Jacki Kellum

Juxtapositions: Read My Mind

Tag: Cottage Garden Living

Hiding in Plain Sight – Why We Need A Secret Garden – A Sanctuary – A Retreat

Not long ago, I visited The Cloisters in New York City. By definition, a cloisters area is an open hallway that surrounds a protected garden. It is a natural walkway where monks and nuns might retreat into nature and still have a degree of protection from the elements, like wind, rain, snow, sun–and other people, too. At the Cloisters in New York City, there are several gardens, and all of them are peaceful–like sanctuaries. As I was walking around and through those gardens, I thought to myself that everyone needs a natural sanctuary–a garden where they can retreat from society and its demands of them.

I have always been the arty type. I have always been “driven by passion, seized by obsession, delighted by creation, enthralled with expression, entranced by vision, diverted by daydreams, filled with emotion, fueled by compulsion, consumed with beauty, and blindsided by inspiration.” However, I have also been pulled by the non-arty desire to be popular, to be a cheerleader, and to be normal or “the same.” For two many years, I assumed false identities to please whatever my current group or situation demanded of me. I have heard that some children have imaginary friends, but my imaginary friend was real–it was the me that was hiding in plain sight.

Hiding in Plain Sight
by Jacki Kellum

Smiling, Joking, Dancing, Free
That’s the Social Side of Me.

Tossing kisses from my car,
Scared, Confused Alone We Are.

If you look, you will see
The Scared, Confused and Social Three.

Copyright Jacki Kellum December 17, 2015


Fortunately, I have grown out of my continuous need to seek approval. Yesterday, I wrote that I have come to identify with the unpretentious Black-Eyed Susans that seem to sprout and grow in random places–even out in the wild, untamed woodlands. Most of the time, I still feel that I am not like everyone else, and I often feel misunderstood, but striving to be myself is the only acceptable course for me. Yet, any kind of striving becomes exhausting–even when I am striving not to strive. In my opinion, everyone needs a secret garden–a natural sanctuary where they don’t have to try–where they can simply be–where they can feel that they are truly at home.

Jacki Kellum Garden Gate in 2015

“When the hornet hangs in the hollyhock, And the brown bee drones i’ the rose, And the west is a red-streaked four-o’clock, And summer is near its close It’s Oh, for the gate, and the locust lane; And dusk, and dew, and home again!” – Madison Cawein

In other posts, I tell how I have built a network of fences and arbors to create for myself a secret garden, and to maximize my blooming area, I am growing several types of clematises and roses on those fences. When it is possible, I grow fragrant flowers, like lavender, peonies, and irises, and strolling through my garden also becomes an experience of aromatherapy.

“Come into the garden, Maud, For the black bat, night, has flown,
Come into the garden, Maud, I am here at the gate alone; Maud
And the woodbine spices are wafted abroad,
And the musk of the rose is blown.
For a breeze of morning moves, And the planet of Love is on high,
Beginning to faint in the light that she loves On a bed of daffodil sky.” – Tennyson

Jacki Kellum Garden Pond May 2017

“I divined and chose a distant place to dwell …
I pick leaves to thatch a hut among the pines
Scoop out a pond and lead a runnel from the spring
By now I am used to doing without the world
Picking ferns I pass the years that are left.” Han Shan

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Relatively speaking, our years on earth are few, and every day that we pretend to be someone that we are not and when we fail to be ourselves are precious years wasted. Hours that we spend agonizing because we do not feel accepted or appreciated or loved are simply hours lost. Because living can become painful and toxic, we need an antidote and a place to heal. My garden is where I go to be restored, and even during the winter, nature is my solace. My sunroom overlooks my side courtyard, and my greatest winter joy is to sit by my fireplace and watch the birds dipping into my oasis for food and water. Anytime that I can sit alone in nature, I am truly home.

“I leant upon a coppice gate When Frost was spectre-gray, And Winter’s dregs made desolate The weakening eye of day The tangled bine-stems scored the sky Like strings of broken lyres, And all mankind that haunted nigh Had sought their household fires.” – Thomas Hardy

©Jacki Kellum June 3, 2017


Previously Published on my Garden Blog Cottage Garden Living Here

©Jacki Kellum

Today, I Have 50 Kids Coming to Plant A Children’s Garden – Lord, Give Me Strength

Today is Arbor Day and for weeks, I have known that this would be the day that 50 kids would be coming to the library to help me plant a children’s garden there. With just the thought of it, I get knackered out.

But I’m excited. The weather report is excellent. We should have a warm and sunny day. This morning, I threw open my garden door and allowed the sunshine and fresh, morning air to sweep into the room. It is as though all of the garden gods are with me except one. I’m not twenty-years-old anymore, and this gardening season, I have begun to feel like the sixty-seven-year-old that I am. I know that by the end of this day, I will ache. I will drag into my house and soak in my tub and sleep for hours. Then, I’ll drag myself out of bed, eat something, and sleep some more. That is what it takes for my aging body to continue to do the digging and laborious work that gardening requires, but I still believe that gardening is important, and I especially believe that gardening is important for kids.

Although I am really not a librarian of any type, I have somehow found myself in the position of serving my small, New Jersey Coastal Community as their part-time Children’s Librarian. I have been doing this job for 14 years and I am allowed to weave all types of projects into my library program.  I grew up very differently than kids today are growing up, and my childhood in Southern, rural America was especially different from that of kids living on the East Coast–not far from Philadelphia, Washington D. C. and New York City.  Racing to competitions and sports events has replaced sitting on the porch swing for most kids today, and hardly any of today’s kids know anything about planting and maintaining a garden.

Kids Need to Experience the Wonder of Working in a Garden.

I hear increasing reports of the problems that children are having in school. Children have problems with ADHD, problems with autism, problems with depression, and they are displaying an excessive amount of anger and hostility. On the other hand, I read that children are spending an increasingly large amount of time inside, watching television, playing video games, etc. Research proves that children spend a fraction of the time playing outdoors that their parents did, and other research shows that children are simultaneously dealing with increasingly large problems with obesity, depression, and other emotional issues. Further research proves that all of these problems are connected. The well-being of children is adversely affected by too much time indoors and by not enough time outdoors.

For years, I have wanted to create an outdoor living space at my local library, and this year, I finally got the go-ahead to get that project started. I wish that I were fifteen or twenty years younger, but I am still young enough to meet the challenge.

Today, 50 eager and smiling kids will arrive at my library–with their altar offerings of one perennial to plant each– and we will work together to build our community’s children’s garden.

From that spot, the kids will be able to come face to face with the miraculous journey of a plant’s life, as they watch their own plant unfold and grow in our garden.  I believe in gardening, and I believe in children. I am 67-years-old, and I realize that my gardening days are becoming fewer and fewer. Metaphorically speaking, I have arrived at the autumn of my own life, but because the world continues to make fresh crops of children, I know that spring will continue to come. Here’s to spring and to gardening and here’s to the hope that our children will learn to love our land.

©Jacki Kellum April 28, 2017
Happy Arbor Day


Taking Back My Life One Bite at a Time

I took this photograph of my garden during July of 2015, I had worked very hard in my garden that entire summer, and the results were magnificent. But last summer, I hardly worked at all in my garden. Poke plants dotted my lawn everywhere that I looked, and my hydrangeas withered from lack of watering. My perennials didn’t bother to lift their heads above the soil last year, and my garden was a Waste Land. Every time that I looked outside, I became part of my own natural wasteland.

Last summer, I had launched a writing group, and I was spending every available second writing and or reading about writing. I was preparing to offer a memoir writing class online, and I denied myself of the inspiration that my gardening had always been before. Even at the time, I knew that I was denying myself something that my spirit needed and that I was being excessive about something else instead.

Last summer, I went to a mindfulness workshop, and my first response to some question that was asked was that I was neglecting my garden and in doing so, I felt that I was neglecting myself. Others tried to console me by saying that my spirit simply needed the writing more, but I knew that wasn’t the case. In reality, I have a very bad habit of becoming obsessive compulsive about one thing at a time and in doing so, I forsake several other areas entirely. My life woefully needs balance.

Even though I was not working in my garden last year, I allowed my blogs’ About pages to continue to say that “I am an avid gardener.” I used that precise phrase, and today, when I saw that the blogging prompt for the day was “avid,” I chuckled and thought to myself about Julia Cameron’s words about synchronicity in her book the Artist’s Way.

  • A woman admits to a buried dream of acting. At dinner the next night, she sits beside a man who teaches beginning actors.

  • A woman is thinking about going back to school and opens her mail to find a letter requesting her application from the very school she was thinking about going to. Cameron, Julia. the Artist’s Way, p. 63

Cameron lists several examples of times that the universe seems to reach toward people who are open to the arms of its reaching. This summer, I have already begun working in my garden again, and I have already been dealing with the ways that my lack of balance is not paying off for me. Today, the writing prompt is “avid” –something that I used to be about my garden, and today, I feel the need to talk about my own personal disconnect.

Twenty-five years ago,  someone gave me a copy of the book the Artist’s Way. That someone recognized that I was a blocked creative, and she felt that the book would help me. As soon as I read the book, I recognized myself and the mistakes that I was making in terms of my own creative growth and production, and for a couple of days, I wrote morning pages–twenty-five years ago, and then, I simply quit. Too much time. Good idea but too much time. Here I am–twenty-five years later, and I am still dealing with many of the issues that I should have dealt with a quarter of a century ago.

I lead a writer’s group, and for months, I have heard various excuses that the people in my group make for not moving forward with their writing. The words of Cameron’s book have stuck with me through the years, and I realized that the people in my group would benefit from at least reading it. A few weeks ago, we began working through the chapters of Cameron’s the Artist’s Way, and I recognize that one of the reasons that I chose this book for the class is that I, too, need to actually “work” through  Cameron’s program. Yet, for two weeks, I did not write the morning pages. I wrote other things, and I blogged, but for some reason, I am resisting my need to settle down, to write the morning pages, and to allow myself to begin to attack the gargantuan task of moving through some of the issues that prevent me from moving forward.

I have always been an intense person, and I have always been avid about something or another. The problem is that I often neglect something else to be obsessive about my avid interest of the day. I move through my life like a line of army tanks. Typically speaking,  I charge forward. I attack, and I conquer one thing at a time. But I also hurry, and when a task seems that it will take too long, I move to a new front.

Image result for eat elephant one bite at a time

Last night, I decided that I would begin this day by slowing down and by actually beginning to master the gargantuan task of becoming more balanced and more efficient in all areas of my life. I acknowledge that this will not be a quick fix, but I have wasted twenty-five years by my failure to have done this a quarter of a century ago when I initially read Cameron’s the Artist’s Way. This morning, I wrote morning pages, and because it is a Cameron task on page 58, I listed “ten tiny changes” that I need to make in my life [my list is currently at #22]. I have vowed to slow down and to simply do what I need to do–to eat the elephant one bite at a time.

“No high jumping, please!… Progress, not perfection, is what we should be asking of ourselves.

“Too far, too fast, and we can undo ourselves. Creative recovery is like marathon training. We want to log ten slow miles for every one fast mile. This can go against the ego’s grain. We want to be great–immediately great–but that is not how recovery works. It is an awkward, tentative, even embarrassing process. There will be many times when we won’t look good–to ourselves or anyone else. We need to stop demanding that we do. …

” ‘But do you know how old I will be by the time I learn to really play the piano/act/write a play?’

“Yes. . . the same age you will if you don’t.

“So Le’ts start.” Cameron, Julia. the Artist’s Way, pgs. 29-30.

©Jacki Kellum April 23, 2017.

A Fairy Garden for Our Library – Children’s Garden Coming Soon – Children’s Books about Fairies and Elves

The Children’s Department of the Linwood Library in Linwood, New Jersey, Has a New Fairy Garden.

In honor of National Library Week, the Linwood Library’s Children’s Department is all about Fairies.

Miss Jacki created the first stage of a fairy garden that will soon become part of a large fairy garden that will be outside.  During the months of April, May, and June, the children will help Miss Jacki plant a children’s garden outside . The fairy garden will be part of that children’s garden.

Fairy Gardens have become  popular across the nation, and several craft places sell miniature statues and other assets to place in a fairy garden. All of the figures above are available at Big Lots.

Because Miss Jacki’s fairy garden is at our community’s library, she used the 6-piece Gnome & Mushroom Set from Big Lots, which includes a little house and which features a gnome and a fairy reading. The price of the 6-piece set is $20.00.

Big Lots also sells an abundance of fairy garden accessories. The price of this play set is $6.00, and the price of the bridge is $4.00.

Although the Big Lots items are made of plastic, they look like they have been carved from wood.

During the months of April and May, Miss Jacki will read several of Daniela Drescher’s books about fairies and elves.

In the Land of Fairies is a beautiful and magical book and it  begins:

“In the spring the woodland fairies dance and cast their spell
Turning to green the trees and plants.”

Drescner’s illustrations add to to magic:

“Midsummer time, a magic night,
So full of life,
Now fairies dress the woods with light.”

Following the tradition of the Irish and fairies, Drescher’s fairies are connected to the land and to nature and to the seasons, and her books carry the reader through the seasons.

In her book In the Land of the Elves, Drescher describes autumn:

“The days grow cold and leaves turn red
And elves get up from mossy bed.
Beneath the bushes creeps a mouse
While snails curl snugly in their house.”

A closer view at this illustration shows what an incredible feast Drescher’s illustrations are:

Her books also explore the changes of nature throughout the day and night:
“Then as dark begins to fall
For hours and hours the crickets call
And elves gaze in the pale moonlight
And watch the starry sky at night.”

Miss Jacki hopes to read all of Drescher’s fairy and elf books and to prepare the library’s children for the wonder and magic of nature.

Earth Day is April 22, 2017, and during the week between Earth Day and Arbor Day, Miss Jacki is asking all of Linwood’s children to bring a perennial to plant in the library’s children’s garden. More about that coming soon.

©Jacki Kellum April 3, 2017





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

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

Many times, artists bury nougats of truth about themselves or about what they are thinking in their art and their writing. Symbolism–it’s a clever game. You say 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. Often, what the viewer actually sees or reads in an artist’s work is only a tiny part of what the artist is saying.

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?”


“But I know something is wrong.”

“I’m fine.”

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. The wife is implying that if the husband can see deep into her soul, he truly loves her, and he wins the game.

When I was married, I wanted nothing more than for my husband to stop 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 in my mind, that would have ruined the whole thing. 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 see deeply  into my soul, and if he could decipher all of my wants and my needs, he would be my one, true love. No doubt, that is one reason that I am divorced.

I play that same kind of game with my art and writing. About 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].

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 at least close around the tip of my finger and nibble me. 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.

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, the “dragon” part of the word “snapdragon.” 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.  My art and my writing are keys to some of the gems that I keep locked inside myself.

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

©Jacki Kellum October 24, 2016


I’d Like to Travel But I Want to Know More of Different Places Than What Lies on the Surface

I would love to be able to travel more, but unlike some people, I have no desire to travel merely to  Keep Up with the Joneses or because I have a superficial need to flash before my peers the evidence that I was able to afford to travel. In fact, what I want from traveling would not appeal to most people who travel as a type of status symbol. Rather, I have a desire to actually live, in an authentic way, with many types of people and to live in other spots all around the globe. I want to experience the ways that other people tick.

Travel becomes a strategy for accumulating photographs.- Susan Sontag

Unlike for many, I have no desire to photograph the world. My yearning to travel is more of a spiritual thing. I long to spend time with the everyday people who live in different countries. and I hunger to truly know other cultures. I do not want to stop at photographing them. I want to reach beneath the] appearances of the people that I meet along my journey. I want to feel with other people and not merely to look at them.

While most who visit England will flock to Westminster Palace and will ogle at the trappings of the royalty, that is not at all interesting to me.  Instead, I want to visit England’s country people, and I want to sniff the fresh lavender that is growing in English gardens.

I I do not want to spend large portions of time in International cities. I may be wrong about this, but I venture to say that a city is merely a city–regardless of what language that it speaks.

My desire is to visit the cottages of the world and to eat potato soup and rolls with its commoners. I want to breathe the fresh, mountain air that is far above the city smog, and I want to share stories with the Every-woman.

You develop a sympathy for all human beings when you travel a lot.
Shakuntala Devi

I do not want to journey, simply to impress others with my ability to pay for my travel. My thirst  is to increase my awareness through travel. I have a hunger to grow, inside myself; and experiencing more of the world will help me grow. Feeling with the world will enlarge my heart.

Travelling expands the mind rarely. – Hans Christian Andersen

©Jacki Kellum August 11, 2016


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