Only Kindness: “It Is I You Have Been Looking For”

“Sister Sunflowers,” Card made by Debra D.

I had a hurtful unkindness earlier this week, a cruel one if I look at it closely. Emotionally exhausted and just plain weary of all the unkindnesses of life,  I was on the verge of giving in to the hurt and letting it win. But the God who heals me reminded me of all the beautiful people who shower me with love and kindness every.single.day.

My kindness jar truly overflows.

It’s strange, I guess, but I should be grateful for the unkindness. Such seemingly unnecessary hurts are indeed necessary because they reinforce the importance of compassion and deepen the experience with kindness. 

One of my favorite “kindness” poems, written by Naomi Shihab Nye, underscores the work that must be done before we “know what kindness really is.”  Though the initial landscape is bleak, eventually, we’ll learn to recognize in kindness the friend or shadow who accompanies us everywhere.

 

Kindness by Naomi Shihab Nye
.
Before you know what kindness really is

you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken

will stare out the window forever.
.
Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,

you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans

and the simple breath that kept him alive.
.
Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,

you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing. 
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and
purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you every where
like a shadow or a friend.

Note about the image: One of my Love Notes friends, Debra D, kindly sent the card above to me as a “just because.” She filled the card with sheets of bright sunflower stickers. Through the card she honors my love for sunflowers and my relationship with my sister Lori. Isn’t there a purple sunflower somewhere? Debra makes the sweetest cards with markers, stickers, stamps, and various types of paper. You can find more of her “creative doings” on her blog, Meticulosity.

You can read about Nye’s experience which led to the poem in an interview here: The Incomparable Naomi Shihab Nye on Kindness.

“You Will Love Again the Stranger Who Was Your Self”

Love After Love by Derek Walcott

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life. 

We take a lot of abuse as we try to get through this thing called life, especially if we want to live with as little “drama” as possible. Little by little we give bits of ourselves away and suppress the best parts for the acceptance of others, until there’s little trace of our beautiful, natural self.

We can’t quite love this crafted version of ourselves, but we struggle to recall who we really are. All is not lost. Derek Walcott’s “Love After Love” offers hope for the journey to self-recovery.

If your true self has lain dormant, but you’re constantly at odds with this alien self, I hope you will take the hard road of self-love. Stand up. Advocate for you. Fight for you. Unearth your true self. Find her in the mirror and learn to love her again.


Postcard note: The absolutely gorgeous sunflower woman came from Geraldine (Nannydino on swap-bot).  She has been supplying me with some of the most unique sunflower postcards lately. “The Sunflower” was created by Canadian artist, Gabiioartist. Her inspiration was, of course, the sunflower.

Sunflower Humans: If I Were a Flower

If I were a flower..I would be a sunflower.

Pam Stewart

My penfriends have been showering me with sunny blooms and sending beautiful reminders to “face the sun,” so my sunflower wall is growing beautifully wild. I’ll have to share an updated photo soon. Until then, I’ll continue to share the individual postcards on the blog.

About a week ago, I received a postcard from Geraldine (Nannydino on swap-bot) that offers a unique interpretation on the sunflower theme. Instead of growing in a field or sitting in a vase, the sunflowers appear to be growing out of a human.

“Sunflower Humans” by Priyanka Parul

Pretty interesting. Right?

“Sunflower Humans” is the work of Priyanka Parul, a young artist from Mumbai, India. I love how the human face is replaced with or masked by sunflowers. Are they human? Are the sunflowers a gift? Symbolic of a sunny disposition? A reminder to “radiate sunshine” from the inside out?  I’d love to know what Priyanka was thinking when she conceived this piece.

In my search for information on the piece, I ran across a post written in 2016, “Are You a Human or a Sunflower.” There are some conceptual similarities, so I wonder if the artist was inspired by the post.

I hope you have your shades nearby. You’ll need them for our final week of sunflower posts for the year.

May you have a week filled with sunshine and good things.

Sunflower Story: SUN-LIN AND THE BIRTH OF SUNFLOWERS

As promised in last Monday’s post, I’m back today with my own version of the “birth of sunflowers.” I hope you remembered and found time to write your own story. If so, provide a link to your story in the comments below. I’m excited to see what you came up with!


Sun-Lin and the Birth of Sunflowers

By Chandra Lynn

For my son who believes beauty should not require death.

Sun-Lin was a free spirit trapped in a body that was too fragile to let her fly free. Despite her name, she could not play in the sun like the other children. She could only watch from a veiled window. She was born with a rare disorder that made the direct sunlight intolerable. But oh, how she loved the sun and longed to be held by its rays and kissed by its warmth!

Every day Sun-Lin sat by the window, longing to be like the other children, squealing with delight as they romped through the grass, played stick ball or hide and seek. But Sun-Lin was always in good spirits because the children visited her frequently and related their exploits with such detail that she felt she was among them as they played.

One day Sun-Lin fell gravely ill. She was going to die. Nothing was going to change this. Just before sunrise (what she believed was) the morning of her death, Sun-Lin spoke bravely in a whisper to her doting parents. “Today, I say good-bye to you.” Her parents gasped! “I have one request,” she continued, “that we sit in the garden as the sun rises that I might finally bask in the sun.”

Her parents wrapped her carefully, placed on her lap a few colored pencils and a drawing pad, and wheeled her into the garden. The garden was breathtaking, filled with brilliant flowers of all sorts—zinnias, roses, hyacinth, lilacs, hibiscus, daisies, poppies, tulips, and so much more.

As Sun-Lin sat quietly, all the neighborhood children came to say goodbye. They prayed for her as only the little ones who know nothing of doubt and hopelessness can. They hugged her for as long as their attention allowed. Then, one by one, each child left but not before shedding tears. These tears fell on blades of grass and the tips of the flower petals and glistened in the sun.

Sun-Lin watched as the sun climbed high in the sky, and she thought perhaps she would try to draw the sun in all its shining glory. As she drew she thought about her life, how good it was, and how much everyone loved her. Before long, the sun began to descend and Sun-Lin’s heart leapt at the prospect of witnessing a sunrise and a sunset. Just after sunset, a little sad that this would be her last, she shed tears for the first time. Her tears flowed freely and gathered on blades of grass and flower petals and rested with those of the dear children who had visited her throughout the day. Night fell and she soon fell into a deep, restful sleep. Instead of moving her to her bed, Sun-Lin’s parents slept beside her in the garden.

When she awakened, strangely, instead of feeling weaker she felt stronger than she had felt in days.  As she wondered about this, she noticed the strangest thing at her feet: the sheet of paper that held her drawing had fallen to the ground, and near it a strange flower she had not seen in the garden, grew and opened before her eyes. “A sun flower!” she exclaimed. For the flower looked just like her drawing of the sun, with the additions of a thick, long stem and a large brown center filled with seeds.

Sun-Lin did not die that day or the next or even the next. For the brilliant drawing had captured the rays of the setting sun and danced in the night wind. As it danced about the flowers and grass, it collected Sun-Lin’s tears and the tears of the children who loved her. The magic of the sun, of innocence, and the sweetness of dreams gifted us what became known as the sunflower.

Sun-Lin lived a long life–for the Sun’s gift was beyond its beauty. Physicians soon discovered the healing powers of the sunflower, so Sun-Lin’s mind and body were nourished a long time on the petals and the seeds of the flower that looked liked the sun and followed it just as Sun-Lin had.

To this day, the tall and regal sunflower follows the sun with deep devotion. In gratitude it provides nutrition and healing for all the little ones who love to dance and play in the sun.

The Sunflower Challenge

“Sunflower Week” ends with a challenge. After reading The Sunflower Myth blog post, Ralshella, one of my former students, challenged me to rewrite the story.

Challenge accepted!

Of course, I can’t let Shelibelle off the hook, so I’m challenging her to pick up her pen and rewrite the story.

And I’m challenging you, my blog friends, to rewrite the story too.

Create a myth that explains the origin of the sunflower. You can revise or work against the Ancient Greek myth of Clytie related in the Sunflower Myth post. Or you can create an entirely new myth.

Since this is a creative work, you are pretty much free to express as you wish. There are three rules:

  1. Refrain from using profanity or sexually suggestive themes (My kiddo often reads my blog posts).
  2. Avoid the woman victim-villain-abused characterizations we typically find in such stories.
  3. Present your own original work.

I will post my own sunflower story next week. If you have a blog, come back here a week from today and post a link to your myth in the comments of that post. If you don’t have a blog, but would still like to participate, post your story in the comments. 🌻🌻🌻

I’m looking forward to your stories!

Shine on!

Gifts for Today

“Hummingbird and Sunflower,” photo by Larry Keller. Click image to view in Flickr.

There is a long narrow table that spans the large window in my home office, made by my hubby, of course. This is where I sit in the early morning, as the sun rises, to spend time with God.  As I study and meditate, I witness nature awakening, and I enjoy the brief encounters with birds, butterflies, and bumblebees that apparently love the zinnias growing just outside the window.

We see many different types of birds in our neighborhood, but I rarely see hummingbirds. I’ve seen them only twice in the six years we’ve lived here, and both times were at my window.

My second visit with a hummingbird was this morning, as I was meditating over Psalm 27. I had just read about the psalmist’s desire “to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek Him in His temple” (Psalm 27:4) and was praying the same for myself when the bird dropped by. How apropos! This was no coincidence. It was a subtle affirmation of the beauty of the holiness of the Most High and affirmation of His presence. A gift for today.


Note about today’s image: The photo was captured by Larry Keller who has an amazing Flickr feed filled with birds, deer, and other aspects of nature. Since there were still two more posts to complete “Sunflower Week,” I wanted an image for today that spoke to sunflowers and my early morning visitor. Larry graciously allowed use of his photo for today’s post. There are so many beautiful messages in nature, and I’m grateful for the many photographers who expertly capture what we miss or can’t experience for ourselves. Thank you, Larry, for your art and for your heart. Your photo is another gift for today!

Wrapped in Love and Sunflowers

At the beginning of the year, after being cancer-free for 13 years, my sister Lori, heard the dreaded news–the cancer had returned. Initially, I shared this with just two or three close friends, soliciting their prayers. Out of respect for Lori’s privacy, I hadn’t talked about it much until I spilled to my penfriend Christine B, whose response prompted me to share Lori’s story with a group of my penfriends. They have been more than kind and supportive of me, and I knew they would embrace my sister and let her know that there are people all over the world who are rooting for her, sending her good thoughts, and praying.

Some of them went even further and sent supportive cheer mail my way as well–including three sunflower cards painted just for me!

“Sisters Dancing” by Trang K

Trang watercolored two flowers dancing–a sunflower and a purple tulip–Lori’s favorite flower in her favorite color. Her written note expresses sweetly, as only Trang can:

May you always dance to the sweetness of life in all its glory and fill your heart with everlasting joy and love.

“Time for Watercolor” by Christine B.

With her busy summer schedule, Christine B took the time to watercolor a new cheerful sunflower for my wall.

“A Note of Peace and Love” by Connie F.

Connie’s sunflower brightened a gloomy day. She slipped a beautiful bookmark (to be shared later) and a quote into the envelope with her sunflower:

It’s all about finding the calm in the chaos.  –Donna Karan

Knowing who God is makes horrific trials bearable. Lori is a bit more challenged this time around, but her faith is sure. Sometimes, it seems that worry is all I can do, but from her, I’m learning more and more not to worry. Her path isn’t easy, but through faith and fervent prayer, I can be a calming presence in the chaos of the journey just for her.

To my penfriends–Lori has received your beautiful expressions of love, hope, courage, grace, peace, and faith. We are incredibly moved by your sacred act of giving. Thank you, Christine, Trang, Lisa, Paige, Debra, Jennifer, Lori-Anne, Louise, Arielle, Sheila L, Connie, Suzette, Jacki, Gina, Andrea, Fran, Litsa, and Cricket. You have wrapped our hearts in love and have served as tangible evidence of God.

Hugs to you…