Posts Tagged ‘Narcissus Hibiscus’

Acrylic on canvas

by Bettye W. Harwell

One of the most collaborative  decisions parents make is to select a child’s name. Many books and articles compete with friends and family offering suggestions. And there have always been the unusual name.

After slavery, most African-Americans were able to choose a last name. This has made research more complicated. Two brothers might choose different last names breaking the way to trace documents. The cultural patterns of hyphenation varies. Some take the name of the mother. Others today might add the spouse.

Do the names fit the particular child? Many teen girls take another name to reflect their developing personality. For some a nickname lasts as the identifier.

My name went through transitions. I did not know when it started until I needed the original birth certificate for a passport. The State of Illinois sent me two pages, black with white text. There were changes and scratched out lines as if my parents were surprised at my arrival. (I was two months premature.)

I had often wondered who I really was and this certificate added to my uncertainty. My father had written me letters spelling my name in many versions. As a teen, influenced by a magazine, I changed the spelling myself. The federal government insists on using a different first name with my middle name while I use my maiden name. Note: Consider your potential spouses last name if you plan to use it!)

My brothers and I were up for adoption at one point. My older brother, the protector of identity, routinely sat us done asking “What is your name? ” It was an exercise to make us aware of our unique family bond. It served us well. It built character. It made me question who I am less.

Just recently I decided to look at the 1940 census. For some reason I kept putting it off. That is one census where I knew I would be found. There should be no mistakes like the ones found in earlier years. People were better educated and familiar with the forms, right?

To my dismay, at the end of the family grouping, one brother snd I are listed as the children of our legal guardians. I will go back when I calm down and try to find my older brother. But how do you correct a legal document? Can we take ‘facts’ at face value?

Who knew?

Age makes physical appearance seem more like family members. This often is experienced by adoptees, who share no common genes with their new parents. It is the shared history and family name that is important. You and I are who we are because of who we have become, and by our name. Does your name fit you?

My blog narcissushibiscusmandrake.wordpress.com  begins as a memoir in poetry.

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A Day's Outing

End of Summer

Now that the nights are cool and the mornings are foggy, it is time to put away the signs of summer. It seemed the heat would never end.

Who knew?

Cleaning out of a drawer had a hidden treasure – my

handwritten poems Narcissus, Hibiscus and Mandrake. With them are the research notes on the relationship of the flowers and trees used as the theme. And, as if that was not enough, notes from the Writers’ Conference my daughter and I attended.

I flew on People’s Express from Nashville to the hub in Newark. The daughter was in graduate school at Rutgers. Such convenience. We flew from Newark to Michigan for the conference.

Cesar Chavez & Audre Lord at Plaza 16 Public g...

Cesar Chavez & Audre Lord at Plaza 16 Public gallery at 16th St BART (Photo credit: Steve Rhodes)

Audre Lord, the outstanding poet, was one of those featured. Manuscript in hand we absorbed as much as we could and returned home the route we came by. Just ending a long marriage, I felt such a euphoria of independence (which had been lacking).

Read poems at


And Now

Just recently there was news that an unknown novel written by a Harlem Renaissance writer had been authenticated. It was found by a graduate student looking through some unopened boxes. Will my manuscript and notes have the same fate and be written about in the New York Times?

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English: iPad picture

English: iPad picture (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

An article was on FlipBoard, an iPad app told about the explosion of eBook sales. The ‘hesitant’ would-be publishers (present company) should take that first step.

What can you lose? There are free options. It could be a learning experience. You may find you are good at it. Success!

There are things I find I cannot learn. Maybe they just do not interest me enough to put in the time. Maybe it takes away from what I really love doing. Publishing may not meet the goal for money? The turn around time may not be fast enough. Why put yourself out for all to see and comment on your creativity. Bloggng gives you a chance to build an audience. Or not.

My blog, narcissus,hibiscus,mandrake started out with my complete unpublished book, one poem a day.  I decided it was better to give it free. It might build a poetry reading audience. The stats look like a mouthful of teeth and many, many spaces

Who knew?

My poetry did not draw as strong a following as this blog. The followers were faithful and interested. But were there enough to support an eBook? Evaluating these stats may help in making a publishing decision. Have I  taken advantage of free or low cost pre-publishing tutorials?

Do I have the best material?  Have I edited the manuscript with a fine red pen?

Can I drive interest toward my work? Does it fill a niche of interest? Timing is paramount.

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Who knew?

Mathematics helps

If you add 2600 to 400 it equals 3000!

That is a large sum.  That large sum represents a generous number of YOU who have found both

Leartisteboots and narcissushibiscusmandrake.

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This morning leartisteboots by itself hit  2000 on its stat page!

Who knew?

Many, many thanks for all who have made this happen. It has been a pleasant surprise that anyone finds our posts. Even more surprising has been the generosity of sharing from readers around the world.

Some, really few, have commented negatively. BUT they took their time from busy lives to express their feelings. And many of you are now buddies. And special thanks to the many twitter and WordPress followers.

I have learned so much from others. The process is sometimes challenging, stretching my mental abilities! It is not true that you cannot teach an old dog new tricks.

My mentor knows she opened Pandora’s box when she introduced me to WordPress. What wonders lie ahead?

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Artist: B. W. Harwell

The Help

Both book and movie versions are getting a lot of recognition. Some of us choose not to read or  see either. It is a choice, like drinking coffee or tea. Personal.

This means no disrespect for any who have played their roles so well, so dramatically. The story has captured the interest of a large public.

As so often is the case, personal choices may be hard to explain. The child adamant about no mayo on her sandwich cannot tell her mother that she is allergic to it. The adult may not be able to trace sadness or anger to some childhood event. Nor should he or she be asked to defend these personal decisions.

Expressions of emotion

When a teenager, I wrote a Mother’s Day card to an aunt. Regardless of how it was received, it made me feel good to express my feelings. Since Mother’s day can be any day, since mothering has many forms, this is what I wrote at age 17:

Dear Aunt ….,

Up and down the winding streets, I go

Wherever autumn breezes blow

In nooks and crannies, in each wall

I search for what is best of all:

A mother’s love..


There are many kinds of mothers:

Some take the place  of others.

Some let help their offspring raise.

Who is more worthy of praise?


When a person takes a life to mold

And is anything but cold,

If she carries on her task

And only loves, and truth ask


Then I can tell you what is there:

That person bears a mother’s care,

And when she gets above

Proclaim – she had a  mother’s love!


So no matter where I roam

I’ll always think of home

Where such happiness I find

Is nowhere else, nor kind:

A mother’s love. (more…)

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by B. W. Harwell

Dr. Howard Thurman

Image via Wikipedia

This painting was inspired by the preaching of Rev. Howard Thurman. His theme was often these words:

I cried because I had no shoes, until I saw the man who had no feet.

He was a very eloquent speaker and was available to youth groups, such as the college YM-YW conferences.

Some words stay with you and guide your thinking about life.

Who knew?

This painting, part of a group of works, was donated to a public housing community center in Nashville, TN. Other artists painted murals and provided a variety of their crafts when this building was restored. Local children and staff created tiles for the foyer.

Obelisk in front of King Chapel dedicated to H...

Image via Wikipedia

Howard Thurman's Great Hope book

Image by Fellowship of Reconciliation via Flickr

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"Perfection"A Lesson in being Cool

It was an important step to reach 100 posts! (more…)

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Cover of "Roots (Dell Book)"

What do readers want?

Real history and real people have stories that interest all ages of readers. Alex Haley was a
master story teller.


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Artist: B. W. Harwell

Become a Business?

Not all artists want to sell their work. Those visual artists who want opportunities to  sell must apply creativity and business skills. Preparation for a one-person show must allow for framing and promotion.  Some of the best outlets are online. Select from those where artists are selling and not just getting exposure.

Artists are very generous in sharing their resources. Some ideas will work for you. You can  teach, study, or volunteer (WordPress?) while building an audience. Weigh the  costs in time and money so that you get results. Musicians have a union which assists in getting work and setting recommended standards of pay. Visual artists do not have that luxury.

My friend, Greg Ridley, most often said, “Get in your studio and work.”


A thank you to the subscribers, followers and  casual readers.It has been a fun experience to share my thoughts.  Also, the comments of encouragement, have been unexpected and appreciated.

Who knew?

Special occasions are opportunities to send cards to special people in your life. Some of the most creative and beautiful online are Jaquie Lawson’s animations.



If you are not reading the poetry on Narcissus, Hibiscus and Mandrake, subscribe  to  that blog and get the poems in your email. Of course, you can click on the blogroll.

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