Gratitude and Grace | #ThursdayTreeLove | Thank You, Trees

11-16-21 Tree Walk-8

In our recent exchange about one thing in nature we’re grateful for, my bestie was surprised that I did not say sunflowers. We all know how much I love sunflowers [I am indeed grateful for them]. But trees? They save my life! In fact, none of us would be able to live without them…literally.

This fact was underscored in an exchange I had with Elaine V, one of my colleagues, a couple of weeks ago. I was feeling a little under the weather, so I mentioned that maybe some time outdoors in the sun would help. She responded that would be perfect because “trees give off natural negative ions that help boost immunity and kill pathogens.” [Did I mention Elaine is a biologist?] This made me love trees even more! Who knew that was even possible?

11-16-21 Tree Walk-9

I’m sure you learned about the benefits of trees in elementary school—how they pull the yucky stuff like carbon dioxide from the air and replace it with good stuff we need to survive, like oxygen. But there are many, many other things trees provide for human life and for our planet. You can read about the goodness of trees by clicking any (or all) of the links below.

11-16-21 Tree Walk-10

Thank you, trees.

Thank you for the air we breathe, the homes we live in, the fires that keep us warm.

Thank you for the endless creativity you offer in your diversity and thank you for the continuous inspiration.

Thank you for the homes you provide for the animals.

Thank you for teaching us how to reach for the stars while staying true to our roots.

Thank you for teaching us balance.

Thank you for teaching us how to climb, swing, and dangle; thank you for all the good times we’ve shared.  –Michael McMillan, “Giving Thanks to Trees”

It’s a special treat that #ThursdayTreeLove always falls on Thanksgiving. Thank God for trees!

Happy Thanksgiving!


About the Images: The iPhone photos in this post are from one of my mid-November “tree walks” on campus. I escaped my office for a quick break between meetings and to move my body. I was headed back when the bright yellow leaves tree beckoned. I walked past my office and spent about 10 minutes with the tree. Solid tree therapy.

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.

November Chaos | “Too Many Funerals”

Studio Light Sunflower-1
“Too many funerals.” That’s how one of my friends ended her reply to my “thinking of you” text message this morning. Moments later, I read a post by another friend in which she mentioned that she was gathering photos for the double funeral of her aunt and her cousin.

I’ve lost count of the number of “death” calls, text messages, emails, and conversations I’ve had over the last few months. Our unfortunate reality is that we have all suffered too much loss since March 2020, and we are in a constant state of grief and coping. On top of our collective sorrow, the losses are personal. Therefore, it is crucial that we not use the reasoning that “everyone is going through something” to downplay individual pain.

We must also be careful to not allow the steady repetition of this “news” to desensitize us to the significance of every single loss. Rather, we should tune in and allow ourselves the space and time to give into the sadness and accompanying feelings.

We ended my British Literature class yesterday with 16th/17th century poet John Donne’s “Sonnet X,” perhaps better known as “Death, Be Not Proud.” This is one of my favorites because Donne, in spite of his discomfort with and fear of death, pulled out of himself a direct address to death. He called it out for the powerless perpetrator it is and reminded it that–because of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection– paradoxically, death’s own end is imminent.

I’m looking forward with hope to that moment when we will grieve no more.

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;
For those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul’s delivery.
Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well
And better than thy stroke; why swell’st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.
–John Donne, “Holy Sonnet X” or “Death, Be Not Proud”

November Chaos | A Moment with the Willow

Anxiety to Joy

We are halfway through November, and I’m finally making my first post of the month! Gasp!

I had this month’s posts planned since September, but after I realized how chaotic this month would be, I “aborted” the mission–to daily share a piece of art I created in September for Sheila’s Creative Gathering. I will share those pieces as the “Spirit moves” and let November be what it will be. [Many prayers, hugs, and hearts for Sheila who is seriously ill and in the hospital].

Today, I am moved to share one of the 10 “abstract” photo art pieces I created for the Gathering. It captures my time with one of the weeping willows at the Unity Pond on campus. However, it is the Bible verse I paired with the photo that compels me to share–a verse of scripture I meditate on frequently and one I often repeat to others as they grapple with anxiety and stress these days.

When anxiety was great within me,
Your consolation brought me joy. —Psalm 94:19

We have been dealing with a bit “too much” over the last 19-20 months. In the early months, we realized and appreciated our need for the slowing down the pandemic required. Now, instead of seeing this time as an opportunity to do things differently and better, we are trying to force an old norm that no longer serves us. I’m convinced that besides the loss and trauma of this moment, much of our sense of overwhelm and anxiety comes from our rush to normal—exacerbated by our not taking time to sit with and process our grief.

It seems everyone I encounter these days is overwhelmed, exhausted, and anxious. I have this horrible sense that if we don’t pause or slow down, we’re headed for an even bigger crisis.

Perhaps, you’re feeling all those things too.

I hope a moment with the willow and these words remind you there is relief. Thankfully, in God’s presence we can find comfort, peace, and joy, even when life makes it difficult to pause or slow down.

May you carry that with you.

Sunflowers & Snippets | There Will Be Times…

Sunflower by VAM-2

For our final “Sunflowers & Snippets” post I am sharing a piece written Wednesday evening–during the latest “Write Together” session. Since I had not participated since July, I gleefully looked forward to the session all day. Sadly, I found myself too exhausted to think clearly, so much of my writing that evening was incoherent. In reviewing my responses moments ago, I found some snippets of snippets that will be useful to develop later, but for now, my response to the prompt “There may be times…”  [ I changed “may” to “will,” because there will be times].

There will be times when you will walk alone, when no one will be able to join you on the road, escort you along the way, or stand with you and chat when you pause by the wayside to rest and refresh.

There will be times when the lessons cease, when the mentors and advisors will be unavailable, so you will reach deep within and draw from the store of good stuff built in you and the good stuff poured into you during times of community and song and celebration.

There will be times when you will find yourself removing heavy boulders from your path, but instead of feeling the strain of lifting alone, you will feel only the flutter of your heart dancing in the light of the moon.  –Chandra Lynn, “Write Together,” 10-20-21


About the Image: My hubby finally downloaded pics from his camera and “found” the gorgeous sunflowers he captured when we visited Scott’s Orchard last October. There’s something soulful about his images. This is one of five that are among my favorites, but I’ll let him share the others on his blog (hint! hint!–to him).

Sunflowers & Snippets | In This Very Moment…

Suzette's Sunflowers

I am back with another “Write Together” snippet. This piece was written in response to the prompt “In this very moment…”

In this very moment I am excited by the possibilities of who I am becoming. I am shedding the old casing, tossing aside ideas and versions of myself that no longer serve who I am in this moment or who I am becoming. Up to now, what has made giving up the former self so difficult is that she was good. She was organized, oh-so-together, and well-equipped for the journey—that bygone journey for a me that is skipping into the past of known worlds. This present me spends a lot of time in overwhelming chaos because transformation is not neat and tidy. It’s messy, confusing, and sometimes traumatic. But I’m learning not to fight it. I’m learning to partner with it in a new dance, a new becoming. I see glimpses of this new person. I can’t wait to meet her.  –Chandra Lynn, Write Together, 01.25.21


About the Image: Today’s gorgeous sunflowers were crafted by my Love Notes friend, Suzette R of Desert Blue Sky. She sent the oversized postcard because of my love for sunflowers and my enthusiastic response when she posted them on Facebook. Like many of us, Suzette is also processing grief. Part of her healing this year has been in planting and growing in her garden. Check out two more sunflowers from her garden: Here and here.

Sunflowers & Snippets | I Choose Pencil…

Kim B Sunflower in Vintage Vase 2021

For this week’s sunflower posts, I will be sharing sunflower photographs with snippets of my writing from “Write Together” sessions coordinated by Jennifer Belthoff of Love Notes fame. I don’t always have the time to participate in the weekly sessions, but every time I do, I leave refreshed and primed to work on my “actual” writing.

In the one-hour sessions, Jennifer facilitates three rounds of writing. She offers three prompts for each round, gives 8-10 minutes to respond to one prompt (or more) and then allows participants to share their material.

I enjoy the sessions because they provide a timeout for me, and though I do not attend as often as I wish, I am always amazed by how much writing I am able to do in those small moments.

Today’s snippet was written in response to the prompt: “I am choosing pencil.”

I am choosing pencil because few things are permanent, and so much changes from day to day as we navigate the terrain of a pandemic. I am choosing pencil because life is already hard, and there have been far too many deaths, far too many things we cannot reverse. I am choosing pencil so I can erase the parts that don’t fit, the nonsense and pettiness of the day to day, the meannesses that spill out at the end of a long, exhausting day or after another sleepless night. We need compassion and patience and forgiveness and so much love. Pencils are good for helping us revise or escape reality. I am choosing pencil because maybe, we can alter the pain and loss and write a different story. –Chandra Lynn, “Write Together,” 01.04.21

Ironically, typing this in a blog post makes it a bit less temporary, but I hope you get the point.

2021-10-18_130026


About the Images: Today’s images come from my Love Notes friend, Kim B. The top photo features sunflowers in a vintage vase that travelled from her Nana’s house full of flowers to her house and back to her Nana’s for a refill. The bottom photo features an “amazing accident in photography” as she captured the bee in flight when her intention was to capture one of her homegrown sunflowers. The other happy accident happened when I scanned the photo. My “phone scanner” gave the photo a vintage feel. The sunflower itself is a little overexposed, so I’d planned to fix that for Kim in PhotoShop. However, I like the accidental effect offered by the scan, so I decided to leave it alone.

#ThursdayTreeLove | A Sunflower in an Orchard Full of Apples

Apples-6 Sunflowers

We interrupt “Sunflower Month” with apples!

I had one goal in mind when the guys and I headed to Scott’s Orchard earlier this month–to visit the sunflowers a little earlier this year. We went mid-October last year, so many of the sunflowers were seeing their last days. However, when we arrived [just about] two weeks ago, there were no sunflowers! Gasp! Was I disappointed? Of course not! Okay, maybe a little, but I adjusted because apples—though not as cool as sunflowers—are not only pretty but are also pretty tasty. Besides, they grow on trees, and I love trees as much as I love sunflowers!

Here are some of the shots* appropriately accompanied by Mary Oliver’s “The Orchard.” Oh–and I did find one sunflower (above) just before we left. A double win!

Apples-10

I have dreamed
of accomplishment.
I have fed

Apples-7ambition.
I have traded
nights of sleep

Apples-5for a length of work.
Lo, and I have discovered
how soft bloom

Apples-8turns to green fruit,
which turns to sweet fruit.
Lo, and I have discovered
Apples-4all winds blow cold
at last,
and the leaves,

Apples-11so pretty, so many,
vanish
in the great, black

Apples-2packet of time,
in the great, black
packet of ambition,
Apples-1and the ripeness
of the apple
is its downfall.

Apples-3

It’s ironic that we went to the orchard last year to pick apples, but basked in sunflowers. This year, we went for the sunflowers but found only apples. Either way, the orchard offered, like last year, a bit of Autumn heaven.


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.

Note on Picture Quality: Please forgive the low quality of my photos. I am running out of WordPress space and I am not sure I want to give WP even more money to increase my space allowance. :-/ You can see higher quality versions of these pics by checking out my Flickr album, Scott’s Orchard: A Sunflower in an Orchard.

#ThursdayTreeLove | Song for Autumn

BW Tree

Don’t you imagine the leaves dream now
how comfortable it will be to touch
the earth instead of the
nothingness of the air and the endless
freshets of wind? And don’t you think
the trees, especially those with
mossy hollows, are beginning to look for

the birds that will come–six, a dozen–to sleep
inside their bodies?

Mary Oliver, “Song for Autumn”

After this week’s rainy start, autumn graced us with sunny skies and cooler temperatures. Those of us who dwell in the Deep South appreciate the respite and the acknowledgment of the season, but we know in a matter of days—or even hours—we will be back to mid-summer heat and another season of storms.

I take three or four 5-15 minute walks throughout the workday. I walk to ruminate, to reset, and [especially] to move my body—which suffered much during the year and a half of Zoom. Lately, during my walks, I’ve been noting the subtle but sure transformation of the trees—the changing colors creeping into the dogwoods and maples, the thinning canopy of the black walnut and the oaks.

Today’s tree comes from one of my just-before-autumn walks. It’s not the most striking tree on campus, but there is something arresting in its stance against the cloud-filled sky.

We are some weeks away from the fullness of the season. We will blink one morning and find everything bursting in autumn glory and blink again and find only the bare structure of trees. This tree represents the in-between, a tree dreaming.  For once, I am appreciating the slow change, and not rushing toward the glory.


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.

Let’s Make Lists: Seven Things to Remember When You’re Overwhelmed

Sweet Girl

From Endless Dreams by Kim Anderson

We survived another week and made it to the weekend, y’all! Pat yourself on the back for not completely “losing it” during another week of life during a pandemic.

When I arrived at work Monday–by the hardest–I wasn’t sure if I had the strength to get to Friday. I thought about leaving work at 10 a.m. that day and starting over next week. There was nothing particularly challenging about Monday–or this week for that matter. It’s the weight of all the stuff we’re all carrying. I feel it. You feel it. Everybody’s feeling it, and we’re doing the best we can.

That we made it to today is a magnificent feat, so yes, applaud yourself and treat yourself to a big bowl of chocolate almond ice cream or whatever decadent treat your heart desires.

I had a different plan for today’s list, but since that list will take energy I do not have, I decided to postpone that post and close out the blog week with a list posted by Blessing Manifesting some days ago, “Seven Things to Remember When You’re Overwhelmed.”

  • You’re allowed to step back and take a break. (Yes, even when there is so much to do)
  • It’s okay to ask for help.
  • You can get through this.
  • You are more capable than you know.
  • Just take things one step at a time.
  • Don’t underestimate the power of closing your eyes and taking a deep breath. (I mean a really deep breath. The kind you feel moving through your whole body)
  • You don’t need to have everything figured out right now.

And now, I’m going to take Dominee’s advice and make a cup of tea and breathe.

Have a restful weekend.


About the Image: The adorable card above came from Rhonda R., one of my former students. It was given to me many moons ago, but I rediscovered it recently while organizing my “to be blogged” files. The image is from Endless Dream by Kim Anderson (pseudonym/brand name of Bertram Bahner). The collection features 100 [previously] unpublished photographs of children.

Creative Prayer with Maya Angelou

No Weapon

One of the most beautiful books in my extensive collection is Maya Angelou’s Letter to My Daughter. In the collection of short essays, Angelou, ever the sage, dispenses wisdom and inspiration with snippets from her life and experiences.

In a passage entitled “Mt. Zion,” Angelou reflects on the precious moment when she realized that God loves her:

There was a possibility that God really did love me. I began to cry at the gravity and grandeur of it all. I knew that if God loved me, then I could do wonderful things. I could try great things, learn anything, achieve anything. For what could stand against me, since one person with God constitutes the majority?

It is always amazing when we enter this moment of knowing God is absolutely enamored with us. Nothing can thwart our purpose when we encounter that profound love and allow it to possess us. We can walk in confidence that “come hell or high water,” through the Divine, we will win every.single.time.


About the Image: I promised myself that I would participate in Sheila Delgado’s 30-Day Creative Gathering this month. I create doodle art or photo art to “highlight” a passage of scripture [almost] daily, so to make my participation in “the gathering” easier [and more likely], I decided to pair the daily verse with my “art of the day.”

Today is Day 1.

I thought of Angelou’s words when I read the “Verse of the Day” in the Bible App (YouVersion) this morning. They seem connected to me.