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Across the Sea

Mary Liz Ingram —  September 18, 2016 — 1 Comment

We met a man in Santorini who told me that when you come expecting good things, with a good heart and good intention, you will find goodness returned to you. When your eyes are open and your heart is willing, you see magic things all around you. You notice the hummingbird moth on the yellow thistle, the feathers on the ground, the adventure to be found.

Be a child with wide open eyes, welcoming whatever arises. -Sister Dang Nghiem

At the end of July, my husband and I were so grateful to be able to travel to the Mediterranean, journeying through Greece, Montenegro and Italy. Through the whirlwind of experiences, I watched for the twisting of the olive trees, the constellations in the sky, the plants I knew and those that I had never seen. We put our feet through the black pebbles on the Aegean coast, rode a Moped through low-growing vineyards, climbed the Acropolis in Athens, wandered through dark catacombs, ran around Rome at night. I watched the moon over the waves and knew each experience was shaping me a little bit more.

Traveling with a great group of people, we collectively reflected upon our days in the Mediterranean. I wrote in my journal on the last night in Rome, sifting through images and snatches of thoughts I had collected:

I’ve been amazed, felt filled with adventure and life, I have been worn and tired, I have felt relaxed and at peace. I have wondered after the wisp that catches my attention every now and then. I have tried to be present, at home with every step. It has been impressed upon me even more deeply than before that I am a part of the whole of creation – that the bee, the bird, the sea, the sky, the trees, the air, the land, the past, the steps and people are all so interconnected – we are a family on earth, and each place is our home. The mystery of the sea and sky and life itself seems even deeper and more mysterious and wonderfully complex than before. I am ever more convinced that love must grow, that unity and patience and an embrace of the other is necessary and compelling. There is no other way. We are all one – all one. Brother, sister all around from the people who smile to the people who push you – the bee on my plate, the cats on the pillars, the trees twisting and reaching, the sparkling sea and stars that guide. Unified as one body, God is in the wild places, all around and in and through.

Now that we are back home, I try to keep that spirit with me. The open eyes, the sense of adventure, the unity and connectedness of life on this earth. During our travels, I drew pieces and places that I collected each day, from little flowers to towering columns. I like to flip through them and remember.

I am not the same, having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world. -Mary Anne Radmacher

 

Home Grown

Mary Liz Ingram —  July 4, 2015 — Leave a comment

“This land is your land, this land is my land…”

It’s the 4th of July, Independence Day here in the USofA.

Front Garden

We make our homes, build our lives, work to provide and strive to enjoy our days together, like just about every human being.

Here at the Ingram household, we have dug up 2/3 of our front yard (remember last fall?) and are growing our first spring and summer garden. And good grief, is it ever a fight. You’d think you could just plop some seeds in the dirt and they will grow into full, lush plants dripping with fruit. Not so much. Amending the soil, not over-watering nor under-watering, picking off those (bleepity-bleep) cabbage worms, fighting off the ants, beetles, birds, cats…

It takes consistency, perseverance, problem-solving, patience – much like life.

My garden daily calls me to consider my life.

A good life, a well-spent life, takes all of these things that the garden requires. You must get your hands in the thick of it to make a difference, to live outside your safe walls. You must persevere and admit you have no idea what to do next sometimes. You have to keep trying, being okay with failure here and there, knowing you will get where you want to go in the end – somewhere good and full of life.

We have successfully eaten food from the garden; we will, with working hands and honest eyes, find progress toward good things. 

Bugs!My frontyard garden puts me closer to community. I can’t hide in my backyard privacy fence, caring only for my own. And I don’t want to. My neighbors see my yellow tomato plant, give me advice on how to get the beetles off my bean plants, ask me how my lavender has stayed alive. I’ve met so many people while pulling weeds near the road. My garden has led me to some of my greatest new friends, like Ms. Gladys from Haiti. People I may never have met.

Forcing myself out front in the garden helps me put myself “out there,” taking greater chances in community. It has given me courage to speak to people in our community who know little English, not as worried if I look like a miming fool. And the fruits of these awkward conversations have been beautiful.

This land is OUR land…all of us together, with our glorious diversity. 

Our news is currently filled with examples and actions of hate in our nation. Intolerance, pointing fingers, pointing guns… we are better than this, surely. Our nation is founded in diversity, a country made of immigrants. It should flourish in its diversity.

We have so much to learn from each other, if we can open our eyes and work with love. Get our hands dirty, and be willing to look a little stupid sometimes when we feel unsure. Live with kindness, courage and understanding, not hate, fear or suspicion.

Let’s celebrate together, grow together and move forward together.

The Garden

Mary Liz Ingram —  October 23, 2014 — 5 Comments

For months, I’ve been consumed with my latest project:

My fabulous front yard garden.

I’ve researched, I’ve measured, I’ve sketched and planned. I’ve shoveled dirt, I’ve carried rocks, I’ve moved buckets and buckets of soil. I’ve planted, I’ve watered, I’ve problem solved, I’ve watched food grow, I’ve eaten produce from my front yard.

With my trusty helpers, including the 2 year old, we have made my dream a reality and I have to admit I am super proud – giddy even. If you follow my blog, you may remember my post from St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, when I was first inspired to plant the garden. Well, I’m happy to say I DID IT. I did it!!! And if you follow me on Facebook, you’ve been barraged with garden doodles.

In planting, I tried to be responsible – environmentally, economically and practically. After a persistent search, I found an amazing deal on recycled fire bricks ($25 a ton!) to edge my garden. I ordered a huge dump truck load of soil at the best price. I compost and I now own a $40 rain barrel. I ordered non GMO seeds ($.99 sample packs!) from seedsnow.com and they grew. I shop at my local Homewood Garden Shop and have healthy blueberry bushes and lovely plants.

I worked my butt off building and planting this garden.

Beginning at the end of August, in the Alabama heat, I made it happen with my ever-present garden buddy. My kids, especially my son, now understand exactly where food comes from and how to grow it and care for it. My son waters it, pulls grass out of it, harvests the radishes, and takes a walk through it every time I open the door.

My garden is planted to grow community.

I didn’t know how that would work, but the first day I was out there I had real conversations with a dozen people, neighbors and passers-by. I share food with my neighbors and have met all sorts of new people. My kids tell anyone who asks about the plants growing, and I find that food is an easy thing to discuss, a common denominator.

My favorite story happened a few weeks ago. As we walked home from school, I began talking to an older lady about rosemary, as our kids were smelling it by someone’s mailbox. I just made a quick comment, not aiming at anything, not trying too hard. A few words later, we were talking about my garden. She was interested and missed her garden, as she said, “in my country, we have sun everyday and I grow many plants.” As we parted ways, I told her to stop by anytime and see the garden and take some herbs.

A week later, she stopped me at the corner with her two grandsons and asked if they could walk down to see the garden. On our short stroll, I find out they are from Haiti, and that her entire family was there during the earthquake except for her. She had arrived in the US four days before the quake for a wedding, and was plagued with anxiety over the separation at such a time. I now know her name, I know a portion of her amazing story, and the kids all ran together along the stepping stones of my garden.

Growing something, overcoming obstacles (like cats, cabbage worms, flooding rains, aphids…), being faithfully attentive and persistent…you learn things from gardening. About life, about children, about the world. I feel at peace and connected to nature when I’m checking the leaves and hearing the spray of water hitting the thick pile of green collards. It is a small miracle to see a snow pea sprout and grow out of the dirt, mere days after planting. There are more benefits to this garden than I can name.

My Garden Doodles thus far:

 

 

Dia de Los Muertos

Mary Liz Ingram —  October 12, 2014 — 4 Comments

Day of the Dead bannerLast night my husband returned from San Antonio, bearing gifts and stories and impressions. He’s been before, but this time, his trip was marked by a tradition somewhat unfamiliar:

Dia de Los Muertos, the Day of the Dead.

Sure, we know what it is: the (mostly) Mexican tradition of honoring ancestors, remembering and celebrating their life and welcoming their spirits return for the celebration, the night of October 31st through November 2nd. We see images of decorated, colorful skulls, skeletons, flowers, and ofrendas. But being the Scotch-Irish Americans we are, it is not a part of our culture or yearly celebration.

When our son received his San Antonio t-shirt with a decorated skull on the front, he knew instantly the significance, thanks to elementary school Spanish class. When I unfurled my Day of the Dead banner, our daughter gasped and clapped, remembering the same recent lesson at school.

I then realized, I’m a little rusty on the full comprehension of this fascinating cultural celebration…. So I researched and read. I love gathering information, understanding and absorbing new experiences. In my reading, I came across this:

“Day of the Dead is becoming very popular in the US – perhaps because we don’t have a way to celebrate and honor our dead.”

Day of the Dead seems so macabre, mysterious. Seeing kids with candy skulls and toy coffins, skeletons riding bicycles, painting faces to look like skulls…it’s not what most of my demographic is used to. Death is to be feared. When someone we love dies, we try to move past it, push it away, we try to forget about death and just remember life.

With Dia de Los Muertos, something sad and scary is made beautiful, colorful, full of life and celebration. Through art, music and life, the dead are remembered, not just at one funeral, but every year. Hmmm. It makes you think…

In reflection, I drew a self-portrait this morning.

Self Portrait, ink

Self Portrait, ink

 

Then I redrew it, and through the magic of art, added “Sugar Skull Face Paint.” It’s hard to see a skull and not think “creepy”; death makes us uncomfortable, or at least it makes me uncomfortable.

But it is part of life, and life in all its forms is to be celebrated.

Dia de Los Muertos, ink & marker

Dia de Los Muertos, ink & marker

 

 

 

St. Andrews Cathedral, Scotland: marker, colored pencil & ink doodle

St. Andrews Cathedral, Scotland: marker, colored pencil & ink doodle

June 20, 2014

“Germany was beautiful, but Scotland feels free.

Germany had some heaviness and sadness about it – regret, remembrance of hardship, mixed with a new tolerance and beauty and peace. It was picturesque – like a movie set.

Scotland feels like sun and air and sea. It makes you want to hold your arms out and drink in the sun and the swirling air. To touch the stones and lay in the grass. To laugh and play.

The rough clan and religious history of the feisty Scots is fascinating…tunneling under castles to hurry sieges, deceptions and dungeons, William Wallace and Robert the Bruce, thistles and sheep, stone and sea.”

At this point in my journey, I lose track of the time and day. My journal becomes a mass of elation as we explore Scotland. I feel like I’ve found the mothership. Every day was filled with golden sun and soft green grass, flowers and breezes and sparkling sea, medieval watchtowers perched high on the craigs. Based in Edinburgh, we traveled out to St. Andrews our first morning in Scotland, the air crisp but not cold, perfect and refreshing.

“We went to St. Andrew’s Cathedral and St. Andrew’s Castle. I was blown away by the beauty of the place. The sun on my face, sea breeze bringing the seagulls’ calls through the air, my feet on the thick green grass scattered with tiny daisies, surrounded by the ruins with so many stories to tell. We climbed up narrow, twisting stone stairs to the the top of the tower at the broken cathedral. We crouched and scurried deep into the mine and counter-mine of the castle’s harsh Protestant-Catholic wars. I was giddy crawling through while water dripped on my face and I carefully placed my feet.”

Scotland, marker & ink doodle

Scotland, marker & ink doodle

We spent another day visiting the Famous Grouse Scotch distillery, tasting and laughing and enjoying our time together. Driving back to Edinburgh, watching the green hills roll past, seeing the sheep that I’ve drawn for so long, the black-faced, white, shining, familiar Scottish sheep, the mossy stone walls, the blue skies and rich fields stretching on and on in this glorious country…my heart was full. Passing the William Wallace Memorial and Stirling Castle, I wrote:

“This land inspires me; it makes me want to change. The feeling of freedom, of space and simplicity. I’m overwhelmed and moved by this place. We work hard everyday. Up and work, sleep and start over. Clean up, eat up…so much life to live. We toil and waste and spin our wheels and webs. I want to be better.”

“The world is wide, and I will not waste my life in friction when it could be turned into momentum.” -Frances E. Willard

Traveling Doodle SuppliesI’ve never been to Germany before. It is one of the most beautiful, peaceful and clean places I’ve ever been. We drove around the country on a big pink tour bus. All of my drawings from the trip were drawn on buses, trains or planes, making for some bumpy doodling. I decided any stray marks or wiggly lines just add character.

For my travel doodles, I carried a sturdy new notebook that would fit in my small bag, a set of 4 Staedtler ink pens, a small set of Faber-Castell PITT artist pens (brush markers), and a small box of Prismacolor Art Stix (woodless colored pencils). Everyday I watched for things to catch my eye, I tried to discover the essence of each place, recording my findings on my blank white pages.

Here are my first impressions of this beautiful country:

June 17, 2014

“In Mainz we walked up quiet streets, passing stacks of bikes, elderly couples holding hands or walking dogs, families with little kids trotting down the cobbled streets. The streets were canopied in beautiful trees with large leaves and smooth bark. Decorative white buildings with red roofs surround our walk. We passed an outdoor market filled with flowers and caught the smell of fresh fish.

At Wartburg Castle, we wound our way up the steep hill past mossy rocks and cheerful daisies to the white-washed walls crossed with thick wooden beams, ancient archways, white doves, cool breezes, and a high view of the German landscape. Sunlight danced on the rolling green fields, the many clusters of villages with their white walls and rust-colored roofs, the dark trees lining and dotting the land, and the huge wind turbines towering over the little towns with their giant, spinning arms.”

"Germany", marker & ink doodle

“Germany”, marker & ink doodle

Cherries on Top

Mary Liz Ingram —  March 20, 2014 — Leave a comment

Today was sweet and sour.

Beginning with morning cereal and milk, the day quickly spoiled as the scent of sewage came wafting from my laundry room.

An unusually complicated, multiple detour, traffic battling drive to work added a splash of vinegar to the mix.

Already a day in bad taste, heavy circumstances added a heavy helping of more nastiness to the recipe of the day.

Come midday, this unpleasant parfait of rotten luck took a better turn.

Plumbing troubles swiftly fixed with only a kind charge of creative trade pushed the stinky mix off the plate.

The sun shone brighter, my heart felt lighter, my prospects were certainly more palatable.

A successful elementary school talent show added a simple sweetness to the afternoon.

The evening topped off with a warm family dinner, a gift in good taste.

A surprise entree by a knowledgable waiter added a touch of culinary adventure.

The end to this sweet and sour day was a bowl of cherries – literally.

A fun treat from a generous waiter.

A much needed reminder.

No matter what blunders and sewage may come,

“Life is a bowl of cherries.”

And meant to be enjoyed…

Bowl of Cherries, marker

Bowl of Cherries, marker