Sunday, December 09, 2018

Carols of Praise

Good tidings of great joy!

My post a couple of months ago about blogging more regularly seems now like a fuzzy dream. It was not so smart to set that goal, perhaps, shortly before making a three-week trip overseas, coming home to a family wedding, Thanksgiving guests, and then having all the catching up to do with that.

But today is the second Sunday of Advent and a good time to renew that goal, and I've been encouraged by a group of others who are blogging daily in December, so maybe I'll catch some of that energy and keep this going.

That angel up there looks a little like I feel. Not extremely energetic, but doing his part. I'm not sure where the artwork came from, but it's on the front cover of the program for the Lessons and Carols service I sang in tonight. Lessons and Carols is my favorite event of the Advent/Christmas season.

I remember the first time I ever heard these words. It was Christmas Eve in 1994 or '95. I turned on the public radio station and was amazed to hear prayers being prayed and the scripture being read. We had only fairly recently come to live in the States, and public radio was fairly new to me, but not so new that hearing scripture being read didn't seem like a sort of miracle. When I realized it was a cathedral full of people and heard them praying the Lord's Prayer, it struck a place deep inside me.

I kept listening and was delighted to be introduced to the Lessons and Carols service and to the fact that it aired every year. It was such a beautiful surprise, and I recall having tears of wonder and joy in my eyes more than once as I sat on the floor wrapping gifts and listening.

A few years later I was equally surprised to learn that this service was actually performed in our very city, and it wasn't long after that, that I joined the choir so that I could be a part of it.

Perhaps I'll write more later about why this service means so much to me, why it so often brings tears to my eyes. It has to do with lonely exile, gloomy clouds of night, and sad divisions--and the hope of Emmanuel in the midst of all that.

This (above) is the place in the service where I nearly always realize I'm not going to make it much further without a tissue. It is absolutely glorious singing this descant arrangement to "O Come, All Ye Faithful," with the choirs, the congregation, the organ and brass ensemble. If sound could somehow show in the air, I think the whole space would be sparkling with gold and deep blue at that point. It's a powerful beauty that pierces some deep place in the soul, the way only music wedded to words with deep meaning can do.

Of course the air doesn't actually turn gold and blue. So I'll end with another bit of the front cover

Thursday, October 11, 2018

A Prayer for the Weary

Lift up our souls, O Lord,
to the pure, serene light of thy presence;
that there we may breathe freely,
there repose in thy love,
there may be at rest from ourselves,
and from thence return,
arrayed in thy peace,
to do and bear what shall please thee;
for thy holy name's sake.


(A prayer by Dr. E.B. Pusey, Anglican theologian, 1800-1882.
I'm not sure where I originally found this, but I love it.
To "be at rest from ourselves," such a generally unspoken need.)

Monday, September 10, 2018


This bridge, in the park where I often walk, has become so much a part of my internalized normal, and part of what I love about this park, that until I just now looked at this picture that I took this morning, it never struck me that it could look unwelcoming or pointless to the uninitiated. Because at the end of the bridge is a closed gate. And it is in fact a locked gate.

So it's a bridge you cross simply to then have to stop. And that sign you can see makes it clear that you are not to try to get over or around the bridge.

But I love the bridge because I think it's pretty. It's solid. I use it to do stretches. I look over the edge to watch ducks, fish, turtles, and when I'm lucky, a heron. I love to stand or lie down and just look at the sky.

And I love that closed gate that says "KEEP OUT."

Because it also says "WILDLIFE REFUGE."

I love that right here in the middle of a big city is a place set aside for wildlife. Wild life.

"We need the tonic of wildness" says the all-natural rose-scented facial tonic I bought at Whole Foods mainly just because I loved that quote. It's from Walden, by Thoreau, who went on to write, "At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature."

When I was in college, an English major taking an American Lit class, I remember writing either in a paper or in my journal, that I thought I had been a Transcendentalist all my life without knowing it.

Well, I know more now and would not say that. But perhaps it's fair to say that I'm a Transcendental-ish Christian.

At any rate, I chose the bridge picture to represent yet one more transition, one more moving from one place to another, in that I really do hope to start writing more again. It feels as if my brain, and thus my mind, have recovered enough from the thesis writing and then the neck surgery I had this spring, to be able to write again. I even kind of feel the itch.

And for now this blog will be a sort of wildlife refuge for my writing, still meandering here and there. It's a mystery to me, a bit of a wild thing, still, where it may go.

But any readers are welcome to walk the bridge-- and you may also open the gate.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Messiah, Mama, Music, Memories

I was "home," at my dad's house, for a short visit earlier this week and took this picture. I was struck once again by how this Messiah album goes back into my earliest memories. How I used to think it said "MESS ee ah," which to my young mind sounded like "messy," and I knew it couldn't mean that, but I didn't know what it meant. At some point of course I learned the meaning of the word, and I learned to say "me SI ah," and my freshman year of college began singing the "Hallelujah Chorus" and "Worthy Is the Lamb." Eventually the one called the Messiah took on an importance in my life I could never have known when I was 5 or 6 and trying to make sense of this album cover I saw in our house day after day.

I suppose this album was in this record shelf before I came into the life of the household. And I suppose my mother was the one who brought it into that household, because she loved music and sang in the college chorus and would have been the one to buy or be given this music.

Today marks two years since her dying. Many thoughts and feelings have coursed through my mind and heart in recent days because of this date, but tonight it seems best simply to share from Messiah, music that once meant so much to her. I look forward to singing it together Someday. And of course it comes from the Bible, which mean even more to her:

Behold, I tell you a mystery;
we shall not all sleep, but we shall be changed,
in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.

The trumpet shall sound,
and the dead shall be raised, be raised incorruptible,
and we shall be changed.

For this corruptible must put on incorruption,
and this mortal shall put on immortality.

O death, where is thy sting?
O grave, where is thy victory?
the sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law.

But thanks be to God, who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

If God be for us, who can be against us?
Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect?
It is God who justifieth,who is he that condemneth?
It is Christ that died, yes, rather that is risen again, who is at the right hand of God,
who makes intercession for us.

Worthy is the Lamb that was slain,
and hath redeemed us to God by His blood
to receive power and riches, and wisdom and strength, and glory and honor and blessing.

Blessing and honor, glory and power be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne,
and unto the Lamb forever.


Saturday, January 06, 2018

Epiphany Crowns and Haloes

"Adoration of the Magi," tapestry by Edward Burne-Jones and William Morris

It's fascinating how various parts of daily life can manifest themselves in ways that intersect and surprise.

With Epiphany on the horizon, my mind had been returning to my blurry memory of the image above, which I used a couple of years ago in a presentation as part of my DMin degree, comparing this image to the image woven in words by the prophet Amos in chapter 6, where wealth and complacency accompany pride and are condemned.

I put a lot of work into that and was sad because I thought I had lost it forever, since I did it on the laptop that was stolen this summer;I had looked for it a couple of times in other places without success. But this evening one more search led me to find it in my emails.

I was reminded that the final sentence of what I wrote alluded to the choice between wearing crowns or being given haloes, because one thing that struck me in the tapestry is that all three kings have removed their crowns, and the one approaching Jesus has laid his on the ground, no doubt with an eye to Revelation 4:10 scene where the 24 elders cast their crowns before Jesus.

Whether kings or not (go here for a helpful article on the identity of these men), the wise men must have been wealthy to have traveled so far, and to spend their lives studying the stars. But they used their wealth to find and worship the Light of the world rather than as a means of gaining pleasure and status like the wealthy Amos addressed.

So, feeling happy that I'd discovered a copy of my work, and also being able to look again at the beautiful tapestry after finding the name and artist, I opened the book that we've been reading from throughout Advent and Christmas, to see what the reading for today is.

Here is what I found:

The child we seek
doesn't need our gold.
On love, on love alone
he will build his kingdom.
His piercéd hand will hold no scepter,
his haloed head will wear no crown;
his might will not be built
on your toil.
Swifter than lightning
he will soon walk among us.
He will bring us new life
and receive our death,
and the keys to his city
belong to the poor.

~Gian Carlo Menotti,
from "Amahl and the Night Visitors"

And there it is--"his haloed head will wear no crown." I may have read this poem before, but I had never noticed that line until tonight. It has felt like an evening among old friends, somehow, even though I'm sick with the flu and home alone. A sweet reunion of sorts.

If we all desired the holiness of the halo over the power and prestige of the crown, what a different world it would be. Literal crowns are rare, but the desire for wealth and power certainly isn't. We can at least put down our own crowns and hope and pray for this crown-crazed world. And like the wise men, look for the light and follow it to its Source.

Postscript: I believe the way I originally discovered this tapestry was via the blog of my friend Janet a couple of years ago. Her poem based on it, which I've linked to, is worth reading, also.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Relinquishment and Renewal

These are little gold cardboard stars that I bought for a birthday or something. I don't remember what. But a couple of years ago I thought they would be fun as Christmas decorations, and I hung them in a doorway with pieces of ribbon, so that to enter the dining room you passed under and through a curtain of stars. I thought it was lovely, but someone taller found it less than lovely and even somewhat annoying.

So last year, determined to keep the stars around, I realized there were exactly enough to go on every other pane of the living room window, giving us the look and feel of their golden starry presence without hitting anyone in the nose or messing up hair. So there they went again this year.

I love looking out and up at the blue sky, with giant trees in the background and stars in the foreground. There's just something joyful and of course meaningful about having them in that in-between position, so that stars become part of what you are looking through.

I'm writing this on New Year's Eve, not sure if I'll finish it tonight or tomorrow, but thinking back on 2017 and what has transpired. It kind of blows my mind that I've written only eight blog posts this year, which I see is second only to 2015, with only six posts. I thought that once I finished that degree, I would write more.

Obviously, that's not what happened. As I wrote a couple of posts ago, finding a new rhythm has been hard.

A few weeks ago I ran into writer friend Corey Latta at the bookstore. When he asked how I was doing, for whatever reason I skipped "fine" and said, "Honestly, I'm having a harder time than I thought I would since finishing that thesis and graduating. I thought I would have a lot of energy and be doing new things, but I'm having a hard time getting anything going." To my great relief he responded, "Oh, that is so normal. When did you graduate?" "Over six months ago! Not sure that's normal!" "Yes, that's normal. For so long you had that one thing that took all your time and focus, and it just takes a while to regain your energy and be able to focus on new things. It's normal for everyone post-doc."

I felt as if it had been a divine appointment, that running into him that day!

Anyway, in doing my David Allen-inspired retrospective this evening, I thought a lot about what word best sums up my 2017 experience. "Relinquishment" soon came to mind, and it hasn't yet been replaced by anything else, so for now I'm sticking with it.

It may seem like an odd word. Graduating is what most people would call an accomplishment, not a relinquishment. And of course I have a sense of great joy and satisfaction about finishing and defending that thesis and graduating. But it came only because of learning to relinquish the writing. To stop wanting to do more, or to perfect what was there. To come to a place of saying, "It's enough, and it's good enough, and I will let it go."

And then on our summer trip to Europe our bags were stolen, including my laptop, which meant I lost  4-5 years of photos, among other things. I'll probably write again about that, but for now I'll just say that I've had to surrender that, let it go. There's nothing I can do about it. Of course I didn't voluntarily give those photos up, but I've had to do the inner work of letting go of that.

And here at the end of the year, while of course I can't hold on to the year any more than anyone can, I'm doing the inner work of relinquishing the expectations I'd had for what I'd accomplish in the time since graduating. For months I had a sign up that said, "Write as you can, not as you can't." That advice first came to me in the form of "pray as you can, not as you can't." Now I've put a little sticky note over the first word, so I look up from time to time and see, "Live as you can, not as you can't."

Yesterday I heard an interview between Ken Myers and Michael Hanby. In discussing philosophical issues related to problems of technology, they made their way to a conversation found in C.S. Lewis's The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, where the children have encountered an Old Man who, they learn, is actually a retired star.

Of course they are astounded, this seems so strange.

"In our world," said Eustace, "a star is a huge ball of flaming gas."
Ramandu, the star, responds, "Even in your world, my son, that is not what a star is, but only what it is made of."

And a bit later, "Aren't you a star any longer?" asked Lucy.

"I am a star at rest, my daughter," answered Ramandu. "When I set for the last time, decrepit and old beyond all that you can reckon, I was carried to this island. I am not so old now as I was then. Every morning a bird brings me a fire-berry from the valleys in the Sun, and each fire-berry takes away a little of my age. And when I have become as young as the child that was born yesterday, then I shall take my rising again (for we are at earth's eastern rim) and once more tread the great dance."

I'm no star, but this reading was so encouraging to me. I've had a full five months of rest since graduating and returning from a trip to Europe. I've had fire-berries brought to me in the form of visits with friends, long walks, more musical performances than I'd been able to take in over the past few years, even singing again with the Memphis Chamber Choir. My energy is being renewed. I trust my focus will return.

And also, when we think about the year we've just lived and all the things we're aware of having done, that is not what a year is, but only what it is made of. I have a feeling that in the bigger picture, it will turn out to have been much more than we can possibly realize.

Here's to 2018. Happy New Year!

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

The Grandmother Gift

This is the view out the backdoor of my grandparents' house, toward the west, with the many memories that come along with it.

Today is the day our beloved Grandmother was born. It's strange to think she has been gone more than fourteen years, closer to fifteen. Not that I don't miss her. It isn't hard to believe that many years have passed, because she has been missed for all of them.

It's more because she is so much a part of my life, because she is part of me, part of how I see things, how I hear things, how I think about things.

I use her pots and pans. I pray at the little desk she gave me while she was living, and I write notes and letters at the desk that became mine after her death. We still  use towels that were hers. I see her little milk pitcher every time I walk through our dining room.

The intangibles are just as real. Her expressions come to my mind in various situations. (Who else says, "bless Pat"?) Her advice, whether about the kitchen or the bigger things in life, still gives me guidance. When I play piano, I remember that she always encouraged my playing and helped pay for lessons at some points. I can still hear her voice asking, "Where are your manners?" when we were little children and forgot to say "please" or "ma'am" or "sir," and it makes me want to continue the kindness and respect of simply manners, even when some are falling out of use.

When I wake earlier than I would like, I remember her talking about how she slept less and would get up and read in the early hours.

I remember her strength, her kindness, her beauty, her laughter, her love.

I pray to be like her in all the ways I ought to be.

It is her birthday, and for all who knew her, she is the gift.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017


These trees live in Overton Park, the park I used to walk in on Friday mornings, back when I had more of a regular schedule. The deeper I got into writing my thesis, the less I was able to go there for those longer Friday morning walks. Whether it was true or just my anxiety saying so, it seemed I simply didn't have the time, so I took shorter walks at the closer-by Chickasaw Gardens park.

Now my Friday mornings have been taken by piano lessons, so I'm still not in a routine of walking at Overton. But I'm hoping to do it on another day.

It's hard to believe how much trouble I'm having getting into a new rhythm. After graduating, there was a trip to Texas in May, then a trip to Europe in June-July, then house guests in late July. All of these things were absolutely delightful--and they all meant no regular routine.

. . . . And the fact that I started writing this on October 11, and now it is the 25th, is evidence that I still haven't managed to get some things into a regular routine. But I'm back.

And I did make it back to Overton Park, one foggy day back near the end of August, when this picture was taken.

It felt a bit like a family reunion, in a way. Because I used to walk here nearly every single week, and usually walked the same trails, the trees, the curves of the path, the vines growing on the trees, the occasional flowers were all familiar and beloved in that way they become over time. I don't know if they had missed me, but I had missed them.

Surely I've written before that I spent a lot of time outside when I was growing up. When my family lived in town, my friend and I traipsed around in the small plot of swampy woods behind our house and the larger stretch of woods (with a creek!) across the street from her house.

When my family moved out of town, we were surrounded by woods before us and behind us. After I was too old for the imaginary adventures that involved creating fairytale houses from rocks and branches, turning an old stump into a witch's pot, and pretending to search for the creek that would take us to my friend's house if we just looked long enough, I still spent long stretches of time out there. Sometimes walking, sometimes climbing a tree, sometimes running on the road across from us.

I'm convinced that the woods are part of how I became the person I became. I owe no small measure of my sanity to them. It has been interesting to learn over time how much time spent in nature affects the development of our brains. I remember the first time I became aware that some people feel scared when they go in the woods; I was really surprised! For me, woods have the opposite effect, calming me, clearing my mind, focusing my attention--it doesn't matter if I'm in my home state of Arkansas, or here in Tennessee, or over in Europe. Being surrounded by trees automatically soothes my nerves. I think that's true for most people unless they've fed themselves with scary movies that interfere with the more natural response.

Recently I came across these words, and they are part of why I love the woods: "It is hard to go completely mad if you spend your free time being free and accepting the free bounties of the world round about . . .. Things, in their beautiful and imposing integrity, do not easily bend to lies."

When the world is crazy with lies--whether the lies of others in our lives, or the lies our own minds struggle to overcome inside of us, or the lies of the wider culture, or political lies--trees, vines, flowers, rocks, and dirt--oh, and wonderful green moss--with all the little creatures that thrive in the midst of them--these maintain their integrity. They quietly share their beauty. They offer themselves freely, no strings attached, no tricks to play.

And so it was wonderful to go back to Overton Park at the end of August. I've been able to go one other time since then.

And little by little I'm getting some rhythm back into my life. It's a lot like walking in the woods. I can only do it one step at a time. And I have to trust that even if I haven't been in this exact spot before, I can find my way, and meanwhile, there's lots of beauty all around under the woods.

(I really like that my first last name is Underwood.)

Friday, August 04, 2017

Pied Beauty and the Comfort of the Resurrection

That's the Bald Knob Bulldog above. In my mind it's the Bald Knob Bulldog Cafe', despite the sign calling it a restaurant. I'm not sure how that discrepancy came about, but I'm willing to bet that I'm older than that sign, so I'm guessing that it used to be called, and perhaps have a sign saying that it was, a cafe'. I just did a quick Google search and learned that other people have also searched the the Bulldog Cafe in Bald Knob, so I think it must have been called that at one time.

Anyway, I was there this evening. My daddy flew home today from a grand adventure that took him to Rome, Zagreb, Cakovec (where he stayed in our home for a couple of nights), and then a town called Cluj in Romania (where he taught English for several weeks), and to Hungary (where he visited friends made many years ago.) He came home today from all this travel in faraway places. His flight from Europe was delayed, causing him to miss his flight home last night. So he spent the night in the airport and arrived here with almost no sleep in 48 hours.

He amazed me by having the presence of mind and energy to want to go to the AT&T shop to be sure his Europe phone service was terminated, and to go by the truck dealer to schedule an oil change. I drove him on those errands, then we came home. He went out to his garden and picked tomatoes and eggplant and squash. Then we ate supper.

And then he brought up the idea of going to get a strawberry shortcake in Bald Knob. So we did it. Except I learned that they also make peach shortcakes, so I got peaches rather than strawberries. Which was a hard decision to make, because strawberries are wonderful and famous in these parts. But peaches are my favorite, so that's what I had.

A trip to the Bulldog was the perfect ending to a lovely day dedicated to coming to Arkansas. As soon as I crossed the Mississippi River, I felt that wonderful sense of freedom that comes when you see the green masses of trees, the wide open fields, the dirt and gravel roads wandering through them.

Today I was listening to lectures (a graduation gift from my thoughtful husband) on Gerard Manley Hopkins and his poetry as I drove, hearing Fr. Joseph Feeney read poems of Hopkins' Wales surroundings, the hills, the birds, the fields, the sky. And all around me were fields, sky, birds--and even lovely hills, once I came to Crowley's Ridge. It made the drive even more beautiful than usual.

And then I made a stop that made me love Arkansas even more. I wanted to get balloons as a little surprise when Daddy would arrive at his house. I was short on time, and I really wanted to avoid the crowds of WalMart if I could. So when I saw a little local florist sign in Bald Knob that said "more than flowers," I thought it was worth a try. You never know just what to expect when you go into a place like that in a small town (fewer than 3,000 people in 2010). It was actually a large-ish building for a florist, obviously a new business in an old building that used to house some other kind of activity, maybe a farm supply store, given the amount of farming in that area. It was large and fairly plain, except that the new owners had painted huge flowers on the outside of the building, giving it a whimsically charming homemade beauty. You can see a picture near the bottom of this website.

Hoping they had balloons, and that I could get some quickly, I walked in the door to see no one behind the counter. No doorbell rang, no voice called out, no one appeared. I had just begun to wonder if I should go back to the car when out of the back came a little brown-haired boy who hurried right over, looked up at me, and threw his arms around my legs to give me a hug, his head reaching a little above my knees!

I think he said something, but I don't remember what. I don't remember what I said, either. I just remember that he was terribly sweet, and even though I couldn't always understand what he said, he responded to my greetings and questions; and once I had learned that he was three years old and that his mom had gone to the store, he went back to where he had come from behind the counter, and out came a woman who I believe was his aunt.

This all took a very short time, less time than it has taken to write about it and probably less than it will take you to read it. I mention that so that no one can get the idea that he was neglected or unsupervised.  He clearly was not. He was just fast!

Happily I did order balloons that they did in fact have, and the whole time carried on a funny conversation with this sweet child, whose mother arrived during my few minutes there. When it was time to pay and go, he was in the back of the shop again. He obviously heard something I said about leaving, because he stopped talking with his mother and said, "Wait! I have to go give a hug!" And he ran out from behind the counter and hugged my legs again as before, this time looking up and blowing kisses at me. His mother and aunt gently "called him off," though of course I said it was absolutely fine with me, and that he was a sweetie pie (I think that's what I said, who knows?), and rather reluctantly, I left.

I feel sure I'll find a reason to stop there again.

Meanwhile I'm left pondering the beauty of a small town and of close circles in which a child is so loved and cared for and has no reason to feel fearful or suspicious of someone he has never seen before. Not only not fearful, but so full of love and generosity. Of course it's a messed up world, and he will learn prudent boundaries as he grows, I have no doubt. It was clear that the big people in his life love him and love life, and so I trust they will protect him appropriately.

Arkansas is a poor state, among the three poorest in the nation, according a study done two years ago. It has problems that come along with poverty. It has problems that come along with other things, too. While my drive home takes me through beautiful fields and crosses flowing rivers, it also means seeing abandoned houses, dying towns, and reminders of racial tension.

I was reading an article the other day about West Virginia, another of the three poorest states, and author John Mark Reynolds' take on some of the problems there. I couldn't help thinking about that article as I drove past some of the dying towns and wondered about the lives of the people there. I know that drugs are a problem in Arkansas, especially meth, from what I've read. Some people are desperate for meaning in their lives, and for love. Without those things, drugs become an easy choice, among the rich and the poor. And once drugs affect one person, they affect families, and then communities, and no one ever knows the full extent of the damage.

But there is beauty in this state. Incredible natural beauty. And today the beauty of a little boy who knows he is loved and cherished. And I imagine it's because of people in his life who also know that they are loved and cherished. And his little heart of love is evidence that they really believe what they have on a sign that was by the front door of the business. They haven't sold their birth right, to reference the West Virginia article. They've accepted it and are passing it on.

It's not the Memphis way of doing business, to put religious posters on the front window. It's not the big city way. It's not cool. It's probably not even allowed in some places. But who knows if having this sign on the window may not open the door to hope for some young teenage girls, leading to conversations and relationships that will save them from turning to drugs or bad relationships in search of love, or failing that, drugging numbness?

I think Hopkins would find poetry in this picture and in my afternoon encounter.  Death, disease, decay, drug addiction, dirt, and depression are as real in Arkansas as anywhere. Hopkins knew darkness and despair very well. But the Christian belief in resurrection, which he so powerfully describes in "That Nature is a Heracletean Fire and of the Comfort of the Resurrection," is paramount in his poetry and in his life. And if I am to believe that I am, ultimately, "immortal diamond," I must have opportunities and the ability to see that hope. "Across my foundering deck shone a beacon, an eternal beam." People need a beacon shining. They need to see that beam.

I hope they keep that poster there. I hope it blesses girls who need to see it. And I hope their little boy becomes a grown man who loves with passion and prudence because he knows that he is cherished, that Christ became what he is, and he will be what Christ is, and that this life is only part of a Life we can't begin to imagine. You can handle a whole lot of what life gives you when you know that.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

It's Over

A month and a day since the last post, and here I am again on this rambling drawn out thing we call a "blog." (I don't like that word now any more than I did when I first used it here.)

The thesis did get printed, and I did graduate. I hope to say more about that later, as it was quite a series of small adventures.

But for now, I'm enjoying looking at the detail of a tulip fully open.

The detail is simply amazing. These could be Georgia Okeefe's work--except that her work came from the real flowers, not the other way around. (I don't know if she ever painted tulips, but these just remind me of what I've seen of her paintings.)

This one is a bit past its prime, but even the browning of the petals is lovely, in its way.

Flower petals in general amaze me. Such thin, fragile tissue, easily destroyed by something as simple as a careless step or even a rough bump--and yet so full of complexity, those tiny membranes whisking water all the way through the thing, and combining with the other petals to create all kinds of shapes and colors and sizes, making the world beautiful in a way nothing else can.

These particular flowers are special because I bought them on a somewhat impetuous stop at the Fresh Market grocery store. I stopped in just because I had the time to do it, not really needing anything, but for the fun of it, because I do love that store--everything but the prices. And I bought the flowers and brought them home, something I haven't done very often the past few years, because a brain can only think of so much at a time, and my brain and my schedule just didn't have much room for thinking of, or accomplishing, flower-buying.

And then these flowers took on extra specialness because the other evening we had dear friends over for dinner, another thing we haven't done much of in the past few years.

And those dear friends brought the sweet purple campanula that shared the table with the tulips until this morning, when I had to finally say goodbye to the tulips before they dropped petals all over the table!

And so in a very real way, these flowers make a fitting image to say "it's over," and to rejoice in the moving forward into another chapter of life--one that I hope will have many more flowers and many more friends over for dinner.

And perhaps even more blog posts? Time will tell.