Soul Work: Making Art of Loving People

“Purple” Rose, Big Spring Park, Huntsville, Alabama. [Altered Photo]

As promised, here’s the “love post” I sent to family, friends, and swappers this year.  The card features an altered rose and a Van Gogh quote.

I found the rose last December showing off in Big Spring Park in Huntsville, Alabama. It was simply gorgeous and many people were pleasantly surprised to find its unexpected beauty.

Van Gogh offers more than a “quotable quote” here.  Instead of making a pithy statement about art, he uses art to challenge our notions of love.  Moving us beyond ideas of love as feelings and romance, he calls us to love in a way that an artist creates.  And that is anything but romantic or fleeting.

When we experience a finished work of art–visual, written or spoken, performed, musical composition–we respond with admiration or distaste without ever fully considering what the artist pours into the work or how gut-wrenchingly vulnerable it makes one to place the inner life on display.

When we truly love people, we are similarly crafting and creating, unveiling our most intimate self and making ourselves vulnerable to the scrutiny, judgement, and sometimes the disdain of others.  Our love for people doesn’t always mean they will love us back and though our natural inclination is to protect ourselves, we must learn to love them regardless…

This point was driven home for me and my little one last week, as he was present when someone disrespected me in a public forum.  Though angry, my little one emphasized that he “admired [my] restraint” because he knows that many people wouldn’t have taken it so calmly.  On our drive home we talked about where that “restraint” comes from.  I was honest with him. Some base part of me could have humiliated the man and “put him in his place,” perhaps deservedly so, but that this man could behave this way suggests that he needs my prayers, not my tongue.  In an instant during the exchange, I paused long enough to hear from God, check myself, and recognize in the offender the child of God who I am called to love.

Van Gogh is not speaking of simply loving people in our circles, those with whom we already share a heart connection, or those who are easy to love.  Nor is he simply speaking of a general, abstract love for humanity.  The artistry and mastery of love come as a result of loving through challenge and difficulty and loving people who aren’t loving, even people who can be mean and evil.  It comes as a result of seeing them as complex beings who, like a work of art, are more than what we immediately see.

Just as it takes more than a few strokes of the artist’s brush to create a masterpiece, it takes intense soul work and an intimate and constant connection with the Divine to make art of loving people.

Microblog Mondays: He Restores My Soul

My little one is sick for the fourth time this season, so when I woke up this morning, worried and stressed, I needed a simple and familiar scripture to start the day. I opened the Bible App and the “Verse of the Day” provided the first few verses of Psalm 23–just what I needed to help the little one get through the day.

“He Leads Me Beside Peaceful Streams,” Wheeler Lake, Huntsville, Alabama.

The Lord is my shepherd;
I have all that I need.
He lets me rest in green meadows;
He leads me beside peaceful streams.
He renews my strength.
Psalm 23:1-3a NLT

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Walk the Tinsel Trail with Me!

Happy Holidays!

When I wrote my last NaBloPoMo 2016 post, I planned to share (soon after) the photos from a post-Thanksgiving walk through the “Tinsel Trail” at Big Spring Park in Huntsville, Alabama.  The end-of-semester wrap up, holiday preparations, and sheer exhaustion hindered that effort, but I cannot let the holiday season pass without sharing the photos I captured.

“Tinsel Trail” is a display of Christmas trees in the park, located in Downtown Huntsville.  The trees are sponsored by various companies, groups, and even families.

There are a lot of trees and far too many to share in one post.  I captured more than 150 photos (not every tree), but I’m sharing only about one-third of them with you.

The trees are decorated in various ways, expressing the personalities of the groups sponsoring them.  Some are traditional with ornaments, bulbs, and ribbon.  [Click one of the collaged images for a closer look]

Some are there simply for company advertisement.

Some promote the arts.

Some education.

Some support parks and recreational areas.

Some raise awareness about mental illness.

Some are full of sugary dreams of childhood.

There are trucks.

And trains serving childhood fantasies of the North Pole.

Of course, Santa is there.

And other characters familiar to kids (and adults).

There are superheroes.

And favored villains.

There are reminders that some of us go through the holidays carrying grief.

There is a cute owl tree I can’t wait to share with a little friend who loves them.

00012s

Some represent universities.

And (for my many Alpha Kappa Alpha friends), at least one sorority.

Some are patriotic.

And, of course, many are religious, reminding us of the “reason for the season,” with messages of love and offers of hope in the Messiah.

Sometimes, I took in as much as I could of the whole image.

Sometimes, I focused on the details.

All in all, this was a wonderful visual feast and I hope you had a pleasurable walk with me.  Most of the photos were captured during late afternoon just before sunset, but we plan to go back before the trail vanishes to enjoy it in its evening glory.

For now, have a joyous Christmas season!

Abandoned…

While traveling around Northern Alabama, I encounter many abandoned buildings–homes, businesses, barns.  Some of the buildings obviously lack love and care, and passersby watch them slowly fall to pieces. It seems time stands still for some other buildings since there are no visible signs of neglect (other than overgrown grass and bushes).

I often wonder why these buildings are empty and alone and what stories they have to tell.  This intrigue led me to create an “Abandoned” swap in the “A Thousand Words” group on swap-bot.  It was for this swap that Midteacher sent the package I received yesterday.

She sent several photos of two abandoned buildings.

"Abandoned Building" by DBW aka Midteacher

“Abandoned Building” by DBW aka Midteacher. Edited in Pixlr with canvas overlay.

This is a building Midteacher passed on her way home [from work].  She loved how it was falling apart.  In her note she wrote that “the roof caved in from last winter’s heavy snow and then, sadly, it was torn down this summer.”

Here’s another slightly different view:

Abandoned Building

“Abandoned Building” by DBW aka Midteacher. Edited in Pixlr.

Here’s an old barn found on her friend’s property:

"Old Barn" by DBW aka Midteacher. Edited in Pixlr.

“Old Barn” by DBW aka Midteacher. Edited in Pixlr.

And here’s a view of the silo:

"Silo" by DBW aka Midteacher. Edited in Pixlr.

“Silo” by DBW aka Midteacher. Edited in Pixlr.

I sent SilverD, my “send to” partner, a notecard featuring an older photo and a building we pass three times a week, but finally stopped to photograph a month or two ago.

"Abandoned on a Corner"

“Abandoned on a Corner”

SilverD thinks the building was an old store or saloon. It also looks like a home with many additions. I’m not sure.

Here’s the altered photo in black and white:

"Abandoned on a Corner"

“Abandoned on a Corner”

Its neighbor is also abandoned.

"Abandoned's Neighbor"

“Abandoned’s Neighbor”

Though perhaps not as abandoned.

I have a whole collection of “abandoned buildings” buried on my computer. Perhaps, when life slows down a little, I’ll take the time to pull a few and share them.  Maybe, by then, I will know some of the stories. 😉

Until next time…

 

“Walk to the Cross”

"Cross" @ Burritt on the Mountain

74-Foot Cross @ Burritt on the Mountain, Monte Sano, Huntsville, Alabama

I lied.  Not intentionally, of course.  When I wrote “Autumn Has Flowers Too” would be my last blog post this year featuring autumn photos, I had no idea that my family and I would walk the nature trail at Burritt on the Mountain this week.  I expected the weather to turn really cold and shake what was left of autumn off the trees, but imagine my surprise when we reached the park and found lots of color!

Our goal today, as always, was to reach the very large cross.  The 74-foot cross (with a 31-foot crossbeam) is an impressive site. It was built in 1963, “a racially integrated and ecumenical effort during complicated times, symbolizing a city balanced by a symbol of peace and faith”  (Paige Minds the Gap).

"Cross" @ Burritt on the Mountain

The Cross @ Burritt on the Mountain weighs about 38 tons.

In the past, we visited Burritt during the winter months, after the trees lost their leaves, so it was nice to experience the trail and the cross in the golden glow of autumn.

As usual, I captured many photos, but I’ll just leave a “few” for you to enjoy.  “Few” is relative, right? [Click an image for a closer look]

 

Guest Post: “Walks with Chandra”

The week promises “cruel and unusual punishment” with little time for fun, so my friend Cy volunteered to write a guest post for me. Here, she shares photos from a few of our photo walks.  She very thoughtfully stages photos for her Instagram feed, so maybe, we can convince her to write a post with some of her IG photos one day.  Maybe, we can convince her to start a blog too!

Thanks, Cy, for taking a little of the burden for me this week!

***   ***   ***

“Begin where you are with who you are. In order to go where you want to go creatively, you have to start somewhere.” Julia Cameron~ Walking In This World: The Practical Art of Creativity

Two years ago, I joined Instagram, became a planner addict, and started taking photos with my cell phone. These things happened because of my walks with Chandra. Our walks are not for exercise. They are art walks, the kind that inspire me to see a tree or a cloud as art. I am interrupting her blog to share some of the photos I’ve taken on my walks with her.

I’ve never considered myself a photographer, but I’ve taken some cool photos. Of course, Chandra’s photos show much more skill than mine, but I think my photos have improved because she has shared a bit of how to look at the landscape.  My photos have been shot with a Samsung Galaxy S5 and S6.

Image

“Light and Shadow,” Photo by Dr. Cy

This image (above) was taken after Chandra pointed out to me how the light and shadow played against the side of a building. We were taking photos of trees that day, but like a good teacher, she saw something more interesting and we changed course for a few moments.

Image

“Light and Shadow II,” Photo by Dr. Cy

This image (above) was taken on the same day, just a few feet away from image one. The same concept of light and shadow is emphasized.

Cloud

“A Walk in the Clouds,” Photo by Dr. Cy

Sometimes, we just take photos of the same thing over and over. One day we took photos of clouds only.

Image

“Tree in Bloom,” Photo by Dr.Cy

This image is of a blooming tree. Chandra had seen the tree the day before and we made a special trip to take photos of it the next day, but in less than 24 hours the tree had already lost some of its “blossom” fullness.

"Tree in Bloom," Photo by Dr. Cy

“Tree in Bloom,” Photo by Dr. Cy

Same tree, different perspective.

So, let me know what you think. Has Chandra been a good teacher?

Veteran’s Day: Honoring America’s Heroes

I cannot let the day end without paying tribute to America’s veterans. The images below are from Huntsville-Madison County’s Veterans Memorial Park.  The memorial, dedicated on November 11, 2011, “holds before present and future generations the principle that freedom is not free and that a free people must always be prepared to defend that freedom at whatever cost.”

Courage Sacrifice Duty, Huntsville Memorial Park

“Courage. Sacrifice. Duty.” Huntsville-Madison County Veterans Memorial Park

On this Veterans Day, let us remember the service of our veterans, and let us renew our national promise to fulfill our sacred obligations to our veterans and their families who have sacrificed so much so that we can live free. –Dan Lipinski

“I Will Never Leave a Fallen Comrade,” Huntsville-Madison County Veterans Memorial Park

The soldier above all others prays for peace, for it is the soldier who must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war. –Douglas MacArthur

"I Will Never Leave a Fallen Comrade," Huntsville-Madison County Memorial Park

“I Will Never Leave a Fallen Comrade,” Huntsville-Madison County Veterans Memorial Park

America’s Veterans have served their country with the belief that democracy and freedom are ideals to be upheld around the world.  –John Doolittle

"I Will Never Leave a Fallen Comrade," Huntsville-Madison County Memorial Park

“I Will Never Leave a Fallen Comrade,” Huntsville-Madison County Veterans Memorial Park

It’s about how we treat our veterans every single day of the year. It’s about making sure they have the care they need and the benefits that they’ve earned when they come home. It’s about serving all of you as well as you’ve served the United States of America. Freedom is never free.” –President Barack Obama

"Never Accept Defeat," Huntsville-Madison County's Veterans Memorial Park

“Never Accept Defeat,” Huntsville-Madison County Veterans Memorial Park

Thank you, Veterans, for your service and your many sacrifices.

(Monochrome) Photo Play: Water, Light, and Fairies

I’m baaaaack with another monochrome photos post.  I can hardly believe the last monochrome post, “Animals in Monochrome,” was in January. I didn’t realize how much time had gone by.

I attempted a “Water in Monochrome” swap earlier in the year, but there were no takers, so I was pleased as punch when my penfriend Beckra joined the “A Thousand Words” group on swap-bot and joined the swap when I “re-created” it in September.  She had been experimenting with shooting water in black and white, so the swap was perfect for her.

Beckra shared two photos which exhibit her photographic interactions with water and light.  Both photos were shot at her happy place, the creek at Woolly Hollow State Park.

“Writing on the Water,” Creek at Woolly Hollow State Park, by Rebecca R. (swap-bot: Beckra)

This first photo was captured “close, close, close-up” while wading and crouching in the creek. Beckra writes that it “seems like the light is writing on the water in a kind of cursive.”  Interestingly, it also looks like a fire dance.

For the second photo, she had been trying to capture the “starlike glints” on the water and was pleased to find this photo did not disappoint.

“Starry Creek,” Creek at Woolly Hollow State Park, by Rebecca R. (swap-bot: Beckra)

Although the next photo was not part of the swap, it is a “water in black and white” photo and it completes a perfect trilogy of abstract water photos.

“May Moontrail” by Rebecca R. (swap-bot: Beckra)

Beckra sent this one at the beginning of summer break, a moon trail on the lake. She followed the bright moon to the water and was able to capture this reflection, a beautiful “luxury of the summer.”

The guys and I found different places to experience nature and we were overjoyed to find some hangouts near or on water.  Being a Westbank NOLA (New Orleans, Louisiana) girl, I feel a little lost sometimes not having the Mississippi River down the street from me.

I sent four photos, two from summer and two older photos because I am sort of proud of the monochrome renderings.

Wheeler Lake in Black and White

Wheeler Lake in Black and White, iPhone Photo, 2016

This photo is from Wheeler Lake, which is located between Rogersville and Huntsville in Northern Alabama. The lake was formed by a dam along the Tennessee River. Although part of a popular tourist spot, we were among very, very few people in the area we explored.

Here’s another favorite shot from Wheeler Lake park:

Wheeler Lake Park, Huntsville, Alabama, 2016

“Where Fairies Play,” Wheeler Lake Park, Huntsville, Alabama, 2016

Although flawed, this one was fun to work with because I had to remove a HUGE orange garbage can from the shot.  For some reason, it reminds me of a place where fairies play.  I think I read one too many medieval romances last month.

Ditto Landing marina, described as “Huntsville, Alabama’s gateway to the Tennessee River,” is my new favorite spot.  We thoroughly enjoyed exploring the area and are looking forward to returning soon. You can learn the history of Ditto Landing and see gorgeous pics on the website.

The “Closed Bridge” photo featured in Friday’s post was from Ditto Landing. Here’s the original photo.

Closed Bridge, Ditto Landing, Original

Closed Bridge, Ditto Landing, Original

And a favorite edit:

Closed Bridge, Ditto Landing, Huntsville, Alabama, edited in Snapseed

Closed Bridge, Ditto Landing, Huntsville, Alabama, edited in Snapseed

Here’s another one of my favorite photos from Ditto Landing–a nice balance between air, trees, water, and land.  There’s so much more to explore I can’t wait to go back.

“Balance and Order,” Ditto Landing, Huntsville, Alabama, 2016

As mentioned, I also sent two older photos: a sepia photo of from “The Fly” at Audubon Park, featured earlier this year in one of the nature photo challenge blog posts, and a photo of waves crashing against the rocks (was it mountains?) in Maui.  Although I “heart” the original photo, I couldn’t resist the purple.

The Purple Wave, Maui

That’s it for now.  Until next time…I’ll be riding the purple wave…

Divine Rest…

Closed Bridge at Ditto Landing

Closed Bridge at Ditto Landing, Huntsville, Alabama, 2016.

The whole love of the “Law” has been lavished on and has cherished the Sabbath. As the day of rest, it gives life its balance and rhythm; it sustains the week. Rest is something entirely different from a mere recess, from a mere interruption of work, from not working. A recess is something essentially physical, part of the earthly everyday sphere. Rest, on the other hand, is essentially religious, part of the atmosphere of the divine; it leads us to the mystery, to the depth from which all commandments come, too. It is that which re-creates and reconciles, the recreation in which the soul, as it were, creates itself again and catches the breath of life–that in life which is sabbatical.”
― Leo Baeck, Judaism and Christianity

One Little Boy and “Four Little Girls”

A Bible sits on the pulpit from the Bethel Baptist Church in Collegeville. The pulpit was in use when Fred Shuttlesworth pastored the congregation from 1953-61. The Bible is appropriately opened to Psalms 54-58.

A Bible sits on the pulpit from the Bethel Baptist Church in Collegeville. The pulpit was in use when Fred Shuttlesworth pastored the congregation from 1953-61. The Bible is appropriately opened to Psalms 54-58. Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.

One of the disturbing things about living in the American South is the painful history that is constantly in our faces–monuments to “confederate” leaders, former slave quarters, plantation homes, street names, buildings and spaces where “significant” events took place.  Although I am convinced that it is important that we keep the past before us to avoid making those same mistakes, sometimes “American history” can be “too much.” It is surely overwhelming navigating that terrain while nurturing the development of a child.

No explanation necessary.

Klan Robe. On Display at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.

My hubby and I, along with many other parents, served as chaperones for a field trip to the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church and the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute in Birmingham, Alabama. The Sixteenth Street church is the site of the September 15, 1963 bombing that took the lives of four girls who were preparing to participate in Sunday worship services: Carole Robertson (age 14), Carol Denise McNair (age 11), Cynthia Wesley (age 14), and Addie Mae Colllins (age 14).  Sarah Collins (age 12), the sister of Addie Mae, survived but suffered life-altering injuries as a result of the hate crime, a consequence of mounting racial tensions around desegregation.

My little one knows a lot about American history, but I was worried about this field trip. I didn’t want his being in the physical presence of that place to change him–to make him angry or fearful, or worse, to feel the limitations of his own agency.  I recalled his strong sense of injustice at the pronouncement of a “Not Guilty” verdict for George Zimmerman.  His concern, then, was not black and white, but child and adult.  He wondered aloud how rational adults could allow another adult to “get away with” killing a child. I did not know whether he would be outraged or miserably grieved by hearing the finer details of the deaths of the “little girls”.

Sketch of the Four Little Girls by Cameron Shepperd

“Tragic End for a New Beginning.” Sketch of the Four Little Girls–Carole Robertson, Cynthia Wesley, Addie Mae Collins, and Denise McNair–by Cameron Shepperd. It hangs in the basement of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church.

As we toured, I cautiously waited.  Held my breath.

Being in the church where the girls chatted and worshipped was far more intense than reading about it and knowing about it.  There were no words for the mixture of grief, anger, horror, powerlessness, “what ifs,” and “whys” that stormed my brain.  As I was trying to process my own emotions and keep them “in check” at the same time, I was watching my son. Making sure he was [still] okay.

He listened intently. He studied images. He read captions and discussed them with friends. He danced in the exhibit modeled like a 1950s/60’s jazz club for “coloreds only.” At the end of the day, on the way home, he asked questions. He processed. And I whispered a prayer of gratitude.  He knows more, but his sense of self and his place in the world is still intact. I exhaled.

For now.

I continue to wait.  For the dawning. For the intense sadness he now feels about the [continuing] assault on black skin and black bodies to transform into anger.

And I pray that it does not damage or debilitate him.

Original pew. Our tour guide pointed out that the pews are the same ones that have sat in the church since its building in

The pews have been in the church for more than 100 years.

When we were at the church, our tour guide reminded us that the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church is not simply a “tourist attraction” or a stop on the “Black History Tour,” but it is still a vibrant church that serves many of the same roles in the community that it’s served since its beginnings.  So while we mourn the four little girls and America’s defective past and turbulent racial present, we can celebrate the fact that we are still here–worshipping, dreaming, doing, and creating change in our own small areas of the world.

BHM10

The Sixteenth Street Baptist Church “Where Jesus is the Main Attraction,” Birmingham, Alabama

For more information about the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, click the image above.  For a succinct  historical overview of racial tensions in Birmingham, the bombing, and convictions in the murders, click here: The 16th Street Church Bombing.