Monday, May 4, 2015

soul-like wings

In all places, then, and in all seasons,
Flowers expand their light and soul-like wings,
Teaching us, by most persuasive reasons,
How akin they are to human things.

- from "Flowers" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

And so I return to one of my oft photographed subjects: flowers, books.

Always looking to them, seeking to understand, seeking to feel more fully the order of what exists.

I'm interested in the soul-like wings of flowers. In their sadnesses. The pure joy of them.

In their silent utterance: hallelujah.

And in this exclamation, an encouragement: flower.

                        ........Life, I do not understand. The
Days tick by, each so unique, each so alike: what is that chatter
In the grass? May is not a flowering month so much as shades
Of green, yellow-green, blue-green, or emerald or dusted like
The lilac leaves. The lilac trusses stand in bud. A cardinal
Passes like a flying tulip, alights and nails the green day
Down. One flame in a fire of sea-soaked, copper-fed wood:
A red that leaps from green and holds it there. Reluctantly
The plane tree, always late, as though from age, opens up and
Hangs its seed balls out. The apples flower. The pear is past.
Winter is suddenly so far away, behind, ahead. From the train
A stand of coarse grass in fuzzy flower. Is it for miracles
We live? I like it when the morning sun lights up my room
Like a yellow jelly bean, an inner glow. May mutters, “Why
Ask questions?” or, “What are the questions you wish to ask?”

- James Schuyler, from his poem "Hymn to Life"

Is it for miracles we live? Here we are in the month of May, which is not so much 'a flowering month,' but a month for gathering light, perhaps, a month for questions. 

A month for noticing the inner glow of yellow jelly beans. Such delights as these.

For remembering how winter is, suddenly! so far away. 

Maybe we are gathering, and maybe we are waiting. 


by Leza Lowitz

You keep waiting for something to happen,
the thing that lifts you out of yourself,

catapults you into doing all the things you've put off
the great things you're meant to do in your life,

but somehow never quite get to.
You keep waiting for the planets to shift

the new moon to bring news,
the universe to align, something to give.

Meanwhile, the pile of papers, the laundry, the dishes the job --
it all stacks up while you keep hoping

for some miracle to blast down upon you,
scattering the piles to the winds.

Sometimes you lie in bed, terrified of your life.
Sometimes you laugh at the privilege of waking.

But all the while, life goes on in its messy way.
And then you turn forty. Or fifty. Or sixty...

and some part of you realizes you are not alone
and you find signs of this in the animal kingdom --

when a snake sheds its skin its eyes glaze over,
it slinks under a rock, not wanting to be touched,

and when caterpillar turns to butterfly
if the pupa is brushed, it will die --

and when the bird taps its beak hungrily against the egg
it's because the thing is too small, too small,

and it needs to break out.
And midlife walks you into that wisdom

that this is what transformation looks like --
the mess of it, the tapping at the walls of your life,

the yearning and writhing and pushing,
until one day, one day

you emerge from the wreck
embracing both the immense dawn

and the dusk of the body,
glistening, beautiful

just as you are.

And what's true and beautiful, above all, is that "life goes on in its messy way." But you do emerge, go on emerging, into who and what you are in spite of anyone or anything that might attempt to thwart you. 

And yes, there it is in nature, too, speaking to us, persistently, without fail, every green and immense spring. 

"There are always new emotions in going back to something that I know very well. I suppose this is very odd, because most people have to find fresh things to paint. I'm actually bored by fresh things to paint."

"The commonplace is the thing, but it's hard to find. Then if you believe in it, have a love for it, this specific thing will become a universal." 

"I have my motif..." - Cezanne quoted by Charles Wright

I was thinking, one morning, out walking, taking my usual photographs, going home to write my usual poem/essay, how it is that we spend years, years and years, seeking our motifs, when they're there all along. And then when we find them, we feel guilty somehow, as if we ought to be branching out, attempting more. But that really, what we need is only to go deeper, we only need to fall more deeply in love with this thing, which is our calling. We only need to trust our belief in whatever small song. 

If I moved to New York City, or Rome, or to some cabin in the woods, I'm sure I'd simply resume photographing trees, leaves, flowers. The everyday, the very ordinary. 

I recently read a blog post about increasing traffic to your blog (not that this is a big goal of mine really) which said among other things that you should never post more than three photos per post. And I can see why this is but since I'm breaking about 27 other rules of good blogging, I decided not to worry much about it. 

But one good rule of blogging that I can get behind is sharing the love, sharing what I'm reading, noticing, both on and off the internet. So.

Firstly, Lydia Davis. I read her can't and won't a while back and have been reading the collected. Her novel is on my bedside table, waiting patiently in queue. Her writing is utterly unique, quietly brilliant. And immediately captivating. I most love the very short stories, partly because I've lately been attempting to write very short poem-essays. Though I do find it weird - having to / wanting to / feeling compelled to label them. Who knows really what they are. 

Recently my blog post, prescription for calm, was mentioned on the very well known and inspiring blog, Chookooloonks. Also, check out her book The Beauty of Different. It's lovely. 

I continue to love the Artist Project that the Met Museum has created. The On Being blog always inspires. 

Susan Licht's photos always make me gasp. Always makes me happy. Leigh's knitting and musings, same. 

Orion Magazine is a good place. And here's a new discovery for me: Eat This Poem, which combines two of my favourite things - food and literature. 

And one last fun link: 10 famous people reading poems

Have a wonderful week everyone!


  1. Oh, you're kind, Shawna, what a lovely way to start my week, thank you. So many wonderful thoughts and images to take with me this week. That Wyeth quote has especially hit home - such faith. xo

    1. p.s. a great and welcome surprise to see Kathe Kollwitz featured on the latest Artist Project - Monday keeps getting better : )

    2. So glad you liked the Wyeth and the Kollwitz! yay!

  2. oh what a lovely Monday surprise, both this post and your very kind mention, Shawna. I can't thank you enough for always inspiring me and allowing me to steal your words on occasion. :) I am happy that you break the rules as all these photos are all so evocative and so "May"! A beautiful emergence, how quickly we forget that long, cold winter. I'm saving that Leza Lowitz poem, love it!

    1. It's good to break the rules, I think :) You're such an inspiration to me. I hope everyone here goes and looks at your amazing photos.

  3. 'Waiting' felt like a gift, even though it isnt MY bday. . . Very Hobbit-like, to give gifts to others on your special day :) Have a good one, my friend.

    1. Ha! Thanks, Cathy, glad you liked the poem. xo

  4. Your pairing of the scroll-like roses with aged books is always perfection.
    Thank you for all the sharing - yours, the blogs, the light....

    1. Nice of you to say, Sandra! Thanks so much.

  5. Sorry...I like more photographs. I crave them, especially if they are particularly well taken (and yours are). I often visit blogs more for the photographs than the words, in fact I visit quite a few written in languages I can't read, just for the photos. However, that being said, I love your words. This post was particularly sweet. Happy May!

    1. I have to admit, I'm the same way :) Thanks so much FairieMoon :)

  6. With flowers here in Vancouver bursting forth, I felt this was the time of year for another read of The Lost Garden by Helen Humphreys. Peonies elicit a mix of emotions and the author's description here is perfect when speaking of the Garden of Longing which is one of three:

    The middle of the three gardens, it begins with a great, breaking wave of peonies. The blooms are white and pale pink, grow upright for now, giant buttons of brilliance festooning green leafy tunics. But soon their heads will become too heavy for the thin, weed-like stalks on which they rise with such hope, and the peonies will crash to the ground in a wave of grief. They are too much for themselves, and soon they know it. (142)

    Perfect - just perfect.


    1. It's been a while since I read that! Thanks for reminding me of it, Pat!!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...