Flowers, Feathers, and Butterflies: Live Well, Laugh Often, Love Much

When I lamented in the Global Postcard Art Swap/heart Exchange group that I missed the signup deadline for the swap, Sharon R., with whom I had no previous interaction, immediately offered to send me a postcard. When I received her gorgeous postcard, my jaw dropped.

It is simply stunning! The colors, multiple layers, and textures offer a visual feast. The scan does little justice to this handmade postcard. You’d have to see it in person, touch it and hold it to fully appreciate its beauty.

“Live, Laugh, Love.” Handmade postcard by Sharon R.

Live-Laugh-Love is one of those phrases we hear (and see) often, but most of us don’t know where it originated. It has been misattributed to many others–including Hitler (?!) and Ralph Waldo Emerson (doesn’t even sound like him to me); however, the phrase actually comes from the first lines of a poem written in 1904 by writer Bessie Anderson Stanley.  [Note: the year the poem was written explains the gendered language, and we won’t go into what “pure women” might mean].

He has achieved success
who has lived well,
laughed often, and loved much;

who has enjoyed the trust of
pure women,

the respect of intelligent men and
the love of little children;

who has filled his niche and accomplished his task;

who has left the world better than he found it
whether by an improved poppy,
a perfect poem or a rescued soul;

who has never lacked appreciation of Earth’s beauty
or failed to express it;

who has always looked for the best in others and
given them the best he had;

whose life was an inspiration;
whose memory a benediction.

When you are tempted to measure success by dollars and things, revisit this poem and take a look at the treasures stored up in your soul. When it comes to the things that really matter in life, you will find that you are richer and way more successful than you think!

Get Up and See!

Today is my birthday!

Normally, I spend the days leading up to my very own day contemplating the past months and making plans for the the days ahead.  My “New Year’s resolutions” begin October 2, not January 1. Not so this year. The last couple of weeks have been filled with anxiety, noise, and internal clutter, and I haven’t been able to grasp the calm I need to get the internal work done. It did not help to wake up in the wee morning hours to the horrible news of an attack in Vegas.

But I am grateful. To be alive (I’m familiar with the alternative). To be well (for the most part). To be accepted. To be showered with love (and brownies, every now and then). For the many, many good people and experiences my many days have brought to me.

Exactly five years ago one of these good people–at that time a new friend–gave me a beautiful card for my birthday. Because it “lives” on my desk, I see it frequently, but today I took a moment to appreciate it again.

“Rita Dove,” detail of The Furious Flower Portrait Quilt, 2004. Mixed media collage on canvas. Artist: Malaika Favorite

The portrait of U.S. Poet Laureate (1993-95) Rita Dove is part of a 24-poet/panel masterpiece by mixed media artist Malaika Favorite which honors the history of African American poetry. The work was commissioned for Furious Flower, a conference held every decade (since 1994), that celebrates, stimulates, and encourages African American poetry and poetic voices.

Dove’s poem, “Dawn Revisited,” from her collection On the Bus with Rosa Parks, is printed on the back of the card.

Imagine you wake up
with a second chance: The blue jay
hawks his pretty wares
and the oak still stands, spreading

glorious shade. If you don’t look back,

 the future never happens.
How good to rise in sunlight,
in the prodigal smell of biscuits –
eggs and sausage on the grill.

The whole sky is yours

 to write on, blown open
to a blank page. Come on,
shake a leg! You’ll never know
who’s down there, frying those eggs,
if you don’t get up and see.
The poem is the swift kick in the butt I need to “shake a leg” and get things done!  Please excuse me while I get up and see…

Rumi: The Guest House

Artwork by Chante Marie

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī
translated by Coleman Barks

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!

The Daffodils!

“Dance of the Daffodil”

A couple of weeks ago my friend, Laurie of Color Poems, mentioned in a comment the daffodils growing in her garden.  I promised that if she posted them, I would quote William Wordsworth’s poem, “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud”–commonly known as “The Daffodils”–in honor of her gorgeous yellow blooms.  Laurie not only shared her beauties but she dedicated the blog post to me “in gratitude.”

My weary soul is touched by her gesture, and I’m getting through the remainder of this week reminded that there is indeed kindness in the world.

I posted Wordsworth’s poem on my blog four years ago, but I hope you don’t mind my reposting.

Like Wordsworth, I have been thrilled over the flowering of spring and have spent much time in nature the last couple of weeks meditating and re-centering. It’s amazing how just a few moments away can elevate the mood and change the outlook.

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the Milky Way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced, but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A Poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

Thank you, Laurie, for brightening my week.  I, too, am grateful our “paths” crossed.

Until next time…Have joy!

 

Poetry Break with Jasmin Oya

“A Moment to Reflect”

For the last several weeks, my mood has been “poetry.”  I’ve been reading it, thinking about it, writing it.  Perhaps, this mood has been driving my need to get in touch with what I call “ur-Chandra,” the person I was eons ago, before “life” invaded “living.”

When I was a teenager I spent whole evenings reading classic and contemporary poets, memorizing and writing favorites in a red spiral notebook designated for words that struck me in a particular way. (I still have that notebook).  I’d then pen my own lyrics till the wee morning hours.

Although my profession allows me to enjoy poetry regularly, long, long evenings with poetry and my thoughts are rare.

A few days ago, I treated myself to time with poetry.  Instead of grabbing one of my “go-to” collections, I read from The Ghetto of Eden, a stirring collection of poetry written and self-published by my mentee, Jasmin Oya.  I’ve had the collection for several months now, and though I have read many of the poems, I’ve not been able to give the book the attention it deserves.

The book is divided into two sections–“The Beginning of Man” and “The Fall of Man.”  The 143 pages offer a sensual mix of spirit, flesh, and song, a prayer to the sacred and desecrated in all of us. Despite its title(s) the poems are not “religious” in the traditional sense, but they are spiritual.   Some of the poems are a little “raw,” but the painful honesty of “the story” that unfolds makes the collection difficult to leave on a shelf collecting dust.

“Time Out for Verse”

Jasmin is one of my favorite people. She is a senior, graduating this year and heading to a prestigious university for graduate school.  I love her to pieces–she is unapologetically Jasmin, and she loves humanity and knowledge and a good challenge.  She has been writing poetry since she was a preteen. She performs at various venues and enjoys facilitating poetry workshops for children.  She is a spoken word and a paper and pen poet.  She’s also an activist who often uses her work to speak up and speak out.

I am sharing two poems that demonstrate the flexibility of her artistic expression.  The first is from The Ghetto of Eden:

“The Prayer”

I believe in God like I believe in my mother’s palms.
I believe in Him like I believe in my mother’s mouth
and knees.
Her tongue and every hallelujah that
yawned with it.
I see Him in her posture.
I’ve been trying to mirror it since young
since young,
I’ve been trying to reflect her old.
All the prayers that have seen more days than me.
The ones answered and the ones that haven’t/won’t/will.

For I am no one without them.
For I am one with them.
For I breathe because they did.
I believe in God like I believe in tomorrow.
I believe in Him like I believe in today.
How exhausting they both can be
smelling of morning breath,

prayer and gospel.
These days aren’t easy, most of them are lies about what’s really hurting.

what lies beneath
who we are when
the room is empty.
when they’ve all gone home.

the party is over.     the
decorations are worn.
the night is fast asleep;
you’re left wondering,
who turned off all the music.
where have all the people gone.
who stopped dancing first.

Prayers don’t have room for the pride.
Put that to the side.
Gather yourself away from all the noise.
I’m learning to stop mourning the morning.
Find solace in the silence.
To stop fitting God into the nearest human body.
Believe into what I have yet to see.

The second is a spoken word piece Jasmin performed three years ago for a Black History Month event.  “For the Black Artist”–

If you want to read more of Jasmin’s works, I encourage you to purchase her book on Amazon.  It is well-worth the few bucks.

Be sure to take a poetry break this week!

 

love is a place…yes is a world

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Note: This is the “Love Post” we sent to family and friends last year.  As usual, this year’s post will be sent “late,” but I’ll be sure to share it after everyone receives it. 😉 For now, read slowly and savor every movement ofwith, and through love and life.

Mini Collection: Poetry on Postcards

If you love poetry and postcards, you’ll love poetry on postcards.  That was the title of a series of swaps hosted by MissWhimsy in the “Book Lovers Congregate” group on swap-bot.  The series ran quite regularly for several months, so I have a lot to share. However, I don’t want to overload your brain with too much poetry in one post, so I’ll showcase a selection of the postcards now and save the others for another time.  In fact, as I considered which postcards to share, I thought of my British Literature students who have been doing an excellent job micro-teaching Renaissance, Neoclassical, Romantic, and Victorian poets. For the last couple of weeks, the lessons have focused on the Romantic and the Victorian poets, so tonight I will share the postcards that were sent honoring a handful of those poets.  I will do my best not to comment on how and why I love the poets and poems and leave you to simply enjoy the little collection.  Postcards were either store bought or handmade, and in most cases, senders tried to match the postcard to the theme or poet in some way.

From Minxy1964: Wordworth Heritage: Dove Cottage; Poet's Sea, Grasmere: River Rydal. Photos by Phil Insley

From Minxy1964: Wordworth Heritage: Dove Cottage; Poet’s Seat; Grasmere; River Rydal. Photos by Phil Insley

This first card (above) was actually sent for a different type of swap, but it fits the theme and bears the face of the first poet.

"Clock Tower (Big Ben) House of Parliament (1858). Architects: Sir Charles Barry, A.W.N. Pugin. 3-D Postcard

From “Owlsinathens”: “Clock Tower (Big Ben) House of Parliament (1858). Architects: Sir Charles Barry, A.W.N. Pugin. 3-D Postcard

William Wordsworth (1770-1850)
“London, 1802”

Milton! thou shouldst be living at this hour:
England hath need of thee: she is a fen
Of stagnant waters: altar, sword, and pen,
Fireside, the heroic wealth of hall and bower,
Have forfeited their ancient English dower
Of inward happiness. We are selfish men;
Oh! raise us up, return to us again;
And give us manners, virtue, freedom, power.
Thy soul was like a Star, and dwelt apart:
Thou hadst a voice whose sound was like the sea:
Pure as the naked heavens, majestic, free,
So didst thou travel on life’s common way,
In cheerful godliness; and yet thy heart
The lowliest duties on herself did lay.

 

"There Be None of Beauty's Daughters," Handmade postcard by Maranda.

From Maranda: “There Be None of Beauty’s Daughters.” Handmade postcard.

George Gordon Byron, Lord Byron (1788-1824)
“There Be None of Beauty’s Daughters”

There be none of Beauty’s daughters
With a magic like thee;
And like music on the waters
Is thy sweet voice to me:
When, as if its sound were causing
The charmèd ocean’s pausing,
The waves lie still and gleaming,
And the lull’d winds seem dreaming:

And the midnight moon is weaving
Her bright chain o’er the deep;
Whose breast is gently heaving
As an infant’s asleep:
So the spirit bows before thee,
To listen and adore thee;
With a full but soft emotion,
Like the swell of Summer’s ocean.

 

From MommyKnows: Watercolor Postcard, Floral Still Life, Arum Flower. Pepin van Roojen.

From MommyKnows: Watercolor Postcard, Floral Still Life, Arum Flower. Pepin van Roojen.

Sonnet. “Written Upon the Top of Ben Nevis”
John Keats (1795-1821)

Read me a lesson, Muse, and speak it loud
Upon the top of Nevis, blind in mist!
I look into the chasms, and a shroud
Vapourous doth hide them, — just so much I wist
Mankind do know of hell; I look o’erhead,
And there is sullen mist, — even so much
Mankind can tell of heaven; mist is spread
Before the earth, beneath me, — even such,
Even so vague is man’s sight of himself!
Here are the craggy stones beneath my feet,–
Thus much I know that, a poor witless elf,
I tread on them, — that all my eye doth meet
Is mist and crag, not only on this height,
But in the world of thought and mental might!

 

From MissWhimsy: "West Front and Paine's Bridge over the River Derwent, Chatsworth." Chatsworth, Home of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire.

From MissWhimsy: “West Front and Paine’s Bridge over the River Derwent, Chatsworth.” Chatsworth, Home of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire.

XXXIX. “Because thou hast the power and own’st the grace”
Elizabeth Barrett Browning (‏ (1806-1861

Because thou hast the power and own’st the grace
To look through and behind this mask of me
(Against which years have beat thus blanchingly
With their rains), and behold my soul’s true face,
The dim and weary witness of life’s race,—
Because thou hast the faith and love to see,
Through that same soul’s distracting lethargy,
The patient angel waiting for a place
In the new Heavens,—because nor sin nor woe,
Nor God’s infliction, nor death’s neighbourhood,
Nor all which others viewing, turn to go,
Nor all which makes me tired of all, self-viewed,—
Nothing repels thee, . . . Dearest, teach me so
To pour out gratitude, as thou dost, good!

 

"The Lady of Shalott." Handmade postcard by Anita.

From Anita: “The Lady of Shalott.” Handmade postcard.

“The Lady of Shalott” is a bit lengthy for posting in its entirety here, but it is worth the read.  The postcard (above) features the sender’s favorite excerpt, but if you want more, here’s the link to the full poem: The Lady of Shalott by Alfred, Lord Tennyson.

I hope you enjoyed the collection of poetry. At some point, I will share more postcards and poetry as well as the poetry-postcards I sent for the “Poetry on Postcard” swaps.  Until then…

 

“When Giving Is All We Have”

"I will give thanks to you, Lord with all my heart." Psalm 9:1 Art by Lorelei C. #lovenotesjb

“I will give thanks to you, Lord with all my heart.” Psalm 9:1.  Gratitude Art by Lorelei C. #lovenotesjb

When Giving Is All We Have

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.

~Alberto Ríos, 1952

Happy Gratitude Day!

Haiku and the Little Ones

Right around the time the season changed from summer to autumn last year, I stumbled upon a haiku collection while perusing a colleague’s bookshelf.  I hadn’t read haiku in years! I borrowed her book and enjoyed the haiku for a few days before giving in and ordering my own copy of the book. The book is entitled The Essential Haiku: the Versions of Basho, Buson, and Issa, edited and translated by Robert Hass.

The haiku masters offered the perfect moments to sip tea and reflect on changes in the natural world as the seasons transform from one to another. They served as a welcome substitute for time that would have been spent outdoors (and perhaps with my camera) because the weather was often icky last autumn and winter.

After I had my fill of the haiku masters, I moved on to Sonia Sanchez’s Morning Haiku, a book I must blog about at another time.

As you can guess, I was pretty haiku obsessed. I read them to my son. I tried to get him to write haiku with me. He ran in the opposite direction–screaming, arms flailing (slight exaggeration). Aha! But eventually I found a way to “capture” him (along with his 15 classmates).

Last April–building on the lessons on metaphor, simile, and image I’d taught the children in second and third grade–I taught a brief lesson on the haiku form, read a few to the (then) fourth graders, and allowed my son to transform a longer poem he wrote for National Poetry Month last year into a haiku to demonstrate for the class how a three-line poem can tell the same story and present the same image as a much longer poem.

Poem written by my little one when he was in third grade.  The frog is one of the many animals he loves.  Scrapbook elements by Amanda Wittenborn: Amanda Creation

img_3489

The children were tasked with writing about something in nature, the change of seasons or an animal.  They “mastered” the form easily and loved writing their haiku.  Since nine-year-olds are still eager to please, they vied for my attention to read their haiku. They didn’t have time to read their poems to the class, but I took their poems, typed them, and created a display for the university library. (FYI–The school is situated on the university campus).  In May, during the last week of school, the entire class gathered in the library with their teacher, Mrs. Johnson, and a few other parents and had a poetry reading followed by a class picnic at “Unity Pond” on campus.

Many months after I’d intended, I’m sharing their haiku. [Click an image for a closer look]

The lesson and writing took about 30 minutes. They did a great job. Don’t you think?

Even though haiku is a lot more complex than it seems, it is a good form to teach to children. They won’t catch all the subtle nuances of language and imagery, but they get the basics in terms of the traditional structure and themes of haiku.  I am looking forward to my next adventure with my son’s class. I don’t know how or when, but I’m sure we’ll have some literary adventures this school year!