#ThursdayTreeLove | Fallen Beauty

The poetry of the earth is never dead.  –John Keats, “The Grasshopper and the Cricket”

The sight of this beautiful fallen tree in Brechtel Park in New Orleans used to sadden me. I saw it as another victim of Hurricane Katrina. Then, one day, I discovered that fallen trees offer many benefits to the forest and to creatures–seen and unseen. It’s heartening to know that there is still some usefulness in the fallen.


I am joining Parul Thakur every second and fourth Thursday for #ThursdayTreeLove. If you would like to play along, post a picture of a tree on your blog and link it back to this post.

About the image: I shot the photo above at Brechtel Park in Algiers (Westbank New Orleans). According to the information available on the image, it was shot in 2011. For some reason, I thought it was earlier.

Musings from My Younger Self: New Orleans Mornings

“Crossing the River”

I just returned from New Orleans (NOLA), so I thought my first official “Musings from My Younger Self” should be a short description I wrote about NOLA mornings when I was 16:

The street fills with activity as the city rouses itself from sleep. Cars speed from every direction. Vehicles flood the highways and bridges, making it almost impossible to get to work on time. People line up at street corners, waiting to fill buses. Doors are opened and people “swim” into department stores, toward their various occupations. Dogs howl, whimper, and scratch at the back door. It is morning in New Orleans.  –Age 16

I grew up in Algiers, the part of the City of New Orleans that is on the Westbank (of the Mississippi River), and being a Westbank girl, I was (and am) always aware of the River. It was what we crossed over to visit practically all of our relatives. What we ferried across for music and excitement. What we walked to. What we were mesmerized by as we stood on the levee. We knew its power. Should it spill over, as stories of Hurricane Betsy taught us. Should we fall in, having been warned about the unforgiving currents that pull people under.

As with just about all my “younger” writings, I cringed when I first (re)read this paragraph. Oh my gosh, I thought! Did I have no other verbs? But use of the words filling, swimming, and flooding suggest just how deeply the River flowed through me. That is what wrote this paragraph.


Note: I appreciate  your input and suggestions regarding how to handle my earlier writings and musings on my blog. One way or the other does not feel right, so I’ll just do what the individual posts call for–with “mature” commentary or without “mature” commentary.

Breathe: Water and Abstract Photography

Life is too busy! I’ve shortened my to-do list, turned down invitations, postponed some of my activities, extended deadlines–still there are not enough hours in the day. The weekend seems far too short to make an impact on “all that must be done,” and I find myself moving from one task to another and unable to relax.

As I was looking through my “yet to be blogged” tower of mail, I ran across two of my penfriend Rebecca’s (Beckra’s) photos. Something about the photos urged me to take some time to wind down and relax.

“Cow Parsley,” Photo by Rebecca R.

Beckra shot the photo above in Pennsylvania while visiting her mother. Although the weather was rainy, she managed to capture some cow parsley reflected in the lake of her hometown.

“Kayaking Under the Trees,” photo by Rebecca R.

She shot this one on a Sunday morning while kayaking under the trees, giving herself “a chance to breathe.”

I always enjoy Beckra’s abstract photos. She has a talent for capturing water in the most intriguing ways. You can see more of her abstract water photos in earlier blog posts: Water, Light, and Fairies and Getting Through the CraZieS, part i.

Water has a calming effect on me. When we lived in New Orleans, the Mississippi River was always right there, its muddy waves available to wash away the strain and stress. Since I no longer live “right down the street” from a river, Beckra’s photos suffice, inviting me to take a moment to enjoy the water and breathe.

Nine Years Since… (Reblog on the 12th Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina)

On this date that marks the twelfth year since Hurricane Katrina devastated parts of New Orleans (NOLA), it’s difficult to look at images of Texas under water without thinking about NOLA. My knowing that people are displaced (again) and have lost homes (again) and that their lives will be changed (again) does more than pull at my heart strings. This knowledge conjures all the feelings of Post-Katrina New Orleans that I want to avoid. I keep turning away, forcing my gaze away from the images and the stories. But. It’s important that we look. It’s necessary that we feel. It’s imperative that we do something to help.

Lives are affected in more ways than many can imagine and will be for some time. If those of us who were living in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina still feel its effects 12 years later, it’s not hard to comprehend the shock and trauma of those who are going through the ordeal at this moment.

Pics and Posts

I’ve been slightly agitated all week long, with “something” gnawing just beneath the surface.  I couldn’t figure the cause of my mental discomfort till late last night when the date “August 29th” hit  me.  August 29th.  August 29th.  Nine years ago, I woke up in my sister’s home in Lithonia, Georgia to discover that just as we all breathed a sigh of relief thinking NOLA had been spared the worst of Hurricane Katrina, the flood protection walls breached.  With that break, so many things in my life changed all at once, and I found myself vacillating between moments of hopefulness and moments of helplessness.  My husband and I did not lose our home, but we lost so much more than that, and in some ways, I am still dealing with those losses today.

I realized recently that I’m a slow griever.  Grief ekes out slowly, laboriously, as I feel I have time to “handle” unpleasant and difficult…

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Soaring Like a Mountain Eagle

Eagle’s Wings: Photo captured at Brechtel Park in Algiers (Westbank New Orleans, Louisiana), 2011

…and there is a Catskill eagle in some souls that can alike dive down into the blackest gorges, and soar out of them again and become invisible in the sunny spaces. And even if he forever flies within the gorge, that gorge is in the mountains; so that even in his lowest swoop the mountain eagle is still higher than the other birds upon the plain, even though they soar. –Herman Melville, Moby Dick

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.

Mama Is a Saint!

snapseed

I woke up this morning thinking about my mom and the absolutely beautiful woman she is. Today is her 80th birthday and I am deeply grateful that God continues to gift us with her life.

I hear it over and over and over again.  “Your mom is a saint.”  She’s not simply a good, good person.  She’s a saint.  I’ve learned to accept that perhaps she is, and unlike many women, I wish I were more like my mother.

My mom carried 10 children in her womb, delivered us naturally, and took care of all of us.  As far as I’m concerned, this alone should be enough to qualify her for sainthood.

I lived in the house with us.  And it was a wonderful, noisy house with loads of love and fun, but it also had its fair share of the typical sibling rivalries, squabbles, and kids who always needed something or had a question that just had to be answered.  In my mind, I’m thinking my kid times 10.  No way!

Can you imagine this type of person who has enough love and patience for 10 individual personalities trying to find their way in the world?  Can you imagine worrying and fretting over not one or two or even five but 10 children? Parenting is scary, scary business, and I shutter to think of the challenges ahead for my one kid.  I can’t imagine having to walk with 10 heartbeats floating around in this world.

Mom with my sister Karlette (RIP) and nephew Eric

Mom with my sister Karlette (RIP) and nephew Eric

I distinctly remember my mom taking all of us kids on the bus to Canal Street in New Orleans [Canal Street was the shopping center of New Orleans then].  There might have been only eight or nine of us then, but we’re all pretty close in age. How did she do that?  With nothing less than amazing organizational skills and child management skills.

This explains why our house was impeccable at any time of the day–even with 10 kids.  Unexpected guests might have been met with an apology for her “messy” house, but they probably looked around confused.  My mom’s house was [and is] always clean.  There was no scrambling to clear the clutter when uninvited guests arrived. I don’t even know how she managed that with all of us running all over the house?

And just like our home, we were always clean and dressed and fed well with home-cooked meals every day.  This is no overstatement.  My mom cooked every. single. day. for twelve people. My mom’s version of fast food? Burgers and fries she made herself that were way better than anything we could have purchased at a restaurant.

Mom let us grow and gave us wings.  No matter how many times we came to her with a problem or situation, my mom never directed our actions.  She may have made a comment or two about the situation, but she never told us what to do or tried to manipulate us into doing what she considered the “right” thing.  If we made the wrong decision, she let us fall and learn from our mistakes.  She was still mom, loving us without judgment and allowing us to become.

My mom sacrificed for us in ways that continue to impact our lives. I once asked her what was her dream career. She answered that at one point she wanted to be a nurse. That would have been the perfect career for her. She has a calm and comforting nature that others are drawn to and that would have been so beneficial in nursing. She chose, instead, to nurture the 10 of us into productive members of society.

I know, nowadays, we celebrate mothers who juggle family, careers, community obligations and still find time for themselves, but there was an incredible amount of security for us in knowing that mom was [still is] always there and would always find a way for the things we wanted/needed.

Besides qualifying for sainthood because she put up with us crazy kids, mom is a saint because she put up with my dad.  My dad is a wonderful person, but he and my mom are almost complete opposites.  He is always ready for a party while she prefers the quiet of home.  He spends a lot of time on Facebook baiting his friends and watching CNN and the other news channels while she sits quietly reading.  He loves long debates. She’s not having it.  She says “her piece” and nothing more.  She’s not having the back and forth for too long.  My dad goes on and on and on.

Mom and Dad in the early years.

Mom and Dad in the early years.

I think God chose my mom for us because only a person with her character and spirit could love us all to health and wholeness.  With her quiet spirit, she’s not easily unsettled, so people’s issues (read: craziness) don’t faze her.  She has a heart of gold and always sees the good in people.  She welcomes all and listens without judgment.  She is the embodiment of forgiveness.  She forgave our “wrongdoings” without making us feel rejected or small, and taught us how to forgive.  If we went to her with some “offense” committed against us, she’d basically tell us to shake the dust off our feet and move on.  That bit of her is so ingrained in me that I can’t hold a grudge if I wanted to.

My mom has a fierce, uncompromising faith that is simply inspiring. It is this faith that got her through the most difficult moments of her life and that prays her children through almost unbearable circumstances.

Of course, she’s not perfect–she is human after all–but I’ve not encountered anyone in my life whom I want to emulate more.

Happy Birthday, Mama, with all my love…