Fractals | #ThursdayTreeLove and Repeating Patterns

Southern Live Oak with Spanish Moss

Nature uses only the longest threads to weave her patterns, so that each small piece of her fabric reveals the organization of the entire tapestry.  –Richard P. Feynman

What do fractals and trees have in common? Well, according to the Reflective Educator:

The growth of trees is actually a fairly mathematical process that at least involves fractal theory, graph theory, and topology. You can actually generate very realistic looking trees using a computer.

While my fractal trees look very little like actual trees, they started as a photograph of a Southern Live Oak gloriously embellished with Spanish moss. I captured the tree last weekend just after we entered Louisiana for our very quick road trip to New Orleans (Yes! I finally saw my parents after 16+ months!).

I played around with one style and different looks. Here’s a “macro” version:

Frax-6

And a “micro” version of the same image:

Frax-6b

If you look really closely (with a magnifying glass), you should be able to see how the patterns repeat ad infinitum, getting smaller and smaller and smaller.

Frax-8

Perhaps, if you look with a little imagination, you might be able to see the tree!


I am joining Parul Thakur for #ThursdayTreeLove every second and fourth Thursday of the month. If you would like to play along, post a picture of a tree on your blog and link it back to her latest #treelove post.

#ThursdayTreeLove | “The Root of It All”

“Roots,” City Park in New Orleans, Louisiana. Photo by Vaughan M.

It is in the roots, not the branches, that a tree’s greatest strength lies. ― Matshona Dhliwayo


About the image: My hubby shot the tree roots many moons ago at our favorite park in New Orleans, City Park. He shared this photo and other tree roots on his own blog some years ago. I am looking forward to the moment when we can visit the park and–more importantly–our family again. 

I am joining Parul Thakur for #ThursdayTreeLove every second and fourth Thursday of the month. If you would like to play along, post a picture of a tree on your blog and link it back to her latest #treelove post.

Favorite Moments of 2020

My blogging friend, Akilah of The Englishist, recently posted her favorite moments of 2020. I’m “stealing” her idea because I think we all need a reminder that despite the icky, crazy of this year, there is also a lot of good. Plus, as you know, I love making lists.

So here are some of my favorite moments of the year of (mostly) sheltering-in-place and almost running out of toilet paper.

Trip to New Orleans. Along with my dad’s three sisters, the guys and I visited New Orleans and returned to ‘Bama just before the Coronavirus outbreak. It was a desperately needed trip for all of us. I am so glad we were able to see my parents and some of my siblings before the pandemic forced us all to stay put. I am missing them like crazy, so I’d probably be out of my mind if we hadn’t taken that short trip.

Brooklyn Arts Library Sketchbook Project. As you read in an earlier post, I completed and submitted a tiny sketchbook to Brooklyn Arts Library. Here’s the link to my mini sketchbook of doodles and quotes if you’re interested: #facethesun: Sunflower and Her Friends.

Try not to judge me too harshly. I’m so not a sketch artist. I didn’t realize I should have only doodled on the front of the pages. I’m definitely going to participate again, with a full-size book and my photography—the art medium with which I’m most comfortable.

Book Talk. Literally two days before the University decided to transition to online learning because of the pandemic, I had the pleasure of coordinating a panel discussion on the book, When Saints Sing the Blues for Wednesday night services at the University church. It was well-attended and well-received. I enjoyed listening to the stories of each of the panelists and speaking with attendees afterwards.

Lettering with the Creator of Cuteness.  Thanks to the gift of time due to the pandemic, I joined Creative Hand Lettering and Doodling with Lindsay. For the first couple of months (or so), I watched Lindsay’s informative and humorous live videos, practiced lettering, and downloaded her free Corona coloring pages and other goodies. The photograph to the left features one of my first projects. The assignment was to use “tinker toy” lettering with a line from a song. This was the perfect creative outlet for our “Corona times.” I don’t have much time to view Lindsay live, but a friend gave me a gift of the workbook, Creative Hand Letter with Lindsay, so I practice whenever I get a chance.

Write Together. Jennifer Belthoff, who coordinates Love Notes, also hosts Write Together, Art Journaling, and other classes. I joined Write Together one evening, and it was such a healing, soul-filling experience that I rode the high for weeks. Life got in the way for a few weeks and when I found time again, I felt a little weird about joining after having missed so much. If Jennifer continues to host next year, I hope to join at least twice a month.

Neighborhood Scavenger Hunt. My son’s (middle school) teachers assigned a “pandemic-style” scavenger hunt for the students. They had to find a list of items in their own neighborhoods. We had fun running (and driving) up and down the street looking for the items, and of course, I took advantage and captured some roses.

Eighth Grade Graduation. My not-so-little one “graduated” from 8th grade! So many things were canceled for the students, but the school administrators decided to hold a scaled-down graduation program with social distancing measures in place. It was held in July–almost two months after the planned date–but we were all so happy for this moment of celebration and to see other people! 🙂 My son, as class president, delivered an excellent speech. This was a proud Mommy (and Daddy) moment.

Spectrum Publication. One of my blog posts was reprinted in Spectrum Magazine (online).

The Chair. I accepted the role of Chair of the Department of English and Foreign Languages. This isn’t exactly a moment, but a shift. I’d served as department chair at another university for several years. I’d also served in other administrative capacities, but even though I enjoy administrative work, I’d made a decision not to go down that road again (for many sound reasons). God had other plans and He let me know very clearly in a moment that can only be described as an epiphany. I don’t know [yet] why He called me to this task, but I promised to walk in obedience, so here I am.

Three Sundays with David Whyte. David Whyte, one of my favorite poets, hosts poetry seminars via Zoom, typically three Sundays in a month. I participated in three–The Courage in Poetry (April); Just Beyond Yourself (May); and Half a Shade Braver (September). In each session, he shared poetic wisdom, stories about his travels, anecdotes about his friend John O’Donohue, his own poetry and the poetry of others. The sessions were life-changing, and I wrote so much poetry as a result.

A Moment with Raven. One of my former students, Raven, came into town to visit family, and she took a moment out to visit me! We met just outside campus at the Farmer’s Market. It did my heart good to see her and know she is doing well! Of course, I tried to get her to leave California and come and work with me, but she makes more than we can pay her. :-/

Sunflowers in My Backyard. My guys planted sunflowers right outside my office window. I watched them grow from seedlings to 6-7 feet tall. They brought so much joy to my days. The sunflower pictured here was the first to bloom. I have many, many more to share, but it’s so difficult to choose!

Moulin Rouge. You read about my encounter with the Moulin Rouge sunflower in an earlier post. This might be one of my top ten favorite moments of the decade.

Sunflowers in My Mailbox. Sunflowers in my mailbox always create a “favorite” moment, and my friends have kept me and my mailbox happy with sunflowers. In addition to the lovely cards and postcards, I received a number of sunflower packages–a boxful of sunflower goodies from my bestie, a personalized sunflower Starbucks cup from my “niece,” Christian, sunflower stickers from Raven, a package full of sunflower postcards from Debbie T, and a beautiful sunflower teapot from Christine B, two of my Love Notes friends.

Christmas Card Lane. I shared the Christmas Card Lane experience a couple of days ago. I needed that strong dose of Christmas joy.

When the year started, we had grand plans, but before many of those plans could be executed, without much warning, everything changed. Instantly. For everyone. In the entire world. As the days rolled on, things got stranger and more complicated and more twisted, and here we are at the end of all that crazy. And I am grateful for these favorite moments and for the many, many beautiful, everyday moments of 2020–(almost) nightly movie nights with my guys, Zoom calls with family, long walks, putting up lights and balloons for birthdays, trying new vegan recipes, opening a mailbox full of happy mail, drive-by visits with relatives and friends, singing and praying with my guys, listening to them play various instruments, and church services in pajamas.

I’m not sure what next year will hold, but “I know Who holds the future.” Therefore, I am looking forward to new moments–ordinary, extraordinary, and beautiful.

The Day the Music Stopped

“Hammond: B-3, 9th Ward, New Orleans.” Frank Stewart. 2006 [photo of a photo]

We will never forget. Hurricane Katrina. 08.29.05.


About the Image: I shot the photo of a photo nine years ago while in New York City. The Hammond B-3 organ was destroyed in Hurricane Katrina 15 years ago today [New Orleans, August 29, 2005]. The photograph is part of Traveling Full Circle: Frank Stewart’s Visual Music, which was exhibited at at the Lincoln Center in New York City in 2011.  You can learn more about Stewart, longtime Senior Staff Photographer for Jazz at the Lincoln Center, and his body of work by visiting his website: Frank Stewart.

Gallery in the French Quarter | New Orleans

“One of the many typical gallery scenes in the Vieux Carre section where balconies over hang the narrow and picturesque streets.” –Description from postcard back

Doesn’t this look like a lovely place to be, “to escape thoughts of the Corona Virus?” as one of my friends commented when I shared a photo of this postcard with her this morning.

The “French Quarter Gallery” is one of many, many vintage New Orleans postcards I received from a blog reader I encountered just a few weeks ago via email. After visiting my blog–perhaps after reading my “About Me” page–April C contacted me and told me she had some antique New Orleans postcards that she would like to send to me. Of course, I said, “Yes!”

I expected 10–no more than 20–postcards to add to my “Vintage NOLA” collection, but I was shocked when my hubby returned from the Post Office last week and placed a package filled with postcards in my hands. 120 postcards, to be exact!

About 10-15 of the postcards are from a road trip April’s grandfather took in the 1950’s. The rest are from her Aunt Dixie who collects things “labeled Dixie” because of her name. I haven’t combed through the postcards carefully yet, but it seems the earliest postcard is dated 1930. Some have notes and postmarks and others are blank. I’m looking forward to diving in a bit deeper over the next few weeks.

According to my preliminary research the “Genuine Curteich-Chicago C.T. Art-Colortone Post card” above was printed in 1937. It is attributed to A. Hirschwitz of New Orleans, Louisiana.

I’ll be “showcasing” more of the postcards here on Pics and Posts–little by little–over the next few [or several] months, so be sure to tune in.

Until then, enjoy a few older posts featuring vintage postcards:

A million thanks to you, April, for this phenomenal gift!

“When Giving Is All We Have”

Terrance Osborne, “Front Line”

This morning as we began our final Shakespeare session for the semester (sad face), one of my students requested prayer for the nurses who are suffering under the strain of watching far too many patients die as a result of COVID-19. Just moments before that, I read a Facebook post in which one of my friends, Dr. Scharmaine Lawson, a Nurse Practitioner and author, announced that after prayerful consideration, she’s heading to New York City to help with the COVID-19 relief effort there.

I often think about the health care professionals who are on the front line of this thing day after day after day. No matter how well-trained they are, no matter how often they see death, it is still inexplicably HARD.  The connections between nurse and patient or doctor and patient–however brief–matter, and every death carries emotional weight. With COVID-19 doctors and nurses are bearing witness to far more than the “usual” and they are still out there, weighed down with the grief and burden of so much loss, fighting to save lives.

Some might wonder why someone like Dr. Lawson, a busy NP with a booming practice and a very full life of her own, would uproot and rush into this daunting challenge. Albert RÍos’ poem provides the answers—not only for why we give in the big ways but also why we do so in our smaller, daily interactions.

When Giving Is All We Have
Alberto RÍos

One river gives
Its journey to the next.

We give because someone gave to us.
We give because nobody gave to us.

We give because giving has changed us.
We give because giving could have changed us.

We have been better for it,
We have been wounded by it—

Giving has many faces: It is loud and quiet,
Big, though small, diamond in wood-nails.

Its story is old, the plot worn and the pages too,
But we read this book, anyway, over and again:

Giving is, first and every time, hand to hand,
Mine to yours, yours to mine.

You gave me blue and I gave you yellow.
Together we are simple green. You gave me

What you did not have, and I gave you
What I had to give—together, we made

Something greater from the difference.

About this poem, RÍos wrote:

This is a poem of thanks to those who live lives of service, which, I think, includes all of us—from the large measure to the smallest gesture, from care-giving to volunteerism to being an audience member or a reader.  I’ve been able to offer these words to many groups, not only as a poem but also as a recognition. We give for so many reasons, and are bettered by it.  –from poets.org

Thank you to our health care professionals and to all our public servants and other essential workers for whom the stay-at-home order does not apply.  Thank you to all of you who give daily in your own spaces, outside your own spaces, and “in-between” spaces. We are making something new, something beautiful when we give.


About the image: The image above is the work of New Orleans artist, Terrance Osborne. He created Front Line—a nod to Rosie the Riveter—“to show the men and women on the front line that we love and support them.” [Did you catch the fleur de lis–symbol of New Orleans?] Osborne generously offered the image above as a free phone screen saver and gave 1000 posters to local hospitals. A lithograph ($75 signed; $40 unsigned) can be purchased via his website. To see more of this phenomenal artist’s work, please go to his website. You’ll feel like you’ve just taken a tour of my beloved hometown.

#ThursdayTreeLove | Advice from a Tree

“Advice from a Tree”
Ilan Shamir

Dear Friend,
Stand tall and proud
Sink your roots deeply into the Earth
Reflect the light of a greater source
Think long term
Go out on a limb
Remember your place among all living beings
Embrace with joy the changing seasons
For each yields its own abundance
The energy and birth of Spring
The growth and contentment of Summer
The wisdom to let go of leaves in the Fall
The rest and quiet renewal of Winter
Feel the wind and the sun
And delight in their presence
Look up at the moon that shines down upon you
And the mystery of the stars at night.
Seek nourishment from the good things in life
Simple pleasures
Earth, fresh air, light
Be content with your natural beauty
Drink plenty of water
Let your limbs sway and dance in the breezes
Be flexible
Remember your roots
Enjoy the view!


The tree above is from my parents’ backyard (in New Orleans). We visited a couple of weeks ago, a much needed break from Northern Alabama. Of course, I took some time with the trees.

The poem is by Ilan Shamir, “protector of trees.” Check out his site for more information about him and his work: Your True Nature, Inc.

I am joining Parul Thakur for #ThursdayTreeLove every second and fourth Thursday of the month. If you would like to play along, post a picture of a tree on your blog and link it back to her latest #treelove post.

#ThursdayTreeLove | The Dance of the Magnolia

There is something arresting and unearthly about a magnolia tree in flower. Something that dances between divinity and dementia.  —Pavithra K. Mehta, Magnolia Tree

Louisiana girl that I am, the Southern Magnolia is [naturally] one of my favorite trees. I’ve been trying to “perfectly” capture the magnolia blossom for years. I remember stopping to photograph the blossoms whenever I could before our move from New Orleans because I wanted the perfect magnolia from New Orleans to deck one of our walls.

I managed to capture a few satisfactory shots before we left. They’re far less than perfect, but the expertly composed shots of the flower by my brother [on display in my parents’ home]  and other photographers encourage me to keep working on it.

“Inside the Magnolia”

So, here are my meager magnolia offerings for #ThursdayTreeLove. I shot some on campus a week ago just after a rain shower and some at my cousin’s house a couple of weeks ago before my grand color exploration with the tiny one.

I felt the photos needed texture, so I added just a little [hopefully] without compromising the natural beauty of the flowers and tree.

The magnolia leaf, so elegantly formed, remains strong and glossy even after its fall.

Some of the blossoms deserved the stroke of Impressionism, so I “painted” some.  I’ve come a long way with my art skills since I made a mess last week–thanks to the Impresso app. 😉

These are in various stages of bloom. My photo of a tightly closed bloom is “meh” at best, so I’ll spare you that one.

“And the time came…”

The tricky thing about photographing magnolias is finding ways around the height of the tree. The campus trees are really tall, but I was able to get nice “beneath the blossoms” shots.

“Twinsies”

“The Underside of Perfection”

The gorgeous “end” of the flower.

“Bald and Beautiful”

And finally, here’s a quick video I made of one of the magnolias on campus enjoying the company of the other trees. Thanks to Amanda, one of my photographer friends, for the tip about Pixaloop, which gave me the moving clouds and birds.

I quote Pavithra M at the beginning of this post. Her short piece, “Magnolia Tree” powerfully communicates the essence of the magnolia and our attraction to it. Be sure to click over and give it a read. But should you neglect doing so, I leave you with her closing words:

I think about this outlandish tree that races back to Time’s cradle, and its flowers that open alarmingly wide as if to swallow the sun, the way it gives itself madly to the moment. With radical generosity and no reservation. And what would be possible–if we could learn to live like that.


I am joining Parul Thakur for #ThursdayTreeLove every second and fourth Thursday of the month. If you would like to play along, post a picture of a tree on your blog and link it back to her latest #treelove post.

#ThursdayTreeLove | Love and Trees

Love
is the only
thing that
makes sense
to me
when I consider
the complexity
of the
human
experience.  

–48 Laws of Love–

Since #ThursdayTreeLove falls on Valentine’s Day this year, I get to express my love for trees and love in one photo. How sweet!

The edited photo above features a couple taking a romantic gondola ride in City Park of New Orleans. The couple is framed by some of the gorgeous sprawling, mossy oaks of the park. Don’t you just love love and oaks?

The poem was written by a writer I found on Instagram. I’d change it just a little–Love and trees are the only things that make sense to me…

Happy Valentine’s Day!


I am joining Parul Thakur for #ThursdayTreeLove every second and fourth Thursday of the month. If you would like to play along, post a picture of a tree on your blog and link it back to her latest #treelove post.

12 Days of Christmas Postcards | Day 12

When the song of the angels is stilled,
when the star in the sky is gone,
when the kings and princes are home,
when the shepherds are back with their flocks,

the work of Christmas begins:
to find the lost,
to heal the broken,
to feed the hungry,
to release the prisoner,
to rebuild the nations,
to bring peace among the people,
to make music in the heart.

–Howard Thurman, “Christmas Is Waiting to be Born” in The Mood of Christmas & Other Celebrations 

Our final “12 Days of Christmas” post features a card Michael Lomax, President and Chief Executive Officer of the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) and former President of Dillard University (DU) in New Orleans (1997-2004), sent to University employees in 2002.

Of course, this card wasn’t just lying around waiting for this moment. I found it a couple of weeks ago during my latest “I’m going to purge for real” session.

The cover, entitled “A Tribute to Peace,” features the work of Damion Hunter, who was then a sophomore at DU. A native of New Orleans and DU alumnus, Damion now resides in Houston, Texas. Like this piece, much of his work reflects New Orleans themes.

“A Tribute to Peace” pairs well with Theologian Howard Thurman’s “Christmas Is Waiting to Be Born,” and both work well to end our 12 Days of Christmas.

Hoping you will join me as we begin the real work of Christmas…


If you’re in the Houston area, you can see more of Damion’s work up close and personal on January 11 downtown at Kulture Restaurant. If Houston’s too far to travel, see below for links to some of my favorites from his Instagram profile.