Six (or more?) Surprises on Saturday

Scilla

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This past week has been filled with surprises.  We swept right out of the fringe and frigid edges of the so-called ‘Polar Vortex’ into a few days of balmy spring weather.  The last three days have been as near to perfect weather as one could possibly hope for in February in Virginia.

Its been warm, dry, and sometimes a little sunny these past few days.  Signs of spring are literally bursting out of ground, buds on trees are swelling and those of us already itching to get busy for spring have heeded the call to come out of the cozy house and outdoors to make use of these unexpected days.

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The first of our red Camellia japonica bloomed this week.

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I’ve spent many happy hours outside these past several days flitting like some crazed butterfly from one part of the garden to the next, looking for growth even as I got on with the business of pruning and clearing beds.   We actually spotted a butterfly on Wednesday afternoon.

We don’t know whether it awoke from its chrysalis too soon, or migrated too far north too early.  Its orange and brown wings caught our eye as it fluttered around some old cedar trees, an unusual color to find in the garden in February.  It may have been a Fritillary; we didn’t get close enough to do more than determine it wasn’t an early Monarch.  We were both very surprised to see it, and wish it well and safe shelter as we return to more seasonable temperatures this weekend.

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Our first Iris reticulata of the season. This cultivar is ‘Pauline.’ Squirrels have been digging around this patch of bulbs and I’ve repaired their damage several times. I’m happily surprised to discover these blooming.

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The butterfly turned up a day after we found a honeybee feeding on the Mahonia, and the same day we found a colony of ground bees awake and foraging near the ravine.  I was glad to notice the ground bees buzzing around as I headed their way with a cart full of pruned branches…. before they noticed me!  I didn’t stumble into them and they didn’t feel a need to warn me off.

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The first leaves of daffodils remind us where we’ve planted in years gone by, and entice us with the promise of flowers on their way.

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We saw our first blooming daffodils of the year, blooming beside the fence at the Williamsburg Botanical Garden.  We discovered the first blooming Iris histrioides of the year, the first dandelion of the season shining golden in our ‘lawn,’ and the first ruby red Camellia japonica flowers on the shrubs near the street.

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Osmanthus ‘Goshiki’ planted out several years ago, after devastating damage from caterpillars one summer.  It has been very slow to recover and slow to grow.  Its beautiful leaves make it worth the effort.

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The most interesting surprise came yesterday afternoon when I placed a cutting of our Osmanthus ‘Goshiki’, that has been growing in our garden for the last several years, into a one of the little shrubs I believed to be a variegated English holly.

We bought these shrubs as English holly in November of 2017 at a chain home improvement store and sporting a big name plant tag.  I never questioned the label and have written about them as English holly over the past few years.

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Can you spot the cutting taken from our Osmanthus growing in the upper garden?

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But them California horticulturalist Tony Tomeo called me out.  He commented on the post about taking stem cuttings, saw the little holly cuttings with the eyes of experience, and told me that what I was calling variegated English holly was, in fact, variegated false holly, Osmanthus ‘Goshiki.’

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Now you see it… an exact match …

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It took me a day to process what was so plain to him.  I photographed my shrubs, took a cutting from an older Osmanthus and set it seamlessly into the holly in a pot by our kitchen door.  Their leaves were identical.  Tony was correct and I had missed it in my own garden.

This is actually very good news.  At maturity, the Osmanthus will grow to only half the size of an English holly.  It has softer leaves and tolerates full shade.  An English holly wants full sun, which is hard to find in our garden.  Correctly identifying the shrub has proven a happy surprise for us.

Today we settle back into winter clothes and winter routines, but my heart is awake to the energy of spring.  I’m motivated to continue the clean-up and pruning; polishing the garden stage for the next act waiting in the wings: spring.

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Woodland Gnome 2019

Many thanks to The Propagator for hosting Six on Saturday each week.

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Sunday Dinner: Faith

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“All the world is made of faith,
and trust, and pixie dust.”
.
J.M. Barrie
~

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“All I have seen
teaches me to trust the Creator
for all I have not seen.”
.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
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“I have come to accept the feeling
of not knowing where I am going.
And I have trained myself to love it.
Because it is only when we are suspended in mid-air
with no landing in sight,
that we force our wings to unravel
and alas begin our flight.
And as we fly,
we still may not know where we are going to.
But the miracle is in the unfolding of the wings.
You may not know where you’re going,
but you know that so long as you spread your wings,
the winds will carry you.”
.
C. JoyBell
~
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“And still, after all this time,
The sun never says to the earth,
“You owe Me.”

Look what happens with
A love like that,
It lights the Whole Sky.”

.
Hafez
~
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“Do not be afraid; our fate
Cannot be taken from us; it is a gift.”
.
Dante Alighieri
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Woodland Gnome 2017
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“None of us knows what might happen
even the next minute,
yet still we go forward.
Because we trust.
Because we have Faith.”
.
Paulo Coelho
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Transformation

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“Be content with what you have;
rejoice in the way things are.
When you realize there is nothing lacking,
the whole world belongs to you.”

.

Lao Tzu

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There is sadness in wandering along our familiar garden paths in these first few days after frost touched our garden.    Withered leaves litter the ground.  Herbaceous stems droop, their once rigid cells irreparably broken when they froze.

What was once growing a bit more beautiful each day, is now clearly in decline.  Papery brown seedheads replace vibrant flowers.    Our trees grow more naked each day.

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“Do you have the patience

to wait until your mud settles

and the water is clear?”

.

Lao Tzu

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But as the graceful structure of our trees stands stark against the sky, we see that next spring’s buds are already forming.    When dried leaves drift away on the breeze, the magic is revealed:  new flowers and leaves have already begun to grow along every branch.

The buds will grow more plump and full through the wintery weeks ahead, waiting for conditions to signal them to unfold into new growth.

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“The reason why the universe is eternal

is that it does not live for itself;

it gives life to others

as it transforms.”

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Lao Tzu

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Our sadness in watching the garden decay touches our hearts, even as we understand the familiar process of renewal and re-growth.

Like waves on the beach, things are always coming in, and flowing out.  Like our breath, we receive and we give continually.

Trees draw their life from the soil beneath their roots and the air surrounding their leaves.  And then, after a period of growth, they willingly drop their leaves to decay and feed the life of the soil.  There is balance.

Every root absorbs moisture, and every leaf allows those precious drops of water to evaporate back into the sky.

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“If you realize that all things change,

there is nothing you will try to hold on to.

If you are not afraid of dying,

there is nothing you cannot achieve.”

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Lao Tzu

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Nothing is ever truly gained or lost; everything transforms.  The garden helps us see this truth, and another:  Life goes on. 

No matter the appearance in the moment, life continues; and we are a part of this beautiful flickering, flaming, raging dance of life.

Our sadness springs from our clinging to one beautiful form or another.  And even that sadness can transform to joy, when we see beyond the loss of one thing to welcome what comes back to us in its wake

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Let’s dance the dance of life with joy in our hearts, and embrace the magic of each season of our lives.

~

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Woodland Gnome 2017

Camellia

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“Nothing in the world is permanent,

and we’re foolish when we ask anything to last,

but surely we’re still more foolish

not to take delight in it

while we have it.”

.

W. Somerset Maugham

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“There is no “the way things are.”

Every day is different,

and you live it differently.”

.

Marty Rubin

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2017

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“If a beautiful thing were to remain beautiful for all eternity,
I’d be glad, but all the same I’d look at it with a colder eye.
I’d say to myself: You can look at it any time,
it doesn’t have to be today.”

.
Hermann Hesse

~

For The Daily Post’s
Weekly Photo Challenge:  Temporary

Change Is in the Air

This morning dawned balmy, damp and oh, so bright across our garden!

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Brilliant autumn color finally appeared on our trees this past week, and we are loving this annual spectacle when trees appear as blazing torches in shades of yellow, gold, orange and scarlet.   We have been watching and waiting for this pleasure since the first scarlet leaves appeared on Virginia creeper vines and the rare Sumac in early September.  But summer’s living green cloaked our trees longer than ever before in our memories,  this fall.

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I remember a particularly beautiful autumn in the late 1980s, the year my daughter was born.  I went to the hospital in the second week of October to deliver, with the still summery trees barely showing a hint or shadow of their autumn finery.  When we drove back home with her a couple of days later, I was amazed at the transformation in the landscape.  The trees were bright and gorgeous, as if to celebrate her homecoming.

Once upon a time, I believed that first frost brought color to deciduous leaves.  Our first frost date here in zone 7 is October 15.  We haven’t always had a frost by then, but there is definitely a frosty chill in the evening air by late October here.

But not this year, or last….

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Bees remain busy in our garden, gathering nectar and pollen for the winter months ahead.

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The annual Begonias are still covered with blossoms in my parents’ garden, and our Begonia plants still sit outside in their pots, blooming with enthusiasm, waiting for us to decide to bring them back indoors.  Our days are still balmy and soft; our evenings barely drop below the 50s or 60s.  There is no frost in our forecast through Thanksgiving, at least.

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Our geraniums keep getting bigger and brighter in this gentle, fall weather.

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It is lovely, really.  We are taking pleasure in these days where we need neither heat nor air conditioning.  We are happily procrastinating on the fall round-up of tender potted plants, gleefully calculating how long we can let them remain in the garden and on the deck.  I’m still harvesting herbs and admiring flowers in our fall garden.

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Of course, there are two sides to every coin, as well as its rim.  You may be interested in a fascinating description of just how much our weather patterns have changed since 1980, published by the Associated Press just last week.  Its title, “Climate Change is Shrinking Winter in the US, Scientists Say,”  immediately makes me wonder why less winter is a bad thing.  I am not a fan of winter, personally.  Its saving grace is it lets me wear turtleneck sweaters and jeans nearly every day.

Just why is winter important, unless you are a fan of snowy sports?  Well, anyone who has grown apple, pear or peach trees knows that these trees need a certain number of “chilling hours,” below freezing, to set good fruit.

Certain insects also multiply out of control when there aren’t enough freezing days to reduce their population over winter.    Winter gives agricultural fields a chance to rest, knocks down weeds and helps clear the garden for a fresh beginning every spring.

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But there are other, more important benefits of winter, too.  Slowly melting snow and ice replenish our water tables in a way summer rains, which rapidly run off, never can.  Snow and ice reflect solar energy back into space.  Bodies of water tend to absorb the sun’s energy, further warming the climate.

Methane locked into permafrost is released into the warming atmosphere when permafrost thaws.  And too much warmth during the  winter months coaxes shrubs and perennials into growth too early.  Like our poor Hydrangeas last March, those leaves will freeze and die off on the occasional below-freezing night, often killing the entire shrub.

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By March 5, 2017, our Hydrangeas had leaves and our garden had awakened for spring.  Freezes later in the month killed some of the newer shrubs, and killed most of the flower buds on older ones.

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The article states, ” The trend of ever later first freezes appears to have started around 1980, according to an analysis by The Associated Press of data from 700 weather stations across the U.S. going back to 1895 compiled by Ken Kunkel, a meteorologist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Centers for Environmental Information.

” The average first freeze over the last 10 years, from 2007 to 2016, is a week later than the average from 1971 to 1980, which is before Kunkel said the trend became noticeable.

“This year, about 40 percent of the Lower 48 states have had a freeze as of Oct. 23, compared to 65 percent in a normal year, according to Jeff Masters, meteorology director of the private service Weather Underground.”

Not only has the first freeze of the season grown later and later with each passing year, but the last freeze of the season comes ever earlier.  According to Meteorologist Ken Kunkel, winter 2016 was a full two months shorter than normal in the Pacific Northwest.

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Coastal Oregon, in mid-October 2017, had seen no frost yet. We enjoyed time playing on the beach and visiting the Connie Hansen garden while I was there.  Very few leaves had begun to turn bright for fall, though many were already falling from the trees.

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I’ve noticed something similar with our daffodils and other spring flowers.  Because I photograph them obsessively each year, I have a good record of what should bloom when.  This past spring, the first daffodils opened around February 8 in our garden.  In 2015, we had a February snow, and the first daffodil didn’t begin to open until February 17.  In 2014, the first daffodils opened in our garden in the second week of March.  Most years, we never saw daffodils opening until early to mid- March.  We ran a little more than two weeks early on all of the spring flowers last spring, with roses in full bloom by mid-April.

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March 8, 2014

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Is this ‘shorter winter phenomena’ something we should care about?  What do you think?  Do you mind a shorter winter, an earlier spring?

As you’ve likely noticed, when we contemplate cause and effects, we rarely perceive all of the causes for something, or all of its effects.  Our planet is an intricate and complex system of interactions, striving to keep itself in balance.  We may simplistically celebrate the personal benefits we reap from a long, balmy fall like this one, without fully realizing its implications for our planet as a whole.

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February 9, 2017

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I’m guessing the folks in Ohio who had a tornado blow through their town this past weekend have an opinion.  Ordinarily, they would already be enjoying winter weather by now.

We are just beginning to feel the unusual weather patterns predicted decades ago to come along with a warming planet.  The seas are rising much faster than they were predicted to rise, and we are already seeing the extreme storms bringing catastrophic rain to communities all across our nation, and the world.  The economic losses are staggering, to say nothing of how peoples’ lives have been effected when they live in the path of these monster storms.

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Magnolia stellata blooming in late February, 2016

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Yes, change is in the air.  I’m not sure that there is anything any of us can do individually to change or ‘fix’ this unusual weather, but we certainly need to remain aware of what is happening, and have a plan for how to live with it.

My immediate plan is simple:  Plant more plants!  I reason that every plant we grow helps filter carbon and other pollutants from the air, trapping them in its leaves and stems.  Every little bit helps, right?  And if not, at least their roots are holding the soil on rainy days, and their beauty brings us joy.

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Newly planted Dianthus blooms in our autumn garden.

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Woodland Gnome 2017

Sunday Dinner: The Journey

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“Change is in the air.

This change reminds us

that we are made

and beautifully sculpted

by the same power

that orchestrates the change of season.

Let this be the season you embrace

and align yourself with this change.”

.

Steve Maraboli

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“Learn to adapt.

Things change, circumstances change.

Adjust yourself and your efforts

to what it is presented to you

so you can respond accordingly.

Never see change as a threat,

because it can be an opportunity to learn,

to grow, evolve and become a better person.”

.

Rodolfo Costa

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“Joy is sometimes a blessing,

but it is often a conquest.

Our magic moment help us to change

and sends us off in search of our dreams.

Yes, we are going to suffer,

we will have difficult times,

and we will experience many disappointments —

but all of this is transitory.

it leaves no permanent mark.

And one day we will look back

with pride and faith

at the journey we have taken.”

.

Paulo Coelho

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“Peace is a daily, a weekly,

a monthly process,

gradually changing opinions,

slowly eroding old barriers,

quietly building new structures.

And however undramatic the pursuit of peace,

that pursuit must go on.”

John F. Kennedy

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“Times change, as do our wills.

What we are – is ever changing;

all the world is made of change,

and is forever attaining new qualities.”

.

Luís de Camões

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2017

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In nature nothing is created,

nothing is lost,

everything changes.”

.

Antoine Lavoisier

Blossom XIX: First Snowdrops

The first Snowdrops of spring.

The first Snowdrops of spring.

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We were delighted, and a bit surprised, to discover these pretty snowdrops blooming on the bank behind our house today.  Sheltered, and facing the afternoon sun, these tiny Galanthus emerged to brighten our day with their pristine flowers.

Our bulbs have been popping up all over the garden during the last fortnight.  But these are the first bulbs to bloom in our yard this year.  The premier act, we expect others soon to follow.  Galanthus nivalis lead the season, closely followed by the Crocus and early Daffodils.  I’m happy to see a little clump forming here where the original bulbs have matured and multiplied.  One of the nicest things about many spring bulbs is that they naturalize over time, making spreading patches of  color to delight my gardener’s heart.

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february-6-2017-flowers-013~

We enjoyed a sunny afternoon in the mid 60s today, and used it productively.  I made the tour and spread a bag of Milorganite around the perimeter of our garden, watching for signs of spring.  I”m still pruning, cutting back spent perennials, replenishing mulch and noticing buds swelling on many shrubs and trees.

We can’t get overly confident just yet.   We expect wintery weather to return by the end of this week.   Williamsburg often endures winter storms right through March or even early April.

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february-6-2017-flowers-011

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But with that said, we feel spring in the air.  The Heaths opened their  Bulb Shop up for the season at their Gloucester gardens last week.  I find it satisfying somehow that the first of our spring bulbs has blossomed within a week of their spring opening!  We will make a trip later this month to enjoy their display gardens, see what is new, and perhaps pick up a bag or two of something nice for this summer’s display.

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These lovely evergreen Arum italicum are from Brent and Becky's bulbs. This clump in its second season, growing with Violas.

These lovely evergreen Arum italicum are from Brent and Becky’s Bulbs. This clump in its second season, growing with Violas.

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So for my gardening friends snowed under this week, please let these little snowdrops cheer you with their promise of spring to come!  It won’t be long now until your gardens will also burst into the beauties of springtime!

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Camellia japonica opened its first blooms of the season this weekend. These are our 'winter roses.'

Camellia japonica opened its first blooms of the season this weekend. These are our ‘winter roses.’

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Woodland Gnome 2017

 

Blossom I
Blossom II
Blossom III
Blossom IV
Blossom V
Blossom VI
Blossom VII
Blossom VIII
Blossom IX
Blossom X
Blossom XI
Blossom XII
Blossom XIII
Blossom XIV
Blossom XV
Blossom XVI
Blossom XVII
Blossom XVIII
Blossom XX

 

Sunday Dinner: Anticipation

november-27-2016-garden-013

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“And I will never again underestimate

the power of anticipation.

There is no better boost in the present

than an invitation into the future.”


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Caroline Kepnes

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Camellia sasanqua

Camellia sasanqua

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2016

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Making Our Blessings Count

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“Cultivate the habit of being grateful

for every good thing that comes to you,

and to give thanks continuously.

And because all things

have contributed to your advancement,

you should include all things

in your gratitude.”

.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Happy Thanksgiving day to you.  I hope it has been a good day, spent in a way that makes you happy and with folks you love.   Thanksgiving is a gentle holiday, and one that I especially enjoy.  I try to avoid travel and keep the day as low key as possible.

Whether at home with family, or gathered elsewhere with family, I’m always one of the cooks.  And I find satisfaction in creating a warm and satisfying meal filled with the flavors and memories which knit our years together into a seamless fabric of loving.

While we celebrate gratitude and appreciation on Thanksgiving Day, most of us are also gearing up for Christmas this time of year.  For many, that means sharpening up our shopping skills and compiling a list of holiday plans and desires.  Ironic, isn’t it?

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August's white flowers are transformed to seed heads, ready to begin again the life cycle of culinary chives.

August’s white flowers are transformed to seed heads, ready to begin again the life cycle of culinary chives.

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“We should certainly count our blessings,

but we should also make our blessings count.”

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Neal A. Maxwell

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Thanks-giving is not a passive thing.  It isn’t about leaning back in our comfy chairs and thinking happy thoughts.

It begins with awareness; progresses to acknowledgement;  stops for a moment to express appreciation and love to others; and then gets down to the real business of using those blessings for the greater good.

Having a blessing isn’t enough.  We find ways to  make use of the goodness it brings to our lives, to make our lives count for something.

I’ve always thought of appreciation as an active thing; an investment in more joy and productivity.  What good are seeds left in an envelope?

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november-24-2016-thanksgiving-011

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“Great things happen to those

who don’t stop believing, trying,

learning, and being grateful.”

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Roy T. Bennett

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Which brings us back to those holiday desires, which can wake us up and move us forwards.

Whether we’re formulating birthday wishes, sharing a Christmas list, planning a Christmas celebration, or pondering new year’s resolutions; we harness our imagination, our desire, and our personal energies to create a new reality for ourselves.

Gratitude and growth go hand in hand.  We appreciate the blessings we enjoy already, and then multiply that sense of happiness and well being into the next step.    We express appreciation to a loved one, in hopes they will use that good feeling as fuel for their own growth and evolution.

There is always more to accomplish, more to experience, more to learn, more to do for the benefit of others.  We just have to imagine it, and then fuel it with faith and confidence until it materializes in our lives.

Wisdom teachers tell us that our gratitude and appreciation attract more of the same into our lives.

But the reverse is also true:  when we complain and focus on what is lacking, when we criticize loved ones and take them for granted; we lose that rocket fuel called ‘love’ which feeds our happiness.  When we overlook the tiny miracles and blessings of each day, we put blinders on our hearts and imagination.  Eventually, we close ourselves off to the possibilities around us.

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“You probably have the ability

to get what you want.

And you likely have everything you need

to be completely satisfied.

But do you also have the ability

to want what you’ve got?

That just may be one of

the most important questions you will ever answer.”

.

Steve Goodier

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But we all find obstacles in our path from time to time.  Perhaps a loved one’s illness or depression makes us put our own lives on ‘hold’ for a while.  We lose jobs we need, see the storms of chance change our lives in unexpected ways.  Things just don’t go according to plan….

Obstacles become detours, but the path stretches before us for as long as we live.  And meeting every obstacle with an open mind, a grateful heart, and determination to find the most benevolent outcome in each circumstance is how we keep moving towards a brighter, happier, more fulfilling life.

“Attitude is everything…”  We learn this as children, but practice it always.  Our attitude of gratitude serves us well, as we appreciate each and every day of our lives.

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2016

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A Forest Garden 2017 garden calendar is now available

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“Thankfulness is an attitude of possibilities,

not an attitude of liabilities.”

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Craig D. Lounsbrough

Wednesday Vignettes: Walk in Beauty

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“To be creative means to be in love with life.

You can be creative only if you love life enough

that you want to enhance its beauty,

you want to bring a little more music to it,

a little more poetry to it, a little more dance to it.”

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Osho

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“Here is the world.

Beautiful and terrible things will happen.

Don’t be afraid.”

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Frederick Buechner

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“Life is full of beauty. Notice it.

Notice the bumble bee, the small child,

and the smiling faces.

Smell the rain, and feel the wind.

Live your life to the fullest potential,

and fight for your dreams.

.

Ashley Smith

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2016

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“Many eyes go through the meadow,

but few see the flowers in it.”
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Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

 

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