WPC: Ascend!

Rose window, Bruton Parish, Williamsburg VA

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From the sublime…
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To the strange…
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There are many opportunities at Colonial Williamsburg  to ‘ascend’ this holiday season!
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The reconstructed ‘Governor’s Palace’ at Colonial Williamsburg, dressed for the holidays.

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“If we are serious about dreaming our awakening into being
and creating a peaceful, loving earth
in which the heart, spirit and soul are the only true leaders,
we must continue to keep our focus on thoughts of unity
and all that truly brings us together.”
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Diane Hall
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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2017
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For the Daily Post’s
Weekly Photo Challenge:  Ascend

Determined to Live: Ebony Spleenwort

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“Perfection is born of imperfection.”
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Richie Norton

We were surprised today to find tiny ferns growing in the cracks of an old brick wall encircling Bruton Parish church in Colonial Williamsburg.   Near the end of our walk to photograph this year’s wreathes, we were headed back to the car when tiny bits of green growing from the mortar between old bricks caught our attention.

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“Being strong is not just about your physical strength, no,
it is about your capacity to handle
difficult problem with ease.”
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Nurudeen Ushawu

We noticed patches of moss, which is not so unusual, growing near these very persistent an determined ferns.  This part of the wall is shaded by an ancient live oak tree.   The wall itself dates to the mid-eighteenth century, and has stood through good times and dangerous times in the colonial district of Williamsburg, Virgninia.

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The Bruton Parish chuchyard, where prominent Virginians have been buried since the late 17th Century.  We found ferns growing on the outside of this wall.

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“Continuous effort –
not strength or intelligence –
is the key to unlocking our potential.”
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Winston S. Churchill

The ferns are native to Virginia.  Commonly known as ebony spleenwort, these small ferns grow in little clusters in moist locations throughout our region.

They can be found in many shady places.  But they particularly enjoy growing on calcareous rocks and between old bricks.  Growing on a vertical wall doesn’t phase them, and they can also sometimes be found on rock walls, rotting wood and old fences.

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“Dripping water hollows out stone,
not through force but through persistence.”
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Ovid

I admire the perseverance of such determined little plants.  Their airborne spores landed in a crack in this centuries old mortar, in a moist crevice where they began to grow.  Despite  past summers’ droughts, the tiny plants have found enough moisture to keep growing.

No gardener waters them or grooms them.  These tiny plants look out for themselves season after season.

These are evergreen ferns, and will cling to their crevice and to life no matter what weather this winter coming brings.

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“Most of the important things in the world
have been accomplished by people
who have kept on trying
when there seemed to be no hope at all.”
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Dale Carnegie

If you love ferns growing in your garden, you might consider growing ebony spleenwort.  Please don’t collect from the wild.  The fern you dig or rip out will leave much of its roots behind.  You may or may not be able to replicate its habitat.

No, please buy a nursery grown fern and establish it in a moist, shady spot in your garden.  These ferns like lime-rich rocky soil, and you may be able to get them to establish in a rocky area, or even on a wall in your own garden.

I actually found a pair of these little ferns growing in some mulch carelessly left on top of some Juniper fronds over the summer.  They had rooted into the moist mulch, and I could easily lift them and re-plant them in soil in a shady spot nearby.  Once established, they will produce spores each year, and these spores will spread and allow for new ferns to grow nearby.

Ferns sometimes pop up as if ‘by magic’ in our area.  And natural magic it is, this miraculous journey from a tiny spore into a growing fern.  But that is another story best left for another post.

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Asplenium platyneuron, ebony spleenwort, is named for the ebony colored stipe and petiole of each frond.  This fern was once thought to have medicinal properties for curing diseases of the spleen. 

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Woodland Gnome 2017
“Sometimes even to live is an act of courage.”
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Seneca
Many thanks to Helen Hamilton for her field guide, Ferns and Mosses of Virginia’s Coastal Plain

 

Where the Paths May Lead

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The last few days of December find  us nostalgic for other times and places. 

As the little ones among us look ahead to Christmas Day and the promises of wishes made real; many look back across the years to joyful moments passed.

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We remember loved ones no longer with us.  We look back along the winding pathways which led us to this particular moment.

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It is a time to take out stored memories, like the treasured ornaments we place on the Yule tree each December.  Normally wrapped up and put away, we allow them to breathe and shimmer for a short time each year.

As our collection grows it takes on a certain luster of age, a patina wrought of familiarity.

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Some recollections bring us an echo of joy across the wide space of years; others fresh waves of sadness or regret.

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It is part of being human, I believe, and a hallmark of a lifetime’s journey.  For our paths aren’t always straight and clear.  They meander through fate and circumstance, opportunity, and those choices we claim and those  we reject.

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Sometimes we can see paths which parallel our own, but can’t find the gate to access them.  Sometimes our paths wind in spirals or loops which feel closed off from further progress along the way.

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Other paths feel inevitable, wide, clear and straight.  We travel them with groups of loved ones and friends who share the same destination we hold before us.

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But always, at this time of year, we finally look ahead; considering where to journey next.  Whether to continue on our present path or to seek a new one.

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What goals do we hold out for ourselves in the months ahead?  What changes do we need to make?  What special wishes will we hold in our hearts at this magical time of Winter Solstice?

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Are we seeking fresh challenge or warmth and comfort?  Is there a cause calling to us, or is it time to enjoy a span of  peacefulness and rest?

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Is the way ahead clear, or are there obstructions we must  move before we continue on our way?

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In the quiet space we find in late December, we have an opportunity to ponder our life’s path.  Time away from work and the normal routine invites us to ponder where we have been and where we are going in our lives.

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We can enjoy the peace this season brings us to look both behind us and ahead of us.

And perhaps there is a bit of child-like wonder in our hearts, yet.

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As we articulate our wishes to the Universe, we can almost hear sleigh bells in the distance; and once again believe in the magic this season holds.

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All photos taken at Colonial Williamsburg, December 23, 2016.

All photos taken at Colonial Williamsburg, December 23, 2016.

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For the Daily Post’s

Weekly Photo Challenge:  Path

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In loving memory of those we loved and lost in 2016. 

May they continue along their eternal pathways

in light and in peace.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Inside Bruton Parish Churchyard

Bruton Parish church yard, as seen from Duke of Gloucester Street.

Bruton Parish church yard, as seen from Duke of Gloucester Street.

The church we know today as Bruton Parish was established during the first century of settlement here in Virginia.  It grew from the consolidation of several existing parishes in this area.

It was formally recognized, and its first rector named, in 1674.  Land  for building the church was donated in 1678 by Col. John Page.   The original Gothic style brick church was completed in  1683.

The original church's foundation, inside ethe church yard.

The original church’s foundation, inside the church yard.

Only about 60×24 feet, the original Bruton Parish church was located to the north and west of the present building, in what is now the church yard.

March 12, 2014 CW 075

This new church served the needs of the growing population here in Virginia, and became very important in the life of the colony.

After the College of William and Mary was founded in 1693, and the Governor and his entourage began attending the church when the capitol was moved from Jamestown to Middle Plantation in 1699; the new church proved much too small for the growing community.  The town’s name had by now been changed to Williamsburg.

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By 1706 the church vestry had begun to discuss building a larger church.  The Church of England had a firm hand in all community and  governmental affairs, and everyone in the community was expected to maintain a relationship with the Parish.

Everyone was required to not only belong to a Parish, but to support it financially and show up regularly for worship. The Parish was responsible for all baptisms, marriages, funerals, confirmations, and communion.

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Crepe Myrtle and ivy grow in this corner of the church yard.  Boxwood shrubs grow beyond this portion of the wall.

Religious freedom wasn’t born until the time of the American Revolution.

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The original church was simply not large enough for all those who attended, especially when the House of Burgesses was in session.

Governor Alexander Spotswood designed the new church building.  His design was 75 feet long by 28 feet wide, the first cross shaped church in Virginia.  The new building was completed in 1715.  The original small brick church’s foundation can be found today in the church yard of the present church.

This is a particularly interesting tomb.  Notice the symbols, reminicent of Shakespear's plays.

This is a particularly interesting tomb. Notice the symbols, reminiscent of Shakespear’s plays.

Some of the oldest marked graves in Virginia are found within this cemetery, now enclosed by a wall.  There are those who read much history from a well kept church yard.

Another view of the same bomb.

Another view of the same bomb.

The body of young Mathew Whaley, the 9 year old boy who died quite suddenly of pneumonia in 1675, lies here in a prominent grave, beside his father.  Our neighborhood  elementary school, just a short distance away, is named for little Mathew.

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This church has witnessed the history of our nation.   It was disenfranchised from the Anglican Church of England in 1776 and lost its tax support.  It became an Episcopalian church, and remains one today.

The main entrance to Bruton Parish, inside the church yard wall.

The main entrance to Bruton Parish, inside the church yard wall.

It lost many members when state government moved to Richmond in  1780. But the church has remained important in the life of the community, and in the life of the College.  Faculty and students are an important part of the congregation, and the church’s Rector has, from time to time, also been President of the College.

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Bruton Parish witnessed both the American Revolution in the Eighteenth Century, and the American Civil War in the 1860’s.  The church was used as a hospital for wounded soldiers in 1862, after The Battle of Williamsburg.

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Ivy and daffodils brighten the early spring garden in the Bruton Parish church yard.

As you might expect, this important and historic church houses many historical treasures, many gifts from the wealthy and powerful.  Through all or the changes this church has experienced during the last 340 years, its true treasure is its strong congregation.

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Live oak tree growing by the churchyard wall

A vital part of our community today, just as it was in the 17th century; this church, churchyard, and congregation remain important to our community here in Williamsburg, Virginia.

The church opens its doors to visitors for tours, concerts, meetings, and worship.  Community groups use its Parish house, and Bruton Paris maintains many ministries in the community.

Here you will find living history, even inside the church yard.

All Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

“If the freedom of religion, guaranteed to us by law in theory, can ever rise in practice under the overbearing inquisition of public opinion,

then and only then, will truth prevail over fanaticism.

Thomas Jefferson

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Bruton Parish Episcopal Church

One’s Own Back Garden

The Trees’ Knees

Signs of Spring in Colonial Williamsburg

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