This Butterfly’s Life

Hello Firefans, and Happy Mother’s Day

How are all of you?

It has been a busy, interesting and slightly difficult few months for all of us. We haven’t visited and shared here as much as we would have liked. But I promise you, Lori, Natalie and myself are still here, writing, learning, growing and we all have plenty of things to share.

In fact, when I awoke this morning, I was moved to share something with you. I’ve been feeling a blog post coming on, and waiting for the right insight or epiphany. What do you know? It arrived promptly at 6:00am on Mother’s Day. Like many times before, I sleepily pulled myself out of bed, feeling both blessed and irritated with my desire and ability to bring things out of my head and into the world through writing.

This spring my daughters and I ordered a butterfly hatching kit, similar to this one. Over the past few weeks we’ve experienced this strange and beautiful act of nature, and as each stage has progressed, I’ve been blanketed by a series of quiet, yet profound understandings about a variety of things in my life.

It soon occurred to me that watching these butterflies was so much more than teaching my girls about nature. As a writer of course metaphorical comparisons were falling out of my mind left and right. The growth, the change, the descent and the rising into something new. The periods of stillness and the fluttering and failing and falling and learning. I knew there was something, some bigger message I needed to share about what was happening, and many ways I might relate our butterfly experience. But unsure of specifics I decided to simply enjoy our experience and wait for the Muse to bring me the rest.

And then this morning I just knew.

But then, I’m getting ahead of myself…

Our journey started with the five baby caterpillars, about the size of my fingernail that arrived in a small, self sustaining jar full of food. We watched the caterpillars eat as if they were going to double their size, and then saw them triple in size in just a few days. We learned that caterpillars produce a strange silk webbing that later helps them climb to a safe place to hang in their cocoons. During one particularly grotesque stage, the caterpillars started losing giant, odd shaped chunks of themselves inside the jar. This phenomenon bothered me so deeply and at levels I did not wish to explore, I simply had to not look at them for awhile.

The kidschrysalis had no problem seeing the left-behind chunks, however and one rainy evening my littlest came pattering in excitedly to exclaim that two of the caterpillars had began making their chrysalides. Soon enough, all but one of the five had climbed to the paper covering underneath the lid and had began the (amazingly fast- did you know it takes less than a day?) process of creating the shelter in which she would become a different being entirely. The chrysalides were mostly brown, but interestingly flecked with spots of gold.

A few days later, the first butterfly had emerged. We gathered around to see her. She was about the size of a quarter and clung to the side of the netting with her wings tightly closed. As sunlight came in the window and warmed the room, she revealed the lovely, intricate pattern of black, white and vivid orange on her wings. Slowly over the next few days, the other three butterflies climbed out of their stillness and into their new being.

They were awkward at first, trying to walk around with their new heavy wings, fluttering and falling onto the bottom of the net, landing on the fruit slices, hungry but unsure what to do. They’d flip around for awhile and then have long periods of quiet stillness, their wings tightly closed. They learned quickly, by trial and a lot of lucky mistakes to flutter from side to side of the cage and use their long proboscis to draw nectar and sugar water from the fruit.

Meanwhile the littlest caterpillar, after many days of climbing up and down inside the jar, (as if she just wasn’t quite sure about the whole thing) finally climbed to the bottom of the lid and made herself the tiniest of chrysalides. We gave her a day and moved her into the net with her large, butterfly graduate friends.

In the days that followed we fed the butterflies small slices of fresh fruit and sugar water from a tiny syringe. We had to keep them warm and protect them from danger (i.e., our two cats who were more than a little curious about their arrival.) When we were at home I’d carry the butterflies from room to room with us. I felt a little silly, but it didn’t seem a bother or burden because we were all constantly, quietly drawn to watching them.

butterflyToday, the four butterflies have grown to a wingspan of about 5 inches across- nearly triple (again) their original size. They can fly from one side of the netting to the other, they flick their proboscis readily out to eat as soon as we put the fruit inside the cage, and they have learned to spread their wings wide when in sunlight to absorb heat.

They are ready to fly free.

The weather in our area has pushed the overnight temperatures down into the thirties, and we aren’t supposed to let them go unless the temps stay around 50 and up, so we get to feed, protect and observe them for a few more days. I thought, The day we let them go, I will know what it is I’m supposed to write about. I’ll do it then.

But then I awoke this morning and something occurred to me:

We are butterflies.

We all start out pretty much self-sustained. As adults, we think we know what life is about. We work and eat and travel and do the things we think we are supposed to do. And then something in us changes. We are suddenly hungry for more. We want change.

But, in order to change, we must leave behind giant chunks of ourselves, the ways and the things and the people we were, in search of something better. For some it’s career or money or comfort or approval, for others its things that aren’t so easily given up, like addiction, or bad relationships, or guilt. We have to let those go and it isn’t a pretty process. But we do it anyway.

Some strange primeval instinct in us says we must do it or choose not to survive. And some of us don’t survive.

Our tiniest caterpillar, forever still inside her chrysalis, did not survive. For whatever reasons, she never emerged. She was overcome by the transformation, it was too much for her.

No one ever said a butterfly’s life was easy after all. And some of our friends, the ones whom we place the most hope inside of, are lost to us.

For those of us that find strength to move on, there is unknowing. There is a profound period of stillness, solitude, darkness, internal reflection. And there is waiting. Lots and lots of waiting. And wondering. So much wondering.

But then one day, when it seems the stillness and dark will never retreat, the warmth of the sun beckons. It illuminates things we think we’d like to see, to know. Soon, we can’t stay inside one minute longer and we push forward, climb out into the world to explore ourselves as a creature of an entirely different kind.

We feel different, bigger, more powerful, more real. And we are STARVING. We want to soak up the world and everything in it with this newfound energy. We stumble forward on long, newborn legs into a familiar, yet altered new universe. We don’t know exactly how to do the things we are driven to do, but we do them anyway, awkwardly hoping we happen upon the right way.

And soon, so much sooner than we ever thought possible we are soaring across the landscapes of our lives. It’s as if we were born to fly. Yes, we were in facbutterfly is freet born to fly.

We have wings.

And you know the most beautiful part?

The wings were within us all along.

 

Thanks for reading

~C

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Just Wait

Do you ever get stuck in the middle of writing something? Pressed for time, stressed, frustrated and wish you could just summon the muse and order up an idea?

The following is kind of a follow up to a piece of flash fiction I wrote awhile back, Conversations With a Muse. This post spurred a train of thought that led to many things, but mostly the idea of what it would be like to have a muse to chat with, and after writing that one I had some distinct ideas about what mine would be like.

A few days ago I got stuck writing a critical turning point of my book, so I started thinking about what my muse would say if I tried to order up an idea. It went something like this…

***

“What good is hopen window snowaving a muse if inspiration is only ever random?” I wonder out loud, staring at the snow-capped row of houses in the distance. I’ve been sitting at my desk, not writing for an hour. The wintry air coming through the half-open window has turned my fingers to ice (I often write with the window open, even in winter. I have a theory that stale air leads to stale thoughts) and now typing at the keyboard is literally, physically painful.

I’m stuck in a critical scene of the book I’m working on. I know something crucial happens at this point, my main character sees a ghost- or something akin to a ghost, and those are the only details I know for certain. I seem to be missing the serendipitous knowing of details that will make the scene flow into the story. I’ve been listening to ethereal violin music and reading Poe and chapters from ghost stories all morning, no luck. It’s obvious this solution is not currently firing somewhere in the synapses inside my brain.

I need a muse.

“You know it doesn’t work that way,” a musical voice says, seeming to come from above and below and behind. “You don’t just call us up, order up an idea and that’s it. If that’s what you want go ask a human.”

“Christopher, you scared the hell out of me. I thought you only showed up at night. Where are you anyway?”

“I show up when I want to show up. I’m seen when I want to be seen.”

“Yeah,” I huff. “I know. But since you’re here maybe you could give it a whirl.”

“I’m not an accountant. You don’t just call me up, I provide the service you want and then we both go on our way.” I can’t see him but I can hear that his words are soaked in a smirk.

“Why not?”

“Well, if you want to get technical, if we…do business like humans do, you’d have to pay me. And believe me honey, you couldn’t afford it.”

“Yes, you’re very valuable. Also hilarious.” I try to mirror his sarcasm but mine only comes out half as effective. “So…if you can’t help me why are you here?”

“Listen. Art is born of inspiration. And inspiration can’t become art unless it’s pure.”

“Wait. What? What does that even mean?”

“Gaaahh, you humans can be so thick. Alright because I know there’s talent in that head of yours…somewhere, I’ll spell it out.” He clears his throat. “If you don’t have the answer yet, it’s for a reason.”

“But— I only have so much time to write. I have kids, remember?”

“Just be quiet. For an hour. For a day. A week even. Just be still and patient and wait. And hey, here’s something innovative: Listen.

“That’s it? That’s your answer? Just wait?”

“That’s it. Brilliant, no?”

The voice fades to a whisper and the room is quiet again. The only sound is the swooshing of an occasional car maneuvering the slush-soaked road behind my house. I sigh, close my laptop, climb into bed and close my eyes.

And I wait.

What is Magic?

Happy Midweek Firefans.

I’m going to be honest. Sometimes I have no idea what I’m going to post, and so I think I just won’t. It’s that moment of succumbing that inspiration strikes, and I end up writing something that I really love.

That’s what happened today. I woke up thinking about the terrible tragedy that happened 12 years ago to the day, combined with the little miracles that happen in the bounty of our time on Earth. And this came out. Whether it’s good or not is really subjective, and beside the point. These words felt meaningful, passing through the shadows of my mind and out of my feeble fingertips.

So it speaks something to me…

I decided to treat it like poetry and leave it largely unedited, so forgive me for errors. Also- if you’re musically inclined- I was listening to this song as I wrote.

Hope you enjoy and find some Magic in the rest of your day.

~C

Magic is art, it is color. It is words.

It is purpose.

Magic is finding secrets in song lyrics, hope in half-written poems.

It’s the luminescent warmth of light in a newborn baby’s eyes.  It is the pure and shrill song of a young girl singing of snowflakes in July.

It is the voice of an angel that whispers me awake, both summoned and disguised by the quiet rustling of leaves outside my window.

Magic is being kissed into consciousness. It is falling asleep in the solace of the arms of one who loves without condition.  It is sitting next to another and knowing Love without words.

Magic is a child learning to read.

Magic is the quiet knowledge gained in watching the eruption of sparks in the soul of a bonfire.

It lives inside the heart of the wanderlust dreamer who believes that men should fly, and then makes it so.

It is humans that dive into the sea and breathe inside of water, and fish that use their fins to push themselves onto the barrier of sand and sea.

It is the witnessing of Earth’s evolution in the bud of a new oak leaf. It is proof of God’s great Love in the burning colors of Autumn descending across a mountain slope.

It is knowing and not knowing.

It is the mysterious solace in winter’s first snow.

Magic is ideas.

Magic is exquisite hope.

Magic is love.

 ****

Without Magic, life is bleak. It is tragic. It is gray.

 It is hindered by thick, suffocating clouds of indifference.

 It is decay.

It is shards of broken mirror in a dirty gutter. It is freeways that snake through polluted cities, haunted by greed.

Life without Magic is paraplegic forests with thirsty skin and veins that run dry. It is mountainside wastelands disfigured from careless fire.

It is scars left by silence, wounds made from words.

It is a child too young to have experienced life and yet certain there is no reason to live it.

It is blood-stained and bruised and afraid.

It is a woman covering her cheeks in layers of counterfeit color to hide her own private war. It is her child sitting alone on the cold, concrete porch steps. It is despair.

Life without Magic is a young man in his prime, crushed by the belief that he has no right to claim Love.

It is prejudice. It is children weeping at the feet of their ancestors because the world has denied their existence.

It is Nazi Germany. It is refugees killed in crossfire.

It is ignorance. It is fury.

It is men driven by hate who steer planes into towers of innocent people. It is the putrid black smoke that arises from those towers, streaming pennants of malice and destruction.

Without magic we are stagnant. We are sterile.

We are lost.

***

Magic is the human condition;

We must pursue it and claim it.

We must live and breathe and love inside of it.

Without Magic, we will cease to exist.

Top Ten Prompts to Inspire Creative Writing

If you’re a writer, an artist, musician or creative soul of any kind you’ve probably had those days when you just can’t produce anything worth… anything. The harder you try, the less effective you become and you get yourself into a ridiculously concrete mental block. It’s tough to pull yourself out of this phenomenon, and many times the feeling has negative effects in the rest of your life too.

As writers, we’ve found that completing writing prompts not only helps us get a fresh perspective in our writing, they open our minds in a myriad of other ways. The mental fog clears, and suddenly there are windows where there were once only walls.

These prompts our a few of our group’s favorites– and a few have even turned into some of our most beloved pieces. Give them a try, let us know how it goes, and we might even feature your response as a guest post!

Happy writing,

~C

10- They told her not to open the box…

9- You’re walking along a crowded street and an old woman hands you a brown paper bag. You take it from her and feel that it’s slightly weighted by whatever is inside. She smiles and disappears into the crowd. What is inside the bag, and what does it mean to you?

8-  This picture:

St. Etienne - Muse

7- Think of a character, either from a story you’re writing or a book you’ve read.  He/she has a favorite pair of shoes. Why are they special? Where did they come from? Where does he/she wear them? What stories go along with those shoes?

6- You wake up locked inside a closed coffin. Explain your initial reaction, how you attempt to escape, and what you remember about how you got there.

5- Find and buy (or take a picture of) an object at a thrift store, and write a short story or a scene around it. Below are some examples of objects we’ve used:

Vintage radiovintage gray tub

red high heelsrose colored glasses

4- You and your friends take a three mile hike up to a campsite and you’re sitting around the fire toasting marshmallows. Out of the blue one of your friends reveals a secret that turns your pleasant camping trip into a total nightmare…

3- Write a few paragraphs explaining how this picture came about, or what it represents:(image courtesy of www.vladstudio.com)

2- Write a story from the perspective of the family pet. The family is bringing home a new baby, going through a divorce, recently lost a loved one, the children are starting school, or they are moving across the country.

1- As a person or thing that inspires all your creativity and new ideas, your muse has been trying to contact you. Write a conversation between you and your muse. There are no limitations as to what he/she/it is, appears, or looks like. What does your muse want you to know? What is your reaction?

Conversations with a Muse (Part 3 – Lori)

The alarm clock sounds. My eyes fly open and I search for the button to turn it off before it wakes the children sleeping down the hall.

“How do I forget where the stupid thing is every single morning?” The words escape through clenched teeth. I find the button and push it as hard as I can. “Please! Shut up!” I whisper to the intrusive time piece. Silence. I lie still for a few moments straining my ears. The children are still asleep. I hear only the water trickling in the stream beneath my open window. I slip out of my room and sneak down the hallway into the bathroom.

I open the window to a pale blue morning and start the bath water, watching as it fills the tub.  When it is ready, I step in and slide down so that the water covers my ears. I can only hear the sounds of my heartbeat and air as it rushes into and out of my lungs. I close my eyes and enjoy the simple magic of life. I smile as the words drift through my mind.

SpiderI open my eyes to look at the brightening morning sky through the unscreened window. A spider is weaving her web in the corner just below the casing. I watch her as steam from my bath pours across her handiwork leaving fragmented drops of dew on her silken threads. The words float across my brain, tickling my consciousness.

“You’re here,” I say.

I am. The friendly, comforting words dance into my thoughts.

I turn in time to see a soft white mist gather to form the shape of a woman. She sits on the side of the bathtub trailing her fingers through my bath water. I slowly become more aware of everything. I feel the coolness of the tile where I have propped my feet. I notice the chill air from the open window tingling across my exposed skin and the steam billowing around the lights above the mirror.

“How can you do that?”

Do what?

“Make me…notice things more.”

You feel for both of us. I’m a Muse. I can’t feel it, but I can experience it through you.

“That’s so sad.”

No. It’s just the way of things. I can do things that you can’t too.

“Like?”

Like this. How many humans do you know that communicate directly to your mind?

“Good point,” I say.

I can feel all of your emotions. I can know you more deeply than any other entity because I am your Muse and I love being your Muse. I take all of your hopes, fears, and desires and distil them down into words, fragments of sentences that bring you back to yourself…and you’ve been ignoring me. The voice in my head changes to one of slight chastisement.

“I’ve been busy! I have children. I’m working…” my voice rises in self-defense.

I know all that. I’m watching you every day. But it’s becoming more difficult to reach you. I’m worried that if you don’t start writing, and practice hearing me, there will come a time when I won’t be able to reach you at all.

I feel her sadness at the thought of being silenced, coupled with my own terror at the thought of losing my Muse.

“I can’t lose you! You’ve been with me my whole life! You’ve comforted me on my darkest days. You’ve shown me the beauty in my life I appreciate what I have because you’ve let me see it more clearly! I need you!” Tears begin to flow down my cheeks as I think about what life would be like without her.

Her hand leaves the water and touches my cheek. I don’t feel her hand, but the warmth of her touch. Don’t worry. It’s not too late. I’m still here. The answer is simple, very simple. Leave time for me every day. Focus on the feelings and messages I send to you. I won’t give you too much, just enough…so that we don’t lose what we have.

I wipe my tears with my wet hand. I look into her eyes and feel calm. I start to breathe again, noticing only then that I had stopped. I resolve within myself to listen, and to write daily.

She can feel my intention. Good. You know you were beginning to worry me. I’ve tried to share some lovely stories with you, but you are always preoccupied with other things.

“I know…and I’m sorry. I knew something was missing. I just haven’t felt like myself,” my voice catches. Tears are threatening to come again.

I know that we Muses can be demanding, but I’m trying not to be. You’ve promised to listen and I believe you. She straightens up and shines as the sun begins to creep though the window. And I…I will promise to help you in your everyday life. She gestures toward the door just before I hear a tiny knock.

“Mom?” A small, sleepy voice comes through the door.

I look at my Muse and she smiles. Let her come in…she needs you.

“Come in, hun. Is something wrong?”

My seven year old daughter walks into the room, tears in her eyes. I look at my Muse and see my daughters feelings reflected in her face.

Unaware of our visitor the child sits on the edge of the tub next to her. “Mom, the tooth fairy took my tooth and didn’t leave anything.”

Instantly, the events of the night before come back to memory. I took the tooth intending to return with a treat and a new toothbrush, but my plans got interrupted and I had forgotten. I sigh and struggle to think of something to say. The words

Tell her a brownie took the tooth.

“A brownie must have taken your tooth. They’re mischievous little creatures. They like to interfere with the work of fairies. It’s an ancient, but somewhat friendly war…” The words flow from me, telling my child how the fairies will get her tooth back, how they will bring her something once the battle is over and how the fairies will celebrate when it’s all over.

I begin to realize just how beneficial it is to have a Muse help me in everyday life and how easy it is to listen to someone who wants to tell beautiful stories.

Moxie Monday – Becoming the Stereotype

Why is it that writers have a reputation for being scattered? Tortured, isolated, weird… even crazy?

I have been writing professionally and otherwise for years. Anyone who knows me will attest that I’m really not this way at all. I’m a pretty organized and tidy person. I’m fairly social, have friends of all types in various places. And well, yeah, I’m weird. But no weirder than any individual in her own unique humanness. weird writer

Since starting this group with my co-bloggers, I’ve met writers of all kinds. Some of them have been odd and scattered, live like hermits and spend sleepless night torturing themselves over things that only exist inside their heads. Yeah, we do that sometimes. But guess what? It isn’t just writers baby.  That personality type fans across the spectrum of people in all types of careers.

(Right now there are messy accountants. tortured homemakers, weird city planners closing their eyes and saying, “Thank You.”)

So how come writers get the stigma?

I’ll tell you why. Let me illustrate with the events of the past week.

I had plans to finish my longstanding book this summer. I’ve had the story in my head nearly 8 years. It’s something I’ve coined as “bigger than me.” Meaning, I was given the gift a great idea, and need to do the story justice in writing it well. It has driven me to take classes, read books, basically fine-tune my skills as a writer. It’s because of those things that I’ve taken several breaks from actually writing it. I’ve come a long way, and this spring I deemed the summer of 2013 as “The One.” The summer I would finally finish writing my book.

Like most writers, I’m constantly juggling three or four (or more) new ideas in the back of my mind. My Muse is pretty prolific in the offering up of new and beautiful things that inspire me to put pen to paper (or…fingers to keyboard.) It’s all very lovely, and it leads to some pretty major distraction. But I had a plan. I sat down late one night and made a list:

Stories That Have Been in My Head Since the Dawn of Time That I Plan to Write.

There were thirteen. It was a little jarring. I felt a little like a schizophrenic patient whose psychiatrist has just discerned all her various personalities. But no, even this didn’t send me reeling into that dark writer stereotype.???????????????????????????????

I bought six thousand notebooks. (Okay, well like fifteen) I made some nifty labels that represented each of my ideas,  told myself I had a handle on my Multiple Story Disorder. Every time a new idea came into my head, I’d simply write it down in the appropriate notebook. It worked beautifully.

I was on a roll. I pulled on my big girl pants and went back to the outline for my current project. I tightened it, improved it, and forged forward. I filled a couple of plot-holes. I even wrote three new scenes. Nothing was going to stop me now! Yes. This was shaping up to become The Summer.

And then the Muse asked me to dance.

I wrote something for the blog, just off the top of my head. I wrote it so flippantly, it practically didn’t even cross into the conscious part of my mind. But an idea emerged from the words I’d written that was downright life-changing.

Over the course of the next few days I realized what I wrote was not just fiction. It had deeper meaning. It was a story, pieces of my past that I had long tucked away. Parts of me left undiscovered. A story that begged to be explored, learned and eventually retold.
As soon as the idea became clear, I knew it was something that shook my very foundation as a writer, as a person. It was what I needed to write this summer.

tortured writerDespite my social personality, my organized outlook, all the beautifully detailed plans I had to finish my book, I became all the ugly writer stereotype. I stayed up all night jotting down memories and sorting out scenes in my head from over 20 years ago. I’d torture myself, second guessing whether I should even be writing this story, and how much of it was truth. I turned down friendly offers from friends so that I could spend my spare time writing. My normally tidy house became a neglected wreck, and the creativity I use to run my household and manage to work a little on the side was all spent on channeling this new story.  (Luckily, I have been blessed with an extremely understanding husband and fairly adaptable kids. And I’m self-employed, so no chance of getting fired.)

So there it is. I proved the stereotype. As a writer, for an entire week I was scattered, tortured, isolated, weird and crazy. I’m not always that way. Not often, even. But such as it is.

Writers don’t want to be type-cast any more than any human being does. But sometimes, we do it anyway. We’re willing to pigeonhole ourselves into the label, participate in the behaviors that “define us.” Because writers, like other artists (the ones who truly care,) will do whatever is necessary, stereotypes or no, to produce something meaningful.

That blog post brought Writing the Fire more publicity than anything else we’ve ever posted here. The things that came out of my mind as a result of it are some of the most powerful things I have ever written. And yeah, I was (and am) a little bit crazy in the process. But lets face it, sometimes it takes torture to get truth. Isolation to get creativity.

Crazy to get art.

Till Next Time,

~C

PS: If you liked this post, head on over to The Muses Library. It’s an invaluable resource if you’d like to learn more about, indeed why writers are crazy.

Conversations With a Muse

Awakened…

It’s midnight, pitch black and humid inside my bedroom. I have finally found the solace of deep, dreamless sleep when I’m pulled into consciousness by a faint whispering. I stir.

“What are you doing up, baby,” I say, assuming it’s one of my girls. “Bad dream?” With my eyes still closed, I reach out my hand to pat a little blonde head.  There’s no one there, so I force my eyelids open. It’s dark, but I can see a tall, thin figure perched on the end of my bed. He’s wearing…a top hat?

“It’s me,” the figure says. “But you can call me baby, sweetie.”

“Ahhh. Chris… I might have known. Hold on.” Careful not to wake my husband, I open my nightstand drawer and pull out a small notebook and a book light.

“Not Chris, Christopher,” he says, enunciating all the consonants. “Remember?”

“Right. Sorry. Christopher. Whadya got?”

“Saint Christopher, actually,” he says casually.

Saint?” I laugh. “Okay…you…your kind are beautiful creatures. And I guess it’s possible someone might mistake you for an angel, in the dark, having had something serious poured in her drink. But I’d hardly call you a saint. Anyway, do you even know who Saint Christopher is?”

“Of course dear,” he says, buffing his nails against his chest. “It’s me.”

“You know I think if you did a little research you’d find the irony…You know what, forget it. I’m not going to argue this at…” I glance at my digital clock on the nightstand “12:02 am. You can pretend you’re a saint if you want. But I am not calling you Saint Christopher.”

Finally my eyes adjust to the dim light and I see that Chris—er, Christopher is dressed in turn of the century equestrian clothes: tight, forest-green pants, a derby, leather riding boots that come to just above the knee. I raise an eyebrow. He smirks at me.

“You love it, right?” he says, lifting his hat from his head and grinning. I squint and shake my head.

“I don’t—“

“Mmm hmm,” he interrupts, pursing his lips. “Don’t think I don’t know about your love of horses. Not to mention your secret obsession for ridiculously tight boots. It’s just too bad it doesn’t work on them.”

“What? What doesn’t work?”

“Whispering,” he says, rolling his eyes. I shake my head at him in confusion. He sighs and clicks his tongue impatiently. “You can’t muse a horse.” He slides off the foot board and leans against it. I tilt my head and survey him. Somehow, even ridiculous in 18th century equestrian gear, Chris manages to look fashionable. “It works on dogs sometimes,” he says. “Cats yield varied and erratic results. But horses are like stubborn old men. They always think they know better.”

”You tried to…give a horse an idea?” I can’t stop the corner of my mouth from turning up into a half smile. I snicker.

“Listen, Miss Judgmental in ripped yoga pants and….my good Hell, is that your husband’s old t-shirt?” I glance down at my pajama selection and shrug. He cringes and goes on. “The point is, don’t judge me. I had a vision: A majestic black horse cantering  in the wind at night. A poem, or a story beginning, whatever…figuring that out is your forte. Anyway it sounded simply fabulous. So I wanted to try it out before I whispered it.”

“That does sound lovely,” I say, scrawling notes across an empty line in my notebook.

“Wait,” he says, moving next to the bed and pushing my notebook down. “Close your eyes.” He kneels in front of me in the dim light and for a small moment we look at one another. I see sparks of color erupting inside the sapphire blue rings of his eyes. Tiny torrents of light, gold, pink, and yellow and I wonder if this is what ideas look like. I wonder if he can feel them. I wonder what it means to be a Muse, and if that strange sadness I sense in him has anything to do with his career choice. Or if it was a choice at all…

“I said, close your eyes.”

“Sorry.” I lower my eyelids and I’m met with a rush of cool night air. The pounding of hooves on earth drowns out the beating of my own heart. I’m riding without a saddle, barefoot and clutching fistfuls of the creature’s jet-black mane, strands of which are whipping against my forearms. The horse slows to a canter and I slide off, stand beside him and run my hands along his muscular neck. His silken hair shines almost blue in the moonlight.

I’m drawn to the creature, Ilh_040Goliath can’t stop touching him. I’m beckoned by the diamonds sparkling in the velvet, black sky and the way the grass casts snakelike shadows onto my bare feet. I want to stay. I want to live here, fall into this world and never look back. But reality lies in waiting. I know it will call for me once it realizes I am gone. And eventually, I will call for it too. I open my eyes.

“Wow…that was—“

“Acceptable,” he sighs.  “Adequate. But it could have been brilliant. Sadly this getup was wasted on the likes of His Majesty in the manure pile out in the back field. Some creatures simply weren’t made to appreciate artistic inspiration.”

“I know why she goes riding,” I say quietly, picking up my notebook and pen.

“Oh? There’s a she?” Chris smiles knowingly and backs away from my bedside, leans against my desk.

“Yes, a young girl. She sneaks out of her house at night and rides because it’s the only way she can’t hear her heart pounding. She’s haunted by…something. I don’t know yet.”

“I’ll work on it for you,” he says.

“Thanks,” I say, and smile. He smiles back. We have a mutual, unspoken understanding. The magic of being mused doesn’t stop at one suggestion. It’s the merging of enchanting ideas with familiar emotion, the melding of imagination and truth. I close the notebook and lay it on the nightstand.

“What are you doing?” Chris says. “We aren’t done.”

“Listen, Chris. Christopher. I really appreciate all of this effort, but it’s after midnight. My kids are going to get me up early. And anyway I think I got the gist of what—“

“What…the horse in the field? That wasn’t it. What do you take me for, a dolt?”

“I don’t—“

“Get comfortable sweetie, I have the story idea of a lifetime for you.” He sinks to the floor and leans comfortably against the pillows I’ve tossed from my bed.

“I’m already writing the story idea of a lifetime, rememb—“

“It starts like this…He’s a man with a gypsy soul who trains horses, and he’s a ghost. But not in the usual way…

hand writing darkish