Wednesday, September 29, 2010

seasonal shelves

Are we any of us ever too grown up to enjoy a good children's book? Just like back at Lakemont, Myers Park Traditional and Dale Mabry Elementary Schools, a change in seasons calls for changes on the bookshelf. If you need it, inspiration abounds at libraries and bookstores in autumn. A feast of sweet treats.

Monday, September 27, 2010

emphasis on good

Good morning, later September rainy day. Good morning: cooler weather, soft clouds, earth tones, light jackets, just-picked pears. To children at their desks, people in line at the coffee shop, grandmothers in their gardens, birds in the trees. Good morning open book, new chapter, fresh page. Good morning chance to begin again. Again.
(click on image to enlarge)

Sunday, September 26, 2010

faith notes

Poet Mary Oliver says that we live in a culture that discourages us from paying attention to our soul. Theologian Parker Palmer calls it living a 'divided life,' a life set against itself. Episcopal minister Chip Edens says that the only way life is going to get better is when we begin to care for our soul. This involves practicing our faith and observing sabbath time. It means living a life committed and ordered toward ongoing healing, renewal and growth. A lifetime labor of love directed inward and upward. Then permeating outward.

Friday, September 24, 2010

more chrysanthemums

This time, a haiku written by Matsuo Basho (1644 - 1694) and translated into English by Nanae Tamura:
having morning tea
a priest in deep silence:

Thursday, September 23, 2010

flower power

"Her name must be everything she is," said her mother.
"Her name must be absolutely perfect," said her father.
And it was.
That's exactly how I felt when we named Italia and surely how everyone feels when naming a child. If I had to name a perfect children's story, Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes just might be it. The writing, the illustrations, the spirit of it - priceless. Every word a petal, the story blossoms into a message you'll want your child to carry in her heart forever:
"Your name is beautiful," said her mother.
"Precious and priceless and fascinating and winsome," said her father.
"It's everything you are," said her mother.
"Absolutely perfect," said her father.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

season of the senses

A chrysanthemum for you on this first day of fall. A gingersnap, too, and cranberry ginger ale to whet your whistle. Though the leaves are a lingering green and we're still waiting for sweater weather, the almanac tells us autumn is officially here. Soon we'll be putting a pumpkin on the doorstep and an apple pie in the oven, wearing jackets the same russets and golds that the trees are wearing. When is the sky ever so blue, the air this clear? Only for a few brilliant, cinnamon sprinkled months each year. Enjoy every minute.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The soul is the essence of our identity - the very thing that connects us to God. It is the place God dwells in us. When the soul is forgotten or abandoned, we lose our way and our life becomes unmanageable. When tended, the soul becomes a powerful force through which God acts to give us power, strength, and the capacity to love.
Chip Edens, Rector, Christ Episcopal Church, Charlotte, North Carolina

Friday, September 17, 2010

cute as a bug

The drawings of Serge Bloch are deceptively simple. They convey a moment or emotion almost like visual haiku. I discovered them in his little book filled with idioms, those funny common phrases we all use that have a figurative, not literal, meaning. We only understand what they mean because we've always heard them: eat like a horse, get in a pickle, barking up the wrong tree. They're passed along in our language through the generations and we're sometimes caught grasping for an explanation when a child asks what one means. Butterflies in My Stomach chronicles the first day of school for a little boy who misses his dog. It's told in idioms both hilarious and poignant. Each sparse illustration says it all. Makes you see that sometimes paring things down to their essence can be the highest form of art.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

view over my desk

My first purchase for my first apartment after college was a print of this iconic magazine cover. 'View of the World' by Saul Steinberg (1914-1999) graces the wall above my desk to this day. Born in Romania, Steinberg illustrated covers and drew cartoons for The New Yorker for more than 50 years. I love the spirit of his work. Today I discovered an artist of this generation whose drawings fill me with the same sense of delight. Tomorrow I'll tell you about him.
© The Saul Steinberg Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Cover reprinted with permission of The New Yorker magazine All rights reserved.

Monday, September 13, 2010

a new view

It's possible to become numb to the familiar. To look but not really see, to listen without hearing, to simply go through the motions at home and work and out in the world without really feeling a bit of it in your heart. All of the little details we take for granted in everyday life that are really such blessings. The stuff that matters. Try things differently today. Focus on the familiar as if you've never encountered it before: that beloved face across the breakfast table, the view outside your office window, the trusty car that gets you from here to there, all of the people and places that make up your daily round. See what a difference fresh eyes make.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

princess problems

Some days there's no escaping the minor difficulties of life. I like the phrase princess problems to describe these difficulties which thankfully have, if not a picture-book happy ending, at least a reasonable resolution. Just yesterday it was the rain-out of a photo shoot that was supposed to capture Carolina blue skies over the mountains. Today it was waking up covered in poison ivy and leaving the doctor's office to find the car with a crushed fender and a note on the windshield. Then the e-mail about a new brochure being beautifully printed . . . without a critical correction being made. Every single incident has a solid solution, though, after which all affected will regroup and carry on. Which, in the grand scheme of things, makes each problem feel less a royal pain and more akin to a luxury.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Hearts & Minds R Us

If the most important stuff of human existence flows through our hearts and minds, it stands to reason that nurturing both of these should be our primary job in life. This kind of 'work' requires a hopeful attitude, healthy things to eat, daily exercise, openness to whatever comes along, a willingness to listen and learn, letting go of negative thoughts, habits, behaviors. It takes faith, creativity and lots and lots and lots of love, toward self and others. We're all of us already on the job. It's just a matter of truly showing up.
(click on image to enlarge)

Sunday, September 5, 2010

labor and delivery

Somewhere along the line, it seems like good old fashioned hard work, the honest days' kind, got a bum rap. That a good life was not one where sleeves were rolled up, hands got dirty and the midday meal was carried in a durable lunchbox. Leisure became the be-all, end-all and only chumps would punch a time clock. I'm so glad my friend Kathy ignored that memo and instead raised millions of dollars to build a model program for the chronically homeless. Layne did, too, which is why she's at her desk into the wee hours most nights, creating lesson plans that not only satisfy stringent state curriculum requirements and different learning styles, but enchant her lucky students. Alex is at a patient's bedside right now, administering medicine and comfort. Marty ministers powerfully to a church congregation hungry for hope. Their hours are long and the compensation often comes up short. But it's staggering to think what would be lost if they weren't on the job.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

New Notebook

in a new notebook
run, even and fine,
like telephone wires
across a shadowy landscape.

With wet, black strokes
the alphabet settles between them,
comfortable as a flock of crows.

©Judith Thurman

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

lifelong learning

Here's a life-changer: pause at the end of each day and ask yourself what three things you've learned. This exercise is a little more abstract for those of us not in school anymore, but once you get in the groove, naming the three things becomes second nature. Before long you'll develop a much more curious approach to living, noticing more details and synthesizing them in myriad new ways. Just today, for instance, I have already learned that laughter is like a cloud that helps you float above your problems and see them with better perspective. That a certain brown dog loves socializing at the bus stop. That Berengia is the former land bridge between Siberia and Alaska over which animals and people migrated from Asia into North America. That's three things already! And it's not even lunchtime yet.