Wednesday, August 29, 2018

NEW POEM: Straight Up Without Explanation


Hubris
by Judith Cullen
© 2018

Don't try and explain,
to those trying on
life like a new suit.
Full of knowledge
bursting, seeing what  
is right so very clearly
from their new shoes.

Don't fuss or worry.
In six months all
will change to new
fashions, discoveries.
All will be the correct,
proper garb for the
very righteous.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

IN A LIGHTER MOOD: "Signs & Portents*

And now, for something slightly different ...

The Milky Way galaxy with the constellations Cassiopeia and Cepheus.
 Original from NASA. Digitally enhanced by rawpixel.  Public Domain.

Signs and Portents
by Judith Cullen
© 2018

Cracks and lines in the pavement
have no actual orthopedic import.
Stomp as you will, sidewalks are not
an avenue for parental retribution.

Just because Mom hollered out the window
"Stop it!" in 1972, and the snow ceased,
Does not mean she controls the weather.
So you can put that telephone down.

Yes, it began to rain that summer day
while you worked with your friend.
He is not lucky, like a jade Buddha.
You certainly may not rub his tummy.

In a seemingly random universe,
teetering between control and chaos,
we grasp for meaning where we can,
hoping for a hand hold on surety.

Whether it actually exists or not
we find comfort in the occasional,
embracing cosmic import in the
fortuitous fidelity of coincidence.

##

Saturday, August 18, 2018

NEW POEM: It Took a While, But I am Learning

There's a beauty in being at ease with someone - of NOT feeling the necessity to be connected every moment.  Seriously, I was not a big dater in my youth - being notable for a different type of popularity: being well-known and respected. (*makes "gacking" teenager sounds*)  At a time when my contemporaries were bumbling through the early trials and errors of couple-ness, I was planning the dances and special events they would attend.  I'm still kind of that way.

So I learned how to "be" with someone late. Really late. I won't call it "love" because I am too old for that presumption.  But it does still have some of the trappings - getting excited when you see them after several days, knowing all the correct buttons to push for fun, comfort, or calm.  Knowing someone well enough to know when to just "let be" without carrying that residue with you afterwards.

I am grateful for the lesson that relationships, good ones, are not about two halves making a whole - they are about two complete persons keeping each other in balance.  And for however long they are destined to last, they are to be treasured.



Keeping Company
by Judith Cullen
© 2018

Wisps of ivory lace, black trunks.
It all seemed so frantic before you,
the crazed heady rushing,
near desperate uncertainty.
The compelling, the potent,
overwhelming exhilaration.

Gentle caress, your finger on my arm.
The stark difference still jolts,
of two who drifted together,
slow moving magnetic forces,
two planets easing into
soothing conjunctive orbit.

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

SAFE SPACES - A New Poem

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.

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.