My Monday Blues (A Poem)

And here we are again,
aren’t we?
A blasé Monday
spent checking things
off the list
(the interminable list).
It’s pretty mundane, sure
(but made better by sunshine
and maybe some good wine
at dinner).
And the hits, well, yeah
they do keep coming,
but that’s not so bad
because life does keep going.
And, hey, as it stands,
at least I’m not bored.

Sunday Supper #1: Falling Back and First Fire

*Well, here I am, posting on a Sunday, which isn’t something I normally do. That is, until now! I’ve been thinking for a while that I wanted to add a day to my posting schedule, so here’s a new feature – Sunday Supper. A quick post (maybe) every Sunday, just talking about what’s going on, what’s on my mind, (sometimes) what’s for dinner, what’s on tap for the week ahead, etc. Hopefully you guys will enjoy it!*

It’s been a lazy day around here, which is probably appropriate, considering that we’ve fallen back an hour and so it’s now getting dark early. I always love this time of year. I know that for lots of people, the extra hours of darkness and the colder weather can be really hard and depressing, but I enjoy slowing down and taking it all in. It feels like the natural order of things. And with the cold comes the cozy, and I like to be cozy.

So does Gatsby.

It’s been chilly for the last week or so, and I’ve been waiting for the right opportunity to build our first fire of the season. Today was that day.

And so now I’m sitting here with a cup of Earl Grey tea, typing away by the fire, enjoying the warmth and the yellow lamplight, and pondering what to actually make for supper. I think pasta – easy and quick, and I’ve got some good cheddar cheese and bacon, so I should be able whip up a pretty tasty sauce. As for what next week will bring, well, I’ll think about that tomorrow.

Happy Sunday, y’all, and cheers to a good week to come!

Hello, Sunshine! (or, the Sunshine Blogger Award)

Happy Friday, and I hope you’ve all had a wonderful week so far! I was so excited and honored over the weekend when I saw that The Soul Whispers Blog had nominated me for a Sunshine Blogger Award. I’ve never been nominated before, and it put such a big smile on my face. 😊

So, what is it, and what are the rules? Well, quoting directly from The Soul Whispers Blog (and thank you so much for nominating me!):

The Sunshine Blogger Award “is a peer recognition of the inspiring, creative and motivational work done by bloggers. It is given by bloggers to bloggers who inspire positivity and creativity in the blogging community.”

If you have been nominated:

  1. Thank the blogger who nominated you and link back to their blog. 
  2. Answer the 11 questions sent by the person who nominated you. 
  3. Nominate 11 bloggers to receive the award and write them 11 new questions. 
  4. List the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award logo in your post and/or your blog.

So, here are my answers:

What or whom inspires you?

I’m lucky to live in a community full of creative people, and they inspire me every day to try new things and push myself outside of my creative comfort zone. But beyond that, Dolly Parton. She’s life goals. Her constant creativity, her immense talent, her kindness and love for her hometown, her authenticity and her confidence…I just love her. And in terms of writers, Neil Gaiman. I love his style, I admire his flexibility and confidence to work in several different areas, and I just enjoy his storytelling.

What is the last book you read?

Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury. Highly recommend this entertaining, and pretty quick, read. Next on my list is The Heroine with 1001 Faces by Maria Tatar.

What is your favorite spot in your home?

I quite like my comfy writing chair, which sits beside a west-facing window and right next to a cozy fireplace. Perfect for chilly days like today.

Oatmeal chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin, or neither?

Yes. Give me all the cookies.

What was an unforgettable vacation?

Iceland was amazing, but Wales was just heartbreakingly beautiful. As long as I live, I don’t think I’ll ever forget how I felt walking around in Snowdonia. It was like living in a fantasy novel. So, so striking and desolate and full and alive all at the same time.    

What is your proudest accomplishment?

That’s a tough question. Looking forward, I hope it will be finally finishing one of the many novels I’ve started writing. But for now, I’m really proud of the volunteer work I’ve done, and also proud to have graduated from college (I was one of the first in my family to), and especially proud that I’ve been able to really focus on my writing and creative work in the last several years.

What is your go-to meal?

Spaghetti Carbonara. Simple, fast, filling, and super tasty.

How has a set-back turned into something better?

I worked in Human Resources for many years and made my way up the corporate ladder for a while before losing my interest and my drive. I really fizzled out in my last HR position, and felt like a failure. Then, I took some time to really think about what I wanted and realized that HR was not my path. The problem wasn’t me. It was HR. I left, and I’ve never once looked back, and I’m happier now than I ever was sitting in an office all day.

What is your tool of choice when writing (e.g. journal, notepad, computer)?

I jot ideas down on whatever loose slip of paper happens to be close to me at the time, but I do keep a notebook, as well. When I actually get down to the business of writing, I use my laptop. Oh, and I only use blue ink pens. I don’t know why. It just feels right.

Which do you prefer: a few friends or the more-the-merrier?

Both, actually, depending on the occasion. I love a big, loud party with lots of chatter and music. It’s fun seeing all of my friends together in one place. But I’m also a huge fan of a quiet sit-down with a few people to really spend some time together. Either way, I get a little tired. But it’s worth it.

What brightens your day?

I find joy in lots of different things. My dog and my cat, especially when they want cuddles or when they’re being silly. Time with Graham. A good book, a funny movie. A new tea, or a bite of something sweet. Life’s all about making your own happiness, so I appreciate any little moment that makes me smile.

And here are my nominees (I love all of these blogs, and you should check them out!):

1. Suzassippi’s Lottabusha County Chronicles

2. Happy Panda

3. Nick West Photography

4. It Ain’t Right Till I Write

5. The Skeptic’s Kaddish

6. Steve’s Country

7. Joseph E Bird

8. Social Bridge

9. The Alchemist’s Studio

10. My Inspired Life

11. The Plein Air Experience

And my questions for them:

1. What is your favorite time of day to create (be it writing, art, photography, etc.)?

2. If you could meet one person from history, who would it be?

3. Pizza or sushi?

4. What’s one thing you’ve always wanted to do but haven’t done yet?

5. What’s one fear you’ve conquered?

6. Winter or summer?

7. The mountains or the beach?

8. Stealing from The Soul Whispers Blog, what/who inspires you? (It’s a good question, y’all!)

9. If you could go back (or forward!) in time, would you?

10. If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?

11. Do you collect anything? If so, what?

(And of course, there’s an implied “Why?” in all of these questions. 😉)

This was really fun! And it was exceedingly difficult to choose only eleven bloggers to nominate. So here’s a thought: Should I do a monthly feature where I link to other blogs I read? Is that something y’all would enjoy? If you’ve stuck with me this long, let me know! There are so many wonderful creators in this community, and I’m just constantly inspired by all of you. 😊

Letting Go (A Poem)

What’s left
when the leaves
have fallen
and the grass
has gone fallow?
Once the air’s grown cold
and the night sky’s shifted,
once the frost has
come and covered
the hills and meadows,
what’s left to us
in this new
season of darkness?
To rest, to sleep,
to build a hearth fire,
to watch it snow.
To breathe deep and
release a sigh out
among the coming
winter winds.
These belong to us,
are made for us and
left to us by the maiden
and the mother and the crone.
Just as it begins
when new things grow
in a world made bright,
the old year ends
quiet and star light,
with a gentle
and a loving
letting go.

Our First Jack O’Lantern!

Okay, I know Halloween is over, and I’m totally ready to move on. I’m already thinking about Thanksgiving dinner, and wondering how soon is too soon to put up Christmas decorations. (This weekend’s probably too soon, right?) But first, I just had to share this:

Graham and I have spent thirteen (THIRTEEN!)  Halloweens together, and this is the first year we’ve ever carved a pumpkin together. Why? I have no idea why. It just wasn’t something we ever got around to.

I think it’s safe to say we’ll make it a tradition from now on.

Cloud Dwellers (A Short Story)

We’ll never know who did it. Who cast the spell and brought the fog. It rolled in as we slept, before the dawn, gray and viscous, a blanket of cool and damp. It slithered over the grass and in the trees, and curled itself into every little nook, cranny, and corner.

Life was quiet on the Mountain. That’s why we came. That’s why we built our homes and planted our gardens and settled here. High above the rest of the world, away from the noise and the hurry, we could live in peace, with no one but birds and bears and deer to judge us, and nothing but trees and stars and each other for company. This we wanted – this easy, quiet, slow turning of the days, this peaceful time together, this chance to build something better than we’d had before. We were all grateful for this place and this peace, and most of all for Mary, who’d made it all possible.

Mary had money, more money than she needed, she said. But more than that, she had love. Love to give to all of us, more than we’d ever had. She embraced us, guided us, and made for us a home in the sky.

“Come to the Mountain with me,” she’d pleaded, “come and live there together and we’ll show the world that it never should have given up on us.”

And we’d come. How quickly we’d packed our bags – only one for each of us – and said goodbye.

“We’ll build something they could never even imagine, and we’ll do it together,” Mary had said. “I deserve happiness. You deserve it, we all deserve it, and we’ll create it there, together. Come with me.”

And then she’d hugged each of us, touched her white, slender hand to each of our hearts, alabaster against the grime of a world gone wrong inside us, and she’d kissed our cheeks with her cool, red lips. And to every one of us, she’d said, “I am yours, and you are mine, and we belong to each other. Do you love me?”

And we’d answered, all of us, barely above a whisper, “I love you, Mary.”

“I love you, too,” she’d said.

And just like that, Mary became Mother, and all of us Brothers and Sisters, her Children. She’d protect us, feed us, clothe us, love us. We truly did belong to each other, and not even an army couldn’t break us apart.

In the beginning, in those earliest days on the Mountain, we prayed and we worked and we sang. And we ate together at every meal, stretched out on threadbare blankets across the high Green Valley meadow, or squeezed into the Peoples’ Hall if the weather was cold or wet. We ate the food we grew, and Mary, always somewhere in the middle of all of us, reminded us to be grateful, and to show appreciation.

“We work together as one, and what feeds one feeds all. We live for each other, and to each other we give life.”

And on Thursday evenings, tucked together into the chapel at the Pinnacle, the top of our little village, Mary told us stories and asked us to share our own. And when those stories were sad, or angry, then we’d join hands and lift our voices to cast out that dangerous energy.

“Make no mistake, my Children,” Mary would tell us, “there is evil in this world, and those who think it and speak it, they manifest it. They cast it, they give it form.”

And here, she would pause, breathe deep, and we could feel her fear and worry. And then she would smile, gentle and wide.

“But we are new,” she’d say, “and we are safe here together. We are new every day, every moment, that we choose to live in love and not in fear.”

Mary spoke often of the Darkness. Her greatest agony, she said, was knowing that it was always close by, in all of our hearts, and our greatest task was keeping it at bay.

“We all harbor Darkness,” she’d warn us. “Even within myself, I feel it. But we must never let it take control of us, and we must never give in to it. My mother always told me, and I tell you now, that one bad apple spoils the bunch. What’s done by one is done by all, but we can work together to harbor the Light. We must always love and trust each other. And my Children, sometimes trust must be earned, and love must be cruel.”

We all knew what she meant. We all knew the Punishments for evil thoughts and dark impulses. Mary decided each case, and we knew she felt the pain of each judgment. A day spent facing the wall, or an evening without supper – these were for mild discretions, like laziness or a harsh tongue. A beating administered by the Offended, that was the cost of spreading lies. But for something truly evil, it was a night in the Cellar, in the cold, dark ground with the worms and snakes, and with no light, food, or water. And if the offense was bad enough, a night could become a week, or more.

Mary would cry as she led us there to witness a Punishment. And she would tell us, as she embraced the Offender, “You are Punished now because you are loved. May you learn this lesson, Child, and may your return to the Light be your reward.”

Always, one of us was missing. But we knew the stakes. We knew that any hatred or sinfulness within one of us could spell the end for all.

Some days, Mary would leave us, and spend time on her own.

“I need my Silence,” she’d say, “so I can hear what can’t be heard. I will bring it to you, and share it with you. My mind is your mind.”

She kept her room in the back of the Pinnacle, and we knew never to intrude upon that space. And so on the days when she rested and listened, we worked as normal, often harder, so she could see. We sewed and mended, we scrubbed, we cooked, we chopped wood for our fires and gathered flowers or leaves for our hearths, and we waited. And when she came back to us, she always noticed.

“My Children, I am proud.”

The greatest compliment.

Our lives were simple. And our love for each other was deep and unshakeable, and we lived for a long time in that comforting, warm certainty. And then, one day, we noticed a change in Mary.

It started at supper, on a cool autumn evening. As Mary led us through our Evening Prayer, her voice trembled.

“My Children,” she began, “my heart is heavy today, and my bones are tired. I feel a change coming, and I fear it will be difficult for us.”

She paused, and we waited, each of us holding our breath and clenching our fists.

“I ask that you trust me, as I trust you,” she continued. “I do not know what our future holds, but I will guide you, and I will show you the path, as I always have.”

She touched one hand to her chest, and raised her mug of tea in the other. “Our Family,” she said.

“Our Family,” we repeated.

In the days that followed, Mary spent more time alone, and when she did join us, her gaze was distant, her blue eyes clouded, and she spoke barely a word. She didn’t join us in preparing our meals, or in our daily chores. And when she did speak, her voice was flat and empty.

“The time is coming,” she would say. “A change is coming. It is one we all need.”

And then, one morning, Mary didn’t come to the Peoples’ Hall for breakfast. She didn’t come the next morning, or the one after that, and we started to worry.

And on the morning of the fourth day, we found a note, and beside the note, a bottle of amber liquid, both placed in the center of the main dining table.

My children, the note read, in Mary’s delicate, spiraling script, the day is today. All Mothers must let their children fly, and today, you must spread your wings. It is the pain all Mothers must endure. I have taught you what I know, and you have made my life full and beautiful. We have belonged to each other, and we will belong to each other always. But today, I must allow you to grow beyond me, and you must allow yourselves to take these next steps into the Light. I must leave you, but my heart will remain on the Mountain, because it is there within each of you.

And here, she’d written instructions. Terrible instructions.

I will meet you on the Path, my Children, though I will walk it with you no longer. Trust that when the time is right, we will be together again.

There was some argument about what to do next. Some of us, the weak and the frightened, couldn’t bear to follow Mary’s guidance, and they left and made their way down the mountain. But most of us, we stayed. And we gathered cups from the kitchen, and we poured for each other from the bottle and drank deeply. And we fell asleep, just as Mary said we would, and when we awoke, there was the fog.

Now we are here alone. And the fog will not relent, and we will never know who brought it to us – doubtless one of the few who left us spoke it into being and made it real. The Light is hard to see, but we will not give up.

And Mary will come to us, we know, when the time is right, just as she said. Perhaps she’ll emerge from the tree line in the Green Valley, or she’ll make her way down from the Pinnacle, weaving through the dark trees in her bright white dress.

But we know she’ll come. Our Mother would never abandon us. In this, we have decided, she is trying to teach us. Patience, maybe, or trust. We trust her. And so we will wait here, for as long as we must. We will wait for her, in this fog, on this mountain, our home.

*************

Thank you for reading! This is the tenth of twelve stories I’ll write as part of my 2021 Short Story Challenge. Twelve months, twelve stories, and the theme this year is: Home.

Here are the first nine stories, if you’d like to read them: 

The Roads

This Place

Talk Out the Fire

Quiet Neighbors

The Return

Old Friends

Jesse’s in the Back Room

Just Like Magic

Stage Fright

And if you want to join in the fun, here’s more information. I hope you do! But just reading is good, too, and I’m glad you’re here!

The next story will be posted at the end of November.

October’s short story…

…will be posted on Halloween. Sunday isn’t a normal posting day for me, I know, but here’s the thing – the weather today is dark and cloudy, rainy and windy, and pretty much perfect for writing a creepy story. So, I’m taking advantage, and time, and really sinking into this one. I can’t wait to see what it looks like once it’s done.

In the meantime, as a preview, here are the first couple of paragraphs:

We’ll never know who did it. Who cast the spell and brought the fog. It rolled in before dawn, gray and viscous, a blanket of cool and damp. It slithered over the grass and in the trees, and curled itself into every little nook, cranny, and corner.

Life was quiet on the mountain. That’s why we came. That’s why we built our homes and planted our gardens and settled here. High above the rest of the world, away from the noise and the hurry, we could live in peace, with no one but birds and bears and deer to judge us, and nothing but trees and stars and each other for company. This we wanted – this easy, quiet, slow turning of the days, this peaceful time together, this chance to build something better than we’d had before. We were all grateful for this place…

Are you intrigued? I hope so! And I hope you’ll pop by on Sunday and give it a read.

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday: Halloween Edition

This is Graham and I, dressed as each other for a Halloween party back in 2017. I have no idea how I fit all of my hair under that wig. And yes, I am wearing Graham’s actual clothes. (And also yes, I do still wear pajamas a vast majority of the time. No shame here.)

My only regret is that we didn’t get MORE photos.

EVP 2 (A Poem)

I wait here

in prayer

I am

forsaken and

forgotten

I cannot go

I cannot go

Until the

Lord

calls me home

Mine is a

just punishment

Though I am dead

I know

I know

I know no peace

*I thought it would be fun to try another one of these. For last year’s, click HERE.*

Revisiting the (maybe) most haunted house in Loudoun County…

Around this time last year, I posted about what some believe to be the most haunted house in Loudoun County.

I wrote about it last year because I’d been reading a book of ghost stories my friend gave me , and I connected some dots and came to conclusion that the house in a story I’d read that day was very likely the same house.

Can I be certain? Well, no, but I’d like to think I’m right, because it’s a pretty cool connection. See, this house is just a few minutes away on the outskirts of our village, and Graham and I drive by it frequently. Of all the gin joints, right?

I’ve always been a fan of both ghost stories and old houses. I love walking into a space knowing that it has a history, that others have come and gone and loved it and built their lives there before me. And honestly, I think it’s just a fundamentally, very human thing to love ghost stories. Something in our primal makeup, in our DNA and our bones and the very oldest part of our brains tells us to be afraid of things that go bump in the night, and to ponder what happens to us when we die. I grew up in a town full of ghosts and legends, and I live in an area rife with them now, too. And this house is just one small piece of that larger puzzle.

Or, it was. Which is to say, it still is, but for how long is anyone’s guess. It was a ruin last year. It’s in worse shape now.

Graham stopped by yesterday and snapped this picture. Sad, isn’t it? Soon enough, the house will be gone, and the stories will be all that’s left. Then one day, they’ll be forgotten, too. But for now, the house is still here, crumbling away on the roadside, taking its secrets with it.

P.S. As I did last year, I’ll add this disclaimer:  This house is on private property, and there are no trespassing signs posted, so please don’t go poking around where you’re not welcome. It’s easy enough to take a picture from the road.