Wildflowers in the Mail | Heavenly Spots

from Lisa

Are you okay? Really okay?

The world can be chaotic and exhausting. When we think things can’t get any crazier, they do. When we think we will work together to find solutions for the world’s ills, we create more problems. When we think we can’t get any wearier, there’s always something that proves otherwise.

Sometimes things are a little too much, so we vacillate between a strong desire to set the world on fire and a simple wish to spend our remaining days in our beds contemplating color. It is during these maddening, tiresome moments that we must “find the heavenly spots” and “show [our] neighbors where they are.”

The poem below by Cleo Wade provides a formula for dealing with the world’s ills. She reminds us that we choose our responses, and there’s a whole lot between setting the world on fire and giving up.

“Tired”
Cleo Wade

I was tired of worrying
so I gave myself my peace back
I was tired of feeling intimidated by what I should do
so I pulled up my sleeves
and
got to work on what I could do
I was tired of not knowing
so I found out—about myself, my family, my
ancestors, my government, and the struggles of others
I was tired of seeing evil everywhere
so I found the heavenly spots and showed my
neighbors where they
were
I was tired
of looking at the world as one big mess
so I decided to
start cleaning it up
and when people ask me if I am exhausted
I tell them no
because
more than anything
what I got the most tired of
was being tired


About the Image: This week’s posts will feature postcards from my Wildflowers: Blooming in Community friends. We are a group of women who (mostly) met each other through Love Notes, but who decided to form our own group and continue sending encouraging mail to each other [when Love Notes transitioned from Facebook to another platform]. Our group name comes from “Wildflowers,” a poem by Morgan Harper Nichols. Today’s image features a photo from Lisa C. It was taken at her favorite park, a heavenly retreat from the craziness of the world.

NPM | PhotoArt Inspiration | Revolution

Powerful Revolution

When I shared nayyirah waheed’s poem “ism” on the blog a couple of months ago, I knew I would eventually pair it with a photo. I didn’t know which photo until one day–for a different project–I asked the two students featured to pose for a picture and “act like sisters.” They nailed it with the first shot! When reviewing the pics, I realized I had the photo I wanted.

The students featured are Na’veh M. (nah-vay) and Wanéa A. (Wah-nay-uh). You have seen their work featured on the blog before–“No Woman Is a Paradise Island” (Wanéa) and “Three Poems and a Tea” (Na’veh).

As part of a creative writing course, Wanéa published her first book of poetry, Witness: The Life of Jesus Through the Eyes of Others, which is available on Amazon for a whopping 99 cents! The reflections are presented in various poetic forms–villanelle, tanka, haiku, blues, free verse and more.

Na’veh, like France, just graduated. She publishes her poetry regularly on Instagram and will hopefully self-publish a book soon. I’ll be sure to let you know when she does!

This is our final National Photography Month post, but my camera will not be resting anytime soon. For now, on to other things…

NPM | #ThursdayTreeLove | Blues for the Babies

When I published Tuesday’s blog post, I was unaware of the Robb Elementary School shooting in Uvalde, Texas. I have been burying my head in the sand because the recent news cycle has been far from heartening. I learned about the loss of 19 children and two teachers in an early morning meeting. I sat through the meeting sick to my stomach and overwhelmed with grief. 

I thought about the appropriateness of the poem I shared Tuesday—especially its title, “The World Is Wild.” Any world in which an 18-year-old, a child himself, can purchase an assault weapon is out of control. I wondered how I would have crafted that poem had I written it Tuesday; I wondered if I would have been able to find the words.

There are times when the words weigh so heavily in my spirit that no amount of lifting can bring them to the surface. This does not feel like a time for poetry. Or a time for song. The only thing I can feel is a slow, long, moan–a deep gut sound that vibrates and sways and rattles the grief out of the soft and hard to reach places.

Our country seems oriented toward violence. Far too often the targets are innocent individuals minding their business and living their lives. And worse, far too often the targets are children wide-eyed with wild wonder and little clue about the dangers that lurk in dark, dark hearts.

It is mind-numbing to know that children are taught to run and hide in case of an active shooter, that teachers who are trained to educate must also be prepared to protect students from gun violence and even take a bullet for the children they are trained to educate. Why is that?! Why do school buildings become a one-sided war zone for twisted souls with a vendetta and time to kill?

I have no words. I have only the admonition to hold your babies close and hold the individuals who have lost their babies and loved ones close in your heart. Including the family of the perpetrator. They are hurting and grieving too.

The words below are the closing lines of a blues poem I wrote during my sophomore year in college. They are appropriate for this moment.

from “Nobody Told You to Be a Fool”
Chandra Lynn (Age: 20)

Just go to sleep, honey; rock your precious child;
Just close your eyes and rock that tiny child—

Protect that baby’s innocence; find comfort in his smile.  


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.

NPM | Musings from My Younger Self | The World is Wild

Walking Stick

It’s been far too long since I shared a “musing from my younger self,” so for this last full week of National Photography Month I will share some the words and wisdom of my teenage years with an appropriate, recent photo. The appropriate part is debatable.

Today, I’m sharing a poem I wrote just after I turned 17. My friend, Cy, calls it the prophetic poem. The photo above of a “giant stick bug” walking across the water seemed complementary.

The World Is Wild
Chandra Lynn (Age: 17)

The world is wild-
Men holding top positions
are on the ground,
biting the dust and busting
those who dry out the grass
and smoke it.

Dignity and courage
are part of the past.
Pride left and people fell.

People need chemicals
to erase the pain.
Money buys love.
To be further educated
one must have brains.

The world is wild.
The animals are loose,
and I am shut in.
Thank God!!!

I wish I could remember what prompted some of these youthful poems. I can remember clearly why I wrote some of them. For others, like this one, I draw a complete blank. Thanks to a couple of my students, I’m beginning to find the poems less cringey. They give insight into who I was and who I am.

NPM | 52 Frames | Long Exposure | Walking Meditation

52Frames Week 12 Long Exposure

Walking Meditation
Thích Nhất Hạnh

Take my hand.
We will walk.
We will only walk.

We will enjoy our walk
without thinking of arriving anywhere.

Walk peacefully.
Walk happily.
Our walk is a peace walk.
Our walk is a happiness walk.

Then we learn
that there is no peace walk;
that peace is the walk;
that there is no happiness walk;
that happiness is the walk.

We walk for ourselves.
We walk for everyone
always hand in hand.

Walk and touch peace every moment.
Walk and touch happiness every moment.

Each step brings a fresh breeze.
Each step makes a flower bloom under our feet.

Kiss the Earth with your feet.
Print on Earth your love and happiness.

Earth will be safe
when we feel in us enough safety.


About the Image: The photo above, like the one shared Monday, is from Green Mountain Nature Preserve. This one was for the 52Frames Week 12 challenge, “Long Exposure.” I have some work to do with long exposure, but I love this scene. I hope you find some time to walk and mediate this weekend!

Sunflowers and Poetry | Let April Be April

2022-04-30_113616

Since I’ve been an academic all my adult life, I have no idea what the end of April feels like for people whose lives are not planned around two 15-week segments. For me, it brings stress and anxiety over the ever-increasing unfinished business of the semester and May “cleanup” work, not to mention all the end-of-the-school-year events and deadlines for my son. When my student France Régine sent me the poem below a few days ago–a day after I’d seen the post on Morgan Harper Nichols‘ Instagram feed–I decided to use the poem to close out the month. It is a beautiful reminder that it is okay to “just be” and not feel the need to solve the problems of the world in one go.

Morgan Harper Nichols
Let April be April,
and let May be May.
And let yourself
just be
even in
the uncertainty.
You don’t have to fix everything.
You don’t have to solve everything.
And you can still find peace
and grow
in the wild
of changing things.

About the Image: The Current card above came from Jamise L–another sunflower lover–I met through Jennifer Belthoff’s Write Together and Love Notes. Her encouraging note came just when I needed it. My friends have been awesome and have kept me well-supplied with sunflower goodies, so there are many more sunflowers to share. Even though this ends our (almost) week of Sunflowers and Poetry, stay tuned to Pics and Posts for more sunflower love!

Sunflowers and Poetry | Why I Wake Early

Sunflower Goat

Good Morning! I’m dropping in a little earlier than usual because I thought you might like to share your morning tea or coffee with this sunflower-bearing (umm…eating) goat. If it is not morning where you are, you should exit this post and return to it in the morning. Kidding, of course! You can read it now and return to it tomorrow morning, if you choose, because today’s poem by Mary Oliver is about celebrating the early morning and starting our days with happiness and kindness. 

Why I Wake Early
by Mary Oliver
 
Hello, sun in my face.
Hello, you who make the morning
and spread it over the fields
and into the faces of the tulips
and the nodding morning glories,
and into the windows of, even, the
miserable and crotchety–
 
best preacher that ever was,
dear star, that just happens
to be where you are in the universe
to keep us from ever-darkness,
to ease us with warm touching,
to hold us in the great hands of light–
good morning, good morning, good morning.
 
Watch, now, how I start the day
in happiness, in kindness.

About the Image: My pen friend, Kathi G, sent the delightful postcard above. The goat’s name is Rory. Isn’t he absolutely adorable as he munches on a sunflower with a field more of them behind him? This is the work of Dorian Charles of Tabby Hall Designs. Happy eating, Rory!

					

Sunflowers and Poetry | Game Called Life

2022-04-28_112629_1

As promised Monday, I’m back with another poem by Javan. The poem below comes from Something to Someone. If your week has been a little challenging like mine, you might also need this nice and easy poem that doesn’t tax the brain or stretch the intellectual muscles.

By Javan

I’m not very good
at this Game called Life
For I’ve not learned to see children crying
without feeling pain
For I’ve not learned to watch animals destroyed
without wondering why
For I’ve not yet met a king or celebrity
that I would bow down to
or a man so insignificant
that I would use for a stepping-stone
For I’ve not learned to be a
“yes man”
to narrow minded bosses
who quote rules without reason
And I’ve not learned to manipulate
the feelings of others
to be used for my own advantages
then cast aside as I see fit
No, I’m not very good
at this Game called Life
And if everything goes well
maybe I never will be


About the Image: My friend Christine B sent this bright sprinkling of sunflowers to cheer me after I told her I was having a very sad day. She used the TouchNote app to send the postcard featuring her artwork.

Sunflowers and Poetry | How We Fit

“Le prince solaire” by A. Kumurdjian

Today has been filled with too much talking, too much paper-shuffling, and not enough silence. Even as I type these few words, I hear the text messages [that I will ignore until morning] coming in. So, for now, a very short poem from Meister Eckhart’s Book of Heart: Meditations for the Restless Soul by Jon M. Sweeney and Mark S. Borrows. May we all find a bit of stillness in this moment. 

How We Fit
Meister Eckhart | Sweeney and Burrows

You made us for Yourself.
and we fit not as one part

to another but rather as
emptiness meets fullness.

as darkness seeks light,
as loneliness wants love,

as what is wounded
longs for healing.

About the Image: My Love Notes friend Sarah S sent the photo postcard above for International Women’s Day. She sent the postcards with “prayers for peace, strength, and women all over the world, especially women of the Ukraine.” The majestic sunflower was shot by A. Kumurdian. Don’t you just love the postal tattoos? 🙂

Sunflowers and Poetry | Who We Are Now

WHM-2 2022

I ran across a poem today that I didn’t know I needed till I read it. Isn’t that how poetry works?

We are two years into the pandemic that some think is over, and I find myself still trying to process all the lessons and losses. This poem–which is really a prayer–profoundly articulates the complexity of the moment–the conflicting emotions, the questions, the changes in us. It was written by Nadia Bolz Weber, a pastor who describes herself as “foul-mouthed for a preacher, grammatically challenged for a bestselling author, surprisingly hopeful for a cynic.” 

The poem was written after year one of the pandemic, but it is still relevant after year two.

Who We Are Now
By Nadia Bolz Weber

Dear God who made us all,
A year ago we did not know that we were about to learn:
what we could lose and somehow live anyway
where we would find comfort and where it would elude us
whose lives matter to whom
why we have kitchens in our homes.
In mid-March 2020 all I knew for sure is that
hoarding toilet paper doesn’t make you safe – it just makes you selfish.
But God, it feels like the world is about to open back up.
And I’m both thrilled and kind of scared about that.
Because I’m not who I was a year ago.
I want so badly
to hug my friends again
and laugh like hell again
and have amazing conversations again

and yet I am not sure how long I could do any of this before crying or just getting really quiet. My emotional protective gear has worn so thin, and grief just leaks out everywhere now.

I am so afraid that I will never be who I once was. And I am also afraid that I will be.

(Not to mention, I’m not entirely clear what size jeans I wear as the me I am now)

And yet, when I quiet my anxious thoughts, I start to suspect that I am now closer to the me you have always known and always loved. So help me trust that, Lord.

As things change, help us be gentle with ourselves and with each other. We are all wearing newborn skin right now.

Amen.


About the Image: I had plans to share a sunflower postcard from one of my pen friends today, but this is the image the poem required. It is an edit of a photo I shot last fall. I was trying to emulate van Gogh’s wilted sunflowers–with a camera instead of a paintbrush. See Allotment with Sunflowers in the post.