Escape to the Sea with Janet Bell

Thanks to the cheerful postcards featuring the seaside paintings of Janet Bell, I spent a few much-needed moments at the sea today.

Both came from Love Notes pals who live on the other side of the pond.

Litsa sent my sister Lori the card below with a sweet message of time spent at the beach. I don’t have the actual postcard, but I ran across a scan of it while looking through my camera roll.

“Seaside Days: Pink Flowers” by Janet Bell

Although the artwork is entitled “Pink Flowers,” the flowers are actually purple–Lori’s favorite color [too]–which I’m sure is the reason Litsa selected the postcard.

Jacki sent a fun beach scene with a quote:

“Kites at the Beach” by Janet Bell

Every second brings a new beginning.
Every hour holds a new promise.
Every night our deams can bring hope.
And every day is what you choose to make it. –Unknown

Janet Bell is a popular contemporary artist who has her own gallery by the sea in Beaumaris, Anglesey. Her style is characterized by bright colors and cheerful scenes of lighthouse, boats, and seaside views. You can see more of her work by visiting her site: Janet Bell Gallery.

With so much heaviness on my mind these days, this week’s blog posts will provide a brief escape into the lighthearted and fun. I’ll be contemplating the pretty and catching up on some of the happy mail in my “to be blogged” bin. I look forward to seeing you here!

Fear Is in the Air: Eyes, Art, and Winning

A couple of months ago, I “won” a couple of postcards from artist and writer Eva Newermann. She’d posted a challenge for readers to find three “strange” things about the eyes of Ewa Lowe, the main character of her SciFi thriller, Fear Is in the Air. I spotted them immediately, but was travelling at the time and WiFi was sketchy. Eva was kind and declared me a “winner” anyway!

Can you see what’s “different” or strange about the eyes?

While you think about that, here are the two oversize (5.5 x 8.25) postcards Eva sent to me:

“Gunvor Bengtson” aka “Ewa Lowe” by Eva Newermann

This is a painting of one of Eva’s friends. She had an interesting experience while painting this one. “Her [friend’s] face appeared through her body.” Eva plans to use the image on the cover of her new Ewa Lowe book, Ewa 51, which comes out next year.

“Winter in Scandinavia” by Eva Newermann

The winter landscape is from a cabin Eva used to have in Norway.  Peaceful. Isn’t it?

Did you see the “three things” about the eyes? You can check your answers here: Ewa Lowe’s Eye Challenge.

Even though the “eyes challenge” is closed, you can be a winner too! For a few days each month Fear Is in the Air is available free with iBooks on Mac or iOS devices. And here’s a bonus win! The Universe a Work of Art is also free. Eva wrote the children’s educational book with her daughter Line Newermann, a Norwegian drone photographer. It was inspired by Eva’s father who made the “night sky magic for her as a child [so] she seeks to do the same for other children through her paintings.” If you don’t have a Mac or iOS device (gasp!) you can still purchase them on Amazon.

They’re on my weekend reading list, but I skimmed both books earlier today–the artwork is fabulous!

Be sure to check out Eva’s website to see what Ewa is up to and to see more illustrations. Then, go and download the books!

Have a great week!

“Sunning” with Poetry

“Das Sonnebad. Sun-Bath. Bain de soleil.” Artwork by Anne Freidank, artist turned gardener and fundraiser.

“Sunflower” by Frank Steele

You’re expected to see
only the top, where sky
scrambles bloom, and not
the spindly leg, hairy, fending off
tall, green darkness beneath.
Like every flower, she has a little
theory, and what she thinks
is up.  I imagine the long
climb out of the dark
beyond morning glories, day lilies, four o’clocks
up there to the dream she keeps
lifting, where it’s noon all day.
——————————————————————————————————–
Note about the postcard: The Anne Freidank postcard above graced my mailbox yesterday.  It was sent as a “random act of kindness” by swap-bot Geraldine aka Nannydino who lives in Canada. How thoughtful of her to think of me. How cool that the mail gods had the postcard arrive during “Sunflower Week.”

Kindness Week Day 6: Listen with Your Heart

Today’s Kindness Prompt: Listen with your heart.

Earlier today, I listened to gospel artist Jessica Reedy share a bit of her story before performing her song “Better.” She told of going through a difficult period in her life and keeping the pain to herself. She wondered if people could see her pain, if they could look in her eyes and see that she needed help. They couldn’t, and she confessed, “that made me sink lower.”

Her words cut deep.

We are daily walking with people who are privately coping and functioning through ridiculous pain, hoping someone hears their silent pleas. But we are so busy with our own lives or so focused on our own struggles that we don’t hear each other or take the time to notice the cues when others are hurting.

So today, let’s listen. Give little consideration to the “apparent” happiness. Tune in. Listen keenly. Not just to the words people say. Pay attention to their eyes, their body language.

I’m not suggesting that we probe for information. I’m not suggesting that we solve problems. We must learn how to connect and listen without becoming overly curious and without trying to fix things or save people.

Leave the saving to Jesus.

Today, let’s listen for what’s not said; let’s listen with our hearts and show that we care. Sometimes, that’s all a person needs.

Note on today’s image: The watercolor and ink artwork above was created by my Love Notes pal, Trang K. It is entitled “Golden Rose” in honor of the beautiful rose bushes her husband planted for her. She writes that the “pricking just lets me know that I am alive and that is the greatest gift and joy.” She urges, “Embrace life…with thorns and all.”

Just joining Kindness Week? Be sure to check out the previous posts:

Tune in tomorrow for our final Kindness Week post.

Kindness Week Day 5: Be Small Business-Minded

Today’s Kindness Prompt: Support a Small Business.

It’s no secret that “big box” stores have pretty much pushed smaller stores out of business, but that doesn’t mean they all have to end that way. Some prefer the larger stores and chains because of convenience, lower prices, and product availability. However, in my experience, small businesses generally offer a far better consumer experience. They are personable and are able to tailor their offerings to my needs. They offer quality products and services and excellent customer relations. Sometimes, things cost a little more, but that’s made up for in so many other ways.

So–whether it’s a mom and pop store that has managed to survive the Walmart takeover, the local hardware store or farmer’s market, an Etsy shop or the neighborhood artisan, the friend who’s self-published a book or the cousin who recently opened a restaurant, the independent musician selling CDs in a strip mall parking lot or the 13-year-old pushing a lawnmower to fund a trip to Disney World–be kind to a small business.

Not convinced? Check out this 2016 Forbes article featuring 43 Reasons to Support Small and Independent Businesses.

Note about today’s image: The image above was produced from original art by Paul Nzalamba. Working in the medium of batik, Paul creates images drawn from Uganda, his native country. His images reflect the strength, struggle, and beauty of all people. If you’re interested in seeing more of his work and/or purchasing cards, prints, or lithographs, be sure to visit his site : Nzalamba Artworks. It would be so kind of you to do so.

If you’re just joining Kindness Week, please be sure to check out the previous post:

Mpaka wakati ujao…

Quotes Challenge Day 1: Do It Afraid!

As I was fretting over today’s blog post, I received notification from Divya of Merry Motherhood that she nominated me for the Three Quotes in Three Days challenge. Quotes? Of course, I’m in!

The rules are pretty simple:

  1. Thank the person who nominates you
  2. Post one quote per day for 3 consecutive days
  3. Nominate three new bloggers each day

Thanks Divya! [Divya blogs about first-time motherhood among other things. You’ll love her Day 1 quote–straight from Calvin and Hobbes!]

This challenge is especially timely since I’ve been working on projects that involve integrating quotes for the last couple of weeks. Now, I have a reason to share a few of them immediately–instead of some time later.

Today, I’m sharing the photo and quote I shared for the “Fierce Woman” swap I blogged about a week ago.

When I blogged about Sally Ride two years ago, I asked readers for their favorite “fierce woman” quote. My blogging friend Sheila of Sheila’s Corner Studio responded with a quote by Georgia O’Keeffe that I knew I had to work into a photo:

I’ve been absolutely terrified every moment of my life – and I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to do.  –Georgia O’Keeffe

The quote speaks to Sheila because:

[I] found that when I was in high school, and I have never forgotten it. I found it so hard to believe, and so reassuring. She was such a trailblazer, before her time. Since then, I have read about many extraordinary women who claim to have felt the same way. Yet, they have achieved great success.

I didn’t expect it to take me almost two years to use this quote. Part of the reason is that I didn’t want to use just any photo. I wanted to imitate O’Keeffe’s style with a photo edit. After many tries, I was satisfied. I think.

O’Keeffe Inspired

Here’s a link to some of O’Keeffe’s flowers.  How did I do?

The trick was placement of the quote.

Inspired O’Keeffe Inspired

Unlike O’Keeffe, being “absolutely terrified” has hindered my conquering a few things. I’m not a complete “fraidy-cat” though. What I have done, I’ve pretty much done straight through the terror–which emboldens me to take on bigger, scarier ventures. As cliché as it sounds, “doing it afraid” takes real courage. In fact–as O’Keeffe’s words suggest–facing each day takes courage.

Today’s nominees are:

Be sure to tune in tomorrow for more inspiration!

Gwendolyn Brooks: In Her Honor

Gwendolyn Brooks (1917-2000), detail of The Furious Flower Portrait Quilt, 2004. Mixed media collage on canvas. Artist: Malaika Favorite. Card from my collection.

Like the Rita Dove piece I blogged about several months ago, the Gwendolyn Brooks portrait above is part of a 24-poet/panel masterpiece by mixed media artist Malaika Favorite which honors the history of African American poetry. The work was commissioned for Furious Flower, a conference held every decade (since 1994), that celebrates, stimulates, and encourages African American poetry and poetic voices.

Brooks (1917-2000) was a prolific writer with one novel and more than 20 volumes of poetry to her credit. She was the first Black woman to serve as poetry consultant to the Library of Congress, now called U.S. Poet Laureate (1985-1986), and the first African American to receive a Pulitzer Prize. Her book Annie Allen won for the best volume of verse published in 1950.

Sometime between the ages of 13 and 14, I fell in love with the poetry of Paul Laurence Dunbar, Langston Hughes, Claude McKay, Nikki Giovanni, and Gwendolyn Brooks. I gained access to these poets (and many others) through the book collections of my older brothers and sisters.

Gwendolyn Brooks was my favorite. I still know by heart “To Be in Love,” the first poem I read by her:

To be in love
is to touch with a lighter hand.

In yourself you stretch, you are well.

You look at things
through his eyes.
A cardinal is red.
A sky is blue.
Suddenly you know he knows too.
He is not there but
you know you are tasting together
the winter, or light spring weather.

His hand to take your hand is overmuch.
Too much to bear.

You cannot look in his eyes
because your pulse must not say
what must not be said.

When he
shuts a door—

Is not there—
Your arms are water.

And you are free
with a ghastly freedom.

You are the beautiful half
of a golden hurt.

You remember and covet his mouth,
to touch, to whisper on.

Oh when to declare
is certain Death!

Oh when to apprize,
is to mesmerize,

To see fall down, the Column of Gold,
into the commonest ash.

I was “mesmerized” by the way she crafted language. I recall being moved by particular phrases–

you are the beautiful half/of a golden hurt

free/with a ghastly freedom

the Column of Gold/into the commonest ash.

And I was intrigued by how she used opposites and negatives to convey the beauty and pain of love and evoke a powerful sense of loss.

My own (early) poetry was very much influenced by Brooks.

Brooks would have been 101 on June 7, so in her honor, I invite you to read about her contributions to American literature as well as some of her poetry. To get started, see the links below: