“If There Be Sorrow…”

I’m sharing a poem today that I’ve loved most of my life. It is one of the first poems I scribbled into my inspiration notebook many moons ago. The poem, “If There Be Sorrow,” was written by Mari Evans (1923-2017), a writer-activist and major figure of the Black Arts Movement of the 1960’s and 1970’s.

I was and am drawn to the wisdom of the short verse, of living a life without regret.

If There Be Sorrow
Mari Evans

If there be sorrow
let it be
for things undone . . .
undreamed
unrealized
unattained
to these add one;
Love withheld . . .
. . . restrained


About the image: This is another photo card from the set  designed by my photographer/art journalist friend Diane W (midteacher on swap-bot). I shared a couple earlier this month with William Wordsworth’s “A Psalm of Life,” a poem with a message similar to Evans’.

“A Psalm of Life: Let Us Be Up and Doing”

I thought about posting a biblical poem today, but once again, I was overwhelmed by my choices, so I decided to share Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem, “A Psalm of Life.” I happened across the poem this morning as I was reading through Our Daily Bread: Timeless Wisdom to Nourish the Soul, a gorgeous book I purchased nearly 20 years ago. The book is overflowing with scripture, poetry, and meditations.

Longfellow’s message is timely–life is real and we should live it to the fullest.

A Psalm of Life
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

What The Heart Of The Young Man Said To The Psalmist.

Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream!
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.

Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each to-morrow
Find us farther than to-day.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world’s broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!

Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act,— act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o’erhead!

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;

Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.


About today’s images: Today’s images are from a set of photo cards designed by my photographer/art journalist friend Diane W (midteacher on swap-bot). You have seen Diane’s stunning creations on the blog many times. She sent the photos in a beautifully designed handmade envelope filled with photo goodies and design surprises (like hidden pockets filled with photos, stitching, and butterflies). The set has been sitting in my “to be blogged” bin for nearly two years! The two included here are perfect matches for Wadsworth’s poem. To see what Diane has been up to lately, check out her Instagram page: A Focused Journey.

Let It Snow!

“Let It Snow,” Photo by Diane W (midteacher)

My students are tired; my colleagues are tired; and I am certainly tired. I can’t figure out why we’re all so exhausted less than three weeks into spring semester, but we are and we need a little break.

After a preview of this week’s weather, my son and I started praying for a snow day Friday–literally. Today, I enlisted the students and a couple of my colleagues.

In preparation for the “inclement weather” announcement that was sure to come, I stopped by Publix for “essential” snow day supplies. As I shopped, I was heartened by the bubbly energy of other teachers and professors exchanging quiet “hallelujahs” for the unplanned day off. Finally, moments after arriving home, the announcement came: “Classes cancelled.” I heard the collective shout of the students 15 miles away.

In anticipation of snow, I’m sharing some wintry mail from Michigan for this Microblog Monday.

I received the elegant winter-themed envelope from Diane W. (midteacher on swap-bot) a week or so ago; it remained unopened for days because I didn’t want to disturb the pretty.

Don’t you agree?

Here’s a closer look at some of the details:

Diane even “fancied up” the back:

There were about 10 photos tucked inside the pockets of the handmade envelope and a letter detailing the experience of her last photo walk of 2018.

With a piping hot mug of tea (posed above) Diane braved the cold and snapped photos of her “garden in its winter coat with fallen leaves still scattered from the old oak tree guarding the garden.”

I love every photo she included in the envelope, but, in addition to the mug, here are my favorites.

A snow-cushioned chair that invited her to “sit for a spell” [she declined]:

“Snow Covered Chair,” Photo by Diane W. [midteacher]

Leaves “still hanging on the raspberry bushes curled with a hint of green in the centers.” They look [to me] like two birds having a conversation. Diane enclosed the color and black and white versions of the photo. I have a thing for black and white, so…

“Birds Talking,” Photo by Diane W. [midteacher]

Dried globe thistle “donning caps of snow crystals.”

“Snow-capped Thistles,” Photo by Diane W. [midteacher]

I know snow days are not simply fun and games for everyone, so though I am looking forward to a needed day to rest and get caught up on a few things (perhaps?), my thoughts and prayers are also with those who will have to deal with the worst of the storm.

Stay dry. Stay warm. Stay safe.

Haiku | Bashō | Winter Solitude

Winter solitude
in a world of one color
the sound of wind
Matsuo Bashō (1644-1694)

The “Winter Scene” card above was crafted by my mixed media photography art “inspirer,” Diane W. (midteacher on swap-bot). She sent it to me two years ago, but it has been hiding in a pocket  in my Traveler’s Notebook. Now, that it’s been “found,” the photo creation is an able companion for Bashō’s haiku.

12 Days of Christmas Postcards | Day 5

The spirit of Christmas is the spirit of love and of generosity and of goodness. It illuminates the picture window of the soul, and we look out upon the world’s busy life and become more interested in people than in things. –Thomas S. Monson

I’m back today with another crafted Christmas tree postcard. This one is from Diane W (midteacher on swap-bot), whose 2017 postcard is featured in my Christmas Day post. Diane is my inspiration for mixed media photo creations, and now she’s given me a technique to try with card-making without photos.

Here’s her creation process:

  • Adhere scrapbook paper to 5×7 Watercolor paper
  • Spray a piece of brown craft paper with water; wad up into a ball
  • Carefully unwad and mist with Perfect Pearls Mist spray in Perfect Pearl
  • Allow to dry; iron flat
  • Cut to size and glue over scrapbook paper
  • Emboss the edges of the postcard
  • Create the tree by cutting a copy of Christmas music.
  • Adhere ribbon
  • Glue tree onto postcard
  • Add a piece of burlap ribbon for the trunk
  • Add Tim Holtz Christmas phrases

I love this card, especially the crinkled craft paper and the embossed edges. Since there are so few elements, I can make this project with leftovers from other projects. I have a drawer full of scraps that are too beautiful to toss!

I won’t put you through the agony of my imitation of Diane’s tree, like I did yesterday with Martha’s, but I think I’ll attempt this technique to make cards for some birthdays that are coming up in January.

Thanks, Diane for the quote, the card, and the lesson. Thanks, too, for showering me with beauty all year long and for sharing your techniques with me.

Sunflower Field in Autumn

“Sunflower Field in Autumn” by Diane W. aka midteacher

there is peaceful.
there is wild.
i am both at the same time.

nayyirah waheed, “sum,” salt

Today’s sunflower comes from my photographer friend Diane–midteacher on swap-bot. She continually inspires me with her beautifully crafted photos.

For “Sunflower Field in Autumn” Diane tried a creation process she had just discovered.  For this project she:

  • “gessoed” watercolor paper
  • pushed pearlized crackle paste through stencil
  • allowed to dry overnight
  • Used INFUSIONS color stain on background
  • allowed to dry overnight
  • glued photo; adhered paper and ribbon
  • allowed glue to dry
  • added sewing
  • glued cardstock to backside and trimmed

I get to be the “guinea pig” for many of Diane’s experiments with new techniques. Lucky me–especially when sunflowers are involved!

Thanks for the sunshine, Diane!

Possibilities

“Possibilities” by Diane W., Midteacher on swap-bot

The academic year began with far more drama than I expected, and I’m finally finding a few moments on a less crazy night. I’ve been reflecting on the mixed media photography piece Diane W., Midteacher, sent for the “Raindrops” swap I hosted a few weeks ago.

Last Monday, I marched into my office after dropping my son off for his first day of school, happy to have a full seven hours to transform “possibilities” to realities. I had such plans! But one obstacle after another hindered any progress on anything day after day for almost the entire week.

When my own classes began two days later, I was not prepared. I “faked the funk” and pushed through, but by Friday, I was deflated–my only solace was knowing I had the weekend to recuperate.

Today, I took a short walk after my morning classes, annoyed by another hindrance. Through some connection in my thoughts, the words Diane worked into her photo surfaced–“today is full of possibilities.”

Was I going to let one thing gone wrong ruin a whole day filled with possibilities? Was I going to allow my week to be hijacked again?

Of course not! There’s too much at stake.

I shook off the icky feelings, returned to my office and got to work…chipping away at the possibilities.

Red Roses, Yellow Roses, and a Little Slice of Paradise

Recently–as in two months ago–my friend Kemi shared with me photos of the beautiful roses her husband gave her for their 21st anniversary.

That reminded me! I hadn’t hosted a “roses” photography swap in quite some time. In fact, it had been four years since I hosted the “One Perfect Rose” swap on swap-bot . We were overdue for another one–especially since I’ve been making progress on photographing roses. So…I set up the swap in the “A Thousand Words” group.

The goal of the swap was to send a photo that captured the sentiment of Dorothy Parker’s poem, “One Perfect Rose,” and write a note about a gift the sender desires from his or her significant other–instead of roses.

Diane W (Midteacher), my partner whose work you’ve seen here on the blog before, sent photos of her beautiful hybrid tea roses.

Hybrid Tea Rose, or Tahitian Sunset, Photo by Diane W. aka Midteacher

According to Midteacher, the Hybrid Tea Rose, dubbed “Tahitian Sunset,” is also described as a “little slice of paradise.” She fell in love with the roses while working at a local nursery to help pay for her wedding. A resourceful bride-to-be, she purchased the rose bush and had her florist make her wedding bouquet and other floral arrangements. She even worked extra shifts to make sure she’d have enough of the gorgeous tea roses.

“A Little Slice of Paradise,” Photo by Diane W. aka Midteacher

Midteacher snaps photos of the blooms every year and shares that the buds are much more colorful than the full blooms. In her usual impressive way, she crafted the photos into inspiration for my walls and journals.

I fretted considerably over which roses to send to my partner–raindrops on roses? white roses? pink roses? red roses? Roses I shot in New Orleans last winter? Roses I shot in Huntsville last spring? I can barely remember what I actually sent her since I looked through so many before making my decision. But I’ll save my photographs for another day.

Let’s give these beauties our full attention today.

4-4-4: Four Weeks, Four Topics, Four Notes

Building a snail mail relationship through (random) swapping isn’t always easy.  Quite frequently, I receive from or send to a person knowing we won’t hear from each other again until years later when one of us is randomly selected as the other’s partner again. In some cases, never.

A couple of years ago I hosted a four-week, four notes photography swap to deal with this problem.  The swap, called 4-4-4, invited participants to select four topics from a list of 12 and send one photo representing each of the four chosen topics to their partners every week for four weeks. The photo was just one part of the swap.  Swappers also had to make the photo part of a letter, notecard, or postcard in which they explained or provided details about the photo, technique, inspiration, or the story behind the photo.

This was one of the best swaps for me. I really got to know my partners. I learned about their photography styles, their families, their careers, their personal philosophies, and more.

I decided to host the swap again.  This time my partner was Diane of A Focused Journey, Midteacher on swap-bot.  Diane and I communicate regularly through swaps and “random acts of mail,” but I learned a lot more about her life and her creative work.

Diane’s chosen topics were beauty, color, alone, and fragrant.  Take a look:

Week 1: Beauty

Outside of “Beauty” Card by Diane, Midteacher on swap-bot

“Beauty” by Diane, Midteacher on swap-bot

The “beauty” photo features a weeping pine that sits outside Diane’s kitchen window. She fell in love with its unusual form when she saw it in a friend’s garden.  She, then, took on additional work at a local nursery to purchase the tree.

She especially loves how the raindrops form on the tips of the needles, so the theme “beauty” is appropriate for the photo.

Diane sent oversize postcards for weeks two and three.

Week 2: Color

“Color” by Diane, Midteacher on swap-bot

The scan doesn’t capture the colors in this postcard very well.  The postcard features a photo of “clouds in color” that Diane duplicated in the background she created for the photo. She captured the photo one afternoon when the sun was “sending rays of beautiful colors as the clouds were moving across the sky.”  She wrote that she must have taken 30+ shots trying to capture the light and color.

Though I’m sure this was not Diane’s intention, I like how the quote underscores the selection of this photo–it’s not perfect in the eyes of the shooter, but it is a wonderful image.

Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be wonderful.

Week 3: Alone

“Alone” by Diane, Midteacher on swap-bot

The theme isn’t obvious on this one.  The yellow tulips hold a dear place in Diane’s heart.  She had a pretty difficult autumn one year.  The school that she loved and where she taught was closed due to budget cuts, and she was sent to a school that was challenging or “hellish,” as she describes it.  Then her son, a marine, was deployed to Afghanistan.  While out shopping and downcast, she found yellow tulip bulbs on clearance.  It was past planting time, but she bought all three bags and planted them.  The following spring, the tulips bloomed beautifully bringing her joy.  Eventually, her son returned home safe and sound.

She writes in sum:

I felt alone that fall, but every spring these tulips remind me otherwise!

Week 4: Fragrant

I  was almost sad when I saw the week four envelope.  It meant our weekly exchange had come to an end, but when I opened the envelope, I smiled from ear to ear. Sunflowers! Such a beautiful and appropriate ending to our swap.

These brightly colored flowers–miniature carnations and sunflowers–posed brilliantly on the island in Diane’s kitchen. The fragrance filled the air and greeted her each morning and as she passed throughout the day.

Diane can’t know how much I appreciate her for sending three different versions of the photo–the original and two edits.  They now have homes on my inspiration wall at home and at work!

As I mentioned many times before, I admire the way Diane works her photos into mixed media art.  Although we have very different approaches to photographic art, she and I share a mutual appreciation for each other’s work and we learn a lot from each other.  We often share tips and ideas, and because of my curiosity about how she crafts her photos, she recently recommended a book on photographic journaling techniques.  It’s on my list for the summer.

Look forward to my “trial and error” mixed media posts in the next few weeks.

Until then…

Have a happy mail day!

Purple Reign: Loving the Purple Journal

I have often wondered what happens to the photographs I send into the world. Diane (aka Midteacher), one of my photog pals in the A Thousand Words group on swap-bot, takes the guess work out of it for the photos I send to her.  She often lets me know that she has included or plans to include my photos in her various art or mixed media journals.  When I sent her this year’s “love post,” she shared that it was going to be added to her Purple Journal. Yes, her purple journal!

Alistair posing with the purple journal page featuring my 2017 “love post.” Photo by Diane (Midteacher)

Take a look at detail!

Close-up of the “love post” in Diane’s Purple Journal–Photo by Diane (Midteacher)

View the full post here: Playing in the Purple Journal.

I’m delighted that Diane found a beautiful use for the photo, but I’m sharing her post because she shares how she transformed the simple photo into a beautiful journal page. [She’s even running a contest for naming her purple journal.  Help her name her journal and you could be the winner of a purple 8×10 mixed media piece].

I’ve always been intrigued and inspired by Diane’s work. My seeing how she crafted this page gives me the creative courage to give mixed media work a try.

You can see more of Diane’s work on her blog, A Focused Journey: Finding a Focus on the Other Side of Fifty, or you can check out some of my earlier posts which feature her photos:

I’ll be sharing more of Diane’s work within the next week or two.  Until then, enjoy the reign of purple!