One Word Photo Challenge: More Persimmon

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Persimmon serves as a wonderful foil to our winter world of greys, browns, white, and the occasional green.

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It is as if Jenny knew our eyes and brains are starved for a splash of color when she selected “Persimmon” for the middle of January.

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Creeping Jenny wearing its cold weather finery.

Creeping Jenny wears its cold weather finery near our “stump garden.”

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These are a few of “The remains of the season” we found in our wanderings today.  Some are a little more persimmon-like than others. 

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But I offer them up anyway, with wishes that you are safe and warm this evening.

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The exposed "knuckle" of some very old roots

The exposed “knuckle” of some very old roots

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With Appreciation to Jennifer for her

One Word Photo Challenge:  Persimmon.

Woodland Gnome 2015

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To Delight A Passerby

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A fallen tree, teeming with life, caught my eye as we were out driving last Sunday afternoon.  Lush and green, it stood out against our wintery landscape of greys and muddy browns.

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It has been fallen for a few years, from the look of it; lying where some forgotten windstorm left it, normally hidden from view in the edge of the forest.

But the leaves are down now, allowing glimpses into the hidden places.

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It is an interesting geography of ravines and ridges, creeks and fallen timber.

One glance piqued my curiosity enough that we made a point of stopping on the way home.

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The ravine is steep enough that I didn’t climb down to take photos close up.  Perhaps another day in my climbing boots I’ll make the hike.

We’ve had abundant rain for a while now, supporting luxuriant moss, lichens, and shelf fungus.

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And I can only imagine the hidden colonies of tiny insects living below this green carpet of moss, in the bark and interior of the tree.

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Such a wonder!

Nature uses every resource, allowing nothing to go to waste.  And does it in such style, creating this lovely garden on a falling tree, to delight a passerby on a cold and grey wintery day.

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“The Holy Land is everywhere”

Nicholas Black Elk

 

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“Knowing nature is part of knowing God.

Faith directs us to the invisible God,

but leads us back from God

to the entire visible world.”

Arnold Albert van Ruler

 

Woodland Gnome 2015

Winter’s “Flowers”

Ornamental Kale

Ornamental Kale

 

Look at what is “blooming” in our garden! 

We are just past the Winter Solstice, and the coldest weeks of winter stretch before us.  Our days may be growing almost imperceptibly longer, but frigid Arctic air sweeps across the country, dipping down to bring frosty days and nights well to our south.

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Lichens

Shelf fungus

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Our garden looks a very different place at the moment, mostly withered and brown.  But even now, we enjoy bright spots of color and healthy green leaves.

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Some we planned for, some are a gift of nature.

All are infinitely appreciated and enjoyed!

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Ornamental Kale with Violas and dusty miller

Ornamental kale with Violas and dusty miller

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We garden in Zone 7b, here in coastal Virginia.  We are just a little too far north and a little too far inland to enjoy the balmy 8a of Virginia Beach and Carolina’s Outer Banks.  We will have nights in the teens and days which never go above freezing… likely later this week!

But there are still many plants which not only survive our winters, but will grow and bloom right through them!

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Camellia, "Jingle Bells" begins blooming in mid-December each year, just in time to bloom for Christmas.

Camellia, “Jingle Bells” begins blooming in mid-December each year, just in time to bloom for Christmas.

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I saw the first scape of Hellebore rising above its crown of leaves yesterday, topped with a cluster of tight little buds.  Our Hellebores will open their first buds later this month.

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Hellebore with a new leaf emerging.  Bloom scapes have emerged on some plants in the garden.

Hellebore with a new leaf emerging. Bloom scapes have emerged on some plants in the garden.

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Snowdrops are also poking above the soil line now in several pots.  Snowdrops, named for their ability to grow right up through the snow as they come into bloom, open the season of “spring” bulbs for us each year.

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Camellias and Violas remain in bloom, and our Mahonia shrubs have crowned themselves in golden flowers, just beginning to open.

There are several other shrubs which will bloom here in January and February.  Witch hazel, Hamamelis virginiana, is on my wishlist, and I hope to add it to our garden this season.

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Mahonia

Mahonia

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Our Forsythia are covered in tight yellow buds, ready to open in February.  Our Edgeworthia chrysantha has tight silvery white buds dangling from every tiny branch.

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Edgeworthia

Edgeworthia

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They look like white wrapped Hershey’s kisses, or tiny ornaments left from Christmas.  These will open in  early March into large, fragrant flowers before the shrub’s leaves appear.

Although many of our garden plants are hibernating under ground, or are just enduring these weeks of cold until warmth wakes them up to fresh growth, we have a few hardy souls who take the weather in their stride.

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This is their time to shine. 

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014-2015

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Male flowers have appeared on our Hazel nut trees.  We will enjoy their beauty for the next several months.

Male pollen bearing “flowers”  have appeared on our native  Hazel nut trees. We will enjoy their beauty for the next several months.

 

 

Conscious Seeing

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A friend invited me to an event for gardeners and artists today held at our College of William and Mary, and sponsored by the Williamsburg Garden Club.  Mr. Gordon Hayward spoke on “Fine Painting as Inspiration for Garden Design.”

You may know Mr. Hayward’s work from his many articles over the years  in Horticulture, Fine Gardening, Organic Gardening, and other publications.  The author of many books on garden design, he is well known as the designer of many lovely gardens here in the United States and in Europe.

Several friends and I had the privilege of  spending some time this afternoon hearing his thoughts on the principles of good design in the garden.

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It was the perfect time for us to hear him speak, here in the depths of January. We are clearing out the last of the old in our gardens while making plans for what we will change, and what we will grow in the new year.

The suggestions offered today are quite simple and straightforward, and yet the effects of applying them make a profound difference in the appearance and “feel” of the garden.

We examined paintings by Renoir, O’Keeffe, Van Gogh, Matisse, Monet, and many other artists to see what principles can then be applied to design, plant selection, and even pruning in our gardens.  Mr. Hayward illustrated these principles with side by side slides of  paintings paired with  photos of gardens, including many he designed.

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If this interests you, I recommend that you read Mr. Hayward’s gorgeous book, dedicated to his wife, Mary; Art and the Gardener:  Fine Paintings as Inspiration for Garden Design.Art and the Gardener: Fine Painting as Inspiration for Garden Design

The starting point of today’s talk was Rene Magritte’s “The Eye,” and a conversation about “conscious seeing.”

We Americans, perennially in a hurry as we tend to be, rarely take time to simply observe, over an extended period of time.

We see superficially, but rarely allow ourselves the unstructured time to see deeply; to visually explore something in any depth.

As there is a “slow food” movement today, so there is also “slow art,” where we take significant time to view and converse with someone else about the art we’re viewing.  We may also choose to engage in “slow gardening.”

Mr. Hayward described gardening as the slowest of the performing arts.  He urged us to take our time  in appreciating the garden as a whole, as well as the individual plants in the garden; and also to allow time for a garden to evolve.

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A good garden has an aura of timelessness, and in one you may lose track of time as you become absorbed in the beauty and mood of the space.

And so I would offer you the opportunity to begin, here and now, with the photos in this post, to slow down and “see” consciously.  To spend more than a few seconds with each.

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Go beyond the superficial recognition and naming of what you see, to an appreciation of its color, its form, the geometric shapes you might recognize, and awareness of both positive and negative space.  How do you feel while looking at each of the photos?

By seeing beyond the obvious, we uncover layer after layer of beauty and meaning in the world around us. 

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As we slow down, we deepen our experience.  We enrich our appreciation, and in the process, we feel a little bit better ourselves.  Our energy increases, our happiness expands, and we are filled with the peace that a lovely garden offers.

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”

Marcel Proust

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

“Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything beautiful, for beauty is God’s handwriting.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
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Frosted

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Ice and snow, crystallized water, still cover the garden. 

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Ice has grown, during this period of extended cold, to also cover our ponds and nearby creeks.

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The ground is still white in most places, and what ice melts a little in the sun at mid day freezes over again by night.

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The world is still frosted with beautiful ice crystals.

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Elegant ice sculptures appear in surprising places.

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Areas overlooked through most of the year as too raw, broken, or unremarkable to be found beautiful, shine under their gloss of crystal clear ice and pure white snow.

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We see the commonplace with fresh eyes against a forgiving backdrop of whiteness.

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What was muddy appears clean.  We are teased with bits of things poking out of their fresh blanket of white.

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Light reflects and refracts in unexpected ways, an interplay of water and ice; sky and Earth; liquid and crystal.

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Our tired and muddy December garden has transformed into something fresh and new.  We are nearly ready to begin again, the canvass cleared and scoured by ice.

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We are reminded of the miraculous nature of water when it crystallizes and coats our world.

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The same water we drink, the water which fills our creeks and pours from our taps, will also shape itself into exquisite hexagonal crystals and fall from the clouds, or creep spontaneously out of their liquid state as the temperature drops.

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“The act of living is the act of flowing.” Masaru Emoto

Each beautiful crystal of ice is unique, a creature shaped by the circumstance in which it forms.

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These same crystals will melt back into a drop of water when heated by the sun; or perhaps evaporate back into their mist-like gaseous state, and rise into the sky as water vapor, rejoining the clouds from which they came.

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Water, Earth’s life blood, moves continually from one form to the next.  In and out of bodies; up into the roots of trees, and back out through their leaves into the sky; it is in constant motion.

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“As I continue my conversation with water, the crystals continue to teach me many lessons:  the importance of living in tune with the rhythm of life and the flow of nature, leaving the Earth beautiful for future generations; love; and prayer.”  Masaru Emoto

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Seeping into the Earth, passing into streams above or below the ground; flowing into rivers, lapping against beaches in waves large and small, water is what unites us through its continual transformation.

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Its eternal journey is only delayed a bit by frost.

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Whether locked into a glacier or a snowflake, whether crystallized as hoar frost or icicle, water pauses in its constant motion only so long as it is frozen; as liquid or gas become solid, crystallized, frosted.

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Water’s strange crystalline beauty is manifest for us now, before it transforms yet again.

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Words and photos by Woodland Gnome, 2014

 

“Water carries within it your thoughts and your prayers.  And as you yourself are water, no matter where you are, your prayers will be carried to the rest of the world… Fill your soul with love and gratitude. Pray for the world.  Share the message of love.  And let us flow as long as we live.”  Masaru Emoto

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Quotations from The Secret Life of Water by Masaru Emoto

Frozen

Winter Sunset

Snow Washed

Hoar Frost

Nature’s Wisdom and Tuesday Snapshots

A secluded marsh on Jamestown Island.  Do you see the orbs?

A secluded marsh on Jamestown Island. Do you see the orbs?

We took a ride on the Colonial Parkway again yesterday since it was such a gorgeous day.  A federal holiday in the United States, we had spring like weather, clear skies,  and a brief respite from winter.

Sunny and 63 degrees, it felt like spring, though we are still deep in January.

Sunny and 63 degrees, it felt like spring, though we are still deep in January.

With schools, banks, post offices, and government offices closed,  many could travel to enjoy the three day weekend.  The Colonial Parkway had a busy, vacation time feel, with more visitors than we’ve seen in a very long time.  The best fishing spots were occupied with happy anglers.

We were out, again, looking for birds to photograph.  We had seen so many on Sunday, we were sure that we’d find many more in the far warmer weather on Monday.  But that was not the case.  Where have the birds gone?

The eagles' favorite trees were empty, as were their nests.

The eagles’ favorite trees were empty, as were their nests.

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This heron wading on Sunday was no where to be seen by Monday.

All the favorite eagle perching trees were empty, and we didn’t see them in the sky.  The nests looked abandoned.  No Great Blue Herons waded in the shallows, and no Black Vultures gathered around the deer carcass still lying beside the road.  We did spot two perched companionably together in the top of a nearby tree, but the great gathering had dissipated.

Only a few brave Canada geese grazed near the river on Monday afternoon.

Only a few brave Canada geese grazed near the river on Monday afternoon.

All we found was a small flock or red winged black birds, a handful of geese, and a few white gulls.  Everyone else had disappeared on this clear, bright, warm  winter day.  We think they sense the storm coming out of the north, and have moved further inland.  At the least, they have already taken shelter from the wind and snow already on its way.

The Colonial Parkway on a spring like January day saw heavy traffic from visitors.

The Colonial Parkway on a spring like January day saw heavy traffic from visitors.

This morning dawned clear and mild, but the weather front has crept ever closer as the day has worn on.  Our 60 degree temperatures yesterday afternoon will soon transform into frigid teens later tonight.   The forecasters still don’t agree on how much snow will accumulate here in Williamsburg, but snow is on the way.

Monday was a beautiful day for walking on the beach of the James River.

Monday was a beautiful day for walking on the beach of the James River.

And the birds must feel the coming change.  As the gulls had already flown in from the coast this weekend to our Jamestown marshes, so I’m sure they have moved on elsewhere by now:  Nature’s wordless wisdom in action.

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Sunset Monday afternoon as families loaded dogs and fishing equipment into their cars to head home.

One could not ask for a finer January weekend than we have just enjoyed.  Since we’ve had the opportunity to get outside and be a part of it,  I will share a few photos, which didn’t make it into other posts, in today’s Tuesday Snapshots.

All Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

What Is It, Anyway?

How did a scallop shell find its way to the ravine?

How did a scallop shell find its way to the ravine?

As you’re out walking, do you ever stop to look at something more closely, and ask yourself, “What is it?

Did the pearl already fall out of the oyster?

Did the pearl already fall out of the oyster?

Whether you’ve spotted a bird or a leaf, a flower or a pebble, perhaps you’re engaged, for a moment, in simply looking.

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Our chameleon world loves to masquerade.

You may have noticed that one things often resembles the other.

How can coral grow in a forest?

How can coral grow in a forest?

Sometimes it’s our minds and our eyes playing tricks on us.  We catch sight of a color, a flash of movement.

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In the moment between seeing and naming, the world is wide open to new possibilities.

What do you see here?

What do you see here?

When silence is allowed, the tap of thought turned off tightly,

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Eyes engage the world in novel and unexpected ways.

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Perhaps instead of explaining the world away, our mind allows questions to burble to the top of consciousness:

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“Where did it come from?”  “What does it do?”  “Why is it here?” “What does it mean?”

“What is it, Anyway?”

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These are some of the best questions, the important questions, but …

 

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Simply observe, without naming, and allow the world to open up in beautiful, and unexpected ways.

 

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All Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

“Not till your thoughts cease all their branching here and there,

not till you abandon all thoughts of seeking for something,

not till your mind is motionless as wood or stone,

will you be on the right road to the Gate.”

―Huang Po

Woody Flowers? (Forest Garden)

First Signs of Spring (Forest Garden)

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