There are many amazing trees on campus, and every autumn I look forward to the full expression of the season right outside my office window. However, there are a few trees I literally stalk for fear of missing their fleeting beauty. They boast the best of our expectations for the season.
I posted photos of one of the trees last night and Saturday night as previews for this week’s #ThursdayTreeLove. Today, I’m simply going to leave you with a little more than a dozen photos of the two trees that live just outside the University church on campus. Like last night’s photos, I shot the photos [below] Tuesday. They do little justice. You have to stand in this space with the trees to fully experience their magnificence. But since you’re not here, take a moment to bask as much as you can in this autumn glory. [Click an image for a closer look].
This has been a productive tree week. I’ve been capturing autumn bliss every day–even in the rain–so there are lots more to share. I’ll do my best to save photos of the third tree I stalk for the next #ThursdayTreeLove [no promises] and share the others when the mood hits.
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.
There is no such thing as a failed experiment, only experiments with unexpected outcomes. –R. Buckminster Fuller
I have this book called Mess, by Keri Smith, creator of Wreck This Journal. The book encourages making a mess and serendipitously arriving at something beautiful. I look at the prompts regularly, but the book has remained untouched for the five months I’ve had it. Why? Because I’m afraid of making mistakes.
Bear with me. I’m making progress. I now take the book to work with me and I am inching toward making a mess in the book. Until then, I’m learning to take risks and accept mistakes with my photography.
To that end, on our way to shoot a couple of brilliant trees yesterday, my friend Amanda gave me another mini lesson in creative photography–this one on creating sunbursts. After suggesting settings, she said, “You’ll have to play around with it till you get what you want.”
I know photographers don’t always hit the perfect shot the first time, and of course I rarely do, particularly with an 18-200 mm lens that is becoming frustrating (time for a new one!), but there was something in the phrase “play around” that gave me permission to make mistakes and not feel bad about the shots that fell flat.
I zoomed out for some shots. I pulled the lens all the way in for others. Shooting at 18 mm produced the best bursts, but of course, they were tiny. I knew to crop the image to make the sun appear closer, so here’s the lesson I learned intuitively: in art [and to some degree in life] our messes are often salvageable.
So I’ll keep working on it.
The funny thing is, the image I [initially] liked least has sun flare, an effect some photographers try to achieve, according to Amanda.
As a nation, we began by declaring that “all men are created equal.” We now practically read it “all men are created equal, except negroes.” When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read “all men are created equal, except negroes, and foreigners, and Catholics.” When it comes to this I should prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretense of loving liberty — to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base alloy of hypocrisy.
–Abraham Lincoln, letter to Joshua F. Speed, August 22, 1855
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I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for safety of my country; corporations have been enthroned, an era of corruption in High Places will follow, and the Money Power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the People, until the wealth is aggregated in a few hands, and the Republic destroyed.
–Abraham Lincoln, letter to Col. William F. Elkins, November 21, 1864
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The ballot is stronger than the bullet. –Abraham Lincoln, speech, May 19, 1856
Note on Postcard: Sheila L, one of my Love Notes friends, sent the postcard above featuring a bit of the garden and house at Hildene, the Lincoln Family Home. You can find out more about the Vermont home of Robert Todd Lincoln and his wife Mary Harlon Lincoln by clicking the link: Hildene.
Sometimes, I look at my early poetry and wonder where in the world it came from. I led a rather sheltered life. I wasn’t on lockdown, but I certainly wasn’t allowed to run wild and free. Everyone had a telephone, so my parents knew where I was at all times. My subject matter came not only from what I experienced but for the most part from things I observed or heard–directly or indirectly.
I wrote the poem below shortly after I turned 16–or made 16, as we say in New Orleans.
All these little boys walking around
trying to be grown men.
dropping out of school,
making love, unloving
makes a man.
by their egocentrism,
they are first
in the unemployment line.
Gambling in the streets
with ill-gotten money.
They are “kool,”
but their tempers are hott!
They have no goal in life,
not an aim
or a dream.
They only want to live
well enough to get by.
They know nothing of
a ladder of success.
Success to them is survival.
Sure, I was aware of guys who hung out all day and didn’t go to work or school, but these guys didn’t have girlfriends, “lovers,” or “hott” tempers [that I knew of]. I didn’t know them to shoot dice or smoke marijuana, so I’m not sure where this poem came from–perhaps from the books I read. I was very much into Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison, and James Baldwin during my teen years, but I don’t think this came from them.
Now that I think about it. . .maybe the influence was Gwendolyn Brooks’s “We Real Cool.”
My friend, Cy, “wishes [she] knew more of what [I] was thinking when I wrote this because it is not such a positive picture.”
I wish I could go back and tell my younger self to take notes on the poems I write, so decades later I wouldn’t have to respond, “I wish I knew too!”
Since we are heading to the polls in a couple of days, I decided to share a two-minute video reminding Americans why we must vote. In the video, my 83-year-old relative recounts her experience with attempted voter suppression and finally casting her first vote for U.S. President.
I’ve heard far too many “reasons” people don’t vote or didn’t vote in this or that election. As Cousin Marie declares, “your vote is where your rights are.” A decision not to vote may eventually lead to revocation of certain rights.
Despite the struggle between Democrats and Republicans that is constantly thrown in our faces, your vote should not be about party affiliation or who makes the most noise. Make an effort to ignore what one candidate or political party says about the other. Avoid the all-day news commentary. Steer clear of social media. Make time to research each candidate for yourself. Take notes. Make lists. Think about what you want for our country, and vote for the individuals whose actual values most align with your own principles–hopefully, principles rooted in love for humanity. Pay attention to what they do, not just what they say.
In short, as my friend Uzoma O. posted as his Facebook status recently:
Stop being Democratic or Republican. Be honest. Have morals. Show empathy. Value integrity. Be a good human.
If it all still sounds like noise to you, vote anyway.
I’ll spare you the lecture on how many people fought and died for our right to vote. I realize our right to vote includes our right not to vote, but I hope you choose the former. Why? Because beyond being a right, voting is also a civic and sacred responsibility.
In his sermon this weekend, my pastor reminded the congregation that in voting we comply with two of the directives of Micah 6:8–to act justly and love mercy. In voting, we raise our voices, protest, and do our part to right societal wrongs. We stand up for social justice and we work to make compassion and kindness part of our personal and national character.
There’s too much at stake this election season. Your vote–your voice–is far more powerful than silence. Nothing is gained through inaction.
How beautiful the leaves grow old. How full of light and color are their last days.
After a few days of dreary weather, we received a gift of sunny blue skies and autumn brilliance. Autumn is finally starting to show off! Yes!