#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.

Let’s Make Lists: Seven Bits of Wisdom from Seven Favorite Books

“Lavender in Old Book,” Photo by Ekaterina Antonova

If you haven’t been around long enough to notice, I love, love, love books and, therefore, words and quotes. When people ask “What’s your favorite book?,” I hand them a 10-page list of books (slight exaggeration). And quotes? Who can select a single favorite? “Not I,” said the rabbit [the rabbit is me].

“Old Books,” Photo by Oksana Nazarchuk

So, for today’s list—and #WednesdayWisdom—I’m sharing seven life-changing quotes from seven of my favorite books. The selection is limited and random and in no way represents a privileging or prioritizing of other works over others. If I were to list all the quotes and all the books, this blog would be about books and quotes, not pics and posts.

So here’s my list of quotes. Maybe, they’ll change your life too.

“The Shepherd laughed too. “I love doing preposterous things,” he replied. “Why, I don’t know anything more exhilarating and delightful than turning weakness into strength, and fear into faith, and that which has been marred into perfection.’  Hannah Hurnard, Hinds Feet on High Places

There must be always remaining in every life, some place for the singing of angels, some place for that which in itself is breathless and beautiful.―Howard Thurman, Meditations of the Heart

“The life of faith is not a life of mounting up with wings, but a life of walking and not fainting.”Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest

“Literary Paris,” from Obvious State

Whatever happens around you, don’t take it personally… Nothing other people do is because of you. It is because of themselves.”Don Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements

You shall be free indeed when your days are not without a care, nor your nights without a want and a grief, but rather when these things girdle your life and yet you rise above them naked and unbound.  Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet

Evil can be undone, but it cannot ‘develop’ into good. Time does not heal it. The spell must be unwound, bit by bit, ‘with backward mutters of dissevering power’ – or else not. C. S. Lewis, The Great Divorce

You wanna fly, you got to give up the sh*t that weighs you down. Toni Morrison, Song of Solomon

books1

Like any other list, it would be easy for me to go waaaaaay overboard, but I’m trying to practice what I preach to my students. Sometimes, less is more.

What’s your favorite quote? Are any of these a new fav?


About the Images: Each postcard in this post was for bookish swaps on swap-bot. Aren’t they fabulous?

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 with Maya Angelou

No Weapon

One of the most beautiful books in my extensive collection is Maya Angelou’s Letter to My Daughter. In the collection of short essays, Angelou, ever the sage, dispenses wisdom and inspiration with snippets from her life and experiences.

In a passage entitled “Mt. Zion,” Angelou reflects on the precious moment when she realized that God loves her:

There was a possibility that God really did love me. I began to cry at the gravity and grandeur of it all. I knew that if God loved me, then I could do wonderful things. I could try great things, learn anything, achieve anything. For what could stand against me, since one person with God constitutes the majority?

It is always amazing when we enter this moment of knowing God is absolutely enamored with us. Nothing can thwart our purpose when we encounter that profound love and allow it to possess us. We can walk in confidence that “come hell or high water,” through the Divine, we will win every.single.time.


About the Image: I promised myself that I would participate in Sheila Delgado’s 30-Day Creative Gathering this month. I create doodle art or photo art to “highlight” a passage of scripture [almost] daily, so to make my participation in “the gathering” easier [and more likely], I decided to pair the daily verse with my “art of the day.”

Today is Day 1.

I thought of Angelou’s words when I read the “Verse of the Day” in the Bible App (YouVersion) this morning. They seem connected to me.

Fractals | Artistry, Magic, and Song

Frax-1

About five years ago, my friend, international poet and scholar, Dr. Jerry W. Ward, Jr., published a collection of poetry entitled Fractal Song. I have yet to speak with Ward about the title of the collection. I assumed it was connected to his interest (and degree) in mathematics. If you’ve been paying attention, you know my relationship with mathematics is an only-when-necessary one. For that reason, I gave the title and cover (which features a fractal) only cursory acknowledgment until I started playing around with my own fractal art.

The poems, which deal primarily with Black experience, possess cadences akin to traditional Black music forms–jazz and blues and maybe, even hip hop. At times, the words mimic the woeful whine of a saxophone, just grazing the deep ache of our longing. At other times, the poems hit the wry tone and rhythm of blues. Reality is matter-of-fact. We note it and we find ways to go on, laughing to keep from crying. Then, there is in some of the poems the flippant, unapologetic, unvarnished truth-telling, which makes hip hop so appealing.

Frax-4

The word fractal has its roots in the Latin fract-, “broken” from the verb “frangere,” which means to break. When I look closely at the fractals created from my photographs, I notice there is a slight break or opening that begins or disrupts (?) the pattern, so I’ve been thinking about the etymology of the word and how it impacts my reading of Ward’s poems.

There is much in Fractal Songs that opens and “breaks.” Traditional and experimental lines break. Time breaks as the poet traverses various historical and literary moments. And, certainly, there is his handling of much that is dark and broken in the African American (particularly) male experience.

Ward’s poems will not leave one feeling warm and fuzzy, as some expect when they encounter poetry. The poems in the collection are gritty and rugged. However, like fractals, there is artistry, beauty, and magic–even in the brokenness.


fractal song coverYour Voice
Jerry W. Ward, Jr.

It’s a magic thing
Sun and rain and poetry
Flooding in my memory,
But all I can remember
Is how you got over
A deep river
With amazing grace
And cursed your blues
With natural rhythms.

Fall in Love…

Daffodil

I had planned to share poetry on the blog every day this month–as I did last year–but reality dictated otherwise. What was I thinking, anyway? Last April we were “sheltering-in-place,” so I had time to read and think about poetry for pleasure. This April, hmm…not so much.

However, I will take advantage of the last three days of National Poetry Month and share a few poems.

For today’s literary treat, I’m sharing one from Morgan Harper Nichols‘ book, All Along You Were Blooming, which I talked about in a previous post. She has a gift for speaking to whatever moment I’m in; I am sure many feel the same way. The poem I share today is a lighthearted reminder to love life in all of its simplicity and complexity.

Fall in love with the art of living.
Fall in love with letting things be.
Fall in love with listening.
Be still in the sun,
where the winds ever-gently blow,
knowing it is here,
in moments like this,
you are living,
and you will grow.

Morgan Harper Nichols, from All Along You Were Blooming

Tomorrow is “Poem in Your Pocket Day,” so let’s have a link party! Join me by sharing a poem on your blog–yours or someone else’s. Be sure to come back here and add your link to the comments. I don’t want to miss your poems! Maybe, I’ll “discover” a new poet!

Let’s share until the very last minute of National Poetry Month, 11:59 PM.

Check out some other ideas for PYP Day by downloading a PDF filled with ideas and poetry from the Academy of American Poets.

Student Post 7: Wisdom from The Magician’s Nephew

Sunflower PhotoArtStudents in my course are encouraged to shape their blogs in the way that serves their blogging purposes, but there are obviously some skills they must exercise to become strong non-fiction writers. To that end, we do some workshopping and writing exercises in class that help them stretch their writing muscles. Some of these exercises are developed into blog posts. Some are submitted to literary journals. Some remain in the students’ writing journals while they continue to work with them.

One of the exercises required students to reflect on a significant quote. In today’s post Markus of Mark’s Art Stew talks about a quote from C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia, “The Magician’s Nephew”, and its recent impact on his life. Be sure to read his post and follow his blog. He offers a little something for everyone.


About the Image: The image above is one of the [far too] many pieces of sunflower photo-art hiding in my files. I might have to compile them into a book or start a sunflower blog. 😉

The Sistren: Their Words Filled Me

“The Sistren: Black Women Writers at the Inauguration of America’s First Sister President.” Photo: (c)
Susan J. Ross. 1988. Used by permission.

Can you name these women?

I cannot remember life without these sister-poets and writers. It seems their words have been with me all my life.

I was young–a preteen in most cases–when I was introduced to Nikki Giovanni, Gwendolyn Brooks, Mari Evans, Sonia Sanchez, Toni Cade Bambara. I don’t remember how I came to meet them, other than through my thirst for books, which often led me to my mother’s or older siblings’ book collections.

I encountered others later–when I was in college and in graduate school. I even met some of them in person.

Their names and words became part of my literary vocabulary, reserved for sacred moments, quiet time. Me and my sister writers. Their words filled me and spoke to an experience akin to my own–of black women speaking, loving, empowering–alive and thriving in their own spaces.

Only the black woman can say ‘when and where I enter, in the quiet, undisputed dignity of my womanhood, without violence and without suing or special patronage, then and there the whole Negro race enters with me.’ —Anna Julia Cooper, A Voice from the South, 1892


How many did you know? Top Row: Louise Meriwether, Pinkie Gordon Lane, Johnnetta Cole and Paula Giddings. Middle Row: Pearl Cleage, Gwendolyn Brooks, and Toni Cade Bambara. Bottom Row: Sonia Sanchez, Nikki Giovanni, and Mari Evans

Many thanks to photographer Susan Ross [website] who gave me permission to share her photo on my blog. You can find also find her on Instagram and Twitter @photogriot.

Berries.

I wish to live because life has within it that which is good, that which is beautiful, and that which is love. Therefore, since I have known all of these things, I have found them reason enough and–I wish to live. –Lorraine Hansberry, To Be Young, Gifted, and Black