Tag Archives: Empowerment

New Release: No Peace After War

I am very excited to announce the release of my newest book, No Peace After War!

High Resolution Front Cover_6087540

There may be no experience more horrific, no personal trial more challenging, than a soldier facing the ravages of war. But for many members of the armed services, returning home after combat is only the beginning of a new, very different set of challenges. Facing isolation, lingering traumas, and unspeakable fears, these brave men and women struggle to find peace long after their physical service is done.

As the wife of an Iraq veteran and a volunteer who has worked with armed service members, author Claire St. Hilaire has heard a number of these heartbreaking, often complex stories face-to-face

In No Peace After War, St. Hilaire shares a collection of short stories and poems that give voice to these dark and difficult realities—exploring haunting memories, society’s treatment of veterans, and the true definition of honor.


No Peace After War is available now on Amazon in Paperback and Kindle format.

Reviewers are free to contact me at claire.m.sthilaire@gmail.com for a complimentary digital copy.


Unseen

Flower Son Tran

Freeimages.com/Son Tran

The following poem was written in honor of a dear friend who immigrated from Vietnam as an adult. It was her strength and the stories of her birthplace that inspired this work.

 

A delicate flower of my country I am not

I am up before the sun is beating down on wet clothes

Hungry children loathe to leave their warm beds

I shake them harshly

Disinclined groans and hidden faces thank me

Hot food and pungent spices in the sweaty kitchen

A store front

Wares to sew and sell

People wander by

I hurry in and out unnoticed under the vicious sun

No money

Two dollars for a day that never ends

My Husband comes home to rest

He complains his day is long

His tired feet must rest

My boys are hungry

This morning’s food has evaporated into the humid air

Dry clothes must be re-scrubbed

Drenched as they are now with sweat and fatigue

Tomorrow is already begun

And the sun has stolen my sleep


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.


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.

 


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.


The Lotus

Lotus

The Lotus has its roots in the mud

Grows up through the deep water

And rises to the surface

It blooms into perfect beauty and purity in the sunlight

It is like the mind unfolding into perfect joy and wisdom

-The Buddha

She grew up an outsider and took pride in her ability to survive. No one really knew her. No one except me, of course. I knew her intimately from the first day I came into her life. I met her when she was very young, and I never left her side.

I was there when her father yelled and said that, for all her Mother’s tears, she was the one to blame. She told me he must be right. Why else would he accuse her?

I was there when her mother called her a liar, and her brother said it too. She pleaded. She proved them wrong. They said she should still be sorry. She begged me to explain for what.

I was there when she was sick and her Mother cared for her. She confessed that she loved to be sick. Despite the pain, she was happier. She couldn’t be bad if she was ill.

I was there when she screamed and punched the wall. “It isn’t fair!” she cried. Then she drowned the pillow with her tears. “Why am I a terrible person?” I stood and watched her pain.

I was there when they took her away. They said that she was sick. They said she needed care. But she wasn’t happy this time. “I am not sick,” she protested. Then sadly to me, “Maybe I’m just bad.”

I was there when she left. “You’ll never make it on your own,” they warned. Her face was dark, but her eyes glinted, “Watch me.” She turned her back and I followed her out.

I was there when her first lover began to call. She always did his bidding. When he called her names she was silent. “He’s right you know,” she whispered, and never shed a tear.

I was still there when the cops showed up and she told them what he’d done. “They won’t believe me,” she confided. But they did. On her way to court she fretted, “He will speak and everyone will know I’m bad.” But he never even showed.

The gavel struck. An advocate showed her a paper and said, “You’re a victim.” She stood up straight and tall. She looked him in the face and stated with defiance, “Not anymore.”

On the courthouse steps that day she asked me to stay. “But you need me,” I protested. “No I don’t,” was her reply. I stood, alone and unwanted, as she walked away strong.

So, here I am. Waiting for someone new. My name is guilt. Who are you?


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She reads books as one would breathe air, to fill up and live. -Annie Dillard

مدونة الشاعر مثنى ابراهيم دهام

مدونة شعرية تتضمن قصائد مختارة للشاعر

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