Art and Letters: It’s Time for Happy Mail!

I’m dropping by today to encourage you to participate in the Liberate Your Art and/or Love Notes.  The signup deadlines are upon us.

Are you a “closet” artist who’s a little timid about sharing your art with the world? Do you have thousands of photos sitting on your hard drive, in your camera, or in the cloud? Dozens of drawings, sketches, illustrations, paintings, carvings, or sculptures? Have you crafted beautiful scarves or dresses.? Do you use calligraphy to write poems or quotes? If you create anything, Liberate Your Art is your swap, and it’s time to share your art with the world.

Participation is easy-peasy. You select one to five (1-5) pieces of art, make postcard reproductions, and send the postcards along with address labels and postage stamps to Kat Sloma, the swap founder and coordinator.  She organizes the postcards and “sends them out into the world.” You will receive six (6) pieces of art in return–one from Kat.

You can find all the details by clicking the image below:

And if you’re interested in seeing art I received and sent from past swaps, click here: LYA on Pics and Posts.

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So art’s not your thing, but you want to get in on the snail mail love? Try Love Notes. Also easy. You write three postcards (or note cards) to one partner over a three week period–in response to a prompt.  Cards may be purchased or handmade.  The idea is to connect with another person through writing and spread love via snail mail.

Click the link below for more details and to sign up! The first round of 2018 starts January 14, so act quickly!

You can check out some of the Love Notes exchanges I’ve participated in by clicking here: Love Notes on Pics and Posts.

I participate in both. In fact, a LYA participant introduced me to Love Notes. Should  you decide to participate, you will find wonderful communities of beautiful souls and (should you choose) your relationships will extend beyond the yearly (LYA) and quarterly (LN) swaps.

If you have any questions about either swap, please feel free to contact me using the contact form at the bottom of the “A Little About Me” page.

I highly recommend MOO for getting postcards printed. If you’d like to order from MOO, use my referral link and you can save 20% and I can earn moo bucks.  [Note: I’m not paid to advertise MOO. I’ve been using moo for 5+ years. They do great work and have excellent customer service. Also, I get to “moo” without being looked at strangely]. 😛

I hope to see you in one or both swaps!

Baby, It’s Cold Outside: The Gifts of Winter

Visitor by Irina Garmashova

Brrrr…It’s cold outside.

The postcards from a couple of my love notes pals–received a couple of weeks ago–seem to predict the weather we’ve been having in Northern Alabama lately. I’m convinced this winter’s frigid temperatures (so far) are payback for last winter’s warmth.

It’s no secret. I’m not crazy about cold weather. But there are good things about winter, so I won’t complain too loudly. Interestingly, I just read the quote included with the holiday postcard from Suzette R., another Love Notes pal, that reminds us that winter has its gifts.

May you grow still enough to hear the small noises earth makes in preparing for the long sleep of winter, so that you yourself may grow calm and grounded deep within. May you grow still enough to hear the trickling of water seeping into the ground, so that your soul may be softened and healed, and guided in its flow. May you grow still enough to hear the splintering of starlight in the winter sky and the roar at earth’s fiery core. May you grow still enough to hear the stir of a single snowflake in the air, so that your inner silence may turn into hushed expectation.  –Br. David Steindl-Rast

Stillness. Silence. Hushed expectation. These are the gifts that winter offers as we await awakening in the spring.

Photo by Lisa C., Chasing the Sun 

[Notes on Postcards: From Eileen V., “The Visitor,”Artwork by Irina Garmashova-Cawton Fine Arts. From Lisa C., “Winter Bird,” Photography by Lisa Comperry].

Autumn Bliss: Bursting With Its Last Beauty

Autumn Leaves: Image by Martha S.

Fall has always been my favorite season. The time when everything bursts with its last beauty, as if nature had been saving up all year for the grand finale.”  –Lauren DeStefano, Wither

As I was out and about yesterday, I noticed that autumn is hanging on fiercely in some places. The colorful display in mid-December compensated for the too cold weather we’ve been having lately. But the trees I glimpsed on campus when I made a quick stop at my office this afternoon proved that we are certainly facing the last days of autumn.

Of course, I cannot let the season end without sharing a bit (more) of it with you, so I’ve decided to dedicate (some of) my posts this week to my autumn bliss. I’ll try to contain myself and limit the season’s posts to three, but I’m not promising.

The mixed media postcard featured above was made by my penfriend Martha S. Life has kept her busy, so it was a too pleasant surprise to find this bit of autumn love in my mailbox. This beauty has found a home in my notes and quotes journal.

Thank you, Martha, for this lovely rendering of autumn bliss!

A Moment with the Empress and the Lady

When I taught African American literature, blues artists Bessie Smith’s and Billie Holiday’s songs were key in deepening students’ understanding of the continuities of Black experience and literature and arts in America. I haven’t taught the literature since we moved to Northern Alabama, so their music is collecting dust. In fact, I think the collections are still in boxes.

A couple of days ago, I ran across a Billie Holiday postcard that I’ve had for quite some time–a familiar photo of Lady Day, with the signature gardenia in her hair.

Billie Holiday, c. 1936, Photograph by Robin Carson, from the Collection of Ole Brask

The sender’s note referenced listening to Billie Holiday and Bessie Smith days before sending the postcard. Interestingly, the day after rediscovering the postcard–yesterday, in fact–I received a Bessie Smith postcard from my postcard pal Connie F. Talk about coincidence!

Bessie Smith (1895-1937), Photograph courtesy of Michael Ochs Archives, Pomegranate Communications, Inc.

The music goddesses are telling me to take a moment for Bessie and Billie. They are the best medicine for the madness of the days ahead.

Perhaps, you need a moment too.

Here’s a listening guide of the Empress of the Blues, Bessie Smith, singing “Backwater Blues” with James P. Johnson on the piano:

And for your pure listening pleasure, a 30-song compilation of Lady Day’s “top songs.”

Both women’s lives were cut short, but their influence reaches far beyond their years on this earth, and they continue to make a powerful impact on music in America.

Start with Yes…

A few weeks ago, I blogged about the postcards I received for Love Notes 21, Prompt 1, “Start with…” At the time I did not share the card I designed in response to the prompt because they were en route to the recipients and I didn’t want to “spoil” their fun by posting here.  But here it is…

I captured the train tracks while waiting for my hubby and son to finish up at a pet shop that also sells and exhibits art. Cool, right? The photo served as a perfect image for my response to the prompt:

Start with…yes. The road ahead awaits your consent.

We get so many messages telling us how to say “no”–messages that remind us that we shouldn’t let others take advantage of our generosity or take more than we’re willing to give of our time and resources. The problem is that “no” is such a powerful word that it seeps into our consciousness and into our language even when we don’t want it to, especially when we talk to ourselves. “No” spearheads all the negative self-talk at the root of our unplanted dreams. It convinces us that we’re not prepared enough, not smart enough, not beautiful enough, not articulate enough to do one thing or another. We’ve trained ourselves so well in the art of no that we say “no” to everything…even to things that are healthy and beneficial for us.

So my message…”start with  yes,” is about changing the internal dialogue. It’s about dismissing all the reasons why we shouldn’t and embracing the reasons why we should and all the what ifs in a way that exposes the benefits and not the drawbacks of the word “yes.” Clinging to “no” means we’re stuck in this one place. Never venturing. Never gaining and never reaching what is waiting for us just beyond “yes” and further down the road.

I encourage you to start with yes…and participate as a whole new world unfolds before you.

Vintage Bears Need Love Too!

Do you want to see some vintage bears? Nope, not teddy bears. Regular, real life bears. Because of my ❤ for bears, my postcard pal, Fran B, sent me a nice set of seven vintage bear postcards she found at estate sales and antique shops, and I’ve been looking forward to sharing them.

The first five postcards feature bears from Yellowstone National Park. The postcards are undated, but three of the five were copyrighted by Haynes Picture Shops, Inc., St. Paul, MN and Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming. Based on the one-cent postage required, they were printed either before World War I or immediately afterwards.

Take a look!

From the postcard back: Twin Cub Bears, Yellowstone Park. The black bear exists in the park in a number of color phases. The commonest type is black with a brown nose.  Others are dark and medium brown, reddish brown and dull buffy brown. Even cub bears resent being teased and are usually treated with the respect they deserve.

From the postcard back: The Woman Bear, Yellowstone Park. “The most remarkable wild animal picture ever taken” (Ernest Thompson Seton), as photographed in the mountain wilds near the Grand Canyon by E. W. Hunter, master wild animal photographer of the Haynes organization.

From the postcard back: The Grizzly Bear, also known as the silver tip, is the most respected of all of the family of bears, not alone by men but by other bears. They are inoffensive if not molested, but when attacked they become extremely dangerous.

I’m not sure if the other two Yellowstone bears (below) were published by the Haynes Picture Shops or if the three bears above were part of the same series. There’s no company name on the back, but there is a symbol or logo and an arrow with letters–company initials, maybe???

Notice the letters in the arrow?  HHT CO or is it T CO?

“Brown Bear Waiting for Garbage, Yellowstone National Park”

From the postcard back: A Yellowstone Park Bear. The bears of the Park are objects of peculiar interest. No sound of gun or bark of dog is ever heard, and the bears, though wild, have become so tame that they give only curious notice to the tourists as they pass. Some of the bears are wrapped in robes that would command a fancy price. They come down in the evening from their home in the hills to feed around the hotels.

From the postcard back: Bears in Yellowstone Park. With each succeeding year the wild animals in the Park become a more interesting feature of it. Here is really the only place where the public in general can freely see the animals of the forest and the wilds in their natural state. The bears are found near the hotesl and it requires no exertion, beyond the walk of a few rods, by tourists to see them.

The postcard below was printed circa 1950 and features a Polar Bear at the Forest Park Zoo in St. Louis, Missouri.

“Polar Bear Pit,” Published by Paul Monroe Company

From the postcard back: Polar Bear Pit, Forest Park Zoo, St. Louis, Missouri. The entire zoo occupies 77 acres in Forest Park. At a cost of $250,000, these famous cageless bear pits were built. The bears are separated from nearby spectators only by a wide moat banked by a concrete shelving which the bears can’t climb.

This final postcard warns us to watch out for (bear) hitchhikers. They’re not as innocent as they appear.

Seney, MI, Published by ColourPicture, Boston, Massachusetts

From the postcard back: Black Bear Hitchhiker. Although sometimes thought of as a big lovable clown, don’t let this panhandling act fool you. Bears are dangerous animals and should be viewed from a distance.

So they’re not fluffy, cuddly bears we can take home with us, but we can still love them–from a safe distance.

Thanks to Fran, the cards are now part of my vintage postcard collection. When time permits, I will work to find out more information about the postcards, but for now, I’ll just enjoy them.

Note: Information from the postcard back was typed as it appears on the back of the postcards. I wouldn’t call a “female bear” a “woman bear.” 😉

Speaking of Sunflowers…

“Chelsey’s Sunflower” Postcard Made by Trang K.

Isn’t this the most adorable piglet “sunning” beneath the brilliant rays of a sunflower? This postcard was beautifully made by the talented Trang K, who sent me a different sunflower few months ago. Trang wrote a long note, sweetly embellished with  flourishes, doodled flowers, hearts, and a butterfly.  She closed the card with, “You are a blessing and a treasure” written in gold. I’m convinced her heart overflows into each card she makes.

My sunflowers bloom all year long, thanks to my penfriends.

“The Sunflowers” by Mary Oliver

Come with me
into the field of sunflowers.
Their faces are burnished disks,
their dry spines

creak like ship masts,
their green leaves,
so heavy and many,
fill all day with the sticky

sugars of the sun.
Come with me
to visit the sunflowers,
they are shy

but want to be friends;
they have wonderful stories
of when they were young –
the important weather,

the wandering crows.
Don’t be afraid
to ask them questions!
Their bright faces,

which follow the sun,
will listen, and all
those rows of seeds –
each one a new life!

hope for a deeper acquaintance;
each of them, though it stands
in a crowd of many,
like a separate universe,

is lonely, the long work
of turning their lives
into a celebration
is not easy. Come

and let us talk with those modest faces,
the simple garments of leaves,
the coarse roots in the earth
so uprightly burning.