Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Reflections by Rachel

One of my favorite blogs is a place called Lawn Tea, and today, I would like to introduce you to its creator — a sweet and gracious lady named Rachel, who is one of the most talented writers I've come across in years. Rachel is blessed with an awe-inspiring way with words that never ceases to entertain, amaze, and delight. Born and raised in Mississippi, but now living "somewhere north of the Mason-Dixon Line," I've often told her that she writes "with a southern accent." But Rachel is more than just a writer — she's also an artist who paints glorious pictures with her words.

With Rachel's permission, I'd like to share one of my all-time favorite posts written by her commemorating Memorial Day 2010:

Saturday, May 29, 2010 — REMEMBERING ...

It's holiday weather here today, with the heat of the sun and bright skies and the snap of flags in the sunshine, the smoke of a thousand backyard grills raising delicious scents into the Spring air. I awoke to the silhouette-gleam of sunshine across the room, a hopeful sign for all the activities and memorial services and celebrations of this long Spring weekend.

But weather hasn't much to do with the feelings that surround this special day, this day of remembrance and honoring and taking stock of our nation's blessings. The placing of wreaths, the little flags stuck into the earth of countless graves, the floral tributes, the handful of limp posies clutch-wilted in a child's hand, the tears of remembrance---those will quietly and reverently go on even as the scent of charcoal drifts up and the promised rain comes down.

I have a deep-imprinted vignette in my memory-collection, of sitting there in a hot scratchy dress several years ago, to see my dear Mother-in-Law receive the folded flag "With the thanks of a Grateful Nation." And so we remember GrandDaddy, in all his twenty-something years of service, and I keep a secret, heartfelt gleam of pride for our other servicemen and women, and those we'll never know of as we sleep safely on their watch.

And just looking at the flowers in the picture above, the two tall, stalwart reds and the smaller, just-as-strong pink, I think of all our sisters and daughters in uniform, the strong, brave women who step up to the mark, who serve standing proud beside the men whose strength and bravery have stood true for centuries. We feel a surge of gratitude, of pride, of thankful praise for all the ones who take our well-being and our freedom so seriously that they live and die for it, and us.

And so I say "Thank you," to each and every one, and give a prayer of thanks for all of our servicepeople, past and present---those standing proud in uniform today, those who have served, no matter what the term, those who have retired from their service, but remain ever soldiers, those lying beneath the brave small flags, and those known only to the angels and remembered in the hearts of those who loved them.

I wish every American, especially our service men and women, could read those truly awesome words. I've never read a better tribute in honor of our soldiers.

Not only does Rachel write wonderful stories for Lawn Tea, but the comments she leaves for other bloggers about their posts are masterpieces within themselves. Today, I would like to share a few of the comments Rachel has left for me about some of my pictures. No matter what the subject — from my car wash pictures to an exquisite magnolia blossom — her sincerity, eloquence, and graciousness never cease to awe and inspire me. Her comments are in italics ...

On Images captured in a Car Wash

I've always thought — too late — that I'd love a permanent picture of those sudsy moments.

The rainbow effect when the pink suds meet the big blue washpads, the swirls and clumps of the foam, and those big sheets of water, like it felt standing behind Niagara Falls. My very favorite, though, are the little raindrops skittering sidewise as the car's forward speed grows, and the slick raincoat on the glass gives them no purchase---they fly like BB's on linoleum, in no-two-patterns-alike, scooting off the two sides. I like to think that the same little drops flit around onto the windows and stream back in our wake, flying off into the distance as we leave

Reflections on Steeples

You've captured the grandeur and the glory and the How Great Thou Art, and, with so many things so precious in the South — the small ones, the well-used ones, the ones with their years and their history graven on their faces, are the ones which remain in memory.

The last, tiny one, which could be anything from a church to a storefront to a dogtrot house — that one is the one which is so memorable.

The TWO steeple-rooms — I doubt there were two stories, but I'll bet there was an echo in those tall chambers — and the screen-porch and the big old concrete block supports.

Those say Mississippi of days gone by, and the DOUBLE screen-doors, sagged from their years of ushering in the Faithful — those doors say, "Y'all COME RIGHT IN!"

Faded Magnolias

All stages of beautiful have their place in the way of things, and you've captured a wonderfully-lush cycle of a beautiful creation.

When the leaves bronze and stand their last days, they've achieved a beauty and dignity not given to the fresh white clusters, and deserve the honor of their age and their longevity.

Flambeaux Pottery

Thank you for this marvelous display. The word always conjures flamboyant, for me, or blazing, and then I realize that the patterns and the colors are both demure and quietly beautiful. These are, indeed, the snowflakes of the glass world, and it's a great blessing that they are neither so ethereal nor so fleeting.

Seed Pods

A Sermon in a Seed-pod---all the vitality of life, carrying on, carrying on. Like our best selves, I think I love your pictures best when you bend low.

The Rose and the Morning Glories

Oh, the blush rose, with the soft pink inside like a heartbeat. And Avery's Morning Glories! I've always loved the way they twirl themselves into their naps, like bright soft umbrellas. Just that one small item in all the beee-jillions of the items in the world---that bespeaks a PLAN and a purpose in all the Greatness that there is.

On the subject of "Pretty Words"

Janie, I think this is one of your most charmingly meaningful posts ever. Just the sounds of the words —you know words are my moonstones, my milestones, my steppingstones in life — the sounds are blessings as they fall into the air. And reading that list---for some strange reason, as my eyes scanned down the list, one at a time, the tears started to come, as if I were reading a paragraph of some great reunion or sweet triumph in a beautifully-crafted book. This is an awesome task, this putting together of words, and yours are perfect and wonderfully chosen. Thank you, as always.


One of my favorites amongst all God's little creatures!! And yours is spectacularly lovely, with all the Fall markings and beautiful hieroglyphs on the back. I've always had an affinity for spiders, and very carefully take them outside (except in Winter), when I sometimes just leave them alone, if they're way in an inconspicuous corner minding their own business. I've caused my family many an EWWWWW moment when I'd pick up one in my hand and transport her out to a plant or the lawn. And the one in the shrub out back has, I swear, been there for about five years---her name is Mistress Octavia, Ogress of the Weatherbush. She peeks out from the evergreen fronds with twinkly little eyes, and runs forward sometimes when I gently tweak the end of a limb. I always wonder if she can see me and recognize me as a friend.

On Sepia-Tone Photographs

The columns, the statue, the building's stalwart facade — sepia is their tone ...

... For the beauty of them, and for the ingrained expectations of other times having been lived in those somber shades, somehow, from the old black-and-whites of our long-ago relatives, staunchly sitting smileless for the one portrait of their lives, to the succeeding generations squinting into the sun for their Kodak moment. I've always had the feeling that they LIVED in those muted tones, and that no thirties farmstead was other than gray and black, and that no dustbowl farm wife ever hung her laundry beneath wide blue sky, nor had a dress other than tan. Your pictures are absolutely exquisite, in any shade.

Ladies of the Park
(Vicksburg National Military Park)

Janie, I don't know when one of your beautiful photo essays has had such meaning for me — those women of the wars, with their fathomless eyes and determined chins, their souls bare on their faces.

Your capture of these deserves a framing of each and every one — they are almost black-and-white photos, anyway, and they are just classically beautiful. We visited there only once, with a group, and I'm sorry that we were probably too busy running down hills and climbing that stone tower to take in all the poignant loveliness of the place. And now you've given it to me, all this lifetime later.

Heart of a Piano

What a magnificent piece of art! You can see every instrument there is in these pictures — the graceful curves of the string section, the smooth tips of the reeds, even the long, sweeping lines of a majestic pipe organ.

The crisp black-and-white is the tuxes and ties and starched shirts of the musicians. And looking down the long vista of the taut strings — well, we Mississippi girls know that's just like riding a country road beside a vast field, the rows stretching straight and true to the horizon, like comb-marks in a little boy's Sunday hair. You are amazingly talented, and I always look forward to what you have to show and tell next. If you could see your way clear to sit down to Clair de Lune or even Leaning on the Everlasting Arms, that would be the perfect frame.


Cows are the patient ones in the animal world---the kind, gentle Kindergarten Teachers and Nurse's Aides who quietly do their part in the scheme of things.

You've captured the faces in such exquisite detail, that I'll swear that they know exactly what you're doing with the camera. They're not gonna mug or smile or give you their best sides — they know WHO THEY ARE, and you can take it or leave it.

Buttercups Blowin' in the Wind

Oh, the Primroses!! That's the name we had for them, and I always wanted to see a real Buttercup — that hold-it-beneath-your-chin thing was fascinating to me, as is all lore of flowers. The one against the blue sky, now, she's a sassy girl with her arm upflung in a dance, and her face shaded to keep her secrets.

But the last little open, honest face — now, that's a friend you can tell YOUR secrets to.

I love your knack for capturing not only the beauty, but the persona of things.

Ole Man River just keeps on Rollin' Along

Indeed it does. And I think of it all the time — how it DOES roll along, how the wind ripples the water, how the reflection of the lights on the far shore look at night, and most of all, how you can stand and stare at the water flowing past, and suddenly, YOU'RE moving — you and the ground you're standing on, and you have to steady yourself on your two feet. That illusion never gets old. I think part of my blood must be muddy water.

Bradford Pear Trees in Spring

What a splendid display on a cloudy Monday morning! A bright and cheery prospect for the whole week, with all the sweet blossoms, and the pristine majesty of the whole tree ...

Your peachy little buds last week were tightly-furled little blooms, each cluster like the bouquet of an avant-garde bride, with unbloomed peonies of exotic names imported from Belgium or some other flowery location. These this week were the open, lush blooms of a Southern wedding, with welcoming tents and big bowls of lemonade and Sweet Tea, sweeps of green lawn, and a lavish hand with the hospitality.

How I DO go on, when something captures my imagination as do your photos. Every time. A friend told me once that I'm the original "oceans in a drop of water," person. And OH, the oceans you convey!

Do Trees Have Souls?

They have limbs, roots, branches, tendrils, leaves, a heart, a trunk; they give us food and shelter and refuge and warmth ... I like to think something so welcoming and kind to mankind and all the little creatures DOES have a soul. I DO know they laugh.

In the Land of Cotton (My favorite)

Like looking out my front door in Mississippi — I love the process of it, from the primal scent of first turning, to the flying dust as the planters roll like growling beasts over the land, to the vista of the tiny "turtles" as the wee plants peek from under the flat lids of dirt, glimpsing the sun for the first time.

Then there's the greening, as the fields take on a tinge, then definite delineations of those long, symmetrical rows, growing higher and higher, until the blooms grow purple ...

I think of them as "hollyhocks with jobs" in their purpose and their definite usefulness. And the little bishop's hat bolls, with the dainty fringes which grow, ripen, and then burst with their fluffy hatchlings. The long vistas of green change to brown, crisping stalks and thorny nests, guarding their burdens like Sleeping Beauty's hedge.

The great beasts are unleashed once again, to blunder over the fields, trampling the scratchy stalks and sucking up the clouds of white into that immense cage, thence to the trailers and then the gins, which compress the vast poundage into huge bundles like convoys of gypsy wagons encamped in the fields.

And on to whenever and wherever — for the most comfortable clothing there is. Can you tell I've been longing for this remembrance of the season? Dyed in the Cotton, that's me.

I told you ... the lady can write! I wish I could share all of Rachel's notes (I keep telling her she should write a book) ... but, even better, if you haven't already discovered Rachel, I hope you will visit her at Lawn Tea, and experience her lovely way with words for yourself. I know you'll be captivated from the start.

Thank you, Rachel ... for brightening my days with your beautiful writings.


racheld said...

Oh. My.

I cannot tell you of the feeling when I opened this post---I've read only a moment's worth, and must hasten back to link it to Lawn Tea.

I'll be back to take it in and savor, then perhaps I can thank you properly. Right now I have no words.


racheld said...


I still have not the words to thank you for this lovely honor---it's been a wonderful several years looking in on your blog, and the photos are absolutely stunning. Your own words are just right, every time, and match perfectly with the pictures and ideas you're showing. There's no mystery to the inspiration from such pictures.

I so thank you for doing this, for coming from you, such praise is doubly appreciated.

Thank you, always,


Marlene said...

Janie, you and Rachel are an unbeatable team...I would love to see you collaborate on a book. I
"need" to hold it in my hand to savor every picture and word. Thank you for the joy!

Deb said...

you are very sweet to honor her...nice post

Tonja said...

I am in awe. Any words I add here would shrink with shame next to the glorious text next to the magnificent photography. So, let me just say..."You both have touched my soul...and I'm so much the better for it. Thank you."