Yesterday I drove to Chicago and back to see a friend. I drove through the usual mess of road construction and major traffic snarls. The closer I got to the Loop, the more bogged down the traffic got. As I sat (at a standstill) I glanced at the cement median. Along several cracks in the concrete, I noticed grass and wild flowers growing. Not just growing — thriving.
I considered taking a photo but I couldn’t reach my camera safely. (So I found some similar photos on Flickr. See gallery below.)
I thought about how sometimes we feel like those weeds and flowers. Hanging on by a few fragile roots, in the middle of a hot unforgiving place, with just a tiny fragment of space, little or no resources — but still finding a way to not only survive but to actually bloom.
That trite saying “bloom where you are planted” has truth. I’ve had to move more times than I have wanted. Each time, the process of leave-taking then starting over commences: the good-byes, the leave-taking, then being the outsider, mustering the bravada to carry on, and finally searching for the new “normal.”
I got my first teaching job in the summer of 1985. It was in a tiny town just east of Urbana, IL. The band room was surrounded by a tar and chip parking lot. As I prepared for the first marching band rehearsals, I was pleasantly surprised to see some lovely pink lilies pop up out of the tiny seam between the building and the pavement. My mom told me they were Resurrection Lilies. I later discovered other names for them: Magic Lilies, Surprise Lilies, Naked Ladies, lycorissquamigera, and Amaryllidaceae.
They pop up out of no where (or seem to), bloom and then whither away all in a week or so. Each year I taught there (four, to be exact), I looked forward to seeing those lilies.
Image via Flickr CC, by Shihmei Barger
Image via Flickr CC, by Shihmei Barger
Beauty finds a way. Life finds a way. Always.
Image via Flickr CC, by Mickey_Liaw
Image via Flickr CC, by A Syn.
Image via Flickr CC, by Nita Hart
Image via Flickr by Robert Nunnally, CC license
Image via Flickr CC, by Nancy Phillips
Then today, I saw this posted on a friend’s Facebook wall.
From earth I flow, seaward I go,
Refreshing the world on my way.
My duty done, my guerdon* won,
I rise on celestial ray.
Drink, weary traveler, in the Land,
And on thy journey fare
‘Tis sent by God’s all giving hand.
And stored by human care.
*Guerdon is an archaic word meaning reward or recompense.
I enjoy looking through Flickr photos. I peruse the “Explore” recent photos category as often as I can clicking on all my favorites so I can look at them again in the future. Many of the images are sometimes ho-hum and very predictable, but I usually see something that inspires me greatly. Recently I found a whole series of images “em ha” uploaded as Public Domain items. I’m sharing my favorites here. The wildflower photos are mine, though. (TTQ)
(Wise words from The Weight of Glory by C. S. Lewis.)
In speaking of this desire for our own far off country, which we find in ourselves even now, I feel a certain shyness. I am almost committing an indecency.
I am trying to rip open the inconsolable secret in each one of you—the secret which hurts so much that you take your revenge on it by calling it names like Nostalgia and Romanticism and Adolescence; the secret also which pierces with such sweetness that when, in very intimate conversation, the mention of it becomes imminent, we grow awkward and affect to laugh at ourselves; the secret we cannot hide and cannot tell, though we desire to do both.
We cannot tell it because it is a desire for something that has never actually appeared in our experience. We cannot hide it because our experience is constantly suggesting it, and we betray ourselves like lovers at the mention of a name.
Our commonest expedient is to call it beauty and behave as if that had settled the matter.
Wordsworth’s expedient was to identify it with certain moments in his own past.
But all this is a cheat.
If Wordsworth had gone back to those moments in the past, he would not have found the thing itself, but only the reminder of it; what he remembered would turn out to be itself a remembering.
The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing.
These things—the beauty, the memory of our own past—are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshipers.
For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.
At present we are on the outside of the world, the wrong side of the door. We discern the freshness and purity of morning, but they do not make us fresh and pure. We cannot mingle with the splendors we see. But all the leaves of the New Testament are rustling with the rumor that it will not always be so. Some day, God willing, we shall get in.
When I attempted a few minutes ago, to describe our spiritual longings, I was omitting one of their most curious characteristics. We usually notice it just as the moment of vision dies away, as the music ends, or as the landscape loses the celestial light… For a few minutes we have had the illusion of belonging to that world.
Now we wake to find that it is no such thing.
We have been mere spectators.
Beauty has smiled, but not to welcome us; her face turned in our direction, but not to see us.
We have not been accepted, welcomed, or taken into the dance.
We may go when we please, we may stay if we can, no one cares.
Now, a scientist may reply that since most of the things we call beautiful are inanimate it is not very surprising that they take no notice of us. That, of course, is true. It is not the physical objects that I am speaking of, but that indescribable Something of which they become for a moment the messengers. And part of the bitterness which mixes with the sweetness of that message is due to the fact that it so seldom seems to be a message intended for us, but rather something we have overheard. By bitterness I mean pain, not resentment.
We should hardly dare to ask that any notice be taken of ourselves. But we pine. The sense that in the universe we are treated as strangers, the longing to be acknowledged, to meet with some response, to bridge some chasm that yawns between us and reality, is part of our inconsolable secret.
O my Luve’s like a red, red rose
That’s newly sprung in June:
O my Luve’s like the melodie
That’s sweetly play’d in tune!
As fair thou art, my bonnie lass,
So deep in love am I:
And I will love thee still, my dear,
Till a’ the seas gang dry:
Till a’ the seas gang dry, my dear,
And the rocks melt with the sun;
I will luve thee still my dear,
When the sands of life shall run.
And fare thee weel, my only Luve,
And fare thee weel a while!
And I will come again, my Luve,
Tho’ it were ten thousand mile.
I was walking from Princeton University to Westminster Choir College shortly after a brief summer rain. I couldn’t resist taking photographs of some lovely roses as I strolled along the sidewalk. The poem popped into my head as I was cropping the photos. I realize my roses are not red, but the poem insisted on being included in this post.
*poem by Robert Burns
“Sorrow prepares you for joy.
It violently sweeps everything out of your house, so that new joy can find space to enter. It shakes the yellow leaves from the bough of your heart, so that fresh, green leaves can grow in their place.
Image by Will Law, Blooming Hill roots, via Flickr CC
It pulls up the rotten roots, so that new roots hidden beneath have room to grow. Whatever sorrow shakes from your heart, far better things will take their place.”
This Rumi quote has been in my draft posts for quite a while. I believe I found the quote through Soul Gatherings, and I saved it thinking I might have something profound to say about it eventually. I chose a few photographs to enhance the imagery and in the process my thoughts got a kick-start.
I do read more (and different meanings) into this quote now than I did last summer, though. The anniversary of my dad’s death is quickly approaching (Feb. 4). It will be two years since he died, and I find I still have a lot of baggage to sort through emotionally and spiritually.
Also, most of you know I’ve been adjusting to (and grieving for what was left behind, really) all the changes this last year brought. I left a home and community of loving, creative, supportive friends after 17 years (and also left our 18-year-old son there to finish his senior year of HS). I’m still very much up and down in how I’m feeling about and dealing with all of these issues from day-to-day, even now.
This Rumi quote has, at times, made me angry as I browsed past it in my drafts. “Sorrow prepares you for joy? Yeah, right. I’d rather avoid the sorrow part, thank you very much.” I didn’t/don’t want things or people swept violently out of my life then or now — the sorrow is still very present some days.
But then the older and wiser me chimes in. Yes, I realize sorrow is indeed an integral and unavoidable part of life. Change happens. For better or worse: It happens to us all.
I continue to have Faith and Hope.
I always believe that I’m going to slog through it,
that I will find equilibrium again,
that the fog will eventually lift.
Oh, I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain. I’ve seen sunny days that I thought would never end. I’ve seen lonely times when I could not find a friend.*
I’ve watched nature programs enough to know that after devastating, ravaging forest fires come meadows of lush new grass and rich swaths of wildflowers.
Weeping may last through the night, but Joy comes in the morning. (Ps. 30:5 NLT)
For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. — A time to tear down and a time to build up. A time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance. A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones. A time to embrace and a time to turn away. A time to search and a time to quit searching. A time to keep and a time to throw away. A time to tear and a time to mend. A time to be quiet and a time to speak.**
On the positive side, I am on alert for the new green leaves and roots: both figuratively and literally.
My mini daffodils, TTQ cc
My heirloom lilac, TTQ cc
backside daffodil, photo by quirkyjazz, aka Jill
daffodil in late afternoon sun; photo by quirkyjazz, aka Jill
Literally, I planted a lot of spring blooming bulbs in our new yard. I will be thankful and happy when I see them. I look forward to fragile new growth as summer follows spring, as the roots and leaves grow larger and greener each day.
Figuratively, I have made some small forays to find and make friends and to begin to send out roots and branches (creatively, musically and otherwise).
I am thankful for each of you who read my blog. Many of you have been hanging in here with me for pretty much the whole year I’ve been at this. I appreciate the friendships that have sprung up, the emotional and creative support and inspiration I gather (and hopefully share), and the incredibly kind and thoughtful comments exchanged.
I just tried to find a comment from many months ago that has stuck in my mind. I looked through all the pages of comments from all my posts and could not find it. I’m not sure who said it, but I DO remember the meaning of it. I must have either posted something very short or re-blogged something I found interesting but did so saying I didn’t have any coherent thoughts or time to share them because of the move and all the goodbyes and such — and someone very kindly said (and I’m paraphrasing): That’s fine. Don’t worry. We’ll be here waiting for you on the other end of it. When things get back to normal, we will be here ready to hear about it.
Thank you for caring.
*lyrics by James Taylor from “Fire and Rain.” **excerpts from Ecclesiastes 3, New Living Translation.
“I want to look at light, rather than have light illuminate another thing,” says artist James Turrell. “I’m interested in the thingness of light itself, so that light is the revelation.”
“There is truth in light.”
This guy BOUGHT A CRATER in Arizona and has been working to turn it into a work of art for the last 30 years!!
I have always been entranced by the color of light at different times of the day and how it illuminates the air itself (or so it seems at certain moments). Monet, other Impressionists, and artists in general experimented (and still do!) with new techniques to attempt to capture light on canvas. The best photographers are masters of capturing the nuances of light, shadow, color and contrast.
Here are a few of my attempts to capture light:
In June 2009, my family went on a camping trip to Turkey Run State Park in Indiana. We have been there dozens of times but this day was magical. The fog had settled into the chasms and was lifting as the sun beams began to peek into the caverns.
Thankfully I captured several photos before I dropped my camera on the rocks and it landed in a small stream. True story! My camera was relatively new and I had to spend part of the next day to go buy a new one because we were just starting our vacation. But these photos and the fact that they somehow survived the death of my camera, more than made up for the loss in my opinion. These are some of my favorite photos EVER that I have taken.
On the trail that day we talked with some people who said they had walked that trail usually about 2 times a week for at least the last 20 years but they never saw the light like it was that misty morning.
James Turrell Exhibit (shreyareddy2105.wordpress.com) Some nice pics, as well as a general description of the artist and the recent installation.
These two incredibly intelligent, creative, wise and strong-willed women were friends. Both were and are internationally famous. As I read about their friendship and refreshed my memory about their individual accomplishments I discovered several quotes from each of these ladies I’d like to share here.
“Let the beauty of what we love be what we do.” — Rumi
I have a necklace that has this Rumi quote on it. This is what I endeavor to do with my life every day. It isn’t always easy to stay focused and to be in that zone of creativity/beauty/joy, but I do make that my goal.
“When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy.” — Rumi
Doing things from your soul. Yes, it takes energy and some days you just would rather be a slacker and stay home in bed. But once you put yourself out there and get moving, you realize that who you are and what you do matters greatly to those around you. I have been experiencing and living in this river of joy this week. The college students in the choirs I accompany surprised me at our last concert with bouquets of flowers and much pomp and circumstance. (There was a throne, a crown, a dozen red roses, a bouquet of flowers, a box of tissues, and alumni returning to sing with the choirs not one but TWO songs sung in my honor!!) I was overwhelmed by their generosity and by the things they said and did to express their love and appreciation. They gave me a scrapbook full of letters. Some were beautifully illustrated and amazingly creative and others were written on plain paper with a pencil. ALL of them touched me deeply. They all in their individual styles shared stories, memories, gratitude, appreciation and wishes for a bright future for me. I was and am overwhelmed. Did I already say that? Well, I was. I am. What a wonderful thing to be told that I have made a difference to and had a positive impact on so many of these young lives! I will never forget what they did for me. Their words and actions will stay with me in my heart forever right with the memories of all the joy and music we’ve shared over the years.
“I have found the joy no tongue can tell,
How its waves of glory roll;
It is like a great o’erflowing well,
Springing up within my soul.
There is Joy unspeakable and full of glory!
Oh, the half has never yet been told!”
— Barney Warren (hymn written in 1900)
“But listen to me. For one moment quit being sad.
Hear blessings dropping their blossoms around you.” — Rumi
These quotes about being quiet to listen for blessings dropping and about choosing joy are ones that I also find inspiring. My mom and I were just talking about this today. I said, “Some people are just determined to be unhappy.” True! It takes a certain core of fortitude to seek out and choose to recognize (and then embrace!) the joy. It is always there. Sometimes it is deeply buried and we feel the darkness settling in. Living through those times takes endurance, family, faith, friends — most of all it takes LOVE.
“We can not cure the world of sorrows but we can choose to live in joy.” — Joseph Campbell
“Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day.” — Henri J.M. Nouwen
“Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.” — Ps. 30:5 New Living Translation
“Yahweh, your God, is in the midst of you, a mighty one who will save. He will rejoice over you with joy. He will calm you in his love. He will rejoice over you with singing.” — Zephaniah 3:17 WEB (World English Bible)
A dear friend of mine sent me this scripture from Zephaniah recently when we were needing to make the decision about taking the new job and moving to another city. I really like the imagery of being calmed with LOVE and that an eternal being (God) would rejoice over me with singing.
Another friend reminded me of this Dr. Seuss wisdom:
“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”
— Dr. Seuss
I have shed many, many tears this week:
Many, many tears of Joy —
A few tears of sorrow.
I also smiled. I smiled a LOT.
I am sad that it is over.
But I am VERY, very, very glad it happened.
I work with some absolutely phenomenal people on a daily and weekly basis. I am a professional pianist. One of my jobs, is to play for undergraduate voice majors during their weekly lessons and performances. One of the professors I work with was taught by voice teacher Thom Houser.
That professor, my good friend Sue, sent out this poem when Thom died a while ago. I spoke to me, and I saved it.
This is what Sue said when she sent the poem:
Thom loved this poem. He devoted his life to helping us
“be more ourselves…”
Is this not what a great teacher does?…help us to find more of who we truly are, deep inside. There is true joy in each of us if we stop enough to hear it sing.
(photo credits for blooming crabapple gallery: quirkyjazz)(JillHasker)
The Wild Cherry Tree
Why does the wild cherry tree
on the Hudson
So the green
of the elm is greener than
when it stands alone,
are one of those
who make others
more what they
Of those who draw them to the extreme verge,
that is what
It usually happens in February. I get the urge to make a quilt using wild and crazy colors and/or a wild and crazy pattern. I eagerly await the emergence of Spring flowers. It seems to take forever. Every single year. I am an impatient resident of winter. It isn’t that I don’t appreciate the beauty of winter — I do! But by the time February rolls around, my eyes are feeling deprived of color and of sun.
One of my favorite “Spring” poems is this one:
Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
BY A.E. Housman
Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bough,
And stands about the woodland ride
Wearing white for Eastertide.
Now, of my threescore years and ten,
Twenty will not come again,
And take from seventy springs a score,
It only leaves me fifty more.
And since to look at things in bloom
Fifty springs are little room,
About the woodlands I will go
To see the cherry hung with snow.
I am about a few decades older that the person in this poem. I most likely don’t have even 50 more springs to see the branches “hung with snow” — with those lovely white and fragrant blooms.
I certainly plan to enjoy each and every spring (and every moment of every day!) for all the years I have left to live.
I love taking photographs of flowers.
I love all kinds of flower, but I seem to gravitate to roses, spring blooms and to day lilies.
I even take pictures of flowers in vases and pots that I happen to have at home.
I took a few pics of the potted hyacinths and tulips I bought this week (Valentine gifts for my two teenagers).
purple hyacinth macro
yellow tulips in winter sunlight
yellow tulips in winter sunlight
Here are some of my favorites from other seasons and times (all taken by me):
Rose glow, photo by quirkyjazz
I just found these beautifully inspiring Big Blooms by Paul Lange today. Please follow the link to see Lange’s photographs. It is worth a look.
As a prominent fashion photographer for 25 years, Paul Lange has had his photographs featured in such publications as Vogue, Glamour and Elle. It was only eight years ago that he decided to make the switch to Fine Art photography, using the skills he had acquired in fashion to create his own original series. Big Blooms, which was started back in 2007, is a series that gives us a fresh new appreciation for flowers. He calls it Big Blooms because his photos of the flowers are blown up or as he says, “thrown out of scale.” With every single portrait, he takes into account lighting, line, form and composition, using the same approach he’s used in portraiture or fashion. –quote from the blog by alice on mymodernmet.com