Monday, January 8, 2018

Outside My Window (A Year of Writing Prompts)

The rain was falling all night long.  I could hear it on our tin roof, sounding like a steel drum symphony, lulling me to sleep.  Rain, with the cool air and smell of fresh flowers, comforts me, wraps me in its peaceful arms.  I begin to wake in the morning because it’s quiet.  The rain has stopped.  I look outside my window and I see the sun shining.  The air, still cool from the night, blows softly into my room.  I open the louvres and breathe in deeply.  I can taste the salt from the ocean just down the hill.  I can hear the crashing waves, feel the fierce current pull at me, call to me.  I long to be out in my yard, digging in the soft dirt, pulling weeds and soaking in the daylight.  I am reminded of my childhood, taking a book and climbing into the guava tree, picking its fruit to be eaten while living through a story of adventures.  Outside my window stands a row of gardenia.  Its white blossoms giving off a fragrance that is comparable to none.  I turn and smile softly as I feel arms wrap around my waist, a chin settling on my shoulder, and a light kiss on my cheek.  I will venture outside my window, but for now, I will stay in the arms of the one I love.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Merlot (A Year of Writing Prompts)

          They named their baby Merlot.  Seriously?  This poor child will spend the rest of her life having to explain that her parents named her after a red wine.  I always knew my best friend and her family leaned toward a bohemian life style, which was totally cool with me.  They had this free spirit, fun loving attitude, grew their own food, and built their home from the ground up.  They even turned me into a pescatarian.  That’s saying a lot since I come from one of Texas’ royal family of cattle ranchers.  Steak and potatoes were on the menu for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  My family almost disowned me when I told them I no longer ate red meat.  But my best friend’s family supported my choice and even offered to adopt me.  Of course, my family learned to live with my choice, but I had to find a different path in life since running a cattle ranch and not eating the produce wouldn’t fly with our distributors or purchasers.  I became a college geology professor, which my parents thought fit right in with my new bohemian family.

            But to have my bestie name her child Merlot?  Their explanation was the child was conceived after a really great bottle of the red wine.  Okay.  I get it.  It must have been a tasty bottle and a whole lot of fun after, but do you really want your child to know that story let alone relay that to people when she gets older?  Mom and Pop, my best friend’s parents, were always very open about everything, literally everything, so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.  I remember I would test their openness by asking stupid questions.  Not once did they shy away from the harsh realities of explaining the mating rituals of wild geese or birthing methods of a blue whale or, my personal favorite, a queen bee’s choice in males.  The explanations were always very tasteful and biologically correct, but I got a kick out of how they were never embarrassed explaining things of nature.  And very thorough.  My own parents, even though we helped in many cow births, couldn’t explain where babies came from and left it to the cattle hands to run down the whole birds and bees stories.

            My poor goddaughter.  She will have such difficult times unless her parents, Mom and Pop, and I train her to be comfortable with herself.  I’ll probably take her on a few excursions to a boxing ring.  Just in case.  As I sit here, shaking my head, and enjoying a glass of red wine, I think about the world this beautiful baby is growing up in.  She’ll need to be tough.  She’ll need to stay grounded.  And she’ll probably need to stay away from merlot when she gets married.

Thursday, January 4, 2018


I watched as they loaded the boxes onto the truck.  Here we go again, I thought.  Another move.  At least we were here for one year.  That was longer than most places.  I shouldn’t complain, though.  There is a reason for the madness and that’s why I make sure we live as frugal and with as little as possible.  Our moving truck isn’t very big.  It’s funny how the moving guys call our boxes ‘cargo’ like we’re loading up a freight ship.  Normally it would be myself and my hubby who load everything but this time it’s different.  I’m seven months pregnant with our first child and have been ordered by the doctor to take it easy.  That is what hurts the most about this move.  I love my doctor.  But now I have to get a new one and she won’t really know who I am yet she’ll be responsible for making sure my child and I make it through the birthing process all in one piece. 

“So much cargo,” my husband chuckles from behind me.  His arms go around my swollen waist and he kisses the top of my head.

I lean back and close my eyes.  I remember our first move.  So much cargo, so many memories.  I found creative ways to get rid of cargo to move and downsize.  It was been a blessing but the moves are making me tired.  This should be the final move, I tell myself.

One of our neighbors walks by with his dog and waves.

“Good luck with the team, RJ,” he says to my husband.  He gives me a pitying smile and continues down the sidewalk.

I sigh.  We’ve worked hard to get to this point in our life.  If all goes well, we’ll stay put, buy a home, raise our children in one state and one city.  Let’s get this cargo loaded so we can head out, I say to myself.

Our landlord is making small talk with my husband.  They exchange the keys for our deposit and shake hands.  I will miss her.  I hope our new landlord is just as nice and understanding, especially now that we have this new addition coming soon.  Would we count this little one as cargo?  I chuckle to myself and walk toward the passenger side of our SUV.  I’m ready for this adventure.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Gaelic (A Year of Writing Prompts)

I’ve always wanted to visit Scotland, play on the golf courses, visit the highlands, and explore the old castles of the clans.  Today was an unseasonably warm day in the highlands, or that’s what the tour guide told us.  There were only six of us on the tour plus the guide.  We purposely planned it that way so we could get the most of our visit.  Three couples, one guide, two castles. 

The first castle was set near a loch and even with the breeze coming from the water it was still hot.  I could smell the fresh air surrounding us and imaged the place smelling of wood smoke from the fire pits, harsh soap from the laundry, and animal manure.  Without the hustle and bustle of a full time, live-in castle, the only smells were from the water way, the grass, and the dirt.

Walking inside, I was assaulted with a musty smell that almost knocked me off my feet.  As I looked at my traveling companions, I wondered if they felt the same thing but they were speaking softly to their partners and pointing at things of interest.  My brows knotted as the giant ballroom we were standing in began to shimmer.  My group’s voices started to fade away.  Suddenly, I was in the ballroom but this time I was surrounded by a clan of Scottish highlanders.  The men wore their clan colors in their kilts, standing tall and proud.  The women wore the latest in gowns, fashioned after the English elite with a little French influence in the droop of the neckline and the flirty lace around the bosom.

I couldn’t understand a word they said realizing they were speaking Gaelic.  At least that’s what I assumed.  I stood still hoping no one would notice me wearing my cargo shorts, hiking shoes, and Bob Marley t-shirt with my hoodie tied around my waist.  I had pushed my sunglasses on top of my head and my hair was pulled up in a messy bun.  So far no one looked my way and I relaxed a little, listening to this guttural language.  I tried to understand what they were saying by watching their gestures, but it was impossible.  I caught a few words that sounded like English words but it wasn’t enough to piece together the conversations.  There was one word, though, that was repeated over and over again.  Amadan.  I memorized the sound hoping to get someone to translate. 

Everyone in the room fell silent as a man and woman walked in through the entry doors from the hallway.  The crowd parted leaving an aisle in the middle leading from the entryway to the opposite side of the hall where a large banquet table sat.  Behind this table was a regal looking gentleman with a beautiful tartan of dark green with bold, bright blue lines.  Thinner brown lines cut the blue in half adding an earth tone to the cloth.  A gold brooch formed in the shape of an eagle was pinned to his starched white shirt.  The man stood slowly and nodded at the couple who had paused right inside the entryway.  Their steps echoed in the silent hall as they made their way slowly to the banquet table and the man who I assumed was the clan leader.  The people nearest me kept whispering that word.  Amadan.  Since this looked like a wedding, I wondered if the word meant love, or beautiful bride, or maybe it was an expression of joy for this union.

The soon-to-be bride was wearing a cream-colored gown with small roses in gold embroidered around her neckline and hemline.  Her bronze vest was also embroidered with simple leaf patterns, but it enhanced her pale skin and tiny waist.  She would look up at her partner then look quickly down at the ground, blushing.

The soon-to-be groom seemed a little plain, in my opinion.  His tartan looked faded and worn.  The colors were almost indistinguishable although you could tell there was possibly some red and orange in the mix.  His face was red looking freshly scrubbed but his hair was a tangled mess, wisps flying every which way and the start of dreadlocks in some areas on his head.

When I looked at the well-dressed gentleman at the head table, I caught his expression.  It was thunderous.  When the couple reached the table, the knelt in front and looked down at the ground, holding hands.  The gentleman, or clan leader, put his hands in the air.  It remained silent and some people looked like they were holding their breath.


One of the guests suddenly turned and looked directly at me.

“Babe.  Babe,” he insisted.

I shook my head and the ancient Scottish clan scene faded away.  I was looking into the eyes of my husband.  The rest of our group had gathered around me looking concerned.

“Are you okay, miss?” the tour guide asked.

“Yes,” I stammered.  I told them about my vision and the word I kept hearing.  “I was witnessing this beautiful wedding ceremony and I’m wondering what the word ‘amadan’ means.  It must be something romatic.”

I looked at the tour guide in shock as he burst out laughing.  This lasted for several minutes and I began to feel irritated.  Was he questioning my sanity?  Did he think I imagined the vision?  Did he think I was lying?  Before I could lost my temper, our guide got control of himself.

“Idiot.”  He chuckled.

I bristled, “Did you just call me an idiot?”

“No,” he answered quickly.  “The word you said, ‘amadan,’ it means idiot.  They must have been talking about the couple.”  He chuckled more as he pointed at the walls in the ballroom.

As we looked closely, we saw pictures on the walls that had faded over time.  The ones that looked older because the paint was barely visible were pictures of eagles soaring over the loch, battles of clans in their tartan colors, and royal women of the castle.  The newer paintings that weren’t as faded told a different story.  They were pictures of flower covered dragons, smiling fairies flying through fields of primrose, and Beira, the Queen of Winter, casting her freezing spell over the moss in the castle yard.

Amadan.  Idiot.  I don’t remember the rest of the visit because that’s all I could think about.  I was romanticizing about brutish Scottish clan men who fought hard and loved fiercely with their strong, independent women at their sides.  The idea of a clan leader painting fairytales on the walls would be the only memory I would keep.  The guttural, yet enchanting sounds of the Gaelic language would only be summed up in one word for the rest of my life.  Idiot.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Fern (A Year of Writing Prompts)

It was the only thing left.  Ashes covered the once lush, green landscape making it look like an apocalyptic nightmare.  The wind had died down to a soft breeze, blowing the gray-black matter softly in the wind.  Dirty snow-like flakes floated in the early morning light as the sun appeared beyond the mountain range.  All this devastation yet here it was, stretching upward, reaching toward the warmth.  How it survived, no one could imagine considering the heat of the fires.  The wind that fueled the flames was now that gentle breeze.  No green for miles.  Except.  Except the delicate leaf with its curly ends looking like exquisite lace on a ball gown made for a princess.  Tiny holes in each long-fingered leaf gave it texture so if you touched it, you expected to feel bumps.  But it was smooth to the touch.  And soft with tiny fur covering the light green surface.  Trying to straighten the leaves was like fighting to straighten a curl in someone’s hair.  The coil, pulled to its limit, bounces right back every single time.  And so, this survivor keeps its beauty.  It keeps its life.  Despite the heartache and loss, this is Mother Earth’s promise of rebirth.

No Entry (A Year of Writing Prompts)

            “Ma’am, you can’t go in there,” the large security guard blocked the entrance with his enormous body, hand on his baton.

            I looked at him confused and angry.

            “That’s my family,” I yelled balling my fists ready to try to run through him.  I knew that would be impossible.  I mean, I could run into him but certainly not through him.  The guard was built like a solid mass of flesh, bones, and muscle.  He looked like he was about 6’8”, maybe even 6’9”.  I’m not a short female.  I’m 5’10” and my older brother is 6’6” but I was almost looking straight up to see this guy’s face.  His expression left no room for arguing but I was going to take my chances.

            “That’s my family,” I tried to swallow my panic and tone down my decibel level.  I opened my hands to show I was calm but none of it worked.

            “Ma’am, I have orders to not let you in,” the guard replied with no expression.

            Good thing my arms are long because even with his height I didn’t have to tiptoe to give him a solid, open handed slap on his face.

            “I know you’re only taking orders, but you are welcome to pass that on to whomever is giving them,” I hissed. 

            I smelled his cologne before I heard his voice behind me.

            “Will you follow me, please?” his formal British accent made me picture one of the royal family members with a designer suit, perfect hair, and pale skin.  When I turned around I found I was correct about everything except his skin, which was brown, with an added groomed goatee.  His sympathetic ebony colored eyes weakened my resolve to somehow move the bulldozer of a guard and rush through the doors.  I followed him silently not looking back. 

We walked down the hallway then turned right at the next intersection.  The whole building was bright with artificial lighting and I felt my skin glimmer eerily.  I wondered if we entered a dark room whether I would glow.  That would be kind of fun, I thought.  I don’t know how long I had been in this building with its cold lighting, endless hallways, and locked doors but I was starting to go crazy.

I watched this polished man as he walked with precision, back straight, eyes forward, total confidence exuding from every pore.  His cologne reminded me of going to the dance clubs and meeting some of the wealthier patrons.  Their colognes were subtle, but the scent stuck to your cheek after they kissed it.  It was comforting to smell nice the rest of the night although a little difficult to explain to the husband when I got home.  It didn’t help that I worked as a bartender. I could almost sympathize with the security guard I slapped.  Our poor bouncers would have to deal with wannabe patrons, most of whom couldn’t even afford more than one drink in our establishment, but wanted to be able to tell their friends they rubbed elbows with the elite.  Our bouncers were actually giant teddy bears, but they had a job to do and they did it well despite the abuse they endured.  Their paychecks certainly made up for everything and they were happy.  I started to feel bad that I slapped the guard until we reached a large, glass window. 

My tour guide stopped, and I looked inside to see a family huddled together in a corner.  Their eyes were round saucers.  My heart stopped as I thought about my family just on the other side of that door just down the hall.  Instinct told me to run and take the security guard by surprise, but my guide must have sensed my plans because he touched my elbow lightly and nodded toward a green door just a few steps away.  Confused, I followed him again.  The sign on the green door said, “No Entry,” yet the guide took a key out of his pocket and unlocked it.  I heard a series of bolts sliding throughout the door and just as suddenly, the sound stopped.  The door opened slowly on its own.  My refined guide gestured for me to enter.

“Is this where my family is being held,” I asked naively. 

He didn’t answer, just smiled and continued to point me in the direction of the room he just unlocked.  I knew there was nothing more I could do so I walked into the darkness beyond.  The green door closed softly behind me and everything became pitch black.  I didn’t have to wait for my eyes to try to adjust as lighting on the floor illuminated a hallway and I could barely see another door at the end.  I couldn’t go back through the green door as there was no door handle on my side.  Even though the floor looked flat, I found myself hiking upward.  By the time I reached the door at the other end, I was panting from the exercise.

This door was black and in white letters a warning read “No Entry.”  Having no other choice, I turned the knob and threw open the door.  If there was anyone on the other side, they would be surprised and hopefully stunned by the force.  I heard the door hit a wall and by some miracle it didn’t swing back to hit me in the face.  Good thing, too, since I was too stunned to move.

The sun was shining brightly, I could hear waves crashing a short distance away, and the smell of gardenias was heavy in the air.  I stumbled on the small set of stairs leading out.  As soon as I was clear of the building, the black door slammed shut.  Then there was nothing.  No door, no steps, no building.  Nothing.  I fell to my knees crying.  My family!

“Hon,” I heard a voice just above me.  I looked up in disbelief and saw my husband standing there, smiling, with his hand held out to help me up.  My girls were just behind him, also smiling, with towels in their hands and their bathing suits on. 

“Come on, Mom!  We’re ready to go swimming!”

My husband looked at me concerned.  “Are you okay?” he asked quietly as he dried my tears with his towel.

I nodded silently, took his outstretched hand, and followed them to the beach.  When I looked back to where the black door was located just a few seconds before, I saw our van.  Just beyond, in the tree line, a sign read, “No Entry.”

My husband smiled.  “This is our private beach, now.  The sign is to keep people away.”

I put my head on his shoulder as we reached the sand and our girls dropped their towels as they rushed to jump into the gentle waves.  My family.  I thought I had lost them.  But they were right here all along. 

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

An Artist's Eye

My husband commissioned an artist to create a portrait that represents my four daughters and me. First of all, major points to the hubby for even thinking about something so amazing.  Second, more points to him because he paid for it with his own money. Third, extra extra points for hiring a Samoan artist who happens to be in Samoa.

I've always wanted to be an artist, to paint and draw.  It looks incredibly peaceful.  Unfortunately, the artist gene completely bypassed me, ran very far away, skipped my mind and hands, and crossed my name off of the forever artist list.  I feel that I have the heart of an artist.  I certainly have the introversion to love artistry.  Alas, I have tried but instead of being tranquil moments of time, it turned out to be stressful and aggravating.  I bought a small set of blank canvas boards and thought I would try out painting.  After two attempts, I simply added two more pieces to the garbage pile. The remaining blank canvasses are sitting in a box in the garage along with the rest of the junk that still needs to be cleaned out.

What an artist sees in their mind and how they interpret those thoughts onto canvas is absolutely incredible.  My husband's attention to details and relaying that to the artist turned out to be a labor of love. The end result has others wanting to purchase this beautiful piece but happily, it is mine.  The details she added (my tattoos, for example), make it completely one of a kind and extremely personal. This artist's eye captured a lot of love and more importantly, created a family legacy.

In progress:  "O a'u o Matua Fanau - Our children are our greatest treasure"
By:  Nikki Mariner - Manamea Art Studio