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!

The Hot Woman

La FemmeJPG

“La Femme” from paruspaper

It’s probably not best to begin a “Happy Summer” post with the one reason I do not like the summer season so much. However, I stood in the hot sun for almost two hours this morning at a grand opening event, so I am really not too fond of the “return of the sun.” Of course, here in the Deep South, it’s been “summer” for a while, so today feels less like the first (full) day of summer and more like midsummer hell (to those of us who do not like the heat). 

Thus, I say, “Happy Summer” with a bit of sand and ocean from my Love Notes friend and literary twin, Gina B. (whose favorite season is summer), and a poem by Derek Walcott. “Midsummer, Tobago” perfectly describes early summer (or late spring) in certain parts of the USA and the long days of the (paradoxically) brief summer season. 

Midsummer, Tobago
Derek Walcott

Broad sun-stoned beaches.

White heat.
A green river.

A bridge,
scorched yellow palms

from the summer-sleeping house
drowsing through August.

Days I have held,
days I have lost,

days that outgrow, like daughters,
my harbouring arms.

Happy Summer, Y’all!

Weekend Joy and the Clinton Row Colorwalk

A smile relieves a heart that grieves. Remember what I said. –The Rolling Stones, Mick Jagger & Keith Richards

So far this long weekend has been exactly what I needed. When I left work Thursday, I’d planned to take the four-day weekend seriously re: self-care and joy breaks. I had some “unfinished business,” so I worked till noon Friday and I haven’t thought about work since then.

I have been just as serious about my 10 days of joy.

Yesterday, I held my first full “brain dump” session in a long time and ended up with a three-page list of all the things that have been nipping at my soul. Now, I know that doesn’t sound very “joyful.” And it isn’t. In fact, without context, the list is sad, stressful, anxious, but the JOY is in how I felt after writing the list! I have been carrying too much stuff internally, and when I don’t deal with it or even take a moment to acknowledge it, all that soul-gunk spills out in not-so-nice ways. So…taking an hour or so Sunday morning to detoxify my soul was beneficial in many ways.

I’m not sure I would have been able to even approach that list if the guys and I hadn’t taken time out for creativity Saturday afternoon. We grabbed our cameras, headed downtown, donned our masks, and took a two-hour photo walk. The weather was perfect—cloudy, cool, and breezy.

I noted the typical street scenes—musicians playing, private conversations, storefronts, architecture, diners—but, because I am nearly obsessed with street art, the Clinton Row Colorwalk was my favorite joy moment of the walk!

The Clinton Row Colorwalk is an alley filled with murals painted by Huntsville (Alabama) artists.

Mick Jagger with Frame

Needless to say, every single piece of work thrilled me, but the quote written along the frame of the Mick Jagger portrait transformed the art into a powerful statement:

I pray that looking beyond this day we can all work together to overcome the hatred and division and start to heal the pain and suffering that everybody is feeling in this country.

Here’s a collage of “sneak peaks” of some the other pieces:

To see the full pieces, see my Flickr album here > Clinton Row Colorwalk Album and for more information about the art and some of the artists’ processes, check out the Facebook page here > Clinton Row Colorwalk Community.

What is today’s joy break? I’ll be spending time with family safely celebrating my baby cousin’s kindergarten graduation!

Joy all around!

Student Post 8: The Monday Blues

Butterfly in BlueUgh! Monday…

Is that how you felt when you opened your eyes this morning? Sometimes, I look forward to the work week. At other times, I want to reverse time and extend the weekend another seven days. In our final post focusing on a single blog, sweet Kyara of Thoughts of Key provides tips for beating the Monday blues in her post aptly entitled, “Monday.”  Be sure to skip over to her blog, pick up a cure or two for the blues, and follow her!

And if you’re really in a funk, perhaps this cute song from My Little Pony will help you say good-bye to those Monday blues. If this doesn’t help, cheer up. The weekend is only five days away!

Disclaimer: This is my first time ever seeing or listening to anything from My Little Pony, but I have to do this because part of the fun of this Monday morning is knowing that my posting the video will drive my son a little crazy. 😀


About the Image: Featured in the photo is a section of Hani Shihada’s sidewalk art, shot in New York 10 years ago. I’ve used the photo in many art and snail mail projects. You can see some of them here and here (scroll all the way down to the outgoing mail slideshow). The full image is a little dark, but I’ll have to share it some day. 

Student Post 1: No [Wo]Man is a Paradise Island

Rhododendron-2

No man is an island entirely of itself. –John Donne

I had many posts planned for this month, and like the many posts planned for the first quarter of the year, they’ve been placed on the back burner until I have time to actually enjoy putting the posts together. For now–this week, at least–I will share posts written by my student bloggers. I planned to share links to their blogs in one post; instead, I decided to highlight specific posts by the students and hopefully boost their readership.

The first post was written by Wanéa, the “small girl with big thoughts.” In “No Man is a Paradise Island” she talks about being an introvert during the pandemic.

Click the link and show Wanéa some blogiverse love. Be sure to follow Unbecoming:

“No Man is a Paradise Island.”


Notes: I’ll be sharing random shots from my brief escapes from the computer screen with the student links. That way I’ll contribute something. Right? Also, I know I can hit the “reblog” button at the bottom the student posts, but is that effective? I wonder how many people actually click the link to continue reading…

The Sistren: Their Words Filled Me

“The Sistren: Black Women Writers at the Inauguration of America’s First Sister President.” Photo: (c)
Susan J. Ross. 1988. Used by permission.

Can you name these women?

I cannot remember life without these sister-poets and writers. It seems their words have been with me all my life.

I was young–a preteen in most cases–when I was introduced to Nikki Giovanni, Gwendolyn Brooks, Mari Evans, Sonia Sanchez, Toni Cade Bambara. I don’t remember how I came to meet them, other than through my thirst for books, which often led me to my mother’s or older siblings’ book collections.

I encountered others later–when I was in college and in graduate school. I even met some of them in person.

Their names and words became part of my literary vocabulary, reserved for sacred moments, quiet time. Me and my sister writers. Their words filled me and spoke to an experience akin to my own–of black women speaking, loving, empowering–alive and thriving in their own spaces.

Only the black woman can say ‘when and where I enter, in the quiet, undisputed dignity of my womanhood, without violence and without suing or special patronage, then and there the whole Negro race enters with me.’ —Anna Julia Cooper, A Voice from the South, 1892


How many did you know? Top Row: Louise Meriwether, Pinkie Gordon Lane, Johnnetta Cole and Paula Giddings. Middle Row: Pearl Cleage, Gwendolyn Brooks, and Toni Cade Bambara. Bottom Row: Sonia Sanchez, Nikki Giovanni, and Mari Evans

Many thanks to photographer Susan Ross [website] who gave me permission to share her photo on my blog. You can find also find her on Instagram and Twitter @photogriot.

I Can…

Earlier today I had a conversation with one of my students. She was having a moment—one of those moments when getting out of bed is difficult and facing the day feels impossible. I’ve been having those days quite a bit lately. In fact, today was one of those days.

I felt it as soon as I forced myself out of bed at 5:09. It hung over me like a heavy weight while I showered. It stuck “in my craw” while I prayed and journaled. It slowed me down as I dressed and packed my bags and offered all the reasons to hide under the covers and try again tomorrow. But, of course, being an adult, I had little choice but to “suck it up” and face the day.

It’s not anything in particular that places us in these “ugh” moments. It’s the accumulation of “life stuff.” Our operating in a pandemic for the last year certainly doesn’t help—the isolation from those we love, the death toll, the uptick in technology use. It’s downright wearying. It’s depressing, and we have to do everything we can to take care of ourselves and avoid slipping into a deep well of despair.

I told my student to get out of bed, open her curtains, let some light in her room, seek counsel, and meditate over scripture. I shared with her on those days when I feel like I just.can’t.do.life, I repeat over and over and over again the only Bible verse I have the energy for—

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. —Philippians 4:13

I can. She can. You can. And we wake up the next morning, realizing, we’ve survived another one of those moments.


About the Image: My Love Notes friend, Arielle W, sent the sunflower above for International Women’s Day 2021. She sent it with IWD wishes and a cheerful spring greeting. What a beautiful way to begin the week!

When You See Me Standing…

may i grow
so tall and bright,
so free and wild,
so brave and vibrant
that when you see me
standing
you think i am
a sunflower.

Gaby Comprés


About the image: I received such beautiful cards and messages for International Women’s Day/Women’s History Month that I decided to share some on the blog this week. The sunflower above is from Diane W, one of my Love Notes friends. Her card was the first to arrive, and it was such a pleasure to open her sunflower-adorned envelope and find the sunflower inside with other goodies–the poem above, a “Horned Poppy Fairy” postcard, and positive affirmations neatly penned on daisy-shaped cutouts. Diane enjoys making cards using postage stamps, but this was her first time making sunflower cards. This unique beauty is on its way to my sunflower wall!

#ChooseToChallenge | International Women’s Day 2021

#ChooseToChallenge. That is the theme for International Women’s Day 2021.

It is imperative that we challenge the status quo and archaic ways of thinking and doing life and obliterate systems that keep women from being their best selves, but we must also take to task the everyday affronts—byproducts of the system—slights we experience in our homes, in our churches, at work, in the grocery store, while pumping gas, even while sitting alone with our thoughts.

Today, I invite you, yes, to challenge larger systems, but also take stock of your immediate environment, including yourself, and challenge those things that thwart your efforts toward being a whole person.

Challenge individuals who judge you and place you in the tiny box they’ve carved for themselves; challenge those fearful thoughts that keep you incapacitated, those debilitating ideas that creep inside and stall every movement forward; challenge self-consciousness, feelings of inadequacy and invisibility, fear of rejection, and pull up a seat at the table. You don’t need an invitation. You belong there, sharing your grace, your strength, your knowledge, your unique bent.

Happy International Women’s Day!

“In This Here Place…”

Emilio Cruz. Figurative Composition #7, 1965, oil on canvas. Smithsonian American Art Museum. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. David K. Anderson, Martha Jackson Memorial Collection, 1980.137.21

We are nearing the end of discussion of Toni Morrison’s Beloved in one of my classes. My favorite part of the novel (and perhaps the reason I love it so much) is the sermon Baby Suggs, holy delivers in the Clearing. Instead of an actual Bible verse, love is her text. To those newly loosed [one way or another] from the chains and nightmare of slavery it is a reminder of their humanity and a call to release the atrocities of the past and imagine a new reality. After exorcising their demons through dance, laughter, and tears, Baby Suggs delivers a love letter to their beautiful souls. For me, this is the most powerful part of the book:

In this here place, we flesh; flesh that weeps, laughs; flesh that dances on bare feet in grass. Love it. Love it hard. Yonder they do not love your flesh. They despise it. They don’t love your eyes; they’d just as soon pick em out. No more do they love the skin on your back. Yonder they flay it. And O my people they do not love your hands. Those they only use, tie, bind, chop off and leave empty. Love your hands! Love them. Raise them up and kiss them. Touch others with them, pat them together, stroke them on your face ’cause they don’t love that either. You got to love it, you! And no, they ain’t in love with your mouth. Yonder, out there, they will see it broken and break it again. What you say out of it they will not heed. What you scream from it they do not hear. What you put into it to nourish your body they will snatch away and give you leavins instead. No, they don’t love your mouth. You got to love it. This is flesh I’m talking about here. Flesh that needs to be loved. Feet that need to rest and to dance; backs that need support; shoulders that need arms, strong arms I’m telling you. And O my people, out yonder, hear me, they do not love your neck unnoosed and straight. So love your neck; put a hand on it, grace it, stroke it and hold it up. And all your inside parts that they’d just as soon slop for hogs, you got to love them. The dark, dark liver–love it, love it and the beat and beating heart, love that too. More than eyes or feet. More than lungs that have yet to draw free air. More than your life-holding womb and your life-giving private parts, hear me now, love your heart. For this is the prize.  –Toni Morrison, Beloved

I cannot locate a quality clip of Beah Richard’s phenomenal [understatement] performance of the second part [above] of Baby Sugg’s sermon, but here’s the first part.


About the Image: The artwork featured above is the work of Emilio Cruz, an African American artist of Cuban descent. You can see more of his work by clicking the link. It is one of the postcards in Paintings by African-Americans from the collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.