Sunday, January 29, 2012

art as prayer

Long before pop culture reduced the word icon to mean Lady GaGa, the definition was a religious work of art. What I learned in a fascinating lecture by Dr. Celia Sinclair is that an icon can also be a window to the soul. I never thought about meditating over one, but she left us with this quote that opened my eyes:

"Just as we are responsible for what we eat, likewise we are responsible for what we are looking at. It is not difficult to become victim of the numerous visual stimulations that surround us. Yet we can make a choice. When it is not possible to pray, we can always briefly look at an icon, which is so intimately linked with the experience of love." - Henri Nouwen

12th-century icon of Archangel Gabriel from Novgorod, called "Golden-Locked Angel," currently exhibited in the State Russian Museum.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

tangerine dreams

If there's one critical life skill I've mastered, it's an ability to pick good produce. Especially citrus. Yesterday I drove across town to replenish a supply of honey tangerines from the Fresh Market. So juicy and delicious. Growing up in Florida, the mild winter months were citrus time. I return there every January, if only in my heart.


An innocent enough gesture, the placing of a
mesh bag of tangerines into a basket, among
golden raisins, coffee beans, carton of cream -
a crumpled list somewhere underneath.
You wheel on, past butter, milk and eggs, taking
what you need. Past the glass case of birthday
cakes, the man slicing coldcuts in the deli,
past rye and pumpernickel and magazines.
No longer noticing these things that always
speak of pleasure and plenty, you are
miles and miles away, across state lines,
caught up in different weather patterns,
different causes for concern.
But it is still January.

Winter is citrus season, season of memories.
Of blood orange, pink grapefruit, tangelo.
You can lose yourself in aisles of trees,
branches heavy, smudge pots burning
like incense. You can lose yourself
in a citrus grove,
in the past,
in another January,
far from piles of brightness
in a produce section.

Lucky is the friend of a grove owner whose
very nature is abundance. He helps you
fill brown grocery bags with fruit at
Sunday dusk before the school week begins
and teaches you a great truth as well:
the best ones are anything but beautiful,
mottled and thin-skinned, their goodness
lost to the unknowing.
Fill, fill the treat sacks with all you can,
as if it were October. Ahead,
two men amble,
heads bent in conversation.
This could be an olive grove,
a lemon grove,
a field of sunflowers.
This could be the happiest day of your life!
The only twinge of melancholy a glimpse of
migrant camps in the distance.

Later, sorting prizes to the hum of
an ancient juicer, you can't imagine
the price these jewels will command
some day, the price you'll pay for
remembering. It's almost too much
to bear now, when a single mesh bag
is all you bring home.
But it will have to do.

(image: Pinterest)

Friday, January 20, 2012

what not to wear

It's been several years since I read What Not To Wear, but am still laughing and still following the authors' advice for a 5'3 person with a short waist, broad shoulders and an un-swanlike neck: no turtlenecked or double-breasted items, more chest should be exposed for an elongated neck with neutral shoes to enlongate the legs, avoid large prints and long skirts, etc, etc, etc. It's all proved spot on! Even though I definitively know what not to wear, there are still a few garments I persist in dragging out from time to time: the necklace of negativity, a (bad) mood ring, purse-fulls of procrastination and, on occasion, even the shawl of shame. A good closet purge can be a girl's true friend. I'm paring down to just the essentials in 2012. And the only accessory that really matters: a smile.
(image: Pinterest)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

present and accounted for

If the key to life is staying right here in the present moment, experiencing it fully, how exactly do we do that? By hearing the clank and hum of the radiator and feeling grateful for warmth on a cold winter morning. By tasting the citrus grove in a sip of grapefruit juice. By listening closely, looking intently, breathing deeply. Over and over and over again.
(image: Pinterest)

Saturday, January 14, 2012

drop a line

I'll confess: I'm not a good journaler. I love love love the idea, but never follow-through with consistency. I've got lots of very cool books with lined pages, not a lot of content in any of them. When I came across the one pictured above, though, it seemed super doable and user-friendly. Especially for a new parent or a busy student. Then I got a note from a favorite friend, saying: My travelogue of 2011 was a 10-words-a-day journal. If you tend to run out of gas on journaling, give this a try - it's like writing a Haiku each night and records enough to jog a memory. Gair is hands-down one of the best writers I've ever known. Brilliant, creative, chock full of great ideas and joi de vivre. I'm going to follow her lead. Starting right where I am. Today, here, now. Ten words. One line. How about joining me?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

book fare

New Royal Mail stamps celebrate the work of British writer Roald Dahl whose books for children are among the most adored. What reader of any age wouldn't be drawn in by a massive peach, a chocolate factory and a little girl who devours every book in the library? Looking at these familiar covers transports me right back to the school book fairs my children attended throughout the years, happy times. A representative would usually come in advance for an assembly and work the kids into a near frenzy over popular new titles: The Mysterious Benedict Society, Esperanza Rising, Maniac Magee, Frindle, A Year Down Yonder, Chasing Vermeer. And series: The Indian in the Cupboard, Artemis Fowl, Captain Underpants, The Shakespeare Stealer. How excited they got and how wonderful it was to see them so caught up in books. I wish that for every child. A forever gift, the love of reading.

Monday, January 9, 2012

what time is it?

Time and again, I am reminded that there are two ways to consider the concept of time and wonder why I always seem to default to chronos, or chronological, in which every minute is regarded in a fleeting, sand-through-hourglass kind of way, provoking the feeling of perpetually coming up short, running out of time. When I could be living into the sacrament of God's time, kairos, which exists in each present moment, is measured in meaning and hope, and is infinite. I'm lucky to go to a church that encourages pausing and pondering exactly which clock ticks for me. To choose whether the A.D. in 2012 A.D. is going to be defined in terms of after death or anno domini (the year of the Lord). And then to live into that.
(image: Pinterest)

Saturday, January 7, 2012

flowery thoughts

Ducking into a friend's florist had to be the ultimate winter Saturday morning treat. It was like an elves' workshop, everyone madly preparing for three big weddings that would take place today. One gorgeous arrangement was the size of my kitchen table! Winter white orchids, lilies and roses, hydrangeas big as snowballs. And the fragrance . . . pure sweet heaven. But amid all of that lushness, what I was drawn to most was a more minimalist display of boxwood balls. A different kind of lovely, simple and serene. January-esque.
(image: Pinterest)

Thursday, January 5, 2012


One of the nicest things about winter is the urge to draw inward. To settle in with thoughts and dreams and let ideas sort themselves out. It's soul-satisfying to spend time with favorite artists and writers, studying their work under the heart's microscope. I am drawn to the collages of Romare Bearden and love learning about his early years here in Charlotte and his grown-up life in Harlem. I could read the words of Rumi, the 13th century Persian poet, a hundred times over and discover something new in them - or in myself - each time. Writing and knitting and reading are almost therapeutic in their nurturing effect. So is a good cup of tea, brewed just right and sipped from a cup and saucer.

Monday, January 2, 2012

book of life, new chapter

Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year. What a great example of intentionality by the great Ralph Waldo Emerson. And what a perfect thought to hold onto for 2012. The new year is a thick book of creamy blank pages with thoughts, ideas, aspirations, attitude and actions waiting to be written. Each day, we dip a pen into the deep inkwell of self and the scribbled words become the story of our life.
(image: Pinterest)