#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.

#ThursdayTreeLove | No Poem as Lovely as a Tree

For me, the hardest part about this lockdown situation is having to miss my time with the trees. Unless we’re going to replenish supplies, we can go no further than our neighborhoods, but our youngish neighborhood has no splendid trees shooting way up to the sky.

Earlier this week while my hubby ran into a store, I noticed a redbud tree at the edge of the parking lot. Desperate, I took advantage of the situation, and spent the few precious moments with the tree. The buds are usually gone by mid-March, so I was surprised to find the pink buds still on the tree. I was also pleased to find leaves beginning to sprout because I always miss that phase.

For this first #ThursdayTreeLove of National Poetry Month, you get photos of the tree and Joyce Kilmer’s popular poem, “Trees.”

He’s right. There’s no poem as lovely as a tree.

Trees
Joyce Kilmer

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.


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.

May You Sing: Rest and Renewal

“Just Before Spring,” or “Last Day of Winter.”

Today is the first day of spring. There are few signs, but it is certainly on the way.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and planning this week. Universities, as most know, have transitioned fully to online instruction to “flatten the curve” of COVID-19.  Even though these are “troubled” times, I can’t help but notice a certain relief in the posture of my colleagues and students. Sure, there is disappointment and a little apprehension about this new way of doing things (for some), but there’s also a collective sigh, expelling loads of stress.

I am grateful.

I am not grateful for the virus. But I am grateful for the slowing down, for deliverance from the break-neck pace that had me feeling like life was spinning out of control and the only way to stop was to hit a metaphorical wall. I pray this wall is not as painful.

In the midst of the confusion, the questions, the planning, the poem below landed on my screen via a friend’s Facebook post. I felt every word. May the words carry you. May they lighten the heaviness of this load we’re all carrying. May they usher you into the magic and renewal of spring.

May you sing.

Lockdown by Fr. Richard Hendrick, March 2020

Yes there is fear.
Yes there is isolation.
Yes there is panic buying.
Yes there is sickness.
Yes there is even death.
But,
they say that in Wuhan after so many years of noise
you can hear the birds again.
They say that after just a few weeks of quiet
the sky is no longer thick with fumes
but blue and grey and clear.
They say that in the streets of Assisi
people are singing to each other
across the empty squares,
keeping their windows open
so that those who are alone
may hear the sounds of family around them.
They say that a hotel in the West of Ireland
Is offering free meals and delivery to the housebound.
Today a young woman I know
is busy spreading fliers with her number
through the neighborhood
so that the elders may have someone to call on.
Today Churches, Synagogues, Mosques and Temples
are preparing to welcome
and shelter the homeless, the sick, the weary.
All over the world people are slowing down and reflecting.
All over the world people are looking at their neighbours in a new way.
All over the world people are waking up to a new reality.
To how big we really are.
To how little control we really have.
To what really matters.
To Love.
So we pray and we remember that:
Yes there is fear.
But there does not have to be hate.
Yes there is isolation.
But there does not have to be loneliness.
Yes there is panic buying.
But there does not have to be meanness.
Yes there is sickness.
But there does not have to be disease of the soul.
Yes there is even death.
But there can always be a rebirth of love.
Wake to the choices you make as to how to live now.
Today, breathe.
Listen, behind the factory noises of your panic.
the birds are singing again;
the sky is clearing;
spring is coming;
and we are always encompassed by Love.
Open the windows of your soul
and though you may not be able
to touch across the empty square,
sing.

Something Arresting…

“Magnolia Tree” by Christine B.

Earlier this week, while escaping my ice-cold office and collecting warmth in the tree-adorned area just outside, I looked up and noticed a flash of red in the magnolias. The seed pods were exploding with color. In awe, I simply paused and allowed the beauty to wash over me.

My penfriend, Christine, must have been awed by the magnolia’s beauty too. She enclosed with a birthday card the precious gift of a magnolia watercolor that may have been inspired by my spring magnolia post. [The scan above does little justice to her art]. She perfectly captured the creamy white with just a nod at yellow. What appears gray on screen is actually silver, and those silver and green splashes capture and “emote” the experience of being in the actual presence of the tree in bloom.

Sparkly. Tingly. Beautiful.

Pavithra Mehta’s declaration regarding the magnolia warrants repeating, so I’m thankful Christine reminded me of it.

There is something arresting and unearthly about a magnolia tree in flower. Something that dances between divinity and dementia.

This weekend may you pause for a moment and give into the beauty of some thing, some one, some moment; may you allow it to grip you and wash over you, to soak into your skin, permeate your being, and change some part of who you are.


Side Note: I began interacting with Christine, the artist, via Jennifer Belthoff’s Love Notes project. In the few years since we met she has become one of my treasured friends. If you love snail mail, meeting new people, and sharing your light, consider participating in the next round of Love Notes. It begins October 13, so get signed up today: Love Notes 29.

#ThursdayTreeLove | A Second Chance with the Japanese Magnolia

Spring is definitely here in Northern Alabama! I’ve been enjoying the buds and blossoms and looking forward to those that are on the way. I was on spring break when the Japanese magnolia on campus blossomed, so I completely missed opportunities to photograph the tree. However, when my cousins [who live nearby] posted a photo of a newly farmed patch of land on their property, I spied in the background the pink blossoms of the tree!

The magnolia was in no way the focus of the photograph, but those blossoms commanded my attention.

A few days earlier–while photographing the purple tulips–I remarked to a friend that I missed the magnolias this year. I can’t remember what prevented my pausing for a few shots [after dropping my son off at school]. Was it rainy weather or a desire [read: need] to spend all free time during the break sleeping?

The tree offered forgiveness for my neglect of its earlier splendid display, and I thanked it for a second chance to accept its beautiful gift.

This particular magnolia usually blooms in late winter–a much needed burst of color after the long, gray winter.

The tree is known by many names–Japanese Magnolia, Saucer Magnolia, Tulip Trees (which is what I first called them).

After I posted a photo on Instagram, a friend told me she had never seen the Japanese magnolia before, so I’m sharing a couple of links with a bit more information about the tree.

Spring’s explosion is short-lived, so be sure to take some time to notice the flowering trees. I’ll be back with more tree blossoms for our next #ThursdayTreeLove–if I can wait that long. 😉


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.

Blossoms Today…Gone Tomorrow

Winter seemed endless, but spring is leaving (read: has left) all too quickly.  We still have about 2.5 weeks until the “official” beginning of summer, but we’ve been feeling 90 (or near 90) degree temperatures here in Northern Alabama for a few weeks now.  We won’t even mention the humidity!

Spring is far too short for a person like me.  I do not like long, cold winters, and the only thing I like about long, hot summers is remaining indoors with the air conditioning.

Nearly two months ago, I celebrated the mild temperatures of spring with a photo walk around campus.  I referred to this walk near the end of a previous post–it began with failed tulip photos (probably because I wasn’t willing to get down and dirty–literally). Even though the tulips disappointed me, I’m pleased with the pretty blossoms I captured.

Cherry Blossom by Me, April 2014

“Cherry Blossom: Oakwood in the Spring”, April 2014

I’m so happy I decided to take a walk that particular day because a few days later, when I took a walk to the campus market, the blossoms were G-O-N-E!

The dogwood “blossoms” were on their way out too.  I altered the photo (below) with a grunge overlay because I’m using it as part of a gift. Shhhh…don’t tell.

Dogwood by Me, April 2014

“Dogwood,” April 2014

A week or so after I photographed the dogwood I received this beautiful photo postcard from Rebecca, my swap-bot pal and colleague in academia.

“Dogwood in Arkansas” by Rebecca R., Spring 2014

Rebecca captured her photo in early April, probably around the same time I shot mine!  How cool is that!  Like me, Rebecca carries her camera (almost) everywhere.  I’ll have to share some of her other beauties in a post soon–maybe, my next post.

Here are two more photos from my early April photo walk:

Pretty in Pink, April 2014

“Pretty in Pink,” April 2014

I have no idea what this tree is called–and frankly, I’m too lazy at the moment to find out.  It rests near “my building” and goes through a number of beautiful transitions throughout the year.

Pretty in Pink (even closer), April 2014

“Pretty in Pink II,” April 2014

Finally, here’s a pear blossom tree I shot on a March afternoon while running errands:

Pear Blossom, March 2014

“Pear Blossom,” March 2014

I am so grateful for earth’s casting off the dull, hard covering of late winter and showing off the revival of her beauty.  I will be enjoying this display all summer long.  Through photographs.  Indoors. In my air conditioned home.