Sunday Dinner: Choosing Happiness

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“The most courageous act
is still to think for yourself.
Aloud.”
.
Coco Chanel
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“Freedom is not worth having
if it does not include the freedom
to make mistakes.”
.
Mahatma Gandhi
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Rudbeckia laciniata, a beautiful native plant, grows to 10′ tall and spreads each year. Here, cozy with pineapple mint.

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“Those who deny freedom to others,
deserve it not for themselves”
.
Abraham Lincoln
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“Letting go gives us freedom,
and freedom is the only condition for happiness.
If, in our heart, we still cling to anything –
anger, anxiety, or possessions –
we cannot be free.”
.
Thich Nhat Hanh
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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2017
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“Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty.
The obedient must be slaves.”
.
Henry David Thoreau
 

Eclipse

Sunset over  College Creek, at (Gabriel) Archer’s Hope, near Jamestown, Virginia

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Just as light and darkness maintain their own balance, and follow one another; so too do times of darkness and light follow one another in human history. Opposing forces remain in cyclical tension throughout our planet’s history.

We welcome the darkness which allows us to rest each night, and we awake hours later refreshed and reinvigorated. Our bodies heal and re-energize while we sleep.

Plants also need a period of darkness for their growth and cellular repair after many hours of photosynthesis in the sunlight each day. Many plants need a period of dormancy and rest each year, before vigorous new growth responds to the lengthening days of spring.

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Winter Solstice morning

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Northwestern Oregon, where the eclipse over the United States will begin next Monday, symbolizes the farthest point of our continental cultural expansion during the 19th Century. John Jacob Astor established Astoria, Oregon, in 1811, and his team blazed the trail which opened the Northwest to settlement. He led the economic battle to incorporate the Pacific Northwest, and its resources, into the United States. In those days, the borders between the United States and British Canada remained fluid.

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Oregon’s coast, near where the eclipse will begin sliding across North America on August 21, 2017.

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Our nation’s power and prosperity come in large part from our westward expansion to the Pacific, and the rich natural, human and energetic resources of our western states. This part of our country remains energetic, innovative and largely progressive.

Charleston, South Carolina, symbolizes the first shots fired in treasonous rebellion in our Civil War, which began in 1860-61. This terrible time in our nation’s history potentially could have destroyed our republic. But it did not; and the slow and torturous process of re-unification has played out in our courts, congress, statehouses and streets ever since.

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The James River, just a few hundred miles north of where the coming eclipse will move offshore next Monday.

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This is a critical time in our nation’s history once again. The nihilistic forces of nazism, facism, and communism which were pushed back in Europe and Asia during the 20th Century, have infiltrated our own society and American government in the 21st.

We see this with sickening clarity after the election cycle of 2016, when these forces of hatred and anarchy have been publicly emboldened both in the media, and on the ground in cities across our nation.

And only a week after the tragic and disturbing events in Charlottesville last weekend; we will experience the rare astronomical event of a full solar eclipse beginning in Oregon and ending on the coast at Charleston, South Carolina.

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Jones Millpond, where The Battle of Williamsburg raged on May 5, 1862, in the early years of our nation’s Civil War; remains a peaceful spot along the Colonial Parkway in more recent times.

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Many of us wonder what this means for our country. We are disgusted and uncertain with elements of our own government and citizenry. We are deeply troubled about what our nation’s future may hold, and wondering whether the Republic established by our Constitution in 1788 remains sufficient to order our society today.

At this time of uncertainty, we have given much thought to the meaning and potential effects of the coming eclipse. Historically, many cultures have viewed eclipses as important times of vulnerability as the sun disappeared from the sky, and dramatic changes occurred in the aftermath. There could be several interpretations of the phenomena of darkness falling across a huge swath of the United States, from coast to coast, in the middle of a summer afternoon.

We choose to interpret the coming eclipse as a time of national renewal. Beginning in the west, where our country’s economic destiny was determined with the founding of Astoria and securing our border with Canada; and sweeping eastwards across our nation to the very city where our Civil War began; the darkness of this eclipse will be followed by new light.

The emerging sun, Sol Invictus,  will shine brightly over our nation for many hours on Monday, August 21, after the moon moves on in its orbit, allowing the sun’s light to burst forth once again.

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As morning follows night, we choose to focus on the ‘second morning’ that will occur as the eclipse ends on Monday afternoon as a time of national renewal and re invigoration. Let this ‘second morning’ usher in a time when our Constitutional government will be set right once again, and these current threats of tyranny, hatred, and lawlessness ended.

Let foreign intervention in our politics be exposed and expunged. Let nazis and their ideology, influencing our political discourse, be exposed and expunged.

Let the corrupting influence of foreign and criminally laundered money holding our political leaders to nihilistic political ideologies be exposed and expunged. Let the corruption and lawlessness in our own communities be exposed and expunged.

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Let us use this energetically potent period of a summer solar eclipse to power the necessary changes which will re-claim our communities and our state and national governments for our founding principles of life, liberty, and the pursuit of the good.

Let us reclaim our heritage as a land of promise and equal protection for all under fair and just laws.

Let our United States fully become a center of innovation and opportunity; tolerance and love; and a haven for the endless positive potential of humankind.

Woodland Gnome 2017

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Powhatan Creek

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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.”
.
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.”
.
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
~

Black’s Point, Jamestown Island in the James River

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2017
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WPC: Elemental

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For this week’s challenge, explore the classical elements of earth, air, water, and fire.
How do you capture something invisible like air, or the movement of water? Or, more personally, is there a place you go to feel connected to the earth?
Take a moment to explore these elements, in or out of balance, together or individually, as you pick up your camera this week.”
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The ancients teach us that originally there was only one energy, one creative force.  It was, even before the light.

And from its desire to know itself, everything else was created. Every thing we know was explosively generated from the one.

This original energy still animates everything, every element that is; even our own knowingness. 

The continual joy of creation comes from the interplay of all of the elements; every bit of fire and earth, water and air.   These essential elements structure even our own imagination.

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Try to take away even one of the elements, and what is left? Some balance will be restored ….

Our life depends on the interplay of fire, water, air, minerals, and the unique animation we call spirit.

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“I’ve always known, on a purely intellectual level,
that our separateness and isolation are an illusion.
We’re all made of the same thing—
the blown-out pieces of matter formed in the fires of dead stars.
I’d just never felt that knowledge in my bones until that moment,
there, with you, and it’s because of you.”
.
Blake Crouch
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Every particle and spark is important; a part of the whole. Every one of us is important:  a part of the whole; elemental.

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2017
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For the Daily Post’s
Weekly Photo Challenge:  Elemental

A Different Texture

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“To develop a complete mind:
Study the science of art.
Study the art of science.
Develop your senses-
especially learn how to see.
Realize that everything
connects to everything else.”
.
Leonardo da Vinci
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“All our knowledge has its origin in our perceptions”
.
Leonardo da Vinci
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“A painter should begin every canvas
with a wash of black,
because all things in nature are dark
except where exposed by the light.”
.
Leonardo da Vinci
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“Wisdom is the daughter of experience”
.
Leonardo da Vinci
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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2017
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For the Daily Post’s
Weekly Photo Challenge:  Textures
“…focus on the tactile elements…”
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“To become an artist you have to be curious.”
.
Leonardo da Vinci
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WPC: Unusual

Pacific City, Oregon in October 2016

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The Daily Post’s Photo Challenge this week challenges us to publish a photo that is in someway unusual.  Photographer Lignum Draco challenges us to reach beyond our comfort zone of subject matter or technique, to feature a photo that is unique in some way.

I am sharing a series of previously discarded photos from my visit to the Oregon coast last October.  These were shot in the hours before a major storm hit the Pacific Northwest.

I was visiting Pacific City, Oregon, with my daughter and toddler granddaughter to enjoy some beach time together before the hurricane like storm socked us in for the next five days.  They were happily playing in the sand while I shot these images.

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My daughter, a trained pilot, always reads the sky.  She pointed out the approaching front drawing near hours ahead of schedule.  We gathered up little one, despite her howling protests, and got her back to the car and us back to my hotel just as the wind picked up and the first squall line of rain passed over us.

Weathering such a dangerous storm in a rented hotel room, perched high on a cliff above the crashing Pacific, reminds us of how fragile our lives can be.  Listening to the howling wind banging the dumpster lids of nearby hotels that night, wondering whether our power would stay on, and watching reports of flooding, tornadoes and wind damage to nearby communities made us grateful for our relative safety and comfort together.  We had heat, fresh coffee, hot water, and our internet connection throughout.

These photos speak to me of a greater fragility, however.  They demonstrate the fragility of our biosphere and the vulnerability of the thin layer of vegetation our planet supports.

Normally, I show you lush photos of gardens filled with plants.  My photos are filled with rich greens and vividly colored leaves or flowers.  I photograph pollinators and other garden wildlife sipping nectar or hiding out in the relative cool of our garden.

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Here, we see the truth of our life on this planet.  There is a thin strip of living green perched precariously on the underlying rock and soil of our Earth.  Once we destroy the vegetation, what is left won’t produce the oxygen we breathe or produce the crops which feed us.

Watching forests come down to make way for new shopping areas and town homes, vegetation ripped up for the inevitable widening of roads to make room for the growing population, and habitat destroyed for new power switching stations and pipelines has become a way of life in our country.  How short sighted the promise of profit can make us…..

I’m sharing an unusual subject, an unusual viewpoint, and an unusual mood through these photos today.  And I hope they will inspire us all to become fierce protectors of our planet Earth; our life-long mother and our larger home.

Woodland Gnome 2017
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For the Daily Post’s
Weekly Photo Challenge:  Unusual

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Siletz Bay, Lincoln City, Oregon October 2016

WPC: Bridge

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Bridges connect us, but also separate us in important ways.  Tidewater, Virginia, is riddled with bridges, large and small, linking communities across several rivers and lots of marshes, creeks, canals and the Chesapeake Bay.  As a child, observing the world from the back seat of my parents’ car, some of these old and narrow bridges frightened me.

We traversed the Bay Bridge Tunnel each summer to visit family on the Eastern Shore.   You soon loose sight of land on this miles long bridge.  Back in the day, when it was only two lanes wide, it was always an adventure.   Still is, when a storm is sweeping across the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay and wind buffets trucks, sometimes pushing a big rig over the rails.

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Nowadays, many of our area bridges have been upgraded and modernized, but now carry heavy tolls.  Commuters may not be able to afford to cross for casual shopping and visiting; and nearby communities become isolated from one another.

Years ago, I left my home in the Northern Neck,  knowing that a toll was to be levied on this beautiful Coleman Bridge, which links Yorktown and Gloucester. I brought my family south, so we didn’t have to depend on passage across the bridge, and settled in the heart of  urban Tidewater.

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The beautiful and rural peninsulas of Virginia’s bay front coast rely on this bridge to link them to the rest of the state, especially to the nearest cities in Southeast Virginia.  Paying for every trip to shop, visit family, work and stay connected to the larger communities, takes a heavy financial toll.  This bridge becomes a barrier, separating people and communities from one another.

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Now, many years later, I love driving across the Coleman Bridge for day trips and get aways back to the small towns and rural beauty found in Gloucester,  Mathews and Lancaster.  I’ve long loved the gentle lap of our Virginia rivers along their sandy banks, and the villages which thrive along these shores.

From its top, one can see beautiful vistas of the York River, historic Yorktown,  and Gloucester Point.  Every trip is different, depending on the sky and waves, wind and river traffic, and what birds may be nesting on the bridge or flying over the river.

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Our bridges remain part of the fabric of our lives, allowing us to weave a rich tapestry of partnerships and friendships across our watery landscape.  They enrich our lives, even as they impose substantial costs on our families and our communities.

Art and engineering combine to form this beautiful legacy of bridges; which mold our present, even as they shaped our history.

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2017
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For the Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge:  Bridge

 

Wednesday Vignette: Vision

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“The truth.” Dumbledore sighed.

“It is a beautiful and terrible thing,

and should therefore be treated with great caution.”

  .

J.K. Rowling

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“I believe in everything until it’s disproved.

So I believe in fairies, the myths, dragons.

It all exists, even if it’s in your mind.

Who’s to say that dreams and nightmares

aren’t as real as the here and now?”

.

John Lennon

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“Facts do not cease to exist

because they are ignored.”

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Aldous Huxley

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“Art is the lie that enables us to realize the truth.”

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Pablo Picasso

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“In a time of deceit

telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”

.

George Orwell

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2017

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“The truth is rarely pure and never simple.”

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Oscar Wilde

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For the Daily Post’s

Weekly Photo Challenge:  Reflecting

Honoring Earth Day

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“Our Mother Earth is the source of all life, whether it be the plants, the two-legged, four-legged, winged ones or human beings.
“The Mother Earth is the greatest teacher, if we listen, observe and respect her.
“When we live in harmony with the Mother Earth, she will recycle the things we consume and make them available to our children and to their children.
“I must teach my children how to care for the Earth so it is there for the future generations.

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“So from now on:

“I realize the Earth is our mother. I will treat her with honor and respect.
“I will honor the interconnectedness of all things and all forms of life. I will realize the Earth does not belong to us, but we belong to the Earth.

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“The natural law is the ultimate authority upon the lands and water. I will learn the knowledge and wisdom of the natural laws. I will pass this knowledge on to my children.
“The mother Earth is a living entity that maintains life. I will speak out in a good way whenever I see someone abusing the Earth. Just as I would protect my own mother, so will I protect the Earth.
“I will ensure that the land, water, and air will be intact for my children and my children’s children – unborn.”
.
Anonymous, reprinted from WhiteWolfPack.com

 

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Earth Day was first celebrated in 1970.  I was in grade school, and this new celebration felt like a very big deal to me.  I was happy for all of the efforts the ‘grown-ups’ were making to protect the air, water, land and wildlife.  It felt good. 

This new Earth Day celebration was a ray of hope, a spark of light in an otherwise very dark time in our country.  We were still using unspeakable weapons in Southeast Asia, destroying their forests with Napalm and their people with terror. Nixon and his cronies still controlled the White House.

The first nuclear weapons in modern times had been used against two Japanese cities only 25 years earlier, and the the arms race to develop and test more of these life-destroying weapons was exploding around the planet.

But, we also still had George Harrison and John Lennon in those days, and the millions of voices of the Woodstock Generation raised in song and protest.

So much has happened in these last 47 years.  Our lives have changed in unimaginable ways.  Our country has changed, too.  The Woodstock Generation has mostly spent their lives now in doing what they can, for good or for ill; before losing their voices and their mobility to the natural progression of things.

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And their legacy lives on, in the rest of us ‘youngsters.’  The battles still rage across our planet between the special interests of our age.  There is a basic philosophical divide, as I see it, between those focused on preservation of the environment, sharing and preserving our resources for generations yet to come; and those focused on using up every resource they can to make a profit.

The divide is between those focused on themselves and their own profit and pleasure, and those whose focus and concern expands to include the good of the millions of voiceless plant and animal species , generations yet unborn, and our beautiful planet.

That is a stark oversimplification, I know.  And I would bet that many who read these words disagree with my interpretation of things.

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Good people can disagree.  Well-intentioned people can see things differently.  We each have our own story to tell about life and our experiences, in our own way.

A neighbor said to me just the other day, “The Earth doesn’t have a problem.  The Earth has never had a problem with human beings.  It is the humans who want to continue living on this planet who have the problem.”

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And he is right.  Actually, the more information which leaks out about Mars, and what has happened to that once beautiful planet over the last half a million years, the more we understand how fragile our own planetary biosphere to be.  Perhaps that is why our government has tried to control the many photos of man-made structures on Mars, and evidence of water and the life once living there, so fiercely.

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So what can any of us do?  Each of us can choose something, or somethings, which are in our power to do that will make a positive impact on our biosphere’s, and our own, well-being.  And then, we can raise our own voice, and use the power of our own purse to influence our neighbors, and the greater human community, towards doing something constructive, too.

Here are a few ideas from the Earthday.org site to get us all started:

Create your own ‘Act of Green’

Plant a tree or donate a tree

Eat less meat

Stop using disposable plastic

Reduce your energy footprint

Educate others

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I invite you to celebrate Earth Day 2017 in your own personal way.  Do something positive for yourself, your family, our planet and our future.  It doesn’t have to be something big, fancy or expensive.

Just do something to commit your own “Act of Green,” your own radical act of beauty.

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2016-2017

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“I do not think the measure of a civilization

is how tall its buildings of concrete are,

but rather how well its people have learned

to relate to their environment and fellow man.”

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Sun Bear of the Chippewa Tribe

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For the Daily Post’s

Weekly Photo Challenge:  Earth

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Expect the Best

On March 1, 2017  it hit 82F, and our Magnolias were already in full bloom.  Temperatures plummeted later that week, and frost hit them a few days after this photo.

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Our Magnolias were in full bloom when spring morphed back into winter last month.  Unusual, early warmth teased them into bloom weeks ahead of their usual awakening.  But 80 degree days in February will tease all sorts of things into early awakening, won’t they?

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Magnolia liliiflora

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As much as we enjoyed the early spring blossoms, we held our breath, wondering whether the nice weather would hold out.  And of course, it didn’t.  Quite suddenly, the temperatures plummeted back to ‘normal.’

We had a string of nights in the 20s which brightened into frosty mornings and cool grey days.  That slowed down the progression of spring in our garden, a bit; but devastated the Magnolias blossoms.

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April 3, and our Magnolia is blooming once again.

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What had been hundreds of richly purple delicate blossoms one day were reduced to these sad, drooping brown husks of their former beauty the next.  If I’m getting too personal here, forgive me, please.  It is one of the ironies of our lives here on this Earth that such things can happen, and so quickly.

We wondered what the prolonged cold would do to our Magnolias.  They are well established, but we wondered whether their frozen buds would recover.

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Our Magnolias have finally grown both leaves and new blossoms.

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When that happened last spring, to our emerging Ficus “Silver Lyre,’ most of the stems died, too.  We had to wait for new growth from the shrub’s roots.  It recovered, but very slowly; they didn’t make much new growth and remained a bit stunted all last year.

But our 2017 cold snap ended about a week ago.  Our temperatures have been moderate, near normal, and we’ve had no nights in the 30s for about 10 days.  And so we see spring progressing in our garden, despite the frosty hiccup in mid-March.

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Azaleas fill our garden this week, but the Hydrangea macrophylla also took a hit from the cold last month.  They are slowly trying again with fresh leaves.

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I’m still holding my breath a bit, quite honestly.  Our frost free date remains two weeks into the future, and I’m working to restrain my natural urge to plant and move our pots and baskets back out to their summer spots in the garden.

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Acer palmatum

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I moved the hanging baskets out of our garage early last week, and massed them against the foundation, on the backside of our home, near the spigot.  I gave them all a good drenching and left them out during the torrential rains last week.

I worry a little about the afternoon sun there, but am reluctant to rehang them in the trees until I’m sure we won’t need to move them back inside for shelter should we get a rogue snowstorm.  More likely, hail and wind, from the week’s forecast!  Tornadoes ripped through southern Virginia on Friday.

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Columbine, ready to bloom.

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I finally fed the roses their breakfast of Rose Tone and Epsom salts last week, just before the rains came.  I’ve done a little pruning, and need to do more.  Prune too early, and the new growth you encourage will die back in a hard freeze.  That happened to a few of our roses last month.

The roses are ready to grow!  All sport new red leaves, and I know that the longer I wait, the harder it will be for me to do the necessary spring shaping.  Our first roses bloomed in April last year.  It was another early spring….

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Gardening, like any good board game, leaves a lot to chance.  And we gardeners must swallow our feelings, sometimes, and just be good sports.  Whoever wrote the “Serenity Prayer” must have been a gardener.  There are always things in our control that we can change, do, not do, encourage, or ignore.

And then there are those things that we can’t change:  like the small herd of deer we found grazing in our garden when we returned home yesterday afternoon from our day at the Daffodil Festival in Gloucester.  I saw the back of one, calmly grazing our butterfly garden, as I climbed out of the car.  I was off, laden with bags and my coffee cup, in hot pursuit.  Seven brown little heads turned and magically ran right through the deer fences.

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The Oakleaf Hydrangeas made it through March just fine. The cold slowed their leaves opening, but there was no damage. Autumn Brilliance ferns emerge this week.

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And we can’t necessarily change the weather, either.  We can remain mindful of the calendar and the forecast and do our best to work with the changing of the seasons.  But storms will come and the mercury will dance when it should remain slow and steady.  Which brings us back to our frozen Magnolias….

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Which, I’m happy to tell you, recovered.  What joy to notice both green and purple emerging from their tolerant stems.  New flowers are blooming, and leaves continue to emerge.  I expect they will fully recover from their trauma this spring.

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My parents always taught me, growing up, to “Expect the best.”  That has been good advice.

Oftentimes, our attitude, our expectations, our thoughts and even our feelings will influence how things will turn out.  Yes, there are exceptions.  But in general, we can find a silver lining when we go looking for one.

And even through the inevitable disappointments and challenges we encounter along the way; a hopeful, joyful attitude makes the journey a lot more pleasant.  When we expect the best, the best inevitably comes our way.

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We discovered this beautiful Heron in a wetland near the York River yesterday. We stopped to enjoy the beach near VIMS as we left Gloucester, and he was wading nearby.

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Woodland Gnome 2017

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“At times what you expect and what happens don’t match.
The faster you accept and adapt to what happened
and work towards creating what you believed,
that what you expected gets created
in a whole new way..!”
.
Sujit Lalwani

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