Sunflowers and Connection

I participated in the latest round of Love Notes and made a new penfriend!

Peggy L, my partner for Love Notes 27, is a retired nurse who’s finding her way to other “identities” and embracing the artist within. Her messages were sweet and cheerful and I looked forward to retrieving each from my post office box each week.

In response to the first prompt, “I invite you to…,” Peggy wrote:

I invite you to believe that we are all connected and that we can and will change the world together. I invite you to join me in a peace army, a joy tribe, a group of women who KNOW that we are the answer we have been waiting for!

Isn’t this beautiful? It fits perfectly with the woman-empowered inspiration of my Women’s History Month posts. Also, thanks to this note, I finally figured out what to do with the beautiful love notes and messages I receive. Instead of keeping them in a box or album, I’m making them a part of my journaling. Yay!

I’ll be sharing Peggy’s responses to the prompts this week along with images that feature a couple of favorites we have in common–sunflowers and purple!


About today’s image: I spotted surprise sunflowers dancing in the wind while returning from an errand on campus. They were part of a giant bouquet placed near the entry to one of the dormitories. It was a happy find!

The person who placed the bouquet happened by and chatted with me while I photographed the sunflowers. She was torn. She wanted to take the flowers to her room, but felt it would be selfish. I assured her that since the flowers were given to her (instead of being tossed at the end of an event), she was not being selfish. I invited her to enjoy the flowers for herself! 🙂 Besides, cut flowers last longer indoors than outdoors.

#ThursdayTreeLove | “The Breath of the Cherry Blossoms”

It’s time for our first “tree love” post of May! Today, I’m sharing what I consider the crowning glory of spring–cherry blossoms!

I really should have written this post weeks ago when I had a little more energy, but I was so excited about the cherry blossoms that I couldn’t imagine being too tired for words for this particular post.

The cherry blossoms are usually the last to bloom on campus, but this year, they shot open at the same time as the dogwoods. In fact, things were so out of order that the redbuds–which normally bloom way before the cherry blossoms–were still in full bloom.

There are three trees that line one of the paths I walk frequently on campus, so I was pretty thrilled to spend time capturing them. In fact, I shot way more than 100 cherry blossom photos on two very different days–a cloudy day and a sunny day.

I did my best and whittled my selection down to 15 + a bonus post-blossoms iPhone photo. Still too many, but I hope you will enjoy them with a spot of tea and Toi Derricotte’s poem, “Cherry blossoms.”

I went down to
mingle my breath
with the breath
of the cherry blossoms.

There were photographers:
Mothers arranging their
children against
gnarled old trees;

a couple, hugging,
asks a passerby
to snap them
like that,
so that their love
will always be caught
between two friendships:

ours & the friendship
of the cherry trees.

Oh Cherry,
why can’t my poems
be as beautiful?

A young woman in a fur-trimmed
coat sets a card table
with linens, candles,
a picnic basket & wine.

A father tips
a boy’s wheelchair back
so he can gaze
up at a branched
heaven.

All around us
the blossoms
flurry down
whispering,

Be patient
you have an ancient beauty.

Be patient
you have an ancient beauty.

My favorite lens is a little wonky, so I wasn’t able to get the crisp shots I wanted, but even though these aren’t the best images, I love the bokeh in many of the photos.

Cherry blossom life is pretty short, so I wasn’t surprised to find a blanket of blossoms on the ground one rainy morning just a few days later.

For more blossom love, check out this beautiful time-lapse video from Brooklyn Botanic Garden.


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.

“i soak the flowers/until/they become words”

with
the water bowl balancing
on my thighs.


i soak the flowers.
until
they become words.
then i write.

–ritual

nayirrah waheed, salt

There was a blossom in every post this month–even the one with the dancing bunny and the one with Simon of Cyrene helping Jesus carry the cross. So we end the month as we began–speaking in flowers.

I’ve had far too many words tangled inside my head and heart this year. The month-long meditation on flowers gave me permission to leave the [hard] words “unexpressed” and allow them to unravel and stretch naturally.

I have a summer of writing ahead of me, and having “soaked” for some time, the words are ready to flow.

Thanks to my friend Meli for allowing me a moment to “breathe” today and photograph the beautiful vase of flowers sitting on her desk. Hugs…

Children’s Art | Busy Being Roses

…as you can see, we are
just now entirely busy being roses.
Mary Oliver, “Roses,” from Felicity

Today was supposed to be easy–a “chill” day of finishing up a few projects and meeting with my students. It turned into a crazy-busy day, so I am all too happy to take a break and contemplate the pretty–and I have kid art to share!

Every spring, my son’s school hosts an amazing art fair, featuring the work of practically every student in the school. If you’ve been following the blog for a while, you probably know that I absolutely lose my mind walking the halls and taking in the colorful spectacle. I have hundreds of pictures from each art fair. I wish I could share every piece on the blog, but there’s so much that I’d have to start a separate blog dedicated to children’s art–and it would take me at least three years to catch up! Of course, that is not a bad idea, but I’ll leave that task for others.

Since I am still “speaking in flowers,” I’m excited to share a sampling of the vases of roses on display at the art show held a couple of weeks ago.

There were several other vases full of flowers, but they were positioned low on the wall and I was not willing to contort my body to get the shots. 😀

The project is called “Primary Petals,” for which students created a vase full of flowers using water color, oil pastels, and markers. Through the activity, “the students learned about color families, explored new mediums, and focused on line quality by drawing spirals” [Description posted with artwork].

Based on the description of the project, I’m assuming the art is that of Mrs. Johnson’s students. [She was my son’s fourth grade teacher and her art projects are always sensational].

As I have been working through life’s challenges, I have been asking a lot of questions. The answers aren’t always immediate or acceptable, so it’s nice to put the challenges on hold and take a moment to enjoy the innocence and simplicity of children’s art. It’s good–every now and then–to just be, to learn from the roses.

“Roses” by Mary Oliver

Everyone now and again wonders about
those questions that have no ready
answer: first cause, God’s existence,
what happens when the curtain goes
down and nothing stops it, not kissing
not going to the mall, not the Super
Bowl.

“Wild roses,” I said to them one morning.
“Do you have the answers? And if you do,
would you tell me?”

The roses laughed softly. “Forgive us,”
they said. “But as you can see, we are
just now entirely busy being roses.”

“such are daffodils/with the green world they live in”

“Daffodils,” Photo by Sheila L.

Lead by example: Support women on their way to the top. Trust that they will extend a hand to those who follow. –Mariela Dabbah

I tried and tried to capture the daffodils this spring, but they were a bit wonky and difficult to photograph, so I am grateful for the perfect bunch of daffodils my Love Notes friend, Sheila L, sent along with Mariela Dabbah’s quote encouraging women to empower each other through reaching back and extending a hand.

Daffodils make me think of spring and poetry, so that’s where my head went when I received this card.

William Wordsworth’s “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” is the “daffodils” poem familiar to many, but since I used that poem on the blog (twice) already, I’m turning to my favorite Romantic poet, John Keats. He mentions the daffodils in the first lines of his “Endymion, Book I,” a treatise on the potency and timelessness of beauty.

A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.

Therefore, on every morrow, are we wreathing
A flowery band to bind us to the earth,
Spite of despondence, of the inhuman dearth
Of noble natures, of the gloomy days,
Of all the unhealthy and o’er-darkened ways
Made for our searching: yes, in spite of all,
Some shape of beauty moves away the pall
From our dark spirits.
Such the sun, the moon,
Trees old and young, sprouting a shady boon
For simple sheep; and such are daffodils
With the green world they live in; and clear rills
That for themselves a cooling covert make
‘Gainst the hot season; the mid forest brake,
Rich with a sprinkling of fair musk-rose blooms […]

If you’d like to read the full poem, find it here: Endymion on Bartleby

I hope your week is filled with sunshine, poetry, and brilliant blooms.

#ThursdayTreeLove |Trees Full of Butterflies

Mixed with rain, they are mistaken for the fallen dew;
In the wind, they look like flying butterflies.
Liu Hsiao-ch’o, “Ode to the Pear Blossom”

In these parts (Northern Alabama), early spring bursts forth with magnificent color. The trees usually blossom in succession–the Japanese magnolia, followed by the red buds followed by the pear blossoms, followed by the dogwoods followed, finally, by the cherry blossoms. This year, with the exception of the magnolia, the trees seemingly bloomed at the same time!

The cold weather and rain of this past winter kept me indoors, so on one of my first campus walks of spring, I was pleasantly surprised to find my usual path lined with blossoms.

The red buds were beginning to fill out her limbs, but the pear blossoms were on full display. I had only my phone, but I took another short walk before the end of the workday…with my camera.

A week later, I walked another path…

…to enjoy the trees in another part of campus.

They did not disappoint.

The bumblebees were out in full force, so my visit with the trees ended abruptly. No matter–my camera and I were pleased and we have so many more trees to share!


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.

Speaking in Flowers: In Front of a Window

“Wallwurz und kleine rosa Nelken vor Fenster,” 1935. Gabriele Münter [Wallroot and small pink carnations in front of window]

The postcard above, which features the work of German expressionist painter Gabriele Münter, was one of the first I received for International Women’s Day/Women’s History Month. It came from my Love Notes friend, Eileen V.

In honor of our sharing flowers with other women throughout the world, Eileen added another “flower.” She affixed to the message side of the postcard the story of the Greek goddess, Iris:

Since Iris is the Greek goddess for the Messenger of Love, her sacred flower is considered the symbol of communication and messages. Greek men would often plant an iris on the graves of their beloved women as a tribute to the goddess Iris, whose duty it was to take the souls of women to the Elysian fields. — Hana No Monogatari, from The Story of Flowers

2019 has been brutal thus far, and I’ve lacked the intellectual energy to give words to my feelings and experiences. Flowers have been easier, so taking a cue from nayirrah waheed, I’ll be “speaking in flowers” for much of the next few weeks. I’ll mix things up a bit and try not to bore you. 😉


Speaking of Love Notes, the deadline to sign up for the next round is in a few days. If you love receiving snail mail and want to be part of a wonderful community of creative mail-loving souls, click the link.