#ThursdayTreeLove | Loved Thrice

Trees in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Artwork by Christine B.

I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape—
the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter.
Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn’t show.
~Andrew Wyeth

I had a different tree love post in mind for today, but when my friend Christine B. sent (via message) two tree watercolors she completed while on vacation in Colorado, I decided to share one of her pieces instead.

Is there any better way to express tree love than through art?

Through painting, sketching, or drawing a tree, the artist loves the tree in at least three ways–with eyes, with hands, and with heart.


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.

Ordinary Moments of Joy

I had zero holiday spirit. None. I did everything I could to conjure the warm feelings the Christmas season usually brings. I went to Christmas parties. I decorated the house. I participated in gift exchanges. I read and meditated on scriptures about the birth of Christ. I even bought an ugly sweater (really, a hoodie). Nothing worked.

I was deep in a hole of exhaustion, confusion, stress, grief, and it was far too taxing to exact from myself anything other than that strange mix of feelings.

Until last night. As I was scrolling through Instagram posts, I ran across a one by Brene’ Brown in which she talks about spending Christmas in her mom’s hospital room. She begins that post:

The purest form of joy comes to us in ordinary moments, and those moments can happen any place where gratitude is alive. —Brené Brown

“Joy comes to us in ordinary moments.”

It’s amazing how a single statement can prompt a shift.

I paused and asked God to help me to recognize and seize moments of joy, despite those contrary but legitimate emotions.

So today I opened my heart and with gratitude welcomed joy in all the ordinary moments and in all the ways in which it presented itself–watching my guys open gifts; chatting with my mom; preparing a dish for the family dinner while watching funny YouTube videos with the guys; texting Christmas greetings to friends and loved ones; enjoying Christmas dinner with my aunts, cousin, and her kids; listening to my aunt’s hearty laughter, knowing this first Christmas without my uncle is so difficult for her; eating way too many sweets; spending this moment with my blog before grabbing my fuzzy blanket and cuddling up with the guys to watch more Christmas movies.

Ordinary moments imbued with gratitude. Pure joy.

May you walk with gratitude and joy during the holiday season and through the coming year.

Merry Christmas!

Oh, Christmas Tree! | #WordlessWednesday

Christmas is not a story of hope. It is hope. –Craig D. Lounsbrough

The university held its annual Christmas party yesterday. The theme this year, “Christmas in the Alps,” matched the cold, cold of outdoors.

The team always does an amazing job with the decor, and we felt like we were in Switzerland. I’d intended to photograph some of the cozy elements created to capture the theme, but I’m still a bit fatigued–it was a hard semester. I did manage to get shots [on my phone] of some the ornaments adorning the very tall tree.

The images speak for themselves, so they are perfect for a #WordlessWednesday. [Click an image for a closer look].

 

#ThursdayTreeLove | Naked Tree and First Snow

Snow was falling,

so much like stars
filling the dark trees
that one could easily imagine
its reason for being was nothing more

than prettiness.  –Mary Oliver, from “Snowy Night,” What Do We Know

I’m taking a very short break from grading because it’s time for #ThursdayTreeLove, and I can’t resist sharing one of the snow pics I snapped with my iPhone earlier this week. It’s a simple snapshot, but it captures a naked tree and our first snow of the season.

Snow is rare in the Deep South, so many of us get excited whenever it comes our way. In this photo, the snow had just begun to fall and the temperature hadn’t [yet] dropped enough for the snow to stick.

I do not like being cold, so I stood just outside my office building and videotaped the snow for a few seconds. [Video below]. It was so relaxing to take a break and watch the snow fall.

Enjoy!


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.

Sunflowers and Copycats

“Sunflowers in a Vase.” Watercolor by Sheila D.

Imitation is the sincerest [form] of flattery. –Charles Caleb Colton

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, my artist/blogging friend Sheila Delgado should be tickled pink over the art Christine B and I created in the style of one of her specialities–“sunflowers in a vase.”

Last year, Christine B sent me a sunflower watercolor she “borrowed” Sheila’s style to complete. I included it in a blog post last November with many other sunflower postcards, but here it is again:

“Sunflowers in a Vase.” Watercolor by Christine B.

Days after the post, I received a Sheila D original watercolor of sunflowers in a vase [above]! Needless to say I was thrilled! I was so pleased to have another sunflower watercolor that it remained [with Christine’s] in my prayer and mediation space. So, a few months ago, when I began to include art/doodling as part of my daily routine and after seeing it every day, I played around with imitating Sheila’s sunflowers in a vase. This is one result:

“Sunflowers in a Vase.” Pen and Pencil by Me!

Thankfully, my sunflowers have improved a bit since my summer doodle [I’ll share some next month]. Like all my drawings, I used ink and colored pencils. I haven’t been brave enough to attempt this with the watercolor pencils, but I will make an effort over the longer holiday break.

I read somewhere that beginning artists learn by imitating the styles of other artists. Even though I’m a long way from being that kind of artist, I enjoy testing my [minimal] skills from time to time by “copying” the artwork of others.

So…thank you, Sheila, for giving me sunflowers…and another subject to doodle. 😉

From the Shadows…Into the Light

I did not come to photography looking for magic. I came looking for a way to speak my pain. In the process of finding images to portray my darkness, I passed through the shadows into light. Now, I am one of photography’s many lovers, devoted to the art of seeing and revealing. […] There’s something holy about this work, something healing about this search for light. Like the pilgrim’s journey, it’s heaven all the way.

–Jan Phillips, God Is at Eye Level

Someone I loved once gave me
a box full of darkness.

It took me years to understand
that this, too, was a gift.

–Mary Oliver, “The Uses of Sorrow”

Through a casual Facebook post featuring some of her favorite books, my pen friend Connie F, introduced me to Jan Phillip’s book, God Is at Eye Level [Thanks, Connie!]. With Amazon [birthday] gift card in hand [Thanks, Tee!], I ordered the book and two others on creative and contemplative photography. 

The photograph of the wilted sunflower is the result of an exercise in God Is at Eye Level that invites readers to use an entire [pretend] 24-exposure roll of film to explore one strong emotion. It is my attempt to capture the tension between the darkness that walks with me as I deal with grief and trauma and the light I feel I need to project.  

But I am learning, day by day, there is value in darkness, particularly if we are using it to move toward Light.

In the quote above, Phillips underscores the usefulness of darkness, its role in our creativity and healing. Darkness is a “gift,” a necessary part of process; therefore, it’s critical that we face the darkness, wrestle with it, deal, so that we might emerge whole, or maybe not as fractured. Running away from it—creating some inauthentic happy place—only imprisons us. The operative word is emerge. Eventually, we “pass through” darkness and into the fullness of Light.

“There Is Simply the Rose” | #WordlessWednesday

“Man is timid and apologetic; he is no longer upright; he dares not say ‘I think,’ ‘I am,’ but quotes some saint or sage. He is ashamed before the blade of grass or the blowing rose. These roses under my window make no reference to former roses or to better ones; they are for what they are; they exist with God to-day. There is no time to them. There is simply the rose; it is perfect in every moment of its existence. Before a leaf-bud has burst, its whole life acts; in the full-blown flower there is no more; in the leafless root there is no less. Its nature is satisfied, and it satisfies nature, in all moments alike. But man postpones or remembers; he does not live in the present, but with reverted eye laments the past, or, heedless of the riches that surround him, stands on tiptoe to foresee the future. He cannot be happy and strong until he too lives with nature in the present, above time.”

–Ralph Waldo Emerson, from “Self-Reliance,” (1841), emphasis mine