Jacki Kellum

Juxtapositions: Read My Mind

Tag: Jacki Kellum Garden

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

Today, I Have 50 Kids Coming to Plant A Children’s Garden – Lord, Give Me Strength

Today is Arbor Day and for weeks, I have known that this would be the day that 50 kids would be coming to the library to help me plant a children’s garden there. With just the thought of it, I get knackered out.

But I’m excited. The weather report is excellent. We should have a warm and sunny day. This morning, I threw open my garden door and allowed the sunshine and fresh, morning air to sweep into the room. It is as though all of the garden gods are with me except one. I’m not twenty-years-old anymore, and this gardening season, I have begun to feel like the sixty-seven-year-old that I am. I know that by the end of this day, I will ache. I will drag into my house and soak in my tub and sleep for hours. Then, I’ll drag myself out of bed, eat something, and sleep some more. That is what it takes for my aging body to continue to do the digging and laborious work that gardening requires, but I still believe that gardening is important, and I especially believe that gardening is important for kids.

Although I am really not a librarian of any type, I have somehow found myself in the position of serving my small, New Jersey Coastal Community as their part-time Children’s Librarian. I have been doing this job for 14 years and I am allowed to weave all types of projects into my library program.  I grew up very differently than kids today are growing up, and my childhood in Southern, rural America was especially different from that of kids living on the East Coast–not far from Philadelphia, Washington D. C. and New York City.  Racing to competitions and sports events has replaced sitting on the porch swing for most kids today, and hardly any of today’s kids know anything about planting and maintaining a garden.

Kids Need to Experience the Wonder of Working in a Garden.

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 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 all of these problems are connected. The well-being of children is adversely affected by too much time indoors and by not enough time outdoors.

For years, I have wanted to create an outdoor living space at my local library, and this year, I finally got the go-ahead to get that project started. I wish that I were fifteen or twenty years younger, but I am still young enough to meet the challenge.

Today, 50 eager and smiling kids will arrive at my library–with their altar offerings of one perennial to plant each– and we will work together to build our community’s children’s garden.

From that spot, the kids will be able to come face to face with the miraculous journey of a plant’s life, as they watch their own plant unfold and grow in our garden.  I believe in gardening, and I believe in children. I am 67-years-old, and I realize that my gardening days are becoming fewer and fewer. Metaphorically speaking, I have arrived at the autumn of my own life, but because the world continues to make fresh crops of children, I know that spring will continue to come. Here’s to spring and to gardening and here’s to the hope that our children will learn to love our land.

©Jacki Kellum April 28, 2017
Happy Arbor Day

Knackered

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.

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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

When What You See Is Not What You Get – Symbolism In Art and Writing

You use a glass mirror to see your face; you use works of art to see your soul. – George Bernard Shaw

Many times, artists bury nougats of truth about themselves or about what they are thinking in their art and their writing. Symbolism–it’s a clever game. You say one thing, but you mean another, and the odd thing is that you really want people to figure what that other thing is all about. Often, what the viewer actually sees or reads in an artist’s work is only a tiny part of what the artist is saying.

It is rather like the silly game that is played by petty wives.  When their husbands hurt their feelings or if their husbands forget birthdays or anniversaries, the wives sulk. The husband asks, “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing.”

“But I know something is wrong.”

“I’m fine.”

Even though the woman protests that something has upset her, she behaves as though something has, and she wants the husband to guess what that something is. It is as though the true test of love is clairvoyance. The wife is implying that if the husband can see deep into her soul, he truly loves her, and he wins the game.

When I was married, I wanted nothing more than for my husband to stop on a deserted lot and to pick me bunches of wildflowers or daisies or red clover or whatever else that he could find. But he never did. A smarter wife would have simply said, “I need flowers from you at least once per month.” But in my mind, that would have ruined the whole thing. I needed for my ex-husband to intuitively know that I needed flowers–even free flowers–at least once per month. I seemed to believe that if another person could see deeply  into my soul, and if he could decipher all of my wants and my needs, he would be my one, true love. No doubt, that is one reason that I am divorced.

I play that same kind of game with my art and writing. About 15 years ago, I wrote a group of short verses about flowers. My idea was to illustrate each flower and to publish the book of paintings and verses together, and I would call the volume Garden Songs. [Shhhh! I didn’t just tell you that. I still plan to do it. But like so many other things, I simply haven’t gotten it done].

Keep in mind that I want all of the poems to be very short so that they don’t detract from the paintings that will be the true focus of the page. Even though the verses are short, however, I want them to have greater meaning. I want the verses and the images to be symbols for greater truths. Here is the poem that I wrote about Snapdragons:

The Painted Parade
by Jacki Kellum

Watch the painted parade,
With bold and biting dragons,
Teasing all the toddlers—even me!

They’re really just pretending.
Everyday’s a New Year,
A fun and festive firework jamboree.

© Painted Parade Jacki Kellum October 19, 2015

My grandmother always had snapdragons in her garden, and I used to love to pinch the snapdragons and allow them to bite me or at least close around the tip of my finger and nibble me. When I heard the dragon part of the word “snapdragon,” I thought about the Dragon Dance in the Chinese New Year’s Parade, and that provided me a springboard into what would become part of my greater meaning.

On one level, the poem is simply about a colorful bed of flowers that have the capacity to nibble at my fingertips–like a biting dragon, the “dragon” part of the word “snapdragon.” On another level, the parade is talking about the non-scary, scary dragon in a Chinese parade. But on the deepest level, my poem is about something entirely different.

When I said, “Watch the Painted Parade,” I was actually chastising all of the people around me that I thought were being pretentious, wearing masks, and playing games.

My simple, little ditty about Snapdragons was actually a symbol for the way that I felt deep within myself about people who are fake. I do this type of thing all of the time. In other words, what you think that you see in my art and in my writing, is not all that there actually is. My art and my writing are only the tips of an iceberg that lies deeply within me.

Now, here is the silly part: I actually want my viewer and my reader to know what I am thinking, but just like a silly wife, I want you to guess what that is.  My art and my writing are keys to some of the gems that I keep locked inside myself.

You use a glass mirror to see your face; you use works of art to see your soul. – George Bernard Shaw

©Jacki Kellum October 24, 2016

Tiny

It’s September: I Know That It Is Fall! – Jacki Kellum

One advantage of living in the North is that as soon as the calendar hits September 1, PLOP! The curtain drops! And It Turns Fall! That doesn’t happen in the South. I remember my school-teaching days in Mississippi. I remember standing out on the asphalt parking lot and waiting for the kids to load into the buses. The heat was so intense that I felt as though I was baking–literally! I half-expected that my flesh would begin to fall off my bones–pulled-pork style.

In the North, we have some hot days in summer, but summer doesn’t last as long as it does in the South. I have laughed, saying that I believe that whoever broke the years into seasons, lived in New Jersey, because in New Jersey, we have 4 distinctive seasons, and you can bank on them changing at exactly the time that they are supposed to change.

I know that on March 20, I’ll be whimpering. Last year, it snowed here on April 9, and I felt that the weather gods had forsaken us. But even then, there had been hints of spring. Last year, winter simply decided to blast us one more time before it moved along. I complained, but I knew that spring was around the corner. By April in New Jersey, it always is. Even now, we’ll have a few more hot days before we start building fires.

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But in my garden, my purple asters have begun to bloom. That is my cue to buy yellow chrysanthemums. My black-eyed Susans are about done for the year, and my purples need some golden yellow, and my bluish-purple chaste tree is also in full bloom.

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We’ll still have some days that are typical of Indian Summer, but by September 1 in New Jersey, it is time to begin looking at the flannel shirts and leggings. By September 1, the pumpkins and the sunflowers that have hit the stores and stands make sense because, by September1 in New Jersey, fall has begun. The downside to that, however, is that winter is close behind.

©Jacki Kellum September 6, 2016

Plop

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