The Benefits of Being Still

Morning walks are great. The reflection of the bridge in the water demonstrates simple beauty created in stillness. In this post I want to explore how science and faith complement each other.

First, what causes a mirror image?

Reflection happens when light bounces off an object. If the surface is smooth and shiny, the light will bounce back at the same angle it hits the surface. The Latin root, reflectere refers to bending back. We see a mirror image.

The word reflection also means careful consideration or meditation. When I reflect, I allow my mind to think before I act. I hold my tongue before speaking. I seek wisdom before deciding which path to take.

Stillness is essential to receiving wisdom. Job was a man of God who experienced many trials. When trouble abounds, as it did in Job’s life, his friend told him to “Stop and consider the wonders of God.” (Job 36:14) NIV

When we pause long enough to see the wonders of God around us, we get a new perspective on our troubles. We stand face to face with someone bigger than ourselves, our creator. It’s only when we see ourselves in relation to him that we can be free from our misperceptions. God is God and I am not. The water reflects the bridge. It is not the bridge.

Who or what does your life reflect today?

Henry Flagler’s Legacy

Is art a luxury or a necessity?

A treasury of history, art, and architecture lies within the gates of Flagler College. This campus was formerly a grand hotel built by oil tycoon Henry M. Flagler. During the Gilded Age of the late 1800’s, the hotel served wealthy guests who were eager to trade their snow covered homes for the tropical climate of St. Augustine, Florida.

Originally named the Hotel Ponce de Leon, the building is a masterpiece of Spanish Renaissance architecture. Today students of Flagler College conduct tours to teach the public about this National Historic Landmark.

My husband and I visited the college in December. We met our guide in the foyer shown above. The hotel is decorated around three themes: Spanish, nautical, and religious. I was most impressed with the ceilings in each room.

These murals were painted with twenty-four carot gold paint.

The windows of the dining room were created by Louis Tiffany. The Edison Electric Company powered the building with steam heat and 4,000 electric lights. When it opened in 1888, the hotel was one of the first electrified buildings in the country.

Both sides of the dining room feature balconies where musicians played. Since the guests disliked any pause in the entertainment, one band would play while the other rested.

Our guide told us Mr. Flagler cared so much about his appearance, he installed a leather staircase between his suite and the dining room so he wouldn’t scuff his shoes on the way to dinner.

After our tour I wondered if Henry Flagler really supported the arts, or did he simply want to impress his guests with his wealth and decadence?

Internet research enlightened me on the subject. The Hotel Ponce de Leon accommodated visiting artists who hosted weekly receptions in seven on-site studios. Most Friday evenings, guests admired each artist’s work and often purchased a painting or two. In addition, a gallery ran along the north side of the building.

The first of the hotel artists to receive national acclaim was Martin Johnson Heade. One of Heade’s most famous paintings is “Giant Magnolias on a Blue Velvet Cloth,” gifted to the National Gallery of Art in 1986. Flagler was Heade’s most loyal patron and commissioned two of his large paintings for the rotunda of the hotel. Henry Flagler’s legacy as a patron of the arts lives on at Flagler College.

In 2007 the artist studios became part of the Molly Wiley Art Building. Flagler College offers an exceptional visual art program for undergraduates.

Some people think of art as a luxury, consumed by those with large amounts of leisure time and money. It’s true that Henry Flagler had both but I believe he valued art as a human need. He realized art is a vehicle whereby humans reach their full potential.

Art helps stretch your mind as much as exercise stretches your body. This year why not visit an art museum, gallery, or festival? Decorate your home with an original piece of art.

Leave a comment and share how art has enriched your life.

A Tiffany Window

Poetry inspired by art.

Earth fused with fire

minerals blend

amethyst stained

atoms suspend

colorful glass

fruit of the flame

carved into pieces

placed in a frame

blended together

images rise

fruit of the harvest

feast for the eyes

light opalescent

dispels the night

spirit awakens

dullness takes flight.

* My featured image is part of the Louis Comfort Tiffany collection at the Morse Museum of Winter Park, Florida. The museum is hosting an open house Thanksgiving weekend with free admission. Click here to read more about the history of stained glass.

Dear readers, this week is a time to count our blessings instead of calories. Thank you for following my blog. Happy Thanksgiving!

Tribute to Claude Monet

Every day you create, you touch something beyond yourself.

How much effort are you willing to put forth to pursue your artistic vision? Would you move to a new location? Divert a stream? Build a pond? Plant a garden? The founder of impressionism, Claude Monet did all of these things to create an environment for painting.

Most creatives find places to go for inspiration, few construct that place. This summer I visited Monet’s garden in Giverny, France, located west of Paris. Monet came to Giverny in 1883 where he lived and painted until his death in 1926. Alongside his property, he had a pond built taking water from a branch of the Epte River, a tributary of the Seine. His famous “Water Lilies” paintings were inspired by this pond. Click the link to view.

A view of the Lily Pond with the Japanese bridge in the distance.

Worth the Effort

Under Monet’s direction, a small army of gardeners, planted an exotic collection of weeping willows, bamboo trees, and flowers. He often referred to his garden as his “finest masterpiece.” But Monet wasn’t only interested in the plants around the pond, he obsessed with the pond itself. He studied the effects of light on the water at all times of the day and during every season. He painted 250 oil paintings of water landscapes. Any representation of sky or land is shown as a reflection in these works.

Up close and personal with a water lily.

Not Without Critics

Every cutting edge creative has a few critics, of course. The question is, “Do you allow yourself and your art to be hampered by the opinion of others?” When the local authorities learned that Monet had imported his water lilies from Egypt and South America, they demanded he uproot the plants before they poisoned the water system. Monet simply ignored them. As time went on, his paintings became more abstract, challenging the conventions of Parisian art in the modern age. This disturbed many patrons who normally commissioned artists to paint realistically. Their comments did not deter Monet from expressing himself.

No Stranger to Hardship

Do you give up when the going gets tough? At the age of 82 Monet discovered he had cataracts. The deterioration of his eyesight terrorized him. Still he continued to paint, determined to create what he saw. He painted the Japanese Bridge in fiery shades of yellow and red. Click here and scroll down to view a painting that expresses the emotions of Monet at this time.

A Bigger Reach

Monet pioneered the idea that artists could express themselves as individuals. Looking back we can appreciate the contribution he made to the art world, changing it forever. No artist can know how their work might be viewed historically. Every day you create you touch something beyond yourself.

In the garden.

Poetry: A Message in a Bottle

Rain Song       

The rhythm of the rain

God’s pattern of music

echoes divine favor

bridges heaven and earth.

Poetry is the rain

that soaks the senses

and sings the melody

which waters the soul.

(Debra Burton 2014)

 

“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.

 

One little butterfly caught so unaware,

Lunch for a roadrunner dashing to his lair.

Roadrunner, fierce hunter, slowing to a stop.

Overcome with dizziness, suddenly he drops.

Flutter of butterflies, your banquet is not done.

Your kingdom was saved by the sacrifice of one.

(Debra Burton 2015)

 

 

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Arizona Queen Butterflies