One Word Photo Challenge: Blue

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Jennifer Nichole Wells has launched a new weekly photo challenge, and her simplicity in relying on color to carry the power of a photo intrigues me. 

Here is my first post in response to her challenge.

Blue, Azure, Indigo, pale,

Blue fills the ocean, sky, and sail.

Its peaceful presence holds our gaze

As turquoise, lapis, sapphire, jade.

Words and photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

Please follow back to Jennifer’s  beautiful site. 

 

Thank you, Jennifer!

Red

Purple

Black

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A Red Tailed Hawk, and Its Neighbors

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This beautiful Red Tailed Hawk patiently allowed me to take photo after photo,  slowly making my way around the cedar tree where he was perched.

Finally, as I stood at the base of the tree, in his line of sight,  he decided enough was enough, and off he went.

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The Colonial Parkway was alive with birds today.  Red Tailed Hawk, and his many avian neighbors, were out enjoying the day.

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Although their patience with your photographer was a bit limited….

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Canada Geese, Great Blue Herons, a large black vulture on a low branch, crows, gulls in from the coast, and even a few Bald Eagles could be found along the river. 

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It reached 60 degrees today while we visited with the birds.  It is the first time in several weeks our temperatures have been so warm.  The birds surely have enjoyed the break in the weather as much as we have today.

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The clouds steadily grew thicker as the sun fell lower in the sky. 

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Even though the ground is puddled, soft, and muddy, more rain is on its way.  We watched the clouds gathering from the west.

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A little sun and warmth goes a long way towards brightening the spirit, and drawing us back out to the Parkway.

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And though the landscape is still tight and wintery here along the James River,  we had fine company today from our feathered neighbors.

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All Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

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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

Life on a Beach: Tuesday Snapshots

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This beautiful white agate washed up in the tide along the James River earlier this week.

Many of the happiest moments of my life have been on beaches, wandering along the edges where sea and sand meet in the every changing rhythms of the tide.  The convergence of water and land, wet and dry, here and there, now and sometime later feel rich with possibility and promise.  Time spent wandering the shore opens us both to finding and to losing.

Stones and shells washed in on the waves have always held endless fascination for me.  What treasures wait today?

Stones and shells washed in on the waves have always held endless fascination for me. What treasures wait today?

The vase holds treasures picked up along Virginia Beach, and the stones are from the beach in Oregon.

The vase holds treasures picked up along Virginia Beach, and the stones are from the beach in Oregon.

I’ve always been fascinated by what washes up in the tide.  There is a beach along the Carolina coast where I’ve spent days of my life searching for for fossilized shark’s teeth shells of every color, sand dollars, bits of coral, and drift wood.  I pick up smoothed ocean pebbles. some with a hole already bored through them.  On Pacific beaches I’ve collected agates, and grey stones shot through with flashes of white.

Once I lived along the Rappahannock River, on a sandy beach where shells and driftwood washed up with each tide.  Herons, ducks, eagles, and geese were constant companions, many living on an island close to shore.  The river’s constant motion was its own gift of peace and contentment.

Beaches may feel safe on occasional holiday visits, but we can never lose sight that these edges also hold the promise of great loss.  The water can rise without warning in great violent waves, reaching for homes and roads built close by.  As it washes away a child’s sand castle, so it also claims those things, and people,  we hold dear.  As sea water rises, we see this again and again around the planet.

I learned early that the sea gives, and the sea also takes away.  I had worn a golden locket in swimming one day in the Atlantic.  I thought the clasp was secure…

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The cove where College Creek meets the James, along the Colonial Parkway. A Great Blue Heron has a nest nearby.

A tiny lesson in my childhood, but one always in the back of my mind.  One that guided our move inland.  Storms on the Atlantic have long arms, reaching hundreds of miles to take what they will.  We watch our roads and bridges to the Outer Banks threatened again and again by the sea.

We’ve been spending time on the river beaches of the James this month, collecting photos and examining what has washed up with the tide.  We have been searching out the fantastic frozen sculptures growing along the banks during our “Arctic blast.”    The ice melted days ago, but the pictures and memories remain.

This week’s Tuesday Snapshots are all photos from the beach, from the edges where land meets sea,  dry meets wet, concrete meets possibility, and this moment meets the vast ocean of time. 

Even in winter, the beaches are places of great peace and beauty; offering up their many gifts to those who come seeking them.

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

“In every outthrust headland, in every curving beach, in every grain of sand there is the story of the earth.”

Rachel Carson

Winter Rainbow

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Part of a “sun dog” rainbow in the afternoon sky over College Creek on New Year’s Day.

Winter’s palette turns to shades of grey, blue, green, brown and white; a much quieter, more restful world of color than what surrounds us the rest of the year.

The view from our deck this morning.  The temperature was up to about 15 F by the time we ventured out of doors.

The view from our deck this morning. The temperature was up to about 15 degrees by the time we ventured out of doors.

When the sun is shining from a brilliantly clear winter sky, everything is touched with gold and silver sparkles of light.  It is almost blinding reflected from ice and water.

Our Violas are solidly frozen this morning but will bounce back once they thaw out sometime tomorrow.

Our Violas are solidly frozen this morning, but will bounce back once they thaw out sometime tomorrow.

Although some areas remain blanketed in snow for much of winter, we never see it for more than a few days here and there- if at all.  “Snow day” is still synonymous with “holiday” in my mind, as it  has meant an unexpected day off to enjoy as I pleased for much of my life.

We wait for it, hope for it, and celebrate the snow if it comes.  Many winters we never see anything more than flurries.   And so color remains with us throughout winter.   Beauty is everywhere.

Birds, berries, and the occasional Camellia blossom add pops of red in our winter gardens.

The Swiss chard looked good enough to eat on New Year's Eve.

The Swiss chard looked good enough to eat on New Year’s Eve.

Violas, Mahonia, Helleborus, and Crocus offer blossoms in purples, oranges, yellows, pinks, white and red through the coldest winter days.  We can enjoy something blooming in the garden every single day of the year.

What delicious luxury.  We only have to look for it, and we are still surrounded by all of the colors of the rainbow.  The shades, tints, and hues have shifted subtly, winter paints in a different palette, but color never leaves us entirely.

American holly berries glow red in the winter sunshine. They will all be enjoyed by hungry birds and squirrels over the next few weeks.

American holly berries glow red in the winter sunshine. They will all be enjoyed by hungry birds and squirrels over the next few weeks.

So here is our winter rainbow from Williamsburg, Virginia.  I’ve stretched the rules a bit for Tuesday Snapshots today.  One photo was taken inside to capture the beautiful red of a bowl, and a few photos are a little more than a week old now, though they would look nearly the same if taken today.

I hope you are warm, and well, and able to enjoy this beautiful day.  It looks like a fine day to finish off the fruitcake left from Christmas, if there is any, and to settle in with a wonderful new novel penned by a friend.

All photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

ROY G. BIV (Forestgarden)

Tuesday Snapshots:

Christmas Eve: Tuesday Snapshots

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The old, traditional holidays always begin at sunset.  So it is Christmas here in Virginia. 

Merry Christmas, everyone!

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May your greatest gift this Christmas be a gift of love and connection to those who share your life in this moment.  Whether you are near or far from home, close to family or estranged, young or old; may your heart be warmed in the light of love from those who share your path in this moment.  May you find friendship and understanding, support and caring from those with whom you share this Christmas.

December 24 Christmas Eve 003We all have loved ones far from home.  Some are away by choice and others by necessity.  We learn that time and distance can not separate those who hold one another in their hearts.

May you find quiet moments, this Christmas, to remember happy moments from Christmases past.  Whether the same cast of characters will gather with you this Christmas, or whether your family includes loved ones who have passed on or gone away for whatever reason; recall those whose lives have touched yours with love.

Christmas is a bittersweet time for many, perhaps more so with each passing year. december 15 2013 Santas 048 We can best honor those who have loved us by remembering them with love.  Our family stretches beyond the boundaries of time and space to include those who have gone before and also those who will come after.  Each year we welcome newcomers into our lives, and look forward to the time we will share along the way.

Perhaps the greatest gift we can offer is an open heart and warm hand to the new ones among us.   Especially to those who find themselves far from home, who need to be included, and made one with a new family; a family of caring, if not of shared blood.  We are all a bit like children at Christmas, and all in need of a little love.december 15 2013 Santas 073

So I hope your halls are decked in holiday cheer, your table is set, your baking done, and your loved ones are gathering.  The door has opened and we have entered Christmas once again.  Let us keep it well, with loving heart and twinkling eye. 

The spirit of Christmas lives in each of us.

All photos by Woodland Gnome, 2013

“Welcome Christmas. Bring your cheer,
Cheer to all Whos, far and near.

Christmas Day is in our grasp
So long as we have hands to grasp.

Christmas Day will always be
Just as long as we have we.

Welcome Christmas while we stand
Heart to heart and hand in hand.”

-From the cartoon version of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” by Theodor Seuss Geisel

Paint the Sky: Tuesday Snapshots

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We went looking for the moon late this afternoon.

The nearly full moon has risen huge and close and silver the last two evenings,

but we had been without the camera, and so didn’t have  photos.

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We went in search of it this evening,

camera in hand.

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But now the clouds are rolling in,

and the moon must have risen behind them.

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We watched the sun set,

then drove a little further and watched it set yet again.

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Every moment the sky changed, painted by the sun’s brush of light

on a canvas of cloud, marsh, forest, and water.

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The world’s palette, a gently flowing medley of every color,

first touched by golden setting sunlight,

then wrapped in blueing misty darkness.

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Moon behind cloud, daylight behind dark,

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river flowing ever onward

from here to there in obedient silence.

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But the birds were still tonight.

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The deer stood quietly by the roadside, unafraid, grazing.

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A rare moment of peace and rest in a day full to the brim,

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A winter sky painted by the sun,

as it disappeared into the long December night.

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All photos by Woodland Gnome 2013

Finding the Moon (forestgarden)

Bare

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There is a special beauty in the form and structure of a bare tree after it has dropped its annual crop of leaves.  Like the beauty of a classical statue, one can see the truth of its bones.  Leaves, for all of their movement and color, veil the beauty of branches and buds.

Looking at a bare tree is a study in pure potential. 

Sycamore with seed pods

Sycamore with seed pods

All of the life drawn inwards to the wood and roots as it prepares itself to weather another season of freezing cold and winter storms.  It has strengthened itself without becoming brittle.  It has released its sheaf of ice and snow catching leaves which would weight it and break it in winter’s icy winds.

Isn’t it ironic that as we add layer upon woolen and fleecy layer to weather winter’s worst days, the trees are shedding their summer garb to survive the months ahead?December 5 2013 DOG St 060  Left to themselves, the leaves gather and drift into brown and crinkled blankets, insulating and nourishing their own roots.

And those roots hold the life of the tree and promise of another spring.  No matter if branches break or get pruned.  Life will flow again in the rising sap to grow back and grow more than ever before.  The buds of new life are forming even during the seeming sleep of winter.  Look closely, and you’ll see those buds swelling on every twig.

Dogwood covered in buds for spring's flowers.

Dogwood covered in buds for spring’s flowers.

Now we return to the season of lacy silhouette, drawn against the ever changing skies.  Perfect algorithms of division and multiplication reveal themselves.  Each family of tree revealing its own peculiar geometry and idiosyncratic proofs and promise of the coming season’s growth.

Seed pods, nuts, fruits, and cones still clinging to twigs guard the seeds of another generation in wait; suspended between autumn and spring; each containing the entire blueprint of the whole encrypted in microscopic perfection.

Like Jonah, many must first be swallowed into the belly of a beast before seeing light, again, and a chance for germination.December 5 2013 DOG St 070

Those  who know Pirsig understand this blurring of science and art; philosophy and living technology.

The world is not one or another.  It is all.  Only in sensing the all do we begin to understand its poetry of perfection.

This is a tale to unravel in winter, when all is revealed to those who look with wonder and understanding.dec 2 2013 parkway 021

-Woodland Gnome

The world comes to us in an endless stream of puzzle pieces that we would like to think all fit together somehow, but that in fact never do.”

Robert M. Pirsig

“The Buddha, the Godhead, resides quite as comfortably in the circuits of a digital computer or the gears of a cycle transmission as he does at the top of the mountain, or in the petals of a flower. To think otherwise is to demean the Buddha – which is to demean oneself.”

Robert M. Pirsig

 

All Photos by Woodland Gnome 2013

November 30 Parkway 021

Christmas Marathon, and Tuesday Snapshots

Canadian Geese on the James River yesterday afternoon.

Canadian Geese on the James River yesterday afternoon.

Christmas in the United States has become a weeks long affair which feels more like a marathon, to many of us, than a celebration.

Neighbors decorating our coummunity Christmas tree.

Neighbors decorating our community Christmas tree.

Many of us “ladies of a certain age” gathered this morning for a neighborhood group meeting and participated in a “re-gifted gift exchange” where we each brought a gift previously given to us which we hadn’t wanted and couldn’t use.  We wrapped these in previously used paper and gift bags, and piled them under our community Christmas tree. November 29 Thanksgiving 010

We had great fun visiting as we each chose and opened a package.  Some of us opened something we liked, and kept it. Everyone had the option to trade for something already opened if they didn’t want the item they had chosen from under the tree.

I, for one, felt much happier and lighter after relieving myself of the burden of a gift given last Christmas by someone I love, which I could not/would not ever use.  The friend who opened it was perfectly delighted to receive it, and chatted happily about how much she would enjoy it.  Thus goes Christmas 2013, and it’s only December 3.

Everyone I chatted with this morning was talking about their holiday plans and the preparations for them.  Many of my friends are deeply involved in preparing for the Holiday Homes Tour this coming weekend.  Others are in preparation for the Colonial Williamsburg festivities which bring in visitors from all over.  Most were talking about the trees which must be decorated at home, wreathes hung, lights put up, Christmas villages assembled, arrangements made, and the house guests on the way.

Sunset fills the sky a little earlier each day.

Sunset fills the sky a little earlier each day.

And most of my friends already look and sound tired.  Did I mention it’s only December 3? 

One community organization had a Christmas tree lighting last night to illuminate an outdoor tree on the main street into our neighborhood.  Some friends and I are preparing for a Christmas cookie exchange next Sunday, where the children will decorate gingerbread houses to take home.  We’ve been working on this event since late summer.  We’ll gather on Friday to construct 20 or so houses for the children and grandchildren of friends who will attend the party.

My first tree this year, decorated before the end of November.  We'll decorate at least one more tree later in the month.

Our first tree this year, decorated before the end of November.  This Norfolk Island Pine lived out on the patio all summer.  We’ll decorate at least one more tree later in the month.  We avoid artificial Christmas trees and so wait until late in the month to decorate our living room tree.

Add in the gift shopping, card writing, package wrapping, parcel posting, special cooking, greens hanging, and tour taking we plan to accomplish in December.  And then there are the concerts, parties, productions, and special church services.  Holidays here are very complex affairs which require precision planning and complex budgeting to accomplish.

And it hasn’t always been this way.  In fact, Christmas has been Christmas as we know it for only a few decades.

Colonial Williamsburg decorations from 2009

Colonial Williamsburg decorations from 2009

One reason our Christmas celebrations are so complex, and so conflicted, is the amalgamation of customs which have all converged on the weeks from late November through early January.  It is a very tangled web of tradition, custom, invention, religion, and merchandising genius.

For instance, did you know that Christmas was once outlawed in England and in certain colonies in America? 

Did you know that at one time only servants and children received gifts? 

Did you know that copious consumption of alcohol has been central to December celebrations for millennia?

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I collected interesting branches and stored them in the basement until time to put out the birds.

I thought it might be interesting to take a look at some of our favorite American holiday traditions; how they originated, and how they have changed over the years.  As much as I cringe when I see the Christmas decorations show up in the shops in late October, I do still love the Christmas season.

As the days grow colder and shorter, I take comfort in the lights, the music, the special times with friends, and the little remembrances which pass between friends and loved ones during these impossibly hectic weeks of December.

And so I’ll share a little of the history with you over the next few weeks; some photos taken around Williamsburg; and perhaps a recipe or two.  Wreathes and roping are going up all over Duke of Gloucester Street and Colonial Williamsburg.  Tomorrow I’ll share a little bit about Christmas celebrations here in Jamestown and in Williamsburg during the colonial era.November 27 2013 mantle 006

Most of the action is over for a while out in the garden, and I can watch the squirrels’ acrobatics from the window where I work.  They are gorging on berries from the holly trees in the side yard.

So here are a few Tuesday Snapshots from the first week of December.  These are all photos taken this week which I haven’t used in other posts, and I hope you enjoy them.

 

All Photos by Woodland Gnome 2013

How did it get so late so soon?
Its night before its afternoon.
December is here before its June.
My goodness how the time has flewn.
How did it get so late so soon?
Dr. Seuss

Appreciating the Earth: Tuesday Snapshots

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Freshly fallen leaves rest on the Hellebores, which very soon will send up new blooms.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been drawn to “putting my hands into the Earth” to grow things.  In fact, I have vivid pre-school aged memories of planting little glass jars with dirt and grass seed “borrowed” from a bag in my dad’s workshop, just to watch it grow.  All along I’ve been happy to grow things, whether in my parents’ flower beds, in my own, or simply in jars and pots.  Some might not feel as happy as I do surrounded by growing things, but I find it peaceful to tend them and watch their growth.

Violas and Sage growing happily in the stump garden earlier this week.

Violas and Sage growing happily in the stump garden earlier this week.

At the moment, I’m doing a lot of picking up leaves and petals from the living room floor as my potted plants adjust to life indoors with dry central heat.  But, as my partner put it last night, they are surely all happy that they “won the indoors lottery” and have the opportunity to survive the winter.  The few things left outside are not as fortunate.  A few nights now in the 20s, and the remaining annuals and tender perennials have gone the way of the ginger lilies.  I am hoping the roots of some, like the Mexican Petunias and a tender milkweed survive in sheltered places, but the tops surely have not.

Camellia, "Jingle Bells" on Friday afternoon.  Frost got the flowers, but new buds will open when the weather warms.

Camellia, “Jingle Bells” on Friday afternoon. Frost got the flowers, but new buds will open when the weather warms.

The area around my kitchen sink is filled with bottles and jars of rooting cuttings.  I’ve filled the window sills, the garage, and every other available space with plants.  Once we settle into a rhythm of watering, and they adjust to the available light and air, we’ll happily share the warm house until spring settles in.

Some of the orchids look as though they’re ready to send out new blooms.  The Begonias are opening new leaves, and the Cyclamen have fresh buds.  This was the first summer I’ve managed to keep two Cyclamen growing without a period of dormancy.  A third did die back, with a little help, perhaps; and I’m hoping for signs of new growth.

A last few figs cling to the branches, even with the fig leaves gone.

A last few figs cling to the branches, even with the fig leaves gone.

It is a decidedly wintry day outside today.  We have grey skies and rain here in Williamsburg, and the reports of ice and snow are still to our west.  It was supposed to warm up today, but never made it out of the 40s.  The strange alchemy and timing of precipitation and temperature will determine whether we have ice and snow here before Friday.

We are prepared for a colder than expected winter, and hope others are prepared for that, also.  Remember that much of our weather is created in far distant places.  We are in a period of unusually active volcanoes.  On Saturday alone seven volcanoes in six different countries erupted.  This week we’ve seen eruptions in Italy, Japan, Guatamala, Indonesia, Mexico, and Vanuatu.  Over the past month or so there have also been eruptions in Kamchatka and Alaska. Seismic activity is high all over the planet, and bears watching.  Even our own volcanoes from Mt. Shasta north to Mt. Hood and Mt. Baker are having more quakes and tremors than they usually do.  Our planet is alive, and it is active.

Winter has definitely settled in here in Williamsburg.

Winter has definitely settled in here in Williamsburg.

All of that gas and ash in the atmosphere affects how much sunlight gets through,  and ultimately affects the weather.  It has a cooling effect on the planet, and can also affect patterns of precipitation.   We don’t often have night time lows in the 20s this early, but we have this year.  And so all of the plants left out of doors will have to tough it out from here on.  I’ve pulled the marginal ones up close to the house where they will get the benefit of reflected heat.  Believe it or not, some petunias made it through all of last winter, and are still blooming today.

This poem feels appropriate today, as we approach Thanksgiving and reflect on our many blessings:

There is a road in the hearts of all of us, hidden and seldom traveled,
which leads to an unkown, secret place.
The old people came literally to love the soil,
and they sat or reclined on the ground with a feeling of
being close to a mothering power.
Their teepees were built upon the earth
and their altars were made of earth.
The soul was soothing, strengthening, cleansing and healing.
That is why the old Indian still sits upon the earth instead of
propping himself up and away from its life giving forces.
For him, to sit or lie upon the ground is to be able to think more deeply
and to feel more keenly. He can see more clearly into the mysteries of
life and come closer in kinship to other lives about him.

Chief Luther Standing Bear

The ground in our garden, near the ravine, on Friday.

The ground in our garden, near the ravine, on Friday.

Those of us drawn to tending gardens understand this feeling of needing to be close to the Earth and soil.  During the fall and winter we might not walk out barefoot or do much sitting on the ground, but we can still touch the Earth inside as we tend our indoor gardens.  Cooking, bringing family together, chopping wood, taking walks; all of these things can bring us the feelings Chief Luther Standing Bear describes.

And so here are this week’s Tuesday Snapshots. These are a few photos taken during the week but not used in other posts.

I hope you will enjoy them.

All Photos by Woodland Gnome 2013

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