Sunflowers & Snippets | I Choose Pencil…

Kim B Sunflower in Vintage Vase 2021

For this week’s sunflower posts, I will be sharing sunflower photographs with snippets of my writing from “Write Together” sessions coordinated by Jennifer Belthoff of Love Notes fame. I don’t always have the time to participate in the weekly sessions, but every time I do, I leave refreshed and primed to work on my “actual” writing.

In the one-hour sessions, Jennifer facilitates three rounds of writing. She offers three prompts for each round, gives 8-10 minutes to respond to one prompt (or more) and then allows participants to share their material.

I enjoy the sessions because they provide a timeout for me, and though I do not attend as often as I wish, I am always amazed by how much writing I am able to do in those small moments.

Today’s snippet was written in response to the prompt: “I am choosing pencil.”

I am choosing pencil because few things are permanent, and so much changes from day to day as we navigate the terrain of a pandemic. I am choosing pencil because life is already hard, and there have been far too many deaths, far too many things we cannot reverse. I am choosing pencil so I can erase the parts that don’t fit, the nonsense and pettiness of the day to day, the meannesses that spill out at the end of a long, exhausting day or after another sleepless night. We need compassion and patience and forgiveness and so much love. Pencils are good for helping us revise or escape reality. I am choosing pencil because maybe, we can alter the pain and loss and write a different story. –Chandra Lynn, “Write Together,” 01.04.21

Ironically, typing this in a blog post makes it a bit less temporary, but I hope you get the point.

2021-10-18_130026


About the Images: Today’s images come from my Love Notes friend, Kim B. The top photo features sunflowers in a vintage vase that travelled from her Nana’s house full of flowers to her house and back to her Nana’s for a refill. The bottom photo features an “amazing accident in photography” as she captured the bee in flight when her intention was to capture one of her homegrown sunflowers. The other happy accident happened when I scanned the photo. My “phone scanner” gave the photo a vintage feel. The sunflower itself is a little overexposed, so I’d planned to fix that for Kim in PhotoShop. However, I like the accidental effect offered by the scan, so I decided to leave it alone.

#ThursdayTreeLove | A Sunflower in an Orchard Full of Apples

Apples-6 Sunflowers

We interrupt “Sunflower Month” with apples!

I had one goal in mind when the guys and I headed to Scott’s Orchard earlier this month–to visit the sunflowers a little earlier this year. We went mid-October last year, so many of the sunflowers were seeing their last days. However, when we arrived [just about] two weeks ago, there were no sunflowers! Gasp! Was I disappointed? Of course not! Okay, maybe a little, but I adjusted because apples—though not as cool as sunflowers—are not only pretty but are also pretty tasty. Besides, they grow on trees, and I love trees as much as I love sunflowers!

Here are some of the shots* appropriately accompanied by Mary Oliver’s “The Orchard.” Oh–and I did find one sunflower (above) just before we left. A double win!

Apples-10

I have dreamed
of accomplishment.
I have fed

Apples-7ambition.
I have traded
nights of sleep

Apples-5for a length of work.
Lo, and I have discovered
how soft bloom

Apples-8turns to green fruit,
which turns to sweet fruit.
Lo, and I have discovered
Apples-4all winds blow cold
at last,
and the leaves,

Apples-11so pretty, so many,
vanish
in the great, black

Apples-2packet of time,
in the great, black
packet of ambition,
Apples-1and the ripeness
of the apple
is its downfall.

Apples-3

It’s ironic that we went to the orchard last year to pick apples, but basked in sunflowers. This year, we went for the sunflowers but found only apples. Either way, the orchard offered, like last year, a bit of Autumn heaven.


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.

Note on Picture Quality: Please forgive the low quality of my photos. I am running out of WordPress space and I am not sure I want to give WP even more money to increase my space allowance. :-/ You can see higher quality versions of these pics by checking out my Flickr album, Scott’s Orchard: A Sunflower in an Orchard.

#ThursdayTreeLove | Song for Autumn

BW Tree

Don’t you imagine the leaves dream now
how comfortable it will be to touch
the earth instead of the
nothingness of the air and the endless
freshets of wind? And don’t you think
the trees, especially those with
mossy hollows, are beginning to look for

the birds that will come–six, a dozen–to sleep
inside their bodies?

Mary Oliver, “Song for Autumn”

After this week’s rainy start, autumn graced us with sunny skies and cooler temperatures. Those of us who dwell in the Deep South appreciate the respite and the acknowledgment of the season, but we know in a matter of days—or even hours—we will be back to mid-summer heat and another season of storms.

I take three or four 5-15 minute walks throughout the workday. I walk to ruminate, to reset, and [especially] to move my body—which suffered much during the year and a half of Zoom. Lately, during my walks, I’ve been noting the subtle but sure transformation of the trees—the changing colors creeping into the dogwoods and maples, the thinning canopy of the black walnut and the oaks.

Today’s tree comes from one of my just-before-autumn walks. It’s not the most striking tree on campus, but there is something arresting in its stance against the cloud-filled sky.

We are some weeks away from the fullness of the season. We will blink one morning and find everything bursting in autumn glory and blink again and find only the bare structure of trees. This tree represents the in-between, a tree dreaming.  For once, I am appreciating the slow change, and not rushing toward the glory.


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.

New Year: A Dialogue

“Cheers to the New Year.” Photo by Rebecca R.

Happy New Year, Friends!

Although I said I would, I changed my mind about sharing a Neruda poem this evening. Instead, I decided to drop in with a dialogue poem by late 19th/early 20th century poet, Ella Wheeler Wilcox. The dialogue speaks to this particular moment of transition. After the maddening year that’s just ended, some of us might be a little wary about our march into 2021. But the year awaits with all its gifts.

New Year: A Dialogue
Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Mortal
“The night is cold, the hour is late, the world is bleak and drear;
Who is it knocking at my door?”

The New Year
“I am Good Cheer.”

Mortal
“Your voice is strange; I know you not; in shadows dark I grope.
What seek you here?”

The New Year
“Friend, let me in; my name is Hope.”

Mortal
“And mine is Failure; you but mock the life you seek to bless. Pass on.”

The New Year
“Nay, open wide the door; I am Success.”

Mortal
“But I am ill and spent with pain; too late has come your wealth. I cannot use it.”

The New Year
“Listen, friend; I am Good Health.”

Mortal
“Now, wide I fling my door. Come in, and your fair statements prove.”

The New Year
“But you must open, too, your heart, for I am Love.”

May you find in this year good cheer, hope, success, good health, and, of course, love.


About the image: The macro photo of a leaf with raindrops (or dew?) came from my friend, Rebecca R. She captured it during an autumn walk and sent it with best wishes for the new year.

#ThursdayTreeLove | Coping with the Madness of 2020: Spend Time with Trees

“Autumn Road,” November 2020

In a cool solitude of trees
Where leaves and birds a music spin,
Mind that was weary is at ease,
New rhythms in the soul begin. –William Kean Seymour

I’ve written enough about tree therapy on the blog for you to know that “talking to the trees” is definitely one of the ways I cope with life’s challenges. You’ve probably figured, then, 2020 has driven me to the trees more times than I can count.

I could not find time this week for a full tree therapy session, but I took advantage of drive time for quick doses.

The sight of autumn taking over as I drove to work was thrilling, and the drive through campus was like entering an autumn heaven. The reds, yellows, and oranges vied for my attention.

Some mornings, I parked, stood outside my car in the early morning quiet (before others arrived), and took it all in. I listened to the wind and trees sing in perfect harmony as the crisp leaves danced across the parking lot.

Even such short pauses with the trees shake off the madness.

If you want to read more about how trees help me cope, take a look at some of my older posts or click the #ThursdayTreeLove hashtag below:

Hopefully, the posts will persuade you to try a bit of tree therapy!


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.

Moulin Rouge: My Bit of Autumn Heaven

The Moulin Rouge

I have always wondered if heaven captures a
time in our lives when we were the happiest
and most content. One that mirrored the
moment in time when [we] were in complete
and utter love and at peace. And I would
like to think that I would spend eternity
amid a late-October day with laughter
echoing across a long-awaited cool breeze.
Crisp ombré leaves will dance in
celebration as the rusty gates of my heart
open upon candy-corn kisses. 

–“Autumn Heaven” by Alfa Holden [alfa.poet]

Can we pause the madness of our coronavirus pandemic, pre-election existence to consider the understated beauty of late October?

I cannot get enough of the breezy-sunshine days. I’ve even begun taking walks during Zoom meetings that don’t require my explicit input.

This past weekend the weather was irresistibly perfect, so my guys and I went out to Scott’s Orchard to pick apples. When we arrived [mid-afternoon], the lines were long, and the trailer transporting people into the orchard was packed, with no social distancing measures in place. Everyone was masked, but we passed on the apple-picking and purchased some “already picked” and sinfully delicious apples.

So what did we do instead? We basked in the sunflowers!

A small sunflower field lining the entrance to the orchard beckoned and we heeded the call. There were many varieties of sunflowers, and the strong dose of sunflowers was so good for my soul.  I have many more sunflowers to share, but the bit of gorgeousness that leads this post left me speechless. I’ve seen the Moulin Rouge sunflower in photos, but to see it in person is another thing altogether.

Talk about a bit of autumn heaven!

If you love sunflowers half as much as I do, stay tuned. I have loads of sunflower love to share–the ones I shot a few days ago and the many, many, many I obsessively shot during the summer from the mini-field my guys planted outside my home office window. Who knows? Maybe, I’ll start 2021 with a month of sunflowers!

Until then, find a little heaven in this autumn beauty…

To Autumn, or, Little Girls with Apples

It dawned on me this morning as I opened an envelope from Fran B, one of my Love Notes pals, that we are nearly a month into the season, and I have not done any “odes to autumn” on the blog. Shocker, right?

I assure you, I have been soaking up the goodness of early autumn as much as I can–the milder temperatures, the gentle breezes, the random highlights [bright oranges, yellows, and reds] in the trees. Academic life during COVID-19 is a level of busy I have never, ever experienced, so it’s been a bit of a struggle getting to the blog, especially since I’m typically screen-weary to the point of tears–or madness.

The artwork featured on the card Fran sent is worth my risking my sanity.

“Cider Mill” (1880) by John George Brown. Oil on Canvas. Daniel J. Terra Collection.

Cider Mill by John George Brown (1831-1913) features five little girls feasting on scrumptious apples they’ve just picked outside a cider mill. It speaks volumes about girlhood, apples, and autumn. The art is part of the Daniel J. Terra Collection of the Terra Foundation for the Arts. [Click the links to learn more about the artist and the masterpiece].

This is a delightful piece of art, but it grabbed my heart because the intensity of and seriousness in the eyes of the little girl with the red bow remind me of my baby niece, Lu, whom you’ve seen on the blog before.

Don’t you think she would fit right in?

Oh, and there’s a bonus–the first stanza of John Keats’ “To Autumn” was beautifully imprinted on the back of the card! If you’ve been keeping up, you know that he’s my favorite British Romantic poet:

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
   Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
   With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
   And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
      To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
   With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
      For summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.

Oh, there was even more autumn goodness inside the envelope, but you’ll have to wait for that. 😉

Mums the Word!

Maybe our world will grow kinder eventually.
Maybe the desire to make something beautiful
is the piece of God that is inside each of us.

–Mary Oliver, “Franz Marc’s Blue Horses,” Blue Horses, 2014

Today’s blog post is brought to you by the autumn flower–mums!

When we celebrated my aunt’s birthday this past weekend–social distancing measures in place–I knew I had to capture the mums welcoming us to her home. I had plans to play around with them later.

I’d been adding “create something” to my daily to-do list for days, but had not managed to check off that “task,” so I sat down with my computer and iPad to “play” during last night’s non-presidential debate[?].  I was able to revisit the mums and transform them in more ways than I can share in one blog post.

Here are three of the 12 pieces I crafted. [I will share some of the others in separate posts].

Maybe, they’re beautiful. Maybe, they’re not. No matter. The pleasure was in the process of creating, not the outcome.

A Photo a Week | Opposite Weather

I decided to participate in Nancy Merrill’s “Photo a Week” Challenge this year. Even though my camera is a constant companion, I have not done well with yearlong photo challenges. However, I’m inspired by my blogging friend Laurie’s completion of 52 weeks of photos last year, and I’m hoping to change that.

As I was driving last weekend, I noticed we’ve reached the stage of winter in which brown and gray dominate. I miss the brilliance of autumn, so I was pleased to find Nancy’s post coaxing us out of the dull gray and into the color of any of the other seasons with the prompt “opposite weather.”

I eagerly scrolled through my autumn photos and found two pics of oak leaves taken one brisk autumn morning just before Thanksgiving–my last shots of Autumn 2019.

The year’s last, loveliest smile,
Thou com’st to fill with hope the human heart,
And strengthen it to bear the storms awhile,
Till winter’s frowns depart.
John Howard Bryant, from “Indian Summer”
(often misattributed to his brother, Poet William cullen Bryant)

Enjoy, and be sure to tune in tomorrow for #ThursdayTreeLove!