March’s prompt explores happy places and what makes them our great escape.
March 2021 Prompt
With spring almost on our doorsteps, everyone is dreaming of bluer skies, greener grass, and much warmer weather. The outdoors is an excellent escape for many of us, and some prefer a comfy space indoors where they can be at peace. Whether it be inside or out, please give us a grad tour of your happy place.
In 500 words or less, immerse us in your mental escape. Sight? Smells? Weather? We want to read it all.
Thanks for all the beautiful responses you submitted to our February prompt!
By Cheryl Morai-Young
When I look directly in the mirror, a ghost of myself looks back. White-haired and pink eyed around the rim, free of make up because it's easier now in pandemic times to not delight and indulge in the little pots of color that could be dipped into and brushed over moisturized eyelids to paint a brighter facade to the world and to myself. The light brown eyes say: I'm tired and weary of this confinement, this plainness of skin — a necessary confinement that keeps me distant and safe. The rest of my face, hidden behind a triple plied, black mask, I can only hope resembles some of what it was before it had to be hidden to keep the virus at bay. The Japanese have a myth that says the face you have now is the face of the person you loved the most in your past life. Maybe with this new old face, incognito and unrecognizable to the world, I was a ninja, who scaled walls at night, freeing coins and jewelry from the wealthy and giving it to the poor. Maybe this disguise made me braver, kinder, more resilient, virtuous even so that I could now when I looked straight on into those tired brown eyes, recognize myself. Who I was, who I will be. And, maybe soon, I will be again. And maybe, now, that's enough.
It makes sense that I loved the face in my past life, because I only seem to love it in this life once it becomes my past face. It takes a time-traveling mirror for me to appreciate my reflection.
When I look at myself in the present, all I see are the ways the image fails to measure up to some vague ideal that exists in my imagination. I don't really see my reflection or the ideal, but the space between them.
Yet when I capture that image and look at it through the power of time travel, at some future moment, a year later or five or ten, I suddenly appreciate the image I see. That person was attractive and I don't understand why I couldn't perceive it back then. I love that reflection from the past.
Then I turn to look in a standard mirror at present-me and again see only flaws. Except later, one, five, ten years further on, that same image I can't appreciate now will be mystically transformed into something future me finds pleasant.
And it cycles on. I love what I see in time-traveling mirrors that show me what I was once present-me has moved on, taking his criticisms with him.
By Jamie Lynn Heller
21st Century Reflection
-Jamie Lynn Heller
Quarantine has forced me to look at myself more in the past year than in all the other years combined. I was bashful about it at first, remembering reprimands and accusations of vanity –
(We'd sit at the long table
in the formal dining room,
white linens, crystal glasses,
my feet swinging freely a-
bove the floor. When I’d get off
rhythm, bang one against the
chair leg, the sudden si-
lence from the adults was a slap.
Their talk jumped around above
my head long past the warmth of
the food I pushed around. On
the far wall a mirror hung
above the buffet, the safe
for china and other heir-
looms to be handled with care.
I liked to watch us in that
frame, eating, talking. It was
like watching an oblong mo-
vie. We were all recognize-
able but from a differ-
ent angle, including the
girl with bangs in her eyes, slight-
ly hunched over, in a dress
whose collar looked stiff, scratchy.
The girl outside me didn’t
look the same as I thought she
should. I watched my own mouth as
I spoke, tried to catch a glimpse
of myself when I wasn’t
looking, but after a too
long moment’s slip when I put
my elbows on the placemat,
and corrections went unheard,
they accused me of being
too vain and moved me to the
other side of the table
where I had to look at a
collection of glass birds too
frozen to ever fly a-
way with my thoughts.)
– But now my workday consists of watching myself on a screen. Is it really a reflection when the camera captures you and then shows you back to yourself? Or is it something else? A transmission maybe? It feels like I’m in two places at once. Somehow here and there, especially when the Wi-Fi snags and my movements and voice come back to me on a time delay. I’ve learned if I log in twice I can see myself head-on and from the side partially answering the question, “How do other people see me?” (A question I’d try to answer before) I wonder if this is close to what people who have had an out of body experience have seen? This strange sensation of wondering, “Who is that” and then suddenly recognizing yourself.
When I look at my reflection, all I see are the bags under my eyes. I’ve carried these bags my whole life. Looking at pictures of myself as a toddler I see them, small but there. Maybe they’re a remnant from a past life, spiritual baggage manifesting physically. If I had them surgically removed would part of my consciousness, my soul, what makes me who I am, also be removed? That’s a risk I’m not willing to take. However much I loathe how they look, I like who I am.
So I’ll keep carrying these bags. I’ll keep smiling at my reflection. And I’ll keep loving the person who smiles back.
“We do not hate ourselves, because that is counterproductive to what we are trying to do.” This is a sentence I find my reflection saying back to me before every shower or change out outfit.
My reflection stares back at me with blue eyes that embody a calm pond, home to curious fish and sun bathing turtles. On the outside, this pond is my happy place. It is where I send myself to meditate and remind myself that to love oneself is a journey with no end, only rest stops.
During this meditative stare down with myself, I take my hair down from the bun it has been trapped in all day. Its shine may dull in the winter, but auburn burns brightest in the spring and summer sun. It keeps my soul warm. And this effect cannot be replicated though box dyes, which makes it my own organic safety blanket.
Removing this blanket from my shoulders reveals freckles that turn into an infinite game of connect-the-dots down my arms and ending on my hands which have oddly similar patterns.
My reflection pulls my gaze back up to meet her own and the pond in our eyes expand into an ocean. There is still more to learn to love about myself waiting in the depths, but to find it takes patience and I have little. So I let my reflection take over and walk into the waves.
Crow’s feet, worn badges earned from laughing at the good and the bad jokes.
Tears, rewarding and painful symbols of each person or animal in need helped.
Grey hair, a tattered flag for both easy and hard lessons.
Worried brow, a wrinkled symbol of care and love for family, marriage, job, the world.
Blue eyes behind thick glasses, a watery reflection of blue feelings.
Un-moisturized skin my mother nags about, a constant reminder of the long road.
If it’s true,
that Japanese legend.
The one saying my face
is a reflection of who I loved most
in my past life. Is it possible
that I loved no one?
Will my future selves
reflect an emptiness
the Japanese have never seen?
In this life, how do I break
this legacy of absence?
Or maybe, my reincarnations
are doomed to the American legend.
The one saying people
look like their dogs.
This one is cracked and the other is continually covered in smudge marks. Mirrors offer only distortions, anyways. I can still see the main portrait when I squint my eyes and tilt my head: dark hair and dark eyes despite the bright light, one eyebrow askance as if the echo of one too many smirks, and one ear higher than the other – who knows which – so glasses sit askew.
When I gaze into a puddle, is it her staring back at me? On the bus before first light, is she leaning over onto me? Can I reach that one when I turn off my phone screen? “Who is there?” pleads a Narcissus who cannot see. I would rather not look.
Were it not for my love, my reflection would be terrifying, ugly, and unfathomable. When a reflection of doubt met my hesitant eyes, I would quake. My voice would falter and then my lips and throat would slowly tense up. Be it anger or annoyance mirrored back at me, my eyes would close in on themselves and tears would spring up. Even with happiness in the backscatter, my face may not even lighten. I know all this because I have spent years without knowing my love; I have spent years without knowing myself.
She paints on a mask of confidence when I go to work. The eyes sizing me up cannot see past it. She puts up a strong front when I hand out advice, so that others can seek shelter. My nose crinkles when I disagree but she calls upon patience, takes a deep breath, and counts to three. My visage turns an ugly, blotchy red when I cry, so she looks all the way up and wipes my face dry. She draws a smile and her eyes light up when I come home to my companions. When I look in the mirror, that is not what others see. She protects me. We make a good team.
I've always felt at odds with my reflection. It has a peculiar way of surprising me when I catch a glimpse of it. That other me, staring back, seems as though it's trying to tell me something. Is it a reminder of the past? The soaring successes and the full-on failures? Is it an indication, an invitation, to the future? For the twists and turns that are yet to come? It's easy to write on paper, but I'm trying to be okay with living in the now. To see my reflection not as an apparition, reminding me of nostalgia or beckoning me towards some upcoming attraction, but as simply a reflection.