Who Wrote, What Is Success?     26 June, 2012, 02:52 pm
Although Ralph Waldo Emerson had a lot to say on the subject of "success," he did not write the essay that begins, "He has achieved success who has lived well, laughed often and loved much;" Bessie A. Stanley wrote it for a contest sponsored by Brown Book Magazine, in 1904. Asked to define "What Is Success or What Constitutes Success?" in 100 words or less, Stanley wrote:


He has achieved success who has lived well, laughed often and loved much, who has gained the respect of intelligent men, the trust of pure women and the love of little children, who has filled his niche and accomplished his task, who has left the world better than he found it, whether by an improved poppy, a perfect poem, or a rescued soul, who has never lacked appreciation of earth's beauty or failed to express it, who has looked for the best in others and given them the best he had, whose life was inspiration, whose memory a benediction.


Bessie A. Stanley, Tombstone

This is the text of Stanley's essay as it appears on her tombstone. The contest winners were announced in the December, 1905 issue of Modern Women (Brown Book Magazine had merged with ...
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Giving Beauty Back: The Golden Echo     16 December, 2006, 08:48 am
My good friend, Wendy Ban, gave me my first calligraphy pen. It was an auspicious moment. The pen was like a magic wand, and I knew immediately what to do with it. A line from Gerard Manley Hopkins's 1882 poem, "The Leaden Echo and the Golden Echo," came echoing across the century, telling me to "Give beauty back, beauty, beauty, beauty, back to God, beauty's self and beauty's giver."

So I lettered this long poem to learn calligraphy, using it to practice my ABC's and learn my art form. I practiced for about five years with passion and dedication until my unique form of Literary Calligraphy® watercolors began to emerge. I often marvel at the wonderful alchemy that occurred. Hopkins wrote a poem; his friend published it; close to a hundred years later my friend introduced me to the poem; three years later the same friend gave me a calligraphy pen, and my life was magically transformed. So I encourage you to read a poem to someone, or to write a poem, or to "give beauty back" – it may transform someone's life.

Hopkins might never have written this poem. Born in England in 1844, he became a Jesuit and began his study for the priesthood in 1868. He burned all the ...
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A More Perfect Union     29 September, 2006, 10:41 am
I'm lettering the Constitution of the United States, a project that will take several years to complete. I started carrying a copy the Constitution on my travels sometime in 2003. I had been stopped five times in a nine-month period, twice by civilians in public areas and three times by the highway patrol with explanations ranging from the reasonable to the ridiculous, but that's another story. My copy of the Constitution became a kind of civic security blanket; I referred to it often as our government took some unprecedented constitutional positions. The idea to letter the Constitution germinated in June 2005 when I used it to demonstrate calligraphy at the Mountain Heritage Arts and Crafts Festival near Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. I was suddenly smitten with the document and reminded of things I had forgotten and things I didn't know, like who lettered the original Constitution?


My high school civics teacher laid the foundation for my interest, repeatedly admonishing us to "mind our Constitution!" Years ago I got a B.A. degree in American Studies from Miami University and recently read America's Constitution: A Biography, by Akhil Reed Amar ( Random House, 2005).
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Cardinal Flowers: A Site of Bliss     7 September, 2006, 09:20 pm
I took my annual walk around the farm in search of cardinal flowers, Lobelia cardinalis, on August 19. As I began my preparations, my husband and walking companion of more than twenty-two years expressed an interest in joining me. I told him that we'd have to leave the beaten path and that we'd most likely get hot and sweaty and full of ticks, but that it would most likely be worth it in the end. So we suited up with long pants, tucked into white socks, wearing our hats and farm shoes and yucky bug spray.


With binoculars and camera in hand, we started our quest along the creek bank below Larks Cottage, a place where we've often spotted cardinal flowers. But the creek is low this year, having had very little rain in the past three weeks, and at first we saw none, then spied a single beauty, about three feet tall with alternate, oblong leaves and one-inch flowers blooming up the stalk.


We continued to follow Rockcastle Creek along the lower pasture, where we rarely see cardinal flowers but sometimes find arrowheads (Sagittaria latifolia) growing from cut-outs along the bank and did find a great blue lobelia (Lobelia siphilityica), the cardinal flower'
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Susan     25 July, 2006, 11:05 am
Susan's First Blog: A Cardinal Idea

A bright red cardinal started tapping on my studio window last week. Before long he was throwing his body against the window and pecking harder. He returned several times that day and repeated this strange behavior. That evening I searched the Internet for "crazy cardinal behavior" and read two listings describing similar antics; later that night I got out my bird books and found that this behavior is well documented. The prevailing theory is that the male cardinal sees his reflection in the window, assumes that his territory is being threatened, and proceeds to attack the offending reflection. If this were a political blog I'd be tempted to make an analogy between the cardinal's behavior and the bird-brain behavior of some world leaders, but this blog is about the inspiration for my Literary Calligraphy art work.

Nature and literature are two important sources of inspiration for my work. Most of the time I start with a text, poem, quotation, Bible verse, letter, diary, or journal entry. Quite often I turn to nature to illustrate or illuminate the text. I have been painting the literary flower for more than twenty years and ...
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