Let’s Be Teddy Bears

It’s Monday. It’s raining. Midterm grades are due. I still have two sets of papers to grade, so I’m dropping in for a few seconds to share the über cute bear card my swap-bot friend Beth B. sent. She found the teddy bear stamp–words and all–at a yard sale. She thought of me immediately, so she couldn’t pass it up. As you can see the bear is “wearing” my favorite color. Beth also enclosed some “uncolored” stamps for my use (yay!), and I plan to experiment with them this week.

If you don’t have any other plans…

Let’s be Teddy Bears in our next life…Everybody loves ’em. Nobody cares if they’re fat & the older they get, the more they’re worth!

Have a warm and fuzzy week!

Something Arresting…

“Magnolia Tree” by Christine B.

Earlier this week, while escaping my ice-cold office and collecting warmth in the tree-adorned area just outside, I looked up and noticed a flash of red in the magnolias. The seed pods were exploding with color. In awe, I simply paused and allowed the beauty to wash over me.

My penfriend, Christine, must have been awed by the magnolia’s beauty too. She enclosed with a birthday card the precious gift of a magnolia watercolor that may have been inspired by my spring magnolia post. [The scan above does little justice to her art]. She perfectly captured the creamy white with just a nod at yellow. What appears gray on screen is actually silver, and those silver and green splashes capture and “emote” the experience of being in the actual presence of the tree in bloom.

Sparkly. Tingly. Beautiful.

Pavithra Mehta’s declaration regarding the magnolia warrants repeating, so I’m thankful Christine reminded me of it.

There is something arresting and unearthly about a magnolia tree in flower. Something that dances between divinity and dementia.

This weekend may you pause for a moment and give into the beauty of some thing, some one, some moment; may you allow it to grip you and wash over you, to soak into your skin, permeate your being, and change some part of who you are.


Side Note: I began interacting with Christine, the artist, via Jennifer Belthoff’s Love Notes project. In the few years since we met she has become one of my treasured friends. If you love snail mail, meeting new people, and sharing your light, consider participating in the next round of Love Notes. It begins October 13, so get signed up today: Love Notes 29.

Happy Birthday to Me | #WordlessWednesday

Bears being sent through the mail should never be squashed up to make them fit. It gives them indigestion. -Pam Brown

Look what traveled all the way from Germany via post to wish me a “Happy Birthday” and live with me forever? Svenja made it just for me and sent it for an October birthdays swap via swap-bot. Thankfully, my little bear friend wasn’t “squashed up” because he fit neatly into an envelope  that fit neatly into my mailbox. No indigestion!

It’s perfect for a birthday #WordlessWednesday and it’s a willing model for bear drawing practice.

Now, pardon me while I continue birthday shenanigans. Or, go to sleep.

#ThursdayTreeLove | …with a Bit of Sky Love

Trees are poems the earth writes upon the sky.  –Kahlil Gibran

For today’s tree love, I’m sharing photos that are [somewhat] equal parts sky and tree. I love trees, yes, but I also love the sky. There’s something about a tree-lined sky that always reels me in, especially when the clouds are showing out.

You’ve probably figured out that these photos really aren’t about the trees, but I hope you have a bit of sky love in you too!

About the Images: The first two photos were shot on the way home from work yesterday [iPhone]. The next three early one morning a couple of weeks ago just before an 8:00 a.m. class [Canon, iPhone}. The final photo is a random shot from some random day on the way from some random place that I randomly found on my camera while searching for photo #3 [Canon].


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.

Duck Tales | #WordlessWednesday

With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.  –Max Ehrmann, “Desiderata”

On a recent visit to the park, I observed the little girl pictured above and her older brother chattering and interacting with the ducks. Based on their conversation, they visited the park frequently. They “knew” the birds personally, gave them names, and as you can see, fed them from their hands. I couldn’t resist photographing such a precious sight.

Sylvia Barnes and Toni Morrison | Teaching, Preaching, and Doing the Work

Dr. Sylvia Barnes, October 2014.

Last week was not a good week for my heart.

Before I could digest the news that the literary goddess herself, Toni Morrison, had passed, I learned that Dr. Sylvia Barnes, one of my undergraduate mentors, had passed. With the news of both deaths, I felt as if every bit of oxygen was squeezed from my body.

As I sat through a brief meeting holding in the knowledge of their passings, I realized with everything in me that I am sick and tired of loss.

I’m tired of trying to find the words to express the deep sense of emptiness I feel when someone significant to me dies. There are no words for the love I can’t give, the unexpressed admiration and near deification of those who have profoundly impacted my life and who have had a strong hand in shaping who I am as a person, a writer, a scholar.

Sisters. Aunts. Uncles. Friends. Mentors. Professors. Literary goddesses. I’m tired of processing loss.

It is interesting that both women died the same day, August 5, 2019. I held both in high esteem for their unapologetic focus on black lives, for their commitment to excellence, for their wisdom, for their very humanity.

Dr. Barnes was the Toni Morrison of my undergraduate world. We were in awe of her—her standard of excellence, her fiery passion, her unflinching dedication to the deep study of literature, language, and light. Her dignified presence filled any room she entered. She taught eager undergraduates so many things, not just about literature but about life and love and how to navigate the madness of the world. I distinctly remember some of the wisdom she shared about the importance of reading in gaining and creating knowledge, about relationships and love and attraction.

In her raspy voice, with polished Jamaican accent, she urged us to “Read, read, read everything you can get your hands on. Read!” She wasn’t just an English professor. Like Baby Suggs Holy of Toni Morrison’s Beloved–preaching in the clearing–she was a divinely inspired preacher offering keys for life; every single class with Dr. Barnes felt like a sermon of love for our beautiful Black selves.

When I struggled with racism in graduate school, I reached out to her for counsel, and she candidly shared stories of her own similar experiences while in pursuit of the doctoral degree. Somehow, just knowing she overcame them intensified my determination to push through.

Toni Morrison speaking at “A Tribute to Chinua Achebe–50 Years Anniversary of Things Fall Apart.” December, 2008. Photo by Angela Radulescu

I spend a great deal of time studying, teaching, and writing about Toni Morrison’s novels. My first real encounter with her came when I was in college through my own not-for-a-course reading. The Bluest Eye left me in utter despair. I had read other black writers. I was drawn to them because of the way they spoke to an American experience with which I could identify. But it was Toni Morrison who awakened the scholar in me, who made me ask questions and drove me to write about books; it was her body of work which led me to theorize through literature the unique experiences of Black girls and women.

It was Sylvia Barnes who showed me I could, who encouraged me to use my singular voice to speak about Black girls’ and Black women’s experiences.

It has only been a week, so I’m still processing these losses and what they mean to me. These women—goddesses, really—have filled me for more than half my life and have prepared me for their parting. Though they toiled tirelessly, there is yet much work to be done. The mantle has been passed on, and we—those of us who write about, think about, theorize about Black experiences—must get down to business and with urgency do the work.

I know the world is bruised and bleeding, and though it is important not to ignore its pain, it is also critical to refuse to succumb to its malevolence. Like failure, chaos contains information that can lead to knowledge–even wisdom. Like art.  Toni Morrison, The Nation, 2015

Photo from Pixabay