WPC: New Horizon

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Krista challenges, in this week’s Photo Challenge, to look ahead to new horizons.  What will the new year hold?

These trees, which grow beside the Colonial Parkway, always enchant me.  They bring to mind a Greek myth about hospitality,  life long love and friendship.

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A devoted couple,  Baucis and Philemon , showed hospitality to strangers; sharing freely from the little that they had.  Eventually they realized that the strangers in their home were in reality,  Zeus and Hermes, who had come down to Earth in disguise.

Hospitality was the rule in those days, and because of their kindness to strangers, the couple was saved when their town was destroyed.  Their home was transformed into a temple, and they were granted their wish live out their lives as priest and priestess serving in the temple.   Granted a final blessing from their visitors, Baucis and Philemon asked that upon their death they might be transformed into intertwining trees, to spend eternity together.

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Mistletoe lives anchored to the branches of the trees. The trees and mistletoe form a symbiotic community.

Mistletoe lives anchored to the branches of the trees. The trees and mistletoe form a living, ever growing community.

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This story reminds us not only of the importance of hospitality and kindness to strangers, but also of the beauty of community with those we love.

Friends, neighbors, and family grow together over the years, reaching out to one another again and again as lives weave together in the fabric of community.  And this is what I hope for in the year ahead, as my relationships with friends and loved ones deepen and grow richer through the experiences we share.

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You see not only these two trees, and the mistletoe growing from their branches; but also a bit of woods along the horizon.  We all are surrounded by a rich community.  It is up to us to reach out to others, explore the landscape, and find our own place within it.

My partner and I were taking some time together enjoying a beautiful December afternoon when we stopped to photograph these special trees.  There is no official parking place nearby, and so he had pulled over on the shoulder, waiting patiently for me to get these photos with one eye in the mirror watching for traffic.

It was a quiet afternoon, and the few cars took no offense at us stopped by the roadway.  But I appreciate him taking this chance on my behalf.  We both admired the color along the horizon, touched by golden sunshine, here on the banks of the James River.

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These beautiful and graceful trees remind us to reach beyond our current limits.  To reach out to those we love, and to continue reaching higher and higher towards the limitless, infinite universe which pulses all around us.

For the Daily Post’s

Weekly Photo Challenge:  New Horizon

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2016

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Our A Forest Garden 2017 gardening calendar is filled with photos taken in our garden over the past year. 

To order a copy, write to me at woodlandgnome@zoho.com.

Wednesday Vignettes: Wild

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“Plants are also integral to reweaving

the connection between land and people.

A place becomes a home when it sustains you,

when it feeds you in body as well as spirit.

To recreate a home, the plants must also return.”

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Robin Wall Kimmerer

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“In the rain forest, no niche lies unused.

No emptiness goes unfilled.

No gasp of sunlight goes untrapped.

In a million vest pockets, a million life-forms quietly tick.

No other place on earth feels so lush.

Sometimes we picture it as an echo

of the original Garden of Eden—a realm ancient,

serene, and fertile, where pythons slither and jaguars lope.

But it is mainly a world of cunning and savage trees.

Truant plants will not survive.

The meek inherit nothing.

Light is a thick yellow vitamin they would kill for,

and they do. One of the first truths one learns

in the rain forest is that there is nothing

fainthearted or wimpy about plants.”

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Diane Ackerman

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“As dreams are the healing songs

from the wilderness of our unconscious –

So wild animals, wild plants, wild landscapes

are the healing dreams

from the deep singing mind of the earth.”

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Dale Pendell

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Appreciation, always, to  Anna at Flutter and Hum for hosting the Wednesday Vignette each week. Please visit her for links to other beautiful garden photos from around the planet.

Photos by Woodland Gnome

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There are still a very limited number of A Forest Garden 2016 garden calendars left, if you wanted one and didn’t order it in December.  Please contact me at woodlandgnome@zoho.com to order.

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Sunday Dinner: Patterns

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“There are only patterns,

patterns on top of patterns,

patterns that affect other patterns.

Patterns hidden by patterns.

Patterns within patterns…

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“…If you watch close, history does nothing but repeat itself…

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“…What we call chaos

is just patterns we haven’t recognized.

What we call random

is just patterns we can’t decipher.

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What we can’t understand we call nonsense.

What we can’t read we call gibberish.

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Chuck Palahniuk 

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2016

Mistletoe

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Mistletoe shines so beautifully in our forest canopy on sunny days. 

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Evergreen, it catches the sunlight on clear days, and forms a beautiful lacy silhouette on cloudy ones.

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We never notice it during the long summer months when it is hidden by the leaves.  But once the trees are bare, I always watch for mistletoe colonizing trees along the way as we drive.

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One of the ancient Druid’s sacred plants, Mistletoe has been used in many ways through the ages.

It is one of the more unusual plants growing wild in our forests, feeding birds and providing cover for many different creatures.

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Read more about mistletoe here….

 

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

Weekly Photo Challenge: One

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The mistletoe and tree are one, growing together as a single organism.  Roots deeply embedded into the living tissue of the tree, the mistletoe draws water and nutrients from the tree’s sap.  The evergreen mistletoe still makes its own food from sunlight, and has its owl life cycle living high in the branches of this oak.  Feeding birds, insects, and other tiny creatures, the mistletoe’s branches also offer shelter and safe haven.  As birds visit and eat the seeds in late winter, they help the mistletoe colony to spread and grow to nearby branches and other trees.  Every winter the new growth is revealed when the oak’s leaves have fallen.

One garden, one life.  Everything is connected in the most subtle ways.  Appreciating the interconnectedness of life takes a lifetime to fully comprehend, if then.

Our skies are overcast again today, with rain puddling on the ground and in all of the low spots.  A snow sky, we called it growing up, with heavy white and grey clouds full of moisture.  Too warm for snow in the moment,  once the temperatures plummet tonight, we may have snow for Christmas Eve.

The last work day before the Christmas holiday begins in earnest has been a soggy one.  The gifts we took around to friends today were all touched by the winter rain; perhaps an added blessing.

May your December 23 be a productive one.  May your remaining Christmas chores be completed in joy and good company, and may all of your travels be safe ones.

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2013

Looking Up… Mistletoe

Mistletoe lives in the branches of this tree along the banks of the James River.

Mistletoe lives in the branches of this tree along the banks of the James River.

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We gardeners spend so much of our time out of doors looking down.  We look down to check the progress on our beds and borders, to water our pots, to plant, to generally keep an eye on new things in the garden.

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This day I made a conscious decision to look up.  It is a gloriously sunny day with a clear blue sky, no humidity, and few clouds.  Knowing a storm is on the way for midweek; I set out, camera in hand, to enjoy the beauty of the day.

And what a perfect day it’s been for looking up.  Strong winds have stripped most of the leaves away, leaving the trees’ sculpted skeletons shining in the sun.

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A row of Crepe Myrtles stands near College Creek.

A row of Crepe Myrtles stands near College Creek.

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What a striking sight:  trunks and branches revealed once again, the living mathematics of their branching no longer hidden amongst their leaves.  The beauty of bark revealed in all of its silvery, marbled, textured variety.

Looking up, I was happy to see lively green clusters of mistletoe shining in the tree tops.  These special, evergreen, plants have been a part of myth and folklore since ancient times.  They live, suspended, between heaven and Earth; rooted into the branches of hardwood trees.

 

Mistletoe lives peacefully in this pair of trees along the Colonial Parkway.

Mistletoe lives peacefully in this pair of trees along the Colonial Parkway.

 

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Sacred to the Norse goddess Frigga, European mistletoe, Viscum album, was harvested at the summer and winter solstice by the Druids using a golden sickle, and never allowed to touch the ground.  It has been used, along with other evergreens, to decorate for the winter solstice celebrations for millennia.  Its mythic associations with masculinity and fertility, and with marriage, have earned it a prominent place in “kissing ball” decorations, hung from doorways and chandeliers.  Couples kiss under the mistletoe to seal engagements, cement friendships, make up after arguments, and often to begin new relationships.

 

Mistletoe growing in our garden is a welcome sight.  We are happy for its presence and look forward to finding branches blown to the ground.

Mistletoe growing in our garden is a welcome sight. We are happy for its presence and look forward to finding branches blown to the ground.

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Our North American mistletoe, Phoradendron serotinum, looks similar to European mistletoe, but is a different plant with larger clusters of white berries.  Both live high in the branches of trees, and both are semi-parasitic.

Both European and American mistletoe begin life as a seed, deposited on a tree branch by a bird.  The mistletoe berry contains a very sticky juice.  Whether the seed is rubbed off of a bird’s beak onto the branch as the bird eats, or is deposited in the bird’s droppings, the juice surrounding it cements it to the bark until it has the chance to germinate.

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Instead of roots, the new plant sends out haustorium, a type of aerial root, which penetrates the bark to grow into the wood to both anchor the mistletoe plant and absorb water and minerals from the host.  The evergreen mistletoe produces its own food from sunlight, as does every other plant.  It relies on its host for water, but not for food.

A large colony of mistletoe can weaken a tree over many years, and can disfigure the branches.  But in general, the host and guest can live quite peacefully together for a long time.  In fact, research has shown that the presence of mistletoe actually increases biodiversity in woodlands where it is found.

The plant provides food and shelter for numerous birds and insects.  In fact, some species of birds create their nests in mistletoe clusters.  They eat both the berries and the young leaves and shoots.  When mistletoe blooms in the spring it provides nectar for a variety of insects.

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Mistletoe is not something that a gardener plants.  I am always very happy to find it growing nearby, as though it is a special blessing of nature.  Sometimes pieces of it get knocked down by strong wind or a falling branch.  I always collect this and take it inside. People living out in the countryside sometimes try to shoot down clusters with a rifle to sell at Christmastime for decoration.

The only way to remove mistletoe from a tree is to prune the branch on which it is growing.  Since it won’t kill an otherwise strong and healthy tree, there really is no need to do this.  And, clusters of mistletoe add their own special beauty to a tree’s bare branches during winter.  Found all over Europe, North America, and Australia, there are also species of mistletoe which live in tropical and subtropical forests.  It is another beautiful plant in our forest garden.

 

A bald eagle near his nest along the James River.

A bald eagle near his nest along the James River.

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While looking up at the tree tops this afternoon along the Colonial Parkway, we also spotted a bald eagle hovering over its nest.  By the time we stopped the car and I got out with the camera, he had taken off, alarmed, and was circling nearby.  I managed to catch a single photo before he took off across the road towards the marsh.  We saw several eagles today, a few hawks, and lots of gulls.

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A closer view of the nest, which was full of young in early summer.

A closer view of the nest, which was full of young in early summer.

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The gulls are gathering inland again ahead of the winter storms coming later this week.  As sometimes happens, a huge icy system is coming from the west at the same time another storm system is swooping down from Canada.  It looks like they will meet over the Carolinas and Virginia by Tuesday, and then rush up the coast.

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Gulls have flown inland ahead of the coming winter storms.

Gulls have flown inland ahead of the coming winter storms.

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We already have January like temperatures in place, with a high here today in the mid-30s.  It was the first day I reached for my hat, gloves, and scarf before heading outside, and the howling winds made it feel much colder.  I filled the camera today, hoarding photos like cans of soup.

The rest of the week might not be the best weather for wandering the garden taking photos.  But today has been a lovely day in Williamsburg, a beautiful wintery day, and a glorious day for “looking up.”

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“If you concentrate on finding whatever is good in every situation, you will discover that your life will suddenly be filled
with gratitude, a feeling that nurtures the soul.

Rabbi Harold Kushner

All Photos by Woodland Gnome 2013

Our Forest Garden- The Journey Continues

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A new site allows me to continue posting new content since after more than 1700 posts there is no more room on this site.  -WG

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