Riddle #2

Downstairs by Arthur Hughes

Dear Reader,

I’ve crafted a clever series of riddles with Easter eggs in preparation for the release of my first linked collection of short stories: The Council of Amara.

Here’s the second riddle. Follow the journey (with tons of goodies) on my Instagram.

BSYLI
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Riddle 2
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In order to recover my name, turn to page 22 of Goodbye (Hello) and contemplate these words;⁣⁣
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An Oracle.⁣⁣
A Prophet. ⁣⁣

Until we meet again,

Ilyssa

Remembering 9/11

I’ve seen a lot of people recounting and reflecting on their story of where they were during 9/11 on that fateful day so I’ve decided to share my story in this space as well.⁣

Some of you may not know me well, but I was born in New York, on Long Island, to be precise, and I don’t remember much about the specifics.⁣

I was six. I was in elementary school. I remember being confused, sensing my teacher’s apprehension and the fierce whispers and plastered concerned smiles of my teachers.⁣

On that day, all the parents rushed to pick us up out of school. The mood was edged in fear, but I didn’t remember why. I can still see those burning towers in my eyes. For hours on end, the towers were projected on my television screen.⁣

But I couldn’t understand why. Weeks later, I drew billowing gray clouds on parchment paper with two stark towers to symbolize this moment I had seen — a spectacle of a scene, surely.⁣

All my teachers commented on how beautiful my drawing was, but I think in the end, I drew it as a means to understand because I still don’t understand.⁣

And these memories — these recollections are a paltry attempt to put meaning to the spectacle, the burning towers crashing down — a love story.⁣

How could we not look away?⁣

How could I not look away?⁣

Years later, I remember the news reel re-runs and the speeches set in constant, regurgitated motion, but I’ll never forget the way it made me feel. ⁣

I think I’ll keep looking on. Because I’ll never be able to look away.⁣

And I don’t think any of us will.⁣

Photo Credit — Banksy

Dear Stranger

Leaving Signed Copies Behind

I’ve been contemplating the place the stranger occupies and our relation to it.

Who is the stranger? When does someone cease being the stranger, or the specter, in our eyes?

How did we come to calling the stranger our enemy? I suppose my spirituality predicates many of my views on the stranger as the one who is truly the familiar and it has informed my belief that we are all connected in our uniqueness — all divine expressions of the same source no matter what you want to call it.

In my first poetry collection, I consider the stranger my familiar — my lover, my beloved, and my dearest friend.

Today, my Dad asked me why I sign books for someone I’ve never met and left it there with no clue who may be receiving it.

And as I’ve told you now, I communicated the same message in kind to him.

I believe no one is truly a stranger.

I believe we share this moment and all the ones which came prior.

And if you greeted me on the road, asking for my solace and my embrace, would I not give it?

Would I not call you friend?

Trust

Light At End Of Tunnel by Michal Vařečka

Repeat after me: I trust and surrender to the magnificent flow of life.

Today has been challenging for me. I’ve been met by specters of the past — doubt and a nameless kind of fear about my future and the birth of my newest aspirations — to write and live in the place where the lioness lay.

So, I’ve chosen to breathe through these shadows and fears and surrender to what is out of my hands and placed within the divine flow of consciousness. I believe in G-d — the magical, the mystical, the wondrous, and the unseen and I know even when I doubt that all is going according to plan.

Take some time for yourself today and dedicate it to play.

What does this look like for you? What does it feel like to trust and surrender to your heart and your wildest desires?

For me, it feels like breathing, dancing, and listening to good music.

For me, it feels like putting on my favorite fragrance and meditating.

For me, it feels like trust.

How will you surrender to the flow of life today?

Listening to the Muse

The cover for my first linked collection of short stories

I’ve been pretty cryptic for a couple weeks now, dropping hints and mementos of lines on my socials from my first linked collection of short stories, which I’ve decided to publish.⁣

The Council of Amara, for me, was a project, which began in a dream, and in the nature of the muse we must listen to all our dreams and treat them with a kind of devotional care.⁣

During my senior year of college, I wrote and defended a linked collection of short stories, which spoke to the strength of femininity and the nature of seeing female as strong. Prior to this point, all I had witnessed within film and media was constant caricatures of women as hyper masculinized — cold, frigid, and ready to battle the world with an AK-47 and a bold red lip. ⁣

As you might imagine, this deeply disturbed me on several levels. In my stories and the stories I saw painted on the page, I longed to see a woman like me: strong and feminine, vulnerable, brave, sometimes uncertain of her path, but strong despite it all. ⁣

So, I wrote these stories as I contemplated desire and what decisions we are forced to succumb to in the nature of our desire as its magical enchantment grabs us with its silken golden threads and never lets go.⁣

I wrote for the women who cry and about the men who watch women cry and do not know how to properly witness it and care for it. I wrote for the men who do not know how to cry. I wrote for the women who long to see themselves in their own stories. ⁣

And I wrote for myself. ⁣

The Council of Amara, in its completed form, will be out on December 31st.⁣

Preorder is available now.⁣

Fallen Astrophyllite: Recovered Purpose

Yesterday, the stone for one of my favorite rings inset with Astrophyllite fell out. I knew right then and there exactly what this meant for me within my life.

When I purchased this ring years ago, I craved for my purpose — to realize it within this life of my own. In that time, I imagined my purpose to be something greater than me. How wrong was I to conceive this.

All along, years later, I realize now that my purpose has always been within me — an effervescent spark in the dark guiding and reminding me of my home.

It all begins with me and then ripples out to you, my friend.

So, despite the sentimentality I hold with this ring, it’s time to let it go and find another ring, which serves me in my purpose now that I’ve remembered home: a place filled with words and words and words, which I intend to write for the rest of my life.

Pressing Publish

Today marks the official release of my Dad’s novel: Retrieval. I feel honored to hold space for my Dad and have been incredibly honored to make my Dad’s lifelong dream a reality.

In July, I decided to publish my first full-length poetry collection. This action, in turn, inspired my Dad to pursue his dreams and make them a reality. With my help with digital know-how and formatting, I helped my Dad finally hit that publish button yesterday and I can’t tell you how humbling that feels.

I’ve been mulling over these feelings for quite some time, so I thought I’d put them to the page now. I can’t tell you how honored I feel to have inspired another to go after their dreams after years of conceding to the whims of the traditional publishing industry who deemed my Dad’s manuscript not worthy.

For many years, I was in a similar boat as my father. I thought I would never publish if I couldn’t walk through the golden gates of traditional publishing.

And yet, here we both are now, victorious, with our words written on the page and now in your hands.

Thank you.

A Multitude of Drops

Anne Birch by George Romney — My favorite painting at the Phoenix Art Museum

The last time I was at the Phoenix Art Museum with my friend, I was at odds with myself and the hundreds of years of creation isolated between the art museum’s walls.

I kept thinking to myself, why me? Why did I choose to be creative in this life when I am constantly reminded of the usefulness of other paths and careers.

At that time, I bemoaned my creativity — wished to be different, in fact. If only I could live a life in pursuit of something technical or scientific, I kept saying.

Now, a few months later, my perspective has radically changed. How lucky I am to live this life — to create art and share it with you, the stranger from a near-far distance.

How lucky I am to be the amalgamation of all the artists and creators who came before me. How lucky I am to live a life where my words can create a ripple in the ocean.

“Yet what is any ocean, but a multitude of drops,” David Mitchell writes in his masterpiece of a novel, Cloud Atlas. And how true he is.

I’ve been thinking of those who’ve been considered the literary greats — Walt Whitman, Bram Stoker, Sappho, Emily Dickinson; the list continues on ad infinitum.

I’ve been thinking of how Whitman spoke of equality — of Bram Stoker’s candid declarations of affection to Whitman and how anyone, including you, can touch someone with your words.

I think it’s rather lovely to hold this space for you, whoever you may be, across this liminal space. My words may not be pressed between a physical page, but I believe they’ve touched someone in the ether.

And in the end, that’s worth it.

Thank you.

-Ilyssa

Oceanic Memories in Art

I’ve been thinking lately about my legacy in these poems and words I press to the page.

One of my favorite musicians, Zella Day, once spoke to the oceanic nature of her songs and how in time she will collect a catalogue of pressed moments, which she can return to any time.

Now, as I near the next poem of my life, I think fondly back on the catalogue I’ve created thus far within my poetry. It’s rather beautiful how I can return to any poem I’ve written, or any work for that matter, and find something new every time.

In the end, this is what I love about art in all its multifaceted forms. I love how artists show up for their art every day. I love how people can find some new interpretation in the words, which I press to the page (and the words you may press to the page).

I love how I can go to an art gallery and connect so viscerally with a portrait painted hundreds of years ago. And I love how I can meet you in this hour, without ever touching you in the physical realm.

That’s why I show up every day in my life. That’s why I show up in my art.

I do it because that’s what it means to live well and to preserve a moment in time for eternity.

Unexpected Leaves at TSA

This morning, as I made my way to the airport, I was in a rush, surrounded by metallic drab grays and blues with insincere faces and the imminent will of the clock speeding me up.

I reached for my great grandmother’s gold necklace and fixed it onto my neck, combatting a headache and a sleepy daze, which I hadn’t been able to shake since last night.

I’m going home, I kept thinking.

As I rifled through my pockets at the TSA station, I discovered this memento I stowed away days ago from Yosemite Park. Instantly, it brought a smile to my face and made me remember, just like that, the divinity of this moment.

I’ll close off this note by wishing you well on your journey. Make sure you pack spare leaves and mementos as you traverse the darkest corners and emerge brilliant and golden with everything to show for it.

-Ilyssa