Love Means…

“Love” by Robert Indiana, 6th Avenue at 55th Street, New York City. Photo by Jennifer Howland Hill.

“Love” is likely the most difficult word to define. We talk about what it means, but definitions fail to hit the mark. Since it finds meaning in action and in character, we describe love more than we define it.

“Love means” was the final prompt for Love Notes 27. Peggy, again, did not disappoint as she shared a poem which demonstrates the evolving meaning(s) of love as she travels the decades.

Love Means
By Peggy L.

At the age of 10
Love means my mama’s smile and a hug.

At the age of 20
Love means bodies tangled in the sheets.

At the age of 30
Love means walking my sweet daughter to class before heading to work.

At the age of 40
Love means letting my baby find her own life, away from me.

At the age of 50
Love means discovering myself and learning to paint.

At the age of 60
Love means…

I’ll let you know.

I love how the poem touches on parental love, romantic love, self-love, and the “unknowns” of love.

As for my part, exhausted and with a mile-long to-do list I couldn’t  even attempt. I went to the Source of Love and sent my partner 1 Corinthians 13:4-8–but again, that describes rather than defines love, and there are more negatives than positives in the description.

According to 1 John 4:8. God is love. Love, therefore, is as complex and multifaceted as God. Perhaps, this is what makes it difficult to define.

If you missed Peggy’s responses to LN 27 Prompt 1 and Prompt 2, be sure click the previous link–twice!


About the imageThe postcard above was sent to me by my friend Cy after a trip to New York last summer.

From the postcard back: The artist, Robert Indiana, settled in New York City in 1954 and began making pop art. His most famous work, Love, was originally designed as a Christmas card for the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in 1964. The image quickly became a symbol of peace at a time when the country had become involved in the Viet Nam War. The 12-foot sculpture was installed at the corner of 6th Avenue and 55th Street in 1971, two blocks from MoMA. It has become one of the most photographed icons in New York City. Every day thousands of couples visit the sculpture and awkwardly ask a stranger to take their photograph.

Happy Weekend!

#ThursdayTreeLove | “The Breath of the Cherry Blossoms”

It’s time for our first “tree love” post of May! Today, I’m sharing what I consider the crowning glory of spring–cherry blossoms!

I really should have written this post weeks ago when I had a little more energy, but I was so excited about the cherry blossoms that I couldn’t imagine being too tired for words for this particular post.

The cherry blossoms are usually the last to bloom on campus, but this year, they shot open at the same time as the dogwoods. In fact, things were so out of order that the redbuds–which normally bloom way before the cherry blossoms–were still in full bloom.

There are three trees that line one of the paths I walk frequently on campus, so I was pretty thrilled to spend time capturing them. In fact, I shot way more than 100 cherry blossom photos on two very different days–a cloudy day and a sunny day.

I did my best and whittled my selection down to 15 + a bonus post-blossoms iPhone photo. Still too many, but I hope you will enjoy them with a spot of tea and Toi Derricotte’s poem, “Cherry blossoms.”

I went down to
mingle my breath
with the breath
of the cherry blossoms.

There were photographers:
Mothers arranging their
children against
gnarled old trees;

a couple, hugging,
asks a passerby
to snap them
like that,
so that their love
will always be caught
between two friendships:

ours & the friendship
of the cherry trees.

Oh Cherry,
why can’t my poems
be as beautiful?

A young woman in a fur-trimmed
coat sets a card table
with linens, candles,
a picnic basket & wine.

A father tips
a boy’s wheelchair back
so he can gaze
up at a branched
heaven.

All around us
the blossoms
flurry down
whispering,

Be patient
you have an ancient beauty.

Be patient
you have an ancient beauty.

My favorite lens is a little wonky, so I wasn’t able to get the crisp shots I wanted, but even though these aren’t the best images, I love the bokeh in many of the photos.

Cherry blossom life is pretty short, so I wasn’t surprised to find a blanket of blossoms on the ground one rainy morning just a few days later.

For more blossom love, check out this beautiful time-lapse video from Brooklyn Botanic Garden.


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.

“i soak the flowers/until/they become words”

with
the water bowl balancing
on my thighs.


i soak the flowers.
until
they become words.
then i write.

–ritual

nayirrah waheed, salt

There was a blossom in every post this month–even the one with the dancing bunny and the one with Simon of Cyrene helping Jesus carry the cross. So we end the month as we began–speaking in flowers.

I’ve had far too many words tangled inside my head and heart this year. The month-long meditation on flowers gave me permission to leave the [hard] words “unexpressed” and allow them to unravel and stretch naturally.

I have a summer of writing ahead of me, and having “soaked” for some time, the words are ready to flow.

Thanks to my friend Meli for allowing me a moment to “breathe” today and photograph the beautiful vase of flowers sitting on her desk. Hugs…

Crucifixion: The Hard Part

[…]crucifixion was not the hard part
for Christ. Incarnation was.
How to squeeze all of that
all-of-that into a body.
Alison Hawthorne Deming, “Resurrection”

They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him. As they were going out, they met a man from Cyrene, named Simon, and they compelled him to carry the cross. –-Matthew 27:30-32

This moment in the scriptural account of Christ’s crucifixion moves me. It depicts Jesus at one of his most human moments. With the literal weight of the world on His shoulders, He succumbs to the weariness of all this humanity and simply needs help carrying the cross from which He will soon hang.

Paradoxically, it took divine strength to walk that path of humility. It took every bit of His divinity to remain fully human and achieve for all humanity the ultimate victory over the enemy of our souls.

Children’s Art | Busy Being Roses

…as you can see, we are
just now entirely busy being roses.
Mary Oliver, “Roses,” from Felicity

Today was supposed to be easy–a “chill” day of finishing up a few projects and meeting with my students. It turned into a crazy-busy day, so I am all too happy to take a break and contemplate the pretty–and I have kid art to share!

Every spring, my son’s school hosts an amazing art fair, featuring the work of practically every student in the school. If you’ve been following the blog for a while, you probably know that I absolutely lose my mind walking the halls and taking in the colorful spectacle. I have hundreds of pictures from each art fair. I wish I could share every piece on the blog, but there’s so much that I’d have to start a separate blog dedicated to children’s art–and it would take me at least three years to catch up! Of course, that is not a bad idea, but I’ll leave that task for others.

Since I am still “speaking in flowers,” I’m excited to share a sampling of the vases of roses on display at the art show held a couple of weeks ago.

There were several other vases full of flowers, but they were positioned low on the wall and I was not willing to contort my body to get the shots. 😀

The project is called “Primary Petals,” for which students created a vase full of flowers using water color, oil pastels, and markers. Through the activity, “the students learned about color families, explored new mediums, and focused on line quality by drawing spirals” [Description posted with artwork].

Based on the description of the project, I’m assuming the art is that of Mrs. Johnson’s students. [She was my son’s fourth grade teacher and her art projects are always sensational].

As I have been working through life’s challenges, I have been asking a lot of questions. The answers aren’t always immediate or acceptable, so it’s nice to put the challenges on hold and take a moment to enjoy the innocence and simplicity of children’s art. It’s good–every now and then–to just be, to learn from the roses.

“Roses” by Mary Oliver

Everyone now and again wonders about
those questions that have no ready
answer: first cause, God’s existence,
what happens when the curtain goes
down and nothing stops it, not kissing
not going to the mall, not the Super
Bowl.

“Wild roses,” I said to them one morning.
“Do you have the answers? And if you do,
would you tell me?”

The roses laughed softly. “Forgive us,”
they said. “But as you can see, we are
just now entirely busy being roses.”

“such are daffodils/with the green world they live in”

“Daffodils,” Photo by Sheila L.

Lead by example: Support women on their way to the top. Trust that they will extend a hand to those who follow. –Mariela Dabbah

I tried and tried to capture the daffodils this spring, but they were a bit wonky and difficult to photograph, so I am grateful for the perfect bunch of daffodils my Love Notes friend, Sheila L, sent along with Mariela Dabbah’s quote encouraging women to empower each other through reaching back and extending a hand.

Daffodils make me think of spring and poetry, so that’s where my head went when I received this card.

William Wordsworth’s “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” is the “daffodils” poem familiar to many, but since I used that poem on the blog (twice) already, I’m turning to my favorite Romantic poet, John Keats. He mentions the daffodils in the first lines of his “Endymion, Book I,” a treatise on the potency and timelessness of beauty.

A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.

Therefore, on every morrow, are we wreathing
A flowery band to bind us to the earth,
Spite of despondence, of the inhuman dearth
Of noble natures, of the gloomy days,
Of all the unhealthy and o’er-darkened ways
Made for our searching: yes, in spite of all,
Some shape of beauty moves away the pall
From our dark spirits.
Such the sun, the moon,
Trees old and young, sprouting a shady boon
For simple sheep; and such are daffodils
With the green world they live in; and clear rills
That for themselves a cooling covert make
‘Gainst the hot season; the mid forest brake,
Rich with a sprinkling of fair musk-rose blooms […]

If you’d like to read the full poem, find it here: Endymion on Bartleby

I hope your week is filled with sunshine, poetry, and brilliant blooms.

#ThursdayTreeLove |Trees Full of Butterflies

Mixed with rain, they are mistaken for the fallen dew;
In the wind, they look like flying butterflies.
Liu Hsiao-ch’o, “Ode to the Pear Blossom”

In these parts (Northern Alabama), early spring bursts forth with magnificent color. The trees usually blossom in succession–the Japanese magnolia, followed by the red buds followed by the pear blossoms, followed by the dogwoods followed, finally, by the cherry blossoms. This year, with the exception of the magnolia, the trees seemingly bloomed at the same time!

The cold weather and rain of this past winter kept me indoors, so on one of my first campus walks of spring, I was pleasantly surprised to find my usual path lined with blossoms.

The red buds were beginning to fill out her limbs, but the pear blossoms were on full display. I had only my phone, but I took another short walk before the end of the workday…with my camera.

A week later, I walked another path…

…to enjoy the trees in another part of campus.

They did not disappoint.

The bumblebees were out in full force, so my visit with the trees ended abruptly. No matter–my camera and I were pleased and we have so many more trees to share!


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.