Seeds of Appreciation

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“The invariable mark of wisdom
is to see the miraculous in the common.”
.
Emerson

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“Those with a grateful mindset
tend to see the message in the mess.
And even though life may knock them down,
the grateful find reasons,
if even small ones, to get up.”

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Steve Maraboli

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“Life off Earth
is in two important respects not at all unworldly:
you can choose to focus on the surprises and pleasures, or the frustrations.
And you can choose to appreciate the smallest scraps of experience,
the everyday moments,
or to value only the grandest, most stirring ones.”
.
Chris Hadfield

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“Tiny seed (embryo, food, a coat and a code)
gathered food from the dirt and turned itself, slowly,
into a giant tree.
Simple thing became complex and strong.
But for the embryo to eat and grow,
it needed water to activate enzymes to break down storage compounds.
Soil poverty also affected plant growth:
the seed needed loose soil rich in organic matter,
a good soil temperature, oxygen in the soil,
and light to germinate.
People were like seeds.”
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Tamara Pearson

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“The word is like a seed, and the human mind is so fertile,
but only for those kinds of seeds it is prepared for.”
.
Miguel Ruiz

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“Meanwhile, let us have a sip of tea.
The afternoon glow is brightening the bamboos,
the fountains are bubbling with delight,
the soughing of the pines is heard in our kettle.
Let us dream of evanescence
and linger in the beautiful foolishness of things.”
.
Kakuzō Okakura

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Wishing you every happiness this Thanksgiving

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2019

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Wildlife Wednesday: Great Blue Heron

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“Here is your country.
Cherish these natural wonders, cherish the natural resources,
cherish the history and romance as a sacred heritage,
for your children and your children’s children.
Do not let selfish men or greedy interests
skin your country of its beauty,
its riches or its romance.”
.
Theodore Roosevelt
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“Nature is not a place to visit. It is home.”
.
Gary Snyder
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“The wild is where you find it,
not in some distant world relegated to a nostalgic past
or an idealized future;
its presence is not black or white, bad or good,
corrupted or innocent…
We are of that nature, not apart from it.
We survive because of it, not instead of it.”
.
Renee Askins

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2019

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“The boundary between tame and wild
exists only in the imperfections
of the human mind.”
.
Aldo Leopold


Still Learning How To See

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“I keep drawing the trees, the rocks, the river,
I’m still learning how to see them;
I’m still discovering how to render their forms.
I will spend a lifetime doing that.
Maybe someday I’ll get it right.”
.
Alan Lee

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“In a forest of a hundred thousand trees,
no two leaves are alike.
And no two journeys
along the same path are alike.”
.
Paulo Coelho

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“There is life and death in all forest,
the life will bring you beauty
and the dead will bring you new life!”
.
Roland Kemler

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“One moment the world is as it is.
The next, it is something entirely different.
Something it has never been before.”
.
Anne Rice

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“So many hues in nature
and yet nothing remained the same,
every day, every season
a work of genius, a free gift
from the Artist of artists.”
.
E.A. Bucchianeri

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“This is why children can see Angels, touch spirits,
hear the songs of the trees, and talk to the animals.
Quite simply, they acknowledge the magic.”
.
Elizabeth Eiler

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At first glance, it was just another wet and chilly February day.  The sounds of wind and rain had awakened me in the night, another storm passing over swelling creeks and spongy ground.  Heavy clouds still roiled across the sky, blocking all of the golden from the cold, grey light that reached us.

It was still a day worth using, and so we set out to have a look at the river after brunch and before busy-ness.

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There is beauty and grace, even in February.  There is the halo of faint color around the latticework of limbs, clothed in swelling buds.  There is the wake left by a passing work boat, and moss glowing thick and green through the gloom. There is the delicate etching of branches stretching for the sky; the living nearly indistinguishable from the dead.

I paused to consider that after a life-time of looking, I’m really still learning how to see….

Woodland Gnome 2019

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“Everything has beauty,
but not everyone sees it.”
.
Confucious

Sunday Dinner: Vision

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“While there is perhaps a province
in which the photograph can tell us nothing more
than what we see with our own eyes,
there is another in which it proves to us
how little our eyes permit us to see.”
.
Dorothea Lange

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“How you look at it
is pretty much how you’ll see it”
.
Rasheed Ogunlaru

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“The power to concentrate was the most important thing.
Living without this power
would be like opening one’s eyes
without seeing anything.”
.
Haruki Murakami

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“The more boundless your vision,
the more real you are.”
.
Deepak Chopra

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“If the doors of perception were cleansed,
everything would appear to man as it is –
infinite.”
.
William Blake

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“Your heart is able to see things
that your eyes aren’t able to.”
.
Kholoud Yasser

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“I await your sentence
with less fear than you pass it.
The time will come
when all will see what I see.”
.
Giordano Bruno

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“At the moment of vision,
the eyes see nothing.”
.
William Golding 

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014-2019

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“You get what you focus on.”
.
Chris Hutchinson

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“After all, … your eyes only see
what your mind lets you believe.”
.
Paul Jenkins

 

Season’s Change

Daucus carota, from a grocery store carrot planted this spring, blooms alongside perennial Geranium in our garden.

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We feel the season’s change every time we open the kitchen door and step outside.

The air is soft and thick, perfumed by millions of tiny white flowers opening now on the uncounted Ligustrum shrubs surrounding the garden.  It smells of summer, stirring some nearly forgotten restlessness echoing across the years, from summers long, long passed.

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The sweetness permeates the warm breeze, full of promises and  vague intrigue.  In the early morning, the breeze holds an invitation and a dare, drawing us outside to ‘seize the day.’

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By noon it grows oppressive, rank with humidity and pulsing with summer’s heat.

The air buzzes now.  Bees mind their business, methodically working flower to flower, unless startled into a quick evasive maneuver out of range.

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Asclepias syriaca, common milkweed, blooms along Jones Mill Pond on the Colonial Parkway.

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But mayflies and mosquitoes buzz in as close as they dare, waiting for a flash of skin to light and drink, waiting for a moment of distraction to attack.

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Birds call out to one another, chirping at the cat napping on the deck, warning intruders off from nests.  Ever vigilant, ever hungry; the swoosh of restless wings cuts the thick air, in pursuit of another bite of summer’s bounty.

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Our garden explodes in growth.  Warm, humid nights coax even the most reluctant perennials to pulse into life.

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Verbena bonariensis stretches towards the sky even as it spreads across the garden.

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Responding to the season’s magic, stalks rise and leaves open to the cadence of  croaked and clicked incantations wafting on the evening air.

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The air is thick with leaves, trees now fully clothed make living green walls and ceilings around our garden’s rooms.  Bamboo arises, thick and green, sealing us in from the wildness of the ravine.

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Flowers appear in every shade of purple and gold, white and ruby.  They sparkle through the sea of green, enchanting in their transience.

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Wildflowers nod along the bank of Jones Millpond on the Colonial Parkway in York County.

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Spring’s flowers have come and gone.  The last few foxglove, beaten down by the rain, limply bloom at the ends of stalks swelling with seed.

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A few Iris pods swell, too; overlooked in my pruning.  Daffodil leaves have grown limp, yellowing and fading to make room for something new to arise.

Summer’s flowers replace them, filled with nectar and bursting with pollen, a magnet for every sort and  size of pollinator.

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We feel the season’s change every time we step outside the haven of air conditioning and window screens.  When we dare leave the shade in the afternoon, a fierce sun burns down upon us.

We want the smaller shades offered by hats and sleeves; the relative safety of socks and gloves and thick jeans protecting us from ‘the bities’.

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Colonial Parkway, near Jamestown, where wild prickly-pear cactus bloom in summer.

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As the days grow longer and the nights warmer, we feel ourselves drawn to the top of the year.

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Mid-summer beckons, only days away.  Nature calls us to come out and join our own human voices in the buzzing, clicking, croaking, swooshing, chorus of life.

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This is the time of sweetness and abundance, full of promises, eternally youthful and energetic.

Summer at last.

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Woodland Gnome 2018

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A Gardener’s Journey

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Becoming a gardener is a journey.

It is a journey of discovery; a journey of evolution.

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To begin with a bit of dirt, a splash of water and a tiny seed or leaf or stem or root, and coax that living tissue into a beautiful and productive plant, is a journey, too.

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A gardener begins with a question:  “How does that grow?”

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And every answer she discovers leads to more and more interesting questions.

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The journey lasts a lifetime.

From the first seed sown in a bit of mud as a child, to the creation and care for garden upon garden upon garden throughout one’s life; the gardener herself ripens as the journey continues.

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There are salads to grow and herbs for cooking.

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We plant flowers, fruit, mosses, ferns, roses, grasses and graceful trees to flower in early springtime.

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There are long and twisty names to learn; and knotty, weedy problems to resolve.

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We learn to shape a plant with skillful pruning.

We have soils to amend, mulch to spread, oils to spray and compost to make.

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There is always more to learn, and there are always tasks waiting for us to accomplish, along the way.

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Some gardeners choose to quietly tend their own gardens.  They make their journey largely on their knees, coaxing the earth into fertility and abundance.

They lay their daily table with the fruits of their devotion.

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Some gardeners create something new.  They play matchmaker in their beds and breed new and better and different and healthier plants to introduce to the horticultural world.

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Some design and some construct.  Others experiment with new ways to adapt to a changing environment, and find ways to increase the land’s productivity.

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Some raise quantities of plants to supply to others, and create beautiful nurseries to inspire their brother and sister gardeners.

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And some gardeners share what they have learned with others.  They pass along plants,  offer advice, and help other gardeners find answers to their questions.

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It is all a part of the journey:  Asking, learning, propagating, teaching, sowing, amending, pruning and investing one’s energy in making something grow; making a place more beautiful.

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A gardener works to heal the planet.  We create beautiful spaces for people and safe spaces for wildlife.

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We nurture plants to cleanse the air and perfume it.  We plant to build and hold the soil and purify the water.

We feed our families and ourselves.

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If you find yourself somewhere along this path, then you are on a journey of happiness and good fortune.

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Root something; share something. 

And feel your own roots and branches expanding ever further into this beautiful world we share.

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Woodland Gnome 2018

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Sunday Dinner: On the Path

Ocracoke Lighthouse April 2007

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“There are no wrong turnings.
Only paths we had not known
we were meant to walk.”
.
Guy Gavriel Kay
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Route 101 near Depot Bay, Oregon 2010.

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“It is not we who seek the Way,
but the Way which seeks us.
That is why you are faithful to it,
even while you stand waiting,
so long as you are prepared,
and act the moment you are confronted
by its demands.”
.
Dag Hammarskjöld
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Powhatan Creek, Virginia January 2018

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“You never know what’s around the corner.
It could be everything. Or it could be nothing.
You keep putting one foot in front of the other,
and then one day you look back
and you’ve climbed a mountain.”
.
Tom Hiddleston
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Yaquina Head Lighthouse Oregon 2010

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“If you do not change direction,
you may end up where you are heading”
.
Gautama Buddha
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The Colonial Parkway, Virginia 2014

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“What you’re missing
is that the path itself changes you.”
.
Julien Smith
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Near the York River, November 2014

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“…the universe…sets out little signposts for us
along the way, to confirm
that we’re on the right path.” 
.
Michelle Maisto
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Cape Foulweather Lookout, Oregon October 2017

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Photos by Woodland Gnome

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Along the Chickahominy River August 2016

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“End?
No, the journey doesn’t end here.
Death is just another path.
One that we all must take.”
.
J.R.R. Tolkien
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Native Trees: American Sycamore

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North America’s trees were considered one of its greatest treasures both by European colonists like John Bartram and his son William, and by European gardeners eagerly awaiting shipments of seed from ‘the colonies.’

Our many varieties of conifers and hardwood are as beautiful as they are useful.  North American trees were planted extensively in European gardens soon after Jamestown was settled.  The early colonists were always on the lookout for ‘useful plants’ to send back home.

These same prized trees still grow wild here in Virginia, today.

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The American Sycamore grows on the bank of Jones Millpond in York County, Virginia

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One of my favorite native American trees is the American sycamore, Platanus occidentalis.   Also called ‘bottonwood tree,’ named for its round fruits which persist through winter, the sycamore may also be called an American plane tree.

I particularly like this tree’s mottled, light colored bark, and its beautiful branching form.

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The sycamore prefers moist soil and can often be found in the wild in lowlands and near bodies of water. Yet it will grow in many different environments in Zones 4-9.  It’s native range extends from Florida, north into Canada, and westwards into Texas and Oklahoma.  It is also considered a native tree in Oregon.

The sycamore will quickly grow into a massive shade tree, with a thick trunk (to more than 6 feet in diameter), a broad canopy, and a mature height of over 130 feet.  Its extensive roots can damage nearby walls or sidewalks, yet it is a common street tree in cities.  A sycamore can handle the heat and polluted air of urban areas, where it is enjoyed for its beauty and its shade.  Its dense canopy helps filter the air.

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This Sycamore grows on the banks of the James River near Jamestown Island.

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I enjoy visiting this lovely sycamore growing on the bank of Jones Millpond, alone the Colonial Parkway between Williamsburg and Yorktown throughout the year.  It is pleasing in all seasons.

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There are several notable sycamore trees in our area.  Their interesting branches and bright bark make them easy to recognize.  In winter, the seedpods hanging from their branches playfully sway in the wind.

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A sycamore tree’s wood is useful for making things, but it isn’t a preferred wood for furniture making.  It doesn’t produce edible nuts or leaves.

It is valued more as a beautiful landscape tree and for the shade it gives in summer.

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The distinctive leaves and bark help identify this tree as a Platanus

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The sycamore ranks high among my favorite native American trees.

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Woodland Gnome 2018
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Even when pruned hard in a style called pollarding, the Platanus is easily recognized by its light colored bark. This tree grows in Colonial Williamsburg.

Solstice Sunset

Powhatan Creek at sunset on Winter Solstice.

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Today we celebrate the Winter Solstice, that time of year when days are short and nights are long.  Our day in Williamsburg, Virginia, began at 7:17 AM with sunrise, and ended at 4:53 PM as the sun set.  Our day was nine hours and 36 minutes long today.

But, as I look at a table of sunrise and sunset times, I notice that yesterday, and everyday since last Sunday, has been exactly the same length.  The difference is that the sunrise was a minute or two later, but so was the sunset!  In fact,  our earliest sunset of the year, at 4:49 PM, occurred on December 2 this year.  The sun has been setting a minute or two later each day since the 12th, when sunset occurred at 4:50 PM.

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Sunrise continues to come a bit later each day.  Today the sun rose at 7:17, but by Saturday it will rise at 7:18, and on Christmas Monday it  won’t appear until 7:19 AM.  The sun will continue rising a bit later each morning until December 31,  when it rises at 7:21 AM.

It isn’t until the 13th of January that the rising sun reverses itself and comes up a minute earlier, at 7:20.  By January 13, the day will have grown to nine hours and 50 minutes, as the sun is setting at 4:50 once again.

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Each day between now, and December 27, will continue on at exactly nine hours and 36 minutes.  That means that we will have a run of 11 days of ‘the shortest day of the year,’ of only nine hours and 36 minutes of daylight.  As the sun sets a minute later, so the sun also rises a minute later, in perfect choreography, until December 28, when the day grows by a minute to nine hours and 37 minutes at last.  On New Year’s Day, our daylight will have grown to nine hours and 38 minutes, with sunrise at seven 21 and sunset at 4:59.

Perhaps this very long run of short days and worsening weather is why we need the brightness of the  holidays to cheer our souls and help us through this extended period of darkness.  I feel grateful for every light display I see along the way, as darkness gathers in late afternoon, and the wind bites with cold.

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I relish these early evenings, too.  Watching the sky turn bright with sunset color, and seeing our beautiful trees silhouetted against the deepening sky is a breathtakingly beautiful way to end our day.  Except it isn’t the end of the day, is it?

The early sunset may send us indoors, but we enjoy the long, quiet winter evenings together.  We may hear the owls calling to one another in the ravine.  I make tea, fix snacks, and work on holiday chores.   I paint and sculpt, read and crochet.  It may be long past midnight before I give up the day for sleep, knowing that morning will dawn quite late on the morrow!

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We are in the darkest part of the year: Yule.  And that has been amplified this week with the new moon on Monday.  Settling comfortably into darkness, we gather with friends and loved ones, forming our intentions and making our wishes in anticipation of the year’s turning and return of longer days of sunlight.

Some light a Yule log and keep it burning until the days grow longer once again.  Some light candles to warm winter’s long nights, or light lamps.  Here, we string Christmas lights and enjoy their nightly glow.  We keep them up and burning deep into January, when we can feel the year has turned and days have grown longer once again.

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Tonight, we went out to watch the Solstice sunset.  We left soon after four, camera in hand, and enjoyed a beautiful late afternoon drive on the Colonial Parkway.  We were driving west towards Jamestown, and the sun was brightly blazing even as it dipped towards the horizon before us.  I had to wear my shades and still shield my eyes against its intensity.

We may have made a detour…. there may have been mint ice cream involved…

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Suffice it to say, we were running a bit close when we headed back to the Parkway to photograph the setting sun.  Seconds count, and that fiery orb had already dipped below the James River before we were in position.  But the sky was still ablaze, and the new moon hanging in a pristine sky, growing brighter with each passing minute.

Winter Solstice is one of my favorite days of the year.  We have celebrated this day since my own little one was tiny, with special food, and gifts, and music and merry-making.  It marks the passage from weeks of preparation to conscious celebration of the waning of one year and fresh beginnings of the next.  I envy friends born on this special day, and always keep it as the beginning of our Christmas celebrations.

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My mind turns to The Holly King of legend, who shines brightly in our barren, wintery woods.  Aglow in bright red berries, hollies shine through mist and snow and gloomy winter days.  Winter is their prime time, when the oaks and other hardwoods have gone dormant and dropped their leaves.

I wish you a happy Solstice and a Merry Yule.

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These are special days, and I hope you keep them well.  With love shining brightly in our hearts, we journey through these last days of 2017 and find our way into a new solar year.  May peace and happiness journey with you, and may 2018 offer you fresh possibilities, new opportunities and abundant joy.

Woodland Gnome 2017

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The James River

WPC: Peek

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“The important thing is not to stop questioning.

Curiosity has its own reason for existence.

One cannot help but be in awe

when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity,

of life, of the marvelous structure of reality.

It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend

a little of this mystery each day.”

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Albert Einstein

 

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Sunset this afternoon found us driving together on the Colonial Parkway, admiring the autumn colors finally intensifying in the surrounding forest.    Though the hardwoods are still mostly green, there are glorious highlights of gold and scarlet around the edges, and they were nowhere more beautiful than bathed in the golden rays of late afternoon.

We stopped at Jones Mill Pond to admire them.  The water was glassy.  There wasn’t the slightest hint of a breeze to mar the peaceful mirror of the water’s surface.   We listened to the quiet as we drank in the colors of the changing season and enjoyed the ever changing light.

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“The most beautiful experience we can have

is the mysterious.

It is the fundamental emotion

that stands at the cradle of true art and true science.”

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Albert Einstein

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Just as I was headed back to the car, I noticed something else even more mysterious than evening gathering over the waters of the pond.

What are they?  And how long have they been lurking here?

Please take a ‘peek’ and see what you think….

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“No, I would not want to live in a world without dragons,
as I would not want to live in a world without magic,
for that is a world without mystery,
and that is a world without faith.”

.
R.A. Salvatore
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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2017
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“This week, share a peek of something —
a photo that reveals just enough of your subject to get us interested.
A tantalizing detail. An unusual perspective.
Compel us to click through to your post to find out more!”

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For the Daily Post’s

Weekly Photo Challenge:  Peek

 

 

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