#ThursdayTreeLove | Knot So Beautiful

There is good in life every day.
Take a few minutes to distract yourself
from your concerns–
long enough to draw strength from a tree…
–Pamela Owens Renfro, “Reach for the Good”

August has been a strange month so far. I have felt “out of sorts” most days and have been so swamped with “things to do” that I’ve found far too little time for the things that add color to my days. This has made me even more grateful to be back on campus with the trees. The heat makes my time outdoors brief, but a [literal] moment with the trees every now and then does much to right my spirit.

The knotty tree above caught my eye as I walked past it with one of my colleagues. Naturally, I paused to take a snapshot with my phone camera. Although my colleague was grossed out by the knots, I was intrigued. I wondered about the tree’s story.

Trees develop knots in response to “stress”—weather, insects, injury, viruses. The knots are evidence of healing and repair. They give the trees character, and if we think about it for a second, it’s pretty amazing that trees are capable of creating beauty from something that can potentially destroy them.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we were more like trees? Perhaps, we are more like them.

To some degree, how we respond to tension is a matter of choice. Instead of internalizing our stress and creating destructive knots that can lead to mental and physical illness, we can respond to it in productive ways–praying, meditating, journaling, creating, crafting, singing, speaking up for ourselves, setting healthy boundaries.

If left unchecked, stress can leave us damaged and unhealthy. We transform these undesirable effects when we work through our stressors in ways that create beauty in our hearts and lives.

As for my colleague—no worries about her. If she continues to hang around me, she’ll be looking at trees in a different way very soon. 😉


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.

Duck Tales | #WordlessWednesday

With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.  –Max Ehrmann, “Desiderata”

On a recent visit to the park, I observed the little girl pictured above and her older brother chattering and interacting with the ducks. Based on their conversation, they visited the park frequently. They “knew” the birds personally, gave them names, and as you can see, fed them from their hands. I couldn’t resist photographing such a precious sight.

Our Hearts Unhinged…

“Non-violence.” Photo by Louise Mamet, Caen WWII Memorial.

A few years ago, following the shooting at Umpqua Community College in Oregon, President Obama said “our thoughts and prayers are not enough.” His argument was that we must back up our prayers with action–legislation that makes it difficult for individuals to purchase the type of weapons that can enact a massacre in seconds.

“Thoughts and prayers,” was again the trite refrain following two mass shootings in the United States this weekend. But neither thoughts and prayers nor legislation are enough. Sadly, no gun legislation will prevent hate and misdirected anger; determined people will always find a way to accomplish their nefarious goals.

As a nation we must do soul work. “Faith without works is dead,” so God to Whom we direct our prayers expects us to do the work. We must wrestle with the ugly truths that are part of who we are, that make such actions possible.

We must unearth the thing in people’s hearts that breeds thoughts that result in wanton disregard for life. We must work to transform individuals and the soul of our nation from the inside out.

We’re weary, yes, but from the weariness we must find a different path.

This year, we’ve done laps around despair;
and we’ve grown tired of running in circles
so we stepped off the track and began to walk.
As the earth shifted beneath our feet,
we moved forward together. Our hearts
unhinged, guide us toward a [nation]
remade by love, into a future
that our past could never have imagined,
beginning today.

Excerpt from “Reimagining History,” by Marcus Amaker and Marjory Wentworth for the 2016 Charleston Mayoral Inauguration.


About the image: Today’s image was shot by my photographer friend Louise Mamet at the Caen WWII Memorial in Normandy. Thank you for the use of your image, Louise!

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Woman | #WordlessWednesday

Ann Gardner, “Breathing,” 1996. Sand cast glass, silver leaf.

Where there is a woman there is magic. If there is a moon falling from her mouth, she is a woman who knows her magic, who can share or not share her powers. A woman with a moon falling from her mouth, roses between her legs and tiaras of Spanish moss, this woman is a consort of the spirits.  –Ntozake Shange, Sassafrass, Cypress & Indigo


About the image: Today’s image features the artwork of sculptor Ann Gardner. The piece, entitled “Breathing,” is part of the American Studio Glass collection, on continuous view at the Huntsville Museum of Art. The sculpture is so fierce and feminine that I couldn’t resist pairing it with Shange’s words.

#ThursdayTreeLove | Recollections

Recollections, Watercolor by Wanda A

It is difficult to realize how great a part of all that is cheerful and delightful in the recollections of our own life is associated with trees. –Wilson Flagg

I realize the image above isn’t a “real” tree, but this tree is special to me. Wanda, my sophomore year college roommate and brilliant art major, painted and gave the tree to me as a gift at some point before we parted ways–she to an art school in New York, me to an internship in Maryland.

The inspiration for this watercolor was a young tree that grew outside of our first floor dorm room. We often sat in our room with the window open and gazed at this tree. When alone, we contemplated and meditated. When together, we people-watched and discussed the trials and triumphs of life and love with our favorite tree always in view.

I looked for the tree almost seven years ago when I first returned to the campus as a professor; unfortunately, it is no longer there. I don’t even have a photograph, so I’m grateful my roomie and friend immortalized the tree through her artwork.

Wanda informed me that her daughter [corrected] is headed to our alma mater this fall [gasp]! Hopefully, she’ll find a special tree and much that is cheerful and delightful.


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.

Lanai Views | #WordlessWednesday

Lanai

“In the Mountains,” Li Bai (Chinese Poet, 701-762)

You ask me what my idea is, staying in the green mountains?
I smile but have no reply, my heart at peace in itself.

As the peach blossom on the flowing water goes into the unknown,
there is another heaven and earth, not among people.

Trans. William P. Coleman


About the images: Photos from a trip to Maui, Hawaii many moons ago. The photos were shot from a yacht early one evening.

Joy Break 2 | Dance, Dance, Dance

“Allow yourself to trust joy and embrace it.
You will find you dance with everything.”

My Love Notes friend, Connie, sent the postcard above a couple of years ago. She found it and many others at an art fair, I think. Even though I searched “high and low” for information about the artist, I found none.

This is one of my favorite postcards because there is so much joy in the artwork–the colors, the movements, the expressions. The dance is part of the conversation between the women whose very souls seem to be possessed by joy.

Perhaps, that is the point of the quote above (attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson). When we release ourselves to joy, there’s a light in the step and mirth in the eyes. Our very beings are infused with joy.