The Guest House

The Perfect Peony © 2022 Lee Anne Morgan

It is 3:30 a.m. I’ve awakened at this time for weeks, and I don’t know why. The night is black as pitch, but I listen to the steady, soft rain and the trees’ leaves dancing with a gentle breeze. A mug of freshly brewed tea sits beside me. I start this writing now, which will change by publishing time. It may be days or weeks. I never know.

Why do I wake at 3:30 a.m.? This habit started soon after I put down my cat, Abbey. There is a hole in my heart, for I miss her presence, warmth, and gentle, thrumming purr. Abbey is not on my mind when I wake up or dream. The state of our country and the world could be the cause. Except for the forthcoming January 6 Committee Hearings, a landmark in American history, I stay away from the news. Sadly, the misinformation in general that people gather from questionable sources causes them to spew anger and hate while illuminating an alarming ignorance. This negative energy penetrates, and I absorb enough to irritate my spirit and close my heart. 

Irritation, anger, and a hardened heart are a few guests who visit me in my guest house. The guest house I speak of is one we all have and the one Rumi, a 13th-century Persian poet, Sufi mystic, Islamic scholar, and more, wrote about in his poem The Guest House.

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

~ Rumi


The Visitors

It is unnerving to welcome these guests into our inner life. Embracing the darkest aspects of our humanity is the opposite of what we usually pursue. We suppress these pesky visitors or act out; neither way brings peace. When we feed anger, fear, and hate by watering these toxic seeds, they grow to loom large, dominating our lives. We deepen depression by not letting go of its root causes. And, we lay hold of despair and anxiety, clutching them like a sick child.

When we greet the visitors, offering entry into our hearts and minds, we can laugh and say you are welcome, but I don’t need you today! Thank you for showing up and for caring. Rumi said, be grateful…because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.

I have met my guests, and they have met me. At first, I rejected them, denied their truth, and tumbled into a malaise. I now welcome whatever walks into my inner life. I’ve learned to rely on mindful breathing and walking to help me greet unwanted visitors. It is human to have bad days, and I will always have my share. I photograph and write with mindfulness. Walking to the Hudson Riverfront, I try to be mindful of each footstep as it touches Mother Earth. I breathe in and breathe out, knowing I am alive with each breath.

Pollyannaish? No. It is hard work to look within, acknowledge imperfection, yet love ourselves for who we are so we can genuinely honor, if not yet love, others with an open heart. Mindfulness is a continuous learning experience. I am not a master, but when I forget, and I do, I start again with one breath in and one breath out, arriving back to my center, back to home.

The Gallery

Yes, I wake early, knowing this will change with time, but for now, perhaps it is to do precisely what I am doing: writing this post and sharing recently created images. Please enjoy my happiness in presenting these to you.


My morning walks take me to known and unknown places in my little Village. The historic Athens Rural Cemetery is one of my favorites. There is a cathedral of trees I saw in a different light and decided it was time to photograph.

Cemetery, Early Morning © 2022 Lee Anne Morgan

My teacher, Thây (Thich Nhat Hanh), wrote a poem and ended it with this line: In the garden of my heart, the flowers of peace bloom beautifully. Here are a few for you.

The Two Flowers © 2022 Lee Anne Morgan
Outside of Time © 2022 Lee Anne Morgan
Look At Me © 2022 Lee Anne Morgan
The White Iris © 2022 Lee Anne Morgan
Wild Things No. 1 © 2022 Lee Anne Morgan
Woven by Nature © 2022 Lee Anne Morgan

The Challenges

This essay was completed following the first televised January 6 Committee Hearing. It is impossible not to have anger, even horror, and want to strike out at someone or something, given what we learned and saw in written evidence, videos, and testimonies. True warriors sat on the dais and in the audience, for there were present those who fought on the lines for our Constitution, suffering significant loss. There was no hate speech coming from the dais, no diminishment of human dignity, no animus as we endured for four-plus long years under the dystopian former president. Liz Cheney showed her courage, honor, and dedication in presenting harsh facts that shone a bright light on an attempted coup to overthrow our government. She dared to say to Congressional Republicans: There will come a day when President Trump is gone. But your dishonor will remain. Liz Cheney’s honor will endure.

More hearings are scheduled, and I suspect for some of us, our ire will increase. Let us try to welcome these uncomfortable visitors into our inner guest house, even those we most want to turn away. Though a struggle, may the gardens of our hearts try to bloom with peace, even in these dark times. We must prepare as peaceful warriors-in-training for the harsh realities in the days, weeks, and months ahead, endlessly seeking the truth.

Our inner resolve needs to stand as solid as a tall oak. May we be willing to comprehend our differences through deep listening and hone words that inspire rather than those that divide and incite. Let us water our seeds of kindness and understanding to nurture the best of ourselves and our hearts.

On Thursday night, no one on the dais wore the armor of distasteful antics and lies, nor did they speak with mockery; they showed and told us the truth.

True warriors remove their armor, for they stand in truth. They’ve reconciled with the visitors in their Guest Houses.

LAM

Changes for the Better

The Athens Lighthouse © 2022 Lee Anne Morgan

Good morning, Friends ~

The image above is of the Athens historic Lighthouse. I took the picture recently around 7 a.m. as the mist rose from the Hudson River into the rich green of the mountains.

It is early as I write this short piece, and, yes, my mug of Assam tea is at my side. I want to alert everyone to the CHANGES I’ve made to the offering of my essays, stories, and artwork.

I may continue an intermittent Morning Musings Podcast, but not on a fixed schedule. I need to do these as the spirit moves me.

There is nothing for most of you to do. I am moving my writing and artwork back to my blog platform, WordPress, which technologically offers me more graphic capabilities. I will go no further, so your eyes don’t glaze over. Since April, for those of you who subscribed to the Substack forum, I have tried adding you to my contact list on MailChimp. It is through MailChimp that you receive a link to my blog. I will only publish once a month, for the most part. Please email me, and I will add your name and email to the list. Or, you can go to the Mailchimp signup in the righthand sidebar of this page and subscribe from there! The MailChimp “subscribe” does not apply to most of you but to only those who have been new subscribers since April.

Thank you to those so generous to sign on for ‘paid’ subscriptions. The money helped. You will not receive a renewal notice next year, and if you do, please ignore it.

Those are the basic housekeeping details of the CHANGES. My reasons are twofold: Substack is a pragmatic platform for political, economic, and science writers who produce weekly and daily newsletters. That is not what I do nor want to do. The other reason is that I’ve felt uneasy with all the “asks” for subscriptions, money, comments, likes, et cetera. That is not who I am.

My work is created to stir, give pause, inspire, and provide another lens through which to oneself and the world. I may post a sporadic donation button at some point, but not regularly.

Please email me if you need clarification. You all have my email.

Have a joyous day!🌹

In Remembrance

In Memorial & Memorium © 2022 Lee Anne Morgan

For all those lost in the service of our country, we give gratitude while honoring them on this day.

Memorial Day 2022 will live in our hearts and minds for a long time. In addition to those who bravely served, we mourn the killing of nineteen innocent children and two adults in a Texas school shooting a few days ago and those murdered in Buffalo two weeks ago and—far too many before that, again and again.

I will not repeat the words we’ve heard that do not soothe those left behind, nor do they do more than churn ours’s and others’ outrage.

We cannot heal our country with anger and fury. The way out of this negative quagmire is to recover ourselves from within: Heal by calming the muddy waters in our minds and hearts until we can see a clear pond with no ripples; until we have a good measure of objectivity and—understanding.

The Monastery Bell

Once heard, the sound of the monastery bell reaches into our hearts and minds, shifting us to that place within which cradles the best part of ourselves, whether the Buddha, Jesus—all our Spiritual Ancestors. Throughout the millenniums to today, poems are written and chants sung about the monastery bell.

The Monastery Bell © 2018 Lee Anne Morgan

The Great Bell Chant and Prayer

May the sound of this bell penetrate deep into the cosmos
Even in the darkest spots
Living beings are able to hear it clearly
So that all suffering in them cease
Understanding comes to their heart
And they transcend the path of sorrow and death
The universal dharma door is already open
The sound of the rising tide is heard clearly
The miracle happens
A beautiful child appears in the heart of a lotus flower
One single drop of this compassionate water
Is enough to bring back the refreshing spring to our mountains and rivers
Listening to the bell
I feel the afflictions in me begin to dissolve
My mind calm
My body relaxed
A smile is born on my lips.
Following the sound of the bell
My breath brings me back to the safe island of mindfulness
In the garden of my heart, the flowers of peace bloom beautifully

In peace, always ~

The Womb of God

October Blossom © 2022 Lee Anne Morgan

I find mysteries, illusions, and other energies surrounding or within my chosen subjects when I photograph. The petals appear transparent; they overlap in inexplicable ways I did not see but my camera revealed. For me, this is part of the Divine and its mystery, and for you, it may be God.


Hello Friends ~

The morning air has a mild chill to it after an intense heat wave this past weekend, the birds sing their praises, and I am holding freshly brewed Assam tea in my favorite mug with a dollop or two of cream.

I received numerous emails following my essay titled Confessions of an Evangelical. For the most part, these were comprised of questions: Am I an atheist? And I liked this one a lot: Am I a witch? As my essay pointed out, I have been called worse, and I took no offense. However, I do not need to defend my views, but I believe today’s topic, The Womb of God, may answer those questions. And, by the way, people were very respectful in their queries.


A Sidebar

Just a quick sidebar, if I may, concerning the questions about being a Witch? I do not practice the Wiccan religion, possibly the oldest on our planet. But I’ve been researching the burning times, when an estimated seven hundred thousand to over one million women were burned in Scotland, England, Europe, and Salem as so-called Witches dating from the 1300s to 1700s. Several factors contributed to this: the fear of a woman’s power to heal and her intuition—that almost-supernatural sixth sense that sees beyond the solely rational left brain. These burned women were midwives, medicine women, and healers in their villages and towns. They gathered herbs and nutrients from tree bark and weeds, making tinctures and salves to heal—potions to drink for driving out infections and fever. But the subjugation of women’s power began when Christianity decimated the Wiccan and Druid traditions. And Christianity is a patriarchal citadel, as are all religions except for Wiccan. Before that, the feminine, or Goddess was revered as the Earth, Sun, Harvest, and Moon: She was of the cosmos and our Mother Earth.

Creation, The Womb, and The Bible

The Womb of God was introduced to me while listening to a formidable scholar, author, lecturer, and Benedictine nun, Joan Chittister. For years before her writing thrust her onto center stage, she was the abbess of the Benedictine Sisters in Erie, PA. She mentioned the Womb of God in several lectures and at a faith conference with the Dalai Lama. She did not go into depth about the Womb of God, but the concept stayed with me. How did human life begin without a womb? Our very makeup demands it.

My issues with the Bible and the doctrines and dogma of all religions are that they are all patriarchal. Every one of them. The Bible was written by men, then translated into Ancient Greek, Hebrew, then Arabic by men. During 300-400 AD or CE, the Nicaean Council of men decided to discard books from the Bible, such as the gospels of Thomas and Mary Magdalene, among others. Add to this that Mary Magdalene was not a prostitute but a wealthy woman who helped finance Jesus’s ministry. More than 50% of Jesus’s followers were women. Martin Luther and John Calvin removed the Apocrypha during the Reformation, which remains in the Catholic and Episcopalian bibles, but no other.  

Theologian scholar Marcus Borg’s careful study of scripture reveals many female metaphors for God. Here he shows how God’s Wisdom was invariably presented as a woman:

The most fully developed female biblical image for God is in the wisdom literature of ancient Israel—in Proverbs and in two books of the Apocrypha, namely Ecclesiasticus and the Wisdom of Solomon. “The wisdom of God” is often personified as a woman in these. Scholars now commonly refer to this personification as “Sophia,” the Greek word for Wisdom.

In Proverbs, Sophia speaks of herself: She was with God before creation, and she was the master worker through whom God created. In Ecclesiasticus, she is from eternity and fills all that is.

What Works for Me What Works for You?

My God is about Divinity: a vast consciousness and energy that is light, love, and compassion. The Divine One is everywhere and inside of us. I love Jesus, and I love the teachings of the Buddha taught six hundred years before Jesus was born. Jesus and the Buddha are the best part of me, with all my spiritual ancestors: Christian mystics, Sufi mystics, the Buddhas that followed the Buddha, Padre Pio, and saints in every religion. I also carry our Native Americans like Chief Dan George of Canada and their cherished beliefs: Honor nature and respect Mother Earth and her animals. * I bow to all my spiritual ancestors.  

Most of all, it is Sophia I ask for Wisdom, carrying the idea of her within. I am weary of linear thinking, which brings me back to the concept of the Womb of God. This phrase came from a woman devoted to the rigors of being an abbess and a Catholic nun serving her community. Can we open our minds and allow that feminine sacredness of the womb to be part of the Divine or for those who call the name God? I honor people of true faith, whatever religion or form that may be. I have friends whose Catholicism is deep and reverent, and genuine. I bow to their constancy in what they believe.

Woman was tainted by a talking snake. According to the Judeo-Christian Bible, Woman was created less than Man because she was a mere rib taken from Adam to be his helper, not his equal. And Wisdom as the “feminine” was either minimized or removed from the Bible by patriarchies through the centuries. Yet Woman is Wisdom called Sophia, and she is the womb of Divine Creation. That is merely my view. 

*If you talk to the animals, they will talk with you, and you will know each other. If you do not talk to them, you will not know them, and what you do not know, you will fear. What one fears, one destroys.

Chief Dan George, Tsleil-Waututh Nation, British Columbia, Canada

 

Confessions of an Evangelical

Black. White. © 2022 Lee Anne Morgan

Typically, my opening image is one of color. Given the subject of this essay, I deliberated on choosing the first image. While I am pleased with capturing white lilacs on a black background, the image has a portentous quality. That is one of many aspects of Nature: beautiful and threatening.

Sharing this confession was reflected upon for six or more months. You may believe the narrative or not. However, I did live a life for which I am no longer ashamed but regret that I may have caused unintentional harm to others.

I wrap my hands around a mug filled with freshly brewed Assam tea and look out upon a vibrant spring of thick greenery, young blooms appearing in new places, and perennials bursting forth where they’ve resided for years. It is quiet in this now, but the world and its people are not. I wrestle with telling this story, but I believe it is urgent. There is a dark shadow upon our land that is odious and cleverly cloaked as it slithers into the foundation of our Democracy, forging injustices, misogyny, racism, and inequality of wealth. Does my story have any significance to the political and governmental issues we face in our country? I can’t answer that, but I hope it does.

I was an evangelical for eight years. Three years ago, I was condemned, expelled, and branded a harlot at the evangelical church to which I worked tirelessly to show my loyalty, reverence for our Lord Jesus Christ, and acceptance that the Bible is the literal Word of God. I am not a harlot, nor do I believe in the God of the Bible. I am aligned with Eastern philosophies and, as such, before I became a born-again Christian. I was brainwashed and allowed it. There is no one to blame. Desperate and needy, I made a choice and stood by my decision until everything unraveled, not only for me but for our country. Consider this narrative a cautionary tale.

A Lily for Lily (In Remembrance)

In 2013, after losing my home and pets, moving into subsidized housing with total strangers, and selling and gifting nearly everything I owned, an acquaintance saw my despair and offered to take me to her non-denominational church. The experience was surreal: live “worship” music and singers that were infectious, drug-like, and addictive, with no men in long robes but pastors dressed in jeans, sneakers, and sweatshirts. For forty minutes, the music whipped itself into a frenzy with hands clapping, people singing, dancing in the aisles—all to juice the audience for the Lord and the sermon. This exhilarating experience was nothing I experienced in institutionalized religions, especially coming from a Roman Catholic background with a few years as an Episcopalian. I believed I landed in the right place where people hugged one another openly and abundantly, laughed, and welcomed me with their joy.

I attended this church for several years until the women urged me to apply for a permit to buy a pistol, register as a Republican, and, eventually, lead a pro-life campaign for 40 Days for Life. Early on, two Christian women came into my home and “cleansed” it of items the Bible deemed pagan and non-Christian: books and art on Buddhism and any book hinting at non-Christian literature. They asked me to smash beautiful crystals I gathered over forty years, hammer Buddha statues into dust, and throw them in the dumpster. There was intended violence in destroying these items, so no remains of my wrongdoing would enable others to follow pagans and satanic worshipers. While the demolitions of books and art, even some of my art they believed to be satanic, should have raised a red flag, I was in a hermetically sealed alternate universe of evangelicalism: Jesus saved me, and there is nothing God will not do for me, but earthquakes, fires in California, tsunamis, et al. happens to pagans, other Christians, and anyone who does not honor Jesus as the son of God.

Fragrant Clusters © 2022 Lee Anne Morgan

I allowed myself to be ‘used’ by my pastor to head up the pro-life campaign. My abortion experience is covered in my book Time to Mourn & a Time to Dance, but I was deeply hesitant to tell him that I was pro-choice. The pro-life episode ate away at me every day as I stood across from Planned Parenthood and read my Bible.

During the height of WWII, my parents decided to abort their baby. My mother was well into her second trimester. Abortion was illegal in 1943, so she went to a back-alley abortionist, not a doctor. He struggled with tools unsuccessfully, sending my mother home with a concoction to drink. A baby slipped through her womb in the middle of the night, and that baby was my twin sister, Lily. No one heard two hearts beat, and no one knew I remained in her womb until her seventh month when she felt me move. My sister’s death and my survival have consequences to this day.

Impermanence © 2022 Lee Anne Morgan

Had my mother been in a hospital or a clinic with doctors and nurses, they would have heard two hearts. I don’t know if they would have aborted twins. I can stand on both sides of abortion, but only to a point. I lost my sister, and my skull was damaged from the torturous event, creating epilepsy in my early childhood years. I was torn to my core as I stood on the pro-life line. I would never have an abortion because of losing my sister. Nevertheless, I believed that I nor anyone else has the right to tell a woman what to do with her body.

I Am © 2022 Lee Anne Morgan

The draft decision has been a clarifying moment for the country. Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin told journalists to stop referring to the convulsions in the country today as “culture wars,” as if they were “a battle between two sides over hemlines or movie ratings.” Instead, she wrote, “This is religious tyranny…in which the right seeks to break through all restraints on government power to establish a society that aligns with a minority view of America as a White, Christian country.

Rubin is correct, for religious tyranny comes from fanaticism with the Bible as the only source of wisdom and teaching. However, pundits, professors, and some statistics say evangelicalism represents only one-third of our country. That may be true. But as we learn week by week, they are loud and speak through a giant megaphone. And they are poised in essential places in our government’s judicial and legislative branches. They are governors of states defying and erasing our hard-won freedoms of the last 50 years.

I challenge the one-third number of evangelicals in America because 10,000 attend many mega churches planted all over our country and the world several times a week. Add to that the millions who watch televangelists every day, all day, while writing checks to already wealthy ministries.

From historian Heather Cox Richardson’s Letters from an American:

And yet now, a year later, the Trump loyalists are running strong, having abandoned the democratic ideology of the U.S. and replaced it with white Christian nationalism. They embrace the same idea that Russian President Vladimir Putin advances: that the democratic principle of equality is immoral because it does not privilege white, straight, Christian men. They are trying to stop public discussion of race or gender, end the constitutional right to abortion, and center schools around the Christian religion.

Heather Cox Richardson
Path of the Fallen © 2022 Lee Anne Morgan

Millions worldwide, even charismatic Catholics, are part of the evangelical movement, which has become a radicalized cult. I hasten to say that not all, but too many align themselves with our former President and his acolytes. They inhale their news from Newsmax and conspiracy sources like a drug. This movement is more than one-third of our country.

We are a country divided by politics, religious beliefs, racism, injustices, and a vast chasm between the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots.’ The genesis of these confessions is that an extremist, pseudo-Jesus-loving group of people formed a deep belief about me as they do about anyone who is not like them. They acted on their self-righteousness and branded an invisible scarlet letter on my forehead for something I am not and for being who I am as a woman and an equal. White Christian evangelicals advanced themselves into the public square through the narrow lens of one book. They supported a sociopathic man for President and primed him to do their bidding to win.

You may wrap words around the evangelical influence in our governmental and judicial arenas to soften the reality or deny it altogether. However, our Democracy is at risk, and anger rages through our neighborhoods with guns to wound and kill those who are not like them.

Please Call Me by My True Names

My Rainforest Morning © 2022 Lee Anne Morgan

It is almost 5 a.m., and after a heavy night’s rain, I look out upon a rainforest still in dim light. This hour has a holy silence as a lone bird begins singing her aria. My morning ritual involves making a small pot of freshly brewed Assam tea. My hands are wrapped around my favorite mug as I sit for a few moments listening to the raindrops gently fall from one leaf to the next. Once they reach the earth, they will continue as a cloud or nurture the roots of trees and flowers, enabling them to continue. The scene is mystical, and it is a perfect hour to tell you a story. It’s a true story, and I hope you enjoy everything.

Thich Nhat Hanh was a Zen Buddhist Vietnamese monk who died on January 22, 2022. He was a slight, gentle man who dramatically changed hundreds of thousands of lives. How does a humble monk help people to see their world and their lives through the lens of understanding, compassion, and love? These thousands of diverse people are from all corners of the globe, ranging from notable to unknown and from different religious beliefs and philosophies. Yet they originally came to Plum Village in France, which was one of many monasteries that grew out of Thay’s (Thay means teacher in Vietnamese) teachings of engaged Buddhism. He was a peace activist, poet, author, and artist. Martin Luther King nominated Thay for the Nobel Peace Prize. Thay was like no other being. His understanding of the human condition and his love of our Mother Earth affected all who grew to know him through his books, video teachings, interviews, et cetera.


The Poem

My favorite poem is one for which Thay is best known, and there is a story about how it came into being. Thay attended a global faith conference where there was much ritual and grandstanding for most of the day. I don’t know if Thay was the final speaker, but I believe he was. The person who relayed the happenings to me was there that day. Thay, wearing a brown cloth coat over his long robes, walked slowly, as he was known to do, across the stage. As he approached the microphone, he reached into his coat pocket, pulling out a folded piece of paper, which he unfolded with care and attention. He said I wrote a poem on my here. I guess I’ll read the poem today.

The title of that poem is Please Call Me by My True Names.  

CALL ME BY MY TRUE NAMES -THICH NHAT HANH ~ Read by Lee Anne Morgan
Don’t say that I will depart tomorrow —
even today I am still arriving.
Look deeply: every second I am arriving
to be a bud on a Spring branch,
to be a tiny bird, with still-fragile wings,
learning to sing in my new nest,
to be a caterpillar in the heart of a flower,
to be a jewel hiding itself in a stone.
I still arrive, in order to laugh and to cry,
to fear and to hope.
The rhythm of my heart is the birth and death
of all that is alive.
I am the mayfly metamorphosing
on the surface of the river.
And I am the bird
that swoops down to swallow the mayfly.
I am the frog swimming happily
in the clear water of a pond.
And I am the grass-snake
that silently feeds itself on the frog.
I am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones,
my legs as thin as bamboo sticks.
And I am the arms merchant,
selling deadly weapons to Uganda.
I am the twelve-year-old girl,
refugee on a small boat,
who throws herself into the ocean
after being raped by a sea pirate.
And I am the pirate,
my heart not yet capable
of seeing and loving.
I am a member of the politburo,
with plenty of power in my hands.
And I am the man who has to pay
his “debt of blood” to my people
dying slowly in a forced-labor camp.
My joy is like Spring, so warm
it makes flowers bloom all over the Earth.
My pain is like a river of tears,
so vast it fills the four oceans.
Please call me by my true names,
so I can hear all my cries and my laughter at once,
so I can see that my joy and pain are one.
Please call me by my true names,
so I can wake up,
and so the door of my heart
can be left open,
the door of compassion.

Thank you, Thay, for writing this poem. I believe that if we have a willingness to look within at all aspects of ourselves, we will develop a deeper understanding of who we are, why we are, and how we can be more compassionate towards ourselves and others. That, then, leads to true kindness, love, and a vast understanding of all people and life on this planet for we are connected as one.

I leave you with an older image I took many years ago, but it is quite appropriate to our true names. And, the wee-one you see is real. That is a whole other story I’d love to tell someday.

The Buddha & The Monk © 2005 Lee Anne Morgan

This was originally a podcast and Please Call Me by My True Names was read with permission from Parallax Press and is one from a collection of poems in his book, Call Me by My True Names. Thank you!

The Courage to Age

The Luscious Limb © 2022 Lee Anne Morgan

It takes courage to age.

We wake one morning, look in the mirror and see that our bodies have changed. We notice lines on our faces, sagging skin, less hair on our heads, yet more hair in places where it’s not supposed to grow.

My body betrays me, for I am young inside. Our inner selves and spirit are eternally young, which is one of the existential mysteries. Yet our external bodies betray that spirit, illuminating our lives mapped on our faces for all to see. Is our walk a shuffle or a firm stride? Do we stand erect or bent? Is there a wobble or imbalance in our movements? However, deep within ourselves, we feel the energy of youth: enough life remains ahead to live and dare to dream, and we hope to do even more in our seventh and eighth decades. Is this denial, hope eternal, truth?

We are energy, and that energy starts with birth, continues through death, and begins again in rebirth—this is the Law of Nature. But in this moment of life, our now, our spirit seeks a bit more: another day, more springtimes, colorful autumns, waves splashing against the shore, and the majesty of every sunrise and sunset. Yes, we want a bit more. And, why not?

Abbey Sleeps. Again. © 2018 Lee Anne Morgan

I euthanized my beloved feline, Abbey, this past Monday. She was twelve years old, and we rescued one another nine years ago when I moved into my Athens treehouse apartment. The above image shows Abbey alive but in an ethereal, blissful sleep.

How did this happen so suddenly? There were signs with Abbey as there are for us, and I ignored them because Covid was rampant, and I couldn’t visit a vet except on the phone. The first signs were a tiny mole behind her right ear and a little soft lump in her tummy area that the vet believed, without seeing her, was fatty tissue. Time marched on through Covid and the loss of my car. About three months ago, Abbey’s behavior changed. She was lively, eating, and playing with her toys, but turned on me to bite, howled at times for no apparent reason, and rolled at my feet in the dark of night, causing several significant falls. I believed these were behavioral aberrations, but a growing disquiet took root, yet I suppressed it for all seemed well on the surface.

Cancer permeated Abbey’s body, though she seemed content, especially while lounging on our windowsills, following the sun’s journey throughout the day. Yet things were not right with her or me, for I refused to abandon the delusion that she was wholly well. Nonetheless, cancer entered Abbey’s body with silence and stealth, and I refused to acknowledge what I knew to be true: her tumors were growing and malignant. My second heartbeat, Abbey, this is for you. (I took a poetic license from The Bard, changing pronouns from ‘he’ to ‘she.)

When she shall die,

Take her and cut her out in little stars,

and she will make the face of heaven so fine

That all the world will be in love with night.

~ Shakespeare, Romeo & Juliet

 

Hearts of the Tulips © 2022 Lee Anne Morgan

I do not know when I acknowledged I was old, as our society defines it in chronological age. Yet here I am at seventy-eight years, soon to enter my seventy-ninth, and close to the advent of my eighth decade. I never thought that aging would catch up with me! Aging and dying were for other people, and I believed death was in the distance. When I turned seventy, I did not consider myself a senior.

Hubris!

I’m keenly aware I’ve reached another stage in unfolding my life’s journey. So, I embrace a kinder, gentler relationship with my body and reframe how my mind perceives aging. I am grateful for the years I’ve had and have now: This human existence is profound, perhaps rare, and is to be cherished no matter what is happening.

The New Green of the Willow © 2022 Lee Anne Morgan

This essay, the courage to age, is not intended to dismiss the challenges of those with terminal or disabling diseases. I could write further on subjects you know about, such as ageism, an inadequate healthcare system, sloppy eldercare, nursing homes, and aides who do not help. At the same time, doctors bombard the elderly with twenty bottles of unaffordable drugs daily that cause them more distress. These issues deserve much more attention than I can provide here and now.

There is a stigma about aging in our culture. An overarching societal assumption is that because our hair is graying, crinkles reside at the corners of our eyes and mouths, and we walk a little slower; people treat us as infants. Do people not realize that we are Wisdom Keepers and RELEVANT? Whether one is educated or not has nothing to do with having wisdom or being relevant in this life. Not treating Elders with dignity, respect, and honor is shameful.

New Life © 2022 Lee Anne Morgan

I recognize that I must embrace my body’s inabilities to do things I took for granted and breezed through just a few years ago. Each decade asks us to compromise, surrender another aspect of our bodies and lives, and cooperate with our physical capabilities and liabilities. Gratitude for being alive helps us reinvent ourselves and be relevant, continuing to contribute to our world and our families in whatever ways possible. I choose to spend time writing and creating painterly photographic images. Others find their joy in their children and grandchildren. What we cannot do is focus on what we perceive as loss. What I’m about to say may sound insensitive, but lack of compassion is not my intention: Gratitude for what no longer remains in our lives is a blessed release.

Looking forward to our remaining time opens new visions of who we are and what we can offer through our beautifully mapped faces of wisdom. Being grateful is how we can joyfully age.

We may walk a little slower, sit in a wheelchair, or breathe with oxygen. This adagio passage gives us more time to smile at one another, enjoy the newness of spring, hold a newborn grandchild gazing into innocent eyes and ponder the cotton candy white clouds moving across a robin-egg blue sky.

Yes, it takes courage to age, but we are the Wisdom Keepers. As cherished gifts, we must learn to adapt, accept, and redefine how we are relevant to ourselves and others with each new day, month, and year.

‘my wish for humanity’

Fritillaria Welcomes the First Day of May © 2022 Lee Anne Morgan

I did not know of the budding flower, Fritillaria (above), hiding in the new, abundant greenery.

I did not know Antoinette Pienaar (a South African actress, singer, and author) either until I watched this short 10-minute film, luring me with her velvet voice, passion for life, love, and, oh, the kittens!

Green Rennaisance produced this elegant film, among many others. The cinematography is as compelling as Antoinette teaching her truth and sharing her heart. After contracting cerebral malaria on a trip to Mali in West Africa in 2001, Antoinette was severely weakened and decided to stay on Theefontein (the farm of her second cousin Jacques Pienaar). She claims that the Karoo and its herbs healed her.

Believe in the gift of life each morning with 24 new hours ahead.

Believe in the essential goodness of the human spirit.

Believe in being grateful for each moment offered today.

Know the sun will rise, the birds will sing, and the winds will carry the breath of the God of your choice, whispering good things. The melody is always present within us.

Listen to Antoinette’s teaching and feel her fiery spirit. You may want to watch the film twice because it is rich with content, visuals, and a spiritedness for life.

‘there’s a crack, a crack in everything’

The Secret Garden © 2022 Lee Anne Morgan

Nine years ago, I first passed this door on a walk to the Riverfront, wondering what was behind the battered portal encircled by brown, twisted vines. The withies will offer fragrant blooms in a few weeks, but whatever lies on the other side of the entryway remains a mystery.

Cracks in the door enable light to caress secret things, reminding me of powerful lyrics in the song, Anthem by the legendary poet and singer Leonard Cohen. His words are prophetic, piercing the heart of realities in today’s world. Yet his music is filled with longing and hope. (I selected lyrics from a favorite stanza, but a 6-minute video follows, containing all the words and music, captivating images, and Cohen’s deep, soft, gravel voice—if you’re inclined to watch and listen.)

We asked for signs
The signs were sent
The birth betrayed
The marriage spent
Yeah, and the widowhood
Of every government
Signs for all to see …

While the killers in high places
Say their prayers out loud
But they’ve summoned, they’ve summoned up
A thundercloud
They’re going to hear from me

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.

Light weaves itself into our hearts and minds. We seek to soothe others and ourselves while hoping to receive answers to prayers only our souls can hear.

Today’s images radiate light. Their color and vibrance exploded in mere days, disregarding cloud-filled skies and Mother Earth’s crusty winter cracks for rebirth. Enjoy!

Black Trunks. White Blossoms. © 2022 Lee Anne Morgan

The Tulip Grove © 2022 Lee Anne Morgan

Thank you for visiting me today. Have a peaceful and joyous weekend as this season of light unveils Spring’s glory!

Historical. Shame. Hope.

Black Rose No. 4 © 2008 Lee Anne Morgan

I watched almost every moment of the Senate hearings and every minute of the Senate’s vote to confirm Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson as an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court. When I first saw VP Kamala Harris in the chair in the Senate, calling for the vote to begin and, finally, announcing the results, I was proud. Proud of our Vice President’s accomplishments and stirred by what was about to unfold. I thought of the little Black, Brown, and Asian girls and boys seeing this moment and realizing, “I can do it, too!” I knew the gallery was filled with spectators who cheered long and loud after Judge Jackson was confirmed. I am pleased two Republican women, Senators Collins and Murkowski, will shine in our history books because they dared to cross partisan lines and vote AYE. When the Republicans emptied their side of the Chamber during the applause, the two women Senators joined the Democrats in their joy. I was also gratified to see Mitt Romney, who had the composure and an open mind to overcome his no vote for Judge Jackson as District Judge only nine months ago, vote for AYE because “he got to know her better.” As the balance of Republicans, lacking tastefulness, exited the Chamber en masse, Senator Romney had the grace to stand as the lone Republican on his side of the aisle, applauding Judge Jackson’s confirmation.
 
Shame, shame, shame on the rest of the Republicans for not having the basic good manners to acknowledge a victory, one that is historic and well-earned.
 
I fear for the state of the world, Ukraine, and other areas of unrest around the globe. I fear for our country, SCOTUS, and those attempting to unravel our Constitution and the 14th Amendment. Some would-be despots hid in the cloakroom of the Senate Chamber, delaying their vote. And in the dark, hidden corners across our country and beyond, squirmy plans are made to forge violence, anger, hate, conspiracy, white supremacy, and evangelicalism into the Foundational Documents of our Framers’ work.
 
And, I fear for our beloved Mother Earth, which we continue to destroy daily. 
 
But let us enjoy this historical moment and pay homage to Judge Jackson. Her confirmation offers hope, courage, and a surge of prevailing winds of justice and equality for all. For let us not forget “we the people.” 

The Peace of Wild Things

Evening Farewell © 2010 Lee Anne Morgan

Good Morning ~ 🌷 🌸 🕊

This week has been a landmark week steeped in the carnage of Ukraine and the contentious hearings by our Senate’s Judicial Committee for approving Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s impeccable credentials as an Associate Justice to sit on our Supreme Court. 

My heart was saddened and inspired. Yet, the underlying weariness is present in all of us. We send prayers in various forms to Ukraine’s brave fight for Democracy and freedom. The majority of Americans were disappointed, once again, in the debased dance of race-baiting rhetoric in the Senate hearings. It was no accident that Wendell Berry’s profound poem, “The Peace of Wild Things,” found its way to me in my morning reading.


 🌺  May it bring a soothing calm to your heart and mind. 🌺  

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me

and I wake in the night at the least sound

in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,

I go and lie down where the wood drake

rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.

I come into the peace of wild things

who do not tax their lives with forethought

of grief. I come into the presence of still water.

And I feel above me the day-blind stars

waiting with their light. For a time

I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

From Collected Poems (North Point Press), © 1985.

Snow Falling On Ukraine

Snow Falls, Bombs Blast © 2022 Lee Anne Morgan

What words can I possibly say regarding Ukraine, their courage, and daily deaths that would not be cliché? Sometimes I feel I’m there, hovering over the land and cities trying to protect Ukrainians, the starving, and, yes, the misinformed Russian soldiers, too, from pain and suffering.

I pray for inspirational words, but none come. I am amazed at my depth of grief. These are not intimates; however, their blood runs through mine. My maternal family was Russian, Polish, Austrian, and Czechoslovakian. Yes, I am a part of Ukraine and Russia and Poland. Their people are my sisters and brothers.

I’ve followed the teachings of Ram Dass, a spiritual leader of what was called the ‘new age,’ for more than 30 years.  He passed in 2019 at the age of 86 while still sharing his great love for all and profound wisdom through his dying process. The following is taken from his last book, Walking Each Other Home, with his dear friend, Mirabai Bush. This morning I turned to the chapter on ‘grief’ for I knew I needed, and wanted, to understand my sadness, my mourning. Tom Waites’ song, Last Leaf, was dedicated to Ram Dass by Joan Baez in a concert after visiting with him just before he departed for his eternal journey.  I dedicate these lyrics to the Ukrainians and Russians left on the battlefields and all who lost beloved ones and mourn. This Ukraine war will live on in our hearts. Perhaps, we will hear and even see those who are with us no more: their personal songs in the purr of a cat, the sweet kisses of a dog, the eyes of a new-born living being, and in a robin’s clear, melodic notes that are the first to greet the dawn.

I’m the leaf on the tree.

The autumn took the rest, but they won’t take me …

I’ll be here through eternity

If you want to know how long

If they cut down this tree,

I’ll show up in a song.

Tom Waites, Excerpt from song “Last Leaf”

May you live this day well. Send your true heart along with your prayers, always.

‘the hawk & his prey’

The Hawk © 2022 Lee Anne Morgan

Sadness is upon our land. It is not clear, but there is an eeriness about it. We want to help Ukraine—and we are helping with good and not-so-good weapons, ongoing humanitarian efforts, and aid in many forms. We will avoid aggressive confrontation with Russia, fearing nuclear or chemical warfare in Europe, perhaps beyond. Yet there is restlessness among Americans as we watch the destruction of human life and their land. As of this writing, Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, is surrounded.

I can’t sleep at night because I see images of bodies bulldozed into ditches. These images are too reminiscent of when Hitler’s “atrocities” were performed as we stood by as a nation, inactive, until Pearl Harbor. (My facts may not be exact, but the gist of the matter is correct.)

In a long-ago research project, I searched newspaper headlines and critical articles written on the date of my birthday. I was born in August 1943. There was not one article on the front page of my hometown paper, The Cleveland Plain Dealer, nor The New York Times on the war in Europe. I found a brief half-column article on Hitler’s suspicious activity regarding discrimination against “ethnic types,” not defined, buried in the second section of The New York Times. Roosevelt sent planes via Canada, but we wanted nothing to do with their war.

Today, we watch the Ukraine war unfold hour-by-hour. I never thought I’d witness the slaughter of people in a fight à la WWII in which the United States didn’t do more. Yet we are cautious to protect what and whom? I understand the hesitancy. I do. It is unfathomable to me that with all our power, intelligence, and willingness to help, we are not creative enough to provide a solution to stop this horrific carnage. Naively, I always thought that our United States, our homeland, was supposed to protect the weak, the oppressed, the homeless: This is baked into our DNA. No doubt, we have severe problems at home on these issues, deserving dedicated space and time.

However, I feel we are standing on our shores, shaking our heads, saying, “Oh my, this is just terrible,” then turn from the atrocities and tuck in at night. Standing aside is not who we are as a country; it is not how our nation was born. Our Founding Fathers fought at the risk of being hanged for treason. The sadness exists because we, as a nation, are not doing what we should be doing for the first time.

Alone, Looking for Mother Associated Press © 2022/Ukraine Photographer Unknown

Why is a Ukrainian life valued less than ours so that we don’t help them fight as we would for ourselves?

Ukrainian Couple Huddled in Subway Associated Press © 2022 Photographer Unknown

The Ukrainians are my people, too. They are a part of all of us. I hope that people in our country will unite once again, realizing how precious Democracy and our right to vote are to us all. I do not propose a nuclear winter. But my issues regarding the sanctity of life remain. I know we cannot respond forcefully with all our might, as I believe so many of us deep within wish we could. The result would be unacceptable. However, a serpent lies coiled in a dark place somewhere in Florida, waiting to strike with the swish of his tail. Will those who support the orange serpent and his snakelets see the reality and truth between a liberal Democracy and fascism as the Ukrainians show us by giving their lives with endless courage to fight for what is true, good, and noble: a free Democracy?

In Conclusion

No one has answers, and we take one day at a time. Ukraine is a seismic event in our history, and we are the witnesses. Let us not forget the history of fascism; genocide, no free press, no right to be heard or vote. Please take my comments as one who asks questions, keeping me awake at night.

On a lighter note, I share two final painterly images: My cat, Abbey, in her peaceful sleep and a burst of orchid blossom colors that I send to Ukraine along with my heart.

Abbey Sleeps © 2022 Lee Anne Morgan

All Blossoms Bloomed © 2022 Lee Anne Morgan

May we send our prayers and hearts to Ukraine. May we not forget our own who are in need. The challenging times ahead will make us stronger and better. May peace reign in all our hearts everywhere.

💛

 

No Birth. No Death.

 

Thich Nhat Hanh   (Anonymous Photographer)

I am a continuation like the rain is a continuation of the cloud. ~ Thich Nhat Hanh

When temperatures plunged below zero in early February, I woke at 4 a.m. to a still, frozen morning. The previous day’s nor’easter left tree branches gently burdened with thin layers of ice. The landscape glittered as dawn made her entrance. Sitting with my mug of Assam tea, I spoke silent, grateful words for the brand new twenty-four hours ahead. Incense burned while the Tibetan bell awaited its invitation to be rung. The day was unplanned. I might write, cook, do tasks in my home. Or I might do nothing but watch the changing light through ice trees: clouds and sun performing a ballet—a pas de deux in the heavens. Doing nothing is not doing anything. It is assuredly doing something: saying yes to each moment that comprises our day.

Sound of the Bell © 2022 Lee Anne Morgan

I thought about Thay (pronounced Ty), Thich Nhat Hanh, who passed on January 22nd, 2022, at 95. I have followed Thay’s teachings since the 1980s. He was a Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk who taught Buddhist precepts Westerners could embrace regardless of religious affiliation or none. Rather than instruct from arcane Buddhist texts, Thay made mindfulness, meditation, breathing, kindness in speech, thoughts, and actions accessible and doable, helping us gently weave these practices into our daily lives. Thay was small in stature and gentle in nature yet led a monumental life transmitting these ‘qualities of being’ to all who followed. He was an advocate for peaceful activism, especially during the Vietnam war. Though he was exiled from his home country until a few short years ago, he continued his non-violent activism bringing awareness to injustices, environmental concerns, and much more. Thay was a teacher, scholar, poet, activist, artist, and writer nominated by Martin Luther King for the Nobel Peace Prize. Though his name may be unfamiliar to some of you, millions mourned then celebrated his continuation as he passed from one manifestation into another.

In his book, No Death, No Fear, Thay writes that you cannot become nothing from something, and you cannot become no one from someone. All of nature and its manifestations, the cosmos, and multiplying universes affirm these truths.

In my memorial to Thay, a photographic essay follows relevant to no birth, no death, but continuation. His slow meditation walks kissed the earth and helped me to slow my life, breathe deeply, be mindful of everything I see and hear, including nothing but silence. Please enjoy these images and thoughts on my journey from that frosty morning to the day of this writing.

Ice

I saw a hint of what was to come on that cold February morning, even in the early low light. Two of the ‘ice’ images looked like lights strung across all the trees in the woodlands, an extravaganza of glittering crystalline glory. The final image, taken years ago, reveals the essence of no birth, no death. I gave the last ‘ice’ image a title, almost a Zen kōan, that is fitting to continuation—What comes, follows what has been.

The Hint © 2022 Lee Anne Morgan

Crystal Branches © 2022 Lee Anne Morgan

What Comes, Follows What Has Been © 2006 Lee Anne Morgan

 Amaryllis

While exchanging remarks with the bank manager, I saw a huge Amaryllis on her desk. It was lofty in stature and flamboyant in color. Using my iPhone, I zoomed in to hear what this magnificent flower had to say about her current manifestation. She will return.

The Amaryllis © 2022 Lee Anne Morgan

Orchids

I purchased orchids last year to honor a request from my father. Though dad passed years ago, I heard him say, My birthday is this week. Buy me an orchid. So, I did. They bloomed for a long time. I cared for them once the blossoms fell off, hoping they would return, for orchids do not necessarily flower every year. These did.

The Dancer © 2022 Lee Anne Morgan

Nature’s Patterns © 2022 Lee Anne Morgan

The Buddha

A patron sent me a hand-carved wooden Buddha. I’ve photographed many Buddha statues over the years, leading to an exhibit titled ‘on walks with the buddha.’ My patron’s images are not below, but my favorites are. The first image expresses a sensibility of Thay’s core lesson in breathing: Breathing in, I know I am breathing in. Breathing out, I know I am breathing out. This technique is mindfulness at work: being fully present in the moment. The final abstractionist image is a visual expression of Thay’s great writings and lectures on continuation, no birth, no death.

I Breathe. I Sit. © 2022 Lee Anne Morgan

Continuation © 2022 Lee Anne Morgan

A poem appeared on faded paper folded in an old book I was about to give away. The poem’s author is anonymous, but the poem is appropriate for Thay’s passing and for anyone we’ve lost at any time in our lives. And, it is not coincidental that it appeared as I began assembling the elements of this art blog.

Do not stand at my grave and weep.

I am not there. I do not sleep.

I am in a thousand winds that blow,

I am the diamond glints in the snow.

I am the sunlight on ripened grain; am the gentle autumn’s rain.

When you awaken in the morning’s hush,

I am the swift uplifting rush of quiet birds in circles flight.

I am the soft star that shines at night.

Do not stand at my grave and cry.

I am not there; I did not die.

A Coda

I alluded to this coda in my opening e-mail. Dan Rather’s newsletter, STEADY, inspired me to share this. The global musical piece (4 minutes) “speaks to a spirit that we believe unites the vast majority of humankind around the world – a yearning for peace, a recognition of the common bonds of humanity, and an appreciation for the wonders of musical expression.”

Recorded in 2014, the song is “Down by the Riverside,” an old African American spiritual. I know Thay would be tapping his feet and smiling in the joy of the music’s intention. May this music, love, and spirit for ‘no war’ be heard in Ukraine and worldwide. May Ukraine’s brave citizens who now fight for Democracy, as we once did, never give up as we must never give up or take for granted.

Namasté

I’m Being Honest

Dance of Light © 2019 Lee Anne Morgan

PLEASE CLICK THE ARROW/BUTTON FOR AUDIO

I cannot write. The computer’s cursor blinks on a blank page. I struggle for the first word, hoping a fairy muse waves her wand, revealing a complete, compelling opening sentence. Perhaps, my mind might come alive with an idea. Any idea. Words, sentences, whole paragraphs elude me. What you are reading is a stream of consciousness. I don’t think this is writer’s block because I’ve just completed the outline, prologue, and first six chapters of my next book, a mystery novel. Then, I stopped in the middle of a dialogue between the two main characters. It was going well, yet I stopped.

I turn to Wendell Berry’s vast poetry collection in search of inspiration. I land on a page captivated by the last line in one of his Sabbath poems. Collection. I am overcome with his ability to express a concept with elegant simplicity: We live the life given, and not the planned. Oh, but do we not have choices? Yes, we do. Are our choices ‘the given’ or ‘planned’? And how does our free will relate to given and planned? This one line of verse holds layers, questions, debates. I cannot write like Berry or any other consummate writer, nor is this my aspiration. However, I have a writing voice, which presently appears to be on vacation. I depend on that voice to inspire my readers and stir something deep within. And though I’ve said this through the years, it remains a heartfelt intention for not only my writing but my art.

My dilemma may be that our beleaguered world seemingly demands writing of import and relevancy accompanied with graphs and statistics. But, this is not my way. I gravitate toward the inner self and its inter-being—how one relates to and functions amidst dysfunction, sadness, joy. I add confusion, too. I gave serious thought to framing an essay about guns and non-violence—and the pervasive violence in our nation today. Wendell Berry’s poem upon which I was going to build the narrative said it all. Berry captured not only the bones but the marrow of what violence does to our souls and to the psyche of our world.

Before we kill another child for righteousness’ sake, to serve some blissful killer’s sacred cause, some bloody patriot’s anthem and his flag, let us leave forever our ancestral lands, our holy books, our god thoughtified to the mean of our smallest selves. Let us go to the graveyard and lie down forever among the speechless stones.

Anything more I could write would be dreck. My essay about non-violence is still in a zip file, hiding in the corner of my mind. I can say that the words and sentences, which form paragraphs, will return to me. I know this based on experience. However, we have come full circle to my initial plight and the last line in Berry’s poem, life given, not planned. I see they are linked. For now, the given for me is to rest and accept what is not coming my way as I planned.

 The Gallery

Since we’ve had no snow, I’ve curated winter scenes photographed from 2007 through 2021 for The Gallery. At the moment, however, the sunset sky turned from leaden clouds to a deep, fire red. There is not enough light for my camera to capture this moment, though it blazes in my mind. Perhaps, just perhaps, the moment will find its way into a painting.

Woody’s Return © 2018 Lee Anne Morgan

Hudson River Path © 2010 Lee Anne Morgan

The Red Tail Hawk © 2010 Lee Anne Morgan

Snow Fall In Forest © 2007 Lee Anne Morgan

Hudson River Rainbow © 2019 Lee Anne Morgan

Tree Falls In Forest © 2016 Lee Anne Morgan

Wolf In Snow Shadows © 2007 Lee Anne Morgan

Winter Sunrise © 2021 Lee Anne Morgan

Wishing you peace within, health, and joy, always!

Winter Meditation © 2006 Lee Anne Morgan

Namasté.

PLEASE SHARE THIS BLOG WITH SOMEONE YOU KNOW. 

 

Gratefulness. Humility. Blessings.

A November River Sunrise © 2021 Lee Anne Morgan

Give gratitude for unknown blessings already on their way. Have faith.

 ~Native American Proverb~

For what stories in our lives are we grateful? Our personal stories weave tapestries of bright and subtle hues with varying fibers. White satin ribbon once wrapped a precious item and is now stained with tears while gossamer-thin silver and gold threads shout alleluia. Our narratives include journeys through sadness, grief, delight, even rapture. These hills and valleys in our life-long expeditions form who we are. Some may ask why the valleys? If we do not acknowledge our tribulations, how will we recognize joy in the morning? Gratefulness is more than saying thank you: it is love-in-action steeped in humility.

In less than a week, people will gather at their Thanksgiving repasts. Bountiful food harvests on tables will elicit prayers of gratitude as plump, rosy-cheeked grandmothers count blessings. Gratefulness lives daily for those in our lives and anyone we grace with a smile. We are grateful for our Mother Earth that sustains life, the tiny and large blessings always present, and those to come, including the billion acts of kindness we never hear about in the news. And, most assuredly, loving life itself!

I am grateful to each of you who take the time to read this occasional blog. I offer the following images (with brief anecdotes) created in late October and early November. I bow to my faith, working in tandem with a most beloved, sometimes whimsical, Spirit who always guides me.

The Gallery

The Storm At Dusk, November 13 © 2021 Lee Anne Morgan

Saturday, November 13, brought dark clouds, rain, and a clap of thunder at dusk. I bolted from the kitchen to the living room window. I stared for days at the last of the clinging orange leaves, contemplating whether or not to photograph them. On this Saturday, at this stormy hour, I wondered why the color was so bright?  I set my camera on a tripod for a slow shutter release because I had little light. I took seven pictures, but only one survived. Rationally, this is not possible. I’ve become accustomed, though, to the mystery of light and dark. And, yes, another divine intervention in my life.

A Patterned Language No. 5 © 2021 Lee Anne Morgan

The leaf is heart-shaped. At first, it appeared a typical, colorful autumn leaf. But I saw a small topographical map with roads, terrains of hills, valleys, desert, and rugged jungle. The light and dark became my focus, for it is part of our whole existence. The leaf remains with me, less vibrant, still heart-shaped, tucked into my Bible on a page where a favorite Psalm resides.

The Mistake © 2021 Lee Anne Morgan

I placed the heart leaf on a canvas underpainting. When I saw the Mistake, I was mystified. What went wrong with my camera or lighting or both? Yet, I did not return to my work table, trying to perfect what I believed the image should be. The Mistake was a supernatural gift: perfection in imperfection.

Aslan © 1997 Lee Anne Morgan

Aslan was well-loved. He was a force of nature, ever-moving and hard to photograph! This image was shot with film and developed in an ‘old school’ dark room. I was thrilled to find a print to scan and preserve Aslan’s memory. I remember him well, and I know he lives on in his owners’ hearts.

In The Presence of Perfection © 2021 Lee Anne Morgan

One of the last of the dahlias presented herself to me on an early November walk. Her colors vibrated; her petals perfection. I focused, however, on the energy at the center: her heartbeat. Thank you, dear Dahlia, for staying long enough for my camera to do its work!

On a mystical foggy morning, I ventured out for a walk to the River. The following images were wrapped in this otherworldly fog I had not seen since last in London. The season’s remaining boats were visible with reflections in the water, but the shoreline was invisible!  The last rose in one of my favorite garden haunts shone through the thick fog. Then, Hunk emerged through the mist as I approached our local cafe for a well-earned mocha latte. What can I say about the tender spirit of Hunk? He is nine months old and captured my heart with soft kisses of my hands. He also honored my camera, posing for me. Good boy, Hunk. Good boy. 💜

The River Fog © 2021 Lee Anne Morgan

Through The Fog © 2021 Lee Anne Morgan

Hunk No. 2 © 2021 Lee Anne Morgan

Color Spectrum on Black Limbs © 2021 Lee Anne Morgan

A collaboration was afoot when I found this black-limbed tree in a spectrum of color. This collaboration meant perfect light, not too bright nor too dreary. It also required that I must be ready, and I was. I’m infatuated with this tree, which slowly turned into dazzling, golden leaves that continue, as of this writing, to cascade downward, blanketing our sidewalks in gold.

I leave you with the lyrics to an old Shaker tune. It reminds me that I can never possess enough humility. But, this is why we’re here! So I continue on the path: uttering a meaningful thank you, not just words, being deeply grateful and fully aware of how blessed I am.

‘Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free,
‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gain’d,
To bow and to bend we will not be asham’d,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come round right. 

May you and yours have a blessed Thanksgiving. And always, God’s speed.

John Lennon ~Imagine

Before 9/11 © 1997 Lee Anne Morgan

The steely plume of smoke spiraling upward was an eerie reminder one could still see two weeks following the razing of New York City’s Twin Towers. I moved to an island off the mid-coast of Maine nine months earlier. Manhattan was my home for forty years. I needed to visit friends, listen to their stories, share their grief. The absence of people, cars, and activity was otherworldly. Instead, I saw armored tanks and troops carrying machine guns amidst an unimaginable silence, except for the helicopters circling the City.

I stayed with a friend who lived close to the Armory, where survivors posted hundreds of pictures of those “missing.” She suggested I walk there with my film cameras. I hoisted my camera bag onto my shoulder and started walking.

Post 9/11 © 2001 Lee Anne Morgan

I took 176 images at the Armory, then rounded a corner, spotting a single weather-beaten paper Scotch-taped to an iron gate. Though somewhat unreadable, it tugged at me. I never showed it because I thought it wasn’t good enough; it was too soon, too late, and unreadable. I digitized the initial film image over twenty years, trying not to mar its veracity and lamenting my inability to bring the lyrics into clear focus. Though old, a little grainy, technology provided a perfect solution — a coalescence of image, words, and music.

Given what our nation, the world, our planet experienced these past twenty years, I decided it was time to show the image, resurrecting a moment when our country did live like one as the world mourned with us. John Lennon did not compose the song Imagine like an anthem, but I think it is. He was far-seeing, idealistic, and he, too, is mourned.

Has anything profoundly changed since 9/11 twenty years ago today: The brotherhood and sisterhood of humankind living as one in peace? For a fleeting moment, our nation was united, surmounting our differences to immerge from a tragedy with hope and, yes, love for one another.

Can we do it again?
Yes! And we must try.

In a recent Robert Hubbell Today’s Edition Newsletter, he wrote, “I know that there are many important issues that demand attention. … [However], we are the beneficiaries of the tireless efforts of activists who came before us. We are in their debt and must repay their generosity by emulating them.

It is our turn to defend the ramparts of freedom. We are not being saddled with an undue burden. Every generation must step into the breach. We need only hold the line until the next generation is ready to fight. But we must show them the way. If we expect our children and grandchildren to understand that democracy is worth defending, they must grow up watching us do so.”

As we did during 9/11.

For all those lost at the Towers, the Pentagon, and on Flight 93, may their memories be a blessing.

On Being 78

Black Hair, White Fur -1959 Unknown Photographer

I begin my 78th year on August 27. A commercial photographer in Cleveland, Ohio, took the picture above when I was sixteen years old. The white fox fur was a present from my godmother. The costume was designed and hand-made by a gifted local seamstress, Mary Lennox. The hand-beaded treasure was eventually worn by me at the Copacabana nightclub in New York City while dancing as an opening act for its star-studded headliners. Elegant nightclubs no longer exist, nor the famous clientele with men donned in black-tie and women wrapped in luxurious furs draping dazzling gowns. Yet I was a part of this slice of history. I lived it and tasted it.

I authored a book, A Time to Mourn & A Time to Dance, about events in my life, in different times and places. I still struggle to recall the whole of each story. Details of places visited, travels, stage performances around the country, and sound bites of conversations flash briefly before me just within my grasp. My mind reaches for the ephemeral thread of memory, believing I captured it in its entirety. But I only find it withdrawing into the corners of my heart and mind.

Yes, the past is gone. The future is not here. What we have is this moment in which we are alive. What do we do with these moments? We live the best life possible, not only for ourselves but for others.

At seventy-eight, I see life as an ever-evolving Dance. Oceans of tears, both sorrow and joy, nature’s cycle of birth, death, and renewal in our lives, in the world, are all part of the Cosmic Dance. I regret nothing, even when wounds re-open. They dissipate quickly as memories of laughter comfort me. Love and more love in all forms sustain my heart. Journeys taken and paths chosen infuse me with creative ideas. And, the family and friends who are still in my life, and those who are gone, soothe my soul. Oh, yes, I choose to continue this Cosmic Dance!

In this Dance, there is change, sometimes subtle and frequently pivotal to our lives and how we live. A seismic shift in my life unfolded a few short weeks ago.

From a letter to friends on July 22, 2021:

My little Honda Fit leaves our apartment parking lot sometime after 4 o’clock today. I nicknamed her My Little Blue Buggy for no particular reason except that of endearment. The decision to relinquish my wheels was huge. I have many driving years ahead, but the financial upkeep of the Buggy depleted modest savings. I saw the reality and accepted it with grace.

I thought I’d wake depressed this morning with yet another ‘thing’ I needed to release from life. It was the opposite. I sat and wrote. I wrote paragraphs for the birdsong keeping me company with freshly brewed Assam tea at my side. I wrote poems and haiku that will never see the light of day but were intended just for me. I showed up and did my actual work. I walked to the River and meditated on what freedom means. Like Siddhartha looking into his River to listen and learn, I too heard from our River that freedom comes from within and has nothing to do with things: stuff, baubles, and gadgets.

I am thrilled to be back in the discipline of writing. And I am eager to journey forward into another realm of oil painting I’ve left too long in a remote corner of my mind. I realized that ideas get tired of waiting around for us to do something, so they go. Precious freedom is that I no longer need to tie my creative efforts to outcomes. I am content to create for the joy of it, whether good, bad, or mere pablum. 

I don’t feel bereft without a car though I know there will be challenging times. However, there will be days, like today, filled with glory. While I moved through Qigong exercises on our River’s docks, I felt the Kingdom of God and the Pure Land of the Buddha in every cell of my body, heart, and mind as fish jumped through a surface of calm water, which shone like rippled glass. 

River Glass © 2021 Lee Anne Morgan

The Dance has circled and leaped to various rhythms and melodies for close to seven decades. Now, a different Dance begins at seventy-eight: One that accepts and adapts to my body’s limitations while celebrating, with profound gratitude, the blessings, and abundance in my life.

Several images follow. Please, enjoy them!

Each Petal A Kiss © 2021 Lee Anne Morgan

Nature’s Perfection © 2021 Lee Anne Morgan

The Heart Portal © 2021 Lee Anne Morgan

She Opened © 2021 Lee Anne Morgan

I’ve been celebrating turning seventy-eight all month. I have nothing important or profound to add. I love nature, hot and cold, green or brown, every leaf, tree, and tree bark, birds, cats, dogs, wildlife, washing my dishes, cleaning my little home et al. with contentment and happiness I’ve not known. May I love onto all living beings. May I respect our Mother Earth. May I not judge but honor others’ differences. 

Thank you! Stay well. Stay safe.

With love ~

Who Among Us Does Not Know

 

Garden Blooms © 2021 Lee Anne Morgan

We have a choice to walk with our better angels or to walk with anger, which can, and does, create suffering.  Having tuned out the material world this past year, I chose another path so that my heart and spirit could survive the mainstream world’s anger, despair, and violence. I plunged instead into what always calls me to be a better human being: one whose sensitive heart looks and listens more deeply to understand so that true compassion blossoms, one who makes time for others to soothe and nurture, and one who revels in caressing our Mother Earth with a camera and words.

Who among us does not know that our free will allows us to walk and talk outside of perceived norms, watering seeds that fashion peace, love, and joy? Too sweet? Too sentimental? Magical thinking? No, it is none of these. Our minds and hearts contain seeds of anger, violence, despair, joy, happiness, and contentment. It is the seed we chose to water that immerges from our subconscious mind into our consciousness. Then, we act, speak, negatively without compassion or—with simple, sincere lovingkindness. I strive to be aware of what my mind is pushing upward from its storehouse of seeds into the light of day and water what is wholesome. The mindfulness practice I follow is not easy. Watering seeds of lovingkindness in all its forms, however, has gradually, gently prevailed more than it once did.

I also water seeds of joy and beauty through my images and words. Hopefully, I’ve created a lovely tableau for you to stop, enjoy, and listen to. Matsuo Bashō, a Zen poet, wrote: The temple bell stops, but the sound keeps coming out of the flowers. May you hear the deep, resonant tones of the monastery bell in these images, for who among us does not know our deepest mystery within.

An unplanned stroll through a farmer’s market on an early Saturday morning in June flooded my camera with startling beauty and long-awaited color!

In Full Song © 2021 Lee Anne Morgan

As I Open © 2021  Lee Anne Morgan

On an early morning walk to the Riverfront, I found an extravaganza of peonies in full bloom. Eager to capture an intimate view of these blossoms, the camera slipped, and my focus wavered. When I uploaded the image, I decided I liked its music: soft, yielding yet still beautiful in its unique song. Accidents happen. Sometimes delightfully so!

Peony Extravaganza © 2021 Lee Anne Morgan

Oops! © 2021 Lee Anne Morgan

A newly hatched robin’s eggshell presented itself in the middle of the road during that same walk. The first image reflects what I encountered on the road. Though fragile, I couldn’t resist taking it home for my Mother Earth altar upon which tiny bits of Nature live. The delicate, blue eggshell remains on the altar in a bed of rose petals.

Robin Eggshell No. 1 © 2021 Lee Anne Morgan

Robin Eggshell No. 2 © 2021 Lee Anne Morgan

My love for roses dates to a time and place long ago. The life of a rose exemplifies how youth and beauty fall away as its graceful, short life unfolds into detritus as we do, too. Though impermanence applies to every living thing in the cosmos, the rose symbolizes our body’s limited time and the eternal joy of our spirit. The scent of the rose lives on.

Rosebud © 2021 Lee Anne Morgan

Unfurling © 2021 Lee Anne Morgan

The Birch Tree at the Riverfront could not be ignored. Her smooth bark appeared to me like lines of computer programming code. Perhaps they are! However, I also saw a rose in the curly, papery bark. This is how I see: things not there that are.

How I See © 2021  Lee Anne Morgan

My apartment is almost wholly an art studio at this point. Amidst the work tables, easels, paints, brushes, and cameras, fresh flowers are placed about to capture an image at a magical moment. This image was one of those moments: a hand-thrown glazed vase and ordinary, extraordinary red flowers.

Red Flower Reflection © 2021 Lee Anne Morgan

The last of nine orchids on two stems remained. The petal was beautiful and bold even in the face of dying a graceful death. She was Woman and Goddess. She was sensual. She had O’Keefe in her. She had some of me, too. She was Sacred, and she was Feminine. She was mystery and magic. She will return.

The Sacred Feminine © 2021 Lee Anne Morgan

Thank you for visiting. Thank you for your comments, always! Look and listen deeply to what you care about and even those things you believe you do not. When you do, the birth of understanding begins a journey filled with compassion.

Water your good seeds.

In so doing, we can help save the world. 

Listen for the sound of the monastery bell coming out of all Nature.

Old Tibetan Singing Bowl © 2020 Lee Anne Morgan

Body, speech, and mind in perfect oneness. I send my heart along with the sound of this bell. May all of you who listen awaken from forgetfulness and transcend the path of anxiety and sorrow. ~ Zen Master, Thich Nhat Hanh

Who among us does not know these things?

In Lovingkindness ~

 

Mindfulness

Dawn’ s Light © 2021 Lee Anne Morgan

One deep breath in, one slow breath out. I sit and wait. Tea is in a thermos. A camera rests at my side. I ponder the River’s serenity. Then, finally, I bear witness to dawn’s imposing entrance over the horizon. I will return and breathe with the River. And I will sit and wait.

Extravaganza © 2021 Lee Anne Morgan
Knowing © 2021 Lee Anne Morgan

Where two trees stand, one is tall, thick-limbed with blossoms exploding onto the bluest of skies. The other tree is bereft of adornment yet fully alive. It waits in strength and calm. While people stop to look at the extravaganza of flowers, they miss the grand, noble architecture of the bare tree that knows fresh green leaves will soon appear, providing shade, beauty, and delight.

For My Father © 2021 Lee Anne Morgan

My Father calls to me through a thin veil. He passed away many years ago. “It’s my birthday,” he says, “buy me an orchid.”  I purchase an orchid and place it on my altar as my Father, the Orchid, and I speak a language of enduring love.

A Carnation’s Farewell © 2021 Lee Anne Morgan

At first, her petals were tightly formed. Then, the carnation opened as I observed the whorl unfurl into splendor. After a week, it was her time to soften, let go. I believe I captured her final moments, but something more came through the lens: a grand, flamboyant finale of color and whimsy illuminating her essence which was of the sun, soft rain, a passing cloud, the cosmos in this ordinary, extraordinary flower. Impermanence is the nature of all things. We will meet again.

April 22nd © 2021 Lee Anne Morgan
The Doe © 2021 Lee Anne Morgan

Rain was forecast. The unexpected enchantment, however, was large, juicy snowflakes inter-being with the already greening landscape. The camera’s shutter release was continual as I tried to record what would be gone within an hour or less. And then, the doe! She was not there a moment ago, a split second in time, yet she appeared grazing serenely on greens while the snow cascaded onto her and the forest floor. The snow evaporated into a cloud. The doe visits every morning and at dusk. These visits will not last. Change is unending.

Charlotte’s Web © 2021 Lee Anne Morgan

A Birch tree resides alone near the River. I place my hands on her trunk with its distinctive curly, papery bark. One papery ‘plate’ appeared ready to fall off. I tried pulling tenderly only to hear “ouch!” The curly bark was firmly attached to the trunk in one small spot. The Birch tree’s bark presents a universe of color my camera cannot resist. When I viewed the uploaded image, a mystery was revealed: a faint outline of what could only be called Charlotte’s Web.

Dream Garden © 2021 Lee Anne Morgan

A hidden garden lives along the sunny wall of a small log cottage. The cottage resides on a cobblestone side street few people travel. I came upon the storybook cottage and garden and stepped into a dream. No one was around. While the sun was too high and bright, I decided to photograph the secret garden anyway.  I doubt I will find my way there again. Was this a fantasy? Did I paint this scene? No matter. It is finished.

💞

Birdsong fills the air, for all my windows are open to the warm, sunny day. They live in constant celebration in their environment of trees and sky, adapting to all kinds of weather and turmoil too. Yet they sing while a Redtail hawk flies high above writing her aria in the sky.

I hope my images and words brought music to your hearts, minds, and souls. Thank you for visiting.

💞

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I Breathe. I Sit. © 2021 Lee Anne Morgan

One deep breath in, one slow breath out. Three times.

Namasté