May You Sing: Rest and Renewal

“Just Before Spring,” or “Last Day of Winter.”

Today is the first day of spring. There are few signs, but it is certainly on the way.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and planning this week. Universities, as most know, have transitioned fully to online instruction to “flatten the curve” of COVID-19.  Even though these are “troubled” times, I can’t help but notice a certain relief in the posture of my colleagues and students. Sure, there is disappointment and a little apprehension about this new way of doing things (for some), but there’s also a collective sigh, expelling loads of stress.

I am grateful.

I am not grateful for the virus. But I am grateful for the slowing down, for deliverance from the break-neck pace that had me feeling like life was spinning out of control and the only way to stop was to hit a metaphorical wall. I pray this wall is not as painful.

In the midst of the confusion, the questions, the planning, the poem below landed on my screen via a friend’s Facebook post. I felt every word. May the words carry you. May they lighten the heaviness of this load we’re all carrying. May they usher you into the magic and renewal of spring.

May you sing.

Lockdown by Fr. Richard Hendrick, March 2020

Yes there is fear.
Yes there is isolation.
Yes there is panic buying.
Yes there is sickness.
Yes there is even death.
But,
they say that in Wuhan after so many years of noise
you can hear the birds again.
They say that after just a few weeks of quiet
the sky is no longer thick with fumes
but blue and grey and clear.
They say that in the streets of Assisi
people are singing to each other
across the empty squares,
keeping their windows open
so that those who are alone
may hear the sounds of family around them.
They say that a hotel in the West of Ireland
Is offering free meals and delivery to the housebound.
Today a young woman I know
is busy spreading fliers with her number
through the neighborhood
so that the elders may have someone to call on.
Today Churches, Synagogues, Mosques and Temples
are preparing to welcome
and shelter the homeless, the sick, the weary.
All over the world people are slowing down and reflecting.
All over the world people are looking at their neighbours in a new way.
All over the world people are waking up to a new reality.
To how big we really are.
To how little control we really have.
To what really matters.
To Love.
So we pray and we remember that:
Yes there is fear.
But there does not have to be hate.
Yes there is isolation.
But there does not have to be loneliness.
Yes there is panic buying.
But there does not have to be meanness.
Yes there is sickness.
But there does not have to be disease of the soul.
Yes there is even death.
But there can always be a rebirth of love.
Wake to the choices you make as to how to live now.
Today, breathe.
Listen, behind the factory noises of your panic.
the birds are singing again;
the sky is clearing;
spring is coming;
and we are always encompassed by Love.
Open the windows of your soul
and though you may not be able
to touch across the empty square,
sing.

A Photo a Week | Opposite Weather

I decided to participate in Nancy Merrill’s “Photo a Week” Challenge this year. Even though my camera is a constant companion, I have not done well with yearlong photo challenges. However, I’m inspired by my blogging friend Laurie’s completion of 52 weeks of photos last year, and I’m hoping to change that.

As I was driving last weekend, I noticed we’ve reached the stage of winter in which brown and gray dominate. I miss the brilliance of autumn, so I was pleased to find Nancy’s post coaxing us out of the dull gray and into the color of any of the other seasons with the prompt “opposite weather.”

I eagerly scrolled through my autumn photos and found two pics of oak leaves taken one brisk autumn morning just before Thanksgiving–my last shots of Autumn 2019.

The year’s last, loveliest smile,
Thou com’st to fill with hope the human heart,
And strengthen it to bear the storms awhile,
Till winter’s frowns depart.
John Howard Bryant, from “Indian Summer”
(often misattributed to his brother, Poet William cullen Bryant)

Enjoy, and be sure to tune in tomorrow for #ThursdayTreeLove!

#ThursdayTreeLove | Naked Tree and First Snow

Snow was falling,

so much like stars
filling the dark trees
that one could easily imagine
its reason for being was nothing more

than prettiness.  –Mary Oliver, from “Snowy Night,” What Do We Know

I’m taking a very short break from grading because it’s time for #ThursdayTreeLove, and I can’t resist sharing one of the snow pics I snapped with my iPhone earlier this week. It’s a simple snapshot, but it captures a naked tree and our first snow of the season.

Snow is rare in the Deep South, so many of us get excited whenever it comes our way. In this photo, the snow had just begun to fall and the temperature hadn’t [yet] dropped enough for the snow to stick.

I do not like being cold, so I stood just outside my office building and videotaped the snow for a few seconds. [Video below]. It was so relaxing to take a break and watch the snow fall.

Enjoy!


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.

#ThursdayTreeLove | A Study in Contrast

One of the trees I enjoy watching from season to season is the dogwood that sits in the middle of the tree-filled field in the center of “my part” of campus. Year after year, I gaze out my window and watch the tree transform–from summer to autumn, winter to spring.

The tree is gorgeous in all seasons. It has a predictable beauty that can become commonplace to some, but the shape of the tree and the lonely bench that rests beneath its branches always manage to draw my eye.

Many focus on the dogwood’s beauty in spring. They typically point to the the milky blossoms and the illustration of the Crucifixion of Christ the tree provides. For me, the dogwood is just as arresting in autumn. The red-orange blossoms with a hint of gold create a breathtaking scene.

Although I’m convinced these photographs fail to adequately capture the tree’s stunning beauty, I thought you might appreciate the contrast.

I’ll make a note to photograph the tree during the winter and summer for a more complete study of the changes.

The black and white versions of the photographs underscore the seasonal differences of the tree.

Obviously, we’re going to see changes in nature as the seasons transition. I’m [still] awed by those changes–not only for the visual appeal but for what they teach us about our Creator, about His consistency, constancy, and character.


I’m linking up with with Dawn of The Day After in the Festival of Leaves photo challenge. I’m also a week early for the Parul Thakur’s bi-monthly #ThursdayTreeLove because I have a different post planned for next Thursday. No matter. Every day is tree love in my world.

#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. 🙂

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.

Weather.

Sunflowers by rift vegan, 2019

weather
is the earth’s
emotions.
she is obviously
enraged.

–sentient | salt | nayyirah waheed

It’s the first day of autumn, but with a high temperature of 91°F here in Northern Alabama, one would think it’s midsummer. We have failed Mother Earth and I think she is angry.

Let’s pray our leaders do the right thing: UN Climate Summit


About today’s image: Today’s gorgeous image comes from one of my photographer pals, rift vegan. It was among several photos of flowers she shot between spring and summer. She had three different sunflowers growing in her garden plot–all volunteers! This one is her favorite, and the dark rusty color makes it a perfect sunflower to usher in autumn. I mused earlier today that I have more flower pics than fallen leaves to share for the first day of the season. I’ll share some later in the week. I’m speaking in flowers again as I sort out [and through] the other things in life.

Happy Autumn!

#ThursdayTreeLove | A Second Chance with the Japanese Magnolia

Spring is definitely here in Northern Alabama! I’ve been enjoying the buds and blossoms and looking forward to those that are on the way. I was on spring break when the Japanese magnolia on campus blossomed, so I completely missed opportunities to photograph the tree. However, when my cousins [who live nearby] posted a photo of a newly farmed patch of land on their property, I spied in the background the pink blossoms of the tree!

The magnolia was in no way the focus of the photograph, but those blossoms commanded my attention.

A few days earlier–while photographing the purple tulips–I remarked to a friend that I missed the magnolias this year. I can’t remember what prevented my pausing for a few shots [after dropping my son off at school]. Was it rainy weather or a desire [read: need] to spend all free time during the break sleeping?

The tree offered forgiveness for my neglect of its earlier splendid display, and I thanked it for a second chance to accept its beautiful gift.

This particular magnolia usually blooms in late winter–a much needed burst of color after the long, gray winter.

The tree is known by many names–Japanese Magnolia, Saucer Magnolia, Tulip Trees (which is what I first called them).

After I posted a photo on Instagram, a friend told me she had never seen the Japanese magnolia before, so I’m sharing a couple of links with a bit more information about the tree.

Spring’s explosion is short-lived, so be sure to take some time to notice the flowering trees. I’ll be back with more tree blossoms for our next #ThursdayTreeLove–if I can wait that long. 😉


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.