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150 words
We asked a random assortment of Western North Carolina women to send us a description of themselves, written as if they were the protagonist in a novel. We gave them a 150 word limit and sat back and watched the magic.

She stood on the gravel path, head down, keeping the rain off her glasses with her cloak hood. There was dirt under her fingernails from the afternoon gardening (onions! kale! tarragon!) and she slipped her hand out of her pocket to see if she could rinse some of the muck off. Handy wearing black, when you use your clothes as a hand-towel.

The rain was slacking now and she heard drumming coming from the clearing ahead. Almost time. Her mind wandered to the ongoing creation of the perfect multifaith joke. She and her colleagues had a beginning—Moses, Jesus and Cybele were on a magic carpet, headed for London to pick up Muhammed, Quan Yin and Shiva—but were stuck there.

The rain stopped and she walked into the circle, putting flowers on the altar. Pulling her hood back, she turned her face to the north and waited.

Byron Ballard, Asheville

Working women know what I mean when I say my life is about finding balance in change. The home of my childhood was one of routine. In that routine, each day as the one before, there was free space. Time for wonder, climbing trees, pick-up games, and swim meets. The adolescent me was a competitive distance swimmer. In the first time of change, free space evaporated. I became a mom. The discipline of distance swimming helped me to cope with the two professions. Certified public accounting. Soccer mom. My home was scheduled. Scheduling is different from routine each scheduled day different from the next. A youth group filled Sunday with river runs and horses is no rest. Boys on four sides of Asheville at once. They grew up to herald another change. I’m now a swimming accounting granny. Granny’s home has some new things. Free space for granddaddy. Deep chairs by windows with blankets and books. My recently tuned piano. His restored violin. Hiking trails wander up a rock face mountain. I’m using those trails discovering the strong and peaceful temperaments of the families that led to me and wondering what the future will bring.

BJ Keel, Asheville

Dull pressure and needle like chest pains urge Kathy’s sluggish brainfrom the unconscious realm of a Saturday morning sleep. The fat black cat kneads, purrs and crashes his head into hers. She pulls Satchmo off her chest, scratches his chin, ears, rubs his belly, and whispers promises of food. Sophie, her curly fur ball, barks and displaces Satchmo. A lavender laced breeze filters through the screen, reminding her that there is dirt to dig, flowers to plant and mulch to spread. Gentle tapping from the next room assures hers that her sweet partner isalready up and sending joy through cyberspace. She contemplates a morning of coffee and cards, then yard sales and yard work. Her throat constricts as she realizes that this is the sacred stuff of her life.

Sophie licks her face clearing the tears of gratitude. Kathy Robinson, Asheville
She saw herself as the heroine of her own literary affairs du coeurs. She’d had three husbands, an interdimensional relationship with a famous Russian, a liaison with a younger lover doing time in the federal penitentiary at Butner. Her most recent passion was with a man who’d left due to fear of his own magnificence. Drama spilled into poetry, stories, novels. It was her identity, her inspiration. She wore mostly black. At fifty-nine, however, she became too wise for sorry stories. Angst loosened its narrative grip. She stopped coloring her hair, let it wind free in wild silver curls. She smiled a lot. For the first time, she experimented with the possibilities of yellow. But then, sitting in front of the keyboard on this almost spring morning, chickadees trilling in the bare branches of a sycamore, she wondered what in the world she could write about now that she was happy.

Rachelle Rogers, Asheville, NC

rachellerogers.comShe was certain only that her way was the correct way in which to move through life. As a result of this, Emily Acheson found companionship in persons far beyond her own age of six-teen. She found solace in that which did not appease your typical teenager. She wrote poetry detailing her unique view of the world, but kept it secret. She mused over the possible reasons why one might wish to fall in love, and found no longing in her self. Emily had forced an illusion of maturity over her being that frightened awayfantasy and replaced it with a need for truth. A truth can be a most unpleasant and shocking way offorming words. Yet Emily found that through truth in her words, no matter the vagueness of those words, she was able to distinguish between her friends and those who wished to bask in her clarity.

Emily Acheson-Adams, Newland

This solitary Me stays hunched over my computer in silence, save for the clicking of keys. I like the absence of what I don’t know I’ve missed. From my writing room on this mountain—to the left, crowds of trees; to the right, rocks, boulders, tangle of woods; and the middle distance, the Smoky Mountains—nature, the so-real part of me. The surreal part is this swollen world of humans rushing about Doing Things. They create poignantly noisy footfalls across Earth, fast, faster, fastest. I imagine the ant farm my brother had as a kid, where I’d watch the ants’ lives through the glass, and they had no awareness of me as necessary to their existence, only my giant head hovering outside their universe. Now still, I stare through the pane, and when I press my finger to the glass, I can’t feel anything, and no one can feel me.

Kathryn Magendie, Maggie Valley

The phone is ringing; the cell phone is ringing, and she’s on line responding to 54 messages in her inbox. Her mind reviews next week’s tasks: packing to move into a new home; attacking piles of papers spilling from her desk onto the floor that have needed attention for weeks, flashing on: Mercury is retrograde, good; producing a band’s concert that demands steady energy; editing a manuscript for welcome money; and there’s the continuous hum of her Wednesday evening women’s writing circle. Does this really look like her life? Something is missing here. It must be those moments of delicious downtime, the AHA! at the sight of crocus heads and daffodils, the warm bleed-through of a first false Spring; a surprise gift in the mail; and there’s optimism, that all is perfect, that what’s here is gratefully held, that an unseen hand is directing it all. She sighs, remembers, and moves into her day.

Aile Shebar, RN, MS, Reiki Master


After I Died
by Barbara Marlowe


My closest friends cleaned the house. They were surprised at the dust. A lingering trace of Must De Cartier gave a sense of faded elegance. They smelled the soap I bought in Israel. Found 900 dollars stashed in a pair of green and cracked elf shoes. Laughed at the vibrator in the drawer next to the bed. Cried when they found adult pampers hidden under a pile of clothes. They argued over the Huichol Indian mask and the African tapestry of dark brown and beige rough fiber. Divided up the shawls. Left the jewelry box for my nieces. Sent the rhinestone hairpins to the funeral home, so my ashes would sparkle. They found letters addressed to children I never had and all the poems. They disagreed about the headstone: “She Loved to Dance” or “She Never Reached Her Potential - Her Boundaries Kept Expanding”. It was just as I imagined.

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