Sunflowers and Poetry | Let April Be April

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Since I’ve been an academic all my adult life, I have no idea what the end of April feels like for people whose lives are not planned around two 15-week segments. For me, it brings stress and anxiety over the ever-increasing unfinished business of the semester and May “cleanup” work, not to mention all the end-of-the-school-year events and deadlines for my son. When my student France Régine sent me the poem below a few days ago–a day after I’d seen the post on Morgan Harper Nichols‘ Instagram feed–I decided to use the poem to close out the month. It is a beautiful reminder that it is okay to “just be” and not feel the need to solve the problems of the world in one go.

Morgan Harper Nichols
Let April be April,
and let May be May.
And let yourself
just be
even in
the uncertainty.
You don’t have to fix everything.
You don’t have to solve everything.
And you can still find peace
and grow
in the wild
of changing things.

About the Image: The Current card above came from Jamise L–another sunflower lover–I met through Jennifer Belthoff’s Write Together and Love Notes. Her encouraging note came just when I needed it. My friends have been awesome and have kept me well-supplied with sunflower goodies, so there are many more sunflowers to share. Even though this ends our (almost) week of Sunflowers and Poetry, stay tuned to Pics and Posts for more sunflower love!

Sunflowers and Poetry | Why I Wake Early

Sunflower Goat

Good Morning! I’m dropping in a little earlier than usual because I thought you might like to share your morning tea or coffee with this sunflower-bearing (umm…eating) goat. If it is not morning where you are, you should exit this post and return to it in the morning. Kidding, of course! You can read it now and return to it tomorrow morning, if you choose, because today’s poem by Mary Oliver is about celebrating the early morning and starting our days with happiness and kindness. 

Why I Wake Early
by Mary Oliver
 
Hello, sun in my face.
Hello, you who make the morning
and spread it over the fields
and into the faces of the tulips
and the nodding morning glories,
and into the windows of, even, the
miserable and crotchety–
 
best preacher that ever was,
dear star, that just happens
to be where you are in the universe
to keep us from ever-darkness,
to ease us with warm touching,
to hold us in the great hands of light–
good morning, good morning, good morning.
 
Watch, now, how I start the day
in happiness, in kindness.

About the Image: My pen friend, Kathi G, sent the delightful postcard above. The goat’s name is Rory. Isn’t he absolutely adorable as he munches on a sunflower with a field more of them behind him? This is the work of Dorian Charles of Tabby Hall Designs. Happy eating, Rory!

					

Sunflowers and Poetry | Game Called Life

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As promised Monday, I’m back with another poem by Javan. The poem below comes from Something to Someone. If your week has been a little challenging like mine, you might also need this nice and easy poem that doesn’t tax the brain or stretch the intellectual muscles.

By Javan

I’m not very good
at this Game called Life
For I’ve not learned to see children crying
without feeling pain
For I’ve not learned to watch animals destroyed
without wondering why
For I’ve not yet met a king or celebrity
that I would bow down to
or a man so insignificant
that I would use for a stepping-stone
For I’ve not learned to be a
“yes man”
to narrow minded bosses
who quote rules without reason
And I’ve not learned to manipulate
the feelings of others
to be used for my own advantages
then cast aside as I see fit
No, I’m not very good
at this Game called Life
And if everything goes well
maybe I never will be


About the Image: My friend Christine B sent this bright sprinkling of sunflowers to cheer me after I told her I was having a very sad day. She used the TouchNote app to send the postcard featuring her artwork.

Sunflowers and Poetry | How We Fit

“Le prince solaire” by A. Kumurdjian

Today has been filled with too much talking, too much paper-shuffling, and not enough silence. Even as I type these few words, I hear the text messages [that I will ignore until morning] coming in. So, for now, a very short poem from Meister Eckhart’s Book of Heart: Meditations for the Restless Soul by Jon M. Sweeney and Mark S. Borrows. May we all find a bit of stillness in this moment. 

How We Fit
Meister Eckhart | Sweeney and Burrows

You made us for Yourself.
and we fit not as one part

to another but rather as
emptiness meets fullness.

as darkness seeks light,
as loneliness wants love,

as what is wounded
longs for healing.

About the Image: My Love Notes friend Sarah S sent the photo postcard above for International Women’s Day. She sent the postcards with “prayers for peace, strength, and women all over the world, especially women of the Ukraine.” The majestic sunflower was shot by A. Kumurdian. Don’t you just love the postal tattoos? 🙂

Sunflowers and Poetry | Who We Are Now

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I ran across a poem today that I didn’t know I needed till I read it. Isn’t that how poetry works?

We are two years into the pandemic that some think is over, and I find myself still trying to process all the lessons and losses. This poem–which is really a prayer–profoundly articulates the complexity of the moment–the conflicting emotions, the questions, the changes in us. It was written by Nadia Bolz Weber, a pastor who describes herself as “foul-mouthed for a preacher, grammatically challenged for a bestselling author, surprisingly hopeful for a cynic.” 

The poem was written after year one of the pandemic, but it is still relevant after year two.

Who We Are Now
By Nadia Bolz Weber

Dear God who made us all,
A year ago we did not know that we were about to learn:
what we could lose and somehow live anyway
where we would find comfort and where it would elude us
whose lives matter to whom
why we have kitchens in our homes.
In mid-March 2020 all I knew for sure is that
hoarding toilet paper doesn’t make you safe – it just makes you selfish.
But God, it feels like the world is about to open back up.
And I’m both thrilled and kind of scared about that.
Because I’m not who I was a year ago.
I want so badly
to hug my friends again
and laugh like hell again
and have amazing conversations again

and yet I am not sure how long I could do any of this before crying or just getting really quiet. My emotional protective gear has worn so thin, and grief just leaks out everywhere now.

I am so afraid that I will never be who I once was. And I am also afraid that I will be.

(Not to mention, I’m not entirely clear what size jeans I wear as the me I am now)

And yet, when I quiet my anxious thoughts, I start to suspect that I am now closer to the me you have always known and always loved. So help me trust that, Lord.

As things change, help us be gentle with ourselves and with each other. We are all wearing newborn skin right now.

Amen.


About the Image: I had plans to share a sunflower postcard from one of my pen friends today, but this is the image the poem required. It is an edit of a photo I shot last fall. I was trying to emulate van Gogh’s wilted sunflowers–with a camera instead of a paintbrush. See Allotment with Sunflowers in the post.

Sunflowers and Poetry | Meet Me Halfway

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Since we are in the final week of National Poetry Month, I decided to share poetry and sunflowers all week long. This month–with all its busyness–tried to rob me of poetry, but I persisted. I wrote and read poetry daily and even managed to plan and host another successful [annual] poetry event.

This weekend I “rediscovered” Javan, a poet I enjoyed as a teen. I [probably] purchased the two books I own while perusing shops on Canal Street in New Orleans–Meet Me Halfway and Something to Someone. I have not read these books in decades, but thought about them a couple of days ago and luckily found them with ease in my home library.

After reading through selections, I see why I loved his works way back then. His poetry is uncomplicated and speaks to our yearnings and all the things that cause teenage angst.  

Here are two poems from Meet Me Halfway to start you work week. I plan to share another one of his poems Thursday.

By Javan

I’ve learned
That Life offers much more
Than most people take

I’ve learned
That many people live their life
Within small circles
Afraid to go out
Afraid to let others in

And I’ve also learned
That at the end of Life’s game
Most people wish
That somehow
They could have played it differently

By Javan

Many people complain
Life never gave them any chances

We are given Life
We must take the Chances


About the Image: Today’s tiny art is brought to you by none other than Sheila Delgado of Sheila’s Corner Studio. She sent this gem to me in late October and I have been looking forward to sharing it with you. It kicks off “Sunflowers and Poetry Week” perfectly! You can view a better scan of the sunflower and read about her creative process in Smooth the Way. Oh, why sunflowers with poetry? “Just because,” of course!

Expressive Pics | What Remains

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I have been almost obsessive about photographing the sunflowers a friend gave me a few weeks ago. I’ve been capturing them as petals wilt and drop off one by one. I am struck by the beauty that remains in a sunflower even after the bright petals which initially attract us are gone.

Think […] of the beauty that still remains. –Anne Frank

As I vacillate between grief over my father’s passing and gratitude over his beautifully long life, Anne Frank’s words [above] resonate, so these are the words that came to mind as I positioned my “transforming” sunflowers for pictures.

The madness of the outer world and the turmoil of our inner world can try us in unimaginable ways, but there is always beauty–even after the things of this world have left our souls ravaged and torn. We all need a reminder every now and then to shift our focus not to what is not or no longer but to what is and what endures.

There is always beauty. Always.

Seeking Light

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Sadly, the only cure for grief is to grieve. —Mark Lemon

This was spring break week for our university. Thankfully. I desperately needed time to “just be” and sit with my grief.

I needed to sleep as much as my body would allow. I needed to escape the usual colors and sounds of life because at the moment everything seems too bright and too loud. I needed to take one-day-at-a-time and not bear the weight of grief through meetings, planning, students, and other interactions. I needed to call my mom in the middle of the day just to hear her voice. I needed to clear my desk and shoot a million photos of the sunflowers friends delivered along with gift cards to Olive Garden because no one feels like cooking or even deciding on a menu. I needed to draw sunflowers and tweak the poem I wrote about my dad five days before he passed. I needed to move through my day without purpose. I needed to feel safe in my grief and not feel the need to excuse myself or apologize for being inattentive or not completely present. I needed to look through family pictures and savor the memories. I needed to listen to the same Daryl Coley song over and over and over and over because it is the only song that soothes my soul right now. I needed to sit in silence with God and be filled by His presence.

I needed to seek light…in my own ways.

The Beauty of Small

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“Small” seems to be the theme of the last couple of years. The pandemic invites us to scale down our lives and learn to journey through the small. These strange and unsure times urge us to take small steps, celebrate small things, and live in small moments.

I’ve been reading various articles that claim we are post-pandemic. As I skim reports of numbers rising in certain areas, I am not convinced. I am concerned that such headlines cause us to move too swiftly and risk being in the same situation we were in during the early months of the pandemic.

Though not explicitly about our Corona times, Susan Frybort’s poem, “the beauty of small,” serves as a primer for us as we move through our collective trauma and slowly make our way to living fully.

the beauty of small
susan frybort

let me paint for you the beauty of small…small words.
small observations, small greetings, short calls.

these are the bravest steps for someone shy,
someone hurt, someone trying to connect,
and someone healing from trauma.
small steps. coming out of hiding and
finally feeling safe enough to make the first move.
small steps. relaxed and ready to practice healthy ways
to bridge and bond for the very first time.
small steps, like a beautiful sunrise–
glimmering at first, before shining boldly.


About the Image: The zentangle sunflower art in today’s post was crafted by my newest Love Notes friend and Certified Zentangle Teacher, Kat van Rooyen. In a small moment she and I chatted (via Messenger) about our mutual love for sunflowers. Afterwards, she “tangled” this abstract sunflower just for me! A retired psychotherapist, Kat now teaches zentangling and uses it as a form of therapy. I chose this piece for the post because the tiny art (3.5 in x 3.5 in) represents the powerful potential of the small–for building, healing, and restoring.

If you are looking for something new as you figure out how to navigate the uncertainty, see Kat’s post for the benefits of tangling. Maybe, you’d like to give it a try!