Jacki Kellum

Juxtapositions: Read My Mind

Category: Jacki Kellum Garden

My Garden Has Pumpkin Power!

Two years ago, I snapped this idyllic photograph of my garden’s waterfall.

Here is that same spot today.

My fireball hardy hibiscus is still standing, but nature has completely camouflaged the waterfall beneath it.

Three years ago, I allowed a pumpkin to decompose in the back of my garden, and two years ago, one pumpkin plant volunteered to grow from that old pumpkin’s decomposition. This year, my garden is oozing with volunteer pumpkin plants. They are twining up and around everything in my back yard

Some of the plants are blossoming.

And some of the blossoms have yielded baby pumpkins.

My grape arbor is covered with vines, but the birds eat the grapes before I can turn them into wine.

The birds don’t bother the poke berries. They are smart and know that poke berries are poisonous. I know that poke is a weed, and it is worthless, but I love to watch it grow. I love to watch all of my garden grow. This time of year, I simply allow my garden to do its own thing. It never fails to delight me.

©Jacki Kellum August 22, 2017

“Come into the garden, Maud, For the black bat, night, has flown,
Come into the garden, Maud, I am here at the gate alone; Maud
And the woodbine spices are wafted abroad,
And the musk of the rose is blown.
For a breeze of morning moves, And the planet of Love is on high,
Beginning to faint in the light that she loves On a bed of daffodil sky.” – Tennyson

Ooze

When Words Fail, Music and Poetry Connect

Writing is difficult, and one of its greatest challenges stems from the fact that words, which are mere strings of letters, are clumsy in their attempts to convey emotion.  Writers arrange letters together in formats that have become standardized symbols for something else. For instance, the letters “a-p-p-l-e” are recognized as symbolic of a red fruit that grows on trees and is usually harvested in fall. If a writer adds other words, he might foster emotions about the red fruit or he might remind the reader of the fruit’s tartness, its, crunchiness, and its juiciness. If the writer is able to carefully juxtapose other letters around the word “apple,” the reader may leap toward memories of a grandmother and the rolling of homemade pie crust, and of warm, cinnamon desserts topped with vanilla ice cream. Yet, by merely spelling the word “a-p-p-l-e,” a writer is telling his readers very little. A writer must add more strings of letters and a bit of polish to the letters before hopefully, the letters can begin to mean. Music, on the other hand, has a more direct impact than simple strings of words.

The ancient Tao Te Ching says that as soon as we begin to verbalize a feeling, the emotion vanishes. In other words, the ancient Asians recognized that there is a vein of emotion within us that defies being conveyed through words.

Chapter 1 – Tao Te Ching

The Tao that can be spoken is not the eternal Tao
The name that can be named is not the eternal name
The nameless is the origin of Heaven and Earth
The named is the mother of myriad things 

Some believe that music has the power to connect in ways that words often fail.

Music is the shorthand of emotion. – Leo Tolstoy

Image result for jacki kellum language of the birds

I believe that music, for humans, is like the language of the birds.

 

In Ancient Greece, music was believed to have an almost magical power of communication.

Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything. – Plato

A couple of days ago, I wrote about the movie Out of Africa. I have seen that movie several times before, and the music of that movie helps make it monumental. As I watched the movie again this past Thursday, I entered the Out of Africa experience as soon as I heard the music. The music of Out of Africa had become a type of shorthand link into my mind. The music could communicate to me in a way that words could not, and that is why I prefer excellent movies to reading. A well-made movie employs several passages into the spirit.

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote about the inadequacy of words. He said that a child who feels about what is around him understands better than the scientist who tries to capsulize life into words. Emerson adds that poetry, unlike logical words, does have a music-like power to connect:

Science was false by being unpoetical. It assumed to explain a reptile or mollusk, and isolated it…. The metaphysician, the poet, only sees each animal form as an inevitable step in the path of the creating mind. The Indian, the hunter, the boy with his pets, have sweeter knowledge of these than the savant. …The poet knows the missing link by the joy it gives. The poet gives us the eminent experiences only,–a god stepping from peak to peak, nor planting his foot but on a mountain.

. . .

Poetry is the perpetual endeavor to express the spirit of the thing, to pass the brute body and search the life and reason which causes it to exist….It is a presence of mind that gives a miraculous command of all means of uttering the thought and feeling of the moment.

. . .

Imagination.–Whilst common sense looks at things or visible Nature as real and final facts, poetry, or the imagination which dictates it, is a second sight, looking through these, and using them as types or words for thoughts which they signify.

. . .

A poet comes who lifts the veil; gives them glimpses of the laws of the universe….

The solid men complain that the idealist leaves out the fundamental facts; the poet complains that the solid men leave out the sky.

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Autumn scene. Fall. Trees and leaves in sun light

Ralph Waldo Emerson sought to explain through words how poetry communicates the essence of life that is beyond words:

No definition of poetry is adequate unless it be poetry itself. The most accurate analysis by the rarest wisdom is yet insufficient, and the poet will instantly prove it false by setting aside its requisitions. It is indeed all that we do not know. The poet does not need to see how meadows are something else than earth, grass, and water, but how they are thus much. He does not need discover that potato blows are as beautiful as violets, as the farmer thinks, but only how good potato blows are. The poem is drawn out from under the feet of the poet, his whole weight has rested on this ground. It has a logic more severe than the logician’s.  You might as well think to go in pursuit of the rainbow, and embrace it on the next hill, as to embrace the whole of poetry even in thought. – Emerson

Jacki Kellum Garden

I have a beautiful garden, and I often say that I am a nature watcher, but that is not the absolute truth. I do more than simply watch nature. Nature entrances me. I like to lose myself in nature. I like to become one with nature.  Nature communicates the primordial to me in ways that words hardly ever do.

“I find peace where the sun kissed leaves dance in the melody of the cool breeze that floats through the air.” ― Saim Cheeda

At times, I also connect with music and/or poetry  in that primordial way. The power of poetry is not that of its words, because words themselves are weak vessels. The power of poetry lies within its ability to capture and distill life itself.

©Jack Kellum August 20, 2017

Trance

Being Alone Is Not the Same Thing as Being Lonely

Last January, I was waiting for the arrival of an impending snowstorm, and I wrote about the things that I would do while I was snowbound. Unlike some, being isolated and alone doesn’t bother me. Over the years, I have learned to enjoy being alone, and when I finally reached that place in life, I became free–free of the fear of being alone.

When I am alone, I think better, and when I am alone, I can separate my preferences from what the world seems to wish that I would prefer. When no one else is around, I can pace myself by my own, unique clock. I can sleep when I am tired, and when I am refreshed, I can awaken. When the muse visits, I can write, and when I feel inspired, I can paint. When I am alone, there is no need to schedule my moods around anyone else, and I have no need to try to guess what the other wants from me. I only have the need to discover what it is that I truly want from myself. The next challenge is to pursue that goal–alone.

I am a big nature watcher. When the weather permits, I grow a massive garden, and I often sit in my garden–just watching my flowers bloom. I love to walk in the mountains and feel the expansiveness that is there. I love listening to the rain, and I love to watch it snow. If I were with anyone else, none of that would be the same. Chatter would drown the sound of the raindrops, and the language of the birds. If someone else were in the same room with me, I would not sit for hours at a time and stare out the window. I would not have the same enjoyment of watching the snow’s dance that quietly and gently alters the world, one flake at a time. When someone else is involved in moments like these, we feel the need to interact with the other person. When that occurs, we no longer are part of the moment that we are watching unfold. We lose our opportunities for mindfulness.

We are living in a culture that seems to pay lip homage to mindfulness, but many do not realize that being alone is the key to mindfulness. Mindfulness is not a state that you can share. When a person is fully mindful, he is absolutely within himself–he is at his own absolute core. You cannot have it both ways. You cannot be a participant in a group–not even in a small group of two–and become totally mindful. Mindfulness is about being alone.

l realized long ago that society is suspicious of people who opt to be alone. Mindful or not, the solitary people are classified as the cat ladies and the toothless crones who grow herbs and live in dark cottages on the fringes of the forest. The world view is that those alone should be pitied. Popular opinion is that the alone are isolated because no one wants them. They are the rejected.

That may be true, but the good news is that rejected or not, the alone do not have to be lonely. Being alone and being lonely are not the same thing. The lonely person is still invested in the myth that other people are the key to his or her happiness. When that is the case, the isolated are saddened by aloneness. Being alone doesn’t make me sad.

Consider this: Very rarely do married couples die at the same time. When one person from a couple dies, the other is still left alone. Aloneness will inevitably become part of  almost everyone’s existence. I advise people to begin cultivating their aloneness long before that happens.

It might seem that I am advising everyone to dump their partners and to immediately jump back into the life of being single, but I am not. I actually abhor divorce, and I rarely advocate it. In fact, I would love to find a truly compatible mate; yet, I would hope that I could be in a union that allows spaces for each united person to have quality moments alone.

“But let there be spaces in your togetherness and let the winds of the heavens dance between you. Love one another but make not a bond of love: let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.” – Kahlil Gibran

I propose that every couple find spaces within their union–spaces that allow each person to celebrate himself, as an individual. Only from somewhere within one’s own, individual being, can a person’s find true contentment. We must learn to love aloneness–that is the harbor within our own spirits. Aloneness is the place that we learn to cradle ourselves. It is the pillow where we will finally rest our heads.

©Jacki Kellum August 18, 2017

Solitary

Slow Down You Move Too Fast You Gotta Make the Morning Last – A Moment in My Garden

Saturday morning, I stole a few minutes to amble through my garden, and I was struck by the purity and simplicity of the billowing white, hardy hibiscus plants that are blooming all around my yard now. I was reminded of the Simon and Garfunkel Song:

The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy)

Lyrics:

Slow down, you move too fast
You got to make the morning last
Just kicking down the cobblestones
Looking for fun and feelin’ groovy
Ba da da da da da da, feelin’ groovy

Hello, lamppost, what’cha knowin’?
I’ve come to watch your flowers growin’
Ain’t’cha got no rhymes for me?
Doot-in doo-doo, feelin’ groovy
Ba da da da da da da, feelin’ groovy

I got no deeds to do
No promises to keep
I’m dappled and drowsy and ready to sleep
Let the morning time drop all its petals on me
Life, I love you
All is groovy

I wanted to capture the  moment and although my efforts to do so have failed before, I clipped a couple of hibiscus blossoms and brought them inside to paint them, but before I got into my studio, the flowers had begun to wilt.

Jacki Kellum Watercolor – White, Withered Hibiscus

Jacki Kellum Watercolor – White, Withered Hibiscus 2

My garden hibiscus is a reminder that we cannot freeze time.

And the Seasons, They Go Round and Round
And the Painted Ponies Go Up and Down
We’re Riding on a Carousel of Time – Joni Mitchell, The Circle Game

When I first heard Joni Mitchell’s Circle Game song, I was turning twenty, and frankly, I am glad that I didn’t realize then how much I would change over the next several years. The greatest of life’s games is that while we are young, we don’t realize how precious the moments and the opportunities of youth actually are and when we are young, we fall for the unfortunate myth that we will be young forever. But we are like the hibiscus plants in my garden. By the time that we have bloomed, we have begun the process of fading and withering.

One of life’s greatest disappointments lies within discovering that Time itself is an illusion and that living can be like chasing after a mirage. We waste much of our lives looking too far ahead at something that seems to be golden and grand, but when we get there, that golden somethingness isn’t there at all. What we had seen and chased was merely a shiny reflection in the sand, and while we were chasing the mirage, we grew older. Because everything that blossoms eventually dies, it is essential that we find ways to fully live during our precious moments on earth. We need to live each day and we need to avoid chasing that something which is just beyond our grasps.

I don’t want to pretend that art and writing are more than they actually are, but in the almost final analysis, I can honestly say that my ability to create is the way that I begin to make sense of life’s Circle Game and the way that I have managed to slow my own aging process down and have found ways to celebrate the life around me–everyday.
“What was any art but a mould in which to imprison for a moment the shining elusive element which is life itself – life hurrying past us and running away, too strong to stop, too sweet to lose.” – Willa Cather

This has been an odd summer. Perhaps it is more of my advancing age speaking, but I have sensed autumn during much of this past summer. Even today, it is cloudy and the air promises rain. I am reminded of a little poem that I wrote one October. I hope to illustrate this as a picture book:

Capture

Winter Comes Too Soon
A Picture Book Manuscript by Jacki Kellum

There’s a frenzy in my garden,
Squirrels can’t get enough.
Birds are looking frantically
For seeds and nuts and stuff.

The corn is dry and shriveled now,
A vine has reached the top.
Fading leaves are bending low,
And little pumpkins drop.

The monarchs moved to Mexico,
And geese are leaving, too.
The spider leaves a lacy web,
Her net is etched with dew.

Shadows creep across the lawn,
Beneath the big, bright moon.
Everything in my yard knows
That winter comes too soon.

Copyright Winter Comes Too Soon Jacki Kellum October 8, 2015

In summary, life is a luxury.

Slow down, you move too fast. You gotta make your morning last. . . .
Let the morning time drop all its petals on me
Life, I love you
All is groovy

©Jacki Kellum August 7, 2017

Amble

Old Tent Revivals, the Moon, & Me – Jacki Kellum Memoir

When I was very young, my rural hometown had a small movie theater, but it wasn’t there long. While I was growing up, my little cotton patch of a town was growing smaller. Poverty was in the process of boarding the Bootheel region of Southeast Missouri shut, but when I was a child, my little town was more than adequate. It was the spot that helped me weave a nest of memories, and that is more than enough.

A few years after our movie theater closed, someone temporarily set up a big tent and sold tickets to watch old movies. It seems to me that the tickets cost a quarter, but the cost of admission may have been less than that. The tent was golden yellow, and it looked just like the one that my grandmother’s church used for tent revivals. Not long ago, I walked outside and looked at the moon that was cradled above my back garden, and I remembered my childhood, its tent revivals, and the moon that has always enchanted me.

 

Full, But Hazy Autumn Moon
by Jacki Kellum 

Tonight, the moon is perched high in the sky, directly above the garden–just outside my back door.

Tonight, when I first got downstairs and looked out the sunroom window, my first thought was that it must be the moments just before dawn.

Everything around was fairly brightly lit, and I could faintly see the plants that were brave enough to have continued blooming after the cool, October air had tucked their neighbors into bed. Everything in my garden had a soft, muted, and faintly-colored, shimmering glow.

As I looked around, I thought: Tonight, the moonlight is bright, but this is not one of those hot-light nights like the ones when I used to walk home from church, well after sunset, and the hum of the locusts was so loud that the air seemed to rattle a song.

And tonight is not one of those nights when ladies in the church would beat around their faces with cardboard fans that had Jesus painted on them.

Yes, Lord, tonight’s moonlight is not like that when I used to go to the tent revivals with my grandmother, and I stood up and sat down beneath bare light bulbs that were strung across the top of the tent and dangled. And everyone sang. Shall We Gather at the River? 

Tonight’s light is not like that of the summer nights when my neighborhood friends and I would dart about the yard, playing tag and hide and seek. We would  run until the sweat dripped from our clothes. Then, we’d sit down and giggle on the back porch, drinking lemonade from rainbow-colored, aluminum glasses.

Tonight is not like the summer nights of my childhood. Tonight, there is no hot, blaring, bugle-like, jazz-singing, summer moon.

Tonight, there is only a soft, hazy, autumn moon–a cornstarch moon–kissed by honey, hanging in the dark.

Full but Hazy Autumn Moon ©Jacki Kellum October 28, 2015

©Jacki Kellum August 6, 2017

Shimmer

Hiding in Plain Sight – Why We Need A Secret Garden – A Sanctuary – A Retreat

Not long ago, I visited The Cloisters in New York City. By definition, a cloisters area is an open hallway that surrounds a protected garden. It is a natural walkway where monks and nuns might retreat into nature and still have a degree of protection from the elements, like wind, rain, snow, sun–and other people, too. At the Cloisters in New York City, there are several gardens, and all of them are peaceful–like sanctuaries. As I was walking around and through those gardens, I thought to myself that everyone needs a natural sanctuary–a garden where they can retreat from society and its demands of them.

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.” For two many years, I assumed false identities to please whatever my current group or situation demanded of me. I have heard that some children have imaginary friends, but my imaginary friend was real–it was the me that was hiding in plain sight.

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

rudbeckias

Fortunately, I have grown out of my continuous need to seek approval. Yesterday, I wrote that I have come to identify with the unpretentious Black-Eyed Susans that seem to sprout and grow in random places–even out in the wild, untamed woodlands. Most of the time, I still feel that I am not like everyone else, and I often feel misunderstood, but striving to be myself is the only acceptable course for me. Yet, any kind of striving becomes exhausting–even when I am striving not to strive. In my opinion, everyone needs a secret garden–a natural sanctuary where they don’t have to try–where they can simply be–where they can feel that they are truly at home.

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

In other posts, I tell how I have built a network of fences and arbors to create for myself a secret garden, and to maximize my blooming area, I am growing several types of clematises and roses on those fences. When it is possible, I grow fragrant flowers, like lavender, peonies, and irises, and strolling through my garden also becomes an experience of aromatherapy.

“Come into the garden, Maud, For the black bat, night, has flown,
Come into the garden, Maud, I am here at the gate alone; Maud
And the woodbine spices are wafted abroad,
And the musk of the rose is blown.
For a breeze of morning moves, And the planet of Love is on high,
Beginning to faint in the light that she loves On a bed of daffodil sky.” – Tennyson

Jacki Kellum Garden Pond May 2017

“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

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Relatively speaking, our years on earth are few, and every day that we pretend to be someone that we are not and when we fail to be ourselves are precious years wasted. 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 and watch the birds dipping into my oasis for food and water. Anytime that I can sit alone in nature, I am truly home.

“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 3, 2017

Hidden

Previously Published on my Garden Blog Cottage Garden Living Here

©Jacki Kellum

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

August42015adj

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.

10568906_10204503980742621_1513890752537767546_n (1)

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

I Love Color – There Is Nothing Gray about Me

In addition to writing and painting, I am also a gardener, and I frequently shop at my local plant market which sells a huge variety of flowers, and the prices are very reasonable.

IMG_1322

I love it when they have a new shipment of Gerbera Daisies. It is a spectacle. Like a magnet, the brilliant display pulls me from across the room. I always want to buy all of the daisies for my garden. One plant will not do. One color will not do. To emulate the riot of colors in the display, I want and need the entire bunch. Of course, I can never buy that many flowers at once, but I love color, and when my garden is in perfect form, it is a kaleidoscope.

Jacki’s Garden July of 2015

I like it when my garden screams! There is nothing subtle or subdued about me. When I paint, I celebrate color in another way. Even when I paint the green areas around my florals, I often flood them with color.

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In the Pink – Jacki Kellum Watercolor

I believe in pink. I believe that laughing is the best calorie burner. I believe in kissing, kissing a lot. I believe in being strong when everything seems to be going wrong. I believe that happy girls are the prettiest girls. I believe that tomorrow is another day and I believe in miracles. – Audrey Hepburn

I use the brighter colors to add punch to the green areas of my paintings. Too many people only see black and white — right or wrong. In my experience, that type of life-view is terribly narrow, and the people who cannot stretch themselves to see more of the variances of living are missing a great deal. Like Audrey Hepburn, I believe in Pink, and I also believe in Red and Yellow and Orange and Blue.

I am also suspcious of people who are always gray. If you will look carefully, you will see that there are no gray flowers. Gray is a neutral. Gray is a lack of color, and while I am guilty of other weaknesses, I do not lack color. I have definite opinions. Some of my opinions are red. They are loud and they shout. Other of my opinions are softer and more like lilac. Some of my opinions, are bright and sunny yellow and others are cooler, like green, but when I am asked how I feel about something or what I think about something, I say what I honestly believe. I don’t weigh whether I am speaking to a group of people who prefer red or who prefer gray or green or black or white. I simply say things the way that I see them–to the best of my ability.

For people whose primary concern is that of finding approval, honesty is not always the best policy. The safer route is to ride the fence, but in my opinion, fence riders are gray. They are like piles of mashed potatoes.  Mashed-Potato-People have had the life boiled and whipped completely out of themselves. They have no color at all.

Life is not lived on the fence. We must have opinions.  We must take a stand in life.  In taking a stand, our lives can be differentiated from the gray, faceless mob. The only way to be meaningful in life is to let your life mean–to let it actually stand–to let it stand out, and to let it stand for something.

  1. In taking a stand, our lives can be differentiated.
  2. In taking stands in life, we do more than exist–we mean.
  3. The only way to be meaningful in life is to allow your life to mean.

When we begin to take a stand in life, there will people who absolutely hate us for our opinions; but in being real about who we are and about what we believe, we offer other people something real and tangible to love–we offer people an authentic mind, words with meaning, and color.

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Social media has several limitations, and one of those limitations is that people might easily be controlled by a desire to be “liked” or disliked because of what they have said or posted. If contributors are not careful, they might begin to write to be” liked.” and they might quit writing what is real. The same thing can happen to bloggers. Simply to be liked–or at least not disliked, writers may begin standing in the middle of the road.

Standing in the middle of the road is very dangerous; you get knocked down by the traffic from both sides. – Margaret Thatcher

If you just set out to be liked, you would be prepared to compromise on anything at any time, and you would achieve nothing.– Margaret Thatcher

Herein lies the key: If you try to please all of the people all of the time, you have elected to stand for nothing concrete. To stand for something is to get off the fence and to get out of the middle of the road.

“You can please some of the people some of the time all of the people some of the time and some of the people all of the time, but you can never please all of the people all of the time.” –  Abraham Lincoln

 

I agree with Abraham Lincoln. Regardless of how we play the game, we will never please everyone. Selling our souls to try to please everyone doesn’t really work. When we write and say what we actually think, we do allow ourselves to move out of the gray, to be colorful, and to be real.

©Jacki Kellum April 26, 2017

Gray

Taking Back My Life One Bite at a Time

I took this photograph of my garden during July of 2015, I had worked very hard in my garden that entire summer, and the results were magnificent. But last summer, I hardly worked at all in my garden. Poke plants dotted my lawn everywhere that I looked, and my hydrangeas withered from lack of watering. My perennials didn’t bother to lift their heads above the soil last year, and my garden was a Waste Land. Every time that I looked outside, I became part of my own natural wasteland.

Last summer, I had launched a writing group, and I was spending every available second writing and or reading about writing. I was preparing to offer a memoir writing class online, and I denied myself of the inspiration that my gardening had always been before. Even at the time, I knew that I was denying myself something that my spirit needed and that I was being excessive about something else instead.

Last summer, I went to a mindfulness workshop, and my first response to some question that was asked was that I was neglecting my garden and in doing so, I felt that I was neglecting myself. Others tried to console me by saying that my spirit simply needed the writing more, but I knew that wasn’t the case. In reality, I have a very bad habit of becoming obsessive compulsive about one thing at a time and in doing so, I forsake several other areas entirely. My life woefully needs balance.

Even though I was not working in my garden last year, I allowed my blogs’ About pages to continue to say that “I am an avid gardener.” I used that precise phrase, and today, when I saw that the blogging prompt for the day was “avid,” I chuckled and thought to myself about Julia Cameron’s words about synchronicity in her book the Artist’s Way.

  • A woman admits to a buried dream of acting. At dinner the next night, she sits beside a man who teaches beginning actors.

  • A woman is thinking about going back to school and opens her mail to find a letter requesting her application from the very school she was thinking about going to. Cameron, Julia. the Artist’s Way, p. 63

Cameron lists several examples of times that the universe seems to reach toward people who are open to the arms of its reaching. This summer, I have already begun working in my garden again, and I have already been dealing with the ways that my lack of balance is not paying off for me. Today, the writing prompt is “avid” –something that I used to be about my garden, and today, I feel the need to talk about my own personal disconnect.

Twenty-five years ago,  someone gave me a copy of the book the Artist’s Way. That someone recognized that I was a blocked creative, and she felt that the book would help me. As soon as I read the book, I recognized myself and the mistakes that I was making in terms of my own creative growth and production, and for a couple of days, I wrote morning pages–twenty-five years ago, and then, I simply quit. Too much time. Good idea but too much time. Here I am–twenty-five years later, and I am still dealing with many of the issues that I should have dealt with a quarter of a century ago.

I lead a writer’s group, and for months, I have heard various excuses that the people in my group make for not moving forward with their writing. The words of Cameron’s book have stuck with me through the years, and I realized that the people in my group would benefit from at least reading it. A few weeks ago, we began working through the chapters of Cameron’s the Artist’s Way, and I recognize that one of the reasons that I chose this book for the class is that I, too, need to actually “work” through  Cameron’s program. Yet, for two weeks, I did not write the morning pages. I wrote other things, and I blogged, but for some reason, I am resisting my need to settle down, to write the morning pages, and to allow myself to begin to attack the gargantuan task of moving through some of the issues that prevent me from moving forward.

I have always been an intense person, and I have always been avid about something or another. The problem is that I often neglect something else to be obsessive about my avid interest of the day. I move through my life like a line of army tanks. Typically speaking,  I charge forward. I attack, and I conquer one thing at a time. But I also hurry, and when a task seems that it will take too long, I move to a new front.

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Last night, I decided that I would begin this day by slowing down and by actually beginning to master the gargantuan task of becoming more balanced and more efficient in all areas of my life. I acknowledge that this will not be a quick fix, but I have wasted twenty-five years by my failure to have done this a quarter of a century ago when I initially read Cameron’s the Artist’s Way. This morning, I wrote morning pages, and because it is a Cameron task on page 58, I listed “ten tiny changes” that I need to make in my life [my list is currently at #22]. I have vowed to slow down and to simply do what I need to do–to eat the elephant one bite at a time.

“No high jumping, please!… Progress, not perfection, is what we should be asking of ourselves.

“Too far, too fast, and we can undo ourselves. Creative recovery is like marathon training. We want to log ten slow miles for every one fast mile. This can go against the ego’s grain. We want to be great–immediately great–but that is not how recovery works. It is an awkward, tentative, even embarrassing process. There will be many times when we won’t look good–to ourselves or anyone else. We need to stop demanding that we do. …

” ‘But do you know how old I will be by the time I learn to really play the piano/act/write a play?’

“Yes. . . the same age you will if you don’t.

“So Le’ts start.” Cameron, Julia. the Artist’s Way, pgs. 29-30.

©Jacki Kellum April 23, 2017.
Avid

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