Beauty and Purpose

Zinnias by Rift Vegan

Today,  I [re]opened a purple envelope filled with beautiful blooms photographed by Rift Vegan, one of my A Thousand Words pals on swap-bot. She sent the flowers a year ago for “Pink and Purple Awareness,” a swap organized to raise awareness and honor victims and survivors of breast cancer and domestic violence.

Here are her photos with her notes:

“Beauty Berry” by Rift Vegan

This lovely plant is actually native to your area, not mine! They plant all kinds of interesting things at the Rhododendron Garden at Hendricks Park–a favorite place to hike!

“Cosmos at the Community Garden” by Rift Vegan

“Rhododendron” by Rift Vegan

This photo was shot early October last year, so Rift wrote:

Prime time for the rhodys is April, but there are outliers that keep the garden in color all year round.

“Asters” by Rift Vegan

I love asters, but they tend to die when I plant them at my community garden plot. It’s been a few years though. It might be time to try again!

“Pretty” by Rift Vegan

I don’t know what this is, but it’s pretty!

As I read Rift’s notes and tidbits of information, I felt like I was taking a walk with her through the gardens. Along with the pictures, she enclosed a much longer note relating her “pink and purple” stories.

Having lost two sisters to breast cancer and a cousin and acquaintances to domestic violence, these issues are dear to my heart. Of course, the problems cannot be solved with flowers. The flowers are simply a beautiful way to honor their strength and remind us of hope.

Mums the Word!

Maybe our world will grow kinder eventually.
Maybe the desire to make something beautiful
is the piece of God that is inside each of us.

–Mary Oliver, “Franz Marc’s Blue Horses,” Blue Horses, 2014

Today’s blog post is brought to you by the autumn flower–mums!

When we celebrated my aunt’s birthday this past weekend–social distancing measures in place–I knew I had to capture the mums welcoming us to her home. I had plans to play around with them later.

I’d been adding “create something” to my daily to-do list for days, but had not managed to check off that “task,” so I sat down with my computer and iPad to “play” during last night’s non-presidential debate[?].  I was able to revisit the mums and transform them in more ways than I can share in one blog post.

Here are three of the 12 pieces I crafted. [I will share some of the others in separate posts].

Maybe, they’re beautiful. Maybe, they’re not. No matter. The pleasure was in the process of creating, not the outcome.

#ThursdayTreeLove | “Pretty and Sweet”

I am not like the rose, [so] beautiful and enchantingly rare that it seduces you; and when you have fallen so deliriously, it pierces you with its thorns, wounding you so deep.

I am like the hibiscus, pretty and sweet, yet ordinary. You’d find me anywhere—in backyards and graveyards too, but what you see is what you’d get—no hidden thorns to bare.—Diwa

One day, not too long ago, I was checking out my aunt’s “new” backyard–she had recently moved.  As I was taking in the size of the yard—not too big, not too small “for someone her age”—I was drawn to the way the setting sun caressed blossoms spilling over into the back corner of her yard from her neighbor’s yard.

I recognized the blossoms. Hibiscus, right?

But do hibiscus bushes grow so tall? The tree I was looking up had to be at least 10 feet tall.

I did a little “research” and “lo and behold,” I learned that either there is such a thing as a hibiscus tree or hibiscus plants can be groomed into a tree or both. I am not a horticulturist, so please don’t judge me too harshly for not having the fine details.

I’m just here for the beauty.


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.

A Little Respite…

Earlier today, I decided to go to Instagram to look at pretty things–flowers, poetry, art, and trees.  What I found was beautiful–many, many posts and responses to racism and social injustice in this country. As I hoped and prayed that the posts serve purposes beyond “looks” and “likes,” I continued to scroll for a bit of loveliness. Sadly, there was little.

Today, on this yet again not-so-#WordlessWednesday, I’m writing to invite you to continue to share the pretty. It is indeed important to speak up and act against racism, social injustice, and violations of human rights and to encourage and hold the conversations–especially since in this particular moment of struggle we may finally birth something new and right. Continue to use social media as a platform to inform, educate, and express outrage, but I implore you to continue to share the other aspects of your life also. We need it. We need respite from the struggle and the trauma. Our lives, though full of pain, are also full of beauty and love.


About the image: I spotted the bright yellow “heart” above as the guys and I exited a nature trail last Friday. It spoke volumes. It speaks volumes.

#ThursdayTreeLove | Beauty Remains

Beauty remains in nature, sun, freedom and yourself. If you just look for it, you discover yourself and God, you will stand out. –Anne Frank

My guys and I rediscovered the treasures above in the backyard a windy afternoon two weeks ago. The top photo features the remains of a log that once held a heart in its center.  The log in the bottom photo has been home to many tiny creatures over the years, and though it appears to be reaching its last days, it is still an incredible work of art.

If we “just look for it,” we will discover there is extraordinary beauty in the “remains” of trees.


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.

Heartwounds | #WordlessWednesday

I left my final class of the day saddened by comments made by one of the students. In our discussion about how two films define love, forgiveness, redemption, hope, and freedom, she spewed venom about love in a way that shocked most of the other students.

Sometimes it’s easier for a wounded individual to speak from anger than it is to confront deep pain, but, as an English professor, it’s not my place to “psychoanalyze” her or any other student. It is my “job,” however, to help her develop sound intellectual traits. But, because of her wound, she could not see the shortsightedness of her thinking.

I thought about my student this evening as I was reading through Anointed to Fly, a poetry collection by Dr. Gloria Wade Gayles. The words of “Heartwounds” [below] seemed to leap off the page. With incredible insight, the poem describes the  persistent ache of a woman who [once] loved.  I thought about my student as I read the poem.

“Heartwounds”
Gloria Wade Gayles, Anointed to Fly

Some men have not learned that heartwounds
as deep as a woman’s need for love
do not respond to phoney curatives
of roses, sweetened words and
make-up passion in scented rooms.

They do not heal themselves
with the passing of time
which erases time only
but not pain and the memory
of pain.

Let untreated
heartwounds become
sores
scabs
scars
ugly reminders of flawed love.

Some men believe
women were born
to endure
to understand
to forgive
to be irrational in all things.

It is that way,
they tell us,
with the pull of the moon.

They will not learn
perhaps cannot learn
that a woman’s heart
damaged by multiple wounds
beats faintly

and then

not
at
all


I’m sorry this isn’t a happy poem, and that this #WordlessWednesday is kind of wordy. You can skip the poem and just look at the pretty picture if you wish. I’ve been practicing photographing roses, so you’ll see another rose photo soon.

#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.

“such are daffodils/with the green world they live in”

“Daffodils,” Photo by Sheila L.

Lead by example: Support women on their way to the top. Trust that they will extend a hand to those who follow. –Mariela Dabbah

I tried and tried to capture the daffodils this spring, but they were a bit wonky and difficult to photograph, so I am grateful for the perfect bunch of daffodils my Love Notes friend, Sheila L, sent along with Mariela Dabbah’s quote encouraging women to empower each other through reaching back and extending a hand.

Daffodils make me think of spring and poetry, so that’s where my head went when I received this card.

William Wordsworth’s “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” is the “daffodils” poem familiar to many, but since I used that poem on the blog (twice) already, I’m turning to my favorite Romantic poet, John Keats. He mentions the daffodils in the first lines of his “Endymion, Book I,” a treatise on the potency and timelessness of beauty.

A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.

Therefore, on every morrow, are we wreathing
A flowery band to bind us to the earth,
Spite of despondence, of the inhuman dearth
Of noble natures, of the gloomy days,
Of all the unhealthy and o’er-darkened ways
Made for our searching: yes, in spite of all,
Some shape of beauty moves away the pall
From our dark spirits.
Such the sun, the moon,
Trees old and young, sprouting a shady boon
For simple sheep; and such are daffodils
With the green world they live in; and clear rills
That for themselves a cooling covert make
‘Gainst the hot season; the mid forest brake,
Rich with a sprinkling of fair musk-rose blooms […]

If you’d like to read the full poem, find it here: Endymion on Bartleby

I hope your week is filled with sunshine, poetry, and brilliant blooms.