Friday, December 30, 2016

A Final Story for 2016

I was invited by Eleseren Brianna (Donna Kantaris) way back in September to write a companion story to her own "The Curio," composed to accompany her 3-D artwork creation in Second Life ®.  I was immediately inspired, did a MESS of research, reading, and took a raft of notes.  Then the story sat as the rest of life intervened, asserting itself over the necessities of fiction.

But, miraculously here the story is! It seems appropriate to be sharing it as 2016 draws to its thankful, inevitable conclusion. Enjoy, and please accept my wishes for a fresh and delight-filled New Year.

Many Blessings to you all,

~ Judy
Image by Inara Pey, of "The Curio" 3-D Artwork by Eleseren Brianna

Eternity's Test

by Judith Cullen

The sun was warm on his armor.


Just as it would be cool by moonlight, again.  So long had his form been bent in this fashion that heat and cold no longer mattered. It was another unimportant detail of occasional, casual notice.  "Oh, it is cold once more."  It was no different from noting the green of the grass, the iridescent glow of snowfall, or the perpetual motion of tiny creatures all around him.  He had long since ceased noting the constants, but waited for the one inconstant to reveal itself.  He bent, hoping for resolution, praying to once more have the power to move and act.

Poised over his tiny scrap of rock and sand, the voice would come to him every now and again.  Just when he believed that he was forgotten, it would murmur in his head, "Wait.  Not yet.  They are not ready."

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

IN THE MIST is Live and Broadcasting on the Internet!

It was really a terrific honor to have Saffia Widdershins of Prim Perfect Publications and Designing Worlds choose my 2013 story "In The Mist" to produce as their 2016 Halloween Special.  I had a terrific time working with DW Team.  Elrik Merlin (Richard Elen) did an outstanding job editing and mixing all the elements together.  What a magician!

Experience anew Daimhin's frantic, frustrated run away from the roguish James, and her near encounter with the dangerous Gray Man of the Mists with text updated specifically fort his production.  The episode features narration by myself, Corwyn Allen, Saffia Widdershins, and Elrik Merlin who does a fantastic job voicing the ethereal Far Liath. 

The gifted Wildstar Beaumont provides still shots interspersed with narration footage shot at some dazzling and atmospheric settings in Second Life ©,  

"In The Mist" is part of A Trio of Irish Tales, Volume I. The characters of Daimhin and Patrick Flynn are continued in A Trio of Irish Tales II. Both are available in Kindle and Paperback through Amazon.  They make great gifts - I'm just sayin'!

Saturday, October 22, 2016


The Spanish Inquisition  - from Wikimedia Commons
Under Suspicion
by Judith Cullen
© 2016

If you have not been, you do not understand.  If you have not been stopped by the police, or called in for questioning, or any of the other degrees of being suspected of committing a crime, you have no idea what this process is like and what it does to you.  You have no idea what it is like to know that you are innocent, and be in the power of people who believe fervently that you are not.  We are all raised on the notion that every citizens is innocent until proven guilty.  It probably seems simple to you.  If you are innocent, you have nothing to worry about.  Think again.

In reading the account in the Boston Globe, and artist SteveLocke's own account of being stopped by the police ("I Fit the Description", Dec 5, 2015) last year on his way to work at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design where he is on the faculty, I was reminded that "innocent until proven guilty" is a figure of law in America, not a figure of practice.  It is something lawyers remind citizens during voir dire, something that judges remind seated juries.  It is not something that happens on the streets in the midst of a crime investigation.  I am sorry to disillusion you. It does not matter who you are, being a suspect messes with your head.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

BACK TO SCHOOL: An adventure both new, and familiar

There are certain things I always associate with "back-to-school."  Even in the weeks before the official turn of the season, the air begins to crisp, the trees display colorful intent, and the world begins to taste different - spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg, and just a touch of clove. I love this change equally to its spring counterpart.  I know it is more than a little trite but, seriously, it always brings to sensory memory the smell of new leather shoes, the perfection of a fresh box of crayons, and the pride of this year's sparkling lunchbox.

The last time I was actually going back-to-school was decades ago.  Yes, life itself is one big classroom, and learning is a constant. I will not deny that philosophy.  But there are certain rituals associated with back-to-school, and I find I am engaging in them in a new way this year as I prepare to add to my weekly schedule auditing a college class online through the University of Washington iSchool.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

A NEW REFLECTION: "To Fu, or Not Tofu?"

"Tofu With Soy Sauce And Carrot" by Chris 73
(see end of post for full attribution)
To Fu, or Not Tofu?
by Judith Cullen
© 2016

As time passes, our relationships change.  I cherish memories of the righteous freedom of my child and young adulthood, when my head was still filled with questions of "how" and "why" instead of bearing the time-inflicted patina of doubt. Yet, every now and again I surprise myself. I find myself embracing something new in a new way, and I feel that young excitement again.  Today it was tofu.

I was introduced to the curd in the 1970s. Back in those times buying lettuce in the produce section, a single side of an aisle and not even a full one, meant purchasing the sphere of green known as iceberg.  There were no other options.  Since there were Caesar Salads there had to have been romaine, and I am sure there were gardens bountiful with green leaf varietals, and red.  They might have even existed in my little fenced-yard of the world.  I just didn't know about them. They were not a part of my formative gastronomic experiences.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

PROCTOR ARTSFEST 2016 - Art Inspired Stories

Juried Art Show 2016
 Art-Inspired Stories Project 

This is the 20th Anniversary year of Proctor Arts Fest. This year's Juried Art Show and Art Inspired Stories Project are dedicated to the man who worked quietly behind the scenes for two decades, and whose vision of the arts in the Proctor District are reflected in the vibrancy of this annual celebration. 

  Thank you Gene Kester for your stewardship, your dedication, and your vision.

One Man's Garden
by Judith Cullen

To Gene Kester

The wise gardener knows the richness of inspired soil,
when to quench the eager thirsts of growth,
when to submit to the invigorating touch of the sun.

He toils compassionately among his rows, planting, tending,
a gentle influence over decades of potentialities.
The warm touch and twinkling presence is ever patient.

The vibrant mind, full of constant imaginative ideas,
always sees the garden in its fullest, most vibrant splendor
despite the cycling realities of decay and winter's rest.

His spade and trowel work on: encouraging, persuading,
gently assessing that which would remain in the safety of seed,
and seeks out just the right spot to plant for prosperity.

This man's garden shall never be fallow, fade or wither,
remaining a testament to one soul's stewardship and scope:
vivid color, dynamic shape reflecting the ardor of his vision

For he has planted to a design which conforms to the eternal,
and cherished it with the blessing of every God-given gift
that one hand, and one heart can hold in everlastingness.


Pieces Selected for Presentation
Note: All Stories are © 2016 by Judith Cullen
Use of any of the photo images on this page without the express permission
of the individual artists is strictly prohibited


Aunt Ruthie
Image copyrighted by the Artist 
by Janette Stiles, Graphite on Paper

Is this really her?  The undulating gleam of calculated waves.  The precise manicure and intense perfection of rouge and liner.  Determined lips reflect a polished, fell sensuality belying the softness of fur.

I question what I remember - what I choose to remember: impossibly good cookies whose recipe was never revealed, dizzy songs sung in the car that can never be forgotten, secret assaults on household furnishings that I was sworn never to disclose to my Mother.

That is the aunt I remember. That is the complex formula of imperfections that branded me with its eternal acceptance, and unquestioned love.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

THE THIRD ANNIVERSARY of Art Inspired Stories

It is hard to imagine that Mr Gene Kester and I hatched this idea over coffees three-plus years ago for the 2014 Proctor Artsfest.  While never claiming it was an original idea, it has turned out to be a very enjoyable and fruitful one.  Not only have I done two ArtsFests, but I did another installment got the Peninsula Art Guild last fall, and the project has extended into the virtual world as well.

I'll be at the Juried Art Show at Mason UMC at 11:30am on Saturday with the third set of Art Inspired Stories for this year's Proctor ArtsFest.

I happily dedicate this post and this year's stories to Gene Kester: Thank you for always seeing the creative possibilities, and being the first to stand behind them!

I love doing these projects, and it is hard to choose individual favorites, but here are some highlights from the five Art Inspired Story Projects, real world and virtual, over the past three years.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

WARMING UP for Art Inspired Stories: The Canvas of Childhood

It was a great morning to be out to breakfast.  Apparently I wasn't the only one to think so.  After placing my order, I began scribbling on my notepad in the usual hope that something will spark my interest or imagination.

One full page of drivel later (and a lot of frustrated page slashes), a family of four walked in complete with sparkly birthday hats and a cluster of balloons clutched in the hands of the birthday boy. The parents waved at me as I took a snapshot of them.  It made me think about what an open canvas childhood is, and how experiences big and small paint themselves on that canvas in hues that set the tone for the rest of life.  They can't be primed over or sanded away.

My 85 year old Mother tells stories all the time.  Almost all of them are about her childhood.  Very little is spoken of some 65 years in deference to fond recollections of the first 20.  It reminds me of the importance of that childhood canvas, and how the events and sensory input of those years are indelibly marked on the soul.

By the way, I gifted the young celebrant with a glass of chocolate milk, and when he left he was wearing TWO of the sparkly hats on his head.  I hear the chocolate milk is especially fine this season.

The Canvas of Childhood

by Judith Cullen
© 2016

Five balloons a float
each helium-filled token a year
excitement still fresh

Remembering times
of a world all bright and high
vibrant child essence

Remembering days
joy-infused with adventure
replete, repeat them

Remembering sense
sounds and smells of young living
surprises await

When decades have passed
indelibly imprinted
sounds, smells, colors, tastes

Five balloons a float
a special breakfast this day
seeds of memories


More haiku, drabble and free-verse coming for this year's Proctor ArtsFest Art Inspired Stores Project, coming August 6th!

Friday, July 22, 2016

CHANGE BEGINS AT THE ROOTS - #loverebellionchallenge

Two weeks ago - an awful week which terminated with the shooting of five law enforcement officers in Dallas - my friend Jason wrote a long, heartfelt post on facebook which concluded with the call for a love rebellion.  A revised version of that post is HERE, printed on this blog with his permission. 

Jason makes a point that I happen to agree with - change begins at the roots. There is a reason why the term grassroots came into popular use.  Those of you who garden know that no matter how healthy a plant is, if its needs are not met at the root level it will not flourish, it will eventually wither and die. 

We are faced with a lot of top end problem solving these days, as bursted-blooms on the national level declare that they can solve the problems that fuel our fears - they can lead us to prosperity.  And all the leaves surrounding them rustle the echo of top-down solutions.  We want to believe them, because living in our increasingly violent, hate-shame-blame filled world is getting unbearable.  Somehow our society has turned into Strange Days and we want to shout "No, no, this is not what we wanted!  That was supposed to be fiction. Can we get a retake, please!"

This descent is aided by the medias, which reflects the culture of our times as much as they shape it.  The news media is generally ready to provide you with the dirt on whomever you don't agree with, so you can not agree with them even more.  Social media creates the illusion of public forums for civil discourse that are false, that amplify discord and divisiveness, and propagate the spewing forth of opinions and ideas with a frightening anonymity which holds the individual minimally accountable for their role in the clamor.  It is a culture of entitlement where my right to be right, overrides any obligation to be kind and good. The whole rambling mess becomes a committee-of-the-whole in which everyone talks, no one listens, and nothing is resolved except that everyone becomes more entrenched in their established positions.

We have to start by treating the roots.  People are angry because they are afraid, they feel threatened.  In many cases there are legitimate causes for that.  Fingers are pointed, labels are placed and replaced.  The hopelessness and frustration can be overwhelming.  I know that is how I feel very often.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

ART INSPIRED STORIES 2016 at Proctor ArtsFest

It's almost time again for the annual Art Inspired Stories at the Proctor ArtsFest Juried Art Show.  The "big canvas" of artful fun is scheduled for the Proctor District Saturday, August 6th from 10am to 5pm.  There's plenty to see and do, with over 140 different vendors.

Art Inspired Stories will be presented at 11:30am in the Mason Church Parlors, at 2710 North Madison Street.  In the week prior I will be selecting some two dozen pieces from this year's submitted artworks, and writing a 100 word story, or a poem in any form (length not to exceed 100 words).  some of these compositions will be read live at the show, and all will be posted here after the Festival is over.  All artists whose works are featured in the live readings will receive a copy of the story or poem written for their work.

Check Art Inspired Stories from previous shows here:

Read all of the 2015 stories from Peninsula Art Leagues 13th annual Open Show HERE

Read all of the 2015 stories from Proctor ArtsFest HERE

Read all of the 2014 stories from Proctor ArtsFest HERE

I hope to see you at the show!

Friday, July 8, 2016

Just stop. Stop. STOP. Time for a Different Rebellion!

Public Domain image from
The events of the last days have only highlighted the weeks, and months of increasing disbelief that have been pounding us all.  Up until now, all that seems to have been accomplished is more debate, more divisiveness, more denial, and more of the same.

Meanwhile our society, our nation spins out of control fueled by hate, fear, hopelessness - a seeming lack of meaningful, supportable choices.

I remember gut-wrenching occurrences of the past - quick, sharp shots that left me breathless and staring at scrolling news reports in total disbelief.  The morning of the 911 attacks is the first that comes to mind.  At these times I pulled myself up out of my disbelieving torpor and said, "You are not doing any good by this, get back to business.  Do your job.  That's the best way to honor those lost."

Today is too much.  "Keep calm and carry on" is not enough. It is long since time to STOP and take a look at where we are going as a society, a people, and as a species.  This path we are all on is not working, and this pattern of hate, anger, fear, and hopelessness cannot stand.  Must not stand. Fighting anger with anger is not effective.  Fighting fear with fear is not working.

 A long time friend posted the following thoughts on facebook.  He proposes a reasonable first step that each and every one of us can take, every day, to start a groundswell of change in how we respect, and care for one another.  Feel like you already do this?  Do more.  There is no "too much" right now.

Jason Ganwich is a photographer/videographer living in Tacoma, WA.  He is known for bringing professionalism, experience, leadership, timing and humor to his projects. I am proud to call him friend, and proud to share his words (with his permission - revised from the first post) as my guest.
Jason Ganwich, self-portrait
Yesterday was a tough day for a lot of people. It got me down. I cried watching Alton Sterlings wife speak while her son sobbed "I want my daddy." My heart raced watching the video of Philando Castille who'd been shot 4 times in front of his girlfriend and her young daughter. My perspective on life continues to change and it feels so hopeless at times. The friends and families of these victims who have been hit with such devastating blows, are now forced into a harsher reality coming from one that, for many, was already hard enough.

These events interrupt our realities. We hear them. Perhaps we finally listen. For some, we truly absorb the words for the first time. For others, this is a skipping record which they yell over, "Make it stop!"

No matter the tone in which a plea to be heard is made, we must listen. If it's an angry plea, screw our devotion to good manners. It means we earnestly need to listen and hear and act. How can we respond to such intensity in a way that does not make the situation worse - more emotional, contentious, divisive?

Sunday, June 26, 2016

WORDS & PAINT . . . A Project Inspires a New Story

In one of this life's incarnations I made my living by my brush. I still have the skills, but my knees are not what they once were.  Still every now and again a project comes my way that I cannot resist.  In this case, an old classmate from high school asked me to rehabilitate something she and her daughter had found in an antique store for the imminent arrival of said daughter's first child.  I was happy to help.

It turned out to be one of those projects that just sparks to life on its own, and I soon found myself talking to the object, a rolling toy box, while I worked on it.  I have to give partial inspiration to William Joyce and his book Ollie's Odyssey for some of this fancy, as well as for the notion of a "code" for toys.

Here is the result, a copy of which was given to the mother-to-be at her baby shower today, when the finished toy box was delivered. ~ Enjoy!


Charlie is Waiting for You
The toy box "before"
by Judith Cullen
© 2016

For Corrie Rydberg

He could remember things, but not very well.  He knew that the antique store was cold.  He knew that for certain.  He could hear the mutterings all around: memories of things worn and now discarded, has-been belongings placed for sale to collectors or people who were not put-off by fading paint or little bits missing here and there.  Of course, there were pristine things there in the chill: snooty glassware sparkling in self-aware stacks, extended families of china shining in the fluorescent light, rare teapots holding court on utilitarian shelves.

He was a toy box with wheels, though it had been so long since he had been purposefully used that all he had were the ghosts of memories.  There had been careful hands that crafted him lovingly out of wood now pleasantly aged.  He remembered the squeal of delight when his first child - what was that child's name? - saw him for the very first time, gleefully filling him with all manner of toys before parading him around the room - pulling him by his horse head handle.  His child had grown, and there had been other children.  He could not recall much beyond the sparkle of playful eyes, the touch of small hands, and the joys of imagination.

Thursday, March 3, 2016


Seems like everyone is looking fro a little serenity these days, what with the Presidential-Whoo-Haaa Season in full swing.

I wrote a poem about this mediation because it is the only thing that always works for me.  Well, that and washing my hair.  Enjoy!

My Meditation
by Judith Cullen
One candle alone
A formless blackness
Not in a void
In my mind
A single flame
Dancing in a wind
From my soul
As I inhale
an embrace
As I exhale
moving on
Breathing in
Breathing out
Breathing in
Breathing out
A waltz in the air
Until consciousness relaxes
Into the dark comfort
Of peace.