Tuesday, August 7, 2018

ESSAY: "Coloring Outside the Lines"

Coloring Outside the Lines
by Judith Cullen
© 2018

It is the same meeting someone face to face as it when you get to know them virtually - something that happens increasingly in our world.  It seems counter intuitive, but it is true.  The process of getting to know someone is really the same, its just that the pitfalls are more acutely highlighted when you get to know someone remotely, rather than in person. 

You are in contact with someone for the first time, and something (or some things) about them appeals to you - strikes a chord. You think, "I'd like to get to know this person better." In certain circumstances, you might even think "they have something that I want. I'll get to know them so I can learn." They were a blank page to you before, an unknown.  Then the moment of introduction happens, the void sheet begins to transform, taking on an outline that intrigues and interests.  It's like a fresh coloring page.  You reach for your box of colors, and you begin.

Friday, August 3, 2018

A POEM EXPERIMENT - "Lavender in the Moonlight"

I love the scent of lavender.  I had a "dream pillow" for years filled with it, and it was one of two scents of Crabtree & Evelyn® products that I used regularly back when I worked in a hot and humid part of the country.

The other day I put out some virtual lavender  plants in a couple of locations in Second Life ®, and I was amazed how clearly the memory of the scent came back to me, and how soothing it was.  I haven't been able to smell actual lavender for over a decade, due to industrial asthma.  But I sure remember how it smelled, and how crisply clean I felt after a shower or bath.

I have also been doing a lot of video and audio work lately, and I found myself a little curious what it would be like to deconstruct them in a presentation.  It's an experiment.

Lavender in the Moonlight
by Judith Cullen
© 2018

Unquiet sleep.
Subsiding conscious thoughts
without the succor of actual repose,
and she rises.

Friday, July 27, 2018

ONE MORE RFL STORY: "A Thing with Feathers"

I wrote a total of 16 pieces of poetry and prose for the Fantasy Faire SL's LitFest Writing Challenge this year.  This is the final piece of the seven that were written with a specific dedication, for someone in my life who has had a direct relationship with cancer.  It has been a wonderful, soulful journey.

A Thing with Feathers
by Judith Cullen
© 2017

for Kathryn

"I brought the wine," she said.  She sat down beside me, deftly handling the two glasses and the bottle. The red wine poured elegantly.  Everything my friend Kathryn did was elegant, stylish, done with a certain understated flair that spoke of  intelligence and class.  She's the only woman I have ever seen gracefully maneuver timpani down a hill in two inch heels. She handed me my glass, and we watched the ebb and flow of the gossamer fish in silence.

"Not Butterfly," I said.

"Totally wrong for it," she replied.

"Maybe Menotti's The Last Savage. It would be a stretch," I suggested. "Or Vivaldi's Argippo?"

"Maybe," she sipped her wine thoughtfully.

After a moment she grinned and I knew she had found just the perfect piece, as she always did, "Bizet's The Pearl Fishers."

"Oh yes," I concurred. "Wouldn't THAT be splendid to stage." The gold-trimmed white marble and the translucent aquamarine water were a little high class for Bizet's subject. Yet with opera you can get away with a certain heightened theatricality.  Life, death, passion, revenge, hatred all on a grand scale - that is opera.

"Mind you, I don't think Bizet had this kind of market in mind. Have you seen these shops?  They are fabulous!"

She refilled our glasses, and rose, leaving the bottle nestled under the bench. I followed her, as always a little in awe that someone so stylish should choose to share company with me, Queen of the Rumpled.

We walked from shop to shop, her trademark heels clicked along the bright marble walkway.  My shoes did not.  She had to drag me out of the shop with exquisite Celt and Nordic inspired furnishings, "Hey!  I might need that for something."

"Come along, we are not shopping for scenery."

"What are we shopping for?"

Monday, July 23, 2018

"Arrivals & Departures" Film Released!

It's one thing to feel the satisfaction of you words in a finished composition. It's quite another when it stands up and walks about in front of you.  Even more overwhelming when it takes on a life all its own.  That's what happened to my short story Arrivals & Departures.

The power of it spoke to others, who also felt compelled to explore it creatively. It was a heady experience - like being in one of those transcendental productions where the entire cast loves doing the show so much, and the show is so good, that you truly regret the closing performance.

This was also a great medium for my writing, and I am hoping that more works may fit into this format in the future. If you would like to read the original story, you can find it HERE - the second one on the page. This was before I revised it for the audio recording which lead to the machinima. (i.e. film made "in the machine")

 Arrivals & Departures was released on 22 July, 2018 and is available on YouTube, Vimeo, SLArtist.com and AView.TV.

If you enjoy this machinima, please share it!

Friday, July 20, 2018


I realized recently that my life is presently engaged in sort of protective effort that I never expected or anticipated finding myself in.  Whether dealing with my aging Mom, or the more frustrating transitions of middle age, or fighting despair at so many things happening in the greater world, I seem to be trying to create havens in my life against the more wearing aspects of these influences. I asked myself what I was doing, and the answer came back - "creating spaces of safety."

No offense is intended, or judgement made on the safe space movement by this poem. If anything, writing it made me question my need the more. It made me ask myself, "what can you achieve beyond protection, by securing yourself against things that challenge you?"

It's a valid question that I am not sure the poem answers, but it is one that I shall continue to explore. After all, "no man is as island..." and "safe" is not a sustainable "forever" choice.  In the meantime:

Safe Spaces
by Judith Cullen
© 2018

I. Of Fear

Every day a walk with death.
A wish for a peaceful passing;
yet the dread of that dawn
when that pulsing will have fled.

Every year a whittling away.
Continual compromising beyond
the reasonable seeming of life.
Will not one dream remain?

A world grows unfamiliar.
Divisiveness, hate, and anger
like cuts and blows, sharp pains.
Desiring cessation - please stop!

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

WAITING FOR A FRIEND - Another 2018 RFL Short Story

Marcus and I began our theater admin careers together back in 1993, and he was my friend. He was someone who was beloved, creative, and inspired so many people.  He was diagnosed in the fall of 2010 and gone by the end of March 2011.  And I miss him, a whole lot.

I think marc would have liked Fantasy Faire. It would have appealed to both the theater artist in him, as well as the clergyman.  So it was not hard to imagine being immersed in a blue land, and having his carroty head (as it was when we first met) pop up and be ready to truth talk.  Enjoy.

The Weeping Land
by Judith Cullen
© 2018

In Memory of Marcus Walker

I found myself in an azure land; as blue as my heart felt, filled with trees that mimicked my tears.  My footfalls felt empty, echoing on the stone path till I stopped, stood still, afraid the emptiness was more than I could endure.

There was a rustling in a bower of ferns to my right and an impish head popped up, bright ginger hair anomalous in this weeping land. 

"Aristophanes!" it shouted merrily.

"Gesundheit!" I replied and sniffed loudly, by long-practiced reflex. I had not done that in years, and there had only ever been one person I had shared that joke with.

"Marcus!  Is that you?" I looked to the bower of ferns. The fronds waved at me, mockingly empty.  I stood blinking at where I thought I had seen that bright, beloved head appear.  I couldn't be.  Marc was gone.  He'd been gone for a while.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

FINDING A POEM by Opening a Cupboard

This was definitely a first. I opened a kitchen cupboard and saw a humble tin of Bigelow Russian Caravan Tea, and it all came flooding back.  Memories of one of my favorite college instructors who was not in my major area.  Magda Schay taught Russian, and along with Choir Professor Dr. Wallace Long, are two of the non-theater faculty that I remember most fondly and who had the greatest impact on me.

Seeing that tin of tea (bought by my parents because Magda served up a cup of Russian Caravan Tea that was without equal - we all remembered it) reminded me that some of the most profound influences on me in my university education had nothing to do with the doctrine or academics.

Magda's Tea
by Judith Cullen
© 2018

So many lessons compressed,
four years of discovery, challenging
everything that was my known world.

So many openings of eyes
to a greater composition of cultures,
thoughts new and exciting.

Yet among so many revelations
a summation would be the completion,
or so one would think.

Lecture and practice, love and sex,
politics and religion, art and philosophy,
were not all diploma-equated.

It was the tea: Magda's Tea.

Spicy, rich and voluble of
foreign lands and exotic histories sipped
from the safety of her porcelain

A rich Russian Caravan that emboldened,
tasting of exploration and sensual delight,
amidst the whispering pines on her deck.

I would happily journey there once more;
from innocence to tingling rapture, a universe
beckoning from Magda's tea cup.

LISTEN HERE to this poem, read by the author.