The View From My Window

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The View from My Office Window

My favorite journey is looking out the window. –Edward Gorey

Today was one of those days. Icky. Gloomy. Wet. It rained the entire drive into work, so by the time I arrived [a little earlier than usual], I just wanted to sit at the window till the end of the day and watch autumn happen. The view of campus from my office is always delightful, but autumn brings a whole new level of stunning that tempts me to neglect the long to do list.

No giving in to temptation today though. With only five days of instruction left, grading and classes demanded time and attention.

Some days, it seems there’s no time to think as I rush from one task, event, or meeting to another, so a stolen moment here and there to look out windows can make a world of difference in my attitude and level of productivity. While I’m gazing, I’m thinking thoughts, mulling over, working things out, or allowing my mind to roam, but I’m also listening for direction, confirmation, presence. The moments are sanity-saving, a way to push away all the other stuff, tune inward and repair–when necessary–without totally checking out.

What do you do when time and tasks work against your desire to just be?


Linking up with Dawn of The Day After in the Festival of Leaves photo challenge.

Musings from My Younger Self: In a Grown Man’s Suit

Photo by ShonEjai on Pixabay

Sometimes, I look at my early poetry and wonder where in the world it came from. I led a rather sheltered life. I wasn’t on lockdown, but I certainly wasn’t allowed to run wild and free. Everyone had a telephone, so my parents knew where I was at all times. My subject matter came not only from what I experienced but for the most part from things I observed or heard–directly or indirectly.

I wrote the poem below shortly after I turned 16–or made 16, as we say in New Orleans.

All these little boys walking around
trying to be grown men.

Smoking grass,
shooting dice,
dropping out of school,
making love, unloving
makes a man.

Employed
by their egocentrism,
they are first
in the unemployment line.

Gambling in the streets
with ill-gotten money.

They are “kool,”
but their tempers are hott!

They have no goal in life,
not an aim
or a dream.

They only want to live
well enough to get by.

They know nothing of
struggling up
a ladder of success.

Success to them is survival.

Sure, I was aware of guys who hung out all day and didn’t go to work or school, but these guys didn’t have girlfriends, “lovers,” or “hott” tempers [that I knew of]. I didn’t know them to shoot dice or smoke marijuana, so I’m not sure where this poem came from–perhaps from the books I read. I was very much into Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison, and James Baldwin during my teen years, but I don’t think this came from them.

Now that I think about it. . .maybe the influence was Gwendolyn Brooks’s “We Real Cool.”

My friend, Cy, “wishes [she] knew more of what [I] was thinking when I wrote this because it is not such a positive picture.”

wish I could go back and tell my younger self to take notes on the poems I write, so decades later I wouldn’t have to respond, “I wish I knew too!”

What Would You Tell Your 18-Year-Old Self?

“Letters to My 18-Year-Old Self” are pretty popular lately (or maybe always?). I’ve seen them on blogs, in journals, in online newspapers and magazines, even in seminars and workshops, but I’ve given little consideration to the topic. Of course, I’ve wondered every now and then if I should have done some things differently, but I’ve never written a note to my younger self–until three weeks ago when Love Notes 25 kicked off with the prompt:

Write the words you would tell your 18-year-old self.

My assigned partner, Janet T, is new to the Love Notes community. She is a “mom to two beautiful daughters” in their 20’s, so she has probably had some recent practice with the prompt. She wrote her note in a card bearing a gold embossed mermaid silhouette:

Whatever gives you happiness–let that inspire you in your daily life. The things you love make you who you are and don’t let anyone influence you wrongly.

Have courage and be kind.

“Purple Tulips.” Watercolor postcard by Christine B.

My most prolific penfriend, Christine, created the beautiful purple tulip [above] in honor of my sister Lori [and me] and wrote a six-item list:

  1. Bad things happen.
  2. Find people to trust and love as much as you can
  3. Make your voice heard
  4. Vote!
  5. Laugh until you cry and cry until you laugh
  6. Don’t hold your breath

There are many, many things I’d say to my 18-year-old self, much of it far too personal to share in a blog post or a note [to anyone outside myself], so I sent a list of things I find myself saying to my students over and over again–not so much a “letter to my 18-year-old self,” but little bits of counsel that I found (or should have found) useful:

Card designed by Hessa, age 9, Abu-Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Children’s Art Project, MD Anderson Cancer Center. [A gift from Christine].

These sorts of exercises can be fun as long as we avoid falling into the pit of regret and the type of thinking that our lives would be so much better if we had present knowledge then. Our 18-year-old selves were just that. 18. Young. Inexperienced. Insecure. Overly confident. Full of life, contradictions, crazy ideas, and impossibilities.

Despite all the craziness of youth, I wouldn’t change a thing. My life wasn’t and isn’t perfect, but my 18-year-old self made many solid decisions and did more than a few things well. As for the things I didn’t get quite right, mistakes are inevitable and we learn so much more from our missteps than from our successes.

If you’re 18 or thereabout, maybe, you’ll find some usefulness in the lists above. If you’d like a more “focused” list, check out runner and professional coach Steve Magness’ post: Advice for the Young and Driven: A letter to my 18-year-old self.

If you’re waaaay past 18, like I am, what would you say to your 18-year-old self?  Comment below.

 

Autumn: Brilliant Leaves, Happy Mail, and Seven Reasons Why

Last week the temperatures finally dipped into the 50’s and this morning we woke up to 30’s and a freeze warning. I am excited that autumn has finally made an appearance–in terms of temperature at least. [Note: I live in the South, so temperatures may well be in the upper 80’s or even lower 90’s by the end of the week].

I searched for signs of autumn while taking a short walk last week. There was little indication of the season’s change, but I was elated to find autumn leaves on a favorite Dogwood.

It is delightful watching this tree transition over the months, and though I look forward to the blossoms in spring, its autumn leaves beautifully illustrate why I love the season.

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My penfriend/love notes pal Andrea recently sent a bit of autumn-inspired pocket mail. In the one of the pockets she enclosed a list of six reasons why she loves autumn.  [Click an image for a closer look].

Andrea ended her list by inviting “me” to share why I love the season. Of course, it doesn’t take much to get me to extol the virtues of autumn, so here are [my not necessarily top] seven reasons why autumn is my favorite season:

  1. Changing colors of the trees and foliage–especially now that I live in a place where I can see the brilliance of the season
  2. Milder temperatures–long-awaited relief from the oppressive southern summer and a short break from budget-busting utilities bills
  3. Boots and sweaters
  4. Hot chocolate/cocoa and popcorn [yum!]
  5. October–the best month of all!
  6. My new favorite throw [a birthday gift from a new friend]–chocolate brown, leaf embossed, plush–perfect for movie nights
  7. Pumpkin everything–except I’m not too impressed with Krispy Kreme’s pumpkin cake donut. It would be soooo much better if they’d lose the sugar/glaze on top

How about you? What do you love about autumn?


[Also, linking up with Dawn of The Day After in the Festival of Leaves photo challenge]

Musings from My Younger Self: Somewhere Along the Way

I intended to share a different “musing from my younger self” today, but cannot remember where I placed the sassy poem. As I was looking through one of my poetry notebooks, I happened across the short poem below. It was hastily written on a sheet of paper from a yellow legal pad and was dedicated to one of my high school best friends and her sweetheart. They were inseparable and shocked all who knew them when they ended their relationship.

You ask of me what you cannot give,
and I do not understand.
I walked with you.
I held your hand.
You became a part of me,
and now,
it’s over–
not because I stopped loving you
or because you stopped loving me
but because somewhere along the way
you forgot who I am. 

I do not recall the details of the breakup, but the line that ends the poem is telling. I’m sure my friend and I talked about the whys and hows of the relationship’s ending, and the point of his “forgetting” must have compelled me to write the short poem.

I wrote this when we were teenagers. I am slightly awed by our youthful understanding of the complexities of love. What really strikes me is that my friend–as young as she was at the time–realized the soul-damaging potential of remaining in a relationship with even a man she loved when he no longer valued her.

Let’s Have Fun: TV Moms

I found the postcard below in my file cabinet among a stash of cards purchased at least a decade ago. We should have some fun with it before it finds a new home.

Can you name all seven of these television moms and their shows? Comment below.

TV Moms, Hollywood, 1995. Photograph by David LaChapelle, fotofolio.com

Hint: Their real names (Clockwise from top left): Florence Henderson, Shirley Jones, Marion Ross, June Lockhart, Barbara Billingsley, Jane Wyatt, Esther Rolle).

A Written Word: What Is Necessary

“Believe,” by Catherine Anderson

Start by doing what’s necessary, then what’s possible–and suddenly you are doing the impossible.

St. Francis of Assisi

I live the words of this quotation these days–when getting to the other side of grief seems impossible. In stages. Today…what is necessary. What is possible…in time. The impossible…eventually, through Christ’s strength.


Postcard Note: The St. Francis of Assisi quotation accompanies a black and white version of the image above on the back of the card–which is as gorgeous as the front. This inspired card came from my Love Notes pal, Connie F.  The photo was crafted by creative photographer Catherine Anderson who “shares ways of using photography as self-expression.” Check out her website for inspiration and workshops.