Thursday, September 24, 2015

PREVIEW: More from "A Trio of Irish Tales II"

Patrick’s Path (Part 2)
By Judith Cullen
© 2015

The pub was full to bursting this night; alive with energetically familiar greetings, merry introductions, and the scraping of sturdy wooden chairs on the well-worn floor.  Micheal Flynn, usually a reserved man, was vigorously weaving through the filled tables talking to people as he went, trying to find a place for the three of them close to the tiny stage in the corner.  Pat didn’t understand it.  His father was never pushy, but tonight he was actively negotiating to get a prime spot close to the entertainment.
“What’s Da up to?” Pat asked.
“Never you mind, son. Your Da has ideas of his own, and we who love him can best let him have his way this night.”
Pat looked at her like she’d grown another head.  She rarely let Da just go off and do what he pleased without her approval.  He suspected that she knew why he wanted them up front, but wasn’t about to tell.
He was about to ask outright what was going on, when his attention swerved violently in another direction.  Behind his Mum he saw Daimhim Finnegan.  She caught his gaze and smiled shyly.  Pat felt himself blush and, had he been speaking, he would have surely been stammering.  He returned the smile nervously and then looked elsewhere – anywhere!
They had been part of the same crowd of kids who had grown up together there on the Munster shore.  Pat had always been struck by her loveliness; even back when they had all been young children he’d felt drawn to her.  She wasn’t loud, she never flirted, but she had a quiet strength that he found appealing and comforting.  He noticed how she always made certain that people were taken care of.  A few years older than himself, she had become his ideal: the standard by which he measured all other girls.  Last year she’d started going out with James O’Brien, which had seemed to put her out of Pat’s reach forever.  Big, bold, popular James, who everyone flocked to, including Pat, seemed an unlikely partnering for the modest Daimhim.  Even though something had happened to that relationship in the last few weeks, Pat didn’t dare foster any hope for himself with herself.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

ESSAY: What Do People See, When They See Me?

The Mirror, the Photo, or Me?

By Judith Cullen
© 2015

It has taken me a long while to get to this point. I have never had a very good self-image.  I never considered myself attractive, and some days I still do not.  The reality is far more disturbing than that. It was not just what I thought I wasn’t, it was what I thought I was: massively imperfect, grossly flawed, highly unappealing.  I’d like to say that I have matured to the point that I realize how wrong that view point was and is.  I would like to say that I fully recognize how popular culture and the media feed the kind of beast that destroys women’s perceptions of themselves as lovely.  I’d really like to acknowledge that I deny the impossible standards of beauty that we are fed from infancy.  I would really like to say that, and some days I can.  Other days I would kill to loose 100 lbs because I just see “me the lump.”

I’ve noticed that there are several different "me" images that I perceive.  There is the me that I see in the mirror.  Thanks to some of the consciousness-raising mentioned above, that image is one that I increasingly love.  Honestly, it is more beautiful now than ever. The years, the miles, the joys, the heart aches – they are all reflected back to me. No matter the frustrations of the moment, the doubts or uncertainty, the sum of these happenstances equals something lovely.  This me has terrific friends, had some great luck, had some challenges that were worth over-coming, and stands to expect more of the same in a future that still holds a lot of possibilities.  This me is very pretty.  I like her.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

A PREVIEW of "A Trio of Irish Tales II"

It's about time to begin tempting you with tidbits from November's release.  Already I am busting with pride: these stories are some of the best and most complex that I have ever written.  Over the next few week's, I'll be sharing selections from Patrick's Path - the first of the trio of tales in this volume.

"Patrick's Path" features Pat Flynn from A Trio of Irish Tales"In the Mists." Pat is 24 now and he's tired of always walking in everyone's wake - following along behind.  He wants to find something that he is passionate about; something that he can claim as his very own. He also wouldn't mind catching the eye of Daimhin Finnegan.  



Patrick’s Path
"Wild Grazing" by Brian Henry from
By Judith Cullen
© 2015

Pat tried to loose his frustrations with the stone as it flew from his hand, making a proper splash into the sea about thirty feet away.  He looked down, assessing the rocks and shells at his feet and choosing another stone that felt right.  Tossing and catching it several times with his sand-gritted palm, he leaned back and let this stone fly with the same emotional propulsion, watching it drop into the serenely lapping waves.  The ripples the rocks made in the gentle surf did nothing to reduce Pat’s disquiet.  He pondered another stone.
He was sick and tired of always being the one following behind; always being the best friend, the side-kick.  It had been this way all of his life.  It wasn’t that Pat wanted to be popular. He was an honest soul and well liked, he knew that just as he knew that everyone gets a bit of attention at one time or another.  He didn’t want more friends or more glory.  Pat didn’t crave the spotlight or the admiration of others; he just wanted to stop feeling like an “also-ran”; like an extra bit of nothing-in-particular hanging around for everyone’s convenience.  He wanted to have one thing that was his: something he was good at, a source of pride that was his own.
He kicked his boots into the sand and rocks of the shore. Choosing another stone, he hurled it with all his might. He tried to concentrate all his dissatisfaction into it: the times he’d followed someone else’s lead, done what he was bidden to do, every instant that he’d trailed behind compressed into that one missile.  He threw it so hard he spun himself off balance, almost falling.  The rock plopped into the water so far away that he couldn’t even hear it break the surface.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

NEW ESSAY: "The Parable of the Peach Seed"

The Parable of the Peach Seed
"Waves of Golden Fire" (1999) by Eyvind Earle from
By Judith Cullen
© 2015

Life sometimes teaches you in small, subtle ways.  If you aren’t paying attention you miss the larger lessons. 

I am in the habit of having a piece of fruit in the evenings.  It helps ward off late night cravings.  For some reason my evening impulses run to sweets. My 9 pm plum of is a healthy way to stave off a 2 am ice cream binge.

One evening this August I was eating a peach, and the pit split open.  There, nestled inside, was the seed.  I had never seen a peach seed before; never even considered what might be on the inside of the pit.  It looked like an almond, though I later found out that mistaking it for an almond could be the last mistake I would ever make.  Peach seeds are a rich source of cyanide, apparently.  But I did not know that yet, so I dried it off and carefully set it aside thinking, “What would happen if I planted it?  I’ll find out!”

Saturday, September 12, 2015

ART INSPIRED STORIES at Peninsula Art League's 13th Annual Open Show

Welcome, as the 2015 Art-Inspired Stories Project Continues!

I was excited when the Peninsula Art League contacted me about bringing the Art Inspired Stories Project to their Annual Open Show.  I was asked to create ten stories or poems based on works in the show. 

I requested a little flexibility as writing (like painting, drawing, or any other creative endeavor) does not always come out neatly to order. Twenty one works were photographed from the show, and narrowed down to twelve stories and poems. I even allowed myself a little free-verse this time as it seemed to fit some of the artwork best.

All the work submitted was excellent and merit-worthy. It’s really worth stopping by the Harbor History Museum to see the exhibition. 

The choices reflected in the pieces I have written are not qualitative. I could not possibly organize and write stories for the entire show in less than a week. So here are some of the criteria I used in making choices when I viewed the show and photographed the artworks to develop.  

I did not choose:
  • Works whose narrative is already strong - why restate something that is already clear?
  • Works whose stories could not be contained to 100 words
I tried to strike a balance the general themes of the stories (funny, sweet, contemplative, etc) and the various mediums and styles.

I am very pleased with these stories, and I hope that you enjoy them as well.

Pieces Created for the Peninsula Art League 
13th Annual Open Show
 Note: All Stories & Poems are © 2015 by Judith Cullen
Use of any of the photo images on this page without the express permission 
of the individual artists is strictly prohibited

The Philosopher
Image copyright by the artist - Sheila Anderson 
Sheila Anderson – conte

I poured another tall one into the mug.  It sat in his hand the same comfortable way that he wore his clothes - like old friends. 

“What do you think about most?” I asked.

He sipped slowly, relishing the taste before swallowing. His head tilted, considering.

“I think of life, child.”

“Really?” I was surprised.

His chuckle had a gravely antiquity.  “I’ve seen a lot of life – a whole lot, all around.”

“You don’t think of death?”

“That’s always been there too. The wishful righteousness of youth makes death cunning. It waits. It’s just one moment; while life is many.”

Kalaloch Creek Abstract
Image copyright by the artist - Robert Berg
Robert Berg – Photography

The air was sea-salt crisp as I stood there, alone and enrapt by line and motion. The progression repeated itself from the hand of an unseen sculptor. 

“This defines nature,” I thought, “This endless expansion of form, this interweaving of plane and mass.”

Did they stand back, the artist of everlastingness, checking the horizon, vanishing lines, and the angling light?  A little adjustment here, a little molding there, a shifting of pattern before the final chisel cut reverberated away? Then the final moment of satisfaction before the hand washed over it all, casually perhaps, to set it into eternal motion.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

POEM: Feeling Fall-ish Today

Yep!  It is in the air - in a kaleidoscope of different ways. Even in lives.  It seems like there are so many deaths and new births going on around me right now.  This is the most marked transition in the year. I am feeling it both profoundly and joyously.


By Judith Cullen
© 2015

Misty, dewy, cool
Hot coffee embraced mornings.
Warm, clear, bright
No coat required afternoons.
Rising and setting sun
Wild watercolor vibrant.

Trees tipped school bus yellow.
Others taking the flame color
Of summer’s last bonfires.
Air fair and prescient
Of crispness-es to come.
The wheel in transition.

New backpack days.
Check the game schedule days.
Music lesson, State Fair days.
Corn dog and cotton candy days,
Get them before they’re gone.
Beginnings and endings days.

Prepare for necessities of the darkness,
the cold, short, and frosted.
The “so glad I canned that” times
When coats are unquestioned
When light is brief, and we hope
For the return to green and warm.


I am dedicating this to all the lives around me who have taken the step into the next great unknown, and to all those joyously welcomed into this mystery.

Rest in Peace: Bill Becvar, Jim Dollarhide, Bill Bruzas, George McGilliard, Madge Richardson Walsh, and more
Welcome to "The Wonder" to each and every one of the many newborns (I don't know all their names yet. We just met!)

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

COMING THIS WEEKEND: More from the Art Inspired Stories Project

I have been invited by the Peninsula Art League to bring the Art Inspired Story Project to their Fall Art Show! I was just there today, taking snaps of the artwork and sharpening my pencil.  It is a wonderful show and the venue is really great.

13th Annual Open Juried Art Show -- September 12-October 18
Harbor History Museum
4121 Harborview Drive, Gig Harbor

    September 12 -- Opening Reception (and Awards) 6-8pm 

    October 3 – Art Walk - Art Inspired Stories Reading & Art Demonstrations 1-4pm
    October 16 -- People's Choice Award announced
    October 18 -- Show closes at 5pm 

Check out the Proctor ArtsFest 2015 Project HERE
Check out the Proctor ArtsFest 2015 Project HERE

AND THEN, Check back here this Saturday after 9 pm (Pacific) to see the Project Stories from the Peninsula Art Leagues 13th Annual Juried Art Show.

Monday, September 7, 2015

GUEST POST: The Seahawks - A Reflection of Us

I am pleased to welcome a guest posting today: my sister, Maura Cullen.

Way back in the spring I posted Journeys of Triumph and Adversity making sense of the NFL Post Season as the designated sports fan enabler in a family of fans.  My sister also took to writing to express her thoughts and feelings about the Seattle Seahawk's (our local team) near epic loss at the Super Bowl.

Now here we are, and the season is about to officially begin.  There's been all sorts of little dramas along the way - I tell you, professional sports is great theater!  With the Hawks first official game coming this next Sunday, it's not a bad time to revisit why we become attached to certain teams, and why we remain loyal to them.

This essay is written from the perspective of a Seattle fan, but in many ways it reflects how true fans feel about their teams, anywhere.

NOTE: She refers to people "faithfully donning Seahawks gear every Friday" which is a phenomena around these parts known as Blue Friday.  I was in a local grocery last Friday and they weren't just pushing wearable gear.  You could get blue cupcakes, blue bouquets for your sweetheart.  It's a little hard to ignore and yes, I admit it: I have started reading the sports page again.

Welcome Sis!  Enjoy!

Calendar image by graphic artist Dan Boyer
Playing Outside the Box
An Essay by Maura Cullen
(c) 2015

I suppose that it is an occupational hazard for one who has made a career in the social sciences to be constantly fascinated by human behavior. I have been a practicing school psychologist since 1984 and I still find myself in awe and wonderment as to why people, especially groups of people, do what they do.
Now that football season is over until at least mid-summer, I find myself reflecting on the whole phenomenon of the “12’s.”  Why do the people of the Northwest (and beyond, actually) have such a love affair with the Seahawks?  How did an entire region become motivated to faithfully don Seahawks gear every Friday?  Why has Century Link Field become such a dreaded place for other teams to play? Why have Skittles practically become the new state candy?

Friday, September 4, 2015

Coming in November: MORE IRISH TALES

2013's A Trio of Irish Tales is by far my best selling collection, ever. Finally, the much promised second volume of stories is heading for completion and will be released in plenty of time for the holidays.

A Trio of Irish Tales II features two stories that rejoin characters introduced in volume 1, and the third story introduces an entirely new cast of characters in a situation inspired by real places found in Ireland.

In "Two Houses" a young American couple on their honeymoon find their ties to Irish heritage are far more insistent than just a simple perusal of genealogies.  As the past disturbs their future, Mark and Cate must unravel the mystery of two houses that suffered very different fates, but that are somehow connected.

"The Fairy Tree" reunites us with young Liam Killough of "The Shadow by the Gate."  He and his family have settled into life in rural County Wicklow, but Liam is at continual odds with farm manager Rose McLane. The tension has been mounting and explodes with unexpected results, leaving young Liam desperate to set things to rights again.

"Patrick's Path" features Pat Flynn from "In the Mists." Pat is 24 now and he's tired of always walking in everyone's wake - following along behind.  He wants to find something that he is passionate about; something that he can claim as his very own. He also wouldn't mind catching the eye of Daimhin Finnegan.

More stories, more adventure, history, romance and mythology.  Three modern tales steeped in the lore of an ancient land.  A Trio of Irish Tales II will call to your Celtic soul, even if you never thought you had one.

Coming to Amazon for Kindle and in Paperback.

Join my new Stories by Judith Cullen mailing list to get special email pre-release updates and news of events!


Come to Ireland
By Judith Cullen
© 2015

It happens again and again,
Whispered on the conscience
Subtly suggested coincidence
Inviting, voices entreating
replying, repeating
“Come to Ireland.”

Calling in books, in poems,
A dozen chance implications.
“We’ve been to Ireland,
We just got back in”
Jealously ecstatic
“Come to Ireland.”

Land of past mothers and fathers
Bosom of soul-filled heritage
Yearning past tense, for welcome
On someone else’s native soil
immigrant, heart of toil
“Come to Ireland.”

One day, child of the scattered,
your heart and your heartland
will reunite once more.”
Murmuring promises sent
Wafting on a green wind
“Come to Ireland.”