Petals in the wind. What a wonderful vision. The “Flowers for Mom” petals float and travel to the most surprising places landing in ways never imagined when the first seeds were planted.
Hardships such as the loss of a child, divorce, and cancer, impact a circle that extends well beyond immediate family members. When in midst of dark days, it is often the smallest things that we need the most such as the kindness of friends as they give us a gentle touch of love. It is humbling that my response to an Alzheimer’s journey is providing a ray of light for others.
During the first year of my “Flowers for Mom” photo series, a friend suggested asking people to post their own flower photos on social media to be shared with Mom. What a brilliant idea, and what a tremendous gift to witness the growth of my photo garden through the nurturing hands of others. The outpouring of love was a gift to my mother, but perhaps more importantly, to my father as he saw the kind words and images from so many friends. This year as Mom celebrated her 80th birthday, more flowers were shared with her than the number of her years, and the comments and gestures of kindness exceeded many lifetimes of years. Thank you to all who touched our world with the petals of your flowers.
This past year, I was celebrating a birthday ending in zero too, and it was a friend of my eldest daughter in Boston who surprised me with a gift of flower photos. As he stepped into his yard to find a few flowers, he bumped into a five year old neighbor who “got super excited and insisted that she show me every flower in the neighborhood.” Needless to say, the game became incredibly fun as they traipsed through yards and the number of flower photos exceeded his original goal. On finishing, the little girl proclaimed that the next day she was going for a long walk to take pictures of her own! For the rest of the summer, I imagine that there were two people who found themselves noticing flowers in their neighborhood that they had never seen before. Just like “passalong plants” dug up from one garden and shared with friends, this floral odyssey of mine is being passed along and it is incredible to witness how the act of one person sharing can bloom in far away gardens they have never seen. Unexpected gifts from Alzheimer’s…
Sitting beside me is a coffee filled mug by the master potter, Larry Allen. When meeting him and selecting my piece, it was fascinating to learn about his technique and the meaning behind the figures in his intricately carved work. Our exchange reminded me of the response from the award-winning architect, Bobby McAlpine when I asked him how he maintains momentum and inspiration. As glamorous as it sounds to be an artist, the reality is there are periods of struggle, and McAlpine’s response to my question has become one that has remained with me when I hit times of needing a creative boost to keep going – crop rotation.
It is other art forms that provide great crop rotation, and life has given me recent opportunities to be rejuvenated by creative spirits such as Allen as well as the amazing Tena Payne who founded Earthborn Pottery. Also inspiring me with their passion both on and off stage, are some talented performers working with the Alabama Shakespeare Festival and the Collaborative Arts Ensemble. If you need to add some pep to your step, why not seek work by a local artist or attend a live performance? Creativity is a key ingredient in the fabric of a successful community, so support artists while also nurturing that creative spirit within yourself.
Music has long made my heart soar, and has also been a vital comfort during difficult times. When processing my “Flowers for Mom” images, I carefully select music to play according to what kind of crop rotation I need at the moment. For fun, I created a “Flowers for Mom” playlist on Spotify with a focus on the meaning behind the lyrics as well as memories of music loved by my mother. You can give it a listen here. Do let me know what songs you think I should add!
My “Flowers for Mom” sculpture goes on display at Bellingrath Gardens in Alabama for a couple of months when I speak for their Winter Wednesdays series on February 27th. Treat yourself to a spring visit to the garden and experience the magnitude of this flower series by experiencing the sculpture’s scrolling photos that are close to 1,000 in number. Learn learn more about why this garden is special to me here.
When beginning my “Flowers for Mom” project of a daily photo in August of 2016, I never imagined I would still be seeking a daily flower in 2019. People sometimes ask me what is next. That I cannot answer because for today, I find there are more flowers to find, angles to capture, and lighting to explore. This post features all camellias in memory of my great great uncle, Walter Bellingrath whose name was given to the first full sized camellia photo here. As you can see, each image and each flower are very different. How can I possibly be finished?!
Art inspires us to think and to feel, and our response is tied to who and where we are at that very moment. When posted recently on social media, I asked people to give words to this image in haiku form. Take this moment to pause and revel in the beauty of their words and their own artistic responses to my creation.
Continue to take moments to pause during this busy time of the year. Seek the beauty that abounds and remember that the greatest gift you can give to others is your presence.
If you ever wondered what good could possibly come from Alzheimer’s – how about it inspiring a photo series that landed the artist on the cover of a magazine?! See the recent articles on page 32 in Boom Magazine and on page 12 in Elmore County Living.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then what is experiencing a moment worth? I can capture beauty on camera and cause one to marvel at the shapes, the colors, the details, but I cannot fully express an experience in a single image. There are simply some things that one must take in for themselves.
On an early fall day as I sought a photo of a flower, I fully paused. The breeze was whispering in my ears as the butterflies flitted about, moving too quickly for me to photograph, so I simply stopped and enjoyed them. Tall grass tickled my arms as startled doves flew off of their perch on the tall pine tree beside me. The cicadas were singing their song as I watched a leaf slowly float to the ground. Remnants of morning dew caught the light as did the green needles of the long leaf pines. Yellow, purple and white wildflowers surrounded me as a hawk circled above my head. As the sun warmed my back it revealed an intricate web with a spider resting at its center. Blades of grass popped back up as my boot lifted, and periodically I heard things buzz past my ears.
What do you see, feel and notice when you fully pause? Imagine these photos in full focus. Just as I can tell my child what I have learned and try to help them, it is their own experiences that serve as a far greater teacher. Today, choose to stand still. Take in the moment.
Lifelong learning is something in which I am a firm believer, and to those institutions that invite us to do so, I give my thanks. The Morris Museum is such a place and amongst its treasures in the Center for the Study of Southern Art are important records on Dale Kennington, my favorite Alabama artist ever. It is my honor to be joining them this Friday to speak for their Art at Lunch event while finally having a chance to see the exhibit of my “Flowers for Mom” that will be showing through November 18th. This week, my flowers will be joined by a competitive flower show featuring floral interpretations of art in the collection of the Morris Museum of Art. This Southern Sojourn show is being presented by the Sand Hills Garden Club, a member of the Garden Club of America. If you are within reach of Augusta, Georgia take a moment to breathe in the art and nature being featured. If you simply cannot get there, let me know how my flowers and I can make a stop in your area on this Camera Journey. Thanks for being along for the adventures!
We cannot choose what happens to us, but we CAN choose how to respond. Like many people, Alzheimer’s happened to our family. I chose to respond by photographing a flower a day. Maria Shriver chose to found the Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement. Today is World Alzheimer’s Day, so she found this week to be a good one to shine a spotlight on my “Flowers for Mom” project by honoring me as her Architect of Change as seen here. Her belief is that we all have the power to be Architects of Change in our own lives and our own communities. Needless to say, I am deeply grateful for this gift and appreciate knowing that the way I have chosen to respond to Alzheimer’s is in some small way moving humanity forward.
Just as beauty abounds in the flowers I find daily, people imagining what CAN be are also all around us if we simply pause to notice. Sara Beck, is one such individual. Twenty three years ago she gave me the gift of being the godmother for her daughter. Marsa is a neurodiverse girl who learns differently, walks with difficulty, has had more surgeries than I can count on two hands, and brings great joy to those around her. Rather than focus on the road blocks facing adults with differences, Sara has become an advocate for Marsa and others in our community by providing her volunteer leadership to Triumph Services, a new organization in Alabama that provides a holistic approach to support that includes developing independent living skills, training for employment, and working on community integration in addition to providing counseling. Triumph is life changing not only for Marsa, but also for families, employers and other area citizens as evidenced in this video.
While we would prefer that Hurricane Florence remained at sea, the Eastern United States has been hard hit by her winds and water. We are now witnessing American heroes who are responding and engaging in what they CAN do to assist with the resulting devastation. There is so much more that will need to be done, and undoubtedly there are other caring, conscious, connected, and compassionate people who will rise to the challenge.
It’s your turn to think of what you CAN do. Be an Architect of Change! Make a Difference and Move Humanity Forward.
Thank you to all who came to the “Celebrating Nature through Art” show to support the Black Warrior Riverkeeper at the beautiful Harrison Galleries in Tuscaloosa. For more of the story, check out this nice article in Alabama Living about “The Healing Power of Nature.”