Sunflowers & Snippets | I Choose Pencil…

Kim B Sunflower in Vintage Vase 2021

For this week’s sunflower posts, I will be sharing sunflower photographs with snippets of my writing from “Write Together” sessions coordinated by Jennifer Belthoff of Love Notes fame. I don’t always have the time to participate in the weekly sessions, but every time I do, I leave refreshed and primed to work on my “actual” writing.

In the one-hour sessions, Jennifer facilitates three rounds of writing. She offers three prompts for each round, gives 8-10 minutes to respond to one prompt (or more) and then allows participants to share their material.

I enjoy the sessions because they provide a timeout for me, and though I do not attend as often as I wish, I am always amazed by how much writing I am able to do in those small moments.

Today’s snippet was written in response to the prompt: “I am choosing pencil.”

I am choosing pencil because few things are permanent, and so much changes from day to day as we navigate the terrain of a pandemic. I am choosing pencil because life is already hard, and there have been far too many deaths, far too many things we cannot reverse. I am choosing pencil so I can erase the parts that don’t fit, the nonsense and pettiness of the day to day, the meannesses that spill out at the end of a long, exhausting day or after another sleepless night. We need compassion and patience and forgiveness and so much love. Pencils are good for helping us revise or escape reality. I am choosing pencil because maybe, we can alter the pain and loss and write a different story. –Chandra Lynn, “Write Together,” 01.04.21

Ironically, typing this in a blog post makes it a bit less temporary, but I hope you get the point.

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About the Images: Today’s images come from my Love Notes friend, Kim B. The top photo features sunflowers in a vintage vase that travelled from her Nana’s house full of flowers to her house and back to her Nana’s for a refill. The bottom photo features an “amazing accident in photography” as she captured the bee in flight when her intention was to capture one of her homegrown sunflowers. The other happy accident happened when I scanned the photo. My “phone scanner” gave the photo a vintage feel. The sunflower itself is a little overexposed, so I’d planned to fix that for Kim in PhotoShop. However, I like the accidental effect offered by the scan, so I decided to leave it alone.

Four Promises and a Gift

Tyhara Rain

“Tranquility” by Tyhara Rain

Yesterday, a friend dropped by to bring me a gift. Her gift and note became the impetus for the theme of this week’s blog posts—the gift. I will share some details of her gift later this week, but today, I’m sharing most of a blog post I wrote four years ago. I realized as I was thinking about today’s post that I wrote the post before…pretty much.

Instead of “reblogging” the post, I’m giving you the salient points and a little artsy goodness.

In order to see God’s vision for your life and become part of God’s story, there are four promises you must claim:

  1. You have a gift only you can give.

  2. Someone has a need only you can meet, only you can heal—no matter how inadequate you feel.

  3. Joy is the journey where the gift and the need collide. God’s path for your life is a collision course. The intersection where your gift crashes into the world’s need is where you will truly begin to live.

  4. Your journey to give your gift will break you…but it will also make you.  –[from Better Than You Can Imagine: God’s Calling, Your Adventure by Patrick Quinn, emphasis mine]

The excerpt from Better Than You Can Imagine unveils a principle I embrace. If we are to create change in the world then we have to find the gift someone needs—the world needs—that only we can give. We don’t just wake up one morning and decide what we’re going to give. We decide to accept and share the gift, but discovering this gift is a journey—not a decision.

Imagine how much collective change we can create if all individuals would take the journey to find that one thing and exercise it. We would literally change the world! As we partner with God on finding this “great need,” our lives are transformed from the inside out and we experience the “symbiotic” nature of change: the world opens up and reveals to us what it needs and we open up and provide.

Far too often we get caught up in the idea of making a name for ourselves or doing something grand when what seems smallest can make a huge impact on someone’s life and ultimately in the world.

Tyhara Rain

“Turbulence” by Tyhara Rain

A long time ago, I read “A Grammarian’s Funeral,” a poem by Robert Browning, which celebrates the grammarian’s lifelong dedication to Greek language study and his discovery of the articles. While he lived, his colleagues criticized his “wasting his life” and his brilliant mind on such trifles. For them his work was menial, but, though they seem a small contribution, the articles—a, an, and the—are so essential to our languages.

Like the grammarian, we must be keenly focused on finding our part and then doing it. In doing our “small” part, we change the whole.

I encourage you, if you have not already done so, take the journey to find your unique gift. In affecting even one person’s life, you’re doing your part to change the entire world.


About the Image: The artwork above is the work of one my students, Tyhara Rain. They are two of three companion pieces she gave to me as a parting gift when COVID-19 forced campus to shut down during her final semester of college and abruptly ended our long chats about art, literature, and life. :-/ We are still in touch, and I am glad she left so many precious gifts from the heart.  [Note: the scans do very little justice to these paintings].

Let’s Make Lists: Seven Little Things

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A few days ago, a friend sent me @studygr1nd’s Instagram post in which she shared an image list of small things and activities that keep her sane. I thought, “What a great idea for a blog post!”

So this Monday evening, when I’m feeling a bit out of sorts and words feel like too much for my crowded brain, I’m sharing with you seven little things that keep me sane. I’m focusing on specific things here–not experiences or people.

  • My sketchpad: Take my word for it–doodling sunflowers and daisies does wonders for chasing away the crazies.
  • My journal: There’s a tie between writing in my journal and walking among the trees as the best free therapy, but since I’m listing things and not experiences, the journal wins here.
  • Fine point black gel pens: With what else will I doodle and journal?
  • My favorite disc-bound planner: Writing out my to-dos and scheduling my day helps me to see the big picture. Also, the tasks don’t feel so overwhelming after I make a list.
  • Floral mail pouch: The gorgeous black mail pouch decorated with lavender flowers and gold accents was a gift from Christine B, one of my pen friends. The pouch is filled with postcards, note cards, tiny art, stickers, and washi tape. Of course, its primary purpose is to hold items for snail mail, but sometimes, simply looking at the pretties helps me reset.
  • Mary Oliver’s DevotionsNeed I say more?
  • My sunflower wall: Sometimes there’s nothing more mind-settling than turning toward my brilliant wall(s) of sunflowers that remind me to #facethesun

Though I can list far more than seven, I’ll spare you the lengthy list. I tortured you enough with my list of 100 things that bring me joy. 😀 And, since I don’t have to be convinced to make a list, I decided to make this “list week” on the blog. C’mon, you saw this coming, right?

What are some things that keep you sane?


About the Image: The postcard above, entitled Girl with Watering Can, features the work of Mila Marquis, a Hamburg, Germany-based illustrator. My Love Notes friend, Gina B sent the pretty card for International Women’s Day. You can see more of Marquis’ cheerful whimsical illustrations on her Instagram or Facebook page.

Dream Week | The Rock

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Last week, in the middle of the agonizing, true-to-its reputation Monday morning, I dropped by the Associate Registrar’s office to get clarification on a particular policy. While there, I noticed the cutest tiny Zen garden. I was drawn to the sand and calming turquoise, but I fixated on the rock that held the word “dream.” An hour or so later, I sent my friend Cy a text telling her I needed to take a mental break and write a blog post, but I hadn’t decided on a theme for the week. She suggested that I do a Dream Week. Her suggestion confirmed what the “dream rock” was trying to tell me, so here we are—a week later—hosting “Dream Week” on Pics and Posts. 

If you had asked me about my dreams a couple of years ago, I might have told you I have none–if I were being honest. I came to this realization early one morning while reflecting on a statement from Howard Thurman’s “The Inward Sea,” the first section of Meditations of the Heart:

Keep alive the dream; for as long as a [wo]man has a dream in his [her] heart, [s]he cannot lose the significance of living.

I asked myself, “What are my dreams?”

Crickets.

Nothing stirred inside, and I felt like a hollow vessel.

I thought, “Have I achieved so much in life? Am I so perfectly content that there’s no need for dreams? Or have I fallen so far down the “well of despair” that I could no longer muster up the courage to dream?” 

I could have psyched myself into believing that I had no dreams per se because I’d worked my dreams into plans and plans into action. But I knew that would be cute, but not true.

I was troubled. I once had deep, colorful, audacious dreams. Where were those dreams?

The question unsettled me; for I knew without dreams I was merely existing, and that was not enough living for me. 

Then, the more critical question emerged. Why had I stopped dreaming? After I took the time to soul-search, I arrived at the answers:

I had stopped dreaming because I was afraid to dream. I had stop dreaming because I was grieving loss after loss after loss, and while I had to function on all fronts in my outer life, in the inner life I could lay it all down and no one would know. I had stopped dreaming because I was wounded and “stretched out” while I processed the blows that took me down. I had stopped dreaming because there were too many disappointments and too many devastating realities.

I had stopped dreaming so I could pour all my energy into surviving. 

It took some doing—an additional year or so of soul work—for me to trust life enough to really dream again and to know that my dreams can be as boundless and wild as my imagination allows. 

I don’t have any solid plans for this Dream Week, but that’s the nature of dreams. Join me, and let’s see where the dreams take us. 

World Watercolor Month: 1-7

WWCM01Did you know July was/is World Watercolor Month? You can read all about it and its founder, Doodlewash, by clicking the links.

I am not a watercolor artist, but as I was feeding my need for pretty on Instagram, I saw my friend Sheila’s Day 9 post for World Watercolor Month. I commented that I would participate with watercolor edits of photos! She encouraged me to do just that, and I joined the fun Day 11 with the post above.

For 21 days, I enjoyed my daily art breaks; I played around with edits in Waterlogue and BeCasso App–über fun and less time consuming than PhotoShop. The brief sessions provided respite from the late summer frenzy.

To the delight of my millions of followers, I shared my “art and quote” posts via Instagram and Facebook. [Hyperbole, of course]. The Doodlewash folks “liked” many (maybe all?) my posts and the makers of Becasso App “liked” posts in which I tagged the app; they shared [at least] one in their stories. That was icing on the cake. It’s nice that they actually pay attention to the hashtags. 🙂

While I focus on all the facets of getting the academic year started this week, I leave you with a bit of eye candy and food for the soul. Rather than overwhelm you, I will give you just enough for each day–seven images in three posts. [Day 1 is above. Days 2-7 are below]. If you can’t wait till Wednesday and Friday to see the rest, you can always visit my Instagram profile. [Click an image for a closer look].

Have an artful week!

Fractals | Artistry, Magic, and Song

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About five years ago, my friend, international poet and scholar, Dr. Jerry W. Ward, Jr., published a collection of poetry entitled Fractal Song. I have yet to speak with Ward about the title of the collection. I assumed it was connected to his interest (and degree) in mathematics. If you’ve been paying attention, you know my relationship with mathematics is an only-when-necessary one. For that reason, I gave the title and cover (which features a fractal) only cursory acknowledgment until I started playing around with my own fractal art.

The poems, which deal primarily with Black experience, possess cadences akin to traditional Black music forms–jazz and blues and maybe, even hip hop. At times, the words mimic the woeful whine of a saxophone, just grazing the deep ache of our longing. At other times, the poems hit the wry tone and rhythm of blues. Reality is matter-of-fact. We note it and we find ways to go on, laughing to keep from crying. Then, there is in some of the poems the flippant, unapologetic, unvarnished truth-telling, which makes hip hop so appealing.

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The word fractal has its roots in the Latin fract-, “broken” from the verb “frangere,” which means to break. When I look closely at the fractals created from my photographs, I notice there is a slight break or opening that begins or disrupts (?) the pattern, so I’ve been thinking about the etymology of the word and how it impacts my reading of Ward’s poems.

There is much in Fractal Songs that opens and “breaks.” Traditional and experimental lines break. Time breaks as the poet traverses various historical and literary moments. And, certainly, there is his handling of much that is dark and broken in the African American (particularly) male experience.

Ward’s poems will not leave one feeling warm and fuzzy, as some expect when they encounter poetry. The poems in the collection are gritty and rugged. However, like fractals, there is artistry, beauty, and magic–even in the brokenness.


fractal song coverYour Voice
Jerry W. Ward, Jr.

It’s a magic thing
Sun and rain and poetry
Flooding in my memory,
But all I can remember
Is how you got over
A deep river
With amazing grace
And cursed your blues
With natural rhythms.

Photo Inspiration | Strength

Strength


I am working to complete one or two of my “serious” writing projects this week, so I will not have time to write blog posts. No worries though! My camera and phone are filled with (literally thousands of) photos the world never sees. I will be sharing some of those photos with inspirational quotes and wisdom all week.

Until next time…Be inspired!

1LW: Shake Off the Dust and Rise Up

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Shake off your dust;
    rise up, sit enthroned, Jerusalem.
Free yourself from the chains on your neck,
    Daughter Zion, now a captive.

Isaiah 52:2 NIV

If I had the skills of some of my talented artist friends I would illustrate the Bible verse above. There is amazing beauty in the images of shaking off the dust of grief and fear, of rising up from the muck and mire, of breaking psychological and circumstantial chains and walking in freedom to our rightful throne as a daughter [or son] of the Most High.

I’m thinking of this verse today because I am [finally] starting to put together my one little word (1LW) journal, and it is the key scripture for my current word—RISE.

I have had little motivation to grapple with my 1LW, so my friend Cy of Pink Nabi and I challenged each other to work with our words this week. I’ve been randomly collecting [my own] thoughts, artwork, and poems, but have not pulled anything together. Despite my lack of intentionality in this regard, I see how God has been working in me all along—healing, loosening the chains, and providing the strength for me to “rise up” from the dust.

Out of all the “rise” scriptures, I’m most drawn to Isaiah 52:2. I understand the historical context of the scripture and its call to ancient Israel, but I find its message applicable for us: It reminds us that we have already been set free from everything that binds us. When we act on the decision to rise, we’ll find the chains have already been loosened—and our throne awaiting.

Vote for Mono Lake!

Dennis Mono Lake

Not every lake dreams to be an ocean. Blessed are the ones who are happy with who they are. —Mehmet Murat ildan

I am finally on vacation, so I am taking a day off from life and imagining being in the presence of this peaceful scene at Mono Lake, an ancient saline lake located at the eastern edge of the Sierra Nevada in California.

My brother, Dennis, entered the photograph above in Outdoor Photography’s Water Photo Contest, and you can help him win! All you have to do is click the photo or the link below and vote for “Mono Lake.”  Easy-peasy!

You can see more of Dennis’s work by checking out his website,  his Facebook page, or his Instagram. If you’re looking for seriously reasonably priced fine art photography for your home or office, take a look at the Print Shop and send him an email.

The contest closes June 30, so [pretty] please [with sugar on top] click the link for a better look and to vote: Mono Lake by Dennis Tyler Photography.

Thanks for voting!!!