WPC: Layered

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Our lifetime, like our environment, is built of uncountable layers. 

Ben Huberman reminds us of this in his weekly photo challenge today, and asks us to explore the various meanings of layers through our images.

While some of us may already be reaching for an extra layer of warmth when we head outside; there are also many of us still discarding as many layers as we safely can, when we muck through the humid heavy air of hurricane season to capture our images.

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I found these images on Sunday afternoon, as Hurricane Jose swirled off the coast,  all at a single stop along the marshes of Jamestown Island.  I was wearing far too many layers for comfort that afternoon, yet wished for an extra layer or two after the first few mosquitoes had their way with me.  Invisible predators sipped from hand and ear as I worked.

Just as I crept towards the last dry edge of the marsh, a Great Blue Heron startled, taking off from his hidden sanctuary beyond the reeds.  It reminded me that there are always layers upon layers of life more than we may every perceive.

Senses tuned, listening, watching, smelling the brackish air;  his presence still escaped me until he burst into the air in a massive explosion of determined wings, only a few feet ahead.

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Yet once he took flight, it wasn’t his presence which intrigued me, so much as the tiny crabs scuttling along on the muddy shore as the tide pushed back in.  These tiny crustaceans, each with one giant claw, make their lives and livings in our brackish marshes from south of Virginia Beach north throughout the rivers and estuaries of the Chesapeake Bay. Masses of them appear from the reeds as the tide recedes.

I have fond memories of watching them with my daughter when she was small enough that I held her in my arms, pointing and laughing with her at their antics.  We have changed so much; they, not at all. 

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Maybe that is one of the comforts nature offers to us.  We can watch the same tree grow over our lifetime.  We can see the same birds and butterflies and even tiny crabs again and again through the decades of our lives.

We watch each season melt into the next; sunsets fade to reveal the star filled firmament above us.

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And yet, for all of that lifetime of seeing and hearing and smelling and tasting; we never quite discover all of the intricate layers of our world.  There is always a little bit more out there to discover and to love.

What a wonderful challenge this life presents to us, to know and to feel and to grow.  Not that all of it is beautiful.  Not that all of it makes us happy.  Not that all of it is even pleasant.

But it is incredible in its complexity, its balance, its depth and its ability to still surprise us.

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Yet to know it, we must be out there in the midst of it all, peeling back layer after layer of ourselves in our search for experience.

What lies beneath all of these layers?  What will we find if we can only watch long enough?

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2017

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For the Daily Post’s

Weekly Photo Challenge:  Layered

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Sunday Dinner: Courage

September 3, 2016 027

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“Life shrinks or expands

in proportion to one’s courage.”

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Anaïs Nin

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September 3, 2016 017

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“The simple step of a courageous individual

is not to take part in the lie.

One word of truth outweighs the world.”

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Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

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September 3, 2016 023

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“Courage doesn’t happen when you have all the answers.

It happens when you are ready

to face the questions you have been avoiding

your whole life.”

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Shannon L. Alder

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September 3, 2016 024

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“I have not always chosen the safest path.

I’ve made my mistakes, plenty of them.

I sometimes jump too soon

and fail to appreciate the consequences.

But I’ve learned something important along the way:

I’ve learned to heed the call of my heart.

I’ve learned that the safest path

is not always the best path

and I’ve learned that the voice of fear

is not always to be trusted.”

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Steve Goodier

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September 3, 2016 030

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“Courage isn’t absence of fear,

it is the awareness

that something else is important”

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Stephen R. Covey

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September 2, 2016 York River 020

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2016

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September 2, 2016 York River 019

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“Courage is the price that life exacts for granting peace.”


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Amelia Earhart

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September 2, 2016 York River 004

Wednesday Vignettes

July 27, 2015 Parkway 029

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Pickerelweed, Phragmites, cattails, wildflowers and grasses populate this briny marsh along one of the many creeks in our area. 

The scene changes continuously as tides rise and fall and the seasons melt one into another.  For months of the year, we see mostly mud here.  It is a cause to celebrate each spring when the marshes green with their first growth.  Now, despite abundant rain this summer, some of the plants have already begun to yellow and fade.

Soon, summer’s greens will melt into shades of yellow and brown with autumn’s approach.

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July 27, 2015 Parkway 021

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This sun-baked marsh contains a rich ecosystem of birds and all manner of flying insects, small crabs, fish, shellfish, frogs and muskrats.  It is always dinner time here, and it remains alive with activity from before sunrise until after the light fades from the sky each evening.

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July 27, 2015 Parkway 013~

Some folks may look at this land and consider it wasted acreage.  There are always developers looking to build something new to turn a profit, especially in James City County these days.  There is the constant conversation between those seeking permits for ecological destruction and “economic  development,” and those working hard to preserve our natural resources; including the marshlands.

The truth is, that all of these marshes drain into the Chesapeake Bay.  Every creek, pond, bay and marsh in our area drain into one of our three major rivers, which feed fresh water into the Chesapeake Bay.  And so there are laws at every level of government now to regulate land use, in the interest of preserving water quality in the Bay. 

If you are interested, please enjoy the interesting and informative presentation our county has assembled here.  This is a .pdf file presentation with all sorts of useful and interesting information.  James City County was actually the first locality in Virginia to adopt a Chesapeake Bay Preservation Ordinance, in 1990.

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July 27, 2015 Parkway 023

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Today’s vignettes celebrate the natural landscapes of the marshes in our area.  These photos were all taken within the Colonial National Historical Park, along the Colonial Parkway.  I love to study nature’s hand at planting, even knowing I could never recreate beauty on this scale in my own garden.

Thank you to Anna at Flutter and Hum for hosting the Wednesday Vignette each week.  I hope you will visit her today to enjoy her lovely “Green on Green” planting.  How can we not celebrate all of the lovely greens living in our landscapes now?

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July 27, 2015 Parkway 027

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Woodland Gnome 2015

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July 27, 2015 Parkway 026

Wild Beauty

A marsh on Jamestown Island

A marsh on Jamestown Island

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The garden quickly grows a bit shaggy this time of year, looking like it needs a good haircut.

Abundant rain and steamy temperatures fuel growth so fast, you might think you can sit and watch it all expanding.

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Native trumpet vine grows through trees, entangling with other vines.  This grows in Jamestown Island.

Native trumpet vine grows through trees, entangling with other vines, here  on Jamestown Island.

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Vines creep inches a day.  Weeds spring up lush and thick overnight.  Grasses spread their rhizomes to claim fresh territory in the beds and mulch.  And everything grows green.

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July 4, 2015 Jamestown 006

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Everything.  A thin layer of algae or moss will grow in the most unexpected places.

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Queen Anne's Lace grows near a pond on the Colonial Parkway.

Queen Anne’s Lace grows near a pond on the Colonial Parkway.

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We can’t keep up with it all.   The world looks a little wild and unkempt in July.

But it is wildly beautiful.

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July 4, 2015 Jamestown 016

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Every trip around the garden to weed, trim and prune yields at minimum a wheelbarrow full of culled greenery.  Shade grows deep beneath the expanding canopy of vines, branches and leaves.

Such abundance!

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Trumpet vine climbs over, around and through this sapling pine.  They will grow together for many more years to come on Jamestown Island.

Trumpet vine climbs over, around and through this sapling pine. They will grow together for many more years to come on Jamestown Island.

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There is a tension between maintaining a neatly trimmed garden and letting the plants do what they will.

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July 4, 2015 Jamestown 068

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You see it along the roads where crews trim so far back from the pavement, and then let nature take the rest.  You see it along the Parkway, and at the edge of the woods, and anywhere a human hand neglects to bring order for more than a few days at a time.

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July 4, 2015 Jamestown 020~

It remains a fine line to tread in the garden.  “What may grow, and what must go?”  the perennial question a gardener ponders in July.

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July 4, 2015 Jamestown 001~

There is a certain tension in a newly trimmed lawn, swept hardscaping, pruned hedges, a well pruned bed of annuals.

And then there is the exuberant release of wildly blooming branches and top heavy perennials.  Day lily, Phlox, Rudbeckia, Coreopsis, Echinacea, Salvia, Lantana, Achillea ... these have risen miraculously from the bed.

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Wildflowers along the Colonial Parkway between Williamsburg and Yorktown.

Wildflowers along the Colonial Parkway between Williamsburg and Yorktown.

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Buds open, stalks grow, leaves uncurl, color fills the spaces so recently blanketed in snow.

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Native blackberrries grow through a native shrub we call Beautyberry.

Native blackberrries grow through a native shrub we call Beautyberry.

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Every gardener must negotiate their own balance between the tension and the release; control and abandon.

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Our garden, July 1

Our garden, July 1

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And some gardeners live in awe of the artful hand of nature, left to tend the garden in her own, sublime style.

What surprises she offers!  What generosity and enthusiasm she brings to the design!

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July 4, 2015 Jamestown 007~

Gardening in a living forest, by necessity I lean towards the wild side of beauty, towards allowing nature her hand in creating our garden.

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Vines  climb through Rose of Sharon and scamper onto a Dogwood tree in our garden.

Vines climb through Rose of Sharon and scamper onto a Dogwood tree in our garden.

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That hand has not always been gentle, or kind.  This is a dynamic collaboration; always evolving.

There are always surprises.  There are ongoing challenges.

But what beauty emerges in the process!

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Our garden on the fourth of July:; a Salvia grows through Colocasia, punctuated with a dark leafed Canna.

Our garden on July 4; a Salvia grows through Colocasia, punctuated with a dark leafed Canna.

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Woodland Gnome 2015

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A wildflower growing on Jamestown Island

A wildflower growing on Jamestown Island

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