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7/2 Weekly creativity contest winner & new prompt

dragonflyA great response to last week’s prompt, “wings.” I knew I’d never be able to pick a winner, so I called on guest judge Susan Edwards Richmond, poet and a founding editor of Wild Apples. While it was difficult, Susan settled on a favorite. “I selected Sarah Markley‘s writing because her descriptions are vivid and fresh, and she allows the moment to draw her in….She truly engaged herself with the topic and with her own words, and so engaged me as well.” Congratulations, Sarah! Your $10 gift certificate is on its way. (Readers: Don’t miss Sarah’s beautifully honest blog.) Sarah’s entry below; all the other goodies are posted after the jump.


Butterflies and Dust
A little girl never outgrows her fascination with butterflies; the pull in her heart to run after them; the secret curiosity of what it would be like to be one. Even this little girl.

Spring comes early and short where I live. The winter warms up just enough to allow the hills to explode with yellow and lavender flowers, and then just as quickly, continues to heat and sucks most of the colored beauty from the hills. The blooms dry up before May even comes and we are left with tall brown stalks of what used to be wildflowers.

This is what I slowly picked my way through on a much needed mid-morning trail jog near my house. On a Monday, I ran by myself out of doors for the first time in about 10 days. Recovering from my weekend out of town last week had left me unmotivated and exhausted. I had to push myself out my front door and force myself to lace up my running shoes.

What greeted me was a corridor of dirty, hollow brown bushes that used to be green and yellow and fresh. They were dead now and waiting for the autumn wildfires.

Some spring birds with a little color on their chests fluttered to my right and in the bushes ahead. A dragonfly-like insect buzzed by me — large with a bright orange abdomen.

A little bit of color in the drab hallway of dead stalks. Life wasn’t gone from this hill; it was just hidden.

And as if she hasn’t yet sensed me running toward her, a small butterfly lands on the path in front of me and spreads her little wings wide. Brilliant yellow and black and orange like the spring flowers that have already died. She is a vibrant fragile dot on the rocky trail.

The vibrations from my feet on the ground scare her and she closes her wings tight. The underside of her wings are brown and grey, just like the dirt she is resting on. She is almost invisible for an instant and then she flies away. Fluttering bright and drab together, she disappears.

I’ve seen this tiny butterfly against a curtain of dusty brown and then against the grand, morning sky and I feel a little like this insignificant animal: one minute dazzling and brilliant and the next invisible and scared. No more little girl curiosity because suddenly I am a tiny insect, feeling the full weight of radiance and fear at the same time.

As a woman, a mother, I know my worth, that I have brilliance and beauty. I can see it in my children; I can witness it in the words I write. But more often, I just see dusty wings. The grime and the hurt and the fear of life cloud my vision of myself.

This morning I realized that beauty is often shrouded in drab clothes, and that brilliance and invisibility can exist together. And even I am a butterfly of sorts, beautiful and dusty at the same time.


A collection of beautiful dragonflies from Jen Johnson (who will be having “Breakfast” with us in the near future, so stay tuned!). Jen writes: “Each is handmade with a copper wire frame, beaded with glass seed beads and semiprecious stones: moonstone, freshwater pearls, lapis lazuli, and agate. Not sure yet what they will become: a mobile? Suncatchers? Christmas tree ornaments? Pins? Simply little individuals of their own? For now I’m just glad to bring them into being. I’ve had these in mind for some time now, and this week’s prompt was an extra nudge to give them the time they deserve.” More of Jen’s lovely work available here.

jen\'s dragonflies

jen\'s dragonflies 2


From newcomer Marleah Augustine: “I’ve just started reading your blog a few weeks ago, and this is the first time I’ve sent in an entry — your haikus have inspired me! I have always liked writing poetry, but full-out poems were too intimidating to me, so I stopped writing them. I’ve found that haikus allow me to explore poetry, but they are still structured enough so that I have something to cling to as I start writing again.” We’re so glad to have you, Marleah! (Check out the irresistible recipes at Marleah’s blog, which just happen to be vegan!)

feathers carry you
across a great divide big
enough to stop me


From Juliet Bell, a beautiful haiku and photograph pairing, inspired by a walk with her dog. (Juliet won previously for “little black dress.” More of Juliet’s varied work here.)

Down the road, a car
rushes by. Butterfly wings
unseen, now lie still.

Juliet\'s butterfly


From Cathy Jennings, who won previously for “margaritas,” an evocative image created in twisted brush and Photoshop:

cathy\'s wings


Cathy Coley noted on Sunday: “I was drawing an absolute blank, or really cheesy clichés until early this am, then this happened, really.” Wow! (Cathy won previously for “the ocean” and is a prolific participant.)

I dreamt a homeless woman
introduced herself as my angel.
Frizzy curly hair, a bit moreso than mine,
dirt-smudged face and bad teeth.
Who knew angels had bad teeth?
A heavy dirt-grey tattered fleece
hung about her shoulders instead of wings.

I asked her name,
wasn’t certain she said Shelley.
Her voice covered,
I asked three times:
Once a train passed by.
Once, my baby squealed.
Once a woman interrupted
said angel over her name when she
interjected “Oh! You’re such an angel!”

The woman walked away,
my angel smiled and listened
as I offered empathy by saying,
“I was never homeless, but close,
I know your worries.”
She wrapped her arms and blanket around,
held me sweetly for a long time,
whispered in my ear,
“No worries.”

She withdrew her embrace, smiled
right into my eyes, and repeated,
“No worries. I’m your angel.”

She turned to walk away, adjusted
the heavy tattered blanket about her shoulders,
said, “if you ever need me,
you know my name.”


Lastly, my own haiku:

By the white park bench
two iridescent pigeons
peck at fallen crumbs

(That’s my dragonfly up at the top of the post, too.) So much fun to see all the creativity this week — keep it going! And a special thanks to Susan for stepping in as judge.


This week’s prompt: “Independence Day”

Use the prompt however you like. All media are welcome. Please e-mail your entries to by 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday, July 8. The winning entry receives a $10 gift certificate to Writers should include their submission directly in the body text of their e-mail. Visual artists and photographers should attach an image of their work as a jpeg. Enter as often as you like; multiple submissions for a single prompt are welcome. There is no limit to how many times you can win the weekly contest, either. (You do not have to be a contributor to this blog in order to enter. All are invited to participate.) Remember, the point here is to stimulate your output, not to create a masterpiece. Keep the bar low and see what happens. Dusting off work you created previously is OK too. For more info, read the original contest blog post.

9 Comments Post a comment
  1. Cathy #

    nice too see so many entries, and see why it was difficult to choose!

    July 2, 2008
  2. Wow! Thanks for the honor and for the gift certificate. I appreciate the wide approach you take on creativity here on this blog.

    And I especially love Cathy’s Angel poem.

    July 2, 2008
  3. Juliet Bell #

    I got all choked up reading this week’s pieces. Butterflies and Dust really is lovely – I was in that field with you. The beauty of your reflective prose, took my breath away.

    July 2, 2008
  4. Juliet Bell #

    Cathy, I wanted to let you know as well, that I loved your Angel poem. It’s a good thing I wasn’t reading it aloud or there would have been a considerable pause toward the end while I fought back the tears.

    July 2, 2008
  5. Cathy #

    ooo, thanks sarah and juliet! i honestly dreamt it and wrote it down when i woke up. pure lucky spark for this one.

    i hate to sound so diplomatic, but i truly enjoyed each piece this week and loved the varied approaches most of all.

    July 2, 2008
  6. cathy jennings #


    July 2, 2008
  7. Juliet Bell #

    …and I should have added that that dragonfly photo of yours, Miranda, is gorgeous – looks like a still life setup – all those lovely greens.

    July 3, 2008
  8. marleah #

    Wow, great entries this week! Thanks for the blog plug too, that is always welcome. 🙂 “Butterflies and Dust” is so real, and the beaded dragonflies are beautiful!

    July 3, 2008
  9. Those beaded dragonflies are wonderful! I collect dragonflies, I’ll have to see about getting some!

    July 4, 2008

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