The way you alchemize a soulless world into a sacred world is by treating everyone as if they are sacred, until the sacred in them remembers. –Sarah Durham Wilson
It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them. […] Lightly, lightly – it’s the best advice ever given me […]. So throw away your baggage and go forward. There are quicksands all about you, sucking at your feet, trying to suck you down into fear and self-pity and despair. That’s why you must walk so lightly. Lightly my darling, on tiptoes and no luggage, not even a sponge bag, completely unencumbered. –Aldous Huxley, Island
In her devotional thought, which started this morning’s work session, my colleague, Dr. Sherine talked about the growth processes of a seed, reminding us about the possibilities in us and the beauty that comes through struggle. In ending that part of her discussion and driving the point of the metaphor [of a tiny, dry seed breaking to begin a transformed life], she cautioned–
Breaking happens in the right environment. Otherwise, it’s abuse.
Sit with that for a moment.
I heard many beautiful statements today. Interestingly, they all focused one way or another on compassion for others. My friend Lexi posted the quote below in her Instagram/Facebook stories today, and it aligned well with discussions in our work session. Kristen Corley’s wisdom in admonishing us to extend compassion to ourselves was the icing on the cake for all I heard today.
You’ve been through a thousand things in your life people don’t even know about. You’ve experienced things that have shook you, changed you, broke you, built you and taught you to be stronger than you ever thought you had the ability to be. And you are who you are for all of it. So the next time someone judges you based on a small part of what they see and how they interpret that, remember who you are, remember how much you’ve overcome and smile and keep walking because you don’t have a single thing to prove to anyone else. You’ve already proved so much to yourself[; you] muddled through storms that people didn’t even see because of how you carried yourself. –Kirsten Corley
The flower that blooms in adversity is the most rare and beautiful of all. –The Emperor, Mulan
Welcome to August, folks! The madness began for many of us in the academic world today, but that didn’t stop my friend Cy from challenging me to blog every day leading up to my blogiversary—which is in the middle of September.
I just might be insane because I’m thinking about accepting the challenge. Since I don’t know what obstacles I’ll face, I’m traveling this road with caution.
So, this week, I’m sharing photo art created during World Watercolor Month, a charitable event to support arts education sponsored by Doodlewash. The challenge to create art every day ended yesterday.
Throughout the month of July, I worked 31+ photos into watercolor-like photo art, at least one per day. I enjoyed taking time out from the daily grind and creating something to share with the world. I “upped my game” a bit this year by processing the photos in multiple applications to achieve unique looks. I shared [cropped to a] square versions of each piece on Instagram.
This week, I will feature seven [uncropped] personal favorites from the month. With each image, I will share something that struck me during the day–a word, a phrase, a poem, a quote. I hear or read so many beautiful things throughout the day, and I’m looking forward to sharing the tidbits with you!
I have been fixated on butterflies most of the week, reworking butterfly photos into watercolor photo art. I didn’t realize why until, while scrolling through my camera roll Thursday evening, I came across a picture of my son and parents that was snapped last summer. In the picture, I could clearly see most of my father’s butterfly tattoo.
Ah! That explains it!
In addition to the intangible qualities and gifts, there are certain tangible items that I associate with my father. Among them are his ruby ring, his hearing aid, his jazz collection, and his butterfly tattoo. Only one of those was buried with him, and I was miserably grieved that I had never managed to intentionally photograph the tattoo while he was living–neither had my photographer brother nor any of the other photographers in the family!
The tattoo was simply a part of my father; he had gotten it when he served in the United States Air Force. It had been there all our lives—so we never thought about taking a snapshot. Until he was gone. I combed through image after image and could see parts of the tattoo, but never enough of it. Furthermore, the quality was diminished in attempting to enlarge any photo enough to really see the tattoo. Failing to capture the tattoo troubled me for weeks after his passing, till I finally convinced myself to let it go. I did so grudgingly and with the hope of eventually finding someone who had a good shot of that tat.
I don’t know how I’d missed it in the photo referenced above! I think it was waiting to be found when I needed it most. With my father’s birthday approaching [today], I guess, the butterflies settled into my spirit and provided a way for me to connect with my father’s memory that was soothing for my soul.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Loss and grief are inevitable parts of life. We know this, but that doesn’t make it easier to manage. In fact, the inevitable is often a source of anxiety for some. Despite how ab-so-lute-ly awful it is, grief teaches us many lessons about life, love, and ourselves. Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned.
- Love is more powerful than we can ever find words for or even imagine. We continue loving long after the person is gone.
- Grief is a journey for one. Others may grieve the loss of the same person, but not the same loss. Every loss is personal and the journey to healing individual.
- There is no “getting over” a loss, but eventually the wound will heal. As with all wounds, there will be scars.
- Grief stays with us. It morphs and shape-shifts until it settles into our beings.
- Eventually, we learn to live with grief, but our hearts may never stop aching.
- The gaping, person-sized hole inside never gets filled. We miss the person for the rest of our days on earth, but mingled with the pain will be fond memories and laughter.
- It is important that we find space to express ourselves and talk about our loved ones.
- We should never apologize for grieving, even if it makes others uncomfortable.
- The Divine draws closer to us when we grieve (Psalm 34:18).
- We learn how to sit in the dark and still believe in Light.
What lessons have you learned from grief?
Love sorrow. She is yours now, and you must
take care of what has been given
–Mary Oliver, from “Love Sorrow.”
My dad’s birthday is in a few days. He would have been 87. How do I handle this first birthday without him?
Grief and I have been wrestling for control over my emotions the last few days. This is a busy time, so I keep reminding myself that I don’t have time to fall apart. But sorrow is no respecter of persons, does not yield to schedules or timelines. It expects me to bow in obeisance. I resist…at first. Eventually, I give in because I am neither monster nor machine, and I cannot control this thing.
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.
That Life offers much more
Than most people take
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
They could have played it differently
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!
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.
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
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].