First of all fellow Floridians, do not fear. The sun is shining today and no hurricane warnings are upon us. But it’s August, and we all know the next two months can be dicey at times. Dangerous weather damages Florida communities every year. As an Orlando resident, I’m fortunate to live in an area that hasn’t experienced the wrath of very many hurricanes. The worst storm I can remember happened in 2004 when Charley came through.
Still, I’m aware of the tough times communities encounter when their power is out for days. This poem, entitled A Cruel Joke of Nature is dedicated to you.
I’ve always been a goal driven person. I set expectations for myself and work hard even though I’m retired. Give me a block of time and I’ll fill it up. Yet, if you ask me what I’ve been doing often I can’t remember. I do know this; I haven’t cleaned house very much.
As you are probably already aware, I love to write. Even if I’m not writing, I’m thinking about writing. Building a following for this blog has been my passion. I believe it’s important to try post something each week and I appreciate everyone who takes the time to read my stories. Many of my posts involve research, interviews, and digging through personal photos. Now it’s July and the calendar is telling me its time to breathe in. Breathing in means taking time to seek inspiration.
Today I’m sharing a poem I wrote awhile back entitledAchievement.
Slick rock beneath my feet,
hands fixed on sympathetic boulders,
I fight to gain traction and climb.
My heart rate elevates with the altitude.
Gasping for breath,
I reach the summit and revel in my achievement.
The vista reveals a sandstone canyon.
A painter’s palette
of deep reds, tawny yellows, and burnt oranges fill the horizon.
Each layer of rock illustrates a chapter in “Earth’s Biography.”
Far below, the author continues to write.
the mighty Colorado River
snakes back and forth in a quest for sea level.
It too, pushes against obstacles,
but creates a masterpiece.
And I am silent.
I’m sure you agree that nothing man creates compares to the beauty of God’s creativity. Until next time…
Last week I received a beautiful card in the mail for my birthday. The sender recognized my affinity for nature and knew my favorite colors. The card meant a lot to me. Each year, as my birthday draws nearer, I tend to reminisce a little about past birthdays.
When I was a child I didn’t like the fact that I was born in June. Usually school was out for the summer. My school friends were often away on vacation. Sometimes my family would be on vacation as well. Even so, one birthday memory stands out from all the rest.
My tenth birthday was celebrated at a campground in the Smoky Mountains. As a family, we were busy living the camp life and I thought my birthday would be ignored. Boy was I surprised when out of nowhere my mom presented me with a cake. We were miles from a store or a bakery, and she had no oven in our little trailer.
Children always look forward to their birthdays with excitement. They feel as they grow older, each year brings new freedoms. Their parents might consider them old enough to care for a pet, date, drive, or eventually move out.
All of us keep birthday traditions. Our celebrations include a cake with candles, the song, “Happy Birthday,” and making a secret wish before blowing out the candles. If we don’t blow out all the candles with one breath, our wish will not come true.
But how many of us remember all the wishes we’ve made? I guess if we did, we wouldn’t tell anyone about it. After all they were all secret wishes.
As the years roll on.. birthdays are no longer a rite of passage. And by the time we enter our retirement years we would rather slow life down instead of speeding it up.
Women especially, go through a lot of inner turmoil about growing older. We experience a season of not wanting anyone to know our age. When I hit sixty I didn’t care anymore. On good days I feel proud that I can still do many of the things I’ve always done. At other times I use my age as a reason to excuse myself from activities I’d rather not do. I no longer feel a burning desire to spend a whole day at a theme park.
Last year I wrote a poem about turning 64, entitled…
Summer is a great time of year to visit the Morse Museum of Winter Park, Florida. The Morse Museum contains the most comprehensive collection of works by American artist and designer Louis Comfort Tiffany. Exhibits include leaded-glass lamps, unique windows, and architectural elements from Tiffany’s Long Island estate, Laurelton Hall. My favorite part of the museum is The Chapel which Tiffany created for the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893.
Inside The Chapel, intricate glass mosaic surfaces reflect light from a ten foot by eight foot electrified chandelier in the shape of a cross. Sitting in the chapel makes me feel as if I’m in another world. Similar to the great cathedrals of Europe, The Chapel inspires me to consider the beauty and holiness of God. I am reminded that darkness will never extinguish the light.
Stained glass as an art form reached its height in the Middle Ages. The stained glass windows of medieval churches taught the narrative of the Bible to an illiterate population. During the twelfth century in England the Tree of Jesse Window displayed the genealogy of Christ. Pictured at the base of the tree is Jesse, father of King David. On higher branches are the kings and prophets of Judah. At the top Christ and Mary are shown. This window shared Isaiah’s prophecy: “And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse and a Branch shall grow from his roots.”
As America became more industrialized during the late 1800’s and cities grew, churches sought artists who could work in stained glass. During the nineteenth century, pot metal glass was commonly used. Craftspeople often painted this regular looking glass with enamels.
Tiffany’s windows took stained glass to a new level. His invention of opalescent glass used chemicals to create the variations of color found in nature. The result was a more realistic looking product. Tiffany’s windows fulfilled a long-desired American goal of countering the perceived artistic superiority of Europe. He mastered the art, and by 1900 America led the world in the production of stained glass decorations. Tiffany Studios produced a range of products including lamps, pottery and jewelry.
Tiffany was inspired by nature and intoxicated by color. Winter is an example of opalescent glass from the Four Seasons panel on display in the Morse Museum.
The process of creating stained glass amazes me. Glass is made by mixing sand, soda, and lime. Color is created by adding metallic oxides. Heat and pressure are applied. Then after cooling, the glass is cut and placed into flexible pieces of lead and soldered at the joints.
I wrote Windows of Heaven, as a tribute to the Morse Museum and Tiffany’s beautiful art.
Windows of Heaven
Earth fused with fire
fruit of the flame
cut into shapes
placed in a frame
ruby and sapphire
form a rosette.
spectrum of grace
filling the darkness
my hiding place.
On Tuesday, July 4, 2017 admission to the Morse Museum is free as part of the Winter Park Independence Day Celebration.
This week’s post combines two of my great loves, poetry and travel. Many of our past family vacations included sight-seeing in the western United States. The juniper trees of Canyonlands inspired me to write The Time Trav’ler. This poem received first place in the 2015 Florida Tapestry Contest. A year later The Time Trav’ler was published in Time of Singing , a journal of Christian poetry.
While visiting Canyonlands I learned some juniper trees have lived for a thousand years. Their twisted and gnarled branches survived centuries of harsh winds and extreme changes in temperature. I was intrigued by a juniper’s half-dead/half-alive appearance. Its dark green foliage sprouted from branches that looked like pieces of driftwood. The tree emitted a sweet fragrance, and delighted my senses as I hiked in the high desert.
Juniper trees do not exceed thirty feet above ground. Two-thirds of the tree grows underground forming an extensive root system in search of water. Somehow a juniper thrives in areas that only receive seven to nine inches of rainfall a year. Junipers are common on the rocky mesa tops and ridges of Utah.
Canyonlands was inhabited two thousand years ago by ancestral Puebloan tribes who farmed maize, beans and squash. Living in villages similar to those in Mesa Verde, Colorado, the ancient Pueblos carried water from the Green River below to their gardens at the top of the canyon. If a one thousand year old juniper could talk it might tell us what it has seen on its travels through time. My illustrations for The Time Trav’ler were taken at various locations throughout Utah, Colorado, and Arizona.
The Time Trav’ler by Debra Burton (2015)
Old Majestic Juniper
green needles for a crown
saw a thousand years go by
upon this piece of ground.
He saw the highland Pueblos
ascend the rocky cliffs
with earthen jars of water
each drop a precious gift.
Below his dark gray branches
small creatures made their bed
and from his juicy berries
coyotes often fed.
Old Juniper heard miners
shout curses at their mules,
encumbered with provisions
and clanging metal tools.
He heard the wheels of wagons
roll at a steady pace.
Steered by the early settlers
with dangers yet to face.
The old tree heard the hoof-beats
of mustangs running free.
Pursued by eager cowboys
in faded dungarees.
One day his lower branches
were clothed with calico.
A signal for the work crew
which way the trail should go.
Tourists come to Canyonlands
to see this patriarch,
take photos with their smartphones,
reach out and touch his bark.
Time trav’ler of the ages
mute watchman of mankind
a sentinel restricted
but doesn’t seem to mind.
Old Majestic Juniper
green needles for a crown
saw a thousand years go by
upon this piece of ground.
You can read more of my poems from the Southwest through these links to previous posts: The Secret of the Cereus and Rhyolite. I wish to acknowledge the members of Word Weavers Orlando who assisted me by critiquing my work. For those who read my blog through Facebook, scroll up to the menu button to access additional pages.
“Poetry is the journal of a sea animal living on land, wanting to fly in the air.” Carl Sandburg Atlantic Monthly, March 1923
In case you forgot, April is National Poetry Month. During the month of April flowers bloom and butterflies flutter. What a great time of year to recognize the significant contribution of poetry to our world. Maybe you haven’t given this art form much thought. Maybe you enjoyed reading poetry in school, but currently read novels instead. Maybe you don’t feel like you understand what some poets are trying to say. If you agree with any or all of these statements, please consider the following benefits of reading poetry.
Poetry helps readers grow intellectually. It teaches us to simplify complex ideas through the use of symbolism and imagery. As we read we draw a mental picture of what the poet sees.
When we engage with the emotions of the poet, we develop empathy. If we identify with the experiences of other people, we better understand ourselves.
Poetry infuses life with beauty and meaning, which increases our creativity.
Take a few moments to access these links. In her poem, Hope is a thing with feathers, Emily Dickinson compares hope to a bird that never makes demands. Shel Silverstein grapples with the secret world of dialogue known to caterpillars in his poem, Forgotten Language. William Wordsworth elevates his mood by contemplating daffodils in his work, I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud.All of these poems connect with the reader’s emotions through the appreciation of nature. These poets make new discoveries as they ponder the small things which are often overlooked in the hustle and bustle of life.
Writing poetry is a vehicle for artistic self-expression. Who I am, what I think, and my experiences are communicated by showing instead of telling. The poet paints with words, like an artist paints on canvas.
In his book, How to Read a Poem and Fall in Love with Poetry, author Edward Hirsch refers to poetry as a message in a bottle. After the message is cast into the ocean, it drifts onto the beach waiting to be opened. The finder is the one the message was trying to reach. Once the finder opens it, words spill out from a distant place and time, yet still rich with meaning.
The following poems are my messages in a bottle. Cast out upon the waves, may these words reach the finders they are seeking.
For My Brother
As night fell in the desert
We stretched out on our cots,
Saw distant constellations
Whose titles we forgot
Viewed streaks of falling stars
Pulled down by gravity
Like fleeting dreams of childhood
Which never came to be.
The howl of a coyote
Made such an eerie sound.
It cautioned all outsiders,
“I will defend my ground.”
We whispered to each other
And felt a tinge of fright
Like children telling stories
When Dad turned out the light.
(Debra Burton 2015)
A Hapless Hero
Flutter of butterflies hover on the scene.
Arizona thistles bow before each queen.
Flutter of butterflies crowned in orange and white,
Seated on their purple thrones surrounded by the light.
Flutter of butterflies lift your scepters up.
Raise the royal chalice, drink deeply from the cup.