4-4-4: Four Weeks, Four Topics, Four Notes

Building a snail mail relationship through (random) swapping isn’t always easy.  Quite frequently, I receive from or send to a person knowing we won’t hear from each other again until years later when one of us is randomly selected as the other’s partner again. In some cases, never.

A couple of years ago I hosted a four-week, four notes photography swap to deal with this problem.  The swap, called 4-4-4, invited participants to select four topics from a list of 12 and send one photo representing each of the four chosen topics to their partners every week for four weeks. The photo was just one part of the swap.  Swappers also had to make the photo part of a letter, notecard, or postcard in which they explained or provided details about the photo, technique, inspiration, or the story behind the photo.

This was one of the best swaps for me. I really got to know my partners. I learned about their photography styles, their families, their careers, their personal philosophies, and more.

I decided to host the swap again.  This time my partner was Diane of A Focused Journey, Midteacher on swap-bot.  Diane and I communicate regularly through swaps and “random acts of mail,” but I learned a lot more about her life and her creative work.

Diane’s chosen topics were beauty, color, alone, and fragrant.  Take a look:

Week 1: Beauty

Outside of “Beauty” Card by Diane, Midteacher on swap-bot

“Beauty” by Diane, Midteacher on swap-bot

The “beauty” photo features a weeping pine that sits outside Diane’s kitchen window. She fell in love with its unusual form when she saw it in a friend’s garden.  She, then, took on additional work at a local nursery to purchase the tree.

She especially loves how the raindrops form on the tips of the needles, so the theme “beauty” is appropriate for the photo.

Diane sent oversize postcards for weeks two and three.

Week 2: Color

“Color” by Diane, Midteacher on swap-bot

The scan doesn’t capture the colors in this postcard very well.  The postcard features a photo of “clouds in color” that Diane duplicated in the background she created for the photo. She captured the photo one afternoon when the sun was “sending rays of beautiful colors as the clouds were moving across the sky.”  She wrote that she must have taken 30+ shots trying to capture the light and color.

Though I’m sure this was not Diane’s intention, I like how the quote underscores the selection of this photo–it’s not perfect in the eyes of the shooter, but it is a wonderful image.

Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be wonderful.

Week 3: Alone

“Alone” by Diane, Midteacher on swap-bot

The theme isn’t obvious on this one.  The yellow tulips hold a dear place in Diane’s heart.  She had a pretty difficult autumn one year.  The school that she loved and where she taught was closed due to budget cuts, and she was sent to a school that was challenging or “hellish,” as she describes it.  Then her son, a marine, was deployed to Afghanistan.  While out shopping and downcast, she found yellow tulip bulbs on clearance.  It was past planting time, but she bought all three bags and planted them.  The following spring, the tulips bloomed beautifully bringing her joy.  Eventually, her son returned home safe and sound.

She writes in sum:

I felt alone that fall, but every spring these tulips remind me otherwise!

Week 4: Fragrant

I  was almost sad when I saw the week four envelope.  It meant our weekly exchange had come to an end, but when I opened the envelope, I smiled from ear to ear. Sunflowers! Such a beautiful and appropriate ending to our swap.

These brightly colored flowers–miniature carnations and sunflowers–posed brilliantly on the island in Diane’s kitchen. The fragrance filled the air and greeted her each morning and as she passed throughout the day.

Diane can’t know how much I appreciate her for sending three different versions of the photo–the original and two edits.  They now have homes on my inspiration wall at home and at work!

As I mentioned many times before, I admire the way Diane works her photos into mixed media art.  Although we have very different approaches to photographic art, she and I share a mutual appreciation for each other’s work and we learn a lot from each other.  We often share tips and ideas, and because of my curiosity about how she crafts her photos, she recently recommended a book on photographic journaling techniques.  It’s on my list for the summer.

Look forward to my “trial and error” mixed media posts in the next few weeks.

Until then…

Have a happy mail day!

My Bouquet of Yellow Postcards

My Yellow Postcard Bouquet

I cannot let March end without sharing the big yellow bouquet of postcards I received in honor of International Women’s Day/Women’s History Month.  With Beckra’s (ongoing) permission, I hosted her “Yellow Flowers for International Women’s Day” swap on swap-bot for the fifth time.  I felt compelled to share the yellow blessing with the Love Notes community and many were excited to participate.  So, in addition to the swap-bot participants and the women in my circle of family and friends, I also sent dozens of postcards to Love Notes participants.  In return, my mailbox was filled with yellow flowers all month long.

The first postcards came from my two swap-bot partners, Jan and Valerie [Click image for a closer look].

My penfriend Beckra sent a bright closeup of a yellow flower she photographed.  She hasn’t participated in the swaps lately, but she always sends me a card for IWD.

“Happy International Women’s Day.” Photograph by R.R., Beckra

Then, the cards from my Love Notes pals made their way to my P.O. Box from various parts of the USA and the world.

Christine B’s was the first to arrived with an IWD greeting and a sweet message–“You are an outstanding woman and I am glad we connected.”

“Happy, Happy International Women’s Day.” Photographer, Christine B.

After reading the Karle’s Wings post, Christine sent a second postcard, orchids, in memory of my sister, Karlette.  Isn’t she the best?  There’s a special heart hidden in the photo. Can you see it?

“Orchid for Karlette.” Photograph by Christine B.

I usually don’t mind postal markings on postcards.  I “minded” this time. :-/

Lorelei sent a coloring card with a couple of spots colored in yellow:

Illustration by Johanna Basford, from Secret Garden 20 Postcards

Many sent photo postcards.  Some, like  Beckra’s and Christine’s, featured the photography of the senders [Click image for a closer look].

Ellen even used a stamp featuring my favorite flower:

Sunflower Postage

Some sent “store-bought” postcards: [Click image for a closer look].

Many included inspiring messages:

“Life is Beautiful.” From Jackie W.

She is clothed in strength and dignity,and she laughs without fear of the future.  –Proverbs 31:25

We get so worried about being “pretty.” Let’s be pretty kind, pretty funny, pretty smart, pretty strong. –Britt Nicole

“Waterlily.” From Eileen of Germany

Little yellow flowers
Dancing with the breeze
Little yellow flowers
Huddled round the trees
Little yellow flowers
Seemed to know my pain
Little yellow flowers
in my mem’ry will remain.  –Valerie Dohren

Yellow Jessamine, State Flower of South Carolina with an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, State Butterfly of South Carolina.  From Connie of S.C.

Some women fear the fire; some women simply become it.  –R.H. Sin

“Tree Cotton Plant.” From Sheila L.

May we continue to make progress on all issues that affect women.

Some featured the art of the senders with inspirational reminders [Click an image for a closer look].

Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person. Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.  –Mother Teresa [Cricket]

Here’s to strong women. May we know them. May we be them. May we raise them.  –Unknown [Lori W.]

Debra D. sent an elegant “thank you” for my “hosting” the swap.

“Thanks,” Heartmade by Debra D. of Virginia

Martha S., whose work has been featured on Pics and Posts before, sent one of her gorgeous artistic creations with a poem (the scan does little justice).

“Cherry Blossom Season.” Artist Martha S.

An artist to me
is one
of those
kind of prophets
of our community.
Their antennae,
or their sense
of what’s
happening,
is so vital
and so pure
that we always
need to listen
to them. –Fiach Mac Conghail

And finally, Lori-Anne C. of Canada,  sent a handmade, sunflower-shaped postcard that made me squeal on a day when I really, really needed to be reminded to “face the sun.”

“Sunflower Love.” Artist Lori C.

The beautifully written message on the back of the postcard was just what I needed to hear the day it arrived.

Isn’t that an “amazing” message?

You are amazing and strong and brave and wonderful!

When life tries to convince you otherwise, be sure to carry this heartfelt message with you.

Thanks, ladies, for all the postcard love!  Until next time…Hugs!

Happy International Women’s Day!

I’ve been busy, busy, busy with work and with one creative venture after another–working on a wedding album for my nephew and his new wife, Dr. Seuss’s Birthday (lots of fun), selecting and getting postcards ready for Liberate Your Art 2014, and of course, designing postcards for International Women’s Day (IWD).

In some countries, it is customary to give yellow flowers to women on IWD.  In honor of that custom, I created these postcards–an easier way to share yellow flowers with women of the world and to stand with women worldwide as we move toward change and equality.

The first postcard features the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women’s (UN Women’s) theme for 2014:  “Equality for women is progress for all.”

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I like the vintage feel of this postcard, but I created one using the same photo for those who prefer more realistic colors:

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And since I also like “Inspiring Change,” the 2014 theme featured on the global hub for International Women’s Day, I created a postcard with that theme as well.

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As I share these postcards with you, I’m reminded of the two seminars on Comparative Women’s Studies I participated in many moons ago and of how our group applauded our conveners, Beverly Guy Sheftall and Chandra Talpade Mohanty, with the chant– “Women’s rights are human rights…Women’s rights are human rights.”  There’s something about the collective voices of women and those who partner with us that assures me that we will eventually disassemble all tools of oppression.

Color Me Yellow!

Quite a bit of yellow has gone in and out of my mailbox over the last week or two, so this post is all about the yellow. I joined the “May Color: Yellow Photo” swap hosted by swap-bot Sharp Shooter, Lou. Here’s what I sent to my partner:

Close-up, 2013

“Close-up,” 2013

This flower was part of a bright and beautiful bouquet my parents received earlier this year. As much as I love photographing flowers, I know the names of very few of them. If you know what this is, please let me know in the comments section. Thanks!

Yellow Tang, Tennessee Aquarium, 2013

“Yellow Tang,” Tennessee Aquarium, 2013

Found this yellow tang at the Tennessee Aquarium. It is usually difficult to get good shots in aquariums, but I found the TN Aquarium particularly challenging. I was constantly changing the camera settings and hoping for good shots. At one point, I gave up on the fish and just shot photos of plants, flowers and all the outdoor creatures. None of them were yellow, though. 😉

Yellow Weeds aka Wild Flowers

“Yellow Weeds aka Wild Flowers”

These lovely weeds (really, wildflowers) were the inspiration for a swap I hosted, “Pretty Weeds,” but I couldn’t resist sending my “Yellow” partner an advanced copy of the photo. These were taken at a park near our home.

And here’s what my partner, the swap host, sent to me:

"Daffodils," photo by Lou

“Daffodils,” Photo by Lou

When I see daffodils, I’m reminded of two things: (1) the lyrics of song, “I Like the Mountains”–“I like the mountains, I like the rolling hills. I like the flowers. I like the daffodils. I like the fireside when all the lights are low.” (2) Jamaica Kincaid’s Lucy. In the novel, the title character recounts being forced (while in school) to learn a poem about daffodils even though she had never seen one–they did not grow in her “small island” homeplace. If memory serves me well, she sees her first daffodils after moving to the United States to work as an au pair.

"Lemons," photo by Lou

“Lemons,” Photo by Lou

Lemons. Just in time for summer and some nice cool lemonade. Lou shot these photos at the Macy’s Flower Show in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

All of this yellow reminds me of some other yellow that went in and out of my mailbox earlier this year. Beckra, one of my “Professors United” friends, hosted a swap last year entitled “Yellow Flowers for International Women’s Day.” She was a little too busy to handle the swap this year, so she gave me permission to host the swap instead. In some countries, it is customary to exchange flowers on International Women’s Day (IWD)–March 8th–so for the swap individuals sent postcards that incorporated a yellow flower.

I sent two postcards to each of my partners. They were made with Hallmark cardmaking software. I was actually looking through the software for another reason and happened across the sunflowers and the “other” yellow flowers. I sent the sunflowers “as is.” After all, who would tamper with the beauty of sunflowers? I added the 2013 theme for IWD to the “other” flowers. Both were well received. One swap participant expressed her appreciation for the IWD theme for the year, since she herself was a victim of violence.

Yellow Flowers for International Women's Day 2013

“Yellow Flowers for International Women’s Day 2013: Sunflowers”

"Yellow Flowers for International Women's Day 2013: A Promise is a Promise"

“Yellow Flowers for International Women’s Day 2013: A Promise is a Promise”

In return, I received three beautiful postcards–including one from Beckra, who did not participate in the actual swap.

"Waking Up in a New Country," photo by Troy M. Litten

“Waking Up in a New Country,” Photo by Troy M. Litten

“Waking Up” was sent by eepy from Canada. The postcard comes from Wanderlust: 30 Posstcards for Insatiable Travelers. Eepy loves to travel by train and the idea of opening her compartment window and seeing all the yellow flowers in the morning is appealing to her.

"Yellow Flowers for International Women's Day 2013," from Kirstyenarnox, Netherlands

“Yellow Flowers for International Women’s Day 2013”

Kirstyenarnox sent this beautiful yellow flower with love from the Netherlands.

"Yellow Flowers for International Women's Day," Photo by Beckra

“Yellow Flowers for International Women’s Day,” Photo by Beckra

Last, but not least, Beckra sent this stunning close-up of a yellow orchid. She shared a Hortense Calisher quote–“One must give back the store of the universe. Anybody can”–and two of her own centos. Yay for me and my mailbox!

Since I’m now in the mood for William Wordsworth, I leave you with “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud.

I WANDERED lonely as a cloud

That floats on high o’er vales and hills,

When all at once I saw a crowd,

A host, of golden daffodils;

Beside the lake, beneath the trees,

Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine

And twinkle on the milky way,

They stretched in never-ending line

Along the margin of a bay:

Ten thousand saw I at a glance,

Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they

Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:

A poet could not but be gay,

In such a jocund company:

I gazed–and gazed–but little thought

What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie

In vacant or in pensive mood,

They flash upon that inward eye

Which is the bliss of solitude;

And then my heart with pleasure fills,

And dances with the daffodils.