Be Kind.

The last few days have been more unkind than usual as we’ve navigated one disappointment and heartbreak after another each time we listened to national and international news, read an article, or skimmed social media posts. Louise Gale’s choice of theme for the latest Global HeART Exchange–kindness–was almost prophetic, as if she knew that the chaos and madness of the world would need to be softened during these first few weeks of summer with kindness winging its way throughout the world.

Although I missed the signup deadline for the art swap, Louise kindly pointed me to others who would be interested in swapping postcards with me–two who also missed the deadline and one other who made extra cards. I also received kindness from faithful penfriends.

Instead of sharing all the postcards I received in one post, I’m going to “spread” the cards  (including my own) throughout the week, a small effort to “sprinkle a little kindness” every day.

Today’s post features a postcard created by Carolyn H., an artist and yoga instructor who hails from Ohio.

“Be Kind” By Care H.

Care’s mixed media postcard was inspired by the lyrics of Jewel’s song, “Hands” and included a quote from the song:

In the end only kindness matters.

I encourage you to take a moment and listen to this song. Its message is timely, one many of us need to hear today.

May your week, in Care’s words, “sparkle with art and kindness.”

Close…Closer…Closest

Don’t be misled by the title–I won’t be giving a lesson on comparatives and superlatives today. 😀

Have you ever shot a photograph that thrilled you?  There’s nothing super spectacular about the photo or the scene even, but shooting it gave you all the “good feels?”

That’s how I feel about a few photos I captured with my iPhone late last week.

Mimosa: Close

I’m not sure why this tree claims my attention. There’s something about the combination of pink and green.  Or maybe it’s the fine wisps that form the featherlike blossoms.

I first noticed the trees several years ago in New Orleans, but I only saw them when I was on the road.  The same thing happened here in Northern Alabama.  I never saw them in a place I could or wanted to stop. . . until last week.

I finally found an opportunity to get up close and personal with the tree when I dropped by my son’s school last week. I glanced up and there was the tree sitting behind the building up a hill!

You know what happened next…

Mimosa: Closer

Now, I see these trees practically everywhere I turn, and my heart does a happy dance whenever I see them.

Mimosa: Closest

To be honest, I’m not even certain what this tree is called.  I read conflicting information about it.  A plant identification app on my phone matched my photo with the Albizia julibrissin, but another website identified the tree as Calliandra surinamensis. The University of Florida’s Gardening Solutions site agreed with the app (Go Gators!).

The tree is commonly called a “mimosa” tree and is native to eastern and southwestern Asia, but flourishes (almost) anywhere it’s planted.  According to UF’s Gardening Solutions site, the mimosa tree is considered an invasive tree and is not recommended for gardening.  The plant that it was mistaken for, Calliandra surinamensis, bears similar blossoms, but is more suited for home gardening.

I’ll continue to appreciate this beautiful tree “from a distance,” photograph them when I can, and play around with the photos in  a few apps. 😉

 

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Have you photographed anything recently that simply thrilled you?

Lighthouses!

My friend Kem recently returned from a family vacation to Martha’s Vineyard.  Do you know what I found in the mail today?  That’s right! A postcard she sent days before her return.

Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. Cape Poge Lighthouse. Photo by Paul Rezendes

Cape Poge Lighthouse is located on Northeast tip of Chappaquiddick Island.

Kem wrote that she always thinks of me when she visits a new place (how sweet!) and that my camera would be quite happy with the beauty of Martha’s Vineyard (I agree!).  The lighthouses were her favorite sites while there.  She talked about her trip and included pics of some of the lighthouses in a recent blog post.

I love lighthouses too, not only because they are beautiful structures but because of their interesting histories.  The Cape Poge Lighthouse postcard prompted me to take another look at the other lighthouse postcards I’ve received over the last several years.

Take a look:

Map of the Lighthouses of Cape Cod, Massachusetts

Until the Cape Cod Canal opened in 1914, every vessel sailing between Boston and points south had to weather the dangers of Cape Cod’s dreaded sand bars that thrust out into the Atlantic Ocean. In 1797, the U.S. government constructed the first lighthouse on Cape Cod. These lonely sentinels have since provided guidance to mariners.

Click the link for more information on the Cape Cod Lighthouses.

Scituate Light (Cedar Point), Massachusetts

Scituate Lighthouse–a historic lighthouse of the War of 1812. This lighthouse is located at the entrance to the harbor and offers a beautiful view of the coast and the harbor.

The Cape May Lighthouse, New Jersey

Situated on the southern tip of Cape May Peninsula where the Delaware Bay meets the Atlantic Ocean, Cape May is recognized by the United States government as the country’s oldest seaside resort.  The Cape May Lighthouse, built in 1859, is operated by the U.S. Coast Guard.

The St. Simons Lighthouse, St. Simons, Georgia

The St. Simons Lighthouse was built by James Gould in 1810. It was destroyed during the Civil War and rebuilt in 1872.

Great Lakes Lighthouses

Left to Right–

Great Lakes Lighthouses

Although the two “Great Lakes Lighthouses” postcards seem to feature the same houses, there is an additional house in the postcard above–Seul Choix Lighthouse, Lake Michigan (middle white lighthouse).

I received the postcards in swaps from 2010-2016.  However, the final postcard in my very small collection of lighthouses is a “souvenir” I picked up in San Francisco after a visit to Alcatraz Island.

Alcatraz Island Lighthouse

The Alcatraz Island Lighthouse was the first one built on the U.S. West Coast, located in California’s San Francisco Bay. It is located at the southern end of the island near the entrance to the prison.

I enjoyed revisiting the lighthouses and reviewing the many other (unrelated) interesting postcards I ran across.  I encountered many that deserve blog posts, so look for some “flashback” postcard posts in the near future.

I think I just added a visit to all the U.S. lighthouses to my travel bucket list.  Maybe, I’ll get started this summer!

Have you visited any lighthouses lately?

Thanks for thinking of me, Kemi, and for prompting the visit down postcard lane.

In Memoriam…

“Treat the Living Well”

Ceremonies are important. But our gratitude has to be more than visits to the troops, and once-a-year Memorial Day ceremonies. We honor the dead best by treating the living well.  –Jennifer M. Granholm

Freedom Quilt Patterns | Farewell, Mrs. Crarey

(Log Cabin)

School ends in a few days and Mrs. Crarey, my favorite second grade teacher, is retiring.  I’m sad for all the children who will miss the opportunity of learning under such an amazing person, but I’m happy for her.  She’s earned her retirement and  she will certainly make deep impressions wherever she goes.

Mrs. Crarey is simply awesome.  Even with a classroom full of many different personalities and learning styles, she has a way of dealing with her students as individuals and stimulating their intellectual curiosity.  I love her not only because she is awesome but because she just loves my son, and even today–three years after he finished second grade–she is a friend of his heart.

I will always be grateful for the way she kept his curiosity piqued and gave him more challenging work when he surpassed benchmarks.  She used his love for reading, robots, science, animals, Star Wars, and mystery to keep him engaged.  That meant a lot to this mom who was uncomfortable in a newish environment with a kid who was pining for home (New Orleans) and still adjusting to a school day structure and approach to teaching and learning that were very different from the Montessori curriculum of his previous experience.

When I blogged about the fifth grade African masks a few months ago, I mentioned there was so much more art to see–much more than I can cover in a couple of blog posts.  But in honor of Mrs. Crarey’s retirement and the tremendous gift she has been to the school, this post focuses on her group’s art fair exhibit.

Mrs. Crarey approaches art purposefully.  She typically has her students complete art projects that connect to a lesson. When my son was in her class, the students drew and learned about owls, West African-style dwellings, jewelry, and women’s attire, geckos, dinosaurs, which I blogged about three and a half years ago, Dr. Seuss, and so much more.  I’m going to miss taking a walk down to her classroom and taking a peek at her students’ masterpieces.

In addition to other art pieces, the class created quilt blocks. After reading Bettye Stroud’s The Patchwork Quilt: A Quilt Map to Freedom, reading about the Underground Railroad, viewing and studying maps of the “slave states” and “free states,” students selected a quilt pattern to draw and color.

“Freedom Quilt”

According to some studies, the quilts played an important role in helping enslaved persons make their way to freedom.  Each quilt piece held significant meaning and provided directions and warnings. Although there have been verbal statements from descendants of enslaved persons regarding the quilt code, there has been no physical proof.

Take a look at the children’s quilt pieces [click an image for a closer look]:

Follow the link to find out what each of the patterns mean: Freedom Quilt Codes.

Farewell, Mrs. Crarey…We’re not sure how we’ll survive the coming years without running into you for our quick chats, but we wish you well on your journey.  Thank you for the fond memories, for your generous spirit, and your heart of gold.

Much love…XOXOX

Mrs. Crarey and My Little One, December 2013

A teacher takes a hand, opens a mind, and touches a heart.

Purple Reign: Loving the Purple Journal

I have often wondered what happens to the photographs I send into the world. Diane (aka Midteacher), one of my photog pals in the A Thousand Words group on swap-bot, takes the guess work out of it for the photos I send to her.  She often lets me know that she has included or plans to include my photos in her various art or mixed media journals.  When I sent her this year’s “love post,” she shared that it was going to be added to her Purple Journal. Yes, her purple journal!

Alistair posing with the purple journal page featuring my 2017 “love post.” Photo by Diane (Midteacher)

Take a look at detail!

Close-up of the “love post” in Diane’s Purple Journal–Photo by Diane (Midteacher)

View the full post here: Playing in the Purple Journal.

I’m delighted that Diane found a beautiful use for the photo, but I’m sharing her post because she shares how she transformed the simple photo into a beautiful journal page. [She’s even running a contest for naming her purple journal.  Help her name her journal and you could be the winner of a purple 8×10 mixed media piece].

I’ve always been intrigued and inspired by Diane’s work. My seeing how she crafted this page gives me the creative courage to give mixed media work a try.

You can see more of Diane’s work on her blog, A Focused Journey: Finding a Focus on the Other Side of Fifty, or you can check out some of my earlier posts which feature her photos:

I’ll be sharing more of Diane’s work within the next week or two.  Until then, enjoy the reign of purple!

 

Choose Kindness.

I thought I was at the end of my “kindness rope” earlier today. Then, a postcard arrived that helped me hold on a bit tighter.

PeggyO sent the card below for a Literary Wisdom Postcard swap, a series I host for the “All Things Book-Related” group on swap-bot.

Purple Crocuses and Kindness

Let’s take a moment to squeal because…well…purple crocus flowers! [Thanks, Christine]

The quote does not directly relate to my situation, but it reminded me to continue being who I am. A kind person. Even when I’ve had enough.  Even when I am saying “no.”

What do you do when your kindness is taken for granted? When you have been overly kind, generous, gracious, but it’s not enough?  When those on the receiving end are less than kind and seem insatiable, wanting more and more and more of your kindness?

I hope you choose kindness.

Note:  The quote, though ascribed to Mark Twain, did not originate with him.  Find out more here: Quote Investigator.

 

Love, Lines, and Angles: Finding Beauty in Ordinary Places

My friend Cy doesn’t consider herself a photographer; however, she has a knack for evoking strong feelings with the ordinary things she photographs with her phone camera. She always remarks that she’s learning a lot about photography from me, but I am learning so much from her.

I’ve been attempting to “train” my eye to see things differently and find art in ordinary things. So, while my camera and I have been having a wonderful time watching spring unfold, I’ve also been making a point of photographing some of the mundane things I encounter in my everyday life, things to which I usually pay little attention.

A couple of weeks ago I focused on lines. They were everywhere–in my office, in the air, on the ground, on my student’s back.   Even though my camera was often mere inches away, I captured the photos below with my iPhone because usually the ordinary is most striking when I’m not expecting it and when I’m not attempting to “force” it.

I noticed the power lines on my walk down the driveway to the mailbox one afternoon. I was struck by the awe and power they represent–power to give life and to take it.

Power and Respect.

The dandelion was beneath them, hoping for some attention, before all the “wishes” blew away.

“Dande-Lines”

A sleek bike was resting in the hallway mere feet away from my (work) office. It was a gift waiting for me to return from a brief walk on campus.  The lines on the floor were not to be ignored either.

“Circles, Lines, and Angles”

The table, chair, and railing lines caught my eye while I was having lunch with a friend, reminding me of all the ways we work to stay connected. The empty chair (for me) represented a friend who could not join us for lunch that day.  

“Lines of Communication.”

Finally, my student’s thought-provoking tattoo.  The words “reflect God’s love” are written in Arabic with the sun and rays providing the visual message.  There’s an intriguing story that goes along with this tattoo, but the lines–the rays–grabbed my attention.

“Reflect God’s Love”

There’s simply so much beauty in the ordinary. Sometimes, it takes adjusting one’s angle or purview just a little, but it’s there. Always.  

Have you found beauty in the everyday things that meet your eyes?

“In Solitude the Mind Gains Strength”

My day began at 5:00 a.m. after only three hours of sleep (last few days of class, lots of grading), so today’s post is short and sweet.

I share with you a “quote card” I designed last year– a bit of wisdom to carry with you through the week.

“In Solitude…”

Be sure to find a bit of solitude in the days ahead.

Photo Magic: Exploiting the Possibilities

I’ve been playing around with photos more than usual lately, altering them in PhotoShop and iPhone apps.  I love putting them through multiple processes just to see what evolves.  My selections for Liberate Your Art 2017 came out of such photo-play.

The postcards I sent began as a purple orchid and a pink coneflower.  Both were captured at the New Orleans Botanical Garden in late January–a blog post for another time.

Here’s the orchid–original and altered.

Purple Orchid, Original New Orleans Botanical Gardens, 2017

Magical Orchid, 2017

The orchids were protected in an enclosed, temperature-controlled space. However, the coneflower survived outdoors despite the winter weather.  It offered one of the few glimpses of color in the Garden that cold January afternoon.

“Coneflower,” Original, New Orleans Botanical Gardens, January 2017

I “transformed” the coneflower in many ways and couldn’t decide which to choose for LYA, so I decided to have all of them printed as postcards.  I selected randomly for the swap.  Here’s a peek at 10 of the 15 edits.

“Coneflower Magic,” 2017, Collage Made with PicsArt

Even though I struggled (as usual) with selecting photos for LYA, I chose these not because they represent my best work but because I had so much fun with them.  Since so many things have been so serious and heavy this year, I wanted to share lighthearted images.

A photograph can be naturally beautiful, flawless even, but there’s still something liberating about exploiting the possibilities of it.