Till the Gossamer Thread Catch: A Short Break with Walt Whitman

I’m in the middle of grading a heap of papers and trying desperately not to lose focus until I reach today’s goal, so I’m dropping in to share a “photo poem” I pulled from my “archives”–the second verse of Walt Whitman’s “A Noiseless Patient Spider” paired with a dandelion I shot some time ago.

You can find the (only a few lines longer) full poem and a little about the poet here: Academy of American Poets: Whitman.

Until next time…

The “Other” Sister: “I didn’t have to fight…”

Although I’ve written about my younger sister Karlette who succumbed to breast cancer a few years ago, I have not mentioned Lori, my other sister, who danced with the devil. Lori’s diagnosis came a few years before Karlette’s first. I asked her to write a blog post about her experience, but she feels that she has little to add to the conversation. However, what she shared with me during the “trying-to convince-her” discussion says a lot about the feelings of some breast cancer survivors whose battles may not have been as “dramatic” as others’.

It has been hard for me to think of myself as a survivor. I really didn’t have to fight cancer. Karlette fought cancer. It kept coming for her and she fought with everything she had. I just went through treatments and it was gone. I’m not sure if I’ve ever celebrated survival. I know that there’s always the possibility of its coming back, but my plan would be the same[…]. I never thought of it as a fight. I thank God for His mercy and for blessing me when so many others had to fight and many even lost.

When I pointed out to her that her status as “survivor” is a matter of perspective, that every year she “holds her breath until given the ‘cancer free’ news,” she responded:

I do. [But] I give it all to God. I thank Him daily for every breath I take. Don’t get me wrong. I know I, too, could have lost, but I know that it was God who fought and won. Not me–not without giving it to Him.

It has been difficult for Lori being the older sister survivor when one of her baby sisters didn’t survive. She lives with profound sadness because of this reality. I watched her go through treatment, and it wasn’t pretty. Cancer changed her life. It changed her body’s chemistry and even impacted the way she processed our younger sister’s passing. 

A cancer diagnosis–no matter how positive the prognosis–is a sucker punch that a person feels deep in his or her being. Every cancer survivor lives with the possibility that “it” may return.

That is what makes survivors survivors–not “beating” the disease or coming through unscathed but the daunting reality of the disease; they’re survivors because they can stand up in the world and move and contribute and be [whole and well] with the looming possibility of such crippling news.

We lost Karlette. That’s an awful reality that hurts like hell. But losing her makes us celebrate Lori even more. Though we may never have the answer to why not Karlette too, Lori’s survival is important. It rescues us from despair. It gives us hope. And that is certainly a reason to celebrate.

The closing lines of my favorite Lucille Clifton poem comes to mind:

come celebrate
with me that everyday
something has tried to kill me
and has failed.
[from “won’t you celebrate with me“]

*Photos in this post are from Pixabay.

What About the Children?

Photo from Pixabay

I’m having another super busy Monday, but it’s been weighing heavily on my heart to share the powerful message about children and homelessness my sister-friend Takiyah Franklin (Tk) recently recorded.

In sharing why she recorded the song, Tk writes:

The homeless crisis is getting worse . . . and while I want to see more action from [our] city [and state] officials, we the people have to act as well. I definitely don’t have the solution to the housing crisis, but I know I’m not so far removed from the realities of poverty to not care. Music is one way to raise awareness, so I choose to lift my voice as a tool for social justice.

In speaking specifically about the situation in Oakland, California, Tk reminds:

It is our duty to protect the most vulnerable in our society. It is our duty to hold local and state officials accountable for working with the community and the corporations taking over to find solutions to homelessness and poverty.

The song, called “Homeless Children,” is the result of the collaboration between  Dan Zemelman (pianist and co-writer), Albert Greenberg (co-writer), Alberto Hernandez (engineer), Julie Wolf (producer), and Tk (vocal artist).

Click the image to listen to the song:

“Homeless Children” Recording. Photo by Pat Augsburger. Used by Permission.

For more information about childhood homelessness and to find ways you can help, see the following:

Be sure to check out local missions and programs to help with the the homeless crisis in your area.

It is my hope that homeless children–indeed all homeless people–will get the assistance they need  to improve their circumstances on this side of heaven.

A Double Dose of Cute

All day midterm grading has left me completely exhausted, but my “wiring” will not allow me to miss “Microblog Monday,” so here’s a cute notecard Arielle W., a new pen friend sent:

Papyrus Stationery. Art by Betsy Snyder.

The art is from Betsy Snyder’s “over-the-top” cute Haiku Baby.

While we’re on the subject of “cute,” check out my little “sister” Brittany’s latest blog post, Doll Yourself Up, Mama.  She encourages us to be our cutest selves–even if we’re no longer 20–and invites us to join her Fall Challenge.

Have a cute week!

“Live and Laugh and Laugh at Love”

It’s “Live-Laugh-Love” Week on Pics and Posts!

That was the theme of the latest round of the Global HeART Swap/heART exchange. I missed the deadline (again), but found a way to participate because the theme is dear to my heart (I’ll explain later this week). When I lamented that I’d missed signup, kind souls came to the rescue and filled my mailbox with life, love, and laughter. I will be sharing their cards throughout the week.

Things have been a “bit over the top” lately, so I’m grateful for the postcards that were sent to me. I have often paused in the middle of the madness to revisit the messages written and enjoy the pretty.

The first card is a colorful collage postcard from Eileen V of Stuttgart, Germany.

“Life is a Bowl of Cherries,” Made by Eileen V.

Her interpretation of the theme includes a purple (just for me) circus act and lyrics from [Fosse’s] “Life is a Bowl of Cherries.”

Life is just a bowl of cherries, don’t take it serious, its mysterious. Life is just a bowl of cherries, so live and laugh and laugh at love, love a laugh, laugh and love. –Bob Fosse

Eileen included a note recommending that I watch Follies: New Broadway Cast Recording, “Live, Laugh, Love.”

She managed to pack a whole lot of fun into a 4×6 postcard!

I hope your week is filled with laughter.

Get Up and See!

Today is my birthday!

Normally, I spend the days leading up to my very own day contemplating the past months and making plans for the the days ahead.  My “New Year’s resolutions” begin October 2, not January 1. Not so this year. The last couple of weeks have been filled with anxiety, noise, and internal clutter, and I haven’t been able to grasp the calm I need to get the internal work done. It did not help to wake up in the wee morning hours to the horrible news of an attack in Vegas.

But I am grateful. To be alive (I’m familiar with the alternative). To be well (for the most part). To be accepted. To be showered with love (and brownies, every now and then). For the many, many good people and experiences my many days have brought to me.

Exactly five years ago one of these good people–at that time a new friend–gave me a beautiful card for my birthday. Because it “lives” on my desk, I see it frequently, but today I took a moment to appreciate it again.

“Rita Dove,” detail of The Furious Flower Portrait Quilt, 2004. Mixed media collage on canvas. Artist: Malaika Favorite

The portrait of U.S. Poet Laureate (1993-95) Rita Dove is part of a 24-poet/panel masterpiece by mixed media artist Malaika Favorite which honors the history of African American poetry. The work was commissioned for Furious Flower, a conference held every decade (since 1994), that celebrates, stimulates, and encourages African American poetry and poetic voices.

Dove’s poem, “Dawn Revisited,” from her collection On the Bus with Rosa Parks, is printed on the back of the card.

Imagine you wake up
with a second chance: The blue jay
hawks his pretty wares
and the oak still stands, spreading

glorious shade. If you don’t look back,

 the future never happens.
How good to rise in sunlight,
in the prodigal smell of biscuits –
eggs and sausage on the grill.

The whole sky is yours

 to write on, blown open
to a blank page. Come on,
shake a leg! You’ll never know
who’s down there, frying those eggs,
if you don’t get up and see.
The poem is the swift kick in the butt I need to “shake a leg” and get things done!  Please excuse me while I get up and see…

“We Need a Little Silence”

We have had far too much tossed at us the last several days–natural disasters, the escalating rhetoric on race in the U.S., the criticism of peaceful protest while validating violent protest, the invalidation of one the most basic rights of U.S. citizenry, dangerous political venom spewing from heads of state. In response to all of this, Larry K, one of my former students, wrote in the middle of a semi-lengthy Facebook post–

The world needs a little silence.

I feel this need with every fiber of my being as I am struggling to navigate the chaos.

We are assaulted with a barrage of traditional media and social media commentary all day long and we are not filtering and processing. This leaves us burdened. And weary. And (maybe) cowering in a corner.

In my writing courses, I tell my students that whenever we read an article, a social media post, a work of fiction–anything–we are entering a conversation, and with all conversations we must hear/listen, ask questions, respond, and add to the conversation. Conversations should be healthy and productive and should lead to growth in some way, no matter how small. The problem lately is that there’s been a lot of noise but little listening. We’re all talking at the same time and few are hearing the unspoken. And we’re just becoming more and more angry and frustrated. We’re screaming at each other. And the earth is mad and screaming too–through hurricanes, earthquakes , wildfires, and everything else.

We “need a little silence,” Larry says, “like when you’re angry at your mate and you just retreat to your corner.”

We do. We need to walk away from the fight. Retreat–in both senses of the word.

I urge you to take care of your mind and spirit and tune out the noise, regroup, and take strategic steps to filter what is unnecessary, what is not beneficial to your soul.

“Charming” Postcards with Gandhi

It’s been about a month since I posted my response to the final prompt of Love Notes 20, so it’s time to make good on my promise to share the cards I received for the prompt. As you might recall, the prompt was “Be the change.”

I received four beautiful postcards from some of my Love Notes penfriends.

Connie F played a little scrabble and then crafted this cute card. 😉

“Scrabble: Be the Change,” Postcard made by Connie F.

Expounding on the theme, Connie writes,

“Change in our hearts, minds, and actions start with us for sure.”

She closed her greeting with the greeting found on Christine B’s gorgeous butterfly postcard:

“Butterfly Peace,” Photo by Christine

Be the change…and remember without change there would be no butterflies.  FLY HIGH.

Eileen V cited Robin Sharma and cautioned that, “change is hard at first, messy in the middle, and gorgeous at the end.”

“Deep Meditation”

The back was just as artistic as the front with pretty (and neat) handwriting that I can only dream of emulating.

Andrea F, ever unique in her approach to the prompts, sent a recipe, ‘How to be the Change.”

“Recipe for Change,” postcard and charm crafted by Andrea F

Ingredients:

  • You
  • Your passion
  • Lots of love, patience
  • A hint of craftiness

Directions: Believe in yourself. Believe in others. Dream big and go for your dreams. Inspire others and spread your love.

As you can see, Andrea also crafted and placed a wine glass charm on the card. This added a “charming” feature to the card.  I’ve attached the charm to my Gidan Nodza Traveler’s Notebook, so I get to see it every day!

My “Charmed” Traveler’s Notebook

Here’s a close up of the charm:

Charm made by Andrea

See how it honors our snail mail relationship. 🙂

“Be the change you wish to see in the world” is a quote typically attributed to Gandhi. However, that is simply a pithy “reduction” of Gandhi’s full statement:

We but mirror the world. All the tendencies present in the outer world are to be found in the world of our body. If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. This is the divine mystery supreme. A wonderful thing it is and the source of our happiness. We need not wait to see what others do. – Mahatma Gandhi

Gandhi underscores the interactive nature of transformation between the world and us. We, alone, do not create change in the world, rather we respond to the world’s need, a need that is also within us. As we change, the world is transformed and vice versa. 

Are you tuning in? Listening for what the world needs? And what you need?

Rumi: The Guest House

Artwork by Chante Marie

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī
translated by Coleman Barks

Fran-Made: What Is Your Postcard Story?

What do you to when you encounter a postcard pal who plays in a New Orleans-style brass band? You love her instantly!

I “met” Fran a few months ago through an offer she posted for American Girl postcards.  I just “had to have” Addy! Since that first Addy postcard (hang on, I’ll be blogging about her soon), there’s been a steady stream of postcards from Fran in my mailbox. She finds postcards at antique shops and estate sales and generously sends to those who will appreciate them.I’m tempted to spend the next several posts showing off the postcards Fran sent.

Fran also makes her own postcards. The first “Fran-made” postcard I received was vibrant and intriguing and included an Artist Trading Card (ATC) and a note that detailed her “postcard story.”

Her postcard journey began with ATC’s seven years ago.  She enjoyed designing the “tiny art” cards in the style of the one pictured below–ink colored in with copic markers.

Circles, Lines, and Angles, ATC by Fran B.

ATC’s are about the size of a playing card–2.5 x 3.5 inches–and allow for tightly conceived art. Sometimes an artist needs a larger canvas, so eventually, Fran realized she could make her designs on larger card stock and began making postcards. Postcards became significant when she was challenged by her mother’s illness.

Angles and Lines, Postcard by Fran B.

She writes:

I had made a few cards when my mom learned she had breast cancer. She lived in Florida. . . I began to send her a postcard at least once a week, sometimes more.  I could pray for her while I made my lines and colored them in. I also did some collage style cards as well and by the time she was well enough again to come and spend a month or so with us in summers, she had quite a collection of postcards.

Fran’s meaningful and touching postcard story compelled me to think about my own. I can’t remember the moment I fell in love with sending and receiving postcards, but I’m sure it was around the same time I got into penpaling as a preteen. For years, my favorite postcards were those that told stories, shared some inspirational message or a bit of humor, and those that were artistically “different” or “bold.” I regularly exchanged postcards (and letters) with high school and college friends, but then “email” became a “thing” and snail mail communications almost vanished.

When I “discovered” swap-bot seven years ago, I found a whole community of individuals who loved sending and receiving postcards. My collections grew to hundreds in less than a year, and I welcomed them all–literary, children’s book illustrations, maps, state cards, history, cultural, purple, pink, floral, lighthouses, African American, art, quirky, funny, and so much more.

I started designing my own postcards on a regular basis because of the many creative swaps on swap-bot, but the Liberate Your Art swaps (hosted by Kat Sloma) emboldened me to share them with the world.

Photo postcards, in particular, provide the perfect way for me to share the beautiful things I encounter in my daily life. Crafting my own postcards and writing postcards also rescue me from life’s temporary madnesses. So, while I don’t remember quite where my story begins, I know why it continues.

Do you have a postcard story? If not, it’s time to begin… 😉