“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.

Poetry Break with Jasmin Oya

“A Moment to Reflect”

For the last several weeks, my mood has been “poetry.”  I’ve been reading it, thinking about it, writing it.  Perhaps, this mood has been driving my need to get in touch with what I call “ur-Chandra,” the person I was eons ago, before “life” invaded “living.”

When I was a teenager I spent whole evenings reading classic and contemporary poets, memorizing and writing favorites in a red spiral notebook designated for words that struck me in a particular way. (I still have that notebook).  I’d then pen my own lyrics till the wee morning hours.

Although my profession allows me to enjoy poetry regularly, long, long evenings with poetry and my thoughts are rare.

A few days ago, I treated myself to time with poetry.  Instead of grabbing one of my “go-to” collections, I read from The Ghetto of Eden, a stirring collection of poetry written and self-published by my mentee, Jasmin Oya.  I’ve had the collection for several months now, and though I have read many of the poems, I’ve not been able to give the book the attention it deserves.

The book is divided into two sections–“The Beginning of Man” and “The Fall of Man.”  The 143 pages offer a sensual mix of spirit, flesh, and song, a prayer to the sacred and desecrated in all of us. Despite its title(s) the poems are not “religious” in the traditional sense, but they are spiritual.   Some of the poems are a little “raw,” but the painful honesty of “the story” that unfolds makes the collection difficult to leave on a shelf collecting dust.

“Time Out for Verse”

Jasmin is one of my favorite people. She is a senior, graduating this year and heading to a prestigious university for graduate school.  I love her to pieces–she is unapologetically Jasmin, and she loves humanity and knowledge and a good challenge.  She has been writing poetry since she was a preteen. She performs at various venues and enjoys facilitating poetry workshops for children.  She is a spoken word and a paper and pen poet.  She’s also an activist who often uses her work to speak up and speak out.

I am sharing two poems that demonstrate the flexibility of her artistic expression.  The first is from The Ghetto of Eden:

“The Prayer”

I believe in God like I believe in my mother’s palms.
I believe in Him like I believe in my mother’s mouth
and knees.
Her tongue and every hallelujah that
yawned with it.
I see Him in her posture.
I’ve been trying to mirror it since young
since young,
I’ve been trying to reflect her old.
All the prayers that have seen more days than me.
The ones answered and the ones that haven’t/won’t/will.

For I am no one without them.
For I am one with them.
For I breathe because they did.
I believe in God like I believe in tomorrow.
I believe in Him like I believe in today.
How exhausting they both can be
smelling of morning breath,

prayer and gospel.
These days aren’t easy, most of them are lies about what’s really hurting.

what lies beneath
who we are when
the room is empty.
when they’ve all gone home.

the party is over.     the
decorations are worn.
the night is fast asleep;
you’re left wondering,
who turned off all the music.
where have all the people gone.
who stopped dancing first.

Prayers don’t have room for the pride.
Put that to the side.
Gather yourself away from all the noise.
I’m learning to stop mourning the morning.
Find solace in the silence.
To stop fitting God into the nearest human body.
Believe into what I have yet to see.

The second is a spoken word piece Jasmin performed three years ago for a Black History Month event.  “For the Black Artist”–

If you want to read more of Jasmin’s works, I encourage you to purchase her book on Amazon.  It is well-worth the few bucks.

Be sure to take a poetry break this week!

 

Zhang Ailing, or Eileen Chang: Meeting a “New” Author

I recently bought a postcard collection of 100 writers.  I pulled out every card, looking for women writers and writers of color.

The black and white photographs were a treat for the eyes, but I was sorely disappointed with the lack of diversity in the collection.  There were only three African American writers in the box–James Baldwin, Ralph Ellison, and Malcolm X.   There were a number of Euro-American women writers and a few Japanese writers–all men.  There were no African American women.  There was only one Chinese woman–Zhang Ailing (Eileen Chang).

Zhang Ailing (Eileen Chang)

Although less than excited about the purchase, I was pleased to find this stunning portrait of Zhang/Chang. Although I’d heard of her, I’d never read any of her works.  After reading a brief biography, my interest was piqued and she was added to my late spring/summer reading list.

I can’t wait to get started!  What’s on your reading list?

 

Discovering Spring in a Pretty Purple Pansy

Although we’ve had consistently warmer temperatures for the last week or so, spring has not actually sprung here in Northern Alabama.  I’ve been waiting a bit impatiently for the blossoms to fully appear, but it seems the temperamental winter we’ve had has made our early spring less brilliant than usual.

We’re not the only ones experiencing a delayed spring.

I received a postcard today from my photog pal, Diane, Midteacher on swap-bot, for an A Thousand Words group swap, “Early Spring Photo Postcard.”  She writes that it is still “clearly winter in Michigan.  The freezing cold and bitter wind hasn’t let up.”  As a result, she had to find a little spring at a local nursery’s “Spring Expo.”

Purple Pansy by Diane W.(Midteacher on swap-bot)

Of course, I’m pretty pleased with this gorgeous purple pansy. Not only is the pansy beautiful but the presentation is stunning, so I’m grateful Diane was forced to find spring in another way [Sorry, Diane].  She writes that the pansy was popular among the attendees and she “enjoyed watching everyone’s faces light up when they saw” the pansy. I wish she’d seen my face light up when I retrieved her postcard after work today!

How appropriate that Diane accented the flower with the word “discover.” I’ve been looking for strong evidence of spring (beyond temperature) for a week now!

Now, I have to figure out which inspiration wall needs this purple pansy most–the one at home or the one at work???

Has spring sprung yet in your region?

Happy Spring: Education Outdoors

The weather today was (and is) too gorgeous for indoors.  By afternoon, I couldn’t resist, so a couple of my students and I decided to take education outdoors.

English majors discussing issues they’re examining for their final projects.

How did you celebrate the first day of spring (in the Northern Hemisphere)?

Love Inspired: Loyal Birds and “Fowl” Words

For a recent “Love Inspired” swap for the “A Thousand Words” group on swap-bot Gale D., my partner, went birds and feathers on me.  The goal of the swap was to pair a love quote with an appropriate photo.

Gale settled on a quote from  A.A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh:

Some people care too much.  I think it’s called love.

Gale does a lot of bird photography, so she sent me two of her favorite photos.

The first, a pair of Mute Swans:

“Mute Swans” by Gale D., grstamping on swap-bot

According to Gale’s note, the Mute Swans “stay together forever. It saves time and energy, and they produce more cygnets this way.  They make a great team.”

I found some interesting tidbits about Mute Swans on Cornell University’s All About Birds Site.  Here are some of my favorites:

  • Mute Swans are not native to North America
  • The swans pretty much mate for life, but will find another mate if a partner dies
  • Their reputation for monogamy along with their white plumage has helped establish them as a symbol of love in many cultures
  • The Mute Swan is the “star” of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Ugly Duckling
  • The swans are pretty aggressive (so give them lots of space)
  • The oldest known Mute Swan is 26 years, 9 months old

Gale also sent a pair of Canada Geese and their goslings.

“Canada Geese,” by Gale D., grstamping on swap-bot

Gale wrote that she loves Canada Geese, but although they adapt around humans well, she hasn’t had much opportunities to get close to the geese.  Ironically, she lives in Canada.  This particular photo was shot in a cemetery pond.

There are a LOT of Canada Geese on the university campus where I work.  She’d have no problem getting up close and personal with them. During early fall, they pretty much rule the campus, even stopping traffic at times.  That can be annoying, but it is a pretty glorious sight to see them take flight in formation.

During the second year of their lives Canada Geese find a mate, and like Mute Swans, they are monogamous and mate for life.

It truly is inspiring to find such “faithfulness” and “loyalty” in the animal kingdom.  We often think so little of them, but we have so much to learn from them.

Soul Work: Making Art of Loving People

“Purple” Rose, Big Spring Park, Huntsville, Alabama. [Altered Photo]

As promised, here’s the “love post” I sent to family, friends, and swappers this year.  The card features an altered rose and a Van Gogh quote.

I found the rose last December showing off in Big Spring Park in Huntsville, Alabama. It was simply gorgeous and many people were pleasantly surprised to find its unexpected beauty.

Van Gogh offers more than a “quotable quote” here.  Instead of making a pithy statement about art, he uses art to challenge our notions of love.  Moving us beyond ideas of love as feelings and romance, he calls us to love in a way that an artist creates.  And that is anything but romantic or fleeting.

When we experience a finished work of art–visual, written or spoken, performed, musical composition–we respond with admiration or distaste without ever fully considering what the artist pours into the work or how gut-wrenchingly vulnerable it makes one to place the inner life on display.

When we truly love people, we are similarly crafting and creating, unveiling our most intimate self and making ourselves vulnerable to the scrutiny, judgement, and sometimes the disdain of others.  Our love for people doesn’t always mean they will love us back and though our natural inclination is to protect ourselves, we must learn to love them regardless…

This point was driven home for me and my little one last week, as he was present when someone disrespected me in a public forum.  Though angry, my little one emphasized that he “admired [my] restraint” because he knows that many people wouldn’t have taken it so calmly.  On our drive home we talked about where that “restraint” comes from.  I was honest with him. Some base part of me could have humiliated the man and “put him in his place,” perhaps deservedly so, but that this man could behave this way suggests that he needs my prayers, not my tongue.  In an instant during the exchange, I paused long enough to hear from God, check myself, and recognize in the offender the child of God who I am called to love.

Van Gogh is not speaking of simply loving people in our circles, those with whom we already share a heart connection, or those who are easy to love.  Nor is he simply speaking of a general, abstract love for humanity.  The artistry and mastery of love come as a result of loving through challenge and difficulty and loving people who aren’t loving, even people who can be mean and evil.  It comes as a result of seeing them as complex beings who, like a work of art, are more than what we immediately see.

Just as it takes more than a few strokes of the artist’s brush to create a masterpiece, it takes intense soul work and an intimate and constant connection with the Divine to make art of loving people.

Microblog Mondays: African Masks [Children’s Art]

My son is all better and back in school, but I must say, I was in kiddie art heaven last Thursday while I waited to meet with his teacher to collect the assignments he missed.  The school held its annual art fair and though I didn’t see everything, what I did see was pretty impressive.

I’m in the throes of midterm grading, so I’m just going to share the colorful masks done by my son and his peers in Mrs. Trott’s 5th-6th grade (combined) class.

They all started with a basic mask and added touches that express their personalities.

I love every one of these masks!

The students have been learning about the continent of Africa–its landforms, peoples, histories, and cultures–so I’m sure this was a fun exercise to complement their lessons.

Well, I’m back to grading.  I’ll be back eventually with pics of some of the other art.

Happy Monday!

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Microblog Mondays: “I Will No Longer Hide in the Shadows”

Need Meets Love and Compassion

“I Will Be The Place Where Need Is Met with Love and Compassion”

If Trump does no other good, we must acknowledge that the reality of his presidency has awakened a slumbering nation.  Many finally realize that we can no longer resist in silence and leave the fate of our nation in the hands of elected officials, many of whom for too long have served their own political interests and agendas and have paid attention to their constituents only when it was time to collect votes.

"I Speak for the Trees Too."

“I Speak for the Trees Too.”

I am particularly proud of the way one of my nieces, Tiffany, has “awakened” and is [re]claiming her voice. She has been wearing out her boots marching and standing up for human rights and against oppression since the day Trump took office.  On that “fateful” day, she responded to her peers who claimed to be taking a social media hiatus to avoid the political talk and conversations.  In a post that I’m sure set their teeth on edge she called them out of their stupor and demanded that they finally see her and her struggle as a Black woman.

I’m glad that many of you can take a social media hiatus, avoid Facebook for the day and disengage from political conversations. I’m glad that you can “take a break” from all of the hate and negativity that you feel you are seeing. I don’t have that luxury.

I cannot take off my skin.
I cannot un-know what it feels like to have white men tell me that they’ve “never had a black girl suck their d*** before.”
I cannot go back and ask all the things I wanted to know in science classes dominated by men who made me feel inferior, insignificant and ignored.
I cannot forget the fear of being followed and harassed for miles on the highway and being spoken to in demeaning ways by men in grocery stores who thought that they had every right to behave that way.

I will march and I will raise my voice. I will face fear and the pain of the things that have shaped my heart and kept me silent and left me afraid. I will not ignore and turn my back to hate. I will look hate directly in the eye and say, “no more.”

Brokenness mends best out in the daylight, and I will no longer hide in the shadows.

Tiffany marched again this weekend, this time in the 11th Annual Moral March in Raleigh, North Carolina, coordinated by the NC NAACP.   “Big” sister Erin–one year older–who is also socially conscious, marched with her. They were interviewed by WRAL News.

With Erin at the Moral March in Raleigh, North Carolina--being interviewed by WRAL

With Erin at the Moral March in Raleigh, North Carolina–being interviewed by WRAL

Tiffany is about more than the march. She realizes real change takes more than getting her boots dirty.  While there are things happening in the political arena that we can’t ignore, there are crises in people’s personal lives that need immediate attention, so she’s doing what she can to make life better for others.  This year she’s participating in the Make-a-Wish Trailblaze Challenge to “raise funds and grant wishes for children with life threatening medical conditions.”  It is her goal to “enrich their lives with hope, strength, and joy.”

Travel and Protest: In the airport standing up for immigrants and against the travel ban

Travel and Protest: In the airport standing up for immigrants and against the travel ban.

Thank you for coming out of the shadows, Tiffany.  The world needs you!

March on…

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