Blooms: Check out Her Sway

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See this whimsical pink flower?

The snail mail gods are warming up to me. I received a few pieces of mail in the mailbox over the last couple of weeks. One piece—just retrieved from the P.O. Box today—is this “flower friend” Amy N sent for the Global heART Swap, hosted by Louise Gale.

I joined the swap after an unplanned years-long hiatus. I usually miss the signup deadline, but this year, I actually had a moment to read Louise’s email announcing the swap before the deadline and was excited to see the swap theme: “Summer Blooms.”

I had just completed a bunch of floral postcards during World Watercolor Month, so I decided to print some of the flowers and join the fun. Perfect, right?

In return, I found two beautiful, artsy blooms in my mailbox. A third one should be on the way.

This sweet little friend–one of three Amy released into the world–seems to be caught up in some serious dance moves. Look at her sway–indicated by the bend in her stem–and those leafy arms dancing in the wind. Her expression says it all.

Later, folks!

Let’s Make Lists: Seven Little Things

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A few days ago, a friend sent me @studygr1nd’s Instagram post in which she shared an image list of small things and activities that keep her sane. I thought, “What a great idea for a blog post!”

So this Monday evening, when I’m feeling a bit out of sorts and words feel like too much for my crowded brain, I’m sharing with you seven little things that keep me sane. I’m focusing on specific things here–not experiences or people.

  • My sketchpad: Take my word for it–doodling sunflowers and daisies does wonders for chasing away the crazies.
  • My journal: There’s a tie between writing in my journal and walking among the trees as the best free therapy, but since I’m listing things and not experiences, the journal wins here.
  • Fine point black gel pens: With what else will I doodle and journal?
  • My favorite disc-bound planner: Writing out my to-dos and scheduling my day helps me to see the big picture. Also, the tasks don’t feel so overwhelming after I make a list.
  • Floral mail pouch: The gorgeous black mail pouch decorated with lavender flowers and gold accents was a gift from Christine B, one of my pen friends. The pouch is filled with postcards, note cards, tiny art, stickers, and washi tape. Of course, its primary purpose is to hold items for snail mail, but sometimes, simply looking at the pretties helps me reset.
  • Mary Oliver’s DevotionsNeed I say more?
  • My sunflower wall: Sometimes there’s nothing more mind-settling than turning toward my brilliant wall(s) of sunflowers that remind me to #facethesun

Though I can list far more than seven, I’ll spare you the lengthy list. I tortured you enough with my list of 100 things that bring me joy. 😀 And, since I don’t have to be convinced to make a list, I decided to make this “list week” on the blog. C’mon, you saw this coming, right?

What are some things that keep you sane?


About the Image: The postcard above, entitled Girl with Watering Can, features the work of Mila Marquis, a Hamburg, Germany-based illustrator. My Love Notes friend, Gina B sent the pretty card for International Women’s Day. You can see more of Marquis’ cheerful whimsical illustrations on her Instagram or Facebook page.

Terracotta Warriors Postcard

Terra-cotta Warriors, Xian China

I figured since the last two posts featured Chinese art postcards, I might as well finish the blog week by sharing another postcard which also features Chinese art.

The postcard above, “Terra-cotta Warriors,” features a small part of a collection of life-size sculptures of the army of Qin Shi Huangdi (259-210 BCE), the first Emperor of China–who unified China and laid the foundation for the Great Wall. As funerary art, the collection was buried with the emperor to serve as protection for him in the afterlife.

In a Live Science article Owen Jarus, comments on the artistic details of the sculptures:

The details of the warriors are so intricate and individualized that it has been hypothesized that they were based on real soldiers who served in the emperor’s army. Each warrior has uniquely styled hair and features; some have topknots while others have goatees; some have caps and loose tunics while others have armored vests and braided hair. They have different builds, expressions and postures. Another key feature is that the warriors were decorated in bright colors, which contributed to the individuation.

You can read all about the 1974 discovery, in the Shaanxi province in northwest China, of the first (nearly) 2000 of the 8000+ known warriors interred with the emperor: Terra Cotta Soldiers on the March.

And if you wish to read further, see the article by Jarus referenced above, which provides more details about the contents of the pits found near the tomb of Qin Shi Huangdi: Terracotta Warriors: An Army for the Afterlife.

Until next time…

#ThursdayTreeLove | The Trees of Lan Ying’s Quiet Village

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Country Scenery (Partial), Lan Ying, Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). Ink and color on silk.

Since we’re on the subject of postcards from China, I’m sharing another one for today’s #ThursdayTreeLove. This postcard features the work of 17th century Chinese artist, Lan Ying (1585-1684), an artist of the Ming Dynasty. Based on my limited knowledge of his work, his art features impressive landscapes, typically with trees in the foreground.

Of his collection Landscapes of the Four Seasons, one reviewer wrote:

Foreground trees are always superb manifestations of his painterly craft. Comfortably shifting between the descriptive and the expressive modes, the diverse trees with their vivaciously gestural bodies and diverse foliage patterns provide sustained visual excitement as one progresses through the seasons.

Not surprisingly, I was drawn to the trees before I took in the entire scene of the village nestled between the trees. This enchanting [partial] view could have been entitled Trees of the Village, instead of Country Scenery, and that’s why the postcard has found its way on my blog for #ThursdayTreeLove.

Like another classical Chinese masterpiece shared on the blog a couple of years ago–Peace Reigns Over the River–this postcard is from the set, Chinese Classical Paintings and Calligraphy Work. Cy sent a number of pieces from this collection.

Lan Ying’s work is mesmerizing. If you’d like to explore more, be sure to “right click” on the image above for a closer look and click the links below:


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.

Three Postcards from China and “The River Merchant’s Wife”

“Katydid,” New World Press, Beijing China

After two weeks of forgetting to check the P.O. Box, we finally went to retrieve the mail and found not one piece of mail in the box. Not one! I was devastated! Okay, I was not really surprised at all. I have not been the best snail mail revolutionary lately. In fact, my snail mail life has been so chaotic that I just read a letter that was sent to me in April. April!

The snail mail gods are apparently displeased, so I’ll have to do a little work to gain their favor again. In addition to sending good mail out into the world, I will take advantage of this lull and catch up on some mailbox “show and tell.” Even though my “to be blogged” mail file is stuffed with interesting pieces waiting to be shared with you, for the last few months, I’ve focused on the “Pics” part of my blog title and neglected the “Posts” [which is short for postal mail, not blog posts]. Thus, the empty mailbox can serve a positive purpose. 😉

For today’s post, I’m sharing three postcards my friend Cy picked up in China a few years ago. I love the delicate artwork of these pieces and did my best to imitate them–minus the insects. And since I am in a mood for poetry, I’m sharing them with 20th century American poet Ezra Pound’s (1885- 1972) translation of “Traveling to Chang-kan,” the first of 8th century Tang Dynasty poet Li Po’s (Lǐ Bái 701-762) Two Letters from Chang-kan.

The River Merchant’s Wife: A Letter
Ezra Pound

After Li Po

While my hair was still cut straight across my forehead
I played about the front gate, pulling flowers.
You came by on bamboo stilts, playing horse,
You walked about my seat, playing with blue plums.
And we went on living in the village of Chōkan:
Two small people, without dislike or suspicion.
At fourteen I married My Lord you.
I never laughed, being bashful.
Lowering my head, I looked at the wall.
Called to, a thousand times, I never looked back.
 

“Dragonfly,” New World Press, Beijing, China

 
At fifteen I stopped scowling,
I desired my dust to be mingled with yours
Forever and forever, and forever.
Why should I climb the look out?
 
At sixteen you departed
You went into far Ku-tō-en, by the river of swirling eddies,
And you have been gone five months.
The monkeys make sorrowful noise overhead.
 

“Silkworms,” New World Press, Beijing, China

 
You dragged your feet when you went out.
By the gate now, the moss is grown, the different mosses,
Too deep to clear them away!
The leaves fall early this autumn, in wind.
The paired butterflies are already yellow with August
Over the grass in the West garden;
They hurt me.
I grow older.
If you are coming down through the narrows of the river Kiang,
Please let me know beforehand,
And I will come out to meet you
As far as Chō-fū-Sa.
 

I read this poem for the first time when I was in high school. I was drawn to the maturation processes of the couple and the complicated emotions of the poem. I remember discussing the poem in one of my high school classes (Literature or Creative Writing?) and falling so in love with the line “I desired my dust to be mingled” that I used it as the title of one of my own poems. Maybe, I’ll be brave enough to share it here.

If you’re interested in another translation of the poem, see East Asian Student’s translation here: The Ballad of Changgan by Li Bai.

Creative Prayer and Divine Power

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The last couple of days were crazy-stressful.

I always become a little anxious around the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, but when a major storm hit Louisiana on the 16th anniversary of that storm, it felt like a little too much. I spent much of the weekend stress-creating (Saturday) and stress-working (Sunday) until I tired myself out.

My family in NOLA did not/could not evacuate, so when we lost contact due to power outage and sketchy cellular service, I had to constantly remind myself to remain calm.

I read the scripture featured in the doodle art above early last Thursday, and it offered calm assurance near the end of a strangely chaotic week. Soon after, I learned of Ida’s threat to the Gulf Coast and the unlikelihood of its veering in another direction or “dissipating into nothingness.”

The full Bible verse reads:

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness. —2 Peter 1:3 NIV

My heart needed the first phrase, so I wrote it in my journal and planner to remind myself that God has given me everything I need:

  • to tackle the endless list of tasks
  • to deal with challenging situations that pop up during the day
  • to exercise patience when my urgent questions aren’t answered
  • to overcome fatigue
  • to remain calm in the face of adversity

“To remain calm…” through Divine grace and power. That part.

My friend Cy relabeled my weekend art “creative prayers.” I think I like that phrase better.

Dream Week | Dream Journal

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Dreams are thoughts you didn’t have time to think about during the day.

My dreams have been unusually vivid lately—full of color and sound, strange and derivative, a compilation of memories and random bits of information and events. There have been recurring themes, patterns, and people.

While going through my morning routine the last few days, I noticed that a number of troubling questions and past events kept popping up. Each day, I pushed them aside, thinking, I will deal with it later.

Of course, later rarely comes, so I wonder if much of the processing that should happen while I am awake is happening while I sleep.

If I look really closely, I can see there is a correlation between my dreams and those deep questions with which I have had little time to grapple.

I am not into dream analysis, that is, looking for symbols in dreams and attaching meaning to them, but I do believe dreams can be revelatory. I believe God speaks to us in different ways, and dreams are one of those ways. I also believe dreams often reveal what is buried in our subconscious and can compel us to pay attention and maybe act.

So–I’m thinking about starting a dream journal, a place that I can record the bits and pieces of my dreams I remember and see if I can make some sense of them or if I can tease out those things that Spirit and my subconscious are trying to tell me. I’d like to see what shows up.

I’ve never “dream journaled” before, but I imagine it is telling experience.

What about you? Have you ever kept a dream journal?

Oh Deer! [Knowing When to Take a Break]

Deer Art

I had the perfect blog theme for the week, but ugh, after work and people and pandemic issues all day long, my energy was too low for even the things I enjoy. I whined (sometimes inwardly) all week about needing time to just cut paper and glue something. I dreamed of quiet evenings for just that, but after hardly seeing people for 17-18 months, my being around people and talking all day long was draining in all caps. My evenings were spent resting (read: sleeping) and completing very few of the daily tasks of home life.

Of course, I took “micro-breaks” when absolutely necessary: I cut pretty artwork out of a book wrapper on its way to the trash bin while speaking with a colleague. I captured trees and flowers with my phone camera while I walked to meetings or lunch. I doodled sunflowers during in-person meetings, phone calls, and work sessions. I worked on photo edits during Zoom meetings.

The micro-breaks were [are] lifesaving, but the reality is my body and soul need more. So, when my friend and colleague Lisa asked me yesterday “What are you doing to take care of yourself?,” I immediately felt the guilt of not practicing what I preach regarding self-care during these Corona times.  

I had convinced myself that “if I can just get through this week,” I’ll be able to get to a place where I can take a “time out” daily. I’ve been saying that for three or four weeks now. I haven’t taken a photo or nature walk in a good while. Even worse, I haven’t picked up my actual camera to take a shot since the end of last month! That’s almost three weeks! Let’s not talk about the unwritten poetry, prose, letters, and postcard designs dancing in my head, or the great books waiting to be read and the movement my body needs!

I mindlessly opened Instagram early this morning and Beth Moore’s words grabbed my attention. The post drove the point of Lisa’s question home for me. 

Know when to take a break, y’all. This world’s a heartbreaking, baffling, demoralizing ball of fire right now. We’re not God. We can pray and give and speak and act. But we can’t carry all of this 24/7. It’s too heavy for us. It’s not going to give us a time out. We have to take it!

This world is “a lot,” and all that negative energy mingling with all the good stuff can create a chaotic stew inside our minds and bodies. Those breaks Moore encourages help shift and purge the energy. So my silly photo edit with the deer poking its tongue at me? That’s me—knowing when to take a break and poking my tongue at all the things that will have to wait. 

Have a safe and happy weekend…

World Watercolor Month: 15-21

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Whew! The end of a grueling week! We’ve also reached the end of our tour of the photo art collection I shared for World Watercolor Month.

There is incredible truth in the quote paired with my 19th post (above):

The more grateful I am, the more beauty I see. –Mary Davis

Lately, I have been a bit more intentional about walking with gratitude. I have been amazed by how much beauty enters my space; my cameras are overflowing with so much of it that I will not be able to share all of it. 

I am not only meeting beauty in the natural world but I am also discovering incredible beauty in my daily encounters with other humans. Even with difficult people, if I recast my gaze, I find the light and the splendor of their humanity. 

Life can be hard and ugly at times, but there is still much for which to be grateful, much yet to celebrate. [Click an image to see posts 15-18; 20-21].