Jacki Kellum

Juxtapositions: Read My Mind

Category: Jacki Kellum Poetry

There Is Nothing More Refreshing Than a Morning in September

There is nothing more refreshing than a morning in September.

One advantage of living in the North is that as soon as the calendar hits September 1, PLOP! The curtain drops! And It Turns Fall! That doesn’t happen in the South. I remember my school-teaching days in Mississippi. I remember standing out on the asphalt parking lot and waiting for the kids to load into the buses. The heat was so intense that I felt as though I was baking–literally baking–I half-expected that my flesh would begin to fall off my bones–pulled-pork style.

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In another week or two, I’ll begin singing my September Song about how we all need to book our plans to go to the Poconos to watch the leaves change in the land of endless trees and waterfalls. That is an awe-inspiring, mouth-dropping experience, but it is not what I do to recreate myself. Any trip requires packing and traveling and unpacking and packing again and traveling again and unpacking again and then, playing catch-up for several days afterward. Autumn does have a restorative power, but the best place for me to take advantage of that power is to open my back door and to simply go outside and into my garden.

“Outside the leaves on the trees constricted slightly; they were the deep done green of the beginning of autumn. It was a Sunday in September. There would only be four. The clouds were high and the swallows would be here for another month or so before they left for the south before they returned again next summer.”
― Ali Smith, The Whole Story and Other Stories

In the North, we have some hot days in summer, but summer doesn’t last as long here as it does in the South. I have laughed, saying that I believe that whoever broke the years into seasons lived in New Jersey, because in New Jersey, we have 4 distinctive seasons, and you can bank on the weather’s changing at exactly the time that it is supposed to change. September should look and feel like the beginning of fall, and that is how things are in New Jersey.

“[T]hat old September feeling, left over from school days, of summer passing, vacation nearly done, obligations gathering, books and football in the air … Another fall, another turned page: there was something of jubilee in that annual autumnal beginning, as if last year’s mistakes had been wiped clean by summer.” ― Wallace Stegner, Angle of Repose

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My purple asters have begun to bloom in my garden, and this year, I have been rewarded by the opportunity to watch the fascinating life cycle of the monarchs who have come to sip the nectar from my asters and t munch on my milkweed. My black-eyed Susans are about done for the year, and my garden’s purples need some golden yellow now, but that is no problem. The garden centers here are brimming with pots of yellow chrysanthemums and bunches of dried corn stalks. The pumpkins are standing in columns, making promises about the army of jack-lantern grins that are in the ranks behind them.

We’ll still have some days that are typical of Indian Summer here, but by September 1 in New Jersey, it is time to begin looking for last season’s flannel shirts and leggings because by September 1 in New Jersey, fall has begun.

“But when fall comes, kicking summer out on its treacherous ass as it always does one day sometime after the midpoint of September, it stays awhile like an old friend that you have missed. It settles in the way an old friend will settle into your favorite chair and take out his pipe and light it and then fill the afternoon with stories of places he has been and things he has done since last he saw you.” ― Stephen King, ‘Salem’s Lot

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“The first flash of color always excites me as much as the first frail, courageous bloom of spring. This is, in a sense, my season–sometimes warm and, when the wind blows an alert, sometimes cold. But there is a clarity about September. On clear days, the sun seems brighter, the sky more blue, the white clouds take on marvelous shapes; the moon is a wonderful apparition, rising gold, cooling to silver; and the stars are so big. The September storms–the hurricane warnings far away, the sudden gales, the downpour of rain that we have so badly needed here for so long–are exhilarating, and there’s a promise that what September starts, October will carry on, catching the torch flung into her hand.” ― Faith Baldwin, Evening Star

Without a doubt, I am a bit of a Rip Van Winkle, and I have a tendency to sleep-walk through chunks of time, but autumn is the season that always awakens and recreates me.

September Song
by Jacki Kellum

I just took a nap for my mind, to see,
Flickering fae breath blew in, restored me.
Visions of sugarplums danced, set me free.
Sang me that September song.

Rain showers dripped down through the limbs of my tree.
Moonbeams and crystal shards lit up my sea.
Soft webs and angel hair dropped from a flea,
And tow-tugged my leaf-boat along.

©Jacki Kellum September 16, 2017

Recreate

When What You See Is Not What You Get – Symbolism in Art and Writing

Symbolism is a peculiar game. You say or paint one thing, but you mean another, and the odd thing is that you really want people to figure what that other thing is all about and yet, you camouflage your meaning. It is rather like the silly game that is played by petty wives.  When their husbands hurt their feelings or if their husbands forget birthdays or anniversaries, the wives sulk.

The husband asks, “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing.”

“But I know something is wrong.”

Even though the woman protests that something has upset her, she behaves as though something has, and she wants the husband to guess what that something is. It is as though the true test of love is clairvoyance. If another person can see deep into my soul, he wins.

When I was married, I wanted nothing more than for my husband to stop on his way home, even if it was on a deserted lot, and to pick me bunches of wildflowers or daisies or red clover or whatever else that he could find. But he never did. A smarter wife would have simply said, “I need flowers from you at least once per month.” But that would have ruined the whole thing for me. I needed for my ex-husband to intuitively know that I needed flowers–even free flowers–at least once per month. I seemed to believe that if another person could read my mind, and if he could decipher all of my wants and my needs, he would be my one, true love. No doubt, that is a reason that I am divorced.

But I play that same kind of game with my art. Allow me to illustrate my point:

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Thanksgiving Across the Lake – Watercolor by Jacki Kellum

A couple of years ago, I was home alone for Thanksgiving, and I was remembering Thanksgivings of my past–a time when family, hearth, and home seemed to glow a great deal more than they do for me now. I was a little bit depressed, and  I painted Thanksgiving Across the Lake.  I could write the long version of this post, explaining in detail that the painting and its meaning grew AS I painted it; but I’ll summarize by assuring you that I did not realize exactly what I was painting nor why until I completed the work.   By the end of the painting session [not before then], I knew how the final painting would look; I knew what the title would be; and I knew what the painting would mean.  Notice that the “evergreen” trees are hardly green at all. They are dark and bluish.  The Thanksgiving colors dance around my painting; but the most warmth–the greatest glow is not in the center of attention–not in the main grove of trees that are in the foreground. That was where I was standing in this piece, and that was a dark and foreboding place. The golden and glowing warmth of Thanksgiving was within sight but not where I was standing. It was across the lake, somewhere that I could not reach. In a symbolic way, my painting says that happiness and home were in a place that I could not trouch or access in any way.

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December River – Watercolor Painted by Jacki Kellum

As I painted the creek or the river that is snaking its way across the snow in the above painting, I thought about Joni Mitchell’s song River.  I consider Joni Mitchell to be the greatest poet of my generation; and every time that I hear her sing River, tears well in my eyes.

Not wanting to try to ride on Joni’s coat tail, I initially decided to just name my painting December 1, but in writing this post, I decided to be totally honest.  My painting means more than December 1.  I am not Kandinsky, and my paintings are more than mere numbers.  My painting December River means that I, too, wish that I had a River I could skate away on……Thank you, Joni Mitchell.  No one has said it better than you.

I do not want to be the prophet of doom; but both of the paintings that I have shared today have been a reaction to the holidays and to my own feelings of aloneness during this time.  Yet, on a more positive level–on an art-as-therapy level–perhaps my art [both my visual art and my writing] are my River that I do skate away on. I do that through symbols.

I often write in symbols, too. At least 15 years ago, I wrote a group of short verses about flowers. My idea was to illustrate each flower and to publish the book of paintings and verses together, and I would call the volume Garden Songs. [Shhhh! I didn’t just tell you that. I still plan to do it. But like so many other things, I simply haven’t gotten it done yet].

Keep in mind that I want all of the poems to be very short so that they don’t detract from the paintings that will be the true focus of the page. Even though the verses are short, however, I want them to have greater meaning. I want the verses and the images to be symbols for greater truths. Here is the poem that I wrote about Snapdragons:

The Painted Parade
by Jacki Kellum

Watch the painted parade,
With bold and biting dragons,
Teasing all the toddlers—even me!

They’re really just pretending.
Everyday’s a New Year,
A fun and festive firework jamboree.

© Painted Parade Jacki Kellum October 19, 2015

My grandmother always had snapdragons in her garden, and I used to love to pinch the snapdragons and allow them to bite me or to at least close around the tip of my finger and nibble. When I heard the dragon part of the word “snapdragon,” I thought about the Dragon Dance in the Chinese New Year’s Parade, and that provided me a springboard into what would become part of my greater meaning.

Therefore, on one level, the poem is simply about a colorful bed of flowers that have the capacity to nibble at my fingertips–like a biting dragon. On another level, the parade is talking about the non-scary, scary dragon in a Chinese parade. But on the deepest level, my poem is about something entirely different.

When I said, “Watch the Painted Parade,” I was actually chastising all of the people around me that I thought were being pretentious, wearing masks, and playing games.

My simple, little ditty about Snapdragons was actually a symbol for the way that I felt deep within myself about people who are fake. I do this type of thing all of the time. In other words, what you think that you see in my art and in my writing, is not all that there actually is. My art and my writing are only the tips of an iceberg that lies deeply within me.

Now, here is the silly part: I actually want my viewer and my reader to know what I am thinking, but just like a silly wife, I want you to guess what that is. As I pointed out yesterday, in writing and painting in symbols and metaphors, I may be playing a bigger game than the people in the Painted Parade, but at least, I do dare to look inside myself.

Too many people are nothing more than the surfaces that they reflect to everyone around themselves. Although I am lacking in many ways, I know that I am much, much more than a shallow image, and my art and my writing are keys to some of the gems that I keep locked inside.

You use a glass mirror to see your face; you use works of art to see your soul. – George Bernard Shaw

©Jacki Kellum September 10, 2017

Peculiar

How To Use Images to Improve Your SEO – Search Engine Optimization

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I discovered an outstanding pdf that explains SEO or Search Engine Optimization, and how to increase one’s searchability in Google. The pdf is an official Google publication. Therefore, I feel that it should be the last word on how to be better seen via Google search: http://static.googleusercontent.com/media/www.google.com/en//webmasters/docs/search-engine-optimization-starter-guide.pdf

The guide is a bit dense; therefore, I’ll summarize a few points that stuck out to me:

A blog post’s title is key to SEO.

Although Google has become bigger than life, it is important to remember that it is not a person and that you will get the best search results if you title your writing or your art in ways that machines understand. I am guilty of enjoying using arty titles, and when my titles are too obscure, I add a colon and an explanatory phrase.  About a year ago, I titled a short poem Butterfly Breeze, and later, I entered it in a blog post with nothing more than that same and opaque title. Later, I realized that the title ” Butterfly Breeze” is a bit vague for Google to get its “head” around. Here is the poem:

Butterfly Breeze
by Jacki Kellum

Soft and silver, the delicate, gossamer-like lace swept into my room
Whispering a butterfly breeze.

Whiff of a lily followed along,
Crickets and whippoorwills sang me song,

And moon dust cradled my head.
©Jacki Kellum October 7, 2015

When I limited my reference to this poem as nothing more than “Butterfly Breeze,” I might have attracted searchers who were looking at the migration of the Monarch butterfly [if I was lucky], or I might have attracted some environmentalists who were searching for information about how pollution affects butterflies and other insects.  But with that slippery title, I probably caught no butterflies at all. Over the course of a couple of years’ efforts to create a brand of my name, however, my blog post might have worked better with search engines if I had added something more after the poem’s title. I might have added the following words: “Jacki Kellum Poetry” or “Jacki Kellum Memoir” or “Jacki Kellum Memoir Poem.” Butterfly Breeze is all of the previous, and my attempt to be found by search engines would be best served if I had found a way to add all of the data as part of the title of my blog’s post. 

The way that you tag your images is also of importance.

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When we talk about tagging things in our posts, we are not talking about hanging a pretty and decorative label on it. Tags for online data are work-horses.

tags This shows the tags that I have most used today on this site. Since I have only begun blogging here today, the number of tags that I have used is still very small. Within a few months, I will have used thousands of tags to describe my blog posts to Google and to other Search Engines.

Important Note: You can also Tag the Images that You Insert Into Your Posts.

tag_image_tags Before I Tagged the above Image

tag_image_tags3After I tagged the above image.

Immediately before you click to insert an image into your post, you have an opportunity to add some metadata. In the previous image, you see how someone else had tagged the image of the tag as nothing more than music and some numbers. Notice here that I titled the tag the way that it relates to why I am using this image in my posts [Hint: I am not writing about music in this post]

I don’t add a caption. The caption shows up on the post.

I added an alternate tag. This allows me another chance to catch the search engines.

Notice that I separate the words in the title and the alt text with underlines.

 

 

 

 

 

I  admit it: I am an impulsive will-o-the-wisp. and I do not like to take the extra 15 seconds that it would require for me to fill in metadata for my images. Allow me to show you how simple that task actually is on a WordPress blog site:

Just before you click to insert your image, you see the following boxes:

How to Increase Google Statistics
How to Increase Google SEO with Image Tags

Arrow 1. Title your tag with small letters and an underscore between each word i.e. increase_seo_google

Arrow 2. Write a description with important keywords: How to increase your Google SEO Search Engine Optimization Statistics. In order to find the very best keywords, do a Google keyword search.

Arrow 3. Provide an alternate title tag with small letters and an underscore between each word: how-to-increase-your-search-engine-optimization

Arrow 4. Write a description of the image. Again, use keywords.

This is just 2 simple ways that will definitely increase your SEO.

Remember: If it is worth saying – it is worth being read. Increasing your SEO is the way that people find you and read you

©Jacki Kellum August 9, 2016

 

 

 

 

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