H2O

H2O: The one molecule that is common to all life here on Earth.  Water. We drink it. We exhale it. Our very blood is made of it.  When it is near we are calmed. The sight of river, pool, sea, or rivulet turns furrowed brows into softened gazes. The sound of liquid water quiets the chatter of worried voices, soothing din strained ears. The taste of the cool liquid on tongues renews one’s strength. Its touch cleanses, exhilarates, and revives.

If I were a single molecule of this amazing compound where might I journey? What wonders might I behold? Who might I become a part of? What life might I sustain? Or inspire?

As I follow this path

from cloud

                                    To droplet      

                                                            To rivulet

                                                                                    To  pool

From rivers large and small. Frozen in ice and snow. Traveling from sky to mountain to valley. And finally colliding with oceans and seas in an endless cycle of constant change.

Become the nomad. Drift over the Rocky Mountains.  Roam the falls of Yosemite. Trek across the Pacific to the Hawaiian Islands. Feel the sulfuric mist of lava meeting salty sea. Or join in the warm humid breeze of a tropical night.

Then turn back. A hitchhiker on a trade wind. Blow north. Rest in the frozen tundra of Alaska. Or bob on a glacial ice floe. Bring life to the forest there. Smile at the good works you have done.

Sail across the world. Find another continent. Join in the changes of the centuries. From rings of stone to castles to the modern.  River Thames, Arno, and Tiber fueling the growth of European industry.  Stretch out your arms and touch the past.

Return home. See the small pools and fountains minds have designed. To bring peace to a park or a field. Or a home. Dip your hands in. Let the water fall between your fingers. Cleansing you. Renewing your spirit. Making you ever thankful for this wonder, this life-giving compound. H2O.

Photos by David Stroup

About Laurie: The author of the recently released Finding Joy as well as The Pharaoh’s Cry,  Portal Shift, Kidnapped Smile, and Dragon Sky of the fantasy series The Artania Chronicles, and Forests Secrets.  Laurie Woodward  is also a screenwriter who co-authored Dean and JoJo: The Dolphin Legacy. Her poetry has been published in multiple journals and anthologies and she was a collaborator on the popular anti-bullying DVD Resolutions. Bullied as a child, Laurie is now an award-winning peace consultant, poet,  and blogger who helps teach children how to avoid arguments, stop bullying, and maintain healthy friendships. She writes on the Central Coast of California. More about her work can be found at Author Laurie Woodward — Next Chapteria.net

Azurean Zeppelin: A Poem

Past faces intent on lines

Drawn by others

And lights

Too often flashing

A helium soul

Floats over congested freeways.

Bobbing on the breezy radio

Waves of rock-n-roll.

The timbre of myriad voices

Inflate her imagination

Creating an

Azurean zeppelin

Drifting beyond

To a cleared road ahead.

About Laurie: The author of the recently released Finding Joy as well as The Pharaoh’s Cry,  Portal Shift, Kidnapped Smile, and Dragon Sky of the fantasy series The Artania Chronicles, and Forests Secrets.  Laurie Woodward  is also a screenwriter who co-authored Dean and JoJoThe Dolphin Legacy. Her poetry has been published in multiple journals and anthologies and she was a collaborator on the popular anti-bullying DVD Resolutions. Bullied as a child, Laurie is now an award-winning peace consultant, poet,  and blogger who helps teach children how to avoid arguments, stop bullying, and maintain healthy friendships. She writes on the Central Coast of California. More about her work can be found at Author Laurie Woodward — Next Chapteria.net

Drifting Light

Dylan Thomas said, “Do not go gentle into that good night.

Old age should burn and rave at close of day.

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

Yet T. S. Eliot said, “This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang but a whimper.”

As the hot air balloon floated upward on yet another birthday and mortality ever more visible, their words drifted into my mind. My son had surprised me at dawn with, “Get up Mom! We have to go.”

“What’s up sweetheart?”

“We’re going on a hot air balloon ride. We have to leave in ten minutes.”

With sleep and tears in my eyes, I brushed my teeth, threw on some jeans and tennies, and applied a quick swath of lipstick. During the forty-five minute drive Nick and I got caught up on how San Francisco State was treating him, his new job training students for the climbing wall, and concerts he’d recently worked as a bartender. Before we knew it we were at the Los Olivos Market meeting our guide and pilot, James Lawson, owner of Sky’s the Limit Ballooning Adventures. Two husband-wife couples milled about nearby as we made last minute pit stops to the restroom and snuggled into jackets to keep out the chill morning air.

The seven of us boarded the shuttle and drove a short distance to Santa Ynez Valley field where the basket lay on its side next to the deflated balloon. After James gave us a few safety tips, he yanked the pull cord on the huge fan a few times and the blower engine revved. As the balloon filled, we were asked to enter two by two for photos inside its belly. Nick and I stood arm in arm giggling, the strong winds blowing back our hair and clothes. Next, we all stood at a safe distance and they lit the burners which shot two yards of blue and red flame into the bag. While the fabric billowed and rose we were witness to Archimedes’ principle of buoyancy pulling the basket upright.

“Okay, line up,” James ordered us. “You’ll be three by three on either side of the basket.”

Using footholds cut in the side of the gondola, we climbed aboard and situated ourselves in the compartments. Ours was a six-person basket with the burner directly over us warming our heads with the blasting flames. There were multiple roped hand holds surrounding us making me think that this was going to be some roller coaster of a ride. Afraid I might tumble into Nick, I grabbed one, just to be safe. Then James pulled on some levers, and the burners hissed. Tension built in my shoulders.

And I waited.

And waited.

I cocked my ear to the side. Weren’t we going to take off? Then I realized. We already had.

I felt nothing. No jarring jolts. No rattling shudders. Not even a wobble at lift-off.

Yet moments later we were airborne drifting over the golden grasses of a California autumn. Everyone grew silent, as if in prayer, communing with the moment. And the world and all its worries withered making space for the quiet of wind and fire.

Below red and valley oaks stood sentinel on hillsides flanked by coastal sage scrub and grasses. The sun’s rounded shoulders arced from under the horizon changing the peppered cirrus and altostratus clouds from tangerine to lavender and finally alabaster.

The ground waned as we ascended becoming a blanket for the behemoth that is our Earth. I pulled out my phone, trying to capture a few snippets of the venture while still remaining present. My fellow passengers seemed to have the same sentiment, shifting from detached photojournalist to awe-struck spectator every few minutes. The balloon shadowed the undulating chaparral below reminding me of an angel with interlocked wingtips unfurled.

Our pilot and guide not only navigated the balloon but also his spiel expertly. As he guided the craft in and out of oak forests, over green vineyards, and even over a field to hover and pick up a pumpkin from one of his crew, he recited tales of land and man, geology and climate, history and biology. He would speak intermittently, allowing each of us meditative moments to breathe in this singular experience.

My boy and I exchanged few words during the flight but multiple loving glances. I could tell how thrilled he was to bring me joy, something he has done many times since becoming an adult. Nick has taken me on mother-son dates to rock concerts by Neil Young and Robert Plant, long hikes to remote places, and even a Halloween rave party. That boy loves giving to his family.

With memorable days like this one.

Yep, I may be another year older with mortality rearing its Medusa tentacles my way. But on this one day, I got to rage, rage, against the dying of the light.

About Laurie: The author of the recently released Finding Joy as well as The Pharaoh’s Cry,  Portal Shift, Kidnapped Smile, and Dragon Sky of the fantasy series The Artania Chronicles, and Forests Secrets.  Laurie Woodward  is also a screenwriter who co-authored Dean and JoJoThe Dolphin Legacy. Her poetry has been published in multiple journals and anthologies and she was a collaborator on the popular anti-bullying DVD Resolutions. Bullied as a child, Laurie is now an award-winning peace consultant, poet, and blogger who helps teach children how to avoid arguments, stop bullying, and maintain healthy friendships. She writes on the Central Coast of California. More about her work can be found at Author Laurie Woodward — Next Chapteria.net

On Meditation

Breathe in deeply. Hold it. Exhale. Repeat, filling your chest deeper with each inhalation. Repeat. The practitioner recites. And I listen, trying to follow his/her instructions. Trying to find peace in an uncertain world  of chasmic divisions. Trying to find wisdom in the myriad of mistakes and false steps that have tripped my life.

What set me on this path? Didn’t teaching full time give my life purpose? Wasn’t I already writing poetry, books, and blog posts to quench that creative thirst? Shouldn’t I have been satiated with the successes of my career?

Nope. Because while I was elevating my professional life, I was ignoring my  personal one. Going off to do my “important shit” while leaving my boyfriend behind. Every morning and most weekend days I’d wave him away saying no to every invitation for breakfast, beach walk, or football game. While I wrote he’d go off by himself often texting me with his complaints. “Come on, meet me. I’m lonely, damnit.” Or “Dating you makes me feel like the loneliest man in town.” 

Did any of that change my behaviors? No. I kept typing in a desperate attempt to  become a “great writer” like Thoreau, Hyde, Atwood, and Koontz.  I didn’t leave any space for him, ignoring his every plea and sad text until, over time he stopped asking. When he became disillusioned, and told me he was moving out, I was shocked. And heartbroken.

Again.

I begged him to stay. Told him what he wanted to hear. I’ll change. Get counseling. Meditate. Spend more time with you. Don’t go!

Although I did all of those things, none of them worked. It was too late.  Another failed relationship. Feeling like a total shit, I started to wonder if I’d learned friggin’ anything since my divorce. 

The old tapes started playing in my head, telling me what a selfish failure I was. Still I kept practicing my daily meditations. Sometimes I’d sit there with tears rolling down my cheeks as I listened to positive affirmations saying, “I know who I am. I am love. I am kind. I am beautiful. I am fun and funny.”

I’d always been taught to be humble and at first it felt strange to repeat those words. But over time I noticed a difference in how I felt. Yes, I was sad to lose my best friend. Yes, I had ignored him a lot of the time. But that didn’t make me a horrible person. Or evil. Or a failure. It just made me single.

And that was okay.

While I tried many podcasts and videos, Rising Higher Meditation was the most healing I found. It showed me that no matter what, I was full of love and kindness. Perhaps it can help you too.

Rising Higher

The world continues to be uncertain and relationships still have their ups and downs but in the two years since I began this practice, I have learned to calmly accept these truths. My new mantra is “Love, peace, health.”

Try it, you just might be surprised.

About Laurie: The author of the recently released Finding Joy as well as The Pharaoh’s Cry, Portal Shift, Kidnapped Smile, and Dragon Sky of the fantasy series The Artania Chronicles, and Forests Secrets.  Laurie Woodward  is also a screenwriter who co-authored Dean and JoJoThe Dolphin Legacy. Her poetry has been published in multiple journals and anthologies and she was a collaborator on the popular anti-bullying DVD Resolutions. Bullied as a child, Laurie is now an award-winning peace consultant, poet,  and blogger who helps teach children how to avoid arguments, stop bullying, and maintain healthy friendships. She writes on the Central Coast of California. More about her work can be found at Author Laurie Woodward — Next Chapteria.net

Father’s Day: A Time to Reflect

This Father’s Day, take a moment to remember the magical times while creating anew.

Baby rubs her eyes.

About Laurie: The author of the recently released Finding Joy as well as The Pharaoh’s Cry,  Portal Shift, Kidnapped Smile, and Dragon Sky of the fantasy series The Artania Chronicles, and Forests Secrets.  Laurie Woodward  is also a screenwriter who co-authored Dean and JoJoThe Dolphin Legacy. Her poetry has been published in multiple journals and anthologies and she was a collaborator on the popular anti-bullying DVD Resolutions. Bullied as a child, Laurie is now an award-winning peace consultant, poet,  and blogger who helps teach children how to avoid arguments, stop bullying, and maintain healthy friendships. She writes on the Central Coast of California. More about her work can be found at Author Laurie Woodward — Next Chapteria.net

Ascension: A Poem

Heart pounding my

Body quivers in

An enveloping mist

Of love.

I am in a dream

Where

I see your face 

And feel your probing hands on my skin

Calloused yet gentle.

I take a breath

And fill my lungs with your 

Man and musk scent.

Cocking an ear

Your moans 

And whispers

Enter me

An ethereal figure

That is my ascension

Into the beauty

Of your soul.

About Laurie: The author of the recently released Finding Joy as well as The Pharaoh’s Cry,  Portal Shift, Kidnapped Smile, and Dragon Sky of the fantasy series The Artania Chronicles, and  Laurie Woodward  co-wrote Dean and JoJoThe Dolphin Legacy. Her poetry has been published in multiple journals and anthologies and she was a collaborator on the popular anti-bullying DVD Resolutions. Bullied as a child, Laurie is now an award-winning peace consultant, poet,  and blogger who helps teach children how to avoid arguments, stop bullying, and maintain healthy friendships. She writes on the Central Coast of California. More about her work can be found at artania.net

Single Breath: A Poem

My footsteps echo

In empty rooms

As feet shuffle over

Silent floors.

A single breath

Fills the air

Where once

Two voices shared.

I wander

Extant in

Another farewell.

About Laurie: The author of the recently released Finding Joy as well as The Pharaoh’s Cry,  Portal Shift, Kidnapped Smile, and Dragon Sky of the fantasy series The Artania Chronicles, and  Laurie Woodward  co-wrote Dean and JoJoThe Dolphin Legacy. Her poetry has been published in multiple journals and anthologies and she was a collaborator on the popular anti-bullying DVD Resolutions. Bullied as a child, Laurie is now an award-winning peace consultant, poet,  and blogger who helps teach children how to avoid arguments, stop bullying, and maintain healthy friendships. She writes on the Central Coast of California. More about her work can be found at artania.net

(Cover Photo by David Stroup)

Gaslit: A Poem

Odorless gas wafting from room to room

A noxious message within a tonic

Of sweet embrace

Tangled limbs

And connected flesh

Eyes droop

Pupils dilate

And fear begins.

The poison takes hold

With malevolous mantras

She chants again and again

Until she is a quivering shade

Of her former self.

About Laurie: The author of Forest Secrets and  the soon to be released Finding Joy as well as The Pharaoh’s Cry,  Portal Shift, Kidnapped Smile, and Dragon Sky of the fantasy series The Artania Chronicles,  Laurie Woodward  co-wrote Dean and JoJoThe Dolphin Legacy. Her poetry has been published in multiple journals and anthologies and she was a collaborator on the popular anti-bullying DVD Resolutions. Bullied as a child, Laurie is now an award-winning peace consultant, poet,  and blogger who helps teach children how to avoid arguments, stop bullying, and maintain healthy friendships. She writes on the Central Coast of California. More about her work can be found at artania.net

Etched Invocation: A Poem

In the lonely quiet

Of empty sheets

That no longer rustle

I whisper his name

And reach out

To caress

A back that

Isn’t there.

Enduring the cold silence

Of phantom forms

With an invocation

Of a name

Etched on my skin

Photo by David Stroup

About Laurie: The author of Forest Secrets and  the soon to be released Finding Joy as well as The Pharaoh’s Cry,  Portal Shift, Kidnapped Smile, and Dragon Sky of the fantasy series The Artania Chronicles,  Laurie Woodward  co-wrote Dean and JoJoThe Dolphin Legacy. Her poetry has been published in multiple journals and anthologies and she was a collaborator on the popular anti-bullying DVD Resolutions. Bullied as a child, Laurie is now an award-winning peace consultant, poet,  and blogger who helps teach children how to avoid arguments, stop bullying, and maintain healthy friendships. She writes on the Central Coast of California. More about her work can be found at artania.net

You Are Not Alone Even in Lockdown

When I saw the headline yesterday that said, “Newsom orders all California counties to close indoor restaurants, bars,” the Covid pit in my gut I’ve tried like hell to keep at bay hardened.

I was at the gym listening to upbeat music as my feet twirled ever faster on the elliptical when I glanced up at the bank of televisions overhead to read the sad news. “Cases have climbed dramatically since then, and the number of people hospitalized and in intensive care with COVID-19 has increased steadily. As of Monday, more than 334,000 confirmed cases statewide. The state has been reporting, on average, more than 8,000 new cases a day over the past week.”

Shit. I thought trying to go to that happy place exercise usually takes me. But even though I chose the most positive songs from my playlist and willed my legs to circle strongly, I couldn’t stop the stressful thoughts from coming.

I’m going to be so lonely. Again. Just when I was able to get out and see friends, enjoy my community, try a few dates it’s all shutting down. I’ll be trapped at home. Don’t even have a boyfriend to hold at night.

And it went on and on.

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I kept working out. One hour. An hour and a half. When I started to get weak around the two hour mark, I showered and headed for home. Here I was met with my sweet girls: my daughter and my roommate. They were chatting and giggling over a glass of wine and I joined them. We told jokes, silly stories, debated politics, and shared insights and I felt better.

Later, I was doing my nightly meditation of “I am” affirmations when one phrase struck me. “I am a wonderful friend. I am here for others.” And I realized that even in lockdown, that I am able to live my best self. I can continue to be part of and give to the human community .

Dear ones, if you need me I am here… Together we can endure.

With love.

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