Monday, August 25, 2014


This year's "Back to School" season is filled with mixed emotions for me.  My eighteen year old nephew is off to college.  He's the only child of his generation in our branch of the family, so we are all feeling this moment of transition keenly.

Also, in the last year I have returned to the neighborhood of my childhood, and experienced freshly life in a community infused with college students.  So today I include reflections from both.

A Drabble (100 Word Story) - Written for Laurence Simon's Weekly Challenge to the prompt "Load"

By Judith Cullen
(c) 2014

Tomorrow he starts college.  No more using all his Mom’s blankets, cushions and chairs to build forts.  No more “Mr Baloony” stories, with three prompts from the young master himself. 

He bequeathed me his Disneyland Play Set – figures, slides, trains, things that spin.  A tiny drawer contains the surviving figures.  Not all of them made it through the many years of joy. Princesses lost their heads, as they often do.  The flying elephant ride is missing one car. As my wee boy departs for halls of higher learning I am emotionally and functionally one Dumbo shy of a full load.

An Essay

LIFE 101 – Living Off Campus
By Judith Cullen
(c) 2014

I wasn’t always this age.  I was young once. I even used to be a college student.  I remember the first home I had that was not under my parent’s, or anyone else’s, supervision.  I have fond recollections of mismatched glassware, decorating with batik cotton and Christmas tree lights.  I remember the freedom of playing whatever music I wanted, eating exotic meals of my own creation, and having friends over at all hours.  Up until recently I still enjoyed the delights of 2 am bubble baths and watching movies when I couldn’t sleep. I still have a cut glass jelly jar that is my guilty pleasures wine glass, which I have had for years. So I understand the heady independence of being out on your own for the first time and crafting your very own first nest.  It is TOTALLY great!

Friday, August 22, 2014

NEW ESSAY: Time to Begin the Beginning

Albert Bierstadt - "Indian Summer on the Hudson River"
Leaning to Amber
By Judith Cullen
© 2014

It started two nights ago. The vibrant, pulsing world of summer is beginning to tilt slightly.  Its dominant hue is shifting from bright green of the triumphal sun shining through the leaves that spring worked so diligently to bring to life. Now, everything is beginning to take a slight amber tinge, and in about four to six weeks the world will be glowing in the bronzes and coppers of autumn.

The first signs come with the sunset. After celebrant weeks of being so pleased with itself in high summer that it joyously cannot help but heat the night as well as the day, the sun decides to finally give it a rest. The waning light brings breezes and cool air. I change my cotton blanket for my favorite fleece again.  Daytime temperatures will still be climbing to sweat-worthy highs, but the nights sink into the 50s and, for many, sleep deepens with the promise of satisfying hibernations to come.  Soon enough, it will be outright cold all the time.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

NEW ESSAY: More Is Not Necessarily Better Anymore

Go Slow
By Judith Cullen
(c) 2014

My body is often wiser than my intellect. My synapses get into a groove, clicking away like little fiends.  Time and tide become invisible. “Oh, I can get this one more thing done.  This won’t take but a couple of minutes.” One little thing piles on another little thing, on and on. The next "thing" you know, hours have passed. They have been incredibly productive hours, no doubt. Working at the computer for a great portion of what I now do, I have experienced this dangerous lapse into the twilight zone of productivity all too frequently. There has been more than one occasion when I sat down with a cup of tea at 9 am and did not come up for air until after 6 pm. The ability to focus is a virtue. This sort of thing, however, is the dark side of focus, leading to untold frigid cups of coffee and tea. Where is Rod Serling when you need him?

Luckily, the body is as patient as it is wise. A couple of times a year, after piles of use-abuse have reached heights unachieved even by my laundry, the body says “enough.” It doesn’t care how it stops me, it just does. It is totally unconcerned about all those things I could be getting done. It decides it is time to slow down for about 48 hours – Starting Now! 

Sunday, August 17, 2014


"Some journeys are measured in city blocks, and some can only be measured by how they change your life."

In this new collection in the Trio Tales Series, the stories are focused on journeys, large and small, which take unexpected turns or which lead to unanticipated places.

In The Unexpected Path, little seven year old Ann thinks she knows best and takes an alternate route to travel the block and a half to school in the middle of a harsh mid-western winter. It all goes well, until she gets stuck in the snow.

In The Empire Builder, a young woman leaves her home and family to journey to a University thousands of miles away.  Taking the train from Seattle to Chicago, and then on to central Indiana, she has three days on her own to contemplate this decision to cross half a continent.

In Lawrence Street, a street that was once traveled every single day is revisited 40 years later - "Things are the same on Lawrence Street, but they are different too.  The bones of familiarity are there, clear and comforting, but sometimes dressed in garments that do not seem as familiar.

. . . and more!  Coming soon to Amazon for Kindle and in Paperback.

Monday, August 11, 2014

NEW ESSAY: "Finding Mick"

I've been on a writing roll lately, with so many ideas and thoughts rolling around, usually when I am on the highway!  Enjoy this new one - another interstate inspiration.


Finding Mick
By Judith Cullen
(c) 2014

Good men can be very hard to find.  When they do enter your life, sometimes it happens in the strangest places. 

I met Michael (who went by “Mick”) for the very first time one summer at a day camp.  It was the summer of 1977, and we were both Junior Counselors.  I have to admit, Mick’s slightly notorious reputation had preceded him.  My older sister, who was a Senior Counselor, had known him for several years.  I had already heard more than one anecdotal adventure, shared with a mixture of amusement and affection. She said he was great with kids, and always singled out the ones who were struggling, never coddling them but simply being encouraging and gently supporting.  This probably set the tone of our meeting for the first time. 

Mick was an unlikely friend for me.  We were both fifteen, and he was the kind of guy that I would have normally found intimidating: a big personality, and way more cool that I could or would ever be.  Yet Mick’s “cool” was not an assumed air of superiority, or a feigned fashion.  He was an expansive personality and his appeal was the unassuming ease with which he wore that largeness.  I found him to be good company, funny, and very human.  He was not hard to like.  We were heading to the same high school that fall. Somehow I felt a little better knowing I had met and gotten to know him away from the crushing social pressure that comes with high school.

I have to be honest: Mick and I did not really hang with the same crowds.  However, we did know a lot of the same people.  He and I shared a remarkable similarity: we were both known by a whole lot of people, across many different strata of high school society, and were acquainted with a broad cross-section of people.  We were well-known and well-liked just for being who we were. 

Thursday, August 7, 2014

NEW ESSAY: Pink T-Shirt: A Theoretical Treatise

Pink T-Shirt: A Theoretical Treatise
By Judith Cullen
(c) 2014

I saw a man the other day in a parking lot.  He was wearing a pink t-shirt.  I found myself wondering if the shirt was commercially pink, or accidentally pink.  You know what I mean? The shirt was once as white as the far reaches of the arctic, but got tossed in the laundry with something red (red dye always having dubious colorfastness) and now it has a certain pink tinge to it.

Now, I don’t have any pre-conceptions about men in the color pink. Some men look great in the color, and should wear it.  It is no different than women wearing blue.  These hang ups over sexual color distinctions can get ludicrous at times.  Yet people have a funny way of making the color of their clothing a statement: black for Goth, the red and purple of the red hat ladies, etc.  Some guys I know wouldn’t ever consider wearing pink, just because it IS pink.  Some other guys I know would consider wearing pink as a challenge – a fashion gauntlet thrown down.  “I dare you to question my masculinity!”  

There are certainly other statements that could be made with pink as well.  Contemplating the scope of this potential statement-making made my brain hurt.  Yet one question remained clear in my mind above the din, “What is the real difference between wearing a commercially pink t-shirt, or accidentally pink one?”  My answer: the man inside it.

I will never contemplate what’s behind the man wearing the commercially pink shirt – the possibilities are too convoluted to enumerate and I don’t actually care.  I am content to note that he looks nice in it and leave it at that without ascribing any additional motives to him.  However, the accidentally pink t-shirt says a great deal, simply and clearly, about the wearer.  He is a man confident enough to not be hung up by societal chromatic stupidities.  He is man comfortable with his casualness.  He’s a man who is unwilling to toss out a perfectly good t-shirt just because it got “re-dyed’ in the wash.

Going back to the inspiration of this essay, he is a man content enough to be spending time running errands with his wife and child on sunny Friday morning, and to not give a damn about what anyone else thinks of what he wears.  I say, God bless him!

Saturday, August 2, 2014

PROCTOR ARTS FEST 2014 ~ Art-Inspired Stories

What a rush!  This was great fun, and engaged my creative brain in ways I did not expect.  I'd do this again in a heartbeat!

The minute I walked into the Art Show Friday morning, the vague "I'll see what speaks to me" criteria became sharp and clear.  I chose 18 pieces out of the entire show, and narrowed them down to 10, which I wrote for. Five of those were presented live this afternoon at the Festival, and the artists received a copy of the story (signed) that was inspired by their work.

I did not choose:

  • Works whose message was clear - why muck with or restate something so strong?
  • Works whose stories could not be contained to 100 words
  • Works who possessed stories too discrete - in the future I might delve into these more
The narrowing down and selecting involved balancing the general themes of the stories (funny, sweet, contemplative, etc) and the various mediums and styles.

Here's how it turned out!

Note: All Stories are (c) 2014 by Judith Cullen
Use of any of the photo images on this page without the express permission 
of the individual artists is strictly prohibited

Pieces Selected for Presentation at the Proctor Arts Fest Juried Art Show

Egyptian Two Step by George Hoivik – Bronze & Walnut   

“Do you come here often?  I don’t remember seeing 
you before.”

Her lustrous feathers were ivory and ebony. Her eyes 
twinkled - endless pools of lapus lazuli.  She shimmered 
in the golden light, while her legs shimmied to 
the music. 

“ I just flew in today from Aswan.  I’ve never been to the 
Delta before.”

She smiled shyly. She was just about to give him a 
coy wink, as she looked up through her lashes at him.

“Ouch!” she suddenly cried. Her majestic head flew up, eyes now filled with 
pain and surprise.

“Oh.  I bet that was your foot.”  

Blowing Kisses by Katy Tuma – Photograph    

Day and Night.  Winter and Summer I sit here.  
Pinwheels tickle my ears, dandelions caress my 
feet, leaves dance around, and the snow gives me 
a white sweater that does not keep out the cold.  
It does not matter.  I am here for a singular purpose.

Years pass.  Moss, lichen, and dirt snuggle into 
my creases.  Someone comes along every once 
in a while and scrubs them out.  
It is just the same to me.
I am here regardless of it all.

My lips remain pursed, forever blowing kisses. I remind living people 
what they are all on Earth for.

African Women Sunset 
by Michaelina Tenney – Acrylic       

Sisterhood!  Clasped hands, jangling bracelets
 and hearts alight with greeting as the horizon 
bursts into flame, touched by the retreating sun.  
You are my sister. In your company I am strong.  
I am your sister. In my care you shall be cherished.  
Together, we are nurturers of life, planters of trees, 
grinders of grain, weavers of cloth, and solvers
of problems.

At my side, there is nothing we cannot accomplish.  At your side, our burdens will be shared and our toil lessened.  Hold my hand. Weep with me, and share laughter. We will endure, my sister. Together, we shall thrive.         


Rudolph by Miss Liza Morado  
(I just couldn't resist this one!)    

I like Rudolph.  His nose lights up.  
It makes me happy, his nose.

I didn’t used to be all songs and television specials, 
you know.  Rudolph had no friends.  Everyone made 
fun of him because he didn’t fit in, though he really 
wanted to.  Sometimes people are mean to you when 
you are a red-nosed reindeer.
Have you ever felt that way? 

That nose that everyone made fun of turned out
to be a good thing.  Then Rudolph had lots of friends.
See, people don’t always know as much as they think they do.

It makes me happy, his nose.

Express Yourself by Kim Shuckhart Gunns 
– Mixed Media    

One drawer has trims.  A box under the desk contains 
ribbons of all sizes, some creeping out from the lid.  
There are no pastel shades in my paint box.  There is 
no separation of mediums – just pigment, vehicle, 
and a hundred possibilities.

I turn up my music, loud. Brush in my hand, glue waiting, 
I pour today’s essence onto the surface: bold strokes in 
bright hues.  There are no small thoughts this day. The 
work emerges from the inside to the outer edges.

Limits are for sissies.  Break away from the constraints of someone else’s rules.  
Be yourself. Express yourself.    


Other Works from Proctor Arts Fest Juried Art Show

Splashes of Silver by Jeanne Strohrmann – Pastel    

The dawn dances light across waves of jade. A new cycle 
begins that has happened across millennia.  The tide wraps 
its embrace around shore and cliff: umber, onyx, and chalk.  
From a vantage in the waves of the air, a lone guardian 
keeps watch over the coral filled with a king’s ransom of 
jewels.  The golden, ruby and silver flit and flutter in their 
watery treasure box as the spray sings a hallelujah sweet 
enough to charm the raptures of the deep. 

Why do men dig for wealth beneath the crust?
All the riches in the world are right here. 

Creation by Judith Hunter – Watercolor on UPO    

It begins with two and a simple tango, steeped in the 
unknowable.  Couples joining in the dance of the
Universe. The music of the spheres changes: a
thrilling rumba, as opportunity winds, and dips.
Couples advance, retreat, reform.  The rhythm
becomes critical as eternity jars the floor with a
relentless imperative, “It is waiting there for us.  
It must be found.”

Suddenly a single spark.  It happened when the Gods 
weren’t looking.  “Did you see it happen?”  The tune
slows to a waltz, as couples move to a larger pattern.  Each is part of the emerging
whole: intricate and interwoven. 

Big League Dreams by Sue Stewart – Watercolor         

His glove is next to his cheek.  I know what he smells, 
though he is not conscious of it just now: the creak and 
smell of the leather, the fresh mown grass, the August air.  
I remember it like it was yesterday – like it is right now. 

He is wondering why the short stop is hugging third base.  
He is scrutinizing the batter, choking up on the bat ever 
so slightly.  He dreams of the small leathern sphere coming 
right to him: sailing majestically through the air and into his mitt. Hero of the day!   That is just the beginning. 

Flight to Warmer Climes by Pat Graham 
– Watercolor  
(It seems almost criminal to write something 
comic from the stunningly beautiful watercolor 
work of Pat Graham.  But this avian conversation 
would not leave my head.)

“Budge up there, buddy. It’s cold out here!”

“Haven’t you ever heard of personal space?  Hey!  What are you playing at, tugging
at my feathers?”

A flapping slap is heard.

“Ow! It’s just that I have an idea.”

“Oh really?  Time on your hands, have you?” 

“Gone in for a bit of contemplation, have we?”

“No, really.  I think this could work.”


“Well, what if instead of clumping together, crowding each other, we actually
looked for someplace warmer to stay till all this blows over?”


“Egad!  I think you just might be on to something.”

So, it begins.

Blue Lotus Dream by Karen Petrillose – Watercolor    
(This one resolutely did NOT want to be a 100 word 
story.  So, a compound haiku came out instead.  
It is just over 100 words, so there was no cheating 
on the "critical mass")

The raindrops falling
They are tiny caresses
Washing in cascades

No bustling of birds
The hustle of humanity
Fuss to cloud my quiet

I am cleansed and contented
A still serenity

Go and seek your own
That which cleans and fulfills you
Inhale, exhale, peace.

Tranquility is
Therefore you are if you choose
To embrace accord

Be one with nature
Your breath cradled in its hands
Mind serene, joyful.

My world of blue, green
And water-born restfulness
Free from the uproar

All of this repose
Gaps, pausing between each breath
Is where it begins

The space wherein life
Transmutes, transforms, and restarts
Is waiting for you    

My profound gratitude to the artists who participated in this, to the wonderful Gene Kester for seeing the potential in the idea, and to Proctor Arts Fest for letting us take this out for a spin at their party.