Soul Work: Making Art of Loving People

“Purple” Rose, Big Spring Park, Huntsville, Alabama. [Altered Photo]

As promised, here’s the “love post” I sent to family, friends, and swappers this year.  The card features an altered rose and a Van Gogh quote.

I found the rose last December showing off in Big Spring Park in Huntsville, Alabama. It was simply gorgeous and many people were pleasantly surprised to find its unexpected beauty.

Van Gogh offers more than a “quotable quote” here.  Instead of making a pithy statement about art, he uses art to challenge our notions of love.  Moving us beyond ideas of love as feelings and romance, he calls us to love in a way that an artist creates.  And that is anything but romantic or fleeting.

When we experience a finished work of art–visual, written or spoken, performed, musical composition–we respond with admiration or distaste without ever fully considering what the artist pours into the work or how gut-wrenchingly vulnerable it makes one to place the inner life on display.

When we truly love people, we are similarly crafting and creating, unveiling our most intimate self and making ourselves vulnerable to the scrutiny, judgement, and sometimes the disdain of others.  Our love for people doesn’t always mean they will love us back and though our natural inclination is to protect ourselves, we must learn to love them regardless…

This point was driven home for me and my little one last week, as he was present when someone disrespected me in a public forum.  Though angry, my little one emphasized that he “admired [my] restraint” because he knows that many people wouldn’t have taken it so calmly.  On our drive home we talked about where that “restraint” comes from.  I was honest with him. Some base part of me could have humiliated the man and “put him in his place,” perhaps deservedly so, but that this man could behave this way suggests that he needs my prayers, not my tongue.  In an instant during the exchange, I paused long enough to hear from God, check myself, and recognize in the offender the child of God whom I am called to love.

Van Gogh is not speaking of simply loving people in our circles, those with whom we already share a heart connection, or those who are easy to love.  Nor is he simply speaking of a general, abstract love for humanity.  The artistry and mastery of love come as a result of loving through challenge and difficulty and loving people who aren’t loving, even people who can be mean and evil.  It comes as a result of seeing them as complex beings who, like a work of art, are more than what we immediately see.

Just as it takes more than a few strokes of the artist’s brush to create a masterpiece, it takes intense soul work and an intimate and constant connection with the Divine to make art of loving people.

My Pretty Bloomers

I know what you’re thinking, but we’re talking about flowers, people! “My Pretty Bloomers” was the name of a swap I participated in for the “Color and Light Photo Swappers” group on swap-bot. Swappers were to share a photo postcard of flowers from their gardens or, in my case, a photo from someone else’s garden.

Here’s the pretty bold bloomer “Ladydy5,” my partner, sent.  She writes, “This flowers every year” and what makes it a “joy to see” is that it was a gift for a special occasion.

Ladydy5's Pretty Bloomer

“Ladydy5’s Bold Bloomer”

I also received a bloomer via email from my photog-penfriend Dee, who happened to be my send-to partner.

Dee's Pretty Bloomer

“Dee’s Sunny Bloomer”

Simply because the sunflower is my favorite flower, I played around with Dee’s photo a bit.  Here are two of my favorite edits.

And from my photog friend Patty (aka Cakers)–

Patty's Pansy

“Patty’s Pansy”

Don’t you just love the deep, rich colors of this pansy?

Like me, Patty doesn’t have a garden, but she has the most beautiful purple clematis plant.  It’s 22-years-old!  The longest I’ve ever kept a plant alive is three years.  I’m tempted to share her clematis photos here, but I’ll save that for her.  She needs to update her blog anyway. Hint! Hint! 😉

The flowers I photographed are from my friend Colleen’s garden.  She has a very pretty garden, full of variety and color.  She has some staples, such as red, pink, and white roses, but she also mixes things up a bit from one year to the next–based on what I’ve seen the last two years.  She even has an awesome vegetable garden in the back of her yard. I nabbed a few pics of grapes yesterday!

I used a few of the photos of Colleen’s garden to create a collage for my partner.

Colleen's Bloomers 2014

Colleen’s Bloomers

This garden deserves a closer look. Don’t you think?  Here’s a sampling of some of the beauties from last year’s garden. (Click an image to view larger)

Purple is my favorite color, so when I see purple in a garden (okay, anywhere), I’m going to snap a photo of it.   Colleen had purple in abundance in last year’s garden and I’m fighting not to include all of them here.  I just learned from her that the tiny pink flowers are some type of rose, something I would have never guessed.

And this year’s garden:

2014 was dominated by pink in varying shades and lots of different roses.  That yellow flower is a knockout rose–another flower I’d never guess is a type of rose.

My mom has the greenest thumb I’ve ever seen. You’d think she’d pass some of her skill and knowledge on to me.  Really, she tried.  Other things vied for my attention.  But I’m really connected with my mom and I can’t look at flowers without thinking of her, so I’ll share with you a photo of one of hers.

My Mother's Zinnia, 2011

My Mother’s Zinnia, 2011

And lastly, because “life” made me a blog slacker in the spring, I’m sharing with you the “yellow flowers” I received for International Women’s Day 2014.  If you’re interested, you can see the ones I sent out here.

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That’s it for now! Enjoy!

 

Poetry on Postcards (or, Happy Warmer Days!)

I’m convinced most of the USA has been dreaming of this day–the first day of spring. Many of us have endured a brutal winter, so March 20 means the end of icy and snowy days (is near).

I’m working on a “Poetry on Postcards” swap and decided that I would introduce my partner to a poet she hasn’t read before–Tameka Cage Conley. I am proud to say I know this poet. She completed her undergraduate degree in English at the institution at which I grew up as a professor, scholar, leader, administrator.

Here is one of the postcards I designed for the swap:

"December Rose" and Excerpt from "The Cell Is the Song," by Tameka Cage Conley

“December Rose” and Excerpt from “The Cell Is the Song,” by Tameka Cage Conley

Conley is an extraordinary literary artist (poet, playwright, novelist) on the rise.  You can read the full poem and one other poem, “If Sula Had a Daughter Raised by Nel,” on the Driftless Review site.  Prepare for an experience with words, sound, texture, feeling.

Ironically, the photo was shot on a rainy December day in New Orleans, just outside my parents’ front door.  Is it springy enough to wish you a “Happy Spring?”