Wednesday, December 30, 2020

American Dog, art as writing prompt

Painting by Rebecca Ripley

American Dog
by Joyce Wycoff
He was an American dog, 
galaxies in his eyes,
heart big as the night sky.

He untethered sun and moon,
launched uncounted stars
of joy and sorrow, light and dark.

He wove all into our story,
though his words were square,
unheard by hearts laid bare.

Sad to the bone,
he headed home,

Becky Ripley shared her amazing art with me in the form of a set of greeting cards. I coveted them too much to think about sending them to others, so I took each one as a writing prompt. 

Before I read the title of this particular card, what I saw was a dog. I tried to find something else since it really didn’t look like a dog, but I kept coming back to dog. So, finally, I gave in and allowed it to be dog, and the first line showed up … He was an American dog.

What am I supposed to do with a line like that? 
Ride the wave, I thought.

I never write in rhyme. 
This dog wanted rhyme.
All right, I said, following the dictates of rhyme.

Without Becky’s art,
Without the demand for rhyme,
This particular assemblage of words would never have been born.
This particular feeling of sadness would not have been given space on the page.
I would not have admitted that in many ways, I am sad to the bone,
and, too often, feel alone.

This is my American dog.
He will lead me home.

By the way, Becky’s title for this piece is “Night Mask." After I had finished the writing from this, Becky said this about the development of the piece:  "I had recently completed a Thinking Patterns workshop on the work of Dawna Markova. Jacqui and I were then in Santa Fe for Paint Camp. The other campers had driven into town to see The Mission, and Jacqui and I decided to stay home and enjoy the hot tub. Looking up at the sky, I planned this mask to represent my alpha, beta, theta states…"
Here are other writings prompted by her inspiring art.

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Who are the moon dancers? art as writing prompt

Moon Dancers by Becky Ripley  
see more beauty and wisdom at

Who are the moon dancers?

by Joyce Wycoff

women. women celebrating life. celebrating tribe.
dancing connection. dancing joy into the night.

unfettered by custom and cloth
undaunted by shoulds and shouldn'ts
wild rhythms shaking belly and breasts.

sparks from the communal fire
shooting into dark sky, 
meteor bits streaking silver echos,
bedazzling dancers and unseen eyes.

drums drumming; blood thrumming,
cells loosening, remembering ancient 
joinings in shadowed crevices
softened by undulating strands of seduction
entwining now and forever
in moments of generosity. 
women dancing.
women moon dancing.
join in. 

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Love Letter to my life #30: 2020 Summarized

by Joyce Wycoff

(We know the day we were born, but most of us do not know the day we will die. This love letter to my life is written on the day I've designated as my death day, the 17th of every month, and reminds me to be grateful for my incredible life.)    

The last love-letter of the year falls on the combination of my monthly death day and my birthday, prompting this summary of the year. 
In 2020, I ...

  • Moved. When the perfect RV park on the Truckee river raised their space rent and offered no assurance that they wouldn’t raise them whenever they wanted, I bought a mobile home in a nice community with a clubhouse, pool, and exercise facilities. It didn’t take long to realize that being on a hill in Reno meant wind … lots of wind. It also didn’t take long for access to the club facilities to be closed due to COVID-19.
  • Focused on making photo books. Created The Road to Gerlach as part of an application for an artist in residency program. Was not chosen for the program.
  • Flew to Florida to visit a long-time friend and helped her make her own photo book about a local rookery.
  • Developed a guide book to help people make photo books and was accepted by Truckee-Meadows Community College as an instructor to teach a class on photo book making.
  • Explored the Nevada outback with the kids. Rocks, golden eagle nests, Aurora ghost town cemetery, fun time with family. 
  • Created Corona Wisdom, a book of art, poetry, and reflections about the pandemic. In order to make this book, I followed a frustrating path of learning InDesign and focused on the unfolding lessons, frustrations, and upheavals caused by the pandemic.
  • Was horrified by the number of typos sprinkled through the pages of the first soft-cover copies of Corona Wisdom. Plus, the design didn’t please me. So, back to the drawing board until a hardback copy arrived in mid-November. It makes me happy and has received some lovely reviews.
  • Answered a spirit call to be closer to water and nature by buying a 20 year-old RV located in Vagabond RV Park on Lake Almanor in Northern California. Being there made me want to connect more fully to nature and my spirit.
  • Returned to California. As a result, I put my Reno house on the market, bought a 10 year-old RV and had it towed to Pinezanita RV Park just outside Julian in Southern California. The plan is to spend five summer months at the lake and the seven fall and winter months in the mountains.
  • Reconnected with dear friends in the San Diego area and suddenly felt supported. 
  • Launched an online magazine, inspired by the fall colors of the oak woodland around me and watching woodpeckers create their granary trees, I launched an online magazine: The Granary Tree, where I will store bits of gathered wisdom from my journey … my acorns.
  • Got cold. Became frightened by the mechanical aspects of living in an RV. Searched for a way out; contemplated moving.
  • Discovered Borrego Springs, a small desert town an hour away from Julian. Stunning landscape surrounded by 600,000 acres of Anza-Borrego State Park, Borrego Springs has an artsy and somewhat quirky culture that appeals to me.
  • Came close to buying a mobile home in Borrego Springs, which would have meant abandoning the idea of a two-RV lifestyle, but the beauty of the trees of Pinezanita, as well as the simplicity of my life, held me in place, resisting the pull of self-inflicted change.
  • Turned 75. Grateful for my excellent health, kind and loving friends, and the lessons that just keep coming.
2020: a year of perfect vision gone awry turns out to have delivered a dollop of wisdom. I have chosen to live closer to nature and will learn to live with its challenges. 
Dear 2021 ... it would be perfectly fine with me if we made it through the year without moving. Just saying.

Monday, December 14, 2020

Night Flight Gifts, art as writing prompt

Night Flight by Becky Ripley, see more beauty and wisdom at

On the morning before the night of the Geminid meteor shower, 
thinking watching would be too cold, too late, too hard, too dark,
a bright dragonfly appeared as a gift from a friend.

She hies toward a luminous moon surrounded by shooting stars,
pulled by inner vision, braving all to connect with the light. 
Hers is a Night Flight of courage and willingness to follow beauty
and the wisdom of nature. 

How could I not follow her guidance?

Wikipedia states: The Geminids are a prolific meteor shower caused by the object 3200 Phaethon, which is thought to be a Palladian asteroid with a "rock comet" orbit. This would make the Geminids, together with the Quadrantids, the only major meteor showers not originating from a comet. 

However, what made me want to brave the cold night was color and quantity. This year promised as many as 150 meteors per hour in very dark areas. And, hooked me with, "In addition to the high frequency of meteors, the Geminids are known for featuring shooting stars that are bright and intensely colored. These colors are caused by the elements that make up the meteors. As they burn up in the atmosphere, the elements glow in vibrant colors with each color relating to a specific element.”

I began my vigil at 9 p.m., multi-layered and eager. Two quick streaks gave me hope for the crescendo expected at 2 a.m.. I set an alarm for midnight and dozed.

A ring tone later, bundled in Patagonia thermals and wool, I sat in a plastic chair just yards from the tempting warmth of bed. Orion’s belt caught my adjusting eyes and I began to contemplate ancient sky watchers. 
Who were those people from long ago 
who braved the night cold and made friends 
with bright constellations and unraveled their movements? 
How many long nights would I have had to sit here 
before I recognized the patterns above me? 
How could I have held that immensity in my head 
in order to share it with my people in stories and dance?

The meteors were few; 
the night cold, 
the unexpected gift 
of connection across time 
warmed me. 

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Borrego Tales: Requiem in Green and Red

A satellite would see a bright pinprick of green on a wrinkled spread of variegated tan with a blue hole in the middle. Traveling east to west at seven thousand miles per hour, it would take the satellite two seconds to pass over the unlit expanse of Anza-Borrego State Park and almost a minute to reach the blue Pacific stretching away from the lights and traffic of San Diego. 
The satellite was traveling way too fast to have seen me sitting on that pinprick of green being rudely attacked by a pinprick of red, genus Solenopsis, fire ant. My unwelcome mini-visitor apparently was deluded by heroic visions of downing a megafauna to feed his village hidden somewhere on this oasis of green known as Christmas Circle in Borrego Springs, the cultural center of six hundred thousand acres of desert. The miniscule ant bit skin to get a grip intending to then administer his sting of death, perhaps without understanding it would have taken him plus his entire village and maybe several others to down this particular specimen.

Or maybe he was just pissed that his territory had been invaded. Two days later, his mark is still visible, still irritating, and I have to wonder if he survived his sudden launch into space, an autonomic reaction to his bite. If so, I hope he carried home tales of evil giants and a warning to his kind to quit messing with the big ones.
He left me with a thought though ... size does not equate to impact. Each of us may only be 1 of 7.5 billion planet mates, but we each have impact.

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Sharing is caring: A story of Sapphire the Fairy

One lonely night in the midst of a pandemic, a sad woman who couldn’t sleep walked through the dark, empty streets. In front of one house she found a little fairy garden at the base of a tree with a note about a 4-year old girl who also felt lonely because of the pandemic and wanted to spread some cheer. 
The woman felt a tug at her heart and the next day she wrote a note to the little girl pretending to be a fairy named Sapphire who had come to live in the tree because it was such a lovely garden. In the note Sapphire said she would gift the little girl with some magical fairy dice if she did these things: 
 - say 5 nice things to people you love
- do 3 helpful things for someone in need
- promise to always be kind and brave and to show love to those in need
- draw a picture of your favorite animal so I can show the other fairies  ;-)
If these things are done, I will leave the magical dice here Friday morning for you. Be sure to share them if anyone helps you with these tasks.
Sharing is caring!!
love, Sapphire
Sapphire didn't know if the little girl would find the note or if she would respond but it was fun imagining how she would respond.

The next night on her walk, she did find a note from the little girl ... one that made her burst into tears.
Dear Sapphire 

Thank you for leaving the note in my fairy garden. I did the things you asked.

    - I sent mail to 5 of my friends and family telling them nice things
    - I delivered birthday things to my friend for his birthday today
    - I picked up trash and recycling around our neighborhood
    - I set the table and helped mommy and daddy with chores and with my baby sister

I am so excited for the magical lucky dice! I am so happy you live in this tree. I made a picture of two piggies for you because they are my favorite. I hope you like it. I love you.
Also I promise to be kind and brave and always show love to those in need.
Sapphire left a bunch of her glittery dice for the little girl (and a note to her parents with her contact info so they wouldn't worry about strangers).

The notes continued and Sapphire discovered that the dice were very special because the little girl and her parents had been playing a game that included dice and now she had her very own magical lucky dice.

Later, the woman told this story and said, "Doing this every night gave me purpose in a horribly painful and lonely time. I looked forward to my days again and I started ordering art supplies and little trinkets to leave her. We wrote back and forth throughout the last 9 months, helping each other feel less lonely and I got to chat with her mom via text to make sure my gifts were a little more personal. At one point she asked for a photo of me and thankfully I had some elf costume items from the previous Halloween so I photoshopped some photos of myself in costume, looking like a fairy."

As life happens, though, the little girl's family decided to move and Sapphire said she was going to move also as a way of helping the little girl feel better about leaving. They wanted to meet though and Sapphire longed to hug the little girl.

What the little girl didn't know was that when fairies move, they get one day as a big person so they can get all their stuff moved. So, Sapphire got to spend a day with the little girl, (everyone having been tested so they were safe), answering all her questions about what it was like to be a fairy.

The woman,  sometimes known as the Fairy Sapphire, later said, "It was incredible and one of the
most important and impactful afternoons of my life thus far. I hope one day when she’s older she can understand that I truly needed her as much as she needed me these past few months. 

'This is the book she wrote me after I encouraged her to keep telling such amazing stories."


When not befriending little girls as the Fairy Sapphire, Kelly Victoria is a photographer who can be found on Twitter and Instagram as @saysthefox




Friday, December 11, 2020

On the 75-year journey of becoming a writer/artist

4th grade: magazine image of a gondolier in Venice. 
A soap bubble of imagination rises with a yearning
to tell his story, too soon popped by the sharp prick of reality.
Recess plays written by Charlene Storm, acted out by four little girls.
One budding playwright submits a script in tiny, unreadable words. 
First rejection.

Books: magic carpet portals to other worlds. 
Story-gifts from the gods.
Safe-haven for a lonely, unseen wanderer.

10th grade: a picture on a wall, dark and misty, 
a lake, a windmill, a house on a far shore.
words rise unbidden, weaving a story:
a woman, a man, a connection across time and space.
A beckoning to tell their story forces words onto paper.
Pages tucked into a class notebook
remain a story untold from a writer undeclared,
as intention to share is silenced by fear.

College: flooding of dark words playing themselves into poems,
creative writing classes with wild man and storyteller, William Foster Harris,
red-inked submissions returned with no encouragement.
Tiny, unremarked diversions from the path of real life.

Real Life: numbers, assets and liabilities, income statements
overshadow periodic leaking of words onto the page,
beloved IBM Selectric hidden in a cramped under-staircase closet,
secret submissions to magazines and journals, 
fat returned-manuscript envelopes, form letter rejection slips. 
(years scroll by until ... )

New Editor: rejection-proof newsletter: MindPlay, editor Joyce Wycoff.
Content: whatever sparks curiosity and interest.
Slowly, a small group of followers emerge.
Suddenly, a book contract appears, and then a book.
One day, at the checkout counter in a bookstore,
a woman stands holding a book with a bright blue cover:
my book. 

At 45, I became an author. It would take many more years
to understand that I am a writer. It is what I do; it is how I
process the world. It would also take the upheaval that came
with losing my spouse to realize I needed the combination of
words and images to say the things I wanted to say.

If I had been particularly astute, I might have learned that
in the fourth grade.