NPM | Black and White | Joyful, Faithful, Patient

butterfly joyful in hope

For this third week of National Photography Month (NPM), I am sharing some of the monochrome photo inspiration “cards” I made during Sheila D’s September 2021 Creative Gathering. I divided the month of creativity into thirds—days 1-10, abstract photo art; days 11-20, doodle art; days 21-30 black and white photography. The common thread was scripture. I shared one of the photos for a #ThursdayTreeLove in January.

In light of the recent racial violence committed by one individual against Black citizens in Buffalo, New York, I am sharing images that feature Bible verses that can provide solace and hope. I will not comment (much?) on them. Sometimes the world is so absolutely crazy that I am convinced we need only the voice of God. Everything else is just…noise.

 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. –Romans 12:12

Sunflowers and Poetry | How We Fit

“Le prince solaire” by A. Kumurdjian

Today has been filled with too much talking, too much paper-shuffling, and not enough silence. Even as I type these few words, I hear the text messages [that I will ignore until morning] coming in. So, for now, a very short poem from Meister Eckhart’s Book of Heart: Meditations for the Restless Soul by Jon M. Sweeney and Mark S. Borrows. May we all find a bit of stillness in this moment. 

How We Fit
Meister Eckhart | Sweeney and Burrows

You made us for Yourself.
and we fit not as one part

to another but rather as
emptiness meets fullness.

as darkness seeks light,
as loneliness wants love,

as what is wounded
longs for healing.

About the Image: My Love Notes friend Sarah S sent the photo postcard above for International Women’s Day. She sent the postcards with “prayers for peace, strength, and women all over the world, especially women of the Ukraine.” The majestic sunflower was shot by A. Kumurdian. Don’t you just love the postal tattoos? 🙂

Sunflowers and Poetry | Who We Are Now

WHM-2 2022

I ran across a poem today that I didn’t know I needed till I read it. Isn’t that how poetry works?

We are two years into the pandemic that some think is over, and I find myself still trying to process all the lessons and losses. This poem–which is really a prayer–profoundly articulates the complexity of the moment–the conflicting emotions, the questions, the changes in us. It was written by Nadia Bolz Weber, a pastor who describes herself as “foul-mouthed for a preacher, grammatically challenged for a bestselling author, surprisingly hopeful for a cynic.” 

The poem was written after year one of the pandemic, but it is still relevant after year two.

Who We Are Now
By Nadia Bolz Weber

Dear God who made us all,
A year ago we did not know that we were about to learn:
what we could lose and somehow live anyway
where we would find comfort and where it would elude us
whose lives matter to whom
why we have kitchens in our homes.
In mid-March 2020 all I knew for sure is that
hoarding toilet paper doesn’t make you safe – it just makes you selfish.
But God, it feels like the world is about to open back up.
And I’m both thrilled and kind of scared about that.
Because I’m not who I was a year ago.
I want so badly
to hug my friends again
and laugh like hell again
and have amazing conversations again

and yet I am not sure how long I could do any of this before crying or just getting really quiet. My emotional protective gear has worn so thin, and grief just leaks out everywhere now.

I am so afraid that I will never be who I once was. And I am also afraid that I will be.

(Not to mention, I’m not entirely clear what size jeans I wear as the me I am now)

And yet, when I quiet my anxious thoughts, I start to suspect that I am now closer to the me you have always known and always loved. So help me trust that, Lord.

As things change, help us be gentle with ourselves and with each other. We are all wearing newborn skin right now.

Amen.


About the Image: I had plans to share a sunflower postcard from one of my pen friends today, but this is the image the poem required. It is an edit of a photo I shot last fall. I was trying to emulate van Gogh’s wilted sunflowers–with a camera instead of a paintbrush. See Allotment with Sunflowers in the post.

Expressive Pics | Heal

A few days ago, I read a chapter from Morgan Harper Nichols’ latest book Peace Is a Practice. I bought the book thinking it would be filled with her soulful words and art, but though the art is minimal in this book, her words still strike a chord. While absolutely out of my mind and having difficulty starting the day, I read through “Healing.” In the chapter, she shares her struggle with the word “heal” and [among other things] encourages readers to walk slowly and not rush through their healing.

I am worthy
of the time it takes
to do the things
that heal my heart. –Morgan Harper Nichols

When I encountered Nichols’ words, I had been thinking about how we are expected to rush through our grief. Although we might recognize our need to take time to process and study the contours of our grief, the demands of life don’t always allow time for it. Sometimes people acknowledge and express sympathy over the hard loss, but they don’t make room for the heavy weight of our grief. They expect us to be okay immediately because it benefits them for us to be so.

If you are grieving in any way, think about what benefits you. Not in a selfish way, but in a healing way. Draw boundaries and make room for your grief. Do all the things that help you heal and take all the time you need to heal.

Expressive Pics | What Remains

beauty remains smaller text

I have been almost obsessive about photographing the sunflowers a friend gave me a few weeks ago. I’ve been capturing them as petals wilt and drop off one by one. I am struck by the beauty that remains in a sunflower even after the bright petals which initially attract us are gone.

Think […] of the beauty that still remains. –Anne Frank

As I vacillate between grief over my father’s passing and gratitude over his beautifully long life, Anne Frank’s words [above] resonate, so these are the words that came to mind as I positioned my “transforming” sunflowers for pictures.

The madness of the outer world and the turmoil of our inner world can try us in unimaginable ways, but there is always beauty–even after the things of this world have left our souls ravaged and torn. We all need a reminder every now and then to shift our focus not to what is not or no longer but to what is and what endures.

There is always beauty. Always.

Expressive Pics | Foggy Mornings

Expressive Pic Foggy

“Life” has been challenging every fiber of my being lately, so I have turned to the three things that provide salve for my soul–God, my journals, and my camera. My conversations with God and my journal entries are private, but my photos can be shared with the world. 😀

My camera has been my constant companion as I attempt to express my feelings and focus on ordinary moments of joy. This morning’s dense fog required a photograph, but though I did “shoot my shot,” I captured the photo above a few months ago on my way to work. No worries–I was in a long line waiting at a traffic light. 😉

I don’t know what it is about them, but I love foggy mornings!

#ThursdayTreeLove | When Great Trees Fall, or My Father’s Tree

The Last Time Tree

Yesterday, while I was considering using the tree above for today’s #ThursdayTreeLove, I received a text message from my Raven, asking if I were in my office. I had a moment of excitement thinking she was visiting from California and was on her way to see me. Sadly, that was not the case. However, she had her sister, who lives in the area, deliver a beautiful “forever bouquet” with an elegant note tucked inside that only an English major could write [Biased? Perhaps]. Her note included the last verse of Maya Angelou’s poem below.

When Great Trees Fall
Maya Angelou

When great trees fall,
rocks on distant hills shudder,
lions hunker down
in tall grasses,
and even elephants
lumber after safety.

When great trees fall
in forests,
small things recoil into silence,
their senses
eroded beyond fear.

When great souls die,
the air around us becomes
light, rare, sterile.
We breathe, briefly.
Our eyes, briefly,
see with
a hurtful clarity.
Our memory, suddenly sharpened,
examines,
gnaws on kind words
unsaid,
promised walks
never taken.

Great souls die and
our reality, bound to
them, takes leave of us.
Our souls,
dependent upon their
nurture,
now shrink, wizened.
Our minds, formed
and informed by their
radiance, fall away.
We are not so much maddened
as reduced to the unutterable ignorance of
dark, cold
caves.

And when great souls die,
after a period peace blooms,
slowly and always
irregularly. Spaces fill
with a kind of
soothing electric vibration.
Our senses, restored, never
to be the same, whisper to us.
They existed. They existed.
We can be. Be and be
better. For they existed.

What made Raven’s gift so timely was that this tree is from my parents’ backyard, and I have always associated this tree with my father–maybe because he was usually sitting quietly in or working in the yard in the vicinity of the tree. This photo was shot six days before his passing, moments before I last saw him living, breathing, and still being Daddy.


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.

Two Poems for Your Monday

Agape Review published two of my poems last week (yay!), so I’m dropping in to share them with a just little background on both.

Unlike the Musings from My Younger Self I share far too infrequently, these poems were written in my adult years.

I wrote “Word Made Flesh” in 2017 after an exchange with a student in which we talked through the intense grief of losing our sisters. A third student entered the conversation halfway through and offered comfort and her own insights on life and grief. Though the interaction occurred four years after my sister [Karlette’s] death, it was the first time I had ever expressed my feelings over the loss so vulnerably. The title of the poem comes from John 1:14:

And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

The second poem, “God, You Are,” was written about 20 years ago. I scribbled it on a notecard and tucked it inside one of my journals. I rediscovered it a year or two ago, typed it, and added it to my “works in progress” poetry folder with the intention to tweak it. However, I made a split second decision to submit the unpolished version of the poem because that raw expression felt poignant in the moment.

Click the links below to read each poem:

Feel free to leave a comment there or come back here and comment. I look forward to your feedback!


About the Image: The photo art above features a moment of solitude and reflection at Green Mountain this past weekend. If time and energy permit, I’ll share more photos later in this week.

Seeking Light

Sunflower BW 02-27-22

Sadly, the only cure for grief is to grieve. —Mark Lemon

This was spring break week for our university. Thankfully. I desperately needed time to “just be” and sit with my grief.

I needed to sleep as much as my body would allow. I needed to escape the usual colors and sounds of life because at the moment everything seems too bright and too loud. I needed to take one-day-at-a-time and not bear the weight of grief through meetings, planning, students, and other interactions. I needed to call my mom in the middle of the day just to hear her voice. I needed to clear my desk and shoot a million photos of the sunflowers friends delivered along with gift cards to Olive Garden because no one feels like cooking or even deciding on a menu. I needed to draw sunflowers and tweak the poem I wrote about my dad five days before he passed. I needed to move through my day without purpose. I needed to feel safe in my grief and not feel the need to excuse myself or apologize for being inattentive or not completely present. I needed to look through family pictures and savor the memories. I needed to listen to the same Daryl Coley song over and over and over and over because it is the only song that soothes my soul right now. I needed to sit in silence with God and be filled by His presence.

I needed to seek light…in my own ways.

The Masters | Anguish and Gratitude: Vincent Van Gogh’s Sunflowers with Heart

Vincent Van Gogh. “Three Sunflowers in a Vase.” Oil on Canvas. August, 1888, Arles. United States. Private Collection.

I hope I haven’t overwhelmed you with all the sunflower goodness this week. Sadly, we’re just two more posts away from the end of “Sunflower Month.”

I am clearly intrigued by the approach of the masters to the sunflower. Many of them seem to have been as taken with its luminescent beauty as I am. I am in no way an artist like the masters featured all week, but sunflowers are certainly the most doodled flower in my journals, sketchbooks, and letters.

When I began this final week of “Sunflower Month,” I had intended to do only three posts, but I got a little carried away because there were more than three sunflower masters in my collection. My favorite, Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890), Dutch Post-Impressionist, was always on the list. Let’s consider the “sunflower tree” a bonus post, because this week of masters will not be complete without attention to his still life sunflower series—especially with the final masters post I have in mind. 😉

Vincent Van Gogh. “Vase with Fifteen Sunflowers.” Oil on Canvas. August 1888, Arles. Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam.

From 1888-1889, van Gogh completed seven sunflower still life masterpieces in the studio he shared with Paul Gaugin in Arles, France. He had intended to fill the walls with their brilliance before Gaugin’s arrival. The two featured above are in my postcard collection, thanks to Debbie T, my Love Notes pal (Twelve Sunflowers), and Eepy on swap-bot (Three Sunflowers).

There are four others in the Sunflower Series that were completed in 1887 in Paris. One of them–Four Cut Sunflowers (below)– took my breath away the first time I saw it!

Vincent Van Gogh. Allotment with Sunflower, Paris, July 1887. Oil on Canvas. Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (Vincent van Gogh Foundation).

In a letter to his sister Willemien, van Gogh writes:

[…] the desire comes over me to remake myself and try to have myself forgiven for the fact that my paintings are, however, almost a cry of anguish while symbolizing gratitude in the rustic sunflower.  (Letter 856)

Perhaps this tension explains why van Gogh’s “still life” sunflowers are anything but “still.” Each sunflower–in the vases or cut and wilting on a table–is full of personality, life, and movement. Each evokes an emotional response.

I read somewhere that van Gogh wanted to be remembered for his brilliant sunflowers (goal accomplished!) and that people honored his desire by wearing sunflowers to his funeral.

What a radiant sendoff!

Like the Heart

Let me seek You
in the darkness
of my silence

and find You
in the silence
of Your light.

which is
love shining
like the sun

flowing
like a river
and joying

like the heart

Meister Eckhart | Sweeney and Burrows