#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.

#ThursdayTreeLove | Why Does the Willow Weep?

Why does the willow weep?
What secrets does she keep? –Ruth Elaine Schram

As I thought about a photograph for this week’s Thursday Tree Love, the weeping willow I captured five years ago [while roaming the neighborhood] insisted on my taking note of its character. Though the tree seems weak with its weepy, leafy branches, it is actually flexible and strong.

Considering the last several months–point taken.

I have a writing deadline to meet [eek!] and [therefore] no time for a longer post. Instead,  I’ll leave you with “Interesting Facts About Weeping Willow Trees” and my favorite [and totally awesome] willow songs–Billie Holiday’s  bluesy “Willow, Weep for Me” and Ruth Elaine Schram’s wistful “Why Does the Willow Weep?”

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.

#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.

#ThursdayTreeLove | Summer’s Crepe Myrtle

Crepe myrtles come in bloom
In the sunny summertime.
They beautify the landscape,
And we enjoy them so sublime.

from “Lovely Crepe Myrtles” by Margaret Cagle

One of the things I miss most about our home in New Orleans is the gorgeous trees that surrounded the property. Since our current neighborhood is fairly “young,” the trees have not grown to their full potential. There are no shady oaks or grand magnolias gracing lawns and gardens.

A tree that gave me a lot of pleasure was the crepe myrtle that grew near the curb leading to our driveway. I’ll have to do a deep dive into my photo files to see if I have any photos of that particular tree, but here are some snaps of crepe myrtles found in the [relatively] more recent files–shot since our move to Northern Alabama–including a tree I shot last weekend near Chattanooga, Tennessee.

One of the gorgeous sights I beheld when I looked through my office window [a few years ago] is a pair of crepe myrtles. They greeted me each time I left the building and headed out for a campus walk or an errand.

Imagine my chagrin when I exited the building one afternoon and met tree movers extracting  the trees. [Images above]. Initially, I was horrified, but since our campus is clearly a tree haven, I assumed–because I’ve never asked–there was a problem with the trees.

Even though I lost the couple, there are many other crepe myrtles all over campus for me to enjoy. They are a sight to behold during the mid-summer when all the other blooms are resting till spring.

Whenever I travel in the South (USA), I encounter the trees with blooms of various colors–white, pink, purple, and red. So far, I’ve managed to capture the tree in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and now, Tennessee.

The crepe myrtle is a pretty tree, but I find it difficult to adequately convey the prettiness through photos.


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.

#ThursdayTreeLove | The Dance of the Magnolia

There is something arresting and unearthly about a magnolia tree in flower. Something that dances between divinity and dementia.  —Pavithra K. Mehta, Magnolia Tree

Louisiana girl that I am, the Southern Magnolia is [naturally] one of my favorite trees. I’ve been trying to “perfectly” capture the magnolia blossom for years. I remember stopping to photograph the blossoms whenever I could before our move from New Orleans because I wanted the perfect magnolia from New Orleans to deck one of our walls.

I managed to capture a few satisfactory shots before we left. They’re far less than perfect, but the expertly composed shots of the flower by my brother [on display in my parents’ home]  and other photographers encourage me to keep working on it.

“Inside the Magnolia”

So, here are my meager magnolia offerings for #ThursdayTreeLove. I shot some on campus a week ago just after a rain shower and some at my cousin’s house a couple of weeks ago before my grand color exploration with the tiny one.

I felt the photos needed texture, so I added just a little [hopefully] without compromising the natural beauty of the flowers and tree.

The magnolia leaf, so elegantly formed, remains strong and glossy even after its fall.

Some of the blossoms deserved the stroke of Impressionism, so I “painted” some.  I’ve come a long way with my art skills since I made a mess last week–thanks to the Impresso app. 😉

These are in various stages of bloom. My photo of a tightly closed bloom is “meh” at best, so I’ll spare you that one.

“And the time came…”

The tricky thing about photographing magnolias is finding ways around the height of the tree. The campus trees are really tall, but I was able to get nice “beneath the blossoms” shots.

“Twinsies”

“The Underside of Perfection”

The gorgeous “end” of the flower.

“Bald and Beautiful”

And finally, here’s a quick video I made of one of the magnolias on campus enjoying the company of the other trees. Thanks to Amanda, one of my photographer friends, for the tip about Pixaloop, which gave me the moving clouds and birds.

I quote Pavithra M at the beginning of this post. Her short piece, “Magnolia Tree” powerfully communicates the essence of the magnolia and our attraction to it. Be sure to click over and give it a read. But should you neglect doing so, I leave you with her closing words:

I think about this outlandish tree that races back to Time’s cradle, and its flowers that open alarmingly wide as if to swallow the sun, the way it gives itself madly to the moment. With radical generosity and no reservation. And what would be possible–if we could learn to live like that.


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.

#ThursdayTreeLove | The Redbud’s Allure

Nature, in all its wondrous glory,
Has produced much prettier things, for sure;
But, something within me moves each time
I feel the flowering redbud tree’s allure.

from “Redbud Tree” by Bill Galvin

The redbud tree is one of the first indications of spring in these parts. Though the trees bloomed a little later this year and had to compete with the other beautiful blooms, they held their own and drew my attention each time I encountered them.

You can find out more about the tree by checking out 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.

#ThursdayTreeLove | “The Breath of the Cherry Blossoms”

It’s time for our first “tree love” post of May! Today, I’m sharing what I consider the crowning glory of spring–cherry blossoms!

I really should have written this post weeks ago when I had a little more energy, but I was so excited about the cherry blossoms that I couldn’t imagine being too tired for words for this particular post.

The cherry blossoms are usually the last to bloom on campus, but this year, they shot open at the same time as the dogwoods. In fact, things were so out of order that the redbuds–which normally bloom way before the cherry blossoms–were still in full bloom.

There are three trees that line one of the paths I walk frequently on campus, so I was pretty thrilled to spend time capturing them. In fact, I shot way more than 100 cherry blossom photos on two very different days–a cloudy day and a sunny day.

I did my best and whittled my selection down to 15 + a bonus post-blossoms iPhone photo. Still too many, but I hope you will enjoy them with a spot of tea and Toi Derricotte’s poem, “Cherry blossoms.”

I went down to
mingle my breath
with the breath
of the cherry blossoms.

There were photographers:
Mothers arranging their
children against
gnarled old trees;

a couple, hugging,
asks a passerby
to snap them
like that,
so that their love
will always be caught
between two friendships:

ours & the friendship
of the cherry trees.

Oh Cherry,
why can’t my poems
be as beautiful?

A young woman in a fur-trimmed
coat sets a card table
with linens, candles,
a picnic basket & wine.

A father tips
a boy’s wheelchair back
so he can gaze
up at a branched
heaven.

All around us
the blossoms
flurry down
whispering,

Be patient
you have an ancient beauty.

Be patient
you have an ancient beauty.

My favorite lens is a little wonky, so I wasn’t able to get the crisp shots I wanted, but even though these aren’t the best images, I love the bokeh in many of the photos.

Cherry blossom life is pretty short, so I wasn’t surprised to find a blanket of blossoms on the ground one rainy morning just a few days later.

For more blossom love, check out this beautiful time-lapse video from Brooklyn Botanic Garden.


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.