Love Inspired: Loyal Birds and “Fowl” Words

For a recent “Love Inspired” swap for the “A Thousand Words” group on swap-bot Gale D., my partner, went birds and feathers on me.  The goal of the swap was to pair a love quote with an appropriate photo.

Gale settled on a quote from  A.A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh:

Some people care too much.  I think it’s called love.

Gale does a lot of bird photography, so she sent me two of her favorite photos.

The first, a pair of Mute Swans:

“Mute Swans” by Gale D., grstamping on swap-bot

According to Gale’s note, the Mute Swans “stay together forever. It saves time and energy, and they produce more cygnets this way.  They make a great team.”

I found some interesting tidbits about Mute Swans on Cornell University’s All About Birds Site.  Here are some of my favorites:

  • Mute Swans are not native to North America
  • The swans pretty much mate for life, but will find another mate if a partner dies
  • Their reputation for monogamy along with their white plumage has helped establish them as a symbol of love in many cultures
  • The Mute Swan is the “star” of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Ugly Duckling
  • The swans are pretty aggressive (so give them lots of space)
  • The oldest known Mute Swan is 26 years, 9 months old

Gale also sent a pair of Canada Geese and their goslings.

“Canada Geese,” by Gale D., grstamping on swap-bot

Gale wrote that she loves Canada Geese, but although they adapt around humans well, she hasn’t had much opportunities to get close to the geese.  Ironically, she lives in Canada.  This particular photo was shot in a cemetery pond.

There are a LOT of Canada Geese on the university campus where I work.  She’d have no problem getting up close and personal with them. During early fall, they pretty much rule the campus, even stopping traffic at times.  That can be annoying, but it is a pretty glorious sight to see them take flight in formation.

During the second year of their lives Canada Geese find a mate, and like Mute Swans, they are monogamous and mate for life.

It truly is inspiring to find such “faithfulness” and “loyalty” in the animal kingdom.  We often think so little of them, but we have so much to learn from them.

Soul Work: Making Art of Loving People

“Purple” Rose, Big Spring Park, Huntsville, Alabama. [Altered Photo]

As promised, here’s the “love post” I sent to family, friends, and swappers this year.  The card features an altered rose and a Van Gogh quote.

I found the rose last December showing off in Big Spring Park in Huntsville, Alabama. It was simply gorgeous and many people were pleasantly surprised to find its unexpected beauty.

Van Gogh offers more than a “quotable quote” here.  Instead of making a pithy statement about art, he uses art to challenge our notions of love.  Moving us beyond ideas of love as feelings and romance, he calls us to love in a way that an artist creates.  And that is anything but romantic or fleeting.

When we experience a finished work of art–visual, written or spoken, performed, musical composition–we respond with admiration or distaste without ever fully considering what the artist pours into the work or how gut-wrenchingly vulnerable it makes one to place the inner life on display.

When we truly love people, we are similarly crafting and creating, unveiling our most intimate self and making ourselves vulnerable to the scrutiny, judgement, and sometimes the disdain of others.  Our love for people doesn’t always mean they will love us back and though our natural inclination is to protect ourselves, we must learn to love them regardless…

This point was driven home for me and my little one last week, as he was present when someone disrespected me in a public forum.  Though angry, my little one emphasized that he “admired [my] restraint” because he knows that many people wouldn’t have taken it so calmly.  On our drive home we talked about where that “restraint” comes from.  I was honest with him. Some base part of me could have humiliated the man and “put him in his place,” perhaps deservedly so, but that this man could behave this way suggests that he needs my prayers, not my tongue.  In an instant during the exchange, I paused long enough to hear from God, check myself, and recognize in the offender the child of God whom I am called to love.

Van Gogh is not speaking of simply loving people in our circles, those with whom we already share a heart connection, or those who are easy to love.  Nor is he simply speaking of a general, abstract love for humanity.  The artistry and mastery of love come as a result of loving through challenge and difficulty and loving people who aren’t loving, even people who can be mean and evil.  It comes as a result of seeing them as complex beings who, like a work of art, are more than what we immediately see.

Just as it takes more than a few strokes of the artist’s brush to create a masterpiece, it takes intense soul work and an intimate and constant connection with the Divine to make art of loving people.

Quotes and Hearts: Love on Postcards

I recall my glee the evening my hubby handed me the stack of postcards he had just retrieved from the mailbox and post office box.  I placed them in my planner hoping to savor them later, but then life happened–illnesses, midterms, and life in general.  Now, that the madness is less intense for a moment [Spring Break, yay!], I have time to really appreciate the postcards.

The postcards came from friends and Love Notes and heART Exchange pals.

The February 2017 heART Exchange focused on “Quotes from the Heart,”  so participants had to include a quote somewhere on the postcard.  I received postcards from two of my three partners.  I realized after receiving my third card that I submitted my address with the wrong zip code to Louise, the swap coordinator.  I used my P.O. Box address with my residential zip code. Duh! I’m actually amazed that most of them made it to me. Kudos to the USPS for the extra work they had to put in!

Nancy of Ellijay, Georgia sent a cute bunny with an inspiring greeting.

Love You Bunny, Art by Nancy F.

Love You Bunny, Art by Nancy F.

You are so special! Believe in yourself and the dreams you hold. Dance in the rain and play in the moonlight. Celebrate YOU in all your glory…Enjoy all the magic that life has to offer.

The happy-face rabbit gives me the warm-fuzzies.  Bunnies (rabbits) are among my favorite “critters,” second to teddy bears.  I especially appreciate the charge to “dance in the rain.”  I can’t wait till the weather stabilizes and I can do just that. There’s something cleansing about walking in the rain.  I imagine dancing in the rain is liberating.

“Lacy Heart,” Die cut by Lori W.

Lori W. of Elroy, Wisconsin sent the lacy heart reminding me that [life] is “about love, compassion, kindness, and faith.”  It is so easy lately to get caught up in trifles, so this was a needed reminder.   She also enclosed a tag which now fills a slot in my faith planner.

“You Are Loved,” Tag from Lori W.

Lori also sent a beautiful autumn postcard with vines framing a window.   How did she know about my romance with autumn? 😉

“Nature’s Décor,” postcard from Lori W.

Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire.

Christine B. who introduced me to both Love Notes and the heART Exchange, made a sweet fabric postcard and sent it as an extra.

Fabric Postcard by Christine B.

Fabric Postcard by Christine B.

If you love someone, tell them because hearts are often broken by words left unspoken.

Martha, who participates in both swaps, sent another of her gorgeous watercolors.

“Nesting,” Watercolor by Martha Slavin

Your soul is the place inside of you which reaches out to connect you with the universe.

Slightly unrelated, a second Joy to the World card, from the December heART Exchange, winged its way to me from the United Kingdom last month.

“Wishing you Joy, Peace, and Happiness,” from Ann M.

Ann M. ran into a few snafus, and since she was sending the card after the height of the festive season, she remade it, modifying the colors.  As far as I’m concerned, blessing the world with “joy” is never out of season.

Love Notes also came in to help me celebrate “love month”–two from new penfriends, Sarah and Eileen, and one from Christine B. (whose postcard made the green-eyed monster appear because she was exactly where I wanted to be, on the beach in Florida). [Click an image for a closer look and details].

I was ill twice in February, so my friend Cy surprised me with a “get well” postcard.

“She stretched herself upon tiptoe and peeped over the edge of the mushroom and her eyes immediately met those of a large blue caterpillar.”

The postcard is part of the 100-postcard MacMillan Alice set.  The illustration is from Carroll’s manuscript for Alice’s Adventures Underground.  The timing of this postcard was perfect, not just because I was ill but because I had just sent the same postcard to a swapper who loves Alice in Wonderland. The mail gods sent it back to me. 🙂

Last, but not least, I received a unique handmade postcard from my penfriend, Beckra.

From Beckra

“The Workings of the Heart,” Designed by Rebecca R. (Beckra)

Beckra had fun making these cards for friends and family.  No two are alike. She created the texture by painting over text pages and threaded her design over the texture, allowing the diagonals of the threaded design to play against the straight lines of the text that are just below the surface.  Her goal was something “vaguely like a heart, but then abstracted.”

I thoroughly enjoy Valentine’s Day cards that deviate from the typical motifs–red hearts, flowers, and chocolate–so I’m loving this one.

My mailbox was full of love last month, and I did my best to reciprocate.  I’ll share the postcard I sent in 50 different directions tomorrow.

Until then, maybe you can take a few minutes and write a postcard tonight.  Someone in your life needs to be reminded that he or she is loved.

Hugs!