Kindness Week Day 3: Time with a Senior

Today’s Kindness Prompt: Visit, call, or write to a senior citizen.

This sounds like a kindness to them, but in many cases, you will soon find, you’re the one who’s benefiting most. Our seniors are wise and funny and full of history, experience, and stories. If you have children, take them along. This is a perfect opportunity to teach them to respect older adults and to learn that everyone has value.

Today is a holiday (in the USA), so start today. Take a break from the fireworks and hotdogs and give a senior a bit of your time.

After a certain age, growing older can be lonely and scary, particularly if family doesn’t live nearby. So be kind to our seniors. Stand in the gap, brighten a day, and become someone’s friend. In whatever form it takes, your company will be sincerely appreciated.

Be sure to make a visit, call, or letter a part of your life, not just a one-time thing. This week isn’t about random acts. This is about making the practice of kindness part of who you are.

If you’re starting with “Kindness Week” today, be sure to go back and look at the two previous prompts:

Note on the image: The roses above are from a senior (now retired) colleague’s garden. Along with another colleague, I had a brief visit with her recently. She had just turned 80! Beautiful roses grow in her front and backyard gardens; she excitedly shared them with me. I’m sure I’ll find an opportunity to show off more of her roses on the blog.

Hasta mañana…

Finding the Words: Flowers From That Garden

I spent some time last week in Montgomery, Alabama–the “cradle of the Civil Rights Movement”–visiting archives, museums, and exhibits. Several days later, I still have few words to explain the mix of strong feelings that have taken residence in my soul. Even though I’ve heard the stories, read the books, seen (some of) the images before, and even taught the material, I need time to process other ways of thinking through the atrocities of our nation’s past.

As I was there listening, reading, watching, taking notes, and snapping photos, I realized how much the past is echoed in our present, how little we have moved away from those heinous acts; in fact, in the two short days that I was studying the horrors of our past, we were creating more devastation. And instead of sitting at the table and finding solutions, we were casting blame and wasting time on foolish distractions.

Beyond the atrocities, I found my heart breaking at the impossibility of the thing we must conquer to actually make progress. We can march for civil and human rights, but our marches cannot change the thing that makes these protests necessary–the hate and fear that dwell in people’s hearts.

Is it possible?

Is it possible to undo the social conditioning that begins at the dinner table? The disdain for others that is cultivated via television and social media? The thing in (some of us) that convinces us that murdering “those” people and separating “those” children from their parents are justifiable?

One of the meaningful experiences I had while in Montgomery was visiting the church and home of Martin Luther King, Jr. (more on that later). Outside the home there is a peaceful garden–The King-Johns Garden for Reflection, commemorating the  work of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church’s renown pastors.  In the moment I was there, I grasped the possibilities of the principles Rev. Vernon Johns and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. embraced: Equality. Forgiveness. Hope. Peace. Understanding. Unity.

DeLinda contemplating forgiveness…

A plaque at the entrance to the garden reads [in part]:

In the serenity of this garden, you are invited to reflect upon six timeless themes about which Rev. Johns and Dr. King often preached, lectured, and wrote: Equality-Forgiveness-Hope-Peace-Understanding-Unity. We encourage you to ponder each one as it relates to you, your family, and your community. Here, in the shadow of Rev Johns’ and Dr. King’s pastoral home, may you find the personal fulfillment that is often the first step on the long journey to a better world.

Carlette contemplating equality…

The baby girl in the photograph that formed my previous post is my niece Tiffany’s daughter. I’m trying to hope that by the time she grows up, the horror story that my nation is wont to tell will have transformed into another type of tale–one of light, acceptance, respect, and freedom for all who cross its borders.

Maybe, if we can get the world to be quiet and still enough to contemplate the King-Johns principles, we can make true progress. Maybe, we can forge a better future, a brighter world for the upcoming generation and the generations that follow.

The flowers in this post are from that garden. They remind me despite all the ugly, beauty can survive.

Red Roses, Yellow Roses, and a Little Slice of Paradise

Recently–as in two months ago–my friend Kemi shared with me photos of the beautiful roses her husband gave her for their 21st anniversary.

That reminded me! I hadn’t hosted a “roses” photography swap in quite some time. In fact, it had been four years since I hosted the “One Perfect Rose” swap on swap-bot . We were overdue for another one–especially since I’ve been making progress on photographing roses. So…I set up the swap in the “A Thousand Words” group.

The goal of the swap was to send a photo that captured the sentiment of Dorothy Parker’s poem, “One Perfect Rose,” and write a note about a gift the sender desires from his or her significant other–instead of roses.

Diane W (Midteacher), my partner whose work you’ve seen here on the blog before, sent photos of her beautiful hybrid tea roses.

Hybrid Tea Rose, or Tahitian Sunset, Photo by Diane W. aka Midteacher

According to Midteacher, the Hybrid Tea Rose, dubbed “Tahitian Sunset,” is also described as a “little slice of paradise.” She fell in love with the roses while working at a local nursery to help pay for her wedding. A resourceful bride-to-be, she purchased the rose bush and had her florist make her wedding bouquet and other floral arrangements. She even worked extra shifts to make sure she’d have enough of the gorgeous tea roses.

“A Little Slice of Paradise,” Photo by Diane W. aka Midteacher

Midteacher snaps photos of the blooms every year and shares that the buds are much more colorful than the full blooms. In her usual impressive way, she crafted the photos into inspiration for my walls and journals.

I fretted considerably over which roses to send to my partner–raindrops on roses? white roses? pink roses? red roses? Roses I shot in New Orleans last winter? Roses I shot in Huntsville last spring? I can barely remember what I actually sent her since I looked through so many before making my decision. But I’ll save my photographs for another day.

Let’s give these beauties our full attention today.

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?”