#ThursdayTreeLove | Mosaic of Seasons

Winter is an etching,
Spring a watercolor,
Summer an oil painting, and
Autumn a mosaic of them all.

–Stanley Horowitz–


About the image: The photo was shot in Nashville, Tennessee at the Nashville Zoo at Grassmere on a perfect autumn day. One day, I’ll have to share the animals I captured. ūüôā

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’m also linking up with with Dawn of The Day After¬†in the¬†Festival of Leaves¬†photo challenge.

Autumn Dance

Every leaf speaks bliss to me
Fluttering from the autumn tree.
–Emily Bronte, “Fall Leaves, Fall”

If you have three minutes to spare, perhaps you will enjoy this video of a leaf dancing and floating in celebration of autumn. I filmed the leaf October 1 while catching some fresh air just before a mid-morning meeting.

The leaf danced in the wind for hours. I was mesmerized by its performance and noted it throughout the day. Though I could not see it, a spiderweb must have aided in its dance. Or was it the magic of autumn?

The leaf is perfect for linking up with Dawn of The Day After in the Festival of Leaves photo challenge. It seems to be holding its very own festival!

#ThursdayTreeLove | An Autumn Walk Through the Woods

Now purple tints are all around;
     The sky is blue and mellow;
And e’en the grasses turn the ground
     From modest green to yellow.
Paul Laurence Dunbar, “Merry Autumn”

 

During my son’s last dental visit, I had enough wait time to notice and appreciate a piece of art I hadn’t seen before. Since¬† there were no other seats available, I sat in the back and just behind the seating area hung a delightful “walk through the woods” painting. I was so thrilled!

Of course, this isn’t an actual tree, but it shows just how inspired we are by trees and forests, and that makes the artwork appropriate for #ThursdayTreeLove.

The palette is appealing, but the real pleasure comes from taking a closer look. There are many wonderful treasures hidden throughout the painting.

The family is obvious, but one would have to spend more than a moment with the piece to notice the rest:

The birds.

The cautious deer.

The curious bear.

The well-camouflaged bunny.

The added texture of actual leaves.

The shapes and feel of the varicolored trees.

None of the office staff knew much about the creator–only that she is a local artist who perhaps gifted the piece to the dentist.

Based on the clothing and the multi-colored leaves, this appears to be an autumn scene. The painting reminds me of the many walks my guys and I take during the season–sans dog. Temperatures are finally a little cooler. Maybe, we’ll get a long–and much needed–walk in this weekend.


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.

Are You Happy with Your Story?*

“Story Girl” by Connie S.

I received the most adorable tag this weekend! It came from my penfriend Connie S. I sort of coveted the tag when I saw it in a Facebook photo among several tags she crafted a few weeks ago for a “Little Wings and Tim Holtz” challenge on swap-bot. This one was an extra, so she sent it as a gift as I “get back into teaching mode.” Happy dance!

Connie wrote a note on pretty floral stationery and ended with the question–“Are you happy with your story?”

On this rainy, bluesy Monday when the headaches are unrelenting, it’s difficult to answer when my mood and pain are trying to do the typing.

Interestingly, though, I’ve been thinking a lot about “my story”–the narrative of my life that shapes who I am, my path, and who I am becoming. Particularly, I’ve noticed¬† just how often other people insist on writing my story or are set on what they think I should do and be; I’ve also taken note of just how often what they think I should do, think, and be benefits them in some way.

Though sometimes [most times, maybe?] individuals are actually advocating for us, I realize if we’re just going along and not paying attention, we can make it easy for someone else to write or rewrite our story. Therefore, we must be intentional about guarding our own developing script.

My life isn’t perfect–it’s certainly “been no crystal stair,” but those ups and downs and all arounds have developed in me a deep sense of empathy and compassion. The questions yet unanswered have taught me to love the questions and either seek the answers with an open heart and mind or patiently wait through the process. I’m learning still that sometimes the answers will come on “the other side of glory.” In my weakest moments, through Christ I’ve found strength–grace sufficient–to overcome the seemingly insurmountable.

I have an amazing family, the best friends, and good energy in my most important spaces. When I count my blessings, they far outnumber my setbacks and disappointments. Even in my most dejected state or my hour of most profound need, my gratitude deepens and widens over the blessed life God has given me and over His indescribable, incomparable love for me.

Am I happy with my story? Yes indeed. I’m not sure I’d know how to behave with a different story.

Are you happy with your story?


*My apologies to those of you who received a draft of this post via email or in your reader. Somehow the WordPress bot decided to publish before I hit the publish button. 

#ThursdayTreeLove | Knot So Beautiful

There is good in life every day.
Take a few minutes to distract yourself
from your concerns–
long enough to draw strength from a tree…
–Pamela Owens Renfro, “Reach for the Good”

August has been a strange month so far. I have felt “out of sorts” most days and have been so swamped with “things to do” that I’ve found far too little time for the things that add color to my days. This has made me even more grateful to be back on campus with the trees. The heat makes my time outdoors brief, but a [literal] moment with the trees every now and then does much to right my spirit.

The knotty tree above caught my eye as I walked past it with one of my colleagues. Naturally, I paused to take a snapshot with my phone camera. Although my colleague was grossed out by the knots, I was intrigued. I wondered about the tree’s story.

Trees develop knots in response to ‚Äústress‚ÄĚ‚ÄĒweather, insects, injury, viruses. The knots are evidence of healing and repair. They give the trees character, and if we think about it for a second, it‚Äôs pretty amazing that trees are capable of creating beauty from something that can potentially destroy them.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we were more like trees? Perhaps, we are more like them.

To some degree, how we respond to tension is a matter of choice. Instead of internalizing our stress and creating destructive knots that can lead to mental and physical illness, we can respond to it in productive ways–praying, meditating, journaling, creating, crafting, singing, speaking up for ourselves, setting healthy boundaries.

If left unchecked, stress can leave us damaged and unhealthy. We transform these undesirable effects when we work through our stressors in ways that create beauty in our hearts and lives.

As for my colleague‚ÄĒno worries about her. If she continues to hang around me, she‚Äôll be looking at trees in a different way very soon. ūüėČ


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.

“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.

Raindrops and Perfection

He gives his best‚ÄĒthe sun to warm and the rain to nourish‚ÄĒto everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. –Matthew 5:45 MSG

It seems appropriate to talk about rain today–this 13th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina–but I have no desire to revisit that horror today. The photo above features my favorite line from R.H. Peat’s poem “Perfection.” When I “encountered” it on the blog Sightseeing at Home¬†a few months ago, I decided to create a series of photos using lines from the poem.

Every oak will lose a leaf to the wind.
Every star-thistle has a thorn.
Every flower has a blemish.
Every wave washes back upon itself.
Every ocean embraces a storm.
Every raindrop falls with precision.
Every slithering snail leaves its silver trail.
Every butterfly flies until its wings are torn.
Every tree-frog is obligated to sing.
Every sound has an echo in the canyon.
Every pine drops its needles to the forest floor.
Creation’s whispered breath at dusk comes
with a frost and leaves within dawn’s faint mist,
for all of existence remains perfect, adorned,
with a dead sparrow on the ground. –“Perfection” by R.H. Peat

The photo above is the first in the series. I even photographed a dead sparrow I happened across one afternoon. There was nothing poetic about that image, so we can probably forget about adding the last line to the series–unless I approach it less literally.

The incongruity between the poetic lines and the actual image of the sparrow reminds me of our tendency to use language to “pretty up” some really “jacked up” aspects of life. I’m learning that such language doesn’t minimize the ugliness and does little, if anything, to help. In some instances, what appears to be encouragement or inspiration is actually damaging. There’s nothing glamorous about struggle. Nothing to celebrate in being strong enough to withstand the blows.¬†People who struggle with mental and/or physical illnesses don’t need platitudes. They need help. They need support. They need love. It is easier to come to grips with life when we realize, no matter how hellish, life is just that. . .life.

Isn’t that the point of Peat’s poem? Life with all its “stuff” happens to us all–whether we’re good, bad, nice, nasty, or somewhere in between. That is part of our messy, perfect existence in this world.

Spot On!

When Arielle W. offered to send postcards from NASA to interested members of the Love Notes community, I responded “no thanks” because I live in “space central.” Boy, am I glad she ignored me! Why? Just look and see!

Detail of a Sunspot. Big Bear Solar Observatory, New Jersey Institute of Technology

This “space” postcard looks so much like a sunflower that at first glance I thought it was a sunflower. Maybe, this was because I was wearing multifocal contacts–which are amazing in bright light, but a little weird in dim light–but I think many people would have had to take a second look before realizing the image isn’t a sunflower.

The back of the postcard reads:

This detailed image taken in 2010 by the New Jersey Institute of Technology’s New Solar Telescope at the Big Bear Solar Observatory–a project partially funded by NASA–features an enormous sunspot on the photosphere of the Sun that is slightly larger than the Earth.

Arielle sent this to me (anyway) because she “thought of me and my love of sunflowers…the card looks almost like a sunflower.” She couldn’t have chosen a better “space” card for me!

Even though this amazing card did not need any help, she also wrote a popular Shakespeare “misquote” on the back:

It is not in the stars to hold our destiny, but in ourselves.

In case you’re interested, the actual lines are from Julius Caesar:

Men at some time are masters of their fates:
The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves, that we are underlings. –Cassius to Brutus, Act I, scene ii

There’s some irony in the quote masquerading as Shakespeare appearing on postcard of a sunspot–which I mistook for a sunflower.