I'm not new to talking, sharing ideas, or stating my opinion, especially stating my opinion! After all, I taught elementary school for 30 years! However, my audience has typically been smaller,just family, the classroom, or just talking to myself!

My blog has two goals: be an outlet for sharing thoughts on writing children's books and the path to publication (got my fingers crossed that I'll get there) and a place to chronicle my journey of losing my sight. Sometimes I imagine these two paths will overlap .

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Write From the Soul

      By now most of us are experiencing some Spring weather. Maybe a few flowers have begun to pop out where you live, or the air temperature has warmed up a bit. In Atlanta, Spring has totally sprung. We're awash in dogwoods and azaleas. If you follow the television meteorologists, we're well past the "extremely high" range of pollen. More like the are-you-kidding-me-who-can-breathe-with-all-this-pollen range. And the temperature? Well, last weekend it was 85 and I was sitting by the pool.

       Communing with all this nature leads me to sharing with you the stories of two incredible nature lovers. One man, now passed, brought the artistry of nature to "life" in wrought iron; the other man, still alive and kicking, brings out "life" in plants through topiary sculpture.

              Philip Simmons, a master traditional craftsman, became interested in blacksmithing at the age of eight. He just knew a blacksmith would be his career. An apprenticeship at age 13 with an established local Charleston, SC  smith began his lifelong obsession with ironwork- first in the traditional way [shoeing horses, fixing wagons, making/repairing tools] then  by fixing wrought iron fences and finally switching over to artistic craftsmanship as he designed and created fences, gates, railings, and window grills all around Charleston and later the world.  His  pieces usually contain three-dimensional animals or plants, sometimes so real looking, you have to touch them just to be sure it's iron. I know all about Mr. Simmons because I've written a picture book biography about him. I hope to be subbing the manuscript shortly.

      A writer friend of mine, told me about another South Carolinian she's writing about, a man named Pearl Fryar. Mr. Fryar, moved into a neighborhood in Bishopsville, where in the 1980s an individual-of-color wasn't welcomed partially because the community thought he 'wouldn't keep up his yard'. He decided to use his creative spirit to form a unique topiary garden with a message. A message he literally cut into the ground: Love, Peace, and Goodwill. He also wanted to win the community's "Yard-of-the-Month, just to make a point! No one told him the plants he rescued from the compost piles behind his local nurseries, couldn't or wouldn't grow and flourish. No one told him the plants and trees couldn't be "trained" to grow into specific shapes.So he planted them, nurtured them, grew them, trained them, and developed an extraordinary garden that horticulturalists around the world- not to mention tourists- come to see and admire. Oh, and yes, he did get Yard-of-the-Month. Can you say, yard-of-the-decade?

        These two men stay with me; their hearts, their souls, their connection to their communities and giving back to others, it resonates within me. I can't help noticing all the commonalities these two men share:

            Philip Simmons                                         Pearl Fryar 
  • Came from meager beginnings                                           Same
  • Gained strong work ethic from his elders                            Same
  • Grandparents who raised him were farmers/fishers            Father was a sharecropper
  • Loved working with children, sharing knowledge                Same
  • Received recognition for his craft on a national level          Received recognition for his        before recognition from his town.                                          craft from State before his town
  • Strong connection to nature                                                   Same
  • Strong connection to his church and his community            Same
  • Inspiration to others, role model/mentor                                Same
  • Unpretentious about his skill                                                   Same
Trust me folks, these are both inspirational and interesting men. If you're curious to know more, check out the documentary called A Man Named Pearl, available at Netflix or the web site   Also check out
 The Philip Simmons Foundation.   Both sites have photo galleries to admire their incredible work.

       I hope the next time you see a tree or plant in a spiral or with an unusual curve, you'll smile and think of Pearl. Or the next time you pass a wrought iron fence or gate, you'll notice if it contains a bit of nature. As for me, thinking of these two men not only brings me a smile, it warms my heart and makes me want to reach out to others and offer a hand.

Thank you Mr. Simmons and Mr. Fryar for sharing your gifts and your spirit with the rest of us. 

1 comment:

  1. Enjoyed reading your post. Both men are very interesting. Thank you for sharing about them.