Four Years, Eight Pairs of Jeans by Maria Smith

Four Years, Eight Pairs of Jeans

Posted Posted in Blog

By Maria Smith

Eight pairs of jeans became a source of mental agony for me when I moved from Colorado Springs to South Carolina in 2016. I got fixated on the idea that I needed to fit into a certain size, and I obsessed about it, especially once I could no longer fit into my four pairs of expensive Lucky Brand™ jeans.

The first year I lived in South Carolina, all eight pairs fit, but by my second and third year there, the jeans began making their way from the velvet hangers on the low rack—where I keep all the clothes I wear most often—to the top shelf of my closet. I put the Lucky jeans in one pile and the remaining jeans in a second pile. Every time I was in the closet and looked up, I’d sigh with exasperation. I blamed the problem on the stress of living in the South. My husband and I moved here to be closer to my mom, to make up for all the years we lived far away from her—but I never liked heat and humidity.

By our fourth year in South Carolina, all eight pairs were neatly folded and both piles were stacked together up high in the top shelf of the closet. Every so often, I’d take them down and wonder if I should try them on.

“Should I hang onto them?” I’d ask my husband. I always followed that question with a second one: “Do you think I’ll ever fit in these jeans again?”

My husband would always shake his head and say, “I’m not answering. It’s suicide for a husband to talk about his wife’s weight.”

“Wise man,” I’d mutter underneath my breath.

I admit I got hung up on a few pounds, but I’m four feet and ten inches tall. Three to five pounds might not seem like much, but on a petite woman like me it feels uncomfortable.

It took me the full four years to get somewhat comfortable living in the South. Then, two months ago, I received a phone call on a Sunday morning that my mom had passed away in a tragic car accident. I never got to see her body. I didn’t get to say goodbye.

Sadly, that’s what it took for me to stop obsessing about my precious jean collection. I tried them on one more time, but nothing had changed. I still couldn’t zip them up. This time, though, I  threw all those jeans into a black trash bag. The next day, I tossed the bag into the trunk of my car, determined to donate them as quickly as possible.

I gave all eight pairs of jeans to the thrift store of the Palmetto Animal League, a local animal shelter. Bringing them there filled me with overwhelming gratitude. Helping out animals in need by giving up something so material helped me see that, in the grand scheme of things and in my life, those jean were irrelevant.

In the end, I realized the emotional growth fits me far better than the jeans ever would have.


About the Writer:
Maria Smith
is an aspiring writer and artist who spent 16 years serving as an officer in the Air Force Reserve, where she achieved the rank of Major. After being honorably discharged due to illness in 2010, she enrolled in the University of the Rockies in Colorado Springs, CO, completing her doctorate in psychology in March 2014. She earned her MFA from Bay Path University’s Creative Nonfiction Writing program in July 2019. Maria is originally from western Massachusetts; she currently lives in Bluffton, South Carolina with her husband, Terry.

Two Poems by Sandeep Kumar Mishra

Two Poems by Sandeep Kumar Mishra

Posted Posted in Blog

A Love Letter from Hospital

By Sandeep Kumar Mishra

Hospitals are ideograms of truth
where death has no false tint of life—
pukka pain, pink anguish, but stained hope.
You might see Hoag’s a galaxy
within a galaxy within a galaxy. . .
Once we enter here it seems a black hole,
As if the end of the world, but
one patient, like a phoenix, obtains
new life by rising from the ashes
while another dies in a show of
flames and a combustion of malady

The white wall only once smelled
deserts its petroleum daughter
as we loose our own aroma,
the one we put on every morning,
into this bouquet of different
essences of drugs, syrup, Dettol
or antiseptic with some
of the odorless bones and meat

The ill, so woebegone in their sojourns,
are so true pale blue.
You could not but be brave when you see
these patients, with the patience of the Spartan school,
prove the man is greater than his pain—
You would be a great philosopher,
the first to laugh but the last to complain,
once you came out of the hospital,
where the surgical folk who, though mortals, never see
themselves in that line, are a cheerful green, and
They, with fear and hope in the form of dream,
add a little love potion to every prescription

Someone soulful comes to meet them
and hold one of their hands. At once,
you feel house keys in your hand,
but here no heart is bypassed by love.
When you hug them, their ribs make
a room for your fleshy abdomen,
as you sense the titanic waterfall
of their hearts slowly sinking

When you come to this place,
try to avoid any mirror or self-reflection.
You won’t see the things you usually see—
but your purged soul will peep out of body fabric
like sunlight coming out of a barred window.
You can no longer balance petty yourself,
as the inner burden will be more than your body weight

Let us praise these insomniac beds!
Let us praise the fans that don’t adjust,
praise the room service that doesn’t exist.
Let us praise the hospital staff—
they are angels without wings—
covering under fake masks of joy
they find expired lungs and tired hearts
lying in their paths every day.
They play poker with their lives
in this game with virus and ailment,
as they foster death for other passive parties too

Corona-Vorona, Days-Ways

By Sandeep Kumar Mishra

The humanity is caving in slow corona motion
I, like a sea mouse back to my hidey-hole,
Set an alarm every morn, lay in bed to ignore it—
I stay for what seems like minutes but becomes hours—
Week and weeks in hibernation. Am I a little lonely bear?

Sometimes I feel homesick in my home and
think I’m put in a home jail for not having corona.
It feels like a creepy clown chasing me
or I am being cornered by zombies.
I work from green home but the world is in the red zone

As I log on for socializing and switch on to remote voice
Are vectors we all or postcodes alike?
My body robots repeat eat, sleep, eat—
Is breakfast still breakfast if I have it at 12?
Is dinner still dinner if I have cookies for tea?

Now this thing is nonfiction—health vs. economy.
The virus does not care
for the digits in your bank account
or your total assets or the GDP,
And even the fiction is dark, but there’s still music

The relentless race of traffic and people
has been turned into marathon of conscious breath,
Shopping has become tracking down others’ health,
Sanitizer in the pockets, wearing face masks—
Sneezing is new way to attract attention,
Corona warriors on the front line,
but some people still curse and cry

I blink my eyes, focusing on the horizon
as if concentration itself will transport me to another place.
Did I just see a butterfly land in that flower?
When kookaburras cackle flying over empty streets
When the crickets’ chirp sounds alone,
Do they know what is happening to us?
Am I noticing more than I did before?

The lungs feel clear, birds have replaced planes,
We venture out of the house to the garden and back in again—
it’s made all of us hermits.
The sky is blue now, or is it just me?
Now I understand less means more

COVID-19 is a hydra-headed challenger
to our modern modality to wake up
buying cheap tack from cheap labor,
I wonder why I feel a sense of guilt
when I see others suffering while I am not,
But I am now getting used to my pyjamas


About the Writer:
Sandeep Kumar Mishra
is an outsider artist, poet and lecturer in English Literature and Political Science, and he is the art instructor at Kishlaya Outsider Art Academy. He edited Pearls (2002), a collection of poems by various poets, and he wrote the professional guidebook How to Become a Teacher in Australia and New Zealand: A Complete and Authentic Guide (2016). An original collection of his poetry, One Heart, Many Breaks was published by Indian Poetry Press in August 2020. His website is www.sandeepkumarmishra.com.

Chasing Rainbows by Van Lanigh

Chasing Rainbows

Posted Posted in Blog

By Van Lanigh

From the Photographer:

Inspired by great masters such as Vrubel and Monet, Van Lanigh creates figurative and landscape pieces. Her unique style is a reaction to abstractionism, an attempt to capture surrealistic yet casual reality.

The series “Chasing Rainbows” is about the perception of the world of feelings. No one feels exactly one emotion at a time—it’s always a crazy waterfall with undertones of sensations. She interprets this rainbow of feelings in her works by running away from the real world of colors to the imaginary universe of impressions.

Sharing artwork is part of her response to the current world situation. “Instead of total isolation,” she says, “let’s keep in touch (in the safest way possible). Although the Internet nowadays may be complicated and overwhelming, let’s use it for roaming around this Brave New Digital World. Somehow we have to rebuild our identities using all these digital profiles and the mediums available to us to continue with social interaction. It’s the only possible way now.”


Chasing Rainbow by Van Lanigh

Chasing Rainbows


About the Photographer:
Artist Van Lanigh’s artwork uses new forms and materials to achieve resonance between the visual effect and message of the each piece. One of her recent experiments involves transitioning Pointillism into 3-D space by making a series of human-face sculptures with small, colorful handcrafted, polymer clay balls. She attended St. Petersburg State Budget Educational Institution of Additional Education “Art School № 3,” and her work is exhibited in galleries and museums around the world. She is based in Haarlem, Nord Holland , Netherlands.

Three Poems by Jane Yolen

Three Poems by Jane Yolen

Posted Posted in Blog

When I Was a Hunter Gatherer

By Jane Yolen

in the deep cleft of Nature,
watching the stalk of bobcat,
the instant whirr of hummingbird,
the snake-cut grasses,

fear did not rise up
like a clog in my throat
but in cautious passion,
the kind that makes one stay,
observe,
listen
attend,
fill with wonder,
love—

as I have done
from the moment we met again,
in the old growth forest
of our lives.

The Spin, The Spine

By Jane Yolen

Woman’s work, spinning,
sewing, that spine of family,
that stitch in the time
of a marriage, that snip-snap
of life beginning, life ending.
We do not need a dictionary
to thread that history.
Look at our fingers, our hands,
made for the work, our tongues
glistening on the twist of flax.
We work through hurt, through tears,
through ache, through birth.
We weep, we steep,
we hope, we grow.
Don’t preach, brother,
what we already know.
We are what we sew.

The Quiet House

By Jane Yolen

For once it is quiet here,
no phones ringing to offer me
things I do not want,
have never wanted;
no doors slamming
as tradesmen walk in and out
with paint pots, ladders.
My fingers clattering
on what are supposed to be
silent keys, and you—old man,
beloved found object,
asleep upstairs.
I will not wake you to tear
a hole in this silence
even though your breathing
is the only sound
I really want to hear.


About the Writer:
Jane Yolen
has written nearly 400 books, including The Devil’s Arithmetic, the Commander Toad series, Twelve Impossible Things to Do Before Breakfast, the History Mystery series, the Young Merlin Trilogy, White Jenna, the Pit Dragon Trilogy, Pirates in Petticoats, and her most recent book, Miriam at the River. In 1988 she won the Caldecott Medal for Owl Moon; The Emperor and the Kite was a Caldecott Honor Book in 1968. She has been named a finalist for a Nebula Award five times and has won that honor twice, earning Best Short Story for Sister Emily’s Lightship in 1997 and Best Novelette for Lost Girls in 1998. Her books have won Golden Kite Awards, the Sydney Taylor Jewish Council Awards, the Christopher Medal, the California Young Reader Medal, the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award, the Massachusetts YA Book Award, and a National Outdoor Book Award. She was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2010 World Fantasy Awards and in 2016 she was named a Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master by Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. Jane is a graduate of Smith College and the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She resides in Hatfield, Massachusetts and St. Andrews, Scotland.

Bellevue Botanical Garden by Cindy Phan

Bellevue Botanical Gardens

Posted Posted in Blog

By Cindy Phan

From the Photographer:

These eryngos flowers were captured on Nikon D5500 digital SLR with 18-55 mm lens at Bellevue Botanical Garden in Washington state during springtime. Natural lighting was used and very minimal editing was done.


Bellevue Botanical Garden by Cindy Phan

Bellevue Botanical Garden


About the Photographer:
Cindy Phan 
is an ice skater, inline skater, and outdoor adventurer. She prides herself in being that one friend you’ll never get bored around; she’s full of ideas and always tries to get people out of their comfort zone. Photography, horror, heavy metal, wine, and animals are a few of Cindy’s interests, which are ever-expanding because she literally aspires to do everything. Cindy’s only fears in life are losing the people she loves and leaving this world without satisfying all her curiosities.

Life Akimbo by Caroline Murphy

Life Akimbo

Posted Posted in Blog

By Caroline Murphy

“Oh, my God,” Mom cried when she saw me.

She clutched my wrist with a bony hand. Tears ran down her wrinkled, hollow cheeks onto the starched white pillowcase beneath her head. “Oh, my God.”

Tears welled in my eyes too. Mom was glad to see me. I hadn’t expected her to be.

“Look,” Mom said to my older sister Helen, who stood on the opposite side of the bed. “Look. It’s my mother. I knew she would come.”

Every time I visited, my 82-year-old mother assigned me a different “persona du jour,” a character she plucked from the tattered memories in her dementia-warped mind. Sometimes I was her sister or one of my own. Other times she saw me as a nasty (but memorable) aunt, or a helpful store clerk, or a childhood friend. Often during my visits, I was a conglomerate character, a fictional patchwork of people from her youth stitched together from the semi-remembered threads of her life.

This was the first time I’d ever been her mother. It was quite an honor.

Mom adored her mother—or at least her idealized version of her mother. My grandmother, Irene Murphy, died of kidney disease when Mom was 10 years old. Grandma passed before adolescence jaded her daughter’s opinion of her, while her daughter was too young to notice her flaws, her failings, her humanity. In my mother’s mind, her own mother remained a beautiful, smart, kind, generous, mythological mother-heroine.

Within minutes of my arrival, Mom subsided into silence. She curled into the fetal position facing me, one skeletal hand clutching my wrist, the other grasping the edge of her favorite green wool blanket. I pulled the blanket over her shoulder; I thought she looked cold. She immediately shook it off and resumed twisting the blanket’s frayed edge, now with both hands.

She was mute, but awake. Her cloudy, dark eyes stared into a far distance only she could see. Her pale, withered lips hung, slightly parted, gently pulsing in and out over toothless gums with each ragged, shallow breath.

I stroked her soft, white hair, running my fingers through its wispy strands the way she used to comb her fingers through my auburn hair when I was little and I’d sit on the floor in front of her chair while the whole family watched Emergency and Adam-12 on TV together.

“You’ve given her a gray fauxhawk,” Helen said.

My sister’s voice brought me back to the Pepto-Bismol-pink living room of Mom’s condo, back to the two tatty couches with their huge blue and purple flowers, both sofas now pushed to the walls to make space for the hospital bed Mom occupied the center of the room. Back to the boxes of pain and anti-anxiety medications on her rolling bedside table. Back to the smell of antiseptics mingled with flowery air freshener intended to mask the smells of age and illness.

I sought refuge on the nearest couch as my sister retrieved a comb from among the medications and meticulously rearranged Mom’s hair.

We were settling in, Helen and Mom and me, putting on our armor and preparing for Mom’s final battle. I was grateful for that shred of peace before the salvos of pain and morphine and fear and sorrow began, glad for a lingering fragment of summer before we had to face the chill of autumn and the bitterness of winter.

I could be a daughter for a little while longer.

Sitting there on the couch, I pulled my knees up to my chest and thought, Parents are supposed to care for children, not the other way around. Parents are supposed to do the hard stuff. Kids are supposed to be able to play.

But roles reverse when the time comes for a child to shepherd a parent through the season of dying. Life turns upside down. Touchstones of logic and order tumble.

I felt like I’d been knocked off my feet by a huge wave that forced me underwater, scraping me along razor-sharp rocks on the bottom of a turbulent sea. I’d been in that undertow before, when Dad died, then again two years later when my mother-in-law passed. I knew the waves would eventually toss me back to the beach—battered, sore, and bruised, but alive. I knew I’d heal and life would go on. I’d recover from my mother’s death.

But once she was gone, every time I looked in the mirror, I’d know that I had joined the oldest generation. Knowing she was gone meant knowing I was next.

What will I remember about my mother 30 years from now, when I am the one laying in the bed? What scraps of my life will remain with me to the end? What memories of me will others carry forward with them when I am gone?

How will my daughter remember me?

Vividly, I hope.


About the Writer:
Caroline Murphy
is a writer and editor who spent nearly a decade ghostwriting middle school science textbooks. She has worked as a blogger, a journalist, and an advertising and marketing copywriter. Recently, Caroline has forayed into memoir and creative nonfiction, where she spends much time seeking the optimum balance between revealing too much and too little.

A Second Love by Diane Hall

Emerald Blog: A Second Love

Posted Posted in Blog
The Emerald Blog :: Writing Inspired by Ireland

Every summer, Bay Path University’s MFA program in Creative Nonfiction writing offers a weeklong Writing Seminar based in Dingle, a town nestled on the Atlantic coast on the western shore of County Kerry, Ireland. Each day throughout the week, Seminar Facilitator Suzanne Strempek Shea gives participants a prompt to encourage writers to investigate new ideas and topics in their writing. During August 2020, we’ll publish our Emerald Blogs to showcase the diverse work developed from responses to Suzanne’s prompts.


From Suzanne Strempek Shea

Diane Hall, MFA ’22, wrote this piece at the 2018 Summer Writing Seminar. A wealth of sensory details creates a strong picture of an afternoon encounter, and reveals why the writer might fall so hard for a stranger in a strange land. The essay sprouted from no particular prompt, but rather from the actual experience, which often is inspiration enough.


A Second Love

by Diane Hall

It was love at first sight. Coarse, titanium-yellow hair softly followed a long, elegant neckline, stopping just short of broad muscular shoulders developed from years of hard work. Immense auburn eyes, highlighted by long, delicate, midnight-black lashes, met mine in a bashful way, questioning my intentions.

He smelled of the outdoors, of dirt and grass. He was quiet and unpretentious, but he caught my attention as he nervously shifted his weight from leg to leg with what appeared to be apprehension—but also interest. I had never done anything like this before. I was feeling uncertain, questioning my decision.

As I slowly inched toward him, he didn’t back away. Though unspoken, we both felt the mountain calling us. Maya, our guide for the day, held his bridle as I awkwardly stuck my foot in the left stirrup, pulled myself up with my arms, swung my right leg over his muscular back, and balanced myself in the saddle. The swooshing of the wind was getting louder by the minute, the clouds and fog settling in for what was sure to be a mighty tempest within the hour. The air felt moist against my skin and oddly refreshing.

For the next two-and-a-half hours my horse Bob and I would bond and participate in something I had never experienced before: a horseback trek to the top of the mountain in Dingle, Ireland.

Since I’d never ridden a horse before, I wasn’t sure if I would like it or be scared, but I was determined to see it through. As Bob and I started up the mountain in a group of nine riders, all complete strangers to me, I was in awe of his strength and grace.

As expected, the rain and wind picked up, and at times the deluge hurt as rain pelted my face, coming down sideways, dripping off the brim of my helmet, soaking my glasses and making it nearly impossible to see. About halfway up the mountain, a wind seemingly out of nowhere threatened to knock me off the horse. My black Swiss bag, strapped around my shoulders, was completely soaked and my Boston Red Sox T-shirt was drenched, despite my purple L.L. Bean raincoat and the hunter-green trench coat Maya gave me to wear over it. My faded jeans were waterlogged. The absurdity of the situation made me laugh.

I took a moment to savor the experience, and I focused on the feel and sound of my surroundings. The resonance of the driving rain drumming against leather, human, animal, rocky terrain, and helmet; the cadence of Bob’s hooves tapping the ground below; and the swish of the wind growing louder by the minute somehow brought a feeling of calmness mixed with excitement. The gentle sway of my body with every step Bob took, my legs clinging to his sides as I leaned forward to help with the horse’s balance while going uphill, forced me to focus on his movements, the two of us finding a perfect rhythm together. I cherished each second and was enjoying the climb to the top—until my meditation came to an abrupt halt.

I was third in the line of riders. A coffee-colored horse with a jet-black mane in front of me stumbled on the slippery rocks and mud. Both horse and rider caught themselves, but the sound of the horse’s back right hoof scraping against the rain-soaked rock sounded like fingernails on a chalkboard. The inherent danger of the situation set in.  

My mind raced. What if Bob was frightened by a small critter scurrying out from under a bush and he rose up on his back legs, sending me tumbling to the ground? What if he bucked me off because he got sick of hauling me up this mountain in the pouring rain? 

I looked back down the mountain over my right shoulder and realized how far up we had come. Though I couldn’t see the sparsely populated town or Dingle Bay through the fog, I could see the angle at which the riders behind me were climbing. I became nervous, feeling any mistake could result in serious injury.

Though I was unsettled, I put those thoughts out of mind because I felt surprisingly confident with my horse. Bob never complained and never faltered. He seemed to enjoy every moment on the mountain with me. He strutted like he owned the place, and his air of confidence was comforting. He picked the paths of least resistance and navigated slippery rocks like an expert, carefully stepping over holes, dancing around short bushes and plodding through thick mud. I was in love with this horse for his beauty, kindness, gentleness, and most of all, for being my companion and guardian on that cool and rainy summer day in August 2018.

When we arrived at the top of the mountain after over an hour of climbing, I felt triumphant. Though the view of the Hobbit-like town below was nonexistent because we were standing in the midst of a low-lying cloud, the whiteness of the mist complemented Bob’s creamy white coat and created a mystical ambience. The roughness of the weather enhanced the ruggedness of the terrain.

The bond I formed with Bob was instantaneous. We were two strangers who learned to trust and love unconditionally. The plainness of his name spoke to his humbleness. After all, who names a horse Bob? I expected some fancy nonsensical name, the kind horses often have.

I guess it was meant to be though, because Bob also happens to be my husband’s name.

What are the chances I would fall in love with two guys named Bob during my lifetime?

Diane and Bob on Mount Brandon
Diane Hall and Bob

About the Writer

As a full-time professor of psychology at Bay Path University, Diane Hall teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in forensic and clinical psychology. For over a decade she has conducted a book club with adjudicated incarcerated youth and her students, and is the co-founder of the RISE-UP program, an integrated learning experience with Bay Path University students and incarcerated women at the Western MA Recovery and Wellness Center to provide students with an opportunity to gain experience while contributing to the community through service learning. After receiving her doctorate degree in Educational Psychology, she decided to pursue her passion for writing and is working towards the completion of her MFA in Creative Non-fiction Writing at Bay Path University. She participated in the Summer Writing Seminar in Dingle, Ireland in 2018 and 2019.


Write with us in Dingle next year, July 31 to Aug. 8, 2021. Contact sshea@baypath.edu for full information.

We welcome submissions to Multiplicity Blog (nonfiction prose of 1,000 words or fewer, poetry, and photography) all year. We also accept submissions of longer nonfiction works (up to 5,000 words), poetry or photography for the Fall 2020 issue of Multiplicity Magazine: At Work. Magazine submissions close on September 25, 2020. More details here.

My Father's Brogue by Kim Livingston

Emerald Blog: My Father’s Brogue

Posted Posted in Blog
The Emerald Blog :: Writing Inspired by Ireland

Every summer, Bay Path University’s MFA program in Creative Nonfiction writing offers a weeklong Writing Seminar based in Dingle, a town nestled on the Atlantic coast on the western shore of County Kerry, Ireland. Each day throughout the week, Seminar Facilitator Suzanne Strempek Shea gives participants a prompt to encourage writers to investigate new ideas and topics in their writing. During August 2020, we’ll publish our Emerald Blogs to showcase the diverse work developed from responses to Suzanne’s prompts.


From Suzanne Strempek Shea

Kim Livingston MFA ’20, a four-time attendee of our Summer Writing Seminar in Ireland, wrote “My Father’s Brogue” there in 2016 on the prompt:

The Welcome:
Write about a welcome or  parting that is particularly memorable to you.

Kim captures the joy of being seen, recognized, acknowledged and named, especially when you’re looking for a fraction of any of that.


My Father’s Brogue

by Kim Livingston

In the middle of my second trip to Ireland for an annual writing seminar, I sat in O’Flaherty’s Pub with Marie, a friend from the program, enjoying some good music and one pint before getting back to the guesthouse. I told Marie about my Irish roots and how, the year before, I’d typed “Rainsfords in Limerick” into a search engine and discovered a guy in his early thirties who looked like a younger version of my brother. I told her how I’d contacted the guy through Facebook, hoping to meet him and his family while I was in Ireland.

My dad’s father was born in Limerick, Dad’s mother 60 miles away in Tralee. They met each other in Chicago around 1917 and raised six boys, but by the time I began college, all of them were dead—the grandparents before I was born, Dad when I was 13. Naturally, when I heard about a writing seminar in Dingle, Ireland, and learned that the bus from the airport would stop in two places, Limerick and Tralee, I felt an ancestral tug.

Through the 1930s and ’40s, when my father was young, his parents often hosted Irish immigrants finding their way in the Windy City. These relatives and friends, even relatives of friends, stayed in the two-flat on Roscoe for months at a time while working toward places of their own. Since Dad was the youngest, it was always his bed given in hospitality, Dad migrating to the upstairs porch, “hotter than hell,” but where he’d lie awake on the sheet-covered sofa listening to the adults reminiscing below, their stories of Ireland growing to legend in his mind. Decades later, he’d describe those nights to me and my brother in our kitchen on Saturday mornings, the Clancy Brothers singing out of our windowsill radio.

The Facebook guy and I messaged each other a few times. He said his uncle lived in a farmhouse that had been owned by Rainsfords for many generations—probably where my grandfather lived as a child. He could take me there to meet the family, he said. We arranged to meet in Limerick.

For years, assisted by lots of cheesy movies, I’d dreamed of Ireland welcoming me home: In a dark, crowded pub, the locals at first mistake me for a common tourist, but an old guy in the corner keeps staring. “There’s sometin’ about ye,” he says, eyes twinkling. Whispers throughout the place grow louder with budding recognition. I remind them of a dear friend from long ago. They knew my grandparents! Everyone gathers ‘round me and starts dancing a jig. I’m wearing a bustier and a big swishy skirt, my hair redder than ever, with ruddy cheeks to show how feisty I am. I grab the microphone and belt out “Danny Boy” in a brogue so convincing even the barmaid has tears. Then my own relatives, having heard the news, burst into the pub. “Just like your granny!” they cheer, recognizing in me her unique beauty and plucky character. It’s clear to everyone that I really, really fit in here.

In my actual life, the Facebook guy never showed up. I waited in the Limerick bus station, but he had car trouble or something. I sensed that though he didn’t want to be impolite, he wasn’t interested in connecting with a stranger from America.

It was a silly dream. That old man in the corner would’ve been at least 130 years old. Also, I can’t sing. And I’m an introvert. I have cousins an hour from my home that I haven’t talked to in decades.

I get that it’s trite to make this pilgrimage yearning for a connection to the motherland, to my family, my father. I have no real claim to this place, and with an Irish diaspora of 34 million in the U.S., the whole idea is so terribly cliché.

But John Joseph Rainsford was my grandfather, Hanna Fitzgerald my grandma. They walked these Irish streets, played in the yards. They raised my father. Even though I never knew them, they were mine.

So Marie and I were in O’Flaherty’s, listening to a fiddle-and-flute tune, finishing a pint. She’s a good one for striking conversation with strangers, and she did just that with a young Galway couple. In the process of our getting to know them, Marie mentioned that my family was from Ireland. The man studied my face for a moment and said, “Limerick?”

I was confused. We hadn’t mentioned anything about Limerick. “Why do you say that?” I asked.

“Oh,” he said, “You look Limerick.”

I look Limerick. I almost hugged him.

Dad would have liked Ireland. I think of him when I’m there, as my taxi driver tells joke after joke, twisting along narrow roads from the airport. As the old man minding a tiny shop on Main Street winks when I duck in from the dreary rain and says, “Gorgeous day now, isn’t it?”, the lilt of his voice comforting me on a lonely afternoon. 

My father’s brogue was imitation and occasional, always well timed for a punch line. In the bar after work, the laughter of his friends around him would rise and fall at his command.  They called him “Denny the Irishman,” and that’s when he was happiest.

 In the pink, freckled faces I pass on these old Irish streets, I see him. I see my grandparents, my uncles, my brother. And, yes, in some of them, I see myself.


About the Writer

Kim Rainsford Livingston teaches English at Waubonsee Community College and lives in the Chicago suburbs with her retired husband and too many pets. Now that her three kids are grown, she’s getting back to writing, happy for the new adventures and friends she found while earning an MFA at Bay Path University.


Write with us in Dingle next year, July 31 to Aug. 8, 2021. Contact sshea@baypath.edu for full information.

We welcome submissions to Multiplicity Blog (nonfiction prose of 1,000 words or fewer, poetry, and photography) all year. We also accept submissions of longer nonfiction works (up to 5,000 words), poetry or photography for the Fall 2020 issue of Multiplicity Magazine: At Work. Magazine submissions close on September 25, 2020. More details here.

At the Altar of Nature by Jill Lipton

Emerald Blog: At the Altar of Nature

Posted Posted in Blog
The Emerald Blog :: Writing Inspired by Ireland

Every summer, Bay Path University’s MFA program in Creative Nonfiction writing offers a weeklong Writing Seminar based in Dingle, a town nestled on the Atlantic coast on the western shore of County Kerry, Ireland. Each day throughout the week, Seminar Facilitator Suzanne Strempek Shea gives participants a prompt to encourage writers to investigate new ideas and topics in their writing. During August 2020, we’ll publish our Emerald Blogs to showcase the diverse work developed from responses to Suzanne’s prompts.


From Suzanne Strempek Shea

Jill Lipton wrote this piece at the 2017 Summer Writing Seminar on this prompt:

At the Shrine:
From larger-than-life-sized statues along the road to hidden wells behind a hedge, holy places abound here on the Dingle Peninsula. Write about a trip to, a glimpse of, or an encounter with one of them.

Rich in images and contrasts, this short piece illustrates the writer’s trademark wordplay, humor, and hope.


At the Altar of Nature

by Jill Lipton

I pray at the altar of nature, and have found hallowed, though somewhat cow-pied ground here. Holy sheep. Sacred cows. Consecrated corncrake birds.

At home in NYC my pastoral prayer is pigeon challenged. My spirituality, squirrel subjugated. My sense of divine nature, subway rat tested.

Perhaps time to consider a country house.


About the Writer

Humorist, writer, and over-thinker Jill Lipton was born in Long Island, New York. After a tumbling life that included an MBA from MIT, a semi-meteoric rise in the corporate world, and 10 years as an entrepreneur, she’s now living her dream as a writer in New York City with her husband, muse, and true love, Charles. Her work has been published in “Tiny Love Stories” in The New York Times, in The Boston Globe Magazine, and elsewhere.


Write with us in Dingle next year, July 31 to Aug. 8, 2021. Contact sshea@baypath.edu for full information.

We welcome submissions to Multiplicity Blog (nonfiction prose of 1,000 words or fewer, poetry, and photography) all year. We also accept submissions of longer nonfiction works (up to 5,000 words), poetry or photography for the Fall 2020 issue of Multiplicity Magazine: At Work. Magazine submissions close on September 25, 2020. More details here.

The Bean by Tony Sedgwick

Emerald Blog: The Bean

Posted Posted in Blog
The Emerald Blog :: Writing Inspired by Ireland

Every summer, Bay Path University’s MFA program in Creative Nonfiction writing offers a weeklong Writing Seminar based in Dingle, a town nestled on the Atlantic coast on the western shore of County Kerry, Ireland. Each day throughout the week, Seminar Facilitator Suzanne Strempek Shea gives participants a prompt to encourage writers to investigate new ideas and topics in their writing. During August 2020, we’ll publish our Emerald Blogs to showcase the diverse work developed from responses to Suzanne’s prompts.


From Suzanne Strempek Shea

Tony Sedgwick MFA ’20 wrote “The Bean” during the 2019 Summer Writing Seminar on this prompt:

The Welcome:
Write about a welcome or  parting that is particularly memorable to you.

When Tony had to miss the final night’s event due to travel plans, guest faculty member Mia Gallagher accepted the invitation to read this energetic, well-populated and well-caffeinated piece.


The Bean

by Tony Sedgwick

The Bean by Tony Sedgwick

Class starts at 10:15 a.m. in that Gaelic-sounding place where nuns once lived; there must have been a lot of them! It’s 10:05, so a 10-minute walk, 30 seconds to pop into that yellow place for a cup of coffee, find the room in a New-York minute and, Bob’s Your Uncle, I’ll be right there at the start of class.

The roundabout is nuts. Irish drivers don’t seem to understand the business of stopping for pedestrians in the cross walk. Summer crowds saunter, linger, gawk in shop front windows. I prance impatiently behind them. Finally, I see my chance and shoot on through, up the narrow sidewalk, prepare to cross the street, look right, correct myself, look left. What the hell? I look both ways, bolt across and see it there—the Bean in Dingle. I knew it was something cute like that.

I hurry in, then come to a complete stop. There are two people waiting, bovine-like, to order cups of coffee. Behind the counter, four young people loiter comfortably wearing black T-shirts and an air of peace.

As I shuffle forward, Person One makes her order, then steps around the corner where she is supposed to wait. Next up is a middle-aged fellow in a green sweater, paunchy, balding, clearly on vacation.

“Um…let’s see,” he ponders the menu tranquilly. “I’ll have one of those, and that one, and that one.” A stubby finger vaguely points out each chosen pastry.

“Um…” the gent repeats, and then again, “Um….”

“What’s that one over there?” he asks.

“Which one?”

“That one?”

“This one?”

“No, that one.”

“Oh, this one”

“Yes, that one,” confirms the gent. Then, blissfully unaware of anyone else in the store, he asks, “What is that?”

“What, this?”

No! No! I scream in silence.

“Yes, that.”

“It’s a scone.”

“Oh” says the happy gent, “what kind of scone?”

“I’m not sure,” says the young man behind the counter. He scratches his head and turns toward the fellow next to him, “do you know what kind of scone that is?”

“Fruit. That’s a fruit scone,” says his mate.

“A fruit scone,” repeats the young fellow.

If this guy asks what kind of fruit, I may have to kill him.

“No,” the nice gent says pensively, “maybe I’ll have a roll.”

“Just a roll?’

“No, I’ll have that, and that, and that, and a roll,” his says, pleasure radiating across his face.

At last it’s my turn. I step to the counter trying to control the fearsome beating of my heart.

“I’ll have a cappuccino. How much is that?” I ask.

“A cappuccino?”

“Yes, please, just a cappuccino in a to-go cup.”

Mirabile dictum! Will wonders never cease! He does not repeat my order.

“That’ll be 3 euro 80.”

“Thanks” I say and step around the corner, fidgeting, to wait.

The barista is a beautiful young woman with eyes so blue, so lovely, so tranquil that a less caffeinated swain might fall into their limpid pools. I glance nervously to see if she is making my cup of coffee.

Then another woman steps up and asks her, “Are you Julie?’

“Why, yes. I am,” replies the pretty-eyed barista.

I am…” She could be the f***ing Queen of Sheba for all I care. Just make my damn cup of coffee!

“How lovely to meet you,” says the barista.

Can this be really happening?

Her hands slow down, each coffee-making movement an accompaniment to their leisurely conversation. How can two people who have just met have so much to talk about? I watch her stir, stiiiir, stiiiiiiiir, slow, slow, slow, each round a careful dream of perfect circularity, each motion a movement of infinite care. All the while, she smiles the smile of the Giaconda, sweet and impenetrable, as she continues the inconsequential nattering with her new-found best friend.

The minutes pass. It doesn’t matter any longer. Class has started. Maybe it has even ended. I am in Dingle and this is the Bean.

I am at peace.


About the Writer

Tony Sedgwick was born in Spain and grew up in Europe and South America. After a career in international law, he returned to his family’s ranch in southern Arizona, about 10 miles north of the U.S./Mexico border. His work with the people of the borderlands served as his inspiration to obtain an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from Bay Path University. His thesis, which he is currently revising in hopes of publication, is a personal vision of the evolution of that border from a gateway to a wall.


Write with us in Dingle next year, July 31 to Aug. 8, 2021. Contact sshea@baypath.edu for full information.

We welcome submissions to Multiplicity Blog (nonfiction prose of 1,000 words or fewer, poetry, and photography) all year. We also accept submissions of longer nonfiction works (up to 5,000 words), poetry or photography for the Fall 2020 issue of Multiplicity Magazine: At Work. Magazine submissions close on September 25, 2020. More details here.