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.

Nostalgia by Æverett

Copyright : Catrea Martin


just the fingertips
and the lips in a kiss
cold wind on chimes
and the argument is dead.

forget the other times
the boy is mine.
the boy is mine.

under covers cotton blooming
dark across the picture frame
a needle in the form of my name
we never saw it in the corner, looming.

just a twitch
and the whisper of a wish
forgotten on the shine of a star
and toted down into the dark place.

the distance is long too far
the boy is gone.
the boy is gone.

love on the tip of a tongue
barbed and numb
prone to breaking – others.

it’s not fair, so maybe we should just stay in bed.

About the Author: Æverett

ÆverettÆverett lives in the northern hemisphere and enjoys Rammstein and Star Trek. He writes both poetry and fiction and dabbles in gardening and soap making. She has two wonderfully old cats, and a dearly beloved dog. He also plays in linguistics, studying German, Norwegian, Russian, Arabic, a bit of Elvish, and developing Cardassian. Language is fascinating, enlightening, and inspirational. She’s happily married to her work with which she shares delusions of demon hunters, detectives, starships, androids, and a home on the outskirts of a small northern town. He’s enjoyed writing since childhood and the process can be downright therapeutic when it’s not making him pull his hair out. It’s really about the work and words and seeing without preconceptions.

Sunday Salon: The Future of Work


These are the days our social media feeds fill with colorful images of fall foliage, long vistas of crimson and gold trees, piles of crunchy leaves underfoot, scenes of warm firelight, cozy blankets, steaming cups of coffee. Our taste buds crave hearty soups and stews, the spice of harvest flavors like pumpkin and apples. We don’t really mind pulling on a sweater or jacket these first frosty mornings, and marvel, childlike, at the magic of our very breath made visible in the air before us. I always feel lucky to live in the Midwest in autumn, for nowhere else does the season gift us with such grandeur and beauty.

Fall is such a poignant season – my favorite one most likely for that very reason. I am, by nature, melancholic, and autumn fits my natural predisposition like the fuzzy gloves I pull out of my jacket pocket. With autumn the light dies quickly each day, the cycle of seasons comes to a close, the year ends in a triumphant blaze of glory.

All things -good or bad – come to an end. If I’ve learned nothing else in my 62 years on the planet, I’ve learned that lesson well. Not every ending comes with the brilliant shades of autumn, but each one colors our world in its own unique way. And of course, with each ending comes a new beginning, with every change comes new opportunity. Its an old adage but a true one – when one door closes, another one opens.

I truly appreciate living in a place with four distinct seasons because along with the gifts of beauty autumn provides, it offers us a chance to reflect on the year gone by – on ALL the years that have accumulated like the piles of leaves under out feet, years that have blown in a vortex, whirling and swirling around our heads. Autumn gives us a brief moment to prepare ourselves for the work that lies ahead, the cold winter days that call for courage and perseverance and determination.

This autumn, more than any other in recent history, I feel called to work, to the kind of work that brings something meaningful to the world. As long as I’ve been writing here in The Sunday Salon (and this column predates Modern Creative Life by many years, going back to the days when I maintained a book blog called Bookstack) I have focused my attention on the intersection between life and art. For me, art is something like the fall foliage of life, the surprising and glorious beauty that appears out of nowhere when we turn the corner, that inspires a quickly indrawn breath, a murmured “ahh,” a welling of tears in the eye. Art is what connects me to thinking and ideas from centuries past, from the expressions of my contemporaries, and also from the ideas of youth. It shines a light on the world and helps us understand in a new way.

It gives solace. It inspires courage. It offers hope.

Those are things I believe we need in the world, just as we need food and shelter, and perhaps we need them now more than ever in my lifetime. But for all the mess society seems to be in, within the chaos and the strife there are millions of individuals like you and I going through the motions of each and every day, getting up for work and school, driving our cars in traffic, dealing with demanding and recalcitrant bosses – or spouses and children. As we do our daily work, whether we know it or not we each hunger for something beautiful, something easy on the eyes and ears, something that will lift us up.

Here in Michigan, autumn does a fine job of all of that.

Art does all those things too, and more besides.

As Modern Creative Life goes on hiatus, I know I’ll need reminding that creative living is the way we bring art and life together in real time, everyday. The future of MY work entails staying connected with the creative side of my being and also with other people who inspire me. The future of my work means listening to the creative voices that speak hope and truth. The future of my work means diving into the deep waters of my own thoughts and dreams, distilling ideas that I can share with you, ideas that may resonate within you and make you feel less alone.

In practical terms, the future of my work means exploring life in general through writing, it means developing the determination to regularly connect with others on my personal blog and on Medium. It means trying to shift my perspective from negativity toward hopefulness, from complacency toward action. It means looking inward more often rather than allowing myself to be flooded constantly with chaotic words and images from the outside world. Maybe it means a new book, the one I’ve been thinking about and wanting to write for almost two years, or maybe one I haven’t yet conceived of.

It’s pouring rain today, a chilly rain accompanied by gusts of wind that send the last of the leaves dripping into sodden heaps on the ground. It’s a melancholy day. Cold rainy days like this at the end of October are usually harbingers of autumns final breaths. But I fight my natural despondency – I play games with the puppy, I start reading a new book, I go shopping and buy a soft sweater in the same deep crimson of the maple tree outside our bedroom window.

Even as this season, this year, this time of my life comes to a close, I challenge myself to blend memories of the past with a vision for the future of work.

For the future of Art.

For the future of Life.

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 teaching tricks to 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.

Make-Up by Patricia Wellingham-Jones

I stopped with the serious cosmetics –
foundation, blush, powder, all the eye stuff –
as a young nurse working back east
in an old brick hospital,
long wards cooled only by ceiling fans.

When the mask melted
and goo ran down my face,
dripped from nose and chin
to patients’ sheets and bandages
I’d had enough. Hustled to the bathroom
mid-shift to scrub my face.

That’s when I reverted to original skin.
I did keep lipstick, which I still wear
mostly to keep my lips from cracking.
For a long time the eyes
still got their gloss.

After neck surgery and nerve-damaged hands,
mascara, liner and shadow left my eyes peering
as if from a sad raccoon’s face.
I’ve grown comfortable in my own skin,
glad to put the masks away.

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.

Sunday Sanctuary: on Why

When I began writing online back in 2000, I was grateful for the small community of bloggers. We visited each other’s blogs and, because it as before the days of comments, we connected via email. I felt incredibly lifted up by the connections I made. And, honestly, the other blogs I read.

I wasn’t alone in my deeper need to create. None of the other bloggers I read or connected with ever thought I was compulsive in my need to write daily. Or, sometimes, multiple times a day.

The community of bloggers opened my eyes to the ways in which we could contribute to the creative lives of others. My first discovery of this came when I was able to download a “graphics set” to decorate my blog.  That led me down the path to the other ways in which we could share other’s creative pursuits.

Soon, I wanted to contribute to the larger conversation online. I wanted to do more than just link to blogs I liked.

I created an anonymous group blog called Hormonal Bitch. Something I’ve never confessed to before today. We wrote tongue in cheek commentaries on life. Later, I created a group blog called The Back Porch and we chose a monthly theme to write about. These were the folks that I was writing with when the planes hit the towers on 9/11. We processed how we were dealing with the tragedy as individuals and a community.

I also began to write book reviews for a magazine called All Things Girl. By 2005, I was serving as the Editor in Chief. For those of you that have been around during the run of that magazine – or are new here – know that putting the spotlight on other people’s work is of utmost importance to me.

I believe that as creators, we are richer by supporting the creative works of others.

When it comes to my personal values, it’s in my top ten.

And that’s why it’s hard to write this. To tell you why after three short years, we are putting Modern Creative Life in stasis.

I mentioned it when we launched this issue, aptly themed “Nostalgia”. And since that time, I’ve gotten multiple emails asking me a reasonable question: “Why?”

The reasons are simple, yet complicated. They are straightforward, yet layered.

And as much as I value putting the spotlight on the works of other people, the work I am most called to do right now is my own work.

I am well aware how selfish that might sound when down in black and white.

Earlier this year, I began working with a new business mentor to take my coaching practice to the next level. Actually, I am working with a team of experts. Ones that know how to dig more deeply into the things that would send me down a rabbit hole of data.

Much of this focuses on making what I write for work more “Google-Able”. And, in order to do that, my team informed me this summer that I needed to write at least two blog posts per week. Preferably three.

To make space for managing Modern Creative Life. As well as do other things that are important to me. Like actually coach clients. And tending my home and nurturing my relationship with John, I had made the decision to cut back to writing only two blog posts per month for my coaching practice.

Yep. I was unceremoniously informed that I needed to go from two blog posts a month to two or three per week. That meant that I needed to not only write a little more. I needed to quadruple the amount I was writing for my own website.

To confess that I was overwhelmed with needing to up my productivity to that degree is an understatement. In all truth and honesty, I had gotten a little lazy when it came to my writing. For work and otherwise.

This coincided with Melissa having knee surgery. Which meant that not only did I need to spend time at MCL, I had to not only do a portion of the editing here. I was doing all of it.

And the thing is, running Modern Creative Life is more time consuming than running All Things Girl was. Because of social media.

Part of shining the light on the works of others demands that we not just publish it, but share it. And each and every piece here deserved to be shared not just once, but multiple times. Despite the joy I have in sharing the work here on Twitter and Facebook. And despite that I loved digging back into the archives to remind you of brilliant pieces from the past.

I just don’t have the bandwidth to continue doing it.

I don’t have the bandwidth to quadruple my writing for work, increase the guest posts I write, and managing the social media feeds for my coaching practice. AND maintain all the work I do here for Modern Creative Life. Just the social media alone could honestly need another person to manage it. And there have been no “takers” to mange it for us beyond me.

And to be vulnerably and nakedly honest with you, I haven written a single word for the next book I want to write. And I haven’t gotten back to editing the book I had planned to publish two years ago.


And to be even more honest: I like the writing I do for my coaching practice. I appreciate the opportunity to help folks shift their lives. I love my work as a coach.

Even if quadrupling the amount I write feels overwhelming and a bit daunting, the truth is, that having more deadlines helps me build my writing muscle. And, if you didn’t know, just like exercise, the more you write, the more you find you can write.

As creative people, one of the unfortunate things we have to do is to choose what to work on. Even if we have multiple passions. And a slew of interests. Our creative gifts demand that we become devoted to a particular topic, task, or type of work.

Another one of the tasks on my list thanks to my team – and all the updates to the way websites are run on the backend – I needed a new design for my website. I rebranded my website last month. And, though I am head-over-heels in love with the design, it didn’t come without a slew of new tasks.

There was some funky piece of code lingering in almost every old post.  And, also thanks to the rebranding, most of my blog posts need new images. I have written over 300 blog posts for work. That’s a lot of photos to find and posts to edit. Even if the editing is small and picky. It still takes time.

You may ask why I would bother to edit blog posts I wrote years ago. (I started writing for my coaching practice in 2011). Well, old pieces that I wrote often bring in new readers. In fact, more than 30% of my organic search traffic comes to blog posts written ages ago.

That means that those post that are old, yet bring people I can help in some way? They need to be not just lightly restyled with a new photo. Some of them need to be re-written to be more applicable to the world today.

The other thing I have discovered is that what the industry terms as “backlinks” can matter to the reputation and authority a website has. See, Google (and other search engines) notate how many links there are “out there” to any particular website. The more quality links you have, the more reliable you are seen no matter your field.

That’s why I am committed to keeping the archives here at Modern Creative Life intact. It was something we were unable to do with All Things Girl thanks to a hacker and an inept tech support person. But now that I understand what must be done, I am committed to make it happen.

Because even if I don’t have the bandwidth to continue to manage a regular magazine, I can ensure that the works here at MCL do not lose the impact they have. That they continue to enhance the work creators do. Because the unfeeling robots known as search engines may not see the true brilliance of your work. What they do see is the number of times this website refers folks back to your online spaces.

Besides, once the dust settles, we may decide to do a special issue. Or a limited series of features on wonderful poets and photographers and storytellers. And maintaining the site will be a huge help for any spur-of-the-moment decisions.

I have had to come face to face with reality of late. There are truly only so many hours in the day. And, despite wishing I were Wonder Woman, I am me. I am a fifty-year old woman that is a finite resource.

And when we get down to the realities of living a creative life? We must always make our own work a priority.  We must listen to that inner voice within us and answer the call to use our time wisely and create more. More stories. More works of art. More expressions of how we see beauty in the world.

Sometimes, this may seem selfish to those we serve. Yet, if we have served them well, deep down, folks will understand our deeper desire to create.

If you are so called to do so, I’d still be honored to edit your poems, stories, and essays as we wind down this issue on Nostalgia.

About the Author: Debra Smouse

debra_Smouse_mclDebra Smouse is a self-admitted Tarnished Southern Belle, life coach, and author. 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.

Fertilization by Lisa Zaran


Counting the years of his absence,
the child’s repetition, I stand at the
door smoking a cigarette.

Ashes land like snowflakes on the
step of a bright Spring day.

My father sits inside a small box
with his eyes closed.

I paid cash for his ashes. Carried
them home on the floorboard of my

Guru in seclusion, flesh and action
trapped. My father breathes motes,

flecks of dust, particles preserved
in a bed of pleura.

Deep inside a barefoot lung I empathize

About the Author: Lisa Zaran

LisaZaranBioLisa Zaran is the author of eight collections of poetry including Dear Bob Dylan, If It We, The Blondes Lay Content and the sometimes girl. She is the founder and editor of Contemporary American Voices. When not writing, Zaran spends her days in Maricopa county jails assisting women with remembering their lost selves.

Nostalgia by Nancy Richardson

I grew up in a typical midwest town in the 1950s and 1960s. By typical I mean we had free range of our middle class neighborhood. Freedom to ride our bikes, run and play with friends, and take walks in wooded areas with no fear of harm. It was a safe childhood. I am still drawn to the sound of screen doors slapping, the smell of newly cut grass, the voices of children playing.

Yes, I look back on those days with nostalgia. In my poem “Youngstown, Ohio, 1952” about that town, that nostalgia is mixed with the beginnings of a doubt that the city of my childhood might be a place to stay in the future. Perhaps I was beginning to sense that air filled with soot from steel mills and called “pay dirt” by the citizens might not be the best place to settle.


Youngstown, Ohio 1952

I climbed the hill on my green Schwinn
at dusk when the air lifted enough
for me to see the fevered orange flush
of the open hearth on the horizon.
Tomorrow, it would rain ashes
on our ’52 Chevy. Later on a field trip
to the mill I walked on a catwalk
above the mouth. The runoff turned
into the sour taste of ash on my tongue.
The men were so close their sweat
turned to powder on their faces.
The cast heat rose and billowed
my skirt into a small suspended
parachute. Later, floating in the haze
that wanting makes, I lifted off
beyond the yard, beyond the gray sun
imagining a clear trajectory.

As the time to leave for college and marriage the next year approached, I was caught up in my own future, and so missed the signs that my town was slowly at first, then more rapidly, disintegrating. The first sign may have been a visit in the early 1970s to my old neighborhood which was exhibiting signs of deterioration. Trash on lawns, a few boarded up houses, rumors of carjackings. After that, there continued the ominous warnings: “don’t drive on that street,” “people are burning their houses down for the insurance money,” and more boarded up stores. When the town became the site of two federal maximum security prisons I began to lose hope.

How does this happen in America? A middle-class town becomes a host to graft and corruption at every level and the citizens do not respond. I began to think of Youngstown as Beirut, which had been decimated by the wars of the Middle East.

My nostalgia for my hometown was now mixed with sadness and wonder at its disintegration. A friend from my high-school class told me this story: He drove to his old street and stopped to look at his former house. A man with a gun pointed it at him through the window and said, “get outta here.” Going home again had become dangerous.

In subsequent years, I learned of the host of events that resulted in Youngstown, Ohio, becoming the poorest city in America. The lack of diversification and planning for new businesses; the end of the era of steel manufacturing; the presence of the Mafia and corruption of the town’s leaders; the desertion of the city by business leaders and middle class families; the lack of state and federal leadership. A total lack of vision and leadership, combined with corruption, resulted in swaths of city streets with burned out houses, the poorest school system in the state, epidemics of drug use, and unemployment at record highs.

I still go back. Every four years, I pound the pavement with labor members and progressive citizens to work for a democratic government. My poem “Door to Door” describes one of these moments.


Door to Door
November 2008

Let these people
not be home

let the flyers
blow away quietly

stick to the
chain link fences

let me not walk up
these concrete steps,
one more time

stand on this torn
green outdoor rug

read the Persuasion Script
promise life

will get better
perhaps not now

perhaps in some
other person’s lifetime

So my nostalgia for my hometown is for what was once true and what has become true in recent years. I go back now and see the devastation, but also a certain resiliency. It is not as though the early years were untrue. It is that time changed everything and a new city has emerged. And so my yearning for my hometown is for both the old and the new. The wonderful neighborhoods where children played freely and the neighborhoods now that are struggling to become safe and free. Yearning for what has been and hope for what might be.

About the Author: Nancy Richardson

Nancy Richardson’s poems have appeared in journals anthologies. She has written two chapbooks. The first, Unwelcomed Guest (2013) by Main Street Rag Publishing Company and the second, the Fire’s Edge (2017) by Finishing Line Press concerned her formative youth in the rust-belt of Ohio and the dislocation, including the Kent State shootings that affected her young adulthood. In An Everyday Thing, she has included those poems and extended the narrative to memories of persons and events and the make a life.

She has spent a good deal of her professional life working in government and education at the local, state, and federal levels and as a policy liaison in the U.S. Office of the Secretary of Education and for the Governor of Massachusetts. She received an MFA in Writing from Vermont College in 2005 and has served on the Board of the Frost Place in Franconia, NH. Visit her website.

Poems are from An EveryDay Thing by Nancy Richardson published by Finishing Line Press in July 2018.

Welcome to Issue Number 12: Nostalgia

As we move into the fall and holidays, I am sure I’m not the only one remembering the ghosts of holidays past.

We remember the beauty of the holidays without the drama. Forgetting the Christmas when Uncle Albert was drunk and obnoxious. Or the Thanksgiving when there were no awkward talks of politics.

If we are to focus on Nostalgia, we forget the alcoholic fueled arguments. Or those holidays when we we struck with the flu.

I also know that sometimes,in order to escape the reality of the crazy world we live in, we need to dig into the past.

“We are homesick most for the places we have never known.”
Carson McCullers

Welcome to the fourth issue of 2018 – Issue #12: Nostalgia.

When we were choosing themes for Modern Creative Life, we thought that choosing “Nostalgia” was just the right subject to dive into the final months of 2018. As we bridge the space between what is and what could be, we often look to the past.

Part of living a creative life is the understanding that we can stay firmly planted into the reality of today while allowing rose colored glasses of the past to color it.  We must refill our own wells in some way on a regular basis, otherwise, we find ourselves feeling trapped and restless. We remedy the brutal reality of today with the beauty of the past, even if we only remember the good of it.

Our souls demand that we uphold the responsibility of using our gifts. And sometimes, the best way to honor that is to color it with the bonds of the past.  This what we are exploring in this issue.

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 essays, as well as all kind of enlightenment, help each of us 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..

On another note, Nostalgia is the perfect theme in which to put Modern Creative Life in Stasis. This is not only the last issue of 2018. This is also the last issue of Modern Creative Life for the foreseeable future.

Though we have loved being a part of the creative landscape, we must also recognize that the realities of creating and living unfortunately mean that we cannot continue on as is.

We will maintain the archives. And continue to share the archives in our social media posts. And maybe, just maybe, we’ll do a special limited edition here and there in the future.

We’d love for you to add to the (almost) final chapter of Modern Creative Life.

What stories might you have to share with the world? In what ways might looking upon our lives thorugh the lens of Nostalgia make your daily life richer and more beautiful? Don’t be afraid for a deep dive into all sides of nostalgia to give yourself – and others – a sense of permission to take time to restore their own hearts and minds.  We are open to single contributions. Email us at

I can’t wait to see how NOSTALGIA speaks to you in the coming weeks.

With love,
Debra Smouse
Editor in Chief

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.