Such Is Life…

Fractal Deep Purple and Black

I woke up a week or so ago and typed the following note in my e-journal. I’d intended to flesh it out and clean it up, but sometimes, we need it straight. Even though it takes the shape of a poem, it is not a poem. Then again, maybe, it is. It is sad (perhaps?) and hopeful at the same time, but eh, such is life and the paradoxical state in which we all operate.

Life is hard.

Like really, really hard.

Achingly so at times.
Crippling even.

We must understand that.
We must get it through our thick skulls no one has it easy,
no matter how it looks on the outside.

There is no “life should not be this way.”
It is all life.

The sooner we get there in our thinking,
the sooner we will get to the part where we accept
“life” is always happening
and learn to find joy in spite of our circumstances.

The sooner we climb out of the oppressive pits of self-pity and despair
the sooner we begin to live,
and the sooner we will get to the part where we dance in the rain
and stand tall when everything around is crumbling.

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.  —John 16:33

Deep Silence and the Conversation with Our Hearts

Rebecca R

It is possible to speak with our heart directly. Most ancient cultures know this. We can actually converse with our hearts as if it were a good friend. In modern life we have become so busy with daily affairs and thoughts that we have lost this essential art of taking time to converse with our heart.  —Jack Kornfield, A Path with Heart: A Guide Through the Perils and Promises of Spiritual Life

As I mentioned in my Sit with It post, I have been out of sorts. Not quite myself. I woke up this morning able to name some of my feelings–disoriented and flustered, like I can’t quite find my footing. These feelings remind me of the time [a little more than a decade ago] when I went silent for about three months. I still spoke with others, but I did not engage in lengthy conversation, did not engage in discussions about points-of-view on issues. I didn’t even listen to sermons. I closed my ears to all voices but God’s. I am heading in that direction again. 

Lately, I have spent too much time and energy striving, struggling, wrestling inwardly [with myself] and outwardly with other people and their struggles, strivings, and energy. There’s so much brain clutter that the only way through it is through silence. Not a literal silence, but a spiritual one—a way of tuning out the unnecessary and tuning in to what is needful and authentic. 

There is deep rest in that type of silence, in withdrawing for a dedicated time from the madness of the world and giving full attention to the stirrings and musings of our hearts. 

I like the way Jack Kornfield put it. We need this silence to “converse with our own hearts as if it were a good friend.”


About the Image: The abstract photo above features the work of my pen friend, Rebecca R, also known as Beckra. The artwork sits inside one of my planners–as a reminder to write to Rebecca. The reminder has failed. I owe you many letters, Rebecca. [Insert Face Palm Emoji]

Wildflowers in the Mail | Discover…

from Gina

I happened across an extra copy of the postcard I made for Love Notes 38, prompt 1. I decided to share the words I wrote to my partner because, maybe, someone in my blogging audience needs the words today.

I hope you discover…
the sacredness of this moment with all its questions stirring up the wind. 

I hope you discover…
the lessons in the turbulence of sorrow and everyday struggle.

I hope you discover…
the stillness within and allow it to cradle you until you emerge whole. 


About the Image: This postcard came a few days ago all the way from Germany, sent by my literary twin, Gina B. I was going to save it for my next sunflower week, but decided to share it today because we can always use a little extra sunshine! Sonnenblumefrische [Sunflower Freshness?] is the work of Berlin illustrator, Arinda Craciun, who shares about her art and process on her website. You can also find her work on Instagram and Behance. Thank you for the sunshine and for introducing me to a new artist, Gina!

Wildflowers in the Mail | What Are You Nourishing?

from Kathi

I managed to get to one of Jennifer Belthoff’s Write Together sessions earlier this month. I intended to return to the prompts and write more fully about them. That hasn’t happened yet, but in recent days my response to one of them proved to be a test of discipline and my commitment to myself. 

I am nourishing…

I am nourishing my peace. I am firmly rooted in stillness and shielding myself from the clamor and confusion of a world that can be harsh, mean, violent, and cold. I am finding ways to center myself so that I don’t fall into utter despair over the evil that subtly creeps and settles into the fabric of human hearts.

I am protecting my peace by maintaining barriers against toxic people and toxic culture, by accepting that I am not always right, my way is not the only way, and that others are entitled to being who they are and moving through this world as they wish.

I am seeking pathways to peace in the most disturbing national and international moments. I am staying responsibly informed, but am turning away from and refusing a steady diet of news and social media and feasting on light and beauty instead. 

I am crafting an environment of peace by creating order [internally and externally] and by fueling my soul with the Divine, with poetry, with art, with song.

What are you nourishing? 


About the Image: My Wildflowers friend, Kathi G, sent the card above–a card she says reminds her of me and my “endless vision of creativity.” Aww…thanks, Kathi. The card, sold exclusively for Trader Joe’s, features the work of Laura Graves. You can find more of her art on Instagram or Society6.

Sunflowers and Poetry | Who We Are Now

WHM-2 2022

I ran across a poem today that I didn’t know I needed till I read it. Isn’t that how poetry works?

We are two years into the pandemic that some think is over, and I find myself still trying to process all the lessons and losses. This poem–which is really a prayer–profoundly articulates the complexity of the moment–the conflicting emotions, the questions, the changes in us. It was written by Nadia Bolz Weber, a pastor who describes herself as “foul-mouthed for a preacher, grammatically challenged for a bestselling author, surprisingly hopeful for a cynic.” 

The poem was written after year one of the pandemic, but it is still relevant after year two.

Who We Are Now
By Nadia Bolz Weber

Dear God who made us all,
A year ago we did not know that we were about to learn:
what we could lose and somehow live anyway
where we would find comfort and where it would elude us
whose lives matter to whom
why we have kitchens in our homes.
In mid-March 2020 all I knew for sure is that
hoarding toilet paper doesn’t make you safe – it just makes you selfish.
But God, it feels like the world is about to open back up.
And I’m both thrilled and kind of scared about that.
Because I’m not who I was a year ago.
I want so badly
to hug my friends again
and laugh like hell again
and have amazing conversations again

and yet I am not sure how long I could do any of this before crying or just getting really quiet. My emotional protective gear has worn so thin, and grief just leaks out everywhere now.

I am so afraid that I will never be who I once was. And I am also afraid that I will be.

(Not to mention, I’m not entirely clear what size jeans I wear as the me I am now)

And yet, when I quiet my anxious thoughts, I start to suspect that I am now closer to the me you have always known and always loved. So help me trust that, Lord.

As things change, help us be gentle with ourselves and with each other. We are all wearing newborn skin right now.

Amen.


About the Image: I had plans to share a sunflower postcard from one of my pen friends today, but this is the image the poem required. It is an edit of a photo I shot last fall. I was trying to emulate van Gogh’s wilted sunflowers–with a camera instead of a paintbrush. See Allotment with Sunflowers in the post.

Love Notes | Invite in the idea…

Suzette Truck

Sometimes you take it all in. Sometimes you let it all go. Wings are made for flight, but birds have feet for a reason. Balance.

I am back today with Suzette R’s response to Love Notes 38.2.  She captured the dreamy photo above  in Ten Sleep, Wyoming, and for her response, she wove together various quotes and ended with her own invitation. Enjoy!

Love Notes 38, Prompt 2: Invite in the idea…

Invite in the idea…

That sometimes we take it all in
and sometimes we
need to let it all go.

That “each of us is a part
of all that surrounds us…
…and every joy we feel
is a celebration of life.” [Flavia]

That “Surely a star danced
in Heaven on the day you
were born.” [Flavia]

That “When big things feel
out of control…focus on
what you love right under 
your nose.” [Charlie Mackesy]

That “Being kind to yourself
is one of the greatest kindnesses.” [Charlie Mackesy]

That you inspire so many people
with your kindness
and your example.

The Masters | Anguish and Gratitude: Vincent Van Gogh’s Sunflowers with Heart

Vincent Van Gogh. “Three Sunflowers in a Vase.” Oil on Canvas. August, 1888, Arles. United States. Private Collection.

I hope I haven’t overwhelmed you with all the sunflower goodness this week. Sadly, we’re just two more posts away from the end of “Sunflower Month.”

I am clearly intrigued by the approach of the masters to the sunflower. Many of them seem to have been as taken with its luminescent beauty as I am. I am in no way an artist like the masters featured all week, but sunflowers are certainly the most doodled flower in my journals, sketchbooks, and letters.

When I began this final week of “Sunflower Month,” I had intended to do only three posts, but I got a little carried away because there were more than three sunflower masters in my collection. My favorite, Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890), Dutch Post-Impressionist, was always on the list. Let’s consider the “sunflower tree” a bonus post, because this week of masters will not be complete without attention to his still life sunflower series—especially with the final masters post I have in mind. 😉

Vincent Van Gogh. “Vase with Fifteen Sunflowers.” Oil on Canvas. August 1888, Arles. Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam.

From 1888-1889, van Gogh completed seven sunflower still life masterpieces in the studio he shared with Paul Gaugin in Arles, France. He had intended to fill the walls with their brilliance before Gaugin’s arrival. The two featured above are in my postcard collection, thanks to Debbie T, my Love Notes pal (Twelve Sunflowers), and Eepy on swap-bot (Three Sunflowers).

There are four others in the Sunflower Series that were completed in 1887 in Paris. One of them–Four Cut Sunflowers (below)– took my breath away the first time I saw it!

Vincent Van Gogh. Allotment with Sunflower, Paris, July 1887. Oil on Canvas. Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (Vincent van Gogh Foundation).

In a letter to his sister Willemien, van Gogh writes:

[…] the desire comes over me to remake myself and try to have myself forgiven for the fact that my paintings are, however, almost a cry of anguish while symbolizing gratitude in the rustic sunflower.  (Letter 856)

Perhaps this tension explains why van Gogh’s “still life” sunflowers are anything but “still.” Each sunflower–in the vases or cut and wilting on a table–is full of personality, life, and movement. Each evokes an emotional response.

I read somewhere that van Gogh wanted to be remembered for his brilliant sunflowers (goal accomplished!) and that people honored his desire by wearing sunflowers to his funeral.

What a radiant sendoff!

Like the Heart

Let me seek You
in the darkness
of my silence

and find You
in the silence
of Your light.

which is
love shining
like the sun

flowing
like a river
and joying

like the heart

Meister Eckhart | Sweeney and Burrows

The Masters | Claude Monet’s Bouquet of Sunflowers

Claude Monet. Bouquet of Sunflowers. 1881. Oil on Canvas. Metropolitan Museum of Art.

All of our “masters” posts thus far have focused on sunflowers growing in their natural spaces, so today we turn to still life with Claude Monet’s (1840-1926) “Bouquet of Sunflowers.” Monet was one of the founders of the Impressionist Movement, and this masterpiece was exhibited at the Seventh Impressionist Exhibition. The bouquet was arranged and staged with sunflowers that grew along the path to his garden in Vetheuil (France).

If you do a little Google research you will find comparisons of Monet’s and Vincent van Gogh’s sunflowers. Even the greats like Paul Gaugin and Van Gogh himself compared the two–Gaugin favoring Van Gogh’s over Monet’s and Van Gogh “conceding” that Monet’s is the better of the two.

For me, there is no comparison. Each artist brought his gifts to the canvas and presented the sunflower in his own unique and timeless style.

You will know

When God has taken up residence in your heart.
How?
Your spirit will move with swifts and striving,
you won’t be caught just thinking about things.
For this God of ours is not a God of thoughts
so much as a God alive.

Meister Eckhart | Sweeney and Burrows

#ThursdayTreeLove | The Masters | Vincent van Gogh’s Sunflower Tree with “Room to Grow”

Vincent Van Gogh. Allotment with Sunflower, Paris, July 1887. Oil on Canvas. Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (Vincent van Gogh Foundation).

Of course, I realize this is not a tree, but if a sunflower were a tree—this is what it would look like, towering over us all with all its sunny goodness—maybe with a few more blossoms.

I’d planned a different Vincent van Gogh post for this week, but since today is “tree love” Thursday, I decided to try passing off a sunflower as a tree. This is the type of sunflower that my student Wanéa finds a little scary. No flower should be taller than a human, in her opinion, so for her sake, yes, let’s consider this a tree.

Please enjoy van Gogh’s Allotment with Sunflower with a meditation for the restless soul:

Room to Grow
Meister Eckhart | Sweeney and Burrows

My life is like a page on which
So much is already:

hurts and joys and the tumble
of fears and uncertainties.

What You want of me, God, is
that I clean the slate, emptying

it of all this to make room for
the freedom of nothingness

where alone You, my God,
have room to grow.


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.