Day 14: January Mindful Writing Challenge

zengravelacross flowerless gravel the drift of a passer-by’s perfume


Mark Holloway
Beachcombing for the Landlocked

Kaspa writes: We’re just under half-way through the small stone challenge and I’ve enjoyed seeing the huge variety of small stones appearing in the comments here, and on Facebook and twitter using the #smallstone hashtag.

My favorite small stones show me something as if I’m experiencing it for the first time. In a few words or lines the writer invites me to stand next to them and be in that same moment. In my favorite small stones the writer almost disappears.

The sharp-eyed of you will have spotted that I’ve featured a small stone today that we also featured a couple of days ago. I think this small stone is a good example of what I’m talking about, and (if I’m honest) I forgot that we used it earlier.

In that small stone, by Mark Holloway, a whole world is conjured in just one line. I am standing next to him smelling the same perfume.

There is something about loss in this small stone. The gravel is explicitly flowerless, the passer-by has used her perfume to provide a beautiful scent the flowers would have made if they were still there.

I like that the loss isn’t spelled out here, Mark doesn’t say how he feels about his encounter with this moment, although I think the very act of contrasting the gravel and the perfume gives us a clue to his feelings.

If Mark had told us directly how he felt, I think it would be harder for me to stand where he is standing, and experience the loss for myself. I would be reacting to his feeling, instead of feeling my own reaction to that moment.

I think it’s a powerful small stone for this reason. I am allowed to have my own encounter with the gravel and the perfume.

Can you get yourself more out of the way in the next small stone you write?

We’re on the fourteenth day of the January Mindful Writing Challenge – please post your small stone in the comments below.

If you’re not already signed up, our 31 Days of Waking Up daily email package was designed to accompany you during this (or any) month of mindful writing. Keep writing!

Image: Attribution Some rights reserved by Seldom Scene Photography

Comments & replies

73 thoughts on “Day 14: January Mindful Writing Challenge

  1. H. V. Lehtinen

    He sits across from me, his medical insurance pays for his therapy, he holds a small bag of hot French fries in his left hand, he says, “Nobody has ever told me the three little words,” it sometimes takes him a long time to explain himself because of his brain injury, he says, “I’ve never been told those three little words.” He says. He says.

  2. Brinda


    sizzling onions dance in the pan
    while anise seed and cinnamon
    sing in chorus in the syrup
    awakening dormant senses

    taste buds waking up
    nostrils flutter in excitement
    fresh orange juice runs on
    meditative fingers

    dinner time, a marriage of
    multitasking sequences
    where perspiration beads fuse
    onto the grounds of well-being


  3. Kay Walker

    One foot in front of the other,
    Step, step, step
    Soul taking over, heart confers with head.
    A consensus miracle.
    Lightness returns, balance restored.
    Step, step, step.
    One foot in front of the other.

    1. oakhart

      I want to alter the above slightly

      60 years on
      The photo dropped into a clear space
      It is still smiling

      1. JulesPaige

        reminds me of what my grandson said yesterday…
        a toy fell in a crack in the basement – they’ll need a strong flashlight to find it…
        kind of like something hidden in an old house that the new owners find –
        we wonder of the smile and the joy.

  4. JulesPaige

    a tanka:
    civic duty
    ready for that flight
    the solo one; passenger
    train; into the maw
    the governmental body
    seeking twelve peers for jury

  5. SM Jenkin

    The light burns, blank
    hard white. Above the
    heat mirage the screen
    The beetle-black box beside
    me sighs.
    My finger pauses over the
    words. I roll my eyes
    across the wastelands to the
    blinking line.
    Watch it select, hesitate
    – “send”

  6. A.D. Stankowicz

    I’m not sure
    if this full moon has
    anything to do with
    the dogs foraging
    for frozen poop
    to eat

  7. Satya Robyn

    leg muscles tremble, my palms deposit a slick of slippery sweat on the mat. my breath gets louder. I try to look up at the ceiling, praying I won’t topple.

  8. Jill Salahub

    The studio where I’m doing yoga teacher training shares a bathroom with an art studio that hosts kids’ birthday parties. Walking down the hallway, past the paintings of monkeys drying on the floor in the common area, the door to “Juiced on Imagination” is open. A long table is surrounded by little girls wearing pink construction paper crowns covered in glitter and stickers. They are eating cupcakes and chattering like little birds, fingers covered in paint. I look down and notice glitter on the floor of the hallway.

    Later, as we are practicing pranayama, breathing deep into our bellies, I notice that our teacher has glitter on her cheek. We are all connected, can’t help but get our sparkle all over each other, all over the spaces we inhabit. No matter how different we might seem, we are the same.

  9. Bob

    The small glass bottle fits perfectly in my palm. A golden lid between me and my drink.

    Unfiltered juice, sediment at the bottom.

    A gentle shake before I twist it open.

    Seems the waiter beat me to it and the nectar flies across the restaurant.


  10. Helen Lewis

    When the call comes I’m on my yoga mat in supta baddha konasana – supine, knees apart, soles of my feet together, with a strap holding my legs in place. I start fumbling with the buckle on the strap and there it is again; loud and insistent. I swear (unyogically), extricate myself gracelessly from the strap (doubly unyogically), and stumble across the room (triply unyogically) to answer the call – a cat on the wrong side of the door.

  11. Carol A. Stephen

    Jan. 14, 2014

    If fate lies
    inside us,
    what changes might we
    still have power to make?

    If we think differently now,
    live differently, can we
    slow or halt disease
    our careless lives have brought?


  12. Hajra

    I can feel the warmth of the sun
    I can feel the chill of the wind
    I can eat
    I can drink
    I can laugh
    I can cry
    Yet he cant

  13. Allison Shapiro

    Trying on different clothes, different roles
    Letting each drape, enrobe and unfold
    Cinching with a belt or allowing for flow
    Noticing what feels full, empty or just right.

  14. John S Oliver

    Clouds Creeping

    Clouds are creeping across the sky.

    Their gradual progress is noticed when seen in contrast to the rock steady utility poles.

  15. Kellie Edwards

    The lure of the life changing email. Instead of tuning in to those first mindful moments of the day and savouring the gentle flavour of it, emails. Life changing possibilities. Someone might have sent me their most insightful wisdom and it might open doors of awareness as yet unknown. Curious how stubborn some old habits of thinking and doing can be.

  16. Kylie Whyte

    You may be faux. Made from plastics with just a hint of worm thread. But you caress my skin with a gentleness and warmth – and remind me of teddy bear cuddles.

  17. Andree

    Good posture
    Good genes
    Street smarts
    And the uncanny ability to get weak in the knees.
    Make of it what you will
    But today, such is my legacy.

  18. Daphne Radenhurst

    Falling on my mother’s portrait,
    Casts dappled shadows,
    Giving it added depth and luminosity.

  19. Laurel Regan

    crunchy peanut butter
    stash of baking sundries in snap-top glass jars
    flour-smudged nose, warm oven, parchment-lined baking sheets
    and the sweet promise of cookies

  20. larry p

    We stand at the plate-glass door,
    my small friend and I,
    looking out into the darkness.
    We see shadow people,
    looking at us through the glass.
    My small friend and I, both,
    reach out and strike the glass.
    The shadow people follow suit.

  21. Pamela Niles

    Fingertips to face
    callus tips on smooth surface
    a slight tension, as with velvet,
    pulls and the fingertips
    glide over the hard
    ridge of the cheekbone
    up to a downy indentation
    underneath the eye
    where warm tears
    moisten them.

  22. Steve

    there I sat
    as my daughter
    learned to ride her bike
    while playing her clarinet

    taking notes on paper
    then singing, now grooves
    in the air, they drift
    without training wheels

  23. S.E.Ingraham

    Tuesday January 14, 2014


    You tell me, it’s nothing. You tell me, it’s easy.
    But the house is redolent with scents of your
    ease, your “thrown-together” winter stew, burbling
    on low in the crock-pot all the colourless day long,
    and it’s made another dark January day bearable,
    it has.

  24. Julie Gengo

    Day 14: January Mindful Writing Challenge
    Primary Colors

    Blue frame
    Yellow rims
    Circles moving in all directions
    Cigar box art breaks the flow
    Furniture of a different hue
    And pillows that tell a different story

  25. beverley

    The finest sand is running through this wakefulness. Each undertaking widens the aperture and the falling sand accelerates, rushes, hushes into a thickening memory.

  26. Nonnie

    Textures, I’m drawn to them, like a magnet to metal.
    Choosing clothing to wear, I feel the fabric and check for tags brushing against my neck.
    Selecting furniture, sitting on whatever it is;
    if it’s not comfy to my bottom,
    or if rough on my legs, the item stays in the store.

  27. De Jackson


    the moon’s a touchstone
    whether she’s full and fat,
    milky smooth and sassy;
    or when someone’s
    erased her southern edge,
    blown stardust out to sky.

  28. NanLeah

    All this time
    I thought it was her
    She had fled on vacation.
    She of rhyme
    To her I’d defer
    Now profoundly absent dictation.

    Then I found
    It was me, not her!
    She’d helped me sculpt my foundation.
    Lost and then found
    Spirit and I concur
    Invite your Muse with Divine adoration!

  29. S.E.Ingraham

    January 15, 2014


    Reportedly the highest winds ever recorded
    blew in last night… as evidenced by the brittle-
    branch willow’s limbs strewn thickly over the yard;
    self-pruning is one thing, this looks more like
    Texas chain-saw massacre.

  30. Linda

    Two Rainbow Lorikeets take turns splashing about in the bird bath. Wet and bedraggled, they shriek their joy.

  31. Nina


    Mixing glitter in play-dough
    such a simple idea
    people forget how magical childhood is already
    you only need to sprinkle in a slight
    to create a whole new universe.

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