva Bartnick

Keva Bartnick is an artist, writer, and lightworker. Happily married mother of three; she’s been inspiring people to be their most courageous selves since 2015.

Instrumental: Ten Tips for Creating Your Own Art Camp

Yesterday I shared the story of how I escaped to Art Camp. How would you like to create your own art camp? I’m sharing some tips to help you make that happen!

Ten Tips for Creating Your Own Art Camp

  1. Choose your fellow camper(s) wisely. It may be one, it may be two or three, but be quite certain your fellow campers are complementary and harmonious, can operate independently as well as together and all have a stake in completing a project or goal. Perhaps it is a deadline, an assignment or a tutorial, but have a personal purpose in mind.
  2. Share the load. Whether it is helping out at one person’s cottage with food expenses and doing dishes or sharing expenses evenly, make sure all are vested in both work and play. (If you’re lucky a camper will go above the call of duty and help paint your window trim!)
  3. Private time is fine. If one likes to walk, another swim, another do yoga practice and another just wants to read for a bit, that’s OK. We all need downtime, private time. In fact, for some of us, it’s essential.
  4. Document your time. Whether it is in photos, a blog post, a drawing or a journal entry, keep a record of the time together. It’s fun to look back and remember how your time together has evolved.
  5. Choose your location carefully, to fit your participants. Not everyone has a cottage available and one may have to rent a spot, whether for two or ten. Look for a place where nature is at hand, daily news is at a minimum, the environment is safe and there is ample work space and individual space for all. Whether you are in the mountains, on a lake or in the woods, it is important to feel safe.
  6. Consider road trips. You may be going to do art but if your time permits, consider a road trip, whether it is to wander the nearest town or visit a somewhat more distant site. Depending on your projects and state of mind, you may find inspiration where you least expect it.
  7. If you are a visual artist who works in a variety of media, pick one (or two, max!) to work with. Rather than hopscotch from mixed media to painting to a fiber craft, you will find that you are more likely to complete or make better headway if you focus your effort on one or two types of projects. And it makes packing a heck of a lot easier.
  8. No matter where you are, check the weather before you go! And don’t always believe it! There’s nothing worse than getting caught without a jacket during the one cold spot in a warm summer or being without shorts on an unexpectedly warm day. Yes, you can probably shop “in town” but who wants to? And don’t forget things like a swim suit, sunscreen, insect repellent or other items specific to your locale.
  9. Food allergies or special needs? Cover your bases and bring what you might need. It may not be easily available in the area where your camp is.
  10. Start small, work up! Kate and I started art camp as a weekend. It worked for us, we were compatible and we gradually added more time. There’s nothing worse than starting out with someone for a full week or two and finding out that as much as you like each other at home, too much togetherness could damage your friendship. And really, when it comes right down to it, enjoying the time with a friend or two is what it is all about.

Are you ready to create your own art camp?

About the Author: Jeanie Croope

Jeanie Croope bioAfter a long career in public broadcasting, Jeanie Croope is now doing all the things she loves — art, photography, writing, cooking, reading wonderful books and discovering a multitude of new creative passions. You can find her blogging about life and all the things she loves at The Marmelade Gypsy.

Escape to Art Camp by Jeanie Croope

It all started as a fun weekend for two like-minded friends to leave work and families behind, escape to a lakeside cottage and share their mutual passion for creating. For one, it was paint and linoleum block printing. For the other, it was a combination of mixed media and craft.

The weekend was such fun, they decided to do it again another year. There was more of the same and sometimes the media changed as a new skill was learned. But the message was clear.

This wasn’t just a weekend. It was art camp. And it was fun!

My friend Kate and I have been “doing” art camp for probably close to ten years now. I’ve lost count. That weekend expanded to several days, even a week, and this past month, eleven days. Eleven days of long talks, walks, swims, visits into town, wonderful dinners using all the best from the local farmer’s market, time to read, a nightly viewing of a Miss Fisher Mystery on Netflix and most of all, time to create.

We choose a time each summer when we can head to my Northern Michigan cottage, the car packed full of art supplies, swimsuits, necessities and a rather vocal black-and-white cat. We arrive two-and-a-half hours later, quickly unpack and settle in and then whip out the projects.

On occasion a lesson will be involved. Several years ago Kate showed me how to carve linoleum blocks for printing. Another year I shared a technique for making journals I learned at a workshop.

Sometimes we do the same thing. How the kitchen survived two women doing gelli printing and creating volumes of brilliantly colored deli papers I’ll never know.

But most of the time we do our own thing, sitting at opposite ends of a table on the screened-in porch. In recent years, Kate has focused her time on the bird calendar she makes and sells each December.

The images may be done in watercolor or gouache or perhaps she’ll design and carve a block to be printed later. I confess, I love to turn to my annual calendar and see one of the creations that evolved at art camp!

Several years ago I decided to channel most of my visual art energies into photography and painting and art camp is my painting intensive. Working with a more experienced painter is fun and useful too. When I get into a jam on color mixing, I know that there’s someone who can provide some sound advice and more than once that’s saved me from a big mess!

For me, and I think Kate would agree, art camp is the perfect escape.

There are no appointments to tend to, no social obligations or requirements. While we work together and dine together, we are free to operate on our own schedules. Kate will be up and walking by 7:30. I’ll sleep later and walk later — or opt for an extended swim instead. If creative overload saps one of us but not the other, we feel free to take a book-break and read or get a snack. We talk often and about every topic under the sun, but we don’t feel compelled to have conversation for conversation’s sake. There is simply no pressure.


Weather doesn’t matter. We’ve experienced a rainstorm that overtook our work area in a matter of seconds and killed the power, sending us to town to buy battery operated reading lights. One year, we went in late September — a particularly cold September. We brought the work table in from the porch and set up in the living room, keeping the fireplace glowing and space heaters on high.

It’s not easy for me to spend extended time with anyone. I’m an introvert by nature, the only child who grew up learning to occupy herself happily. By and large, I am far more content independently than with others, and when  my time “runs out” I long to escape a conversation, a place, a person or activity and just breathe. There are probably only two or three people I could do extended art camp with, without one of us grinding on the others’ nerves and making me want to escape.

But art camp is the escape. There has never been a time when I’ve wanted to run from a single moment. But there have been more than a few moments at other times, in other places, where I’ve wanted to run and run fast to art camp.

In determining which colors to use in a visual art piece, artists often work with a color wheel, which displays all the colors, showing how they blend into the next on the wheel, complement one another or are totally in opposition. The color wheel reveals tension and harmony and when used correctly can help the artist find balance in the piece at hand.

To me, art camp is the perfect physical rendition of the color wheel. The days move harmoniously, one into another, blending and evolving into something quite different, yet with the tones of the day before.

The reds of a steamy hot day into the oranges of sunset and the golden yellow glow of dawn. The greens of the woodland walks blend into the blue of the cloudless sky and sparkling lake. Those blues evolve into rich purples and violets, another sunset.

We all have our own “art camps.” It may be a spa or a yoga retreat. It might be a week at a writer’s colony or a cooking weekend. The media doesn’t matter. It’s the message. Relaxation. Joy. Peace. Restoration. Creation.

And it’s all good.

PS – Join me tomorrow and I’ll be sharing tips for creating your own artist camp.

About the Author: Jeanie Croope

Jeanie Croope bioAfter a long career in public broadcasting, Jeanie Croope is now doing all the things she loves — art, photography, writing, cooking, reading wonderful books and discovering a multitude of new creative passions. You can find her blogging about life and all the things she loves at The Marmelade Gypsy.

The Longing to Escape by Christine Mason Miller

I can’t escape the things I can’t escape. After fifty years on this planet, I’m finally starting to get that. Or maybe it’s that I’ve learned how to discern between the things that appear to be inescapable and those that actually aren’t.

Example: Taxes. Non-negotiable, inescapable.

Another One: My demise. There will come a day when I leave this body, this earth, this life. No getting around that.

Beyond these two circumstances, what else is there beyond the purely physical? I can’t escape the fact that my eyesight isn’t what it was in my twenties, and that I can’t read without glasses. It isn’t possible to magically make my T12 vertebrae whole again after it was crushed in a bicycle accident nearly twenty years ago. I can’t live without water or food. Or love.

I consider most everything else totally escapable; the real question is what is it I feel the need to escape and why? And then, am I willing to do the work necessary to actually escape if that is truly warranted or, if it isn’t, to find a peaceful frequency within the situation in question?

This question of whether or not to escape has been with me for most of my life.

I decided at a fairly young age that striving to be somewhere other than I was would serve me well. Call this the result of generational family patterns, parental examples, and being an only child, which reinforced an independent streak my mom says I was born with. (In third grade, I loved nothing more than playing Billy Joel’s “My Life” at full volume on my portable record player.)

I embraced ideas of escapism as a way to cope with unsettling circumstances at home (news of my parents’ divorce was shared with me when I was eleven) and also to push myself to expand the dreams I had for myself. If something is good, I’d think, what can I do to make it great? Whatever the situation, it was usually driven by a longing to be somewhere other than where I was.

In many cases, especially as I started to make my way in the world after graduate school, this approach did serve me well. I built a business. I traveled all over the world. I wrote books and made art and even went swimming with sharks. As soon as I wrapped up one endeavor, I’d immediately set my sights on another. If I didn’t have a project with quantifiable goals in front of me I’d feel like I wasn’t really living.

In my late twenties and early thirties, when my escapist proclivities were at their peak (at the time, I’d call these tendencies pursuing ambitions and, with regard to more personal situations, setting boundaries), I appeared to be impressive, strong, and all together.

Beneath this, I had a life built on sand.

Until the day it all finally came crashing down and I had no choice but to stay exactly where I was—to not escape—and take a good, long look at all the ways my striving—to be successful, to be independent, to be “fully alive”—had, in the end, not served me well at all in the areas of my life that truly mattered.

That is the short version of a story I’ve shared at different times, in different ways, with varying levels of transparency as to the specifics of how my personal life crumbled like a sand castle. I’ve used words like leave, departure, abandon, close down, let go, and release, and they’ve all explained what I’m talking about. But there is, very often, a desperation in the idea of escape, and it is this sense of unfocused desperation that initiated my journey of discernment and kept it going all these years.

What I’ve had to learn—most especially as a wife and a member of my entire extended family—is the importance of making sure I’ve got it right when I feel the desire to escape curl around my ankles like a vine. After expending undue amounts of energy trying to escape one scenario after another for the first three decades or so of my life, I finally began to understand how devastating it can be to blindly obey the voice that says things like This is not good enough for you. You don’t need/want/deserve this. This is too hard. Get out. Go somewhere else. Run for your life.

Sometimes this voice needs to be heeded, other times not. Learning how to discern the difference has been my most important work—more than my work as an artist, a writer, a teacher, or any other professional title. Without these efforts I might still find a way to appear successful and content, but what joy is there in simply trying to maintain appearances? In learning the art of staying put, I opened myself up to more of life’s gifts than would ever had been possible if I’d continued down the path of departure.

About the Author: Christine Mason Miller

Christine Mason Miller is a writer and artist who lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin with her husband and chocolate lab Tilda. Her forthcoming book, The Meandering River of Unfathomable Joy: Finding God and Gratitude in India, will be available later this fall.

Keep up to date at

Just for One Day by Selena Taylor

Photo by Spencer Imbrock on Unsplash

Take a deep breath. Try and hold it.
“But the clothes are smelly.”
Do you want him to find you?

I cannot hold my breath my fear is so strong. My hideout in the laundry is pretty good. With so many lumps what is one more? I can hear him moving downstairs. For some reason he left the house; maybe he thought I was going to go out there. I am not sure.

You should try to control your breathing.
“I am really scared this time.”
I know. I am sorry.

The footsteps come up the stairs.

“Oh, no!”

I begin to sing and play music in my head in an attempt to quiet my thoughts, or at least mask them. His footsteps go right to the pile of clothes, but he does not investigate at all. He does not move within the room, but I can hear his stupid breathing.

He can breathe just fine. Nothing makes him want to stop breathing. Nothing makes him try to control an asthma attack, so his beater doesn’t find him. Nothing makes him want to run away and give up. Nothing.


Something in the other room must have fallen over. I have no idea what it is, but he actually leaves the room to find the answer.

Run now.
“No way!”
You can make it.
“No, I can’t.”
There are the stairs. They’re a hurdle for sure.
“Told ya.”

His footsteps leave the other room and start back. Panic is just the beginning and fear is always there.

He is yelling, and it is deafening. I can hear all the nasty names and whatever else he wants to make up. Just because all he spews are lies doesn’t mean the words don’t hurt. The tears run down my face and on to the reeking clothes. My breathing becomes more strained, roaring inside my head. I try to stifle the sound with a sock. It works… almost.

All too soon, yelling is no longer enough. Objects are flying around the room. I can hear them crashing into the walls, the lamps, and the dresser. Something strikes the pile and the sock does not muffle my “oomph.”

“NO!” That is the only thing I can scream as he grabs me by my hair.

I am always here. I will pray with you.

“Our Father….”

His blow to my mouth makes me move my prayer from my speaking voice to the one inside my head. My thoughts and me stay in prayer. When we finish the, I hear a soft melody.

Can you hear the music I started?
“Yes, I can.”
Sing with the music in here. The music will help.

I retreat further into my mind and let the music wrap me in a warm blanket. I sing in my mind and I let it help me slip into sleep. Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose and know it instantly, but sometimes you have to wait to win.

“Oh, there you are. Welcome back.”

The Ambulance is cold and unforgiving with every bump. The paramedics tell me that I was unresponsive in the house. They managed to restart my breathing and moved me into the ambulance. I cry and cry.

“Can you play some music? Please. I love music.”

“Sure thing.”

With a push of a button the radio comes alive.

What luck! It is your favorite singer on the radio with one of your favorites playing.
“It seems like I am lucky in more than one way today.”
Indeed. Sing now.

I begin to whisper-sing the song with tears going down my cheeks. My eyes close as I see the paramedic give me a small smile.  I let my mind go and fall into song.

I will be a hero one day.
I will find my way out.
I will get away.
I will escape.

I will be a hero, even if it is for one day.

About the author, Selena Taylor

Selena TaylorSelena Taylor is a wife, a mother, and a woman who strives to tell the many stories that occupy her mind. She is active in the Rhett & Link fandom and appreciates dark humor.  She and her family live in Illinois, where she takes every opportunity to lose herself under the stars and let her imagination run wild. For more from Selena, check her out on Facebook.

Instrumental: When the Well is Dry by Megan Gunnell

Where do we go when the well is dry? Where do we find our creative inspiration? How do we escape and not in a way to avoid, but rather to reconnect to our soul?

In our everyday, busy lives we need to make a conscious effort to connect, to seek inspiration and to find space to think, breathe and awaken. We can do this through mindfulness. When we practice being mindful, we pause and open our senses. When we do this, we bring our attention to the now. It’s an escape from ruminations on the past or anticipatory anxiety about the future. Being in the now also affords us a sense of gratitude and enriches our quality of life by helping us feel present and engaged in the moment before us.

When we do this, we tend to notice the sanctity of life and the miraculous wonders in nature.

We can bring mindfulness practices to everyday living through food and cooking. We can lose ourselves in new recipes with exotic spices and new ingredients, cooking slowly to downshift our life pace. The chopping and peeling and prep work of cooking engages our mind in the moment. The smells, tastes, sounds and feel of cooking becomes a sensory immersion, an escape from what ails us.

When I want to fill up my well, I go to nature. I take a mindful walk without my phone and listen to the birds or the wind in the trees. I notice the colors around me. I experience my breath and come into the moment. I connect with my body and my movement in a way that recharges and reinvigorates me.

I pause to notice small changes in my garden as the seasons change. New growth, new colors, new buds opening and also notice things dying back, changing shape and returning to the earth.

Moving beyond cooking and nature, I give myself permission to explore creating with art materials or with music.

My focus is always on the process, not the product. When I allow myself to make mistakes and create for the sake of creating, I’m not inhibited by perfection or expectations of what it will look or sound like in the end. Blending paint colors can be a visceral experience. ‘What does it feel like to mix this color with that one?’ ‘What do I notice?’ ‘Does this new shade please me or does it need more of this or more of that?’ Painting and music making are opportunities to escape into the moment.

Access to creativity can be simple and small.

We don’t have to make masterpieces to experience the joy and benefit. Creative opportunities expand us and create space. They break the bonds of limitations that we live in and help us see that other possibilities exist. Being creative helps us remain psychologically flexible and reduces rigidity in thought, feeling and behavior.

But we all know that being creative requires some element of risk and fearlessness.

We must suspend judgement in order to dive deep into the wells of creative expression. If we struggle to fit in or make something perfect, it will block our capacity to create. When we allow ourselves to stay in impermanence, knowing that what we’re creating today isn’t a statement about forever, but rather an expression of the now, then we can free ourselves up to be in the moment. And that creates a sense of freedom from attachment to expectations and a real escape!

About the Author: Megan Gunnell

Megan Gunnell is a Psychotherapist, Speaker, Writer, International Retreat Leader with over 20 years experience.  She has presented and facilitated workshops and retreats globally and nationwide most notably in Finland at Jyvaskyla University, in Costa Rica at Anamaya and Ahki Resorts, at Miraval Resort and Spa, Arizona, the Bryant University Women’s Summit, Rhode Island and at Red Mountain Resort, Utah.  A leading expert in women’s health, self-care and mindfulness, her work helps clients transform, restore and reach their highest potential.

Floating with Piano Jazz by Patricia Wellingham-Jones

A stream rippling
in timeless riffles
slides into backwaters
wanders down a rivulet
slips back into its
liquid trail
ever downstream

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.

When Someone Chooses a Final Escape by Keva Bartnick

When I heard the news of Kate Spade, and later Anthony Bourdain I wasn’t saddened. But I wasn’t shocked. Suicide has never been an easy thing to navigate. It’s always horrible. When it does hit it’s like a tsunami; knocking us into a sea of sadness. Left to drift aimlessly until we find our bearings again. Standing becomes tricky and we are never quite the same again.

I realize that many of us keep hidden so many demons. They only rise to the surface when someone else decides to take the plunge into the unknown. We all go thru some litany of grief. Yet, for many who never knew them, their life doesn’t change. Why should it? They didn’t know the deceased. Their lives become completely untouched for the most part. It becomes another headline in a long string of them.

I didn’t know Kate or Anthony, yet I can say that for each suicide I hear about my life does change. I make it change so that the life that was lived doesn’t feel like it was in vain. I take several moments to myself honoring the person that they were. Knowing that the world will always be less now because they are gone.

In Kate’s case I bought a cup she designed from Amazon, a reminder to me every time I use it that life is short; drink up. It has lemon’s on it. When life gives you lemons be sure to make lemonade. If you can’t it’s okay to ask for help. Suffering from depression and anxiety myself, it’s a stark reminder that I am not alone in my struggles.

In Anthony’s case it was a little different.

I remember flipping thru the channels and running into him on television from time to time. I wasn’t in a space to appreciate what he was putting out into the world. I’m not a foodie, choosing the route of eating to live instead of living to eat. Now older and wiser, I can now see the value he brought to everything he did. How every person who had the chance to meet him and get to know him became blessed. With Anthony, in death, he taught me how to enjoy new food and new experiences.

I’m all for adding good things into my life. It took me awhile to understand that in order to change my life I didn’t have to get rid of anything. Opting to add one good thing in at a time, changing my life for the better. Change doesn’t have to be dramatic or painful. Sometimes it can be small, seemingly insignificant at the time, but in the end making a bigger impact than we thought was possible.

After Anthony passed I decided that we were in a food rut.

Don’t get me wrong I’m all for anchors in my life with little ones and how they can be helpful. But there was something to be said for always staying in the safe end of the pool. Like Anthony, maybe it wasn’t something that should be taken away, things always staying the same. Yet, something that needed to be added.

So I decided on New Food Friday’s. An odd mix of anchors and setting sail for the horizon, destination unknown. Each Friday, we as a family, find food that we’ve never tried before. Last week it was kiwi (for the kids) and plantain (for my husband and I) and this week for the kids it was sushi and potstickers. We are starting out small with normal food you can find close to us. Later graduating out into the world to find the real interesting food stuffs.

Either way, it’s in the endings that we find new beginnings. For you can’t have one without the other.

I like to think that Kate and Anthony are looking down on me in someway with little smirks on their faces. Happy with how I chose to honor their lives, even though they weren’t always happy. Understanding the struggles and realizing that I always have a choice in how I go forward. Infusing what I knew about them into how I integrate their lives into my own. Hoping that in a way they can be honored and remembered.

In the end knowing that life is hard, but it is beautiful.

That each day is a new beginning, remembering to set sail for great things. Understanding there will be storms, but it’s how we weather them that shows our strengths and our weaknesses. Learning from those who have gone before us. Living more boldly in our own lives. Thanking people for coming and for being who they really were. No strings attached and no reservations; adding on to their legacy after they have passed.

Infusing good things into our lives as we go along, not only because of death, but because we truly know what it means to live.

About the Author: Keva Bartnick

Keva Bartnick is an artist, writer, and lightworker. Happily married mother of three; she’s been inspiring people to be their most courageous selves since 2015.