How my lucky number connected me to people around the world

Photo by Quino Al on Unsplash

Elevator jazz assaulted my ear as the phone pressed against it. An occasional disembodied syrupy voice interrupted, “Your expected wait time is two minutes.” I was borrowing my neighbor’s landline since the cell service in this valley is non-existent.

A man with a thick Indian accent piped through from somewhere far away, “Hello and thanks for calling Frontier; how can I help you?”

After spending three months living in a Tipi on my friend’s land, I was more than excited to move into a little straw-bale cottage a few miles down the road. The walls were two feet thick, plastered…


How failing taught me more than succeeding

Photo by Patrick Tomasso on Unsplash

Last summer, I enrolled in an Essay/Creative Nonfiction class with Gotham Writers, a New York City online writing school. Half a year later, I can safely say it changed my life. I was a writer before this class: a professional songwriter and a devoted Morning Pages writer. But essays, in my mind, were boring things we wrote in school to get a grade. I was very wrong about that assumption.

Beth Livermore Hersch, the essay teacher, is a prize-winning, widely published journalist, but her pedigree is not what lit me on fire. It was her passion for essay and short…


Sometimes angels ride Harleys

Photo by Julián Nielfa Gracia on Unsplash

The warm, low-angle light of the setting sun blasted through the windshield, blew through my sunglasses, and pummeled my squinting eyes. I glanced down for a reprieve from the glare and noticed the red needle on the gas gauge kissing E.

My butt was numb from sitting in the driver’s seat. I guess Marilyn’s was too because she turned to me from the passenger side and said, “I have to pee. Can we get off at the next exit?” …


Writer. Photographer. Musician. Mountain-loving chocolate hound.

Photo by my friend Ellie Stephano, 2010–1st summer in Alaska

My first rejection as a writer came from a Reader’s Digest editor. I was eleven years old, living in the Rocky Mountains west of Denver. My English teacher, Mr. Upzack, sent a note home asking my parents if he could submit my homework assignment to the publication. It didn’t go well.

I wish that story were sitting in a scrapbook somewhere. I remember it was about a bear family with two cubs. The narrator was one of the kid cubs. …


An unexpected moment of grief shared with an unusual friend.

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Late afternoon sun angles across the meadow, creating a facade of warmth on this chilly early March day. My black rubber chore boots squish in the mud left by the last rain as I make my way down the garden trail.

Moments before it is crushed beneath the weight of me, a soft purple glow poking up on the edge of the path catches my eye.

Hello Crocus.

Wow, spring is here for sure now. Never mind that tonight night it will dip to 22 degrees Fahrenheit and maybe snow a few inches. …


Emotional shopping = comfort food.

Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

I just lost my mind. I’m about to drop $200 online buying new clothes. You know those cute little boutique clothing ads that pop up on Facebook from time to time when you’re scrolling? They are the scourge of the earth.

It’s not the $200 that bothers me, although I’m sure the car payment is a better use of those funds. Or how about groceries? In the past, in our pre-Covid reality, shopping in thrift stores was one of my favorite outings — a form of self-love. No guilt, I was buying recycled clothes. …


A prophetic dream foretells a fork in the road of life.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

It is twilight. Lavender-blue glow fills the sky.

I am alone, standing on the side of a two-lane blacktop road feeling lost. The white line painted on the asphalt at my feet stretches for miles to the north.

I hear a distant hum behind me to the south. A black car approaches and slows down, stopping on the road in front of me. The passenger window is down. A gentle-spirited man with long black hair peppered with gray strands falling well past his shoulders has one hand on the wheel. …


And one woman’s rite of passage to becoming a sailor.

Photo by Andrew Gober

Kali Kirkendall walks to the stove in her underwear, spins the knob on and brings a blue flame to life beneath the kettle.

The sailboat sways with the rhythm of the ocean as she hangs onto the counter and props the Aero Coffee Press between various heavy items stacked together in the sink so it doesn’t tip over. She pours the boiling water through the press then steps back to her bunk and layers on clothing to stave off the 4 a.m. chill.

Steaming hot mug of coffee in hand, she makes her way up the starboard side stern rail…


And what you should never, ever say to a rockstar.

Photo by ActionVance on Unsplash

The memory of a live concert experience is especially poignant now, having just survived the worst year of everyone’s life. So many of us long to be in a crowd of people, hear live music, or go to a concert with our friends again.

The pandemic decimated business-as-usual and collapsed live music.

It took a wrecking ball to venues, even as the buildings stand as ghost homages to a life we all once took for granted. Local bands in local dives and rockstars in stadiums have been sidelined, silenced, and secluded. Relegated to Zoom feeds and Facebook streams — the show must go on.

My prayer today is…

Michelle McAfee

Writer Musician Photographer Wilderness Lover Creative Instigator Gardener

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