Sunday Dinner: Aspirations

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“Faith is the bird
that feels the light and sings
when the dawn is still dark.”
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Rabindranath Tagore

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“Dreams are what guide us,
art is what defines us,
math is what makes it all possible,
and love is what lights our way.”
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Mike Norton

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The Williamsburg Botanical Garden bathed in morning light.

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“Rome was not built in one day;
But one day Rome was built.”
.
Kayambila Mpulamasaka

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“We never know what we can be or do
until the need is there
and we are tested by it.”
.
Terry Brooks

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“If you trust in yourself. . .
and believe in your dreams. . .
and follow your star. . .
you’ll still get beaten
by people who spent their time
working hard and learning things
and weren’t so lazy.”
.
Terry Pratchett

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Monarch butterfly feeding on Asclepias syriaca at the Stonehouse Elementary native plant garden.

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“The heights charm us,
but the steps do not;
with the mountain in our view
we love to walk the plains.”
.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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“Clouds come floating into my life,
no longer to carry rain or usher storm,
but to add color to my sunset sky.”
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Rabindranath Tagore

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A female Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly feeds on Martagon lily at the Stonehouse Elementary School garden.

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Woodland Gnome 2019

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“Our deep aspiration
is an immense source of energy.”
.
Thich Nhat Hanh

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“Imagination grows by exercise
and contrary to common belief
is more powerful in the mature
than in the young.”
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Ursula K. Le Guin

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Our Forest Garden as June draws to its close.

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Sunday Dinner: Relaxed

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“I want to put the ever-rushing world on pause
Slow it down, so that I can breathe.
These bones are aching to tell me something
But I cannot hear them.”

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Lucy H. Pearce

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“Just breathing can be such a luxury sometimes.”

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Walter Kirn

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“The secret of relaxation is in these three words:

‘Let it go”!”

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Dada J. P. Vaswani

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“The attitude of Tao is of cooperation, not conflict.

The attitude of Tao is not to be against nature

but to be with it, to allow nature,

to let it have its way, to cooperate with it,

to go with it.

The attitude of Tao is of great relaxation.”

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Osho

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“Your calm mind

is the ultimate weapon

against your challenges.

So relax.”

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Bryant McGill

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“Now this relaxation of the mind from work

consists on playful words or deeds.

Therefore it becomes a wise and virtuous man

to have recourse to such things at times.”

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Thomas Aquinas

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“Man is so made that

he can only find relaxation from one kind of labor

by taking up another. ”

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Anatole France

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“I wish you water.”

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Wallace J. Nichols 

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2019

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“Turn off your mind, relax, and float downstream.”
.

John Lennon

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The Williamsburg Botanical Garden

The Butterfly Garden at The Williamsburg Botanical Garden is beautiful, if still dormant, in early February.

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The Williamsburg Botanical Garden is a great destination for picking up ideas and observing many different sorts of plants growing here in James City County, Virginia.

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Whether you go for a quiet walk, or to participate in a class, there is always more to learn, experience and enjoy.

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The garden is a true community effort.  It brings together volunteers from many different organizations, including the Williamsburg Master Gardeners Association.

The garden is subdivided into  specialty gardens planned and maintained by different groups, and serving different purposes.  In addition to the butterfly garden, there are areas devoted to heirloom plants, native plants, wetland and woodland plants, perennials and flowering shrubs, a fernery, and an area of raised beds for therapeutic gardening.

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The Pollinator Palace

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Best practices are modeled, and new gardeners are both trained and inspired in this special space.  Even though the Williamsburg Botanical Garden is fenced to exclude deer; songbirds, pollinators and other small wildlife are welcomed and fed.

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The first stirrings of spring were evident today under bright skies.  It was only a few degrees above freezing when some gardening friends and I ventured out, tools in hand, for a pruning workshop.

Despite numb fingers and toes, we discussed proper pruning for several species of flowering woody shrubs.  Experts demonstrated the proper use of a variety of nifty pruning tools, too.

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A few of the earliest shrubs, like Spirea, showed tiny bits of green. Its buds are just tentatively opening this week.  But most of the herbs, perennials, and deciduous woodies were still slumbering through their last few weeks of dormancy.

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Daffodils have just begun to emerge, their bright blooms now only days away.

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Today served as a call to action to get out and get after the woodies in our own Forest Garden, before the season gets ahead of me this year.  I was a bit slack last year on the pruning. This year, there is a great deal of cutting and thinning and just plain lopping back waiting for us.  But it won’t wait for long; warmer, longer days will coax those buds to open all too soon.

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It is too early in the season to prune wood from early spring bloomers like Spirea and Viburnum.  However, one may always prune out wood that is Dead, Diseased, Deformed, or Damaged.

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Some gardeners grow a bit confused about what pruning to do, and when.  In general, February is a great month for pruning roses, crape myrtle, butterfly bush, rose of Sharon, and other trees and shrubs which won’t bloom before June.  If a shrub blooms on new growth only, it is safe to prune it back now.

If your shrub blooms on old wood from last year’s growth, and already has its flower buds ready to go now, then “wait to prune until after bloom.”  

All of our favorite spring shrubs like Rhododendrons, Camellias, Forsythias, and Spireas have flower buds set and ready to open on schedule, over the next several weeks.   Any pruning done now will reduce our spring blooms.

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There are great Botanical gardens all over the country, and we are very fortunate to have such a nice one here in Williamsburg.  One can’t help but feel either inspired or overwhelmed after an hour’s walk among such a beautiful collection of plants.  This is a great destination for a walking tour, even on a frosty February morning.

Once I had a cup of coffee and could feel my fingertips again, I was ready to head over to Lowes.   I wanted to have a look at some of the new nifty gadgets for pruning that I’d seen demonstrated today, while my enthusiasm was still warm.

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Woodland Gnome 2018
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For The Daily Post’s
Weekly Photo Challenge:  Tour Guide

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Knowing Winter

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“One can follow the sun, of course,
but I have always thought that it is best
to know some winter, too,
so that the summer, when it arrives,
is the more gratefully received.”
Beatriz Williams

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Much of North America lies frozen this week beneath a layer of icy whiteness.  Weather maps on TV are clothed in shades of blue, purple and white.  It is a respite from this year’s heat, perhaps, and a novelty for those who enjoy winter.

Here in Williamsburg, in coastal Virginia, we see temperatures drop below the mid-twenties only occasionally, and not every year.  But we are also in the midst of this Arctic cold snap at the moment.  There is a chance for snow tomorrow evening.

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The garden, and the larger world are frozen tight and hard this week.  Those winter faring plants I potted up so carefully last month sit brittle, a bit limp and desiccated in their pots today despite the brilliant sun shining on them.  I gave each pot a bit of tap water yesterday afternoon, hoping to thaw the soil long enough for roots to draw a bit of moisture in to the thirsty plants.

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We’ve wrapped our olive trees in clear plastic bags and set them in the warmest corner of our front patio, where they capture the mid-day sun.  They’ve grown too large now to bring indoors each winter.  We hope they make it through to warmer days ahead.

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But there is only so much anyone can do when such bitter cold blows in to one’s neighborhood.  The lowest temperature we’ve seen here since Christmas was 12F.  It feels a bit odd to cheer on the mercury to climb through the 20s, hoping it might actually make it up to 32F before the evening chill returns.

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But such is our life at the moment, and so we have decided to enjoy the novelty of it.  It is the season to trot out one’s heavy sweaters and gloves, and possibly even a jacket.  I had forgotten which drawer our gloves got put away in last spring, and needed a reminder.  A pair now live in my bag, ready to pull on whenever I step outside into this frosty world.

But clad in hat and gloves, wool and pashmina and jeans, I set off to capture photos of ice today.  My partner kept the car warm and idling while I scampered about on the banks of Mill Creek and the James River in search of ice sculptures.

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The wind was almost quiet, and the sun blazing bright and glinting off the frozen marshes.  It was nearly 24F as I captured these photos today.

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We were delighted to find eagles flying in lazy circles above us and large congregations of geese gathered along the roadsides.  I could hear waterfowl splashing into the creek in search of lunch as I picked my way down the frozen trail to the water’s edge.

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A heron clung to a branch along the bank, watching as gulls dove into the creek and ducks cavorted along its glassy surface.

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Halves of minnows, cut up by some intrepid fisher-person for bait, lay scattered about on the sandy beach.  Frozen hard, they held no appeal for the foraging birds around us.

I marvel at the sight of spray cloaked grasses and ice glazed stones.  The river and creeks here are tidal, and the rising and falling water and windblown spray make for ever-changing textures along their banks.

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Sheets of ice get pushed up in the marshes on the incoming tide, and slushy brackish water takes on odd hues in the wintery light.

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Our oddly frozen world dreams this week in weirdly grotesque forms.  Frozen soil pushes up in the garden, heaving fragile root balls not properly mulched and insulated against the cold.  Ice crystals sprout from stems and leaves in the first light of morning.

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Only the birds appear impervious to the cold.  Small flocks of blackbirds gather on the frozen grass.  Songbirds hop about in the trees as we pass.  I wonder at the mysteries of nature which allow them to survive such frigid weather.

Whether sitting on the ground, swimming in the frozen creeks or gliding on a current of air, they appear almost comfortable.  This is a great gift they enjoy, and that we do not.

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We are mostly watching through the window panes to see how the rest of this month unfolds.  Our cat spends long hours dozing, curled up in a blanket on the couch.  He shows no interest in exploration beyond his food bowl at the moment.

Surely the world will soon be slick and white if the forecast is to be believed, and our garden will slumber on under a bit more insulation as we dream of spring.

Yet, in this moment, we know winter; and see its beauties all around us.

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Woodland Gnome 2018

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“There is an instinctive withdrawal for the sake of preservation,
a closure that assumes the order of completion.
Winter is a season unto itself.”
.
Haruki Murakami

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Sunday Dinner: Retrospective

January 2017, Jones Millpond

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“That’s what pictures are for, after all:
to stand in place of the things that weren’t left behind,
to bear witness to people and places and things
that might otherwise go unnoticed.”
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John Darnielle
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February 2017 Powhatan Creek

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“In retrospect,
we can only be thankful
to all the mistakes that we made
and to all the lessons
that we learned from them!”
.
Avijeet Das
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March 2017 James River at Black Point

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“The Naga laughed softly, ‘There’s a thin line
that separates courage
from stupidity.  And that line
is only visible in retrospect, my friend.
If I’m successful,  people will call me brave.
If I fail, I will be called foolish.
Let me do what I think is right.
I’ll leave the verdict to the future.”
.
Amish Tripathi
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April 2017 York River

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“It is a simple
but sometimes forgotten truth
that the greatest enemy
to present joy and high hopes
is the cultivation
of retrospective bitterness.”
.
Robert Menzies
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May 2017 Jones Millpond

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“Remembrance of things past
is not necessarily
the remembrance of things as they were.”
.
Marcel Proust
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June 2017

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“Memory believes before knowing remembers.
Believes longer than recollects,
longer than knowing even wonders.”
.
William Faulkner
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August 2017 Powhatan Creek

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“Remember your connection with the cosmos.
Remember your connection with the infinity
and that remembrance
will give you the freedom.”
.
Amit Ray
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September 2017, a waterway on Jamestown Island

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2017

Wishing you happiness, prosperity, good health and good gardening in 2018!

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October 2017 The ‘D’ River empties into the Pacific Ocean

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“Photography is never real,
it’s merely one of many ways
of telling the truth.”
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John Thai
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November 2017

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“Ever poised on that cusp
between past and future,
we tie memories to souvenirs
like string to trees along life’s path,
marking the trail
in case we lose ourselves
around a bend of tomorrow’s road.”
.
Susan Lendroth
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December 2017

 

Sunday Dinner: Secrets of the River

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“Have you also learned that secret from the river;
that there is no such thing as time?”
That the river is everywhere at the same time,
at the source and at the mouth, at the waterfall,
at the ferry, at the current,
in the ocean and in the mountains, everywhere
and that the present only exists for it,
not the shadow of the past
nor the shadow of the future.”
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Hermann Hesse
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“We must begin thinking like a river
if we are to leave a legacy of beauty and life
for future generations.”
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David Brower
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“Ask the river, where it comes from?
You will get no answer.
Ask the river, where is it going?
You will get no answer,
because the river lives
inside this very moment;
neither in the past nor in the future,
in this very moment only!”
.
Mehmet Murat ildan
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Black’s Point, Jamestown Island in the James River

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2017
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WPC: Atop

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“Indeed, I find that distance lends perspective

and I often write better of a place

when I am some distance from it.

One can be so overwhelmed by the forest

as to miss seeing the trees.”

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Louis L’Amour

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“Distance has the same effect on the mind as on the eye.”

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Samuel Johnson

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“The greatest risk to man

is not that he aims too high and misses,

but that he aims too low and hits.”

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Michaelangelo

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“A mountain still in the distance

can appear as a molehill.”

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Howard Fast

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“Utopia is a collective shift of perception away.

Abundance is all around us.

Only our efforts at tower-building blind us to it,

our gaze forever skyward,

forever seeking to escape this Earth,

this feeling, this moment.”

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Charles Eisenstein

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2016-2017

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“My father says that there is only one perfect view —

the view of the sky straight over our heads,

and that all these views on earth

are but bungled copies of it.”

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E.M. Forster

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For the Daily Post’s

Weekly Photo Challenge:  Atop

Three Herons

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We drove to Jamestown this weekend, and were quite delighted to spot more herons than usual along the way.  Their plumage blends quite subtly, this time of year, with the marshes they frequent; and so it takes a sharp eye, sometimes, to even notice them.

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Oftentimes we simply point them out to one another.  We don’t break the flow of our journey for a photo-stop.

And we are always pleased to see these most Zen-like birds.  Their calm and detachment belie a deep self-confidence, perhaps, that they will remain master of their circumstance.

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Where we find herons, we assume the water is fairly pure.  That is often said of rivers where Eagles nest.  They only live where the environment can support them in good health.

Eagles, herons, geese and ducks all make the James River and its James City County creeks their home.

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Sandy Bay, where all of this series of photos was taken. The distant bank, along the causeway to Jamestown Island, is where I stood to take the first several photos. An Osprey Eagle nest fils

Sandy Bay, where all of this series of photos was taken. The distant bank, along the causeway to Jamestown Island, is where I stood to take the first several photos. An Osprey Eagle nest fills the top of the Cypress tree on the far left.

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The herons remain alert.  They live in the moment, sensing all unfolding around them.  They always respond as I move closer to them with my clicking, flashing camera and not so light step.  And although they may wade further from shore, they rarely take flight at my approach.

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We admire these regal birds, and watch for them along the creeks and marshes near our home.

Finding them in abundance, as we did on Sunday afternoon, lends a certain luster to a late winter afternoon.

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Woodland Gnome 2017

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The Quest: WPC

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Quest: (N) A long and arduous journey in search of something of importance.  A seemingly impossible task or challenge.  A mystery solved only through a journey into unknown territory.

What is your quest?  What is it you seek?

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When I taught literature, I challenged my students to look at many novels we read together within the paradigm of  ‘The Heroe’s Journey.’  We talked about the personal qualities which enable someone to set off from home to accomplish a seemingly impossible task.

And, of course, accepting the challenge and finding the will to leave the comforts of home behind, for the sake of the journey, counts as the first ‘seemingly impossible’ task for nearly every hero.

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Each challenge along the way finds the hero discovering more and more… about themselves.  The hero returns home transformed, perhaps even enlightened.

Sometimes  returning home may actually mean finding a new home, a better place to live, at the end of their journey.

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But one thing always true of quests is their mystery.   There is rarely a map, and one must navigate from the heart.

Guides almost always appear when needed most, yet the hero still makes the choice to turn one way or another, to engage or to avoid encounters along the way.

There are struggles to survive, and battles with evil ones.   There is never any guaranteed success.

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When one begins any journey, little of the road ahead can be seen.  Maybe we can see the first bit of the path, perhaps there is a even a destination in mind.

But things rarely turn out to be what they seem, and the path leads us ever onwards into the unknown; sometimes  into the unknowable.

Following a quest requires courage and determination, openness and heart. 

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And heroes often understand, when the quest is finished, that their journey through the world was also a journey into the mystery of themselves.  They find, within themselves, the true object of their quest.

What is your quest?

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Woodland Gnome  2016

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For the Daily Post’s

Weekly Photo Challenge:  Quest

 

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A few of my favorite stories of quests and heroes:

The Teachings of Don Juan:  A Yaqui Way of Knowledge by Carlos Castaneda
The Return of Merlin by Deepak Chopra 
The Alchemist  by Paul Coelho
Siddhartha by Herman Hesse
The Odyssey by Homer
Hatchet by Gary Paulson
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig
The Celestine Prophecy series by James Redfield
The Harry Potter series by J.K Rowling
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Epic of Gilgamesh  traditional Sumerian story

 

 

 

Sunday Dinner: Courage

September 3, 2016 027

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“Life shrinks or expands

in proportion to one’s courage.”

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Anaïs Nin

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“The simple step of a courageous individual

is not to take part in the lie.

One word of truth outweighs the world.”

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Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

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“Courage doesn’t happen when you have all the answers.

It happens when you are ready

to face the questions you have been avoiding

your whole life.”

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Shannon L. Alder

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September 3, 2016 024

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“I have not always chosen the safest path.

I’ve made my mistakes, plenty of them.

I sometimes jump too soon

and fail to appreciate the consequences.

But I’ve learned something important along the way:

I’ve learned to heed the call of my heart.

I’ve learned that the safest path

is not always the best path

and I’ve learned that the voice of fear

is not always to be trusted.”

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Steve Goodier

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September 3, 2016 030

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“Courage isn’t absence of fear,

it is the awareness

that something else is important”

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Stephen R. Covey

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2016

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“Courage is the price that life exacts for granting peace.”


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Amelia Earhart

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