Peace: The Icon and the Symbol

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.  –Matthew 5:9

Did you know the sunflower is a symbol of peace? That makes it the perfect image to share for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day!

King stirred things up and disrupted the status quo. He bravely spoke truth to power and, through the Civil Rights Movement, stimulated the conscience of a nation. He met with state-sanctioned violence at almost every turn, but peace was his means for change. And peace was his goal.

If we are to have peace on earth, our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our nation; and this means we must develop a world perspective. –Martin Luther King, Jr., “Christmas Sermon on Peace,” 1967


About the Image: The postcard above came from my Love Notes friend Debbie T. Debbie has been through a lot of heartache this year, but she pulled from her store of love and sent a beautiful package of [sun]flower love just because. This was just one of the many bright and cheerful postcards included in the set. The postcard is from Christopher Arndt Postcards. It is a “derivative photo” based on original photograph by David Clode on Unsplash.

Good Light.

If you see someone who has good light, thank them for it. It will help them keep the light on. —Jaiya John, Daughter Drink This Water


About the Image: In honor of my hubby’s birthday (today), I’m sharing one of the sunflowers he grew for me. He has good light. 😉

You can find more of Jaiya John’s words by visiting his website (linked above) or his Instagram page.

All the Feel(ing)s

The Strawberry Blonde

“Are you happy?”

“In all honesty? No. But I am curious – I am curious in my sadness, and I am curious in my joy. I am everseeking, everfeeling. I am in awe of the beautiful moments life gives us, and I am in awe of the difficult ones. I am transfixed by grief, by growth. It is all so stunning, so rich, and I will never convince myself that I cannot be somber, cannot be hurt, cannot be overjoyed. I want to feel it all – I don’t want to cover it up or numb it. So no, I am not happy. I am open, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Bianca Sparacino, Seeds Planted in Concrete

Have you ever been asked “Are you happy?” and wondered how you should answer. To answer with an emphatic “Yes!” is almost dishonest, and to answer “No” places you and the inquirer in an awkward moment.

Obviously, we can’t be happy all the time. However, we place a lot of expectation on that one fleeting emotion, or a lot of pressure on ourselves for not feeling “up” most of the time–as if something’s wrong with us if we experience sadness, frustration, or even ingratitude. Of course, we want to stay in neither of those places for too long. Sometimes, though, we just have to lean in, sit with a particular feeling, and not rush it along because it makes us feel uncomfortable.

There’s a lot going on these days [read: months], and we’re feeling all kinds of things–fear, sadness, anger, frustration, anxiety, even joy. Instead of running from our feelings, we can allow ourselves to feel all the feelings and to even be “curious” in them.


About the Image: The sunflower featured in the photo above is a hybrid sunflower called “Strawberry Blonde.” It was one of the beauties I captured at Scott’s Orchard on the gorgeous October day when I found Moulin Rouge.

Beauty and the Triumph of Truth

Artwork by Lori-Anne C.

Peace is the beauty of life. It is sunshine. It is the smile of a child, the love of a mother, the joy of a father, the togetherness of a family. It is the advancement of man[kind], the victory of a just cause, the triumph of truth. –Menachem Begin

Despite the disappointment and sadness in my heart today, I am dropping in to bring you flowers. If you are a United States citizen, you need to turn away from the television, put down your phone, and spend a moment with the pretty.


About the Image: The featured art is the work of my Love Notes friend, Lori-Anne C. She makes some of the most exquisite sunflower art. You can see more of her beauties here: Envelope Full of Sunflowers and You’re Entitled to You. Like the other two, the piece above was sent in celebration of women. The purple tulip and sunflower are especially special to me, since they’re symbolic of my relationship with my sister (also named Lori Ann), whose favorite flower was the purple tulip.

Sunflower Love

The kind of Shalom we’re trying to give to people around us requires us to take an active interest in their physical and spiritual well-being. –Lisa Jo-Baker, Never Unfriended

Welcome to Sunflower Month on Pics and Posts!

Since I’m usually a bit overwhelmed with “the beginning of the semester” and unfinished business from the previous semester, I considered taking a blog break this month to focus on all the getting-things-going-in-January stuff.  Then, I remembered, my blog is a happy place, and I need it to escape the madness whenever I can.

So here I am escaping for a moment. I won’t post every day (obviously), but with the exception of the two #ThursdayTreeLove posts, I will share lots of sunflower love this month. Why? Because, as one of my friends pointed out when I questioned whether a sunflower month would be too much, “we need the bright and beautiful right now. ”

As for the gorgeous image above, it was crafted by Kim B, one of my Love Notes friends. I met her when she reached out to me as my sister Lori was nearing her last days. Kim wanted to offer hope and encouragement to both of us and she did just that. I shared her sunflower, which she “grew from a tiny seed,” on Instagram a few months ago, but it came to mind immediately when my hubby told me that instead of focusing on “one little word,” this year, his prayer is that he loves as God loves.

I swoon.

Can you imagine the exponential potential of his interactions with individuals he comes across? How many lives can be charged with even one encounter?

To tune in to others and offer love, unrestrained and without strings, is the best gift we can offer the world.

I am joining him in this prayer. Won’t you?

Favorite Moments of 2020

My blogging friend, Akilah of The Englishist, recently posted her favorite moments of 2020. I’m “stealing” her idea because I think we all need a reminder that despite the icky, crazy of this year, there is also a lot of good. Plus, as you know, I love making lists.

So here are some of my favorite moments of the year of (mostly) sheltering-in-place and almost running out of toilet paper.

Trip to New Orleans. Along with my dad’s three sisters, the guys and I visited New Orleans and returned to ‘Bama just before the Coronavirus outbreak. It was a desperately needed trip for all of us. I am so glad we were able to see my parents and some of my siblings before the pandemic forced us all to stay put. I am missing them like crazy, so I’d probably be out of my mind if we hadn’t taken that short trip.

Brooklyn Arts Library Sketchbook Project. As you read in an earlier post, I completed and submitted a tiny sketchbook to Brooklyn Arts Library. Here’s the link to my mini sketchbook of doodles and quotes if you’re interested: #facethesun: Sunflower and Her Friends.

Try not to judge me too harshly. I’m so not a sketch artist. I didn’t realize I should have only doodled on the front of the pages. I’m definitely going to participate again, with a full-size book and my photography—the art medium with which I’m most comfortable.

Book Talk. Literally two days before the University decided to transition to online learning because of the pandemic, I had the pleasure of coordinating a panel discussion on the book, When Saints Sing the Blues for Wednesday night services at the University church. It was well-attended and well-received. I enjoyed listening to the stories of each of the panelists and speaking with attendees afterwards.

Lettering with the Creator of Cuteness.  Thanks to the gift of time due to the pandemic, I joined Creative Hand Lettering and Doodling with Lindsay. For the first couple of months (or so), I watched Lindsay’s informative and humorous live videos, practiced lettering, and downloaded her free Corona coloring pages and other goodies. The photograph to the left features one of my first projects. The assignment was to use “tinker toy” lettering with a line from a song. This was the perfect creative outlet for our “Corona times.” I don’t have much time to view Lindsay live, but a friend gave me a gift of the workbook, Creative Hand Letter with Lindsay, so I practice whenever I get a chance.

Write Together. Jennifer Belthoff, who coordinates Love Notes, also hosts Write Together, Art Journaling, and other classes. I joined Write Together one evening, and it was such a healing, soul-filling experience that I rode the high for weeks. Life got in the way for a few weeks and when I found time again, I felt a little weird about joining after having missed so much. If Jennifer continues to host next year, I hope to join at least twice a month.

Neighborhood Scavenger Hunt. My son’s (middle school) teachers assigned a “pandemic-style” scavenger hunt for the students. They had to find a list of items in their own neighborhoods. We had fun running (and driving) up and down the street looking for the items, and of course, I took advantage and captured some roses.

Eighth Grade Graduation. My not-so-little one “graduated” from 8th grade! So many things were canceled for the students, but the school administrators decided to hold a scaled-down graduation program with social distancing measures in place. It was held in July–almost two months after the planned date–but we were all so happy for this moment of celebration and to see other people! 🙂 My son, as class president, delivered an excellent speech. This was a proud Mommy (and Daddy) moment.

Spectrum Publication. One of my blog posts was reprinted in Spectrum Magazine (online).

The Chair. I accepted the role of Chair of the Department of English and Foreign Languages. This isn’t exactly a moment, but a shift. I’d served as department chair at another university for several years. I’d also served in other administrative capacities, but even though I enjoy administrative work, I’d made a decision not to go down that road again (for many sound reasons). God had other plans and He let me know very clearly in a moment that can only be described as an epiphany. I don’t know [yet] why He called me to this task, but I promised to walk in obedience, so here I am.

Three Sundays with David Whyte. David Whyte, one of my favorite poets, hosts poetry seminars via Zoom, typically three Sundays in a month. I participated in three–The Courage in Poetry (April); Just Beyond Yourself (May); and Half a Shade Braver (September). In each session, he shared poetic wisdom, stories about his travels, anecdotes about his friend John O’Donohue, his own poetry and the poetry of others. The sessions were life-changing, and I wrote so much poetry as a result.

A Moment with Raven. One of my former students, Raven, came into town to visit family, and she took a moment out to visit me! We met just outside campus at the Farmer’s Market. It did my heart good to see her and know she is doing well! Of course, I tried to get her to leave California and come and work with me, but she makes more than we can pay her. :-/

Sunflowers in My Backyard. My guys planted sunflowers right outside my office window. I watched them grow from seedlings to 6-7 feet tall. They brought so much joy to my days. The sunflower pictured here was the first to bloom. I have many, many more to share, but it’s so difficult to choose!

Moulin Rouge. You read about my encounter with the Moulin Rouge sunflower in an earlier post. This might be one of my top ten favorite moments of the decade.

Sunflowers in My Mailbox. Sunflowers in my mailbox always create a “favorite” moment, and my friends have kept me and my mailbox happy with sunflowers. In addition to the lovely cards and postcards, I received a number of sunflower packages–a boxful of sunflower goodies from my bestie, a personalized sunflower Starbucks cup from my “niece,” Christian, sunflower stickers from Raven, a package full of sunflower postcards from Debbie T, and a beautiful sunflower teapot from Christine B, two of my Love Notes friends.

Christmas Card Lane. I shared the Christmas Card Lane experience a couple of days ago. I needed that strong dose of Christmas joy.

When the year started, we had grand plans, but before many of those plans could be executed, without much warning, everything changed. Instantly. For everyone. In the entire world. As the days rolled on, things got stranger and more complicated and more twisted, and here we are at the end of all that crazy. And I am grateful for these favorite moments and for the many, many beautiful, everyday moments of 2020–(almost) nightly movie nights with my guys, Zoom calls with family, long walks, putting up lights and balloons for birthdays, trying new vegan recipes, opening a mailbox full of happy mail, drive-by visits with relatives and friends, singing and praying with my guys, listening to them play various instruments, and church services in pajamas.

I’m not sure what next year will hold, but “I know Who holds the future.” Therefore, I am looking forward to new moments–ordinary, extraordinary, and beautiful.

Moulin Rouge: My Bit of Autumn Heaven

The Moulin Rouge

I have always wondered if heaven captures a
time in our lives when we were the happiest
and most content. One that mirrored the
moment in time when [we] were in complete
and utter love and at peace. And I would
like to think that I would spend eternity
amid a late-October day with laughter
echoing across a long-awaited cool breeze.
Crisp ombré leaves will dance in
celebration as the rusty gates of my heart
open upon candy-corn kisses. 

–“Autumn Heaven” by Alfa Holden [alfa.poet]

Can we pause the madness of our coronavirus pandemic, pre-election existence to consider the understated beauty of late October?

I cannot get enough of the breezy-sunshine days. I’ve even begun taking walks during Zoom meetings that don’t require my explicit input.

This past weekend the weather was irresistibly perfect, so my guys and I went out to Scott’s Orchard’s to pick apples. When we arrived [mid-afternoon], the lines were long, and the trailer transporting people into the orchard was packed, with no social distancing measures in place. Everyone was masked, but we passed on the apple-picking and purchased some “already picked” and sinfully delicious apples.

So what did we do instead? We basked in the sunflowers!

A small sunflower field lining the entrance to the orchard beckoned and we heeded the call. There were many varieties of sunflowers, and the strong dose of sunflowers was so good for my soul.  I have many more sunflowers to share, but the bit of gorgeousness that leads this post left me speechless. I’ve seen the Moulin Rouge sunflower in photos, but to see it in person is another thing altogether.

Talk about a bit of autumn heaven!

If you love sunflowers half as much as I do, stay tuned. I have loads of sunflower love to share–the ones I shot a few days ago and the many, many, many I obsessively shot during the summer from the mini-field my guys planted outside my home office window. Who knows? Maybe, I’ll start 2021 with a month of sunflowers!

Until then, find a little heaven in this autumn beauty…

“The Sun Hath Shed Its Kindly Light” | A Thanksgiving Poem

“A Thanksgiving Poem”
Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906)

The sun hath shed its kindly light,
Our harvesting is gladly o’er
Our fields have felt no killing blight,
Our bins are filled with goodly store.

From pestilence, fire, flood, and sword
We have been spared by thy decree,
And now with humble hearts, O Lord,
We come to pay our thanks to thee.

We feel that had our merits been
The measure of thy gifts to us,
We erring children, born of sin,
Might not now be rejoicing thus.

No deed of our hath brought us grace;
When thou were nigh our sight was dull,
We hid in trembling from thy face,
But thou, O God, wert merciful.

Thy mighty hand o’er all the land
Hath still been open to bestow
Those blessings which our wants demand
From heaven, whence all blessings flow.

Thou hast, with ever watchful eye,
Looked down on us with holy care,
And from thy storehouse in the sky
Hast scattered plenty everywhere.

Then lift we up our songs of praise
To thee, O Father, good and kind;
To thee we consecrate our days;
Be thine the temple of each mind.

With incense sweet our thanks ascend;
Before thy works our powers pall;
Though we should strive years without end,
We could not thank thee for them all.

happy Thanksgiving!


About the image: The flowers in today’s post came from my Love Notes pal,  Arielle W. The image is a reproduction of a woodcut by Claire Emery. I have fallen in love with her work. To see more of her woodcuts, check out her website: Emery Art.

From the Shadows…Into the Light

I did not come to photography looking for magic. I came looking for a way to speak my pain. In the process of finding images to portray my darkness, I passed through the shadows into light. Now, I am one of photography’s many lovers, devoted to the art of seeing and revealing. […] There’s something holy about this work, something healing about this search for light. Like the pilgrim’s journey, it’s heaven all the way.

–Jan Phillips, God Is at Eye Level

Someone I loved once gave me
a box full of darkness.

It took me years to understand
that this, too, was a gift.

–Mary Oliver, “The Uses of Sorrow”

Through a casual Facebook post featuring some of her favorite books, my pen friend Connie F, introduced me to Jan Phillip’s book, God Is at Eye Level [Thanks, Connie!]. With Amazon [birthday] gift card in hand [Thanks, Tee!], I ordered the book and two others on creative and contemplative photography. 

The photograph of the wilted sunflower is the result of an exercise in God Is at Eye Level that invites readers to use an entire [pretend] 24-exposure roll of film to explore one strong emotion. It is my attempt to capture the tension between the darkness that walks with me as I deal with grief and trauma and the light I feel I need to project.  

But I am learning, day by day, there is value in darkness, particularly if we are using it to move toward Light.

In the quote above, Phillips underscores the usefulness of darkness, its role in our creativity and healing. Darkness is a “gift,” a necessary part of process; therefore, it’s critical that we face the darkness, wrestle with it, deal, so that we might emerge whole, or maybe not as fractured. Running away from it—creating some inauthentic happy place—only imprisons us. The operative word is emerge. Eventually, we “pass through” darkness and into the fullness of Light.