Cloudy Days and Sunflowers

Alcohol Ink Sunflower, Made by Christine B.

I’ve been receiving sunflower cards all year, and there are many I have yet to share on the blog, so I’ve decided to end NaBloPoMo 2019 with Sunflower Week.

This is the perfect day to begin, since I ended my last Sunflower Week exactly a year ago.

The card above was made by Love Noter Christine B, my most prolific pen friend. She seems to always know when to send a sunflower, when I need a reminder of Light. This one came right at the beginning of the academic year as I was navigating a lot of stuff.

A couple of weeks before receiving Christine’s sunflowers, another pen friend, Eileen V, tagged me in a Facebook post about sunflower behavior on cloudy days. Whereas sunflowers turn toward the sun when it is shining bright, the poster, Jodi H, announced–skeptically–that sunflowers turn toward each other to share their energy when there is no sun.

Jodi went on:

Now, let’s apply this reflection to our lives. Many people become low-spirited, and the most vulnerable ones, sometimes become depressed. How about following the example of the beautiful sunflowers, i.e., supporting and empowering each other.

This is a beautiful thought and it creates a moving image, but it is not accurate. Sunflowers do not turn toward each other on cloudy days. Instead, they face the direction of the sun regardless.

See these “sciencey” articles for more information:

There is truth in the idea that we don’t have to walk through dark moments alone. We can turn to our loved ones and friends for energy and light when we face difficulties. And we can be sure to make ourselves available to help others as they go through their own challenges.

Whenever I receive a sunflower, it serves as a reminder to “face the Sun.” It is also a gift, an offering of strength and light.

Something Arresting…

“Magnolia Tree” by Christine B.

Earlier this week, while escaping my ice-cold office and collecting warmth in the tree-adorned area just outside, I looked up and noticed a flash of red in the magnolias. The seed pods were exploding with color. In awe, I simply paused and allowed the beauty to wash over me.

My penfriend, Christine, must have been awed by the magnolia’s beauty too. She enclosed with a birthday card the precious gift of a magnolia watercolor that may have been inspired by my spring magnolia post. [The scan above does little justice to her art]. She perfectly captured the creamy white with just a nod at yellow. What appears gray on screen is actually silver, and those silver and green splashes capture and “emote” the experience of being in the actual presence of the tree in bloom.

Sparkly. Tingly. Beautiful.

Pavithra Mehta’s declaration regarding the magnolia warrants repeating, so I’m thankful Christine reminded me of it.

There is something arresting and unearthly about a magnolia tree in flower. Something that dances between divinity and dementia.

This weekend may you pause for a moment and give into the beauty of some thing, some one, some moment; may you allow it to grip you and wash over you, to soak into your skin, permeate your being, and change some part of who you are.


Side Note: I began interacting with Christine, the artist, via Jennifer Belthoff’s Love Notes project. In the few years since we met she has become one of my treasured friends. If you love snail mail, meeting new people, and sharing your light, consider participating in the next round of Love Notes. It begins October 13, so get signed up today: Love Notes 29.

12 Days of Christmas Postcards | Day 1

The happiest moments my heart knows are those in which it is pouring forth its affections to a few esteemed characters.
Thomas Jefferson

My pen friends make such gorgeous holiday postcards that I’ve decided to share one postcard per day for the 12 days of Christmas. From now to January 5, look for a daily post featuring a card from one of my many talented friends.

Today’s postcard was crafted by Diane (midteacher on swap-bot). This card has been “on hold” since last Christmas, and with its traditional holiday colors, it’s the perfect place to start.

I hope that you take time today to “pour forth affections” to the loved ones in your life.

Wishing you and yours a warm and beautiful Christmas!

Wrapped in Love and Sunflowers

At the beginning of the year, after being cancer-free for 13 years, my sister Lori, heard the dreaded news–the cancer had returned. Initially, I shared this with just two or three close friends, soliciting their prayers. Out of respect for Lori’s privacy, I hadn’t talked about it much until I spilled to my penfriend Christine B, whose response prompted me to share Lori’s story with a group of my penfriends. They have been more than kind and supportive of me, and I knew they would embrace my sister and let her know that there are people all over the world who are rooting for her, sending her good thoughts, and praying.

Some of them went even further and sent supportive cheer mail my way as well–including three sunflower cards painted just for me!

“Sisters Dancing” by Trang K

Trang watercolored two flowers dancing–a sunflower and a purple tulip–Lori’s favorite flower in her favorite color. Her written note expresses sweetly, as only Trang can:

May you always dance to the sweetness of life in all its glory and fill your heart with everlasting joy and love.

“Time for Watercolor” by Christine B.

With her busy summer schedule, Christine B took the time to watercolor a new cheerful sunflower for my wall.

“A Note of Peace and Love” by Connie F.

Connie’s sunflower brightened a gloomy day. She slipped a beautiful bookmark (to be shared later) and a quote into the envelope with her sunflower:

It’s all about finding the calm in the chaos.  –Donna Karan

Knowing who God is makes horrific trials bearable. Lori is a bit more challenged this time around, but her faith is sure. Sometimes, it seems that worry is all I can do, but from her, I’m learning more and more not to worry. Her path isn’t easy, but through faith and fervent prayer, I can be a calming presence in the chaos of the journey just for her.

To my penfriends–Lori has received your beautiful expressions of love, hope, courage, grace, peace, and faith. We are incredibly moved by your sacred act of giving. Thank you, Christine, Trang, Lisa, Paige, Debra, Jennifer, Lori-Anne, Louise, Arielle, Sheila L, Connie, Suzette, Jacki, Gina, Andrea, Fran, Litsa, and Cricket. You have wrapped our hearts in love and have served as tangible evidence of God.

Hugs to you…

Speaking of Sunflowers…

“Chelsey’s Sunflower” Postcard Made by Trang K.

Isn’t this the most adorable piglet “sunning” beneath the brilliant rays of a sunflower? This postcard was beautifully made by the talented Trang K, who sent me a different sunflower few months ago. Trang wrote a long note, sweetly embellished with  flourishes, doodled flowers, hearts, and a butterfly.  She closed the card with, “You are a blessing and a treasure” written in gold. I’m convinced her heart overflows into each card she makes.

My sunflowers bloom all year long, thanks to my penfriends.

“The Sunflowers” by Mary Oliver

Come with me
into the field of sunflowers.
Their faces are burnished disks,
their dry spines

creak like ship masts,
their green leaves,
so heavy and many,
fill all day with the sticky

sugars of the sun.
Come with me
to visit the sunflowers,
they are shy

but want to be friends;
they have wonderful stories
of when they were young –
the important weather,

the wandering crows.
Don’t be afraid
to ask them questions!
Their bright faces,

which follow the sun,
will listen, and all
those rows of seeds –
each one a new life!

hope for a deeper acquaintance;
each of them, though it stands
in a crowd of many,
like a separate universe,

is lonely, the long work
of turning their lives
into a celebration
is not easy. Come

and let us talk with those modest faces,
the simple garments of leaves,
the coarse roots in the earth
so uprightly burning.

Nine Little Pockets Full of Happy

Few things make me giddier than unexpected mail from a friend or an immediate written reply to a personal letter.  I went on a letter-writing spree late last month.  I expected to hear from no one any time soon.  But within a week of my sending her a letter, my penfriend Beth wrote back. She didn’t send “just” a letter, but a pocket letter.  Now, in case you haven’t heard, pocket letters are the latest snail mail craze.  I’ve done six since I learned about them late winter/early spring.  Two of my colleague-friends and I tried them out on each other first (see their first pocket letters near the end of the post).

Traditionally, pocket letters are put together using nine-pocket trading card protectors.  I make mine with Project Life pocket pages. I prefer the larger “canvas” and the various shapes and sizes to work with.  Besides, I have boxes of PL pages screaming to be used.

Pocket letters have been “popularized” by Janette Lane.  On her blog, she provides instructions, tips, templates, and even a video for putting them together. You can insert into the nine little pockets anything that will fit, but the “letter” is a must for one of the pockets.  Enough chat.  Here’s the pocket letter:

My Very Pink Pocket Letter

My Very Pink Pocket Letter from Beth

 

Pink, sparkly, and cheerful!  And that’s just the front…

The Back of My Pocket Letter from Beth

The Back of My Pocket Letter from Beth

It is typical to stash items in the back of the pocket letter, so Beth tucked lots of fun goodies inside–tiny stickers and embellishments I plan to use in my planners and for making ATCs.  Besides the letter, there are really no strict “requirements,” but I don’t think I’ve seen a pocket letter yet that didn’t contain a factory sealed tea bag.

Here’s a closer look at the items tucked into the pockets:

Fun stuff!

But the best part of the pocket letter is…you guessed it! The letter!  Beth wrote a nice long letter and used stationery recycled from leftover journal pages–something I also do with my leftover journal pages!  I loved all the quotes and insights printed on the pages.

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Interesting side note about the “do not follow” quote: It is usually attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson, not T.S. Eliot.  Investigation time!

The cool thing about pocket letters is that they fold neatly into a business envelope–or in the case of the ones I make, an A7 envelope–and placed in the mail.  I reinforce the edges with strong washi tape or clear packing tape. They usually cost between $1.50-2.00 to mail (USA domestic).

Here are pics of the first pocket letters I received [click an image for a closer look]:

We’ve all improved tremendously since our first pocket letters!

Pocket letters are a fun way to share more than a letter with a friend or relative. Instead of dropping photos, tips, inspirational material, etc. into an envelope with a letter, you can incorporate all of those things into a unique and personalized pocket page.  They take a little more planning than letter-in-envelope, but they make attractive and unexpected gifts.

Try one out today!