The Masters | Gustave Caillebotte’s “Sunflowers Along the Seine”

Caillebotte

Gustave Caillebotte, “Sunflowers Along the Seine,” ca 1885-86, Oil on Canvas, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, from the Estate of Diana Dollar Knowles

I did not plan to post today. However, my hubby dropped by my office and surprised me with a beautiful bunch of sunflowers, so now I’m in a sunny mood! This is in direct opposition to my pre-sunflowers mood—blah, eh, weary.

I will eventually share photos of my office blossoms here, but for now, let’s pause to enjoy a little bit of sunflower heaven–French Impressionist Gustave Caillebotte’s (1848-1894) Sunflowers Along the Seine.

My Love Notes friend Eileen V sent this stunning masterpiece to me after we tragically lost my nephew.

Sunflowers Along the Seine by Gustave Caillebotte (French, 1848–1894) is a dynamic composition in which a frieze of golden sunflowers dwarfs a view of sparkling water with a floating, white pavilion moored at the riverbank in the background. […] The flowers, which feature prominently in this depiction, and the lively color palette Caillebotte used for this subject, suggest his passion for the garden that he cultivated there. The artist often used his garden for painting en plein air to capture the effects of radiant daylight, which are conveyed here in rhythmic brushwork across the water’s surface. —Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

Sunflowers have this way of seeming almost human in their interactions. Look closely and you will see sunflowers gazing across the Seine and others in conversation–some gossiping, some in deep, meaningful dialogue.

Pretty amazing artwork, right? But they still can’t take the place of beholding these beauties in real life.

Now, as promised, a little soul work with Meister Eckhart:

Nothing of My Deeds
Meister Eckhart | Sweeney and Burrows

When I am in the wrong mind
I presume that You desire my goodness,
but when my mind turns aright
I find that You want nothing of my deeds
and everything of my heart.


Note: You can see a couple of pics of my pretty sunnies by clicking the link in the first sentence or by checking out my IG page. 🙂

Sunflowers and Truth | #truthbombs

Martha Slavin Sunflower

Are you familiar with Danielle LaPorte’s #truthbombs? On 4×4 white cards–in beautiful black script–LaPorte offers pithy bits of wisdom, encouragement, and in-your-face truth. Every now and then, I pull a random card out the elegant encasement, and think, “Whew! Now, that’s a word!” The cards offer perfect journaling prompts and discussion starters. [Click the link above for more information, see sample #truthbombs, and download the app. For the record, this is not an ad]. 

Before heading to work yesterday, I grabbed a handful of random #truthbombs from their box and dropped them on my bag. I thought they would complement the sunflowers I’d planned to share on the blog, but yesterday did not turn out as I planned: By 9:00 a.m., I was annoyed with no less than three people. By 10:00, the number had increased to five. By 1:00, I had a searing headache that made me want to pack up and go home. When I finally arrived home just after 5:00, I wanted only my bed and a good book. When today began to feel like yesterday, a couple of short walks and three of the #truthbombs became the medicine I needed:

  • Notice how you feel
  • Defend your tenderness
  • Compassion is so often the solution

Those three sentences “can preach,” as they say. For me, they were a call to pay attention to my responses.

Yesterday, I was extremely disturbed by individuals who acted selfishly and lacked compassion. When it comes down to it, this was no different than any other day. Almost every day I encounter people who look out for themselves and show little regard for others unless they can benefit in some way. Of course, by the end of the day, I’d pretty much gotten over it and pushed the experience out of my mind. I realized I had to cut those folk some slack. They are human after all, and like me, they deserve room to be just that–human–and perhaps there were good reasons for what I considered their not acting with the decency I expected under the circumstances. 

But I was still bothered by my own reaction: Why was my response so different? Why did I allow myself to become so uncharacteristically entangled with other individuals’ attitudes and behavior? And why am I again feeling out of sorts and bothered?

Annoying people, gloomy weather, frustration over lecture notes I can’t find. All of that is superficial, the easy things to focus on because the real thing–the underlying thing–is big and scary and too much to handle at the beginning of a packed work week. The #truthbombs were a reminder to pay attention to my feelings and not just stop there. I had to get to the root. And I did.

I miss my sister. Her birthday is tomorrow. There will be no celebration. 

Thankfully, the sunflower provides light…in the darkness of the cave in which I have to dwell for a moment. 


About the Image: The watercolor sunflower is the work of my Love Notes friend, Martha S. She was one of my exchange partners in Louise Gale’s Global heART exchange. It was a pleasant surprise to find a postcard from one of my snail mail regulars in my mailbox. Thanks for this gorg sunflower, Martha! It has brightened my days and will soon find its place my the sunflower wall. 

Blooms: Check out Her Sway

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See this whimsical pink flower?

The snail mail gods are warming up to me. I received a few pieces of mail in the mailbox over the last couple of weeks. One piece—just retrieved from the P.O. Box today—is this “flower friend” Amy N sent for the Global heART Swap, hosted by Louise Gale.

I joined the swap after an unplanned years-long hiatus. I usually miss the signup deadline, but this year, I actually had a moment to read Louise’s email announcing the swap before the deadline and was excited to see the swap theme: “Summer Blooms.”

I had just completed a bunch of floral postcards during World Watercolor Month, so I decided to print some of the flowers and join the fun. Perfect, right?

In return, I found two beautiful, artsy blooms in my mailbox. A third one should be on the way.

This sweet little friend–one of three Amy released into the world–seems to be caught up in some serious dance moves. Look at her sway–indicated by the bend in her stem–and those leafy arms dancing in the wind. Her expression says it all.

Later, folks!

Let’s Make Lists: Seven Bits of Wisdom from Seven Favorite Books

“Lavender in Old Book,” Photo by Ekaterina Antonova

If you haven’t been around long enough to notice, I love, love, love books and, therefore, words and quotes. When people ask “What’s your favorite book?,” I hand them a 10-page list of books (slight exaggeration). And quotes? Who can select a single favorite? “Not I,” said the rabbit [the rabbit is me].

“Old Books,” Photo by Oksana Nazarchuk

So, for today’s list—and #WednesdayWisdom—I’m sharing seven life-changing quotes from seven of my favorite books. The selection is limited and random and in no way represents a privileging or prioritizing of other works over others. If I were to list all the quotes and all the books, this blog would be about books and quotes, not pics and posts.

So here’s my list of quotes. Maybe, they’ll change your life too.

“The Shepherd laughed too. “I love doing preposterous things,” he replied. “Why, I don’t know anything more exhilarating and delightful than turning weakness into strength, and fear into faith, and that which has been marred into perfection.’  Hannah Hurnard, Hinds Feet on High Places

There must be always remaining in every life, some place for the singing of angels, some place for that which in itself is breathless and beautiful.―Howard Thurman, Meditations of the Heart

“The life of faith is not a life of mounting up with wings, but a life of walking and not fainting.”Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest

“Literary Paris,” from Obvious State

Whatever happens around you, don’t take it personally… Nothing other people do is because of you. It is because of themselves.”Don Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements

You shall be free indeed when your days are not without a care, nor your nights without a want and a grief, but rather when these things girdle your life and yet you rise above them naked and unbound.  Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet

Evil can be undone, but it cannot ‘develop’ into good. Time does not heal it. The spell must be unwound, bit by bit, ‘with backward mutters of dissevering power’ – or else not. C. S. Lewis, The Great Divorce

You wanna fly, you got to give up the sh*t that weighs you down. Toni Morrison, Song of Solomon

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Like any other list, it would be easy for me to go waaaaaay overboard, but I’m trying to practice what I preach to my students. Sometimes, less is more.

What’s your favorite quote? Are any of these a new fav?


About the Images: Each postcard in this post was for bookish swaps on swap-bot. Aren’t they fabulous?

Let’s Make Lists: Seven Little Things

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A few days ago, a friend sent me @studygr1nd’s Instagram post in which she shared an image list of small things and activities that keep her sane. I thought, “What a great idea for a blog post!”

So this Monday evening, when I’m feeling a bit out of sorts and words feel like too much for my crowded brain, I’m sharing with you seven little things that keep me sane. I’m focusing on specific things here–not experiences or people.

  • My sketchpad: Take my word for it–doodling sunflowers and daisies does wonders for chasing away the crazies.
  • My journal: There’s a tie between writing in my journal and walking among the trees as the best free therapy, but since I’m listing things and not experiences, the journal wins here.
  • Fine point black gel pens: With what else will I doodle and journal?
  • My favorite disc-bound planner: Writing out my to-dos and scheduling my day helps me to see the big picture. Also, the tasks don’t feel so overwhelming after I make a list.
  • Floral mail pouch: The gorgeous black mail pouch decorated with lavender flowers and gold accents was a gift from Christine B, one of my pen friends. The pouch is filled with postcards, note cards, tiny art, stickers, and washi tape. Of course, its primary purpose is to hold items for snail mail, but sometimes, simply looking at the pretties helps me reset.
  • Mary Oliver’s DevotionsNeed I say more?
  • My sunflower wall: Sometimes there’s nothing more mind-settling than turning toward my brilliant wall(s) of sunflowers that remind me to #facethesun

Though I can list far more than seven, I’ll spare you the lengthy list. I tortured you enough with my list of 100 things that bring me joy. 😀 And, since I don’t have to be convinced to make a list, I decided to make this “list week” on the blog. C’mon, you saw this coming, right?

What are some things that keep you sane?


About the Image: The postcard above, entitled Girl with Watering Can, features the work of Mila Marquis, a Hamburg, Germany-based illustrator. My Love Notes friend, Gina B sent the pretty card for International Women’s Day. You can see more of Marquis’ cheerful whimsical illustrations on her Instagram or Facebook page.

Terracotta Warriors Postcard

Terra-cotta Warriors, Xian China

I figured since the last two posts featured Chinese art postcards, I might as well finish the blog week by sharing another postcard which also features Chinese art.

The postcard above, “Terra-cotta Warriors,” features a small part of a collection of life-size sculptures of the army of Qin Shi Huangdi (259-210 BCE), the first Emperor of China–who unified China and laid the foundation for the Great Wall. As funerary art, the collection was buried with the emperor to serve as protection for him in the afterlife.

In a Live Science article Owen Jarus, comments on the artistic details of the sculptures:

The details of the warriors are so intricate and individualized that it has been hypothesized that they were based on real soldiers who served in the emperor’s army. Each warrior has uniquely styled hair and features; some have topknots while others have goatees; some have caps and loose tunics while others have armored vests and braided hair. They have different builds, expressions and postures. Another key feature is that the warriors were decorated in bright colors, which contributed to the individuation.

You can read all about the 1974 discovery, in the Shaanxi province in northwest China, of the first (nearly) 2000 of the 8000+ known warriors interred with the emperor: Terra Cotta Soldiers on the March.

And if you wish to read further, see the article by Jarus referenced above, which provides more details about the contents of the pits found near the tomb of Qin Shi Huangdi: Terracotta Warriors: An Army for the Afterlife.

Until next time…

#ThursdayTreeLove | The Trees of Lan Ying’s Quiet Village

Lin Yang Country Scene

Country Scenery (Partial), Lan Ying, Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). Ink and color on silk.

Since we’re on the subject of postcards from China, I’m sharing another one for today’s #ThursdayTreeLove. This postcard features the work of 17th century Chinese artist, Lan Ying (1585-1684), an artist of the Ming Dynasty. Based on my limited knowledge of his work, his art features impressive landscapes, typically with trees in the foreground.

Of his collection Landscapes of the Four Seasons, one reviewer wrote:

Foreground trees are always superb manifestations of his painterly craft. Comfortably shifting between the descriptive and the expressive modes, the diverse trees with their vivaciously gestural bodies and diverse foliage patterns provide sustained visual excitement as one progresses through the seasons.

Not surprisingly, I was drawn to the trees before I took in the entire scene of the village nestled between the trees. This enchanting [partial] view could have been entitled Trees of the Village, instead of Country Scenery, and that’s why the postcard has found its way on my blog for #ThursdayTreeLove.

Like another classical Chinese masterpiece shared on the blog a couple of years ago–Peace Reigns Over the River–this postcard is from the set, Chinese Classical Paintings and Calligraphy Work. Cy sent a number of pieces from this collection.

Lan Ying’s work is mesmerizing. If you’d like to explore more, be sure to “right click” on the image above for a closer look and click the links below:


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

Three Postcards from China and “The River Merchant’s Wife”

“Katydid,” New World Press, Beijing China

After two weeks of forgetting to check the P.O. Box, we finally went to retrieve the mail and found not one piece of mail in the box. Not one! I was devastated! Okay, I was not really surprised at all. I have not been the best snail mail revolutionary lately. In fact, my snail mail life has been so chaotic that I just read a letter that was sent to me in April. April!

The snail mail gods are apparently displeased, so I’ll have to do a little work to gain their favor again. In addition to sending good mail out into the world, I will take advantage of this lull and catch up on some mailbox “show and tell.” Even though my “to be blogged” mail file is stuffed with interesting pieces waiting to be shared with you, for the last few months, I’ve focused on the “Pics” part of my blog title and neglected the “Posts” [which is short for postal mail, not blog posts]. Thus, the empty mailbox can serve a positive purpose. 😉

For today’s post, I’m sharing three postcards my friend Cy picked up in China a few years ago. I love the delicate artwork of these pieces and did my best to imitate them–minus the insects. And since I am in a mood for poetry, I’m sharing them with 20th century American poet Ezra Pound’s (1885- 1972) translation of “Traveling to Chang-kan,” the first of 8th century Tang Dynasty poet Li Po’s (Lǐ Bái 701-762) Two Letters from Chang-kan.

The River Merchant’s Wife: A Letter
Ezra Pound

After Li Po

While my hair was still cut straight across my forehead
I played about the front gate, pulling flowers.
You came by on bamboo stilts, playing horse,
You walked about my seat, playing with blue plums.
And we went on living in the village of Chōkan:
Two small people, without dislike or suspicion.
At fourteen I married My Lord you.
I never laughed, being bashful.
Lowering my head, I looked at the wall.
Called to, a thousand times, I never looked back.
 

“Dragonfly,” New World Press, Beijing, China

 
At fifteen I stopped scowling,
I desired my dust to be mingled with yours
Forever and forever, and forever.
Why should I climb the look out?
 
At sixteen you departed
You went into far Ku-tō-en, by the river of swirling eddies,
And you have been gone five months.
The monkeys make sorrowful noise overhead.
 

“Silkworms,” New World Press, Beijing, China

 
You dragged your feet when you went out.
By the gate now, the moss is grown, the different mosses,
Too deep to clear them away!
The leaves fall early this autumn, in wind.
The paired butterflies are already yellow with August
Over the grass in the West garden;
They hurt me.
I grow older.
If you are coming down through the narrows of the river Kiang,
Please let me know beforehand,
And I will come out to meet you
As far as Chō-fū-Sa.
 

I read this poem for the first time when I was in high school. I was drawn to the maturation processes of the couple and the complicated emotions of the poem. I remember discussing the poem in one of my high school classes (Literature or Creative Writing?) and falling so in love with the line “I desired my dust to be mingled” that I used it as the title of one of my own poems. Maybe, I’ll be brave enough to share it here.

If you’re interested in another translation of the poem, see East Asian Student’s translation here: The Ballad of Changgan by Li Bai.

Photo Inspiration | Immortality

Immortality


About the Image: This photo features vintage postcards my Love Notes friend Fran B sent last year. I am in awe of the handwriting and the well-preserved ink (and postcards themselves) after so many decades. If you look closely at the postmarks, you can see the postcards were written and mailed in 1950, 1944, and 1909 (112 years ago!). I will eventually write a longer post about them, but for now, please enjoy the photo with an appropriate line from an Emily Dickinson letter to Thomas Wentworth Higginson.

The Hot Woman

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“La Femme” from paruspaper

It’s probably not best to begin a “Happy Summer” post with the one reason I do not like the summer season so much. However, I stood in the hot sun for almost two hours this morning at a grand opening event, so I am really not too fond of the “return of the sun.” Of course, here in the Deep South, it’s been “summer” for a while, so today feels less like the first (full) day of summer and more like midsummer hell (to those of us who do not like the heat). 

Thus, I say, “Happy Summer” with a bit of sand and ocean from my Love Notes friend and literary twin, Gina B. (whose favorite season is summer), and a poem by Derek Walcott. “Midsummer, Tobago” perfectly describes early summer (or late spring) in certain parts of the USA and the long days of the (paradoxically) brief summer season. 

Midsummer, Tobago
Derek Walcott

Broad sun-stoned beaches.

White heat.
A green river.

A bridge,
scorched yellow palms

from the summer-sleeping house
drowsing through August.

Days I have held,
days I have lost,

days that outgrow, like daughters,
my harbouring arms.

Happy Summer, Y’all!