A Woman’s Best Friend?


One day a few weeks ago,  I had a plan to paint a forest fairy.  What showed up on the canvas was the eye and snout of a dog!  I don’t paint dogs typically.  I was going to force it into a forest fairy!

Then I went out in the world and had three encounters of the strangest kind.

The first:
What do you do for recreation on a rainy day?  A friend and I went to the local museum to see two exhibits:  1) Mount Shasta: Mystery and Magic–Elevating the Human Spirit and 2) Tattooed and Tenacious: Inked Women In California’s History.  By the way, I highly recommend both exhibits.
As we stepped out into the parking lot, walking towards our vehicles, a young girl ran up to us.  Her message was urgent.
“Would you mind if our dog said hello to you?  He really wants to say hello.  It would make him so happy.”
Who could refuse?

The second:
Later on, the same rainy day, an acquaintance–one who seldom frequents the local cafe– stopped in to get a hot chocolate.
He explained, “I was taking my dog for a walk and it started raining.  He doesn’t like walking in the rain.”
I asked “What kind of dog?”
He answered “Everything. Would you like to meet him?”
Who could refuse?

I took both of these instances as a sign that I was to paint this dog.  I came home and started to bring him forward.  Then I got this text from my daughter.

The third:
“Just saw Isle of Dogs, Of course I liked it.”
I hadn’t heard of Isle of Dogs.  (I’ve seen it since and thought it was a work of artistic genius.)

As if I needed more confirmation.  I texted my daughter an image of the work in process.
She said:  “She/he is so cute.  Looks like a lil wolf dog and looks like a dog from the movie.”

All of this to say, when the universe sends synchronicities, listen and follow them.  Paint the dog!

Creative Prompt:
Be alert to those messages, especially the ones that come in bunches.  Follow the intuitive hit, the creative impulse, the prompts that present themselves over the course of your day.

Degas as Inspiration

Looking through an art magazine, I came across the image of Degas:  Les Femmes Qui Se Peignent.  I have not posted a photo here due to possible copyright infringement.  However, I suggest that you Google it to get an image of where the inspiration for this short prose poem came from.

Inspiration is an interesting thing.  One gets inspired and then either does or doesn’t do something with that inspiration.  Once I engaged the inspiration, imagination took over.  And who can predict where the writing goes from there?

She’d Get By, Right?
© by Christine O’Brien

There had been weeks of gray skies.
She’d get by, right?
In the meantime, dress simply
keep a positive focus
and send loving thoughts to everyone
you’ve ever met.
When memory slips in, turn away…

“Let me be your guide,” he said
as he tucked a sprig of gypsophila
beside her ear, already too familiar.
He isn’t practical she thought.
Yet, there is poetry in his eyes.
She told herself that she needed more space
but his teal eyes could too easily
dissuade her from that idea.

This relationship wasn’t going to be–
He worked in a high rise
while she had earthy values.
The night sky had to be star-studded
not city light lit.

The morning they met,
she was sitting by the sea
combing her hair
while the gentle waves teased her feet.
He told her that she looked Indian
and asked if he could braid her hair.
What type of woman allows a
strange man with teal eyes to
braid her hair?

“In honor of the new moon”
he winked leaning into her resistance.
It didn’t take very long for her to realize
that she was falling for his line, his leanness,
his too too teal eyes.

These months later,
entrenched in weeks of gray skies
she asked herself if the heartache was worth it.

She decided that it was.

Writing Prompt:
Inspiration and imagination are never very far away.  Get your inspiration and take the time to follow it.  Write a prose poem or a prose piece.

Hard and Soft


One conversation in the fashion industry over the last few years has been about hard and soft…the armoring with clothing while retaining sexiness and femininity.  This fashion trend rides the “edge” for it merges two disparate qualities.  Traditionally, we think of the feminine as receptive, yielding, even passive. Many cultures take away a woman’s power when they disallow that she also feels angry and needs to  have a toughness that surpasses endurance–courage–over the course of her life.  She certainly needs assertiveness.  Sometimes she acquires a grittiness.

Following is an excerpt from a speech by Sojourner Truth recited by Maya Angelou.


Writing Prompt:
As a woman, how do you “wear” the hard and soft of yourself?

As a man, how do you respond to a woman displaying anger?


Out of the Ordinary

A lot of my personal writing is journal writing and it’s all so very serious!  Deep topics, frustrated arenas, disappointments, sometimes gratitudes and elevating dreams, vision questing and existential  “whys.”

There is a place for everything…however, on  one particular day last summer, something happened that left me in a state of AWE.

Driving around a curve in a well-traveled road, I spied a wolf crossing the road
with prey in his mouth.  I’ve seen a wolf once before…but never where I live.  In fact, a pack of Gray Wolves has recently (in the past few years) crossed back into northern California.  Exciting, right.  It took my mind a moment to register “WOLF!” And then, when it did, realizing that I was safely in my car, I pulled over.  There was not the adrenaline rush of fear and escape.  It was more excitement and curiosity.  He wasn’t in any hurry…he had crossed the road safely and was descending the adjacent slope.  I got out of the car and ran around the side to watch him for a ways before he disappeared into the brush.

Wow!  What a special gift…to see a wolf.  Not many people can claim that one.

Ever since,  I’ve been painting wolf women and women with wolves.  I might look into the meaning of wolf in Ted Andrews book, Animal Speak.  Or I might just marvel at my good luck in safely encountering a wolf!  The experience did touch my own wild nature.

Or, I could paint them and PLAY in this odd lair of my own creation.


Writing Prompt:
Is there some rare occurrence in your life that  you’d like to write about?  Or draw or paint?


The Aubade is an old poetic form dating back to as early as the 12th century.  According to Edward Hirsch, an aubade is “A dawn song expressing the regret of parting lovers at daybreak…It remembers the ecstasy of union.  But it also describes a parting at dawn.”


by J. P. Dancing Bear

A parting at dawn

I awake unwilling to admit the time
or distance myself from your warmth.
The room is nothing more than the rise
and fall of your breathing.  I slip out
of sheets into a cold hour, ready
Myself to the traffic of my commute.
For long moments, I watch and am lost,
as if I had never before seen  you
sleeping, dreaming.


An excerpt from an interview by Kathryn Wagner with poet, J. P. Dancing Bear

“When you write poetry is there any one so-called technique that works for you?
I get a line or two that comes to me. Sometimes I know what the content of the poem will be — other times, I just have words burning in me, seeking a release. In either case, I hold them in my head for as long as I can.  I let them pool and become somewhat of a chant or a rhythm — something I can build from. Finally the dam breaks, they are ready to be written down, the other lines flow out. Then I do the business of cleaning up after the flood.
How has your writing evolved as you’ve grown as a poet?
I think the most significant thing for me is that I’ve slowed down. I take my time and therefore I don’t dash out five poems on the same subject, but one poem that stews on it.  I also think that I spend more time with the images and the metaphors — I explore them.”
 Poet and author, J.P. DANCING BEAR is the author of various chapbooks, including What Language, which won the 2002 Slipstream Poetry prize, and Blue Hand. He is the Editor-in-Chief of DMQ Review and the owner of Dream Horse Press, a publishing company.
Writing Prompt:
One thing about poetic forms is that you can usually find one to hold almost any feeling.  Write your own aubade.  Make it personal to you.


Writers’ Conferences

YES, SAY YES TO ATTENDING AT LEAST ONE WRITER’S CONFERENCE!  I have been to a few and would like to attend more.

The first one was a five-day long conference held in Ashland, Oregon.  I worked with one poet/instructor, Kim Addonizio.  At the end of the conference, each of the participants had produced some work with depth.  Five days with one instructor and a cohesive group, allowed us to explore in an atmosphere of ongoing  inspiration and safety.  This experience proved to be invaluable.

The second writer’s conference I attended, South Coast Writers Conference, has been held annually in Gold Beach, Oregon.  This was a three-day conference with an array of instructors from  several different genres.  Examples of some of the topics might include: “Healing through the Written Word,” or “Are You Allowed to Joke About That?,” or “Hero Quests and Graphic Novels,” or “Making Money in Magazine Articles.”  Participating writers could choose the classes that were of interest to them.  The instructors and themes vary from year-to-year.

The third was more of a poetry writing workshop, two days only.  This was just a lot of fun and introduced variety into the usual things I do as a writer.  Not to mention that I got to meet other writers and poets who, sort of, understand you…because they face what you are facing as a solitary writer.

Some of my deepest and most focused writing has come directly from these conferences.  Or they re-initiated, baptized me again in some way, into the craft I love.

For Your Consideration:
If you want to jumpstart your writing, go to a Writer’s Conference or Workshop. Just do it.


Entering the Wilderness with Vivaldi!

Today, rainy and wet outdoors, I decide “It’s a good painting day.”

Many an art instructor suggests that you “paint to music.”  I rev up Spotify to see what is on my playlist.  Ah, Antonio Vivaldi.  I wonder what inspired him?  Brushes and paints in the ready.  Take me away, Antonio!  Immediately I’m immersed in an intense and manic Vivaldi. I go manic on the canvas.  Then, abruptly, the music shifts to lyrical and light.  WHAT!

Do I stay with the manic?  Or do I transition into lyrical as I’m painting?  Or, do I turn the music off completely?  Guess what?  I, that means you too, can do whatever I (or you) want.  I can stay with Vivaldi on speed or adapt to lyrical…or shut the music off entirely.  Vivaldi’s Storm, at least, got this painting off the ground! Right?


Painting or Writing Prompt:
What does this music inspire in you?  Take three minutes and listen to this piece with pen and paper nearby.  Afterwards, take your journal and write away!  Let your writing be in direct response to where Vivaldi’s music takes you.  Or grab your paints, a large brush and a piece of 140# weight watercolor paper–a large sheet is the most fun–play Vivaldi’s Storm as you play on the substrate.