Red Galoshes by Bernie Brown

It all started with a pair of red galoshes I got for Christmas. I wanted them for backyard work, planting begonias, and feeding bluebirds and their friends. North Carolina is home to copper heads and other nasty creatures, and I didn’t want to step on any surprises and die of a fright-induced heart attack while feeding and planting.

Above the small bank that defines our little yard lies a bit of woods, just the right size to call a woods, but not big enough to get lost in. Although our subdivision lies smack in the middle of a bustling suburban area with traffic noise, it is a peaceful harbor with an arch of magnolias shading its main street.

Back in the woods, you’d think you’d landed in Sherwood Forest, and Robin Hood himself might tip his hat to you.

I have often ventured a little way back in the woods to toss a handful of weeds or empty a pot of dirt. Until the appearance of the red galoshes, I had never explored any further. But when January produced a gleaming snowfall, the woods called to me. I donned my bright boots and fuzzy hat to learn what they had to say.

I traipsed. I tromped. I tramped. It was not at all like a straightforward walk on the sidewalk. Low spots hidden by leaves and snow surprised my feet. Thorny vines grabbed my legs. Trees standing tall and straight, or small and bent, invited me to study them, to stare at the blue sky through their branches. Twining together, they made artistic arrangements.

One big tree, perhaps having been trimmed by a woodman, had a thick elbow of a trunk, a perfect forty five degree angle. Other small, brave, green shoots peeked out of the crystal snow. The white ground glowed, throwing back the sun’s light. Squirrels scurried out of my way. Fallen trees made handy benches where I sat and let the crisp beauty soak in.

Since that snowy first visit, I have returned to the woods often. I wander back and forth with no real goal in mind. I retrace my steps, stop and look at the sky, the way the sun shines through the trees. The sights are new every time. Though I may have passed a certain clump of trees before, they don’t look the same from a different angle or at a different time of day.

I still find satisfaction in clocking distance as I take more deliberate paths on neighborhood sidewalks. But now, as I grow older, I want to know the freedom of not measuring, of not knowing how many steps I walk or how much distance I cover. Letting go of these measurements is difficult. I use them as measures of my self-worth, my discipline, my productivity. And when those are the things I hunger to know, they satisfy. The account keeping is good for my body.

Walks in the woods are good for my spirit. They teach me to do a thing for the sheer pleasure of doing it, for each step, each glimpse of the sky, each time peace floods through me at the vertical pattern of trees against the horizon.

Warm weather arrives early in North Carolina, and with it, those nasties I mentioned earlier. The threat of snakes may keep me out of the woods come summer. That is something I will have to learn about myself and the woods. But I do wonder what small growth I would find there in growing season. What wildflowers? What birds making homes for their young families? Will the thorny bushes and higher undergrowth make walking too troublesome even for my red galoshes?

I won’t spoil the experience by turning it into a challenge.

Challenges strike me as “un-Zen,” though I confess to not knowing what Zen really is. In the meantime, my flowers and the backyard birds will feed my spirit, too. When I care for them, I will look out through the woods and appreciate how summer’s light dapples the trees, how the riotous undergrowth and leaf-decked trees soften the scene, and how the extravagant green makes me smile and fills me with unreasonable happiness. Come fall, I’ll pull on my galoshes, fasten their buckles, and they will take me exploring the woods’ secrets all over again.

About the Author: Bernie Brown

I live in Raleigh, NC where I write, read, and watch birds. My stories have appeared in several magazines, most recently Better After 50, Modern Creative Life, Indiana Voice Journal, and Watching Backyard Birds. I am a Writer in Residence at the Weymouth Center, which is the perfect spot to work on my novel-in-progress. My short story, Same Old Casserole, was nominated for the Pushcart Prize.

Memorial Day: Refreshing & Restoring Our Creative Spirits

In the United States, it’s Memorial Day weekend. A Day of Remembrance, where we honor those who have paid the ultimate price for freedom.

It’s also become a social holiday, marking the beginning of a summer state of mind. For many, the holiday weekend marks the first time this year that they’ve been able to rest or simply… breathe.

All holidays allow us to revel in creative living. We honor the sacrifice of others and lay flowers and wreaths on the graves of our ancestors. We gather with loved ones for shared meals and mutual celebration.

We also take the time to consider the way these sacrifices have lead to our creativity, for how would we create if we were not free to do so, if freedoms did not inform our lives.

As a child, Memorial Day Weekend marked the end of the school year, a double celebration of freedom. It meant playing in sprinklers, eating ice cream, reading lots of books, going to the swimming pool, and finding myself SO BORED. And this boredom always led to finding new ways to refresh my creativity.

In honor of this holiday, we won’t be offering you a new poem, story, or essay, but a collection of a dozen gems of wisdom on creative living and honoring the need to pause as we refresh our bodies and restore our creative souls.

“We are cups, constantly and quietly being filled. The trick is, knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out.”
– Ray Bradbury

“Learn from yesterday, live for today, look to tomorrow, rest this afternoon.”
–Charles M. Schulz

“People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.”
–Marcus Aurelius

“Give light and people will find the way.”
–Ella Baker

“From time to time, one must release the grime built up inside them to to free their emotions like the ocean.”
― Suzy Kassem

“Ideas and philosophies have a shelf-life. They must be kept fresh and renewed or they will spoil. If left unattended, the same ideas and philosophies that once nourished you and helped you grow can poison you and make you sick. Become aware of new ideas that can refresh your way of life and be open to the fact that your old ideas and philosophies can work for you for some time, but when the shelf-life has passed, those ideas and philosophies could also harm you.”
― Steve Maraboli

“Patience is also a form of action.”
–Auguste Rodin

“Relish love in your old age! Aged love is like aged wine; it becomes more satisfying, more refreshing, more valuable, more appreciated and more intoxicating!”
–Leo Buscaglia

“Games lubricate the body and mind.”
― Benjamin Franklin

“Let the beauty we love be what we do. There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.”

“In dealing with those who are undergoing great suffering, if you feel ‘burnout’ setting in, if you feel demoralized and exhausted, it is best, for the sake of everyone, to withdraw and restore yourself. The point is to have a long-term perspective.”
–Dalai Lama

“One of the things I learned the hard way was that it doesn’t pay to get discouraged. Keeping busy and making optimism a way of life can restore your faith in yourself.”
– Lucille Ball

Holiday Plans by Patricia Wellingham-Jones

No need to pay for a holiday
beside a mountain stream,
I live it daily by a valley creek.
Over this morning’s early tea
I watched swallows swoop
against blue sky, two young robins
cavorted in the sycamores
punctuated by the rattle
of a passing kingfisher.
Over coffee a great blue heron
glided past like a winged
ancient creature, a garter snake
slithered over the bank.
All I have to do is show up
and pay attention, there’s no limit
to the pleasures found at home.

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.

Welcome to Issue # 6: Refresh & Restore

A glass of sweet tea on a hundred degree day. A powerful embrace from an elementary school friend. A full day spent devouring a book.

All different experiences, yet ways in which we refresh ourselves: physically, emotionally, mentally.

You go to yoga class. You go to church. You take a long walk.

All different approaches to restoring ourselves in a physical and spiritual way.

You sit in silence for five minutes. You take the day just to be. You spend a weekend reveling in creativity. You take a week’s vacation to go on an adventure. You declare a sabbatical from social media, and spend several days completely unplugged.

All purposeful choices to find balance in your world, to refresh your mind, and restore your soul.

Welcome to Refresh & Restore, our 6th issue.

When we were choosing themes for Modern Creative Life, “Refresh & Restore” seemed like the perfect attitude to bring into the summer months.  I was always a lover of going to school, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t welcome Summer Break, and the way those days away from school made me hungry for my eventual return.

Now that we’re adults, most of us don’t get the summer off (from school or anything else), so we must carve out ways to restore our own hunger. And there are so many demands on our time and attention – many of which are attractive choices – that we can so easily find ourselves in overwhelm.

Part of living a creative life is the understanding that we must refill our own wells in some way on a regular basis, otherwise, we find ourselves resentful of our own lives. Without the time or space to pursue our creative ways, we will burn out.

Our souls demand that we uphold the responsibility of using our gifts.

But what does Refresh & Restore mean when it comes to Creative Living? How do our own creative processes restore our very souls? How do other makers refresh their minds and the ways in which they create?

How do each of us tend our hearts and fuel our own creative spirits?

These are the questions we are exploring in this issue. As well, we’ll consider what we must we say no to in order to carve out the time and space to refresh our bodies and restore our spirits, and the various ways in which saying yes to what matters most can help us reconnect with our art, poetry, and love of beauty. 

In this issue, you’ll get a peek into the daily lives of other creative folk in our Studio Tours and Typical Tuesday series, and meet people walking fascinating creative pathways in Conversations Over Coffee. With photos and fiction, poetry and prompts, essays and enlightenment, you’ll find a deeper understanding into all the ways in which you create.

As always our mission at Modern Creative Life is to honor the pursuit and practice of joyful creativity. We believe that the creative arts enrich our everyday living, enhance our environment, create lasting connections, and sustain our souls. Please join us as we look to other creatives for ways in which they nurture and tend their own creative life so that they regularly find their process – and lives – feeling nourished instead of parched.

As we share the stories of other makers, use their experiences to illuminate your path into your own Modern Creative Life.

What lessons might you have to share with the world? Share your stories with us, serving as the example or others to learn from and get a sense of permission to take time to restore their own hearts and minds.  We are open to single contributions as well as new regular contributors. Email us at

About the Author: Debra Smouse

debra_Smouse_mclDebra Smouse is an author, life coach, and Editor in Chief here at Modern Creative Life.

She resides in Dayton, Ohio.