Category Archives: Judy Dykstra-Brown Stories

Little Duck’s Almost Novel Adventure

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One day Little Duck was bored, and although Big Duck was not bored at all, Little Duck decided he needed to be educated in the art of flying. “Just stretch your left wing out like this,” he instructed Big Duck. Of course, Big Duck had neither left wing nor right wing, so he stretched his left arm out as far as he could.

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“Very good,” said Little Duck. Then, “Stretch out your right wing!” he quacked like a drill sergeant, in a very bossy tone. And so Big Duck stretched his right arm out as far as he could.

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“Now, spread out your wing tip feathers and flap both wings at the same time,” demanded Little Duck; but try as he might, Big Duck just couldn’t do it.

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Upon further investigation, Little Duck decided that aside from a failure to coordinate wing movements, there was a further complication that foretold that for Big Duck, flying lessons would never come to fruition,

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for it seemed that in addition to malformed wings, Big Duck also lacked the webbed feet necessary for landing and propelling himself through water as well as the tail to serve as a rudder.

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“Very strange indeed!” shouted Little Duck from waaaaay down on the floor, where he had gone to investigate the matter. “In fact, in spite of your name and the color of your feet, you seem to resemble this palefoot human standing right over here to my right more than you do a duck.”

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“But I love you anyway,” Little Duck quacked at Big Duck, as he winged up to his shoulder to give him a reassuring peck on the cheek.

And, never one to give up on chances for adventure, Little Duck put on his thinking cap and tried to think of something Big Duck might be better able to accomplish. It was important after his last big failure that he give him a simple task more suited to his talents than flying seemed to be.

“Eureka!” he thought, and hopped up to share his idea with Big Duck, who at first looked somewhat dubious.

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But, in his usual inimitable fashion, Little Duck persevered. “As a team, we are unbeatable,” he insisted. “With my creativity and great mind and your mutated feathers capable of maneuvering a keyboard, we could write great literature!” And so, after a great deal of quacking and what passed for quacking on Big Duck’s part, the two settled into a collaboration.
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“It was a dark and stormy night,” lisped Little Duck.

“That sounds a bit trite to me,” countered Big Duck.

“Once upon a time,” quacked the littler of the two.

“Been done already,” Big Duck fired back.

“Duck!!!!!” shouted little Duck as he saw a wasp zeroing in on Big Duck’s ear.

“That sounds a bit better,” enthused Big Duck, and typed the first word of their document, complete with five exclamation marks and an ending quotation mark.

Knowing there was very little time for action, Little Duck soared through the air to Big Duck’s shoulder just in time to snap up the angry wasp in his martyred and heroic beak.

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“What comes next?” asked Big Duck, totally unaware that he’d just been saved from his biggest fear by Little Duck.”Did you notice that I remembered the closing parenthesis?” He asked, pointing proudly at their first completed sentence. “Do you have an idea for the second sentence?”

“There was a wasp about to sting you on the ear and I saved you by catching it in my beak!” shouted Little Duck.

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“Now who in the world is ever going to believe that?” protested Big Duck, and threw up his hand in defeat.

And that is how Little Duck’s Big Adventure never came to be written and why Big Duck’s name has not gone down in the history of literature, or even at the very least, in the blogger’s hall of fame.

THE END

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What to do with leftover Little Duck photos on the way between St. Paul and St. Louis with Big Duck doing all the driving.  I hit the publish button just as we arrived at the motel!  Now that is timing.

Crave more Little Duck adventures? https://judydykstrabrown.com/2016/09/25/travels-with-ducks-the-continuing-saga-of-little-duck-episode-5/

Locked Secrets

                                                                      Locked Secrets

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I’d just received my school’s math prize and my Uncle Jimmy, after handing me a twenty dollar bill, had, in his usual self-effacing manner, proclaimed that I must have gotten my smarts from him.  “How is it that you are both the pretty one and the smart one in your family?”  He teased.  My sister Eleanor was out of the room at the time.  If she’d been there and I hadn’t, he would have been proclaiming her the prettiest.  We all knew this about our uncle.  He adored us, and was not above flattery in revealing the fact.

This time, however, he had overlooked  both the precociousness and competitiveness of my two-and-a-half-year-old youngest sister, Stephanie.

“Elebben, eight, twenny, fiteen,” she recited proudly!

“Well, forgive me, Missy. Aren’t you a smart young lady, knowing how to count?” He reached into his lumpy pocket and tossed her a nickel.  Amazingly, she caught it.  Perhaps she was going to be the first athletic one in the family.

“Fohty-two!” she exclaimed proudly. “free, sebben-elebben, one, one, one.” This time he extracted his wallet, took out a one-dollar bill and handed it to her.  Putting his wallet back in his back pocket, he turned one side pocket inside out. “But that’s it, Teffie.  No more money. If you want to go on counting, it will have to be for free.”

His other pocket still bulged with its contents: coins, a rubber ball to throw for our dog Pudge, oatmeal cookie bits in a small plastic bag–also for Pudge.  My Uncle Jimmy always proclaimed that doggie treats were a real gyp and that no self-respecting dog would perform for such a dry, tasteless mouthful.  So, he preferred to bake his own dog treats.

My sisters and I agreed, and sometimes we would perform, hoping to be rewarded with one of Pudge’s treats.  We were all constantly performing for our uncle, whom we adored. He was the one person who paid more attention to us than to our parents when he visited.  He was our favorite babysitter, and our parents’ favorite as well, as he always waved away payment.

He would take us to Fern’s Cafe for strawberry malts, greasy hamburgers and mashed potatoes and gravy, since Fern didn’t have a French fryer. He took us for wild rides over cow pastures in his beat up old red Ford pickup.  Once he took us to a matinee cartoon show in Pierre, sixty miles away, and got us home and in bed again before my folks got home.  We were sworn to secrecy and so far as I know, none of us ever told.  I know for sure I didn’t.  My Uncle Jimmy had my undying loyalty.  I would have borne torture before giving away any of his secrets.

Sadly, Uncle Jimmy died during one of those wild rides across the South Dakota prairie.  This time he was flying solo over a dam grade and veered too far to the right, rolling the pickup.  He drowned trying to get out of the passenger door, the pickup mired driver-side down in the mud at the bottom of the dam.  We had always felt like such ladies as Uncle Jimmy graciously got out of his pickup to personally open the door from the outside for us.  We didn’t know then, as we know now, that it was a peculiarity of that door that it would only open from the outside.

“Thank God the girls weren’t with him,” my mother sobbed to my father, as they sat side-by-side at the kitchen table, my dad’s arms around her.  It was past midnight, and they were sitting in that room furthest away from our bedrooms, thinking we wouldn’t hear her sobs.  But, unable to sleep, we had stolen out to the living room to listen––all consumed by that missing of Uncle Jimmy that would last our whole lives.

“Oh, he never would have driven that wildly if the girls were with him,” my dad said.  But Eleanor and I and even Steffie just exchanged that look that we were to exchange so many times in our future lives together––that look that children exchange that would tell their parents that they know something their parents don’t know––if only their parents took the time to notice. Even Steffie understood.  And Uncle Jimmy was right when he proclaimed her wise beyond her years.  Even Steffie never told.

(This is a work of fiction.)

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Your Days are Numbered.” What’s the date today? Write it down, remove all dashes and slashes, and write a post that mentions that number.

Good Still Exists Everywhere!!

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Operation Feed is a local organization that distributes food weekly to 92 families in San Juan Cosala, Jalisco, Mexico. This year they’ve added meat, fresh vegetables and fruit to the staples formerly provided.

                                                      Good Still Exists Everywhere!!!

 

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Pay It Forward.”Tell us about a time when you responded to an act of kindness with one of your own.

Today, for some reason, I did something I have never done before.  Instead of writing to this prompt, I decided to read what others had written first.  Why this was so, I don’t know.  Perhaps it was because I had the feeling many probably had that it is embarrassing to talk about this subject.  How in the world do you write about it without sounding (and being) narcissistic or self-congratulatory?  There is no way to talk about our own good acts without sounding either falsely humble or like a braggart.

I say perhaps this is the reason, because I was not even conscious of registering what the prompt was.  I just went to the first page listed on the Daily Prompt page and clicked on the first square I saw.  Unfortunately, it was at this exact moment that I got called away by Yolanda to talk about some household matter, and when I came back, I saw these words by Marilyn Armstrong:

“In Judaism, you lose points for telling anyone about your good deeds. The only ones that really count are the ones you do in secret. Pity that has never really caught on :-)”

Thinking it was her blog I was reading, I responded with this comment:

“I have never heard this before, Marilyn, but it sounds like it would make a great theme for a story or poem. I think we need to hear about the positive things that happen in the world. We are all so weighted down by the terrible ones. But perhaps the secret is to broadcast the good acts of others rather than your own. If you look at blogs like Mark’s or several others whose names have slipped my mind, they are often publicizing gross wrongs in the world and encouraging people to draft letters of protest or sign petitions or to give their support by other means. He is not blowing his own horn, but speaking out of a desire to effect change in the world. These are acts we can all see and in promoting them and him, we can spread the word of positive acts not our own. I am not disputing what you say, understand. I agree that people who constantly tell you of all their good works are irritating. On the other hand those who merely demonstrate their own good works by their actions are such wonderful role models that they have no need to blow their own horns.”

But now, the plot thickens.  After hitting the “Send” button, I scrolled up to realize that the blog I was writing on was really The happy Quitter’s blog.  The statement by Marilyn was just a comment!  So, it became necessary to fire off this comment to its author, nonsmokingladybug!

“Darn. Ladybug, I came back to my computer and saw Marilyn’s comment and thought it was her blog I was writing on so addressed this comment to her! I can’t erase it from your blog, but please do if you wish to. This is what happens when I let life interfere with blogging..Ha. I think you also requested I not give you links, which I no longer do. Your point about blowing one’s own horn is a good one as you can see from my response above. Please do erase it if you wish.”

To this, she graciously replied that she saw no reason to erase it as I’d made some good points. She went on to say, in a different comment,

“The long comment won’t matter to Marilyn, since you made it on my blog (grin).
If I might answer that. I think the world is full with good, but many of us don’t see it anymore, because their focus has shifted. Do we need to point out the good in the world? I don’t think so, I think we have to point out that it is still existing everywhere.”

to which I answered:

“What is the difference between pointing out the good in the world and pointing out that it is still existing everywhere? I think they are one and the same thing.  I get so depressed when I see the violence reported in the news, and sitting at home and merely reading about terrible act after terrible act, we are drawn into depression and deluded into thinking there is nothing we can do about it. But when we get  active on a local level, we can see firsthand what wonderful things are being done by so many–and the changes they are effecting.  These messages of how the world can be and is being healed need to get out as well. As you say, this is going on around us all the time.  This is what encourages people to try to effect changes themselves.”

I live in a community where there are incredible numbers of people–both Mexican and expat– getting involved to make life better for kids, older people and the pueblos in general.  I feel so lucky to live in a place where the positive natures of people can so easily be seen.  I know when most people see the name MEXICO, they think of cartels and corrupt politicians, but there is so much love and positive energy here as well.  These are the things we are more likely to see in our daily lives than in the news.  As you say, good is still existing everywhere.”

At this point, I realized that in these two comments I had actually written a complete blog post, so instead of sending the last comment to nonsmokingladybug, I decided to publish it here.

If you’d like to see The happy Quitter’s original statement that prompted this confused chain of messages, please go HERE.

For news of wonderful things going on in my community, you might want to read these stories:

https://judydykstrabrown.com/2014/11/02/agustins-story/
https://judydykstrabrown.com/2015/07/21/camp-estrella/
https://judydykstrabrown.com/2015/07/23/the-boy-in-the-blue-feathered-mask/
https://judydykstrabrown.com/2015/07/26/camp-estrella-final-show/


One No Trump: JNW Prompt Generator

Today, in honor of my sixth posting to Jennifer’s site, I decided to take the first six prompts given by her prompt generator and to try to use them all, in order, in a poem, story or essay. What occurred was this short short story. The phrases that were generated were: hurt awareness, fair incident, muddy kitchen, innocent ring, tired reputation, stupid recommendation.

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One No Trump

I wouldn’t say that she was totally disillusioned with life, but she did carry this air of hurt awareness that one unfair incident after another had worked against her best interests in life. She remained stubbornly sure that her choices, if they had worked out, would have led to a glorious life. No one even tried to convince her that her goals and means toward them were destined to fail from the first–not because the plans themselves were not worthy ones, but because she had an innate talent for messing them up.

She started in working diligently to attack the one wrong thing in her life she could most easily alter: her muddy kitchen. When the first giant crashes of thunder had been loosed upon the world, the dogs had set up a tremendous chorus of howls, scratches at the door and barks. She had let them in immediately, not realizing that the little one had been amusing himself in her new flower bed. In their great rush, one had upset the water dish and that combined with Hampton’s muddy paws, had made quick work of her earlier labors in creating a spotless kitchen.

She washed the mop out in the kitchen sink, creating a second dark ring around the sink. It was the innocent ring—dark black—that paralleled the slightly raised reddish-rust ring a few inches above. It was that red ring that she needed to scrub off before the break of day. It would not do to let anyone see that guilty ring. No matter what her justifications were, the world would not believe her. She had one of those unlikable faces that turned people against her, no matter how reasonable her arguments were. It was too late to alter the frown lines that pulled her lips downward, the darting eyes that said “I am not entirely believable” and the hands that wrung themselves by habit.

It was not, given the record of her entire life, that she did not have an adequate reputation—respected family, charitable acts, donations to the correct causes. It was just that over the years she had started espousing strange causes and slowly her actions had started becoming a bit odd as well. Chasing odd cars down the rows of the Walmart shopping center screaming abuse at their drivers for the sentiments revealed on their bumper stickers. Standing on a corner on Main Street holding up a placard that read “Polluter!” each time a car or truck passed, spewing black smoke.

She called the parents of children she witnessed bullying other children as she sat on a park bench near the school crossing and harangued the parents of large families about zero population growth. She was so scathing in her criticism of her bridge partner when, even though he had opening count himself, he had failed to raise her one trump opening bid, that he’d dropped out of bridge club; and when no one else would consent to be her partner, she, too, had been forced to quit.

So, it wasn’t so much that she had a bad reputation but that she had a tired reputation. She just couldn’t bother with the niceties anymore. She said what she thought—without taking tact into account. Bastards didn’t deserve tact. But even her best friends, the few of them she had left, admitted that her behavior was becoming ever more aggressive and bizarre.

And this is how she came to have that damned second ring in her sink. She knew she never should have gotten into a discussion about politics with anyone in this town, let alone a stupid plumber who lived up to all the stereotypes of plumbers when he knelt down showing his butt crack.  What tipped the balance was the cretin smugness of the plumber as, seeing her Hillary sticker on the fridge, he declared that he was going to vote for Trump just to see the fun that resulted.

This, coupled with the coincidence of his request that she give him the big wrench, had caused her, for that one moment in her life, to act to the full extent of her wishes. She gave him the wrench full force over the back of his head. He then departed this life with no fuss, no struggle, merely sinking forward into a full bow, his forehead against her kitchen floor.

There was a lot of blood, and although it was an unplanned act, she congratulated herself in her choice of locales—the kitchen being the best possible place to get rid of the evidence. That was why she had taken care of the hard job first, digging the new flower bed a good bit deeper, dragging his body out, head in a black garbage bag pulled tight, pouring the quick lime and then covering the body well with soil, planting the bushes that would establish the deepest roots. Putting the ring of flowers around the bushes and raking a solid cover of largish stones over them, fooling herself into believing this would discourage the new terrier’s digging instincts.

So now, taking the pup’s paws into account, she supposed she’d have additional work to do on the flowerbed, too; but her first priority was the blood rings in the sink. Like Lady Macbeth, no matter what she did, those stains held fast. She rued, then, that penurious nature which had caused her not to replace the porous old sink, older than she by far, that held stubbornly on to everything that passed its way–blueberries, coffee. Blood. She scrubbed to no avail.

Looking out the window, she could see where the puppy had uprooted Peony bushes and flowers and ground cover. More work there to complete before sunup. Hours ago, she had called a housekeeping company in another town to ask about the best way to remove bloodstains from a worn porcelain sink. The woman had been no help. “Call a plumber,” she had said,“He should be able to solve your problem!” Stupid recommendation.

https://topicgenerator.wordpress.com/      https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/que-sera-sera/

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Devil # 3

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Helpless.” Helplessness: that dull, sick feeling of not being the one at the reins. When did you last feel like that –- and what did you do about it?

Okay, I was going to give this prompt a “miss” and went to the new prompt generator I’ve been using for the past few days.  I hit the button and was served up the two-word prompt: “Ill Devil”.  At first I read this as #3 Devil, and I must admit, I got a chill, because what I immediately thought about when I read the prompt was the third time I was in a near-death situation where I felt totally helpless.  What are the chances, I thought, that these two prompts would line up?  This must be something I’m meant to write about.  But then reason stepped in and I realized this prompt always gave an adjective and a noun.  What they probably meant by the prompt was ill Devil. (Changing the capital to a small “i” clarified the prompt.) But then I realized that ill devil described the occurrence I am trying not to talk about as much as #3 devil did, so I guess, prodded on twice by fate or coincidence or synchronicity, I will try.

I have written to a similar prompt twice in 2015, so probably most of you who read my blog have chanced upon one of those posts, but when I wrote to a similar prompt in June of 2014, I wrote a different piece and since I had few of my present-day readers then, I’ll mention that THIS is what I wrote.  It may not be obvious that the topic given in today’s prompt was what I was really talking about then, however, because it was a poem where I actually stood to one side of what I was really remembering and wrote about the subject as an onlooker rather than a participant.  I only alluded to the real subject, which is what I’m going to attempt to write about today. That real subject is Ted Bundy and how otherwise respectable women sometimes fall prey to such predators.  Okay, deep breath. I’m going to tell to the world something I have actually told to very few people. Yes, this is a true story.

Devil # 3

Nineteen seventy-something. In the bar with friends.
When you are in your twenties, the partying never ends.
It was rodeo season  and the big one was in town.
As one by one they ordered drinks, I couldn’t turn them down.
We were a rather rowdy bunch of teachers in our prime
Devoted in the classroom, but wild on our own time.

The bar was crowded hip to hip, the music barely heard
over the loud cacophony of laugh and shouted word.
It was my turn to buy a round. I struggled towards the bar.
My polite “Excuse me’s!” really hadn’t gotten me too far
when a guy appeared in front of me and moved the crowd aside
as though he had appointed himself to be my guide.

As I returned with eight full drinks, again he stemmed the tide
by walking close in front of  me and spreading elbows wide.
He smiled and then departed, back to the teeming mass.
Impressive that he had not even tried to make a pass!
My friends all wondered who he was. I said I had no clue.
Tall and dark and ivy-league, he vanished from our view.

This story happened long ago. Some details I’ve forgotten,
and any memories he retains, you’ll learn were ill-begotten.
I think we danced a dance or two. I know we talked awhile.
I liked his fine intelligence, his low-key polite style.
At three o’clock the barman’s bell commenced it’s clanging chime
and I made off to find my friends, for it was closing time.

Two lines of men had split the bar, lined up back to back.
Their hands locked and their arms spread wide–they moved into the pack.
One line moved east, the other west, forcing one and all
Either out the front door or towards the back door hall.
I was forced out the back way–out into the alley.
My friends and I had made no plans of where we were to rally

and so I walked around the block, sure that was where they waited,
but there was no one there at all–the crowd had soon abated.
I went back to the alleyway to see if they were there.
but all was dark and still, and soon I began to fear
that both carloads of friends had thought I was with the other.
I had no recourse but to walk, though I prayed for another.

I combed my mind to try to think of anyone at all
living in this part of town where I could go to call
a friend to come and get me and furnish me a ride
for 3 a.m. was not a time to be alone outside.
There were no outside phone booths and I lived so far away
I simply had to rouse someone, but what was I to say?

But since I had no other choice I thought I’d check once more
if any single soul was waiting at the bar’s front door.
And as I left the alley to be off to see,
I saw a new familiar face looking back at me.
It was my dancing partner, his face split in a grin.
It seems that he was going to save me once again.

He had asked me earlier if needed a ride,
but I had told him wisely that I had friends inside
and so I thought he’d left, but I could see he was still there.
Yet, ride home with a stranger?  Did I really dare?
And yet I had no other choice, abandoned as I was.
And so I said I guess that yes, I would, simply because

I knew there was just one of him and I was young and strong.
And he seemed kind, polite and gentle.  What could go so wrong?
His car was just a block away. Our walk was short and brief.
And when he pointed out his car, I felt a great relief.
For it was a convertible–and easy to escape
If I detected the first signs of robbery or rape!

He opened up the door for me. I got in the front seat.
But as he started up the car, my heart skipped a beat.
For from the bushes, two more men emerged and jumped inside–
one man in the backseat, the other at my side!
He pulled out into the street, though I protested so.
I didn’t really want a ride, so please, just let me go!

(And here I have to beg off and say I’ll finish this story tomorrow.  Right now my heart is pumping and my head throbbing as though I’m re-enacting this whole tale physically as well as mentally.  I’m totally exhausted.  Why I decided to write this in rhyme I don’t know. Perhaps I thought it would be easier, or more fun or more lighthearted, but there is simply no way to write this from any other frame of mind but the terror I felt that night. So, sorry, but I will resume tomorrow. You all know that I’m here telling the story, so be assured that the worst didn’t happen…but the story is by no means over, so join me tomorrow for the rest.  I, for one, could really use a drink, but it is only 1:40 in the afternoon so I’ll find some other means of escape.)

To see the conclusion of this poem, go HERE.

If you’d like to try out Jennifer’s new prompt generator, go HERE.

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In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “The Kindness of Strangers.” When was the last time a stranger did something particularly kind, generous, or selfless for you? Tell us what happened!

I was about to tell a story and then had a fleeting memory that I’d already written about this occasion, so I searched backwards in my blog and although I couldn’t find that story, I did find a poetry version of two kindnesses by strangers that changed my entire life.  If you’ve read it before, I apologize, but since I don’t even remember my own poems and stories, perhaps you’ll read this with new eyes as well. It’s a bit long.  Sorry, Ann and Audrey. I’m trying for more brevity lately and I have shortened this by one stanza. Hope you enjoy this or get something from it, be it new for you or a repeat:

Unsolicited Kindness

The stranger on an airplane in the seat right next to me
never said a single word, and so I let her be
until our arrival, when I prepared to stand
and she produced a paperback—put it in my hand.

“I think it’s time for you to read this,” she said, then went away.
I didn’t say a word to her. Didn’t know what to say.
That book, however, changed my life and attitude and choices—
encouraged me to listen close to interior voices.

Buscaglia, Jampolsky and all of Carl Jung’s books
drew my mind away from appearances and looks
and into that finer world of instinct and of mind;
then drew me westward to the sea and others of my kind.

After a writer’s function, a stranger sent to me
“The Process of Intuition,” which I read from A to Z.
I read it twenty times or so, then sent it to a friend.
Then bought up every copy left to give as gifts and lend.

I don’t remember talking to the one who sent it to me,
but if I need a proof of faith, I guess that this will do me.
For if I follow instincts that hint and prod and clue me,
I believe there is some force that draws the next thing through me

I don’t believe in any faith that has a name or church.
I do believe, however, that I’m guided in my search
by something that unites us and sets our pathways right
so long as we listen to our own interior sight

that urges us to follow the right side of our brain
even though those choices are logically inane.
I know that it takes many types of brains to run the world,
but for me it’s intuition that when carefully unfurled

guides me best—towards art and words and unplanned days and oceans
and prompts me make a Bible of what others may call notions.
And so to simplify I’d say it’s vital to have faith in
that voice we’re all a part of that leads us from within.

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Music is a mirror, not a map. Looking in it we may see what we are and what we were, but looking at someone else’s song as a prediction of our own future is like looking in a fun house mirror and believing it is reality. All representations are a fun fiction–a hope, a faulty remembrance.  If you want to know your future, just live it.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Mix Tape” -Put together a musical playlist of songs that describe your life, including what you hope your future entails.