Weekly Photo Challenge: Seasons

Late May

Late May


“I know I am but summer to your heart,

and not the full four seasons of the year.”


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.





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.





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.



Late February


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.





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.





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.”


Sherwood Smith


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


Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014-2016

CYW: What Color is February?

Sunset over College Creek this evening

February 16 ‘Indigo’ clouds over College Creek this evening


What colors do you associate with February? 

My partner and I went out in search of color this afternoon, and found the world showing mostly shades of grey, brown, green, blue, and light.  I’m counting ‘light’ as a color as it was so wonderful to see the sun this afternoon!


February 16,2016 sunset 040


Yesterday was snow, sleet and freezing rain.  So we can add white and silver grey to our February color palette, too.  I wandered out in the late afternoon, when the storm had passed, thinking I might cut a stem of something, anything, for a vase.

I made a wet and sloppy circuit around the front garden, too disheartened by the thawing slush to even cut a tightly closed Daffodil bud.    I decided to wait for a better, warmer day when it felt ready to open on its own.  It was far too icy wet to explore further up the drive or down the hill in search of Hellebores.  That vase yesterday sadly went unfilled…..


Our garden, yesetrday

Our garden, yesterday


This is that time in February when we search for color. 


February 16,2016 sunset 011


Yes, one notices the thousand shades of green in pines, hollies, Magnolias and Ligustrum braving the cold.  One sees the first leaves of bulbs shouldering their way up through the frozen soil.

But where are the warm reds and oranges, yellow, pinks, lilac and blues of summer’s garden?  February feels so drab by comparison.


February 15 'Inchworm' green and February 17 'Jazzyberry Jam' shine in this bit of turf beside the pond.

February 15 ‘Inchworm’ green and February 17 ‘Jazzyberry Jam’ shine in this bit of turf beside the pond.


Jenny’s colors this week reflect a much more lively palette than this February day can provide.  We may find tints in the sunset sky, but the intensity of ‘Hot Magenta,’ ‘Laser Lemon’ and ‘Jazzberry Jam’ remain a distant memory in the depths of a Virginia winter.  Maybe we’ll take a rain check until May…..


February 18 'Jungle Green' shadows surround this Great Blue Heron meditating on Halfway Creek.

February 18 ‘Jungle Green’ shadows surround this Great Blue Heron meditating on Halfway Creek.


A neighbor’s wild Crocus patch along the road often blooms in February.  Perhaps those soft shades of lavender petals and bright orange stamens will break ground soon.  Our souls need color to see us through this next bit of cold and muck!


February 20, Lavender Crocus which bloomed this day two years ago.

February 20, ‘Lavender’    Crocus which bloomed this day two years ago in the edge of a neighbor’s yard.


But the sun shone brightly by this afternoon, and the clear sky reflected deep, brilliant shades of blue.   We drove out of the woods and spotted a pair of swans feeding along the edges of Jones Mill Pond.


February 16,2016 sunset 033


Our brilliant winter sun slid ever so slowly down the sky, playing hide and seek behind clouds heralding the next cold front slipping through here tonight.  We watched those purple tinged clouds grow fiery red, orange, pink and yellow as the sun sank towards the horizon.

Each day grows noticeably longer in February; one of this month’s few blessings.


College Creek at Archer's Hope

College Creek at Archer’s Hope


So Jenny, we weren’t entirely successful in our hunt for this week’s CYW color challenge colors.

But here is what we did find, and we find it lovely enough for this mid-February Virginia day.


Wait, Could that be 'Laser Lemon' in this evening's sunset? February 19, scored.....

Wait, Could that be ‘Laser Lemon’ in this evening’s sunset? February 19, scored…..


Thank you, Jenny, for sponsoring the Color Your World photo challenge this spring.  I’m happy to participate in Jennifer Nichole Wells’s new “Color My World: One Hundred Days of Crayola” photo challenge.

Jenny is working from the Crayola Crayon chart of colors, and offers a new color challenge each day for 120 days, beginning January 1.

I’ll aim for one post each week, sharing photos of as many of that week’s colors as I’m able.


And finally, February 14, 'Hot Magenta' Hellebores give us that shot of color we crave so badly....

And finally, February 14, ‘Hot Magenta’ Hellebores give us that shot of color we crave so badly….  These, blooming in our garden before this latest snow…


Woodland Gnome 2016


February 16,2016 sunset 024

Sunday Dinner: Spirit Swans

September 26, 2015 swans 001~

“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience.

We are spiritual beings having a human experience.”


Pierre Teilhard de Chardin


September 26, 2015 swans 002


“One thing: you have to walk,

and create the way by your walking;

you will not find a ready-made path.

It is not so cheap, to reach to the ultimate realization of truth.

You will have to create the path by walking yourself;

the path is not ready-made, lying there and waiting for you.

It is just like the sky: the birds fly,

but they don’t leave any footprints.

You cannot follow them;

there are no footprints left behind.”




September 26, 2015 swans 006


“I once listened to an Indian on television

say that God was in the wind and the water,

and I wondered at how beautiful that was

because it meant

you could swim in Him

or have Him brush your face in a breeze.”


Donald Miller


September 26, 2015 swans 003


“We are all connected;

To each other, biologically.

To the earth, chemically.

To the rest of the universe atomically.”


Neil deGrasse Tyson


September 26, 2015 swans 007~

“The power of human thought grows exponentially

with the number of minds that share that thought.”


Dan Brown


September 26, 2015 swans 009~

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2015

Jones Mill Pond, along the Colonial Parkway, near Yorktown, Virginia


September 26, 2015 swans 008~

“The Way is not in the sky;

the Way is in the heart.”


Gautama Buddha


November 12, 2014 golden day 134


“Patience is power.
Patience is not an absence of action;
rather it is “timing.”
It waits on the right time to act,
for the right principles
and in the right way.”

Fulton J. Sheen



November 12, 2014 golden day 047


“A waiting person is a patient person.

The word patience means the willingness

to stay where we are

and live the situation out  to the full

in the belief that something hidden there

will manifest itself to us.”


Henri J.M. Nouwen


November 12, 2014 golden day 146


“Knowing trees,

I understand the meaning of patience.

Knowing grass, I can appreciate persistence.”

Hal Borland



November 22, 2014 frost 017.


Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014



November 4, 2014 parkway 082

Silent Sunday

November 12, 2014 golden day 062
“A human being is part of a whole, called by us the ‘Universe,’ a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest–a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness.
This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest us.
Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”

                                         Albert Einstein


November 12, 2014 golden day 023


Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

All Is A Miracle

November 12, 2014 golden day 084


“People usually consider walking on water

or in thin air a miracle.

But I think the real miracle

is not to walk either on water or in thin air,

but to walk on earth.

Every day we are engaged in a miracle

which we don’t even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds,

green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child –

– our own two eyes.

All is a miracle.”



       Thích Nhất Hạnh



November 12, 2014 golden day 060



“The source of love is deep in us

and we can help others realize a lot of happiness.

One word, one action,

one thought

can reduce another person’s suffering

and bring that person joy.”


        Thích Nhất Hạnh



November 12, 2014 golden day 021


“Because you are alive, everything is possible.”


       Thích Nhất Hạnh






In remembrance of Zen teacher, poet,

writer, and peace activist

Thich Nhat Hanh,

who is in hospital.

Updated information


November 11, 1926–


Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

The Birds Don’t Mind….

Great Blue Heron on the bank of Halfway Creek

Great Blue Heron on the bank of Halfway Creek

Some might call today “a grey day,”  but the birds don’t mind.

And neither do we.

We’ve enjoyed this cool rainy day.

June 12, 2014 eggplant 051

A lovely break after the heat earlier this week.  We had hot sunshine and temps over 100 just a few days ago.

But today we have enjoyed the fog and mist.

June 12, 2014 eggplant 055

The sky is sculpture in motion with great dark clouds, but our garden looks vibrant.

And the birds are loving it!

We took a drive down the Parkway after running some errands this morning.

June 12, 2014 eggplant 048

And to our surprise we found three swans in Halfway Creek.  They appear to be the same three who were hanging out in College Creek on Sunday afternoon.

My friends believe this is a family of parents and cygnet, who has not yet gone out on her own.

June 12, 2014 eggplant 046

The three are harmonious together, whatever their relationship might be.

And we were happy to find them again.

The Parkway is alive today with eagles and herons, red winged blackbirds, ravens, and a hawk high up in a pine.

We couldn’t stop for all, but we managed to photograph a few.

And we still made it home before the skies opened up again to give us another delicious shower.

June 12, 2014 eggplant 054

What a beautiful day.


Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

June 12, 2014 eggplant 053


College Creek, A Little Bit of Heaven

The view of college Creek from our friends' deck.  This is their little bit of heaven.

The view of College Creek from our friends’ deck. This is their little bit of heaven.  Do you see the Great Blue Heron standing on the pier?

Friends invited us to sit with them on their deck overlooking College Creek yesterday afternoon.

They see all sorts of beautiful creatures in the shallows of the creek behind their home.  I’ve been hearing about swans and wild turkeys, eagles, herons, turtles, and other  four leggeds who snack on their garden.

So we sat in the shade and enjoyed the breeze blowing in from the water as we visited.

June 8, 2014 swans 002

I went despite  a sting on my right hand earned earlier in the day while  trying to plant a Lantana in the wrong spot.

There was a nest of ground dwelling stinging insects right where I tried to dig.  Probably yellow jackets, there was no apparent warning before the sharp pain in my hand.  One stung, right through my gardening glove.

I’m never afraid of bees or wasps.  In fact, I kept bees for several years once upon a time.

June 8, 2014 swans 010

Always respectful of them, we generally coexist peacefully.  And would have yesterday had I known of their nest in advance.

But, I heard their buzzing after the shooting pain; and dropped my spade and skedaddled into the house to assess what had happened.

June 8, 2014 swans 008

The puncture was small, and the immediate pain mostly washed away under cold water and a poultice of baking soda, which draws out the venom.

I went out to finish what was in progress (well away from where I had been working) and to clean up.  But, unlike with most stings, this pain just kept spreading.

It has been an interesting time since. 

June 8, 2014 swans 011

Our friends gave me ice for the hand, and Merlot for the spirit.  An excellent prescription.

We had a good  visit catching up with one another, while watching swans, lizards, fishing Osprey eagles and a beautiful Great Blue Heron.

They shared their little bit of heaven with me.

June 8, 2014 swans 015

But my hand is still reacting to whatever venom chased me away from the  underground nest of stinging creatures.  It is swollen and sore.  Not much good for typing at the moment.

And Benadryl, while helping the swelling in my hand, leaves the rest of me a bit foggy. Summer here often feels like an endless succession of bites and stings.

I was happy to hear the rain this morning, which meant the entire garden was watered nicely without any participation from me.  And more is on the way.

June 8, 2014 swans 017

I hope you enjoy these photos from Sunday afternoon along College Creek.  And I hope your weekend was also spent with friends and loved ones doing the things you most enjoy.

Osprey Eagle seen yesterday on the James River

Osprey Eagle seen yesterday on the James River

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014


May 23, 2014 Mountain Laurel 002

We stopped at this pond along the Colonial Parkway yesterday to take photos of Mountain Laurel growing on the opposite shore, but were delighted to find a family of swans living on the lake.

We see swans here from time to time, perhaps once or twice a year.

Always a rare treat, we were especially happy to find this pair caring for their cygnets.

These are Mute Swans, Cygnus olor, native to Europe and parts of Asia.

The Mute Swan may be recognized by his white plumage and orange beak outlined in black.

The Mute Swan may be recognized by his white plumage and orange beak outlined in black.

One of the largest birds, swans were introduced to North America in the 19th century to live in ponds on estates.

The wild Mute Swans found in North America today are the descendents of swans once imported to live as pets or as a food source  at these aristocratic homes.

May 23, 2014 Mountain Laurel 017

Domesticated and used for food in parts of  Europe, the native population of swans was at one time nearly decimated.  No longer commonly used for food, these beautiful birds have recovered.

Swans mate for life.  The pen, or female swan lays an average of four eggs each spring.

May 24 2014 vines 059

The cygnets must be four to five months old before they are able to fly.  Both parents stay with the cygnets, protecting them as they grow.

This family allowed me to photograph them eating in the shallows of the pond yesterday.

When a chatty group of tourists approached, the family took off for the center of the pond.

May 23, 2014 Mountain Laurel 028

We returned today to see them again, and found them eating near the shore.

Swans eat roots, tubers, and leaves of plants growing in the shallows.

Notice the plant material in the adult swan's beak.  The family is foraging for algea, roots, tubers, and leaves of aquatic plants.

Notice the plant material in the adult swan’s beak. The family is foraging for algae, roots, tubers, and leaves of aquatic plants.

They don’t dive, but instead forage in shallow water for what may be growing there.  Here they have cattails, Iris, grasses,  Pickerel Weed and algae.

Mostly herbivores, swans will also eat grasses and seed crops on land.

May 24 2014 vines 066

Again today, a chatty group of tourists approached as I photographed the swans.

But instead of swimming off, the male stood up tall, paddling both feet, hissing and flapping his wings to frighten them away.   This display is known as “basking.”

The cob swan is finishing his display of "basking" to warn off a perceived threat from other visitors.  I was not quick enough to catch him with his wings outstretched and flapping.

The cob swan is finishing his display of “basking” to warn off a perceived threat from other visitors. I was not quick enough to catch him with his wings outstretched and flapping.

Had the tourists not moved on at the warning, or had they tried to climb down the bank; the cob, or male swan, would most likely  have attacked to protect his family.

Mute Swans earned their name by being less vocal than other swan species, but they are not silent.

May 23, 2014 Mountain Laurel 013

They hiss to ward of threats, and make other sounds to communicate with one another.

Much like Canada Geese, Mute Swans have grown to such large populations in some areas, especially around the Great Lakes, that they are considered an invasive species.

Because they can be aggressive towards people, especially when nesting and caring for their young, swans are considered a problem in some areas in parks and on beaches.

May 23, 2014 Mountain Laurel 011

Their population currently increases 10%-20% each year.

These swans can eat a great deal of vegetation over the course of a few months, as the cygnets are growing to maturity,  and the family remain in place to raise them.

When the cygnets finally learn to fly, and the family decides it is time to migrate for the winter, they fly in a V shaped formation, much like geese.  Flying with their long necks outstretched, they are also recognized by the rhythmic sound of their beating wings.

May 23, 2014 Mountain Laurel 017

Virginia has mild enough winters that the family may decide to stay and skip the winter migration, just like our Canada Geese live here all year.

Beautiful and graceful, swans glide so smoothly across the water that one forgets that these large birds can be fierce.  They are a novelty around Williamsburg.

Although we’ve found single swans swimming in ponds and along College Creek in past years, this is the first time we’ve spotted a family of swans with young.

May 24 2014 vines 056

There is abundant food and habitat to support a growing population of swans.  The few predators who might threaten, like snapping turtles or foxes, are present in our area and will limit population growth to some small extent.

Judging by the ever growing population of Canada Geese in our area, predators are not a major problem for our local waterfowl.

I expect that we will spots swans more frequently in the future, and we will continue to stop and appreciate their grace and beauty.

May 24 2014 vines 061

All Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014




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