Acquainted with the Night: A Painting and a Poem

“A Yorkshire Lane in November 1873,” by John Atkinson Grimshaw

An Extra Hour? What Would You Do?

“Starfish and Seashell,” Photo by Catwoman. Postallove.com

“If I had an extra hour every day I would…”

That was one of the topics for “Postcards with Prompts,” a fun swap-bot postcard series I participated in last year.

Swapper Susan sent the beach-themed postcard above with her response:

If I had an extra hour every day, I would go to the beach and walk on the sand and in the water and collect shells. I love the beach and I don’t go there often enough.”

I can certainly use an extra hour each day. I would use it wisely, of course, and take the extra hour to sleep or read for pleasure. From August to May, there’s never enough of either, and I literally dream of getting sleep and reading something that I don’t have to think about once I turn the last page.

I love the ocean, though, so maybe, I’d simply sit quietly at the beach. I’m certain of one thing–I would not squander my extra hour on work. There’s always too much of that!

What would you do with an extra hour each day?

Joy Break 1 | Discipline and Practice

“Barnsley Daisy” by Kelly of Happy Shack Designs

Around this time of the year, I usually begin a weeklong series of kindness posts, but this time around, I decided to focus on joy.

Despite the trauma and drama of the past several months (see last Monday’s post), I’m okay. As I mentioned at the very beginning of the year:

I’m learning to practice a steadying joy no matter the circumstance. This does not mean I work on being perpetually happy; it means that when LIFE does its thing, instead of driving myself crazy with worry or lying down in defeat, I rest in God’s presence and stand firm as His strength carries me.  Pics and Posts, January 1, 2019

Many people confuse joy with happiness. Unlike happiness, joy is not tethered to our emotional state. It does not depend on external circumstances or conditions. Joy is a discipline, and when we train ourselves in joy, we walk with knowledge that “a dark moment” is not the whole life. Therefore, in our innermost being, we are not held captive by our emotions–no matter what is going on around us.

I’m learning to lean in and remain in the Presence of my Heavenly Father. I need Him day by day, hour by hour, and being in His presence helps me confront my deepest aches and longings and experience life to the fullest even as I’m working through disappointments and pain.

The assaults can be wearying, but I’m convinced when we practice joy, we won’t succumb to the madness life tosses our way.


About today’s image: The Barnsley daisy above has been sitting in my “to be blogged” bin for a year. It was a side-swap from Liberate Your Art 2018. I’d planned to include them in this year’s LYA posts, but the swap coordinator, Kat, decided to take a much needed hiatus this year. The photo was taken by Kelly of Happy Shack Designs. Check out her website to see more of her photography and handmade jewelry. You can find her blog here, Artful Happiness.

Loc’d: Second Journey

“Loc’d Defined,” Photo by Cy

I began my second locs journey a week ago.

When I first loc’d my hair 13+ years ago, I was five months pregnant, dealing with the losses of Post-Katrina New Orleans, and adjusting to a new normal. Although I had “gone natural” four years before, the time never felt right for loc’ing.

Until then.

I craved the permanency and flexibility of locs. I needed something that would connect me to my natural self and my cultural roots, and that would allow me to navigate the early years of motherhood with one less concern.

I’d planned to loc for only seven years–the spiritual number of completion. I considered cutting them off in year six, after losing Karlette, but I wasn’t ready.

“Loc’d Mommy,” Photo by My Hubby

My son, especially, wasn’t ready for a loc-less mom. Though I suspect he most enjoyed “pranking me” by tying my locs to the head rest in the car, loc’d Mommy was all he knew and he resisted the idea of my cutting them off.

My hair was a way to “mark time” as we journeyed through the first decade of his life. There was lots of growth for both of us.

In year 10, with my son’s “permission,” I convinced my bestie to cut my locs when her family came for a visit.

Good-bye Locs

That was March 2016.

Now that I’ve begun my second journey, I am asked “why?”–the same question I heard over and over when I began loc’ing the first time and when I cut my lengthy locs three years ago. The question is asked for many [complex] reasons, some of which are touched on in an earlier post.

I do not intend to go into those reasons in this post; I have only my answer to the question.

The last several months have been traumatic in some ways, and I’ve been feeling the drive to loc again. I first felt the inclination after Lori passed. I held back because I thought those feelings were a knee-jerk reaction to something I couldn’t control. However, as the months crept along, the desire grew stronger.

The losses have been significant, the pain unbearable at times. I needed to begin the process again, to mark the journey as I navigate the grief and trauma.

For me, there is incredible power in loc’ing–the patient waiting, the commitment to the process. As the hair locs and lengthens, I stretch. I strengthen. I heal.

Doodle Flowers: Show Me Your Art

Art is the only way to run away without leaving home. –Twyla Tharp

I’ve mentioned–on numerous occasions–I’m not an artist, but I’ve been playing around with my few art supplies lately, enjoying the feel of ink and colored pencils on the pages of a hardly used sketch journal tossed out by a friend.

This summer has not been the easy, relaxed summer I need, so I have been doodling as part of my morning meditation and at other times when I feel overwhelmed. It has been a pleasant way to take a “time out” from the demands on my time.

This isn’t art for show, really. I do it for myself–encouraged by the wonderful artists I’ve met through blogging, like Deb Breton, Sheila Delgado, and Holly M. In fact, I did not intend to share today. However, Laurie of Color Poems requested that I share–in response to my comment that I doodled flowers similar to her “scribble flowers.” I must oblige, of course!

So, here are my [original] doodle flowers.

I really wanted to watercolor the background, but since I can find neither my watercolor paper nor pencils, I just doodled them in the sketchpad. I used a couple of apps to add background and brighten the colors. The result is the first image in the post.

How about you? Do you ever draw or color while meditating? Or to relieve stress?  I’d love to see your work!  Share something on your blog and share the link in the comments. Pretty please.

Be sure to take a time out with some ink or paint or crayons this week.

Good Vibes | Music, Hope, and Monochrome Mayhem

I always want to talk about important subjects, but with hope. Music is supposed to heal people. — Fatoumata Diawara

At the beginning of the year, I thought I’d focus on developing my monochrome photography skills, but life got in the way. Before I pressed pause on that venture, though, I was able to coordinate and complete two “Monthly Monochrome Mayhem” swaps in the “A Thousand Words” group on swap-bot.

Through the swaps, I made another photographer friend, Betty H., from the United Kingdom. She does a lot of concert photography, so she shared photos from a show at Birmingham Town Hall that featured Fatoumata Diawara and Staff Benda Bilili, singers from the continent of Africa.

Diawara is a Malian singer-song writer and actor whose music:

draws elements of jazz and funk into an exquisitely sparse contemporary folk sound – refracting the rocking rhythms and plaintive melodies of her ancestral Wassoulou tradition through an instinctive pop sensibility. At the centre of the music is Fatou’s warm, affecting voice, spare, rhythmical guitar playing and gorgeously melodic songs that draw powerfully on her own often troubled experience.  –from Fatoumata Diawara’s Facebook Page.

Diawara opened for Staff Benda Bilili, a group of disabled street musicians from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The group consists of:

Four senior singer/guitarists sitting on spectacularly customized tricycles, occasionally dancing on the floor of the stage, arms raised in joyful supplication, are the core of the band, backed by a younger, all-acoustic, rhythm section pounding out tight beats. Over the top of this are weird, infectious guitar-like solos performed by a [young] prodigy on a one-string electric lute he designed and built himself out of a tin can. –from Staff Benda Bilili’s Facebook Page

The name of the group translates roughly to “see beyond [appearances].”

Betty says the musicians were “a joy to photograph.” I can tell! There’s so much energy in the photos that I can feel the good vibes.

The spark is even more apparent in the original color photos.

Aren’t the photos spectacular? Betty confessed that she frequently converts concert photographs to monochrome because “working around the choices of the lighting technicians” can be challenging. I see her point, but I love the mysterious aura of the color photos too.

Indie Week’s interview of Fatoumata Diawara outlines her philosophies of music and life. And if you have never heard this soulful singer, please take a listen to Fatou, her debut album.

And then, turn to the rhythmic fusion of soukous (influenced by rumba), rhythm and blues, and reggae found in the music of Staff Benda Bilili.

As Diawara points out, there’s a lot of difficulty in life. There’s also hope, joy, and laughter, which make the tough stuff bearable. I feel all of this in the music of Staff Benda Bilili and Fatoumata Diawara. Don’t you?

Until next time…

An Art Statement: Making a Mess, Restoring Order

As my artist’s statement explains, my work is utterly incomprehensible and is therefore full of deep significance.  –Calvin, Calvin and HobbesBill Watterson

I spent most of today sitting at my window in silence, untangling thoughts, and fighting icky feelings that were trying to take root. I needed to press pause on my ruminations, so–inspired by my many artist pals–I decided to pull out my long-neglected paint and brushes and make a mess.

Three postcard-sized pieces of “art” later, the ickiness kicked rocks. The works have two things in common–purple as a base color and “lack o’ skill.” I’m sharing them with you anyway because creating a masterpiece was not the point. Besides, my two biggest fans–my guys–like them and they encouraged me to post here on the blog.

Art is certainly not my forte, but I like Calvin’s artist statement [above], so I’ll claim it as my own. 🙂 Perhaps, I’ll add words [and/or photos] and send them out into the world.

If you’re feeling a bit out of sorts, pull out your paint or markers and make a mess. It’s amazing how order is restored through the creative chaos. It’s this reality that most likely prompted someone to substitute art for the word “music” in Berthold Auerbach’s quote and attribute it to Pablo Picasso: Music  “[Art] washes from the soul the dust of everyday life.”

Be sure to make a healthy mess this week!