Ashley

an invocation

As a recovering Catholic, I have a complicated relationship with spirituality. I do admit, though, that I enjoy, and sometimes even yearn for, the rituals that I left behind in Catholicism. I went to a Catholic wedding a few years ago and immediately jumped right back in to the familiar sit-stand-sit-stand muscle memory; the “peace be with you,” “and also with you;” the hold my hands palms up and pause; the flipping through the hymnal’s onion skin sheets; the people-watching through the homily; the acrid, yet warming scent of incense burning my nose. It felt like slipping into tepid bathwater. Familiar, yet somewhat unpleasant. Both right and not-right. A sweater both warm and unbearably itchy.

Similarly, I don’t know how to feel about prayer. Throughout my entire childhood, I diligently prayed every night before bed. When I was very young, it was the simple “now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the lord my soul to keep,” but as I grew older, it became a nightly list of those I loved and hopes I had for the future. It also became the perfect structure for my anxious little mind. I created intricate rules for myself: if I didn’t name every single family member and friend, I risked letting them die—after all, I didn’t pray for them that night, did I? And I had to be sure to name everyone in the correct order: parents first, brother second, favorite family members next, and then friends. If I said mom first one night, I had to remember to say dad first the next. Eventually, prayers became a manifestation of anxieties, rather than a comforting mantra to wrap up the day. Although I did find that, on nights when I couldn’t sleep because I was too afraid of being haunted, I could whisper my prayers as a fearful spell to keep me safe, until I eventually drifted off.

Have I revealed too much? Is this becoming an uncomfortable therapy session? Sorry, doc. The point I’m trying to make is that prayer brought me comfort at the same time as it brought me overwhelming anxiety. It was great and it was terrible.

In adulthood, I have tried to hold on to and explore rituals that bring comfort and health, rather than fear and dysfunction. I journal, name my gratitude, forever work on practicing mindfulness, pull tarot cards to reflect, practice affirmations, read my lunar planner, light candles, set intentions, sip tea, and try to grow and work with healing herbs.

Yeah, I know, that sounds like a whole bunch of witchy white woman behavior. I won’t deny it. But I’m trying my best to practice these rituals in ways that are not intertwined with capitalism and colonial violence. I’m trying my best to engage in these rituals with sustainable, community-focused mindsets and practices. What does that look like in practice? Making what I can with my own hands; buying goods from BIPOC artists who create sustainably; not consuming practices from cultures without context; reflecting not just on myself and my own personal journey, but also my community and the world; and constantly asking myself what I can do better.

I also believe that it’s important to create rituals that work for my mind, body, and spirit. I believe that our emotional, mental, spiritual practices are most sustainable and enriching when they align with our lifestyles and routines. I’m not going to keep up a meditation practice that asks of me to wake up an hour earlier than usual—I’m a sleepy bitch who, try as I might, literally cannot become a morning person. I can, however, slip in a few minutes of mindfulness throughout my day when I need a reset. And, realistically, that’s what I want out of my mindfulness practice! I want to help myself be present enough to know when I need a reset, and to be practiced enough to actually reset!

So with all that in mind, I hope that this week’s prompt is an opportunity to give yourself the gift of a little ritual, in whatever way makes sense and feels comfortable and healthy to you. Approach the prompt however you like—in whatever way is going to be most rewarding for your mind, body, and spirit.

prompt #59:

Whether you are spiritual or not, write a prayer or spell for the remainder of your week.

What do you wish for? what do you intend to put out in the world? Who do you wish to care for or enrich?

This can be thought of as an intention or invocation, depending on your own personal beliefs around fate, creation, and the existence or lack of a great being(s) or spirit(s).

Give yourself five minutes to explore and reflect on this prayer, wish, mantra. Then, close your eyes and bask in it for at least a few seconds. Either because you feel the power or because it’s kind of woo-wooey and you’re allowing yourself to embody that. Then, of course, you can take this piece and tend to it, shape it, form it into something else. Or, as I always say, let it be.

Keep your little prayer somewhere near you, ideally near your bed, so you can read it before you sleep and when you wake. Why not keep it close? Can’t hurt, right? Good luck, my friend!

ashley’s piece:

I pray for clear air,
and continued rain.

I pray for your health, your happiness,
your confidence and joy.

I pray for the soft beauty of sleep, the warm comfort of a body I trust and love.

I pray to remember to take deep breaths,
to hug for a reminder that love is worthwhile and that scripts can be rewritten,
that stubbornness is usually not worth it.

I pray for these little paws and these warmsoft bodies.

I pray for the love I need to feel for myself.

And I pray for the patience that sometimes slips through my fingers,
a wave pulled out to sea.

baby love, my baby love

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 So, ya girl has just embarked on a new hyperfixation! I am, thanks to the Instagram algorithm, now the proud owner of a calligraphy pen holder, nibs, sumi ink, and some high-quality paper. Although it’s intimidating to be a beginner, I also always love the thrill of investigation, anticipation, and watching a new project come together. The novelty is high, and excitement buoys me forward.

Can I ignore the fact that I have a trail of crafts behind me? No, of course not. The sewing, weaving, knitting, painting, crocheting, print-making, mending, bookbinding, tufting, candle-making, embroidery, jewelry-making, ceramics, and quilting supplies all take up a considerable amount of space in my garage and attic (in fact, Michael built a whole annex connected to the garage and I know it’s a source of anxiety for him to see how messy and chaotic that tailor-made storage space is right now). So, one could argue that I’m just going to find one more thing to obsess over and abandon, and thus consider that a futile exercise. However, I would argue right on back that I’ve returned to most of those mediums time and time again, in large and small ways.

I would argue that the skills needed to learn and practice each of these skills informs my later sojourns with the others. Plus, as I talked about last newsletter, there is pleasure and power in making art for art’s sake. It’s fun to learn something new.

And I know that young Ashley would be stoked to see all of the things she’s learned to make and do. She’d be excited to see my boxes of fabrics and fibers. She’d be dying to get her hands on all the goodies haphazardly stored in the annex. And when I get my studio in order, I’ll be doing it for current me, but also for her. A promise kept to that little weirdo who always wanted a place to call home filled with projects and things she could do with her hands. I can do that for her! I can do that for me!

prompt #58:

Take out that timer and set it for five minutes. We’re going to take some time to ponder young us. What did they dream of? What did they hope for? How are you living a life for them now? What are you doing, or what could you be doing, to honor them and their inspiring little spirit?

When your timer goes off, you can take a break and a deep breath for little-you. Re-read what you’ve written and see what you think. Is this piece in need of transformation, or would you like to leave it be? Totally up to you!

If, after all that pondering and creating, you’d like to share in our next Sun Showers, please hit “reply” and send it my way!

ashley’s piece, a promise:

Hello, little me,
young one,
precious child.

I will wrap you tightly,
hold you nightly,
keep you safe in my palms.

Press my ear to your chest,
hear your heart and your breath
as it fights to be strong.

When I breathe slow,
keep my voice low,
count to six-seven-eight,

will you feel calm,
know you’re not alone,
let yourself sleep tight?

artistic freedom

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Hoooo boy, I’m out of practice! I have dropped the ball! Or, we could look at it another way: wow, it was so great to experience my totally planned end-of-year newsletter break. So glad I scheduled that. So glad to be back with you.

However I decide to look at it (I’ll likely switch back and forth a few times before I finish writing and send this out), I just want to assert for you and for me that there is no timeline on artistry for art’s sake.

Yes, capitalism tends to throw a wrench in the mix, but if we decouple our creative practice from money-making, then we can truly experience freedom. We can make because it brings joy, catharsis, relief. We can make because it’s fun. And sometimes it can just be fun.

I am not forgetting that art can be a powerful medium for bringing about justice, for opening up eyes to humanity, trust me. But I also want to highlight the fact that art can be a practice of enjoyment, of wildness, of connecting to childhood or the child within.

Children do not paint or draw or build or play games of imagination because they hope to be paid for it or because they have a message to share, they do it because it is an experience of being a creature and it brings pleasure. Dogs play, birds play; hell, I don’t know about insects, but I wouldn’t be shocked to learn there is some play within their days. Yes, art is important and can be used to open minds and make change, but also it can just be joyful and fun.

You can probably tell I feel a tension. Let’s name it. To expect something, anything, to be free from race, class, sexuality, gender, is not only wrong, but also incredibly privileged. But also, BUT ALSO, to monetize every waking moment, to literally capitalize on every urge, is to be trapped in our incredibly violent economic system.

So I also urge you to play, have fun, enjoy things with the simple pleasure of being in the moment. There is a tension there, I know. it’s not enough to simply name it, but that’s where I’m starting– still grappling with the balance. Maybe I’ll do the ultimate flip-a-roo: declare it a statement and a protest to just enjoy the process of making. Maybe this was just a long diatribe trying to give myself permission to do so. Save yourself the time. Read my wishing and washing and then consider yourself free to play and enjoy.

prompt #57:

That’s today’s prompt. Just give yourself permission to play with no hope of an end product. Just enjoy the process. I won’t even give an example because that kind of defeats the purpose, doesn’t it?

Play and never share it. Play and then rip it up or burn it or stuff it in a drawer or just flip to the next page. Let it be open-ended and let it be free.

dream on

I’ve never been great at keeping dream journals. Journal-journals, yes, sort of, depending on the era of my life, but I’m terrible at keeping up with

tracking my dreams. Over the years, I’ve gotten excited about the creative potential of dreams. Whatever they are, portals to the unconscious, keys to our emotions, connecting to the spirit of creativity, jumbles of thoughts/feelings/emotions set to story, I find them inspiring and interesting. As a kid and adolescent, I’d wake up and want to tell someone about a particularly wacky or scary or intriguing dream. As we all know, however, dreams are rarely interesting for anyone else beyond the dreamer. Does someone have a quote about that? I guess Joan Didion kind of gets at it: “Quite often you want to tell somebody your dream, your nightmare. Well, nobody wants to hear about someone else’s dream, good or bad; nobody wants to walk around with it.”

Still, when I have a good one, I’ll wake up, roll over, and tell Michael about my interesting-to-me dream. I’ve dreamt whole novels and movies in the span of a ten-minute snooze. Isn’t that unbearably attractive? The magic in such a tiny pocket of time? Whenever that happens, I wake up grasping at the wispy leftovers of the story, hoping to set it down on paper so it can stick with me.

So whenever the obsession with dreams starts anew, I put a notebook and pen right on my bedside, I set an intention before bed (“I will remember my dreams”), and I diligently scribble what I recall right when I wake up. All of this for a about four days, usually, and then I oversleep one day and the spell is broken and I promptly forget all about dream journals for at least the next six months. In fact, if you’ve been reading Sun Showers for a while, you’ll know that in December of last year , I was trying to dream journal and I did a newsletter about it. Would you believe that I haven’t even thought of that dream journal since then?

But I had a particularly wacky dream last night (hotels and conspiracies and people I haven’t thought of in forever and throwing a journal in a lake) that’s made me remember the allure of dreams. So, that’s where you’re getting this week’s prompt from. Hope you like it, love!

prompt #56:

For this week’s prompt, let’s reflect on a dream that’s stuck with you. Maybe it’s a theme or category of dreams (Teeth falling out? Driving out of control? Late for an event?), or a place (I used to return to the same Halloweentown-inspired village every year for a couple of years), or one that just can’t leave you (the time I thought I had a beautiful golden locket and then woke up bereft because it was all a dream). Take this time to explore it.

Why did it stick with you? What do you think about it? Retell the dream (although don’t forget that with every retelling, we’re always rewriting memories) or reflect on how you feel about it. Doesn’t matter what you write, just let this dream be your jumping-off point for a five-minute write (Or more! Who cares! It’s up to you!). Enjoy!

ashley’s piece:

I dreamt a town
a college
a school
and lived in it for years that, when I awoke,
turned out to be only
an hour or two.
Some claim that the dream is the reality
and our waking life
is merely the rest from an exhausting dimension.
Maybe this is how we time travel.
Maybe this is how we reach immortality.
Maybe I dream the secrets of existence every night
and then promptly forget them when the alarm calls.
Maybe I’m in the middle of a power nap.
But wouldn’t I be sorry to lose this all
when the alarm calls?

breakup songs

Good god, I love a breakup song. Honestly, they’re so much better than love songs, so much more potent. And I say this as someone who’s been in a committed monogamous relationship for thirteen years. I can’t personally connect most of the time, but still, there’s just something powerful about a breakup song.

I listened to Phoebe Bridgers’ Motion Sickness on the way to work one day last week and remembered how bewitching it is. I listened to the song three times in a row because the first and second listens weren’t enough. I’m not exactly a Phoebe stan (I’m not sure why; on the surface, I should be obsessed with her music), but oooh boy that song really does it. I mean, I was a former Ryan Adams stan, so I feel like it’s my breakup song, too. I broke up with him and his music, too, after all the news about him being a bonafide creep. And that was tough, seeing as his music was a part of my adolescence and has always been present in Michael’s and my household.

So when Phoebe sings about her struggle to separate herself from him in Motion Sickness, I feel a kinship. Obviously not the same, but potent nonetheless.

For today’s prompt, connect to the power of breakup art. Doesn’t matter if your connection to that breakup power is romantic, platonic, familial, or fan-based. A breakup’s a breakup and the art it unleashes is worth exploring.

prompt #55:

First of all, you know my affinity for music as inspiration, so I would highly suggest starting by selecting your favorite breakup song and playing it at least once through. Especially if you’re tapping into a feeling that is not aligned with where you’re at right now, the breakup song can help you to feel break-up-ey.

If you’re already in it and don’t need more inspiration that your current situation, then that’s quite good, too. But if you’re not, no reason to bag off and skip this prompt.

As usual, set your timer for five minutes and let the words come through you. You can write about that song, you can write about that breakup; you can focus on pain, you can focus on rebirth. It’s a loose prompt that allows you to see where the topic takes you. And then, after your five minutes are up, read back over what you’ve written. See if it wants to shift or stay the same. Is there a seed in the midst of your five minute write that can be fertilized a little bit and grown into something new? Or maybe all by itself you’ve created a piece you’d like to stand on its own.

As always, there is no right, there is no wrong, there is only your process and what you want to do with it. If you’d like to send in your piece for the next newsletter,  just hit “reply” down there and send it my way.

ashley’s piece:

The thing is, Carrie never meant it to be real. She needed to express her frustration, be heard, and, hopefully, see Jenna appreciate her for the great partner she was. It all blew up in her face, though, and wasn’t worth rehashing with Teddy.

“Yeah, I had a breakup a little while ago. It’s fine, though. I’m fine. I’m over it.”

He raised his eyebrows in that way she was already starting to recognize. Some soft blend of playful and concerned. A lot contained in that little brow shift. He clearly wanted to know more, but wasn’t going to ask. He took a massive bite of his sandwich and let the silence sit in the car for a while. She shifted and bit her inner cheek—a flap of skin from when she bit herself at dinner last night. She explored the gash with the tip of her tongue, enjoying and hating the dull, sore pain.

“My girlfriend Jenna,” she felt the story leap out, unbidden, “she never really got me. There wasn’t really anything wrong with the relationship, but it just all added up after a while.”

Carrie considered leaving it at that, leaving out the accidental breakup, but Teddy kept chewing his sandwich and let her fill the silence.

“Okay, well, actually, I didn’t mean to break up with her. Not for real. I wanted to shock her into changing or something.” Carrie groaned. “God, I know that’s so toxic.” He didn’t disagree. “And karma got me in the end, of course.”

He smiled and she couldn’t tell if it was encouragement, understanding, derision?

“Yeah, you can’t shock people into changing.” He shrugged. “I learned that lesson, too.”

do nothing

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I just started reading How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy  after ages of it being on my “to read” list. Just twenty-six pages in, and I’m already feeling like this is one to highlight, star, dog-ear and re-read. In fact, I’m kicking myself for starting it last night in bed without a pen in hand. After a year of stress that was also marked by the opportunity for some of us very lucky, privileged people to slow down, I’m feeling resonance with the author’s thesis.

Before quarantining at home, I always heard that prickly little voice whispering something in my ear about the need to tune-out more. Throughout that experience of living and working at home, I had more time than ever to mindlessly scroll, but it also highlighted so clearly for me how much my life was previously marked by busy-ness and stress.

I have a cyclical habit of overdoing everything with energy and fervor top-speed, and then following that whirlwind with a necessary time of dropping out, being quiet, being alone, and, frankly, being exhausted by the mental and emotional exertions of the day to day. I vaguely knew and understood this cycle, but couldn’t really acknowledge or accept it in myself. I also felt owned by it.

After so much time to slow down, after the freedom from the burden that socializing sometimes feels like for me, and the freedom from the guilt of never feeling like I’m doing enough, I realized that this cycle is something I can not only accept, but, to a certain extent, embrace. I can enjoy the energy and enthusiasm when it’s here. I can use it and appreciate its utility. I can also fully enjoy the slowness and solitude. I can plan for it, allow a little bit more of it, trust myself to know when it’s needed.

Before these experiences, I felt deeply aware of the American cultural taboo against going slow, resting, taking it easy—as a result, I felt shame or tried to push aside the need for rest as long as possible. Now, I’m trying to listen to the feeling in me when it whispers, and heed its message. If I’m feeling slow, I take it slow. If my energy isn’t where I want it to be, I forgive myself– tell myself there’s nothing to forgive, in fact.

I’ll admit I’m not always perfect (big duh!). I write this all as if it’s my successful present tense. It’s not always. Sometimes it’s a promise to future me. But the point is, I’ve shifted things. I don’t feel like a different person, but I do feel like a wiser creature, a more loving and balanced human. And that’s pretty joyful in and of itself.

prompt #53:

Grab that timer and set it for five minutes. I know we may be tired of all the think pieces, and I definitely feel frustration at hearing people describe the pandemic as if it’s all in the past, so I don’t mean to do that; however, as you can well tell from this newsletter, I’m a pretty big fan of taking time for self-reflection.

So, for today, I encourage you to contemplate these questions: what have you learned over the past year and a half? How are you different? How have you grown? And also, for good measure, how are you the same?

As always, take a break after your timer goes off, then go back for a read. See what you think. Take your writing and trim it or fill it out. Let the piece guide you. And, if you’d like, share with us what you’ve made! Hit “reply” and I’ll post it in our next newsletter.

ashley’s piece, if the world ended today:

You ask me if I’m the same person,

“I feel totally new.”

You’ve transformed, and you feel it,

see it,

know it.

I, though, am still me.

I still enjoy my solitude.

I still ooze energy.

I still take my pants straight off after a long, exhausting day.

I still prefer a book.

I still soak in the sun.

If you are a different person,

I’ll stretch alongside you,

slither my feet under your thighs,

bother you with my need for touch,

upset you with my temper,

not because I want to,

but because I must.

I’ve been a thousand people before,

my cells have all changed,

but at the core is something

eternally me.

If the world was over today, I’d still

be reaching for a book,

screaming with frustration,

crying at a hard word,

not because I want to,

but because I must.

music songs

Whenever I get busy and overwhelmed, I kind of freeze up in my creative practices. I sleep in late, rather than getting up early enough to write. I swipe through TikTok after work rather than picking up a pen or some yarn. And then, the longer I go without writing or making, the scarier it feels to pick it back up again. That’s part of the reason I started Sun Showers in the first place; to sort of structure myself a bit so that I had at least something to write toward. And also to demystify the the writer’s block process for myself. By putting together these little prompts, for myself and others, I could remember that writing doesn’t have to be precious or perfect. And little bursts are fine! I know I talked about this idea just two newsletters ago. Sorry for the repetition, but I have to hear the message again and again, and maybe you do too.

prompt #52:

For this week’s prompt, pick two songs: high energy and quiet energy, or perhaps loving and heartbroken. Or maybe there’s another contrast that comes to mind for you.  Then, I want you to write your little heart out the whole time you’re listening Maybe you’ll be aware of how the music’s mood influences your writing, or maybe you’ll just let it leak in without filter. There is no “right way,” so just see how the practice goes for you. After you’ve written through both songs, turn off the music and re-read through what you wrote. As always, see if there’s something in there worth transforming or building up. Enjoy!

ashley’s piece:

You held me aloft,

thank you thank you,

on a pink soft cloud

crying the kinds of tears

that sweeten as they drip down your cheek.

And the lightness,

it’s so bright,

brings a breath,

both deep and fresh.

When you sing, the muscle unstrings,

the one that usually holds together my

anger, rage, sadness, gasp

of emotions,

tighter than one person should really bear.

You’re the color pink,

bright as a scream–

maybe you’d call it

a funfetti dream.

Does uncertainty keep some people kind?

I wonder and I wish

that maybe that wasn’t a question.

There’s this sadder hue

on the other side of the cloud.

Louder than a cry and a wail.

We love this song, this tale

almost as much as we love

the taste of salt.

hungry hungry hippos

I just finished MFK Fischer’s An Alphabet for Gourmets, which I would read nightly before bed over the past week. I got it some years ago from a pile of giveaway books. Something told me “you should take this” and so it sat on my bookshelf ever since. I’m not sure why I finally picked it up to read last week. I had just finished another book and wanted something to drift myself off to sleep.

The book I’d finished was a page-turner that promised more than it delivered. I won’t name names, but it ended up being a waste of time. I got it at the Dollar Tree, so maybe I should have expected a bad time? I don’t know how books end up there, but I can’t imagine it’s because they’re selling out so fast. I was hoping it would be a McDonalds type read: not good, but enjoyable. Bad writing (yes, I know that’s elitist and rich of lil’ ol’ me!), but a plot that you gobble down nonetheless.

I’m into that type of writing, actually. I have a tendency in my own writing to focus too much on the tone, imagery, all that “I have a creative writing degree” shit instead of an actually enjoyable plot. So, I like to read books that get me turning the page out of anticipation. I want to learn to capture that energy.

Well, Fischer’s book isn’t exactly that. It’s full of food-related essays, and I would be lying if I said the writing wasn’t pretentious at times. And it was written in the 1940s, so a lot of the cultural commentary went over my head. And a lot of the food was confusing to me. I guess I didn’t realize how much has changed, culinarily. Or maybe I would have never been in the same echelon as Fischer. I think she was a rich kid.

Still, I really enjoyed the book. It had exactly what I wasn’t looking for: thoughtful, meandering prose. What I enjoyed, however, was the way food was an entry point for memoir and exploring the joys of being a person. So, with that in mind, I invite you to explore food in your writing this week.

prompt #51:

Start that timer for five minutes and let yourself go off into memories of food. Maybe a favorite meal from childhood, a particularly memorable meal, or an item of food that you regret eating. The beauty of “food” as a jumping off point is that it can take you infinite directions. I don’t want to provide too much structure because I’d love to see how creative you can get (this is also me saying please send me your pieces to share in our next newsletter!).

After five minutes are up, you can review what you’ve written. Maybe the writing process itself unlocked some creativity for you. Or maybe you want to shape what you’ve written into a poem, song, story, essay, or something else. No matter how you’re feeling, I hope you enjoy the process.

ashley’s piece:

Gwendolyn had ordered a cake. It was her birthday, after all, and what do you eat on birthdays but cake? They’d packaged it up behind the counter, all secretive and special, and she’d practically buzzed with anticipation. This was supposed to be the best bakery in three towns. When Angie had asked her what her birthday plans were earlier that day, she’d swooned when Gwen said she’d be stopping by the bakery.

“My sister used them for my nephew’s party last month. You won’t need to eat for a week!” Gwen just smiled.

When she got home, Gwendolyn set herself a pretty little seat at her kitchen countertop: lavender placemat, creamy white china, bright coupe filled with shimmering bubbly, and a hot pink candle ready to be set aflame.

just. fucking. write.

Hello hello, friend.  I’ve been slacking on this newsletter, but here I am nonetheless. Somehow, I got to the mental block stage of things, where the stress of not writing keeps me from writing and all I feel is negative because I’ve dropped the ball once again.

“This is supposed to be fun!,” I tell myself. I’ve said that pep talk for so many things over the years: roller derby, Drunk of the Book Club, even the dance team I eventually quit back in high school (and then convinced myself I was being bold and brave for doing so). It’s the pattern of my life: wild enthusiasm and passion for a new venture that I eventually leave behind. I really suck at team sports because I eventually feel claustrophobic about it all and shirk the responsibility. At least when it’s my own thing I only let myself down.

I’m trying to turn over a different leaf, though. Yes yes, I’ve talked about this very issue in Sun Showers before. How to reignite the writing? Well, let’s be real. It’s simple. Put pen/pencil to paper. No need to perseverate. Just. Fucking. Write. So here I am, just fucking writing. Since my inspiration is dull this time around, I hope you’ll excuse the lazy prompt. I just really need it this week. Hope it helps you, too.

prompt #50:

Just write. Doesn’t matter what about. Stream of consciousness time. Write for five minutes and whatever you do, don’t stop it. Then, after five minutes, take a deep breath, walk away, and take your mind off the writing for a second. When you get back to it, see if it’s telling you anything. See if it wants to transform into something else. If so, great. If not, also great. You’ve got this, friend!

ashley’s piece:

When Clarice moved into the little house on the end of the block, she expected a romantic little life, full of mugs of tea, warm evenings by the fire, and a cat curled up in her lap. She expected to live inside of a romance novel.

Maybe that neighbor man next door would turn out to be a lonely widow or a moon-eyed heir to a fortune. She imagined running into him at the end of the driveway. He’d be looking for a normal woman, after years of gold diggers. He’d be pretending to be a normal man, one who works a 9-to-5, has a retirement fund, takes two weeks of vacation a year. He’d fall for her precisely for her normalcy. Her little cat, her puffs of smoke out the chimney on a foggy evening. She’d wave at him shyly out the front window over that steaming mug of tea, blush a little. Then, she’d finally say hello as she returned his mail after it’d been incorrectly dropped through her front door.

This was just the type of small town for a magical little romance like that and she was, in fact, counting on it. She hoped he’d be rich with a secret because, when they lie, it’s so much more enjoyable. Not that she wouldn’t kill a good man, it’s just that she’d never met one yet.

things are not what they seem

I just started a new job and have been meeting so many people over the last month or so. It’s one part big change because I worked at my previous school for eight years. Although there were always new staff to meet, I was also familiar with all the same folks who had been working there previously.

The other big change, though, has to do with COVID. It’s been so strange to meet new people and only see half of their faces, as we’re all masked up. When I see people I already knew in the before times, my brain fills in the bottom half of their faces because I already know what they look like. The masks haven’t changed my ability to see folks, because my brain is already filling in the gaps. Meeting new people, though, has been a wild experience. When I see them with their masks, I make assumptions about what the rest of their face looks like. Without consciously thinking about it, I already form a vision of what I believe their noses, mouths, chins must look like. Our brains are forever looking for patterns, making meaning where there is a gap or a lack of something. And that’s all well and good until we join each other for a virtual meeting or we unmask outside to eat and I’m shocked to see their entire faces.

Some people have looked kind of like I imagined, but a lot have thrown me for a loop. It’s like I’m suddenly meeting a brand new person. I have to realign all of my previous memories and experiences with them because it turns out that I was with a stranger. It’s incredibly jarring, but I also don’t want to let on that they look nothing like I imagined (that feels rude, right?), so I try to keep my shock to myself. I hope I’ve been successful, but I don’t know for sure. Here’s hoping!

prompt #49:

In keeping with this week’s intro, today’s prompt is simply to respond to the phrase “things are not what they seem.” Set yourself a five-minute timer and let yourself go. Follow whatever flights take your fancy as you reflect on that phrase. And, when you’re done, send it my way if you’d like to share it in next week’s newsletter.