I am thankful there is more to life than my flawed human eyes can see.
I was a bus rider for several years, but, with the exception of taking the streetcars in New Orleans for fun, it’s been a long, long time since I rode a city bus anywhere.
I kind of miss the almost quiet commute. Traffic and road construction were someone else’s concern, so I took the time to grade papers, review lecture notes, daydream, or rest.
I especially enjoyed people-watching: mothers with babies struggling to load strollers onto the bus and the ever-present kind gentlemen who assisted them; school kids chatting about their day or “clowning” each other; men and women in business attire leaving their work behind and mentally planning dinner or a night out. The chance meet-up of neighbors and friends, excitedly greeting each other.
There were always crazy, interesting, and [sometimes] scary stories to report after a ride on the bus.
The latest postcard from Fran B, my Love Notes pal, reminded me of those bus rides and the many stories that were part of the experience. The postcard features the poem “Sitting on a Bus with Strangers” by Teresa Wyeth. The poem is part of Indiana’s Shared Spaces/Shared Voices public art project that infused Indianapolis’ public transportation system with literary art and spoken word performances written by Indiana writers.
About the Image: The top image is one of the photo art pieces I crafted from the mums I shot at the end of September. You can see more mums art in last week’s [not-so] #WordlessWednesday post.
Today’s poem is a little lengthy, but it is worth the read. “A Brave and Startling Truth” was written by one of America’s favorite sages, Maya Angelou (1928-2014). She wrote the poem to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the United Nations (1995), but when I saw an excerpt of the poem used in an Earth Day activity, I thought why not share the whole poem today.
After reading the poem, be sure to go to Earth Stanzas and write your own Earth Day poem. The activity comes complete with prompts and model poems.
A Brave and Startling Truth
We, this people, on a small and lonely planet
Traveling through casual space
Past aloof stars, across the way of indifferent suns
To a destination where all signs tell us
It is possible and imperative that we learn
A brave and startling truth
And when we come to it
To the day of peacemaking
When we release our fingers
From fists of hostility
And allow the pure air to cool our palms
When we come to it
When the curtain falls on the minstrel show of hate
And faces sooted with scorn and scrubbed clean
When battlefields and coliseum
No longer rake our unique and particular sons and daughters
Up with the bruised and bloody grass
To lie in identical plots in foreign soil
When the rapacious storming of the churches
The screaming racket in the temples have ceased
When the pennants are waving gaily
When the banners of the world tremble
Stoutly in the good, clean breeze
When we come to it
When we let the rifles fall from our shoulders
And children dress their dolls in flags of truce
When land mines of death have been removed
And the aged can walk into evenings of peace
When religious ritual is not perfumed
By the incense of burning flesh
And childhood dreams are not kicked awake
By nightmares of abuse
When we come to it
Then we will confess that not the Pyramids
With their stones set in mysterious perfection
Nor the Gardens of Babylon
Hanging as eternal beauty
In our collective memory
Not the Grand Canyon
Kindled into delicious color
By Western sunsets
Nor the Danube, flowing its blue soul into Europe
Not the sacred peak of Mount Fuji
Stretching to the Rising Sun
Neither Father Amazon nor Mother Mississippi who, without favor,
Nurture all creatures in the depths and on the shores
These are not the only wonders of the world
When we come to it
We, this people, on this minuscule and kithless globe
Who reach daily for the bomb, the blade and the dagger
Yet who petition in the dark for tokens of peace
We, this people on this mote of matter
In whose mouths abide cankerous words
Which challenge our very existence
Yet out of those same mouths
Come songs of such exquisite sweetness
That the heart falters in its labor
And the body is quieted into awe
We, this people, on this small and drifting planet
Whose hands can strike with such abandon
That in a twinkling, life is sapped from the living
Yet those same hands can touch with such healing, irresistible tenderness
That the haughty neck is happy to bow
And the proud back is glad to bend
Out of such chaos, of such contradiction
We learn that we are neither devils nor divines
When we come to it
We, this people, on this wayward, floating body
Created on this earth, of this earth
Have the power to fashion for this earth
A climate where every man and every woman
Can live freely without sanctimonious piety
Without crippling fear
When we come to it
We must confess that we are the possible
We are the miraculous, the true wonder of this world
That is when, and only when
We come to it.
About the images: I had a bit of Photoshop fun with today’s images. Each photo subject is a gift from the earth. I will eventually share the original images. Until then, do you have any idea what they are? No? Well, I’m pretty sure you can [generally] guess this one:
Today would have been Langston Hughes’ 118th birthday. Some of my Hughes books are in my [work] office; others are unfortunately buried in one of my many unpacked boxes, so I didn’t have the pleasure of revisiting my precious books and slowly inhaling the pages.
Like so many other Black poets, I fell in love with Langston Hughes through the books on my older siblings’ bookshelves. I took a course focusing on Hughes in graduate school and was sorely disappointed by the instructor’s style. He was knowledgeable but not an effective facilitator. He missed Hughes’ brilliance in his focus on the “celebrity” and ambiguity of Hughes.
I accidentally shot the “abstract” photo this morning while finishing up a letter to a friend. It pairs well with the closing lines of Hughes’ poem, “As I Grew Older.”
It was a long time ago.
I have almost forgotten my dream.
But it was there then,
In front of me,
Bright like a sun—
And then the wall rose,
Between me and my dream.
Rose until it touched the sky—
I am black.
I lie down in the shadow.
No longer the light of my dream before me,
Only the thick wall.
Only the shadow.
My dark hands!
Break through the wall!
Find my dream!
Help me to shatter this darkness,
To smash this night,
To break this shadow
Into a thousand lights of sun,
Into a thousand whirling dreams
–Langston Hughes, “As I Grew Older”
Many read this poem and see disillusionment. The speaker of the poem dismisses the idealism and replaces it with the realization that in America his Blackness stands as a barrier to his dream. However, there is hope here too…He has “almost forgotten” the dream, but he recognizes that thick walls of racism can be breached, toppled even, by his dark hands.
Dark hands united with other hands can “shatter the darkness…into a thousand whirling dreams of sun.”
As I was scrolling through my camera roll for a tree for today’s post, I paused on the image above. It is not great tree work, but I like it because it reminds me of my penfriend Beckra’s photography and it reflects my mood the last couple of weeks–not quite clear about what that mood is, but it is.
I captured the reflection of trees on a pond last summer at a park near our home. I’ve been having a strong urge to get to the park and walk the trail, but the cold temperatures have kept me away. Maybe, I’ll bundle up and brave the temperatures tomorrow. The water and trees are calling me. They know I need them.
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.
The abstract Christmas card above came from my pen friend, Beckra. She always surprises me with her unique approach to photography, and I find this card intriguing. It carries the light of Christmas and the fireworks with which we welcome the coming year, so it is apropos for today, the seventh day of Christmas, and New Year’s Eve.
Ten days ago I read the poem “kindness” by Emina Gaspar-Vrana and I’ve been looking forward to sharing it with you as we say farewell to a year filled with frustrations and victories, love and loss, joy and sorrow. Whatever fell in your path in 2018, I hope that “life was kind to you.”
kindness by Emina Gaspar-Vrana
I hope that this year, life was kind to you;
not in the sense of not challenging you,
not making you question it, or
not causing you pain,
but that it made you discover your strength,
brought you new perspectives and
taught you that healing brings peace
that is kindness,
that is growth,
that is preparing you for greatness and
a better version of yourself–
the person you are becoming and
that you were always meant to be
I wish life is even kinder to you next year
In short, no pattern is an isolated entity. Each pattern can exist in the world only to the extent that is supported by other patterns: the larger patterns in which it is embedded, the patterns of the same size that surround it, and the smaller patterns which are embedded in it. —Christopher Alexander
[Click an image for a closer look]
Life has evolved to thrive in environments that are extreme only by our limited human standards: in the boiling battery acid of Yellowstone hot springs, in the cracks of permanent ice sheets, in the cooling waters of nuclear reactors, miles beneath the Earth’s crust, in pure salt crystals, and inside the rocks of the dry valleys of Antarctica. –Jill Tarter
My hubby and I visited a cute garden shop today and while waiting for him to complete his transaction, I explored the grounds–checked out the various fountains, marveled at the ice patterns formed in what was once flowing water. I was drawn to a fountain pouring water into a heart-shaped basin and was so pleased to find goldfish surviving and thriving in the frigid water.
There’s a lesson in there somewhere…
Life is too busy! I’ve shortened my to-do list, turned down invitations, postponed some of my activities, extended deadlines–still there are not enough hours in the day. The weekend seems far too short to make an impact on “all that must be done,” and I find myself moving from one task to another and unable to relax.
As I was looking through my “yet to be blogged” tower of mail, I ran across two of my penfriend Rebecca’s (Beckra’s) photos. Something about the photos urged me to take some time to wind down and relax.
Beckra shot the photo above in Pennsylvania while visiting her mother. Although the weather was rainy, she managed to capture some cow parsley reflected in the lake of her hometown.
She shot this one on a Sunday morning while kayaking under the trees, giving herself “a chance to breathe.”
I always enjoy Beckra’s abstract photos. She has a talent for capturing water in the most intriguing ways. You can see more of her abstract water photos in earlier blog posts: Water, Light, and Fairies and Getting Through the CraZieS, part i.
Water has a calming effect on me. When we lived in New Orleans, the Mississippi River was always right there, its muddy waves available to wash away the strain and stress. Since I no longer live “right down the street” from a river, Beckra’s photos suffice, inviting me to take a moment to enjoy the water and breathe.
I’m baaaaack with another monochrome photos post. I can hardly believe the last monochrome post, “Animals in Monochrome,” was in January. I didn’t realize how much time had gone by.
I attempted a “Water in Monochrome” swap earlier in the year, but there were no takers, so I was pleased as punch when my penfriend Beckra joined the “A Thousand Words” group on swap-bot and joined the swap when I “re-created” it in September. She had been experimenting with shooting water in black and white, so the swap was perfect for her.
Beckra shared two photos which exhibit her photographic interactions with water and light. Both photos were shot at her happy place, the creek at Woolly Hollow State Park.
This first photo was captured “close, close, close-up” while wading and crouching in the creek. Beckra writes that it “seems like the light is writing on the water in a kind of cursive.” Interestingly, it also looks like a fire dance.
For the second photo, she had been trying to capture the “starlike glints” on the water and was pleased to find this photo did not disappoint.
Although the next photo was not part of the swap, it is a “water in black and white” photo and it completes a perfect trilogy of abstract water photos.
Beckra sent this one at the beginning of summer break, a moon trail on the lake. She followed the bright moon to the water and was able to capture this reflection, a beautiful “luxury of the summer.”
The guys and I found different places to experience nature and we were overjoyed to find some hangouts near or on water. Being a Westbank NOLA (New Orleans, Louisiana) girl, I feel a little lost sometimes not having the Mississippi River down the street from me.
I sent four photos, two from summer and two older photos because I am sort of proud of the monochrome renderings.
This photo is from Wheeler Lake, which is located between Rogersville and Huntsville in Northern Alabama. The lake was formed by a dam along the Tennessee River. Although part of a popular tourist spot, we were among very, very few people in the area we explored.
Here’s another favorite shot from Wheeler Lake park:
Although flawed, this one was fun to work with because I had to remove a HUGE orange garbage can from the shot. For some reason, it reminds me of a place where fairies play. I think I read one too many medieval romances last month.
Ditto Landing marina, described as “Huntsville, Alabama’s gateway to the Tennessee River,” is my new favorite spot. We thoroughly enjoyed exploring the area and are looking forward to returning soon. You can learn the history of Ditto Landing and see gorgeous pics on the website.
The “Closed Bridge” photo featured in Friday’s post was from Ditto Landing. Here’s the original photo.
And a favorite edit:
Here’s another one of my favorite photos from Ditto Landing–a nice balance between air, trees, water, and land. There’s so much more to explore I can’t wait to go back.
As mentioned, I also sent two older photos: a sepia photo of from “The Fly” at Audubon Park, featured earlier this year in one of the nature photo challenge blog posts, and a photo of waves crashing against the rocks (was it mountains?) in Maui. Although I “heart” the original photo, I couldn’t resist the purple.
That’s it for now. Until next time…I’ll be riding the purple wave…