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You Tube’s three stanzas of the anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing” moved me deeply, its one hundred-year-lyrics still sung in Black Churches, in Black History Month seminars, and other events. The anthem’s vision speaks to those willing to listen: a plea for Liberty to the God of silent tears.

The dismal failure of the Civil War Post-Reconstruction in late nineteenth-century America compelled James Weldon Johnson, lawyer, school administrator, prolific writer, and poet in Jacksonville, Florida, to compose these lyrics. Tears flooded him after listening to his brother’s rendering them in the word-painting technique: the melding of images upon the soulful melody in A flat major, often used in spirituals.

“ Lift Every Voice and Sing” was first presented to honor the1900 visit of educator Booker T. Washington to the Black school, Stanton, where Johnson was principal. Those five hundred singers, many becoming teachers, carried the anthem with them, and taught other classrooms, which, in turn, spread this vision of hope.

In 1919, the NAACP proclaimed, “ Lift Every Voice and Sing” the Black National Anthem of America; it also spirited the1960s Civil Rights Movement led by Dr. Martin Luther King.

YouTube carries several versions of this stirring anthem.

Weave together the gifted Dalmatian puppy with a gold earring, with the Collins’s children and their adventuresome single mom, and the children’s story, Gypsy – The Refugee (2021), emerges as a rollicking romp, often at breakneck speed. Adding to the momentum are family pets: the cockatoo Tina, the ferret Hardy, and the boa constrictor Frankie; even more pets appear later.

Besides these elements—more than sufficient to create the Collins’s world—others seamlessly evolve: international espionage, the CIA, and the Oval Office. Fast-paced dialogue exemplified by peppery interactions of the mom and children brings this about as they discover Gypsy’s special gift and its helpfulness to those in trouble.   

What’s endearing about this children’s story is its template for the author Patricia Coughlin’s own family, and Gypsy, their loved Dalmatian; it was drawn from their life in the 1980s and embellished by decades of reading spy novels. 

The surprise ending leaves smiles upon readers’ hearts. This is a story about really caring. This oldster found Gypsy – The Refugee fun to read.

Gypsy – The Refugee can be found on Amazon and B and N.

It seems like The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse (2019) surfaced from the unconscious of Charlie Mackesy and left tracks of the Sacred upon my psyche. Years of professional writing, painting, and illustrating merge within this whimsical tale and enliven seekers; its twelve translations, its mini-adventure film in the making, its audio-book, its vinyl recording, its prints and posters, its study groups illumine another way of relating with others. Mackesy can do this because he’s a humble man. He’s been there.

The stark simplicity of Mackesy’s words interfacing his pin-and-ink sketches with occasional watercolors, serve to brighten four questing spirits: the boy, the mole, the fox, and the horse, each of them replete with symbolism. The ensuing dialogues, tinged with humor, feels like the gracious Voice of the Sacred almost giggling, because of finally being heard. Toward the book’s beginning, we find such a turn-around:

What do you want to be when you grow up?” asked the mole.

Kind,” said the boy.

Of little avail, is the Voice experienced in its usual sources, long discarded as irrelevant, but Mackesy’s message is the same.

Other outstanding features in this book include cursive writing rather than print, occasional blank pages for the reader to further reflect upon the import of what was just shared, and no pagination—one place is as good as another to start: Heartwarming wisdom is handsomely displayed within tracings of great trees and lakes and skies. Life can be fun in working relationships.

 The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse finds a resonance within anyone of any age and life circumstances. Its message to me is: You’re loved and always have been. Smile!

Available on Amazon

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