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.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

ANOTHER STORY from The Relay for Life Project "It's All Part of the Service"


It's All Part of the Service
By Judith Cullen
© 2018

for Warren Crain


The sound of the water was deafening, and soothing at the same time.  It surrounded and embraced, in a dreamscape as alive with color as it was with motion.

"It looks a little intimidating," came a voice near my waist, "But really, if you look closely its mostly just birds, bees, and butterflies."

He sat down, his deep brown fur blending naturally with rock and moss - he belonged here.  He scratched the ground at my feet and brought his clawed paw up to his muzzle to sniff.  "You're new here.  Have you tried the zip lines, yet?"

I said I hadn't as politely as possible, because it's not everyday that a large brown bear walks right up and speaks to a stranger. But this was the Fairelands, where almost anything can happen.

"Yeah, they look intimidating too, but they're really a piece of cake.  Come on!"

He ambled over to the stanchion marked "Zip Line Down" and cleared his throat to explain, "Now just take it one step at time.  First you set your feet apart nice and solid, so you're balanced.  You see how I am doing it?"

Indeed, he had risen up on his hind legs, which were appropriately spaced for good balance. I nodded.

"Okay now, you grab hold of the bar overhand, like this, see?"  Once more he deliberately demonstrated what he meant, and I nodded that I understood.

"Now, don't you worry about holding on tight," he laughed, "because once yer flyin' that will definitely take care of itself!" He laughed some more, and I could not help but join him.

Peeking over the precipice I saw that it was a long, long, long way down, and there were plenty of rocks and sharp-ish looking things to intercept you on the way.

"Oh, you don't want to do that. Don't look down!  Even when your feet are firmly on the ground, there's always a great big hole of some sort, somewhere around. Some are just hidden better than others.  Best not to think about them.  Best to just get on with the business of doing and being.  You got me?"

Monday, June 4, 2018

NOT IDLE! Noooo, no no!

Recently I wrote 9 pieces, a mix of poems and stories, for Fantasy Faire in Second Life - To Benefit Relay For Life. The pieces were part of a writing challenge where the invitation was offered to visit the 15 created realms of the Faire and allow these creative environments to inspire.
In addition. I took on the added challenge of making a small list of people from my own life that had "battled the Unweaver" as we say in Faire parlance: cancer survivors, and those not as fortunate. It was hard to keep the list short, frankly.
This piece was written in memory of Rev Eugene F Kester, who passed just in the last year. A man of grace and spirit, who was unendingly supportive of me and my work.
The piece is a haiku cycle.
Image by Aoife Lorefield

Weep Not for the Day
by Judith Cullen
© 2018


In memory of Gene

Motes of life floating
swaying, drifting, dissolving
in a ring of fae.

Cell by cell vanish
peeling away the layers
what will then remain?

Land diminishing
magic wafting on the breeze
first gone, then it's lost.

My head on my knees
weeping its quiet passing
exquisite, tragic.

A voice from the past
So deep, yet gently speaking
a wise shade returns.

"Seek not the ebbing,
paths naturally cycling,
mere glimpse of the whole.

"Weep not the waning,
for surely the wheel shall turn
creation returns.

"This moment will not
linger, forever static
but shall breathe anew.

"Come to the water
embrace what little remains,
hold it inside you.

"You are the vessel,
connecting all that has been
with that which shall be.

"Love is the power,

Saturday, February 10, 2018

THIS WEEK: A Poem as Reminder to Self

Yeah, Valentine's Day has not been among my top holidays, and it always seems like my feelings of being left out are greatest at this time of year. It's not just about romance. It's a sense of "me also" that creeps into different sphere's of my life until I suddenly sit back and go "what am I doing? Why am I so vulnerable?"

So while working on what was supposed to be this week's story, I had to stop and slap myself.  Out came a poem as a reminder.  Almost every time I get in this mindset, I end up disappointed by what I thought I wanted.  So much of our current culture, through social media, is infused with "look at me!" (she says just before she pushes this post out on it - gack!)

Still, writing the poem was cathartic. It was a good reminder that at the top of my Valentine's Day list should be remembering to love myself, and check that proverbial glass - remembering to note the part that is full, not just the other bit.


***

Reminding Myself
by Judith Cullen
©2018

A conversation,
a convocation,
a somewhere that you are not.

A conflagration,
of contemplation,
you should be there, without doubt.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

THIS WEEK: A Poem about NOT Writing a Poem

It seems an odd thing to say, doesn't it?

I truly began the week with a poem roiling inside of me - heart, head, and gut. It claimed it wanted to be written, but it would not take on any form or direction. I couldn't grab hold of enough of it to begin to see its shape. It kept running around, and around with no resolution or purpose. I fear I am not skilled enough to write wild, free range, circular verse.

When the wanna-be poem came round again - dashing by and blowing raspberries as it passed - I finally grasped just a shred of it.  It struggled and jeered against my tentative clinch, and the thought hit me, "Some poems are private."

PING!  A poem inspired by not being able to write a poem.

***

Secret Poetry
by Judith Cullen
© 2018


Some poems are public.

Open declamations, innermost
extrapolations, interpreted candidly
for all to experience.
Amplified pronouncements
of passionate embraces, or losses.
Over sights bare for scrutiny.

Some poems are private.

Never fashioned for liberty,
wrapped in lavender scented tissue.
Dubious rhymes sliding
securely beneath stacked socks.
Free verse that you rehearse
for an audience of no body.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

THIS WEEK: A Moment of Danger and Grace *New Story*

A new story for a chilly winter, this week . . .


One More Night
by Judith Cullen
© 2018

It was freezing cold, and the windows rattled as the wind ricocheted down the street, bouncing off every house and shaking every tree.  Freezing was not an exaggeration.  This was the American Mid-west at winter's height, and Dee only had to get within a few feet of any window to feel the deep chill.  In her little apartment, a few feet from any window didn't leave much of a warm zone.  Still, it was warmer in here than outside.  She rummaged through the small cupboard and the old fridge for soup makings, listening to the rock and roll of the wind.

When she'd come here for graduate school, she had chosen not to live on campus.  Dee was ready to be independent.  She'd come over 2000 miles to make an everyday adult life of her own, while she studied.  It hadn't worked out like she'd hoped.  Her "convenience" apartment was only slightly larger than her dorm room had been in undergraduate school. The convenience, Dee mused, was that you weren't more than a few steps from anything.  You had to go outside to change your mind, she liked to joke.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

THIS WEEK: A Poem Inspired by Virtuality

I have been active in virtual worlds for nearly a decade now.  They are great palettes for creativity, a great way to extend your reach, meet new and different people, play, laugh.  And they have saved my sanity more than once in what has been a pretty challenging ten years.

But like any online experience, there are pitfalls: not everyone is what they seem to be, and not everyone has the same ethical standards. You tend to color the outline of who someone is from your own crayon box, which isn't always relevant to who they really are. Some people are outright frauds - people who are actually role playing without warning you that it is a game to them.

In many ways it is everyday life, distilled and intensified, with a convenient (but not terminal) log out button in the upper right hand corner.  Because while the following poem was inspired by my virtual experiences of the last decade, I have also met people in everyday life who are not what they seem, who play a part, whose ethical standards are not the same ones I hold.  It's just harder to maintain the illusion in the cool, clear air of reality.



The Rules of Roleplay
by Judith Cullen
© 2018

There are always rules,
for any given role play:
specific points for specific play.
These clothes, but not those;
Roles can do this, but not that;
I know her, but never him.

There are always rules
to the way you role play:
Public is always "in play";
back line is for personal,
the private place for real,
for stepping aside.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

A NEW YEAR: New Stories

A promise to myself whose fulfilling has begun: write. I begin this still fresh and shiny new year with a brief musing on the nature of gifts.

The Bag
by Judith Cullen
© 2018

It was not really what I had in mind when I asked for a small purse.  For years it has been my habit to carry something clutch-sized, smaller when I could, and have a larger bag in which I carried all the stereotypical what-nots that the "prepared" woman is reputed to have at her fingertips: sewing kit, flashlight, Band-Aids, aspirin, tiny hand tools, battery-operated devices to fold space and time.  You know the litany.  I would carry these supposed accoutrements of womanhood in a larger bag - the small purse inside it -  and when I went into stores and such I would take the purse out and only carry that.  Likewise, if I ventured out and was only going to a single store destination, say the grocery, I would leave the bag at home and only take the purse.  This was my pattern: agile and flexible.  I had worn out decades full of large bags, and small purses, with this modus operandi

I needed a new purse.  The current one had been make-do for longer than I intended, and its strap (for wearing bandolier style, my preference) had long since broken.  I never really even liked the color, an unimaginatively dull navy that pretended like it wanted to be a light black.  My larger bag was also showing signs of wear, but it would last a while longer. So, I dared to add the request for a small leather-like purse with a shoulder strap to my Christmas wish list.