#ThursdayTreeLove | “When I Am Among the Trees”

As I’m nearing the end of this week of not feeling quite like myself, I am thankful for the time I spent with the trees–during one long walk on a path I hadn’t taken in years and in brief moments while running errands.

The photo above was from one of my shorter walks. As I walked, I looked up to behold the beautiful black walnut tree with its gorgeous branch extended over the path–an invitation to loveliness and light.

Being “among the trees” is therapy at its best. “They save me…daily.”

“When I Am Among the Trees”
Mary Oliver

I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
but walk slowly, and bow often.

Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, “Stay awhile.”
The light flows from their branches.

And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say,
“and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine.”


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.

Mums the Word!

Maybe our world will grow kinder eventually.
Maybe the desire to make something beautiful
is the piece of God that is inside each of us.

–Mary Oliver, “Franz Marc’s Blue Horses,” Blue Horses, 2014

Today’s blog post is brought to you by the autumn flower–mums!

When we celebrated my aunt’s birthday this past weekend–social distancing measures in place–I knew I had to capture the mums welcoming us to her home. I had plans to play around with them later.

I’d been adding “create something” to my daily to-do list for days, but had not managed to check off that “task,” so I sat down with my computer and iPad to “play” during last night’s non-presidential debate[?].  I was able to revisit the mums and transform them in more ways than I can share in one blog post.

Here are three of the 12 pieces I crafted. [I will share some of the others in separate posts].

Maybe, they’re beautiful. Maybe, they’re not. No matter. The pleasure was in the process of creating, not the outcome.

What If? | “How Would You Live Then?”

Are you surprised that it took me five days to get to Mary Oliver and sunflowers? I held off as long as I could. 😀  The sun is shining beautifully here in the Tennessee Valley and these sunflowers reflect how bright and sunny I’m feeling as a result of basking in it all morning and early afternoon. 

I have been sort of stuck on this Oliver poem since the beginning of the year–for the message and the splendor of the images–so it was a given I’d share it here during National Poetry Month. The poem is from her 2004 collection, Blue Iris: Poems and Essays.

How Would You Live Then?
Mary Oliver

What if a hundred rose-breasted grosbeaks
flew in circles around your head? What if
the mockingbird came into the house with you and
became your advisor? What if
the bees filled your walls with honey and all
you needed to do was ask them and they would fill
the bowl? What if the brook slid downhill just
past your bedroom window so you could listen
to its slow prayers as you fell asleep? What if
the stars began to shout their names, or to run
this way and that way above the clouds? What if
you painted a picture of a tree, and the leaves
began to rustle, and a bird cheerfully sang
from its painted branches? What if you suddenly saw
that the silver of water was brighter than the silver
of money? What if you finally saw
that the sunflowers, turning toward the sun all day
and every day – who knows how, but they do it – were
more precious, more meaningful than gold?


About the image:  The “Tender Thoughts” card above came from my Love Notes friend, Eileen V; it was sent for International Women’s Day 2020. Eileen enclosed a special treat inside the card that I’m looking forward to sharing later this week.

#ThursdayTreeLove | Naked Tree and First Snow

Snow was falling,

so much like stars
filling the dark trees
that one could easily imagine
its reason for being was nothing more

than prettiness.  –Mary Oliver, from “Snowy Night,” What Do We Know

I’m taking a very short break from grading because it’s time for #ThursdayTreeLove, and I can’t resist sharing one of the snow pics I snapped with my iPhone earlier this week. It’s a simple snapshot, but it captures a naked tree and our first snow of the season.

Snow is rare in the Deep South, so many of us get excited whenever it comes our way. In this photo, the snow had just begun to fall and the temperature hadn’t [yet] dropped enough for the snow to stick.

I do not like being cold, so I stood just outside my office building and videotaped the snow for a few seconds. [Video below]. It was so relaxing to take a break and watch the snow fall.

Enjoy!


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.

Into Morning | #WordlessWednesday

Sometimes, it’s necessary to ignore the ice cold temperature and race outdoors at the first sign of light to catch a glimpse of God.

“I Wake Close to Morning”
Mary Oliver

Why do people keep asking to see
God’s identity papers
when the darkness opening into morning
is more than enough?
Certainly any god might turn away in disgust.
Think of Sheba approaching
the kingdom of Solomon.
Do you think she had to ask,
“Is this the place?”

from Felicity, 2015

Optimism and Joy | #WordlessWednesday

If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy,
don’t hesitate. Give in to it. There are plenty
of lives and whole towns destroyed or about
to be. We are not wise, and not very often
kind. And much can never be redeemed.
Still, life has some possibility left. Perhaps this
is its way of fighting back, that sometimes
something happens better than all the riches
or power in the world. It could be anything,
but very likely you notice it in the instant
when love begins. Anyway, that’s often the
case. Anyway, whatever it is, don’t be afraid
of its plenty. Joy is not made to be a crumb.

 “Don’t Hesitate | Swan: Poems and Prose Poems | Mary Oliver
After taking a couple of “mental health” days, I returned to work yesterday and found a huge bunch of cheerful mums from my colleagues sitting in my office. The flowers brightened my spirits and made it easier to get through the day. I did not expect to meet such “sudden and unexpected” joy, but I grasped it without hesitation.

I read somewhere that mums symbolize “optimism and joy.” I like how that phrase honors the moment I’m in while at the same time reaching toward what can be and what will be.
Note: The top photo was shot with my Canon; the bottom two shot with my phone. I had so much fun experimenting with camera settings. I captured way more than three photos, but I’m exercising restraint. 😀

Children’s Art | Busy Being Roses

…as you can see, we are
just now entirely busy being roses.
Mary Oliver, “Roses,” from Felicity

Today was supposed to be easy–a “chill” day of finishing up a few projects and meeting with my students. It turned into a crazy-busy day, so I am all too happy to take a break and contemplate the pretty–and I have kid art to share!

Every spring, my son’s school hosts an amazing art fair, featuring the work of practically every student in the school. If you’ve been following the blog for a while, you probably know that I absolutely lose my mind walking the halls and taking in the colorful spectacle. I have hundreds of pictures from each art fair. I wish I could share every piece on the blog, but there’s so much that I’d have to start a separate blog dedicated to children’s art–and it would take me at least three years to catch up! Of course, that is not a bad idea, but I’ll leave that task for others.

Since I am still “speaking in flowers,” I’m excited to share a sampling of the vases of roses on display at the art show held a couple of weeks ago.

There were several other vases full of flowers, but they were positioned low on the wall and I was not willing to contort my body to get the shots. 😀

The project is called “Primary Petals,” for which students created a vase full of flowers using water color, oil pastels, and markers. Through the activity, “the students learned about color families, explored new mediums, and focused on line quality by drawing spirals” [Description posted with artwork].

Based on the description of the project, I’m assuming the art is that of Mrs. Johnson’s students. [She was my son’s fourth grade teacher and her art projects are always sensational].

As I have been working through life’s challenges, I have been asking a lot of questions. The answers aren’t always immediate or acceptable, so it’s nice to put the challenges on hold and take a moment to enjoy the innocence and simplicity of children’s art. It’s good–every now and then–to just be, to learn from the roses.

“Roses” by Mary Oliver

Everyone now and again wonders about
those questions that have no ready
answer: first cause, God’s existence,
what happens when the curtain goes
down and nothing stops it, not kissing
not going to the mall, not the Super
Bowl.

“Wild roses,” I said to them one morning.
“Do you have the answers? And if you do,
would you tell me?”

The roses laughed softly. “Forgive us,”
they said. “But as you can see, we are
just now entirely busy being roses.”

Mini Lesson in Creative Photography

During my hour-long escape from my office last week, I ran into Amanda, a photographer friend who does amazing work. Naturally, we started talking about photography. She exclaimed she needed motivation and inspiration. I remarked that I wanted to do “creative photography.” In that instant she gave me a one-minute lesson on adjusting my position and camera settings and using the sun to “light” an object. After a few failed attempts with my iPhone, I nailed it with my Canon. The DSLR for the win!

After “containing” the sun, I shot again to leave space for words.

After Mary Oliver’s “The Uses of Sorrow”. . .

and a bit of post-processing. . .

Voila! A few looks I like…

and of course, the last one…because it’s purple.

Amanda’s own sun-fired dandelion is amazing (linked).  If you have a moment, click over and check out her IG feed. Lots of beauty for your soul.


Today marks the beginning of NaBloPoMo. I haven’t quite committed to writing blog posts every day this November because I have other pressing writing goals. However, since I was anticipating using this month’s posts to get caught up on pretty mail [and such], I have already drafted at least 10 of them. I figure I can manage posting daily if I can find a few minutes each day–outside of my designated “serious” writing time and away from the general madness of the end of the semester.

We’ll see. Tomorrow [and the next 28 tomorrows] will tell. 😉

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.