Escape.

“Maui’s Exotic Skies.” Photo by D. Cornwell

As the day draws to a close, sit back and enjoy the peace and tranquility as the sun dramatically sets in Hawaiian skies. –from the postcard back.

I “closed the book” on Fall 2018–a long and stressful semester–but a lengthy to-do list mocks me, reminding me that there’s so much more to be done. No matter. I’ve already planned my mental escape. I’m “on my way” to Maui as I type.

To escape and sit quietly on the beach–that’s my idea of paradise. –Emilia Wickstead

The Perfect Time

Autumn is the perfect time
to take account of what we’ve done,
what we didn’t do,
and what we’d like to do next year.

This weekend, I received three stunning autumn-themed swaps from Diane W. (Midteacher on swap-bot). Each was sent for a swap in the A Thousand Words group. The handmade postcard above was sent for the “Autumn Postcard or Notecard” swap.

The gathering of leaves met Diane at her back stairs and she couldn’t resist taking the shot. She provided details of her creative process on the back of the card. Don’t you love all the layers and textures?

I am always inspired to do more with my own photos when I see her work. One day, I will…

In a Certain Light | Ty 4 Thoughts

“In a Certain Light,” iPhone Photo by Tyhara Rain

What if we already are
Who we’ve been dying to become
In certain light I can plainly see
A reflection of magnificence
Hidden in you
Maybe even in me
“Four,” Sleeping At Last

Today’s post features an image by my multitalented teaching assistant, Tyhara Rain. She found and captured this beauty on one of our escapes from the office. She featured the image and quote in a blog post a month ago. With her permission, I’m sharing here. Visit Tyhara’s blog, Ty 4 Thoughts,  to read about her experience with the leaf. She’s new to the blogosphere, so maybe, your visit will encourage her to post a little more frequently.

They Lived “Their Brightest Lives”

“The Brightest Sunflower.” Photograph by Eileen V.

despite knowing
they won’t be here for long
they still choose to live
their brightest lives

rupi kaur, “sunflowers,” the sun and her flowers

Today’s sunflower love features the photography of my Love Notes friend, Eileen V. She captured the sunny bloom while out and about with a friend and sent the card with hugs, strength, and hope in light of Lori’s passing.

Eileen wrote that whenever she sees a sunflower she thinks of me and her daughter, Alanna, who also loved sunflowers.I did not miss the “past tense” in Eileen’s mention of her daughter, and I learned shortly afterwards that she lost her daughter some years ago to a tragic accident. It’s bittersweet to share a precious connection via sunflowers, and when I see them, I will think of Eileen and Alanna.

My heart breaks. It breaks for all of us who have lost someone dear to us. But it comforts me to know Alanna, Lori, and Karlette lived “their brightest lives” and touched so many hearts during their brief sojourn in this world.

The View From My Window

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The View from My Office Window

My favorite journey is looking out the window. –Edward Gorey

Today was one of those days. Icky. Gloomy. Wet. It rained the entire drive into work, so by the time I arrived [a little earlier than usual], I just wanted to sit at the window till the end of the day and watch autumn happen. The view of campus from my office is always delightful, but autumn brings a whole new level of stunning that tempts me to neglect the long to do list.

No giving in to temptation today though. With only five days of instruction left, grading and classes demanded time and attention.

Some days, it seems there’s no time to think as I rush from one task, event, or meeting to another, so a stolen moment here and there to look out windows can make a world of difference in my attitude and level of productivity. While I’m gazing, I’m thinking thoughts, mulling over, working things out, or allowing my mind to roam, but I’m also listening for direction, confirmation, presence. The moments are sanity-saving, a way to push away all the other stuff, tune inward and repair–when necessary–without totally checking out.

What do you do when time and tasks work against your desire to just be?


Linking up with Dawn of The Day After in the Festival of Leaves photo challenge.

Musings from My Younger Self: In a Grown Man’s Suit

Photo by ShonEjai on Pixabay

Sometimes, I look at my early poetry and wonder where in the world it came from. I led a rather sheltered life. I wasn’t on lockdown, but I certainly wasn’t allowed to run wild and free. Everyone had a telephone, so my parents knew where I was at all times. My subject matter came not only from what I experienced but for the most part from things I observed or heard–directly or indirectly.

I wrote the poem below shortly after I turned 16–or made 16, as we say in New Orleans.

All these little boys walking around
trying to be grown men.

Smoking grass,
shooting dice,
dropping out of school,
making love, unloving
makes a man.

Employed
by their egocentrism,
they are first
in the unemployment line.

Gambling in the streets
with ill-gotten money.

They are “kool,”
but their tempers are hott!

They have no goal in life,
not an aim
or a dream.

They only want to live
well enough to get by.

They know nothing of
struggling up
a ladder of success.

Success to them is survival.

Sure, I was aware of guys who hung out all day and didn’t go to work or school, but these guys didn’t have girlfriends, “lovers,” or “hott” tempers [that I knew of]. I didn’t know them to shoot dice or smoke marijuana, so I’m not sure where this poem came from–perhaps from the books I read. I was very much into Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison, and James Baldwin during my teen years, but I don’t think this came from them.

Now that I think about it. . .maybe the influence was Gwendolyn Brooks’s “We Real Cool.”

My friend, Cy, “wishes [she] knew more of what [I] was thinking when I wrote this because it is not such a positive picture.”

wish I could go back and tell my younger self to take notes on the poems I write, so decades later I wouldn’t have to respond, “I wish I knew too!”

What Would You Tell Your 18-Year-Old Self?

“Letters to My 18-Year-Old Self” are pretty popular lately (or maybe always?). I’ve seen them on blogs, in journals, in online newspapers and magazines, even in seminars and workshops, but I’ve given little consideration to the topic. Of course, I’ve wondered every now and then if I should have done some things differently, but I’ve never written a note to my younger self–until three weeks ago when Love Notes 25 kicked off with the prompt:

Write the words you would tell your 18-year-old self.

My assigned partner, Janet T, is new to the Love Notes community. She is a “mom to two beautiful daughters” in their 20’s, so she has probably had some recent practice with the prompt. She wrote her note in a card bearing a gold embossed mermaid silhouette:

Whatever gives you happiness–let that inspire you in your daily life. The things you love make you who you are and don’t let anyone influence you wrongly.

Have courage and be kind.

“Purple Tulips.” Watercolor postcard by Christine B.

My most prolific penfriend, Christine, created the beautiful purple tulip [above] in honor of my sister Lori [and me] and wrote a six-item list:

  1. Bad things happen.
  2. Find people to trust and love as much as you can
  3. Make your voice heard
  4. Vote!
  5. Laugh until you cry and cry until you laugh
  6. Don’t hold your breath

There are many, many things I’d say to my 18-year-old self, much of it far too personal to share in a blog post or a note [to anyone outside myself], so I sent a list of things I find myself saying to my students over and over again–not so much a “letter to my 18-year-old self,” but little bits of counsel that I found (or should have found) useful:

Card designed by Hessa, age 9, Abu-Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Children’s Art Project, MD Anderson Cancer Center. [A gift from Christine].

These sorts of exercises can be fun as long as we avoid falling into the pit of regret and the type of thinking that our lives would be so much better if we had present knowledge then. Our 18-year-old selves were just that. 18. Young. Inexperienced. Insecure. Overly confident. Full of life, contradictions, crazy ideas, and impossibilities.

Despite all the craziness of youth, I wouldn’t change a thing. My life wasn’t and isn’t perfect, but my 18-year-old self made many solid decisions and did more than a few things well. As for the things I didn’t get quite right, mistakes are inevitable and we learn so much more from our missteps than from our successes.

If you’re 18 or thereabout, maybe, you’ll find some usefulness in the lists above. If you’d like a more “focused” list, check out runner and professional coach Steve Magness’ post: Advice for the Young and Driven: A letter to my 18-year-old self.

If you’re waaaay past 18, like I am, what would you say to your 18-year-old self?  Comment below.