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.


Wednesday, June 27, 2018

FALLING IN LOVE, AGAIN - My serial affairs with projects

Auguste Renoir "The Lovers" 1875
(public domain)

The End of My Affairs
by Judith Cullen
© 2018

I freely admit to falling in love with projects.  Not just interest or intrigue, but full head-over-heels, scream-and-shout IN LOVE. 

An idea begins to form in my mind like a swirl of fog around a rocky headland, taking shape in leaps and gasps of excited inspiration.  They coalesce into an appealing figure that calls to me, beckoning me to run barefoot through fields with it, and drink deeply from its potentialities, lose myself all-together in its fascinating aspects. My pulse races with anticipation, and I feel the giddy animation at the precipice of falling.

Over I go, willingly, brain filling with electrical delectation, hurtle-and-tumble I fall into the waiting embrace of the idea and hungrily consume its every offered opportunity.  Some days we hold hands and stroll through well-ordered parks of sense and logic, speaking soberly and calmly of philosophy and the nature of being. Some days we laugh wildly, hysterically, running pell-mell through winding boulevards of  "this" or "that" and things almost entirely unassociated except in our passion-inflamed consciousness.

Friday, June 22, 2018

HONORING A Friend of a Lifetime

This story from this year's Fantasy Faire SL benefiting Relay for Life, was written for someone I have known for a long time.  I cannot, in all honesty, say that our lives have run parallel, Kim's and mine.  It's more like two satellites in adjacent universes.

Our parents were friends, as kids, and we often played together.  We were aware of each other growing up, and then our trajectories separated.  I think I have actually seen Kim in-person once in the last 35 years.

Re-connecting with her through social media in the recent years, I have since learned a lot of things about her life that I did not know; some were things that happened when we were small.  And even though she and I have never been "tight", I found myself feeling for her as one does for someone who has been a constant part of the tapestry of your consciousness for as long as you can remember.

This is for her, with love.  ~ jdc

Take That!
by Judith Cullen
© 2018

for Kim

Her hand emerged from the nearly vertical cavern, and I reached for it immediately, helping her.  That bright head popped right up, the natural blonde of her childhood still visible among the gray.  Her skin, always Nordic-fair, was a little worn with living but still shone with vitality and energy.  She was in her element.

"Isn't Ardessa terrific?  I reminds me of home."

"Do you get a lot of Asian dragons and Elvin architecture in the Tieton suburbs, Kim?" I replied, unable to resist teasing someone I had known since early childhood - someone I could not remember not knowing. She glowed in the sunlight.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

HONORING GRAMPA: The Steward of Tiny Town

Another of my RFL stories from this year's Fantasy Faire SL.  My paternal grandfather was sick most of my early childhood and passed away when I was four.  The combination of smoking and working in mills and industrial environments as a "saw-file" in the days before OSHA safety standards added up to rapidly advancing lung cancer in his 60s.  

But he was an incredibly talented and clever man, who was an insatiable reader. and perpetual tinkerer.  Many is the time I wished I could speak with him, talk about the beauty of natural materials and the wonderful functionality of engineering forms.  But that's the great thing about fiction, isn't it?  And Kayle Mazerath's "Tiny Town" would have been a great place to have that conversation.

The Steward of Tiny Town
by Judith Cullen
© 2018

In memory of Al Bell, my Grandfather

Impossibly bright. There's no other way to describe it.  I thought I had seen this sort of exuberant rainbow before, but I was wrong.  This town had a vivacity about it, a constant happy industry. It's brightness was irresistible.  Wootberries squishing under tiny gleeful feet.  The jubilant hum and clank of the great waffle press, and the buoyant splashes of color everywhere.

I pressed my hands to my cheeks. What was this new sensation?  I was smiling - smiling so wide and so fully that my face hurt.  The essential energy of Tiny Town was infectious, and I knew at that very moment that it was something from which I never wanted to recover.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

*NEW* Poem: One That Almost Got Away

Okay, you know how they can be!  Poems that demand to be written, usually revealed in moving vehicles, the shower, or other places where neither traditional nor electronic writing utensils dare to follow.

This one started itself and then took a four day weekend, the brat! I knew the draft was missing something: too many thoughts? too few?  Were the ideas that were important ideas still there? Finally back from its holiday, I wrestled it into final form while it was too tired to battle me. Et voila! 

Painting Friendships
by Judith Cullen
© 2018

"Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend."

~ Proverbs 27:17 (King James Version)

The same sensation
part invitation, part intimidation,
the unsullied canvas
where everything waits
for discovery.

Brush, palette poised,
washes, lines, and strokes,
suggestions of character,
shades of intention,
and hope.