Meet Kaja: The Lovely Bear

Kaja, Photo by Oliver Utz

Bears find themselves at the spot where two deep-seated but contradictory human impulses collide: the desire to feel protected from unforeseeable danger and the longing for unspoiled nature.  —Bernd Brunner, Bears: A Brief History

This lovely bear has been sitting in my “to be blogged” bin since February. Her name is Kaja. My Love Notes friend, Eileen V, sent the postcard after learning about my love for bears through a blog post featuring vintage bear postcards from another Love Notes friend.

Kaja is Eileen’s rescue bear. She was rescued along with her two sisters after spending 15 years in a small, concrete garage. The bears were poorly fed and had no exercise. As a result they suffer from arthritis.

The animals are now sheltered in the Black Forest Woods in Alternativer wolf und Bärenpark [Alternative Wolf and Bear Park] Schwarzwald in Germany, which provides the bears [and wolves] with an “animal-friendly home where they can use a natural environment to explore the area, hide, dig caves, bathe or retreat to hibernation.” In the park the animals “rediscover instincts and natural behaviors.”

I’m happy that Kaja has a home designed for her needs, but it saddens me that misdirected “love” for animals leads to their being mistreated. A bear is not a pet. Neither is a panther. Nor a bobcat. Nor a dolphin. Nor an alligator. Nor a rattlesnake.

Love them, but leave them where they belong.

What Would You Tell Your 18-Year-Old Self?

“Letters to My 18-Year-Old Self” are pretty popular lately (or maybe always?). I’ve seen them on blogs, in journals, in online newspapers and magazines, even in seminars and workshops, but I’ve given little consideration to the topic. Of course, I’ve wondered every now and then if I should have done some things differently, but I’ve never written a note to my younger self–until three weeks ago when Love Notes 25 kicked off with the prompt:

Write the words you would tell your 18-year-old self.

My assigned partner, Janet T, is new to the Love Notes community. She is a “mom to two beautiful daughters” in their 20’s, so she has probably had some recent practice with the prompt. She wrote her note in a card bearing a gold embossed mermaid silhouette:

Whatever gives you happiness–let that inspire you in your daily life. The things you love make you who you are and don’t let anyone influence you wrongly.

Have courage and be kind.

“Purple Tulips.” Watercolor postcard by Christine B.

My most prolific penfriend, Christine, created the beautiful purple tulip [above] in honor of my sister Lori [and me] and wrote a six-item list:

  1. Bad things happen.
  2. Find people to trust and love as much as you can
  3. Make your voice heard
  4. Vote!
  5. Laugh until you cry and cry until you laugh
  6. Don’t hold your breath

There are many, many things I’d say to my 18-year-old self, much of it far too personal to share in a blog post or a note [to anyone outside myself], so I sent a list of things I find myself saying to my students over and over again–not so much a “letter to my 18-year-old self,” but little bits of counsel that I found (or should have found) useful:

Card designed by Hessa, age 9, Abu-Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Children’s Art Project, MD Anderson Cancer Center. [A gift from Christine].

These sorts of exercises can be fun as long as we avoid falling into the pit of regret and the type of thinking that our lives would be so much better if we had present knowledge then. Our 18-year-old selves were just that. 18. Young. Inexperienced. Insecure. Overly confident. Full of life, contradictions, crazy ideas, and impossibilities.

Despite all the craziness of youth, I wouldn’t change a thing. My life wasn’t and isn’t perfect, but my 18-year-old self made many solid decisions and did more than a few things well. As for the things I didn’t get quite right, mistakes are inevitable and we learn so much more from our missteps than from our successes.

If you’re 18 or thereabout, maybe, you’ll find some usefulness in the lists above. If you’d like a more “focused” list, check out runner and professional coach Steve Magness’ post: Advice for the Young and Driven: A letter to my 18-year-old self.

If you’re waaaay past 18, like I am, what would you say to your 18-year-old self?  Comment below.

 

Autumn: Brilliant Leaves, Happy Mail, and Seven Reasons Why

Last week the temperatures finally dipped into the 50’s and this morning we woke up to 30’s and a freeze warning. I am excited that autumn has finally made an appearance–in terms of temperature at least. [Note: I live in the South, so temperatures may well be in the upper 80’s or even lower 90’s by the end of the week].

I searched for signs of autumn while taking a short walk last week. There was little indication of the season’s change, but I was elated to find autumn leaves on a favorite Dogwood.

It is delightful watching this tree transition over the months, and though I look forward to the blossoms in spring, its autumn leaves beautifully illustrate why I love the season.

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My penfriend/love notes pal Andrea recently sent a bit of autumn-inspired pocket mail. In the one of the pockets she enclosed a list of six reasons why she loves autumn.  [Click an image for a closer look].

Andrea ended her list by inviting “me” to share why I love the season. Of course, it doesn’t take much to get me to extol the virtues of autumn, so here are [my not necessarily top] seven reasons why autumn is my favorite season:

  1. Changing colors of the trees and foliage–especially now that I live in a place where I can see the brilliance of the season
  2. Milder temperatures–long-awaited relief from the oppressive southern summer and a short break from budget-busting utilities bills
  3. Boots and sweaters
  4. Hot chocolate/cocoa and popcorn [yum!]
  5. October–the best month of all!
  6. My new favorite throw [a birthday gift from a new friend]–chocolate brown, leaf embossed, plush–perfect for movie nights
  7. Pumpkin everything–except I’m not too impressed with Krispy Kreme’s pumpkin cake donut. It would be soooo much better if they’d lose the sugar/glaze on top

How about you? What do you love about autumn?


[Also, linking up with Dawn of The Day After in the Festival of Leaves photo challenge]

A Written Word: We Will Forever Hold Her

“Bloom,” Crafted by Cricket P.

This elegant poppies postcard was handmade by my Love Notes pal, Cricket. She designed it for “Beautiful Blooms,” the latest Global heART Swap, but kindly sent one to me in remembrance of Lori. The tiny black dots in the “green painted vases” are poppy seeds  from Cricket’s garden. In a few weeks, we will plant them–in Lori’s honor–just outside my home office window. They will bloom in the spring.

The intimate notes Cricket sent to Lori and me during her struggle and the one she included with “Bloom” are among those I will forever cherish. I will reserve the most intimate details of her notes for my own eyes, but it’s fitting to close with some of the words from her “Blooms” note:

Thank you for including all of us in this journey–for making Lori alive in our world. That we can share in the love and the grief of virtual strangers is a phenomenal thing. It gives hope in/to a troubled world and should be celebrated. Lori touched us all and we’ll forever hold her.

Praying in the Garden

I found a pleasant surprise as I glanced at my phone just before ending my last class for the week (woohoo!)–a simple, heartwarming message from Kim B, my newest Love Notes pal:

I was praying for you and your sister in my garden.

She enclosed photos of her gorgeous sunflowers (click an image for a closer look]:

The red one!!! Heavenly!

According to a note she sent in July, Kim planted the seeds a little late this year, but as you can see, they’re blooming beautifully. At the end of this emotionally exhausting week they’re my brilliant reminders to continue “facing the sun”.

Her written message telling of praying in the garden has me singing a favorite hymn, “In the Garden.”

I come to the garden alone,
While the dew is still on the roses:
And the voice I hear falling on my ear,
The Son of God discloses.

And He walks with me, and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own;
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.

The Queen of Gospel, Mahalia Jackson, offers a powerful rendition that deserves a listen:

Be sure to take some time to pray and meditate in the garden this weekend. You’ll experience amazing joy and peace.

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!