This wonderful month of May asks us to look at our living spaces as visitors. This prompt is a contest for The Past is Prologue program in June!
May 2021 Prompt
We've all spent an unusual amount of time in our houses and neighborhoods this year. While these are spaces that we are intimately familiar with, those on the outside may notice details that we do not think about or no longer notice. In 1000 words or less, tell us about your living quarters or neighborhood through the eyes of a visitor.
This prompt is in conjunction with The Past is Prologue: Secret Kansas City program with Anne Kniggendorf on June 10th at 7pm. Anne will choose an entry to be read by the original author at the end of the program. Register for the program here
Thanks for all the responses you submitted to our April prompt!
I know you hear me in there.
The day starts before the sun rises and I need my wet food the second first light creeps through the windows. Yet, the door remains closed. I've been calling for you and knocking quite politely. I have manners and can be patient. I wouldn't be wearing this tuxedo otherwise. BUT I AM HUNGRY HUMAN. Never mind the large one who gave me breakfast an hour ago.
Ah there you are, yes I would enjoy a window seat for today. If you would be so kind as to open the window, there are punkass squirrels in the side yard that need scolding from a superior. Join me, medium-sized human so I may teach you how to protect yourself from the bushy tailed menaces.
“Work”? What is this, work? This is not on my approved list of acceptable activities for the day. Who are these strange humans in your box? Do they also need lessons on dealing with squirrels?
No matter, there do not seem to be any grey terrors pillaging the bird feed. Medium-size human I request belly rubs. I have flopped over under your chair for convenience. You will have to stretch uncomfortably to reach me. I'm waiting.
Fine, you can't ignore me if I am in your line of sight. Or maybe you can. Let me just push these screens out of the way...
HOW WAS I SUPPOSD TO KNOW THEY MOVE SO EASY?! Don't get mad at me, medium-size human. You're the one that put this rainbow machine contraption against the wall. It's only a small dent.
I am going to go take a nap until you get done, wake me so we may play on your lunch break. If you don't, I'll bite your toes a dinner.
April 2021 Prompt
Animal companions of all species have been happy to have their humans home more than usual this past year. They stay by our sides for so much of the day that we can't help but wonder what it is they are thinking about us.
How would your animal companion(s) narrate your day?
Thanks for all the beautiful responses you submitted to our March prompt!
My friend Vicky presented Joy as a happy place when we met to do our first sitting practice together. She said she wanted to experience victory through the Joy of living life. Like a strong house with a solid foundation, she embodied Joy. It was a steady stream that she'd made stronger by couching every experience through the lens of Joy. After years of practice, it shone forth from the open windows of her soul. I was astonished. I'd never given Joy a thought. I'd always been close neighbors with Sadness and Surrender. But slowly I took steps closer to her house of Joy by embracing the myriad experiences of my life by flirting with Joy —making eyes at it, longingly sneaking peeks. That journey began 17 years ago. I would say that now, all these years later, I am on the verge of throwing open the windows of my house so that I can wave to her house of Joy from my rooms of Joy. Moving through the difficulties of life focused on Joy does indeed make life richer, if not easier. Maybe one day, I will move right next door and experience many, many more moments of living life through the victory of Joy.
There is no “one size fits all” happy place in my mind. The happy place I mentally travel to will all depend on what I am trying to escape.
Bad weather? The atrium at Harlaxton College in England. It was always pleasant sitting beneath a canopy of greenery while being served afternoon tea. The English sunshine was rare, but when it peaked out from behind the clouds it turned the atrium into the most popular spot on the manor grounds. A babbling indoor pond with koi entertained the professors' children while the rest of us tried to figure out why iron furniture was only comfortable among tropical plants, tea, and finger sandwiches.
Feelings of inadequacy? A grand hall erected in the confines of my imagination paved with Welsh (NOT Appalachian) slate with a large obsidian throne that rests a top a gilded dais. Complete with a steward to refill my wine glass with Yellow Tail Moscato when necessary. Pillars of granite line the sides with scenes of battles I have won as Queen of this fictional castle and a large black cat to sit on an arm of my throne to stare down the last of my enemies as they beg for mercy, but are only met with the phrase “who's an inadequate ruler now?” as my generals drag them off. If life is going to deal me a harsh hand, I'll give it the same energy back in a safe and controlled environment.
Lonely? A lake house at the Ozarks where my three best friends and I congregate once or twice a summer. There is something about the smell of lake water that puts the body at ease. Combine that with a calm day on the water and just the right amount of ice in the cooler and there is nothing better. I can hear the stories my gal pals tell about life as married women as we all float off the dock on a lily pad trying to keep track of empty beer cans and when we last put on sunscreen. When the screaming mating calls of cicadas reverberate from the shore we know its time to get out to make dinner, but as soon as that is over we head back down to the dock, kick on the submerged lights and get back in the water with a freshly stocked cooler.
We would be here all day if I chose to break down all the options and which specific escapes they serve as, but these seem to be the three I find myself in most and they all serve their purposes well.
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.