Mums the Word!

Maybe our world will grow kinder eventually.
Maybe the desire to make something beautiful
is the piece of God that is inside each of us.

–Mary Oliver, “Franz Marc’s Blue Horses,” Blue Horses, 2014

Today’s blog post is brought to you by the autumn flower–mums!

When we celebrated my aunt’s birthday this past weekend–social distancing measures in place–I knew I had to capture the mums welcoming us to her home. I had plans to play around with them later.

I’d been adding “create something” to my daily to-do list for days, but had not managed to check off that “task,” so I sat down with my computer and iPad to “play” during last night’s non-presidential debate[?].  I was able to revisit the mums and transform them in more ways than I can share in one blog post.

Here are three of the 12 pieces I crafted. [I will share some of the others in separate posts].

Maybe, they’re beautiful. Maybe, they’re not. No matter. The pleasure was in the process of creating, not the outcome.

Afraid of Nothing

“Girl Bandz” by Céleste Wallaert

I am deliberate
and afraid
of nothing.

–Audre Lorde, last lines of poem “New Year’s Day” from A Land Where Other People Live


About the Image: The postcard above was sent to me by my literary twin and Love Notes pal, Bianca. She always sends the perfect cards with notes written in her impeccable handwriting, embellished with cute or sophisticated washi tape and stickers. The card features the artwork of illustrator and graphic artist, Céleste Wallaert. You can find out about the artist and see more of her work by following the link. The women’s stance exude Audre Lorde’s words, “I am deliberate/and afraid/of nothing.”

About Love Notes: Speaking of Love Notes, the final round for this year begins October 11th. You need a happy mail distraction to counteract all the madness we’re experiencing, so click the link and get signed up today: Love Notes.

There Is Joy…

But
isn’t it funny?
[…]
all they are interested in is our pain,
as if the joy-parts were accidental.

I write love poems, too,
but
you only want to see my mouth torn open in protest,
as if my mouth were a wound
with pus and gangrene
for joy. –Koleka Putuma, “Black Joy,” Collective Amnesia

People misunderstand Blacks in America. When we rise up against police brutality and other racial and social injustices in this country, when we speak the truth of our pain, we are not saying our lives are utterly miserable. There is joy, and–at the risk of sounding essentialist–that is part of our beauty and strength as a people.

I’ve run across many people who are interested in our pain, as the poet Koleka Putuma notes, but few who are invested in our joy. This strips us of our humanness and reduces us to “objects.”

I assure you. There is joy.

In spite of the pain that often comes with living in this world with Black skin, in spite of the economic barriers, in spite of the educational and health disparities, in spite of systemic oppression, we are able to thrive and embrace joy. We are able to live and worship and laugh and love and support our communities. We are able to forgive, to comfort, to heal. In spite of the struggle, there is much that is joyful and beautiful in our lives.


About the image: The photo was shot at my Dad’s 80th birthday party five+ years ago. I was searching my Flickr album for a completely different photo, but there was so much joy in this photo that it oozed off the screen and into my spirit on this gloomy not-so-wordless Wednesday.

#ThursdayTreeLove | Robin Hood’s Tree

So passed the seasons then, so they pass now, and so they will pass in time to come, while we come and go like leaves of the tree that fall and are soon forgotten. –Howard Pyle, The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood

Thanks to sheer exhaustion, I missed #ThursdayTreeLove last week, but I’m making up for it today by taking you on a brief trip to Sherwood Forest to get a glimpse of the magnificent  Major Oak.

I went to Sherwood Forest many, many moons ago and fell in love with the famed tree which the legendary outlaw Robin Hood and his band of Merry Men used as a hideout. I probably don’t need to tell you that this English professor loves visiting the actual places made famous [in my mind] by literature, so this was definitely a treat!

The [800 to] 1000-year-old tree is the largest tree in England. It is supported by stilts and has been so since the Victorian Age.

The original images [below] were shot with a film camera–a Canon Photura–in the days before digital cameras, but I had the roll digitized. It seems the digitized images lost their integrity over the years, so I edited them [above] for the post. [Click below to see larger images of the originals]

You can see better images and find out more information about the Major Oak of Sherwood Forest by clicking this link.


I am [usually] joining Parul Thakur for #ThursdayTreeLove every second and fourth Thursday of the month. [This is the third Thursday. Forgive me].  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.

Fly High…

Fly high… where the only chill that cuts through you is the wind. Where your heart pounds from exhilaration not disappointment, and after ascending through cloudy wisps, brushing your wings, there is only the clear blue horizon beckoning you forth… –Virginia Alison

#ThursdayTreeLove | Unbothered

“Oak Feet”

The campus trees and I have been reunited! I returned to work August 3 [technically], but it had been too hot to visit them. Yesterday was less oppressive, so I was happy to get outdoors when a colleague needed a favor.  While I was walking back to my office, I noticed how beautifully the oak near my building had spread.

“The Spreading Oak” [iPhone photo]

I had to get back to my office to complete a task before leaving for the day, so I quickly snapped the shot above with my phone and promised to return.

I made good on my promise today.

I worked diligently all morning. It was afternoon before I knew it, so I took a five-minute break to clear my head and energize before tackling another task on the ‘must do today” list. Of course, I headed to the trees.

“Intricate Pattern”

Oh, how I missed them the last five+ months! I didn’t have much time, so I walked the circle of trees nearest my building. I stood still for a moment to take in the scene–from the patterns in tree trunks (above) to the tiny magnolia [?] that took root in the foot of another tree (below).

“Magnolia Rooted”

Then, I turned my attention to the oak. I was simply mesmerized by its majesty and by how much it had thrived in the absence of an abundance of human activity. In fact, all the trees seemed unbothered by pandemics and human foibles.

“Hello, Beautiful”

I was reminded of a reading from Melodie Beattie’s Journey to the Heart. In the passage, she refers to the redwoods of California, but I will take the liberty and ascribe her words to “my” trees:

“A Fragment of the Majestic”

For hundreds of years they have been here, patiently seeing things through. Little ruffled them. They just kept on growing for all those years—steadily, patiently, peacefully, calmly. They have been through enough, seen enough, to know not to worry. Things work out. Change happens. Life continues to evolve.

I didn’t see one tree hurrying or worrying. They have been here long enough to learn life’s lessons well.  –Melody Beattie, Journey to the Heart: Daily Meditations on the Path to Freeing Your Soul

“Strong Arms”

My first campus walk since March–a deep, cleansing breath.


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.

Sisters and Solace

“Sisters.” Photo by Kelli D.

Is solace anywhere more comforting than that in the arms of a sister? –Alice Walker

A few years ago, my friend Kelli posted a photograph of her three beautiful daughters. The two older sisters were consoling the youngest as she tearfully apologized for terrorizing them all day. Kelli had captured such a sweet moment. I asked permission to alter the photo because I felt the tenderness between sisters would be better expressed through a painterly-vintagesque edit.

Is solace anywhere more comforting than that in the arms of a sister?

#ThursdayTreeLove | “Pretty and Sweet”

I am not like the rose, [so] beautiful and enchantingly rare that it seduces you; and when you have fallen so deliriously, it pierces you with its thorns, wounding you so deep.

I am like the hibiscus, pretty and sweet, yet ordinary. You’d find me anywhere—in backyards and graveyards too, but what you see is what you’d get—no hidden thorns to bare.—Diwa

One day, not too long ago, I was checking out my aunt’s “new” backyard–she had recently moved.  As I was taking in the size of the yard—not too big, not too small “for someone her age”—I was drawn to the way the setting sun caressed blossoms spilling over into the back corner of her yard from her neighbor’s yard.

I recognized the blossoms. Hibiscus, right?

But do hibiscus bushes grow so tall? The tree I was looking up had to be at least 10 feet tall.

I did a little “research” and “lo and behold,” I learned that either there is such a thing as a hibiscus tree or hibiscus plants can be groomed into a tree or both. I am not a horticulturist, so please don’t judge me too harshly for not having the fine details.

I’m just here for the beauty.


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.

#GoodTrouble

John Lewis, after arrest in Mississippi, 1961. He served 37 days in Parchman Penitentiary for ‘disorderly conduct”–using a restroom reserved for whites.

When you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, you have a moral obligation, a mission, and a mandate to stand up, to speak up and speak out, and get in the way, get in trouble, good trouble, necessary trouble [and help redeem the soul of America].  –Congressman John Lewis (February 21, 1940-July 17, 2020).