Author Archives: Claire St. Hilaire

About Claire St. Hilaire

Claire believes that to tell a story you must listen to one first. Her books and stories are fictional tales based on the emotions and experiences of individuals who have shared their own stories with her. She is passionate about giving a voice to those who are not heard by creating fictional events and then bringing them to life with true human experiences.

A Love Letter

Unphoto.com/Arnel Hasanovic

Unphoto.com/Arnel Hasanovic

Dearest,

A year ago today you stood before God, family, and friends and promised always to stand by my side.

And yet, my love, I remember a promise made earlier that has much deeper meaning for me. A promise made in private, that no law, religious or civil bound you to keep. On a quiet evening you looked into my eyes and spoke these words, I will do whatever it takes, so that when you look back on your life, you can say ‘I had a beautiful life’. No man has ever worked more diligently, more tirelessly, to keep a promise.

But, my darling, you have already given me a beautiful life. On this day, one year ago, you guaranteed my happiness when you took my hand in yours and called me your own.

I look into your eyes, and I see an honest man. I see the bravery of a soldier. I see the charm of a farm boy. I see the intellect of an academic. I see my future. I see you, my love.

No matter what life brings us, I will always be thankful to God for the time he has given me with you. You will forever be the man who gave me a beautiful life.

I love you.

Forever Yours,

Your Wife


A Candle for the Number

Free Images Laura Morariu

On this thirty-first day of October, I pause for a moment’s reflection

I take time to remember the forgotten

Not those whose lives fill the pages of history’s book

But those whom the ancient texts overlook

 

It is easy to read a number written on paper or carved into stone

Commemorating the dead unknown

No other life-story written out for the world to recall

Accomplishments lost – both great and small

 

But those numbers represent people who fill earth’s graves

They were lovers, refugees, dreamers and slaves

They worked hard, creating a foundation for a better life

They clung to hope through war and strife

 

They carried with them experience, knowledge and wisdom

They never asked to be a nameless victim

Their killers, tormentors, abusers have their place in humanity’s diary

But the innocent dead are lost to our memory

 

Even today we hear of the thousands persecuted and dead

But a far away number doesn’t turn our head

So, I will light a Hallows Eve candle for the numbered deceased

To grieve for the dead and to hope for peace


Reflection on the Lake

Freeimages.com/Debbie Wogen

Freeimages.com/Debbie Wogen

Standing here among the mountains, I intend to enjoy the pristine peaks, glacial waters and ancient pines until the sun disappears into the night. I find an open slab of granite overlooking the alpine lake. The warm contours of the rock feel luxurious in contrast to the frigid air invading my lungs. At this moment, I wish I could be a reptile and just curl up on this rock and sunbathe all afternoon.

After arranging myself comfortably in the sunshine, I allow my mind to run off where it likes and quickly become mesmerized by the crystal lake below me. The water is perfectly clear on the surface and then descends into deeper and deeper blues until it finally disappears into the black unknown.

It is still early spring, and the snow has not completely disappeared from the ground. Even the lake still flaunts a few remaining fragments of ice reposing on the surface. The sun continues to rise in the sky. Calmed by the bickering birds above me and the still waters below, I lose myself in contemplation.

I think back over the recent seasons of my own life – the woes that not too long ago inundated my life like a winter storm. Looking down at the ice decorating the water, I recall the times that, I too, froze over during my life. When winter comes, when the wind lashes against you, and those around you turn cold, what else is there to do?

Like freezing water, my mind slowed. I would lock my thoughts away. The natural fluidity of my ideas and hopes would harden. I became as firm and immovable as the glaciers that feed these waters.

In this state, no one could hurt me. I could survive. I could stand tall and hold my own through the long darkness of winter. But I too, like many glaciers, began to crack from the immense pressure under which I placed myself.

There is a time for strength and a time for serenity. I started to see that it was time for me to change. I let myself enjoy the sun. I opened up like the flowers around me. I chose to be happy and once again splash and tumble in the world around me.

I lie back on the rock now to ponder the sky. The granite beneath me warms my back, and the sun caresses my face. I am glad that spring has come again.


Perception

Unsplash.com/Joshua Earle

You have been on the trail for a few hours now. You are beginning to feel it in your calves and lungs. But, you are nearing your destination. You can’t wait to experience the rush of reaching the top- to stand high among the peaks where the mountain’s ancient knowledge seems to surge through you like an icy current.

As you come around the final bend, the sun breaks through the trees and the wind rushes past you. Victory at last. Sore from the steep climb, you wander slowly across the timeworn rocks, avoiding the sinewy brush poking up through the granite.

But, you are not alone. Ahead of you, standing on the edge of a great precipice, with his arms stretched out wide, stands a man. His back is turned toward you, and you cannot see his face. His hands briefly form a fist, then open upwards to let the forceful mountain wind sweep over them. Without turning around, he whispers, “Beautiful isn’t it?”

Is he daring and victorious? Or is he desperate and reckless?


You step out onto the sidewalk. The sun tries to warm your skin, but the rays move sluggishly through the brisk autumn air. Your feet enjoy the luxurious cocoon of foam and rubber separating them from the merciless pavement.
Your heart beats a little faster in anticipation of the coming exertion. Your joints brace for impact. You slip in your ear buds and instantly your blood races to the beat of your favorite song.

You have a few blocks to warm up before you reach the trail, and your run begins in earnest. You start with a refreshing jog that has you bouncing down the sidewalk to the music. You are just waiting for your lungs to catch up to your heart.

Suddenly, you hear the measured thuds of someone running behind you. You turn your head and see, not one, but two people are quickly overtaking you. The front-runner is a young woman. Her chest rises and falls quickly as she races past. She doesn’t notice you when she passes; her whole being is focused on speed. She is pushing her body to the limit.

A few yards behind her sprints a young man. Sweat drips down his face, but he doesn’t wipe it away. He too is completely focused. Not on the trail, however, but on the woman ahead of him. His muscular legs reach forward in long, grasping strides. But, as they both disappear around the bend, the woman continues to outpace him.

Did you just witness a woman fleeing an abuser? Or did you just see a woman winning an aerobic challenge?


You hear the rumble of the ocean waves outside your cabin. You are tired from the drive here, but the warm ocean sands and cool waves call to you. Besides, the sun will set soon, and you don’t want to miss it.

When you reach the beach, the sun has already begun adorning the sky in ravishing colors and regal patterns. As you sink your bare feet into the sand, you realize how small you are in the grand scheme of existence. You make your way, awestruck, to where the water meets the sand. You splash your feet flirtatiously among the army of waves waiting for the moon’s command to storm the beach.

A little further up the beach a woman, dressed in rippling linen with her auburn curls tied loosely over one shoulder, wades knee-deep into the surf. She doesn’t seem to realize, or care, that you are here. You can just make out her expression in the fading light. She is gazing, as if completely mesmerized, out to sea.

She falls to her knees and bows her head as the water rushes around her. She stays there, immovable; her eyes shut and her head bent down – seemingly at peace.

Has she come here and collapsed among the waves in despair? Or is she here on her knees before God?


You finally made it. You felt sure your friend’s driving would mean that an off-ramp would be the last thing you saw on this earth, but happily you survived the freeway. After a cordial farewell at the drop-off zone, you head to the check-in kiosk with your carry-on rolling behind you.

As you print your ticket, you are tempted to re-check your bag to make sure that your laptop is snuggly nestled where it won’t be crushed. But, you assure yourself it’s fine. Besides, it will have to come out when you go through security anyway.

You’ve finished at the kiosk. Fortunately, you are not as techno-challenged and irritable as the woman the check-in agent is trying to assist. You make your way casually to your gate. You’re very early and will most likely have an hour to spend drinking coffee and playing on your phone, so there is no rush.

As you find your place in the security line, a couple catches your eye. The man is dressed in military camo as is the bag beside him. He is clinging to a slender woman in heels and a red dress. Her face is buried against his shoulder, and his chin rests on her head. A few tears fall down his face as he tilts his head to kiss her. The TSA agent is ready for you, and you don’t get to see the outcome of the embrace.

Did you just observe a tearful homecoming? Or did you just watch a heart-wrenching farewell?


The alarm goes off again. You look at the time, trying to calculate if you can push snooze just once more. You realize that if you don’t get up soon you won’t have time for a cup of coffee. This is enough motivation to turn off the alarm.

You stretch out in bed, hoping to preserve the last moments in your sanctuary. You reach over to turn on a lamp near your bed. The light assaults your face, and you recoil with a grimace and an injured moan.

Finally, you force yourself to venture out into the real world. You shuffle across the carpet eager for the two pleasures of the morning – hot coffee and a hot shower. You turn on the water, allowing steam to accumulate while you brush your teeth. When you approach the sink, you meet your disheveled reflection in the mirror.

What do you see? Do you see a person exhausted and defeated by yesterday’s battles? Or do you see a person eager and preparing to conquer today?


Perception defines you and becomes the filter through which you interpret your world, your God, and yourself.


Artist Spotlight: Susanna Tam & SuStudio Jewelry

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Susanna Tam’s original designs reflect the simple elegance of the natural world, combined with the gracefully arching lines of ancient calligraphy. Her focus on simplicity and detail gives her pieces a classical concerto appeal – where the focal point is compelling and uncluttered.

Handcrafted from sterling silver and accented with copper, brass and gemstones, Tam’s versatile jewelry is simple enough to be worn to work and yet remarkable enough to be worn with an evening gown. Each piece is a work of art meticulously crafted to provide a tasteful accent to any ensemble. Her pieces allow a woman’s natural beauty to take precedence, while still adding memorable detail to her completed look.

Tam’s pieces draw on timeless minimalist forms and classic shapes, but retain a contemporary allure. Every line, every splash of color and every metal pattern adds some necessary element to the design. The entire piece flows as effortlessly as the contours of a Japanese rock garden. Nothing is unbalanced or overdone.

Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of Tam’s work, that cannot be appreciated fully until one has seen her work in person, is the incredible attention to detail given to each and every piece. Nothing escapes her notice. From the design, to the metal work, to the selection of colors and gemstones, every step of the process is perfected before moving on. The result for the wearer is a level of quality that graces any occasion.

Tam’s work is stylishly refined, powerfully feminine, exquisitely crafted and completely original. She applies the skills of a craftsman and the discernment of an artist to create each splendid design. The exceptional beauty of nature simplified to its most elemental form, and then manifested into a unified expression of metal and stone, is the magic of Susanna Tam and SuStudio Jewelry.


The Interesting Start to Susanna Tam’s Passion:

Tam’s interest in jewelry started in the wake of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake that affected northern California. Tam was living in San Francisco at the time attending the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising.

The day following the major earthquake Tam recalls that the streets were empty and all the businesses were closed due to damage. She was on her way to the Post Office to mail a letter when she noticed a lone street vendor selling handmade jewelry. She approached the vendor and asked her why she wasn’t at home. It turned out that San Francisco used a lottery system to determine which days individual street merchants could sell in order to rotate through vendors. This was this vendor’s day, so she decided to make use of it despite the tragedy.

Tam sympathized with the vendor and purchased a few simple sterling silver rings. When she got home she examined the rings more closely. The craftsmanship interested her and she became curious about how the pieces were made. As one can see from her work 25 years later, she has definitely figured it out!


To learn more about Susanna Tam and SuStudio Jewelry, or to purchase a piece, visit her Website or Facebook Page.

© 2015 All Media Property of Susanna Tam. All Rights Reserved.


This is My Home

I was born here

I learned to ride a bike here

I drove my first car here

I graduated here

I had my first kiss here

I fell in love here

I promised to love one person forever here

I raised my own children here

I found faith here

This is my home.

 

I celebrate here

I work here

I sweat here

I bleed here

I laugh here

I grieve here

I vote here

I speak out here

I am a leader here

This is my home.

 

I will age here

I will see my family grow here

I will continue to learn here

I will teach here

I will influence the next generation here

I will leave a legacy here

I will make a difference here

I will be remembered here

I will die here

This is my home.

 

I do not need to look like you to belong here

I do not need to dress like you to be beautiful here

I do not need to speak like you to communicate here

I do not need to agree with you to have a voice here

I do not need the same God as you to worship here

I do not need to live like you to contribute here

I do not need the same values as you to demand justice here

I do not need the same goals as you to find happiness here

I do not need your approval to live free here

 

I am a citizen of the United States of America.

This is my home.

 


The Hunt

KuduThe day we die a soft breeze will wipe out our footprints in the sand. When the wind dies down, who will tell the timelessness that once we walked this way in the dawn of time?

– From a Traditional Song of the San People1

I feel his presence. I sense how he moves. I follow his footsteps. My brothers beside me. I tread softly across the scorching sand. The sun’s heat burns within me. I find him among the acacia. A strong kudu bull guarding his herd. My muscles tense. My time has almost come. My anticipation grows as I creep closer. I am a predator.

My legs twitch like the Cheetah’s tail. Ready at any moment to lunge me into the chase. My mind is focused. I see only my target. I feel his heart beat in my chest. He is wary. He senses me also.

He bolts. My brothers divide the herd. I focus only on my prey. The signal is given and I begin the chase at last. My quarry is faster. He quickly gains the lead. But now blood rushes through my limbs giving them strength. My lungs extract precious oxygen from the dry desert air. They burn, but they will not fail me. Sweat drips down my face, washing away the heat of the sun.

The bull tries to outrun me, but I have a cheetah’s heart. The bull tries to confuse me. His tracks disappear as he flees into heavy brush. But I carry the desert’s wisdom in my mind.

The sun rises high in the sky. My prey tires. He is alone in a land of predators. This proud beast has been torn from his clan and is left fleeing for his life through the unending wilderness. If he stops, he will die. If he stumbles, he will die. If he gives in to fatigue or thirst, he will die. Yet hours have passed among the unforgiving sands and he still lives.

My limbs ache with fatigue. I begin to question my resolve. My prey is driven by fear of death, I by desire for life. The rise and fall of my chest, the rhythm of my feet as they beat the ground beneath me, they are the drumbeat of life – the cadence of a predator.

The bull experiences a different tempo. His hooves frantically pushing against the ground, his heaving gasps for air – his is the beat of survival. Each breath drains his energy and brings him a moment closer to death. But each labored breath with which I answer brings him a moment closer to life.

The sun begins to drop in the sky. I have one goal – to keep running. My body longs for water, food and rest. Every step requires effort. These final moments will decide the winner. My prey has proven his fortitude. He has brought us both to the brink of collapse. Soon the desert will choose the victor.

She is fickle, the desert, and harbors no preference for predator or prey. Only the strongest win favor. And everyday us mortals must once again prove ourselves worthy to reach the night.

The mighty bull collapses. His proud eyes meet mine. His expression is sad and wise. I feel his spirit deep within me. Yesterday he was the survivor. Yesterday his strength and experience was enough. Today I am the victor. Today he returns to the desert sands. But though he gives me life today, tomorrow is unwritten. Only one defeat separates the living from the dead. Only a few moments determine a victor.

I thrust my poisoned spear into his heart. His death is quick. I kneel beside him to honor his valor and ensure the desert receives him with honor. Today I will live. Today I will see the night. May I honor my prey’s sacrifice and face tomorrow with courage. For who can predict their own fortunes in the desert?

1Fourie, C. (Ed.). (1994). Living Legends of a Dying Culture: Bushmen Myths, Legends and Fables. Ekogilde.


More About the San People:


River Song

River Nymph Photo2

The trees bow when she walks past. Or perhaps it is just the wind. Her white dress drapes gently across her shoulders, framing a slender neckline. Her golden hair is pulled gently up. A few stray locks fall loosely at her temples. Her eyes are like the river, just before the rapids, when the swirling greens and blues are barely contained.

I find this creature on the river’s bank – a rushing river with the air of a general at war. The crashing sounds of his battle with the rock have been heard for centuries. And they will be heard for centuries longer. Yet, he slows and calms when she is near. Or perhaps it is just an illusion.

She wades out to her waist. The river parts to embrace her. I watch with wonder as the woman stands in the middle of a river known to drown grown men. She begins to sing. The song is soft at first. Perhaps it is just a songbird. The music weaves in and out with the sounds of the river as if they are two voices. They are playful like a brook, dancing together in the sun.

Now an echo emerges, far away, as in a great canyon. A painful echo of loss and suffering layered among the rock. An angry rush drowns the pain as the river surges tempestuously. The notes crash together. The river takes over as the woman’s voice falters.

She recovers. The river calms and the woman’s voice, clear and strong, pierces the air. The two voices are now almost completely united. They form a melody forceful and deep, yet tender.

I fall asleep on the riverbank, but the harmonies haunt my dreams. When I wake the woman is gone and the river has resumed its war. A fly plays above the water and the flowers are enjoying the sun. It’s getting late and I should be at home. Perhaps it was just a dream after all.


Artist Spotlight: Elder Heart & Mission 22

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Art is self-expression, self-exploration and often self-healing. This healing becomes more powerful when a community unites to create something beautiful, lasting and deeply meaningful. Elder Heart & Mission 22 are doing just that – uniting communities through artistic expression in order to heal the wounds and save the lives of the men and women who voluntarily subjected themselves to the horrors of war in order to shield a nation from tragedy.

To illustrate the dangers facing veterans returning home David Guttenfelder, a war photographer, took his camera to a new battlefield. After spending two decades photographing war torn countries such as the Congo, Kosovo, Gaza, Liberia, Iraq and Afghanistan, Guttenfelder visited the places where more American service members die than on any other battlefield – their own homes. A devastating 22 veterans commit suicide every day. This means we are now losing more of our nation’s heroes at home than we are on the battlefield. This must stop. And Elder Heart & Mission 22 are answering the call.

They are accomplishing this goal through individual community engagement resulting in public works of art. During this process an Elder Heart Chapter brings together veterans, community members, artists and local politicians to engage in a unified effort to complete a project that not only builds the foundation of long-term healing through relationships and teamwork, but also creates a lasting monument that this community is taking a stand to support and fight for their veterans at home.

Elder Heart’s Mission 22 takes the fight to a national level by using social media to promote awareness and create a national support network. They invite us all to “claim a 22” by taking a picture of 22, found anywhere, and posting it on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with #Mi22ion to show our vets we have their back. They also use Google Hangout sessions to connect veterans with other vets who are successfully battling PTS or TBI.

Finally, Elder Heart is currently in the planning stage of building a national monument to honor those who have become casualties of suicide. The monument will consist of a circle containing the silhouettes of 22 actual service members who have been lost to suicide. These silhouettes will appear and disappear with the sun as a reminder of the 22 lost each day.

national monument

Elder Heart & Mission 22 are on the front lines battling PTS, TBI and Veteran Suicide, but they need the support of individuals and communities to ensure our service members are safe in the home they sacrificed to preserve. You can learn how you can get involved in the links below. A community empowered to make home safe for their veterans, artistic expressions of support, hope and victory proudly displayed in public and veterans helping veterans through another difficult battle – these are the incredible outcomes of art created through Elder Heart & Mission 22.


Mission 22 provides information and resources for Vets, Family & Friends and Communities.

To participate in Mission 22 simply take a photo of 22 and use #mi22ion on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

To learn more about Elder Heart & Mission 22 visit their webpages at: Elder Heart or Mission 22

To get involved, start a chapter or help support their projects Contact Elder Heart, Purchase Gear or Donate Here

© 2015, All Media Property of Elder Heart. All Rights Reserved.


A Diamond is Born

EngagementRing

Deep in the mantle of Earth, a diamond is born.

Carbon, the once proud remnant of stars, is humbled beneath Earth’s surface. No longer does it grace the sky – illuminating space with honor and fervor. Its dignity is crushed beneath ancient rock; its fortitude tested by the seething heat of a capricious planet.

Nevertheless, clinging to ancestral pride, it will not relinquish its birthright and be consumed by the depths. Instead, it uses Earth’s own rage and might to grow, atom by atom, into a crystal – as hard and powerful as it is radiant. With each carbon bond the crystalline structure grows stronger. Infused with the unconstrained heart of the planet it connects earth and fire until a star is reborn.

In a fit of jealousy the volatile planet banishes the crystalized carbon from its mantel and expels it onto the surface. Forced from Earth’s bosom and left unprotected in the cold, its shape gains permanence, and millennia upon millennia it lies, abandoned and forgotten. Until, finally blessed by fate, it is unearthed from the volcanic wreckage. It is admiringly called “diamond” and given unconditional care. Cut into exquisite form, it sparkles with the remembrance of its once august place in the sky.

And now, my husband, you give it to me. A stone that, like myself, has survived unyielding fire, crushing pressure and interminable abandonment. And yet, discovered and loved by you, today we both once again shine with the brilliance of stars.


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