Wednesday, November 26, 2014


Thanksgiving 1968, with "Grandma Lillie"
My Mother’s Hands
By Judith Cullen
(c) 2014

When I was a little girl, family members of various generations swore that I was the very image of my maternal Grandma.  “That’s Lillie!” they would exclaim, and reference her 8th grade graduation picture as proof of the likeness.

My Grandma was someone who appeared to be very much in command of things.  She was a strong personality who always seemed to be the key decision maker.  My Grandpa, suffering significantly from the onset of lung cancer when I knew him, was much softer spoken.  I remembered him best in his recliner, and from the polished rocks he tumbled in his workshop.

Sunday, November 23, 2014


It was just a year ago that I was packing up my life of 21 years, from an apartment I had loved (and still sometimes miss). Some of that life survived, some of it was sold, and some of it was given away - LOTS was given away.

I am still going through things, by the grace of friends, and evaluating what I really need to keep and what is precious.  As my friend Christina, who has been so great in helping me work through this asks me regularly when we are sorting, "Do you Love this?"

It was, and continues to be, an amazing process.  One in which, now that I am no longer surrounded by the bulk of my own possessions, really allows me to focus on what is important to me.  It is not as much as I thought!

What I always will remember about that emotional, gut-wrenching, physically painful move was the amazing possession of wonderful friends.  Some of whom went incredibly out of their way to help me.  That's something you can't pack in a box and categorize with a Sharpie label.

In memory of that moment of grace-filled friendship, I share this poem written a month or so after the move was complete.

Truly Humbled
By Judith Cullen  
(c) 2014

Everyone should experience,
Being truly humbled.
Stripping away the layers:
Stuff, status, trappings
Which surround and contain
All that is within.

An onion is easier to peel away
Tears flow just as genuine,
Doubts arise just as often
“Am I losing too much?
What happens to ‘me’
When all this is gone?”

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

A POEM - Kintsugi & Life

Kintsugi is the Japanese art of fixing broken pottery with lacquer resin dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum.  As a philosophy it speaks to breakage and repair becoming part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise - an embracing of the flawed or imperfect. Japanese aesthetics values marks of wear by the use of an object.

Filling the Cracks
Image from Wikimedia
By Judith Cullen
(c) 2014

Hands reach out
Seeking a surface kiss.
Sunlit fingertips
Touching, kneading hope.

They are surprising
What only others possess
Observable deficiencies
Breaking your pattern.

No one warns you
They are parcels of life
The price of victory,
Joy, passion, pride.

Now knowing it
Learning to honor them
Cracks of living
Filling them with gold.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

NEW ESSAY: "You Are Not Alone"

You Are Not Alone
By Judith Cullen
© 2014

I went to a gathering of folks from my High School recently.  It was not a formal reunion, but simply an informal gathering at a local brewery-eatery.  There were people from several classes there, spanning the years around 1980.  I had expected some of the “old scripts” of behavior to kick in, as so often they do in such situations.  That was not the case.  Perhaps the reality of all of us being over 50 has given us a wholly different perspective.  We have lived a lot in over thirty years – each and every one of us.

Early on, a lovely woman from the year after mine obliquely referred to her struggles with depression.  It was probably the only moment in the evening that I faltered, and felt that same old awkwardness that I felt so often in High School.  I remember this woman as a bright, self-assured young lady. Depression was the last thing I would have expected to creep into her life.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

GHOST STORIES: "The Blackberry" Concludes

The Blackberry
By Judith Cullen
© 2014

Continuing . . .

“The whole genus has power issues, I think,” Cara muttered.

“Come with me,” Dave reached out a hand to Cara and both she and Marcy followed him upstairs. He paused in the hallway to grab a pair of binoculars and the three of them mounted two flights of  stairs to the top of the Hall’s home. 

The top floor was one open room under the eaves, with storage and some work areas for both Marcy and Dave.  At one end there were French doors that opened onto a small balcony which overlooked Cara’s yard.  They were just high enough that they could see over Cara’s small house to the lot beyond.  Dave handed the binoculars to Cara.

“Take a look,” he said.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

GHOST STORIES: "The Blackberry" ~ Part 2

The Blackberry
By Judith Cullen
© 2014

Continuing . . . 

Weeks went by and Kuja never did come home. Kiley and Cara slowly acclimated to the new environment and started to get to know their neighbors in the little cul de sac. 

There was Sheila and Tom across the way, with their sons Roger and Dan. 

There was Mrs. Wiley who lived alone in a little cottage-like house with arbors full of flowering plants and azalea bushes the size of industrial packing crates.  She had painted her front door bright purple, and had three cats.  Sprinkles had already made a loud and somewhat unfriendly foray into the territory of the Wiley cats. 

Then there was Dave and Marcy Hall, her next door neighbors.

Marcy was the adult leader of Kiley’s troop.  Cara had been envious beyond belief at Marcy’s garden.  It was an artistic arrangement of raised flower beds and winding hedges, all filled with beautiful plants with useful purposes.  Marcy was happy to enumerate the uses of each plant, it’s healing and dietary properties, and how to prepare it – whether tincture, salve, or solution.  Cara was overwhelmed, and could not help but be in awe of Marcy.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

GHOST STORIES: "The Blackberry" ~ Part 1

This story was inspired by a particularly impassioned gardening incident in my back yard.  While not a traditional ghost story, I don't think there is anyone in the Pacific Northwest who would not agree with me that Rubus armeniacus seems possessed, to have power issues, and a will totally unbecoming a plant.

The Blackberry
By Judith Cullen
© 2014

The knock at the front door was insistent.  “Fix the door bell.” Cara grumbled as she hustled around piles of
boxes, heading for the front door. “I’m coming!”  It had been a week but their new house was still a complete chaotic disaster.  That’s what came, she told herself, from moving on a Sunday.  It had been all she could manage to get everything out of the truck and roughly sorted, even with the help of hired movers.  Then she had to hunt down a few essentials, get Kiley and Sprinkles fed, settled, and still get herself ready to start a new job the next day.

She swung the door open, reminding herself to smile, and met the worried face of Sheila from across the circle.  “Oh God,” Cara thought, “we’ve only been here a week, what’s gone wrong already? Had Kiley been too friendly and chattering?  Has Sprinkles been picking fights with other pets?” Kiley had thought the cat looked like chocolate ice cream with Halloween sprinkles all over it. Despite the feline’s fanciful name, it had a notoriously scrappy disposition outside the immediate family.