Reflection 

creativity

Remember that everything is always a reflection. What needs are you rejecting yourself? Consistency in self-care and self-love inevitably leads to a world-view mirror of unconditional love and reciprocation… and you’ll be able to recognize -or find- your mirror in others of radiant beauty. Be able and willing to bend without breaking, yet always remember your roots. 

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Neediness: Plot Twist

Abstract Essays

You move to the mountains because you think you need to restore your energy. You go because you didn’t find what you were looking for in your hometown and you weren’t enough for anything or anyone there. You go to the mountains pleading for answers for your needy, desperate soul. Constantly you beg God and the Universe to send people to you so you’ll be satisfied. You search from town to town looking for people to heal you. You feel so deprived, so desperate for these people and landscapes and then so discouraged when, one day later, you can’t seem to find the answers written clearly in front of you.

You need an anchor. You need somebody to be there for you in your times of need (which is always). The need is so intense, so urgent that you conduct a private ceremony to manifest your solutions right here and now. Why wait patiently for the right timing in the future when you can just as easily control the outcome of your present? You feel confident stepping into your own power. The answer will come, you say, tomorrow morning if not NOW.

However, you’d almost forgotten how God, the Universe, and the Cosmos work in absurdly strange and mysteriously ironic ways.

You wake up in the morning prepared to go out in the world and manifest the solutions to all your needs and desires. You’re dressed to the nines with your newly inherited yoga suit- PLUS an extra dress to stroll the sidewalks of downtown after you’re finished with your yoga sesh in the ever-renowned studio a few miles south. This is it: the day you find exactly what you were looking for. The day you finally manifest your life partner and eternal sunshine and nine kittens, and an everlasting zest for art and creativity that cannot be killed off by anything- sickness, rodeos, or Donald Trump.

Plot twist.

You’re taken aback when, halfway out the door, you receive a text from your friend. A friend! You know, the one you met right here in your new mountain town. But you don’t necessarily know how to respond to texts in such a frenzy, so you call instead. Turns out, this friend has been throwing up consistently since 4am and tells you she’s desperately in need of someone. Living a little too high up the mountain and miles away from town, she needs someone to bring her electrolytes to restore her energy. She’s desperately in need of healing.

Of course, you want to help, so you run to the store and purchase all the essentials she needs to rehydrate. Beforehand, you followed your intuition and packed along the crystalized ginger and holy water that happened to fall off your shelf just as you were leaving. You thought you might as well utilize these in the healing session.  When you open the door to her cabin, you’re greeted by the most beautiful kitten that reminds you of the one you left with your parents back home. Your friend is so miserable she can’t even drink water. “There’s nothing anyone can do to help me!” she cries in desperation.

But you know this is not true, as you feel that the power of love energy can heal anything. You also know that you are certified in reiki, which can be very powerful, so you offer this assistance. After the reiki and Recharge and holy water, your friend feels much better and is no longer heaped in a fetal position on the floor.

While you’re here, simultaneously experiencing the power of love and its healing effects as well as angelic guidance, you receive a voicemail coming in later than it was recorded from another friend that you’re supposed to meet for lunch down the hill. At that moment. (The message popped up later than it was recorded because there is no service where you are currently located.) Now that your friend is doing better, you’re able to speed down the hill and arrive to your lunch appointment albeit forty minutes late.

The meal is more than satisfying to your physical hunger you’d forgotten about. It was exactly what you’d been craving all week, and finally on a Sunday you are able to fulfill this desire! And you’re sitting in a sheltered patio underneath the sunshine in January! Your conversation with this other new friend is spiritually satisfying. After lunch, you’re invited to her home where you are greeted by another precious cat- this one reminds you of the very first cat you ever had. Something in the conversation you have here catches your attention. You catch your friend saying, in comparison to another scenario, “…just like I needed someone to toss things back to, like we did at lunch today”. This new friend needed you there on this day, too.

At this point, you’re kind of getting the hint that everyone here’s in the same boat. And maybe you didn’t need the mountains after all, and maybe the mountains actually needed you.

This becomes even more evident when, upon your return from town after a refreshing solo hike around the lake at dusk, you receive yet another phone call. This time from a number you recognize but never saved as a contact.

“Hi, this is Sara,” the voice says as you frantically unplug your headphones so you’re able to talk. In the midst of this chaos, you both immediately begin the conversation with laughter.

Long story semi-short: you have a brief history with this name you’ve never met. Her sister called your work looking for her and you’re the one who answered. Apparently ‘Sara’ used to work there, too, but nobody knew her. A week later, you stumbled into a shop you had a dream about visiting. The owner, who for some unknown reason believes you need a new place to live even though you’re perfectly content where you are, asks if you know ‘Sara Parsons’. A familiar light flashes in your memory. This is the exact same name you heard a few days ago when her sister called your work looking for her!

Whoa! This wasn’t even the same town we’re talking about! And ‘Sara’ lived in a town forty minutes away from the shop– how is this conversation even logical? So you took this as some sort of sign. You’d been texting this lady about her potential room for rent even when you weren’t looking for a room, and now she was calling to figure out if you were actually interested. You confess the entire story from her sister to the shop and the town she lived in, figuring this story has to be 60 miles long but you sum it up in one sentence. You both agree it’s a little strange.

Yet the conversation flows so naturally that you immediately begin discussing the most personal issues in your lives, forgetting you’ve never before met in person. Turns out you’re both on the same path to self worth but you actually hold some important information to Sara’s blockages, and know exactly what words of wisdom to hand down to her. You’re completely confident at this point that you were the one who needed to give constructive criticism for the betterment of this stranger’s life. In 33 minutes, you discuss signs from the Universe, work history, future hopes, toxic home environments, unhealthy relationships, being stagnant in bad situations, flower essences you both should be taking, Kate’s Magick anointing oils, and the paint color of your rooms.

You plan on hanging out Tuesday.

Yes, you needed the mountains… but this is precisely for the reason that the mountains were desperately in need of you.

And when somebody or something needs you, you realize that your needs no longer matter and feel filled with purpose. Your desires are naturally fulfilled without having to conduct ceremonies to manifest them. (Did I mention Sara has seven cats? Count the number of cats mentioned in this post and it will equal nine, just as I subconsciously predetermined in my sarcastic list of needs in the earlier paragraphs.)

To be continued…

Day 11: Truth or Consequences, Hillsboro, Kingston, Silver City

September Retreat

September 26, 2016

I did make it a point to stop in all of these places. Secretly, or maybe not so secretly, I had been scheming to relocate to Truth or Consequences or Silver City because of a vivid dream I had about the area. I thought that perhaps I’d succeed in escaping the wind, dreariness, and cold weather of Cheyenne, Wyoming for the winter.

The drive from Albuquerque to Truth or Consequences (T or C) was, in fact, very vivid although much drier and drearier than I’d anticipated. I couldn’t say I wasn’t warned about the intense energies of T or C or the beautiful view over Emory Pass just beyond. Stopping in Truth or Consequences, I immediately caught onto its ghostliness. I knew from the history that many ghosts do reside here– but the people I spoke with were all genuinely happy and friendly, so I assume they are not hard to get along with. The sky was densely overcast and wind was abundant- not so divergent from any small, ghosty Wyoming town.

My first impression of this town differed drastically from that of a store owner’s first impression. Her reason for staying in this small town for over thirty-five years began with the sight of a happy dog laying carelessly on the side of the road as she first entered town, wagging its tail to greet her. Soon afterwards, she drove past a cowboy and an Indian slapping each other on the back, both with guns in their pockets, laughing gaily. This conversation also comprised of this woman’s entire life story, and I believe this was the highlight of my brief encounter with T or C. I’d been wanting to soak in one of the many hot springs there, but the suppressive weather and energy of this particular day was too strange for me to stay.

However, the blue hue of the rugged mountains was just as vivid as I’d imagined. The alternative interpretation for this dream, as I suspected, was simply that if I had not dared to venture this far, there would be consequences. What I could not have foreseen was the significance of “truth” in the name. It would only be later in my journey when I would come to an epiphany about this…

The woman I spoke with advised me, with an instinctive gleam in her eyes, to head over the mountain instead of taking the freeway so that I could stop in Hillsboro and Kingston. “Just buy a bottle of water or something so you can step out and get a sense of the culture in these towns. They’re very eccentric and worth knowing.” This reminded me of a similar, long conversation I had with a market owner in Palisade– the same instinctive gleam in her eyes. She’d even written down for me the same landmarks in these towns I was now being directed to again .

As I came over the mountain and into Hillsboro, I pulled over by the sole Post Office although I had a feeling none of these four businesses were open on Tuesdays. As soon as I opened my car door, I shrieked in astonishment at the recognition of a CHEYENNE CAR passing by me! I’m positive I would have personally known whomever may have been inside the car, as I saw them throw their hands up in similar astonishment. This town was literally in the middle of nowhere settled into a desert mountain’s foothills, total population 124, and not another car in sight. What are the odds?

The clouds had not made any reassuring moves by the time I made it to Kingston, NM- just below Emory Pass- giving the atmosphere an unsettling and wearisome vibe. The roads were windy, and though apparently there were only about 60 miles to go, it seemed at this rate like it might be never-ending. I pulled into the infamous Blackrange Lodge, a landmark both new acquaintances had suggested. I stepped inside to an eery air and creaky floors, dusty furniture and dim-light edges. A telephone rang loudly, cracking the silence and stillness.

“Oh, hi, Mom- how are you?” It was a woman’s voice, and somewhat a relief to know perhaps ghosts and dust mites were not the only inhabitants of this lodge.

I’d wanted to stay and talk, maybe acquiring some concealed answer to the mystery of why I had been directed here. I didn’t feel like interrupting the conversation, so I quietly stepped out into the cool early-afternoon air.

I opened my arms to the expansiveness of the Gila National Forest when I mounted the viewing point of Emory Pass, exiting my car for a moment to do so. The remaining drive was downward and windy, passing the Gila Cliff Dwellings and the City of Rocks. Mysteriously, hauntingly beautiful.

This was not what I’d been expecting. What I’d been expecting, perhaps, was more of a tourists’ appeal. More color, more amenities, more people. What I received instead was a sense of realness of this southern New Mexico land: a brutal honesty was nestled in the ancient pines and cliff dwellings. I’d heard word of various wild hot springs littering the entire forest, which was enticing to me and I would have attended them alone had it not been for pressed time and poor sense of direction into the unknown wilderness.

My sense of direction was actually improving with uncanny accuracy throughout the course of the venture so far, but I’d been too far away from my homeland to notice any such changes.

Eternity rolled around before I finally set tires on the city limit I’d been so intent upon visiting for the entire year. I still had hills to climb yet after reaching the limit, and couldn’t see the city. When it became visible, it was not anything I’d imagined. The clouds were even darker, the air was even more intense and unwelcoming. I came to realize this was in part because of the minerals of St. Rita’s Mining Site blowing around in the wind. In all honesty but with no disrespect to the city, it was not beautiful like I’d heard from many references. Already I did not meld with the flow of this city; it had more of a frazzling effect on my spirit and body.

Or so I thought. I felt exhausted when I arrived at my host’s house. I drove back and forth past it at least four times before finally recognizing the entrance down a gravel path. I walked up the steps, trembling with angst from the drive. The door flung open as I mounted the porch, and a woman with long silver hair greeted me with a  warm smile and a bow, “Welcome, Camille. Namaste. My other guests are also writers and musicians who are looking forward to meeting you.”

I walked in to meet Rob, a writer, who was on the same path as mine (originally, anyway): on a mission to complete his novel which takes place in New Mexico. We talked for awhile about the parallelism of this, and the process of writing. He was working and traveling with his wife, Laura, who was a professional jazz singer I would meet later. One of my unspoken, lost dreams is to be a jazz singer.

Lora, our host, talked to me about my journey and also brought up the Black Range Lodge. “Did you meet Catherine?” She mentioned Catherine is always looking for help and that Lora herself worked at this lodge for a few months. This lonely lodge could have been a job opportunity for me had I not been so unimpressed by the area’s solitude and overcast skies. I did contact Catherine about work options and live music, and she agreed that sometimes crowds of guests would like to hear live music if I was interested in performing that weekend. I wasn’t able to, but I was beginning to see the formation of a future music tour through New Mexico.

I rested in my room until nearly 6pm, then headed up to Pinos Altos for open mic night at the Buckhorn. This is something I’d researched the day before in Albuquerque and was excited to see I would be able to attend on a Monday night. While everyone else in the world was absorbed in the first 2016 Presidential Debate, I was in the highlands of a desert mountain town at a historic bar with eccentric paintings covering every square inch of its walls. It was raining, nearly freezing.

Classic country music was reverberating from the man in the corner as I walked inside- Johnny Cash and other old classics. I sat at the bar and ordered a bowl of green chili. Green chili is something to savor at any location in New Mexico, especially when one is shivering from the cold of late September. The two characters a couple seats down on either side of me at the bar were questionable conversationalists, making me feel a little on edge of my barstool. I was grateful when, after half an hour, the host and previous performer of open mic sat down next to me. He reminded me of two people I know from my mother’s hometown, making me feel more at home.

We watched the next performer, Gene Booth, apparently coined as “New Mexico’s Country Music Legend”, take his place on stage. His music was reminiscent of what I imagine the old Spanish polka-folk songs my New Mexico family used to dance to must have sounded like. Maybe that was just my imagination at first impression… he did also sound very similar to Johnny Cash and George Jones. It was a rare treat and comedy to watch him perform.

When I began singing my set, I watched all the customers of this restaurant and bar set down their forks and glasses to listen. I was in awe of their intent observation of my fingerpicking style and my voice. I watched positive gossip circle each table, some describing the range of my voice in hand motions. Some made eye contact with me and smiled, nodding their heads. It was a special moment, as they had not done this for the previous musicians (likely because these two were regulars). I felt accomplished after this short set, though the crowd was diminished more than usual this particular night.

I talked with the remaining performers and friends of performers. One described Silver City as “the melting pot of misfits”. The people I met here were all truly unique, from all walks of life. Not many people, I learned, were originally from the town. They’d come in from a variety of different locations for different reasons. They are the ones who make this location an authentic, artistic, and open-minded place to live.

It was interesting, but not what I’d expected out of a place that had been calling for a few months. Maybe I wasn’t giving myself enough time, but it was initially clear to me that my life path did not require the immediate relocation to southern New Mexico.

221: Celebrating Friendship

Numerology

February 21

Today, David told me that the world’s greatest geniuses including Albert Einstein– who also happen to be some of the most productive and successful of the Earth’s inhabitants, only slept on average an hour per night. So it’s probably okay, he said, that I only got five hours of sleep last night and feel great. I wake up smarter each morning by staying up late to write and research and scheme. 

(I meant to post this yesterday on 2/21, but for the record, it is now 12:21am.)

As I mentioned earlier, I am on a mission to undercover the messages behind number sequences that appear to me on a daily basis. 221 is one of them, so I dedicated February 21st to solving its mystery– or any part of it. I discovered that the main theme of 221 is celebrating the love of friendship.

In the past 24 hours, I have been fortunate enough to spend time with both my closest and longest friends. All in 24 hours, I’ve made a music video with my artsy friend from senior year of high school, had quality morning coffee time with my best friend/sister since first grade, enjoyed a formal high tea with my writing group gals, mingled with all my favorite Starbucks customers, and sang 90s songs with my coworkers. I’ve also been reminiscing on memorable times with friends I haven’t seen in awhile, those living out of town.

These kinds of things don’t just occur on a daily basis. Do they? Perhaps this may just be the beginning of my fortune in friendship.

In reality, I should have done a better job of hiding from the public since I bailed on the Unitarian Universalist Church and their request for me to sing at their service today in which the main theme was “Love and Friendship”. However, I failed to finish the song I began writing about friendship. I believe I have found the inspiration to finish it now.

1111: On Signs from HP

Abstract Essays, Small Miracles

Every year my family has a white elephant party. We exchange the lowest scale junk from the depths of our dark closets including old Barbies, kid’s toys, ugly sweaters, and comical party favors. Though these items are predictable, they are different in some way each year. In other words, I wouldn’t receive the same ugly sweater that someone else received last year. No—there is only one item that is allowed to recycle itself upon the same circle each year, and that is Sally’s Angel.

When the Angel was born unto this Earth, finished with a careless brush stroke atop a navy blue canvas, she was not blessed. Instead, the ear was dotted on her face just in time for her to be welcomed with a condescending chuckle and the cruel proclamation: “This is the ugliest angel I’ve ever seen.” And how can an insult like this be more any more condemning, coming from the mouth of no other than that of that her Creator? The Creator didn’t even have the wit to sign her own initials; instead, she forged a crooked “HP” near the Angel’s head.

If I hadn’t been there during the time of her creation, I would have been among those pondering the origin of this great mystery. Each year, the chosen one tears off the last of the wrapping paper to come face to face with the strange angel. The first reaction is always hysterical laughter, followed by a solemn gaze of pure confusion—and finally, the question. “What’s HP?” And it was always my grandmother—never the true creator—who would have to explain the story to the entire group. She confessed it was a mock painting, not the original. My grandmother’s friend, Sally the artist and the hoarder, had given her a painting of an “ugly” angel for Christmas one year. When my grandmother asked Sally what her inspiration was for this “lovely painting”, Sally poked her thumb up in the air a few times and whispered, “H.P.” with a divine force. What’s H.P.? Harry Potter? Grandma had asked. Sally only responded, “You know… higher power.”

I could have never foreseen myself becoming anything like Sally the artist, the hoarder, and angel-whisperer years later… but not long after the first year of her rotation, I began receiving signs. California license plates were everywhere. Everyone I met was from California. Some of them still are. Now, however, it’s changed to North Carolina. So what is it about North Carolina?  And what about the recurring numbers I see at least twenty-two times per day? This subject may deserve a separate post. The point is, it’s come to the point in which I cannot ignore these signs being thrown at me with such force everywhere I go.

I could only take an educated gander at the giver of these signs, and I’m not sure how to explain It any better than HP. You know. Higher Power. And now here I find myself in a tiny apartment hoarding blank canvases, waiting for signs from HP to tell me what needs to be painted. I’m hoarding blank notebooks, waiting for signs from HP to inspire my words. Then there are those instruments basking in the dark corners of my rooms, some of which go untouched, waiting for HP to dominate my fingertips and strum.

I’ve had some success so far. Ever since I’ve acknowledged that HP is in fact living in my hands and my heart, I have experienced floods of inspiration. It’s not so difficult to finish things anymore. Knowing that HP is the source of signs I receive, I’m more willing to trust the recurring signs… places, symbols, numbers, names, etc. It’s seeing how the order of my life can play out, placing the opportunities in front of my eyes and allowing me to put together various puzzle pieces that might just come together and form a beautiful picture.

The Voices of Trees

Cultured Narratives, Fiction

She grew up to be what she believed a good woman to be: gorgeous beyond all belief, with cheeks sunken in to bare her zygomatic bones, lips painted a dark yet subtle color, hair bleached an unnatural blonde, dark makeup engulfing her brown eyes, and a body worked so hard and malnourished for just long enough to be an ounce thinner than healthy. She had also believed a good woman to be loved by a fine man, however ugly he may be.

Claire had followed through with these beliefs for the past fifteen years, but long nights and fights had torn away her love—twice– and she could no longer maintain her previous identity. Now she was a two-time divorcee without love, without identity. What good was her undeniable beauty when no one was present to admit it? Loveless. Lifeless.

Smoke swirled inside her black car and drifted out into the morning sky while the frigid winter air came pounding down through the window and into Claire’s weak lungs. She began choking on her smoke and coughing uncontrollably. Her delicate manicured fingers flicked the cigarette out onto the road. Claire kept her eye on it through the rearview mirror until it became invisible. It was so small compared to the cloudless sky above her.

After weaving through pines and week-old snow for what seemed like a millennium, she could finally see the log cabin that she would be inhabiting for the next month—whether or not she could bare the mental and emotional consequences.

It was family time in [what Denver city girls would call] the “suburbs” of Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Yipee. Lord knew from past experience just how much fun the Alderson family could have while existing no further than six feet apart from one another at any given moment for an entire month. Once celebrating a marriage, and now a death (though unfortunately, this culture is not particularly keen on celebrating death), emotions within the log cabin would be in full swing from hormonal teenagers, men in mid-life crises, women suffering from PMS, and menopausal women such as Claire herself. Piling grief on top of this already-toppling tower of stress would not exactly transform the spirits of the Alderson family (particularly Claire’s) in a positive manner.

She had just begun menopause two weeks earlier and couldn’t get used to the sudden urge to fan herself like she had seen her grandmother do in church every Sunday years ago. Decades ago, to be more precise. She didn’t want to feel like a grandmother. Not yet. She had walked the Earth for forty-nine years and still hadn’t borne any children, still hadn’t set foot outside the U.S.A., and apparently still hadn’t experienced unconditional love.

Perhaps her mother had given her unconditional love at some point, but now her mother wasn’t here to lend a shoulder to cry on. Why did it have to be like that? At the time in her life when Claire needed her mother’s shoulder to cry on more than ever before, her mother could not be there for her. Didn’t she know that no one else in this family could comfort her in the same way? Evidently not. Now, she would never be able to know that her own death took a toll on Claire more than anything ever had.

In the four days since her mother’s passing, Claire had done nothing but cry. Good Lord, she could cry. God had never seen a child cry more than Claire Marie Alderson Greeley. But this reaction could not be greatly contrasted to Claire in her natural state of loneliness.

When in doubt, cry. When depressed, cry. When the sun no longer shines, cry. Cry, Cry.

When you want something more than anything, nothing will prevent it.        

Claire hit her brakes. That voice was real and seemed to be speaking directly to her. She felt a presence, but the radio was turned off and no one was around; she suddenly felt nothing but the solemnness of the pines surrounding her. Great, now she was hearing voices. She was hearing the voices of… trees.

She suddenly remembered that saying. It was her mother’s.

Tears emerged in the corners of her eyes and threatened to drip, but she stopped herself. She blinked.

Someone honked and flew past her car. She was sure they’d given her the finger. But how could she care at a time like this? At a time when she could hear trees talking? She gazed upward at the winding road in front of her, then at the strikingly bright blue sky. Slowly, she regained speed to her vehicle (subconsciously trailing along at thirty-five miles per hour). Going slow was okay right now.

Okay, she thought, What is it that I want? What could she possibly want? She didn’t have to think too hard at first; she wanted love. Real love. Without a partner and now without her mother, she wasn’t sure if she could find enough consolation in speaking with her cousins. She was an only child and had always been happy about it, but at a time like this, it seemed siblings would serve as an ideal source of love. Well, it’s a little too late for that, she thought.

Children? No, she didn’t really want children. Not really. But they would provide love, right? She had often considered adoption, but most times when she’d lie in bed straining her brain about this subject, she’d always come up with the conclusion that there wasn’t a true balance between the love of parents and children. Children were too needy and unappreciative. Parents always had to do the cleaning, the cooking, the driving, the changing of diapers, the paying of medical appointments, etc. Pets were also too much to handle. Maybe fish would be okay.

She exhaled a sad sigh smelling of nicotine and tobacco and whatever other toxic crap cigarettes are made of. That was another thing—she wanted to quit smoking. But Lord knew this particular week certainly wasn’t the time to do it. She’d have to wait until the new year.

She also wanted red rubies on her fingers. She wanted a double chocolate frappe loaded with fat and sugar and extra espresso. She wanted to feel the sun turning her shoulders brown. Now, what was preventing all of this at the moment? To name only a few: she was in debt, there wasn’t a Starbucks in any direction for three hundred and fifty miles, and it was a toasty eighteen degrees outside. And her mother was channeling the forest, or vice versa, solely to inform Claire that nothing—nothing at all—was preventing these things from happening?

Claire was oblivious to the various cars honking and flying past her on the highway, and she couldn’t have been sure how much time had passed before she realized she was ascending up the winding road called Harmony Lane that led to her family’s cabin. Almost there. Instead of tensing up like she normally did at this point, she felt a sense of calm flood her body. How strange.

She gazed up at the sky that now contained a few clouds, one of which was shaped distinctly like a guitar. There was no questioning this—Claire had seen and heard plenty of stranger things before (i.e. hearing trees talk) that made her believe there was something wrong with her mind, and maybe there was, but there was no doubt that this cloud perfectly resembled a guitar. This time she wasn’t just seeing things. It made her want to play guitar again, more than anything…

She remembered the way she felt when she used to play during her high school and college days. It had always amazed her how she could speak another language through a piece of old wood that used to be a tree. She would spend hours singing harmonies alone with her guitar and writing down the words the guitar spoke to her. She had begun to perform in bars, coffee shops, and for her friends at parties.

The talent came so naturally. Everyone who heard her would always gaze at her in awe. That feeling was like nothing else, yet so familiar… it was a light-hearted feeling, as if she were floating in the air and flooding her soul with happiness. She could taste happiness when she sang her songs and picked those acoustic steel strings with her bare fingers. Then when people were listening and watching, absorbing her words and the sounds her fingers could make, they looked at her like… they were in love.

And she was in love with them, too. She was in love with all of it: with her guitar, her voice, her words, fingerpicking, creating chords—all of it. She was in love. That was real love for her, and she had completely abandoned it and traded it for her worthless first husband Carl and a full-time manager position at a bank. She wished she could take back that portion of her life and just change all of it. Hadn’t she wanted those things at that point in her life, though? It was hard to imagine now, but she was sure she did.

The harsh truth hit her: she used to love Carl, but she never wanted to marry him (and this was also the case with her second husband). She used to want to be the manager of a bank, but she never loved the job. She realized now that happiness meant making choices that she wanted as much as she loved and vice versa. She realized now that she wanted to fall in love with music again, more than anything.

Just as she approached the log cabin, feeling more relieved than grieved, Claire  could not think of anything preventing this from happening.

Maybe Not

Cultured Narratives, Fiction

There’s a dream that I see

Sitting here alone on this parched New Mexican grass, surrounded by nothing but yellow in all directions, I dip my toes into the shallow stream below me and all I want to do is cry.

I pray it can be

The rancher who lent me shelter in his home last night after he found both me and my car broken down on the side of the road told me that the river would run dry within the next few years.

Across the land

The river is all he has to sustain his cattle, himself, and people in surrounding rural communities who depend on him.He said it’s because the earth is heating up and there’s nothing we can do to reverse the effects.

Shake this land

“Man caused this mess but men can’t fix it,” he said while we were drinking coffee at his table, basking in the already intense June sun.

A wish or a command

“What about women? I asked, jokingly.

“Women have a better chance than men.”

We’re just human

I lift my face from my knees, directly above the water. I’m crying, but not nearly enough. I want to pour out all my apologies to this stream. I want to repay the river with tears of replenishment, but human eyes can only produce so much water.

We all do what we can

So we can do just one more thing

If I had been as kind to the earth as this old rancher has been to me, maybe things would be different.

We could all be free

Maybe not with words

Maybe he wouldn’t have had to repeat the word “drought” every day.

Maybe not with a look

Maybe the grass I’m sitting on would be green instead of yellow.

But with our minds

These tears aren’t enough.

The turn of the tide is withering thee

I want to roll a grand piano over this stream and stand in the water, forcing sound out of it with my bare fingers and singing those words I wrote so many years ago, willing God—if he hasn’t yet lost hope in us—to resurrect this river.

Remember one thing

A dream you can see

If my words have any power at all, maybe he would cry tears of joy at the sound, and those tears would fall upon my shoulders, replenishing the river and our spirits.

Pray it to be

But I don’t have a grand piano with me, only my voice. I sing.

Shake this land

(**Inspired by the song “Maybe Not” by Cat Power. Italic lyrics are all part of that song, written by Chan Marshall. I first wrote this in my mind while half asleep.**)

Foreigners

Cultured Narratives

I admire those people who walk into a coffee shop late in the cold night just because their souls are attracted to the sound coming from within… Then they just stand there in the back wrapped up in their trench coats and I can’t help but unconsciously stare at them the entire time I’m singing on stage because they’re so mysterious and beautiful. They stare back at me, not knowing I am paying attention to them. Foreigners, almost— though now I am a foreigner to my own city. I fear leaving it, but on the other hand I want to travel. The city of magical mysteries and skepticism is difficult to resist for some, difficult for others to stay in.
We’re all connected here; that’s what draws them from the street and into the dimly lit café to warm their hands and heart and soul… Because of another person’s creativity. Including mine.

Stealing Smiles

Abstract Essays

Some people doubt that I have the capability to do anything morally wrong, ever.
Those people are mistaken.
I am a thief.
Ever since the day I realized I could possess something belonging to another, I have been stealing on a daily basis. The things I steal are more valuable than any jewel, any car, or any amount of money—because they belong to someone. Not economically, not materially, but physically. I covet specific features of a person; things that one would assume can only be a biological aspect. This theory is a myth, and I have proven it wrong through many years of hypothesizing and experimenting.
It’s an uncontrollable urge.
Whenever I pass people, I like to make eye contact. This is an innocent action. But then, suddenly, their lips will curve upward and sometimes—even more suddenly—their teeth will be exposed and my own lips are forced into an equivalent shape.
For most, this common gesture is referred to as “exchanging smiles”. But for me, this is not the case. Even after “exchanging” the briefest smile with a stranger, that smile latches on to me and it happens so quickly that I am not able to return it. Later in the day, I will often find myself wearing that same smile in place of my own.
One might say that smiles are contagious. I think so too, but I don’t think others quite understand how this phrase could be translated in other languages (or perhaps in some very abstract minds).
The way someone smiles—quickly, timidly, vividly, etc.—can be contagious. If I see someone smile in a certain way, maybe in an unusual or out-of-the-ordinary way, I catch that person’s smile. I capture it and keep it captive as my own, because there is a chance that I may never be able to catch that smile again, and any mastered thief knows that no time can be wasted in the process.
The methodology of stealing smiles has evolved over time. Today, some thieves prefer cameras to steal smiles. Because of this contemporary method, nearly everyone who has traveled to densely populated areas has had their smile stolen. I, however, prefer the traditional method, because the naked eye and a memory can capture smiles (1) more quickly than a camera and (2) without the subject ever knowing.
I consider myself among the highest rankings of thieves, because the treasured items that common thieves accumulate will eventually lose their value. Smiles, on the other hand, never will.