Sunday, May 30, 2010

picturing heaven

The kingdom of heaven is at hand. That's something I believe absolutely. I've seen it and felt it, mysterious glimpses through a sort of earthly veil, appearing in nature and art and even the most daily of details. But, above all, in other people. These are the things that keep my faith alive amid loss, the cruelty that some people inflict on others, war, nature's sometime fury, the terrible oil spill. There's certainly plenty of hell at hand, too, and it can be so blatant and overwhelming. Shine a light on it with your life, but don't dwell there. You'll miss the heaven.
(click image to enlarge)

Thursday, May 27, 2010

butterfly thoughts

Imagine your letters fluttering to their destination on the wings of this pretty new stamp. Here's your answer to the quandary of how much postage to put on those odd-sized square envelopes that are so popular these days. I may be extravagant and use them on all of my letters and cards. Even the occasional bill.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


If you don't recognize the writer/illustrator's name, you'll surely remember Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel and The Little House, which was awarded the 1943 Caldecott Medal. Virginia Lee Burton: A Life in Art, the biography by Barbara Elleman, is a treasure as well. Who could ever imagine all that Virginia Lee Burton (1909 - 1968) did in her life? Her design talent is remarkable, as was her work ethic. So was the family life she created in New England for her artist husband and two sons. Tying all of it together were her sparkling spirit and a sense of creativity that permeated every facet of her existence. Her biography is a joy to read, filled with energy, wisdom and grace. Plus extraordinary facts, history and, of course, the visuals. It's inspiring.
Being a children's book illustrator is only part of her rich and layered story, but it is how she is most commonly remembered. Accepting the Caldecott award, Virginia Lee Burton said "The basic things are always the most important, and good art, certainly a basic thing, impressed on young minds through the medium of children's book, is without a doubt one of the best possible ways of giving children a true conception of the world they live in."

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Very truly, Juliet

Serendipity found me ensconced in the Saturday afternoon showing of Letters to Juliet next to my favorite Italian girl in the world. The reviews were flat but we went anyway, hoping to enjoy the sights and sounds of Italy for a few hours and dream of our own trip there one day. Little did we know that we would fall in love with the sweet, sweet movie which centers around the craft of writing. There are, of course, the fabled letters left for Juliet Capulet to this day at the wall beneath her balcony in Verona and answered by the 'Secretaries of Juliet.' There is also a girl who dreams of writing stories. She sets this one in motion with a beautiful, heartfelt letter. There were scribbled notes, elegant stationery and envelopes, thick journals, a silver cup full of pens on an antique desk, the basket full of stamped, handwritten letters dropped into the mailbox on the street corner. More than a love story, this is a love letter to letter writing.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

a library tale

With the future of Charlotte, North Carolina, public libraries in financial peril, I offer up yet another tale about books and children and librarians. And serendipity and wonder and changed lives. Tomas and the Library Lady is based on the life of Tomas Rivera (1935 - 1984), a child of migrant farm workers who grew up to become the chancellor of University of California, Riverside, and is widely regarded as the 'founding father of modern Chicano literature.'

Gorgeously illustrated by Raul Colon, the story will leave a poignant lump in your throat. I think that our library system here tried to change too much with the times, becoming a cross between a technology center and a big chain bookstore. When what really matters is that libraries simply exist, no matter how humble, and that there is someone inside whose passion and purpose is to connect people with the written word.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


A graduation announcement for beautiful Rachel arrived in the mail yesterday with the Charlotte Latin School crest elegantly imprinted at the top. Gail and Henry's precious daughter got married on Saturday. A celebration was held for newly ordained Mary that evening. McGowin graduated from The University of the South on Sunday. This is the season of grand scale transitions, of endings that are really beginnings backwards. Milestones R Us, I laughed with friend who, like me and probably like you, is holding onto dear life as it whizzes by.

Not all milestones come with fanfare, but they're pivotal in their own way. Just last week Mom won a poetry competition, Gerin left for France, a dear friend left a demeaning relationship, another finished a brutal round of chemotherapy. Still another had a birthday with margaritas. David was accepted to a prestigious writing program at St. Andrews College in Scotland, the high school yearbook arrived, Brandon and the other eighth-graders were confirmed at Christ Episcopal Church. Lilies and hydrangeas came into bloom, Sandra buried her great Dad in Chapel Hill. "Life marches by," Katherine Hepburn once said in a movie. "You better get on with it."

Saturday, May 15, 2010

soul Saturday

This cheery collage was made by Laurie for a friend of hers who is undergoing chemotherapy. But it has a message for the rest of us, too. Make time for what counts, have faith, smile, nourish, live good, shine on. Great marching orders for this precious Saturday, the weekend and all the days to come. (click to enlarge)

Thursday, May 13, 2010

pining for simple

Yesterday I arrived early at my appointed destination about an hour and a half northwest of the city. I ended up with 45 minutes to while away in the sweet small town that was like a pastoral page out of time. There was time to really notice the picturesque houses with their front porches and gardens full of colorful snapdragons. To walk down Main Street and browse in the great little public library, then drink a vanilla milkshake at the Hardee's and people watch. There was hardly any traffic. It was very centering and peaceful, no distractions. It made me wonder what it would have been like to grow up in a town like that, or raise a family there. I think I would have liked that.

Monday, May 10, 2010

mother of all days

There were just-picked strawberries for breakfast and poached eggs atop crabcakes atop a bed of spring spinach and covered in Hollandaise sauce. There were handmade cards, sweet calls, a pair of swingy hoop earrings to make me feel young and wind chimes to hang from the dogwood tree for music on breezy days. There was a great sermon, a long, sunny walk with the dog, ice cream in the afternoon and even a wander through the bookstore. When you're blessed with children, every day becomes a mother's day of sorts, running the gamut from maddening to magnificent. And you wouldn't give back a single minute.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Dad's birthday

My Father

The memory of my father is wrapped up in
white paper, like sandwiches taken for a day at work.

Just as a magician takes towers and rabbits
out of his hat, he drew love from his small body,

and the rivers of his hands
overflowed with good deeds.

- Yehuda Amichai

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Food, unincorporated

Still reeling from watching the documentary Food, Inc., and need to watch it again to write down the helpful, hopeful ideas listed at the end for eating healthier and more humanely to animals. The whole 'whole' foods thing is really about the cycle of nature. And the circle of life. All of the processed, genetically engineered products manufactured by food industry mega-conglomerates have just been one more way for people to become disconnected from themselves, each other, the animal world and the earth that is home to us all.

On the other end of the spectrum, you have Common Grounds Farm Stand in Charlotte, which opens for the summer season on June 1st. And markets like it all across the country offering fresh, local, organic, homemade eats that not only make you feel good but also glad to be alive. Common Grounds even goes a step further by creating one more wonderful link in the food chain: donating its proceeds to feed the hungry.

Monday, May 3, 2010

a librarian tale

At its core, the relationship between children and books is shaped by a person who introduces the two. It is often a parent or teacher, but might also be a sibling or, in many cases, a librarian. I had never heard of the Pack Horse Librarians depicted in Heather Henson's wonderful story That Book Woman. They were part of a program founded by President Roosevelt in the 1930s as part of the Works Progress Administration. The project was created to bring books to remote regions like the Appalachian mountains where there were no libraries and very few schools. This is the beautifully told story of one little boy who didn't want a thing to do with books until his admiration for the brave woman who delivered them won him over.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Faith can give us the courage to face the uncertainties of the future.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
The Certosa Monastery. Florence, Italy