16 November 2017

A FLW Tour at FSC

Space is the breath of art.
- Frank Lloyd Wright

A Frank Lloyd Wright tour at Florida Southern College.
I love to be a tour guide of my old college, Florida Southern, to anyone who is interested. This weekend, my aunt and uncle came to visit (from Tennessee) and I jumped at the opportunity to show them the largest site of Frank Lloyd Wright buildings and my old Alma Mater. My brother and sister-in-law also share in the enjoyment of this campus, as they graduated a few years before me. Many thanks to my aunt for taking several of these photos, and sharing them!

Every time I step back on campus, it feels the same, in all the essentials. Sure, some flowers are planted by the chapel now, there are new buildings on the outskirts, and the rose garden did not exist when I was a student, but the main buildings, the landscape, and the feelings of the college are ever present in the same way. The students look super young, but somehow I feel like it was just a few years ago that I graduated.

Included in the delights I love to show on campus - Danforth Chapel, a tiny chapel that many probably don't notice. It has the original pews, vibrant stained glass, concrete details, and geometric elements scattered everywhere.

Always on my list of favourite spots is the Hollis Room, which was the original library. This room is not usually open, but we had providence on our side that day. Uniquely, it is a round room (so as to let sunlight into the library at any time of day) now used for seminars, speakers, and meetings. It is the perfect setting for that. They also had some original Frank Lloyd Wright designed furniture on display. I always thought those little geometric chairs looked fun, but probably not comfortable for long. FLW was an original designer of the mid-century modern. I wonder where those chairs were used, and if people thought they were comfortable.

I always hope that when I give tours people find it all as interesting as I do. I think the buildings and the campus is filled with interesting viewpoints, angles, and structures. There is no other campus like it!

14 November 2017

On the Heart Again

This forming of heart-stuff in moulds of brain
Is helpful to the soul by which 'tis wrought,
The shape reacting on the heart again.

- George MacDonald

I emerge at last, to dive in deeply. The sun's rays hide behind dark grey clouds all day, and misty rain falls almost continuously. My kind of day. I smile, as the temperature stays down because of the welcomed clouds. It's a southern Autumn day. The scent of cinnamon and nutmeg permeates my home as coconut granola bakes in the oven.

I yield to the feeling of Sunday. The slowing down and being more intentional. But it is hard to slow down, to think, to be explorers of the heart. I recognize it is not a lane we all like to travel. But here is where I feel the pause pulling me to its gravitational field. I resist many times with lists of things to do, and all the chores staring me down when I am at home. So many times we know of the goodness that awaits us, but we hesitate to enter the realm:

I always had a feeling it led somewhere wonderful, but I was afraid to go and see, in case it didn't.
(Elizabeth Goudge)

I am one who likes a lot of time to reflect. I know this about me, and most people who know me well also know this. If there is a busy day, filled with good things, or travel, or talks, or events, I prefer to take the next few days to ponder and reflect by way of writing in my journal to record all the thoughts and stories that were and that could be. I suppose that I need to let my thoughts take a walk for a bit. As my thoughts stretch their legs, my musings become more meaningful. Immediately rising in me is thankfulness and praise to the Lord for all the good. Then, I anticipate when I can be introspective.

It doesn't always come so easily. This is a busy, fast-paced, distracting world. I believe we all need time to be reflective, so that we can be intentional in our actions and thoughtful in our intents. Fruitfulness expands as we dwell in the quiet presence of our place, wherever that may be. 

This lovely month, November, should be a month of thankfulness. Too often it becomes a rush of events and calendars that are crammed full. This heart-stuff is helpful to the soul, but it requires some work on our part - to let it sink into the heart and dwell in the shape that it is.

Lord, whether we gather papers or gather friends, let us dwell deeply in thankfulness.

10 November 2017

Poem for Thought

Now that night is creeping
O'er our travail'd senses,
To Thy care unsleeping
We commit our sleep.
Nature for a season
Conquers our defences,
But th'eternal Reason
Watch and ward will keep.

All the soul we render

Back to Thee completely,
Trusting Thou wilt tend her
Through the deathlike hours,
And all night remake her
To thy likeness sweetly,
Then with dawn awake her
And give back her powers.

Slumber's less uncertain

Brother soon will bind us
- Darker falls the curtain,
Stifling-close 'tis drawn:
But amidst the prison
Still Thy voice can find us,
And as Thou hast risen,
Raise us in Thy dawn.

-C.S. Lewis

Most people do not know that C.S. Lewis wrote many poems, and more than anything when he was younger (pre-conversion) he wanted to be a poet. While his poetry is not well-known and not usually seen as his strength, I am always captivated and drawn into his poems. Sometimes he is over my head, deep in myth and meaning, but often I find myself pleasantly awoken to something that I admire in the best of poetry - something to muse upon, translate in my mind, and words that sink into my heart. Words that prompt reflection.

I also find it interesting how often Lewis uses feminine images or personifications in his poetry, as he is usually seen as a pipe smoking, bachelor don who didn't understand women. Since he lived in the same house with women and had guests quite often stay at the Kilns (his house outside Oxford), I suspect that he knew more about women than any of the stereotypes portray, and I think that comes out in his writings, especially his poetry.

Reading almost like a bedtime prayer through some creeping darkness, his words embrace us as we close our eyes to the tension of the day meeting night. The darkness envelopes us. Particularly in this darker time of year, when the sun sets so early. We need the reminder that we are not lost to the darkness. We are found, and once again rise in the morning to a new dawn full of graces.

07 November 2017

Love's Well-Ordered Dance

When Love had shaped this world...

A poem called "Orchestra", by Sir John Davies has been my study for a few days. I brought it to Concord Coffee to accompany my weekend ritual of some time at a coffee shop to write and read. The words sing into my soul with meaning in each stanza. Ponder upon each section, and you are rewarded with glimpses of God's goodness, creation, and centered love that pulls everything to it.

In one section, the speaker of the poem asks if atoms are so compacted, how were they built? Did they form by chance? Keep in mind this poem was written in 1594. Even then, culture was grappling with the question of divine creator or complete chance that we exist. Davies answers, no it is not by chance, love brought the atoms together, in a well-ordered dance.

The concept of dance is the theme of the poem, as a suitor tries to convince Penelope to dance. She protests that it is a new-fangled thing, and she can only do ancient things. But, the suitor points out that dancing is as old as the cosmos because that is how creation came into being. In beautiful imagery, he provokes imaginings that the spheres and even the tiny motes (atoms) were created by dancing, as love drawing them all into their place of belonging.

The language dances; through the verses you can hear the steps and imagine the dance of beauty and light.

Both back and forth and sideways passing light,
His gallant grace doth so the gods amaze
That all stand and at his beauty gaze.

Just as the cosmos dances into His love and centers around love, so should we all do in our relationships with one another. In different ways, of course - family, friends, spouses. Each has its own beauty and sense of delight as each person brings their important, unique part of the dance, and you all circle the same Creator, in love. Each person has their own space as the movements are continuous, and the beauty of the dance is there is not cramping each other's space. You move backward, forward and around, and so do the others close to you in unison. In goodness, in gratitude, and in awareness. As we are aware of one another, we share in helping one another grow if we need some instruction. We watch with regarding eyes. To love and gently correct leads us till around the centre in love.

Hence is it that these Graces painted are
With hand in hand, dancing an endless round,
And with regarding eyes, that still beware
That there be no disgrace amongst them found.

I love the use of the word 'concord' (it seems rather appropriate that I was reading this at Concord Coffee) and how it is a heavenly treasure for us all to have different parts to play, but at the same time to have a unity with one another, all compounding in one, and with one consent all being able to agree. There is so much beautiful imagery here, it is a delight to unpack it all in thoughts and musings.

Concord's true picture shineth in this art,
Where diverse men and women ranked be,
And every one doth dance a several part,
Yet all as one in measure do agree,
Observing perfect uniformity:
All turn together, all together trace,
And all together honour and embrace.

03 November 2017

Mood of the Evening

The mood of the evening.
Dark and candle-lit, cosy.
Book-strewn table. A good story
in process - The Herb of Grace.
The temperature dropping,
my heart lightening.
A contrast I welcome.
Getting lost in a good story. Hearing words
in my head, inspiring and thought-provoking.
Language to create and foster goodness, 
can do the opposite if we don't think.
A quiet and peaceful home
growing chilled as the hours wane.
But hours pass like minutes within the pages.
Can such little moments produce good?
Will words change things?
Oh yes, indeed. Such little things can do 

a swirling world of good.
Other small things can, too: a smile, eye contact,
a gentle touch, an encouraging word.
These are large and thankful graces, 
ever I am blessed to encounter or give.
Fall, leaves, fall in due season.
Now is the time to bundle into
such graces.

01 November 2017

Poetic Points of View

The depth of sea and the height of air
Present contrasting points of view
In a Coleridgeian sense a place does not spare
Its landscapes, a beauty to pursue.

Often our space for view, observation,

Notes on shape, tone, hue, and curve,
Raises in us questions and speculation
In all things, love, is it present, does it serve?

I went to a poetry reading at the library the other afternoon. It was an author reading her own works (and she had 8-10 published books for sale - really remarkable!). She read many of her poems, during which, I sat watching her read, listening to her word selection and associations that she would use that were contrasting and interesting. I appreciated her alliterative descriptive phrasings. Her use of repetition was effective, especially as she talked about leaves in autumn and the abundance of them where she lived in Minnesota. Her images were abundant, and eventually led somewhere. That is the nature of poems. 

In between reading poems she would share a quick bit of wisdom about poetry. I scribbled in my journal. I love to hear other's insights into their creative process and their discoveries from their years as a writer. 

Her poems were meant to be read out load to people. Most poems are meant for that. Like good music, good poetry has a communal appreciation when you are among other poetry lovers. A young woman a little older than me sat next to me and we started chatting before the event started. She, like me, was a lover of words and writing. She had her notebook to write in, as well. I was glad I wasn't the only one who jots notes during presentations and lectures. She had just started a blog so that she can practice her writing and stay motivated. I told her that I have written on a blog for years, in order to practice and challenge myself to keep on writing.

It's small encounters like this that help remind me to keep writing, keep practicing, keep doing what I love. When we really care deeply about something, it is usually going to come out and shine to anyone who encounters you. As I left the library, I stopped to smell the gorgeous autumn roses just outside the building.

30 October 2017

Awakening Autumn

Trust in the Lord, and do good;
Dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.
- Psalm 37.2

Every time I go to the grocery store these days, I think of the fruits of the season; the harvest of goods that usher in a new time of year that promotes warmth and cosiness. The cold air brings these things, and even before any cold air arrives, all the stores remind us it is coming. Each time I was able to grab a jacket a few days this last week, I smiled with a thankful heart. It is a gift to be able to dwell in this season. With the first chill of the season, my senses wake up from the drollness of six months of summer - to the excitement of a new season that had long been forgotten. Summer dulls the memory of chilly weather to come.

Or, as Coleridge wrote:
To awaken the mind's attention...

Indeed, autumn awakens my mind's attention to an earth open to me again. The summer heat has subsided, and I may now go out to play. Here begins the days I am eager to be outside. I wake to the bounty and beauty of God's creation, and I sense the spiritual meaning of the season - the quiet of the land as it slows down, the fluttering leaves falling to the ground, seeds remind us that to die is to live, the protecting we do (from the cold with jackets and scarves) and the protecting the leaves to (to the roots), the melancholy of darker days, the fruits of the season (squash, apples, etc).

They are all essential, beautiful pieces of this season, and we are meant to experience it, and learn what it all has to teach us. We are not meant to live in one perpetual state of being (or one season). How would we appreciate the gifts produced if there never was any change? We would grow dull and bored with the same thing day in, day out. We are changeable, and many times we need nature to change in order that we pay attention to some deeper things.

26 October 2017

An Autumn Memory

I was blowing out my candles and getting ready for bed when this memory suddenly came to me as the temperature dropped outside to feel like Autumn. I grabbed my journal and sat down to write some scribbly memories on the pages. 

I was eight again, and at my grandma's place in North Carolina, when she lived in the mobile home at the top of a big hill. The mobile home complex was up the hill, and at the bottom (and across the highway) was Walmart and Piggly Wiggly. I am pretty sure they are both still there.

When I was little, it was all magical to me. We would go up to the mountains to visit my grandma every Autumn. I remember going to Walmart and buying Franklin leaf looker sweatshirts (My mum and I are showcasing ours in this photo. Of course, mine is a sweatshirt dress. I guess they didn't make children's sizes). I am quite certain I wore that sweatshirt every day. I carried that camera around, because I wanted to take photos of the Autumn scenes that were so fascinating to me (birth of my love of taking photos?).

We would play outside on the sloping grassy lawns that enveloped grandma's quiet, spacious neighborhood. The leaves were our toys. I don't think we needed much else. Crunching them underfoot, we ran through piles of collected leaves by getting a running start down a little hill. Collecting leaves was always an activity, which we would bring back to grandma's and sit on the porch making some framed art with coloured leaves.

Autumn in the mountains was a world away from Florida. It held a sense of magic that only could be found in the mountains. It must have infused itself so deeply in me that I long for it every year without fail, and I am almost tempted to don a leaf looker sweatshirt in order to do so. Thankfully, those sweatshirts no longer exist.

24 October 2017

Contrasts in the Woods

What is set before us is contrasts in the woods. In one scene, we have a quiet, peaceful house in the woods, on the edge of a lake. Adorned with porches and nooks to enjoy nature, set on a sloping hill leading down to the lake. Even with little toddler nephew, you can find peace and quiet, because nature surrounds you. It's just as I like it. I want to be in the trees. I want to hear the bird calls echo from one end of the property to some other place in the woods. Leaves falling from the tops of these tall trees flutter down like a beautiful slow-motion cascade to the ground or the porch.

This is where, as often as I could, I would tuck myself away on the lower screened-in porch in to get a few pages of journaling and poetry in, listening to the sounds of the woods that is so calming to me. Every so often a cracking noise of acorns falling on the roof or porch would seem so loud against the quiet of leaves rustling in the frequent breezes. Soon later, little nephew would come down with his daddy. He was good at grabbing the attention - charming, smirking, and being interested in my books in that toddler fashion.

In another scene, on the other end of the spectrum, you have a race track in the woods. Here we have rolling hills and trees galore, but it is not what you would classify as quiet and peaceful. It is quite the opposite. Crowds, cars, and announcers. Here was the world of Le Mans racing with all the spectators enjoying every moment of several days of events as they stay in campers, RVs, and tents scattered all around the track. This is where the loud engines and the scent of race gasoline hover above the curves of the track almost continuously.

While you are in the woods, this is where you go down a hill to garages (behind the pits) of each racing team and see all the drivers autograph photos and posters the day before the race. Down in the garages, we bump into an old BMW club pal, who we have known from various events for probably 15 years, so we chat with him. We walk up the hill in the heat and sunshine. I use an umbrella to shade me pretty much all day. Here is where I am out of my comfortable place, and yet, it is almost a comfort to be a part of what my family loves and enjoys so much. My dad had enjoyed these events immensely. In a strange way, it all seems so normal to me to be there. Both of these scenes, in fact, represent contrasts in the woods that apply to me so naturally. Aren't we all made up of such interesting contrasts?

19 October 2017

Musings from a Pumpkin Patch

Musings from a pumpkin patch.

Spotted lawn of sprouted autumnal harvest.
Glories of a season slow to arrive,
but quick to awaken our senses.
A milieu we are keen to welcome.
Sage colours emerge in beautiful arrangements;
Earth-toned and wonder-flitted.

Is there a whisper of autumn in the breeze? Today, it almost felt like the air was attempting to let go of the heat, as the overcast skies kept the temperatures down and the moody grey layers above rustled the leaves below welcoming an approaching season. Patience, dear ones. In time all the best things are worth waiting for.

When I see from across the lake, the pumpkins pop of colour sunbathing on the sloping lawn of my church, my imagination immediately rushes to a windy golden afternoon with a chill in the air and a jacket on my shoulders. Taking walks with fallen leaves shuffling under my feet and a cool breeze rustling my hair. Sitting outside with a book with my imagination wandering.

This is what a little bit of musing from a pumpkin patch does to me.