Sunday Dinner: Consumption

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“Mindful consumption is the object of this precept.

We are what we consume.

If we look deeply into the items

that we consume every day,

we will come to know our own nature very well.

We have to eat, drink, consume,

but if we do it unmindfully, we may destroy

our bodies and our consciousness,

showing ingratitude toward our ancestors,

our parents, and future generations.”

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Thich Nhat Hanh

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“I vow to ingest only items that preserve well-being,

peace, and joy in my body and my consciousness…

Practicing a diet is the essence of this precept.

Wars and bombs are the products of our consciousness

individually and collectively. Our collective consciousness

has so much violence, fear, craving, and hatred in it,

it can manifest in wars and bombs.

The bombs are the product of our fear…

Removing the bombs is not enough.

Even if we could transport all the bombs

to a distant planet, we would still not be safe,

because the roots of the wars and the bombs

are still intact in our collective consciousness.

Transforming the toxins in our collective consciousness

is the true way to uproot war .”

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Thich Nhat Hanh

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“We convince ourselves that even our shameless waste,

our unchecked consumption and our appalling ignorance

of anyplace in the world except our own little corner

must continue–or they win!

No, when you become smarter and less gluttonous,

you win. We all win!”

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Bill Maher

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2016

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“Drink your tea slowly and reverently,

as if it is the axis on which the world earth revolves –

slowly, evenly,

without rushing toward the future.”

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Thich Nhat Hanh

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Water

 

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Icy molten glass dances

And flows on windblown ripples;

Rising like liquid sky.

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Wetness, swirling in

Murky translucence, blurs

Borders of creek and land.

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Eternal mirror

Cloaking what lies beneath with

Life’s pageant of light.

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In response to Writing 201: Water Haiku

Woodland Gnome 2015

 

Wild-Life

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“Patience, he thought.

So much of this was patience – waiting,

and thinking and doing things right.

So much of all this, so much of all living

was patience and thinking.”

Gary Paulsen,  from Hatchet

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2015

Thanksgiving : Converge

Weekly Photo Challenge: Converge

In response to The Daily Post’s WPC: “Converge.”

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“Do not spoil what you have

by desiring what you have not;

remember that what you now have

was once among the things you only hoped for.”

Epicurus

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Early yesterday morning, when it was still barely light outside, I began this post.  I had found the quotations and begun working with photos when I realized my allotted time had elapsed.

It was time to slice the roasted sweet potatoes and layer them with fresh orange juice and maple syrup, sprinkle them with spice, and assemble all of the bits and pieces we planned to take with us to Thanksgiving dinner across the state.

And that is how yesterday’s post landed in my “drafts”  file, photo-less and unfinished.  And Thanksgiving day slipped into “Black Friday.” 

I enjoy the irony of  how only in America the nationally declared “Day of Thanksgiving” shifted; in my lifetime, may I add; to the national weekend of greed.

Our Thanksgiving Day passes more in contemplation of what wonderful deals we’ll score on Friday than it does in appreciation for the blessings we already enjoy.

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“True happiness is to enjoy the present,

without anxious dependence upon the future,

not to amuse ourselves with either hopes or fears

but to rest satisfied with what we have,

which is sufficient,

for he that is so wants nothing.

The greatest blessings of mankind

are within us and within our reach.

A wise man is content with his lot,

whatever it may be,

without wishing for what he has not.”

Seneca

There was a time, when my daughter was little, when I headed out before dawn each Friday after Thanksgiving with a list and a plan. 

It was honestly the best way to make the Christmas budget stretch to cover all of those extended family members I wanted to remember, and also have a beautiful stack of gifts for my own daughter and husband at the same time.

These were the days before online shopping was so accessible; Amazon wasn’t an option and I still shopped the tool sales at our local Sears store.

I’ve watched the “wave” of shopping mania swell, crest, and perhaps begin to subside a bit.

Many of us wait now for “Cyber-Monday.”  And even more of us have noticed that desperate retailers continue to offer deals and specials right up through Christmas Eve.

Some of the urgency has dissipated to grab the “Door-Busters.”  Wiser shoppers watch and wait… like a skilled hunter… knowing a better shot will come at that important purchase.

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But stepping back a bit for the wider view, we’re still in the mind-set of acquisition rather than appreciation. 

Our environment has conditioned us to participate in an all-out shopping extravaganza in December.  And at some point we’ll purchase most anything, even a ridiculous bit of merchandise at an insane price just to have a splashy “gift” for someone.  (Yes, I’ve been reading those catalogs again.  The photos of $30 cheese logs and $50 holiday cakes are horribly fascinating for some unknown reason.)

And that is how we came to find ourselves on the Colonial Parkway this morning enjoying the sunshine and taking photos rather than shopping.  That’s right.  I didn’t even shop my favorite spots online this morning.  It was a matter of principle for me today.

“Piglet noticed that even though

he had a Very Small Heart,

it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.”

― A.A. Milne

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We wanted to appreciate the gorgeous day, the gift of health and well being, and the joy of spending time together this morning.  We dressed warmly and set out before breakfast, while the world remained ice-clad.

It is our intention to simplify the gifting aspect of Christmas this year.   We believe the spirit of giving is a year-round endeavor; not to be saved for holidays only.

We’ve also realistically realized that our family members are more in need of time and attention at the moment than merchandise.

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Yet shopping is a hard habit to break.  I’ve dipped into several online retailers today.  And promptly clicked out without purchase from all but one.

And to be honest with you, the purchases I made at that bookstore, with their coupon, were mostly for us.  Yes, I took advantage of the deals today to get a CD of Pete Seeger singing folk songs for my infant granddaughter, but that is the only “gift” so far today.

What about you?  Are you shopping today?  And if you are, were your purchases gifts for yourself, or for others?

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Powhatan Creek empties into Sandy Bay here.  The heron stands off to the right.

Powhatan Creek empties into Sandy Bay here.  The heron stands off to the right.

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I’ve longed suspected that a lot of the shopping done in December is personal shopping.  The car commercials are the most brazen in admitting this, by far.  But I suspect that many of us wait for the deals of December to get the things we’ve wanted for ourselves for a while.

Which brings us back to Thanksgiving; and the holiday’s roots in appreciation for simple survival through life-threatening hardships.

We’ve come a stretch as a nation since those early settlement days.  And we’ve come a long way as a culture from idealism to consumerism.

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Looking back at the same trees from the other side of Sandy Bay.

Looking back at the same trees from the other side of Sandy Bay.

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“Cultivate the habit of being grateful

for every good thing that comes to you,

and to give thanks continuously.

 

And because all things

have contributed to your advancement,

you should include all things

in your gratitude.”

 

Ralph Waldo Emerson

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My daughter, who works in retail at the moment, just called to tell me her store more than doubled its sales goal last night.  It was their first year to open in the afternoon on Thanksgiving.

They sold more yesterday evening than I made in my first two years of teaching combined. 

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A loon, and proud of it....

A loon, and proud of it….

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I have noticed that I feel far more peace and happiness when I’m enjoying those things already in my life than when I’m on the hunt for something new.

And that may be the best reason I can offer for spending today still  focused on gratitude and Thanksgiving.

We may go buy our Christmas tree tomorrow.  But we plan to simply enjoy the moment today.

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WPC:  Converge

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

Powhatan Creek

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Powhatan Creek winds its way for nine miles  through southern James City County; a narrow and twisted passage of dark brown crystal clear water which threads through neighborhoods and crosses the Colonial Parkway before reaching the marshes of Sandy Bay and the Black River,  finally emptying into The James at The Thoroughfares.

Fed by natural springs, Powhatan Creek’s water  gets its dark color from tannins released by Bald Cypress trees which line its banks and grow in the swampland it feeds.

 

creek map 2

The lower portion of the creek is tidal, with salt water from the James River mixing with the creek’s fresh water as the tides shift each day.

Bald Cypress trees, abundant along Powhatan Creek,  earn their name from their appearance in winter.

 

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One of the few deciduous conifers, their needles turn rusty brown each autumn  and then blow away in autumn’s winds.  They produce new leaves each spring.

 

A Bald Cypress limb with cones, ready to drop its needles for winter.

A Bald Cypress limb with cones, ready to drop its needles for winter.

This annual shedding of needles into the  waters where they grow,  keeps the creek very acid.  It doesn’t grow stagnant, although it is often slow moving and shallow.

Bald Cypress may grow where their roots are submerged year round, in tidal swamps, along the margins of ponds, rivers and creeks, as well as on dry land.  And they harbor many species of wildlife.

 

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Powhatan Creek, rich in Cypress, pine, hardwoods, and many species of berry producing shrubs,  provides habitat for an abundance of wildlife.

Seven species of game fish; many species of birds, including bald eagles and great blue herons; snakes, turtles, frogs, deer, beaver and other small mammals call this rich ecosystem home.

James City County’s Powhatan Creek Park, just off of Jamestown Road, offers a good access point for the creek.

 

Along the path from the parking area to the boat ramp and docks.

Along the path from the parking area to the boat ramp and docks.

 

A good sized  graveled parking lot provides access to a boat ramp, trails, and several fishing platforms along the bank.  This is where we visit to take photos of this beautiful part of the Creek.

There is no charge to put a canoe or kayak into the creek here, and one may paddle upstream towards freshwater marshes at the Creek’s source, or downstream towards the Colonial Parkway, Jamestown Island, the the James River.

It is wise to check the tides before heading downstream, as the current grows stronger as you near the river.  It is always wise to come prepared for the weather and for hours out in a swamp.  You will  be surprised by the creatures you encounter along the way!

There is also a Powhatan Creek walking and biking trail , maintained by the county, which ties into other nearby trails and greenways.

 

This Bald Cypress, in the middle of the creek, is one of the tallest in James City County.

This Bald Cypress, in the middle of the creek, is one of the tallest in James City County.

Powhatan Creek has remained fairly undisturbed over the years of our county’s development.  For one thing, it has a wide flood plain.  The ground isn’t good for building, and much of it is protected by the National Park service.

As you might guess, Powhatan Creek was  named for the leader of the nation of native Americans who lived on this land for centuries before the 1607 English settlers arrived.  Native Americans  depended on this waterway for food and used it as a major route for travel.

The early colonists used the Creek to travel inland, as well, and it has remained an important part of our county’s legacy and natural resources.

And it remains important to us today as a relatively untouched natural greenspace, still teeming with beautiful plants and unusual animals.  It remains an intact ecosystem, and one open for us to visit and enjoy.

 

 

Powhatan Creek, early December 2013

Powhatan Creek, early December 2013

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

Wild Ice

Ice covers the marsh at Halfway Creek where Canada Geese gather in search of food.

Ice covers the marsh at Halfway Creek where Canada Geese gather in search of food.

The incoming and outgoing tides sound a constant, slow rhythm; shaping the contours of life along our many creeks, marshes, and rivers.  We are close enough to the coast that the James, York, Black, Mattaponi,  Piankatank, Rappahannock, and  Chickahominy rivers all respond to the tides flowing in and out of the Chesapeake Bay from the ocean.

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Powhatan Creek, near Jamestown Island

In our area, we all live surrounded by water; often brackish water, as salty water from the sea mixes with fresh water flowing off of the land.

This was the slow realization of the first English colonists trying to survive in a hostile new land.  Jamestown Island is surrounded by water, but it is all too salty and filled with life for drinking.  There is no fresh water spring on Jamestown Island, as there are just a few miles inland where the settlers eventually moved.

The James River at Jamestown Beach, near the ferry dock.

The James River at Jamestown Beach, near the ferry dock.

Drought that first summer made the James even lower and saltier than usual.  Living on the banks of a mighty river, whose origins lie far to the west in the Appalachian mountains; the settlers grew ill and died from the river’s water, the only water they could reach without confronting the native people defending their land.

Jamestown Beach on Tuesday afternoon.  At 21 degrees, with a wind, wild ice gathers at the high tide line.

Jamestown Beach on Tuesday afternoon. At 21 degrees, with a wind, wild ice gathers at the high tide line.

I’ve stood on the banks of the beautiful James, called The Powhatan in honor of the native chief before the colonists renamed it for their English king,  just outside of the archeological dig and reconstruction of that original Jamestown settlement.

There is a statue there of John Smith, looking out across the water, always seeing the possibilities for a rich and good life in this wild, new land.  Smith was the one who learned to communicate and build relationships with the leadership of the Powhatan nation, a confederation of 30 tribes living here in Tsenacommacah, the densely populated lands east of the fall line at Richmond.

Salt spray frozen on the rock jetty at Jamestown Beach.

Salt spray frozen on the rock jetty at Jamestown Beach.

Our coastal rivers in Virginia are named for these original people who drew their life and living from them.  And, our rivers still respond to the rise and fall of the Chesapeake Bay.  Our Bay is the meeting place of fresh rain water and water from natural springs carried by our rivers towards the sea, and tidal water surging in twice daily from the mighty Atlantic Ocean.

Green algae and other jetsam frozen at the high tide mark on the beach.

Above:  Green algae and other jetsam frozen at the high tide mark on the beach.                              Below: Ice also collects at the base of the fence on the beach.

With the briny water comes all the life of the ocean:  oysters, crabs, scallops, shrimp, black sea bass, flounder, menhaden, shad, and even the occasional dolphin.  The colonists who stayed at the mouth of the river, where it meets the Bay, learned of these abundant sea foods and lived in plenty even as the colonists holding the fort at Jamestown starved.

January 7 ice on beach 007The saltiness of our rivers and creeks makes them slow to freeze.  It is the rare extended stretch of freezing days and nights which allows ice to form any real distance from the shoreline.

The constant rising and falling of the tides disrupts the ice even as it forms, breaking it again and again along the high tide mark as the water recedes.  Wind swept spray may freeze on our rock jetties for a time until the sun melts it away.

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Rock and sand hold the suns’s heat, making it even harder for the salt spray to freeze along our  beaches.

Canada Geese feeding along the marshes on Halfway Creek.

Canada Geese feeding along the marshes on Halfway Creek.

And it was this wild, briny ice we found along the James river yesterday, on a broad sandy beach near where the ferry docks.  It encased bits of jetsam washed up at high tide, and clung to the fence protecting the jetty.   It was 21 degrees, colder with the brisk wind, despite the bright afternoon sun.

Ducks swim in the open channel of Halfway Creek Tuesday afternoon, as the temperatures hover around 20 degrees.

Geese swim in the open channel of Halfway Creek Tuesday afternoon, as the temperatures hover around 20 degrees.

And in the more protected marshes, ice still clung to the thick mud, left behind by the retreating tide.

Kingsmill backs onto Halfway Creek and the Colonial Parkway.

Kingsmill backs onto Halfway Creek and the Colonial Parkway.

The deeper channels through the marsh were not yet frozen, allowing Canada Geese, ducks, and other sea birds open patches of water to congregate and search for food.

The geese searched for bits of grass, seed, algae or other vegetative material left in the silt of the marsh.  They will eat an insect or small fish if it happens by, but prefer to eat plants.

Large flocks gather together in our area.  Some have migrated south, and others live here year round; able to find a constant supply of food.  With few predators, the  numbers of shore birds continue to increase.

College Creek at noon today, temperatures approaching 33 degrees.

College Creek at noon today, temperatures approaching 33 degrees.

Our College Creek was frozen well away from its banks this morning, it shallow draft finally succumbing to several days of relentless cold.  Only the deeper channels in the middle of the creek remained open and flowing at midday, allowing the tides to come and go.

Our marshes were hardened with ice, high tide having come and gone in the deep cold last night.  It gets harder and harder for the wild things who rely on the Creek for food to find any.  They will move further inland; move to the cow  pastures and horse pastures; the edges of woods; the neighborhoods even in search of the next meal, until the Creek melts back to its usual muddy softness once again.

College Creek at noon today, flowing freely in the deeper channel, but frozen in the marshy shallows near the shore.

College Creek at noon today, flowing freely in the deeper channel, but frozen in the marshy shallows near the shore.

All Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

Winter Rainbow

Beauty Where You Find It

Nature has many scenes to exhibit, and constantly draws a curtain over this part or that. She is constantly repainting the landscape and all surfaces, dressing up some scene for our entertainment. Lately we had a leafy wilderness; now bare twigs begin to prevail, and soon she will surprise us with a mantle of snow. Some green she thinks so good for our eyes that, like blue, she never banishes it entirely from our eyes, but has created evergreens.

Henry David Thoreau, Nov. 8, 1858

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