“In This Here Place…”

Emilio Cruz. Figurative Composition #7, 1965, oil on canvas. Smithsonian American Art Museum. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. David K. Anderson, Martha Jackson Memorial Collection, 1980.137.21

We are nearing the end of discussion of Toni Morrison’s Beloved in one of my classes. My favorite part of the novel (and perhaps the reason I love it so much) is the sermon Baby Suggs, holy delivers in the Clearing. Instead of an actual Bible verse, love is her text. To those newly loosed [one way or another] from the chains and nightmare of slavery it is a reminder of their humanity and a call to release the atrocities of the past and imagine a new reality. After exorcising their demons through dance, laughter, and tears, Baby Suggs delivers a love letter to their beautiful souls. For me, this is the most powerful part of the book:

In this here place, we flesh; flesh that weeps, laughs; flesh that dances on bare feet in grass. Love it. Love it hard. Yonder they do not love your flesh. They despise it. They don’t love your eyes; they’d just as soon pick em out. No more do they love the skin on your back. Yonder they flay it. And O my people they do not love your hands. Those they only use, tie, bind, chop off and leave empty. Love your hands! Love them. Raise them up and kiss them. Touch others with them, pat them together, stroke them on your face ’cause they don’t love that either. You got to love it, you! And no, they ain’t in love with your mouth. Yonder, out there, they will see it broken and break it again. What you say out of it they will not heed. What you scream from it they do not hear. What you put into it to nourish your body they will snatch away and give you leavins instead. No, they don’t love your mouth. You got to love it. This is flesh I’m talking about here. Flesh that needs to be loved. Feet that need to rest and to dance; backs that need support; shoulders that need arms, strong arms I’m telling you. And O my people, out yonder, hear me, they do not love your neck unnoosed and straight. So love your neck; put a hand on it, grace it, stroke it and hold it up. And all your inside parts that they’d just as soon slop for hogs, you got to love them. The dark, dark liver–love it, love it and the beat and beating heart, love that too. More than eyes or feet. More than lungs that have yet to draw free air. More than your life-holding womb and your life-giving private parts, hear me now, love your heart. For this is the prize.  –Toni Morrison, Beloved

I cannot locate a quality clip of Beah Richard’s phenomenal [understatement] performance of the second part [above] of Baby Sugg’s sermon, but here’s the first part.


About the Image: The artwork featured above is the work of Emilio Cruz, an African American artist of Cuban descent. You can see more of his work by clicking the link. It is one of the postcards in Paintings by African-Americans from the collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

“A Valentine”

A Valentine (1906)
Priscilla Jane Thompson

Out of the depths of a heart of love,
     Out of the birth-place of sighs,
Freighted with hope and freighted with fear,
     My all in a valentine, hies.
     Oh, frail little missive
            Of delicate texture,
     Speed thee, on thy journey,
            And give her a lecture! 

Fathom her heart, that seems to me, cold,
     Trouble her bosom, as mine,
Let it be mutual, this that I crave,
     Her ‘yes’ for a valentine.
     Oh, frail little missive,
            In coy Cupid’s keeping,
     Oh! speed back a message,
            To set my pulse leaping.

Happy Valentine’s Day!


Focus on Black: Click the link and learn a bit about Priscilla Jane Thompson.

Guest Post| “A Garden Reflection” by Danille Taylor

We are each other’s
harvest:
we are each other’s
business:
we are each other’s
magnitude and bond.

Gwendolyn Brooks

Photo by Photo AC on Pixabay

Today’s post was written by my colleague and friend, Dr. Danille Taylor. She wrote this reflection after working in her garden and seeing the connection between her work and the work in which we must all engage to undo the isms that are destroying humanity.
***
***.   .  ***.   .  ***
***
I was in the garden yesterday in 90 degree heat digging out weeds. I put a perennial bed in an area where the builder planted bamboo. I contracted to have soil and new plants put in. It was much too much work for my new knees, but the bed wasn’t prepped properly. The bamboo is tenacious! I can neither stomp it out nor can I use poison because of the new plants. I have to dig down and extract the roots. This is tedious back-bending work that requires the right tools so as not kill the new plants–my beauties. I may have to keep weeding for years to rid the garden of the bamboo, but as the gardener, it is my responsibility to protect my beauties. If I get lazy or forget, the bamboo will take over again.
***
Ridding this world of all the ‘isms, greed, and inequities requires that we all be gardeners. There is no quick medicine or vaccine. There is only consistent, diligent, hard, and loving work to destroy the roots. But we have to have the right tools.
Each period requires old and new tools, but we must understand the old to be effective now. The energy of Black youth has brought us to this moment much as it did fifty years ago. They are railing at the bamboo that has them in a chokehold.
***
If need be, we’ll plant a new garden and properly prepare the bed making sure the soil is rich and nurturing. No poisons allowed. We must remember the “bamboo” may still be there, so we’ll have to be diligent in identifying and uprooting it. We have knowledge and lessons of the past and tools of the future. We will sweat. But the wonderment and beauty we cultivate will feed us. As we weed and dig to extract roots we must not lose our joy.  We see the beauty of the garden we are cultivating.
***
Live, breathe, love, and work.

Photo by Photo Mix on Pixabay

Real Love | Daring You to the Dangerous

Real love dares you to the really dangerous: die in the diminutive. Be broken and given in the small, the moments so small no one may applaud at all. Pour out your life in laundry room and over toilets and tubs, and pour out life on the back streets, in the back of the room, back behind the big lights. Pour out your life in the small moments–because its only these moments that add up to the monumental. The only way to live a truly remarkable life is not to get everyone to notice you, but to leave noticeable marks everywhere you go. The best love could be a broken, boring love–letting your heart be bore into by another heart, one small act of love at a time. –Ann Voskamp, The Broken Way

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Love One Another

Love each other with a warm love
that comes from the heart.
1 Peter 1:22, NET

Can you imagine the amazing place this world would be if every one of us practiced this one simple principle and respected each other’s humanity and right to exist?


About the image: The postcard was sent to me by Karen F (Michigan on swap-bot) for a scripture postcard swap.

25 Silver Nuggets: Pursue the Ever After

My hubby and I have been married for 25 years today! I’m asking “where did the time go?” like I did a week ago when my son turned 13.

People have many ideas about marriage and a whole lot to say about how we should do this or that to make a marriage “successful.” I’m certainly no marriage specialist, but I’m back with another random list of nuggets picked up in the 25 years my hubby and I have been married. Each item could easily be its own blog post, but I’d rather spare you a 25-part, month-long series on marriage. 😀

  1. The wedding is not the culmination of love. It’s barely the beginning.
  2. If you can live with his snakes, you must really love him. Or her. [We’ll just allow “snakes” to serve as a metaphor for that one thing your spouse loves that you do not love so much].
  3. Men really are from Mars, and women really are from Venus. And that’s perfectly okay.
  4. The phrase “two become one” does not mean surrendering your individuality, so hold on to your voice and your identity.
  5. You’re not half a person. No other human can complete you.
  6. Be your spouse’s greatest supporter.
  7. Words matter, so it is better to be silent through anger than speak words that linger long after the argument is over.
  8. Hard times eventually pass, so push through them together. Such grit in marriage strengthens the bonds of love and trust.
  9. You never have to “go it alone.” There is someone walking with you through the scariest, darkest moments.
  10. Laughter really is the best medicine.
  11. Flexibility is strength.
  12. Humility is strength.
  13. God in everything. Absolutely.
  14. No one’s “in charge.” Be the boss of you.
  15. Don’t sweat the small stuff.
  16. We’re all weird.
  17. Sing and dance together…often.
  18. At the end of the day…love.
  19. Apologize.
  20. Forgive quickly.
  21. It’s okay to be weak and let your spouse carry the “whole load” at times.
  22. Say “I love you” often.
  23. Say “please” and “thank you.”
  24. There’s profound security in knowing there is at least one person in the whole world [besides your parents]–who has seen you at your best and at your worst, who’s seen you after the masks have been removed and the performance has ended–who loves you anyway.
  25. The part of the fairytale everyone loves is “happily ever after.” Fairytale plots are unrealistic, but pursue the “ever after.” That part is real.

Marriage is work, but it’s good work–the kind that expands and firms up your soul.

My hubby is brilliant, funny, gifted, compassionate, committed, and so many other wonderful things. We determined before marriage that heaven is one common goal we will not compromise. I can’t imagine navigating the madness of life without him and I’m grateful for our continuing march into the “ever after” together. 

Love Means…

“Love” by Robert Indiana, 6th Avenue at 55th Street, New York City. Photo by Jennifer Howland Hill.

“Love” is likely the most difficult word to define. We talk about what it means, but definitions fail to hit the mark. Since it finds meaning in action and in character, we describe love more than we define it.

“Love means” was the final prompt for Love Notes 27. Peggy, again, did not disappoint as she shared a poem which demonstrates the evolving meaning(s) of love as she travels the decades.

Love Means
By Peggy L.

At the age of 10
Love means my mama’s smile and a hug.

At the age of 20
Love means bodies tangled in the sheets.

At the age of 30
Love means walking my sweet daughter to class before heading to work.

At the age of 40
Love means letting my baby find her own life, away from me.

At the age of 50
Love means discovering myself and learning to paint.

At the age of 60
Love means…

I’ll let you know.

I love how the poem touches on parental love, romantic love, self-love, and the “unknowns” of love.

As for my part, exhausted and with a mile-long to-do list I couldn’t  even attempt. I went to the Source of Love and sent my partner 1 Corinthians 13:4-8–but again, that describes rather than defines love, and there are more negatives than positives in the description.

According to 1 John 4:8. God is love. Love, therefore, is as complex and multifaceted as God. Perhaps, this is what makes it difficult to define.

If you missed Peggy’s responses to LN 27 Prompt 1 and Prompt 2, be sure click the previous link–twice!


About the imageThe postcard above was sent to me by my friend Cy after a trip to New York last summer.

From the postcard back: The artist, Robert Indiana, settled in New York City in 1954 and began making pop art. His most famous work, Love, was originally designed as a Christmas card for the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in 1964. The image quickly became a symbol of peace at a time when the country had become involved in the Viet Nam War. The 12-foot sculpture was installed at the corner of 6th Avenue and 55th Street in 1971, two blocks from MoMA. It has become one of the most photographed icons in New York City. Every day thousands of couples visit the sculpture and awkwardly ask a stranger to take their photograph.

Happy Weekend!

Love Mail!

“In My Heart,” by Rachel of Fia’s Designs

Can you believe February is almost over? Didn’t 2019 begin just yesterday?! I’m not sure what the rest of the week will bring, so I thought I’d better share the love mail I found in my mailbox before the remaining days of the month slip away.

From Christine B, my ever faithful penfriend, a heart-shaped cactus:

Cactus Heart, Photo by Christine B.

From another Love Notes friend, Suzette R, an edited photograph with the words “Be Mine” in a beautiful cursive font.

“Be Mine,” Photo by Suzette R.

From yet another Love Notes friend, Eileen V, a special postcard in which she “transformed” the flowers into sunflowers just for me.

“Sunflower Love,” Watercolored by Eileen V

An adorable card from my great-niece, who just turned one last week! She made this with a “little help” from her mommy, Tiffany:

“Love, Love, Love!” Made by Tiff and Lu

She also included a picture of herself. She’s grown quite a bit since her debut on the blog last June.

Isn’t she adorable? I think my wardrobe needs a pair of glittery red, heart-shaped glasses.

The card positioned at the top of the post was also part of my mailbox love this month. The artist, Rachel of Fia’s Designs, sent the card as a “thank you” for subscribing to her mailing list and as an incentive to send more snail mail. Usually, I don’t need an incentive, but it’s been a bit of a challenge getting snail mail out this year.  Maybe, this cutie will get me started again.

You can find Rachel:

Wishing you a lovely week… ❤

 

#ThursdayTreeLove | Love and Trees

Love
is the only
thing that
makes sense
to me
when I consider
the complexity
of the
human
experience.  

–48 Laws of Love–

Since #ThursdayTreeLove falls on Valentine’s Day this year, I get to express my love for trees and love in one photo. How sweet!

The edited photo above features a couple taking a romantic gondola ride in City Park of New Orleans. The couple is framed by some of the gorgeous sprawling, mossy oaks of the park. Don’t you just love love and oaks?

The poem was written by a writer I found on Instagram. I’d change it just a little–Love and trees are the only things that make sense to me…

Happy Valentine’s Day!


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.

No One Ever Told Me…

Purple by Lynda F.

Is a Saturday morning post the same thing as a Friday post?

I crashed (on and off) after getting through the short Friday workday. When we arrived home at about 1:30, I made lunch for the kiddo and went to sleep. I woke up in time to make dinner and lounged and “liked” on IG until sleep overcame me again. My body is insisting on the sleep “they” say we can never catch up on.

Anyway, as promised (but several hours late), here’s another stunning piece of artwork by my Love Notes 26 partner, Lynda F. The final prompt was “No one ever told me…”

No one ever told me I’d be a caregiver and how challenging that is. But I’m strong–and have risen to the challenge.

Lynda’s husband suffered a stroke in 2017, and of course, life changed for them in an instant. As I struggled with which “no one ever told me” to share, Lynda’s response gave me pause. Late last year two of my uncles had strokes–my mom’s brother in New Orleans and my dad’s brother-in-love, who lives here in Northern Alabama.

Because I live here, I witnessed that moment when life changed for all our family here–and especially for my aunt. The battle between faith and fear when the doctors offered no hope. [Faith won]. The immediate shift in priorities. The action plan. The fight in all of us.

My aunt, who hadn’t driven in years, started driving again and picked up my uncle’s usual tasks. My dad’s other sisters, who also live here, adjusted their lives too.

Life changes.

And, like Lynda said, no one can ever tell us this is going to happen. There is no preparation. No training. No warning. This is life, and when we are living and walking in hope, faith, and love, we roll with it. We adjust. We rise to the challenge and accept our new normal(s).

Maybe, one day, I’ll share my uncle’s miraculous story, but for now, I wish you a happy and restful weekend and strength for this journey called life.