A photo essay on hiking in Tortolita Mountain Park in suburban Tucson, Arizona, during an abundant wildflower season. Click the image below to enter the story.

©2019 Lucy Mathews Heegaard Arizona wildflowers hiking in Tucson

A souvenir apron from New York City in 1964 becomes an enduring love note from my grandmother.

November 19, 1964. My grandmother—on her first and only trip to New York City from Alabama where she lived her entire life— bought this apron on the day I was born. 

After waiting a week for my birth, never venturing far so that she and my grandfather would be ready to take care of my sister while my parents went to the hospital, my grandmother nor my mother saw any signs that my arrival was imminent. With a return train to Alabama booked for the next day, my grandmother and grandfather went out to sightsee.

I would like to think that they made it to all the sights and attractions shown on the apron. I wish I knew exactly where she bought it, but the sheer fabric, the muted yellow color, and the pink accents make it clear to me why she chose it. It looks like so many of the delicate, feminine things she cherished during her lifetime. 

Near the end of the day, while my grandparents were still out, my mother went into labor. Not more than a few hours after I was born, my grandmother and grandfather arrived at the hospital to meet me. 

The fold lines on the apron are indelibly creased into the fabric, and there are no signs of use to indicate that my grandmother ever wore it. I take that to mean it was a treasure to her that she wanted to keep in pristine condition for me so that I would have an artifact of the day I was born. More importantly, I believe she kept it this way so I would always have evidence that she was there.

vintage apron 1964. photograph ©2017 Lucy Mathews Heegaard.

Given that I like to focus on positive, hopeful, nurturing messages and stories, I never thought I would write a post with the title I have given this one. But the truth is, everything is not always rosy. And not everything turns out the way you wish it would.

Part travelogue, part insider tips on the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport, and part confessional, this is a chronicle of my experience trying to get somewhere without success yesterday. Thunderstorms and flooding in the Atlanta area led to over 3,000 flight cancellations that began the day of the storm and rippled into the next several days, impacting flights across the country. I never made it farther than a few hundred yards from my gate and the airplane never traveled faster than I can walk on a slow day, yet luckily there were still some silver linings.

Travel Delays Headaches Snafus

Since I created this piece on Adobe’s Spark platform, which is becoming one of my favorite tools for quickly journaling an idea or telling a story, you have to click one the image above (or HERE) to read the 12 things I learned.

Honored that my friend Barbara McAfee agreed to help me with this greeting card project a few years ago. Her interpretation of the message of my song, “Where the Angels Live,” in this spoken word meditation (shared below) was a beautiful addition to the project and a gracious contribution on her part. She also helped me record the musical tracks for each of the three cards in the series, adding piano and harmonies that lifted my melodies and lyrics to their fullest. Deeply touched that she felt moved to write about our collaborative endeavor in this post.

If you’d like to read more about the greeting card project, and hear snippets of Barbara’s collaboration on other tracks in the series, visit: https://studio-lu.net/cards-by-studio-lu/

The photo above is from Glendalough, “Valley of the Two Lakes,” in Ireland where a sixth century monk named Kevin, Coemhghein in his native tongue, made his home. In this place, the legend of Kevin’s love for nature and animals was born— a legend that Irish poet Seamus Heaney borrowed over a thousand years later to craft a reflection on doing the right thing.

Why is it that the phrase “doing the right thing” often conjures thoughts of obligation, burden, or hardship, as if doing the right thing is always a huge undertaking and always synonymous with forgoing one’s own needs for the sake of others? Without a doubt, there are times that it is. The stories of heroic sacrifice are the ones that make headlines and go viral in social media.

But a few years ago, when I heard Irish poet Seamus Heaney introduce his poem “St. Kevin and The Blackbird,” I was touched by his description of the story as “a little meditation” on “doing the right thing for the reward of doing the right thing.” Read More

 

“How far that little candle throws his beams! So shines a good deed in a weary world.” ― William Shakespeare

For the last decade, if not longer, I have lit a candle every morning while I sit and sip my coffee to start my day. My family, very familiar with this habit of mine, thoughtfully chooses nice candles as gifts for me because they know I won’t splurge on the fancy ones for myself. Diligently conserving them so that they last as long as possible, I’ve always been careful not to let them burn too long each morning.

But all that changed on Christmas of last year, all because of my sister. Her gift to me was light, an abundance of it. Two big boxes were filled with individually wrapped presents, all for me. Each present was labeled, one for every month of the year. The accompanying note was titled “The Light in Lucy’s House.” Read More

An American Elegy

“Ah, music,” he said, wiping his eyes. “A magic beyond all we do here!” — Albus Dumbledore in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Composer Frank Ticheli has said that his hope for “An American Elegy” is that it might serve as “one reminder of how fragile and precious life is and how intimately connected we all are as human beings.” Ticheli was commissioned to write the orchestral piece to remember those who died in the shooting at Columbine High School in April of 1999, and to honor the lives of those who survived.

One of my dearest friends, about whom I’ve written often, heard the music played by her son’s school orchestra and was moved beyond words by the power of it, the poetic strength coupled with such vulnerable emotional resonance. She tucked away the title just like she tucked away other other things that moved and inspired her, quotes from Emerson and St. Augustine among them. After she died from metastatic breast cancer, Ticheli’s piece was played at the beginning of her memorial service, an instruction she had left behind for her family. Whenever I hear the opening bars, the music never fails to take my breath for a moment, in goosebumps and tears, just like it did the first time I heard it at her service. Read More

“A letter is a Joy of Earth” — Emily Dickinson

I’ve always loved letters, saving them like rare currency. When the volumes of them in my basement grew too big after decades of stashing them in boxes, I sifted through and parted with some that no longer had meaning, often written by people I could no longer remember. However, I found that even with these letters, I couldn’t simply throw them away. After all, at one point in my life, they felt important enough to keep. So, I made a bonfire and lay them in the flames one by one.

What remained after my de-cluttering was a collection that was still quite large, but now held only letters from close family and friends whose notes to me through the years serve collectively as an ad hoc archive of my life. Perhaps that’s why I love letters so much: they are a private vehicle for exchanging our most precious stories. Read More

Jules of Nature

“Nature never did betray the heart that loved her.”— William Wordsworth

Wisconsin nature photographer J. Marion Brown has been taking pictures since her kids were born, but became passionate about nature photography in the 1990s when she began camping with her family on the wooded property where they ultimately built a home, after years of testing it out first in tents. With her trusty Canon in hand, she has honed the practice of paying attention to a fine art (literally) as she catches glorious moments in nature the rest of us miss. Read More

Love is Up to the Challenge

“Just as people have eyes to see light with and ears to hear sounds with, so they have hearts for the appreciation of time.”— Michael Ende

If you are skittish about the topic of death, then stop reading this post right now. Or better yet, don’t. I used to be one of those people, superstitious that talk of death would draw it nearer somehow. Yet, when one of my closest friends was diagnosed with terminal cancer, it became a topic I could not avoid. And guess what? I found out that talking about death could actually be a very life affirming act.

I’ve been reminded of this irony recently by a friend of a friend of mine, a man I never met but whose forthright manner of living with and ultimately dying from ALS has inspired and touched me since I first heard his story. When my friend Barbara McAfee asked me to create a video of her song about her friend Jamie Showkeir, I had no idea I’d be drawn so completely into his story that I’d feel I knew him personally. Read More

Summer in the Marsh

“And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on trees, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.”
― F. Scott Fitzgerald

What began as an impulse last fall to go into the marsh to photograph the graceful movement of the withering cattails turned into an eight month project that now spans four seasons. I have appreciated the beauty of this marsh for years, but until I started to pay closer attention, I didn’t realize how many of its nuances and changes through the seasons that I had been missing. And I am sure there are countless more I have yet to catch, even now. Read More

Peace in the Storm

“There is peace even in the storm.” — Vincent van Gogh

A summer hailstorm kicked up yesterday afternoon, coming on quickly and with unexpected ferocity. As the hail grew larger, it fell faster, battering everything it touched. I don’t know why, but as I watched the storm, the tragic shootings earlier this month at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston came to mind.

“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” —Mother Teresa

Read More

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