Sunflowers and Poetry | Why I Wake Early

Sunflower Goat

Good Morning! I’m dropping in a little earlier than usual because I thought you might like to share your morning tea or coffee with this sunflower-bearing (umm…eating) goat. If it is not morning where you are, you should exit this post and return to it in the morning. Kidding, of course! You can read it now and return to it tomorrow morning, if you choose, because today’s poem by Mary Oliver is about celebrating the early morning and starting our days with happiness and kindness. 

Why I Wake Early
by Mary Oliver
 
Hello, sun in my face.
Hello, you who make the morning
and spread it over the fields
and into the faces of the tulips
and the nodding morning glories,
and into the windows of, even, the
miserable and crotchety–
 
best preacher that ever was,
dear star, that just happens
to be where you are in the universe
to keep us from ever-darkness,
to ease us with warm touching,
to hold us in the great hands of light–
good morning, good morning, good morning.
 
Watch, now, how I start the day
in happiness, in kindness.

About the Image: My pen friend, Kathi G, sent the delightful postcard above. The goat’s name is Rory. Isn’t he absolutely adorable as he munches on a sunflower with a field more of them behind him? This is the work of Dorian Charles of Tabby Hall Designs. Happy eating, Rory!

					

Sunflowers and Poetry | Game Called Life

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As promised Monday, I’m back with another poem by Javan. The poem below comes from Something to Someone. If your week has been a little challenging like mine, you might also need this nice and easy poem that doesn’t tax the brain or stretch the intellectual muscles.

By Javan

I’m not very good
at this Game called Life
For I’ve not learned to see children crying
without feeling pain
For I’ve not learned to watch animals destroyed
without wondering why
For I’ve not yet met a king or celebrity
that I would bow down to
or a man so insignificant
that I would use for a stepping-stone
For I’ve not learned to be a
“yes man”
to narrow minded bosses
who quote rules without reason
And I’ve not learned to manipulate
the feelings of others
to be used for my own advantages
then cast aside as I see fit
No, I’m not very good
at this Game called Life
And if everything goes well
maybe I never will be


About the Image: My friend Christine B sent this bright sprinkling of sunflowers to cheer me after I told her I was having a very sad day. She used the TouchNote app to send the postcard featuring her artwork.

Blooms, Love, and Revolution

“You Love Me a Thousand Summers Ago,” Frank Moth

In honor of World Poetry Day (yesterday), the first day of spring (two days ago), and Black Women’s Appreciation Day (March 1), I am sharing a surrealistic floral postcard and three short poems. I intended to write a post for each special day, but…life.

Here you are,
Black and Woman
and in love with yourself.

You are terrifying.
They are terrified
(as they should be).   Upile Chisala

***

I want to think that God smiles
when a black woman
is brave enough to love herself. Upile Chisala

***

“i love myself.”
the
quietest.
simplest.
most
powerful.
revolution.
ever.

—ism, nayyirah waheed


About the Image: My literary twin, Gina B, sent the postcard for International Women’s Day. She included an Audre Lorde quote and a postage stamp that features a female German poet. I have decided each part of her woman-affirming gift deserves its own post. The art here is the work of digital collage artist, Frank Moth. I don’t know his reasons for creating this piece–or any of his “Bloom” pieces–but when I first saw this image I knew I had to pair it with these fierce Black woman-affirming poems! See Moth’s Instagram page for more of his “Bloom” artwork. See the links for more work by the poets.

The Beauty of Small

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“Small” seems to be the theme of the last couple of years. The pandemic invites us to scale down our lives and learn to journey through the small. These strange and unsure times urge us to take small steps, celebrate small things, and live in small moments.

I’ve been reading various articles that claim we are post-pandemic. As I skim reports of numbers rising in certain areas, I am not convinced. I am concerned that such headlines cause us to move too swiftly and risk being in the same situation we were in during the early months of the pandemic.

Though not explicitly about our Corona times, Susan Frybort’s poem, “the beauty of small,” serves as a primer for us as we move through our collective trauma and slowly make our way to living fully.

the beauty of small
susan frybort

let me paint for you the beauty of small…small words.
small observations, small greetings, short calls.

these are the bravest steps for someone shy,
someone hurt, someone trying to connect,
and someone healing from trauma.
small steps. coming out of hiding and
finally feeling safe enough to make the first move.
small steps. relaxed and ready to practice healthy ways
to bridge and bond for the very first time.
small steps, like a beautiful sunrise–
glimmering at first, before shining boldly.


About the Image: The zentangle sunflower art in today’s post was crafted by my newest Love Notes friend and Certified Zentangle Teacher, Kat van Rooyen. In a small moment she and I chatted (via Messenger) about our mutual love for sunflowers. Afterwards, she “tangled” this abstract sunflower just for me! A retired psychotherapist, Kat now teaches zentangling and uses it as a form of therapy. I chose this piece for the post because the tiny art (3.5 in x 3.5 in) represents the powerful potential of the small–for building, healing, and restoring.

If you are looking for something new as you figure out how to navigate the uncertainty, see Kat’s post for the benefits of tangling. Maybe, you’d like to give it a try!

November Chaos | A Moment with the Willow

Anxiety to Joy

We are halfway through November, and I’m finally making my first post of the month! Gasp!

I had this month’s posts planned since September, but after I realized how chaotic this month would be, I “aborted” the mission–to daily share a piece of art I created in September for Sheila’s Creative Gathering. I will share those pieces as the “Spirit moves” and let November be what it will be. [Many prayers, hugs, and hearts for Sheila who is seriously ill and in the hospital].

Today, I am moved to share one of the 10 “abstract” photo art pieces I created for the Gathering. It captures my time with one of the weeping willows at the Unity Pond on campus. However, it is the Bible verse I paired with the photo that compels me to share–a verse of scripture I meditate on frequently and one I often repeat to others as they grapple with anxiety and stress these days.

When anxiety was great within me,
Your consolation brought me joy. —Psalm 94:19

We have been dealing with a bit “too much” over the last 19-20 months. In the early months, we realized and appreciated our need for the slowing down the pandemic required. Now, instead of seeing this time as an opportunity to do things differently and better, we are trying to force an old norm that no longer serves us. I’m convinced that besides the loss and trauma of this moment, much of our sense of overwhelm and anxiety comes from our rush to normal—exacerbated by our not taking time to sit with and process our grief.

It seems everyone I encounter these days is overwhelmed, exhausted, and anxious. I have this horrible sense that if we don’t pause or slow down, we’re headed for an even bigger crisis.

Perhaps, you’re feeling all those things too.

I hope a moment with the willow and these words remind you there is relief. Thankfully, in God’s presence we can find comfort, peace, and joy, even when life makes it difficult to pause or slow down.

May you carry that with you.

The Masters | Faith Ringgold’s Sunflower Quilting Bee at Arles and “Our Dedication to Change in the World”

Faith Ringgold. The Sunflower Quilting Bee at Arles. Acrylic on canvas with pieced fabric border. 1991.

The National Sunflower Quilters of America are having quilting bees in sunflower fields all over the world to spread the cause of freedom. Aunt Melissa has written and informed me of this to say: “Go with them to the sunflower fields in Arles. And please take care of them in the foreign country, Willa Marie. These women are our freedom,” she wrote.

For our last sunflower masterpiece we bask in the awesome “presence” of Faith Ringgold’s  The Sunflower Quilting Bee at Arles. A print of the masterpiece sits in my home office [still] waiting to be framed. I have been trying to get to this post since I purchased it, but put it off many times because I am inclined to approach her work academically. For sanity’s sake, I need to keep my academic work and my blog separate.

Faith Ringgold (b. 1930) is an African American painter, mixed media sculptor, performance artist, writer, teacher and lecturer. Her work often carries strong socio-political messages about the African American experience. 

The Sunflower Quilting Bee at Arles is the fourth piece in Ringgold’s French Collection, a collection of 12 story quilts, that “uses a combination of painted images, narrative text, and decorative borders to explore the often absent role of African-American women in the art-world, particularly in Paris during the 1920s.” (Ellen C. Caldwell).

The story quilt features “The Sunflower Quilters Society of America” and its March 22, 1922 effort, a quilt bedecked with gorgeous sunflowers. Eight influential African American women hold the edge of the quilt, surrounded by a field of sunflowers in Arles. A “tormented” Vincent van Gogh stands just behind them offering his still life, Fifteen Sunflowers in a Vase, to the queens of change: Madam C.J. Walker, Sojourner Truth, Ida B. Wells, Fannie Lou Hamer, Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, Mary McLeod Bethune, and Ella Baker [In a 1996 print, Ringgold added her fictional character in the lower left beside Madam C.J. Walker].

Around the edges of the quilt is the story–in 12 parts–of the Sunflower Quilters, as told by Ringgold’s fictional character, Willa Marie Simone. Van Gogh is a troublesome presence to some, like Harriet Tubman, who demands, “Make him leave. He reminds me of the slavers.” But Van Gogh is firmly planted: “Like one of the sunflowers, he appeared to be growing out of the ground.” And when the sun went down and it was time for the women to leave, “the tormented little man just settled inside himself and took on the look of the sunflowers in the field as if he was one of them” [Part 7].

I got to get back to the railroad, Harriet said. “Ain’t all of us free yet, no matter how many them laws they pass. Sojourner fighting for women’s rights. Fannie for voter registration. Ella and Rosa working on civil rights. Ida looking out for mens getting lynch. Mary Bethune getting younguns education, and Madam making money fixing hair and giving us jobs. Lord we’re sure busy.” [Part 11]

Through The Sunflower Quilting Bee at Arles Ringgold pays homage to and celebrates African American women and their contributions to education, freedom, and justice. She also honors the fine artistry of African American quilt making. Through the piece she acknowledges van Gogh’s contribution to the art world, but she calls on us to also recognize the equal contribution of African American women artists.

Want more information? Be sure to click the links in this posts and check out these additional links:

Until next time…Shine on!

 

The Masters | Anguish and Gratitude: Vincent Van Gogh’s Sunflowers with Heart

Vincent Van Gogh. “Three Sunflowers in a Vase.” Oil on Canvas. August, 1888, Arles. United States. Private Collection.

I hope I haven’t overwhelmed you with all the sunflower goodness this week. Sadly, we’re just two more posts away from the end of “Sunflower Month.”

I am clearly intrigued by the approach of the masters to the sunflower. Many of them seem to have been as taken with its luminescent beauty as I am. I am in no way an artist like the masters featured all week, but sunflowers are certainly the most doodled flower in my journals, sketchbooks, and letters.

When I began this final week of “Sunflower Month,” I had intended to do only three posts, but I got a little carried away because there were more than three sunflower masters in my collection. My favorite, Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890), Dutch Post-Impressionist, was always on the list. Let’s consider the “sunflower tree” a bonus post, because this week of masters will not be complete without attention to his still life sunflower series—especially with the final masters post I have in mind. 😉

Vincent Van Gogh. “Vase with Fifteen Sunflowers.” Oil on Canvas. August 1888, Arles. Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam.

From 1888-1889, van Gogh completed seven sunflower still life masterpieces in the studio he shared with Paul Gaugin in Arles, France. He had intended to fill the walls with their brilliance before Gaugin’s arrival. The two featured above are in my postcard collection, thanks to Debbie T, my Love Notes pal (Twelve Sunflowers), and Eepy on swap-bot (Three Sunflowers).

There are four others in the Sunflower Series that were completed in 1887 in Paris. One of them–Four Cut Sunflowers (below)– took my breath away the first time I saw it!

Vincent Van Gogh. Allotment with Sunflower, Paris, July 1887. Oil on Canvas. Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (Vincent van Gogh Foundation).

In a letter to his sister Willemien, van Gogh writes:

[…] the desire comes over me to remake myself and try to have myself forgiven for the fact that my paintings are, however, almost a cry of anguish while symbolizing gratitude in the rustic sunflower.  (Letter 856)

Perhaps this tension explains why van Gogh’s “still life” sunflowers are anything but “still.” Each sunflower–in the vases or cut and wilting on a table–is full of personality, life, and movement. Each evokes an emotional response.

I read somewhere that van Gogh wanted to be remembered for his brilliant sunflowers (goal accomplished!) and that people honored his desire by wearing sunflowers to his funeral.

What a radiant sendoff!

Like the Heart

Let me seek You
in the darkness
of my silence

and find You
in the silence
of Your light.

which is
love shining
like the sun

flowing
like a river
and joying

like the heart

Meister Eckhart | Sweeney and Burrows

The Masters | Claude Monet’s Bouquet of Sunflowers

Claude Monet. Bouquet of Sunflowers. 1881. Oil on Canvas. Metropolitan Museum of Art.

All of our “masters” posts thus far have focused on sunflowers growing in their natural spaces, so today we turn to still life with Claude Monet’s (1840-1926) “Bouquet of Sunflowers.” Monet was one of the founders of the Impressionist Movement, and this masterpiece was exhibited at the Seventh Impressionist Exhibition. The bouquet was arranged and staged with sunflowers that grew along the path to his garden in Vetheuil (France).

If you do a little Google research you will find comparisons of Monet’s and Vincent van Gogh’s sunflowers. Even the greats like Paul Gaugin and Van Gogh himself compared the two–Gaugin favoring Van Gogh’s over Monet’s and Van Gogh “conceding” that Monet’s is the better of the two.

For me, there is no comparison. Each artist brought his gifts to the canvas and presented the sunflower in his own unique and timeless style.

You will know

When God has taken up residence in your heart.
How?
Your spirit will move with swifts and striving,
you won’t be caught just thinking about things.
For this God of ours is not a God of thoughts
so much as a God alive.

Meister Eckhart | Sweeney and Burrows

#ThursdayTreeLove | The Masters | Vincent van Gogh’s Sunflower Tree with “Room to Grow”

Vincent Van Gogh. Allotment with Sunflower, Paris, July 1887. Oil on Canvas. Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (Vincent van Gogh Foundation).

Of course, I realize this is not a tree, but if a sunflower were a tree—this is what it would look like, towering over us all with all its sunny goodness—maybe with a few more blossoms.

I’d planned a different Vincent van Gogh post for this week, but since today is “tree love” Thursday, I decided to try passing off a sunflower as a tree. This is the type of sunflower that my student Wanéa finds a little scary. No flower should be taller than a human, in her opinion, so for her sake, yes, let’s consider this a tree.

Please enjoy van Gogh’s Allotment with Sunflower with a meditation for the restless soul:

Room to Grow
Meister Eckhart | Sweeney and Burrows

My life is like a page on which
So much is already:

hurts and joys and the tumble
of fears and uncertainties.

What You want of me, God, is
that I clean the slate, emptying

it of all this to make room for
the freedom of nothingness

where alone You, my God,
have room to grow.


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.

The Masters | Gustav Klimt’s Sunflowers in Gardens

Gustav Klimt. Bauerngarten mit Sonnenblumen (1905/1906). Belvedere Palace and Museum, Vienna.

What is the purpose of creation?
That everything might simply be. —Meister Eckhart | Sweeney and Burrows, from “Lesson I” (Unlearning)

Since we’re on the subject of postcards from Eileen V, I might as well share the two Klimt postcards she sent last year. Eileen keeps me well supplied with sunflowers, so it was with pleasure that she sent and I received–not one but–two sunflower postcards featuring the work of Austrian artist Gustav Klimt (1862-1918). Klimt was a Symbolist painter and a founding member of the  Vienna Secession (Art Nouveau) movement.

Despite his extensive portfolio. I am, unsurprisingly, drawn most to his sunflower pieces.

The piece above is entitled Bauerngarten mit Sonnenblumen  (or Farm Garden with Sunflowers). My camera and I would love to explore such a garden exploding with color.  [Note: I have seen four different dates assigned to this work, so I am not sure of the correct date–1905-1906, 1912, 1913, 1916–but 1905/06 seems more likely].

The second scene, Die Sonnenblume (or The Sunflower), could have been extracted from another part of the garden presented in the first piece–though that is clearly not the case.

Klimt

Gustav Klimt (1862-1918), “Die Sonnenblume” (“The Sunflower”), 1906/1907, Private Collection, Vienna

The scan does very little for this postcard. The broad leaves of the sunflower are trimmed in gold and the postcard itself features gilded edges. Unfortunately, the scan rendered them a strange, dark color, which wasn’t visually appealing (so I cropped away the border). Notwithstanding the subpar scan, Her Majesty is pretty impressive.

For a glimpse of the unaltered original, click here: Die Sonnenblume, and for Farm Garden with Sunflowers, click here: Bauerngarten mit Sonnenblumen [Be sure to click the links above to learn a little about the artist and the works].

Klimt gifted us sunflowers and gardens that serve no other purpose but to live gloriously in their natural state. Their brilliance beckons us and we simply stand in awe.