Fabulous Friday: Virginia In Bloom

Narcissus ‘Art Design’

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Springtime in Virginia is simply fabulous.  So fabulous, that garden clubs all over the Commonwealth open public and private gardens to celebrate Historic Garden Week while our dogwoods, azaleas, daffodils, tulips and redbuds burst into bloom.

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Newly opened leaves blur in a haze of color around the crowns of tall trees and the stately boxwood, a fixture in so many historic and public gardens, glow with new, green growth.  It is a sight worth celebrating.

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Our garden on Wednesday morning

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We are celebrating April in our own Forest Garden as dogwoods and azaleas bloom and the landscape wakes up for the new season.  Our Iris have produced scapes covered with buds, seemingly overnight.  Leaves emerge from bare branches.   Perennials keep breaking ground with new growth, reminding us that they, too, survived the winter.

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Brunnera

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Historic Garden Week traditionally falls the week after Easter, here in Virginia.  With a late Easter this year, Garden Week gets an  especially late start.  Combined with an early spring, gardening friends and I have been wondering what may still be in bloom by then to entice visitors.  Surely there will still be Iris, and probably Rhododendron.  But tulips, dogwoods and azaleas are coming into their prime, at least in coastal Virginia, right now.

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Tulips and daffodils blooming in a public garden in Gloucester Courthouse for their Daffodil Festival last weekend.

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One of the strangest sights to celebrate this Fabulous Friday is our blooming rhubarb, Rheum rhabarbarum.  Rhubarb is best known as a tasty filling in spring in pies.  Its long petioles are stewed with sugar and spices to make a tart seasonal treat.  But I’ve noticed Rheum used as an ornamental, especially in Pacific Northwest gardens.  I decided to give it a try in our garden, especially since its poisonous leaves leave it impervious to grazing.

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Rhubarb in bloom

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This is the second year for this plant, which I grew in a pot last summer and planted into the garden in September.  I’ve enjoyed watching its progress, but was amazed to see flower buds emerge a few weeks ago.  I’ve never before watched rhubarb bloom, and thought you might enjoy its unusual flowers, too.

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We are still enjoying daffodils as the late season varieties continue to open.  These hybrids all carry interesting names, and I keep my Brent and Becky’s Bulbs catalog handy to look them up and try to remember them.  Handily, we received the new fall catalog in the mail last week, so we can begin penciling in a fall order, while this year’s crop still fills the garden.

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Every tree and shrub in our garden dances in the wind as a cold front blows through today.  Often, a particularly strong gust carries flower petals as it blows spring flowers from the greening trees.  We expect temperatures back into the 30s tonight, and a much cooler day tomorrow.

We find ourselves ‘dancing’ back and forth, too, as we move pots and baskets in and out of the garage with the fluctuating weather.  We keep telling ourselves it’s good exercise, but I will be quite happy when we can finally leave everything out in its summer spot.

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Aralia spinosa, a native volunteer in our garden, looks rather tropical as its first leaves emerge this week.

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But even if we weren’t carrying our pots back and forth, we would still find excuses to head back out into the garden.  We eavesdrop on avian conversations as they happily build their nests and find their mates.  They are as energized as we feel with the warmth of spring and the fresh opportunities it brings.

We watched lizards skitter across our back porch for the first time on Wednesday, a sure sign of the garden’s awakening.  Butterflies dance with one another in mid-air before floating off for another sip of nectar.  It is good to live in Virginia in the springtime, when it seems the whole world is in bloom.

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Woodland Gnome 2017

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I’ve  set an intention to find some wonderful, beautiful, and happiness inducing thing to photograph each Friday.   If you’re moved to find something Fabulous to share on Fridays as well, please tag your post “Fabulous Friday” and link your post back to mine. 

Happiness is contagious!  Let’s infect one another!

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Dogwood, our state flower

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Gathering Dusk and A Christmas Tree

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Light fades slowly from the winter sky, blushing, as the sun eases below the horizon.

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Late afternoon found us at Colonial Williamsburg on Christmas day.  I wanted to photograph the huge Christmas tree, ablaze with lights, that we had found the evening before.

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We were out on Christmas Eve enjoying the lights in our part of town, when we spotted a blazing tree, covered in white lights, visible from Francis Street.

And I vowed to return, camera in hand, to photograph it in all its brilliance at dusk.

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And so I lingered nearby, watching colors shift in the evening sky as lights popped on against the gathering dusk.  But the Christmas tree remained unlit.

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My partner parked and eventually joined me.  And we waited together as the minutes crept past.

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We watched a silent flock of geese glide overhead.

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Clouds glowed bright, illuminated by a sun no longer visible from where we stood, moving ever further beyond the horizon.

But the Christmas tree remained dark, melting into the shadows of the coming night.

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We began walking towards our car, shivering now in the evening chill.  Slowly, hoping for a flash of sudden brightness to draw us back, we covered the blocks of the old town still filled with visitors and costumed staff.

But the only lights greeting us flickered in windows and on lamp posts.

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And though a little disappointed to have missed the photo I hoped to take, we were glad to be a part of the community in this place and on this special night.

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It was the following evening when we found the tree lit again in all its glowing glory.  We had been away all day, and drove to the tree on our way home.  It was already long past dusk when we arrived, but the Christmas tree was lit, and I hopped out while my partner circled the block.

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One feels the weight of years and lives here most at night.  Shades of those long gone from daylight still linger in the shadows near these historic places.

The elder trees, still growing, hold memories, too; as they stretch their protective branches over the land.

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But the blazing Christmas tree drew me ever closer, and I set off alone across the field.   Others were gathering around it too, basking in the warmth and comfort of its lights.

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In this season we celebrate the power of the light.  We reaffirm our deep belief in the powers of goodness and love to push back against the gathering and ever-present darkness of our  world.

We know there is an ever shifting balance between darkness and light; greed and generosity; kindness and anger;  love and ambivalence.

And all of these forces live and shift within each one of us; none of us is beyond their power.

But it is always ours to choose; to seek the light, even when we must walk through the darkness to find it.   And as we journey ever closer to the light, we find good company sharing the walk with us; so that we are never left alone in the darkness.

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Woodland Gnome 2016

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“It is neither wealth nor splendor,

but tranquility and occupation which give happiness.”
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Thomas Jefferson

Weekly Photo Challenge: Seasons

Late May

Late May

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“I know I am but summer to your heart,

and not the full four seasons of the year.”

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Edna St. Vincent Millay

 

Living here surrounded by forests and wetlands, tides and seasons are the metronomes of our live.  We watch the passage of time in every budding branch, ripening berry, brilliant crimson leaf, and ice clogged marsh.

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November

November

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But time is cyclic here, like the tides.  The creatures come and go in their comforting rhythm as one month melts into the next.  We’ve learned where to watch for them, and when.

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January

January

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No rhythm escapes notice.  There is nothing subtle about the changing of the seasons in coastal Virginia.  Each carries its distinct beauties and its mood.  They may meld slowly one to the next, but there is time to savor and appreciate each in its fullness.

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February

Late February

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And these things remain constant: water flows,  trees glisten in the sunlight, birds call to one another, wind ripples across the creeks, and all things change.  We watch the rising and falling of the tides and see the currents flowing through our lives. 

We watch seedlings sprout, and see rotted trees fallen from the last storm.  But even the fallen serve their purpose,  holding sunning turtles this day, and herons in their meditations another.  Life goes on; nothing ever lost or wasted.

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July

July

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Seasons:  the changing costumes of the one creation.  Whether they pass as swiftly as spring, or as slowly as a glacier encrusted ice age; they demonstrate the dynamic life animating everything on our planet.

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September

September

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For the Daily Post’s

Weekly Photo Challenge: Seasons

 

“Except. What is normal at any given time?

We change just as the seasons change,

and each spring brings new growth.

So nothing is ever quite the same.”

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Sherwood Smith

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Ice covers the marsh at Halfway Creek where Canada Geese gather in search of food.

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014-2016

Wednesday Vignette

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“How you refill,

Lying there. Something like happiness,

just like water, pure and clear pouring in.

So good you don’t even welcome it,

it runs through you in a bright stream,

as if it has been there all along.”

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Peter Heller

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2016

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Sunday Dinner: Community

November 6, 2015 Parkway 101

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“Everybody is a story.

When I was a child, people sat around kitchen tables

and told their stories. We don’t do that so much anymore.

Sitting around the table telling stories

is not just a way of passing time.

It is the way the wisdom gets passed along.

The stuff that helps us to live a life worth remembering.”


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Rachel Naomi Remen

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“I alone cannot change the world,

but I can cast a stone across the waters

to create many ripples.”


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Mother Teresa

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“One of the marvelous things about community

is that it enables us to welcome and help people

in a way we couldn’t as individuals.

When we pool our strength

and share the work and responsibility,

we can welcome many people,

even those in deep distress,

and perhaps help them find

self-confidence and inner healing.”


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Jean Vanier

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“The world is so empty if one thinks only

of mountains, rivers & cities;

but to know someone who thinks & feels with us,

and who, though distant, is close to us in spirit,

this makes the earth for us an inhabited garden.”


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Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2015

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In Case You Didn’t Make It…..

The causeway at Jone's Pond, along the Colonial Parkway in York County.

The causeway at Jones Pond, along the Colonial Parkway in York County.

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Just in case you didn’t make it to our beautiful area to drive along the Colonial Parkway this year, I’ll share a few of our photos from yesterday.

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Escapees from the Gospel Spreading Farm along the Parkway, near Jamestown Island.

Escapees from the Gospel Spreading Farm along the Parkway, near Jamestown Island.

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We are always astounded to notice license plates and see how far visitors have traveled just to spend a few days here, near Williamsburg.

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Sandy Bay, at the bridge onto Jamestown Island.

Sandy Bay, near the bridge onto Jamestown Island.

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It is one of the prettiest drives in the country, beginning at Jamestown on the James River and ending up on the beaches of Yorktown.  All along the way one enjoys beautiful vistas of the water, beaches, marshes, and of  course beautiful trees.  Modern life is mostly screened out as one travels along this historic road, through national park land, where eagles nest and herons fish by the side of the road.

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The path to a beach along the James River; a favorite spot for fishing and sunbathing.

The path to a beach along the James River; a favorite spot for fishing and sunbathing.

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Yesterday was a perfect autumn day; bright, golden, warmish and alive with bright colors and leaves swirling to the ground on the breeze.  It was the sort of day one fondly remembers in early February when the world has grown drab and frozen.

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Jones Pond

Jones Pond

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Yesterday was the kind of day relished by a dear friend, who left us last Monday.  His memorial service was at mid-day yesterday, and we were deeply grateful that the sun shone on him one more time.

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We drove along the familiar road remembering him, and remembering the many times we encountered one another at the various stops along the Parkway.

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We felt a need to appreciate the day all the more keenly in the wake of his loss, to soak in all of the color and life of this special place, in fond remembrance of those who have left us this year.

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College Creek at Archer's Hope

College Creek at Archer’s Hope

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So in case you haven’t gotten out leaf gazing this autumn, I hope you will enjoy these photos from our drive yesterday.

And if the trees in your community still hold scarlet and orange, screaming Ginko yellow or Gum tree purple;  please take a moment to simply appreciate the beauty of the day, the wonders unfolding around you.

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All we every truly have is ‘Now,’ and the only place we truly live is ‘Here;’ wherever your ‘here’ and ‘now’ might be.

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Please taste the sweetness of the joys each day offers us.

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Woodland Gnome 2015

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Winter’s Last Stand?

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Is it too early to hope we’ve seen the last of frozen marshes and piles of freshly shoveled snow?  The optimist in my heart wants this breath of spring to last; the daffodils to open, fruit trees to bloom, and weather to settle into comfortably warm days and nights.  Long experience living in this region tells me it is too early to relax winter’s vigilance.  We’ve had snow here into April, and Easter often dawns wet and cold.

But Saturday eventually warmed up a little by late afternoon.  It was a sunny day, if windy; and I was convinced, after several promptings, to join my partner in a drive to see what we could see.

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We headed towards Jamestown on the Parkway.  There seemed nothing new to see.  No nesting eagles; no budding trees.  Only puddles, snow piles, bare trees, and icy marshes presented themselves to my winter jaded eyes.  I was having difficulty finding the beauty of the day.

But we persevered, and had gotten onto Jamestown Island when a pair of geese, standing near the shore, inspired me to leave the warmth of our car.

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As I scampered down the bank, avoiding mud and ice as much as I was able, they began paddling out into the creek.  There were no clear shots through the underbrush and trees.  And there was no dry path to the water’s edge.

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But as I was almost giving up, I spotted a Great Blue Heron wading in the shallows on the other side.

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After one photo he saw me, too; and I got off on more shot as he took wing.

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At least we had found where the birds were sheltering.  And we found bright swollen buds on a few trees here and there, even as their roots disappeared under a stubborn layer of briny ice.

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It hasn’t dropped below freezing here for nearly three days now.  Songbirds fill our garden, and we hear the hoots of owls and honks of geese and urgent calls of hawks circling overhead.

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More daffodils break through the soil each day to start their climb towards the sun.

Have you noticed that seasons never change with any real clarity?  Even though we turn the page on our calendar, and the Weather Channel actors declare “Meteorological Spring,” (a term I never heard until a few weeks ago); the actual melting of one season into the other remain a bit fuzzy.

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There is always the in-between time of see-sawing back and forth from warm to cold to hot to chill before we settle back into the new routines.

Yet every small step towards spring brings joy. 

The pond behind our house has nearly thawed.  The piles of snow beside our drive are nearly melted.  We saw a robin pluck a living, wiggling worm out of the front lawn this morning.  Sunshine pours in through the windows, and I found freshly grown sprouts and leaves on the catmint when I cut it back this morning.

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We hope this melt is the last of the season, and that we can get on with the business of welcoming spring.

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“Real” astronomical spring won’t arrive until March 20, late next week.  Friends in Oregon post that they are a full month ahead and enjoying unusually warm, strangely dry weather for March.

We are watching the sky, the birds, the trees and The Weather Channel, hoping we have already survived winter’s last blast for this year.  I’m still a little skeptical….

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Woodland Gnome 2015

 

1000 Speak For Compassion

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“The lotus is the most beautiful flower, whose petals open one by one.

But it will only grow in the mud.

In order to grow and gain wisdom, first you must have the mud — the obstacles of life and its suffering. …

The mud speaks of the common ground that humans share,

no matter what our stations in life. …

Whether we have it all or we have nothing, we are all faced with the same obstacles: sadness, loss, illness, dying and death.

If we are to strive as human beings to gain more wisdom, more kindness and more compassion,

we must have the intention to grow as a lotus and open each petal one by one. ”

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Goldie Hawn

 

Compassion is wanting all beings to live free from suffering and to enjoy good health and happiness. 

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We all understand suffering as we have all experienced it in so many forms.

There is personal pain and suffering which we experience ourselves; and there is suffering we witness in the lives of others.  Whether we hear about the suffering of strangers in the day’s news, or whether we listen to loved one’s stories of their own problems, we remaining keenly aware of the many challenges and inequities in our world.

The great religions ask us to remain mindful of the real suffering in the lives of others, and to respond to others with love and compassion.  We are reminded to treat others as we would like to be treated ourselves; to show hospitality, to treat others with patience and kindness, and to give of our own resources to help others.

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“Whatever joy there is in this world
All comes from desiring others to be happy,
And whatever suffering there is in this world,
All comes from desiring myself to be happy.

But what need is there to say much more?
The childish work for their own benefit,
The Buddhas work for the benefit of others.
Just look at the difference between them!”   

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Shantideva

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Bloggers around our planet are coming together today, February 20, 2015,  to remain mindful of the power of compassion.  Compassion, a very powerful sort of love, is perhaps the most potent force for good in the universe.  Our ability to project compassion towards other beings is the fuel which powers our own evolution.

There comes a point when we finally understand that we are all one great being.  As we treat others, we treat ourselves, because we are one.  As we treat our beautiful planet, so we treat ourselves, because we are one.

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Compassion is the strong desire to end suffering, for all beings.  When our thoughts, words, choices, and actions originate in our strong intention to bring happiness to all beings, helping to relieve their sufferings, we live in the light of love.  Our own happiness is amplified and our own personal sufferings diminished.

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Our compassion extends in ever widening circles:  first for ourselves, our families and pets, then to our circle of friends and local community.  We feel compassion for others like us, then for all human beings.  Finally our compassion extends to all sorts of animal life on land, in the air, and in our oceans and waterways; to the forests, the mountains, the oceans,  and the atmosphere which surrounds our Earth.

The more we open our minds and hearts, the more we realize that we are all part of one organism; animated by one great energetic Source.

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And it all begins with our intention to live compassionately.

Please join in this great wave of worldwide compassion today.  Become one of the 1000 voices speaking for compassion. 

Please leave a link in the comments if you are one of the 1000 voices for compassion and create your own post on this theme today!

 

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“Fearlessness is the most prominent characteristic of all bodhisattvas

and all who tread the bodhisattva path.

For them, life has lost its terrors and suffering its sting.

Instead of scorning earthly existence, or condemning its ‘imperfection’,

they fill it with a new meaning.”

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Lama Anagorika Govinda

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2015

 

I Choose Compassion- Silver Threading

Widening the Circle of CompassionShunyata

 

Wordless Wednesday

 

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“Daffodowndilly

She wore her yellow sun-bonnet,
She wore her greenest gown;
She turned to the south wind
And curtsied up and down.
She turned to the sunlight
And shook her yellow head,
And whispered to her neighbor:
“Winter is dead.”
 

A.A. Milne

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“The promise of spring’s arrival

is enough to get anyone through the bitter winter!”

 

Jen Selinsky

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2015

On Such A Winter Day…

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The world feels bare and empty today.

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Empty skies show no trace of the winter

storm blowing towards us from the South.

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Growth has paused,

And winter’s winds have nearly cleared

Away summer’s remains.

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Leftover reeds and crisp bleached leaves

Make a tattered fringe around the edges of things.

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Bare branches; bare tangled stems of vines,

Bare muddy marsh,  bare sandy beaches

All waiting.

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The sun finally burned through morning fog

And rose low in the empty sky.

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It’s harsh clear light shows too much;

Makes shadows too dark.

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The birds know.

The birds feel the coming clipper.

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Only the sturdy ones remain,

The survivors,

Who congregate in ponds and coves,

Waiting;

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On such a winter day.

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Woodland Gnome 2015

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