Till the Gossamer Thread Catch: A Short Break with Walt Whitman

I’m in the middle of grading a heap of papers and trying desperately not to lose focus until I reach today’s goal, so I’m dropping in to share a “photo poem” I pulled from my “archives”–the second verse of Walt Whitman’s “A Noiseless Patient Spider” paired with a dandelion I shot some time ago.

You can find the (only a few lines longer) full poem and a little about the poet here: Academy of American Poets: Whitman.

Until next time…

The “Other” Sister: “I didn’t have to fight…”

Although I’ve written about my younger sister Karlette who succumbed to breast cancer a few years ago, I have not mentioned Lori, my other sister, who danced with the devil. Lori’s diagnosis came a few years before Karlette’s first. I asked her to write a blog post about her experience, but she feels that she has little to add to the conversation. However, what she shared with me during the “trying-to convince-her” discussion says a lot about the feelings of some breast cancer survivors whose battles may not have been as “dramatic” as others’.

It has been hard for me to think of myself as a survivor. I really didn’t have to fight cancer. Karlette fought cancer. It kept coming for her and she fought with everything she had. I just went through treatments and it was gone. I’m not sure if I’ve ever celebrated survival. I know that there’s always the possibility of its coming back, but my plan would be the same[…]. I never thought of it as a fight. I thank God for His mercy and for blessing me when so many others had to fight and many even lost.

When I pointed out to her that her status as “survivor” is a matter of perspective, that every year she “holds her breath until given the ‘cancer free’ news,” she responded:

I do. [But] I give it all to God. I thank Him daily for every breath I take. Don’t get me wrong. I know I, too, could have lost, but I know that it was God who fought and won. Not me–not without giving it to Him.

It has been difficult for Lori being the older sister survivor when one of her baby sisters didn’t survive. She lives with profound sadness because of this reality. I watched her go through treatment, and it wasn’t pretty. Cancer changed her life. It changed her body’s chemistry and even impacted the way she processed our younger sister’s passing. 

A cancer diagnosis–no matter how positive the prognosis–is a sucker punch that a person feels deep in his or her being. Every cancer survivor lives with the possibility that “it” may return.

That is what makes survivors survivors–not “beating” the disease or coming through unscathed but the daunting reality of the disease; they’re survivors because they can stand up in the world and move and contribute and be [whole and well] with the looming possibility of such crippling news.

We lost Karlette. That’s an awful reality that hurts like hell. But losing her makes us celebrate Lori even more. Though we may never have the answer to why not Karlette too, Lori’s survival is important. It rescues us from despair. It gives us hope. And that is certainly a reason to celebrate.

The closing lines of my favorite Lucille Clifton poem comes to mind:

come celebrate
with me that everyday
something has tried to kill me
and has failed.
[from “won’t you celebrate with me“]

*Photos in this post are from Pixabay.

There Came a Wind: An Artist’s Interpretation of Emily Dickinson’s Poem 1593

As usual during summer break, I’ve been taking some time to declutter our home. In one day, I cleared several crates of stuff and found a number of treasures. One such treasure was a beautiful piece of art one of my students completed many, many, many years ago for a literature class.

Response to Emily Dickinson, Poem 1593 by Z. Lott

Students typically have difficulty reading poetry. Gasp! I’m convinced they create a mental block when they hear the word “poetry.” To decrease the pressure and to help them realize their capacity for understanding and interpreting poetry, I have students craft a creative response to a poem.  Students can write another poem, compose a song, create an art piece, etc. in response to a poetic work (from a list of “approved” poems). Through the exercise, students typically learn they understand more than they think and develop confidence to complete the other poetry assignments.

My student chose Poem 1593 by Emily Dickinson, one of my favorite American poets.

There came a Wind like a Bugle –
It quivered through the Grass
And a Green Chill upon the Heat
So ominous did pass
We barred the Windows and the Doors
As from an Emerald Ghost –
The Doom’s electric Moccasin
The very instant passed –
On a strange Mob of panting Trees
And Fences fled away
And Rivers where the Houses ran
Those looked that lived – that Day –
The Bell within the steeple wild
The flying tidings told –
How much can come
And much can go,
And yet abide the World!

The picture does the visual work of the poem. Do you see it?

I like the message of Dickinson’s poem. Whether literal or figurative, storms come. Storms wreak havoc and destruction. Storms go. The world remains. Life is righted again…eventually.

Exactly (almost) three years ago, I “discovered” another student’s artistic rendering of a poem and blogged about it. You can see it here: “The Lamb, The Tyger, and the Lion.”

Enjoy!

“I know how the flowers felt…”

“After the Pushing and the Pelting” (Tulip with Texture)

Today has been one of those days. April has been one of those months.  “April is the cruelest month…” Yada, yada, Eliot…

The Robert Frost poem above so adequately speaks my mood these days.  April for me is usually a one-thing-after-another, stressful, demanding kind of month, relentless in its pushing and pelting.  It is sometimes easier to “lay lodged–though not dead” than it is to keep things in perspective and remember that this is just one “moment” that will eventually pass.

Though it is tempting to just “lay lodged” in this state of mind, I choose to rise and meet the challenges while focusing my gaze elsewhere.

I’d captured the red tulip and several others after the poor flowers had been pushed by the wind and “pelted,” no constantly pummeled, by rain for several days.  I was happy to see them still standing, though a bit bowed.  When I shot this photo, the message was powerful, empowering, and affirming.  It wasn’t just a thing of beauty, but a symbol of perseverance and will, its beauty magnified in its reflection of the Divine.

In fact, I used it a few days later to share a bit of inspiration with family, friends, and colleagues, because such (im)perfect beauty only intensified my longing for Perfection.

“The Beauty of Holiness” (Tulip Original)

It is a little curious that this one flower–one image–captures both feelings so effectively.

“Peace on Earth! Good Will Toward Men”

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Christmas Bells

by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till, ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime,
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said:
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead; nor doth he sleep!
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men!”

❧❧❧
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men”—(Luke 2:14).

May you and yours experience God’s peace and His good will (towards you) not only for the holiday season but always…

Merry Christmas!

Monte Sano: Autumn Photo Walk

"My Guys" Chatting Through Monte Sano

My Guys Chatting Through Monte Sano State Park, Huntsville, Alabama

At the very beginning of the year, I posted photos from a Monte Sano State Park walk and wondered what this beautiful place would look like in the spring.  I completely missed spring and summer, but thankfully, we made it to Monte Sano before autumn fades into winter again.

I captured nearly 300 photos the afternoon we visited, but unlike our last visit, I had far too many “favorites” to choose from.  It’s taken me two weeks to choose, and since my focus was “trees” and “leaves,” I decided to share the leaves in a separate post. With some shots, I tried to “recreate” what I could remember of the winter shots. Remember this tree?  It looks no different in autumn.

My favorite Monte Sano tree.

“Winter’s Heart” in Autumn

And this one:

tree

“Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night” in Autumn

Our tree-lined path was even more glorious with leaves forming a canopy over our heads and providing the crunch-crunch-crunch beneath our feet.  Is “crunching leaves” your favorite part of the season?

The Worn Path in Autumn

“The Well-Worn Path” in Autumn

With other shots, I just appreciated the splendor of the trees:

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Sometimes, I simply enjoyed the breathtaking view from the “lookout” accented or consumed by the range of autumn colors. Untitled copy 8 Untitled copy 8 Untitled copy 11 Then, there were those trees that made me wonder about their story.  Notice how these two lean toward each other–one resting in the other’s supportive embrace.

“Duet”

This one a “relic” of a “time before,” when it stood against elements and seasons.  A fallen comrade in the midst of those still standing strong and tall:

“Remains”

When we left the park, I exhaled deeply, as if all the cares of the world drained from my body as I walked through the park. Monte Sano is always a wonderfully therapeutic place, no matter the season. It must be the trees.

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Another Perspective of “Winter’s Heart”