Jacki Kellum

Juxtapositions: Read My Mind

Category: Childhood

Everyone Has the Same Destination – The Question Is How Will You Make Your Journey

When I was in the 7th grade, a teacher wrote the following words on the blackboard: “Hitch Your Wagon to a Star.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

That was almost half a century ago, and I was living in a little rural town in the cotton-growing part of the Bootheel of Southeast Missouri. Before that day, I had never heard of Ralph Waldo Emerson, and I had not thought much about life outside of my little community. In many ways, that one teacher changed the course of my life. Her name was Miss King, and she challenged me to be more than I might have been had I never met her. God Bless Great Teachers, and God Bless Miss King for opening my eyes to the ever wondrous nuances of living life fully.

Miss King was an outstanding English teacher and after my 7th-grade year under her tutelage, grammar was never too difficult for me. That, in itself, was one of the greatest gifts that I ever received, but because I lived in a very small town, Miss King also taught me again in 10th grade. That year, she taught me English literature. That is when she opened my eyes to William Blake and to his Songs of Innocence and Experience.

I have always been interested in both writing and visual art, and I loved the fact that William Blake both wrote and illustrated his work. I became fascinated by the idea that one day I might write and illustrate my writing, too.  I also became interested in the message in Blake’s writing. Blake challenged mankind to have a depth feelings, and he warned against becoming emotionally old. William Blake was the subject of my first master’s thesis, and his work has fueled my own vision. I owe a great deal to William Blake, but I owe even more to Miss King, who introduced me to William Blake. It was because of Miss King that when I was 12 years old, I Hitched my own Wagon to a Star, and it was because of Miss King that my journey has not been like that of most people.

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Miss King also introduced me to Robert Frost and through Miss King and Robert Frost, I began to realize that there was a path that led out of the cotton patches of my childhood. Thank goodness, that passage goes both ways. Although I have left my childhood home, I return to it daily through my writing. I have not turned my back on who I was, but because of who I once was and because of great teachers like Miss King, I learned to reach for other worlds. I learned to set goals, and I began walking toward those goals.

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When I was in the 7th grade, I heard what Miss King was saying. I actually “got” what she was trying to teach my class. She was challenging us to aim for greatness in our lives. She was opening a door for us and encouraging us to begin the journey that would become the courses of our lives.  I will be the first to admit that I have not yet reached the moon of my own goals. In fact, it has taken me quite some time to decide exactly which path that I wanted to follow. But because very early in life, I aimed for the moon, my life has indeed been lighted by the stars. And that has made all the difference to me.

Several months ago, I wrote a simple little poem. Ostensibly, the poem was a recording of the way that I felt when I initially awoke one morning. Within a few hours of having written the verse, however, I realized that through a few, simple words, I had actually captured something about the way that I have decided to journey through my entire life.

silver-sheets

On Silver Sheets, I Sail
by Jacki Kellum

Just before I open my eyes
I float along the misty skies.

I reach, I feel the soft, white hair
and fairy wings that flutter there.

I listen, I hear the slumber song,
The angel band that plays along

My dreams are in my pillow-pail.
On silver sheets, I sail.

©Jacki Kellum  July 4, 2017

Happy Independence Day – Let Your Freedom Ring!

Sail

Nothing Can Bring Back the Hour – Thoughts on Letting Our Childen Go

Yesterday, I re-watched Steel Magnolias. Before the movie began, I knew that re-watching this film would make me cry, and I almost opted out of racking myself with that painful experience again. But I took the plunge, and I began to think about my own life. Julia  Roberts died in Steel Magnolias, and as a mother, I was tormented by the mother’s grief of losing her child to death. But I also began to consider that many parents lose their children in ways that do not involve dying. Children simply move on. They leave to marry and to begin their own homes or they leave to begin their own careers somewhere else. The bottom line is that our children leave. and as parents, we are left gripping the reality that we had simply been loaned a set of children–for just a short period of time–and that eventually, we were forced to let our children go.

“You can never go home again.” – Thomas Wolfe

Thomas Wolfe is correct in saying that once a child leaves, he can never really return to his childhood home again. Although most children keep in touch with their parents after they move away, they can never really return, and a decent mother doesn’t want her child to do so. But in some nagging, longing way, mothers remember and we ache for the days that we wrapped our children in soft, cotton blankets and brought them home from the hospitals. We remember their first steps. We remember baby food dripping from their chins, their highchairs, and from their hands and hair. We remember bathing our babies’ silky bodies and drying them and then laying them on top of our hearts–where we could feel them as they breathed. As mothers, we also remember slipping into our child’s room at night and at marveling at the sweetness of our sleeping child. We recall our children’s innocent but profound comments–the ones that allowed us to recall viewing life as only a child can view it. We remember the drawings and the paintings that they made as children, and we remember their going to school.

When my oldest child went to school, I grieved. Somehow I knew that both of our worlds had permanently shifted. For the first time, I realized that my child was not a doll. She was not mine, to keep. From that moment on, my child began slipping away from me and into herself. The transition has not been easy. I have discovered that it is often necessary for people to get mad before they can completely sever themselves, and that has happened in my family. I long for the day that my family can close its angry chapter and go to the next. That is the way that it is supposed to be: Our children are supposed to have their lives, and we are forced to have another. We know that, but still, we remember the fleeting moments that God loaned us our children, and we long.

What though the radiance which was once so bright
Be now for ever taken from my sight,
Though nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower;
We will grieve not, rather find
Strength in what remains behind…
The innocent brightness of a new-born Day
Is lovely yet….
Thanks to the human heart by which we live,
Thanks to its tenderness, its joys, and fears….William Wordsworth
.

Jacki Kellum Garden May 2017

Although many mothers always long for the hours when their children were living in their homes, a wise mother will transition, too, and they will find another home where they will live into old age alone. I am thankful for the years that I was a parent, but I am also thankful for the ever-renewing well of life and for my ability to continually find a new life without my children nested around me. My garden has become my solace.

Jacki Kellum Garden Gate in 2015

“When the hornet hangs in the hollyhock, And the brown bee drones i’ the rose, And the west is a red-streaked four-o’clock, And summer is near its close It’s Oh, for the gate, and the locust lane; And dusk, and dew, and home again!” – Madison Cawein

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Jacki Kellum Garden

“I divined and chose a distant place to dwell …
I pick leaves to thatch a hut among the pines
Scoop out a pond and lead a runnel from the spring
By now I am used to doing without the world
Picking ferns I pass the years that are left.” Han Shan

Jacki Kellum Garden

Yesterday, my friend shared a slightly bent version of an old Chinese proverb:

If you want to be happy for a night, get drunk.
If you want to be happy for a year, get married.
If you want to be happy for life, plant a garden.

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Relatively speaking, our years on earth are few, and hours that we spend agonizing because we do not feel accepted or appreciated or loved are simply hours lost. Because living can become painful and toxic, we need an antidote and a place to heal. My garden is where I go to be restored, and even during the winter, nature is my solace. My sunroom overlooks my side courtyard, and my greatest winter joy is to sit by my fireplace, watching the birds dipping into my oasis for food and water. Anytime that I can sit alone in nature, I am truly home–the home that will carry me through life.

“I leant upon a coppice gate When Frost was spectre-gray, And Winter’s dregs made desolate The weakening eye of day The tangled bine-stems scored the sky Like strings of broken lyres, And all mankind that haunted nigh Had sought their household fires.” – Thomas Hardy

©Jacki Kellum June 9, 2017

Tender

Kids Need Nature – The Healing Power of Gardening

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Jacki Kellum’s Garden August of 2015

I am an avid gardener. I garden to create Zen-like spaces to sit in meditative-like silences and do nothing more than heal from the damages of trying to navigate through life. But I also garden because the act of gardening itself is healing. I have read that handling dirt supports good health–that the dirt involved in gardening has a healing quality, and I can guarantee that my emotional spirit is improved by the act of gardening. As I get older, I also need more and more of the exercise that gardening provides me, but my need for gardening stems back to my childhood. My dad was an avid gardener and his mother, my grandmother was, too.

My childhood home was almost directly behind my grandmother’s house, and at least once daily, I would walk across the lawns from my house to my grandmother’s house. During gardening season, that meant walking through my grandmother’s massive flower, vegetable, and fruit gardens. I would enter through the back door, and my grandmother’s gardening closet was just inside that door.  I used to love to open that closet door and to allow nature and my grandmother, and my grandmother’s garden reach out and embrace me:

grandmascloset

Grandma’s Closet
by Jacki Kellum

The bonnet’s at the very top
The duster’s down below.
Fancy flowers are drying still,
They’re hanging in a row.

Breathe the sunshine, weeds, and dirt,
Catch the seeds from Grandma’s skirt,
Store them in your summer shirt,
Plant them, let them grow.

© jacki Kellum November 24, 2015

My grandparents not only owned their own home, they also owned the string of houses next to them.  Keep in mind that this was a rural community, and my grandparents’ houses had immense lots.  The people who rented had nice yards, but my grandmother gardened the backs of all of the yards that my grandparents owned, and on the absolute back of the land, my grandmother planted a glorious stand of hollyhocks.

There was an alley behind the hollyhocks and my street was behind the hollyhocks.  During the summers, I used to walk through the alley, into the towering stand of hollyhocks, and through my grandmother’s flower garden–and finally, to her house.  As soon as I passed beneath the sheltering arms of the hollyhocks, I felt safe and protected. It was a magnificent pilgrimage, and even today as I retrace those steps, my spirit is lifted.

Certainly, as I labor to create my own garden now, my main ambition must be that of holding on to my grandmother’s garden, my grandmother, and my own childhood.  Actually, there could be no better reason at all, but research proves that there are even more healing benefits to gardening than that. Horticulture is recognized as an authentic type of therapy. Here is what the Horticulture Therapy Association says about the healing power of gardening:

“Horticultural therapy techniques are employed to assist participants to learn new skills or regain those that are lost. Horticultural therapy helps improve memory, cognitive abilities, task initiation, language skills, and socialization. In physical rehabilitation, horticultural therapy can help strengthen muscles and improve coordination, balance, and endurance. In vocational horticultural therapy settings, people learn to work independently, problem solve, and follow directions.” Read More Here

For several years, I have worked part-time as the Children’s Librarian in my community. For at least ten of those years, I have wanted to create a children’s garden. This year, I have finally received the go-ahead nod of approval, and we will begin tilling our garden this week. April 28th is Arbor Day, and we are having a huge Arbor Day party for our kids. Every child is asked to bring a perennial flower to plant in our garden, a spot from which they can watch their own plant grow. There is something magical about watching nature work through the stages of its own growth cycles, and that will be one of the benefits of creating a garden for our community’s children. We also hope to grow fruits and vegetables in our children’s garden, and we want to cook what we grow with our children. In summary, we want our community’s children to actualize the benefits of growing with and through nature.

I hear increasing reports of the problems that children are having in school. Children have problems with ADHD, problems with autism, problems with depression, and they are displaying an excessive amount of anger and hostility. On the other hand, I read that children are spending less and less time outdoors and are spending an increasingly large amount of time inside, watching television, playing video games, etc. Research proves that children spend a fraction of the time playing outdoors that their parents did, and other research shows that children are simultaneously dealing with increasingly large problems with obesity, depression, and other emotional issues. Further research proves that the issues are connected. The well-being of children is adversely affected by too much time indoors and not enough time outdoors. Encouraging children to garden can help resolve some of those issues.

Disney conducted research into this area of concern and has begun a campaign to create more spaces for outdoor play and to improve outdoor conservation. The National Wildlife Foundation is doing the same. Here is part of the NWF report:

“Little kids love to play. That’s not news. Play comes naturally and is necessary for the development of physical, emotional, social and cognitive skills. Play is part of being human. But, as it turns out, not all play is equal.

Recent research shows that young children who play outdoors in spaces that are specifically designed for 0-5 year olds actually garner more developmental benefits:

  • They engage in 22% more physical activity.
  • Their behaviors improve.
  • They exhibit fewer Attention Deficit Disorder symptoms
  • They tend to eat more fruits and vegetables.

“In addition, children who spend time outdoors at a young age are more likely to remain active as they get older, and they tend to prefer outdoor experiences into adulthood. Whether you aim to reduce childhood obesity, improve social development, increase cognitive skills or build the next generation of conservation stewards, getting children to spend regular time outdoors at the earliest possible age is a recipe for success.” Read more of that report Here

I know from experience that gardening is important for children. Gardening is a way for kids to get outside and to become part of nature, and Kids Need Nature. Although this is fodder for yet another post, Nature Also Needs Our Kids. Kids and Nature: It’s a Win-Win Situation.

©Jacki Kellum April 8, 2017

Heal

Definition of An Artist – Dare to Be an Artist!

I have always been the arty type. I have always been “driven by passion, seized by obsession, delighted by creation, enthralled with expression, entranced by vision, diverted by daydreams, filled with emotion, fueled by compulsion, consumed with beauty, and blindsided by inspiration.” However, I have also been pulled by the non-arty desire to be popular, to be a cheerleader, and to be normal or “the same.”

Hiding in Plain Sight
by Jacki Kellum

Smiling, Joking, Dancing, Free
That’s the Social Side of Me.

Tossing kisses from my car,
Scared, Confused Alone We Are.

If you look, you will see
The Scared, Confused and Social Three.

Copyright Jacki Kellum December 17, 2015

I became a closet creative, and I lived two lives. Outwardly, I was what I felt that everyone else wanted me to be and on the inside, I was someone else–I was different–an outlier. Here is how that worked:

On one hand, there was the social Jacki–the cheerleader, Miss Personality, and Campus Favorite. On the other hand, there was the REAL me–the person whose heart followed the whippoorwill’s call deep into the caverns of the forested night. When I was a child, I was the little camper who sat, staring into the campfire, feeling its heat warming my body and sensing its flames as they danced across my eyes. I would watch the flickering until it hypnotized me and lured me into the world that was completely removed from that of anyone else around me.

When I was a child, I would listen to the wind rustling through the leaves at night, and I would watch the leaves’ dark shadows gracefully tiptoeing across my window pane. I was the type of child who would listen to the rain pattering on the roof and be moved by its rhythmic tapping. When I was a child, I would stare at the stars, simply to enjoy the patterns of their light.

In looking back, I cannot be sure that the other kids around me weren’t doing the same things that I was doing and thinking the same things that I was thinking, but I don’t believe that they were. I always felt that I was different.

Even as a child, I felt that I was different. I couldn’t help myself, but in an effort to fit in, I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to seem as though I wasn’t different at all. In Julia Cameron’s book the Artist’s Way, she said that we have logical and linear behaviors embedded within us. She says that this logical behavior is part of our survival instinct, and she says that the part of ourselves that tries to discourage us from creating is part of this logical behavior that makes us believe that we need to be the same.

“Logic brain was and is our survival brain. It works on known principles. Anything unknown is perceived as wrong and possibly dangerous.  … Logic brain is the brain we usually listen to, especially when we are telling ourselves to be sensible.

“Logic brain is our Censor….Faced with an original sentence, phrase, paint squiggle, it says, ‘What… is that?

. . .

“Any original thought can look pretty dangerous to our Censor.

“The only sentences/paintings/sculptures/photographs it likes are ones that it has seen many times before. Safe sentences. Safe paintings.” Cameron, Julia. the Artist’s Way, pgs. 12-13.

While our logical tendencies seem to be safe, they are an enemy to creativity, and logic is the haven for the Censor. The Censor wants to scare us into editing the very life out of everything that we would otherwise like to create.

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Pieter Bruegel the Elder, The Blind Leading the Blind, Painted in 1568

Following the crowd can get us into all kinds of trouble.  I am reminded of Pieter Bruegel’s painting The Blind Leading the Blind. Consider the very real possibility that the seemingly safe crowd is inching toward the edge of a cliff en masse and that each person is about to fall to his own demise. Following the crowd is not always as safe as it seems to be.

Most often, “the crowd” is in a seemingly safe pattern of circling around a merry-go-round that, while it may seem colorful and pretty, it is going nowhere new. In other words, the crowd is doing the same thing over and over again. The crowd is not forging new paths. It is not creating.

Now, consider the crowd to be a line of burned out light bulbs. Will you, simply to be the same, turn your light off, too?

I hope not. Dare to let your light shine. Dare to be different. Dare to be an outlier.

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Deep Within the Pool, I See
by Jacki Kellum

Deep within the pool I see,
An outline view of me.

I smile.  The water thinks me glad.
I frown. It thinks me sad.
The water has no way to know
The kind of day I’ve had.

The water has no brain to think.
It has no heart to feel
It only views my outer shell.
It looks with eyes of steel.

How very like the water are
The people passing by.
They glance at me, They never see,
They never hear me cry.

Drop a pebble in the pool.
Watch the water spin.
Best to watch the water crack
Than love the shell within.

© Jacki Kellum December 7, 2015

Dare to be an artist.

©Jacki Kellum April 7, 2917

Outlier

Listening to the Rain – Sounds Flood Us with Memories of Our Pasts

Moments ago, I happened to be outside, and I had the rare opportunity to hear the rain just as it was beginning to fall. In other words, I heard the rain before I felt it touch my face, and like a soothing balm, calmness washed over me. I have said this many times before: I love the rain.

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The rain reminds me of the summers that I spent in camp, and the nights that I lay awake listening to it, filtering through the trees and then tapping the tin roof and sliding from it one drop at a time.

The softer rains would ultimately pierce through the crust of leaves that lay on top of the ground. The leaves would rustle, crackle, and snap. The aroma of the moistened earth would fill the air. The smell of the evergreens would be refreshed, and the woods would take on  the scent of a  rain potpourri that I wish I could bottle or bag.

When it rained hard at camp, the trees got involved with the ceremony and waved their arms, shook their heads, and wildly swayed.  Like savages dancing around a ring, preparing for a bountiful hunt, the trees would toss spears into the air and fiercely hurl things about. A tree limb would occasionally scrape across the metal shelter, screeching as it slowly etched its way over the top.

Also when it rained hard, the drops of rain would pound the tin top, and the belting would become a roar. Torrents of water would form at the edges of the galvanized roof and would flood, like water being sloshed from a tub, down to the ground below. The river of rain water would get behind piles of leaves and branches on the ground and push them downstream.

When the rain was not pouring, I liked to put on my squeaky, new rubber boots and my cold, stiff raincoat and walk outside. I loved the way that a misting rain would form on the exposed parts of my body. When there were actual rain drops falling, I liked to feel them pat my face and then roll.

Like Mother Nature’s bathtub, rain is how the world is washed clean, and when I am in the rain, I feel that I am being cleansed, too.

In my bedroom now, my bed is immediately next to a window, and I love hearing the rain from my bedroom eyrie. That sound is different than the one that I heard moments ago, standing outside. And the sound of rain falling on my sunroom roof is all together different. That roof has no attic or ceiling beneath it, and the sound of rain is not tempered or buffered. Regardless of where I am, I love the rain, and I love the sound that it makes. The mere sound of the rain brings back summers half a century ago, when I had the time and the inclination to lie still and hear and feel. I love the rain.

©Jacki Kellum February 15, 2017

Sound

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