The Breath of Connections

Helen Hills Hills Chapel, Northampton, MA

It was an escape of connections — meaning an escape to connections, about connections.

In Northampton, Massachusetts, I re-connected with my college roommate Melissa, mere miles from where we met in Amherst nearly 30 years ago.

Jen and Melissa

After a meal and the start of a conversation that would continue on until morning, we enjoyed an evening with Krishna Das at First Churches of Northampton, a stunning backdrop for a sacred concert of Sanskrit chanting.

Krishna Das, First Churches of Northampton

My breath rises within me,
the breath of the heart.
The sweet breath.
The sacred breath leads me in.

- Krishna Das

The next day, a visit with friends Judith and Frank, and the gift of a conversation that unfolded over six hours—food, books, writers, words (and silence), how we process…how we love. “To me the give-and-take of conversation is the breath of life,” Judith writes on her blog, Touch2Touch, which served as our introduction several years ago. How wonderful its tagline: “Only connect!” Amen.

Jen and Judith

Frank reading one of the first copies of LOOK UP!, Jen’s new book



She wonders if he remembers the night he found that cat. Left to fend for itself in the winter woods, it died by the trail — as if it waited for someone to come back. Collar with its name, no address or phone. Alone.

He carried it to the vet, along with his warped sense of humor. “Were you attached to it?” she mocked. “Yes, and then I abandoned it,” he replied — each of them poking fun at the intimate confessions they’d shared. Achilles heels, laid bare.

Ironic, how easily they laughed at the inevitable.

In his absence now, she remembers…poor discarded “Love.”

100-Word Fiction, from the arvhives, ©2008, Jen Payne
IMAGE: Winter Forest, Konstantin Yuon

Beautiful Foolishness


Bursting from the confines
of appropriate
and polite —
and compliant —
I exploded!

Ran down the street
with arms and legs flailing.
Did a pirouette in the
produce aisle.
Stomped my foot
and yelled with a roar.
Rolled in the grass
like a playful pup.
Jumped in the ocean
fully clothed.
Sang out loud
in a crowded room.

It’s not chagrin,
This pink on my cheeks,
but flush
from the rush of

WORDS from the arvhives, ©2008, Jen Payne.
IMAGE: Crazy violence, Rik Wouters

What Sound, Change?


I remember
sitting on the front porch
that August night
my father died
thinking surely I would know.
Surely there would be
some sign
some sound
to note the if and when
of his passing


change needs
no fanfare.
No crescendo.

I remember
leaving you
two years ago this day
“I will never see you again.”
No fanfare.
No crescendo.
Wet gravel beneath my tires,
winter rain against the window–
change’s only notes.

I remember.
Its aftermath
Still echoes
like the tempest
that brews
this morning.
I want
the thunder to
crash loudly.
Rattle the roof
and windows.
Mark the anniversary
with ferocity


change needs
no fanfare.
No crescendo.

From the archives, ©2008, Jen Payne

Perhaps Found


It was the anthem of my twenties,
fledgling adult longing
painfully called out on radio waves
reminding me over and over

But I still haven’t found
What I’m looking for

Then frequent opportunity for flashback
on the oxymoron of
“oldies rock ‘n roll” stations,
its classic, timeless reminder

But I still haven’t found
What I’m looking for

Volume up and
from the diaphragm
in what I like to imagine
was harmony, I sang

But I still haven’t found
What I’m looking for

over and over

Then suddenly, not.
One day Bono calls out longingly
and I just don’t respond.
I have no use for his anthem now—
nor mine—
and change the channel

WORDS: ©2014, Jen Payne
IMAGE: Girl Standing on Foreshore, Half Moon Bay, 1932, Museum Victoria.

And at every moment, angels.


How blessed are we to have angels
who show up when we need them?
(And even when we think we don’t?)

Angels who are as obvious as the ones we love…
and as subtle as the stranger who knocks at our door.

In the moments we celebrate.
In the moments we find gratitude.
In the moments that challenge us.
In the moments that wreck our hearts.

At every moment, angels.

©2014, Jen Payne