Sunflowers and Poetry | Meet Me Halfway

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Since we are in the final week of National Poetry Month, I decided to share poetry and sunflowers all week long. This month–with all its busyness–tried to rob me of poetry, but I persisted. I wrote and read poetry daily and even managed to plan and host another successful [annual] poetry event.

This weekend I “rediscovered” Javan, a poet I enjoyed as a teen. I [probably] purchased the two books I own while perusing shops on Canal Street in New Orleans–Meet Me Halfway and Something to Someone. I have not read these books in decades, but thought about them a couple of days ago and luckily found them with ease in my home library.

After reading through selections, I see why I loved his works way back then. His poetry is uncomplicated and speaks to our yearnings and all the things that cause teenage angst.  

Here are two poems from Meet Me Halfway to start you work week. I plan to share another one of his poems Thursday.

By Javan

I’ve learned
That Life offers much more
Than most people take

I’ve learned
That many people live their life
Within small circles
Afraid to go out
Afraid to let others in

And I’ve also learned
That at the end of Life’s game
Most people wish
That somehow
They could have played it differently

By Javan

Many people complain
Life never gave them any chances

We are given Life
We must take the Chances


About the Image: Today’s tiny art is brought to you by none other than Sheila Delgado of Sheila’s Corner Studio. She sent this gem to me in late October and I have been looking forward to sharing it with you. It kicks off “Sunflowers and Poetry Week” perfectly! You can view a better scan of the sunflower and read about her creative process in Smooth the Way. Oh, why sunflowers with poetry? “Just because,” of course!

Sunflowers and Truth | Hard, Hard Truth

“Birthday Sunflowers” by Christine B.

Today’s truth comes from Grounded Spirituality by author and teacher, Jeff Brown. The short version: Take care of you. Do the work to “deal with your stuff.” It’s hard. It’s continual, but it’s worth it. Your past will no longer control your attitudes or behavior. 

Sunflower by Christine Brooks
“Sunflower Pair” by Christine B.

It’s up to you–it’s always up to you. You can deny, repress, distort, and bury your unresolved wounds all you want. You can reframe them, pseudo-positivity them, detach from them, bypass them. You can rename yourself, hide away in a monastery, turn your story around.  And you can spend all your money on superficial healing practices and hocus-pocus practitioners. But it won’t mean a [darn] thing if you don’t do the deeper work to excavate and heal your primary wounds. The material is still there, right where you left it, subconsciously ruling your life and controlling your choices. This is the nature of unhealed material–it is alive, and one way or the other, it will manifest itself in your lived experience. It will language your inner negative. It will obstruct your path and limit your possibilities. It lives everywhere that you live. And so you have to decide–excavate it and bring it into consciousness where it can be worked through an integrated; or repress it and watch it rule your life. It’s one of the hardest truths we have to face: if we don’t deal with our stuff, it deals with us. There is no way around this. Choose.

–Jeff Brown, Grounded Spirituality
Sunflower by Sheila Delgado
“Sunflower Trio” by Sheila D.

About the Images: The hard pill of today’s post deserves three cheerful sunflower watercolors. The sunflowers are brought to you by my friend and Love Noter, Christine B. She sent the top watercolor  with two more beautiful pieces of art for my birthday (10.02). She sent the other two earlier this year–just because. The final piece is a regifted watercolor, the work of my friend, Sheila D. I’m sending love, light, and many hugs to Christine as she prepares to memorialize her mom next week. [If you’re reading on a mobile device or tablet, click the images to view full images in Flickr].

Sunflowers and Truth | #truthbombs

Martha Slavin Sunflower

Are you familiar with Danielle LaPorte’s #truthbombs? On 4×4 white cards–in beautiful black script–LaPorte offers pithy bits of wisdom, encouragement, and in-your-face truth. Every now and then, I pull a random card out the elegant encasement, and think, “Whew! Now, that’s a word!” The cards offer perfect journaling prompts and discussion starters. [Click the link above for more information, see sample #truthbombs, and download the app. For the record, this is not an ad]. 

Before heading to work yesterday, I grabbed a handful of random #truthbombs from their box and dropped them on my bag. I thought they would complement the sunflowers I’d planned to share on the blog, but yesterday did not turn out as I planned: By 9:00 a.m., I was annoyed with no less than three people. By 10:00, the number had increased to five. By 1:00, I had a searing headache that made me want to pack up and go home. When I finally arrived home just after 5:00, I wanted only my bed and a good book. When today began to feel like yesterday, a couple of short walks and three of the #truthbombs became the medicine I needed:

  • Notice how you feel
  • Defend your tenderness
  • Compassion is so often the solution

Those three sentences “can preach,” as they say. For me, they were a call to pay attention to my responses.

Yesterday, I was extremely disturbed by individuals who acted selfishly and lacked compassion. When it comes down to it, this was no different than any other day. Almost every day I encounter people who look out for themselves and show little regard for others unless they can benefit in some way. Of course, by the end of the day, I’d pretty much gotten over it and pushed the experience out of my mind. I realized I had to cut those folk some slack. They are human after all, and like me, they deserve room to be just that–human–and perhaps there were good reasons for what I considered their not acting with the decency I expected under the circumstances. 

But I was still bothered by my own reaction: Why was my response so different? Why did I allow myself to become so uncharacteristically entangled with other individuals’ attitudes and behavior? And why am I again feeling out of sorts and bothered?

Annoying people, gloomy weather, frustration over lecture notes I can’t find. All of that is superficial, the easy things to focus on because the real thing–the underlying thing–is big and scary and too much to handle at the beginning of a packed work week. The #truthbombs were a reminder to pay attention to my feelings and not just stop there. I had to get to the root. And I did.

I miss my sister. Her birthday is tomorrow. There will be no celebration. 

Thankfully, the sunflower provides light…in the darkness of the cave in which I have to dwell for a moment. 


About the Image: The watercolor sunflower is the work of my Love Notes friend, Martha S. She was one of my exchange partners in Louise Gale’s Global heART exchange. It was a pleasant surprise to find a postcard from one of my snail mail regulars in my mailbox. Thanks for this gorg sunflower, Martha! It has brightened my days and will soon find its place my the sunflower wall. 

#ThursdayTreeLove | Look Up!

Inside the Magnolia

Study nature. Love nature. Stay close to nature. It will never fail you. –Frank Lloyd Wright

The Southern Magnolias and I have had quite a bit of quality time this week. I have had to take frequent breaks from my freezing cold office and from sitting. Since our year+ in front of a computer screen, I find it difficult to sit for more than five minutes. I have a “standup” desk waiting to be positioned and I’m looking into alternative seating that puts less stress on my back and hips. Until then, I stand as much as possible and take frequent, short walks in the area closest to my building.

Based on previous tree love posts, you probably know there are many, many trees near my office. I typically obsess over a particular tree or stand of trees for some time before moving on to others. This week, the magnolias have been commanding my attention and I have been filling my phone with shots of them. I stood underneath the magnolia above while working with a parent to get her daughter enrolled. I looked up and beheld this glorious sight.

This first week back in classes and in person (for me and my kiddo) hasn’t been too difficult, but it has had its mini challenges all week. My many three-minute breaks with the trees have helped shift the load and reduce the stress; they have also reminded me that it pays to look up!


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.

World Watercolor Month: 15-21

WWCM19

Whew! The end of a grueling week! We’ve also reached the end of our tour of the photo art collection I shared for World Watercolor Month.

There is incredible truth in the quote paired with my 19th post (above):

The more grateful I am, the more beauty I see. –Mary Davis

Lately, I have been a bit more intentional about walking with gratitude. I have been amazed by how much beauty enters my space; my cameras are overflowing with so much of it that I will not be able to share all of it. 

I am not only meeting beauty in the natural world but I am also discovering incredible beauty in my daily encounters with other humans. Even with difficult people, if I recast my gaze, I find the light and the splendor of their humanity. 

Life can be hard and ugly at times, but there is still much for which to be grateful, much yet to celebrate. [Click an image to see posts 15-18; 20-21].

World Watercolor Month: 1-7

WWCM01Did you know July was/is World Watercolor Month? You can read all about it and its founder, Doodlewash, by clicking the links.

I am not a watercolor artist, but as I was feeding my need for pretty on Instagram, I saw my friend Sheila’s Day 9 post for World Watercolor Month. I commented that I would participate with watercolor edits of photos! She encouraged me to do just that, and I joined the fun Day 11 with the post above.

For 21 days, I enjoyed my daily art breaks; I played around with edits in Waterlogue and BeCasso App–über fun and less time consuming than PhotoShop. The brief sessions provided respite from the late summer frenzy.

To the delight of my millions of followers, I shared my “art and quote” posts via Instagram and Facebook. [Hyperbole, of course]. The Doodlewash folks “liked” many (maybe all?) my posts and the makers of Becasso App “liked” posts in which I tagged the app; they shared [at least] one in their stories. That was icing on the cake. It’s nice that they actually pay attention to the hashtags. 🙂

While I focus on all the facets of getting the academic year started this week, I leave you with a bit of eye candy and food for the soul. Rather than overwhelm you, I will give you just enough for each day–seven images in three posts. [Day 1 is above. Days 2-7 are below]. If you can’t wait till Wednesday and Friday to see the rest, you can always visit my Instagram profile. [Click an image for a closer look].

Have an artful week!

Lessons from the Pandemic

Yellow Flowers in Vase by Sheila D of Sheila’s Corner Studio

I confess. I sometimes feel like a slacker. Sure, I am always doing something, but as I said in an earlier post, I’ve been getting nowhere.

Everywhere I turn, it seems someone has completed a book, started a new venture, traveled the seven seas, or even managed to purge and organize their home during the pandemic. I’ve done zip! I’m usually adept at side-stepping the comparison trap, but lately I have wondered if I’m just plain lazy!

Over the last year we’ve been given many tips on how to thrive, how to stay motivated, and how to do this, that, or the other during the pandemic. It was refreshing to join Pastor Lola Johnston’s Bloom in the Pandemic webinar a few weeks ago and hear her offer, instead of tips for thriving during the pandemic, two reassuring pieces of advice—to simply believe God is who He says He is and practice the principle of Matthew 6:33. She encouraged participants to refrain from practicing belief in our outcome and instead practice belief in the God of the outcome.

Whew!

It was nice to be let off the hook, to release the feelings of failure or guilt for not being completely awesome during the last 15+ months.

Of course, I wasn’t a slacker. I did not reach some of the goals I set for myself, but as I revisit those goals, some of them were way too big and way too much for our present circumstances. But during an actual, maddening pandemic, I held down a full time job, ably managed a leadership position that I was suddenly thrust into, taught overloads each semester, and operated fully in my family without losing my mind. And I actually managed to accomplish a few other things.

It helps to pivot our perspective. Doesn’t it?

If we focus on the gains instead of the unchecked items on our goals list, we’ll find ourselves in a healthier mental space. I realized this while writing a list of lessons learned in response to the final prompt of Love Notes 35. Even though I didn’t achieve some of my biggies, I’ve gained in ways that expanded my soul tremendously and I’ve learned so much.

I’ve learned to listen for the silence.
I’ve learned to find the path to stillness no matter where I am.
I’ve learned to adjust.
I’ve learned to keep moving.
I’ve learned to find time to write and “just be” in small moments because there will never be enough time, otherwise.
I’ve learned to appreciate the questions.
I’ve learned the answers do not always come.
I’ve learned [again] to accept sorrow and grief as necessary parts of life.
I’ve learned to let the deep, aching pain of loss do its work.
I’ve learned that my being vulnerable frees others to drop their masks.
I’ve learned that everyone is indeed fighting a battle.
I’ve learned that there’s very little I can control, but what I can control makes all the difference in my attitude and outlook.
I’ve learned that those who need our compassion most are those for whom compassion is a difficult exercise
I’ve learned to walk in the truth that everyone is made in the image of God.

Even though I sometimes feel like I should be doing so much more, I am learning that continuing to breathe and walk with joy during the pandemic are extraordinary accomplishments.

What have you learned in the last year or so?


About the Image: The bright yellow flowers were sent to me by my blogging pen friend, talented artist, and Love Noter, Sheila D. I actually wrote this blog post more than a week ago, but refused to post it because I wanted this particular piece of art to lead the post. I misplaced my “to be blogged” art file and it took me a whole week to find it! Why this postcard? In the face of difficult challenges over the last year+, Sheila has maintained a beautiful outlook on life. I find that inspiring.

Suddenly Spring!

Suddenly the archetypal
human desire for peace
with every other species
wells up in you. The lion
and the lamb cuddling up.
The snake and the snail, kissing.
Even the prick of the thistle,
queen of the weeds, revives
your secret belief
in perpetual spring,
your faith that for every hurt
there is a leaf to cure it.

 

The Japanese magnolias and flowering pear trees have reached full bloom. Soon the blossoms will fall and the branches will fill with the cheerful green of early spring.

Winter has its purpose, but oh, how I’ve longed for this first day of spring! After a few days of rain, the day is bright and beautiful, and I’m looking forward to some much-needed time in the sun!

Nothing says spring in certain parts like the daffodil. I’ve been seeing clusters of them crop up in the last few weeks–at the edges of driveways, encircling trees, around mailboxes, and in the floral section of the grocery stores–like an invitation to this moment.

I was happy to find the cheerful watercolor of daffodils [above] in my mailbox. Eileen V, one of my Love Notes friends, sent it in celebration of International Women’s Day, but in the dismal last few days of winter, it was a welcome reminder of the sunny, hopeful, healing days to come!

Wishing you a…

Happy Spring!

#ThursdayTreeLove | Precious Joy

Even though there are signs of spring, many of the trees around me are still skinny, naked, and exposed–shadows of their spring, summer, and early autumn selves.

I thought about those trees this morning as I watched the sun fill the sky, a backdrop for the leafless trees. I contemplated one of the passages of scripture I studied yesterday–

Precious in the sight of the Lord
is the death of His faithful servants. —Psalm 116:15

I turned toward the computer to begin the workday, and my eyes met the pink sticky note on which I had written Psalm 96:12b a couple of weeks ago, anticipating the arrival of spring.

Let all the trees sing for joy.

Somehow, these two Bible verses are connected for me.

Today marks eight years since my little sister was taken from us. It’s strange how my body knows when the date is nearing. The grief and sorrow over the losses of both my sisters [and so many more since] are palpable, but it firms me up to know that God feels each individual loss intimately. We are precious to Him.

Maybe, the verses are connected in my mind because they point to hope.

Hope is in the “spring” of that soon-to-come Great Reunion when the trumpet sounds and those who have fallen asleep in Christ will rise first and meet our Savior (1 Thessalonians 4:12-18). Oh, how we’ll sing and rejoice!

In fact, all the earth will worship, and the trees will sing for joy!


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.