Woman Inspired! | Stella Gibbons and Carson McCullers

One of my favorite bookish swap series to host is “Literary Wisdom” on swap-bot. Through the swaps, participants select a bookish postcard and write on the back a quote which inspires them. The quote must come from imaginative literature (poetry, prose, plays)–not sacred texts, self-help books, or non-fiction. For Women’s History Month, I decided to dedicate the swaps to women writers, since, unsurprisingly, male writers often dominate the swaps.

I created swaps for the Cup and Chaucer and Book Lovers Congregate groups. Lucky me! My randomly chosen partner for both swaps was Geraldine J (Nannydino). I always enjoy receiving postcards from Geraldine. Not only are the postcards well-selected with my varied interests and tastes in mind but the presentation of the written side of the postcard is always clean and inviting–very neat handwriting and unique placement of stickers, stamps, and postage. Somehow, Geraldine packs a lot of information on the 4×6 postcard backs, always including the date and weather.  Bonus–we have some of the same postcard collections so I get back the very postcards I love.

Now, for the literary inspiration:

Stella Gibbons (1902-1989). Photograph, Mark Gerson/National Portrait Gallery, London

Stella Gibbons was a British writer with poetry, short stories, and 25 novels to her credit. The inspired quote Geraldine chose to share comes from her first novel, Cold Comfort Farm, which is a parody of the “loam and lovechild” rural genre.

Every year, in the fulness o’ summer, when the sukebind hangs heavy from the wains. . .’tes the same. And when the spring comes her hour is upon her again … ‘Tes the hand of Nature and we women cannot escape it.

What seems to be most inspiring here–besides the hilarious novel itself–is “sukebind,” a word Gibbons coined. According to the Oxford English Dictionary “sukebind” is an “imaginary plant associated with superstition, fertility, and intense rustic passion.”

Check out two of The Guardian‘s reviews of Cold Comfort Farm:

If you’re interested in reading the novel, you should have no problems borrowing it from many of the e-libraries.

Carson McCullers (1917-1967). Photograph, Bettman/Corbis

Carson McCullers, born Lula Carson Smith, also wrote in many genres–plays, essays, short stories, poetry, and (of course) novels. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, her debut [though not first] novel (at the age of 23), remains her most popular work.

The inspiration Geraldine shared actually comes from McCullers’ commentary on her characters. “She felt her characters powerfully, once stating:”

I live with the people I create and it has always made my essential loneliness less keen.

And one of the inspired quotes form The Heart is a Lonely Hunter:

My advice to you is this. Do not attempt to stand alone. …The most fatal thing a man can do is try to stand alone.”

For more about Carson and her works, see the links below:

The postcards come from the collection, Postcards from Penguin Modern Classics: One Hundred Writers in One Box. I actually have the collection and mentioned it [or its lack of diversity] in a post on Eileen Chang. Despite the shortcomings of the collection, the photographs are stunning, and I’m happy to have two of the women writers “return” to me

Before I go, I leave you with a little homework. On the back of the McCullers postcard was an equally stunning fierce and inspiring woman postage stamp–featuring Elsie MacGill. If you don’t know who she is, you must do a little “research” and come back and report [in the comments] three things you’ve learned about her.

Until next time…

#ThursdayTreeLove | Something Hopeful…

For there is hope for a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that its shoots will not cease. –Job 14:7

Today was one of those days. I’d been staring at screens all day–reviewing essays, entering grade book items, meeting with students in the virtual classroom, and responding to emails. By 2:00 p.m., my brain screamed, “No more!”  The sun was shining and I was desperate to get outdoors, stretch my limbs, and finally soak in some Vitamin D.

The guys and I jumped in the car, took a short drive, and went for a very short walk at our favorite nature preserve–favorite because it’s the one closest to us; short because suddenly carloads of people and dogs showed up. [We are serious about the social distancing]

As I mentioned more than once, it rained pretty much all winter here in the Tennessee Valley, so in certain areas the preserve looked like a different place: Some of the trails [like the one above] have been taken over by water, and much of the brush has been beaten down by heavy rains.

Newly fallen, dead, and uprooted trees added character to the already beautiful landscape, offering promise of life and renewal.

I absorbed the scene as long as I could. There is something awe-inspiring, powerful, amazing, and hopeful about nature taking (back) its course.


I am joining Parul Thakur for #ThursdayTreeLove every second and fourth Thursday of the month. If you would like to play along, post a picture of a tree on your blog and link it back to her latest #treelove post.

A Thousand Moons | #WordlessWednesday

I am born as the sun,
but then turn into the moon,
as my blonde hairs turn
grayish-white and fall to
the ground,
only to be buried again,
then to be born again,
into a thousand suns
and a thousand moons

“Hymn of the Divine Dandelion,” by Suzy Kassem


About the image: Social distancing and the disrespectful amount of rain we’ve had has made it quite difficult for me to capture the early spring blossoms, but the dandelions never fail me. I captured this one a couple of days ago outside a small marketplace. My hubby and I went on a literal hunt for tissue paper and hand soap. Our mission was half accomplished–soap, no TP. It was challenging o get out of the house early enough to beat the market stalkers. No worries, though. Hubby found some yesterday. Thankfully, there will be no rain today, and we will have six hours straight of sun [no clouds]! #CoronaChronicles

A Boxful of Pooh!

Pooh and friends on the bridge watching as Eeyore floating beneath. Artwork by Susan Alena.

Way back in February—it seems eons ago, right?—I went to my mailbox a few times to find Winnie-the-Pooh goodies. There were envelopes filled with stickers, letters, postcards, tags, bookmarks, and even earrings. I was über busy when most arrived, so I oohed and ahhed over them for a moment and placed them back in their envelopes to enjoy later.

Later came today.

Pooh makes a great themed mail package–as the not one, two, or even three, but the four Pooh packages I received prove.

First came the envelope from Tess E (Vontak on swap-bot) filled with Baby Pooh stickers, washi tape, and note paper.

Aren’t they cute?! I am using these to send letters to a few baby nieces this week. I was supposed to write these letters weeks ago, but life really gets in the way of the fun stuff.

Then, a gorgeous Red Bubble envelope arrived with four Pooh postcards from Geraldine J (NannyDino on swap-bot). [Click an image to view larger]

I thought that was the swap, but a week or two later I received a fun package of even more Pooh goodies from Geraldine. [Click an image to view larger]

The handmade storybook envelope was packed with a Pooh birthday card, homemade stickers, and miniature classic Pooh book covers for crafting–all enclosed in a red polka dot envelope bedecked with Canadian Pooh postage. That’s a wonderful load of Pooh!

Then, surprise! My swap-bot-“Cup and Chaucer”-artist-blogging friend, Holly M sent a handmade tag and card “just because.”

Holly has the neatest Pooh supplies. Check out the stamps and the hand-lettering. Her stamping skills almost inspire me to pull out my rarely [and/or never] used stamps and put them to use. Almost. I really don’t like the cleanup part.

I recall Holly was kind enough to send some adorable Pooh mail a couple of years ago: Holly Art!

Finally, Susan Alena (postmansdaughter on swap-bot) sent a package that floored me.  All of it:

The hand-drawn art on the envelope.

The shrinky dink bookmark…

and earrings.

The watercolor that leads this post? Also, created by Susan.

If you ever wondered how much Pooh-love can be packed into an envelope, now you know. A whole lot.

Each sender gave her envelope so much time and attention. I know some people see it as “only mail,” but the mail often tells a story about the person’s heart. And–I do not take for granted how incredibly blessed I am to interact with so many beautiful people.

May You Sing: Rest and Renewal

“Just Before Spring,” or “Last Day of Winter.”

Today is the first day of spring. There are few signs, but it is certainly on the way.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and planning this week. Universities, as most know, have transitioned fully to online instruction to “flatten the curve” of COVID-19.  Even though these are “troubled” times, I can’t help but notice a certain relief in the posture of my colleagues and students. Sure, there is disappointment and a little apprehension about this new way of doing things (for some), but there’s also a collective sigh, expelling loads of stress.

I am grateful.

I am not grateful for the virus. But I am grateful for the slowing down, for deliverance from the break-neck pace that had me feeling like life was spinning out of control and the only way to stop was to hit a metaphorical wall. I pray this wall is not as painful.

In the midst of the confusion, the questions, the planning, the poem below landed on my screen via a friend’s Facebook post. I felt every word. May the words carry you. May they lighten the heaviness of this load we’re all carrying. May they usher you into the magic and renewal of spring.

May you sing.

Lockdown by Fr. Richard Hendrick, March 2020

Yes there is fear.
Yes there is isolation.
Yes there is panic buying.
Yes there is sickness.
Yes there is even death.
But,
they say that in Wuhan after so many years of noise
you can hear the birds again.
They say that after just a few weeks of quiet
the sky is no longer thick with fumes
but blue and grey and clear.
They say that in the streets of Assisi
people are singing to each other
across the empty squares,
keeping their windows open
so that those who are alone
may hear the sounds of family around them.
They say that a hotel in the West of Ireland
Is offering free meals and delivery to the housebound.
Today a young woman I know
is busy spreading fliers with her number
through the neighborhood
so that the elders may have someone to call on.
Today Churches, Synagogues, Mosques and Temples
are preparing to welcome
and shelter the homeless, the sick, the weary.
All over the world people are slowing down and reflecting.
All over the world people are looking at their neighbours in a new way.
All over the world people are waking up to a new reality.
To how big we really are.
To how little control we really have.
To what really matters.
To Love.
So we pray and we remember that:
Yes there is fear.
But there does not have to be hate.
Yes there is isolation.
But there does not have to be loneliness.
Yes there is panic buying.
But there does not have to be meanness.
Yes there is sickness.
But there does not have to be disease of the soul.
Yes there is even death.
But there can always be a rebirth of love.
Wake to the choices you make as to how to live now.
Today, breathe.
Listen, behind the factory noises of your panic.
the birds are singing again;
the sky is clearing;
spring is coming;
and we are always encompassed by Love.
Open the windows of your soul
and though you may not be able
to touch across the empty square,
sing.

Letter from Lu! | Snail Mail Quick Tip

Squeals!!!

I received a “letter” from my little great-niece Lu [my niece Tiffany’s daughter]. Isn’t it adorable? I know you don’t understand the special language she used to write her letter, but trust me. It is full of ❤ for her favorite [great] aunt–me, of course! She even used my favorite colors!!!

Thank you for sharing your spectacular work, Lu!

Lu is the adorable baby in this post and this post. She’s now a whole two years old, grown enough to make art and send mail!

We’ll be spending a lot of time indoors over the next few weeks, and kids will probably be making art almost daily–drawings, sketches, paintings, crafts, and more. If you’re like me, you already have an entire museum of your kid’s art in albums, on the walls, in piles on your desk, and in a sealed bin beneath the art table. 😀  Do you really want the task of finding ways to display or store weeks more of artwork?

Of course not!

Lu’s special letter prompted me to offer another snail mail quick tip: Art in the mail!

Sending art mail is a cute way to dispose of  share some of the precious art your kids make. Simply place those one-of-a-kind masterpieces in an envelope and send them to grandparents, aunts, uncles, godparents, friends, and/or the kind senior citizen who has a soft spot for your family. This will not only let them know you’re thinking about them but will also provide a bit of  sunshine while we’re all sort of “stuck.”

If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, you know that I send and receive a lot of art mail. So–even if you don’t have children, you can send your own art.

It is so easy, but yields so much joy!

#ThursdayTreeLove | A Sweet Remembrance

Sweet memories are timeless treasures of the heart.

It’s late and I am overwhelmed [not panicked] by “all the things” and all the COVID-19 precautions and contingencies. I find it necessary to pause the madness of planning and class preparations to share a little #treelove this evening.

This is not the post I planned, but it is the one I needed.

In the photo above, my then two-year-old [thought he] was hiding in the banana trees at my parents’ home. I ran across the photo on my hard drive moments ago, and at the sight of this sweet remembrance, a wave of calm washed over me.

All is not right in the world, but all is well in my heart.


I am joining Parul Thakur for #ThursdayTreeLove every second and fourth Thursday of the month. If you would like to play along, post a picture of a tree on your blog and link it back to her latest #treelove post.