Thursday, January 30, 2020


Jeremy Brooks

In 1994, nine months into a blossoming relationship with my future husband, I took my first trip down under to meet two of his greatest loves—his mother and his home country.

Garry Davies

Yengo National Park, after the 1994 bushfires.
Given the devastating fires in southeastern Australia, I’ve been thinking a lot about that trip lately. Aussies live in a sunburned country—they are well aware of the dangers and consequences. Bush fires, although savage and crippling, are an expected, natural occurrence... just not on this order of magnitude.

As part of my welcome package, Peter took me on a tour around the countryside of New South Wales—up the Central Coast, over to the Hunter Valley vineyards, and back down through Yengo National Park to the Blue Mountains. Yengo National Park had endured a major bush fire just six weeks before and it was striking to see such bright green new growth set against scorched, blackened trunks. (My photo doesn't do it justice!) Evidently, eucalyptus are perfectly suited for the harsh Australian climate because they carry buds deep beneath their bark to help them be more fire-resistant and re-sprout—proof that left to its own devices (and without too much human meddling), nature will find a way to regenerate and flourish! I only wish I had as much confidence in the resilience of humankind as I do in the resilience of eucalyptus trees.

A somewhat more surprising recollection from that drive through Yengo National Park was my introduction to the word chiaroscuro. (I have Peter to thank for that, as well.) Typically used in a visual art context, chiaroscuro is an Italian word that describes the interplay of light and shadow when light falls unevenly or from a particular direction.

Rembrandt: Christ Healing the Sick
Hernán Piñera
Claudio Marinangeli

As Peter and I drove, wonderstruck, with the sun streaming down through that sylvan setting, the word took root and did not let go. Twenty-six years later, it's rising up from the shadows to be my One Little Word for 2020.

James Jardine

More than merely a stunning visual effect, for me, chiaroscuro reflects a Taoist sensibility—you can’t have light without darkness, good without bad, yin without yang. As I considered various words to accompany me on my personal journey this year, I wanted one that would recognize the way things are, but in a way that is quiet, balanced, and mindful. On Tuesday I shared a quote from Og Mandino that expresses this perspective beautifully: 

I will love the light for it shows me the way;
yet I will endure the darkness for it shows me the stars.

In the past, my chosen words have been more assertive, more goal-driven, but chiaroscuro is a word that I can look to for hope and inspiration without the pressure to do more than I can to change things that are out of my control. Now more than ever, life is complicated, divisive, difficult, sometimes downright incomprehensible. I'm not suggesting apathy or blind acceptance, but perhaps instead of casting blame, I can be more patient with myself and more open-minded with others. Can't we all? It's become too easy to react to daily life with criticism or combativeness rather than a deeper understanding that things are the way they are for a reason... usually more than one. And maybe if we look closely enough, we will find that, even in the darkest circumstances, there's something there to appreciate—a starting place, a moment of compassion, a poem.

Turning from watching
the moon, my comfortable old
shadow led me home.

– Shiki

Chechi Peinado

Join me next Friday for our first Spotlight ON interview and DMC challenge of 2020.

Many thanks to Jone Rush MacCulloch for hosting this week's Poetry Friday roundup at Deowriter.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Two Line Tuesday: Og Mandino

"Sunset @ Gandipet" by Vijay Bandari

I will love the light for it shows me the way;
yet I will endure the darkness for it shows me the stars.

– Og Mandino
from The Greatest Salesman in the World (1968)